Category: Flash Pulp

Flash Pulp 055 – Mulligan Smith and A Little Luc, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Five.

Flash PulpTonight, we present Mulligan Smith and A Little Luc, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Flash Pulp page on Facebook.

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present the first in a week’s worth of stories involving Mulligan Smith, PI. In this opening entry, we find Smith, with a friend in tow, attempting to locate some low-cost entertainment.

Flash Pulp 055 – Mulligan Smith and A Little Luc, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

“This sucks,” said Billy.

“Look,” replied Mulligan, “this is cheap. I doubt I’m going to get expenses paid on any of the gas I’ve burned through, or any of the food you keep tossing down your maw, so you can stow the complaints and expand your mind a little.”

Billy Winnipeg was holding a copy of Ken Dryden’s The Game, in large print, and, as he waited, he continuously tapped the hardback against his coat zipper.

Gently resting a hand over the painted goaltender on the cover, Mulligan brought the motion to a stop.

“You spent three hours hovering over every book in this place: you can have some patience until this lady gets my card sorted.”

Ten minutes earlier, the woman, who Mulligan guessed to be twenty-eight, and likely fresh out of school, had taken the PI’s driver’s license and begun hammering at the Library computer’s ancient keyboard. Failing to make headway, she’d given the pair a quick apology and disappeared into a rear area, calling after a “Nolan”.

“The old woman in front of us was out of here in like twenty seconds,” said Winnipeg.

“Yeah, and she probably comes by and picks up a half-dozen Harlequins every week, where as you -” pausing, Smith dropped his voice, “- you are a foreigner on the run from the law in two nations, and, I might remind you, we wouldn’t be stuck at the library if you hadn’t Godzilla’d your way through the most popular cop beer-joint in town. You owe me for dragging you out before they found their nightsticks, and I’d appreciate it if you’d just give me a few minutes of observing the building’s primary rule.”

Winnipeg raised a questioning eyebrow, and the PI pointed at a sign instructing “Quiet, Please.”

“I’m just saying this sucks, is all,” Billy muttered, pretending to re-read the teaser text on the book’s jacket.

Mulligan’s attention was no longer focused on his client’s son however. There was an argument brewing in the children’s reading room, which lay up a short flight of stairs at the north end of the building, and although it sounded like a three-way debate, Smith could only make out two-thirds of it.

The librarian reappeared, her triumphant smile cut short by the noise of the squabble.

Her brow furrowing, her eyes darted between her long waiting customers, and the quarrel emanating from down the hallway.

A look of decision took her face, and she grabbed the Graham Greene novel from Mulligan’s fingers. The PI took little notice as, with tilted head, he was concentrating on deciphering the alien portion of the conversation.

Noting his interest, the librarian – whose training had taught her to grope for small talk – asked if the unknown language might be French.

“I think so,” Smith replied.

“Man, that ain’t Français, that’s Quebecois,” Billy said, his eyes still locked on his book.

“There’s a difference?” the librarian asked.

“Yeah, I’ll tell ya all about it after I take the lift back to your flat so I can use the loo.”

“Ah, I see,” replied the librarian.

Noting the woman was mildly impressed, he added: “Aluminium.”

“Yeah, I get it,” she said.

Mulligan had left the conversation, and was now standing by the stairs. His new position allowed him a clear view down the hall, and into the room full of Children’s books.

“Hey! Put that kid down!” he shouted, moving up the first step.

A tall man in a white bucket hat came charging down. He held a denim-jumpered child in an awkward bear-hug, and the risk of injuring the boy prevented Mulligan from properly leveraging the pair to a stop. As the PI set out an arm to block the staircase, the man threw a shoulder into his ribs, sending him over backwards.

The escapee hit the landing at a run, and bolted through the front door.

The last of the raised voices had lagged behind, his ill-fitting pants tripping him up as he ran, and he now entered the scene at a sloppy trot.

“Kiddy fiddlers!” Billy said, his face sliding from comprehension to rage.

The man cleared Mulligan like a hurdle, both hands at his sagging waist. From his position on the floor, Smith managed to grab a snatch of pant leg, but it did little to slow the man’s rush.

The runner had just cracked the door when Billy’s massive right hand lay heavily upon his shoulder, spinning him around with the ease of a greased gas station sunglasses rack.

The first fist set the man’s jaw askew, and, as his forgotten pants slid to his knees, the second fist forced all of the air, and a little of his salmon lunch, up and out his windpipe.

The PI had regained his feet, and winced at the Canadian’s handiwork – there was little doubt that bones were broken, and if it weren’t for the man’s ragged, unconscious breathing, Mulligan would have thought it even worse.

Picking Winnipeg’s reading selection off the floor, he set it down on the desk.

“Never mind, thanks,” he said, turning to hustle his outlaw obligation over the crumpled form, and through the exit.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 054 – Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Four.

Tonight, we present Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp054.mp3]

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by tardiness – and we apologize.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a rumination on the human, and inhuman, of the future.

Flash Pulp 054 – Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

Manny Espinoza was 19, and sweating heavily under his combat gear while watching a goat wander a barren yard. To his eye, the house he was guarding looked like little more than a pile of sun baked mud that had had some rogue lumber laid across it. The poverty of the shanty wore at him, so he instead turned to the surrounding scrub-land, in an effort to ignore it. Depressingly, the alternative only forced him into mental comparisons with the lush forests surrounding his parents’ home in Maine.

A chicken scrambled from a shadow at the corner of the building, heedless of Manny’s weapon pointed in its direction.

The bird was followed by a boy of eight, who glanced nervously at the American, and attempted to shoo the fowl away from the gathered assault rifles and watchful glances. Manny once again put the hard question to himself: would these people be better served if he had instead opted to become a teacher? His mother would have said yes, his father no. As the boy finally hustled the hen away, Manny took comfort in the knowledge that he’d have plenty of time to teach his own child after he’d made it home – and after he and Angela had tired themselves sufficiently in the efforts leading to conception.

He smiled at this bright spot in his imagination.

There was a shout from inside the house, and Manny turned, suddenly aware that this wouldn’t be just another door knock.

* * *

He awoke in Germany, only vaguely aware of the trip, and not at all able to recall the explosion that everyone had insisted on telling him about when he’d occasionally manage to swim out of unconsciousness.

He cried hard at the loss of his legs, but damned the loss of his manhood.

* * *

By the age of 27, Manny had largely put himself back together.

After physiotherapy, he’d found himself behind the front desk at his father’s construction company. At first he’d longed to be on site with the old man, but he soon found he had a knack for working the phones, and, being able to sit all day, most of the folks who came through the office didn’t even realize he’d been injured.

Veteran’s Affairs had also played a large part in his recovery – while there would never be a replacement for his ability to have children, nor for Angela, who had left him before he was even fully weaned from morphine, his carbon-fibre legs allowed him to move with nearly the same agility he’d had before the incident.

The explosion was forever lost to his memory, but he’d read the details: how he’d responded to Lipski’s shouting; how he’d somehow clobbered the two guys who’d been hiding in the house, even as they were tossing a grenade after his hastily departing Sergeant; how his attempt to dive out of the way had left only his lower half shredded by shrapnel.

The medals were nice, but did little to increase his mobility, nor to ease the looks of terror he saw creeping into young children’s eyes at his approach – usually seconds before being scooped up by a soccer mom who would then give him a polite smile of apology while being sure to maintain eye contact.

* * *

Manny, now 32, was on a bench in the small park across from the office, eating his lunch. He’d spent most of October on the oak planks, the chill having given him an excuse to lay a blanket across his lap. The covering meant that the children romping around the play structure took no notice of him, and he could spend his midday meal daydreaming over a variety of sons and daughters he would never have.

This was especially a relief, as he’d spent three hot and painful weeks in August having his simple prosthesis replaced with appendages that whirred like a television robot as he moved, but otherwise allowed him to run twice as fast as he’d ever managed. The development was so new they hadn’t had time to work out proper cosmetics for it, and, even when covered by pants, his limbs had an odd, chicken-leg appearance as he moved. Jumping to the top of the list for the experimental procedure had been the first advantage his medals had ever really brought him, and he’d celebrated the whole affair by spending the majority of September on an extended hiking vacation.

A breeze carrying the scent of late-season barbecue brought him back from memories of the Appalachian trail, and he wiped sandwich crumbs form his lap, still surprised by the coldness of the titanium beneath.

From the corner of his left eye, he noted a red pickup jump the curb.

It had entered from the furthest point of the park, meaning it had to cross over the baseball diamond before reaching the play structure. For a moment, Manny thought it would likely stop, but by the time it had obliterated the chalk line between second and third base, it had plenty of momentum and time was short.

He stood, sprinting towards the slide.

“Get out of the way!” came from his mouth, but the children needed no words. Their parents had long warned them to keep half an eye on the man with skeleton legs who spent long afternoons watching them at play.

One such mother looked at him in surprise, her back to the rapidly closing truck, and Manny pointed past the woman, still running at the structure.

“Ed!” the woman said as she turned. She dove from the Ford’s path.

Manny attempted to stop short of the truck’s trajectory, but there had been little reason to practice stopping suddenly from a full tilt run, and he went over sideways, landing directly in the trucks path.

He didn’t feel the tire roll over his neck.

* * *

It was a coincidence that the letter arrived on his 35th birthday. His Mother had come to the small white room regularly, and she often brought his mail to read to him aloud, as it was tough to maintain proper conversation with a man who could only blink to communicate.

Usually their time was spent rambling through junk fliers, but Manny was still grateful for the effort.

It was hard to understand what the terms of the thick envelope were attempting to imply, but Manny’s mother had wept during its reading, and when the trio of lab technicians arrived a week later, he could do little but blink yes to their barrage of questions and release forms.

Before he’d turned 37, he found himself standing in front of a full length mirror, in a room that seemed half surgery theatre and half mechanic’s shop. He was flexing arms and legs made entirely of lightweight composite materials, materials he was assured would have been capable of shrugging off even the impact of the Ford.

He was impressed by every aspect but his face. His jaw had been torn away in Ed’s third attempt at running down his ex-wife, who’d survived the attack by using the play structure as a shield. The pink triangular flap that acted as the mouth for his digitized voice disturbed him with its jerky clockwork motions.

Two months after his release from the hospital, at the insistence of his mother, he slunk into a mall food court, in his first public appearance since the new surgery. His heavy coat and broad hat allowed him to pass with only the looks afforded any man wearing clothing inappropriate for the season, at least until a five year old had rushed by in an attempt to chase down his slightly older sister. The girl had been careful to give a wide berth, but the boy had seen the shortest path as running alongside Manny’s table, and had taken it.

A flailing arm knocked away the hat, and, after hearing an admonishing name call from his mother, the boy turned to apologize, even as Manny stooped to pick it up.

“It’s OK,” Manny said, not looking at the boy.

He could feel his pseudo-chin sagging as it clicked open and shut.

The boy, suddenly caught up in terror, began to shriek and weep.

As the vet slammed his hand down in frustration, the cheap plywood table cracked. The attention of the gathered having already been drawn by the screaming, the shattering wood sent a panic through the crowd.

An hour later, cautious police led Manny, still leaking tears, from a side entrance.

* * *

At 42, he finally found his calling. It had started eighteen months previous, after he’d had what he called “The Idea” while wasting away another afternoon in his shuttered bungalow, watching cartoons.

A flurry of emails had followed his inspiration, and now, having argued his case and won, he stood in a large change room, his ears filled with the hum of the sea of people outside. The presentation was taking place in a high school gym, but children of every age had been bussed in to assemble cross legged on the hardwood floor.

Pushing open the door, he peeked at the brightly lit platform. Principal Ebert had taken the stage, smoothly entering into the spiel that Manny, and the team who maintained him, had put together.

His final modifications hadn’t added any new functionality – if anything, they’d subtracted, although Manny didn’t count the removal of the nightmare-jaw as any sort of loss. His face was now a smooth chrome surface, broken only by the holes that allowed for vision and a small grate approximating where his mouth would be, and from which his voice projected.

In fact, every visible surface that extended from beneath his crisp white t-shirt and khaki shorts gleamed, even in the low lighting of the sweat smelling room.

Ebert finished, and Manny took his cue, entering the A/V club’s spotlight to a swell of music.

The speakers faded away, and there was a hush.

After they’d subsided, Manny began his practiced speech decrying discrimination, occasionally emphasising his point with a demonstration of inhuman physical prowess.

With the glare in his eyes, it was hard for him to know how well he was being taken, but at least there was applause every time he lifted something heavy.

As he concluded his talk, he stepped down to the left side of the platform, butterflies rising in the remainder of his stomach as he opened himself to being approached by the gathered.

It would be hours before the line of children, all waiting for a photo of themselves resting atop Manny’s tirelessly flexing biceps, would let up.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 053 – The Glorious: The Taking Of Hill One-Five-Niner, Part 1 of 1

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Three.

Tonight, we present The Glorious: The Taking Of Hill One-Five-Niner, Part 1 of 1

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by MayTunes.com

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That’s MayTunes.com

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a tale of combat and glory; of objectives and intentions.

Flash Pulp 053 – The Glorious: The Taking Of Hill One-Five-Niner, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

“I’m just saying that it feels a little weird, is all,” Cutter said.

“I ain’t ever flown a mission and not felt the pins and needles, boy,” responded the gunner position’s tiny speaker.

As Captain Jack Ignatius’ words crawled through the bomber’s guts to find their way to Lt. Leroy “Cutter” Jenkins, hunkered behind a dual-barrelled machine gun, they picked up a mushy crackling that had Jenkins wishing for better equipment.

“Sure, Cap’n,” he replied. He flicked the chromed switch, closing the circuit.

The Captain’s flare for drama had brought them in low, and as he waited for the objective, Leroy turned his attention to the shadow of the plane, now sliding over a city blackened by flame and scarred with the wreckage of smashed housing.

None of it looked much like Michigan, and his heart longed to be able to cast an eye over even the bombed out wreckage of a double-wide.

The creak of the airframe did little to comfort Cutter, and he decided this was likely the last time he’d accept an invitation to fly.

“Two minutes, tops,” came the Captain’s voice over the speaker, throaty with the scent of the kill. The cityscape gave way to thick jungle.

Jörgen The Bold’s broken english came crackling over the speaker.

“Two fly,” he said, his thick accent flattened by the technology.

“What’s that?” The Captain asked, annoyance in his tone.

Leroy flicked the microphone switch.

“Jörgen says we got a couple of… I see them now sir, two, uh, zeros, maybe?”

From the rear of the plane, Leroy heard Jörgen roar a war cry, then open fire.

The approaching aircraft split away briefly, only to readjust to a tighter angle of attack. It was an impressive sight – like watching bees dance – and for a moment Cutter sat mesmerized, not bothering to fire, even as the angry insects waltzed between his gun barrels.

However, as One-Five-Niner drew into sight, a dotted line of sunlight opened along the plane’s flank, nearly intersecting his Plexiglas bubble. It was enough to derail his train of thought, and he rattled off a spray of metal in return.

There came a scream that even the rotors and gun fire couldn’t blot out, and the bomber shook.

“No! Not Timothy! Not now!” his speaker whined. Leroy felt the plane ramp into a climb.

Jenkins debated making a run for a parachute, but decided instead to ride it out in his dome.

He’d stopped firing.

Timothy Martin brought the nose of his jet into a tight upward loop, at a level of force that would have ripped the shuddering flying fortress to pieces, and, on his downward return, let fly with a taste of his payload.

Uranium shells pinned the bomber like a beetle on cork board.

After a moment, Cutter was aware that he and Jörgen had been detached from the front-end of the plane, and through the small hatch above, he could see spinning, ragged sky.

He considered his situation and sighed.

At least he was away from the Captain.

There was no time for parachutes now, so he waited out his descent by attempting to locate the ground.

Hill One-Five-Niner spun in and out of view.

The first impact knocked the wind from his lungs, and sent a spray of wreckage through the entwined leaves. After a moment of recovery, Jenkins was surprised to find himself amongst the upper limbs of the jungle’s canopy, the rest of the tail having continued on without him.

Uncertain of where the fuel tanks were on the old plane, he risked a high speed descent along a palm trunk, afraid that Jörgen might be caught up in a fire.

His worries were unfounded, however, as the he discovered the man pulling himself away from the wreckage with his singular remaining arm.

Upon spotting his compatriot, Jörgen rolled himself upright against a broad tree.

“One-Five-Niner!” The Bold said, his face stretching into a bloody smile.

Leroy reached into a pocket, pulling forth his daily ration of smokes. He offered one to the bloody viking.

The one-armed man shook his hand to indicate a pass, so Cutter followed up with a looping motion around his forearm, to suggest a tourniquet. Again, Jörgen shook him off.

Jenkins shrugged.

Jörgen drew a sharp line across his throat.

Leroy’s shoulders sagged as he stood, drawing his sidearm.

He offered it to the man, who refused, levelling a trembling finger at Cutter.

Raising his arm, Jenkins fired once into his compatriot’s bushy hair.

Without pausing, he started up the hill.

As he gained height, the jungle thinned, giving way to a bald slope. He could not spot a place on which One-Five-Niner was not filled with humanity: the east seemed covered in shifting battle lines, while the west was a gale of slaughter and horses.

It was hours before he reached the outskirts of the combat, and the Grecians he encountered could only point further up the peak when he mimed them a question regarding a radio.

There were far more bodies than sets, but after a stumbling search, Jenkins came across a band of Mongols nestled in a ravine. Over the crest, Cutter could hear double rows of French musketeers shouting and firing, but at the center of the Mongols sat a serene man from Bristol, Avery Snott, and Leroy was relieved to spot a familiar face.

The leader of the horsemen was red from his extensive denunciation of the English radioman’s lineage, and at Leroy’s approach, the audaciously moustachioed man threw up his shoulders as if to say: “you do something about this guy”.

Leroy said “Hi.”

Avery raised a hand.

The entire encampment was flattened by artillery.

* * *

Cutter’s next moment of clarity found him at the edge of a smoking crater, horse limbs and half-cooked meat spread around him.

His leg was missing, and the pain was enormous.

Through the shock, his hands fell into the familiar routine of extracting his medical kit from his gear and preparing the morphine injection.

Twenty minutes later, he was still short a limb, but he was much less likely to notice. He lay on his back, bleeding into the muck, watching a trio of Vietnam War-era helicopters circle overhead.

As the edges of his vision grew dark, the sun finally touched the far horizon, and the air was filled with the caw of the Valkyries’ ravens.

Leroy smiled at the thought of returning to the comfort of his bench in Valhalla.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 052 – Larger Problems: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Two.

Tonight, we present Larger Problems: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by the Flash Pulp Facebook page.

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present another tale of Thomas Blackhall, master frontiersman, and student of the occult. We open upon our hero, resting once again at the border of wilderness and civilization, moments before his evening suffers a series of complications.

Flash Pulp 052 – Larger Problems: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The moon was cresting, and Thomas Blackhall had already begun to mutter against its slow progression. It was the third night of his vigil, and his attempts at daytime slumber had been often punctured by the nightmare of his Mairi crawling through a primeval woodland, a forest not at all different than that which currently cast a shadow over his stooped spine.

Pulling tight the blanket that provided both heat and camouflage, he attempted to regain a comfortable position.

His makeshift shelter sat on the western edge of a wide and empty clearing, opposite the fast moving creek that ran along its eastern side. It was against the effect of this bottleneck which he had laid his trap.

To his left came a rustling. The frontiersman had seen several whitetails approach the creek’s edge during his time of waiting, and one regally crowned buck had even tempted him to lift his Baker rifle from his lap. The crack of shot would only serve to ruin his surprise however, and he’d been left with no option but to simply observe the beast’s passing.

His first assumption was that the noise was likely just another fawn, come to quench a nocturnal thirst.

It was with some surprise then, that he spotted the naked dwarf break from the trees.

The man was moving at a good speed for a person of any size, and he’d nearly achieved a quarter of the clearing’s distance when a second figure pulled away from the spruce that lay at the meadow’s northern edge. This new entrant was a woman, her pepper hair streaming in her wake, her dignity maintained only by a light cotton nightgown. Her path followed that of the short man’s exactly, and, as she moved, her arms were extended, as if in effort to embrace the lead runner. Even at his distance, Blackhall could see that her mouth was turned out in a gap-toothed grin.

Thomas considered averting his eyes in respect for the apparent lovers, but the thought was quickly set aside as a third competitor entered the race.

A balding man, wearing only trousers and boots, had burst from the foliage. Despite his trailing position, Blackhall realized the musket the man carried across his chest might go a long way towards evening the odds.

In a single motion, Thomas cast off the blanket and stood. He leveled the Baker rifle at the rear man – a jealous husband perhaps – and called out to the trio.

“Hallo!”

The woman turned only briefly to acknowledge his entrance into the drama, and it seemed to Blackhall that the dwarf was too occupied to have noticed. The man in the rear, however, did take note, and immediately came to a stop. It was only then that Thomas could make out the man’s disposition: the weapon barely held in sagging hands; the round eyes of concern.

The nude leader had made it more than half the meadow’s width, but his shortened gait left him at a disadvantage to the woman, who was quickly gaining. As she closed the distance, her arms remained outstretched, her hands grasping convulsively against the wind of her speed.

“Don’t hurt my wife!” The musketeer shouted at Thomas.

Despite nearly having gained the far trees, the short man, finally having realized Blackhall’s presence, came to a halt.

The woman did not.

As he swung his rifle into a new position, Thomas could make out her taut visage – what he had taken for a smile of joy was obvious now as a grimace of anger, and what he’d taken to be eager arms were, in truth, limbs prepared to strike.

“My Jolene! My baby Jolene! You monster!” The woman began to beat the nude man with the flats of her hands.

His trap spoiled, Blackhall fired.

The French dead of Ciudad Rodrigo could attest to his weaponcraft, if their tongues had not long disappeared down the gullets of carrion feeders, or rotted in their graves. His rifle was prepared for a second volley before the woman had fully turned to face him.

He was glad to see his warning shot well heeded.

As he approached the pair, the husband also moved to join them, his musket dragging at his arms.

“What is this?” Blackhall asked, when all were within a conversational distance.

“Uh, my daughter and –,” the man began, only to be cut off by his wife.

“I caught this beast with my daughter! In the loft! Rutting!” The woman once again raised a hand in threat.

“I love Jolene!” the naked man offered, using one arm for defense, while the other attempted to save some of his pride. “She’s with my child!”

A noise like a kettle set to boil rose from the woman’s throat, and it was only a quick intercession on her husband’s part that saved the father-to-be from further injury.

Having dropped his weapon, the man took his shaking wife into his arms.

“We’ll need a marriage now, and it’ll be easier with a live groom,” he said.

The woman broke into a fresh round of sobs.

Drawn to the sounds of suffering, Blackhall’s quarry charged from the tree-line with vicious intent. The intruding trio were aware only of a snort of fury at the creek’s edge, then Thomas let fly with his second shot.

The rifleman was relieved to see the beast’s headlong rush brought up short by his silver round, and for a moment the thing’s hooves lost their alignment. It fell forward, catching itself up on arms as broad as stove-piping.

It gave its bull’s head a shake, and its foaming mouth sprayed a thick scum over the crumpled grasses.

The beast spotted the hunter, and it raised a thick finger at Blackhall.

Thomas completed the ramming home of a fresh load.

With a pained grunt, the thing retook its hooves and bolted into the wildwood.

“A bull, nothing more,” Thomas told the trio.

Throwing his rifle over his shoulder, he broke into a run.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 051 – The Boot Brigand, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-One.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Boot Brigand, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp051.mp3]

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This week’s stories are brought to you by OpopanaxFeathers.wordpress.com

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then every post is worth at least 6 or 7 tweets at OpopanaxFeathers.wordpress.com

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we open on the small community of Hearse, home of Mother Gran, already in the midst of a puzzling crime wave.

Flash Pulp 051 – The Boot Brigand, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The rural town of Hearse, lying within the boundaries of Bigelow County, on the banks of Lake Winipekw, was well populated, but poorly planned. Each spring its streets worked their way into a gooey muck under horse hoof, cartwheel and human heel.

This gave Lawrence Tupper a special role in the community, as he was the only cordwainer, cobbler and shoe-importer in the area. His shop’s stock was largely of his own creation, but he was happy to maintain a corner at the rear of the store for those who felt the need to emulate the fashions of the south and east.

It was well understood, although largely by Buppy Tupper, Lawrence’s wife, and her cadre of chatterers, that those who did chase such fashions either did little walking in Hearse, or had foolish notions regarding the condition of the local roadways.

So it was that the first incident of theft largely gained notoriety in its discussion on the Loyalist’s Veranda, as the gathered turned to Mrs. Tupper, and her expertise in footwear, to shed some light on such an odd occasion.

She was happy to share her views.

“Mr Bellham is one of Tupper polish’s earliest devotees!”

Mrs. Pilfer, Buppy’s perennial rival, took a hard sip of her pekoe.

“Are not Mr. Bellham’s boots imported from the eastern districts?” she asked.

“Why, you know, the polish is derived from a formula of my husband’s own creation,” Buppy said, “His genius is so great he could make even those shoddily made Eastern fashions look as if they were worth risking a stay under Constable Wills’ hospitality.”

The gathered women nodded.

* * *

On the occasion of the seventh reported theft, Mrs. Tupper was less inclined to discuss her husband’s relation to the crimes.

“I maintain that it is only an indicator of the quality of my husband’s work,” she said, in response to a pointed question from Mrs. Pilfer. “I also find it likely to be the work of a monomaniac. It is an utter disgrace that the Constable has conducted so little action on the matter.”

Mrs. Madison, who was always willing to raise a hand against Mrs. Pilfer, and who also sat as Buppy’s current favoured euchre partner, spoke over her cup.

“Mayhaps it’s crazy old Mother Gran who has been wandering again in the night.”

Gran was one of Mrs. Tupper’s choice topics, and her eyes lit up at the opportunity to entwine the subjects.

“I’d say it’s likely – very likely, in fact. Mayhaps the old woman is making a stew of them, or sewing them together to form a dress.”

The gathered ladies tittered.

“Heh, yes, or possibly it is Mr Tupper himself, in an attempt to stir up a demand for business,” said Mrs. Pilfer.

The ladies quieted, suddenly intent on their tea.

* * *

Ella entered the front room, taking a seat alongside the silent form watching the window. The old woman’s eyes were cast towards the setting sun, gathering in the dusk, and through the silence, Mother Gran stretched out a hand, which the girl met with her own. As the expanse of red drained into black, Gran turned to face her daughter’s daughter.

“Wilemina Pilfer told me today that Mrs. Pilfer heard Mrs. Tupper accuse you in connection with the recent outbreak of stolen footwear,” said Ella.

“Indeed?”

Gran smiled.

“Yes.” Ella’s face was overrun with the concern a girl of sixteen maintains over social matters.

The elder woman turned once again to the window, squinting against the growing shadows.

After a moment she smacked her toothless gums together, her attention returning to her granddaughter.

“If you should encounter Wilemina Pifler upon the morrow, it might be worth a moment to give the girl the idea of tying bells about many of the boots rubbed down in Tupper’s new blackened sugar coating.”

“Won’t the thief simply remove the bells before absconding with the shoes?”

Gran smiled again, and the girl knew to question the wisdom of her elder no further.

“Can I help you with the drying this evening?” Ella asked instead.

The old woman rose from her chair.

* * *

It was a day before Ella might transmit the suggestion, and another before it had found its way to Mrs. Pifler’s ear, to be presented to her compatriots as if it had been a plan of her own conception. The women were split upon the wisdom of the ploy, but after discovering the following morning that the few boots that had been belled had gone untouched, while Mrs. Madison’s own husband’s had gone missing, the chimes gained a reputation for being a ward against theft.

It was shortly after midnight on that third day that the truth began to come clear. Horace Madison, with a hunger to match the thirst he’d demonstrated at Sarah Melbain’s Inn, was selecting a plate from amongst the evening’s dinner scraps. His hands refused to hold steady after his night’s activities however, and it was with some effort that he finally managed to lay down a thick layer of butter over his raggedly sliced bread.

There came a tinkling from his porch.

Two weeks previous, he’d flagged down the train and taken a journey south, returning with a fine pair of thick-soled black leather boots. Intent on displaying his purchase, he’d had his second youngest daughter, Jessica, shine them to a bright sheen before that evening’s expedition to the ale house. Upon his return home, however, he’d found the soles to be muck covered, and rather than risk his own balance in an effort to clean them, he’d set them upon his secluded veranda to dry.

Still, he was mindful of his sister-in-law’s words regarding the loss of his brother’s boots, and was sure to affix a bell about the laces.

After a brief entanglement with the furniture, he exited the house.

From his steps he could see nothing, but his prized footwear had disappeared, and the sound of bells drifted to him from amongst the trees to the south.

“It’s a ghost!” he shouted.

The thudding involved in his hastened departure had roused Horace’s eldest, Michael, who stepped down from the entrance.

His father turned to him.

“My boots! It’s a ghost! Go get Wills!”

With that, the man went stumbling into the tall grass, and the boy ran for his pony.

* * *

Despite his lead, it was easy enough for the Constable to follow the trail left by the inebriated elder Madison. As he pushed through the wilderness, Wills was not alone; he had allowed Michael to follow along, but only once he’d dissuaded the boy from retrieving his father’s shotgun by pointing out that it would be of little use against a spirit.

The route often pushed through heavy brush, and the pair found themselves occasionally forced to break a new trail reasonable enough for sober men. It was an hour’s prickly work before they finally came within range of Horace’s profanity-laden shouting.

Following the noise, they stepped into a clearing dominated by a thick dead oak, standing eighty feet high. At its base raged Michael’s father, his arms outstretched to the sky, his cussing unbroken by his realization of the arrival of his offspring.

As he approached, Wills made out the source of the man’s agitation: although any leaves had long abandoned the oak, its foliage had been replaced with a dozen pairs of soles, each set on a jagged branch-end. High above his head, clinging close to the trunk, two fat raccoons chittered at the intruders.

“They almost ate my face!” Horace said when Wills drew close. The elder Madison pointed at a broken tree-limb stretched upon the ground, and the constable inferred that the beasts must have turned hostile upon the man’s initial attempt to climb the oak to retrieve his shoes.

Noting the downed branch was not entirely barren, Wills plucked the boot from its end. Holding it against the moonlight for inspection, he could see that its surface had been licked clean to the leather.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 050 – Mulligan Smith and The Old Lady, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith and The Old Lady, Part 1 of 1

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we join PI Mulligan Smith, as he tells us a tale of foreign nations and local customs.

Flash Pulp 050 – Mulligan Smith and The Old Lady, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

“There’s a certain type of neighbourhood, semi-industrial with low income housing nearby, that, no matter where I’ve been, always looks about the same – and it always has the same type of bar hanging around the scuzzy edges.”

Mulligan took a sip of his water and let the old man take his shot. It was a near thing, but the three refused to find its way into the far corner pocket.

“Always the same folks too.

“I was in this little hole called Nicolette’s, with my arm around a lady maybe ten years older than me. Her breath stank like unfiltered cigarettes and skunky beer.

“The big difference between this place and most of the others, was that this time none of the other patrons seem to speak English. Actually, they probably all could, at least a little, but it was obvious none of them were about to do it around me.”

Mulligan paused to sink the thirteen, then scratch on the eleven.

“It was my first time in Montreal, my first time in Canada, outside of Toronto, really, and I was surrounded by Terminator 2 extras – everyone there seemed to be culturally a decade back or so. Thing was, I was with a friend, Billy Winnipeg. It’d take longer to explain why than it’s gonna take for me to finish cleaning the table on you,” Mulligan’s bravado brought a smile to the old man’s lips, “but I’ve never met anyone who could top Billy’s politeness – or his ability to find himself amongst a fist fight.

“While I’m chatting up the woman, and noticing that her hair has been dyed so many times it’s crispy, Billy is working the room, putting his nose in other people’s business. He was asking after a guy named Jean Marc, the best description of which we’d heard so far was “he has a funny moustache” – to my mind, that was basically everyone in the room.

“Winnipeg was doing most of the talking, in what even I could tell was broken french, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was still the center of attention somehow – or more the opposite of that, I guess, like everyone wanted to make sure they weren’t looking at me, and they also wanted everyone to know they weren’t.

“It was mid-winter, and it was cold. Billy always wore these black gloves; ugly and too big, but he made me buy them for him at a Wal-mart, and I bet they were warm. It wasn’t my first go-round in a bar with him, and I’d noticed something: he had this thing he did, every time he was edging towards a fight, where he’d cock his gloves just as someone was about to say something over the line, and the moment they dropped that one offense too many, he’d shoot them off with a flick of his wrists. He’d do the whole dance with a smile on his face – every time.

“Before we went in, I’d asked Billy to take off the gloves. As I leaned in and whispered something to the woman that would have gotten me slapped in polite company, I noticed they’d somehow slipped back on.

“I was fairly sure the lady on my arm was Mary Josee Babbette, or at least that was my guess based on the “Pink Hair and always wears ripped jeans” description that I’d gotten from another local. The woman had approached when Billy and I had started nosing around, and she was the only patron to show me any interest.

“She kept giving me big sloppy grins, which I think were supposed to be seductive, and she kept gently bumping against me – although it was tough to tell if that was intentional, or she was simply so drunk she couldn’t maintain an upright posture.”

The old man worked the table; his arm was sure, and Mulligan no longer bothered to pause in telling his story.

“I think Mary Josee was only supposed to be pressing me for info but by the time I’d bought her a third drink, a courtesy she seemed unaccustomed to, her fingers were hanging from her lips, and her eyes were batting, in a way that could only be natural to her.

“I told her I was from out of town. I told her I found the French accent irresistible. I told her the backseat of my Beamer was amazingly comfortable.

The old man snorted, then reset his shot. Using the bumper as a guide, the one went down.

“Despite the gloves, Billy had been doing a pretty good job up until then. I gave him a wave and let him know I’d be back in a bit, then headed for the door. Mary Josee was tight on my elbow, and I was at the cusp of the play, so I sold it: I threw my head past her tangled mane and give her a little nibble on the neck.

“It smelled like a rat’s nest full of rotting Marlboros.

“She giggled a ragged smokey giggle, and within a beat, I heard a chair go over backwards.

“”Eh, yew,” I hear from behind me.

“”Wha?” I reply, turning to face the accusing tone.

“”Eh yew, azz-oh.”

“Sorry pal, no time, I’m just about to show the lady my Beamer, you know?” I gave him an idiot’s smile and squeezed Mary Josee’s hip. She was trying to squirm away from me at that point, and her eyes were locked on the guy I was pretty positive was Jean Marc.

“Billy had stopped working the tables.

“Billy was watching us intently.

“”Yeah, huh? Dat’s my o’ lady!” Marc said.

“Winnpeg cocked his hands.

“Jean grabbed Mary Josee’s forearm, and gave it a twist, sending her sideways over a table, and toppling the glasses of a trio of spectators.

“I wouldn’t say Billy is a muscled guy, I mean, you wouldn’t put him in a bodybuilding competition. He’s just one of those guys who’s so towering his arm can’t help but carry a Buick’s worth of momentum. He works with lumber for his day job, and he has hands like the gnarled roots of a two-hundred year old pine.

“Billy said “Hey,” and as he said it, snap went his wrists, and the gloves hit the floor.

“There was a thud, and Jean Marc went down on the table that had broken Mary Josee’s fall. It was all too much for the old hardwood, and one leg collapsed under the weight.

“”Hah,” said Winnipeg, clapping his hands together and eying up the room.

“In the mean time, I was busy getting groggy Jean back on his feet. I figured I had about ten seconds before Billy’s size was no match for the amount of cheap beer flowing through the room, and I was out of there in under two. I put our little rented Honda Civic in gear, having thrown the Quebecois across the backseat, and, finally, Billy came out the front door, looking like a man who’d just been promoted at the factory. He took his time cramming his knees into the tiny passenger side, and only closed the door once he was settled. Somehow, he had the ridiculous gloves back on.

“We found a deserted lot, plenty of those in the area, and it took very little time, with Billy standing over my shoulder, to get everything I needed out of Jean.”

The old man completed his clearing of the table.

“Looks like you’re on today – another game?” Mulligan asked, grinning at his loss.

The old man nodded, grabbing the worn plastic triangle and starting to rack.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 049 – Ruby Departed: Rolling On, Part 1 of 1

Ruby DepartedWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Forty-Nine.

Tonight we present Ruby Departed: Rolling On, Part 1 of 1

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we get a glimpse into Ruby’s social life, after the zombie apocalypse.

Flash Pulp 049 – Ruby Departed: Rolling On, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

Ruby Departed Rolling On: 1-1Ruby Departed Rolling On: 1-2Ruby Departed Rolling On: 1-3Ruby Departed Rolling On: 1-4Ruby Departed Rolling On: 1-5Ruby Departed Rolling On: 1-6Ruby Departed Rolling On: 1-7

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 048 – Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Forty-Eight.

Flash PulpTonight: Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, in this third and final chapter of our current serialization, we learn the fate of the Eleutherioses, as well as something of the history of our frontiersman hero, Thomas Blackhall.

Flash Pulp 048 – Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

Thomas Blackhall’s calloused fingers set the white teacup against his lips, and he took several short sips of the steaming orange pekoe within, pausing between each. He’d allowed himself a leisurely shave, after a late start, and the hospitality of the morning’s tea had him talkative.

“I’ve some experience with it myself, or at least the root of the thing. My own Mairi now carries a similar fate, despite the burial we gave her.”

“She passed?” Annie asked, raising her own cup. At her feet, Michael neighed about the kitchen floor with a brightly painted wooden horse.

“Yes, in birthing our daughter.”

“I’m so sorry. Did she pass as well?”

“Nay, she awaits me with her grandparents in Aberdeen. As much as it pains my heart to be parted, there are no others who I might entrust to locate and free my dead and wandering beloved.” The tea was cooling now, and he took a long draw of the dark liquid. “Anyhow – it is my belief that it was the same Marama – er, a sorceress, of sorts – who both raised my Mairi to slavery, and provided Wilfred his elixir. Her heart holds much love of mischief, and a sympathy for the darkest of man’s instincts.”

At the mention of his name, Wilfred, who’d been standing at station by the counter, came alongside the table with the teapot in hand. He gave Blackhall a questioning look.

“No, thank you, I’m still doing quite well.”

“I’d like a little more, please.” Annie said, brandishing her still half-full refreshment.

Wilfred poured with grace and precision, then returned to his position by the cutting board. As he moved, he showed care not to entangle his feet in Michael’s imagined frontier.

“Is there any way we might be of assistance?” asked Annie.

The chatter of adults had driven Michael to boredom.

“I wanna play horsey with Papa!”

Annie smiled.

“All right, go play horsey, but be careful, and no longer than a quarter-hour. You need a wash.” She looked to both man and boy as she spoke.

Wilfred scooped the child up, sliding him onto his shoulders. His walk became a cantor, and Michael began to giggle.

“Be gentle with your father,” Annie chided, as the boy took up double handfuls of hair to act as reins.

As they exited outside, the door’s closing cut short Michael’s shouts of “Faster!”

“I appreciate the sentiment, and the bed and roof and tea, but there is little more that can be done beyond my own efforts. When I pass this way again, it would be enough to know I have a friend upon whom I might call.”

“You surely do, Mr Blackhall, but – I take from your tone that you mean your departure to be shortly?”

“Yes, for every hour spent resting is another hour of chase.”

Annie nodded, blowing at the steam rising from her cup.

“As I mentioned yestereve, my crafts are limited. The compound I slipped into Wilfred’s water will leave him listening intently for a year. I know not your heart, nor what you would do after that year, but I might suggest advising your husband to a plea of adultery sometime late in the eleventh month, so that you might be granted a divorce.”

“I cannot thank you enough, even a year will be some solace, and may teach him the weight of his crime.”

“Well, would it be that I was capable of a greater period, I must admit, I would likely still not implement it – and if I did not trust you to understand the gravity of the situation, I would have left well enough alone at your release. I would not like to pass this way again to find that Wilfred had accidentally drowned himself in a pond, or plunged from the rooftop of a public house. Total imprisonment is no easy punishment, and be aware that, unlike your own sentence, his mind has not been altered, it is only his actions that are so malleable.”

Blackhall pushed away from the table, standing.

“I take my leave now, friend Annie, and hope to see you well when I return – hopefully with my Mairi on my arm. In a year, you will have hard decisions to make, but I hope that time will find you in command of your own destiny.”

From the yard came the sounds of a poorly imitated pony, and child’s laughter.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 047 – Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Forty-Seven.

Flash PulpTonight: Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

In this, the middle chapter of our current serial, a rash of violence breaks out between a man in love and the woman he once charmed.

Flash Pulp 047 – Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

There was a moment in which the only movement on the small porch came from the dancing flame of the dimmed oil lamp that Annie Eleutherios, once Annie Henley, had carried into the sharp breeze.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am, I know you’ve a lot on your mind just at the moment, but I think we would all be best served if you’d allow me to take the light from your hands,” Blackhall said, reaching out to the woman’s white knuckles.

“I appear to owe you many favours, sir, but it will take more than the removal of this torch to spare Wilfred my anger.” She spat out each phrase like cannon shot. Her brow was furrowed over the dark blue of her eyes, and a vein upon her forehead began to visibly twitch.

“While I agree that your husband’s fate is a matter of discussion, it’s your digestion for which my concern currently extends.”

She released the lamp into his grasp.

“My fate?” Wilfred’s eyes moved from his wife to the man he had thought, until recently, would assist him in retaining his marital status.

Annie began to retch noisily. With a look of surprise, she stumbled to the railing and emptied her stomach.

“I apologize. A man of greater knowledge might have made the transition easier for you, but I’ve only the crafts I know.” Blackhall turned to Wilfred, whose face was still puffy from his evening’s ale. “Get her some water.”

Eleutherios moved sluggishly inside.

As he waited, Thomas removed his coat, placing it about the woman’s shoulders, even as she continued to expel her supper into the darkness beyond.

The illness had passed by the time of Wilfred’s return, and Annie was wiping at the last of the spittle on her chin as he once again stepped onto the porch.

Her movements were of such a speed that he had barely time enough to stumble back – as she pounced, her hands locked into raven’s claws. It was only Thomas’ swift left arm snatching her bodily from the air that kept Wilfred’s eyes in place.

“Be calm.” He told her, and yet her limbs flailed wildly, as if she were a cat caught about the belly.

“Do you not recognize me, Annie? Do you not know your love?” Wilfred asked, his back hard against the door.

The woman discontinued her thrashing.

“Know you? KNOW you? Am I not the woman who’s scrubbed your well-marked drawers for these last nine years? Am I not the woman you drunkenly shake to consciousness when the fancy takes you? Have I not made your meals, cut your hair, raised your child – what of little Michael?” The point of her finger was the only source of her attack now, and she used it vigorously.

Setting the woman gently down, Thomas saved the cup, still in Wilfred’s hand, from an untimely end.

“What of Michael? Is he not the light of both our eyes, the fruit of both our seeds?” Even as he spoke, Annie seemed to strain her finger in preparation to plunge it into his chest.

“No – you’ve no idea of what the role of a father is. You’ve spent these years gallivanting. If it were not for my father’s money-sense we’d long have been driven into despair. You spend no time with him, you make no effort to raise him up – the sadness in his eyes is instilled there by the lack of your attentions.”

“Whenever I speak with the boy, his tone is always one of adulation. He was under the power of no elixir, and yet I hear no such brutality.”

“How could you, as I’ve done nothing but fill the boy’s ear with fool’s tales while you’ve been napping off your drunk and living on the dowry you stole. You’ve stolen my family’s land! My innocence! You’ve stolen nine years from my life! You’ve made me a mother while I was forced to drift through your sick dream!”

“I loved you! I love you! I’d do anything!”

In taking off his coat, Blackhall had laid his rifle against the porch’s white-stained rail. Before either man could move to stop her, Annie had lifted it to her shoulder, aimed at Wilfred’s chest.

She set the lock.

Wilfred threw up his arms.

“Annie!”

She pulled hard at the trigger.

Blackhall allowed no pause after the woman’s discovery that the weapon was unloaded – a motion which saved Wilfred some injury, as she immediately set about turning the firearm into a club.

Using his forearm as a shield against the blows, Thomas stepped between the two, wrestling the rifle from the maltreated wife. Disarmed, Annie backed to the far side of the porch – breathing heavily – and Wilfred sat down directly where he’d stood, fear still creasing his brow.

Thomas offered him the cup he’d previously rescued.

Huffing from his panic, the assaulted man drank greedily.

“Further violence will not be necessary,” Blackhall said, turning to Annie, “I have already taken care of the matter.”

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 046 – Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Forty-Six.

Flash PulpTonight: Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we begin a three part serial featuring master frontiersman, and student of the occult, Thomas Blackhall. In this opening chapter, we find our hero already in the process of being accosted with troubles not of his making.

Flash Pulp 046 – Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

“Nine-years past, I fell in love with a girl named Annie Henley. I was little more than one-and-twenty, and, frankly, I’d barely been off my Da’s parcel. She was like a wisp of silk when she moved, all limbs and grace.” As the speaker paused to re-light his pipe, Thomas Blackhall shifted in his chair, taking the measure of his patience against the volume of ale remaining in his glass.

“I -” Blackhall began, but the man’s victory-cough cut him short.

“As I was saying: in those days, I spent many of my hours in reflection on her composure and complexion. There was little chance for us to interact however, as the only times at which we might congegrate were at Sunday services. I did make many an attempt to woo her in that stifling environment, but her father had little love for me, and he soon hardened her against my approaches.”

The man, who’d briskly introduced himself as Wilfred Eleutherios before landing heavily upon the chair opposite Blackhall, paused to trade positions between pipe and drink.

“One mid-summer night, I had taken as much as my fevered-imagination could bare. Slipping into the still hours, I made my way from the porch, across the field, and into the darkness. As I walked the ditches and cart paths, I gathered wild flowers by moonlight – when I reached her home, my hands were bursting with the evidence of my love.

“After much creeping and peeking, I came upon the window I believed to be her own, and gave a gentle rap. My care in selection proved through, it was indeed her chamber, and after a moment her face swam into view behind the darkened glass. Her beauty was untempered by the shadows. I extended my offering, whispering her name, but I must have startled her, as she immediately took to shrieking.

“With no small amount of panic in my veins, I turned back towards the fields – and just in time, as I heard the stuffing of her Father’s muzzle-loader at my heels. My bouquet left scattered across the lawn, I reached the wheat just as Old Man Sutherland let forth with his musket. I was unscathed, bodily, but my britches did not weather the encounter well.”

Blackhall, who’d nearly found himself at slumber’s door, now gave a thin lipped smirk at the idea of the intruder being threatened with gunfire.

“With my heart broken and my trousers moist, I took the slow route home. Breaking from the road to stumble down to the bank of Granary Creek, I rinsed my laundry in the clear waters. Selecting a wide rock upon which to enumerate my laments, I set about waiting for my pants to dry in the night breeze.”

Wilfred attempted a straighter attitude against his chair.

“I have told few of what followed, it’s my understanding that you’ve some experience with the weird. The barkeep, Sam, is one of the few who’s heard my tale in full, and he’s also the one who suggested I might talk to you – and well he should, considering how much of my drinking coin has built this place.”

He emptied his mug.

“I was not long in my wailing when the old woman and her strange parade happened upon me. They walked in single file, some three or four dozen, but it’s my memory that she was the only one to speak, and as she went, they went behind her: a perfect shadow of her movement through the brush and timber.

“I had not heard her approach, my awareness was lost in tears. I must have appeared quite a portrait, with only the long hems of my shirt to hide my shame and my nose thick with snot.

“She said to me: “What then of you?” and her accent was at first so thick that I could hardly understand the words. Something in the silence that followed drove me to tell my tale, and, as I finished, I once again found myself weeping.”

Blackhall’s heavy eyelids grew taut, his hands pressed flat upon the rough wood of the tavern’s table. His change in attitude went unnoticed by the inebriated storyteller.

“Did you happen to notice a woman of thirty, brown haired, with a scar across her right eye that prevents her eyebrow from fully regrowing?” asked Thomas.

“I must admit, it was dark, and long ago. I have little recollection of any face but the old hag’s, which shall not escape my memory,” the drunk replied. “I waited many evenings by the creek, but I have never again looked upon her.”

With a nod, Blackhall bid the man continue his story.

“As I completed my tale of woe, the woman turned, and without word, a man stepped forward, offering up the bundle he’d been carrying upon his back. From deep within a packing of sawdust that must have made up half the fellow’s burden, she pulled forth a slim vial of red liquid.

“”An elixir of love that will ensure your woman’s affections for ten years – three-thousand, six hundred and fifty-two days of joy,” she said, a dry giggle slipping into her voice. With that, she moved on, her throng trailing behind in their strange mirror-pantomime. It was an encounter of such singular peculiarity that there was no doubt in my mind that the concoction would work in my favour, and I had little time to worry on it, as it was not but three days till the arrival of one of the Church’s summer picnics.

“I was concerned that my presence would bring remembrances of our nocturnal confrontation, but there was no recognition in the eyes of any of the Sutherlands. It was a simple enough matter to happen by her briefly unattended glass at the height of the festivities. Concerned about the rules governing the elixir’s use, I was sure to be the first she spotted upon taking a drink – as they say is a necessary step in the bite of Cupid’s arrow, you understand – whatever the case, after she finished that cider, her heart was mine.”

Wilfred grinned, his eyes clouding with memory.

“Her father was not pleased, but there was little he could do given the strength of her convictions. By harvest we were married, and as a gift, he allowed us a plot at the corner of his land. Her Mother had passed many years previous, and when the old codger finally joined her, we moved into the main house. It’s there that we’ve spent these last seven years in bliss.

“It is nearly a decade now though, and I fear for the life I have built with her.”

Silence settled upon the table, as both men were momentarily distracted by thoughts of loss.

Wilfred gave his throat a long clearing, spitting upon the pinewood floor.

“I ask you now, will you help?”

Blackhall stood, and with a motion to Eleutherios to remain seated, he disappeared up the stairs at the rear of the great room. After a moment he returned, now wearing his heavy coat and carrying his Baker rifle over his shoulder. His attentions seemed to be focused on the leather satchel that hung low under his arm.

“Will that be necessary?” Wilfred asked, eying the weapon.

“Likely no more than this,” he replied, pulling back his coat to reveal his worn cavalry sabre. “I have little in life to call my own however, and what I do have is worth the effort of keeping close at hand.”

Thomas hoped the man might have a cart to carry them to his home, but was happy enough to let his feet lead him along in silence. The lack of conversation was a necessity, as his companion required the full strength of his perception to maintain his balance under the unsure weight of his drink. As their tread shook the morning dew from the grass, Blackhall rummaged about in his satchel, combining powders and slick waxes.

As they entered the Eleutherios’ dooryard, Wilfred finally broke the silence.

“There’s not much there-in that might harm her?” he asked, considering the flecked amber lump that had been formed of pinches from the frontiersman’s unlabeled envelopes.

“The strongest item used is a shaving of mermaid scale, but in truth, the majority of the construct is pine gum.”

The drunkard’s eyes went briefly agog, but Thomas refused to allow himself a smile.

Before they’d topped the porch’s steps, the door swung wide, a dimmed oil lamp revealing the form of the former Miss Henley.

“I was worried,” she said, stepping into the crisp night air, and Wilfred’s arms.

Before proper introductions might be made, Blackhall moved directly into business.

“I have something for you,” he said, extending the wad of sap and exotic reagents.

The woman turned her face from the offering to her husband.

“Make her eat it,” Thomas told the man.

“Chew it up,” the drunk eagerly insisted.

She did.

“Have you restored her condition? Do I have yet another decade of beatitude?”

“Nay,” responded Blackhall, his focus stuck upon the woman. “I’ve shortened her sentence by a year.”

The restive quality that had long dominated Annie’s eyes now evaporated, replaced with something sharper.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.