Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eleven.
Tonight’s story: Red Mouth’s Legacy, A Blackhall Tale – Part 5
This evening’s episode is brought to by TomMerritt.com, because we love him.
We love you, Tom.
That’s Tom Merritt.com.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Tonight we present the penultimate episode in our current serial, in which Thomas Blackhall, tired, injured and having gone for days without sleep, begins to see an end to his labours.
Red Mouth’s Legacy, A Blackhall Tale – Part Five of Six
Thomas once again fell silent.
Moments passed, then the great albino emptied his lungs, once again beginning his mumbling chant. A raven flew down from an unseen perch, landing at the feet of its lord. The bear’s instructions took longer this time, but as his words trailed off amongst the growing chorus of crickets, the black bird croaked and rose into the air, its definition lost against the darkening woods.
Thomas attempted a small meal of his remaining jerky, but his stomach had soured and he found it difficult to keep even his meager portion down.
He used the remaining time until the bird’s return to gamble with his life.
Until then he’d dared not move from the head of the slope that kept the fury of his jailer in balance with his blade, but now he limped to the single white pine that overhung his meager prison, and, with one eye still on the beast who sat waiting at the bottom of his roost, reached deeply into the center mass of the standing giant and cut loose a single broad branch.
As he retreated to his precipice he stooped regularly, enjoying the stretch and tug of the motion upon his limbs, and pulled forth some of the dry bunches of scrub that had had the misfortune to root upon the desolate plateau.
Sitting once again upon the flat rock he’d come to use as a stool, he freed his knife from his belt and began to trim the offshoots from the trunk of his branch.
From above came the flutter of wings, and then, to his left, the shattering crack of stone on stone.
“You claimed you only required the smallest of portions,” came the throaty voice from below, its breath pregnant with a snicker.
After a time he finished worrying the branch with his knife and then slid on hands and knees to where the crash had emanated. A long search turned up three larger portions and a dozen smaller shards, and from this selection Thomas kept the largest, a piece not quite the length and width of his thumb.
Returning to his post, he set down the fragment and took up the reed braid and barren branch. He began to talk as he worked.
“Old King James may have said it was a “custome loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomlesse”, but if I’m to draw my final breaths on this empty rock, I’d rather some of them be filled with Virginian tobacco.”
With that he set down his design, and rummaging within the interior of his great coat, retrieved a small water tight flask. He opened it to reveal a pouch with a small quantity of shredded brown leaves, from which he took a hearty pinch, as well as a carefully folded packet of thin Spanish papers. The remaining volume of the container was largely taken up by the yellowing slip that was Mairi’s final letter.
“Oh, Bessie Bell and Mary Gray, they were twa bonnie lassies,” Thomas began to sing under his breath. He licked shut his work and tucked it between his lips.
Blackhall moved quickly then, his sabre close at hand.
He made a bushel of the driest of the scrub he’d gathered, and silently wished that the excess pine needles had been crisp enough to add as well. Once again his fingers closed about his knife, and with a sharp series of glancing blows to the flint stone, sparks and then flame lept amongst the ragged twigs.
With his right foot he tipped the cattails, stripped of their reeds to become simple shafts capped in brown fuzz, into the flame. With his left hand he lit his cigarette.
“It has grown dark, Master Bear, but my work is done,” Thomas said, lifting two of the bullrushes to his crude archer’s bow.
“What’s this now?” The clouded tone told Blackhall the beast had likely drowsed at its shadowed station.
The question hung in the air as twin arcs cast forth from the flat above, licking flame tumbling through tangles of branches before sprawling on the dry forest floor to the east.
“My work is complete – see now the child’s toy that shall mark my passage upon this hill.”
His cigarette dangling such that the stubble that had grown upon his face was at no small risk, he continued to speak as he let fly.
“A child’s toy indeed, and the child who taught me to build it would laugh to see my own shoddy work, but it is enough to allow me to reach yonder trees.”
He’d spent his ammunition before his jailer could fully rise from stupor. The seeds of the cattails took air as they burned, drifting downhill upon the breeze. Wherever they set down, the dry brush drank greedily of the flame.
Thomas stood upon the edge of the stony flat then – bow cast aside and sabre occupying his right hand – letting his work truly settle in as his lungs filled with his addiction.
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.