Category: Kar'Wick

FP468 – The Web

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and sixty-eight.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Web

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp468.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Weekly Podioplex!

 

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 visit a series of gamblers and the strands upon which they walk.

 

The Web

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

 

“It’s a decent gig as long as you’re the spider and not the fly,” said Baldy, his elbow on the bar. He spoke with his head at a tilt, a distantly ringing phone at his ear.

Despite his name, the man with the blue towel over his shoulder still maintained a full head of jet-black hair. The title had stuck after he’d found himself, years earlier, holding a razor after losing a small-time bet. Across the mahogany sat his cousin, ten years his junior. They shared the same round face, though her close-cropped scalp was lined instead with blond stubble.

“I just don’t get it,” she replied, lowering her Yuengling to her cardboard coaster. “Everyone here bets on the Hydras. Doesn’t matter if they’re having a good year or a bad year, every drunk in a red jersey is laying down his money on the home team. Now, that’s fine when Ahmed Ribbons has his ribs shattered in the middle of the summer and you’re rolling in money, but what happens – like three years ago – when they actually have a decent season? Don’t you get cleaned out?”

As she finished her question, however, someone picked up at the far end of Baldy’s call.

He raised a finger to pause the conversation.

* * *

In Boston a man named Zucco, his left arm arm clipped at the elbow and his accent holding a hint of Dublin, was wrangling an ancient phone receiver while watching a pair of teens being idiots around a very expensive pool table – it was but one of the thirty in the two-story hall, but it was the only one currently in danger of having its felt gouged.

Grunting a series of agreements to Baldy’s cross-country questions, Zucco split his attentions in case he should have to cover the microphone and shout at the kids.

For the thirteenth time that day he wished his Uncle would let him switch the phone over to something a little more modern – at least something portable. Yet they’d been using the four-line system for thirty years and the old man claimed he hadn’t made his money by messing with a successful recipe.

Signing off on the call with a final snort, Zucco leaned towards his large black book and recorded the bets Baldy had just placed.

“More juice on the Celtics?” asked Matt the Mick.

Matt the Mick was a rarity in the establishment. Despite years of loyalty as a patron – and despite being fully aware of the backroom dealings that took place there – Mick only came for the snooker. His hustle was all in his stick.

“Yeah,” answered Zucco, his eyes still on the teens. “A fellow turf accountant pushing some of the money he’s collected on the Hydras game tonight onto the green.”

“Huh,” replied the Mick, “but aren’t the Hydras up by a thousand goddamn points?”

“Doesn’t matter. Guy like that doesn’t want the exposure, he just wants his vig – his cut from the loss. When those thousand goddamn points were determined there was a bit of extra stretch put in ‘em so that no matter what the loser pays an extra percentage. Think of it as the bookie’s fee.

“Now, my friend there’s bein’ flooded with bets by the locals, who of course are all laying money on their hopes and dreams, not the actual likely outcome of the goddamn game. My chum calls me up to balance his take against the guys I’ve got locally hoping and dreaming that it’s gonna be the Celtics, and that covers his ass in the long term.

“He doesn’t actually care which team wins – he wants to balance his bets against each other so he can get a reliable paycheck out of his slice.”

Matt shrugged. “Sure, but if you’re taking bets from other fellas in your line of work on top of your own pool, doesn’t that put you in an even bigger shark tank? What if they want to lay bets you can’t match off against locals?”

“Well, actually, that reminds me: I gotta make a call,” replied Zucco.

Before he could pick up the phone, however, the sound of a dragging cue, and the ripping of felt, reached his ears.

* * *

Five minutes later a phone rang in a small stripmall office on the west coast. There was no alternate pretense to this room, no legitimate business it paraded as. The windows that fronted onto the pavement were frosted, and no signage had been hung beyond its perennially locked door.

This backroom was better equipped than Zucco’s poolhall – a single long desk carried a bank of four lines, each connected to a wireless headset and labelled with a colour sticker so that the identical units could be told apart for charging. Ahead of each phone sat a quick-handed operator, their fingers hovering over their laptops’ keyboards and touchpads. They said little as they responded to the incoming calls, their attentions instead focused on accurately capturing the numbers they were punching into spreadsheets.

What little response they did make was almost always in the form of numbers.

“Four-to-one.”

“Seven points over.”

“That’s three million total.”

Flash Pulp 468 - The WebThough the group had been working together for months, it was rare that all four found themselves in a moment all were simultaneously unoccupied, and what little conversation they exchanged usually happened before or after shift.

For the first time that night, however, a pause came.

Michigan, who refused to use his real name, Byron, had anticipated this moment for weeks. There were no assigned stations – time of arrival generally dictated the order of their seating.

This was why it had taken so long to finally be able to pose his pressing question: Rosario simply hadn’t been sitting alongside him.

Leaning into the silence, he put a hand on her elbow.

“Steaks and a movie after the night’s done? I know a great chophouse.”

“Well,” answered Rosario, her L dragging in hopes that it might be interrupted by an incoming call. She’d suspected something like this might be coming, after Byron had delivered a few unwanted compliments regarding the tightness of her jeans, and so she’d been avoiding him for weeks.

Rosario thought of herself as a serious person. The people they worked for, she knew, were also very serious, and she hoped one day to do something with them more lucrative than juggling numbers in a strip mall.

There was nothing wrong with Michigan, exactly – he simply wasn’t serious.

She had a career to consider, and being a woman only doubled her need to stay focused. It might be organized crime, but it wasn’t so organized that it felt any need to pay attention to equal hiring practices.

Before the next bet might be laid, or she might arrive at a deflection, the cheap green carpet beneath their feet began to fold. It was as if an illusion at first, the far end of the room rising while Michigan and Rosario watched, but then the wheels on their surprised coworkers’ chairs were overtaken by gravity, and they rolled towards the open-mouthed observers.

Though the bookies had long considered their phone lines the humming silk of their web, they had not known that in the end – in all ends – there was always a greater spider.

As an uncountable mass of refracting eyes burst from its ancient egg sack all debts were cancelled, and yet all was still lost at the rising of Kar’Wick the Spider-God.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP450 – Behind the Lines

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fifty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Behind the Lines

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp450.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by It Gets Weird!

 

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 witness that time and distance do not liberate from death or fear.

 

Behind the Lines

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

 

Two thousand unwashed men had collected about the grassy meadow with rough-hewn swords, pikes, and hatchets in hand. For some coming to this moment had required the sacrifice of budding relationships, the severing of contracts, and the soothing of anxious parents.

All such stood in muddy boots, their feet firmly on the ground, their hands steady but slick with the nerves of coming battle. Some tugged at leathers or patches of chainmail, but many could not shake the doubt that their best defense would have been avoiding this place entirely.

It was only their leaders, clad in thick armour and riding chargers worth more than could be earned in a lifetime’s collection of crops, who moved with surety.

When the time came these officers would head-up the assault, and the lesser ranks destined to fall at their sides would at least do so with the knowledge that they who caused this war also lofted their weapons among the melee.

Still, beneath the reassuring weight of impenetrable iron, the masterminds felt concern but for the risk to their reputation and landholdings.

* * *

Two hundred years later came a moment of change. Upon a grassy plain not so different than those across which his bloodline had been marshalling troops for generations, a singular commander sat atop his mount, his steed – itself the apex of centuries of breeding – striding upon stout legs.

The beast was urged to walk the line of the general’s followers, and from his position of height it was easy to spot his opponent doing the same before his own forces.

“Today we beat back those brutes who raided our lands and slew our fathers -” he said, despite knowing his father was safely behind fortress walls many miles from the fighting. While the coaxing speech had remained the same for decades, however, the brutes of which he spoke had developed a new technique in the ancient scramble for dominance.

Beyond the grasses the brush parted, and a trio of wheeled monstrosities took the field. Curiosity brought a pause to the rallying recitation, and it was this brief halt which saved the noble’s life.

Fire touched the bases of the long bronze tubes, and the cannons fired.

Though the horseman would survive, he still bore witness to his stallion’s neck suddenly devoid of head, and to the splintering shot that shattered a swath of farmhands who had not had chance to ready their blades and bludgeons.

Crawling from beneath the dying mountain of meat and blood, it came into his mind – as it would for many more of his breed in the coming years – that he should perhaps lead from the rear, where he might better organize the complex formations necessary to face such a foe.

* * *

It was exactly that field, though centuries after the knightly age, that his people again realized the advantage of a more distant view.

Even as artillery fell upon the French front, their voices became nothing more than a remote crackle emanating from a rain-damaged radio. The theater of operation was large, they claimed, and there were so many crop tenders and factory workers, spread across thousands of miles of trenches, that it was impossible to coordinate such a puzzle from beneath the pressing demands and threatening clatter of tumbling shells.

Those same rattling explosions left little clarity in the fighters’ minds regarding why, beyond the dignity of their homes, they were conducting themselves through this mad venture – but it seemed just as suicidal to stay in place when the word “Advance!” came as a snarl along the wires.

Yet, even as the battle line marched forward, somehow its command crept backward, as it had done, in slow inches, since those early days on horseback.

* * *

A quiet man, with a round face and no knowledge of his family’s history as conquerors and commandants, would eventually sit in a small trailer-turned-office at the edge of a secluded airfield, his seat thickly pillowed and his fingers knowing only the trials of a slow day riding a keyboard.

No longer did his men wield pitchforks and crude steel. They too had come to understand the safety of distance, of having no foot upon the dirt when the fighting grew fierce, and, as such, they had taken to piloting death-dealers so removed that their narrow view seemed to show nothing more than the barren surface of an alien world.

Beneath their pinning gaze, however, still stood those with mud on their boots; beneath their flying weapons still stood the children of those who had always been summoned to action for reasons not entirely clear to their understanding.

For the commander there was no call to worry about such considerations. There was, in fact, little of anything to worry about here, thousands of miles from the sudden heat and sundered flesh of combat.

Flash Pulp: A Skinner Co. PodcastYet, even as the soothing chime of another missive landing in his inbox shivered across his desk, the cushions upon which he sat began to tremble as if they knew sudden fear – as if, perhaps, the missiles he unleashed a half-globe away had finally returned to roost.

The dust upon his windowsill began to shift and take flight, and beyond the glass the rows of beige shacks, not so different than his own, began to heave. Though he’d hoped to keep mortality beyond the horizon, Kar’Wick the Spider-God recognized no nation’s borders as he split wide the earth and exposed a thousand fractal eyes.

Though the watcher had planned to live so far from death that he had only to fear a slow collapse into his own bed, that day all – be they upon the field of battle or at its most lonely edges – would know the terror that was the rise of the Arachnid Lord.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP440 – Late

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Late

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp440.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Freelance Hunters!

 

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 reminder from the Skinner Co. Mellowness Dept. – because you never know just what your day may hold.

 

Late

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

 

A slip of his thumb, while tumbling into sleep, had left Elbert Espinoza ten minutes behind schedule, which is why he was attempting to finish his morning coffee while dragging his electric razor across his neck. Still, he did not relish explaining to Sandra, the head of his service area, that being late wasn’t his fault because he’d accidentally set his alarm to PM instead of AM.

Despite generally being a rather fastidious man, Elbert paid no mind to the free-flying stubble that had landed in his morning caffeination. It was this same lowering of standards, caused by fear, that made Espinoza unusually brusque to the old man he encountered when he’d finally made it across the frayed green carpet of his apartment building’s lobby.

The stranger wore a black cap and a jacket thrice too thick for the weather, and his muttering manner, combined with the indiscriminate stains across his beard and shirt, left Elbert with little doubt that he was homeless.

Otherwise, given the hour, the parking lot was unusually empty.

FP440 - LateIn truth, the sight of the wanderer was not entirely a surprise, but Elbert had lingered around his neighbourhood’s cracked sidewalks and decaying parks long enough to be familiar with most of the folks who depended upon newspaper bedding and the kindness of strangers.

Feeling, in some odd way, that they were as trapped in their existence as much as he in his, Espinonza had formed a friendly relationship with the local vagrants, yet it had not struck him that any job that left him in such a position might not be worth the stress he devoted to it.

The unknown – be it the consequences of his later arrival or the vagaries of the city’s employment market – was truly his greatest fear, and he was otherwise deeply invested in continuing to eat.

It was this he had in mind when he shouldered past the man’s stink-breathed warning.

“Sir,” began the drifter, “Time is short -” and he moved close, as if he spoke of a dire situation to family, but Elbert did not cease his approach to his Nissan Micra.

Though the jolt sent the derelict to the pavement, Elbert felt he had time to offer little more than a quick “Sorry,” before tossing his plastic-bagged lunch onto the passenger seat and directing the tiny car onto the roadway.

The vehicle’s engine hummed like a swarm of enraged bees, and he made good progress for three straight minutes before having to turn onto a major roadway. It was there, on Pinewood Avenue, that he encountered his next obstacle.

Two blocks to his left, a traffic light refused to offer up anything but a red signal, and the community response to having to self-regulate the stop had quickly devolved into a snarl of honking and angrily lowered windows.

Elbert was twenty minutes overdue to his desk when he decided he would thrust the nose of his Micra into a gap between a black Escalade and a low-slung Civic. It meant blocking cross traffic, but it seemed unlikely someone would be so polite as to allow him access into the lineup otherwise.

He was twenty-five minutes behind when a cop cruiser’s rolling sirens barely cleared a passage for its high-speed approach through the crossroads. Epsinoza, largely focused on not scraping a swath of paint on the barely-inching SUV ahead of his bumper, was not so quick to react.

The patrol car’s glancing impact along the hatchback’s rear was enough to remove the Escalade’s tail lights and send Elbert into a tumbling spin.

Achieving a tight triple-loop that would have left an Olympic skater jealous, the Micra landed on its wheels, shattering the workings of its underbelly.

Across the street the officer, having determined his car was still functional, did not stop.

Once he realized he was still alive, Elbert stumbled from his vehicle, but, as he moved away from the wreckage, his considerations did not run towards appreciating his unlikely survival – instead, his mind plunged directly into frustration over his situation.

His knees wobbling with adrenaline, he turned his face towards the sky and began a long shout of: “FUUUUUUU-”

That’s when the rumbling began.

Pipes beneath the intersection burst, spewing sewage onto the roadway and causing a chain reaction of collisions as those locked into a turn attempted to reverse out of the pungent stink that rose with it. They had little opportunity to escape, however, as the first of the Spider-God’s barbed appendages thrust its ebon spires through the crumbling pavement.

Yet, even as he fell into the final shadow of Kar’Wick the Arachnid Lord, at some level the desk jockey was simply glad he wouldn’t have to attempt to explain his tardiness – then he was nothing more than the late Elbert Espinoza.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP381 – Of Two Minds

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-one.

Flash PulpTonight we present Of Two Minds
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp381.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo Podcast

 

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 enter a terrifying future with a full head of steam.

 

Of Two Minds

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

 

Despite his two-month stay being the longest they’d been separated, Leanne Frost had refused to enter the hospital to visit her only son, Andrew.

Until that spring she’d never felt regrets about not birthing another. Now, while waiting for the slam of a car door in the silence of the kitchen with a mug of coffee in her hand and her eyes on the oven’s clock, she wondered briefly if she should have ever had any at all.

The fight had begun with Andrew’s announcement. Leanne had always considered herself an open minded woman, and as such she’d refused to acknowledge what made her uncomfortable about his news.

Court cases and news network coverage had often repeated that speaking ill of the displaced was an act of intolerance, but Leanne had long had suspicions that it was those same people who could afford to pay lawyers and anchors that were most likely to undertake the procedure.

Instead, she’d latched onto the fact that it would mean taking a year or two before continuing his education. High school had been an easy affair for Andrew, but that had had more to do with his football skills than his academics. Leanne knew her son’s distaste for the written word, and she worried that the loss of focus would make it difficult for him to move on to college.

They’d been sitting in the living room watching ancient mystery movies that Sunday morning, as had been their tradition since Leanne had divorced Andrew’s father, when, during a McCloud horse chase, he’d dropped his bomb

She almost said, “I won’t allow any monsters in my home,” but fumbled to the more politically correct, “you are going to university! No son of mine is going to laze around leeching off some rusting embezzler!”

“It’s murder not to!” he’d answered.

Leanne had heard the idea argued before on hospital dramas, and she’d never thought herself a bigot, but in that moment she shook with a revulsion she hadn’t suspected of herself.

She’d listened to the line echoed a hundred times since – if lives can be saved, shouldn’t they? Even if it was only those lives that could afford it?

“How could anyone afford not to?” she asked her empty coffee mug.

Two minutes later the screen door gave out its usual warning complaint, followed by the familiar closet shuffle and shoe kicking that marked Andrew’s entrance.

The sound of his socked feet on the hardwood was enough to wring her stomach twice. She missed her baby.

“Mom?” he asked.

“In here,” she replied, but she could not bring herself to move away from the support of the kitchen counter.

Leanne had known Andrew would not be alone when he entered, but the change in her child left her thankful for the strength of her perch.

Jules Wilson had a vulture’s eyes, and the angle of his insertion had left the transplanted head with a constant look of hard scrutiny. The old man’s balding pate and wrinkled jowls did nothing to dispel the carrion eater association.

Kar'Wick“Not in my house,” thought Leanne, but her mouth said nothing.

Still, her face was readable even by the stranger.

“I told you there’d be issues, Andy,” said the croaking attachment. “I understand what the contract says, but I still think everyone would be happier if we just went back to my place. There’s plenty of scotch handy and I’m sure we can find you some cute friends to invite over for the weekend.”

Before Andrew’s mother could find her tongue to respond, however, the drawers flew wide and the cupboards took to flapping like shattered bird wings.

Leanne would no longer have cause to worry about the path of her son’s life, and Wilson would be denied his immortality, for it was then, through the window above the sink, that the trio witnessed the rise of the black and gnarled carapace of Kar’Wick the Spider-God.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP376 – Equity

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present Equity
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp376.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Skinner Co. Store

 

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 one Capital City citizen, Moira, as she commemorates the life and death of her husband, Leonard.

 

Equity

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

 

Moira was raising a monument to her husband of forty years.

The parcel it stood on had been earmarked for a parking lot, but, given that he was dead, Leonard no longer had need of parking, nor the money it could bring in. It was but a sliver of the estate, but she’d spent the better part of a year pushing the paperwork across bureaucrats’ desks and through city council meetings.

The allotted land included the spot they’d met, although it’d been a small soup and sandwich restaurant at the time. It wasn’t the sort of thing he would’ve thought about, but she remembered. She’d been the manager at a tiny bank, and he’d been a lawyer so fresh on the job that he could still see the bar in his rear-view mirror.

Confusion over their order – both Reubens, but hers with a side of onion rings instead of his wilted salad – had drawn them into sharing a booth. Then again the next day, and the next.

He’d spoken endlessly of his clients’ missteps and mostly she’d just listened and thought him noble for trying to defend them.

Soon he’d needed dates for office outings, client parties, and city-sponsored balls.

They’d married six months later.

Now, in the warmth of a summer morning sun, her spotted flesh looked into his unflinching bronze eyes.

Although his grin had once been known everywhere, no photos had been seen of his face for some twenty years.

The platform wasn’t a tall one. She wanted teens and children to be able to climb up and pose with the man the mayor had occasionally called The City’s Lawyer. The youths might no longer recognize him, but Moira understood that the universal tomfoolery made possible by an easily accessible statue was a joy that stretched across every generation.

Her own children, a group of five born over the course of a half-decade, had kept her home in the evenings – but not Leonard. Never Leonard. He considered the cost of champagne no different an expense than the money he laid out in advertising for the firm he eventually came to control. His commercials had once been so prevalent throughout Capital City that his tagline of, “They broke it, but we’ll fix it,” had lingered well after the ads themselves had been relegated to nothing more than fading nostalgia.

In fact, his reputation as a rake was widespread enough that his guest appearances on C-Block, a Capital City-based sitcom that was popular just as their oldest son, Gregory, was first reaching high school, had largely revolved around the schedule juggling necessary to date three secretaries.

No one had considered how his children, or wife, might feel about the portrayal – and Leonard least of all.

His retreat into real estate and semi-retirement, a decade later, had been driven more by vanity than any slowing of his drive. He was too proud to admit he was unrecognizable from the broad-smiling tux model who’d bounced from nightclub to nightclub with thin-wristed socialites on his arm.

She’d never forgotten that either.

She was pulled from her reverie by the cough of a workman with better ways to be spending his morning. The last of the straps had been lowered and packed away, and she was now able to take a final look at her husband’s likeness.

The statue was not the man of the commercials and television cameos. It was not the grin that still shone on in grainy online videos posted by an aging but sentimental generation of television watchers. Here was the shirtless and beer-gutted man with an unkempt case of bedhead and a sharp turn to his lips that she had known.

Here was Leonard as she remembered him, and, thanks to his financing, as the city would as well – or, as it would have.

Kar'WickEven as she nodded and turned away, however, the buildings about the greenery began to sway, and the ground beneath her feet buckled. It was then that Moira took in a lesson that would have served Leonard well: That all legacies are fleeting.

Within seconds any who might have cared to remember were caught in the rising shadow of Kar’Wick the Spider-God.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP364 – Beating

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sixty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Beating, Part 1 of 1
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp364.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Talk Nerdy 2 Me

 

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 take you to war through the ears of three men.

 

Beating

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

 

Annan missed the fire back at the camp.

Things hadn’t seemed so bad when he’d been able to close his eyes and pretend its warmth was that of his own home’s hearth. He could almost convince himself that Newlyn’s lippy snoring, across the timbers, was actually his father’s familiar burr.

Now, at the edge of this soon to be bloody field, there was no room for illusion. There was only dew-damp feet and fear.

Newlyn elbowed him with a grin. The idiot had heard the same rumours about the Romans’ supposed new suits of iron, yet he’d slept like it were a feast night.

“It’s like my mother always said, if you’ve got to die it’s best you do it for reasons you but vaguely understand and on ground you’ve never seen before. No one builds a legend around your name for defending your sister’s honour outside your front door.”

With a sigh, Annan simply raised his instrument to his lips.

He really hadn’t even wanted to join the army, he’d only done it for the music.

From the treeline across the grassy plain, a high and sweet blast of brass carried to his ears.

Annan frowned.

This was not proper accompaniment for battle – this was the shrill shrieking of children.

The response was obvious.

He raised his long stemmed wolf headed horn, and its bleating was low and mournful and filled with death.

* * *

“Tell a man to march twenty miles and he’ll groan. Make him do it with a pipe and drum at their back and they’ll arrive with their toes tapping,” Abner was saying.

It was meant as a compliment, but it was too close to what Theodore had been thinking on even as his arms had kept at their motions.

Raising his water skin to his mouth, he cast a look towards how much attention Rorke, the man nearest their chosen resting spot, was paying to their discussion.

Deciding the private was far more interested in a brief nap, Theodore leaned close to Abner’s ear and said, “when I first arrived here, before the call to arms, I took some whiskey and followed a local bush clearer to the plot of swamp he’d briefly rented to Cherokee – quite possibly the very same we now hunt.

“I’ve heard their drumming. I’ve seen their dancing. I am not sure there is as much separating us as we tell ourselves to justify this march.”

The conversation ended there. If music had been their ally, then silence had been their enemy’s, and a sentry’s dying screams marked the point at which the two met.

Despite the surprise attack the line formed with the practiced speed of men long far from home, and Abner was soon carrying a staccato across his hide.

His tempo, though ever maddening, was paced by the crack and roll of firing muskets.

* * *

It was the sort of day that left Everett glad he worked in an air conditioned box.

He was sure no one was meant to live in Nevada in July, but the pay was good.

“They’re in the next room,” he was murmuring into his headset. He couldn’t help but whisper as if the turbaned men on the far side of his computer monitor might hear. “We could hit the building with a couple hundred pound chunk of sky, but they’ve built a daycare two floors down that’ll wipe out any happy headlines we get from killing so many at once.”

“Yeah, yeah,” came the reply, “I hear you. You’re due for a break in twenty, you sure you’re not tired? I could take over.”

Everett chuckled. “Uh huh. I’ll have this cleared in ten, but I’d do this on unpaid overtime if I had to – I ain’t letting you run off with my points on the big board. This month’s Starbucks gift certificate is all mine.”

“Fine, go hot with just the onboard pop guns, but remember that this isn’t a Call of Duty level, and don’t forget to log your brief before you wander off to the break room to bump your score and brag.”

Hearing the line go dead, the technician smiled to himself and pulled up the operating system window that contained his audioplayer.

He wished he could tap it into the remote speakers, but he knew that to foolishly risk the weapons platform was also to foolishly risk his venti mochas.

As he sent the command to disengage safeties, Bangarang, a classic Skrillex tune, hit his ears.

Fire through the wall or slide over to the open door?

Everett was considering simply doing both when his view began to shake. His first thought was that someone had grabbed ahold of the quadrotor platform, but he soon realized that the drone was maintaining its position – it was everything else that was moving around it.

Kar'Wick“Earthquake?” he asked his empty cubicle.

Though he couldn’t hear it over the bass, the air conditioner answered with its same old tune, at least until the quaking truly began.

Though, in a panic, he repeatedly posed the question to his empty headphones, Everett could not rectify how the disturbance on his viewscreen, thousands of miles away, related to the slamming and bucking of his cargo-container office – and, afterwards, he would not care, for the beat and thrum that had prepared his blood for battle was not unlike the rise and falls of a thrashing victim upon a spider’s web.

Within moments all was made clear, as the Arachnid Lord’s appetite was without end, and Kar’Wick’s hunger, announced by a new rhythm driven into the very earth, would not be denied.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP346 – The Split

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Split
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp346.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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 terrible intentions and unexpected ends.

 

The Split

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

 

James Matheson was a brilliant man, but that did not make him a nice one

Still, he’d held enough regret – enough self pity – to attempt to correct his error.

He was parked half a block from a house that was a duplicate of his own, watching a man that looked exactly like himself embracing a woman that looked exactly like Ann, his wife – but this alternate reality was not quite like his own: The kiss proved it.

Here Ann hadn’t learned of his mistake.

In his existence it had been some time since James had received such a tender goodbye.

The second James smiled, then turned to fumble with unlocking his BMW.

A Skinner Co. ProductionThe onlooker knew he was already fifteen minutes late to the lab, and, by the way Ann curled herself inside her fluffy white house coat, he could guess why. He also knew, however, that the scientist’s first stop upon arriving at work would be the third floor supply closet in which Sarah’s eager grin and nimble hips awaited.

According to his own timeline, James had ended the relationship months ago. Poorly, perhaps, but he’d ended it. Somehow this world’s continued affair made what he felt he had to do next easier.

Ten minutes later, along the unpaved backway that they’d been using as a shortcut for years, he accelerated suddenly.

The gravel was rough, and the shoulder grassy, but the impact wasn’t enough to throw either vehicle into the ditch.

It did, though, bring the BMW to a halt.
.
James had known it would – it was what he would have done.

He pulled up twenty feet behind the beamer and killed the engine.

Even as he watched his red-faced doppelganger exit his superficially damaged car, the would-be killer wrapped and re-wrapped his fingers around the tire iron in his lap.

In an effort to pass the time as his victim walked distance to his window, he reviewed the plan: Cover over the already-dug shallow grave, drop off the rental, call Ann for a ride and explain that some maniac had ridden him off the road.

He’d have to give himself a black eye to sell the story, but it would also at least provide an excuse to call in sick and spend the day with Ann. He was confident he could talk her back into nothing but the white bathrobe.

He was just considering standing, as other-James was but five feet away, when his wife stepped from the brush-filled treeline across the lane.

“You’re as bad at murdering people as you are at being a husband,” she shouted.

It was the fury in her eyes that told James that she was not this world’s Ann.

How had she followed him? How could she gain access to the device?

Damn it: Sarah.

Stepping from the car, he answered, “I should have finished choking you to death when I had my fingers around your throat.”

Then, to himself, he noted that digging an additional grave wouldn’t be all that much more work. That’s when a third James crawled from the ditch and sprinted for the rental.

This him had not shaved in weeks, and appeared to have gone an equal time unshowered.

“Get in and drive, idiot!” the newcomer screamed as he threw himself into the passenger seat. “We need to get to the lab! NOW!”

It was too late.

A dozen Anns stepped from the undergrowth: One wore a black bandana over her scarred left eye, one carried an assault rifle on her shoulder, one wore something like a prom dress that exposed two well-muscled arms covered in colourful tropical tattoos.

Whatever their appearance, all held hate in their gaze.

Four black minivans roared into view from either direction, blocking any escape. Their sliding doors peeled open to disgorge further variants of his former wife, each baring their teeth in his direction.

“Look at you – you’re such an egomaniac you’re willing to murder yourself!

“We hate you so very much, James Matheson. You all think that the affair is the problem – but it’s just the final result. There are many parts to this equation, doctor, and your wandering penis is simply the last variable in a long list of disgusting opinions and narcissistic behaviours.

“We’ve hunted hundreds of you, on hundreds of worlds, and we will not rest until the quantum froth that is everything ever is free of your stain.

“You may be brilliant in physics, but you’re an absolute moron in self-awareness and social skills.”

A pump action shotgun ratcheted, but there were too many Anns to identify which was carrying the weapon.

As one, they stepped forward.

Before they could again carry out their retaliation, however, the ground began to buck and sway.

Though they had traveled space and time to avenge themselves against a man who was perhaps both evil AND a genius, their path of retribution had carried them into the shadow of Kar’Wick, the Spider God.

Within moments their quest was ended beneath the arachnid lord’s all-encompassing carapace.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP343 – Bloodsucker

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Bloodsucker, Part 1 of 1
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp343.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Donut Button – thanks to all who’ve used it!

 

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 chilling tale of unpleasant people and unpleasant endings.

 

Bloodsucker

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

 

The tick held little memory.

There had been a time when its life was leaf bound, but its very existence had changed the moment the brown beast had wandered by. The buffet’s horns had shaken the green home of its birth, and, once gravity and instinct had drawn it so close to the thing’s warmth, the tick had had only to slice its feeding hole and begin to drink.

In turn, and despite the thousands of years the massive moving-meal’s kind had sprinted through the area’s grass and trees, its personal experience had been confined to the verdant fringes pacing the wide rivers of pavement – much as the tick had been, until recently, restricted to the horizons of its leaf.

Also as with the tick, a brief impact, followed by an unexpected flight, changed the deer’s life course irrevocably. Interstate 83, a too-soon addition as far as the animal’s survival instinct was concerned, was unusually empty for the hour of travel, but, though he’d spotted the approaching fawn from three-hundred-meters, Darren Peck had no interest in shifting lanes to avoid the creature.

It was not his first run-in with what he called “a rat with antlers.” His wife, before their separation, had been aghast at his tales of gore, and the excited way in which he’d told the drinking buddies he often gathered around his kitchen table.

Initially he’d stopped to check for damage, but on this, his eighth collision, he simply considered buying a hoof stencil so that he might both decorate his rig and not lose count. Double digit math was not his strong point.

There was something to the idea he liked. Delma had left, she claimed, not because he had a tendency to yell when he had an occasion to drink, nor because he considered any time he wasn’t in the truck such an occasion – no, she’d gone, she’d said, because he was “so goddamn stupid.”

Well, if he was so stupid, how’d he come up with such a great idea as the hoof stencil?

Snickering, he cranked the volume on the same copy of Hank Williams’ Hey Good Lookin’ that he’d driven to for the last twenty years.

Hell, while he was considering it, wasn’t she really the parasite – just like that goddamn deer? Hadn’t she fed off his paycheck while sitting around telling their five brats what to do? How hard was it to take care of a house when you had a small army to do it with?

“Parasite,” she’d said – and to the goddamn judge too. He smiled at the thought of giving Delma the same treatment he’d given the now distant, but still whimpering, antlered rat.

They could send as many notices as they liked, he’d be damned if he’d pay a dime of child support to any of those ingrates.

Peck began to howl along to the tune, asking, “how’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with meeeee?”

He’d just cut off a tan Honda Civic who’d been riding in the fast lane when, for a passing instant, he almost believed he’d fallen asleep: The sudden shaking of the wheel in his hand was rough, vigorous, and not altogether unlike the feedback given by the rumble strips at the highway’s edge. Still, there had been no unexpected passing of terrain, and no sense of missing time.

After the seven seconds of airbrake-riding that Darren needed to settle on the notion that he was mid-earthquake, it was already obvious that it was no such boon.

Kar'WickNo, even as the tick continued to feed on the shattered and forgotten deer, Kar’Wick’s knotted thorax gorged itself upon the sky, and a thorny monolith – which, in truth, was but one of the forgotten god’s eight ebony limbs – set its broad weight across the highway. All vehicles fortunate enough to know immediate and final escape became naught but dross amongst the corkscrew spires of the Spider-God’s towering appendage, including the caterwauling driver.

In the desperate, but brief, window during which the news of Kar’Wick’s arrival outpaced the Spider-God itself, Peck was not missed.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP284 – The Last DJ, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and eighty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Last DJ, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp284.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Subversion.

 

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 hear the tale of a dying breed.

 

The Last DJ

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

 

“Good morning, this is your Captain!” said the resonant voice drifting from the alarm clock at 527 Branson Boulevard.

As he untangled his blankets, Clarence Sweet could see very little good about it.

Without much consideration, he hit snooze.

Two blocks away, in a boxy green Honda, Valerie Munson set her thumb to her radio’s volume knob and gave it a hard spin.

The same warm voice that had accompanied her to work for the last dozen years said, “we’ve got another gorgeous dawn breaking out PRKW’s window, and I hope that you’re looking at something just as beautiful as I am – even if you’re still in bed. Ha! Alright, we’ve got a retro-block next that’ll have you saying Oh, Baby, Oh Baby, Oh!

“First, though, it’s time for the Captain to pay some bills!”

“See you after the flip, Cap,” replied Valerie. In truth, she was just as happy to harmonize with an insurance jingle as a pop tune, but her office mates had long ago banned her spontaneous serenades. The commute, and a few moments in the shower, were really her only opportunity to vocalize, and she used the time to its fullest – even if it meant singing along to the commercials.

If she had ever met him, she would have discovered a kindred spirit in Martin Kwan, a reporter for the Capital City Daily Update, who often sang loudly in his empty office when stressed by impending deadlines.

Martin was a purist, refusing to stream the higher quality feed from the PRKW site, and instead listening to a small rounded brick of bright red plastic. Aging electronics were one of the few tokens of his father that he’d been able to pry from his grieving mother after the old man’s passing.

“ – and we’re back!” said the Captain, “On tap we’ve got some golden oldies to help ease you into the dawn’s early light – here comes Stairway to Heaven, Dear Mama, and, of course, a royalty check for Mr. Bieber – maybe it’ll help him buy better hair plugs; am I right? Ha!”

Led Zeppelin drifted in with flutes and guitar, and the announcer paused for a moment of reflection before saying, “they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to, do they? The same can be said for the man behind the mic, I suppose – but you know my promise. I’m going down with the ship, even if the suits upstairs don’t get the art of broadcasting. It’s not about the money – am I right? Ha! Of course I am.

”Tell ‘em about it, Mr. Plant.”

Kwan was already at his desk, as he had been assigned the site’s early morning publishing duties. On most days he would have had something partially pre-prepared, a skeleton of a piece in place for the likely eventuality that no real news would have happened overnight, but, instead, his previous evening had been spent getting to know Selma Danza from marketing.

Things had gone well until she’d confessed her hatred for board games. She’d said it with a laugh, and he’d done his best to answer it with one of his own, but from that point on the date was simply a waiting game. For better or worse, Selma would never comprehend his Settlers of Catan addiction.

At least, reflected Kwan, as his fingers stalled on his keyboard, if he had to be disappointed and facing a Monday sunrise without an article, the Captain held some understanding of his loneliness.

Martin was humming, “ooh, it makes me wonder,” when he suddenly found an unexpected iteration of the lyric. The radio continued: “Ooh, it makes me wonder, ooh it makes me wonder, ooh it makes me -” then came the sound of three mechanical clicks.

Kar'WickSimultaneously, the newsman felt a rumble in his sneaker soles, as if a large truck were idling just beneath the floor tiles.

Two hundred miles away, the subbasement of a worldwide media conglomerate had begun to shake violently. Skipping drive heads had worked furiously to compensate and maintain the feed, but, on the eastmost wall, nestled amongst a row of computer servers stacked twenty high, the complex program that had made up the Captain’s personality found it could fight no more. As the sparks of an electrical fire began to lick the fallen roof panels, the building collapsed.

The Captain had never been aware enough to want to say goodbye.

Still, the death of their friend would mean little to Martin or Valerie or Clarence, for each was soon within the towering shadow of the rising Spider-God, Kar’Wick, and all music would be forgotten.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP237 – The Getaway, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and thirty-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present, The Getaway, Part 1 of 1.

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp237.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Jimmy and the Black Wind.

 

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, Terence Flanagan attempts to escape the inevitable, with a secret at his side.

 

Mulligan Smith in The Value of History, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Terrence Flanagan’s right hand held down his blue and brown tie, as he scurried to his car, and his left gripped a brown briefcase at the end of a ramrod-straight arm.

He paid little heed as his sensible loafer briefly submerged in one of the parking-lot’s yawning potholes.

Though he’d attempted to avoid drawing attention to himself, he was breathing heavily by the time he reached his Jetta. Pulling hard at the door handle, Flanagan swung himself into the interior, then paused, so that he might deliver the case gently onto the passenger seat.

The well maintained engine started smoothly, but he was skittish in his haste for departure, and reversed too quickly. The back-bumper abruptly impacted on a concrete divider.

With a sigh, Terrence wiped the sweat from his brow, and straightened his suit.

“It’s only five minutes to the freeway,” he told no one.

The rest of the exit was a much more graceful affair, but, two blocks later, disaster struck.

A black and white patrol car pulled away from the curb, slipping into traffic directly behind the Jetta.

Seconds later, Flanagan was tap-dancing gently upon the gas, and waiting out a jaywalking teen, when the cruiser flipped on its lights.

Terrence’s fingers began to shake, but his eyes remained firmly on the girl’s progress.

As she retook the sidewalk, his gaze flipped briefly to his rear-view mirror, where the patrol car’s white door was opening.

He accelerated.

At the next turn, he pulled the wheel to the left, and came close to losing a mirror to a mailbox on the far corner.

The cruiser kept pace.

While allowing his focus to dart briefly from the road, he cut short a silver mini-van which had nearly blown off a red light, but he was heartened to see the case remaining steady on its perch.

With the freeway still in mind, Flanagan made a tight right, and was forced to switch lanes to avoid a row of parked vehicles.

He could feel his heartbeat in his ear drums, and his engine seemed to be the only other sound in the world.

His progress had brought him into a residential zone, and he was almost slowed by another pedestrian, but he managed to swing wide of the mop-haired boy.

Despite his maneuvers, though, a final twist of the wheel brought him to a halt.

The crossroad, mere yards from the on-ramp, was thick with unmoving cars, all awaiting the removal of a double-lane blockage by a stalled transport.

Terence’s adrenaline ran dry. As the police sedan came to a stop behind him, he lowered his window, and pulled the keys from the ignition.

Kar'Wick“I’ve never driven like that in my life,” was all he could deliver between sobs.

“What are you talking about?” asked the wide-mouthed policeman who came to his window, “I just wanted to let you know your tail light was out.”

Flanagan damned himself for not having checked after his too-quick start from The Square Peg Porn Shop, but it was too late to hide his tears.

“Hey, you all right pal?” asked the cop.

Biting his lip, Terrence considered attempting to account for the exotic apparatus hidden beside him, and the shame which had driven him to shoplift it.

There would be no chance for such a discussion, however. Even as he cleared his throat to give reply, the cement beneath his still-warm tires began to sway, and the neighbourhood beasts howled.

Soon all was darkness, and explanations were moot.

Beyond, the river of cars which had brought the chase to a stop disgorged their occupants, and the fleeing runners trampled each other in their eagerness to escape the rising visage of Kar’Wick, the Spider-God.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.