Category: The Murder Plague

FP355 – The Murder Plague: Rat

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Rat
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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, Harm Carter discovers an unexpected labyrinth lurking in the basement.

 

The Murder Plague: Rat

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

 

Once infected I wasn’t just another homicidal maniac – no, I was an incredibly well trained homicidal maniac.

The poor buggers around me had quite a problem on their hands.

Take for instance the woman in the maple-brown house, two blocks to the east, who’d turned her basement into a rat’s nest of chicken wire tunnels.

I’d stumbled across the thing after finding nothing more than crumbs and well wishes in her pantry. Now you must keep in mind that, till that point, the dwelling presented like any other of its abandoned neighbours. Upper-middle class. Slightly dusty. Echoing and full of pictures of people I didn’t know. The hardwood floors and caramel-toned walls showed no signs of violence – simply disuse – so I pushed on towards the basement in the hopes of finding a forgotten gun rack or emergency kit.

The Murder PlagueSuch wishful thinking ended on the stairs, however. You couldn’t even reach the bottom of the wooden steps without being forced to your hands and knees to descend any further. From my position at the mouth I could see that the opening was no more than three feet high, and that the route seemed to branch right at an upturned Christmas tree some twenty paces in.

There was also a stink I was too familiar with, the nose-fillingly sweet smell of human decomposition.

I did not relish, nor consider, the idea of plunging, face first, into that tangle of garbage and required tetanus shots – until I spotted the assault rifle.

It was some hobbyist’s heirloom, an AR-15 that had been so extensively modified it would have allowed a toddler to take out a police station. I almost missed it in the darkness of the tunnel, as it was leaned into a corner formed by a blue filing cabinet repurposed as a supporting beam. It appeared as if it had been laid out to be easily snatched by someone approaching from deeper within, but not to be seen by anyone at the entrance.

In fact, it looked as if the rifle would have been entirely hidden had it not had slid slightly from its resting place.

The picture stood clearly before me: The house, quiet and truly abandoned above; the gun, so close and so damnably handy to have when everyone is trying to murder you, (or, frankly, when you’re trying to murder everyone,) and that syrupy decay-stench that you convince yourself no one could live with, so it must be the homeowner dead and rotting in a distant branch of his or her human-sized ant colony.

Would a desperate accountant in a three-piece suit have ignored the fire of paranoia in his brain and crept in, believing he was clever to have pulled together the puzzle pieces? I think so. It’s what I’ve heard the psych people call a loss proposition: Like a raccoon with their hand in a vending machine, we’re wired to refuse to let go of anything we believe we have a grip on.

I did not, however, duck down. I did not even harumph.

I simply backed away on feet as sneaky as I could make them.

I haven’t read any studies, but my feeling is that those in uniform are less likely to buy scratch tickets. Training and hard experience had taught me that when it seems as if the stars have aligned before you it’s highly likely that you’ve actually just noted the imminent approach of a train.

Fear pushed her to finally say something. It was the only thing that ever pushed us.

It wasn’t much of a ploy though.

“Help?” she whimpered, “I’m stuck under a fallen pile of paint cans. I promise. Please help?

“Please?”

The density of the steel loops and carpet samples and newspaper walls made her sound like a lonely ghost at the bottom of a well.

I could have walked away, of course – simply avoided the house in the future – but, for all my talk of training, I was as sick as the rest,and I’d also been taught not to ignore a problem when you have a solution at hand.

She started shrieking when I shattered a side window and began flooding a window well with her garden hose, but the nest of wire protruded right up to the glass. I assume somewhere in that dank hole there was at least one drain, but it was quickly clogged by trash.

I spent the remainder of the day lurking at the top of the stairs, but I guess fear held her till the very end. As far as I know the AR-15 drowned with her.

There are nights, though, when I wake fighting the dead weight of paint cans on my legs and an ever increasing tide of water on my chicken-wire bound face.

 

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.

FP297 – The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 3 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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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, Harm Carter meets his theoretically murderous neighbour.

 

The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 3 of 3

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

 

She was maybe forty, with hair that had likely been short-cropped a few weeks previous, but was hanging shaggily across her brow by the time she pushed open the shed’s green doors.

She moved along the lawn like a cat, keeping tight to the fence and stopping to test the air whenever an unexpected noise ricocheted down our little alley of backyards.

I was sure she was The Carpenter.

The Murder PlagueMy eyes ached from a lack of sleep, and my legs were stiff from my all-night vigil, but I felt vindicated somehow. Here was a clever someone deep in their homicidal delusion, and I was staying one step ahead. Nevermind that I hadn’t thought much of the shack before she’d stepped from it, I’d known someone would appear by dawn and here she was.

The woman did not check on the now no-doubt-dead fellow at the pool’s bottom, however. No, instead she hustled to my fence – our shared fence – and hopped over. It was as she made the jump that I realized there was a gun belt on her hip.

She paused when she discovered the patio entrance barricaded, but only long enough to slip in through a basement window that I hadn’t realized was open.

Moments later a bellowing hello ascended from the depths, and continued to be repeated throughout the ground floor.

My mind raced. Had The Carpenter seen me at my lookout? Perhaps someone so ingenious couldn’t actually be mad – perhaps she was sane, just as I considered myself, and she hoped to form some sort of alliance.

The shouting stopped as she mounted the flight to the second story, and I guessed that she’d considered that any further yelling would only unnecessarily give away her approach – that if I was going to answer, I would have by then.

Still, she came, and I grew increasingly certain she knew exactly where I was.

There was no place to hide. The bed was a child’s, and too low to the ground to fully cover me. The closet was crammed tight with brightly coloured craft-making kits and forgotten halloween costumes. Worse, if she did happen to be insane, neither spot would provide give me a chance to swing my blade in my defense.

In the end, when she entered, I already had my hands raised and my open palms clearly showing.

Now, you must understand that the infection is a self-reinforcing idea. You’re paranoid about appearing paranoid, so you do your best to act normal – except, of course, that there’s a murderous apocalypse outside your door and you probably SHOULD seem rather nervous.

I said, “well, hello.”

“Oh, uh, hi,’ she replied.

The astonishment on her face caught me off guard: Didn’t she know I was waiting?

In truth, misunderstood motives were the heart of the sickness.

Her fingers were on her gun belt, but I think my demeanour slowed her. Clearly I was hiding an unexpected surprise if I was so calm about being exposed, right?

I was no longer guessing at her intentions, however, as my corrupted brain had moved into a dance for survival. It decided flattery was my best option for extracting information.

“I’ve been observing your work,” I said, “you’ve got a brilliant set up over there. It was like watching a magic trick unfold when that fellow disappeared.”

Almost as if to underline the statement, the shattered ruin lying in the dark at the bottom of the pool began screaming again. I suppose the pain must have caused him to black out for a time.

The assumed Carpenter raised a brow at me. Her conversational tone was punctuated by the muffled pleading from across the way.

“It isn’t mine, actually,” she said. “Barry and Rhonda were always waiting for the end of the world, and I guess they finally got it. Rhonda vanished a couple days into their construction efforts, but Barry managed to last a few weeks before accidentally impaling himself in the middle of the night with a swinging pickaxe-thing he’d rigged above his bedroom door.

“Honestly, I was just over there collecting some of their food stash when I noticed you in my house. I knew the shed’s shotgun had already been set off, so I pushed the corpse all the way inside and hid. He didn’t smell terribly good, but he had a can of tuna in his pocket which made for a nice snack.”

I hadn’t recognized her from the scattered family photos that now seemed to stare at me. Her face had hardened and her stomach was now taut.

Worse, The Carpenter had been dead all along. As if the ghost of his madness, only his traps had lingered.

In retrospect, I think she was trying to goad me into an excursion. Maybe her confidence was up due to my raised hands. Maybe she hoped that I would head in and engage another of the pitfalls, thus making her scavenging that much easier.

Maybe it’s just tempting to make myself believe there was a threat.

“Frankly,” she continued, “I thought it was you who’d fallen into the Mortenson’s swimming hole. That’s why I came back.”

Whatever the case, there was no ulterior motive, no clever plan that had brought her directly to my perch – it wasn’t crazed genius, it was simply bad luck.

She leaned towards the window to peer at the dying man’s premature burial, and her touch slipped briefly from her pistol’s grip.

The bread knife I’d found in the kitchen dropped cleanly from my left shirt sleeve.

Was she infected? Likely, but I didn’t give her the chance to prove it.

Then the house was mine.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

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

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.

FP296 – The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and ninety-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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(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, Harm Carter finds a home for himself amongst the infected maniacs.

 

The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 2 of 3

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

 

I could have helped. I would have, probably, if I was in my right mind.

The Murder PlagueThe doctors tell you about your lack of culpability, but Hitchcock’s doesn’t touch your memory. You dream of things you’ve done, details you’ve forgotten for years, and there are, of course, plenty of things you remember always; the feeling of resistance against the blade, or the smack of the hammer, or the simple thud of a trap being sprung.

You never escape the memory of the rush of victory against a hated enemy – even if that enemy is only the cancer patient grandmother from next door.

Sometimes you even dream that your delusions were true.

Now – when I was a boy we’d start our ball games with one lad tossing another a bat. They’d then hand-over-hand the handle till the winner grabbed the top. Meeting someone during the plague was like that, but coming out on top usually meant a knife in the other fellow

That’s how the following period felt in my mind: A series of escalations, with the opening toss of the bat being the chance revealing of the pool.

It was like staring at my opponent’s shadow and trying to guess what they looked like. I didn’t know if it was a man or woman, but I knew they were crafty. It must have taken quite a bit of work to construct the grid they’d laid across the pool, to hinge and balance the planks, then lay the sod camouflage.

Worse still, Capital City was largely powerless. Unless their fortifications had been built at the immediate onset of the plague, they’d used only hand tools.

It would mean less noise while getting the job done. Yes, I thought they were crafty indeed.

Without doing it consciously, I started thinking of my neighbour as The Carpenter.

I became convinced every object in my opponent’s yard was booby trapped, and that the homemade abyss was but one defensive line of many. The propane grill was obviously a bomb. The four broad steps leading to the rear patio door were likely break away, divulging some sort of foot-sole impaling devices beneath. Below the overhang of the house stood a green dutch-doored shed. Touching the latch would no doubt mean decapitation, or some equally ingeniously horrible fate.

Standing there, absentmindedly listening to the screaming while my thumb and forefinger still held the fuzzy pink curtain, odd ideas came to me; like lingering till the wind was favourable and trying to set fire to the opposite string of houses, or finding a car and rigging the gas pedal so that it slammed into the cream siding, or even just ringing the bell and seeing what would happen if I asked to borrow a cup of sugar.

All were discarded as distinctly too risky. I considered on.

Would The Carpenter appear to check the tiger in his trap? No, he or she would wait and see if the death throes brought anyone else – so, in turn, I would wait to see what The Carpenter would see.

My fevered mind began to feel my neighbour’s presence in the void they’d left. Of the four windows I could see clearly, two were covered with slat blinds and the others held thick floral-patterned drapes. I suspected the blinds in the bottom-right had been slanted just enough to allow a view of the outside, as neither row had been cracked for a better view, but every now and then I would come around to convincing myself that there was a flutter at the upper curtains. I was a fisherman uncertain as to if he was actually feeling nibbles on his line and never getting a solid bite.

The shrieking became wailing, and the wailing became weeping, then, no more than an hour later, there was nothing but silence.

It got late, and I got tired, yet I couldn’t leave my post. The Carpenter, I was sure, would hold out till the darkest moment of the night, then venture forth. By the time the moon was deeply within cloud cover, however, I was positive it would be dawn.

I peered carefully from behind my flimsy veil, determined to be just as crafty, and patient, as my worthy adversary.

At dusk the shed opened, and a thin faced woman stepped from its depths.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

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

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.

FP295 – The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and ninety-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Fencing, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp295.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, Harm Carter finds a home for himself amongst the infected maniacs.

 

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

 

The door to the house on Washington was open, but not too open. The driveway was abandoned and the garage left gaping at the street. The backyard faced onto other cookie-cutter suburban homes, but the front had a wide view of a playground that provided no place to hide. The exterior had the look of factory aged faux-brickwork, and the hedges had been painstakingly maintained before having run riot during the plague times.

It was exactly what I was searching for.

At first, though, I walked past it.

The Murder PlagueNow, I should clarify, it wasn’t as if I was strolling about like a grandmother on her way back from Sunday service. The madness of Hitchcock’s Disease had fully gripped my mind by then, and I managed forward momentum only through slow progress and carefully affected casualness.

I thought the rules had changed since entering the city. While hidden riflemen were an issue in the country, anyone crazy enough to shoot a stranger on sight was also too scared to give away their position so easily. So long as I wasn’t rushed by a knife-wielding maniac, I reasoned, I’d be OK.

That’s not how Hitchock’s works, of course – it was always more important to worry about the smiling man with extended hand than the risk that a slasher film villain would come barreling onto the street – but the viral fear running amok in my veins couldn’t consider that far.

Anyhow, I went around the block, moving cautiously, but not so cautiously that I appeared paranoid. Or so I hoped. Everything seemed a threat. A recycling bin brimming with plastic bottles, no doubt forgotten at the roadside during a panicked evacuation, became an improvised explosive device. The abode on the corner, whose door was slamming against its protruding deadbolt with every tug and thrust of the wind, was obviously a deathtrap bristling with shotguns and poisoned broken glass.

Every window contained a watcher, and every useful item I passed was clearly set there to lure me into danger. In my mind my chosen neighbourhood was against me, but I was smart, and sober, and sane, and I would use this clarity to kill any one of those murderous bastards who might attempt to show their heads.

This mix of anxiety and twisted justification carried me back to the molded-cement stoop of 276 Washington.

I did not pause in my approach, as I worried it would give extra time to anyone inside. Despite the fact that the house met the careful criteria I’d worked up during my walk, any delay was an excuse to envision a thousand threats, and my stomach was a knot. I was well into convincing myself that the whole thing was a trick when I finally entered the front hall, but, when I flipped the deadbolt it was like erecting a wall to keep the world out.

I immediately began to fear whatever might lurk beyond the barrier more than whatever might lurk on the second floor.

Moving through a small sitting area, I ignored the staircase and beelined to the kitchen. I located a stout knife, and, after some cupboard fumbling, a flashlight. I searched the ground level, then searched it again. I descended into the unfinished basement – largely used for storage – and turned over the boxes of Christmas decorations and photo albums. Just in case.

When I returned to the main floor, I searched it again. While arguing with myself about being trapped inside, I shuffled around the living room furniture to block the french doors that lead to the back patio.

Finally, I climbed the stairs.

Seven doors. Subtract two, as one was an open closet that had clearly been raided for blankets in a hurry and the other was a laundry room that stood empty in the gloom. The entry on my left I revealed a wall dominated by a slightly risque poster of a woman washing a sports car, and a number of logos and pictures from a number of bands that I’d likely complain about if I were to ever hear their music. I popped my head in and the place was a mess of clothing dunes and forgotten soda cans. Turning back, I scanned the bathroom, then encountered a home office that looked like it had never been fully unpacked despite being used regularly. Next came a nearly antiseptic bedroom, with a plush bed and a flatscreen on the opposing wall. I assumed it was the parents. The final chamber belonged to a girl of perhaps nine. There was a large framed picture of the family on her shelf, but I wasn’t terribly interested anymore as it didn’t seem as if any of them were on the cusp of leaping out to stab me.

Of course, my inspection hadn’t been about trying to piece together who these people were – no, I was allowed only to think in terms of traps and advantages. Could I use that lamp as a weapon? Perhaps I could rig it to the windows somehow to electrify the pane? Was that a murderer in the closet? No, it was just a Halloween mask hung on hook – but could I use the guise somehow? Was there some worth in a scarecrow? Perhaps as bait?

– and so it went until I noticed the spidery fellow.

From the shelter of the pink curtain I could see a square of 6 backyards – my own, the two on either side of my little plot, and most of those belonging to the three houses that faced us.

The creeper moved slowly. He’d peep over the fence, scan the windows of the house, then pull himself over. He was methodical about it, and every enclosure took at least ten minutes to clear. I can’t say exactly what he was seeking, but I suspect food. I did see him try one patio, but it was locked. Rather than shatter the glass and draw attention, he’d simply turned to analyze the next residence.

He’d made it perhaps a third of the way across the lawn directly behind my own when he disappeared.

The turf seemed to fall away beneath him, and I caught a brief flash of aqua blue ceramic tile, then the spring that held up the plank’s hinge must have snapped back into place. There was not a disordered blade of grass, and, even having just seen the trap door magic trick, I didn’t entirely believe it had taken place. At least, I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the screaming.

The potato sack sound of his landing made it obvious that the pool was drained – and rather deep.

It was then that I realized I likely had a neighbour.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

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

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.

FP259 – The Murder Plague: Capital City, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and fifty-nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Capital City, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp259.mp3]Download MP3
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Nutty Bites 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, Harm Carter loses himself in a city besieged by the paranoia inducing effects of The Murder Plague.

 

The Murder Plague: Capital City, Part 1 of 1

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

 

The Murder PlaguePanic can carry your feet incredible distances, and I was deeply lost in a nameless suburb before my mine ran dry.

My backstreet marathon hadn’t given me any better idea of where I might be, but it did provide a general impression of how the contagion had rippled through the city.

It was a silent thing, back in Mass Acres. Everyone simply locked their doors and went quietly mad – not so, in Capital City, as was made evident by the junk mail, and lawn ornament wreckage, which littered the sidewalks.

For example, when my adrenaline subsided, and my paranoia retreated to a general low-level terror, I noted a consistent bit of hooliganism.

You see, the neighbourhood I was touring had unmistakably been constructed by the same company throughout – if the mirrored two-story homes hadn’t made it clear, the consistent theming along the curbside would have. Every corner was adorned with an ornate faux-Victorian lamp, and every driveway had an identical wrought-iron-styled plastic mailbox at its end. It would have been a model community, if trash-bag mountains hadn’t gathered along the grassy edges, only to be ripped into, at a later date, by stray mutts.

I didn’t think much of the first of the exploded mailboxes. After a half-hour of additional wandering, though, I began to mark an irregular pattern. The original was a solitary act of vandalism on its block, but, as I progressed, I spotted a twin, then triplets.

Now, it’s the nature of the illness to notice everything. It’s also a symptom that everything seems to be sneaking up on you with a knife behind its back, but, still, you become unusually observant.

“Hoodlums,” I thought, but, as the density of the incidents increased, and their boldness obviously grew, I couldn’t ignore the worried voice which whispered constantly in my ear.

Tire tracks had peeled away from many of the decapitated pillars, and I was convinced that those responsible were thugs; true monsters, roaming the area looking for trouble to cause, and innocently-insane pedestrians to harass.

Worse, while some doors swung wide and empty, and no yard remained manicured, I felt uncomfortably certain of the occasional curtain-twitch, but the back-to-back-to-back fences left me with little place to hide. To my embattled brain, it was walk or die.

The sporadic executions grew thicker. Eventually, I came to a series of homes, painted in soft earth tones, that had their greeney torn up by marauding tires, and every one of their poles beheaded.

Despite the evidence of rain and weather upon the scattered letters and fliers, I was sure the brutes were close – and I wasn’t wrong.

I found them around the next turn.

It’s hard to say what the motivation was – perhaps the nutter had thought the postman was attempting to deliver anthrax – but, whatever the case, the plague had driven one of the local homeowners to rig a handgun within their mailbox, and they’d done a solid job of it.

There was a behemoth of a white convertible cadillac beside the trap, which had idled till its tank emptied. The backseat was likely brimming with plastic Pepsi bottles at the beginning of the run, but the pair of corpses had been industrious, and, by the time I encountered them, there were only a few scattered on the rear floor-mats. The other components for their simple explosives had been left sitting on the dash.

The driver-side door was swept wide, and its occupant lying on the pavement, not twenty feet away. His eyes were blank, and his cheeks were hollow with advancing decay. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt, but I couldn’t make out the skateboard company’s logo through the blood. His shoulder had caught the bullet, giving him a bit of a chance to crawl away, but his partner, slumped against the windshield, wasn’t so lucky. His right eye had been vaporized and no small amount of his brain matter hung from the vehicle’s fuzzy dice.

Both looked to be about twelve.

They were joyriders, and nothing more, likely abandoned by crazed, or dead, parents. It becomes difficult, upon reflection, to begrudge anyone even the most miscreant joys, when considered against the backdrop of Hitchcock’s.

“Walk or die”, said my sick mind – so I did.

 

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.

FP240 – The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and forty.

Flash PulpTonight we present, The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 3 of 3.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Lifestyle Jazz.

 

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, Harm Carter finds himself caught between a crazed sheriff and an armoured combat vehicle.

 

The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 3 of 3

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

 

The Murder PlagueMr. Baldy’s first instinct seemed to be to follow the sheriff into the apartment building, but, in a rare of fit of reason, he instead turned to me and asked what I thought we should do.

As he spoke, the girl in his arms began to squirm.

While I considered my response, the armoured vehicle turned onto the roundabout fronting the tower. As it slowed, its roaming weapon ceased its circling patrols and focused its accusing finger directly at us.

I was quite familiar with the model of transport, as my final army posting had been warming the interior bench of just such a buggy. I knew it required at least one driver and one gunner to be operating as it was, and a homicidal crew wouldn’t last long in so tight a space.

It was oddly comforting, in a way, but my thoughts had taken an odd path: I was increasingly convinced that I was at risk of never being able to find my way back to Becky – or worse, that these men would harm her, if they could.

Despite my concerns, I said, “they aren’t infected.”

We waited until they’d rumbled to a halt in the guest parking space that must have once been regularly occupied by pizza delivery cars. Once stopped, the beetle’s recessed loud speaker whined briefly, and a voice that could be no older than twenty-one asked, “is this the entirety of your group?”

I wondered briefly if he was reading from the same sort of suggestion card that we used to be issued; the kind filled with helpful phrases for dealing with exotic locals, although I suspected his was something closer to a flowchart for dealing with the murderously insane.

Baldy replied, “there’s another guy, but he took off when you came around the corner.”

He still hadn’t learned the value of important information, so I added, “-and he’s crazy.”

To which the youth behind the armour replied, “yeah, that’ll happen.”

Before he could find the next step on his chart, Weaver made his re-appearance, some five floors up. Actually, he may have been on the balcony a while; it was really only his scream of, “gimme back my mother, you thieving bastards,” that drew our attention.

Despite his statement, he wasn’t in much mood to bargain, as he made clear by tossing two flame-topped bottles onto our visitors’ chariot. Although the impact of the Molotov cocktails threw glass and liquid flame in every direction, we’d kept our distance from the imposing transport, and it saved us from injury.

Unsurprisingly, however, the driver wasn’t terribly impressed with the sheriff’s guerrilla recycling effort, and the vehicle’s engine roared with his displeasure. He had little sympathy for the building’s once well-maintained decorative flower bed as he pulled away from the pavement and found the quickest route back to the road.

As they ran, the thing’s cannon tracked upwards, but the violence I anticipated never arrived. They simply drove off, with a flaming roof.

For a moment silence descended, then the toddler returned to weeping. Baldy looked as if he were ready to join her.

We couldn’t see Weaver, as we’d sheltered under the lip of the lobby canopy, but it was difficult to forget that he was up there.

It must have been the girl that drew his attention, as he suggested we, “ought to come out where he could see us.”

To move forward, into the open, seemed a sure way of relieving ourselves of the burdens of the world, but I didn’t much like the idea of retreating into the potential house of horrors that the apartment building represented.

The longer we took in thinking about it, the more I became sure the sheriff had retreated from the balcony, and would be arriving behind us shortly.

I panicked briefly, feeling as if I were on a rapidly deflating life raft, and then the clatter returned.

It wasn’t like the original, cautious, approach – watching the abrupt turns, I cringed at the brutality their seat belts must have been absorbing. They paused on the street, swung backwards, and sent their tail barreling in our direction.

Until the last second, I wasn’t sure if they would stop short of running us down. As it was, we were forced to step back as the rear hatch split wide.

The owner of the young voice reached out with waving hands, while shouting, “get in, get in,” from behind his full-body hazardous materials combat-suit.

I’d like to say that, in a moment of clarity, I pushed Baldy and the child inside, then ran, because I thought I was a danger to them. It’s not true, though.

I did it because I was convinced the stranger in the black suit would permanently take me away from Becky – I did it because the sickness had taken hold.

 

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.

FP239 – The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 2 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present, The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 2 of 3.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Pendragon Variety.

 

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, Harm Carter finds himself the hostage of a scheming lawman.

 

The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 2 of 3

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

 

The Murder Plague“You, sir, have the intelligence of a lobotomized chimp with a penchant for model glue,” I informed Mr Baldy.

I knew it would have made little difference if he hadn’t attempted to flee our crashed vehicle, but I was losing patience.

“Weaver hasn’t shot us yet,” he replied.

Although he his argument was somewhat valid, we would find out why we’d been spared soon enough.

With a wiggle of his department-issued shotgun, Sheriff Weaver said, “you will stay close together, and you will stay directly in front of me. I’m very familiar with the route: The only danger is in disobeying orders.”

I knew the statement to be as solid as a dead man’s handshake, but I kept my silence. It takes a madman to think he has any sort of existence, within the cloud of the murder plague, under control.

Instead I asked after the child. A quick inspection of her arm had convinced me that it was, at the least, badly sprained. While there was no bone protruding, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn it was broken.

She did her best to remain calm and quiet, but, even when she wasn’t wailing, there was moisture in her eyes, and her chin suffered bouts of trembling.

“There are appropriate medical supplies at the apartment,” was Weaver’s reply.

At that point I spun on my heel and took in the trees and open fields that surrounded us.

As was so often the case in my days of uniform modeling for Uncle Sam, there was nothing for it but to start marching.

Baldy and I carried the toddler, so that we might make a decent pace. It was the division of labour which brought on problems.

My time toting the girl was largely spent wandering through memories of Becky at the same age. On a warm August morning, when she was four, Rebbecca came to show me a “pretty bug” she’d found while roaming the backyard. The bee had landed on her palm, and, as I moved to shoo it away, Becky defensively closed her hand. She’d spent the rest of the day forcing me to search cupboards, closets, and couch cushions, for any lurking, stinging beasts.

It was one of the few occasions in her life that she asked me for help.

As Baldy undertook his turn, my time was largely spent listening to his complaining. I believe he was attempting to bargain with the crazed sheriff, but it sounded like a litany of reasons he was living in an unjust universe.

My bit finger throbbed, my legs ached, and my back was sore: I finally interrupted my weasel-y companion’s diatribe.

“If this were a fair world, I wouldn’t find myself on a death march with the fellow who couldn’t be bothered to trim his hedges for the nearly-a-decade that he was my neighbour.”

Baldy’s rodent jaw snapped shut, but only briefly.

“Who the hell are you to talk about caretaking?” he replied, “I couldn’t help but notice how piss-poor a job you did of raising your daughter after your wife died. They had to hire an extra recycling guy just to haul off your wine bottles, and you’re supposed to be a god damn war hero. Screw you and your well-groomed yard, where’s your lawn, or your daughter, now?”

“Where ever she is, I raised her to take care of herself, and I’m sure she’s above ground – can you say the same?”

His cheeks reddened, and I knew I was right in my long-held guess that he’d been forced to dig shallow graves for his family.

It was a rough-tongued bit of work, but I wasn’t feeling entirely myself.

Weaver interrupted our exchange.

“All walk, no talk,” he said.

The road continued, and the sky darkened. The passing houses became suburbs, and the suburbs eventually sprouted residential towers. None of the streets were lit, and many of the glass-fronted plaza stores had been opened to the world with bricks, and yet we saw no one living.

We did skirt several abandoned crime scenes – a pair of nyloned legs protruded from the bed of a red pick up truck, a herculean man had been pinned to a beige bungalow with a fireplace poker, and a teen rotted in the parking lot of the McDonald’s from which she’d stumbled after apparently being poisoned. At least, that’s my guess, as the weather had done little to wash away the slug-trail of vomit behind her.

As dawn broke, we were firmly within the borders of Capital City.

“We must be close to the blockade?” I asked.

I should mention that, before exiting the truck, I’d considered attempting to hide our recently acquired GPS in a satchel, but, in the end, I wasn’t willing to risk Weaver confiscating our escape route. I’d stashed it beneath my seat.

Still, I’d spent plenty of driving hours staring at the blinking box, and I was sure of my estimate.

“The river is the quarantine line,” replied the lawman.

I didn’t yet recognize the back alleys and side-streets through which he lead us, and, I admit, for a moment I thought that perhaps Weaver really was headed out of the catastrophe.

My hopes were done in when we stopped at the gaping doors of a stout apartment building’s lobby. The balconies above had wept rust onto the cement walls, and wilted plants stood before many sliding entrances.

I wondered how many corpses were decaying within, and how many units might be rigged with bullets or bombs. I had no interest in entering, though I felt increasingly sure that was our captor’s aim.

Baldy had been carrying our bundle, and I turned to take her. If we were going in, it would better her odds.

That’s when I heard it.

Have you ever witnessed an armoured vehicle in action?

It’s not like on the big screen, where a tank can burst through a wall with little warning. They’ve come a long way since my days of tin-can touring, but there’s a grinding approach to that much metal that they’ll never make silent.

The gray people-carrier didn’t seem to care for concealment, anyhow, as it pulled into view. Even three blocks down, I could see the rotating sweeps of its roof-mounted peashooter.

“I’m a god damn genius,” said Weaver. “I knew those sumbitches had drones. They got out here P.D.Q., though, didn’t they.”

As the steel beetle halved the distance between us, the sheriff sprinted into the depths of the lobby.

 

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.

FP238 – The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 1 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present, The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 1 of 3.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Pendragon Variety.

 

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, even as he nears the edge of the homicidal madness that surrounds him, Harm Carter’s travels come to a sudden stop.

 

The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 1 of 3

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

 

The Murder PlagueHaving a toddler in the cab of the truck considerably lightened our moods – although, I will admit, it may have also been the fact that her lack of desire to murder us was proof that there was an antidote for the sickness.

I made good time behind the wheel, and was again thankful for such an orderly catastrophe. If there were eyes staring out from the occasional clumps of housing, they were content enough in their paranoia to let us pass, and we saw no other moving vehicles.

The GPS was guesstimating that we were two hours from the military blockade when our little companion broke her silence.

“Orange,” she said.

I was surprised at such a clear voice coming from such a grimy face.

“What?” asked Baldy.

“Orange,” repeated the girl.

In my daughter’s youth, Kate and I would make the long trip to the cabin in two stints. We’d swap at the halfway point, and each take a swing at keeping Rebecca happy. Six hours can be an eternity to a child, but she couldn’t be bothered with movies, and she didn’t care to hear a story, or cuddle her faithful sidekick, Baron Koala.

All Becky wanted to do is play I Spy.

I took a quick inventory, and pointed out that there was a brightly coloured plastic fob, emblazoned with the name of a trucking company, on our scavenged keys.

She nodded, and eyed me expectantly.

Instead of searching for a suitably shaded object, I asked her what her name was, but there was no chance to answer before the truck lurched.

Now, the only thing my own father ever did quickly in a car was brake. If I was unfortunate enough to be in the passenger seat at the time, he would always try to ease my whiplash by putting a hand out in front of my chest: Never actually touching me, but almost there just in case the belt should somehow suddenly cease to exist – as if his thirty miles an hour of momentum might pitch me through the window.

When we hit the caltrops, I found myself doing the same thing to our young passenger.

It did little good when the tires on the driver’s side went gummy, and the rig began to slide.

A telephone pole halted our forward motion, abruptly.

I don’t know that I became unconscious, but there are certainly a few seconds I can’t account for. Eventually I noticed that Mr. Baldy was shouting something, and hammering at his door in an attempt to escape. It was only locked, but he was too stunned to realize.

The girl’s survival was a bit miraculous, but I could tell that her right arm was in no condition to be used by the way she was holding it, and the tears on her cheeks.

As I unbuckled, Baldy finally found the proper button, and his exit swung wide.

It was then that I began to wonder if he was attempting to get us killed.

I lost sight of my acquaintance as he stepped away, but I could clearly hear the response he received. A stranger said, “I am Sheriff Weaver. You will immediately vacate the vehicle and lie down on the ground with your limbs spread.”

The instructions were followed by a flop, which I suspected was Baldy’s face approaching the pavement at an unpleasant speed.

“There’s an injured child in here,” I said through my cracked window.

An official sounding shotgun ratcheted, and Weaver’s drawl replied, “the kid can stay standing up after you’re out.”

My legs were kicked from under me as I descended from the sideboard, but the tyke was left alone to stand and weep.

Frankly, despite my rat-faced ally’s complaints of mistreatment, and the sobs of the little one, it was somewhat reassuring that we weren’t executed by the sheriff after he’d determined there weren’t any armed menaces within our former transport.

As he completed his inspection, he let us retake our feet, and Baldy lifted the wailing preschooler.

I recall wondering if he was using her as a shield.

Once we were face-to-face, as opposed to face-to-boot, Weaver seized the opportunity to clarify the situation.

“We’ll be walking together for a while, so you should be aware that I am here to help. Be warned, however, that if you do not allow me to assist you, I will be forced to shoot you.”

 

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.

FP234 – The Murder Plague: Run Around, Part 1 of 1

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

Flash PulpTonight we present, The Murder Plague: Run Around, Part 1 of 1.

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp234.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Geek Radio Daily.

 

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, Harm Carter enjoys a brief respite from being hounded by the diseased and paranoid, before again being presented with unwanted decisions.

 

The Murder Plague: Run Around, Part 1 of 1

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

 

The Murder PlagueWell before dusk, and on a stretch of highway sided by nothing more aggressive than withered soy plants, I brought the truck to a halt. After Linwood’s ranting demise, it was tough not to feel as if an infected paranoid might leap up from the muck, and, convinced we were at hand to steal his coveted dirt, come charging on with an assault rifle, or a sword, or even an ill-intentioned dull razor.

I needed the break badly, though – a break, and a bit of distance from Mr. Baldy’s increasingly repugnant mouth-breathing.

At that point, we’d discussed our recently discovered antitoxin into a dead-end. Was it a cure, or an unsprung trap left behind by a feverish maniac? If we chose the path of hope, when was it best used as a vaccine or an antidote? Which of us was most deserving of the remedy?

My memory of Doc Henley’s gurgling death did little to bolster my confidence in the hand-labeled vial.

So we stood in silence, and picked at our cans of chunky beef stew with our fingers. Despite being chilly, the fact that we were still alive made the meal quite delicious.

It was a disappointment when we were interrupted.

Our ears had been tweaked to any engine noises that might be approaching, or even to footsteps, but the kid’s walk was only a rustle in the wind.

She came over the side of the ditch with her teeth bared and her arms out, like a zombie in a homemade horror movie, but she hadn’t planned it terribly well, and we froze a moment, watching her stubby legs pumping.

I could have ended it immediately, but even under those hard circumstances, I couldn’t kick a four-year-old.

The worst of it was her outfit. She was overdressed for the weather. Her red parka hood was zipped tight about her face, so that only her gnashing buck teeth were visible, and she had to cock her head slightly to be able see what was directly in front of her. Her snow pants were a matching shade, and it was really her pink boots which gave away her gender.

I was back in the cab first, and I spent a good ten seconds shouting at my weasel-faced companion before he decided to join me. It was too late, though. As Baldy regained his seat, the girl climbed onto the side-board.

Knowing she had too much torso to slam a door on, I stepped out of my own, and we began a Benny Hill chase scene. I hit the pavement, followed close behind by my scrambling associate, and then our toddling assailant.

Her determination was greater than her coordination, and I suspect her well-padded coat saved her a few broken bones during her tumble from the tall vehicle.

I couldn’t help but smile to see her pop up with unabated vim – but then, I’d also gained some distance by that point.

There’s a certain childish joy in escaping a threat you know is a minimal hazard. We sprinted as if children bolting from the yard of an old man whose window we’d just smashed with a baseball.

We shouldn’t have laughed, I suppose, given her very serious homicidal intent, but it was too much, too soon, and the swish-swish-swish of her baggy leggings put me in mind of grade school mischief.

It was when we realized that she wasn’t going to tire that I stopped chuckling.

I’d lead the chase in a circle, with the intention of returning to the safety of the truck, but, with a quarter of the distance left, my bare-pated acquaintance was huffing raggedly, and complaining about a cramp.

The tiny predator pulled back her hood, revealing clumps of unwashed straw-blond hair, and a pair of freckled cheeks. Her jaw clenched rhythmically with every step, and my fatherly instincts briefly had me concerned she’d bite off her own tongue in her frenzy.

With Baldy losing ground rapidly, I took stock of the situation. The only item at hand was my half-full tin of stew, but it was hefty enough.

My throw put a red line across the girl’s forehead.

The last of the fun was gone from it – once safe inside our rolling shelter, the risk was no longer immediate, and we were again forced into having to make decisions.

“The antitoxin?” I asked. I was talking to myself, but, between his exhalations, I received an unwanted response from my fellow escapee.

“Are you willing to gamble on killing that baby? What happens if we get Hitchcock’s in the process? We’d be out of drugs, and out of luck. The GPS says we’re a day’s ride from the blockade. We’ll power on down the road, and send the military to help.”

My uncertainty must have shown in my face, because he added, “If they can’t do it, we’ll get a hold of some medical supplies, and come back ourselves – if there even is such a thing as a cure.”

I listened to the feral thudding at the passenger-side door, and considered how I might feel about pinning a homicidally fearful toddler while attempting to inject it with something that might bring death.

There were no certainties in those times, only probabilities.

She was too busy making a racket to notice my approach, and the needle was in her before she realized.

Ten minutes later, as I was wrapping her in blankets, my patient was weeping, but docile. I exited a final time, to retrieve the forgotten remainder of my dinner, and offered it over. She held it close, though she refused to eat.

As we pulled away, I decided against ruining my triumph by mentioning that I’d been bit.

 

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.

FP218 – The Murder Plague: Positioning, Part 2 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and eighteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present, The Murder Plague: Positioning, Part 2 of 2.
(Part 1Part 2)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp218.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, Harm Carter encounters yet another surprise while attempting to remain alive amongst the homicidal paranoiacs of the Murder Plague.

 

The Murder Plague: Positioning, Part 2 of 2

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

 

The Murder PlagueLinwood’s claim that he was from some safe beyond nearly brought tears to my eyes, but there’s a voice that lurks at the rear of your skull after you’ve spent any time surviving the deadly overtures of a countryside full of lunatics – a sharp little bugger of a thing that’s eager to kick over your daydreams and pierce your hopes.

Frankly, that grating voice was often the only thing that kept me alive.

Mr. Baldy’s unilateral decision to stop and exchange hellos had also put me in a bad mood, which is probably why I reacted so poorly.

“From the far side of the quarantine? What luck, this truck doubles as a spacecraft,” I said, “why don’t you hop in, we’ll swing by your mother’s, and then take off. The lot of us should be sipping Mai Tais on the red planet before Martian dusk.”

The vehicle-less newcomer didn’t appreciate my suggestion, so he pointed his follow up directly at Baldy.

“We’re near my mom’s place. You might not believe I’m from over the wall, I can understand that, but…” He trailed off, and looked around us as if he feared someone might be sauntering over to listen. “You’re sure you’re not Feds, right?”

My companion nodded in response, and the nervous hitchhiker dug into the messenger bag that hung at his side.

“They’ve got you guys in the dark. No long distance, and very limited cell interaction. They are telling everyone that they’re doing their best to keep things working inside as well as possible, but its pretty obvious they don’t want anyone to get a phone call from their sister while she’s being stabbed – you know, stops folks from trying a rescue.” He came out with a flat touch screen whose backing seemed to have been duct-taped together. “I mortgaged my house to pay for this thing. It operates on military satellites, so it still functions properly. Like I said, we’re close to where I need to be. Come along, and then we’ll all leave together, you, me, and Ma. The GPS will get us back to the blockade in no time.”

“How far does it say you’ve got to go?” asked Baldy.

“Twenty-five miles.”

Without discussion, my driver opened his door.

My hands grew taught around the shotgun I’d taken away from the Walmart, but I kept my mouth shut. As I mentioned, it was always best to avoid showing your agitation.

I spent the majority of the ride trying to quiz details out of our new passenger, but his attention was on navigation. He’d pushed aside my maps as he’d climbed onto his seat, and his constant stream of directions soon had me feeling like a third wheel.

Mother Linwood’s home was at the edge of a residential cluster that was too small to call a town, but too populated to call nowhere. I was at least able to convince the others not to directly approach, but stop at the road and honk.

We stared down the row of pines for a while, waiting for something – anything – to happen.

There was no response.

“Try it again,” said our tourist.

“These days,” I said, “if someone isn’t answering a call, it may be better to simply leave them alone. If your mother IS still in there, she’s certainly not making it obvious. Personally, I think the house is abandoned, or we’d have been shot at by now. Well, abandoned, or an ossuary.”

“Oh, she’s in there,” Linwood replied. Reaching across my lap, he pushed ajar his exit, and dumped me onto the pavement, all in one motion.

They build those trucks high – I sprained my wrist while trying to break my fall, and the mama’s boy was well past me before I recovered.

“Come back, you moron, you’ll only get hurt,” I shouted, from my position on the turf.

His blood was pumping, and his eyes were blazing.

“You’re Feds!” he shrieked, “I knew it!”

The messenger bag bounced on his hip as he ran.

Mr Baldy had regained his composure at that point, and stepped from the truck to help me up. I think he only did it because he’d realized Linwood was infected.

Together, we watched the chubby man close the last ten feet to the cabin door. He yanked it open with a hoot of triumph, and imparted a final hand gesture in our direction.

He stepped backwards through the door, and then thunder clapped, and the left side of his face blew away like dandelion fluff in a strong wind.

Baldy, still at my side, panicked. As he ran for the truck, I dropped to my belly. It was the fact that he made it into the tall cab that convinced me Linwood had hit upon a tripwire of some sort.

I did something stupid.

I don’t recall stopping my sprint at any point, although I must have turned around – I only remember moving as quickly as I could towards the twitching body, and running back while attempting to wipe portions of the dead man’s jaw from the carrying strap of his satchel.

It was the GPS I was after, but, as my wheelman returned our rig to its original course, I found something more – a folding, black, case. Within the leather kit was a tiny bottle, and a sharp-tipped syringe. In some of the smallest cursive I can ever remember encountering, the label read “antitoxin.”

As we retook the highway, my companion and I had much to discuss.

 

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

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.