Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode One Hundred.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method, and Other Stories”.
Think you might know what a deformed brother and sister are concocting a half-mile underground?
We assure you, you do not.
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 introduce a new character, Harm Carter, as he finds himself in an awkward position after having laid his hired help low with a blunt object.
Flash Pulp 100 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 1 of 3
I write this recounting based on my own journals, and my memories of the times. I can not be sure that each quotation of dialogue is accurate, but I can at least promise that it is my intention to relate the truth to the best of my abilities.
If there are moments that seem shocking and unbelievable, I apologize, for they seemed just as shocking and unbelievable to myself as they happened.
The moment that I understood that I’d found myself in a desperate situation came as I dropped the wine bottle to the kitchen’s floor tiles, and it landed with a blunt thud instead of a sharp crack. The muted response was largely due to the volume of blood draining from Catarina.
I plucked the phone from its charging station and tried for a dial tone, but came up empty eared.
As I was fussing with the number pad, the blood pool was growing. Realizing my foot was suddenly warm and moist, I looked down to see my left sock wicking up the encroaching puddle. Seeing my handiwork, anxiety filled my legs and I fled the house, leaving the red trail of a single stained foot along the white hall carpet.
Without thinking, I re-entered my Ford Explorer, whose engine was still ticking away the heat of my recent journey. I sat in the driver seat, my hands at ten and two, but I did not reach for the keys. Instead I took a deep breath, and considered, for a brief moment, what had happened.
I’d awoken that morning in my mountain cabin six hours to the north. It was looking to be one of the last pleasant stretches of the season, and I’d had little time to visit since giving it the traditional spring rub down, so the Monday previous I’d shuttered my office for a week and left the world to fend for itself.
What a mistake.
The vacation had been pleasant enough, mostly in that it had allowed me to indulge my prime hobby, photography. I’d taken reams of film while walking the woods, but I’d always maintained a policy of otherwise utilizing no technology more advanced than a cast iron stove while on retreat.
The lack of email or ringing cellphone had struck me as quite freeing, and I’d traveled home feeling a smug Luddism that prevented me from wanting to ruin the moment by engaging the radio.
I was surprised to see Catarina’s car in my driveway as I pulled in, but it wasn’t uncommon for her to arrive a day early. Years previous, while my wife, Kate, lay on her deathbed, she had told me: “Get a cook – when you remarry, I’d rather you do it on a full stomach.” Catarina had been the result of that command.
Although I’m man enough to be able to keep clean my own slovenly trail, I’ve never been able to manage even finger painting in the culinary arts, and Kate knew all too well my weakness for buttery victuals. Still, if I wasn’t entirely sure about dinner, I often preferred to give my dedicated chef those evenings off – it was an easy excuse to engage in a little drive-thru-consumption misbehaviour.
To make matters worse, once I’d welcomed myself into my own home, I discovered that the meal she’d obviously been working hours to make was not something I was likely to enjoy: pan roasted chicken breasts stuffed with smashed almonds, mascarpone and lemon, with a side of roasted sweet garlic and almond soup.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” she replied, her eyes on me as her hand maintained a steady stirring of the soup.
“I appreciate you coming in today,” I began. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I’d had a long drive, and I’d really become enthused by the idea of a quarter pound of greasy beef for dinner. Honestly, I was also mildly annoyed that the woman had once again forgotten that I have a long standing position that nuts are simply an alternative form of wood, suitable only for covering in chocolate or feeding to squirrels. “I’m really not feeling well after my trip – must have eaten a bad bit of trail mix, you understand. I’m sure I’ll be tip-top by the morn, so if you wouldn’t mind packaging all of this up, I’ll be happy to eat it as tomorrow’s lunch.”
It was my actual intention to simply throw it all out once she was gone, as I had done a half-dozen times previous when her meals came up short or involved some flavour she refused to remember my distaste for, but there was no reason to hurt her feelings over the matter.
To help ease the blow, I plucked a bottle of Pegasus Bay pinot noir from the rack and moved to retrieve two glasses.
I think she sensed the lie; to be fair, at the time I didn’t realize how much investment I should put into convincing her of the falsehood.
As I set the stems upon the counter, she turned in a blur, raising high the chef’s knife she’d used to slice the chicken.
The overhead grip was an amateur mistake: it gave me just enough time to panic and side-arm the bottle into her temple.
After a moment of coaxing her to rise, I understood there was no hope of her returning to the land of the living. That’s when I dropped the wine, tried the phone, then made my exit.
Out in the Explorer, I spent a long moment trying to understand what had just transpired. Realizing my cellphone was still inside the abattoir my home had become, I decided I ought to see if the Hernandez’s, my next door neighbours, would let me make a call.
First though, I must admit, I peeled off my dirty socks, rolled them into a red and white yin yang, and pulled on my hiking boots.
There is a feeling of embarrassment in expecting to have to report a death while barefoot.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.