Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Four.
This evening’s episode is brought to you by Opopanax Feathers:
A rainbow nightmare filtered through the storming rage of a feral teddy bear.
Find it at OpopanaxFeathers.wordpress.com
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we present the first entry in a new tale of Thomas Blackhall, frontiersman and occasional student of the occult. Our story begins after the witching hour, in a small town in the Dalhousie district.
Flash Pulp 034 – The Last Ghost Story: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3
William Stern’s Tavern was nearly empty. Conversation had guttered until only a small knot of regulars, and a sprinkling of loners napping in their cups, remained.
The recent Evans murder had dominated the bar room early in the evening, but as the night had worn on, and the barley had grown heavier, the talk had turned to the occult.
“There are no ghosts,” said Porter, the raised eyebrow of the group.
“I swear to you, when I was not eight years old, I watched my Granny’s phantom walking the hall,” replied O’Connor, a half-pay sergeant.
“Tell me not of childhood dreams as if they were truths. How many dead have there been in history? If there truly were spirits, they’d have to start charging rent at the Tower of London.”
“What of Milly Tyler’s old place?” Bigs Calhoun had been silent a long while, and, until his interjection, the debaters had assumed he’d nodded off.
“The only curse on Milly Tyler’s farmhouse is that the land she settled could barely grow grass, much less wheat,” Porter replied.
“My oldest lad once told me that he and the Casey boy went up that way one evening. Apparently neither of ’em could step in and count to ten once the door was shut. Felt fingers up his spine, he said.” Bigs took a long inhale from his mug.
“Next you’ll be telling me they brought a third boy with them,” he dropped to a dramatic hush, ” – but he never returned.”
“Isn’t it usually the smart-mouthed know-it-all who gets it at the end of those stories?” asked O’Connor, smiling across the table at his skeptical companion.
“Yes, but if you held so truly to every tale you heard at your Father’s knee, you’d be out wandering the roads looking to trade your prize cow for magic beans.”
“A wager then?” Calhoun asked.
Porter realized the smell of approaching gambling must have been what had roused Bigs from his stupor.
“At what rules? Shall I implant a dagger at the site and catch my coat, only to mistake it for the grabbing hand of poor Milly Tyler? Shall I enter and repeat Milly’s name three times, hoping she materializes? Shall I spend the night and see if my hair has turned snowy by morn?”
“Your jests reek of excuse.” O’Connor said, his smile fixed.
“I’ll happily follow whatever course you suggest, but I see a flaw in your plan: one of ye believers would have to follow along to attest to the truth of my testimony.”
“I believe you’re an idiot, not a liar,” the sergeant replied. “We shall reconvene here at lunch, on the morrow, and you can report what terrors befell you then. What of the wager?”
“I might suggest the night’s tab,” said Stern, the barkeep, from behind his well polished mahogany slab. “I’ll hold it till lunch – although I’m not terribly optimistic for the condition of your stomachs.”
“Whatever the condition of my gullet, if you’ll extend us the courtesy, I’ll be sure to order up the Sunday patrons a mess of eggs – at Porter’s expense,” O’Connor replied.
“Fine then, and I’ll beg you to be off to your haunted house, or otherwise rent a room and clear the tables, as Mrs. Stern has trouble managing the gluttony of the Sunday faithful when left to herself.”
Those still waking, stood.
They were at the door when a shadow broke away from a darkened table, approaching.
Holding up a hand in greeting, Thomas Blackhall stepped into the glow of the kerosene lamps.
“I’d like to come along,” he said.
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.