Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Two.
Tonight, we present Larger Problems: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp052.mp3]
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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 another tale of Thomas Blackhall, master frontiersman, and student of the occult. We open upon our hero, resting once again at the border of wilderness and civilization, moments before his evening suffers a series of complications.
Flash Pulp 052 – Larger Problems: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1
The moon was cresting, and Thomas Blackhall had already begun to mutter against its slow progression. It was the third night of his vigil, and his attempts at daytime slumber had been often punctured by the nightmare of his Mairi crawling through a primeval woodland, a forest not at all different than that which currently cast a shadow over his stooped spine.
Pulling tight the blanket that provided both heat and camouflage, he attempted to regain a comfortable position.
His makeshift shelter sat on the western edge of a wide and empty clearing, opposite the fast moving creek that ran along its eastern side. It was against the effect of this bottleneck which he had laid his trap.
To his left came a rustling. The frontiersman had seen several whitetails approach the creek’s edge during his time of waiting, and one regally crowned buck had even tempted him to lift his Baker rifle from his lap. The crack of shot would only serve to ruin his surprise however, and he’d been left with no option but to simply observe the beast’s passing.
His first assumption was that the noise was likely just another fawn, come to quench a nocturnal thirst.
It was with some surprise then, that he spotted the naked dwarf break from the trees.
The man was moving at a good speed for a person of any size, and he’d nearly achieved a quarter of the clearing’s distance when a second figure pulled away from the spruce that lay at the meadow’s northern edge. This new entrant was a woman, her pepper hair streaming in her wake, her dignity maintained only by a light cotton nightgown. Her path followed that of the short man’s exactly, and, as she moved, her arms were extended, as if in effort to embrace the lead runner. Even at his distance, Blackhall could see that her mouth was turned out in a gap-toothed grin.
Thomas considered averting his eyes in respect for the apparent lovers, but the thought was quickly set aside as a third competitor entered the race.
A balding man, wearing only trousers and boots, had burst from the foliage. Despite his trailing position, Blackhall realized the musket the man carried across his chest might go a long way towards evening the odds.
In a single motion, Thomas cast off the blanket and stood. He leveled the Baker rifle at the rear man – a jealous husband perhaps – and called out to the trio.
The woman turned only briefly to acknowledge his entrance into the drama, and it seemed to Blackhall that the dwarf was too occupied to have noticed. The man in the rear, however, did take note, and immediately came to a stop. It was only then that Thomas could make out the man’s disposition: the weapon barely held in sagging hands; the round eyes of concern.
The nude leader had made it more than half the meadow’s width, but his shortened gait left him at a disadvantage to the woman, who was quickly gaining. As she closed the distance, her arms remained outstretched, her hands grasping convulsively against the wind of her speed.
“Don’t hurt my wife!” The musketeer shouted at Thomas.
Despite nearly having gained the far trees, the short man, finally having realized Blackhall’s presence, came to a halt.
The woman did not.
As he swung his rifle into a new position, Thomas could make out her taut visage – what he had taken for a smile of joy was obvious now as a grimace of anger, and what he’d taken to be eager arms were, in truth, limbs prepared to strike.
“My Jolene! My baby Jolene! You monster!” The woman began to beat the nude man with the flats of her hands.
His trap spoiled, Blackhall fired.
The French dead of Ciudad Rodrigo could attest to his weaponcraft, if their tongues had not long disappeared down the gullets of carrion feeders, or rotted in their graves. His rifle was prepared for a second volley before the woman had fully turned to face him.
He was glad to see his warning shot well heeded.
As he approached the pair, the husband also moved to join them, his musket dragging at his arms.
“What is this?” Blackhall asked, when all were within a conversational distance.
“Uh, my daughter and –,” the man began, only to be cut off by his wife.
“I caught this beast with my daughter! In the loft! Rutting!” The woman once again raised a hand in threat.
“I love Jolene!” the naked man offered, using one arm for defense, while the other attempted to save some of his pride. “She’s with my child!”
A noise like a kettle set to boil rose from the woman’s throat, and it was only a quick intercession on her husband’s part that saved the father-to-be from further injury.
Having dropped his weapon, the man took his shaking wife into his arms.
“We’ll need a marriage now, and it’ll be easier with a live groom,” he said.
The woman broke into a fresh round of sobs.
Drawn to the sounds of suffering, Blackhall’s quarry charged from the tree-line with vicious intent. The intruding trio were aware only of a snort of fury at the creek’s edge, then Thomas let fly with his second shot.
The rifleman was relieved to see the beast’s headlong rush brought up short by his silver round, and for a moment the thing’s hooves lost their alignment. It fell forward, catching itself up on arms as broad as stove-piping.
It gave its bull’s head a shake, and its foaming mouth sprayed a thick scum over the crumpled grasses.
The beast spotted the hunter, and it raised a thick finger at Blackhall.
Thomas completed the ramming home of a fresh load.
With a pained grunt, the thing retook its hooves and bolted into the wildwood.
“A bull, nothing more,” Thomas told the trio.
Throwing his rifle over his shoulder, he broke into a run.
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.