Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Sixty-Seven.
Tonight, we present Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3
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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 the first in a three part serialization following student of the occult, and master frontiersman, Thomas Blackhall. In this opening chapter we find Thomas once again moving rapidly downstream, in search of his Mairi.
Flash Pulp 067 – Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3
The road west was not an easy one, craven man and beast roamed freely where the trees were at their deepest, and many souls were lost amongst the shadows before the soil was finally settled.
Thomas Blackhall had had little to do with the roadway until he came up against the Rideau, a thick band of rapid water cutting the land north to south. He’d spent a day locating a suitable crossing, and dusk was falling as he came upon the stone lodging of John Koyle.
Despite the late hour, and the dense mosquitoes, Thomas found the man seated at the corner of his porch, idly gazing down the path that lead from the east and broke suddenly at the river’s edge. When Koyle finally caught sight of the great-coated man, marching from the southern trees, he started.
“Hallo there, friend,” the ferry-master said, rising from his chair.
“- and a good evening to you, sir,” Blackhall replied. His satchel and rifle lay heavy at his shoulder, and his sabre had taken on the weight of a rock club not long after noon. Still, Thomas eyed the dipping sun and rising moon, judging the distance across the river against the size of the boat house that abutted the shore.
“Seems a might late for a crossing this eve,” Koyle noted with a conversational air.
“Would I be correct in guessing that you offer up a spare bed or three in yonder handsome residence, should it be the case that travelers arrive, but are not yet ready to endeavour onwards towards the next leg of the King’s cart path?” The homestead was well tended despite its distance from civilization, and Thomas made out a plaintiff mooing from one of the two barns which lay beyond.
“Indeed you would be, sir, at only a half dollar an evening,” replied Koyle, smiling.
Again Thomas turned to face the last of the daylight.
The weight of his baggage was heavy, but it was the small water tight container in his breast pocket that carried heaviest in his considerations.
“I have enough bacon inside to do five men under, and eggs from the morning, laid by my own hens round back,” Koyle said, “and only a pittance more to your bill.”
The final slip of sun drained away as he spoke, and the combined effect brought Thomas to a decision. He let one of his satchel’s straps loll from his shoulder.
“Come then, I’ll gladly pay you for bed and feast, but I’d rather be away as early tomorrow as is possible, so spare not the bacon this evening.”
“That’s how I always figure it, sir,” Koyle replied, holding the door wide to allow his guest entry.
* * *
Although he had seen no other boarder, nor noted wife, mistress or child about the house, nocturnal whispers tickled at Blackhall’s sleep throughout the dark hours. Even in his best efforts, with ear to wall and all otherwise silent, he was unable to make out more than a murmur, nor gather the context of the words, and the lack of understanding left him sleepless despite his fatigue and the well stuffed bed.
He met the dawn gruffly, and was eager to be away from any house that knew so little silence.
As he stepped from his room, he was greeted by Koyle, already seated at the thick ash table upon which they’d supped.
Blackhall had not heard the man rise.
“G’mornin’ to ye,’ the man offered, his chipper tone a minor offense to Thomas’ half-slumbering ear.
Rather than begin to list his reasons for believing otherwise, Blackhall lifted his satchel to his shoulder and nodded towards the door.
Mist still swirled above the dew, and as the two made their way to the river’s edge, a musk caught in the wind, leaving Thomas glad he had yet to fill his belly.
“If you’ll have a seat sir, I’ll have you right across,” said Koyle, taking up the line that left the small boat affixed.
It was a long row, over fast water, but as they moved to the center of the river the breaking sun cast light upon a pristine panorama.
“You’ll note the stone outcrop up yonder,” the ferry-man offered to the silence, his tone and words those of a practiced man making a well repeated trip. “The natives refer to it as the Devil’s nose, likely for its sharp condition.”
Some of Blackhall’s misgivings had fallen away with the shore, and he’d taken a pinch of Virginian tobacco into one of the fine Spanish papers he carried always. Closing away his supplies, he found a match amongst his satchel, which he had set, with his sabre, at his feet.
“- and there,” the man with the oar continued, “you’ll note Ophelia’s rapids, named I suppose for the madness required for a death-seeker to risk their turbulence. At sitting level there is an illusion that the rapids run flat, but if you were to stand, you’d note that there is in fact a ten foot fall upon the farthest side.”
Thomas stood, to humour the man, and Koyle joined him, despite his familiarity with the crossing.
Blackhall leaned forward.
“I see no drop.” The frontiersman said.
Once again the ferry-man had moved without noise.
As the oar struck Thomas’ skull, there was a flash of brilliance behind his eyes – then all was wet and darkness.
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.