Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-five.
Tonight we present, Influence, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.
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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 tell a chiller tale, regarding Clifton Wade – a man who finds himself in a tenuous situation.
Flash Pulp 135 – Influence, Part 1 of 1
Clifton Wade leaned against the exit, his eyes locked on the ground, and the sliver of light that was the only illumination in the tiny room.
His breathing seemed to bounce from the ceramic tiles and close walls, in perfect time with the metronome tapping of the dripping sink. He whimpered in the darkness of the bathroom, his left hand solidly locked on the brass knob, and his right on the white, plastic, light switch.
Flooding the room with fluorescence was tempting – so much so that his fingers were sweating. He knew, however, that he couldn’t; if he flicked on the glowing tubes, he would be unable to tell if a shadow passed over the far side of his meager barricade.
Fearful tears stung his eyes.
There was little he agreed with his Mother-in-law on, but now, as he wished himself invisible, her words rose to taunt him.
“Cliffers, you should have that doody-mouth washed out with soap.”
In the apartment beyond, a latch rasped, and the sharp click of a suddenly-released handle brought his lungs to a halt. He brushed aside the pink bathrobe, hanging down the back of the door from a white hook, and pressed his cheek to the cheap plywood.
At first there was nothing, but, after a moment, a dragging tread began to shuffle across the carpet, approaching his hidden position.
The glimmering thread, at his feet, dimmed – grunting snuffling filled its place, and he clenched against the urges of his bladder. Long seconds were measured by the ever-leaking faucet.
With a final snort, the sounds moved further along the hall, and the faint sheen returned to the tiles.
He knew it was only a brief respite.
* * *
It had started an hour earlier, while he’d been sharing a breakfast of bran flakes with his wife of twenty years, Vanessa.
“Maybe we could consider looking into a nice place for your mom to go to? I don’t mean like a home with meanie nurses and rude neighbours – I could get a second job and swing one of those fancy golf villas in Florida? Like that pamphlet we got in the mail?” he’d said.
“Oh dear, sweetie! How in the heck can you even start talking like that? Mama doesn’t know any place but ours!”
“Honey-bunches, when you first asked if she could move in, you said it was just going to be for a bit.”
“Darnit: “The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” Mama sent me that quote – I don’t remember who it was by, but it’s on Facebook – and she’s absolutely gosh darned right.”
“I have shown patience – but she… she always tells us what to do. I don’t like spending my evenings watching The Bold and The Beautiful. I don’t want to learn to knit! I don’t like that she picks out what we wear! I don’t think it’s appropriate that she makes me a packed lunch every day for work, and that it always includes stuff I repeatedly ask not to have! I don’t like bananas, however much potassium she may think I’m deficient of!”
“She’s just trying to do what’s good for you.”
“Honestly, honey, I love you, but – she kind of scares me.”
“Jeepers! You’re impossible when you’re like this. Let’s wait till Mama’s here, she always knows best, she can talk some sense into you.”
“Oh, #### off,” he’d replied.
It had just slipped.
Vanessa wasn’t a child – she didn’t say “I’m telling” – but he knew she’d thought it. He could read it on her cockamamie face.
* * *
There was a knock
“Mamas gotta number two. Please don’t be in there much longer, Cliffers. Poopy, or get off the pot, as they say.”
Clifton decided he had no choice but to face his fear.
Picking the knife up from the counter, he blew a kiss towards his wife’s punctured corpse. Her body was smeared in a mixture of Mr Bubble and blood, and lay awkwardly on top of the rubber-ducky patterned bath-curtain which she’d ripped down as he’d chased her into the tub – but he could see none of it in the dark.
He turned the door handle.
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