Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and forty-two.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Ladies Pendragon.
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, Harm Carter encounters a new obstacle to remaining alive in a world dominated by a homicidal epidemic.
Flash Pulp 142 – The Murder Plague: Community, Part 2 of 3
The wall of heat that was following the five strangers down the road was oppressive, and yet, bless their foolish hearts, they stopped to help me. There was little time for discussion, but, for whatever it was worth, Jeremy took up the hose attached to the Hernandezes, and started spraying the closest wall, while Johanna grabbed Baldy’s, and did the same for the other side.
I was grinning, I must admit. Human kindness can be quite touching when the majority of your interactions with other people lead to a murder attempt.
The remaining three looked up questioningly, having run out of reasonable water sources.
“There’s some food inside, it would probably be a good idea to grab as much as you think is suitable to travel, and relocate it to the trunk of the Escalade.”
To be fair, I wasn’t entirely swept away by their good will – I knew the keys were safely in my pocket.
Two of the group, Minnie, no older than fourteen, and Alyssa, a blond woman just old enough to be mistaken as Minnie’s mother, began to transfer canned goods from my pantry to our escape method.
Through the process of elimination this left the laziest of the bunch, the old man, Tyrone, to make the introductions. After he provided a quick explanation of names, my throat was growing agitated from the heat and smoke, so I invited him up.
Once he’d topped the ladder, I asked the obvious.
“This may sound like an odd question, but aren’t you concerned I’m going to murder you?”
“Well, you had time and opportunity for a better set up than getting us up on your slick roof in hopes of an accident, and, really, no one locked in that whole murder or be murdered mindset shouts hello.” He had a point, but he pushed on with a grisly detail. “I was trying to save my place before it went up as well – you’ll see, as the fire gets closer a lot of these garage doors will burst open and the last of the rats that have been hiding inside, instead of helping you, will abandon ship.”
It wasn’t something I’d considered – frankly, I’d thought Baldy to be amongst the last.
I nodded, sloshing tepid water across the tiles.
“Where do those kind of paranoids lodge? The Bates Motel, I suppose,” continued Tyrone.
He went on, but I don’t really recall the dialogue. Despite the approaching crackle, and the marching pop of backyard barbecues, he’d immediately fallen into a posture that I can only imagine was familiar to his normal life: idle conversation while watching others work.
He talked, and we scurried about, and it all amounted to about the same anyhow: it was obvious well before any flames touched my house that it was a lost cause.
Minnie and Alyssa had joined us by then, helping share some of the brunt of Tyrone’s unceasing prattling, and Alyssa specifically struck me as having a solid handle on how to direct his energies.
“Shut up and do something useful,” she’d said while clearing the final rung onto the roof.
It wasn’t an easy decision – it felt as if I was abandoning the memory of my wife to smolder with the rest of my possessions, and it stung to think that Rebecca, should she ever come looking, would find no home to return to. There was no real option, however, and I could almost hear Kate’s voice, as it had been just before her death, calling me an ornery mule for having waited so long.
It was the grinding of an automatic garage door, followed by the swift departure of a white, bloody-windowed, Lexus, that finally sold me. If even the crazies knew it was time to go, I reasoned, so should I.
“I believe we ought to be rambling on.” I announced, making sure my volume would carry the words to the two still on the ground.
We descended, and began to take up our places within the stolen vehicle I’d so quickly fallen into the mindset of calling my own.
Jeremy was the last straggler, and his reply reminded me oddly of my daughter.
“Screw that man, we can totally do this.”
A small explosion two doors down rained flaming debris across my back-deck, and there was no need for further argument – though he did find reason to complain when he finally arrived at the SUV, as all of the plush leather seats had been occupied.
He’d opened the rear door where Minnie and Alyssa sat, side-by-side, and there was something in his weighing gaze that I did not enjoy.
“You can sit on the old man’s lap,” I said, reaching across Tyrone – who’d presumptively taken the front-passenger seat – and opening the door. I began rolling slowly away from the curb in encouragement.
He hopped in, yanking the handle shut.
As the pair exchanged awkward glances in their new-found intimacy, I peeled away from my doomed lawn, eager to be gone before I could consider what I was leaving behind.
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