Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and fifty-three.
Tonight we present, Looming: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1.
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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.
We open tonight on a scene many years before the strange burial of Dr. Rasputin Phantasm, as master frontiersman, and student of the occult, Thomas Blackhall, lends an odd sort of assistance to one Declan Callahan.
Flash Pulp 153 – Looming: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1
Declan Callahan drove the beast as if he’d caught it mounting his mother. The path was a poor one under the best of conditions, and a week’s rain had burrowed trenches large enough to lose a babe in. Still he pushed, demonstrating little concern for the inevitability of his horse shattering a leg. He nearly slid the animal into a pine copse as the pair rounded the corner which marked the final approach to his shanty, and it was only luck that he survived when the mare’s right-foreleg finally gave way with a moist crackle.
“Yeah fackin’ facker!” the former rider shouted, retaking his feet and paying no more heed to his lost boot than he did his writhing steed.
He achieved the askew door just as his pursuer, sweating under his long, ragged, greatcoat, took the bend.
Callahan, setting his bare and bloody sole against the entrance’s natural inclination to close, grabbed up his musket and slammed home a load, paying half attention to the work of his fingers, and half to the approaching figure of Thomas Blackhall.
The frontiersman had made the entire journey on foot, but two month’s trapping in the area had left him knowledgeable regarding the shortest distance through the underbrush, and he’d been able to make decent time against the forester’s sudden flight from town.
Thomas had been on hand when Doc Brenning had delivered the news. Till the next full moon was the longest he could hope to survive, and the period ought be passed under observation. Callahan would have none of it, and had forcibly removed himself from the parlour which had acted as a temporary medical office.
“How could such a tiny scratch bring down a fella like me?” was his singular declaration before rushing for the exit.
The nag was bound in an endless cycle of attempting to raise itself from the muck, only to stumble under the pain of its mangled limb, and each exertion tore wider the wound caused by the protrusion of splintered leg-bone. As he neared, Blackhall raised his Baker rifle to his shoulder, took aim, and ended the creature’s suffering.
While Thomas paused to reload, Declan took the opportunity to unleash a volley from his own weapon. The range was too great for any accuracy, but, as a declaration of intention, it was highly effective.
Blackhall sprinted a further fifty yards, then, seeing his opponent completing preparations for a second attempt on his life, he sheltered behind a low boulder.
It was a two week wait, with little exchange between the armed men. Despite the occasional effort at conversation, on the part of Thomas, the reply was consistent: “Fack off.”
At most times, neither was quite sure if the other was awake, and, after the first evening, the days crept on in a sleepless, half-conscious molasses.
During this period, Blackhall keenly felt Callahan’s advantage. There was no refuge from the rain, nor the wind, and his nourishment was limited to what small volume of jerky he’d been carrying by happenstance – a greedy afternoon’s worth, at best. At least there was easy access to water, in the ever-replenishing puddles that surrounded his rocky shield.
Frequently, the frontiersman thought he heard the approach of assistance, as surely he could expect from the inhabitants of the town’s clapboard homes, and yet none arrived.
The full moon came on, bright and sagging, and but still Declan stood.
It was obvious, however, that his allotment was short. When the gusts died, Thomas could often hear the man retching, or cursing names that he held no recognition for.
The following afternoon, as the sun rode at its apogee, Callahan lost the final scrap of his humanity.
Bursting forth from the hut with a shambling gait, the rabid man, his mind fully gone, raised high his musket and invested his best effort into running Blackhall down.
At ten feet, Thomas made his peace.
“I’m sorry,” he said, but the broken teeth and blackened eyes seemed to hold little forgiveness.
The shot was a clean one.
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