Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and sixty-three.
Tonight we present, Enter The Achievers, Part 1 of 1.
This episode is brought to you by MT Starkey Short Stories.
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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 introduce The Achievers.
Flash Pulp 163 – Enter The Achievers, Part 1 of 1
The bungalow at two-fifty-three, Oaks Boulevard, had become a quiet war-zone. The grievances leading to the conflict were long forgotten, but the date marking the commencement of open hostilities was generally agreed upon: the thirteenth of March, the year previous. On that date, Mr and Mrs. Pope’s silk wedding anniversary, every piece of ceramic dishware, functional and decorative, had been shattered. It was a four-hour blowout that alienated the neighbours on either side and which required an extensive conversation, on the rear-bench of a police cruiser, to halt.
For eight months the only shots taken were verbal, but, in November, as a film of snow clung to the skewed roof-tiles, collateral damage was beginning to show. Bertie Pope, sixteen and president of her high school’s trivia club, was in the middle of an uncharacteristic throw down – the second time in her memory that she’d raised her voice to her parents, despite the regular heartbreak of their continued arguments.
She’d encountered a dispute in progress as she’d entered, and, dropping her backpack, she’d let her bottled-frustration vent.
“Won’t you both shut it!?” she’d shouted. “Try being nice to each other for, like, ten minutes.”
For a beat, she’d received a satisfying silence, but, then, Velma Pope, her mother, had finished formulating her retort.
“You want quiet? Just wait a sec and your Dad’ll be out the door and back to work. Then it’ll be just you, me, and the quiet.”
“- don’t forget the sound of your furious wine-chugging,” replied Bill, Bertie’s father. He leaned into the teen, kissing her on the cheek. “Anyhow, sorry, baby, but I’ve got a backlog of paperwork that -”
The outside door folded itself neatly, rocketed over the filthy beige mat intended to capture the brunt of the dirt infiltrating the home, and slammed into the fake-wood pattern of the coat-closet’s sliding doors.
“We’re here,” announced the pair of suddenly revealed men standing on the stoop. They dropped their home-made battering ram.
The duo were dressed identically: cheap black suits – a size too large, black leather gloves, and rubber masks intended to portray the likeness of Lemmy, founder of the metal band, Motörhead.
For a brief second, the twins cocked their arms at their sides, achieving the classic Peter Pan pose.
“Oh ####,” said Bertie, “it’s The Achievers.”
“‘Ello, Jello,” they replied, in unison.
None of the Popes believed the intruders’ Australian accents to be genuine.
The leftmost retrieved a straight razor from his right pocket, and approached Velma.
The rightmost rushed Bill, clobbering his jaw with a sharp jab.
The pudgy office dweller lost his footing and went over backwards, even as his wife was grabbed by her assailant. The blade flashed once, then returned to its slotted handle. As her wildly-flailing, but only mildly-lacerated, palm left a panicky spray of blood across every nearby surface, the invader adjusted his grip and closed his gloved-fingers on her hair.
Demonstrating the stun gun clearly before placing it against the base of her neck, he ushered her from the house, then threw her bodily into the rear of a black van parked out front. He locked the double-doors.
With a well-measured kick to Bill’s ribs, his partner followed. Snatching up the hefty ram, he jogged towards his getaway, and, as the vehicle peeled from the curb, the passenger-side kidnapper rolled down his window and waved to slack-jawed-Bertie and her breathless father, who’d managed to stumble into the front-yard before toppling onto the uncut grass.
Then they were gone.
Before Bertie could locate the cordless extension and dial for assistance, sirens filled the air.
A patrol car stopped short in the recently evacuated street-space.
“Ma’am,” said the first officer to exit, “we got a call saying, uh, that a forty-ish balding male had been seen dragging his wife from the residence -”
The officer, whose tag indicated his name was Bolokowski, had discontinued paying any heed to his own words, as he’d continued talking solely to cover the awkwardness of spotting the suspect in question, weeping openly on the front lawn in a considerably disheveled state. With a series of sharp gestures, his partner indicated they ought to approach and detain the wailer.
Although Bill would be released after twelve hours of questioning, it was under the strongest of suggestions that he remain close at hand.
Bertie had confessed immediately. She hadn’t expected it would actually happen. The Achievers were a rumour; a myth transmitted amongst the damaged egos and hopeless lives of the underbelly of Internet geekery. No one really knew who were behind the group – in truth, only the conspiracy-prone believed they existed – but the story told was that leaving a sufficiently tear-jerking request, in a public space, and containing ample usage of The Achievers moniker, would attract their attention.
In a moment of weakness, on a particularly wretched October evening, Bertie had done just that, misusing a forum dedicated to the films of Akira Kurosawa to lay out every barb she’d been forced to bare.
The detectives had listened to the tale patiently, then dismissed the girl and her explanation. Despite their obvious suspicions, the wreckage and blood were too little evidence to stand against the bizarre story told by both father and daughter.
Months passed, and the local press, having little else to feed on, used much ink in implying Bill’s involvement in a homicide. The knowing looks of his coworkers, combined with constant anxiety that The Achievers might suddenly reappear at any moment, drove him to drain his vacation time, then apply for stress leave.
Instead, Michael, from management, provided a very reasonable severance package and an apology.
Bill’s time at home found him a changed man. Maintaining the house’s condition became a secondary focus only to spending time with Bertie, who he now feared might disappear at any moment. The pair spent most meals watching recorded episodes of Jeopardy, and most evenings exploring their shared love of excessively-complicated boardgames.
Six months later, as Bill greeted his daughter upon her return from her first school dance, the van reappeared.
“‘Ello, Jello,” said the masked man hanging from the passenger-window.
The vehicle’s rear swung open, and a blindfolded woman stumbled onto the pavement.
“Mom!” shouted Bertie.
Before she’d closed the distance, The Achievers were gone again.
As her daughter lead the still-blinking Velma into the house and onto the couch, Bill was so pleased to see her return, he offered her a drink.
“No – I – I don’t do that anymore. I mean, I can’t promise I’ll always be perfect, but the last thing I want is for – for them to -” she took a moment to collect herself. “I’ve spent the last, uh, however long, in a twenty-by-twenty room, with a toilet, an exercise bike, and a cupboard full of arts and crafts supplies. They delivered three nutritional, if not particularly well cooked, meals a day. At first I painted. Mostly reproductions of liquor bottle labels. Then I started writing you both letters – rambling apologies. After a while I realized I really enjoyed the process, so I wrote a novel.”
All three, closely huddled, were in tears.
“They didn’t let me keep any of it,” she continued, “but it was only my first try. The next one will be even better.”
Her account of the incident made for a brisk-selling book, and the accompanying tour was the first family-trip the Popes had had in years.
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