Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eighty four.
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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, Harm Carter and his accompaniment must weigh the choices presented by a world full of homicidal psychotics.
Flash Pulp 184 – The Murder Plague: Buggy, Part 2 of 3
“So,” said Jeremy, his hands wringing the hem of his t-shirt like a professional sponge cleaner well on his way to a personal record, “you’re saying you just sat there, listening to your friends being killed?”
“There was nothing I could,” replied Newton, his face moist from his recounting. “I mean – honestly, I did try setting up a barricade on the road, once I was done cleaning up the pieces, figured he’d smack into it in the dark, but – well, it came by, then stopped. Sounded as if it went around.”
“You didn’t even watch it happen!? You could of jumped the bastard!”
“It was pitch black, I would have probably caught a bullet in the belly or an axe to the face.”
Minnie placed a hand on the weeping man’s sizable bicep, and Jeremy stalked to the furthest edge of the camp to glower at us from the clearing’s edge, while muttering to himself.
The day largely passed that way – which, frankly, was fine by me, as it was a change of pace from ducking live ammunition and madmen’s ill intentions.
I spent the day lounging in the sun and ignoring small talk.
Finally, as supper neared, and Jeremy’s stomach’s complaints grew loud enough to overcome his bent nose, we reconvened over some open cans of unheated Dinty Moore.
We chatted around mouthfuls, which eventually lead to consideration of future plans.
“Tomorrow we should start trying to hitch out of here,” said Newton. “We aren’t going to find any help locally, and if we can hook up with another group, we could be at the government blockade in a day or two.”
Minnie nodded her agreement. I couldn’t help but notice how closely she’d positioned herself to our new companion.
“Yeah. There’s safety in numbers. At least if we see a bunch of people together, we know they aren’t infected.”
“Unless,” replied Jeremy, “they’re a bunch of looting-rapist-murderers, or everyone gets infected and it turns into a twelve-way shoot-out.”
“We should certainly watch for any drug addled, baby murdering, ne’er-do-wells,” I said, “but, it seems to me, it’s a slim chance that we’ll run across a barbarian horde amongst the cow patties. I think we ought to go for a stroll. We’ll have to find a way through the woods for a bit, to avoid our rifle-toting friend up the road, but I don’t relish thumbing a ride with a potential Norman Bates. We can stick to the trees after we’re around him, and walk till we find a suitable vehicle, or, better yet, some space-suit wearing government fellows.”
Jeremy dropped his empty container of meatball stew.
“Before we run away, we should destroy the death machine. Make it right for those folks wannabe-Charlie Atlas here abandoned.”
The sun set while we went from debate to argument, and it was only the sound that stopped us.
Quite a lot happened at once: Minnie hugged Newton, Jeremy went crashing into the forest that blocked our view of the road, and I grabbed the flashlight.
I was unenthusiastic about chasing the hooligan through the dark, especially when I dared not use the light-source in my hand, but I had some ideas regarding what he might encounter, and I couldn’t figure any other option that didn’t require digging another hole in the site’s makeshift burial ground.
It’s approach became a cacophony as I busied myself with dodging aggressive branches, but, even as I arrived, the thing’s engines began to fade into the distance.
However, I was pleased to find Jeremy, lying on the grading at the edge of the road, still alive. I believe the idiot thought he was hidden. I suppose he can’t be blamed, there was no moon, and, below the pine-tops, the world was nothing but murk.
As I helped him to his feet, there was a change in the nature of the fading shriek. It took us a moment to realize it had turned around.
Scrambling to the timber, I stage whispered that we should waste no time with greetings. Jeremy would have none of it, however, and he simply returned to his prone posture. The clamour was approaching too quickly for a reasoned argument, and before I could muster any words that might convince him to run, it was on top of us.
There was nothing to see – the night was opaque – but it was imperative that I wait as long as possible for maximum effect.
When I guessed it could be no further than ten feet off, I flicked on my light.
I was wrong, it was a good twenty away, but its speed was such that it flung itself into my beam.
We caught a glimpse of what looked oddly like a large steel insect, then the rig plunged down the far ditch, flipped once, and went silent.
While we sprinted towards its landing spot, Jeremy scooped a set of goggles from the pavement.
“Was there a bloody Wal-Mart special or something? Where did these hillbillies all get night-vision?”
The beast of legend was a home-made go kart. A collection of kitchen knives, farm implements, and lawnmower blades, had been affixed to the running boards, and nails driven through its tin hood, giving it the look of a metallic porcupine with flaking yellow skin.
At the wheel – with her nose bleeding onto her denim jacket – I was unsurprised to find a stunned seven-year-old.
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