Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and thirty-eight.Download MP3
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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, even as he nears the edge of the homicidal madness that surrounds him, Harm Carter’s travels come to a sudden stop.
The Murder Plague: Responsibility, Part 1 of 3
Having a toddler in the cab of the truck considerably lightened our moods – although, I will admit, it may have also been the fact that her lack of desire to murder us was proof that there was an antidote for the sickness.
I made good time behind the wheel, and was again thankful for such an orderly catastrophe. If there were eyes staring out from the occasional clumps of housing, they were content enough in their paranoia to let us pass, and we saw no other moving vehicles.
The GPS was guesstimating that we were two hours from the military blockade when our little companion broke her silence.
“Orange,” she said.
I was surprised at such a clear voice coming from such a grimy face.
“What?” asked Baldy.
“Orange,” repeated the girl.
In my daughter’s youth, Kate and I would make the long trip to the cabin in two stints. We’d swap at the halfway point, and each take a swing at keeping Rebecca happy. Six hours can be an eternity to a child, but she couldn’t be bothered with movies, and she didn’t care to hear a story, or cuddle her faithful sidekick, Baron Koala.
All Becky wanted to do is play I Spy.
I took a quick inventory, and pointed out that there was a brightly coloured plastic fob, emblazoned with the name of a trucking company, on our scavenged keys.
She nodded, and eyed me expectantly.
Instead of searching for a suitably shaded object, I asked her what her name was, but there was no chance to answer before the truck lurched.
Now, the only thing my own father ever did quickly in a car was brake. If I was unfortunate enough to be in the passenger seat at the time, he would always try to ease my whiplash by putting a hand out in front of my chest: Never actually touching me, but almost there just in case the belt should somehow suddenly cease to exist – as if his thirty miles an hour of momentum might pitch me through the window.
When we hit the caltrops, I found myself doing the same thing to our young passenger.
It did little good when the tires on the driver’s side went gummy, and the rig began to slide.
A telephone pole halted our forward motion, abruptly.
I don’t know that I became unconscious, but there are certainly a few seconds I can’t account for. Eventually I noticed that Mr. Baldy was shouting something, and hammering at his door in an attempt to escape. It was only locked, but he was too stunned to realize.
The girl’s survival was a bit miraculous, but I could tell that her right arm was in no condition to be used by the way she was holding it, and the tears on her cheeks.
As I unbuckled, Baldy finally found the proper button, and his exit swung wide.
It was then that I began to wonder if he was attempting to get us killed.
I lost sight of my acquaintance as he stepped away, but I could clearly hear the response he received. A stranger said, “I am Sheriff Weaver. You will immediately vacate the vehicle and lie down on the ground with your limbs spread.”
The instructions were followed by a flop, which I suspected was Baldy’s face approaching the pavement at an unpleasant speed.
“There’s an injured child in here,” I said through my cracked window.
An official sounding shotgun ratcheted, and Weaver’s drawl replied, “the kid can stay standing up after you’re out.”
My legs were kicked from under me as I descended from the sideboard, but the tyke was left alone to stand and weep.
Frankly, despite my rat-faced ally’s complaints of mistreatment, and the sobs of the little one, it was somewhat reassuring that we weren’t executed by the sheriff after he’d determined there weren’t any armed menaces within our former transport.
As he completed his inspection, he let us retake our feet, and Baldy lifted the wailing preschooler.
I recall wondering if he was using her as a shield.
Once we were face-to-face, as opposed to face-to-boot, Weaver seized the opportunity to clarify the situation.
“We’ll be walking together for a while, so you should be aware that I am here to help. Be warned, however, that if you do not allow me to assist you, I will be forced to shoot you.”
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