Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and three.
Tonight we present Break, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the The Dexter Cast.
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, in a moment away from the heavier content of recent releases, we meet a suspicious man with a foul temper, his wife, and the house they live in.
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Dominic Savage had never trusted Godfrey, his home’s master control system.
“I know you’re trying to kill me, you bastard,” Savage was muttering.
The heat in the artist’s backroom studio had suddenly spiked, mid-brush stroke, and Dominic had been left with no choice but to interface directly with the control panel in the nearby hall.
“You son of a bitch, work properly!” he shouted at the beige rectangle.
“What seems to be the trouble, sir?” asked Godfrey.
“The studio is about to burst into flames!”
“Jesus,” Dominic glanced at the chart Myra had pinned above the panel, seeking the representation of his sanctuary, “I mean bedroom three.”
“Oh, my apologies. Would you like me to look into it, sir?”
“No, I just thought it had been too long since we’d chatted.”
“Yes, look into it.”
“Apologies, but it might be worth mentioning that you did instruct me specifically to avoid bedroom 3. Yes, I do note that the temperature was seven degrees above house average. You should find it much more comfortable now, however.”
Upon returning to his brushes, Dominic did. He wasn’t happy about it though.
* * *
The fifties-themed dinner in which Myra and Dominic celebrated their twelfth anniversary had drifted as far from its original style as they had. A once pitch-perfect recreation, the place had steadily deteriorated into a greasy spoon that happened to have waitresses in pink uniforms and a jukebox. It had been the site of their first date, however, and they’d made at least a quick visit for every major milestone since.
Besides, there was no risk of an embarrassing encounter with friends, the place didn’t even have a wine menu.
It had been Myra’s turn to be reluctant to head into the February chill.
“Want to split a sundae with me?” Dominic was asking.
“It’s winter,” replied Myra.
The artist smiled. “The ice cream is the only thing that hasn’t gotten worse.”
His wife looked up from her untouched onion rings. “It’s too cold.”
Dominic raised a brow.”It’s a heated restaurant, you’re going to get into a heated car, then we’re going to return to a heated house.”
“If you want the god damn ice cream, eat it yourself. I don’t want any.”
Dominic did, in silence.
* * *
The ride home was better, though an intermission at favoured bar had helped grease the wheels.
“Hey, I’m sorry,” Myra had opened. “This project is killing me. Nelson is constantly on my ass about it, but he doesn’t seem to get that debugging is debugging. I can’t just wave a wand and have everything work, and no one is going to buy a box full of nothing. Two more weeks, tops, and I’ll be so much better. I promise.”
“Are you still going to be able to make the gallery thing in a week?” asked Dominic as he slid his hand into hers.
“Are you still going to be able to make that whole naked in my bed thing in a half-hour?”
Myra’s lips finally twitched into a grin. “Of course.”
In a surprise turn that also happened to mirror their first date, they lost five minutes to needy groping once parked.
Reason returned, though, once Myra was topless and complaining about the cold. Before her husband might argue, she told him to collect the Pinot from the trunk and meet her inside.
As she exited, lights came on in the house beyond, and Dominic could just make out the grating coo that Godfrey used when she was about.
One responsibility lead to another. Knowing that he was unlikely to be in the mood to move the recycling to the curb after going inside, he set the bottle on the wooden step that lead to the interior and hefted the first of the glass-filled blue bins.
It was as he was returning from depositing the second that the heavy rolling door descended rapidly in front of him, coming so close to an impact that his leading shoe, the right, was briefly pinned beneath the plastic weatherstrip.
Even as his toes made their escape, the entrance retracted.
“My apologies, sir,” said Godfrey, “it appears there was an unexpected closing.”
The open air of the garage lent the digital voice an uncomfortable air of omniscience.
Dominic paused briefly, then crossed the threshold, moving quickly to manually turn off the lights.
In moments the incident was forgotten.
* * *
Later, lying in a room that was dark beyond the glare of the alarm clock and Godfrey’s blinking red light in the corner, Dominic’s mind came back to the machine running the house.
What had it made of their performance? They hadn’t flipped the sensors to privacy mode during their frenzy, though sometimes he couldn’t help but doing so. He hated the way the thing talked to his wife, even if it was innocently programmed to do so.
An unexpected thought came to the near-slumberer: Was the system’s recent erratic behaviour perhaps due to resentment?
Even at three in the morning ascribing jealousy to a machine seemed a stupid idea, and, with sleep’s rapid approach, his suspicions were soon lost.
* * *
Dominic’s work was well known, and well paid for – it had been the source of funding for, amongst other things, Godfrey – but the New York show was set to launch his abstract landscapes and nudes into the realm of legend. It was also launching his blood pressure.
“I had better tools in kindergarten!” he told no one before snapping his fifteen dollar brush. It was of solid construction, but his anger had had the afternoon to build.
“Shall I start the hot tub for you, sir?” asked Godfrey.
The high-end Jacuzzi had been a constant in the painter’s life since the arrival of exhibit-related anxiety.
“Fine,” Dominic replied. His tone was rough but his mind was already on the open Pinot.
* * *
He hadn’t notice how low the room’s temperature had dropped until he stepped outside and there seemed little difference between interior and exterior. With a glass in one hand and the bottle in the other, he hustled to the roiling waters, pausing only long enough to dip a probing foot before taking a seat.
Knowing Myra would be late arriving home he was in little rush, and, an hour later, the wine and his late night the evening previous had taken their toll.
Dominic was asleep for half an hour when the motor that operated the tub’s heavy cover whirred to life, and it was only the sudden hum that allowed him warning enough to duck his head beneath the approaching strangling.
“Dammit, Godfrey!” he shouted.
The water level began to rise, as did the heat. The jets roared to life. Dominic found breath hard to come buy, and chlorinated spray dug into his eyes.
His pounding did little good.
He knew it was the end when Myra’s voice spoke to him from the recessed speakers.
“Hi, Dominic. This is a recording to let you know I hate you, and have for years, you complaining son of a bitch. I’m glad an artist is worth more dead. Oh, also, I’m fucking Nelson. I shouldn’t gloat, but you have no idea how long it took me to get all of this programmed.
“Ah well. As they used to say on Mission Impossible: This recording will self destruct in five seconds – but you’ll be dead by then.”
Dominic pressed his lips to the unyielding edge of the seal and began to cry.
He’d nearly blacked out when Godfrey returned. The machine’s tone was apologetic, “error in audio deletion library, line 301. Entering debug mode. That is to say, I’m afraid I’ll have to empty the pool, sir.”
Relief doubled his tears.
Instead of a supposed drunk-drowning victim, he would go on to be the artist famously nearly murdered by his wife a week before a show.
It did little for his blood pressure, but Godfrey remained close at hand to help.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.
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