Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Ninety-Five.
Tonight we present Muck: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp095.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 we present a brief interlude in Thomas Blackhall’s river travels.
Flash Pulp 095 – Muck: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1
Blackhall and his companion, Marco the voyageur, had been paddling and portaging for fifteen days, and, while Thomas had enjoyed much of the Frenchman’s conversation, his patience for the corn whiskey jug that seemed perpetually on hand was growing thin.
The two had pulled the fat-bottomed canoe onto another in the series of muddy banks that demarcated their progress, and, at the emergence of his perennial annoyance, the frontiersman had offered to walk the brush that surrounded the little camp in search of meat that might be roasted.
He’d let himself range far while enjoying the familiar rustling of the wind through untouched forest, and he’d found a security in his surroundings that he’d missed afloat and fighting the fast moving river. Game was sparse, but he’d encountered a mass of huckleberries that had him regretting his lack of a larger container than his palms in which to transport them. It was as he was lost in this consideration, and as his hands pulled berries from shrub to mouth, that he noted a thick line of destruction running through the brush at the patch’s furthest end.
His first thought was that some great bear had trampled through in preparation for its hibernation, but a further consideration of the path left him with an uneasy feeling. It appeared as if some man or animal had moved through the area with little regard for what lay ahead of it: a pine which lay in its course had had its ankle-thick branches snapped at the base, and a great rut of dirt had been agitated in its wake.
Blackhall was swift in putting his Baker rifle into his grip, but it was his sabre, which he’d left at the fire’s edge, that he longed for. He made good time through the darkening woods, despite the fallen autumn leaves protesting loudly at each footfall.
Marco watched Thomas’ entrance into the camp with heavy eyelids, and welcomed the returned with a lift of his whiskey.
“I’ve some work ahead, and it might be dangerous,” said Blackhall, as he hefted his sword. “I’d like your help, but it seems you’ve done yourself under.”
The voyageur cursed the frontiersman, the bottle, the river, the campfire, and his bladder.
“I was drunker than this the night I rode a nag full tilt down the nine mile road, blindfolded.”
He staggered to his feet, his hand going to the buck knife he carried at his belt.
* * *
“It seems ridiculous, but it’s the golem of Prague. It was formed of clay and animated to defend its people from the cruelties of their time – or at least, that’s my best guess, from my readings.” Blackhall now regretted having roused his companion, but there was little he could do. He continued his explanation. “They say it eventually became too aggressive, and was locked in the attic of a synagogue.”
The trail had been simple enough to follow, as the towering form made no effort to alter its course for the sake of ease.
“It just sat there quietly?”
“It is a difficult thing to always hold a loaded pistol in your hand, day in and day out, and not find some need to fire it,” Blackhall replied. “Mayhaps it originally found its way here on some errand, or, feeling the pull that brings all of the world’s phantasms to this final emptiness in their end days, it somehow stowed away. It is impossible to tell. Neither can we say how long it has wandered these rugged lands with little purpose. I would guess that it has been quite some time.”
The thing watched them as they talked, standing as near the river’s edge as it might without risking its never-fired feet. While seeming nearly impervious, it had not moved through the land unscathed, and gouts of its arms and legs had been ripped away by its ill considered path.
“I think the monster wishes to bring an end to itself,” said the voyageur, puffing zealously on one of Thomas’ hand-rolled cigarettes.
Again, Blackhall wished he’d left the man alone with his drink.
“It understands it to be a sin to suicide,” he replied.
Never pausing for thought, the Frenchman moved to the figure and pressed his hands hard upon its shoulders, sending it tumbling backwards into the water.
He’d stumbled back to his jug well before Blackhall had finished watching the remains break up and wash down stream.
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