Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighty-Seven.
Tonight we present Bonecruncher, Part 1 of 1
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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 the short terror tale of Teddy Watkins, and his most pressing fear.
Flash Pulp 087 – Bonecruncher, Part 1 of 1
In 1924, at the age of eight, Teddy Watkins began to wake in the night, weeping and telling tales of a monster he referred to only as Bonecruncher.
His mother, a harried but loving woman, assumed it was a passing phase, something put into his head by one of his five older brothers, and told him so at length. Their apartment was small, and his father spent his evenings working molten metal at the Pribax foundry, so it was up to her to settle his night troubles.
Teddy shared a bed with three of his brothers, and Mrs. Watkins began to note that his terrors most often came when the young boy was forced to take up a more middling position in the bed, caught between the crushing shoulders of his larger siblings.
By the time he was eleven she’d grown short with his notions and regular cries of “Bonecruncher”, and began to enact the family punishment for misbehaviour. Teddy would often then spend hours shut up amongst the pressing and musty clothes of the front closet, tearily entreating his mother to let him out lest the monster find him in the dark and squeeze the life from his body.
At the age of thirteen he made his first escape attempt. He found the streets cold and the open sky exhilarating. He ran for two days, until he was picked up by two well-meaning police officers who suspected him of truancy.
With tears in her eyes Mrs. Watkins told the judge of her distress. She explained that she’d done what she could for the boy, but that she had a half-dozen other children to tend to, and could no longer stand the strain.
The man on the bench found it difficult to believe the stories regarding the round-faced lad, at least until the bailiff attempted to place cuffs on Teddy so that he might be moved to a nearby holding cell. The youth’s screams brought the court to a halt, and his flailing kicks left the uniformed man with a broken nose.
It was twenty long years of straitjacketed terror for Teddy then, as he was shuffled from cell to asylum, and from psychologist to psychiatrist.
His horrors finally ceased on a clouded night at the State Hospital. The night shift had only recently begun work, but they were already once again growing tired of Teddy’s shouts of “Bonecruncher! Bonecruncher!”
“He’s playing your song,” Mitch O’Donnell, the orderly in charge, told his massive friend and underling, Casper Johnson.
Teddy, now a man, had become something of a celebrity amongst the denizens of his ward – for the kindness he would show during the few occasions he was allowed to roam the grounds, and for the constant and wearing screaming he would let loose once he was returned to his bonds.
The pair of orderlies were walking the floor when they realized that the familiar backdrop of shrieking had ceased.
They ran to Watkins’ cell.
Despite his lack of freedom, Teddy’s muscles had grown taut and knotty during his constant struggles against his restraints, and his persistence had won him a temporary victory.
Throwing back the door of his room, the two men in white found the lanky man sitting on the edge of his bed, his straitjacket puddled at his feet, humming and smiling to the dark. His look of content was short lived, however. As he realized what the intrusion meant, he once again took up his wailing. He stretched to his full height, bowling over Mitch, and nearly made it to the door before being scooped up in Casper’s thick arms.
“Stop! Stop! Stop!” the giant shouted at the thrashing form in his arms. Teddy only redoubled his efforts, and panic soon took hold of both the combatants.
It was only once Mitch had pulled himself from the floor and shook his friend’s shoulder that Johnson realized Teddy had ceased his screams of “Bonecruncher”, and that it was in fact O’Donnell who was now screeching the name.
They’d worked together twelve years, and Mitch had long since jokingly replaced towering Casper’s older nickname of “Troll” with the constant refrain of their persistent burden.
His face white, the large man set the now lifeless body upon the room’s cot.
Its arms sprawled wide as it reclined.
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