Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eighty seven.
Tonight we present, Lair, Part 1 of 1.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the bistrips comic Treed.
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, Veronica Peralta awaits a monster.
Flash Pulp 187 – Lair, Part 1 of 1
The Peralta’s house rocked with the intensity of the assault. The less stable amongst their collection of porcelain dogs – a dozen of which rested above the gas fireplace – began to topple and shatter on the well-swept faux-wood flooring.
Mrs. Veronica Peralta contemplated the black masses pressing against the windows, and the silhouetted limbs bouncing from the all-too-thin glass behind her drawn curtains. She had stationed on the couch, well away from any potential flying shards, and she was careful to keep her face impassive.
Across the room, her husband, Danny, cringed at the roar. The tumbler in his left hand was shaking as he slammed down the useless telephone. He set the drink on the room’s dominating coffee table, ignoring the coasters Veronica had strategically positioned about its surface.
“What the sweet hell is this!?” he asked, grabbing up a poker that had, until that point, largely been ornamental.
Veronica wondered if the double-panes would flex and burst under the assault.
She clasped her hands on her lap.
“Vern – is that music!?” asked Danny, his ear cocked as if it might help clarify the morass of chanting and roars that emitted from the exterior.
She thought there was a hint of an organ grinder’s melody on the wind, but she wasn’t sure – whatever the case, she didn’t bother to respond.
As the deadbolt, which had so far stymied the advance, tore through the wood of the flimsy barrier in a series of splintering pops, Veronica smiled, and allowed her fingers to brush away a joyful tear from her purple cheek.
* * *
She’d spent the morning in preparation for the monster. Her feather duster had worked furiously over the gleaming surfaces of the home, while her free hand re-arranged pillows, straightened ornamental blankets, and gathered up wandering television remotes.
Fear made her eyes keen and her fingers industrious, and by noon, with the chemical smell of Pine-Sol thick in the air, she had to admit that she was simply re-polishing unnecessarily, and forced her legs to a halt.
Filling a glass with tap water, she sat at the kitchen table, and fell silent. She considered retrieving her laptop – her one refuge – but her mind, unable to relax even in the absolute stillness of a suburban Tuesday, began to circle the monster endlessly. What would the view be as the door opened? Were there imperfections along its path?
She assured herself that she’d anticipated every possibility, but also recalled she’d done similar in the past with unfortunate results.
The thought drove her to stand again, and the afternoon was spent in a cycle of doubt and confirmation.
Then she’d heard the slam, followed by the wrenching back of the entrance’s screen.
Danny was home.
* * *
Supper had gone smoothly, but she’d missed starting the coffee maker while retrieving his desert, and he’d given her a cuff to the left ear. His seated position had made it an awkward smack – while it stung for some time after, it was a lesser blow than many she’d endured.
He’d told her he wanted a glass of his whisky anyhow, and she foresaw a turn in the evening that did not bode well for her.
While she was opening a new bottle of Johnnie Walker from amongst the supply of liquor Danny kept in the shelving below the living room’s entertainment center, she’d heard a squawk from the lawn beyond the bay window.
A crowd had formed on the grass while she’d been handling dinner service – a mob of over-sized black suits and gloves, above which floated the rubbery visage of a mutton-chopped metal musician reproduced in mask form. Across the street, Mrs. MacDonald stepped onto her porch, dragging along Stony, her shitzu, for the mutt’s daily inspection of the neighbourhood.
Spotting the gathering, the dog walker quickly turned, scurrying for safety.
Remaining focused on Mrs. Peralta, inside her living room, the mass raised their right hands in unison, and waved hello.
Veronica screamed, and nearly let go of the bottle, but clenched, instead, at the fear of reprisal if she were to waste a drop.
She’d heard the rumours of The Achievers; she’d thought they were a bunch of kids playing at games on the Internet, a sort of digital urban legend, like haunted YouTube videos. She hadn’t truly believed, when she’d unraveled her brutal history into a General Discussion thread on her favourite kitting forum, “A Stitch In Time”, that anything would come of it.
* * *
It was over quickly, once the hole was forced, and the horde had entered.
“Vern, call the cops! Do something!” was the last thing she ever heard from Danny, as he was carried away on the upraised arms of a dozen masked marrauders.
“I hate that frigging nickname!” was the last thing she ever said to him, as he was conveyed onto the driveway.
He didn’t know it then, but his years in South America would be incredibly educational.
As quickly as it had begun, it was over. Standing at the foot of her imploded entry, she watched the evening begin to settle at the edges of the city. A teenage boy on a mountain bike drove by, oblivious of what had just occurred.
She waved, and he returned the gesture.
Close behind the lad, a silver Cadillac SUV slid to a stop.
Another suit exited the vehicle, but this one was sharply dressed, and wore no disguise.
“Elden Lozada,” he said, as he approached with his hand extended. “It’s my understanding that you require a decent lawyer, and I happen to be mandated by state law to work a certain number of pro bono cases.”
A dog barked in the distance.
With her former husband out of the country, Veronica was quite pleased with the court’s settlement ruling.
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