Flash Pulp 007 – Red Mouth’s Legacy, A Blackhall Tale – Part 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp episode seven.

Tonight’s story: Red Mouth’s Legacy, A Blackhall Tale – Part 1

(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Tonight marks the first appearance of what will likely become a regularly occurring member of the Flash Pulp cast, Thomas Blackhall, as well as the first time we’ve presented a multi-part serial.

Our story opens in the wilds of 19th century North America, and our hero has already found himself in a spot of trouble.

Red Mouth’s Legacy, A Blackhall Tale – Part 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

From such a height the entire valley lay to view, a march of descending green, thick with the heat of a summer sun that clung in the sky well into fall.

Thomas Blackhall pulled himself over the crest of the hill, his hands aching against the warm stones. The spot was known as Talbot’s Plateau, an occasional camp spot for those fool enough to attempt a shortcut over the rugged center of the hump. It warranted a name mostly for its peculiar configuration: the flat rise sat in a clearing, its top but a light dusting of dirt and scrub plants. It rode the hill like a crown, its “rear” a fifty foot sheer, its “front” still a ten foot scramble for a strong man.

He’d forced himself up the last few feet on nothing but will and fingernails.

He wiped his forehead with the torn remains of his former shirt. For a moment Blackhall rested on his back, filling his lungs with the breeze that the bulk of the hill had denied him until then.

Having caught his breath, he moaned to a sitting position, adjusting the plaid rag that acted as tourniquet for his bleeding leg.

By using his rifle as a crutch, he was able to bring himself to a standing position.

From the direction of his ascent came a bellow, and a half measure down the slope he watched a three hundred year old white pine topple. The thick giant came down with a sweeping roar, a wave of dust and ancient needles rolling through the parched underbrush.

Thomas’ face remained impassive, but his mouth fired off a half dozen curses. He began to hobble along the edge of his rocky precipice.

The expediency of his patrol spoke more to the size of his perch than to the condition of his injured leg, but a quick inspection told him that his memory had not lead him astray, that there was indeed only the single feasible approach. He returned to the flat’s shallowest height and braced himself, hoping he appeared more upright than he felt.

A cacophony of protesting timber and snarling foretold where the bear would make his appearance.

Still, he was hard pressed to face down the ferocity with which the beast appeared.

He’d dropped his rifle, and now raised his sabre.

The bear stopped short.

The weapon was long and lean, carrying a subtle weight. Seven years earlier, nearly a half decade after Blackhall had originally prized the weapon from the hands of a dead French officer, he’d had the blade reworked in silver. It no longer held a decent edge, and he didn’t bother with repair work unless it chipped or took on a sizable indent.

Thomas had no patience for staring matches.

“Well then, Master Bear, it’s been a grand chase indeed. It will soon grow dark however, and I think it would suit us both to find our beds.”

In response the bear lifted its shaggy white head, front legs leaving the ground, flanks rippling with massive breath, taking its true height. The majority of the animal was white as a winter morning, except in the area of its dark eyes, which were surrounded by a deepening ring of exposed black flesh – making it difficult to know where its visage ended and vision began.

At moments Thomas would think its eyes owl-like, in others they seemed like nothing but the emptiness of night.

“Only to have you come and murder me amongst my sows and birch leaves? I think not, you who will bleed to death upon my hill,” the bear replied.

At full height it was a marvel, easily the largest beast, mundane or mystical, that Thomas had ever laid his eyes upon; despite the rocky advantage, his nose was nearly level with that of the carnivore.

“Come then, let me bury my toothpick in your dense skull even as you trample me in the charge. We can both bleed to death on your lovely hillock.”

The snowy animal lowered itself onto its haunches.

“All men sleep,” the bear snorted.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.