FP346 – The Split
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-six.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!
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 tale of terrible intentions and unexpected ends.
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
James Matheson was a brilliant man, but that did not make him a nice one
Still, he’d held enough regret – enough self pity – to attempt to correct his error.
He was parked half a block from a house that was a duplicate of his own, watching a man that looked exactly like himself embracing a woman that looked exactly like Ann, his wife – but this alternate reality was not quite like his own: The kiss proved it.
Here Ann hadn’t learned of his mistake.
In his existence it had been some time since James had received such a tender goodbye.
The second James smiled, then turned to fumble with unlocking his BMW.
The onlooker knew he was already fifteen minutes late to the lab, and, by the way Ann curled herself inside her fluffy white house coat, he could guess why. He also knew, however, that the scientist’s first stop upon arriving at work would be the third floor supply closet in which Sarah’s eager grin and nimble hips awaited.
According to his own timeline, James had ended the relationship months ago. Poorly, perhaps, but he’d ended it. Somehow this world’s continued affair made what he felt he had to do next easier.
Ten minutes later, along the unpaved backway that they’d been using as a shortcut for years, he accelerated suddenly.
The gravel was rough, and the shoulder grassy, but the impact wasn’t enough to throw either vehicle into the ditch.
It did, though, bring the BMW to a halt.
James had known it would – it was what he would have done.
He pulled up twenty feet behind the beamer and killed the engine.
Even as he watched his red-faced doppelganger exit his superficially damaged car, the would-be killer wrapped and re-wrapped his fingers around the tire iron in his lap.
In an effort to pass the time as his victim walked distance to his window, he reviewed the plan: Cover over the already-dug shallow grave, drop off the rental, call Ann for a ride and explain that some maniac had ridden him off the road.
He’d have to give himself a black eye to sell the story, but it would also at least provide an excuse to call in sick and spend the day with Ann. He was confident he could talk her back into nothing but the white bathrobe.
He was just considering standing, as other-James was but five feet away, when his wife stepped from the brush-filled treeline across the lane.
“You’re as bad at murdering people as you are at being a husband,” she shouted.
It was the fury in her eyes that told James that she was not this world’s Ann.
How had she followed him? How could she gain access to the device?
Damn it: Sarah.
Stepping from the car, he answered, “I should have finished choking you to death when I had my fingers around your throat.”
Then, to himself, he noted that digging an additional grave wouldn’t be all that much more work. That’s when a third James crawled from the ditch and sprinted for the rental.
This him had not shaved in weeks, and appeared to have gone an equal time unshowered.
“Get in and drive, idiot!” the newcomer screamed as he threw himself into the passenger seat. “We need to get to the lab! NOW!”
It was too late.
A dozen Anns stepped from the undergrowth: One wore a black bandana over her scarred left eye, one carried an assault rifle on her shoulder, one wore something like a prom dress that exposed two well-muscled arms covered in colourful tropical tattoos.
Whatever their appearance, all held hate in their gaze.
Four black minivans roared into view from either direction, blocking any escape. Their sliding doors peeled open to disgorge further variants of his former wife, each baring their teeth in his direction.
“Look at you – you’re such an egomaniac you’re willing to murder yourself!
“We hate you so very much, James Matheson. You all think that the affair is the problem – but it’s just the final result. There are many parts to this equation, doctor, and your wandering penis is simply the last variable in a long list of disgusting opinions and narcissistic behaviours.
“We’ve hunted hundreds of you, on hundreds of worlds, and we will not rest until the quantum froth that is everything ever is free of your stain.
“You may be brilliant in physics, but you’re an absolute moron in self-awareness and social skills.”
A pump action shotgun ratcheted, but there were too many Anns to identify which was carrying the weapon.
As one, they stepped forward.
Before they could again carry out their retaliation, however, the ground began to buck and sway.
Though they had traveled space and time to avenge themselves against a man who was perhaps both evil AND a genius, their path of retribution had carried them into the shadow of Kar’Wick, the Spider God.
Within moments their quest was ended beneath the arachnid lord’s all-encompassing carapace.
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