Tag: Apocalypse

FP447 – The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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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 return to Capital City where Harm Carter, father and former military man, has been contending with the homicidal paranoia inducing illness that is The Murder Plague.


The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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


Here’s the thing about Hitchcock’s. Even as an incredibly sick, sometimes feverish, death-dispensing maniac, you are absolutely convinced that you are the only person on this planet-sized carousel who truly has their situation under control.

You’re hiding in an attic, and you’ve got scraps of paper pinned up on every surface. You spend your days with a flashlight – red filtered, as looted from the home of the dead or fled survivalist down the road – scanning the sheets of paper you’ve pinned to the insulation and roof beams. You’re using the red filter because it’s less noticeable than a white glow, despite the fact that it’s broad daylight outside and there are no windows in your attic.

You trace and retrace the colour-coded dots and scratches you’ve drawn, with pencils stolen from an abandoned school bag, and though the mess of lines and circles has begun to blur and smudge, though the heat has you sweating like a drug mule getting ready for an intercontinental flight, though you keep chuckling to no one but yourself, you feel like the king.

No one, you convince yourself, will ever break the code you’ve used to map out your routes, caches, and traps. No one, surely, could ever come up with such a clever system without leaving a hint or trail. No one is as smart, as careful, as PREPARED, as you are.

At night the only thing you hold closer than the section of map you’ll need for that evening’s expedition is the handgun you plan on using to defend your secrets.

Jokes on you, of course, because the neighbourhood you consider your kingdom is infested with plenty of other fools who also think they’re royalty.

The Murder PlagueSometimes the attacks are straight forward, and your survival, if you could admit it to yourself, is just luck. A gunshot rings out and you tell yourself you’ve escaped unharmed because you’re too fast to hit. A large woman with a machete and silent feet does her best Queen of Hearts imitation, and you tell yourself you’ve avoided the grave by knowing to bring a gun to a knife fight. Invaders break into your sanctuary while you are away, and you convince yourself that you’ve defeated the ambush they set by having left semi-hidden rat-poisoned food about the lower floors – and never mind that they might have waited till safely home to snack.

At some point, just before another dateless dawn, you’re almost done scratching Xs across the hand drawn chart of places you’ve cleared out for supplies, and, as you’re tugging at a garage door in search of gasoline or sharp-edged tools, you nearly get taken out by a log trap. A dozen trees, which you’ll later realized were stripped from a local schoolyard before being piled high in the quiet darkness, come rolling at you, and you damn near have your knees snapped backwards and your rib cage trampled by tumbling pines before you can leap left. Lobbing a Molotov onto the roof you wait till the attempted murderer stumbles from his haven and you end the wannabe Boy Scout with your pistol. You don’t think twice about having slain a frumpy man in a Star Wars t-shirt and thick-rimmed glasses. You don’t think twice about the pencil smudges on his fingers. You don’t think twice about the red-filtered flashlight he happens to be carrying.

You simply collect what you can use, shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown, and move on.

I – I simply collect what I can use. I simply shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown. I move on.

In the end the hardest aspect of the Murder Plague is not dealing with the corpses, traps, and scenes of violence, it’s in knowing that it was not some other carrying out these actions. I was not some passive observer staring at my hands as they locked around a stranger’s neck. It’s your fingers, your palms, your squeezing and struggling against the final jerks and snorts and twitches – but you have no control.

Maybe a week and a half after nearly being rolled flat like the Pillsbury Doughboy cornered by the Swedish Chef, I was creeping along one of the zig-zag paths I used to return to my shelter when I caught sight of something unusual: A dog barking.

Oh, my paranoia about the feral packs roaming the neighbourhood was already long standing – Were they being trained and controlled by someone else? Would they rush me for my supplies? Could the plague itself affect them? – but generally we’d had an understanding familiar to elevator passengers in a more civilized time: I pretended they didn’t exist, and they pretended I didn’t either.

The thing was, this mutt, a little Yorkshire Terrier that could have used a bath and a seven course meal, was yapping and yapping and yapping at the red door across the street. Now, it was a very quiet time. The sound of gunfire was increasingly distant, probably due to a decreasing population of people to shoot at, and the car engines were rare. There were no songs wafting through the air from a distant block, there were no trash talkers playing basketball on some other street, there were no couples arguing about dinner, the kids, or the bills. Any noise could get you killed, so every noise was suspect.

Yet here was this pooch yammering his heart out.

Given how many real humans I ended in my haze, it’s still strange that I’m struck by shame when I admit that I almost killed him. I was worried about his drawing attention, and my infected mind was so survival focused that it was already formulating the argument that I could use the extra meat.

Never mind that I had six months worth of cans already stacked in the attic, and another couple years’ worth scattered in holes at all corners of my hand-sketched map.

I stepped forward and reached into my right pocket for my tanto-bladed pocket knife. I raised my boot with the intention of pinning the fur ball down beneath the thick sole while I conducted my butchery.

The red door flew open and a bloody one-person SWAT team burst through the opening. The dog sprinted away under the gate to my right and my pistol was in my grip before I even had both feet back on the ground. This wasn’t just some slovenly gun fetishist buying equipment online before the collapse, however: I knew this armour. This wasn’t some hillbilly in a gas mask, this was someone who’d been bestowed the tinted bubble helmet and face mask the military had developed to deal with improvised explosives and ravenous undead.

I got one shot off, which landed with a flat thwack and little other effect, but the mountain of black tactical gear had breached the exit with a taser at the ready. They offered a shocking response.

My fire had nudged their aim, at least, and the electrodes landed askew on my looted rambler jacket. The first jolt hit just as I was peeling the thing off, and fight lost the battle to flight: I was halfway to the corner before my assailant had even tossed down their weapon.

What followed was something like a magic trick.

In my boot wearing days I was not entirely unfamiliar with such gear. More than once I’d had to wade through unpleasant business in a similar too-hot, too-heavy, and too-constricting style of getup. Even with the extra years under my belt I should’ve easily been able to outrace that younger version of myself.

I was aiming for the little blue house at the end of the street. I knew if I could make it that far – theoretically easy-peasy, given the clunky nature of my pursuer – that I’d probably be okay.

Putting a curb-parked soccer mom minivan between myself and the newcomer, just in the off chance that they should decide on a more lethal means of dealing with the situation, I turned my head to see how big a lead I’d widened up. I had maybe a hundred feet of pavement and fifteen feet of dying lawn to cover till I was safely away, and that’s when the miracle happened.

My pursuer dropped one foot at normal speed, then the second at twice that, and was suddenly up to a Corvette’s sprint. Somehow I doubled my own pace, but it damn near wasn’t enough.

As I cleared my objective’s white picket barricade my stalker scaled the hood of the van and left a trail of divots along the roof, and as I gulped a final breath of air and turned the door handle, my hunter went directly through the fence.

I slammed the entrance behind me and hustled to the sliding patio exit at the home’s rear.

It’s likely that not knowing what was beyond the closed entrance, while chasing a homicidally infected maniac through a largely abandoned neighbourhood, was enough to give the incredibly nimble hulk a second of pause, and that’s the only reason I had time to get clear and draw my lighter.

I’d been carrying that damned sparkler for weeks – just the usual sort of kids’ cake topper – but my fingers were so slick with sweat I damn near dropped the zippo.

Then it was lit, and I could hear the door on the far side of the building being kicked open, and I tossed my tiny pyrotechnic display.

The gas oven, unlit but otherwise fully engaged, had done its work well, and the resulting explosion was enough to finish my climb over the back fence.

When I returned to a vague sort of sensibility I stood. If there was anything left of my foe it would be worth scavenging: Especially if I could manage to get the blood off of that armour.

I was too clever to rush in, however. I hunkered down, listening and waiting. What if the intruder had survived somehow? What if the explosion and subsequent fire attracted an inquisitive local? If the riot squad really was dead then whatever kit they’d been carrying wasn’t going anywhere, and it was rare that such tempting bait presented itself to help flush out my neighbours.

As dusk hit, and the house’s embers guttered in its former basements’ rec room, I crept onto the street. There seemed to be nothing but me, the crickets, and the distant barking of a triumphant mutt who’d either found an un-spilled garbage can or the fresh remains of some unfortunate Capital City citizen.

Of course, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, one of the problems with paranoia is that it’s never the things you could possible have calculated for that will get you. A man can spend his life in a Faraday cage to prevent death by cellphone radiation, but it’ll inevitably be the spouse whose sick of his lifestyle who buries him with a butcher blade in his back.

I mean, when I approached “the body” it was still sprawled out on the road pavement, where it had apparently landed on its back. It’s left leg was missing – well, missing isn’t the proper word perhaps, as a kevlar-wrapped chunk had clearly landed across the picket fence. I suspect the door must have sheared it off and tossed it in a different direction than the rest of the meat.

All that to say: The limb was thoroughly unattached, which is why, I’m sure you can see, I assumed that my victim, who had apparently been lying unmoving for at least two hours, was dead.

She let me get as far as the helmet, and then her eyes popped open.

I said “Jennifer?” and that’s when Ms. Atlas, current member of TV’s The Irregular Division and former comrade-at-arms, hit me.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP440 – Late

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Late

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Freelance Hunters!


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 reminder from the Skinner Co. Mellowness Dept. – because you never know just what your day may hold.



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


A slip of his thumb, while tumbling into sleep, had left Elbert Espinoza ten minutes behind schedule, which is why he was attempting to finish his morning coffee while dragging his electric razor across his neck. Still, he did not relish explaining to Sandra, the head of his service area, that being late wasn’t his fault because he’d accidentally set his alarm to PM instead of AM.

Despite generally being a rather fastidious man, Elbert paid no mind to the free-flying stubble that had landed in his morning caffeination. It was this same lowering of standards, caused by fear, that made Espinoza unusually brusque to the old man he encountered when he’d finally made it across the frayed green carpet of his apartment building’s lobby.

The stranger wore a black cap and a jacket thrice too thick for the weather, and his muttering manner, combined with the indiscriminate stains across his beard and shirt, left Elbert with little doubt that he was homeless.

Otherwise, given the hour, the parking lot was unusually empty.

FP440 - LateIn truth, the sight of the wanderer was not entirely a surprise, but Elbert had lingered around his neighbourhood’s cracked sidewalks and decaying parks long enough to be familiar with most of the folks who depended upon newspaper bedding and the kindness of strangers.

Feeling, in some odd way, that they were as trapped in their existence as much as he in his, Espinonza had formed a friendly relationship with the local vagrants, yet it had not struck him that any job that left him in such a position might not be worth the stress he devoted to it.

The unknown – be it the consequences of his later arrival or the vagaries of the city’s employment market – was truly his greatest fear, and he was otherwise deeply invested in continuing to eat.

It was this he had in mind when he shouldered past the man’s stink-breathed warning.

“Sir,” began the drifter, “Time is short -” and he moved close, as if he spoke of a dire situation to family, but Elbert did not cease his approach to his Nissan Micra.

Though the jolt sent the derelict to the pavement, Elbert felt he had time to offer little more than a quick “Sorry,” before tossing his plastic-bagged lunch onto the passenger seat and directing the tiny car onto the roadway.

The vehicle’s engine hummed like a swarm of enraged bees, and he made good progress for three straight minutes before having to turn onto a major roadway. It was there, on Pinewood Avenue, that he encountered his next obstacle.

Two blocks to his left, a traffic light refused to offer up anything but a red signal, and the community response to having to self-regulate the stop had quickly devolved into a snarl of honking and angrily lowered windows.

Elbert was twenty minutes overdue to his desk when he decided he would thrust the nose of his Micra into a gap between a black Escalade and a low-slung Civic. It meant blocking cross traffic, but it seemed unlikely someone would be so polite as to allow him access into the lineup otherwise.

He was twenty-five minutes behind when a cop cruiser’s rolling sirens barely cleared a passage for its high-speed approach through the crossroads. Epsinoza, largely focused on not scraping a swath of paint on the barely-inching SUV ahead of his bumper, was not so quick to react.

The patrol car’s glancing impact along the hatchback’s rear was enough to remove the Escalade’s tail lights and send Elbert into a tumbling spin.

Achieving a tight triple-loop that would have left an Olympic skater jealous, the Micra landed on its wheels, shattering the workings of its underbelly.

Across the street the officer, having determined his car was still functional, did not stop.

Once he realized he was still alive, Elbert stumbled from his vehicle, but, as he moved away from the wreckage, his considerations did not run towards appreciating his unlikely survival – instead, his mind plunged directly into frustration over his situation.

His knees wobbling with adrenaline, he turned his face towards the sky and began a long shout of: “FUUUUUUU-”

That’s when the rumbling began.

Pipes beneath the intersection burst, spewing sewage onto the roadway and causing a chain reaction of collisions as those locked into a turn attempted to reverse out of the pungent stink that rose with it. They had little opportunity to escape, however, as the first of the Spider-God’s barbed appendages thrust its ebon spires through the crumbling pavement.

Yet, even as he fell into the final shadow of Kar’Wick the Arachnid Lord, at some level the desk jockey was simply glad he wouldn’t have to attempt to explain his tardiness – then he was nothing more than the late Elbert Espinoza.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP432 – The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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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 join the Irregular Division – currently consisting of Ms. Atlas, cybernetically modified wonder of the American military, and Head, occasional thief and government contractor – as they take an unlikely journey across Britannia’s decaying countryside.


The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3

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


November, Year One
Excerpt Source: Verbal Debrief Three Days Following Operation Blighty

Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Milo “Head” Smith

Head: “It was some real Alice through the Looking Glass BS, let me tell you.”

[Inaudible, then the sound of a chair being adjusted]

Head: “Yeah, as if the landing wasn’t rough enough, Atlas was so quick to kill the chumps on the ground I didn’t have time to suggest that we should attempt to take a hostage.”

Wily: “You disapprove of her behaviour on the ground?”

Head: “Nah, I guess not. Who’s more excited about dying than a doomsday cultist, right? – and, to be fair, those guys seemed quite intent on shooting us.”

Wily: “The video of their setup makes it appear pretty simple?”

Head: “More firepower than you’d expect in a gun-less nation’s park, but otherwise it mostly looked like they were winter camping. We secured the site, which is to say we picked up their weapons and had a poke about. In their packs we found zip ties, a portable satellite internet connection, and enough tranquilizers to tuck in Michael Jackson.

“At that point it was obvious that we’d either interrupted a particularly kinky weekend, or they’d had some abductions in mind.

“While Jen phoned home, I used the network password you’d provided to get myself back online.”

Wily: “That’s when you had your clever little idea?”

Head: “Well, let’s say it was half ‘clever idea’ and half ‘bored habit.’ Our intel guys had found the encampment based solely on the fact that it was the only site still generating human-based internet traffic, and it was the same sort of notion that put us on the road.

“I was mentally flipping through British streams and feeds; some sites that I visit – uh, used to visit – regularly, some that I hadn’t thought of in years, and I found myself wandering by BBC Radio 1. I paused there for a moment, as they’d left a maudlin take on God Save the King running on loop.

“The weird thing was, it stopped, skipped back thirty seconds, then started again at half speed.

“That’s when I started yelling, which you can probably make out on Atlas’ call log.”

Wily: “I’ve heard it. You sound excited.”

Head: “Well, it was the solution to an unexpected puzzle. If the genocidal nutters had been intending on kidnapping someone, then they must have expected there to be survivors. This kind of made their camping location, at the center-ish of the island, make sense.

FP432 - The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3“The machines, on the other hand, didn’t know or care if anyone had survived. There were still tiny European cars idling away as we passed, and I feel confident they gladly did so until their fuel ran dry. On that same note, there’s no reason at all for an organization like the BBC to have live-to-air audio chopping and dropping. Clearly someone, likely someone who had no idea what they were doing, was messing with the controls.”

Wily: “That meant a drive to the BBC buildings in London.”

Head: “Uh huh. Easy enough to commandeer a ride – like I said, some of them weren’t even fully parked when the infection took hold of their drivers, but they’d mostly been reasonable enough in their lusty passions to pull over. We ended up in a white Ford Fiesta with the steering wheel on the wrong side and an engine that sounded like it had been stolen from an RC car.

“Honestly, I started off being a bit of a smartass about it. I even used the sat internet to blast Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road as we were leaving the parking lot. I knocked that business off pretty quick though.

“In a weird way it was almost as if a terrible wind had passed over the land. Even with frost on the windows, every lawn, block of sidewalk, every abandoned park seemed to hold random collections of laundry and dead bodies. Bodies knee deep in a snow drift without pants, bodies with jaws shattered from use, bodies crushed flat by the weight of those grinding on top of them.

“We must have passed thousands of the dead, but the thing I won’t be able to shake was the smile on each of their faces.

“From the empty highway we began to spot fingers of smoke on the horizon. Fires, no doubt, caused by forgotten stoves, dropped cigarettes, and a thousand other accidents waiting to happen once their tenders wandered away from the switch to chase their groin.

“I remember crossing a river and noting a hole in the thin ice down by the shore. There was this Bentley poking out, its front end submerged, but it was clear the passengers had managed to get clear. They were both there: A thin bald guy and a lady with bad teeth. Tweediest mofos you could ask for.

“Though they’d exited, they hadn’t made it back to land. The ice must have thawed and re-froze in the time of their rutting, as his corpse had been locked into the ice up to his ears, and she was stuck at her hands and knees.

“Then we were passed them, and I had some other horror to stare down. At least in that instance there merely two of them.

“We have only the virus’ intensity to thank for this thing not ending everyone. If the incubation period had been any longer we’d all be, well, fucked.

“Thing is, there were these ugly little scenes, but, especially as we cruised the streets of London, there was also much beauty. Buildings that had stood for centuries and statuary with more history than my hometown will ever care to know. I started thinking, you know, about how the history will remain, they just won’t be making any more of it.

“I started yammering to Atlas: Have you considered that you’ll never hear the accent on anything but recordings now? Maybe we’ll setup zoos for the ex-pats, or teaching schools so that actors can carry on the tradition.

“Eventually I turned the glitching BBC signal up just for the noise.

“When we finally reached Broadcasting House I was out of the car like a kid hitting Disneyland. I’d seen too much death, and the notion of finding something living struck me as especially exciting.

“What I wasn’t expecting, as we pushed open doors and shouted down hallways, was what we encountered: A couple, or an apparent couple at least, fighting.

“Our rescues may not have known each other beforehand, but they certainly bickered like they’d been married a decade.

“Martin was repeating something Annabel had just stated, though he was using a voice that sounded vaguely like a Hanna-Barbera character had taken a sharp blow to the head, when Atlas went into Atlas mode.

“Even with the medical precautions you’d shoved into our arms before takeoff, I could feel the pull of their nanotech-rewritten pheromones. Within ten feet the virus makes you think – oh aren’t they quirky and fun. Isn’t he gruff but lovable, isn’t she witty and sharp tongued. If Atlas wasn’t more machine than woman I might have been worried, but she had them on the ground and in the surrender position before you could quote the COPS theme song.

“By then you were screaming at us to come home, so we immediately stole a jetliner – and that, mon Capitaine, is how we came to find The Lovesick Twins under our roof.”


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP400 – Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 – The Hag

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred.

Flash PulpTonight we present Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 – The Hag

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Mob


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, Thomas Blackhall – master frontiersman, student of the occult, and grieving husband – completes his tale regarding the beginning of the end, and the woman who stole his wife’s cadaver.


Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 – The Hag

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


Vengeance outweighed the woman’s grief, and the consolidation of her power began even before her boy’s reanimated body had fully let go of its living warmth.

Setting the child to dancing a shadow of a jig, she sent the riderless pony to town, as an omen of what would follow, then made her way west.

It was her intention that his cavorting would keep him close until such time as she discovered a method to properly raise him. However, a life filled with emergencies – shattered limbs, reluctant births, fickle curses – had left the Hag with a keen mind for priorities, and, as a python is said to eat an elephant, she began with the tail of her problem and moved ever forward to overtake her goal.

First she returned to any who had imparted wisdom to her custody, so that she might demand any secrets they had held in reserve. Though none of her former teachers furnished a solution for true resurrection, fraud, extortion, and flattery would eventually bring her a deep knowledge of the three forms of magic.

The school of the written word and inscribed sigil soon covered her body in images of power and deception. It was from an Egyptian book collector that she collected the pattern that imbues longevity, but it is only due to his phantom that I was able to pass that same design on to you.

She’d approached him as a broken soul in need of opportunity to correct her tragedy, and his own timeless greed for education made him too quick to sympathize. The Hag, however, was a woman who insisted on absolute discretion, as she demonstrated by slitting his throat and removing the flesh of his back.

Longevity is not invulnerability, as his ghostly lips later informed me.

I myself learned, in nearly two decades in the bush, that a life of endless walking leaves too much time to obsess; too much time to over-think. I can not imagine the effect magnified by a century’s span.

By the occasion on which she again crossed Ibsil, her transgressors were long dead – she cared not.

In exchange for his freedom, a mute friar locked high in a coastal tower had taught her many phrases of destruction. In his youth his transcription work had carried him across a decaying tome seemingly forgotten upon the shelves of his remote cloister. Unthinking, he had hoisted the volume and begun the penitent process of re-copying its text. It was under his breath that he whispered the tones that pushed out the monastery’s eastern wall, but he had, by then, already achieved the majority of his reproduction.

Even after the removal of his tongue, the memory of the index had followed him into the tiny room that marked the fate his brothers prescribed, and a lifetime’s confinement had left his recollections too close to his quill fingers.

Once his furtive letters were written, though, his freedom lasted as far as a mile offshore. Then, as a noose-tied-stone was lobbed overboard, the sloop he thought employed for his escape was revealed to be the vehicle of his demise.

The ruination of Ibsil began with a chortle and a word like a thunderclap.

Within seconds the streets were filled with those attracted to the noise and dust of the collapsing masonwork that was once the town’s church, and so The Hag spoke of plague, for those who would hide, and of fracturing, for those who could not.

Her tongue parted the gathered like a violent wave, and she formed corrupt sentences whose shapes and sounds called forth arcane energies to snap limbs, rupture eyes, and cleave architecture.

In a week she’d flattened every residence and stable, flushed out every farmhand and cellar dweller, and set flame to anything that might provide a safe haven she’d missed.

Finally, when the townspeople of Ibsil, ruined by contagion and violence, no longer had life enough to writhe on their own, she raised their shattered husks and set them to dancing for the supposed amusement of her son’s uncomprehending corpse.

This continued for a fortnight, with any unlucky enough to wander into the remote village joining the festivities, and it only stopped when the cadavers she most favoured began to tear and sunder under her rough treatment.

Yet her real desire, the secret of true resurrection, eluded her.

Centuries rolled beneath her feet. The world shifted about her, but the Hag, and her mystically preserved boy, continued on.

In time she fell in with the children of the Spider-God, the hooded Kar’Wickians. She was not one for friendship, but the arachnid’s spawn have many social advantages that her hermitry denied her. In exchange for her skills, and an occasional conjuring lesson, they provided her a great web of volunteers – for there was no shortage of restoration tales to authenticate, though most led solely to frustration.

Raiding ancient texts from the cult’s hidden library, she learned many of the rituals of symbolism, the most primitive of the magical schools but also extremely powerful in its elementary nature. It is much more than modest voodoo doll making. Though the age of artifact creation is distantly passed, it is said this symbolic art of material manipulation, in combination with rites from the written and spoken schools, were the forge by which the Crook of Ortez and its ilk were created.

Eventually she found her answer in one such relic, the Distilling Catafalque.

Now, there was perhaps an age when the world was so saturated with ethereal energies that the Catafalque might have taken the carrion of but three or four mystically-drenched dead to operate, but the arcane had begun to leech from the land, and naught but a few locations remained upon the globe that contained some power.

The hinterlands of the united Canadas was one such place.

I had met her twice before our final encounter. On the first occasion – well, I have publicly claimed innocence by stating that it was simple error that caused our paths to cross, but, in truth, I had come to snatch the Catafalque from her very hands. Rumours of her passage, and her collection of the dead to power the device, came from the mouths of phantoms and the whispers of the fading animal lords- but I had not comprehended the size of her rotting army, and fear had driven me off from that initial meeting.

It was not long after, however, that she took revenge at my interruption by snatching up my Mairi’s body to join her column.

I carried not but mundane tools into our final confrontation, out of concern that her attunement to the preternatural might signal my presence. The thousands of capering cadavers had aligned themselves into a whirling spiral, and I was left to creep, sweaty-browed, through the dancing rings. My pen is too weak to convey the anxiety of slipping between those exuberantly jerking, absolutely silent, figures.

Thomas Blackhall, a fantasy fiction podcast brought to you by the Skinner Co. NetworkAt their center stood The Hag, an orb of light in one hand while the other rest on the torn and muck-covered jacket of her unchanged son’s shoulder. She was watching as each thrashing puppet climbed, in turn, atop the black-veiled platform their lifeless shoulders had carried across the face of Europe, over the salt, and through the dense wildwoods. There was smoke at each closing of the plush curtains, but no further evidence of its sacrifice’s passing.

I let out no yip or call upon my assault: No, my very heart ceased to beat so that the noise would not arouse her.

It was a whisper I had mastered that lit the fuse of my explosive bundle, and even that was almost too much.

There was recognition in her face as the payload landed at her feet, but not time enough to react. Even in the last she attempted to shield the boy from the blast, and in so doing proved that I had right to worry: Though her belly was pulled asunder by the explosion, the bones of her cradling arms absorbed the force without yielding. Still, the tattoos that formed the greater portion of her defense were but simple ink in form, and so burned as easily as the rest of her skin.

The ritual, already in motion, went on.

Though I had dared not search beforehand, it was my deepest hope that Mairi had not yet entered that eternal slumber. My boots seemed to gain weight with each step – with each face that registered as not her own – but an uncountable period of running along the still-rollicking spiral brought me to the woman I had sought for long decades.

With wet cheeks, I pulled her from the line, and, in her place, I lay the Hag and her boy upon the platform.

I will confess again that I knew. I knew the pact she’d made with the Spider-God, I knew that there was not enough power left in the world, unless the abomination might find some weak soul with which to barter the last of its vitality to plant a seed that would bloom into invasion.

I knew, and that is why, even years before the encounter, I had begun my project of apology – and I do apologize, though I can not bring myself to regret the return of Mairi to my side.

We have two hundred years to correct my error. Now, to the extent of your title’s responsibilities – and those carried by the other branches of my now sprawling legacy – the matter is in your hands, Coffin.

Yours till victory, or the rise of Kar’Wick,

Thomas Blackhall


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP376 – Equity

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present Equity
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Skinner Co. Store


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 join one Capital City citizen, Moira, as she commemorates the life and death of her husband, Leonard.



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


Moira was raising a monument to her husband of forty years.

The parcel it stood on had been earmarked for a parking lot, but, given that he was dead, Leonard no longer had need of parking, nor the money it could bring in. It was but a sliver of the estate, but she’d spent the better part of a year pushing the paperwork across bureaucrats’ desks and through city council meetings.

The allotted land included the spot they’d met, although it’d been a small soup and sandwich restaurant at the time. It wasn’t the sort of thing he would’ve thought about, but she remembered. She’d been the manager at a tiny bank, and he’d been a lawyer so fresh on the job that he could still see the bar in his rear-view mirror.

Confusion over their order – both Reubens, but hers with a side of onion rings instead of his wilted salad – had drawn them into sharing a booth. Then again the next day, and the next.

He’d spoken endlessly of his clients’ missteps and mostly she’d just listened and thought him noble for trying to defend them.

Soon he’d needed dates for office outings, client parties, and city-sponsored balls.

They’d married six months later.

Now, in the warmth of a summer morning sun, her spotted flesh looked into his unflinching bronze eyes.

Although his grin had once been known everywhere, no photos had been seen of his face for some twenty years.

The platform wasn’t a tall one. She wanted teens and children to be able to climb up and pose with the man the mayor had occasionally called The City’s Lawyer. The youths might no longer recognize him, but Moira understood that the universal tomfoolery made possible by an easily accessible statue was a joy that stretched across every generation.

Her own children, a group of five born over the course of a half-decade, had kept her home in the evenings – but not Leonard. Never Leonard. He considered the cost of champagne no different an expense than the money he laid out in advertising for the firm he eventually came to control. His commercials had once been so prevalent throughout Capital City that his tagline of, “They broke it, but we’ll fix it,” had lingered well after the ads themselves had been relegated to nothing more than fading nostalgia.

In fact, his reputation as a rake was widespread enough that his guest appearances on C-Block, a Capital City-based sitcom that was popular just as their oldest son, Gregory, was first reaching high school, had largely revolved around the schedule juggling necessary to date three secretaries.

No one had considered how his children, or wife, might feel about the portrayal – and Leonard least of all.

His retreat into real estate and semi-retirement, a decade later, had been driven more by vanity than any slowing of his drive. He was too proud to admit he was unrecognizable from the broad-smiling tux model who’d bounced from nightclub to nightclub with thin-wristed socialites on his arm.

She’d never forgotten that either.

She was pulled from her reverie by the cough of a workman with better ways to be spending his morning. The last of the straps had been lowered and packed away, and she was now able to take a final look at her husband’s likeness.

The statue was not the man of the commercials and television cameos. It was not the grin that still shone on in grainy online videos posted by an aging but sentimental generation of television watchers. Here was the shirtless and beer-gutted man with an unkempt case of bedhead and a sharp turn to his lips that she had known.

Here was Leonard as she remembered him, and, thanks to his financing, as the city would as well – or, as it would have.

Kar'WickEven as she nodded and turned away, however, the buildings about the greenery began to sway, and the ground beneath her feet buckled. It was then that Moira took in a lesson that would have served Leonard well: That all legacies are fleeting.

Within seconds any who might have cared to remember were caught in the rising shadow of Kar’Wick the Spider-God.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

204 – Ruby Departed: Snowball, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and four.

Ruby DepartedTonight we present, Ruby Departed: Snowball, Part 3 of 3.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the After Movie Diner Podcast & Blog.


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, Ruby’s upturned standoff, with the reanimated corpses of the once living, comes to a savage end.


Flash Pulp 204 – Ruby Departed: Snowball, Part 3 of 3

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


* * *


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

190 – The Murder Plague: Open Hours, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and ninety.

Flash PulpTonight we present, The Murder Plague: Open Hours, Part 1 of 3.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Shrinking Man Project.


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, Harm Carter and his traveling companions find hope, as well as a stranger.


Flash Pulp 190 – The Murder Plague: Open Hours, Part 1 of 3

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


The Murder PlagueIt seemed to me, as I marched through the forest alongside my pair of companions, that I had somehow become the odd man out.

Worse yet, my misgivings regarding the age gap – Minnie being fourteen, and Newton, at a guess, thirty – were stymied by a duo of unavoidable facts. One: that it was a free apocalypse, and, having seen her friends murdered, as well as attempt to murder her, that the girl could do what she wanted. Two: that I was probably only so riled about it as she was of such an age, and, uh, fiery disposition, as to remind me greatly of my own wayward daughter, Rebecca.

There’s a great temptation, when those around you are on the constant lookout for a virus whose primary symptom is homicidal paranoia, to keep all unpleasant thoughts to oneself – but, by avoiding showing my annoyance, I came off feeling like someone’s uncle trying too hard to demonstrate his youthful vigor to a younger generation.

Anyhow, there we strolled, Newton gallantly taking the brunt of our passage through the brush, Minnie laughing over-heartily at his flat jokes, and I trailing in the rear.

Sticking to the woods may have saved us a head on collision with wandering maniacs, but it also made progress tediously slow. Still, better to be bitten by insects than madmen I suppose.

To pass the time, I’d been counting the number of flattened mosquitoes I’d left in my wake, but my tally was lost when, an hour before dusk, we suddenly came to a broad expanse of pavement.

I believe it to be the largest Walmart I’ve ever encountered, but my memory may be coloured by what lay on the far side: We’d finally come across a major highway.

Between road weary travelers, and the local, if diffuse, population, that particular patch of nowhere was deemed a profitable enough stretch to commercially colonize, and I silently thanked the profiteers for their craven decision.

Spanning the parking area were dozens of potential rides, laid out in rows like a used car lot.

“What do you think?” Minnie asked Newton.

“Hmm,” said the big man, hunkering at the edge of an oak’s shade.

I took it to mean “hurrah for transportation, but where are all of the drivers?” – and I had to agree.

Stroking my chin, I said, “my feeling is that we wait for nightfall, then locate a vehicle old enough that I might manage hot-wiring it; or, better yet, one abandoned with the keys in the ignition.”

Then we all nodded, and considered ourselves pretty clever – until the codger started yelling.

“You bunch by the trees, stop gawking and give a fella a hand.”

It’s unnerving to have an invisible stranger address you from afar at the best of times, but, given our recent experience with the persistent sniper, I was especially enthusiastic in my search for the source of the demand.

Atop the wild grass, some distance further along the edge of the cement, was a bobbing red and white baseball cap.

“Hurry, I’m pretty messed up over here,” said the hat.

It was my feeling that if the speaker had had a gun and poor intentions, he would have been considerably less conversational, so I opted to break away from our cover and into the trench.

Minnie, and then Newton, were quick to follow. The altered position made it clear that the exit lanes had been barricaded, by Minivans positioned to form a wall, then smashed to ensure their immobility. Given the massive ditch that otherwise surrounded the place, I began to wonder if we might have to make our getaway in the style of Steven McQueen in the Great Escape, but my considerations were quickly knocked aside by the talking shamble that lay before me.

Or, actually, nearly before me. I came to a stop ten feet away from he who’d summoned us, but I can’t claim it was forethought – the snail’s trail of blood is what did it. He’d come from somewhere across the road, likely the shuttered Dunkin’ Donuts which stood as the only other building of note in sight.

Whatever the case, I was hard pressed to immediately explain his missing left foot.

“It hurts real bad,” he said.

“What happened?” I asked.

A few yards behind me, Newton had halted, rooting Minnie at a safe distance.

The mustachioed man wiggled the red bill of his cap, then set the whole thing back on his head, as if he were a small town mechanic about to explain the cost of a particularly severe repair.

“Well, I was across the way with Selma and we were thinking we’d try and see if we might find food and smokes, or that maybe there was information left over from when the Wally World was an evacuation point. We saw that someone setup those wrecks to keep folks out, but we figured there was coffee left at the donut place, and she, she…” his explanation became lost amongst his tears, and it was finally too much for Minnie, who broke free and rushed to the injured.

Frankly, I was surprised he was so coherent, considering his apparently relatively fresh amputation.

Continuing to cry, Selma’s beau took Minnie’s hand in his own. Newton and I were rapidly closing the distance even as he continued.

“She was gonna murder me. Her thoughts were whispering it for days, but I reckoned I was just hearing the meth. Then she cuffed my leg to a booth and abandoned me with only a dozen god damn stale croissants to snack on. I showed her.” From beneath his muck-encrusted plaid shirt, the storyteller brought up a gory folding knife, miming his escape while maintaining his grip on the teen. He smiled. “Staggered on for a while, but I don’t know how long I’ve lied out. Must’a slept here last night, though.”

Somehow he’d managed to tourniquet the wound with a green and white bungee cable.

Maybe it was my and Newton’s approach, or perhaps it was Minnie trying to pry herself from his grasp, but his face sharpened.

In a flat voice, he said, “you too, huh?”

His first stabbing swing was a miss, but, before he could properly bring his weapon around, his captive began to stomp wildly. We were immediately beside her, but, as we endeavoured to intervene, her simple white sneaker had a shattering confrontation with her assailant’s neck.

There was a snap, followed by a brief silence.

While Minnie wept, and Newton cooed, I searched the body for keys.

I found nothing more than a half-eaten puff pastry, but, in my distraction, I missed the girl pocketing the dead man’s blade.


(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FlashCast 21 – Positive Feedback

FC21 - Positive Feedback[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashCast021.mp3](Download/iTunes)

Hello, and welcome to FlashCast episode twenty-one – prepare yourself for more Flashers, Bell’s Palsy, PRB, The Crumble, Godfather Death, and Oz.

Mentions this episode:

Monty Python’s Meaning of Life: Part 7 – Death
[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoBTsMJ4jNk]

Also, big thanks to:

* * *

If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at https://flashpulp.com, call our voicemail line at (206) 338-2792, or email us text or mp3s to skinner@skinner.fm.

FlashCast is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

The Apocaylpse Will Not Be Televised

The Apocalypse Will Be TelevisedAs you’ve probably heard, the world is ending in a couple of days – or, beginning to end, as I understand that bets have been hedged a little by extending the process from a massive earthquake/rapturing on Saturday, through till the end of everything sometime next October.

For the last decade, any time the end of the world is imminent, I’ve kept a handy site on tap – http://www.abhota.info/ (A Brief History of the Apocalyse.)

Where else will you learn great terms like:


The doctrine of a thousand-year Earthly reign of Christ.

– or even fantastic nonsense like:


A pseudoscience that teaches that the Great Pyramid of Giza is a divine revelation. Many pyramidologists believe that the future can be foretold by measuring the Great Pyramid’s inner passages.

I don’t mention the site simply to send them traffic, however – I wanted to post up a recap of Armageddons for this year, and next.

A brief overview of Apocalypses in 2011 - from: http://www.abhota.info/end5.htm

Let’s start with “Professor Wang”, (stop snickering,) – given his claim, and the current date, I don’t think his professorship is in geology, but let’s dig into the details a little.

According to wikipedia, the Yucatán Peninsula impact generated an earthquake of magnitude 12.55.

Unclear as to what that means?

In March 2010, following extensive analysis of the available evidence covering 20 years’ worth of data spanning the fields of palaeontology, geochemistry, climate modelling, geophysics and sedimentology, 41 international experts from 33 institutions reviewed available evidence and concluded that the impact at Chicxulub triggered the mass extinctions at the K–T boundary including those of dinosaurs.


Given the nature of the Richter Scale –

An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0.


– a 14.0 earthquake would definitely be the end of life as we knew it, but not because of an earthquake/tsunami: such an event would have to be precipitated by an impact orders of magnitude larger than the most massive collision we’ve ever sustained. Unless someone misapplies the moon’s parking brake, I think we’re good.

One of Camping's billboards
One of Camping's billboards - is the date underlined, or a fill-in-the-blank?

Next we have Harold Camping, doomsayer of the hour, and, as you’ve probably already read, failed prophet.

Central to Camping’s teaching is the belief that the Bible alone and in its entirety is the Word of God, and absolutely trustworthy. However, he emphasizes, this does not mean that each sentence in the Bible is to be understood only literally. Rather, the meaning of individual Biblical passages also needs to be interpreted in the light of two factors. The first is the context of the Bible as a whole. The second is its spiritual meaning.


In 1992, Camping published a book titled 1994?, in which he proclaimed that Christ’s return might be on September 6, 1994. In that publication, he also mentioned that 2011 could be the end of the world. Camping’s predictions use 1988 as a significant year in the events preceding the apocalypse; this was also the year he left Alameda Bible Fellowship.


Fool me into an apocalypse once, shame on you, fool me twice, and I may be a Jehovah’s Witness.

The religion’s doctrines surrounding 1914 are the legacy of a series of emphatic claims regarding the years 1799, 1874, 1878, 1914, 1918 and 1925 made in the Watch Tower Society’s publications between 1879 and 1924. Claims about the significance of those years, including the presence of Jesus Christ, the beginning of the “last days”, the destruction of worldly governments and the earthly resurrection of Jewish patriarchs, were successively abandoned.


Anyhow, the proof will be in the pudding that was once your neighbour’s face, as they say, but, given his track record, and the fact that his methodology for determining the timing was to essentially squint at a Bible till the date popped out like a stereogram image, I’m not too worried.Hand Stereogram from http://runevision.com/

I’m just going to skip over Terence McKenna, as I’ve seen Novelty Teeth and Novelty X-Ray Spex, and I suspect his Novelty Apocalypse will amount to about the same level of effectiveness.

I rather suspect, though, that the current hand-wringing will be well forgotten by the end of 2012, and everyone will once again get their abandoned rapture-knickers in a bunch.

Fortunately, NASA has already done the heavy lifting in debunking the Mayan situation:

Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?

A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

Q: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?

A: Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then — just as your calendar begins again on January 1 — another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.


To conclude: one man’s apocalypse is another man’s Saturday at the park. I’m not saying the world won’t end at some point, but it likely won’t be this weekend – in fact, the weather is looking pretty nice*.

(*Of course, if I’m wrong, most of you won’t be around to gloat about it.)

Not Quite Ready For The End Of The World

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
When I was a youth, the post-apocalypse was a relatively simple affair – all you needed were some football pads to wear and a few sheets of scrap metal to affix to your Pinto, and you were good to go.

Of course, as technology moves on, and as our tastes in Armageddon-chic evolve, so too must the vehicles we intend to ride across the barren wastes.

I feel it was just such a case that prompted London’s Mutoid Waste Company to develop Lrry-1, a half-motorcycle, half-dog, fire-breathing monster.

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8f7mKi3TLI]

Of course, it’s tough to picture the last hope of a dying Earth riding such a monstrosity – it seems much more likely that some future iteration of this beast would be the mount of choice for a ruthless Baron, ruling the desolation with an iron fist.

Who then will rise up to defend us from the imminent pack of flame dispensing robo-canines?

I nominate this lad:

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53MQP0Q-vDU]

Still, none of these post-cataclysmic conveyances are quite ready to conquer the badlands, so hopefully we’ve got a few more years yet.