Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifteen.
Tonight’s story: Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space – The Music Library
This evening’s episode is inspired in part by Shunn.net.
Ever wondered how a relatively mild-mannered writer might be compelled to join an international group of religious zealots, only to be expelled from a foreign nation after threatening to bomb a major airline?
Find William Shunn’s memoir, ‘The Accidental Terrorist’, and much more, at Shunn.net.
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 we introduce a new character to the line up, Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space. In this episode we see some of Joe’s humble beginnings, in a time before his ascension to the throne.
Flash Pulp 015 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space – The Music Library (Part 1 of 1)
Joe Monk was laying tracks across the great big black, and at the heart of his U.S. steel nest, he was rocking out.
Given that his speed approximated that of light, it was difficult to see him coming. Still, before take off many had remarked that the ship looked like nothing so much as an egg balanced atop a Lego brick.
Monk himself was unaware of this – he’d been but an infant at the time of lift off.
His ride was powered by a thousand mile wide force net maintained by computers capable of hundreds of calculations a second. The ship utilized the Sagan effect to cause thrust, dropping tiny universal nuclei in its wake – seeds that immediately burst into Small Bangs. The leading edges of these universes were caught up in the ship’s net, forcing the craft through the emptiness like a rising tide, before they collapsed under the crushing counter pressure of the energy absorbent mesh.
By the age of nineteen he’d grown quite bored with the ship’s catalogue of music – he’d spent too many long evenings crawling the tape library from end to end, even the two hundred hours that must have seemed endless to ground researchers could not sate him.
Still, with no alternative, he often found himself listlessly shuffling the spools just for background noise, until even his beloved Edwinn Starr was wearing thin.
At the age of twenty-two he forced an embargo on himself and re-programmed the music library’s door to lock for six months.
It was two weeks before his twenty-fourth birthday when he finally spotted the typo in the punch card source code, a bug that would leave the door locked not six months, but six years.
So he waited.
Time passed, slowly. He spent more time in the movie room, re-watching Astaire and Rogers’ flicks. He liked them well enough, but he wished the music librarian had talked more with the film librarian, as the two seemed universes apart.
By the time he was twenty-eight he’d fallen heavily into what had been originally intended as the bulk of the ship’s entertainment, the microfilm library. He was wandering the halls, the telescopic end of a portable reader held to one eye, when he heard a thick metallic click.
Setting aside the tale about a lippy detective, he cocked an ear.
He knew the rhythmic hum of the engine, the gentle fuzz of the life support and air conditioners, the tick-tack of the automated help and repair drones that occasionally took a shortcut through his area on their way to the functional portion of the ship – but this sound was wholly new to him.
It did not repeat.
It took him the better part of the afternoon poking around the hallway, in and around the vents, tapping on walls, entering and exiting supply closets and half forgotten spaces – usually full of children’s toys – before he unthinkingly tried the door to the music library.
It popped open at his touch.
The tears of a religious experience began to roll down his cheeks.
He stepped into the room and sank into the leather rolling chair. He hefted the headphones, re-adjusted their size, then pulled the thickly padded ‘O’s over his ears.
His fingers worked from muscle memory, cracking the cannister and lacing up the dual reels.
At a high, brassy volume, Edwinn Starr opined on war, and its worth.
Joe began to rock out.
Unheard over the roar, the computer spoke allowed for the first time in four years, delivering the words its occupant had been waiting to hear for nearly thirty.
“Touch down in t-minus three days, six hours, twelve minutes, forty-one seconds, and counting.”
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.