Tag: supernatural

193 – Support: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 6

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and ninety-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present, Support: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 6.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp193.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by View From Valhalla.


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, master frontiersman and student of the occult, Thomas Blackhall, encounters a reclining concern while visiting whisky-soaked civilization.


Flash Pulp 193 – Support: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 6

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


Thomas BlackhallBlackhall had been adrift in the western districts for some time, the route to his missing wife, Mairi, having been temporarily hidden from his scrutiny. It was with the hope that he might once again take up the trail that he’d set his ear towards any happening which seemed to be of an occult nature, and this tact is what lead him to the workshop of a cooper named Harold Bowman.

Perth was a bustling settlement, filled beyond capacity by farmers looking to supply, and inbound transplants waiting out various legal necessities before being allowed to claim their muddy plots. The same river that brought settlers, also carried whisky, and Thomas had heard it boasted in the Bucking Pony that they arrived in equal amounts, but it was only the drink that quickly found its way to the dirt.

Chronic unruliness necessitated authority, and, as such, the town was further bolstered by a strong military presence – as often cited as the cause of trouble as its solution – and, while bunking within their purview, Blackhall had walked a straight line, with his hat brim low, in hopes of remaining below notice.

It was at having avoided a well-decorated officer of his former acquaintance that Thomas wore a smile as he entered the saw-dust strewn works, a grin which was at first mistaken by Bowman as the token of a pleasurable encounter.

“In need of barrels, sir?” said the carpenter, “I make the strongest in these parts. Plenty tough to send home a trove of pickled fish, or a gold strike cleverly labeled as a barrel of pickled fish, or even yourself, should your dreams of a gold strike, or pickled fish, have been a bust. Let me know how many you lack, and I’ll let you know how long you can expect to wait.”

Thomas did then smirk in honest enjoyment, but it was short lived.

“While I may yet require such a stingy homecoming, I’ve not come for your labour, but, instead, your lad.”

The barrel-smith flattened his grin.

“What would you want with that layabout?” he asked.

“I believe I might help him.”

Ripping a crescent of nail from his index finger, the father spat the paring onto the floor.

“Fine,” he said, pushing aside a frayed green and white blanket which had been hung as a curtain across a darkened opening at the rear of the room.

To Blackhall’s first glance, the space appeared little more than a large closet, with a knitting woman in the corner to his left, and a ragged honeycomb of floor-to-ceiling shelves running along the wall to his right.

“Ms. Amelia Burton, once the sluggard’s intended,” said the establishment’s proprietor, by way of introduction.

The needles continued to clack as she gave a nod at their approach, but, as she finished her row, she set aside her work to curtsy from her stout furnishing, and Thomas felt compelled to provide a small bow in return.

“Mr. Bowman, I again request that you do not speak as if Christopher has passed. He may perish, surely, but I may also marry him yet, and I’d rather you not pass pronouncements till it’s come to one or the other.”

The target of her admonishment simply harrumphed in response.

“I do apologize at the interruption,” said Blackhall, “I’m no minister, but I believe it within my skills to help see you to the aisle. I’m here on the matter of your betrothed, and his condition.”

“Any solutions you might provide are welcome,” she replied, “but it’s been many a quacksalver and charlatan who’s given my Chris a thorough prodding, and none have yet brought him awake. After several hours of sweating, the last fellow claimed we’d a corpse equipped with a bellows, and declared the whole thing a fraud – which seemed quite the affront, as he had arrived in town with the intention of retailing a dysfunctional ointment claiming to cure baldness and syphilis.”

Her voice softened as she continued. “If only it were artifice – truly, my days are spent on the verge of joy or sorrow, with never a resolution. Despite his lack of nourishment, he does not die, but neither does he stir.”

A silence fell then, and the distant din of the street beyond drifted through the kinks in the building’s rough-hewn planking. Finally, Thomas broke the still with an inquiry.

“If it’s not too impertinent, I might ask as to where the lad is laid up.”

“Why, amongst yonder rack,” replied Amelia, pointing towards the motley array of slabs and brackets that dominated the opposing side of the room.

Following the line of her finger, Blackhall discerned an immobile forearm resting below a rusted saw, and a boot set askew upon a short piling of lumber scraps, salvaged for their fine grain and possible use as trim in future projects.

By squinting, and stooping slightly, Thomas began to see the outline of the enduring sleeper, as buried beneath a stacked grave of carpentry flotsam.

“How did it happen?” he inquired of the woodworker.

The ragged curtain taut in his fingers, Bowman scowled, shook his head, and remained mute.

“I’ve watched the structure rise around him,” said Ms. Burton, turning from the curmudgeon. “The longer it seemed he would slumber, the less concern Mr. Bowman was prone to show – and it was a decrease from an already short supply. Once this room had only a low bench for adornment, and it was upon it that they laid Christopher when they carried him here from the woods. Mr. Bowman constructed the first tier of storage atop it, during a period in which I was away soliciting assistance, and by the time I’d returned – empty handed – there was already a rickety tower overhead. As the months wore on, he continued his construction, and my pleas have changed nothing. I feel as if a life of accusing his son of laziness has driven all sympathy from his heart – as if this were simply another Sunday on which Chris has slept through the pastor’s sermon.”

“- and has he had nothing more than the ministrations of mountebanks then?” asked Thomas

“I’ve done my best, but, unmarried, I am barren of assets with which to obtain the services of a skilled physician. In truth -” she broke off with a glance to her intended in-law, then cupped her slender hand to Blackhall’s battered ear. ”As in the fairy stories of my youth, I have tried on more than one occasion to wake him with a kiss. Despite the sincerity of my efforts, I’ve seen little result. Hopefully you will not think less of me for the silly notion, or the impropriety, but I felt as if it were my responsibility to test all avenues.”

Rubbing at the three-day’s growth at his chin, Thomas squared his shoulders, and shrugged off his ashen great coat. Offering the crook of his arm, he escorted the premature dowager into the main room, and returned to his position, so that he was now speaking past the reticent craftsman.

“Perhaps if his father had not been so rushed to lose his child amongst his business, you would have had the opportunity to properly examine him.” Damning himself for the notion, Blackhall removed a fat sack of coins, and dropped it at Bowman’s feet. “Take what I’ll owe for the damages, and leave me what change you think your boy’s life is worth.”

Giving no further warning, the frontiersman grabbed up a heavy-headed mallet, which had previously rested five askew platforms above Christopher’s sternum, and swept the majority of the contents near to the lad onto the floor.

The work was not so different from wielding an axe, and with a series of deft strikes – each one accompanied by a gasp issued from the bloodless face of the senior Bowman – Thomas was able to free the slumberer from his timber-cocoon, all while avoiding the total collapse of the lofty storage.

Draping his snoring load on the heavy chair’s backing, Blackhall lay a hand forcibly upon his shoulder, and began pounding at him as if the beating alone would be enough to rouse the boy.

“Come now, sleeping beauty,” he muttered.

It was the third blow that brought up the desiccated fruit – after a spit, and a pop, what appeared to have once been a bite of crab-apple arced across the room and landed with little bounce at the threshold to the adjoining workspace.

With a snort, Christopher gave a yawn, then stood, his face contorted as if in a daze.

Blackhall steadied the boy with a firm hold on his shoulders.

“Was it the old woman then, offering you a snack?” he asked.

“Yes,” came the yawned reply, “Do you know her? A strange crone, that one.”

“Which way did she go?”

“I don’t know – I must have fallen asleep?”

Winded from his exertions, and his disappointment, Thomas steered the awoken to the seat that had so recently constituted Amelia’s post, and eyed the elder Bowman.

The man kicked back the sack of coins, and Blackhall stooped to arrange it in his pocket, as well as retrieve his coat, before exiting the establishment.

He was carried out on the sound of Ms. Burton’s joyful tears.

The following evening, as he sipped a cup of ale at the Bucking Pony, and made effort to think little of his woes, or his missing Mairi, Thomas wondered if he’d been too hard on the man, and if he’d possibly taken the girl’s words regarding callousness too close to heart without provocation. He dismissed the concern, however, when a pair of uniformed Corporals arrived, and informed him of his detainment under considerations of property damage, as levied by the town’s respected cooper.


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


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

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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.

Flash Pulp 137 – Jabber, Part 2 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-seven.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Jabber, Part 2 of 2
(Part 1Part 2)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp137.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.

Find out more at http://neilcolquhoun.com


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, Will Coffin must also face down the terrible maw of the Jabber.


Flash Pulp 137 – Jabber, Part 2 of 2

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


Will Coffin eyed the geese paddling about the smooth surface of Capital River, and thought hard about ignoring the conversation. The flow of water had once been too fast here for the foul to comfortably lounge, but the new construction project down stream had done much to stymie the rush. He threw some bread crust to the eager beaks.

As he sagged against the black railing that hemmed the city park along the bank, the young man who’d been speaking set his elbow on the iron and leaned in.

“So?” the youth said, his breath smelling of hot-dog-cart mustard.

“I don’t know what you want from me, I’m just here to help the neighbourhood.”

The close-talker drew back from the response and adjusted his tie.

“Please. I understand why you maintain this folksy “just helpin’ folks, hyuck-hyuck” persona, but I am a man of understanding. I know you are the keeper of thirteen of the thirty-three relics known to exist. I also know that you are a man of some power, and influence. We are requesting an alliance.”

“I’ve seen crack dealers run this same scam.” Will replied. “To them, a friend today is a customer tomorrow. Your boss isn’t interested in politics, or corporate power, or whatever aspiration you figure you have with that poorly-tailored suit – he’s interested in your gooey mouth-meat; and mine; and everyone’s. I’ve read Blackhall’s book.”

“As have I – the man was a liar and a scoundrel – but, if you have such a distaste, why did you agree to come?”

“Your telemarketer tactics of calling me every fifteen minutes.”

“Persistence is the first step to success.”

Coffin cringed at the chestnut.

Coffin“I sympathize with your situation,” he said, “but the tongue you’re wagging is eventually going to be its lunch. You may not be able to understand that, given its ability to run off with your gray-matter, but its inevitable.”

“Oh, I’m not his slave – think of me as his, uh, manager. The Jabber is likely thousands of years old, but these aren’t the dark ages, he can’t just go around gorging on peasants. Someone has to keep him from eating everybody.” Will gave the man’s grin a hard look. The would-be broker continued, “- and uh, there are uses for an indestructible killer, uses by important people. Good people.”

He wasn’t sure if he believed it, but even the hint that the agent was acting of his own free will made it easier for Coffin to attempt to break his jaw. The force of his punch wasn’t the greatest portion of the impact, however, as the shaman had wrapped his silver chain about his knuckles, and the occult links – usually reserved for interaction only with disembodied spirits – caused a brief ethereal shadow to jump from the emissary’s shoulders, as if the concussion had nearly dislodged his living ghost from his flesh.

He collapsed to the asphalt that marked the park’s paths.

Turning his back to unconscious man, and the falling dusk, Coffin started up the squat hill towards the sharp-faced figure, which appeared near fifty, who’d watched the exchange intently. As Will neared, it did not rise from its splintered seat.

Dropping its lower jaw, it began to speak through a a gray quiver of barbs.

“Jubrun talbotin dallingar ed barimu.”

It continued on, and, as the shadows grew, so did the Jabber’s volume.

Soon the form stood on his bench, towering a head’s length over Will, and flecks of reddish liquid began to take flight from the thing’s lips, under the strength of its non-sense argument.

Coffin heard nothing of the hypnotic babble; he’d donned industrial level ear protection as he’d climbed the short rise. When he was satisfied that his modern defence was strong enough to stand the ancient problem, he lit a Zippo in signal.

Concern had crept into the Jabber’s raging eyes, and it turned at the flicker of a pair of worn jeans, and a Motley Crue t-shirt, entering into its circle of influence.

“You goat ####ing ###hole! I’ve heard about you ####-o – you eating tiny little babies tongues and ####? That’s god-####ed filthy, man! What kind of ####ing walrus tugger are you? Will told me you might have even ####ing killed my great-grandmother – ####ing bull#### you #### glazing feline ####er!”

Bunny, Coffin’s roommate, raised high the rum bottle she’d spent her wait with, then continued on in her rant.

The horror staggered.

Despite it’s best efforts to respond, the beast could make no arcane purchase against the polyurethane and plastic noise-canceling ear-muffs, and its ways were too deeply ingrained by time to make any other gambit.

By midnight – with hours spent by Coffin in an effort to turn away pedestrians from the apparent drunken, and screaming, couple – the creature had collapsed.

Will threw the crumpled form over his shoulder with a grunt, and they made their way to the river’s edge.

Draining the last of her liqour, Bunny asked, “What now?”

“Eight years ago I did a favour for a guy named Jim Bondo. He was a foreman working on an office building in the downtown core, and he’d come to the conclusion that his site was on an Indian graveyard or something. It wasn’t – he just had a lot of superstitious Germans on his crew, and that had attracted gremlins to the heavy machines – but I corrected the situation anyhow.” As Coffin spoke, his companion retrieved another bottle from the interior of her over-sized purse. “He’s huge in construction now, runs one of the biggest firms in the city – big enough that they got the contract for the new dam going in down stream. I figure waking up in a few hundred tons of concrete should occupy him for quite some time.”

It was a long walk ahead, and Will was happy to wet his throat when Bunny offered.


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.

Flash Pulp 136 – Jabber, Part 1 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-six.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Jabber, Part 1 of 2
(Part 1Part 2)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp136.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.

Find out more at http://neilcolquhoun.com


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 find Thomas Blackhall, student of the occult and master frontiersman, standing over a devilishly-tongued man.


Flash Pulp 136 – Jabber, Part 1 of 2

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


Blackhall held the oil lamp high, letting the dim glow drag along the moist stone walls. It had been many months since he’d last seen the abandoned mine site, and the elements had worn heavily upon the timber works which kept the meager shaft from collapse.

Before him knelt a slight man, clothed in too-large pants and a motley sweater, who would have found himself hard pressed to bluff his age as above that of twenty-one. His forearms were bound at the small of his back with a long run of twine, and a wad of stocking had been forced into his mouth and held there in place by a wide strip of rag wound several times about his head.

Thomas scraped his nails over the stubble at his chin, and gazed down at the stooped form.

Until seconds previous, the figure had lain unconscious, and, now, the portion of Blackhall’s mind ruled by curiosity was tempted to observe what might follow.

The grubby muzzle began to moisten, and the captive’s jaw drew taut as he commenced gnawing at the interior of his facial bindings.

Blackhall filled his lungs and raised a boot to the man’s brow. With a grunt and a kick, the prisoner toppled backwards, plummeting from the stone precipice at which they’d lingered, and into the darkness of the vertical shaft behind him.

The silence of the fall was broken only by the occasional brush of cloth upon the rock face.

Thomas cast a wish into the hole that he might have a stick of dynamite to aid the conclusion of his deposit, then turned to make his way towards the exit.

* * *

Two weeks earlier, he’d been amongst the pines, three-days west of the small town of Sacrime, and preparing to bed down. The evening had been warm, so he’d let the fire gutter before moving a short distance from his camp to correct the complaints of his bladder.

His travels had him trailing at the banks of White River, which ran north and south, and, having finished marking a Spruce as his own, he crouched at the water’s edge to refresh his face and arms from the crisp flow.

That was when he noted the swing of the torch over the babble of the cascade.

Blackhall could not hear the dialogue of the naked, ancient, elder, who held aloft the beacon – the distance across the rush was too great – but it was obvious that the man was expounding at length as he conducted a parade of some fifty capering bodies through the unyielding forest shadows. The leader came to a brief halt as he stepped upon the bank, then he turned northward. As his chain of dancers came to the same location, they too turned, never breaking stride.

The shape and age of all involved varied wildly – some seemed but babes, barely old enough to walk, and others seemed too old to live amongst the wildwoods, much less to maintain the spastic cavorting which currently occupied them.

Thomas remained huddled low as he moved back into the treeline, then, with reckless speed, he collected the accoutrements of his encampment. Once he’d stuffed the last of his loose items into his bag, he slung his Baker rifile at his shoulder, and belted his sword.

Despite his absence, it was a simple matter to relocate the human column as the guide strayed little from the course of the waterway – it was more difficult, however, to intersect it.

BlackhallIt was a twelve-hour chase, during which Thomas was forced into increasingly inhospitable terrain in an attempt to remain hidden, even as the sun once again took the sky. The need for expediency in his rough passage left the frontiersman’s hands bleeding from the effort, and imparted two fresh gashes in his greatcoat which would require mending, but, finally, the old man broke his orientation, and started away from the shore.

As soon as the last of the succession had turned to follow, Thomas thrust into his mouth the stone he kept upon a rawhide loop about his neck, and dived beneath the cool torrent. The breathing trinket made his passage inevitable, but the strong current carried him well away from his intended landing point, and he was forced to recover ground to match the splintered tree he’d memorized as a landmark.

His mind and limbs ached with the fatigue of the pursuit.

Having to slow to mark the signs of his quarry’s passage, he rummaged about for something that might stopper his ears, but, in the end, he could manage only ripped ends from his tattered shirt with which to fashion shoddy plugs.

There was nothing he could do to assist the former residents of Sacrime when he came to the cave that had been the old man’s destination.

Within that lost hour, the Jabber had fed extensively – corpses littered the floor, and, in the furthest corner, a broad-chested man of forty took his last gurgling breath.

The beast, now a youth, leaned low over a woman, the last of the living, whose auburn hair fanned from her head to splay haphazardly across the stone, and whose eyes remained impassive over her chubby cheeks. The boy appeared to be telling a great tale while inspecting the quality of her teeth. Her lips were spread wide, and her neck tilted, as if a child demonstrating the healthy state of her tonsils.

As he neared, Blackhall had begun to hum to cover the sound of its rambling, but, as he stepped into the rocky shelter, with his sword drawn, he was brought up short by the flash of a bristling array of thorns projecting suddenly from the glutton’s still yammering maw – then the thing’s face lost its guise of humanity entirely, and it plunged its spines into the woman’s gaping cavity.

As it fed noisily upon her tongue, Thomas wretched.

He’d never encountered such a creature himself, but he’d heard of its methods while scouring the tomes of his father’s library. It was rejuvenated by its insatiable hunger for the knotted mouth-muscle, and had, as its primary tool of enticement, the ability to drive men to madness, or enslavement, with the nonsensical discourse it maintained.

He knew too that speech was its weakness – it was recounted that the only layman to have survived the approach of such a fiend had done so by providing an impassioned plea for his wife, over which he could not hear the beast’s ravings. After a crescendo of clashing utterance, the monster had fallen unconscious, and had been then submitted to fearful inspection at the hands of the church’s specialists. Every effort was made to end the abomination, but the might of horses tugged uselessly upon its limbs, and even blessed water seemed to have no means of starving its lungs. On the following rise of the full moon, it reawoke, and began to gnaw at the steel links that held it. It was only the voice of Monseigneur Lajoie, reciting script, verse, and even childhood poems, which finally brought the thing under control – and still at the cost of the five other attending brothers.

The Monseigneur had decided that it would be buried, and twenty days of well-manned digging were followed by ten days of filling – then the Jabber was forgotten by all but Lajoie, who recorded the incident and promptly retired from the clergy.

Blackhall was unsure if this was the same as that of the legend – it was impossible to know, given the longevity imparted by its grisly consumption.

He found his lungs.

It was dusk before the rant was complete, a tirade largely filled with memories of his Mairi – and before the horror once gain succumbed.

Thomas already had in mind his next destination, the abandoned shafts which lay to the east, and that it would be days of tough hauling, with a heavy load. He also knew, however, that he would not sleep that evening – at least, certainly, not in that cave of damned souls who’d drowned in their own blood.

He began to bind his foe.

In truth it was another three dawns – three long days of dragging – until he could summon the courage to once again slumber, and, when he did, he dreamt of the visage of the auburn-haired woman, as she was kissed so deeply by the kneeling form.


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.