FP333 – Moderation, Part 2 – Coffin: Cutting Back
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and thirty-three.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Black Flag TV
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, urban shaman, and Bunny, his tipsy roommate, find themselves discussing addictions and the dead.
Moderation, Part 2 – Coffin: Cutting Back
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Coffin and Bunny were working hard to look like they had business at 324 Buffalo Drive while not obviously staring at the house across the street.
They’d been there awhile.
“It started as just one sword,” Will was saying. “Along the way it was named Hippocrates’ Scalpel, but, from what I’ve read, it was probably originally made for rituals by some blood swilling pre-historic mystic.
“See, there are three problems with human sacrifice: brevity, reluctance, and the mess.
“The first is because of the second. The ceremonies are all long to take advantage of the high quality offering, but if you cut off a hand or whatever – you know, to try and draw the showmanship out – then the sacrifice becomes pretty reluctant to stick around.”
Bunny nodded, and said, “oh, yeah. I once got a black eye from an eight-year-old after I made a bunch of Captain Picard jokes. How the fuck was I supposed to know she had cancer? Why the hell was a kid that age is so familiar with Star Trek anyway? Touchy goddamn Kojak wannabe.”
Coffin raised an eyebrow.
“All I’m saying,” finished his tipsy roommate, “is that I get that dying people can be cranky motherfuckers.”
“So what’s the solution?” asked Will, but his voice was hollow. He’d spotted a small thin-faced boy of five wedged between the heavy brown curtain and the house’s front-facing bay window, and he’d suddenly become occupied with scanning the child’s glass-pressed fingers.
Bunny sipped, unironically, on a 7-Eleven cup that had been filled with more vodka than slurpee earlier that morning, then replied, “I dunno – high-powered narcotics?”
“Actually, you’ve got the right idea,” nodded Coffin. “It needs a payment of flesh to work, but the blade was created to cause anyone cut by it a great amount of joy. Crippling euphoria, in fact.
“That’s why they called it Hippocrates’ Scalpel, though it helpfully closes the wound up behind it to keep the mess down and the sacrificial virgin, or whatever, lasting as long as possible.
“No doubt one day some lotus-eater priest was buggering around with temple property and realized that it could, you know, cut both ways. I can’t say if it was originally shattered during ceremonial use, or simply by some junky looking to spread the love around, but eventually the thing went from a sword to a dozen shards, then to a hundred razors of varying length.
“Whatever rite built the scalpel was also intended to keep it permanently sharp – when it was broken up each piece remained honed. I mean, it’s made for weak-wristed clerics, it needed to be able to cut through muscle and bone without ruffling their silky work uniforms.”
A woman’s arm reached from beyond the window frame, pulling the boy into the darkness at the edges of the heavy drape.
“Anyhow,” said Coffin, his own hand going to his pocket. His fingers – three more than the apparent mother’s – wrapped about the silver chain within. “At the end of eight hours that they perceive to be the greatest emotional and physical experience of their lives, they’re left feeling normal beyond the fact that they’re missing whatever it is they’ve cut off.
“Blackhall actually wrote about it. It’s how he first met our friend Sour Thistle. There was a fellow by the name of Michigan Jim who had established what old Thomas referred to as a Shaving Den. I guess absolute bliss is addictive even to the things that go bump in the night. Thistle had fallen in love, or as close to it as something like her can get.
“A Feral Lord from the French territories, I believe Blackhall put it. A massive gray wolf named Garou. Their responsibilities kept them apart most of the year, but I guess they were prone to sheltering through winters together.
“Some voyageur who’d stumbled onto his territory started it. The fur trapper was already hard up, having just one foot, and he couldn’t do much to run away. He did manage, however, to give it a tempting swipe with his sliver of the scalpel. It was enough to get him back to his canoe.
“When it wore off, though, Garou couldn’t let it go. He stalked the river’s edge to the outskirts of Quebec, but having to stay out of the city kept him from ever catching the terrified Frenchman.
“Instead of returning to his kingdom, the animal lord waited, sleeping in thickets and wheat fields.
“While that was happening, I guess the escapee got to a point where it was too hard to take off his own extremities, so he gave the job over to Michigan Jim.
“In exchange, Jim got to keep the blade.
“When – well, frankly, when there was no more of the poor bugger left to slice off, Michigan moved on. It took another month for Garou to find him, this time camping out in a two-story farmhouse. Jim had supposedly only planned to stay the night, but his addictive bit of joy easily turned the family inside into his ever-shrinking peons.
“I’m told the beast once consumed a platoon of French infantry who’d come hunting him after he’d been mistaken for a lycanthrope, and by consume I mean everything – funny hats, leather boots, brass buttons, muskets, gunpowder, and even their rations of wine.
“He was probably whining like a common mutt though, when he crept to that shack. Maybe the patheticness of his fall was why Sour Thistle sent Blackhall looking for him a few weeks later.
”Michigan Jim was getting some supplies from town when he arrived, so Thomas just found the wolf and the jigsaw pieces that were the now-dead former residents.
“Blackhall actually tried a rescue, but Garou fought him off and started crawling back with one leg. Thing is, the addict had been paying his way by giving out magical secrets like creepy vans dispense candy, and that’s a big no-no – the biggest, by Sour Thistle’s book.
“Thomas had no option but to open the thing’s throat.
“- or so he says.
“By the time the pusher got back, Blackhall was pretty upset. He used the razor to remove both Michigan Jim’s hands and THEN made him dig the graves for the family.”
“Huh,” said Bunny. The plastic cup she held had sprouted white lines under the pressure of her grip.
“So what are we supposed to fucking do?” she asked. “I’m not sure I’m cool with turning these assholes into Captain Hook.”
“Simple. We go in, collect the old-school chop-arm paper cutter I hear they’ve attached their sliver to, and then we leave before the police show. Social workers can handle the rest.”
Bunny snorted. “Yeah, sounds great. We’ll just take the golden goose because drug dealers are known for their fucking generosity and general lack of weaponry.”
Coffin slipped the Crook of Ortez from his pocket, and the talisman swung low with the weight of the meat plug that was entwined in its intricately-wound arcane hook.
“The only thing worse than a jonesing junky banging on your door is a dead jonesing junky creeping through your wall,” he said.
Using his free hand to retrieve a cellphone from his pocket, he punched 911 and began walking towards the house.
With a sniff, Bunny dropped her still half-full cup and followed him onto the street’s cracked pavement.
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