FP335 – Coffin: Masks, Part 1 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and thirty-five.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Talk Nerdy 2 Me
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 normally tipsy companion, find themselves discussing mystic murder while walking the cold streets of Capital City.
Coffin: Masks, Part 1 of 3
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
“I think that guy was totally ####-mongering,” said Bunny.
Her hair, freshly cut to a ragged shoulder length by her own hand, was in a ponytail, and her faded denim jacket had seen the inside of a washing machine just that morning.
“Maybe,” replied Coffin.
The sun had begun to descend beyond the artificial horizon of the city’s highrises as the pair walked the sidewalk’s bands of shadow and light in no particular direction. Will’s roommate had occasionally talked him into joining her in covering the block and a half to her prefered vodka salesman, but this was the first time she’d ever suggested they simply stretch their legs.
Two days previous they’d broken into a small suburban bungalow and taken a blade whose main property was the overwhelming sense of euphoria it brought with each cut it inflicted. Inside the place they’d also found the moaning remnants of addicts and a wealthy, but hard-eyed, boy of nineteen.
Bunny hadn’t had a taste of liquor since.
She kicked a coke can into the brush alongside the bike path. “Guy like that, taking money to let people have a chance to turn themselves into deli meat – seems more likely to me that he’s the Jack the Ripper wannabe that had at his old man. He needed to tell a story to keep you from letting that junky’s ghost suck out his eyes or whatever, so he bull####ted about one of the other horrible ####ing things he’d done and added the detail about finding the blade hanging out of Dad’s throat.”
They’d come to a corner and, rather than allow the chill to settle in while they waited for the light, Bunny made a sharp left.
“You ever hear of the Flight of the Mary Celeste?” asked Coffin, trailing slightly behind his companion.
“Oh, #### yeah. I think I saw it on an Unsolved Mysteries rerun from the ‘80s: One halloween a smallish jetliner ditches in a big potato field in Idaho. It was a red-eye, so there were only maybe thirty people on board. I remember the host being impressed that it held together, said it was as close to a perfect landing as you could hope for in an emergency situation – but I don’t know how much ####ing talent it takes to crash.
“Anyhow, the farmers, a couple of Ma and Pa Kents, squeeze into the cab of their work tractor and drive out in their PJs. It’s easy to see because the landing lights are still on.
“The jet is listing a bit to to one side, but mostly upright. They can see that there’s a hatch swinging wide, but there’s no one around, none of those plastic evacuation slide things, nothing. Pa parks the tractor beneath the open door, then manages to hoist himself inside by climbing on the roof.
“He walks along the rows, towards the bathrooms, looking back and forth. There are a lot of spots with movie headphones plugged in, and the overhead luggage compartments are buttoned-up tight. Some of the seats are even leaning back with blankets pushed aside, like the people in them had had to stand so quickly they hadn’t bothered fixing their chairs.
“The farmer yells, but he gets no answer. The passenger area, the can, the little flight attendant nook – they’re all empty.
“The only thing out of place seems to be the drink cart, which had rolled into the corner of the service area because of floor’s angle.
“Pa heads to the front to see if Ma has gotten ahold of the police yet, but he notices the cockpit entrance is open a crack, so he ducks his head in and notices there’s a big wet spot on the pilot’s chair. Thinking he’s finally found some evidence of violence, and that it’s blood, he touches it.
“I remember laughing when Pa figured out what it really was. They always had such #### actors for those reenactments.
“To be honest though, I would’ve probably pissed myself too if I’d had to make that landing.
”So, right, that’s the big mystery: What happened on the plane to make everyone disappear.”
They came to another intersection, but this time the lights were with them and they strode across without breaking pace.
“That’s the story you hear,” said Coffin, “but the truth is that the jet was cruising normally when its poorly maintained electrical system caused a massive system hiccup that sent them plummeting. Partial control came back, but the pilot had a lot of momentum behind him, and not a lot of options, so he set the thing down as best he could. He was extremely lucky in his choice of crash site, and he used his thirty seconds of semi-controlled descent carefully – but, yeah, his bladder was a casualty of the impact.
“He says he’d had a lot of coffee.
“Now, the thing is, we’re talking 1985. Satanism was a big deal then, even amongst potato barons who liked to play secret dressup. This farmer and his wife were holding coke and acid orgies with some friends, including the local sheriff and mayor, under the guise of being truly free through Lucifer, etcetera, etcetera. Basically some hicks playing at being yuppies, all with a shared violent kink, had found an excuse to get high and naked that they thought made them superior to the poorer folks of the area.
“When they weren’t rubbing on each other they were target shooting with expensive guns, or patting themselves on the back for running the town. Every budget with enough margin to embezzle, and every bump of coke confiscated from a townie, was a blessing directly from the grand old goat.
“So, to celebrate Halloween the bunch of them were wearing animal masks, groping in the farmers’ barn, and carrying out a fake sacrificial rite that, for some reason, involved a lot spanking.
“Then the jet crashed a hundred and fifty yards away.
“Mrs. Farmer had been so loud in her enthusiastic declarations that she would make any sacrifice that her dark lord asked of her that no one even heard the descent until the plane was already sliding across the field.
“Well, sweaty, stoned to the gills, and in a frenzy, the group pulled off their beast-faces and held a conference.
“They looked out at the splash of dust and dirt, the dying hum of the engines mingling with their Exorcist/Omen soundtrack mixed tape, and they were convinced Satan himself had set that thing down for them to offer to him.
“Idiots managed to use a potato collection trailer to ‘rescue’ the grateful two-dozen passengers back to the garage. The sheriff kept things calm while telling his little sect to go back to the house and gather everything off the farmer’s gun rack – then they had all the survivors line up for medical triage.
“Everyone was fine until the shooting started.
“We’re talking a mass murder on some superstitious hillbilly’s mud patch, but the national media got so wrapped in the notion of the jet landing empty that they forgot to look for, say, the blood spatters that were still in the barns’ nooks and crannies, or leaking from the trailer where they first hid the bodies.”
Bunny paused. “Wait, is this Mr. Miyagi #### to try and tell me I can’t see the ####ing Satanists from the trees?”
Coffin shrugged. “Let’s say it was you in my jacket, and you’re the one who’s just taken the mystical equivalent of an endless crack supply away from a kid who claims that he found the thing in the neck of his dead father – and, worse, the old man was supposedly sliced open by a Batman-style serial killer who even has a recognizable media nickname: The Laughing Buddha.
“What would you do?”
Reflexively reaching for a bottle that wasn’t in her pocket, his companion bought time to answer by waiting for the roar of a city bus to roll by.
“I’d go to one of the crime scenes and use your little hook to fish for the ghost of one of the dead guys. Is that how you sorted out the cultists?”
“Well – it’s how I got the real story. I have enough problems with the actual occult, I don’t need to be worrying about sociopathic cosplayers. Besides, after the massacre things basically fell apart anyhow. A couple of them OD’d, and the sheriff was eventually busted for shooting the mayor and his wife. I guess he was afraid they would say something. Probably right to be scared – from what I hear things didn’t go well for him in prison.
“The remaining few lead lives of regret. I used to call them on Halloween night, you know, whisper secrets I shouldn’t know to them and tell them they needed to do more good if they ever wanted to redeem themselves.
“I’m sure everyone now assumes they’re just exemplary citizens. Despite appearances you can never really tell what motivates people.”
A laundromat, a Chinese place, and a used book store had drifted by before Bunny snorted to herself and said, “I was thinking about the Laughing Buddha murders – like, you know, where we could find articles about where they’d happened – and I realized, holy ####, I think I’m actually going to a ####ing library.”
Coffin joined her in a chuckle, and they turned towards downtown.
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