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FP416 – Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

Tonight, Mulligan Smith, private investigator and lifelong resident of Capital City, finds himself drawn to the edge of civilization by one Molly Blackhall.

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and sixteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Green Light, Red Light

 

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, Mulligan Smith, private investigator and lifelong resident of Capital City, finds himself drawn to the edge of civilization by one Molly Blackhall.

 

Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

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

 

There were no windows in the room, only empty expanses of bare plywood nailed onto a sloppily erected frame. To Mulligan’s left was a door, to his right a simple table holding a camping lantern that acted as the sole source of light. Beneath him was a creaking wooden chair to which he’d been zip-tied, and before him sat the man with the gin-blossomed nose he’d come to think of as Red Parka.

He knew that just beyond the walls was a view to steal the breath from a Capital City Morlock such as himself, but it did him little good.

Red Parka shifted on his stool, settling the hunting rifle across his lap into a more comfortable position.

There was rarely any magic in Mulligan’s job, and here was the epitome of the mundane: He’d often wondered if this was how he might perish, in some dingy hovel at the hand of a man with petty reasons and a terrible need for a shower.

From beyond the crookedly hung door, in the room that made up the other half of the shack, there came a trio of knocks.

Smith could hear Blue Parka, the one who’d tazed him, rise to answer the summons.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve lost one of my tourists, have you seen an idiot in a hoodie stumbling around out here?”

Smith knew the woman’s voice, longed, in fact, to hear it say just a few more words, but Red Parka’s arms stiffened at the intrusion, and the gun barrel hovered above his knees.

It would do no good, Smith knew, to drag Molly into the calamity.

She’d been the one who’d summoned him to the Arctic Circle. They’d been introduced when he’d had need of a bush pilot on a previous job, and she’d been impressed enough with his work to ask for assistance when the small community of Suinnak had charged her with rum running.

Her email had been as straight to the point as Blackhall herself.

I realize chasing bootleggers sounds a bit ridiculous to a fellow who can walk a block and pass three bars and a booze megastore, but these folks generally see limited supplies, and a sudden bump in the market can cause a lot of havoc. I’ve been the only one in and out lately, so they figure I must be the source, and I haven’t been able to spot any amateur moonshiners while waiting for my court date.

I hate to have to ask – and I think you know it – but I could really use some help.

In truth, Molly’s face, and his trip north, had floated to mind more than once in his idle hours parked outside cheap motels and heavily-curtained bungalows, and he’d been eager to be of assistance.

“I haven’t seen him,” answered Blue Parka.

There was a pause, and Molly lost the majority of the politeness in her voice.

“I heard he was coming here to visit,” she insisted.

Red Parka had the stock of his weapon under his arm now, the barrel endangering the ground midway between Mulligan and himself.

“Nope,” said Blue Parka, “probably best to go back to your plane and wait to see if he shows.”

The door closed. Smith felt his shoulders relax.

At least she’d be safe.

When he’d arrived, a day earlier, it had been an easy enough thing to locate the real origin of the free-flowing liquor. His filing cabinets at home were filled with letters from his ex-police-sergeant father that provided advice along the lines of, “it takes money to catch money,” and he’d known exactly how to begin the search.

Tonight, Mulligan Smith, private investigator and lifelong resident of Capital City, finds himself drawn to the edge of civilization by one Molly Blackhall.Locating the most notorious drunk in town had only taken three sets of questions, and, as the PI had told Molly when he’d retrieved his bribe from his travel bag, it wasn’t as if the community was about to be overrun with 18-year-old single malt Talisker scotch.

She’d grown red faced and angry when he’d handed the cup to a fellow obviously killing himself with such.

At the first drink, the man had denied knowing anything about locals involved in distilling.

At the second, both men were chuckling, and Molly joined them in a sullen cup.

At the third she too was laughing, as Mulligan laid out his usual jokes and admitted, sheep facedly, that he rarely drank.

At the fourth, the interviewee, still denying he knew anything, did admit it was better booze than the locally made stuff.

When they’d reduced the bottle by half, the private investigator had found his feet suddenly, thanking his host for his time.

“Perhaps you could top my glass before you go?” the drunk had asked.

“Sorry, I need to save some reward for someone who can help,” Smith had replied.

The tippler’s face went to war with itself for thirty seconds, twisting between resolve and thirst, then the man had stood to point at the shack on the hill.

Smiths’ victory was quickly forgotten, however, as Molly landed on a decision that seemed to have been hovering at the edge of her mind for a while, and dragged him back to the cabin she occupied when visiting the remote hamlet.

Two hours later, half-sobered and sweating from exertion, she’d apologized for growing angry over tweaking the old lush’s weakness to dig for an answer.

“We Blackhalls have always had a temper,” she explained.

They’d fallen asleep soon after.

Awaking to her satisfied snoring had given him the chance to creep up the hill and be tazed.

He’d expected to find a still – instead, seconds before being electrified, he’d discovered just a spout to collect snow and a pot-bellied stove that struck the PI as a fire hazard, especially in an all-wood shanty.

That’d been half an hour ago, but now there was a hitch in his chest as he realized the distance between them was so close that he could hear her muttering as she followed the thin trail down the hillside.

“Oh,” she was saying, “I’m-a go back to the goddamn plane…”

In the next room, Blue Parka returned to murmuring. He’d been at it when Smith had originally arrived, and until this second interruption the chanting had been the only relief from Red Parka’s thick mouth-breathing.

Smith returned to the impossible task of finding some leverage that might keep him out of a shallow permafrost grave.

He considered using his increasingly angry bladder as an excuse to attempt to run, but he doubted he’d make it far from Red Parka’s rifle given the barren white slopes that surrounded the hut.

Blue Parka’s droning stopped, and Mulligan’s bladder doubled its demands.

He had little interest in finding out what the pair had in mind once done singing for the day.

It was apparently just another interruption, however.

“You gotta see this,” called the crooner, “there’s a – I think it’s a wolverine? – out front. Bring the rifle.”

Red Parka stood and pulled the door shut behind him.

Through the flimsy barrier Smith heard Red Parka ask, “is it dancing?”

“Maybe it’s rabid?”

The slamming of the outside exit cut off any further conversation.

Breathing heavily, the PI began to thrash in his bonds. The chair went over sideways, but did not break. The zipties dug into his ankles and the flesh of his wrists, but did not give.

Still, it was shouting and gunshots from the far side of the cabin that brought his flailing to a halt.

Then the air filled with the scream of a chainsaw.

As he lay askew on the rough planks, the tip of a high-speed cleaver pushed through the wall and sliced downward in a long diagonal stroke.

Two more incisions followed, and the splinter-edged triangle fell inward.

Molly Blackhall said, “so, sometimes you’re out in the woods and some bloody beavers start lodging up on the river you figured you could use to exit. I keep this Mama Jama to clear the runway, as it were.”

“You shouldn’t have come back,” answered Mulligan, “they’re armed with worse than chainsaws. If that animal hadn’t come along…”

“Oh, she’s part of the plan too.”

“You have a pet wolverine?”

“It’s not a pet, it’s more like a friend,” she replied. “Anyhow, talk less, escape more.”

She did him the favour of using a knife to remove his bonds.

Still, the PI could not resist a final peek into the adjoining room to see the product of the seemingly neverending incantations. He thought the man had been simply whistling while he worked, but the only changes he could spot in the plain chamber were the location of the barrel, which was now at the center of the floor, and the nature of what it held.

Then he was again being pulled along by Molly’s insistent grip, though this time through the ragged hole and down the hill.

White powder crunched underfoot. The mountain range on the far horizon watched impassively. Behind them echoed more shouts, and more gunshots, and perhaps even a gravel-throated chuckle.

It was at that moment Mulligan Smith realized he was in love, but he would be left wondering, for a long while afterward, how the Parkas had transformed a barrel of snow melt into wine.

He would not see the pair again, nor would the people of Suinnak, but the discovery of the supply – and the signed confession they nailed to the Game Warden’s office before they departed – were enough to clear Molly for a brief southward vacation.

 

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.

FCM022 – Strawberry Fanta

FCM022

FCM022

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* * *

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

FP415 – Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

Coffin: A Occult Serial Fiction Podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fifteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One podcast

 

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 increasingly sober apprentice, eat pancakes and aid a man haunted by his past.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

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

 

The Denny’s stood at the low tide between breakfasting retirees and office workers on a panickedly short lunch break. Only three other booths were occupied, beyond the trio of customers clustered in the corner, and one of those appeared to be the store’s manager entertaining himself with online trivia instead of instructing the waiter in heavy eyeliner to clear the last of the Grand Slamwich wreckage.

Bunny gave the kid a nod, and the kid nodded back.

“Napkins?” he asked.

“Nah, I’ll take some of the s##t water you folks call coffee, and maybe a two buck pancake stack?”

“We’re only supposed to sell the cheap plates as a side.”

Bunny raised a her brow and shrugged. Coffin waved off the topping-up of his mug, and their interviewee, one Douglas Holloway, continued to gently weep into the collar of his polo shirt.

When they were once again alone, the crying man worked at clearing his throat, then asked, “how did you find me?”

“How badly do you want to be free of -” began Coffin, but Bunny overrode the statement.

“His ex put us in touch with yours,” she said to Holloway, “but don’t worry about that. We’ll get to the haggling and details, just give us the rundown on your wife and girlfriend.”

To Bunny there was something familiar in Holloway’s stunned yet exhausted face that left her with the impression that he’d simply been waiting for this particular dam to break.

“Arlene died five years ago,” replied the widower. “It was eighteen months after we were married, and we were infatuated with each other till the end. We’d known she had a fight in front of her when we went down the aisle – her chemo meant all of her wedding photos were hairless – but she was the sort of person who was strong enough not to wear a wig.

“We were the classic goofballs-in-love couple, content just to be close to each other; to hold each other. She seemed magical, and I always assumed somehow that that would win us the war.

Coffin: A Occult Serial Fiction Podcast “It didn’t.

“She died at home. I did my damndest to make it as comfortable and peaceful as possible, but by the end there was a miniature hospital set up in our living room. It was like a pocket universe in there, an eternity of listening to her ragged breathing over constant Law & Order reruns. I still change the channel as soon as I hear that damned theme. When she let go I was at the bed’s edge, holding her hand, and she was surrounded by her sisters. I thought it was the hardest moment I’d ever have to survive through, but that I’d done the right thing.

“My first notion was to move away from the memories, but two years later I was in the same bungalow, alone with our mortgage and our corgi, Sycamore. Every time I stepped onto the living room carpet I could feel the anxiety of those last days creep in, but I hadn’t finished paying the bills for high powered narcotics and medical staff.

“Even if I couldn’t escape, things changed around me. I spent a lot of hours at the kitchen table with work I’d taken home, just to avoid the rest of the house. If I wasn’t working, Sycamore and I patrolled the block. Despite my evasions, or more likely because of it, I got promoted. I made new acquaintances around the neighbourhood.

“The second January after Arlene’s death I met Selena. I wasn’t looking to. I’d spent so long focused on the next set of reports, and the next patch of sidewalk ahead of me, I hadn’t realized how far I’d gone with my head down.

“I was re-tying a shoelace outside the local Starbucks when she exited with a white chocolate mocha. One of the tallest ladies I’d ever seen, and with a smile as friendly as a children’s television show host.

“She said ‘excuse me,’ because she walked near me while I was hogging the sidewalk and she’s the sort of person who’d rather be polite than annoyed.

“As she’s adjusting course though, she reaches into her pocket and retrieves a dog treat shaped like a bone. Sycamore sits, which is a trick that I’d forgotten Arlene had taught him, and she tosses him the mini-femur.

“That dog was all the family I’d had for two years, and I loved it like a child, but for whatever reason it’d never struck me to carry treats with me. It sounds kind of stupid, but it was just different than anything I’d known until then. Somehow that brought my chin up.”

The tale paused as the narrator was distracted by his audience straightening in their seats. Before he could turn to identify what had roused them, however, the waiter strolled by at a near trot, a plate tucked tight to his side, out of sight of his trivia master manager.

With a twist of his wrist the low mountain of pancakes slid across the largely empty table, stopping just short of Bunny’s coffee.

There was no opportunity for a thank you before he was beyond hearing range.

“Don’t stop now, Dougie,” said Bunny, while twirling her syrupy fork encouragingly, “we haven’t even gotten to the spooky s##t.”

“We dated for six months,” answered Holloway. “A lot of movie theaters, diner dinners, and dog parks with Sycamore. When we started spending the night together it was always at her apartment. Eventually I moved the dog dishes and I almost sort of forgot that I had another home.

“Then I got a funny letter: I’d accidentally paid off my mortgage while I wasn’t paying attention.

“Now, it’s not like I’d ever forgotten Arlene, but I’d had some time away. Selena loves renovation shows, and we kind of jointly arrived at the idea that we should do some repair work before putting the shack on the market and maybe looking for a fresh place together. Thing is, the more effort we sunk into projects, the more it began to feel like a new house – our house.

“One night we were both exhausted from a day of basement drywalling, and we decided to just sleep in my, uh, our, uh, the old bed – the bed that was there – instead of heading back to Selena’s.

“I woke around three in the morning thinking I heard someone talking in the dark. I pulled on pants and went down the hall to the living room, and for a second I thought I saw Arlene’s face.

“Now, I should be clear, it wasn’t a huge ‘Arlene, is that you!?’ moment, it was more like thinking you see a person standing in a corner, then realizing it’s actually that robe you draped over a chair with the shadow of a lamp behind it that looks like a head.

“The only thing out of place was that Sycamore was sitting perfectly upright in the middle of the carpet, but I was so tired I assumed that I’d heard him growling at dreams and went back to bed.

“With the seal off, so to speak, we spent more and more nights there. We were already investing the majority of our evenings tag teaming plumbing, or hoisting hammers, so why leave?

“When we first, uh, made love in the old house, I later awoke thinking I heard Selena crying. I actually prodded her until she responded with a clearly still sleeping “no.”

“It happened again the next night, then everything went smoothly for about a week.”

“The calm before the s##t storm,” said Bunny, through a mouthful of fluffy batter.

“Yeah, then the screaming started. I couldn’t see where it was coming from, it just chased me from the sheets, then around the house. I kind of stopped when I was rampaging along the hallway for a second loop, because – well, it’s incredibly terrifying, but after a bit you lose steam when you can’t see the source of your panic.

“Selena, wearing only my stained work t-shirt, comes running, and suddenly she’s slapped across the face, hard. It kept going, like someone clapping to count time, and then gained momentum into a hail storm.

“I’d never seen her cry before.

“I followed her through the door, but she was in her car and on the street before I could catch up. Her place was close enough to walk, but it was cold, so I decided to risk going back inside to pull something on. Besides, I needed to get Sycamore.

“Everything was silent when I re-entered. I whistled for the dog, but he didn’t come. I found him in the living room again, sitting at attention.

“The call came before I was done packing. Everything had changed for me in the moment I’d seen Selena with that dog treat, and everything had changed for her in the moment she’d been chased from the house by an invisible hurricane. She was clearly having difficulty making sense of what had happened, but it seemed to her that it was my fault.

“While I was sitting there at the edge of the bed, crying, I heard laughter. I knew that giggle. Without even realizing I’d fully accepted all of the implications, I started a screaming match with a ghost.

“‘How could you do this?’

“‘How could you? I’m dead!’ she shrieks back.

“‘You had it easy, I was the one who had to keep living” – and on and on.

“At some point the door slammed shut, and I somehow fury’d myself to sleep.

“The alarm clock woke me for work, and I went in on automatic. Tried texting Selena, but she ignored it. I ignored the ignoring by staring at reports. I went home.

“While I was watching Sycamore sniff around the backyard I heard Arlene say, ‘I’m sorry.’

“That was – I dunno, three months ago? Since then it’s just been crying, every night. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s her. I’d like to try and reach out to Selena again. I miss her – but at the same time, the woman I loved, whatever is left of her, is somewhere in that house. I swear, some nights the bed shifts with her weight.

“I want to move on. I want her to move on. I just feel so guilty.”

Washing away the pancake crumbs with a deep pull of coffee, Bunny said, “in a situation like this, it’s really nobody’s fault. You can’t blame Selena for running off after getting in a one-sided slap fight with Sue Richards, and you can’t blame Arlene for being pissed she’s been trapped in your empty living room until you started f##king another lady in her bed – but you also can’t blame yourself. You didn’t know she was lingering around until she was furious enough to get all Amityville about s##t.

“We think your ex-wife needs to date and we know just the fellow. He’s also into Law & Order and cuddling. He currently has a thing for a lady named Laila, but all you sentimental motherf##kers have the same problem: You need to learn to move on.

“Actually, Laila’ll probably be looking for a new place soon, you should meet her. You might make a nice couple.”

In unveiling her solution, Bunny did not delve into the complicated game of telephone that was communication between the dead. Adding to Dougie’s sense of guilt would not get him any closer to moving, which was clearly the opening step.

In the end, Holloway agreed acting as dating coach to his dead wife was worth at least a nicely pawnable ratchet set, and Coffin had to nod in agreement.

Matchmaking was not his usual sort of work, but rent was due.

 

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.

FP414 – Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

FP414 - Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fourteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One podcast

 

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, has a brief conversation with the remnants of the woman he married.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

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

 

It was chill as Coffin stepped onto his balcony, and the leaf husks of the philodendron that Bunny had attempted to grow, a month earlier, rattled in the wind.

Had he been neglectful in not making more appearances? No, he told himself, he’d simply been busy – but, then, Sandy had also been busy once.

His dead wife, on the pavement eighteen floors below, grunted.

Rolling his shoulders, Will asked, “how’s the afterlife?”

There was a long pause before Sandy’s shattered jaw murmured, “you always were terrible at small talk,” into the unyielding cement.

“Must be going well if you’re not even trying to murder me,” he replied.

Silence, then, “you’re not worth the effort,”

“Huh,” said Will, but he couldn’t help but crack a smile. There were many reasons to fear Sandy’s apparition, but her skill at delivering the cold shoulder was not one of them.

Coffin leaned over the railing. She could have heard him whisper, even at that height, and the slab walls and platform of the balcony echoed with her every crush-lunged breath. Nonetheless, he squinted through the bitter wind to make out her twisted form.

He counted a dozen skipping inhalations, and a dozen moist and whistling exhalations, before she gave up her hush.

“Any news?”

At another time he probably would have just invented something. The matters he conveyed were trivial at best: He could easily fake calls on the two birthdays he’d missed and stitch those falsehoods with the same old arguments Sandy’s family were constantly re-chewing – but he didn’t.

Things were changing. She’d always been so sure when she’d worn the jacket and held the chain, and he envied it.

He knew, however, that her certainty had also been her downfall.

FP414 - Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3“I’ve been too busy to call around. I’m sorry,” he said. It was a vague sort of statement, and intentionally so.

With the dragging effort of a winded marathoner, Sandy’s left arm, the bones at her wrist projecting through her torn skin, rose, and her palm set its heel firmly on the pavement. She began to drag her motionless legs towards the apartment block’s foundation.

“Too occupied with your new sidekick?” she asked.

“The ogre’s amok out west, the city seems to be overrun with Kar’Wickians, and someone’s dispatching ghosts without my assistance.”

“Which one am I supposed to be able to help with?” she asked, as the fingernails of her right hand came loose on a particularly jagged ridge of mason work. Yet still she climbed.

“None,” he answered, and, as she scaled the second through fifth floor, he recapped his encounter with Laila Hamilton.

When he’d completed his recitation, she asked, “didn’t you say there were Kar’Wickians in the city?”

“Yeah.”

“Didn’t you say the ogre was up and the dead were going missing?”

“Yeah.”

“Why are you working this thing then?”

It was his turn to fall quiet.

At the twelfth floor he changed the subject.

“You understand what I need then?”

“Yeah,” replied Sandy, not stopping in her attempt to scale the building and murder her former husband.

“Sandy, I’m sorry,” he said.

“So you’ve said,” she replied.

“It was for your own good,” he said.

“So you’ve said,” she repeated.

With a gap where her front teeth should have been, she bit her lip, then continued. “Don’t get weak kneed now, you put that jacket on yourself. If you were going to start second guessing I would’ve appreciated if it happened before I landed.

“Will, if you can’t handle this business pass it on and join me at the bottom.”

There was a pause then, and suddenly her ascent stopped. Her decades-old plunge played itself back at triple speed, and she once again returned to her place of rest.

“Go buy some belated birthday cards and I’ll ask around,” she concluded.

He turned, eagerly pawing at the sliding screen with chilled fingers.

 

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.

FP413 – Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

Coffin: A fantasy fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One podcast

 

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 vodka-dependent apprentice, encounter the strange tale of Laila Hamilton, wife and secret nuzzler.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Laila Hamilton was maybe thirty. Black hair clipped down to a stout Afro, but otherwise left to its own means. She was nearly in tears, but she kept her chin tight and the tension mostly in her hands.

It wasn’t the sort of job Will Coffin would normally take on, but rent was due even if the mystical seams of the city seemed to be coming undone around him.

Bunny, his currently sober roommate and apprentice, had also insisted.

“I’d hate-ta ####in’ see you have to offer up the tight jeans treatment to the guy at the front office,” she’d explained while offering no financial support of her own.

The bored looking kid in too-much eyeliner poured their coffees and pulled a notepad from his Denny’s apron.

“Can I get you something to eat?” he asked.

“More ####ing napkins,” answered Bunny, her eyes on the wrung and torn serviette the client was working over with both clenched hands.

Snapping his pad shut in a way that conveyed as much obscenity as anything that drifted out of Bunny’s mouth, the waiter departed.

“What do you want to know? Can’t you just go over and fix it?” the woman asked the shredded tissue before her.

“There’s a process,” said Coffin. “For example, what exactly do you plan on using to pay for -”

Bunny cleared her throat, blotting out the statement, and replaced it with, “start barfing from the beginning and tell us everything that happened.”

Nodding, Laila took a breath, held it, exhaled. “I like to watch old Law and Order episodes as I’m falling asleep. They’re constantly running on one of the deep cable channels, and there’s something homey to them. I know they were old even then, but my Dad always had them on when I was a kid dozing on the couch.

Coffin: A fantasy fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.“Anyhow, my husband, Orlando, he’s not such a fan. He’s not much of a fan of anything these days, really. I keep it way down, and I set a timer so the TV isn’t blathering uselessly into the dark, but Orlando still moved the set over to my side of the bed so I could turn it down a couple more notches.

“It’s a queen-sized mattress, but he only uses the lip of the distant edge.

“If I thought he’d bother coming closer if I kept the thing off I’d go to bed in silence, but he was sleeping way over there well before I started allowing myself a little murder in the evenings.”

Will was surprised to see the server return with a stack of fresh napkins, and the trio paused as he laid them on the table.

He did not hover, he simply laid the stack at Laila’s fingertips and said, “let me know if you need me.”

To Coffin’s eye it appeared this small act of kindness pushed Laila as much towards tears as anything she’d related so far in her story.

The tale continued.

“There have been a few nights in the last couple years when Orlando drifts across the bed. I get my hopes up that it’s the sparking of something new, but usually he’s just looking for a bit of pokin’ and proddin’, then he’s back to snoring on the opposite end of the continent.

“Maybe a month ago, the Law is done and the Order has arrived. They’re trying to figure how they can bust a murderous grandmother despite having their best evidence thrown out, and I’m fighting to stay awake for the conclusion. You know how it is: You’re so tired you don’t even realize you should simply give in and be unconscious. I’ve got half my face buried in the pillow and I’m spending more time focused on keeping my eyelids cracked than the jury’s reactions to closing arguments.

“I was sort of drifting in and out of it, missing snippets and then catching myself dozing, and I remember thinking it was really nice that Orlando had come to hold me. When we were kids that’s how we curled-up, his arm on my belly and his leg over mine.

“That’s when I realized there was no one there: I could feel the weight on my stomach and thigh over the blanket, but I could hear Orlando wheezing at his usual distance.

“You’re dreaming, I told myself, then I fell asleep.”

There was a pause as a fresh napkin began to suffer.

“It happened again maybe a week and a half later, but – well, I’d been thinking about it a bit, but I couldn’t make up my mind as to if I’d been imagining the whole thing.

“That second time, I kept my eyes closed, but I let my palm drift over the blanket to where I could feel the heft – and there was something there. Not a hand, only a chill spot. I lay like that for maybe a half hour, no longer near sleep but not sure what to do next. Then the weight disappeared, and the cold too.

“It happened again the next night, and the next. If I snuggled into the feeling, it would shift against me, but moving my arm would leave me with nothing more than frosty goosebumps. Every now and then I’d brush up against something though – my guest seemed to get more solid as the visits went on.

“A week later I awoke holding no one, and it was nice.”

“Slow workin’ Casanova of a #### monster?” asked Bunny.

The question was aimed at Coffin, but it was Laila who replied.

“I – I Googled some things before Martin gave me your names. If it’s a sexy demon type it’s not really showing it. I couldn’t find any good cuddle beasts, online, that matched the profile though.

“That’s why I’m here.”

Coffin nodded. It wasn’t the sort of job he’d normally take on, but rent was due.

 

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.

FC115 – Mulligan’s Slurpee

FC115

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 115.

Prepare yourself for: Creepy ’90s doctors, fixing racist bus ads, flower guns, Kar’WickCon 2015, and The Irregular Division.

* * *

Huge thanks to:

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

Backroom Plots:

  • FP411 – The Irregular Division: In The Beginning
  • FP412 – The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang
  • * * *

    Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

    * * *

    If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

    FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    FP412 – The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang

    knob

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twelve.

    Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Get Published

     

    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, the public has its first encounter with the government-assembled group of misfits who would one day become known as the Irregular Division.

     

    The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang

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

     

    Fragment One:

    March, Year One
    Source: Verbal Debrief Following Operation Pancake Grid

    Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
    Subject: Corporal Jennifer Glat, AKA Ms. Atlas

    Wily: Okay, it’s recording. Just give me the rundown of how you saw the operation unfold. Who knows, maybe kids will be listening to this at a museum exhibit someday.

    Atlas: Uh huh.

    Following a two week period of downtime I was collected from a West Coast VA facility to meet in an administrative office in a Capital City hospital. Special Operative Head and I were formally introduced, and he was provided with a rundown of the situation. He was sarcastic and questioning. He challenged the plan, and insinuated that my daughter’s recent death would cloud my judgement.

    I’d like to go on record as saying that, while I appreciate the opportunity to lead this unit, I feel that Head is not up to what was envisioned when the surgeons scraped what was left of me off of that floor in Aleppo.

    I admit to an outburst that may have been peppered with a mild threat or two.

    Wily: [unintelligible coughing]

    The Irregular Division, a science fiction/fantasy Flash Pulp podcast brought to you by Skinner Co.!Atlas: The situation was brought under control, and we were briefed on a fast moving scenario in New York state.

    We were told a computer security expert by the name of Morris Fulbright had taken down essential components of the electrical grid, and that the operation zone, including New York City itself, was in total darkness. Fulbright had anonymously released a statement that the flaw he’d found in the public utility’s software had allowed him to run portions of the network at extreme heats until they burnt out. He also claimed he was working on behalf of a larger organization, although no evidence of that was found.

    Intelligence intercepted the message before it got too far on the net, and the brains were hoping to turn the GDCF into a PR win by sending in a small strike force to subdue the what they termed a “cyber-terrorist.”

    Eager for hearts and minds, the man responsible for the death of my daughter and I were sent to collect, as we were told, “a computer nerd from his plush suburban home.”

    I recall one of the tech guys in the office telling us there was no way Fulbright could know we were coming, as the technology to break the encryption he’d used to anonymize himself was classified.

    Despite the secrecy, however, it’s my understanding that the time and location was somehow misplaced so that a single news helicopter was on the scene to witness our arrival.

    * * *

    Fragment Two:

    July, Year One
    Source: [redacted].com/rambling/Operation-Flapjack-Grill

    Author: Head

    Title: Action Squad, Go!

    Body:

    I get it. On paper it looks perfect: They’ve got this guy with a prototype computer interface stapled to his brain and a vet that military doctors and cyberneticists have remade into the world’s first death dealin’ cyborg. The IT expert and the muscle, just like in any spy flick.

    It’s funny on screen when the murder droid threatens to crush their geeky backup, but less so when you’re the backup.

    There wasn’t much space to move around in the gun truck either. Strange how quickly you start unthinkingly using that sort of slang: Gun truck.

    Anyhow, that’s when I realize that, as pissed as she is, and as much screaming as she’s doing at me, Atlas isn’t really moving. I finally understood that she was sitting in a [redacted], and that she likely didn’t want to break away from her charging plug.

    Still, the longer we sat in that tiny space the more I wondered how many extra percentage points on her battery meter my life was worth.

    With everyone stuck in the deep dark, civilian cell service was down, but there was a mesh of military drones overhead providing a connection as fast as anything AT&T has on offer. I was internally Googling possible escape routes from that model of tactical vehicle when the buggy came to a sudden stop.

    “Go, go, go,” says the Major, and Jenny – she really likes it when I call her Jenny – was up and away.

    “Remember that Atlas is in command on the ground. Listen to her if you want to stay alive,” says Wily, and I’m thinking listening to her may be the least safe thing I’ll do that day when the door slams shut behind me.

    Now, I’d gotten pretty used to my neural pipeline by then, and I’d already fallen into the habit of flipping between social networks when nervous. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with service, as the major sites began to flood my feeds with updates on the second surge.

    Over a hundred hard working line men and women, fried with their hands in boxes that were only ever damaged in their reporting software. Fulbright was one sneaky bastard.

    A sneaky bastard with a television feed, as well, as he was apparently watching the news chopper’s feed as Atlas peeled away the front of his house.

    That’s when the poop hurricane – the shite-nado, if you will – really began.

    * * *

    Fragment Three:

    March, Year One
    Source: TNTV.com/2047/03/NY-State-Power-Hostages

    Author: December Hook

    Title: New York State Powerline Terrorist Attack Thwarted

    Dramatic footage captured by a Total News Television helicopter seems to show a military special operations force invading the Blooming Grove home that we now know to be the epicenter of the state-wide blackout.

    A declassified communique, provided by anonymous military sources, indicates that the home’s owner, Morris Fulbright, released a rambling and incoherent message in which he claimed sole responsibility for the attack, and also specified that he was working alone to avenge a list of grievances that, as the source remarked, “can only be classified as being the figments of an unbalanced mind.”

    Grainy footage shows government forces on the scene, believed to be led by Jennifer Glat, the soldier the press dubbed “Ms. Atlas” after a series of miracle surgeries replaced the majority of her charred muscle mass with high-powered electronics.

    Unbeknownst to the operation, inside the house, Fulbright, who’d created a virus to fool utility overseers into believing a number of powerline assets had been physically damaged, had just forced a reboot of systems which went on to kill three dozen workers and injure over eighty others. Several remain in critical condition.

    Anticipating a response, the accused cyber-terrorist had planted several pounds of improvised explosives at all exits of his household, and, as the strike team leader pulled open the front door, the madman was waiting with detonator in hand.

    Although the explosion seemed to have left the woman’s right arm shredded at the elbow, the video shows her prying the brass knob from her dangling hand, then lobbing it into the building. Reports confirm that the missile lodged itself several inches into Morris Fulbright’s chest, killing him instantly.

    An unnamed military spokesman referred to the effort as “a triumph” and remarked that it was unlikely that this would be the last we’d see of The Irregular Division.

    This journalist, for one, is glad to have them watching over us.

     

    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.

    FCM021 – Chicken Chip Cookies

    FCM21 - Chicken Chip Cookies

    FCM21 - Chicken Chip Cookies

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    * * *

    * * *

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

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

    FP411 – The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

    The Irregular Division: A science fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and eleven.

    Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Get Published

     

    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 introduce The Irregular Division, the newest, and final, thread of the Flash Pulp universe. Here it all begins to come together – and here it all begins to unravel.

    Please be forewarned that this episode contains scenes of violence and strong language intended for mature audiences.

     

    The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

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

     

    July, Year One
    Source: [redacted].com/rambling/First-Date.html

    Author: Head

    Title: Our First Lunch Meeting

    Body:

    So, apparently this blog is now considered government property, along with the rest of me. As such, I’ve been instructed to post my version of how our little family came together. I suspect that means they want me to tell you the happy tale of Operation Pancake Grid, but that’s not what I’m going to do.

    In my mind, and maybe in yours if anyone other than the NSA ever bothers to read this, everything started at the McDonald’s in Tucson.

    Given the layout, I could’ve been walking in the same store I’d visited in San Fran for breakfast or on the outskirts of Vegas for lunch. I came in the door beside the counter, and worked hard to ignore the squealing from the ballpit while I ordered. Once I had another Big Mac in my hand I hustled around the ordering slab and took cover behind some plastic foliage. My ass was just starting to numb up on the formed plastic bench when the cast of a heart-warming sitcom about non-nuclear families took the booth across from me. The little girl couldn’t have been fourteen yet, but she spoke with the firm tone of a self-assured authority.

    “I don’t care what Mom says, Dad, I don’t want to move again, and it’s not fair to make me go somewhere I can’t visit you.”

    Dad, his well pressed suit looking a little out of place in the house of the Golden Arches, tightened his grip on his partner. The partner was really the wacky breakout character of the group: bright friendly eyes and black wiry hair on every inch of exposed flesh made him look like an old timey grizzled prospector.

    “Hun,” says Dad, “you know we love you to pieces, but there’s nothing the court will let me do. You need to be a little older before they’ll let you decide where you want to be, and even in this day and age they’d still rather you tag along in a war zone with your Mother than let you stay with an old gay married couple.“

    See, the problem is that I wasn’t in a position to use any public internet access. Normally I would’ve just logged in wirelessly and forgotten the world around me as my mouth drowned in secret sauce, but I knew certain unpleasant fellows would be ringing me up for an audience before I’d even hit Google. There was definitely something compelling about the girl’s oratory though, she’d’ve been a general, a politician, or a CEO given the time.

    At a My Little Pony pitch, she started, “I don’t give two shits about those asshats from court. You actually listen to me. You actually care about –“ then Dad interrupted.

    “Whoa, hold on. Your Mom might not take a lot of input, but if you seriously think she doesn’t care about you, you need to pull your head out of your butt. She does have a set of standards she lives by, whatever the hell they may be, and for better or worse she’s trying to raise you to them. Mike and I love you, but so does your Mom, just in a different way.”

    For a moment all mouths were full and conversation paused.

    A smiling maw broke out of Prospector Mike’s face tribble.

    “Hey,” he said, “she never moves for long, and both of you should calm down and cut her some slack, it’s not like she’s actually going overseas this time. I don’t think she can be blamed for heading to the coast to recoup, not all that unreasonable considering most of her body EXPLODED.”

    Father and daughter simultaneously took a tight lipped sip of cola.

    Dad cleared his throat, saying, “Listen – “ and that’s when everything went to shit.

    With my back to the wall, and my seat opposite the door nearest the washroom, I had no problem noticing the beaten black pickup truck roll to a halt at the curb. Made gigantic by its oversized tires, its shadow seemed to stretch right through the glass. The two hillbillies who took long steps down from the cab would have made Bo and Luke Duke piss themselves if they’d caught them out behind The Boar’s Nest. They made no attempt to hide their 12 gauges.

    I reviewed all of this from under the table, of course. If anyone had been observing my booth they might have seen something akin to a blow up doll half doing the wave as it slid out of sight at high speed. I’d brought my burger with me in the hope that my tray would simply look deserted. Honestly, it was instinct once my brain registered a black vehicle coming to an abrupt stop, but after checking over what exactly I was dealing with I wasn’t convinced it had anything to do with me. They didn’t strike me as dressed up enough. That said, I’d also kind of envisioned using the rear door as an exit in case anyone did find me, and hadn’t really thought through that they might not enter from the front of the store.

    All of this happened within the span of a breath, and it was only as I watched their denimed knees scuffle past me awkwardly that I was sure they hadn’t noticed my duck and cover.

    I named them by the condition of their jeans.

    “Where is he?” shouted hole-in-left-leg.

    “Fucked if I know,” replied frayed-at-cuffs.

    Hole-in-left-leg went running to where the row intersected with the main serving area.

    As he rounded the corner and into the Playland he parted a sea of panicked murmurs with his a repeated and plaintive cry of “Fuck!”

    Frayed-at-cuffs began to pace the short length from the bathroom to the third booth in, obstructing any ideas I might have had of making a go at the exit, and bringing a repeated “Hurk!” intake of breath from Dad every time he passed.

    “Would you cut that shit out!” Frayed-at-cuffs demanded, his voice cracking.

    The Irregular Division: A science fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.“Hey listen –“ began Prospector Mike.

    “WHAT!? WHAT!?”

    I was leaning a bit now, trying to see what was going on, and I made out that Frayed had gotten a handful of the girl’s hair and was pressing the shortened shotgun barrel against her temple.

    “Listen –“ it was Dad’s turn now, “her mom is going to be here soon to pick her up and we don’t want any trouble and if you simply move on we’ll just sit here quietly and wait for her and everything will be ok because –“

    Dad’s mouth had lost it, and it was obvious Frayed had decided a simpler solution might be had by simply swinging the barrel of his cannon around. It was then that Mike decided to make a play, flying off his bench and around the table even managing to push over Frayed without plugging Dad. That was the end of his luck though: As the hick landed heavily on his ass his shotgun let go. Down went Mike, missing a chin. That was also when the goon decided to look left, directly into my eyes. He jumped to his feet.

    “TEDWARD! TEDWARD GET YER ASS –“

    Dad started wailing.

    “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” screamed Frayed, once again pressing the barrel of his gun against the girl’s temple. “TEDWARD! HE’S –“

    At that point I frozen with the knowledge that I was absolutely fucked. I was staring at the murderous farmer, waiting for Tedward and the hole in his jeans to swing back from where the food is served, and I remember feeling a bead of sweat fall on my hand. I remember stupidly thinking it was raining.

    Then the exit turned into a ball of glass and heat and light.

    In the video it’s as if she just appears, a pistol the size of a small East Asian nation in her hand.

    She looked at me. She looked at the hick. She looked at Tedward, somewhere in the wings beyond my perspective.

    She said, “Michael? DAN? Nancy!?” in the order of surprised; upset; angry.

    Frayed suddenly unfreezes long enough for his trigger finger to reflexively operate, and the top of Nancy’s head disappears.

    Everything until then had felt like a rollercoaster, with the chain of events moving along much faster than even I could compensate for, but the world stopped at that second.

    I know that all of the local recording devices bit it – that only those who were there heard the cybernetically amplified howl the media calls the “banshee’s scream” – but you don’t want a recording. Imagine the sound a humpback whale might make going through a meat grinder, impart to it the unknowable grief of a mother losing her child before her very eyes, and then amplify it to the point that .76 seconds of exposure leaves every customer and counter jockey in the restaurant stone deaf and bleading from their ears.

    That’s when my memory stops, but my questionably-borrowed neural rig just dumbly kept gobbling up whatever my glazed gaze fell upon.

    Deeply in shock I began to list to the left. Still, I have video of Mom – Ms. Atlas – closing the distance between her and Frayed like a rabid gazelle. The speed is such that you can barely see her arms move as she rips off his right leg at the socket, a stabilizing combat boot, peaking from below her sensible slacks, resting on his groin.

    The spray of blood across my face is the last thing I witnessed before I thankfully fell into darkness.

    Five days later I awoke, like the rest of the store patrons and staff, in a military hospital having my eardrums replaced by government surgeons.

    Unlike the rest of the patrons and staff, however, there were two generals standing over me wanting an audience and an explanation – then they suggested that I might not go to prison over my stolen brain chip if I teamed up with their vengeful mother of a public relations disaster.

    That, to me, is the day the Irregular Division formed.

     

    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.

    FC114 – Total Murder Chicken

    FC114 - Total Murder Chicken

    FC114 - Total Murder Chicken

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    (Download/iTunes/RSS)

    Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 114.

    Prepare yourself for: Cinematic folklore, shaking it off, action adventure Poltergeist, retirement franchises, and The Murder Plague

    * * *

    Huge thanks to:

    * * *

    * * *

    * * *

    * * *

    Backroom Plots:

  • FPSE25 – Cloak
  • FP410 – The Murder Plague: Recoil
  • * * *

    Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

    * * *

    If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

    FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.