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FP370 – Coffin: Looking Down

Coffin

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Looking Down, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by We Are Not Here To Please You

 

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, tells a tiny tale of woe to his unusually miserable apprentice, Bunny.

 

Coffin: Looking Down

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

 

Bunny was furious with her nose and everything around it.

She was sure pancakes, fry grease, and the cologne of the guy two booths over, were giving her a migraine.

“F##k Denny’s,” she said.

Will looked up from the club sandwich pictured on his menu and shrugged.

“It’s cold. You’d prefer to hang around on a bench with snow in your shoes and no feeling in your fingers?”

“How is anyone supposed to know we’re here?”

“Consistency.”

For a moment the bar she normally would have been sitting in came to mind, and Bunny nearly opened her mouth to follow up on the conversation – the problem, of course, was that the bar reminded her of good stories and dancing with the three Steves and every other excuse she’d ever used to get drunk.

She might have complained about how hard she was finding sobriety. She might have told Will about the monstrous figures that sometimes seemed to shimmer at the edge of her vision. She might have launched into the actually rather eloquent argument for permanent drunkenness that she’d written and re-written in her head while shaking and sweating beneath her sheets.

Soon, she reckoned, but not yet. Instead, she repeated herself.

“F##k Denny’s.”

Coffin took in the way she was picking at the skin beside her thumbnail, the bobbing of her leg, and the utter lack of focus she was showing the menu.

He asked, “have you found the Morrow diary?”

Beneath the table the tap-tap-tap of her bouncing boot heel ceased.

“Nope,” she replied, “I’m still gnawing my way through the clusterf##k littering the hallway bookshelves.”

Will scanned the post-lunch stragglers for anyone close enough to overhear, then started to read the details listed beside the Philly Melt.

Nodding, he said, “it opens in July, 1972, and it starts pretty boring.

“Conrad, its author, talks about buying a second car, the scores of his kid’s little league games, and enjoying the occasional cigar. That’s about as exotic as his tastes get. He loves his wife, his son, and his train set – in that order.

“The set was one of those old-school affairs setup on multiple tables. H.O. scale countryside and green felt as far as the eye can see. He called it Macropolis. Based on what he describes I assume the thing absorbed most of his basement. Twice he mentions knocking out walls to make room – once before the death of Agnes, his wife, and once after.

“His description of how it started put me in mind of Victorian London, but with more steam trains plodding through rows of fake trees.

“Agnes seemed nice, although I only have what he wrote to go on. She must have been a patient woman to have put up with that level of nerdery. There are a few scattered reviews of drive-in movies they saw with Dean, their kid, snoozing in the back, and they tended to spend their Saturday nights drinking gin and tonics together while playing cards with friends in the kitchen.

“She got sick in early August, and she was dead by mid-October. ”

Coffin paused there, as a server had arrived. Her name tag declared the pixie-cut wearing teen’s name to be “Carrie.”

“Ah, f##kin’ Denny’s,” muttered Bunny, her eyes quickly dropping back to her menu.

“What can I get you today?” asked Carrie, but Will caught the twitch in her smile.

Decisions were outside of her current capability, so Bunny turned on the girl. “What’s the least s##tty thing you sell? Actually, gimme the second least s##ttiest as well, I need options.”

With a grace that Coffin thought spoke well of her, Carrie ducked forward and jabbed a finger at the photo of a towering burger.

“That’s definitely not shitty,” she said.

“Fine,” answered Bunny, “I’ll take three.”

Frowning, Will considered her order, then his wallet.

“Just coffee,” he told the teen.

Bunny’s mind was already elsewhere. She’d taken to listing every individual item in the restaurant and internally telling it to f##k off.

The lights were too bright and the cutlery was too loud and sobriety was just too goddamn hard.

Once Carrie was beyond earshot, Coffin asked, “you covering lunch today?”

Coffin: Urban Shaman, A Skinner Co. PodcastThough her roommate was still well down the list, the obvious implication that her ass was broke was enough to convince Bunny to jump ahead.

Her face puckered, and Will prepared his ears for an extended auditory assault.

An in-breath was as far as her retort went, however. She hadn’t paid for a meal in months, and she knew it. She had one friend left, and she was about to compare him to the worst sort of cattle rapist.

She felt her eyes grow wet. She was suddenly only mad at herself.

Her chin sagged, her shoulders collapsed, and she asked, “the f##k’s the point of anything anyway?”

Coffin cleared his throat.

“The diary restarts in February ’74,” he said. “Conrad was still mourning, and there’s no more mention of little league games. I think he started writing again for the same reasons he re-focused Macropolis: He was seeking direction.

“His project, he’d decided, would mirror the town he and Agnes grew up in. Sometime in 1973 he tore down pseudo-London entirely and started laying out the massive black-iron train engines of the 1940s.

“The notes become obsessive: Plans for how to approach what wasn’t built, ways he could modify hobby shop figures to fill in for people he once knew, scrawled listings for upcoming swap meets that seemed likely to yield useful architecture.

“It gets so bad that I was almost surprised when Dean is mentioned a few months in. Until then it was as if he’d died too, or at least like he’d been sent to live with a distant relative.

“He only received one line of notice – that they’d stopped at a farm, on the way back from a rummage sale where Conrad had scored some bungalows, and the kid had convinced him to let him have a dog.

“The mutt, which Dean named Beagle Bailey, actually gets a few more footnotes after that, but once he’s housebroken both he and the boy fade into the background again.

“Late in the summer, while buying a stack of teeny bicycles from the trunk of a station wagon parked at the edge of a farmers’ market, a toothless grandmother looks over at him from her lawn chair and pegs him instantly.

“‘What is it?’ she asks, ‘dead child?’

“He didn’t wonder how she knew till later, but he answers, ‘wife.’

“The page following that is ripped out, but the results are obvious.

“The next entry is two days later, and he’s talking about ‘the process.’ Macropolis has a new Mayor, he reports, Mr. Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a short man – well, shorter even than his tiny friends – who wears a top hat and sports a thick white painted beard.

“Mr. Madigan is named after the real Mr. Madigan, and his appearance is as close as Conrad can recall from his childhood. More impressively, the new Maddigan has quickly taken to helping with the construction of his town.

“Upon being provided with sewing scissors, for example, the miniature mayor takes to trimming the cloth and felt shrubberies. A police force of three quickly follows, then the Morrow family doctor, the teen who Conrad envied for working the soda fountain counter, and as many of the man’s classmates as he can remember.

“The classmates, children really, need teachers, and the teachers need a principal, and the principle needs a maintenance crew – and the cycle continues until one morning Conrad wakes to discover a train has hit Glen Herbert from third grade.

“Now, the impact itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but the Macropolans’ hand motions make it clear that Glen had been sent flying from the edge of the table. I can only assume Beagle Bailey figured it was a bug he was chewing.

“Conrad erects a plexiglass wall around the outside of his fiefdom, zones and develops a graveyard, then organizes a funeral so the people of Macropolis can gather to say goodbye.

“A week later, though, he gives in to temptation and builds a new Glen. Still, by the way it reads, he was plenty angry with Dean for having let the dog into the basement in the first place.

“With a bit of work he gets a fountain setup at the center of town. He builds a post office, then organizes a theoretically functional postal system. There’s really very little the mailmen can do, given that none of the town’s inhabitants have functional fingers or writing implements, but everyone in Macropolis seems pleased to have something to do.

“The incident with Glen Herbert kept him from ever animating any dogs, but the memories of a big black Tom that used to howl outside his window brings him to create a few cats to prowl the thumb-wide alleys.

“Making them speak was beyond him – probably beyond me too, if I’d ever been able to track down the ritual he’d obviously ripped out.

“Anyhow, he couldn’t help himself. Like a train barreling down the tracks he ran his memory right to the end of the line. The second last figure he painted and brought to life was Agnes at sixteen.

“He couldn’t talk to her, like I said, but she seemed to understand his lopsided conversations all right, and he would often find himself passing the hours simply watching her.

“It still wasn’t enough though. He placed a perfect replica of his own boyhood home, then he began painting a mini him.

“The last few entries are rough. Conrad grapples with the fact that he built a perfect simulation of everything he wanted that he’ll never be able to enter. Less than a week after his project was complete, Morrow put a gun in his mouth while standing at the cusp of this creation. I guess it says something that the papers reported that Dean found the corpse two days later.”

Three burgers and a coffee arrived, and there was a beat of silence as Carrie did her best to politely toss the food onto the table and sprint away.

Finally, once she’d collected her bread and beef in a row, Bunny asked, “what happened to the little b#####ds? Is there a pint-sized Stepford sitting forgotten in some basement?”

“No,” answered Will. He blew on his coffee. “They must have crawled down the corpse and scattered. Maybe they’re living in the walls of the house, maybe they spread out across the neighbourhood, or maybe the dog got ‘em.

“It was actually Dean who gave me the book, and it was the last of Macropolis he had.

“He was in his mid-twenties when I visited, but he’d started a family of his own in the same house: Him, his wife, their own young son, and old man Beagle Bailey, who was asleep by the door. Dean had sold or given away everything that hadn’t run off, and said I was the only person who’d ever come around asking – till then he’d just believed his dad was a nutter. I think my showing up made Dean hate him slightly less, at least”

“Sweet weeping dog balls,” said Bunny, “what the f##k was the point of that story? Which are you telling me, to stick a gun in my mouth or that I’ll never achieve my dreams? F##king f##k, man.”

“No, I’m saying instead of building a fantasy in your mind that you can never achieve you should buy a goddamn dog and start moving on.”

For a moment the air was filled with the noisy entry of a trio of college boys in too-tight t-shirts, then, with a sigh, Bunny pushed one of her pearl-white plates across the table.

 

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.

FP366 – Coffin: Vision

Coffin

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sixty-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Vision, Part 1 of 1

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 Tales from the Archive

 

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 ourselves locked into a conversation with a vagrant as our urban shaman, Coffin, his apprentice, Bunny, and perhaps even the creeping dead, watch on.

 

Coffin: Vision

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

 

Bunny was finding some hours better than others, but it was cold outside and her denim jacket felt like little more than a pair of pasties as the north wind elbowed its way along Capital City’s sidewalks.

She’d been trailing her shaman roommate, Will, to Czech It Out, a West Slavic restaurant that was actually better known for its broad red-brick patio than its menu. The fact that her tongue had regained the ability to taste a palette beyond fried and salted items was one of the few comforts she’d been able to latch onto since finding sobriety, and she was determined to fill her time with new tastes even if she had to sit at the tiny interior tables the place used in the winter.

They’d just stepped off the bus, a block from their destination, when Bunny had begun to seek something to focus on other than the approaching woman.

CoffinThe lower quarter of her beige raincoat was covered in a spray of mucky snow, and her legs, beneath, were lost in layers of faded jogging pants. The frayed sweater collars that were visible behind her jacket’s missing top button seemed to have been selected from similar running sets, but not the same ones.

If she asked for some change, Bunny decided, she’d give it to her – but the nouveau gourmand knew that if she could get away with looking like she hadn’t noticed the thickly-lined eyes and trembling fingers she gladly would.

Then the story had come in a relieved rush, and Coffin had done nothing to stop it.

“I was coming out of the McDonald’s,” said the woman, “and I noticed him in the crowd crossing at the walk. It’s nothing but waves of people rolling back and forth, like the tide, down by the mall, but I couldn’t miss him. He looked surprised. I’ve never seen anyone so wide eyed. Scared too, like he’d watched someone kill his dog and he wasn’t sure if he was next.”

The chronicler – who, upon a further inspection, appeared to be a rough-worn forty and not the sixty Bunny had originally guessed – stopped her high energy recital and turned a full circle, scanning the distant sidewalks and slush-heavy road.

With the stranger’s back turned, the hungry ebriate tossed her roommate a questioning brow, but Will simply pushed the the black leather that made up his office’s uniform into a shrug. Every one of his multitude of zippers was as tightly shut as possible, but she could tell from his stance that it was his intention to wait the newcomer out.

However, she’d also just seen him thumbing a rare message into his cheap phone, and, together, the two actions convinced Bunny that he knew something she didn’t.

Squinting, she did her best to find warmth at the bottom of her shallow pockets.

The woman continued. “It startled me because, even though he was on the other side of the crosswalk he was staring right at me. I don’t have much to spare for clothes lately, so sometimes people judge, but it wasn’t a look like that. It was like he recognized me. It was like I’d done something.

“My first thought is to turn back and go inside, but then the light changed and the messenger bags and the briefcases were coming at me and I felt like he was in the swarm somewhere, getting closer.

“I started walking away, towards downtown. Fast. My legs ache fierce on a day like this, but I can still jackrabbit when I want to.

“Three blocks down I ducked into a Whole Foods to catch my breath and get some warmth in my toes. A clean cut college kid started following me around though. I know I’m not the the type that’s supposed to in there, but I explained that when it’s cold, it’s cold. He blushed, but he still told me to leave.

“Wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked to leave. Wasn’t even the first time I’ve been asked to leave that Whole Foods.

“I turned to go, though, and there was the scared man, standing on the far side of all the organic meats behind the butcher’s glass display. His face was terrified. Ugly terrified. His chin was low and he was screaming without noise and every part of him was trying to pull away, like he was at a rollercoaster drop and realizing he hadn’t done up his seatbelt.

“That’s not the worst of it though. It was as if an invisible giant had placed the palm of their hand against the little bit of bone at the top of his nose and started pushing. His skull hadn’t shattered, exactly, but it had buckled and bent, causing him to stare in two different directions.

“I’m not a drinker, or I try not to be, but that was too much for me. I bolted and didn’t look at anything but my feet till I was digging out my change bag to pay for a bottle of Bacardi.”

The tale drifted into the wind as the haunted woman’s gaze settled on a form on the horizon.

Bunny was nearly convinced the figure would be carrying the smashed features of the story, but, when he finally turned from the door through which he’d apparently exited, he was no more damaged than a mild case of acne that any sixteen-year-old might carry.

As the distant boy was joined by a friend in a puffy black parka the storyteller found her thread.

“I couldn’t drown the ghost, though I tried pretty hard. If I kept moving it wasn’t so bad, I’d see him in the reflections of shop windows or across the subway platform, but when I stopped he’d creep as close as he could. Sometimes I get distracted, and I think he knew it, ‘cause he’d wait until I was lost in a bit of news scrolling across an on-sale big screen TV or checking an outdoor ashtray for leftovers, and he’d step up right between my shoulder blades.

“You can’t hear him, but you can – you can hear his lack of noise, if that makes sense. You can hear the emptiness on your neck.

“Your ears tingle with the nothing.

“I – my memory plays tricks on me a lot, but I remembered your bench. Your benches. Your stores. Your offices. Whatever you want to call them. It took me a long time to figure how to get to there, and they were both gone when I arrived.

“That’s why I’m so glad to have bumped into you like this. He’s – I think he’s right behind me. I think he knows we’re talking and he’s hiding in my shadow.

“It’s worse now. I mean, it’s been getting worse the whole while. His face is coming apart. He – he had blue eyes, but they’ve both popped. Shards of bone are pushing through brain and the yellow fat beneath his skin – I don’t even know that he means me harm, but just looking at him…”

A braying laugh came from the teens, who were now waiting out the crossing light some ten feet off. The leftmost, in the puffy parka, seemed embarrassed that they’d been noticed, but the other, the first they’d seen, gave the trio a broad smile and an invitation to make something of it.

Bunny turned from the wet cheeked woman to the worn lines on her partner’s face then to her own cracked Doc Martens.

She felt like a teetering glass statue. She felt like a lopsided tower in a high wind. She felt like a rag doll on the cusp of a cliff face.

She felt like a goddamn drink.

“Hey, you grimy mouthed dog-ball juggler,” she said to the lingering grinner, “clear the f##k out or I’ll lodge my boot so deep in your d##k hole you’ll be pissing polish.”

As they watched the boys retreat into a welcomed change of lights, Will cleared his throat and asked, “Georgiana, do you remember why you know where I used to set up shop?”

The woman’s pale lips flushed. “No, I’m sorry, I know – I know you’re sort of a sorcerer or something, but my mind is full of holes these days and sometimes things slip away. Honestly, I don’t even really recall how I know you are who you are, I just do.”

Coffin nodded. “Do you remember Donna?”

Her tongue said, “I’d have to see her,” but her wrinkled forehead said “no.”

“I’ve already, uh, summoned her,” continued Will. “The last few times you were here we learned that I’m just not powerful enough to help you. Donna’s talents, though, are greater than my own.”

As if on command, a Volkswagen Jetta pulled tight around the corner and came to a stop along the damp curb. Its driver, Donna, exited, her thick and wavy halo of hair silhouetting her features against the street’s gleam of ice and white frost.

A nod from Coffin was enough to convince Georgiana towards the passenger seat, and the shaman exchanged nothing more than a silent wave with the newcomer before the illegal parking maneuver ended and the pair pulled away into traffic.

“What kind of magic man bullshit was that?” asked Bunny. “Who was she and when the fuck have you ever not gotten your goddamn Egon Spengler on and busted some ghosts?”

Will chewed at this thumbnail, then replied, “Georgiana had been with her husband for nearly twenty years before the accident. Nice couple, no children but a lot of love for each other. Apparently collecting old radios was their big hobby. It was a head-on coming back from a swap meet. She got cracked up pretty badly too; plenty of brain damage but most of the insurance money went to getting her legs stapled together enough to allow her walk again.”

“She doesn’t remember anything from before?”

“Sometimes, sometimes not. I think it’s the crash, in slow motion, that she’s seeing play out. I take the time to listen when she finds me, because a friendly ear beats a blade when fighting fear, and Donna, her social worker, appreciates the calm when she arrives.

“Respect is all the comfort I can offer, though. We’re not equipped to exorcise spooks that solely exist in someone’s head.”

Blowing heat into her numb fingers, and coming to the surprising realization that she regretted not having a chance to invite Georgiana along, Bunny pushed her feet towards the restaurant.

The cup jiggling man she passed along the way was terrified at the sheer force of her eye contact, but he gladly accepted the fiver she tossed on top of his collection of change.

By then she was only feeling hungry enough for soup anyhow.

 

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.

FP365 – Coffin: Misfire, The Very Brief Tale of the Romance of Josephine Hart and Edward Love

Coffin

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sixty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Misfire, The Very Brief Tale of the Romance of Josephine Hart and Edward Love, Part 1 of 1

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 Tales from the Archive

 

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 hear a tale of feverish love as told by a feverish, but sobering, drunk.

 

Coffin: Misfire, The Very Brief Tale of the Romance of Josephine Hart and Edward Love

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

 

Between the snow and Bunny’s ongoing withdrawal, Coffin was pretty much done with February.

As a younger man he’d taken every chance he could to be in a warm locale during the month, but the duties of his office, and the sort of entanglements that settle around old men, now limited his travel.

He’d once faced a headless goblin whose flesh was speckled with writhing tongues, but even a shaman of his experience did not relish moving from the heat of his blankets on so bleak a morning.

It had not helped that his dead wife had spent the evening slapping the remnants of her bloodied hands on the glass balcony door at the far end of the apartment. He’d denied her the satisfaction of a confrontation, but he’d lain awake most of the night staring at the shadows on the ceiling, and he knew she knew it.

Coffin was surprised, then, to discover Bunny sitting on the counter reading when he finally managed to touch down on the floor and enter the kitchen to swat at his ancient coffee maker.

He was doubly stunned to find there was also already coffee made.

“What’s that?” he asked in an attempt to fill the time until his mug cooled.

“A Blackhall book,” answered Bunny without looking up, “‘Frontier Magic: An Occult Journey Through the Canadas During the ‘30s and ‘40s.’”

She was wearing a clean Led Zeppelin t-shirt and a pair of jeans that were probably threadbare intentionally. Her box-dyed hair, weeks overdue, was pulled back in a ponytail, and she’d managed not to drop any abrasive language through the entirety of her first sentence of the day.

With a nod, Coffin considered that she might just be finding her feet.

Taking a leaning position against the stove, he said, “I skimmed it way back. It’s not really a book of magical instruction, it’s more like a travel journal about things he encountered. I think he maybe briefly actually considering publishing – but of course he couldn’t. Maybe he was hoping he could do it after solving the problems he caused.

“Anyhow, I thought you found his Victorian stylings painful?”

“Those long ass titles remain ####in’ ridiculous, but – well, it’s a lot easier to understand if I read everything in Dick Van Dyke’s #### accent from Mary Poppins.

“Do you remember the bit about Josephine Hart and Edward Love?”

Before answering Will blinked twice – slowly. “I’ve only been standing for five minutes and all of the caffeine I possess remains outside of my body. You’ll have to remind me.”

Bunny pulled her legs out from under her and let them dangle from her countertop seat, then began the tale.

“She’s traveling west and he’s headed east when they meet at this, you know, hotel. Not a sneakin’ in the back door so you can sneak it in the back door sorta place, though – a classy ####in’ joint.

“They didn’t know each other, had never met, and would only be in the same place one night.

Coffin: An occult podcast about an urban shaman and his mouthy companion“Now, apparently back then Cupid was an actual thing? Like, there was this armed semi-invisible imp wandering around Hunger Games-ing people into bed?

“Blackhall seems to think that in his old age the love-dispensing little bugger was either growing lazy, senile, or sentimental – whatever the case, he got to firing away because he thought their names looked real ####in’ cute together.

“I swear I’ve met ####in’ yuppies who’ve married for the same reason. The little ####-sack wearing arrow chucker probably thought it was poetic.

“It’s the Victorian era though, so things start slow. They eye-fondle from across the parlour. He moves to a table closer to hers, she drops a hanky so he has an excuse to begin a conversation. She had a head of black hair so thick she could tie a man up in it, and he had the body of a farm boy used to carrying stubborn calves from the barn to the dinner table.

“They sit around chit chatting a while, and Josephine’s head is swimming. Thing is, she’s not much of a go-with-the flow kinda lady. Her brain is telling her that a fellow who spends the exciting moments at the opening of an apparent relationship discussing the finer details of horse maintenance is not the sort she would normally be interested in, and somehow she manages to pull herself away to her room.

“Fully consumed by her, however, Eddie followed looking for a little make-out action.

“She couldn’t help herself, but, again, Victorian era in a proper proper spot, so they tongue wrestle for a minute at her door and then she locks herself inside, alone.

“They go to bed, both probably wank furiously, then, the next day, they decide to elope.

“It’s not what she wants, but, without Edward on hand to ruin his own chances, her imagination has spent the night being pushed by the mind-controlling prick of that little ####in’, uh, #####.

“First, though, she’s gotta go meet his parents. Worse, he pretty quickly starts yelling at her.

“I guess love has a different definition for different people.

“They’d decided that the pony he rode in on wasn’t going to cut the entrance they were looking to make, so they pitched in equally to hire a wagon and driver who could bring them out to the Loves. To keep costs down, though, they agree to share the space with another fellow who’s headed about half the distance in the same direction. While they’re waiting, Josephine starts chatting with the guy about how late their ride is – you know, the small talk any strangers make – but Ed puts a hand on her elbow and pulls her aside.

“He gives her the speech – I guess it hasn’t changed much from then till when Tim gave it to me.

“Thing is, sure, Edward’s a dick – but he’s also kind of right. There’s a knife on the man’s hip and he smells of quality whiskey, which makes him exactly the sort of gent that Josephine usually prefers.

“She almost says something, but the carriage arrives and he basically shoves her in; hurts her ribs squishing her into the corner, and sets their stuff on the opposite bench so that the supposed competition has to sit at the furthest possible distance.

“Cupid’s poison is still doing its damndest, but she’s having none of it. They start whisper fighting and it quickly escalates. She shouts, he shouts harder. She sticks a finger in his face, he slaps her. You know how it goes – same ####, different year.

“The driver is chuckling to himself about it, but the other passenger, Mordecai Brown – a name the baby archer would’ve seen no ####ing poetry in at all – tells Edward to lay off.

“Edward responds with a suggestion involving the man’s mother and an array of farm animals, and Mordecai just shrugs.

“By then Eddie’s pissed, but he’s taken to trying to subtly squeeze the #### out of her arm while hissing at her to shut the #### up.

“He’d told her he had a nickname back at home: The Bull. He’d made some awkward #### jokes about it during their short courtship, but with his thick fingers around her wrist she understands how he really got the name.

“‘Haw haw,’ laugh’s the driver, holding out his lash, ‘trouble with the new bride? You outta try one of these – always fixes my missus.’

“Well, that’s it, she’d had about e-####in’-nough.

“See, Josephine had a nickname too: Death’s Duchess.

“They also had classier names for their serial killers back then, I guess.

“She had these panels she’d carefully crafted into her dress, almost like big pockets, that were held closed by magnets. Underneath, holstered below the frame of her crinoline, were a ####ton of monster pistols. She’d used them plenty to rob carriages, at least until she became uncomfortably well known on the far side of the ocean.

“Now, you gotta remember the era – these weren’t Glocks, they weren’t even six-shooters, they were single shot pistols with howling dog mouths – and she always strapped on eight of them.

“She used four on Edward – the first two out of a lover’s rage, the second two because he was killed instantly, the spell was broken, and she was generally in a ####ty mood.

“Josephine was surprised to discover Mordecai covering the driver, who had a blunderbuss held loosely to his chest and the tip of Brown’s knife under his left eye.

“‘There are a couple ponies pulling,’ Brown says, ‘I’m happy to surrender my comfortable ride if you want to split ‘em.’

“They didn’t though, they took the whole god#### wagon and left the wagonman with piss down his legs and the corpse at his feet.

“By the time Blackhall heard their story they’d taken to inviting well bankrolled man-hunters north, with news of recaptured slaves, then murdering them for their money.

“####ed up, but still kinda romantic.”

Coffin nodded, but said little. In truth, his attentions had drifted away mid-telling.

The slapping at the glass had begun again.

 

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.

FP361 – Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 2 of 2

Coffin: An occult audiofiction podcast

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 2 of 2

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Skinner Co. store!

 

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, recounts the arcane tale of a deadly Christmas parade vehicle to his increasingly sober roommate.

 

Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 2 of 2

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

 

Resettling on the edge of the bathtub, Coffin noted the shaking in Bunny’s arms and asked, “all good?”

From her position on, and across, the toilet seat, she curled her fist into a waving middle finger.

As such, Will returned to his story telling.

“Marie Elise Boucher’s front lawn, all eight square feet of it, was dominated by a massive shrine to the Virgin Mary. Behind the poured-cement mini cathedral sat a squat bungalow, and, as we arrived, there were two fifty-ish guys coming down the plastic-grass carpeted stoop. Both had ball caps on and nylon coats – the kind that always came in only red or blue and had white stripes on the trim? Like low-rent varsity jackets.

“They were all part of a community of relocated meat packers and pig farmers who’d become Marie Elise’s first adherents. Every wannabe prophet has to start somewhere I guess.

“Anyhow, I was about to wonder aloud if they’d seen the killer in question when Sandy threw me her shut up elbow. She’d caught that they were locking things down in a hurry and figured that it might be easier to just follow instead.

“Our crap borrowed Pinto managed to mostly stay behind their pickup till we reached a downtown brick-and-boarded-windows warehouse, and a quick bit of illegal parking even left us discreetly close enough to watch the main entrance slam closed behind them.

“Now, listen, we’d already heard about what we’d find inside.

“See, one of the wannabe-tough-guy frenchmen had gotten into an occult pissing match with one of the mouthier stoners. Feeling like he had to outdo the student’s sleepy-eyed apparition, he’d told the kid the story of watching a parade float Marie Elise had ‘enchanted’ flatten a Volkswagen Rabbit.

“He insisted the whole thing was an accident, and apparently the guy inside the car, Etienne, didn’t think much of the float wandering at his rust bucket at half a mile an hour. Someone had left it in neutral and it was literally barely moving. Still, it kissed the side of the Rabbit and kept going. Pushed it across the warehouse floor and pinned it against a wall – then it began simultaneously crushing and running it over.

“Poor Etienne was inside screaming and screaming, watching the frame twist and crumple around him in slomo. I’m sure whatever was left of his body eventually found its way into one of the farmers’ pig troughs.

“It was only when the wall started to buckle that someone thought to put the thing in park.

“This was no halfassed affair either, as we discovered after we pried open a fire exit. It had a little enclosed cab for the driver, so there didn’t have to be a vehicle pulling it, from which rose a set of tiered stages large enough to hold a full choir. Above the platforms towered a fake tree, over whose peak flew Rudolph. The rest of the reindeer team followed behind him in a downward arc, and Santa’s heavy sleigh, clearly an actual antique, sat at the back of the rig.

“They were well into stacking on the wreaths, presents, staging, and whatever, but in places you could see that, across the bodywork beneath the cloth covers and fake cheer, Marie Elise had chalked on every religious, occult, and arcane symbol she could think of – and a bunch she made up to look impressive.

Coffin: Occult Audiofiction Podcast“I don’t know what those French meat handlers were worried about, they were probably having a bad year and pinning their hopes on the success of that expensive bit of advertising. Whatever the case, they were doing their best to take no chances. There were even two guys with shotguns and big grins wandering around avoiding doing any lifting.

“Cramming ourselves into a shadowy corner behind a palette full of boxes, we waited two hours.

“When they were done with the last minute priming and painting, Marie Elise herself arrived. She’d come to dedicate the thing, I assume, and she wafted in with two of her burlier faithful behind her. That brought the count to nine guys with rough hands and Ms. Boucher herself.

“Shrugging off a fur coat you definitely couldn’t get away with wearing these days, she climbed up beside Claus and talked for a while. I didn’t understand most of it, but I got the impression that, if it didn’t work as a promotional tactic, she was suggesting they might still use their new found tank to flatten whichever jerks they felt opposed them. At least, that’s what I think she meant with her squishing hand motions and forced laughter.

“When her mouth finally ran dry she moved around to the driver’s hatch and used the juggernaut to shove around a forklift a bit. I guessed any engine strong enough to carry a float was probably tough enough to do the job without mystical assistance, but it looked done with such ease that it really was sort of graceful and terrifying.

“When Marie Elise got out her smile had grown so large it cracked her thick red lipstick.

“With the engine still running, she started walking around the vehicle. I imagine such dramatic little tours were common, as her flock fell into a trailing semi circle and did their best to look attentive.

“They’d barely cleared the rear tail light when Sandy started sprinting.

“There was no warning, no whisper talking first, she just hit the cement with her sneaks on full.

“I was behind her like the IRS on a Jeopardy winner, and we crashed into the cab without slowing. Being first, she took the seat, and there was so little extra space I was left literally sitting partially on her lap. It still beat riding on top with old man Kringle.

“Sandy wasted no time in making an exit either. Her faith in Marie Elise’ markings was apparently greater than my own, because she immediately gunned the engine to a screaming twenty miles an hour, and, like a sloth pushing into a spiderweb, we exited via the eastmost wall.

“The meat men were in their pickups and on our ass almost immediately. Marie Elise pulled alongside screaming that we’d rot in hell for stealing her float – that she’d curse us and our children and our children’s children, and that she’d call down the wrath of God, Kar’Wick, Cthulhu, and H.R. Pufnstuf to smite us on the spot.

“She screamed until they took a shot at us, but the guy behind the wheel temporarily lost his nerve after it went wide and beheaded Blitzen.

“In the end, Sandy plowed into a closed Shell station simply to get away from her.

“Now, fun fact, unstoppable does not mean nonflammable. A flying bit of scrap must have sparked off of the sleigh struts, because, after being sprayed in gas, the fat man’s ride immediately burst into an inferno that crept its way along the harness and turned the whole thing into a reindeer barbecue.

“We popped through one side of a shuttered Chinese place, which then partially collapsed onto us. It didn’t slow our rampage, but it did go a long way towards scraping the ornamentation off the back.

“We were getting some speed by then too, and the ballcappers were starting to remember what had happened to poor Etienne.

“Now, maybe if Marie Elise had any real idea what she was doing, she could have pulled out some bad mojo and stopped us. As it was, she’d basically accidentally stumbled into exactly the right line work in one of her thousands of symbols she’d sketched – and if it wasn’t for the mystic juice she’d stored from hanging out with Roderick even that wouldn’t have been enough.

“Sandy ended it by slamming us into the side of a carwash and hitting the brakes. It was like a jet had crashed behind us – flaming wreckage and shattered masonry was everywhere – but she’d known she’d likely dislodge a pipe, and within seconds Marie Elise’s only working piece of craft was nothing more than a river of chalk pooling on top of a clogged drain.”

Bunny, who, based on the puddle of drool that had begun to form on the toilet seat adjacent to her mouth, Coffin wasn’t entirely sure was awake, lifted her head.

“The #### are you trying to say? If I work hard and eat my Wheaties instead of taking shortcuts I too can one day be a bat#### insane cult leader with a disregard for human life?” she asked.

“No,” he replied, “but I guess you could think of the liquor like that float – nothing anyone takes seriously at first, but it just keeps rolling and rolling without consideration for consequences because it seems so empowering in the moment. Or whatever.”

“I ####in’ knew it,” she said, “I shoulda had the ###damn The More You Know sound ready.”

Though its face was hidden behind a curtain of unrushed snowfall, outside the bathroom’s tiny window the moon had risen. Despite the hour, however, Bunny knew her body would continue to refuse to give her any rest.

Taking a sip of her water, she said, “tell me another.”

 

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.

FP360 – Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 1 of 2

Coffin: An occult audiofiction podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sity.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 1 of 2

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Skinner Co. store!

 

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 Davis, his recently sobering roommate, find themselves beside an ever-consuming maw.

 

Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 1 of 2

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

 

“I used to be able to tell myself I was being punished for overdoing it, but the ####’s the point of all this withdrawal puking and shaking if I don’t even get to drink first?” asked Bunny.

Dressed in a fuzzy pink bathrobe, a pair of black track pants, and a lizard-adorned t-shirt that read “In Godzilla We Trust,” she was resting her forehead against the cool porcelain of her apartment’s questionably cleaned toilet.

Coffin, still wearing his constant uniform of jeans and the leather jacket of his office, leaned back on his bathtub perch.

“Well,” he said, “as Socrates was supposedly fond of saying -” but his thought was interrupted by another bout of guttural grinding emanating from his roommate’s throat. The noise was soon chased by a fresh stream of yellow phlegm and stomach acid.

When Bunny was done she said, “shut up,” took in two ragged breaths, then, in a much smaller tone, added “tell me a story.”

“Let’s see,” answered Will, “In the winter of ‘83 or ‘84 Sandy and I were cooling off in Toronto after a kerfuffle with a murderous Santa manifestation – but that’s a different tale for a different time: the important thing is that we were wandering the mean streets of the great white north ahead of Christmas.

“You familiar at all with the Santa Claus Parade they put on? Kind of like Macy’s Thanksgiving without all the balloons.”

Bunny’s response was to groan and set her cheek on the flat expanse of the toilet seat, but with the hand that wasn’t supporting her weight she waved him on.

“Actually,” said Coffin, “let me step back: Sandy and I had read about these pothead cultists in a local rag. They weren’t proper cultists, really, but you’ve got to remember that real mystical incidents were extremely rare in the early ‘80s. Still, for some reason a dead guy by the name of Roderick had managed to make himself heard in the second bedroom of a student-ghetto apartment, and his booming otherworldly demands were fairly straight forward: He wanted the room hotboxed. The terrified, but fascinated, freshmen renting the place would hang out in there with red eyes and ragged throats, constantly smoking, but even their Cheech & Chong wannabe leader couldn’t keep up. Sometimes they’d just place joints next to fans and have them burn down like incense.

“Funnily enough, I doubt Roderick was feeling anything more than an ethereal placebo effect – but, after reading a mention of the situation in a photocopied zine Sandy bought for a quarter from a poetry major and tracking him down, we were certainly feeling the contact high.

“It was this tiny white room with a Battlestar Galactica blanket acting as a curtain for the single window and a black futon set against the wall. The only illumination was, I kid you not, a black light that lit up the galaxy of star stickers that had been scattered across the ceiling.

Coffin: An Occult Podcast“Walking into that box was like stepping into a greasy smelling cloud bank.

“‘What gifts have you brought?’ the room asked us, and it sounded like one of those movie trailer announcer guys talking. You know – ‘In a world where one hero will rise to change everything magical that was inside us all along,’ or whatever.

“Hell, I gotta admit, it had me suckered for a minute. Burning bushes and all that.

“Sandy had none of it though.

“Out came the ghost hook, and with one swoop she pulls this corduroy pants wearing, bowl-haircutted lanky goof from the floor.

“I felt for old Roderick; he had a stab wound in his neck, the shadow of a moustache, and the posture of a collapsed tree. Still, when he said, ‘let me go,’ I almost started laughing.

“It was like Shaggy from Scooby Doo had stolen James Earl Jones’ voice.

“We formed a little palaver circle, me, Sandy, Roderick, and the two students who’d met us at the door, and wasted the afternoon talking, drinking, and inhaling the atmosphere of the room.

“I’ve spent holidays in worse ways.

“Now, see, I would have tried weaning the pot first – see if proving to himself that he could go without his crutch would push him into moving on, but that would have taken weeks. It would have also been wrong.

“Sandy was always better at figuring people’s brains.

“She never forced the conversation, she would simply nudge it in the right direction. Finally Roderick broke down. It was his girlfriend who did him in with a knife in her hand after he couldn’t be roused to explain how he’d smoked his half of their month’s rent. He’d been trying to end it for months, and I guess it was his passive-aggressive attempt at convincing her to get angry enough to leave.

“After maybe an hour of passing the peace pipe, Sandy put on her Hear Me Now tone and ended the giggling.

“‘Accountability is a tough gig,’ she said, with her red-eyes focused entirely on Roderick. ‘You spend your days chuckling and craving twinkies, but you think these kids can afford to keep this room fogged like it’s a set from Frankenstein? You need to straighten up, take responsibility for yourself, and get your ass to the other side.’

“That was all it took, seconds later he’d said his Darth Vader goodbyes and disappeared.

“Frankly, I think the undergrads were relieved. She was right that it couldn’t have been a cheap haunting to maintain. Poor schmucks, if they’d been the ones to have the talk and make him feel bad maybe they’d have sent him off before he’d burned down their bank accounts. They were friendly enough delinquents, but they couldn’t seem to take responsibility for the situation. Tough to make that sort of effort when you’re worried about the unknown I guess.

“Anyhow, they rolled in celebration, of course, and chatter turned to how they were happy that, though they’d lose some notoriety around campus, at least Marie Elise Boucher wouldn’t be making further visits.

“That’s when we first heard about the imposter and her cadre of hard-faced French farmers.

“Marie Elise and her murderous Christmas float are really what I’m trying to get at.”

“Yeah,” replied Bunny, “I’m sure all that bull#### about needing to make effort and take responsibility was nothing but a diverting sidetrack, Aesop.”

“Wait till I get to the flaming reindeer,” answered Will.

First, however, he paused to refill her curly strawed water glass.

 

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.

FP357 – Coffin: Thirst, Part 1 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Thirst, Part 1 of 2

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.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Quarter Bin

 

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 irritated but abstaining apprentice, are asked to serve an eviction notice.

 

Coffin: Thirst, Part 1 of 2

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

 

The townhouse was center-left in a row of ten identical partners, and the short cement path leading from the sidewalk was in need of shoveling. The metal screen had protested extensively as Coffin pulled it further into the winter wind, but its howls were lost under his companion’s stream of profanity.

“So ####ing cold I could chip my toes off and use ‘em to chill scotch,” she was saying, as Mercy Curry finally answered her insistent doorbell riding.

A week of sobriety had done much for Bunny’s awareness of the world around her, but little for her temper.

The home’s interior was lit only by cloud-filtered gray sunlight, and several of the windows were open to the frosty exterior. Still, Bunny’s stepping onto the black and red welcome mat adorning the front hall’s linoleum floor was like pushing her way through a wall of heat.

“The furnace is off, but the place is thickly insulated and we get some warmth from the neighbours on either side,” explained Mercy, as she led them into the kitchen. “I thought it was a good thing till I started having to cook on all four burners while the bread maker, Crock-Pot, and oven were also on – and never mind the cost. Thinking about this month’s power bill makes me want to cry – that is, cry more.”

Coffin cleared his throat and eyed a brimming saucepan of what appeared to be Campbell’s tomato soup.

“You’ve taken the boy to a doctor?” he asked.

“It was actually Doctor Coleman who recommended you,” the mother replied as she pulled a bubbling pan of cheddar-laden macaroni and cheese from the stove’s dragon-hot maw.

Coffin: An occult audiofiction podcastColeman was a hack who operated the city’s cheapest walk-in clinic. She saw more patients in a month than a proper hospital MD would in a year, and Coffin had dealt with her twice in the past over ailments she’d been unable to explain.

She’d accepted the existence of gnomes surprisingly well.

He nodded.

As Mercy waved a green oven mitt across the cooling pasta, she added, “it says that it’ll go when it’s had its fill.”

“I used to say the same about my vodka habit,” muttered Bunny.

Will leaned against the counter and the hem of his leather jacket brushed, unnoticed, through a dune of flour.

“What you’re dealing with can be translated to ‘a house imp’ in English. It’s a floating sort of – not a possession, but an inhabitation. They’re supposed to keep moving, always snatching a little bit of food. They’re the reason you’ll have a meal every now and then that leaves you feeling hungry. Supposedly they’re especially fond of Chinese.”

To his partner, he added, “Blackhall had to deal with one that – er, let’s just hope this isn’t so bad a mess.”

* * *

Lamont’s room, on the second floor, was quiet and neat. Pushing open the door with her cooling pyrex tray, Mercy had lead the way, with Bunny and Coffin following close behind.

A muted TV in the corner was silently unspooling Godzilla, and a large Jaws poster watched over the bed in which the child lay wet cheeked and chewing.

Sweating now, Bunny gave an approving grunt to the boy’s taste in films, then turned her gaze to the youth himself.

“He looks thin for ten,” she said, “but not like cancer patient thin.”

Setting the macaroni on his dresser, Mercy handed across a soccer team photo saying, “Lamont’s in the middle. He plays goalie.”

“#### me,” replied Bunny. “Yeah, I guess you’re going to have to start moving a little quicker to stop the ball, kid.”

Before his apprentice could further insult their employer’s offspring, Coffin addressed Lamont directly.

“Swallow, then say ‘ahh’ – I want to chat with your visitor.”

Lamont nodded, his furrowed chin intent on preventing tears while strangers were about.

Leaning his head against his pillow, he widened his lips.

“Good, good,” echoed a screeching voice from within, “the Coffin is here. Is your alcoholic sidekick with you too, flatfoot?”

Will gave a half-turn, expecting his roommate to make her own reply, but Bunny held her tongue.

Misinterpreting his raised eyebrow, the imp continued. “Surprised I knew about her tippling? I get around – or at least I used to, if you know what I mean – but every goblin and grave dweller in the city says the same.

“Frankly, I’m astonished you even had time to come check on little ol’ me. As I hear it, the sky is falling around you – and, really, shouldn’t you be hitting the bricks? What you going to do here, John Law, reach in with your shiny hook and try to pull me out like one of your ghosts?

“Find a pier if you wanna go fishing, I’ll move when I’ve had my fill of Mercy’s amazing grub.”

In an only half-listening tone, Coffin replied, “it’s been a while since she’s had a drink.”

“Hey pal,” chittered the imp, “I’ve leached enough cheap whiskey from people leaving church basements to know there’s no such thing as an ex-alcoholic.”

The entity delivered the line with a tone so sugared it threatened his audience with diabetes.

Bunny snapped.

Stepping close enough to pry the boy’s teeth wide, she peered within. There, at the bottom of his red and swollen throat, was a window looking in from the upper-corner of a well-appointed study.

The tormentor appeared to be a finely dressed man of slender build, with his long black hair pulled into a tight bun and his tweed suit jacket hung upon the leftmost of the two red velvet chairs that furnished the space.

This was the extent of his veneer of civility, however.

His face, from nose to chin, was encrusted with a mat of food, some apparently half-chewed, and his waistcoat was so caked with haphazard gluttony that its original colour was indecipherable.

Gobs of browning slop had been tossed across the dead-eyed painted portraits hanging on the wood paneled walls, and the bookshelf that dominated the right side of her view was covered in an array of boiled vegetation.

Seeing her disgust, the unrelenting transient gave a used car salesman’s smirk.

“It ain’t your smart mouth that bothers me,” said Bunny. “To me, you and booze are about the same ####ing thing – just a ####-gobbling parasite.”

“No, you know what really yanks my ####ing goat, you god#### Hungry Hungry Hipster? I’m never getting back the twenty years that I barely remember. I won’t experience those people or places or moments again, and I wouldn’t recognize them if I could because I was so ####ing wasted the first time through.”

“That’s nice, though I don’t much care to hear your -” began the demon, but it was Bunny’s turn to smile.

There was no joy in her grin, and as she began to talk over him her voice gathered a train’s momentum.

“Did I ask a question at some point, you vomit chewing Easy-Bake fondler? Cause what I’m telling you is that I’ve wasted two decades on fermented ####ing fruit juices, and I’m plenty in the mood to spend the next few days screaming down this brat’s throat if it’ll do him some good.

”You think you’re ####ing hungry? I got a flood of opinions you can chew on, ya greasy ####ing #### eater. Let’s start with the god#### spiral cluster#### that is your ####ty taste in decor…”

Ten minutes later Will and Bunny had shaken hands with the joyfully-teary Currys and were back on the street. He was carrying a set of dusty golf clubs he intended to pawn, and she a new-found sense of pride.

It was impossible to say where the imp had relocated himself to, but Bunny felt confident that the ringing in his ears would act as a lingering reminder of their authority.

It wasn’t the end of their troubles, but it certainly made the next fifteen minutes of sobriety easier.

 

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.

FP345 – Blow: A Bunny Davis Tale

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present Blow: A Bunny Davis Tale, Part 1 of 1

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 Nutty Bites!

 

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 encounter Bunny Davis with monkeys on her back, and her shaman friend nowhere in sight.

 

Blow: A Bunny Davis Tale

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

 

It was painfully early and Bunny was painfully sober.

Her walk had carried her past two separate Wal-Mart outlets, both of which she’d swore at loudly; a six car rush-hour fender bender, the drivers of which she’d shouted down; and Capital City’s own mayor doing a live feed business opening for the local cable station’s morning show.

In that instance, she’d been so annoyed at having to maneuver around the crowd that, as his comically-large scissors descended on the red ribbon strung over the KFC’s doors, she’d vigorously told the posturing idiot what a shitty job he was doing.

The initial moment of the first distraction had been almost welcome though.

Two blocks beyond the opening she’d been brought to a halt at a throaty, “hello.”

The stranger was perhaps five years her elder, but the hints of gray in his hair worked to make his handlebar moustache nearly respectable. His blazer was worn enough to come across as vintage, but the Zeppelin t-shirt he wore beneath was clean enough to keep him from looking like a vagrant.

Tucking the little wooden box deeper into the crook of her right armpit, she paused and replied, “yeah?”

It was his smile that fucked it up.

Years earlier she’d driven a cab, for a few weeks, to make rent. The hours she was given left her mostly in the downtown area, ferrying suits between office skyscrapers. They all had the same ritual as they stepped onto the pavement – a sort of tug-and-tighten they would give their ties and jackets as they exited. Watching them she could tell that most didn’t even realize they were doing it. Practice had made it habit.

She’d quit the job because she couldn’t stand the paperwork junkies’ shitty tipping, and the assholes who ran the stand wouldn’t let a woman work nights.

Now, watching Handlebar pull on his lazy, aren’t-you-special grin, she could see the routine in it as clearly as any one of the execs’ last second preening.

A Skinner Co. Production“Oh,” he answered, “you know – it’s a nice morning. The kind that makes me wanna say hello to pretty ladies passing through the neighbourhood.”

It pissed her off more, somehow, that she knew she looked like shit that morning. Despite days of exhaustion, she’d slept no more than two hours before the maddening stability of sobriety had driven her from her bed. An additional sixty minutes of rattling around the apartment without managing to wake Will had pushed her into her sneakers and through the door.

Still, as Tim had told her every time he’d quit and restarted drinking, “a fisher’s gonna fish.”

“Huh,” she said, as her feet regained momentum. “Have a good’un.”

Before she could carry herself beyond conversational range, however, he asked, “aw, c’mon sweetie, you ain’t got five minutes to talk?”

“Nope.”

“Hey, no need to be bitchy.”

Her mother would have told the jackass to “blow.” She could almost see the way the woman’s curled mouth dropped the word like a stone – but the response was out of bounds for Bunny. The comeback was all too predictable from these sorts of idiots. No, for today’s hovering sidewalk vulture you had to reach deep.

With the sun shining in her all-too-clear eyes, Bunny had no problem finding the anger to dig.

She stopped and opened the case.

“#####y?” she asked. ”Up until now this was the politest ####ing conversation I’d had so far today. I told the guy in the Honda, who called me a ####bag when I suggested he not yell at his ####ing twelve-year-old, that he’d spend the last seconds of his life giving himself a rim job after I peeled off his ####ing head and worked his tongue like Jim ####ing Henson.

“I don’t ####ing know you, and this ain’t a ####ing online dating site.

“Your bull#### flirtation is just an annoyance, though, until you start pullin’ the excuses – and that’s exactly what bitch is, right? Because it’s gotta be me being pissy and not the fact that your douchebaggery is apparent even to passing ####ing strangers.”

She imparted a final a consideration into the belly of his inappropriate-for-the-season t-shirt, then left.

Soon he was watching the city burn to the ground around him.

The next interruption flew down from the stoop of a brick apartment building that looked to have been built during the ‘70s, but recently re-polished and rented at a price only trust funders and overworked yuppies could afford.

“Hey, smile,” said the slow voiced polo shirt. He was sorting his mail as he spoke.

“What?” she asked.

“You’d look even prettier if you’d smile,” he replied.

“Well, while we’re trading beauty tips,” she replied, “you’d look a lot less like a puckered ###hole with your mouth shut.”

“Hey, I was trying to be helpful.”

“Yeah? Is this one of those shows where you ambush me then go through my wardrobe next and tell me what ####’s not in style? Because I generally don’t take advice from random ####adoos wearing tiny alligators on their shirts.

“Now, if this #### isn’t about to get televised, I’d suggest you show some ####ing respect. If unknown people – generally on your worst sort of days – came up to you randomly and commanded you to lose that ####ing golf gut, you’d get pretty pissed. You’ve got a wedding ring on, and I’m not a ####ing public service sent to your ####hole neighbourhood to beautify the place, so keep your tips for ####ing Cosmo.”

He shrugged and muttered, “bitch.”

“Oh, #### it,” she replied, again opening the case.

Bunny waited long enough to realize the wannabe fashion consultant was being attacked by a pack of feral homeless men, then she proceeded towards home.

The walk’s third, and last, interloper made no effort to disguise his intentions.

“Hey,” he said from the entrance way of a two-pizzas-for-the-price-of-one dive called The Deepest Slice, “you look pretty tired, wanna come have a sit on my face?”

Having spent most of her fury across the entirety of the morning, she answered in an equally direct fashion.

“You kiss your sister with that mouth?” she asked. “‘Cause if you don’t start talking to me only in the way you’d talk to your sister or mom, I swear to #### I will reach down your throat with two hands and sell your organs to the pie-man for pepperoni meat.”

“Jesus,” replied the commentator in the Oakland Raiders jacket, “lighten up. I was joking.”

“####ing hilarious. Now it’s my turn.”

She’d discovered the blowgun’s wooden box, and the handwritten note within, while pulling volumes from the apartment’s hallway bookshelf. At some point it must have been set on top of a row of hardcovers, but, at some point, it had fallen behind the tomes and hidden.

The missive was direct but informative:

A curiosity imported from the Pacific. There appears to be no occult connection, but the poison on each missile brings on violent hallucinations for hours after impact. No long term effects recorded, though the drunk next door is now unwilling to talk to me.

In all honesty, if I never hear from the man again the full dollar I used to coax him into the experiment will be worth every cent.

Though the device is fit but to repel home intruders, or to liven particularly dull luncheons, use it wisely.

Blackhall          

Bunny had just been guessing at the cat-caller’s family make-up, but the man’s cheeks were soon slick with tears, and his throat ragged from begging his older sister, Lorelei, to not make him wear the tea party shoes.

“My toes, my toes are bleeding LoreLore – why are you making them bleed?” he was asking the air, from a fetal position on the pavement, when she finally strolled away.

Twenty minutes later, as Bunny dug for the passkey that would let her into her building’s lobby, she couldn’t help but feel like she’d certainly used the device with maximum wisdom.

 

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

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.

FP342 – Coffin: Shifter, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Shifter, Part 3 of 3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Dead Ends

 

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 unusually sober roommate, discover the truth regarding the werewolf factory.

 

Coffin: Shifter, Part 3 of 3

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

 

The teenage werewolf had used the term ‘factory,’ but Bunny hadn’t understood the implications until they were idling alongside the brick and glass exterior of a hundred-year-old warehouse on the west side of Capital City.

To ease the anxiety of the drive she’d taken to free associating a list of every type of alcohol she’d ever consumed, starting with her earliest stolen sips of Popov. She’d been amazed at both the size of the catalog and her ability to recall any of it, but the red brick shadows had stolen any amusement she’d provided herself.

CoffinShe said, “you realize this is the ####hole every ‘70s movie mob boss used to kill the flunkies who’d failed them, right? I mean, hell, I’m for busting some ghosts and all that ####, but these sorts of places are usually union.

“I’m as happy to kick Slimer’s ass as the next person, but I don’t #### with union guys.”

Outside, two men in white hooded sweaters pushed open a side door and scurried to the gate that held the ambulance at the road. Once they’d unfurled the lock and chain, the pair paced the front wheels to the yawning maw of a loading dock.

Bunny did not enjoy watching the building swallow the vehicle whole, nor was she encouraged to see the rusting metal shutter roll down behind them.

“Now what?” Coffin asked the nearest of his paramedic captives. “Do they usually come to you, you to them?”

“They will arrive for the gurney,” answered the demonic mimic from behind his bloodied mask. His face had paled beyond the simple pastiness Bunny had noted at their first meeting.

Even as he spoke, another ivory clad duo appeared from within a grimy-windowed office in the rear of the warehouse, but the newcomers’ patient tread gave Will and Bunny a moment to survey their situation.

The structure could have been any poorly maintained factory from the era before electronics. Its cement floor was stained with ancient grease, and the massive chamber’s paint had peeled to such an extent that there was more bare stone showing than lizard green. The roof was held aloft by visibly splitting timber, and in places the tiling had given up under the weather’s pressure.

Despite the conditions, Coffin counted at least twenty frost-uniformed figures labouring among the shipping containers, industrial equipment, and work benches that lined the walls.

Beside the lopsided office leaning in the corner stood a series of twelve thick cubes, each four feet high by seven feet deep and faced with a porthole hatch. Over each entry was a panel of glass that, at least for the moment, seemed to look only into darkness.

Jeffrey, the boy they’d saved, had called the array “the kennels.”

The center of the space was dominated by a long assembly line. Bunny – though tempted to point out she’d often seen the same sort of chrome rollers used to shuffle off beer cases full of empties – had been cut short by the discovery of something unexpected. At the line’s head, posed in such a variety of states of distress that it reminded her of an art college student’s tableau commenting on the nature of beast and man, stood at least six dozen translucent werewolves.

“###damn,” she said, “it’s the DTs. I knew this was gonna ####in’ happen. I’m too ####ing sober and I’m seeing ####.”

As she spoke the ambulance’s doors swung wide, and the smell of rotting meat flooded the sterile pocket of medical equipment.

Inspecting the greeters, another snatch of teen-wolf’s description returned to Bunny: “The cultists all dress alike. Bulky white hooded sweatshirts, oversized white or light grey track pants with elastics at the ankle, and the sort of semi-disposable sneakers you can buy at Walmart for less than the cost of a Big Mac meal. Their hoods are usually pulled low over their eyes, and their mouths are covered by a filter mask – the kind of thing people on TV wear while dry walling. The mask has a plastic white grill on its front, and it projects from their faces, almost like an animal snout.”

Coffin’s reaction, however, was to drop his right hand into the pocket that held the Crook of Ortez – the occult talisman whose very purpose was to raise the dead – while his left came up to scratch his chin.

“So,” he said, “this is what you Kar’Wick worshiping spider-fondlers are wearing these days? Not exactly the cloaks and robes of yesteryear, is it?”

“Fuck,” answered the baritone voice on the left, “it’s the Coffin.”

“Call Barger,” replied the soft soprano on the right.

“Who?” asked Will.

The pair spun and began to sprint away without further discussion.

“That’s right you run, you ####in’ Island of Dr. Moreau rejects,” shouted Bunny – then, to Will, she added, “I see they’ve heard of us. Maybe this won’t be such a pain in the ass after all.”

In reality the news of their arrival landed amongst the cultists in one of two ways: Approximately half of the group summoned a sudden trajectory towards the opposite emergency exit, while those who remained produced a glistening throng of identical six-inch stilettos.

Their daggers’ thin blades were silver, and their hilts were wrapped in rough red cloth.

It took seconds for the attackers to close the distance, but it was a wide enough gap to introduce another surprise: The captive paramedics stepped from their vehicle and placed themselves at Coffin’s side.

They’d removed their cloth surgeons masks, and their jaws flared with the freedom. Their gaping twelve inch mouths revealed descending rings of teeth, both with a blue worm-like tongue thrashing at the spirals’ center.

If it were not for the cracked canines across the cheek of the rightmost, Bunny would not have been able to tell the thin-limbed men apart. Still, she was happy that they were facing the approaching mob and not herself.

After a quick search for a weapon, she came up empty, so, sidling slightly behind the nearest EMT, she did her best to look mad. In light of her sobriety, it took little effort.

The violence was brief.

The carnivore in need of dental work was able to shatter the knife-arm of the lead man, but the white-clad Kar’Wickian at his side found purchase in the monster’s belly with his blade.

At the sight of his injured comrade, the silent shark-faced driver howled. The noise, a warbling shriek that echoed with the frustration of a thousand years spent stranded and starving on a plane of existence it had never asked to visit, was enough to slow the advancing wall of thugs – then the werewolves were on them.

Coffin had taken up position astride the rear of the ambulance, and the Crook of Ortez cut a steady arc through the air about his head. The tools influence, with the strength lent to it by the moist plug of flesh caught at the center of its complex hook, was enough to raise the spirit of each of the sixty-eight wolfen victims.

The motley collection of former street sleepers and abandoned teens could not have explained how it was that their corporeal existence had been suddenly restored to them, they knew simply that it was an opportunity for revenge, and they took it.

Then, for a time, there was only ripping flesh and the screams of the dying.

Before the ethereal beings of ragged fur and yellow claws could fully dismember their prey, however, Coffin lowered his talisman, ensnaring the Crook’s velocity in his palm.

Those who would soon be corpses fell instantly, and the smell of freshly spilt blood, mingling with the laboured final breaths of those unfortunate enough to still be living, was all that marked the passage of the apparitions.

Will could not tell if their quickly fading howls reflected frustration or joy, but the answer would have to come later – there were more important matters at hand.

He levelled a finger at the remaining paramedic, who was now rocking the form of his fallen companion in his arms. “I’ll decide if your friends’ sacrifice is enough to keep you from joining him later. You’ve got ten minutes to help yourself to the buffet, then we’re going to need a ride home.”

Bunny was already two steps ahead as he began to move towards the kennels.

She had no interest in waiting around to watch the snacking.

The tiny cells that had been used to hold those the factory workers had infected with lycanthropy were, unfortunately, empty.

Still peering into one of the dark viewing ports, Coffin said, “the same full moon that made Jeffrey change must have marked the harvest time for their last batch.”

“####,” replied Bunny. A dozen “hairy situation” jokes came to mind, but none of them seemed appropriate.

The silence from biting her tongue, though, only meant having to listen to the vigorous wet snapping that was emanating from behind her.

She suggested they check the office, but, before she’d finished rifling the desk, the rolling shutter at the far end of the floor let out a groaning complaint and retracted.

She expected a SWAT team, or at least six minivans full of cultists, but instead a single black BMW pulled confidently onto the cement and parked adjacent to the emergency vehicle. Three passengers exited. Each wore a suit, one carried a pistol.

“Stay here,” said Coffin, so, even as he moved to meet the newcomers, the drunk returned to her search.

“Even cultists gotta have a stash of J-####ing-D, right?” she asked the stacks of paperwork and rotting technical manuals that littered the space. As if by request, the next drawer revealed, beneath a perfectly arranged set of white sweats, an unopened bottle of Wild Turkey.

She sighed.

The gray-haired woman wearing the most expensively cut of the suits did all the talking.

“Will Coffin?” she asked.

“The Coffin is fine,” he replied.

Her fingernails were a natural pink, but gleamed with expert care.

His hands remained deeply planted in the worn pockets of his leather jacket.

“I was wondering when you’d stumble across this little operation,” she said. “I’ve heard you’re a man who can be reasoned with. A man who understands that his title comes with some discretion – and some benefits.

“Now, I am not blind to the history of animosity between our organizations, but we are no longer a mere cult – I mean, really, what is a cult? A bunch of people gathered together to work towards a shared purpose? The concept certainly sounds like a business to me – and that’s what we are now: A business. In the last year this operation alone took in over three million dollars.”

Will raised a brow, but said nothing. The woman continued.

“You doubt me? The hides are the big ticket item, of course, but they are also the easiest to ship. Fur is murder, but it’s not illegal. You would be hard pressed to convince any customs people that the dog-faced skins we ship to Chinese medicine men are anything more than rabbit-based knockoffs.

“We waste no part of the were-buffalo, though. The whole process is carried out on a tray so that even the blood can be collected for use in sacred texts – at a thousand dollars a vial.

“You should see the line in action: From the sound of the enchanted bolt gun down to a skeleton at the end of the conveyor belt in under ten minutes.

“Anyhow, my point is that I understand the nature of death and taxes.

“As I said, this is a profitable venture, but profit is meant to be shared. I recognize that you have some claim to this market, and I’d much rather pay taxes than wage death.

“If you will accept a yearly sum of one hundred-fifty thousand surely there is no reason for us to continue this passé war against you and your slovenly sidekick?

“Take the money and leave that slum you live in, Mr. Coffin.”

“The Coffin,” he insisted. His right hand was again wrapped round with the Crook of Ortez, and his left now moved to a deep pocket in the interior of his jacket.

She snorted. “You will be IN a Coffin if you don’t – is that smoke?”

Even from across the broad floor, Bunny recognized her cue. “####ing suits! Kill three of you sons of dog ####ers and five more’ll come around in your place suing for damages. Burn your ####ing #### down though – well, that’s a ####ing matter for the cops, and just the ####tiest sort of industry regulation, ain’t it? And what you think they’ll make of these bits of dead albino-dressing mother####ers on the ground?

“I’m pretty sure that ####’s gonna require a #### ton of paperwork. You may have to work the weekend.

”Still wasn’t worth a bottle of Turkey to set, but desperate times and all that ####.”

“What are two more bodies if we’ve already got to explain this many?” replied the woman.

Bunny frowned.

“Forget it, just shoot them,” the suit told her underlings. She then turned.

The pistol raised, and the Phantom Ambulance roared to life with its sirens in full effect. Jackknifing backwards, the full force of its thick engine – meant for high speed response and emergency reaction – pinned the gunman to the BMW’s passenger-side wheel.

There was a brief grinding of gears, but, before the vehicle could align itself for a second hit, the two remaining Kar’Wickians abandoned their gurgling associate and dove for their car.

If they had not left the gate wide they would not have made it.

“Did you just burn everything that might tell me where to look for these jackasses?” asked Coffin, as he gave a nod to the idling, and re-masked, paramedic.

“Nope,” replied Bunny, who retrieved a thick sheaf of paper from the waistline of her jeans.

For a moment the pair stood, side by side, watching the flames gather along the office’s makeshift ceiling.

When it began to climb into the splintered rafters, Coffin asked, “Dorsets?”

Bunny shrugged. “Nah. Maybe later, maybe not. At the moment I feel like James Brown after a twelve-hour angel dust concert. I need a ####ing nap.”

Seconds later they were back on the road and headed home – but, she reflected, at least they didn’t have to stop for traffic lights.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

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

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.

FP341 – Coffin: Shifter, Part 2 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Shifter, Part 2 of 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.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Skinner Co.

 

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 unusually sober roommate, find themselves transported from the mundane to the occult after encountering a grim accident scene.

 

Coffin: Shifter, Part 2 of 3

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

 

CoffinHe’d rung the bell, but Will Coffin wasn’t interested in getting off at the glass and steel shelter at the end of the block.

He wanted out immediately.

With his eyes still on the blinking lights of the ambulance that was sliding by the bus’ right side, and in a tone too low to be heard by all but the closest passengers, he said, “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon.”

Bunny on the other hand, despite being fully prepared to give up her sobriety for a good four hours, had been dry for the previous seventy-six.

Her thirsty preoccupation had kept her mind busy, and she simply hadn’t noticed the unusual amount of muttering from Will. Her distraction meant missing that he was perhaps as agitated as she’d ever seen him, as his irritation was magnified, through her interminable sobriety, into a mental fire that she was convinced would only be quenched by a river of hard liquor.

Her eyes were locked on the neon bar sign opposite the ambulance. Even a place named De Basement, with its doorway crowded by college students and its all-female wait staff in
short-shorts, seemed inviting.

Coffin began tapping at the chrome bar beside the exit.

It was all the encouragement she needed.

“Oh, ####,” she said in a grinding screech uniquely manageable by addicts in withdrawal, “stop the bus: I’m going to #### myself.”

Thirty seconds later they were on the pavement, and there was nothing, to Bunny’s thinking, that could keep her from beelining directly towards one of the hot-pantsed blondes beyond the faux-graffitied window – at least until Will began running, full tilt.

Even Captain Morgan’s call couldn’t keep her from pausing to watch his unexpected trajectory.

It was the snap and crunch of the paramedic’s nose that finally, temporarily, pushed her need from her mind.

She was nearly as surprised by Coffin’s tight fisted haymaker as the masked EMT seemed to be.

Will had landed three more blows by the time she caught up.

As Coffin again pulled back his fist, which she could now see was wrapped in the silver links of the Crook of Ortez, a second figure emerged from the emergency vehicle’s driver-side door.

Behind his thin frame Bunny could see – shunted against the curb as if it had intended to park in the left-hand turning lane – a shattered Passat. Its side panels had collapsed like cancer-shrunken cheeks, and the traffic edging past was forced to tread over the shattered safety glass of its windshield and the slow bleeding-out of its transmission fluid.

The truck that the wannabe drunk assumed had caused the damage was stationed in a 7-11’s parking lot on the opposite corner. The delivery vehicle’s chrome grill was slightly tarnished, but the majority of the damage seemed to have been done to the driver’s psyche. The twenty-something was pacing the sidewalk and brushing blond strands from his face while interrogating his cell.

The Passat’s driver had been less lucky.

The woman, whose coiled black hair had partially slipped loose of the tie that had held it back, was lying on a stretcher in the open back of the ambulance. Despite the surrounding burr of motors, gawkers, and pedestrians, she could hear the accident victim’s ragged breathing and intermittent mumbles.

Motioning at the newcomer, Coffin shook his captive’s neck and said, “get her down from there. Now.”

The gathered rubberneckers were beginning to produce phone cameras with which to record the bout, and Bunny noted a thick-jawed man of forty taking Will’s measure.

Before the good Samaritan could consider rushing the shaman, however, Bunny raised her voice.

“This guy is a crazy magician,” she said, “you best #### off before he turns your #### into a toad or something.”

As she’d intended, it sounded just insane enough to cause the crowd to take a step back.

In another thirty seconds she was riding in the rear of the ambulance as sirens chased them from the crash scene.

Turning from the rear window, and the injured woman who’d been left on her rolling cot at the street’s center, Coffin shrugged. “That’ll be the actual paramedics.”

“So who the #### are these St. Elsewhere ###holes then?” asked Bunny.

Will examined his hostage’s blue EMT uniform and now-bloody surgical mask, then gave the man a look that seemed to dare him to answer.

The stranger only broke his gaze to stare at the floor, and his second, behind the wheel, offered nothing more than a gentle right turn as he aimlessly drove on.

“Consider this rig,” said Coffin. “Capital City hasn’t seen a working meat wagon like this in over a decade. This is the Phantom Ambulance, and these idiots are too focused on cruising to keep their equipment current.

“Normally they drift around, hunting accidents. They find you and they pick you off the pavement and they whisper to you that you’re almost to the hospital. They drive you in circles – out of town and back again. If they get ahold of your license they’ll deliberately sail through your neighbourhood, simply to take a peek.

“They drive, and maybe you occasionally catch them sniffing the dressings they’re using to clean off your blood, and maybe sometimes you wonder if one of them just licked your arm.”

He paused as the silver links of the chain wound about his right palm gave a grinding complaint, and the bird chest of the fake emergency worker appeared to dwindle a further two inches.

Will continued.

“Then, when there’s no more misery to whet their appetite with, they unhinge their jaw and place your hand inside. They’ve got five circular rows of teeth behind those masks, and with enough effort they can work their way through bone.

“They sort of flap their heads back and forth as they do it. It reminded me of watching a dog with a chew toy.”

Bunny’s own fists had become knotted. She wanted to ask how many more murderers she’d have to face before someone would just give her a bottle, but, instead, she said, “####ing around with their lunch for hours sounds more like a cat.

“I ####ing hate cats.”

“The real question,” continued Will, “is what has caused these parasites to break a decades-old pact? A treaty I only signed as a favour to my now dead wife?”

His focus was now entirely on the monster wearing white latex gloves.

“I am the Coffin. The Coffin. I have done my best to be reasonable, but clearly the members of this district need a reminder that I am not in the business of coddling otherworldly flesh eaters.

“To quote the words: ‘they will know my business is death and they will see my passage as oblivion.’”

“We heard you’d fled the city,” stammered the bleeding accused. “I mean, she – it was an accident. We’re sorry, we just slipped.”

Bunny could see his partner’s vigorous agreement through the gap separating the cab from the array of plastic-wrapped medical equipment.

She snorted and asked, “what are the runaways and day labourers you’ve been hired to haul out to the west side of town? Every single one of those a ####ing mistake too?”

She hadn’t been paying much attention to teen-wolf’s explanation, but it was coming back to her now in snatches, and if she had to be miserable so did everyone else – and, really, if #### had to roll downhill, who better to be at the bottom than some shark-faced serial killers?

The blue eyes widened beyond human comfort, and a single red tear slid along the carnivore’s cheek.

“Oh,” she said, “we know all about your goddamn dog pound. You’re gonna need a real ####in’ ambulance by the time this is over.”

Coffin nodded. “You will take us to the lycanthrope factory if you have any interest in not suffering for the entirety of whatever little existence I leave you.”

The silent impersonator at the wheel did not need the instructions repeated.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

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

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.

FP340 – Coffin: Shifter, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty.

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

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Libr8: A Continuum 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 unusually sober roommate, must contend with a distraught mother, unquenched thirst, and a teenage boy going through unexpected changes.

 

Coffin: Shifter, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Bunny was ten feet from being an ex-ex-drunk. She was feeling like she was getting the hang of giving things up, and she had just the whiskey in mind to quit quitting.

The problem was that there was a woman waiting with one arm on Dorset’s oak-plank bar. Her neatly ironed purple-cloth raincoat and sleek black handbag did not belong under the establishment’s dim lights.

Flash Pulp: CoffinThe stranger would have been nothing more than a curiosity to Bunny if she hadn’t looked into her eyes, then directly over her shoulder to Coffin’s face. It was obvious she recognized them.

Not just Coffin – them.

“What?” asked Bunny, only to wince at her own abruptness. If she was getting a reputation as something other than a liquor-head she’d have to ease a little more into the patter. “I mean – what can we do for you?”

Brushing chunky blond highlights from her eyes, the woman began, “I, uh, Jeffrey, my son – he’s fourteen – went missing -”

Bunny’s patience was instantly lost, and she said, “we don’t do missing people cases.”

She’d almost simply said, “we don’t do living people cases,” but she knew, from experience gained while sitting on the now-nothing-but-ash bench in front of the Eats’N’Treats, that Coffin had a specific aversion to teenage runaway cases.

“Even when there’s some mystic reason to bother,” he’d said, “it takes forever. Worse, you almost always end up locating some weeping long-haired ghost in a highway side ditch, and their problems are so entangled it takes another forever just to pry them out.”

The thirsty drunk was five feet from being able to order from Dorset in a tone reasonable for the place’s hush, and the blocking interloper looked like enough of an iced-green-tea sipping yoga addict to topple over backwards if she were to simply football-straight arm into her.

Bunny took a step forward.

“No,” said the woman she was now thinking of as Downward Dog, “he’s back now. The problem is that he’s – uh -”

The forward motion had carried Bunny within range for the woman to lay a french manicured hand on the frayed collar of her denim jacket, and the pleading mother set her glossed lips close to Bunny’s long-unshowered ear.

“He’s a werewolf,” she finished. “Not, like, always, but the moon, you know – he’s locked in the bathroom right now. He won’t stop howling.”

Dozens of late night viewings of The Howling flashed through Bunny’s mind, as well as every bruise from Tim she’d ignored with a viewing An American Werewolf in London.

Finally her mind landed on the vaguest of memories, one of her oldest, when her grandfather had taken her out for a rare treat: A midday matinee rerun of Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man. Afterwards the shadow of every tree lining the heat-baked road, even in the afternoon sun, had seemed to conceal a hairy faced gent with vicious fingernails.

“Well, ####, that’s different,” she said. “Lead on to this wannabe Michael J. Fox.”

* * *

Bunny commandeered the passenger seat of the Subaru, but it was Coffin who mentioned that they’d need to make a quick stop at their apartment – and that he’d need some cash upfront to cover expenses.

The conversation turned to fees from there, and Bunny could tell from her roommate’s tone that the shaman thought the outing was easy money. By the time he’d extracted the necessary background information, and they’d settled on a price, the Outback was sitting in a Whole Foods parking lot.

“Wait here,” he’d told Stephanie, the fretting mother, as he pocketed a twenty and stepped from the SUV.

Bunny’s sneakers beat his feet to the pavement.

“You hardly bothered haggling her past the signed Banksy print she says she has in her living room,” she said once they’d crossed through the automatic glass doors, “and you barely sounded surly while doing it. I swear, if I were to raise my hand in a high five right now you might even ####in’ do it – which must mean you think this job is easy-peasy, and that you know some skeezy-#### pawnbroker who pays big for art.”

“Sort of like the term ‘the common cold’, ‘werewolf’ is really a catchall name for a whole slew of curses and other types of mystical transmittable diseases. I haven’t encountered many, but the most common is definitely what’s referred to as European Lycanthropy.

“If that’s what li’l Jeffrey has then there are a few options. There are some weird ones, like hitting him on the head with a knife or shoving nails through his hands.

“You can use silver, of course, but that’ll cure them right into a grave.

“Actually, most of the old ways were only survivable about half the time. Blackhall came up with a decent technique though, later in life, that uses wolfsbane.

“I’ve had some success using it before.”

They quieted as they passed a father wrangling a cart and three braid-pulling daughters, then Bunny asked, “so how do we do it? Throw him a squeaky toy and rub his tummy with wolfsbane while he’s distracted?”

Coffin stopped to reach for a package of lean ground beef. Instead of replying, however, he said, “I noticed that you left Dorset’s without wetting your throat.”.

Bunny raised a brow. “Oh, you going to start schooling me on that too?”

“I try not to influence your drinking one way or another.”

“Well, I believed you till you said that, but that’s some quantum physics #### right there, isn’t it? I mean, by saying that you’ve admitted that you’re observing, and if you’re observing it’s because you’ve got a pony in the race.

“I can’t see why you’d be worried that I get enough vodka down my throat, so clearly it’s the other option, that you’d rather I didn’t do it at all.

“Hell, my brain ain’t entirely ####-addled, it’s been obvious for a while that under your detached cool-guy jacket you’ve been of the ‘she’s got to figure it out for herself school.’

“Well, to be clear – and you should definitely be observing this part – I prefer that school to the alternative.

“Mostly because it means you’re going to leave me the #### alone about it.

“Right?”

Coffin allowed himself a smirk. “Quantum physics, huh? You been reading some of the books from the hallway shelf?”

“I ain’t just a hot piece of ### and a head full of brilliant ####ing ideas.“

They’d reached the checkout, and, spotting a crust of relish on her Deep Purple t-shirt, Bunny spit on her forefinger and began rubbing at the stain.

* * *

Stephanie’s bathroom was no more than a foot shorter than the guest room Bunny had overtaken in Coffin’s apartment. It was easily equally as wide.

Despite being the sole owner of the townhouse, Downward Dog had handed across a thick cluster of keys and plastic charms, then opted to wait in the Subaru.

If it wasn’t for the smell, Bunny might have thought her claim that the boy was in the bathroom was mistaken – or that he’d escaped.

The leftmost pale green wall was covered in thick-framed photos, most featuring, in some way, Stephanie herself, that had been arranged to mimic the form of a windswept leaf. A fence of brightly coloured hair care products were neatly arranged behind the chrome gooseneck faucet, but otherwise the granite counter was bare.

“Holy ####,” said Bunny, “this place smells like – uh – ####.”

On the far side of the room, partially obscured by a wraparound silk shower curtain, stood a bulky claw tub.

After Bunny’s declaration something within had begun to snarl.

Holding his breath, Coffin strode into the space and pulled back the shower curtain.

It was not a pretty sight within.

With a hand over her nose, Bunny said, “Ma had a dog once that did that. Little yappy thing that was ignored on the couch when she was around, but if she even just went to the store for a pack of smokes it’d start shitting everywhere. Separation anxiety or whatever.”

“Prison inmates do the same thing,” answered Coffin. “The feeling of being trapped and away from their loved ones pushes them to it just for any sort of attention.”

The opening at the tub’s top had been covered with clear packing tape, and the gum beneath each strip webbed with silver chains, earrings, and bangles.

Perhaps it was pain of pressing against this no-longer-decorative barrier, or perhaps it was simply an inescapable reaction to being left too long without other options, but, for whatever reason, the beast’s bowels had let loose – and so he had been left within the iron kennel to howl and roll in his own filth.

Worse, in ways the form of the wolf still held echoes of the boy. Beneath the mat of excrement its arms, though wiry with muscle, were thin, and the texture of its coarse sandy-brown hair reminded Bunny of a teenager’s too-soon attempt at a moustache.

Uninterested in remaining any longer than necessary in the windowless chamber, Coffin retrieved the newspaper-wrapped nugget of ground meat that he’d portioned from the larger slab, and rolled it in the powdered contents of a small paper envelope that he produced from the depths of his jacket.

Moving quickly – so as to keep all of his fingers – he dropped the fatty ball through a breathing slit near the boy’s head, produced a dark-handled pocket knife, then, with stiff arms, positioned himself above the stink.

He did not have long to wait. Despite the defilement of its prison, the long wolf muzzle sought out the flesh with an eager tongue.

The reaction was not immediate, but it was rapid when it came. A sound that put Bunny in mind of teeth being ground together began to emanate from his hips and elbows and knees. The pointed snout retracted, and the receding hairs moved with such rapidity that each follicle was left with a pinprick of blood in its place.

The keening of a kicked dog turned guttural, then edged into the weeping of a teenage boy.

“Holy ####, eat that Rick Baker,” said Bunny.

Coffin brought down his knife.

The keen blade passed through the tape in one long sweep, and he dropped the tool, forgotten, into the muck as he grabbed at the base of the naked boy’s neck.

Again risking his digits, Will plunged the first and middle fingers of his free hand down the boy’s throat.

The raw beef and poisonous wolfsbane were ejected across the pictorial leaf before Jeffrey could be guided to the toilet, but a steady stream of brightly coloured Cheeto goo soon followed.

Once the youth ceased his vomiting, and had offered teary-eyed thank yous, Coffin asked, “how’d it happen? Your mom, honestly, says you generally get dramatic then run away. Did you meet something in an alley, or what?”

Wiping a fleck of orange from his sharp chin, Jeffrey replied, “fuck that. Mom just wants everything to be cool – that’s all she ever wants.

“I saw those kids, though… those… cultists or whatever… the ambulance… oh fuck, the ambulance…”

The former wolf bent over, and a second round of liquid Cheetos flooded the porcelain bowl.

Coffin’s rusted-gate voice no longer carried the pleased echo of an easy job as he said, “tell me everything.”

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

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