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FP397 – Coffin: The Hunger for Change

Coffin: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Fiction Podcast

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: The Hunger for Change

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 Earth Station One

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his increasingly sober apprentice, discuss the occult danger lurking behind the counter of a wandering ice cream truck.

 

Coffin: The Hunger for Change

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

 

It was a Sunday, and Coffin and Bunny were sitting on a bus stop bench. It was still a little too early in the season to justify frozen treats, but the chiming tune of a persistent ice cream truck portaging between suburbs had summoned their empty stomachs to action.

Bunny had a wagon wheel in one hand and a napkin, to catch the drippings, in the other.

“F##k-bugger, the first of the year is always the best,” she was saying.

Will nodded his agreement, but it was clear to his roommate that his mind was elsewhere.

“Thinking about a cursed sundae from your youth?” she asked.

It was enough to extract a twitch of a smile from Coffin’s lips.

“No,” he replied, “well, not exactly. Notice that I leaned against the truck while waiting for our lunch?”

This time it was Bunny’s turn to nod. “You did appear to be sauntering at an unusually jaunty angle.”

Coffin: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Fiction PodcastCoffin said, “a few years before Sandy died, we fell into this situation down south. Some city-level newspapers had pulled together a string of kiddie murders, but the theories were all over the map.

“Cannibals were a popular editorial choice, with Satanists close behind, but those were mostly just signs of the era.

“The only consistencies seemed to be the apparent fact that the victims were all children, that their remains were found a few miles from where they’d disappeared, and that they were all stripped clean of flesh. Not – not perfectly. Not television-style bleached bone clean, but definitely “I’m done with this chicken leg” clean.”

Pausing to toss his half-eaten waffle cone through the trash hoop, Will moved to the bus schedule, then glanced at his watch.

“We weren’t quite sure what we were looking for,” he continued. “A werewolf? A wendigo? We were young and still had the patience to chase the wind.

“Three weeks in – and with no more to show for our wandering than a backseat full of North Carolina bar receipts – we finally caught a break. Parents don’t like the details of their child’s last moments published, but when a six-ten hulk by the name of Darius suffered the same fate, the press, hungry for something to fill summer headlines, exploded.

“The detail that really caught people was the speed. Darius’s wife noticed him missing just before dinner, and his picked-over carcass was found in a ditch outside Chapel Hill two hours later.

“Takes a lot of hungry, hungry cannibals to eat a guy that big that fast.

“It was no easy thing to raise the dead in those days, but he was fresh, and he’d died quite unpleasantly. We guessed at the route his corpse had taken, and, by walking between his last known location and the dump site, Sandy managed to use the Crook of Ortez to pull him into conversation.

“To be fair, he didn’t make it that far from where he’d disappeared before his finale.

“Anyhow, it was Darius who told us about the ice cream truck hermit.”

The topic had done nothing to slow Bunny’s consumption, and her cookie sandwich was now but a sliver.

“I don’t get it,” she said. “Magic is supposedly receding from the world?”

“It is.”

“- and you’ve said that most of the spooks and mooks haunting today weren’t noticeably around 70 years ago?”

“Also true, most entities were wisps moving outside our vision even just a decade ago.”

“So how the f##k does that explain an ice cream truck?

“There’s no chance some taint-gobbling medieval wizard attempted to summon a converted Ford that clangs out Turkey in the Straw, and no Victorian Hell Club dandy motherf##ker ever thought, ‘s##t son, I need a banana boat FROM SATAN,’ so what the sweet f##k?”

Taking a seat on the short bench and stretching his legs across the pavement, Coffin replied, “you know that saying, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same?’ It’s basically that.

“Every generation of humanity thinks its so advanced, but everything is just a variation on a theme. Maybe it was once an eel hawker in Victorian England, maybe it was a samosa cart in Uttar Pradesh.

“Darius’s story was probably the same as a thousand others, and none of them were particularly dependant on a time period. He was standing on the corner, it was nearly dinner and he was starving, but he wasn’t especially excited about the offerings in the oven. Along comes this happy tune and a huckster hawking treats.

“Well, hell, Darius has a ten in his pocket, and there are no witnesses around to see him murder his appetite.

“He wasn’t the only one to notice that fact, however.

“The guy in the truck has a really impressive moustache, triple curled and well tended. He’s all smiles, but his patron doesn’t really notice much about him beyond the lip hair.

“The hungry husband slaps down his ten and asks for a milkshake, so the guy behind the little window leans forward like he’s going to return his change – except he keeps leaning. He leans so far forward, in fact, his customer thinks he’s actually going to fall out – but somehow his torso seems to be stretching, his white smock distending with rippling ribs, and his hand closes around Darius’ mouth.

“Then the big man’s snapped up and in like a cod fresh from the sea.

“The mustachioed fella is nothing more than a lure of course – like the orb on an Angler fish – but the hermit is really more like the crab Sandy named it after. The phantom told us it’s like a chameleon skin that’s wrapped itself around the entirety of the truck, both inside and out. A dozen eyes watched him from the surface of the soft serve machine as he landed, and a dozen more likely watched the street for witnesses.

“Even the tiny window ledge shifted forward to consume him, as Darius put it, ‘like a bottom lip.’

“The floor looked like plastic matting, but was spongy and thick. Probably the main meat of the thing. The comfortable landing didn’t last long, though, as countless mouths opened in the leathery flesh, and the tinkling speakers kicked in to help cover the screaming.

“Thing is, while he was scoping the neighbourhood to make sure his wife wasn’t going to hear of his caloric indiscretion, the dead man had put his hand on the truck’s side, all casual like. He’d noticed that it was warm and felt strange – like dog skin, even though it looked like white-painted metal.

“He’d been too busy worrying about getting busted to think more of it than wiping his palm on his shirt and moving on.

“Anyhow, I don’t know if the hermit sniffed out that we were onto him, or maybe Darius was finally just a satisfying enough meal, but the killings seemed to stop after that; well, at least in that area. Sandy – she was getting pretty obsessive by then. She had us spinning our wheels for months.”

“Wait,” said Bunny, “that’s why you leaned? You never f##king found Johnny Monster-in-a-Box?”

“Nope,” answered Will, as he stood to wave down the approaching bus, “but everything changes eventually.”

 

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.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

  • Ice cream truck2.mp3 by 8767yy
  • 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.

    FP391 – Coffin: Weakness, 6 of 6

    Menu

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 6 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

    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 Bothersome Things!

     

    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 roommate and apprentice, find themselves rudely rebutted by a nymph.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 6 of 6

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

     

    Anger, Will reflected, is supposed to be a young man’s game. No one takes a punk band over fifty seriously, and most aren’t interested in seeing two grandfathers beat each other bloody in a boxing ring – well, more than once.

    Yet, here at the edge of Lake Clark, with his boots wet and his eyes grimy from too much worry and too little sleep, Coffin was decidedly angry.

    Though he’d tried to convince himself it was having to depend on the pretentious owl to locate Jenny Greenteeth that was the source of his unrest, being so far from home had brought Will to finally admit, at least to himself, that it was the notion that his homicidal dead wife might suddenly be washed away like the spirits of the four drowned cadavers that had him agitated.

    The moment of truth did little to better his mood.

    CoffinNeither did the nymph’s reaction to his demand to surrender.

    Her tiny form had surfaced readily enough, but so distant from the shore as to be nothing more than a speck on the horizon.

    Jenny’s words had traveled well, however: “Gobble a chode you bloody Tin Star!”

    It was also fairly easy to guess which fingers she was waving.

    Coffin started to chuckle, and he recognized it as the same dry rattle Sandy had taken on before the end.

    He shrugged it off and reached into the black leather satchel slung at his side.

    Within lay a jeweled baton, atop which, to his apprentice’s eye, rode a tiny blizzard. The storm seemed held in place by several bands of gold laid across the clouds and snow in thin ribbons.

    A flick of the wrist brought a point to the occult tool, its base extending suddenly to the form a staff.

    From over his left shoulder, Bunny asked, “what in the Go-Go-Gadget #### is that?”

    “The Winter Scepter,” replied Will. “As far as artifacts go, this is actually a fairly recent ancient one. The telescoping does nothing but make it more portable, and it’s just clever metalworking, nothing mystical.

    ”Watch this though.”

    With a firm grip he pinned the water’s edge to the sand below, and the reaction was immediate.

    A wave of ice moving at a sprinting dog’s pace began to roll across the surface, and even as practiced a swimmer as Jenny could not outrun its frigid clench.

    It was a ten minute walk to the spot at which the nymph waited, her left arm aloft, mid-breaststroke.

    “Shoulda brought some ###damn skates,” said Bunny.

    Knowing full-well that her song would do nothing against Will’s defenses, Jenny replied, “taste Tartarus, frails.”

    There was the rage again, crawling up Coffin’s back and pulling his belly tight. His boot heel twisted in the snow and his fingers dug deeply into his pockets.

    Instead of a roar, however, his mouth formed the words, “I’m sorry.”

    Both women raised a brow in surprise, but he continued.

    “Given your history, trapping you tightly like this isn’t exactly something I’m excited about. I’m not saying you’re justified, but I understand your vendetta.”

    The algae upon her chin had begun to frost as Jenny replied, “are you giving a ‘this is going to hurt me more than it is you’ speech? Because it seems easy to be remorseful about how delicious the fish in your net are, and, after the last job I did for him, I’m sure the owl has no more patience for keeping me around.

    “Frankly, I would’ve rathered he did it himself, but, that’s never been that dainty fop’s style, so I’ve been left to die at the hands of lice.”

    “Actually,” said Coffin, as he leaned low into her vision, “what I do next is going to depend very much on how you answer this question: Were you responsible for the disposal of the phantoms on behalf of the Kar’Wickians, and, if so, how?”

    It was the first time Jenny had been in proximity of a non-drowning mundane human in hundreds of years, and she found she missed the other stupid faces the mortals made.

    “No, I’d love to drive you mad and claim I made them disappear, but really the spider children’s representative simply passed on that Abe and Tina would ‘clean things up.’”

    Standing, Coffin began to stride towards the distant rental car, but stopped to repeat himself.

    “I really am sorry.”

    Wonder had made the gathered emissaries careless, and it was clear even before he reached the shore that the treeline was brimming with wildlife come to witness his actions – which is why, when Wide Eye confronted him on the beach, the avian lord whispered.

    “You let her live!?” he demanded, his four wings in constant motion.

    Coffin shrugged. “You were so insistent that the last one was yours to deal with, I figured I’d leave you the pleasure. You’ve got about three minutes before the ice transmutes back to water.”

    To Will’s mind the owl, as much as the bird hated acting publicly, could try his luck with Jenny Greenteeth: There were no more questions of secret rituals or unknown magicks or an arcane plague – the shaman finally had names to blame for the spectral disappearances, and now the hunt could truly begin.

    He found himself whistling.

     

    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.

    Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

    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.

    FP390 – Coffin: Weakness, 5 of 6

    Coffin-WarPaint-iPad

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 5 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

    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 Bothersome Things!

     

    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 roommate and apprentice, discuss the unfortunate history of nymphs.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 5 of 6

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

     

    It was noon, and they were at Denny’s.

    “####,” Bunny was saying, around a mouthful of pancake, “so she couldn’t stop doing it? The incubus thing kinda makes sense then, I guess.”

    Turning from the window, Coffin winced. “Not a nymphomaniac, a nymph. Way back in the toga days they were a sort of nature spirit who’d live in rivers, streams, tributaries, fjords – basically every wet place you figure’d be worth taking a vacation photo at would have one.

    “Generally they manifested as shapely naked ladies, in their early twenties, who’d come ashore to sing and dance when visitors or worshipers arrived, but otherwise they maintained a dwelling within the depths of their swimming pool for privacy.”

    Lifting another wad of syrup and batter to her mouth, Bunny asked, “sounds like they’d be pretty popular, so where’d they go?”

    “Well, see, the nymphs were pretty into free love. They didn’t need it, like Valentine, but they were, uh, very welcoming to friendly shore-side visitors. The more civilized folks got, though, the less their spouses appreciated it.

    “Nymph culture was slow to change, mostly because they were so localized, and their reputation went from something akin to a regional deity to the mess dumped on sex workers.

    “I should be clear though: Their interest was really only in natural beauty. They danced because of the elegance of grass swaying in the wind, they rutted on the shore because that’s the way of the wild, and they sang because it called beasts and birds of all shape to their banks and kept them there in peace.

    “Still, as things got worse some of them tried to go clean – the lady who supposedly lobbed the sword at Arthur was probably a nymph – but I think they hoped pants and religion were fads.”

    “Me too, me too,” answered Bunny.

    Will shrugged, taking advantage of the interruption to sip at his coffee. Despite his best efforts to be patient, his eyes wandered to the window.

    There was nothing of note in the tightly stuffed parking lot.

    Frowning, he continued. “You’re familiar with the old ‘I read it for the articles line’? In those days sneaky husbands and unsatisfied wives would claim they were just ‘going to hear the nymphs sing.’ Maybe that’s what started the trade – whatever the case, there was no Top 40 back then, and the medieval nobles, sick of having their trophy spouses sneak off, began to improvise jukeboxes.

    “The real problem was that the nymph’s mystic song couldn’t help but bring a sense of soothing, even if weepily sung after having had their limbs clipped and being entrapped in tiny caskets.

    “Now, this isn’t something just anybody would know about, this is the sort of secret treat rich people like to save for their most special guests. You’d be lead into a well sealed room by a deaf servant and your host. and there’d be a decorated box with what looked like a fairly heavy trashcan upside down on top.

    “Your host would invite you to lie down on a lounge chair, priming you the whole time about what a wonderful surprise you were about to have, and the servant would lift the iron lampshade to reveal a young woman who’d lay out a tune so lovely it was like taking a mouthful of rave pills.

    “When the allotted period was up, the servant would drop the shade. The attendants were also in charge of punishment for lack of performance, but we don’t need to get into the abuses you can inflict on a head in a cabinet.

    “Immortality can be a rough gig like that, but even occult beings need to eat.

    “In the end they all starved to death.

    “Jenny though – Jenny was a fighter. Jenny gave up her home, the hardest thing for her kind, and set herself loose in the wilds; Let her hair grow long and tangled, let the muck of the river bottoms cover her skin, let decay and fish guts cling to her teeth. She hid like that for years, until even the memory of the slaughter of her people was forgotten, and her rage simmered.

    “She started trying to avenge herself.”

    “#### yeah,” said Bunny, “I’d go Rambo over that #### too.”

    Will nodded, but replied, “consider the flip side though: You’re strolling by the river and you hear a whisper. You stop and there’s a woman – or is it a woman? She almost looks like nothing more than a collection of lily pads and stones – a face hovering at the still surface. Maybe you don’t listen at first. Maybe you’ve got a strong aversion to getting wet, maybe you’re smart enough not to talk to entities speaking from ponds, maybe you just have no sense of curiosity.

    “Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter, because that slight, cheerless face begins singing, and suddenly everything is beautiful and calm. Suddenly you have no interest but in relaxing in the cool damp. Suddenly you’re drowning.

    “Beloved family pets taking a drink, children roaming alone, lovers skinny dipping – anyone that would make others share some of the pain.

    ”Eventually she gained a new reputation: As a killer. Even the mystical and the immortal need the occasional human disappeared.”

    Leaning back to bask in her victory over the forces of dough, Bunny asked, “so she’s some kinda supernatural hitman now?”

    “Basically.”

    In truth, however, Bunny already knew all this – she’d read the same texts Coffin was reciting from – but, even with his neck-cramping turns to peer out the window, it was the calmest she’d seen him in days.

    She did not mention that the tale explained nothing of the missing phantoms.

    The real question she wanted answered involved what exactly was in the worn leather messenger bag he’d taken to carrying. Before she might ask, though, a blur of movement to her left caught her attention. Beyond the dusty cream shades six dozen cats sat atop the sea of sun-baked cars.

    Noting her gaze, they began to wail.

    It was time to go.

     

    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.

    Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

    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.

    FP389 – Coffin: Weakness, 4 of 6

    Coffin

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-nine.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 4 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

    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 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 Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, have an unpleasant discussion with an ancient owl.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 4 of 6

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

     

    “He was not yours to punish,” said Wide Eye, his double set of wing joints ruffling in agitation.

    Bunny, Coffin, and the owl were standing on the chill pavement of a highway rest area while the Phantom Ambulance’s bulk provided little protection from the prying spring wind.

    It’d been a long night, even before receiving the summons from the gray and white avian noble, and Will had no patience for watching the freshly appointed monarch preen and legislate while there were tasks at hand to be accomplished.

    “If not mine, whose?” asked the shaman.

    “Mine,” answered the animal lord.

    Dawn was breaking all around them, but Will could only think that a new day simply meant a new set of problems.

    He grunted, saying, “Blackhall was very clear about the nature of my office. Something Pisky and I had in common was a lack of interest in politics, and I think it helped us get along just fine. Don’t test the pacts and I won’t.”

    “Is it the nature of your office to let one beast go free while removing the sole purpose for another’s existence?” asked Wide Eye, his neck rotating to indicate the ambulance and its arcane driver while never taking his gaze from Will’s. “Your process strikes at me as – slipshod.”

    “My process will strike you, full stop, if you don’t quit wasting breath and get every chatty sea gull and nosey turtle under your command churning the waters for Jenny GreenTeeth.”

    The bird’s disagreement came in slow gusts of wind, but his words held the weight of a being who’d wielded legions of bestial spies and warriors over thousands of years.

    “He was not yours to punish.”

    Bunny, though eager to be home and in her bed, felt a need to add, “it was kinda ####in’ harsh.”

    Will turned to the trees, his fingers playing across the links of the silver chain that allowed his communication with the dead.

    Things had been simpler when he’d been left to talk with his corpses.

    Finally, he cleared his throat.

    “Harsh?” he asked. “Harsh is an immortal rapist who manipulates his victims, using powers literally beyond human comprehension, to convince them they really are interested in spontaneous unprotected sex with a stranger who has suddenly appeared in their bedroom – and nevermind the four bloated cadavers waving their hands in the air like they’re tied to weighted chairs at the bottom of a river.”

    There was a long pause as the trio watched the sun flood the horizon in red and yellow light.

    Coffin“These are indeed dangerous times,” replied Wide Eye. “Our every subject has its attention on the water’s edge. I will find Jenny GreenTeeth, and, when I do, it is likely best that I let the sort who castrates one monster, while begging rides from another, deal with the matter in your own barbaric way.

    “Still, you do not know where the missing spirits of the dead have gone, do you? As a courtesy I have posted watch at your wife’s resting place – just in case, you understand.”

    Even to Bunny’s achingly tired ears the words sounded vaguely of a honeyed threat. The matter of the missing remnants was as close to a raw nerve as Bunny had ever seen Coffin display, and she braced herself for fireworks.

    She could not have anticipated his reaction, however.

    “Before you question my judgement you’d do best to remember who put her there and why,” Will replied.

    The ride back to town was a silent one.

     

    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.

    Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

    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.

    FP388 – Coffin: Weakness, Part 3 of 6

    Flash Pulp 383 - Coffin: Time to Consider - A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-eight.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 3 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

    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 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 Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his recently sober apprentice, find themselves unexpectedly asking questions in a seedy boutique.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 3 of 6

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

     

    “Well,” said Bunny, “you know what they say: ‘third porn shop’s the charm.’”

    The paramedic to her left grunted, but beneath its surgical-mask disguise its spiraling rows of teeth flexed and salivated. His eyes were fixed to a rental ad featuring a woman kneeling before a broad pair of hairy legs.

    Catching his gaze, Bunny winced.

    “It’s not what you think,” she said, “no one actually gets eaten in Flesh Eaters V.”

    Though perhaps it was indeed what had first drawn its attention, the truth was that the driver of The Phantom Ambulance had been caught wondering how it was that it had come an unknowable distance into this horrible dimension of delicious temptation only to find itself acting as chaffeur, between lewd dens that smelled of sweat and meat, for the very entity that denied it a meal.

    On the far side of the counter’s clouded glass, a woman with thick plugs in her earlobes and a look of boredom on her face shrugged at Coffin for a second time.

    “I’m not really supposed to discuss the customers,” she repeated.

    “I understand,” replied Will, “but I’m asking on behalf of the elderly woman who recently woke up to discover him at the foot of her bed. This guy would probably be browsing a lot of sleep fetish material.”

    Dragging her focus across his battered leather jacket, then his companions, the clerk bit her lip.

    Coffin pushed. “He’d be pretty though – too pretty, you’d think, to be lurking in a place like this. No offense.”

    She sighed.

    “Yeah, I know him. Valentine Giovanni. I actually figured it was a fake, and I respect a little flair – most people just stick to John Smith around here – but it’s how he introduces himself when you call his voicemail, and I’ve always just gotten his voicemail. He’s always quick to show though. Kind of, uh, disturbingly quick.

    “He definitely started on the sleep fetish thing but, well, the guys big on variety. I thought I’d seen it all till he started asking us to import foreign films that’d make my pupils bleed. In the end we weren’t even sure how legal they were, so we had to tell him we weren’t going to anymore. He still constantly comes in looking for something new though.”

    Her arm moved across her stomach as she spoke, and the ring-heavy fingers of her right hand wrapped themselves around the nautical scene depicted on her left forearm.

    After a moment’s pause she uncoiled and scrawled a phone number.

    “You didn’t get any of this from me. The owner would be pissed if they knew I was giving out details about such a big spending customer.”

    * * *

    It was Bunny who left the message.

    “Hi, this is, uh, Marilyn, on behalf of Ms. Flores. She’d like to extend a, er, financial opportunity. In exchange for certain, you know, services, that she feels you can provide.”

    Seconds after making his appearance in the 7-Eleven parking lot she’d suggested as their midnight meeting place, however, Valentine Giovanni was on to the fact that something was amiss.

    Perhaps it was the strange man in the surgical mask who wouldn’t stop staring at him from behind the wheel of his parked ambulance, perhaps it was the fact that the Marilyn, waiting at the center of the pool of light, was clad entirely in denim.

    CoffinWhatever the case, he first turned to leave, then, at the approach of running boots, began to fade entirely from existence – a maneuver he usually undertook only under the cover of darkness and in the privacy of an unexpectedly invaded bedroom.

    His crisp blue irises and finely lined cheekbones were nearly translucent when the Crook of Ortez, Coffin’s most constant tool, swung wide and planted its intricate hook deeply into his left eye.

    “Gah!,” he said, jerking forward and becoming again whole.

    “Get in the ####ing ambulance or I’ll poke the other,” suggested Bunny.

    Two blocks later, with the incubus clutching his wound and Will still clutching the attached chain, the story began to come out.”.

    “I needed money,” the night visitor was saying while trying to breathe through his pain, “I – the world has gotten strange in the last two hundred years, and I do not just mean the flux of mystic energies. You must understand that I am driven to see these things, I can not help myself. When the internet arrived, there was so much to see, to order, to hire and, eventually, to pay for.”

    “Uh,” said Bunny, “can a guy like you even get a credit card?”

    Giovanni sighed. “There are ways. There are people who will help those like me procure things not easily had. It is much more dangerous, however, to run up debts with those same sorts of people.”

    “Let’s see,” replied Coffin, “the news anchor wouldn’t want her career ruined by a sex tape, the trophy wife wouldn’t want her marriage interrupted, and I guess being outted as a gay Catholic school principal is a tough gig. How much were you asking for the blackmail?”

    “They – I do enjoy variety, but I was told – made – to record every victim. How much? As much as I owed, plus interest. Too much, I guess, since that scammer Pendleton got wind of the situation.”

    “What did that matter?” asked Bunny.

    “Pendleton had information, or he thought did. About the, uh, people I was working for.”

    She frowned. “So you killed him. Them.”

    “They – the people – did, yes.”

    It was Coffin’s turn to pose a question.

    “Who are they?”

    Even with one eye, Valentine’s gaze made it clear he thought it ridiculous for Will to even inquire.

    Standing, Coffin brought up his left hand, pulling Giovanni along with him. As the daemon grasped at the chain above, Will’s right deftly undid the button on the man’s well cut slacks and dropped them to the floor.

    Suddenly the shaman’s right hand was full of a new instrument Bunny had not yet seen. A bone handled pocket knife, with a blade of silver and a sharp series of serrated edges at its base.

    Placing the cold edge beneath Valentine’s rapidly retreating scrotum, Will repeated himself.

    “Who are they?”

    “The – merda – the damnable spider children, alright? They were the ones who hired Jenny GreenTeeth, they were the ones who hired the cleaners, and they were the ones who made me pay for it.”

    “I used to know a girl in high school we called Jenny GreenTeeth,” muttered Bunny, “she’s probably Jenny NoTeeth now though.”

    With the information out, and the joke made, the apprentice had expected an end to the ugly scene playing out on the bench opposite.

    Instead, Coffin brought up his knife and, with a sure flick of his wrist, removed the only tool the incubus had ever known.

    A meal or a morsel, the paramedic did not discriminate.

     

    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.

    Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

    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.

    FP387 – Coffin: Weakness, Part 2 of 6

    Coffin: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Podcast

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 2 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Every Photo Tells…

     

    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 recently sober apprentice, discuss a midnight encounter with a gasket baroness.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 2 of 6

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

     

    The labyrinthine house smelled of potpourri and pine, and the deeper into its architecture that Bunny ventured, the surer she became that the smileless man who’d answered the door was, in fact, undertaking an elaborate prank.

    “We off to see Barnum’s Egress?” she asked, but Will was too distracted to bother faking a chuckle and the doorman didn’t slow in his navigation of the hardwood sea.

    Dining set islands gave way to shorelines of couch, then the couches themselves were crowded by towering library cliffs. Finally, they came to a stop in a land of Persian rugs.

    The gray-haired woman at the room’s center wore her wingback chair like a throne, but her only subjects seemed to be the multitude of oil paintings that covered the walls. No image was larger than six inches wide, and there was no buffer greater than a thumb’s width between them. Thousands of tiny faces stretched in uneven rows to the vaulted ceiling.

    As if playing his entrance in reverse, their guide disappeared backwards through the doorway, leaving his retreating heel taps and the tick of an out-of-sight grandfather clock to fill the void.

    “Ms. Flores?” asked Coffin, but Bunny was already busy inspecting the surroundings.

    “Rosanna, please,” she replied, her slender fingers dropping from a steeple to brush away the nonsense of formality.

    “Okay, Rosanna,” nodded Will. “Our mutual friend, the talking owl, has informed us you have a story to tell?”

    Coffin: A Skinner Co. Fantasy PodcastTheir hostess’ deeply lined face pulled into a soft chuckle, and Bunny couldn’t help but think that there’d likely been a time when droves of men had swooned over her smile.

    “It happened a month ago,” began Rosanna, with a warm but firm tone. “I sleep lightly these days, and steps at the foot of my bed is enough to bring me awake like a rooster’s song.

    “I was expecting it to be Curtis, but, oh, how I was wrong.

    “There was a man – a baby face at forty, or a rugged gent at thirty-five. Either way, I’ve always been a sucker for a strong jaw and needy lips. I told myself I was likely dreaming, but somehow knew I wasn’t.

    “Still, there was a burning between us from the moment I opened my eyes and I had no interest in denying it.

    “I’m eighty-four, but a lifetime of hard work and harder play has left me strong. I’m in no danger of falling and breaking a hip or cracking a rib, and I knew exactly what his eyes had in mind. I’m not ashamed to say I invited him beneath the sheets, nor to divulge that I treated him like a rodeo bull.

    “We were both sweating by the time dawn broke, but it was only because I had an early art gallery opening to attend to that I sent him away.”

    Rosanna paused in her telling, and Will could read by the set of her knees, and the heat in her gaze, that she was briefly lost in memory – then she shrugged.

    Clearing her throat, Ms. Flores finished her tale.

    “He didn’t use the door when he departed. He climbed out my bedroom window, but I doubt he even required that much effort – there’s a twenty foot wall around the estate, as you no doubt saw when you entered – and he was gone by the time I pulled back the curtains.

    ”A couple of weeks later I received the note, and the photos. He must have had a tiny camera hidden in his crumpled heap of bedside clothing.

    “The letter indicated a drop off point and warned me of what it would mean to my business and reputation if such images were leaked to the press. It wasn’t signed, but it smelled like him.”

    “How did you respond?” asked Coffin, but Bunny already had the answer.

    “She told him to go #### himself,” she replied.

    As Will had listened, his apprentice had been exploring the paintings and their inhabitants. Where he’d seen just canvas, she’d found a multitude of tiny lusting figures, each in a position that might have left the creator of the Kama Sutra blushing.

    “That’s about right,” said Rosanna with a smirk. “I did not build an empire on rubber gaskets by lacking an understanding of rough business. It wasn’t the amount though, it was the notion. I’ll plow a thousand miles for a carrot, but I won’t budge an inch for the stick, and that’s the way it’s always been.

    “I sent a note implying that my dating life could use the exposure. I kept the pictures though – I looked good in them, and so did he.

    “That was the last I heard of the matter until a few nights ago when a ragamuffin named Pendleton came by and asked that I join together with a few of his other clients in turning the tables on my visitor. I refused his offer too.”

    Coffin did not mention the corpses he had recently swam with – instead he simply gave a second nod, tucked his fingers into his pockets, and said, “thank you for your honesty. It seems we have an incubus with a money problem to locate.”

    As his feet chased his racing thoughts towards the exit, it was his accomplice who thought to turn and shake hands.

    In that lingering moment, Rosanna asked, “if you do find him, will you pass on that I would consider negotiating? I won’t pay his blackmail, but I’d gladly hire him to the house staff at twice the price.”

    Bunny’s mind struggled under the weight of four damp cadavers, but she’d come to like Rosanna.

    She said, “sure,” then left before the lie could linger.

     

    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.

    Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

    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.

    FP386 – Coffin: Weakness, Part 1 of 6

    Coffin: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Podcast

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 1 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

    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 Every Photo Tells…

     

    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 recently sober apprentice, encounter a strange party at the river’s edge.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 1 of 6

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

     

    Finding the spot had been fairly simple – the crown of the red balloon that he’d been told marked his destination was bobbing at the center of Nash Bay, one of the river’s calmer nooks – but, though the thaw had come early that spring, the water was still frigid enough to bite at Will Coffin’s skin as he forced his bare toes and jean-covered legs into the Lethe.

    Ten feet further along the shore, Bunny offered her encouragement.

    “Hurry the #### up, it’s as cold as Cheney’s heart out here.”

    In truth, Will was just as in a hurry as she was. Placing an ancient stone of arcane origin beneath his tongue, he tested its long-proven ability to provide air even when none existed, then slipped beneath the mirrored surface.

    Below, it became apparent that the marker was only the top most balloon in a cluster of ten. Pinned to a card table which was itself weighted to the riverbed, the rainbow-coloured column waved gently in the waters flow. There were four attendees at the party, each tied to a thick metal chair and wearing a plastic party hat.

    Coffin recognized but one, the blue-blazered woman who had, until recently, anchored the Capital City News at Six. Still, the note that had divulged their location had also included the identities of all involved.

    Digging into his pocket, the shaman wrapped his fingers in the Crook of Ortez, the mystic chain that allowed for communication with the dead – yet, as he feared, there was not a single apparition on hand to question.

    Will turned back, having seen all he’d come to see.

    As he reached for a towel, his jacket, a blanket, and his hot coffee, he asked his apprentice, “What do a TV news anchor, a Catholic school principal, a rich guy’s trophy wife, and a two-bit dabbler have in common?”

    Bunny could not help but notice the tone in his voice, and it struck her that in the past he would have asked the question with the cool detachment of a man who barely cared. Now she worried that perhaps he cared almost too much.

    “I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s a ####ty punch line,” she answered.

    Coffin“I knew the dabbler, Pendleton, a bit,” said Will. “He earned his money scamming people with cold readings, but he nearly managed to get one of those damned cursed monkey paws working in the late ’90s. I was just lucky to get it away from him before the thing scraped together the mystic juice to actually grant his wish.”

    “Do you know what he was hoping for?” Bunny asked with a raised brow.

    “Yeah, infinite more wishes, which, given the ‘one finger, one wish’ nature of that sort of talisman, means we’d end up with a gigantic simian hand growing ever larger on the horizon before it finally blots out the sun with its jungle of gnarled brown digits.”

    As Coffin finished the story a tight squadron of a dozen ospreys formed above the river and swept the opposite shore. As one they turned to cross in front of the pair, then, banking within feet of their audience, the birds drove skyward.

    “Sweet ####ing candy corn,” said Bunny, “that was a ###damn Tom Cruise flock of birds right there. Some real Top Gun ####.”

    “It’s good to know I can still impress,” replied a sleepy voice over her left shoulder.

    Turning, Bunny was somewhat comforted by the frown on Will’s face. At least she wasn’t the only one taken by surprise.

    With a preening ruffle of his furled wings, Wide Eye, animal lord and recently appointed regent of the area, hunkered low on a driftwood log.

    “Judging by your moist nature, you’ve seen the party?” asked the massive owl.

    “Yeah,” answered Coffin.

    “You have spoken with the dead then?”

    “No.”

    Bunny shuffled from foot to foot to fill the pause as Will stooped to lace his boots.

    It was the hulking fowl, however, who finally broke the silence.

    In a slow midnight tone, it said, “you will look into the matter.”

    Will’s shoulders became tight beneath his beaten leather jacket. “I hold an independent office. I do not work for you and you have no jurisdiction over what I deem worthy of my interest. As it happens, you’re lucky that I have nothing better to do.”

    It was Bunny’s newfound mental clarity that kept her from muttering, “bull####.”

    “We shall see,” replied the owl. “Go visit the woman mentioned in my note. Rosanna.”

    Spreading his broad wings, the animal lord made no effort to hide his departure.

     

    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.

    Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

    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.

    FP383 – Coffin: Time to Consider

    Flash Pulp 383 - Coffin: Time to Consider - A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-three.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Time to Consider

    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 Glow in the Dark Radio

     

    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 Bunny Davis, roommate and apprentice to urban shaman Will Coffin, finds herself in conversation with his murderous dead wife.

     

    Coffin: Time to Consider

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

     

    Bunny found her newly obtained sobriety often made the apartment she shared with the Coffin a stuffy one. Rarely, however, did she step onto the balcony for air.

    That Thursday there just wasn’t anything bad enough on TV to keep her attention, and her legs kept pulling her up from the couch before she realized she had nowhere to go. Books were stared at, but the words held no meaning in spite of multiple attempts. Worse, her appetite had abandoned her entirely, and she knew more alternating between opening cupboards and the fridge door would only give her mouth the satisfaction of expelling another long string of obscenities.

    So she went outside.

    Eighteen stories below, the shattered form of her roommate’s dead wife began the ascent that marked the sole objective the apparition ever held in mind when she moved from the cracked cement upon which she’d died.

    Even without Will on hand to attempt to murder, still Sandy made the climb.

    Despite the distance between them, Bunny had no issues hearing the phantasm’s broken-windpipe whisper.

    “Is he sleeping?” asked Sandy.

    “Yeah.”

    “It’s almost 4pm.”

    “I can take a message if you like.”

    “It doesn’t make you uncomfortable to live in the apartment in which his wife died?”

    “Like, when there’s a dead lady rotting on the balcony, or just generally?”

    At that point the conversation had gone as far as it ever had, and Bunny was tempted to again head back inside. Instead she finally gave in to her curiosity – or perhaps she’d simply grown accustomed enough to the climber’s trail of broken nails and mashed finger meat to stay.

    Whatever the case, she asked “why do you bother?”

    Pausing beside a frost-covered window on the seventh floor, Sandy gave her taut shoulders an oddly familiar shrug.

    She said, “let me tell you a story.

    “Will and I, back in the early days, stumbled across a couple of star-crossed idiot teens, Vincent and Rosa. I guess it happens in every generation, but we’re talking about the sort of kids who would read too much into Romeo and Juliet while listening to Don’t Fear the Reaper on loop.

    “They died in ‘71 in a Georgia backwater. He was scheduled to head to the Navy at the end of the summer, as his birthday was in September and his parents thought it would better if he picked a boat job rather than involuntarily backpack through the Vietnamese interior. Her parents couldn’t have been happier, and were really just hoping she wouldn’t get pregnant before the garbage man’s son was safely overseas.

    “The problem started one humid August evening while they were making out and telling each other deep thoughts in the upper branches of the oak tree they considered “their spot.” I guess it was overlooking an old rail bridge, and they caught a brief flash of a transparent jumper. Back then that was the most you could ever hope to see of a haunt, but I guess they found something romantic in the way the pilgrim-looking girl had apparently gone over without hesitation.

    “News from the war was pretty rough, so Vinnie was sure he wasn’t coming back if they shipped him – and, frankly, Rosa was sure she’d die simply from being apart from him.

    “They talked until it was dark and they were exhausted, then they settled on the age old tradition of a lovers’ suicide pact.

    “Saying good night with endless dedications to each other, they went home. It was then that Rosa stole the cyanide bottle from her mom’s amateur photo development kit.

    “Once their households were asleep, however, they both crept from their beds, put on their most impressive band t-shirts, and snuck to a meadow on the southside of town.

    “Her hands were shaking too bad, so she asked for help with the spoon. They kissed and cried and swallowed the powder.

    “It was Vincent, though, who couldn’t stay still. Cyanide is no easy way to go. Even as she’s collapsing he’s stumbling off with the notion that he’s got to puke away the pain and he doesn’t want to do it into his beloved’s lap.

    “Twenty feet over he collapses. They were found the next morning.

    “They thought they’d always be together in the afterlife, but twenty feet means a lot.

    “The meadow didn’t stay a meadow. A developer bought it and threw up a suburb which immediately went into decline. Rosa found herself half-beneath someone’s kitchen sink and half projecting into their front room, while Vincent was stuck on the floor of the garage next door.

    Flash Pulp 383 - Coffin: Time to Consider - A Skinner Co. Network Podcast“They could visit, but it took a huge effort and no matter how tightly they clung to each other the pull of death was – and is – ceaseless.”

    As if to demonstrate, Sandy grunted and shifted her bloodied finger tips between the building’s brickwork.

    She continued her story, but made no effort to scale any further.

    “Worse, by the time Will and I found them the neighbourhood had basically been abandoned, so they were left to weep in the ruins while being unable to see or talk to each other without great difficulty.

    “Actually, heh, we helped them by burning it all down. That was my – fortieth birthday? I remember Will turning to me while we watched it catch and telling me to make a wish before blowing out my candles.

    “Once they were free to yell at each other it took less than a year until things ran their course and they moved on just to get some space.”

    “Uh?” asked Bunny, her eyes unsure.

    “Never let twenty feet get between you, you never know what it’ll mean in the long run.”

    “Huh.”

    There was a pause then, and neither woman moved as they inspected the gray sky and silent horizon.

    Finally, Bunny asked, “I always got the impression you wanted him dead? I mean, that’s why you climb, right? Isn’t that why you spend the occasional afternoon rubbing your deadness against the locked balcony door and ####ing up my Saturday viewings of Captain Kaiju’s Monster Madness?”

    The phantom again gave that same shrug, and Bunny realized why it seemed so familiar: She’d seen it on her roommate’s shoulders a thousand times.

    “Look at me and tell me what exactly death means these days,” answered the specter. “If I was careful enough to keep him close, would it be so bad?”

    Yet, before Sandy might receive an answer, she allowed her form to drop to the pavement below and return to the position in which she’d expired. With the speed of a blink, her trail of gore followed.

    Suddenly Bunny was desperate for toast and the last of the peanut butter she’d seen hiding at the rear of the cupboard.

    She went inside.

     

    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.

    FP380 – Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 4 of 4

    The Drop of the Shoe

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 4 of 4

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    Download MP3
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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, his apprentice, find their lives threatened outside a downtown eatery.

     

    Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 4 of 4

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

     

    Bunny had been left with the ambulance.

    “Wait in the ####ing car?” she was saying to keep herself company, “like I’m a ###damn brat sitting in the back of a wood-paneled station wagon or some ####.”

    Unreadable behind his surgical mask, her toothy chauffeur said nothing.

    * * *

    Coffin hadn’t stood upon his balcony in some time.

    “I’ve been busy,” he was explaining to his wife, but it did little to slow the dead woman’s ascent, finger hold by finger hold, up the side of the building.

    She was already at the fifth floor, and he was left wondering if she’d been so fast the last time.

    No, definitely not.

    “Yeah, I heard,” she replied, “busy running around the country while everything fell apart.”

    Realizing small talk was only going to get him murdered, Will cut to the chase, saying, “They killed Pisky.”

    It was enough to stop her left hand in the middle of its ascent.

    “Shit,” replied Sandy.

    Such a pause was rare, and he relished the seconds. It was as close to mercy as she ever gave him.

    “So far it’s us and them that know,” he said. “Won’t be long before the succession talk starts though, then the news’ll be out.”

    Even a dozen floors down, he could see the twitch of her bloody palms. Every moment the apparition was away from her place of shattered resting was a struggle, and he knew she’d always found it easier to move forward than stay still. His hunger to make the occasion linger drew more honesty from his mouth than he’d intended.

    Coffin: The Drop of the Show, an occult fiction podcast from Skinner Co.“Listen,” said Will, “there are also some spooks missing. I don’t think they’ve moved on, they seem to be just – gone.”

    “Gone?”

    He’d been watching Sandy’s eyes as he’d told her, and he could see her brain working through the equation.

    The squint that meant she realized she was in danger.

    The lift of her brow as she realized the consequences.

    The frown she wore when she thought he was about to do something stupid.

    Suddenly she was climbing again, her ethereal fingers leaving behind flesh and nail at every handhold.

    “Don’t go in there,” she told him, and that was it, he knew the conversation was over.

    Stepping back, he slid the glass door shut, flicked the lock, then blocked out his view of the balcony by pulling the rarely used thick brown curtains across the usual gauze of white.

    Moving to the kitchen he opened the poorly masked fuse box and eyed the breakers within, then his practiced thumb sent the apartment into darkness.

    In truth it was the only way to turn off the hallway light, though Bunny had never noticed there was no switch.

    * * *

    Coffin thought the word needed to get around and there was no one with more time for conversation than The Insomniac.

    A single text had pushed the unsleeping man to return to Spinerette’s. He’d had twenty floating on a game of Shooter, but he hadn’t waited around to learn how things shook out. Obligations were obligations.

    Still, he knew better than to stand in the open.

    A dumpster and some fumbling had given him access to the roof of the florist’s shop across the road, and he’d watched their approach from the space between the painted yellow flowers that identified the store on its sign.

    In the fifteen minutes he’d been waiting just a single car had passed, and even that had stopped and disgorged a trio of passengers into the still-closed restaurant.

    The group had all been dressed alike, in bulky white hoods and white painter’s masks over their mouths.

    Their clothing had made it difficult to identify any of them, but their heavy arms and broad shoulders made it clear they weren’t there to apply for wait staff positions.

    Bunny and Coffin drifted in from the west, probably from a bus stop blocks away.

    With no attempt at stealth, Will walked the exterior of the brick structure. As he moved he seemed to be leaving a finger trailing along the structure’s mortar and winter-barren trestles.

    The city existed somewhere in the distance, but to The Insomniac nothing seemed alive on that street but the three shadows dancing across the interior windows and the pair of mystics facing them from the sidewalk.

    Inches from where he started, and thus from completing his circuit, Coffin shouted, “it’s a requirement of my office to give you an opportunity to surrender. Will you renounce Kar’Wick and his web or can I get on with making you an example?”

    It was then that the rooftop witness realized that it was not the shaman’s finger marking the route but a small stone that left a faint but glowing red line along its path.

    “Come on inside so we don’t have to kill you in the street,” came the reply from a second floor window.

    Will’s hand twitched, closing his loop.

    For a second there was naught but the arcane in the space which had once held Spinerette’s. The cutlery abandoned in its sinks were no more, the tables were no longer covered in unblemished white plates and carefully folded napkins, there was not even any longer a trio of wide necked twenty-somethings with pistols in the bands of their crisp white jogging pants.

    There was only blood, thick and red, holding the shape where chairs and potted plants and floor boards and bricks had once stood, then physics took its brutal hold and the sidewalk gutters ran red.

    The declaration of war did not entirely satisfy the Coffin’s taste for justice, but he considered it a good start.

     

    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.

    FP379 – Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 3 of 4

    Coffin

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-nine.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 3 of 4

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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, his apprentice, discuss old dead friends with the Lady of the Northern Reaches.

     

    Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 3 of 4

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

     

    They’d sent no word, as Will had known it to be unnecessary. Those who remained of the Lords and Ladies which once held domain over the primeval lands were a reclusive lot, but news of a death amongst their ranks would carry on the song of every mourning sparrow and in the howling of every lamenting family hound.

    “I’ll wait here,” was the extent of their driver’s statement upon their second stop, but Bunny suspected that the shark-faced man would rather sit in silence than encounter the likely wrath of the occult nobility awaiting them in the abandoned motel’s husk.

    Still, it was in the arcane ambulance’s nature to be forgotten as soon as it had passed, and no one questioned its right of way or meteoric pace. She did not relish the thought of having had to try to explain a dead raccoon in the back seat to a highway patrolman, nor having the blood on the upholstery to the rental people.

    Stepping across rusting mattress springs and the scattered remains of a shattered television, Bunny and Coffin entered the collapsing shoreside resort. They found Sour Thistle not in her usual place, but at a window overlooking the snowy calm of the frozen lake.

    “How many times have I gazed upon this pond? Have I mentioned before that Blackhall and I used to meet at this same spot? There was no construction then – those few who walked these shores knew enough to move through my realm on tender feet. Now I’m lucky not to be run down by an eighteen wheeled rig while chasing my breakfast.”

    Her attendee, the Dead Faced Man, stood in the corner and said little. His rotting mask was beyond expression, but Coffin suspected the former swindler could not be terribly pleased to see the man who he deemed responsible for ending his career as a lawyer and the life he had made for himself in Capital City.

    Fortunately, Will didn’t especially care.

    “I’m sorry for the loss of your associate,” he told the wolverine.

    Dropping her mystically over-sized fore paws to the rotting carpet, the Lady of the Northern Reaches gave a welcoming nod to both Bunny and Coffin, then set her rump beside a recently erected card table at the room’s center.

    Without comment, her lackey stepped into the hall.

    Once the trio were alone a snarl entered Sour Thistle’s voice.

    “Do not hand me your cool condolences, reaper, you forget that I have seen you in tragedy before. You must have quite liked the sticky-fingered bandit to work so hard at calm.

    ”I had known Pisky some seven centuries. I can not say I liked him, but that does not mean we were not friends. Perhaps you can not understand, given the short spans afforded to you temporary bags of meat, but I assure you that two beings do not need to find moments of laughter or shared interest when faced with the commonality of a slow starvation.

    “A death of a hundred years can forge a bond deeper than any correspondence or childhood memory.”

    For the first time since they’d discovered the murder, Will struck Bunny as agitated.

    “It wasn’t just Rocky Raccoon you know,” replied Coffin. “There were several spirits in the area that seem to have been – erased. There’s nothing more than a stain where they once rested.”

    A series of slowing clicks came from deep within Sour Thistle’s throat, and Bunny briefly wondered if perhaps she was about to witness an occult throw down.

    Instead the forest queen lowered her head and nodded, saying, “there is murder, and then there is murder. I apologize, Coffin, and appreciate your concerns.

    “Do the records of your office include the account of how that idiot and I survived those desperate days when the energies were at their lowest and there was little to sustain beings of our nature? There were many emergencies of course, but it was truly Pisky who made what most consider the bleakest decades livable.

    “For a generation I survived solely by having my scouts on constant alert for brain-poisoned fairies and feral-eyed gnomes. Half-dead themselves, they were tidbits that provided only enough to hold me to the next meager meal.

    “Then Pisky arrived.

    “He’d tracked one of the foolish lake monster myths to a pool in the northwest. The territory’s tenant was ill with the red plague, though we did not know it – we knew simply that he was absent, which was all the justification for poaching that we required.

    “Until then Pisky had been clever enough to get the better end of every deal between us, so I thought him likely onto something when he came to me for help.

    “His mind was sharp, but his teeth were no match for my claws.

    “In those days you’d barely infected these lands, and there were still pockets, even starving as it also was, that a titan such as the hydra could hide its bulk.

    “We cornered it in a muddy bay, really little more than a lakeside swamp, and the contest lasted three days.

    “Two heads in place of every one, as legend says, and it had already sixteen at its command. Its neck meat was glorious, and my appetite was boundless.

    “When it was finally so top-weighted that it’s shattered legs could no longer think of escape, we collected our first harvest – some six hundred heads – and ate them between deep gulps of the cold clean water. In time our agents actually purchased the dirt and lay a barn overtop its form, but there was a certain sort of revelry to those early open-air picnics.

    “We slept with full bellies that winter, and I swear I have never tasted blood so sweet since.”

    With the tale told, all eyes fell to the tabletop.

    It was the queen who broke the silence, and Bunny couldn’t help but notice how chatty the old dame was being. It left her wondering if perhaps she was stalling the process of having to see the body.

    “Do you know who to hold accountable?” asked Sour Thistle.

    Coffin replied, “I’ve a discreet private investigator looking into the ownership of the place, but I think it’s pretty obvious.”

    “The festering disciples of the arachnid? Do they not understand their ultimate reward is oblivion?”

    “You can still have a lot of fun with unlimited power between now and the end of the world.”

    “It’s true then that they consumed him?”

    “Partially. There’s still plenty left to gnaw on.”

    “The dead queen will wish to hold the feast in her northern castle, will you attend and taste of his flesh?”

    “Nope.”

    Sour Thistle gave a sound that was half sniff and half snort.

    Somewhere a crow aired its grievances to the winter air, then the room was filled only with the misty wisps that marked the trio’s breathing.

    Finally, Will’s shoulders fell.

    “I meant no disrespect,” he answered, “I’d go, but I don’t think I could choke down my portion.”

    “It is not your refusal that worries me,” said the ancient beast, “it is your mood. Do not overreact in this, William.”

    Coffin’s posture stiffened and his battered leather jacket rose at his neck like the fur of a confronted cat.

    Despite his demeanour, however, his voice was still and empty.

    “Hey, if you wanted self control you should’ve talked to the Mute.”

    With that their palaver ended, and Bunny and Will exited to discover the casket already transferred into the RV that would carry Pisky to his ultimate destination.

    It was a long and silent ride home.

     

    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.