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FP445 – Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 3 of 3

FP445 – Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 3 of 3

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

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

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Lies & Half Truths!

 

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, apprentice to urban shaman Will Coffin, has had enough.

 

Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 3 of 3

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

 

FP445 – Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 3 of 3

 

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:

  • Knuckles by VlatkoBlazek
  • Door close by joedeshon
  • Impact by duckduckpony
  • 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.

    FP444 – Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 2 of 3

    FP444 - Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 2 of 3

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty-four.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 2 of 3

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    Download MP3
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Lies & Half Truths!

     

    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, receives rough treatment at the tool-wielding hands of a torturess, while Bunny, his apprentice, thirstily watches on.

     

    Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 2 of 3

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

     

    FP444 - Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 2 of 3

     

    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:

  • Knuckles by VlatkoBlazek
  • Door close by joedeshon
  • Impact by duckduckpony
  • 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.

    FP443 – Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 1 of 3

    FP443 - FP443 - Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 1 of 3

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 1 of 3

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    Download MP3
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)
    (RSS / iTunes)

     

    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Lies & Half Truths!

     

    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 Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his attempting-to-be-sober apprentice, loitering in a darkened bedroom.

     

    Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 1 of 3

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

     

    FP443 - FP443 - Coffin: Bogeyman, Part 1 of 3

     

    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.

    FP435 – Coffin: Wrong Tree

    FP435 – Coffin: Wrong Tree

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-five.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Wrong Tree

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo 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 recovering-alcoholic apprentice, must pay a call to a hairy situation in a suburban home.

     

    Coffin: Wrong Tree

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

     

    It was dusk as they arrived at the faux chateau surrounded by its moat of perfectly squared hedges.

    “You know, it’s in these Leave it to Beaver houses that poor motherf#ckers such as ourselves get themselves murdered,” said Bunny.

    “Maybe, but they offered cash and rent will soon be due,” replied Will. He gave the doorbell a second stab, but this time he left his finger on the button.

    The entrance swung wide, and a tall man with a head full of tight black curls stared down at them from across the threshold.

    “Yes?”

    His gaze shifted from Bunny’s ragged jeans and denim coat to the Coffin’s thick leather jacket.

    “We’re here about your son,” replied Will.

    “I -” started the man, but he seemed to think better of it. His eyes had fallen upon a button pinned to the apprentice’s chest that read, “Make tacos, not war – unless someone tries to take your tacos.”

    She was not unfamiliar with the conclusions such suburbanites might likely jump to, however.

    “Yeah, yeah,” she said, “my friend looks like one of the kids from Grease fell into a bad horse habit and I look like I was rejected from a Whitesnake video twenty years ago and just couldn’t f#ckin’ let it go – but, what, did you expect a couple ###holes in velvet-robes? You figure that hobbit-fondler Gandalf is gonna tap at the door and blow you some goddamn smoke rings?

    “Open up and let us in before your kid starts making the local sheep wranglers and burgermeisters nervous.”

    Will winced at the delivery, but it seemed to be an alien enough reaction to convince the man that they were the mystics in question.

    He stepped aside, saying, “I’m Martin.”

    The front hall contained a tasteful selection of vases, filled with dried plants, and large nature photos, whose frames spoke of false age and a love of Pottery Barn.

    They found the boy at a broad mahogany dining room table. His mother sat to his left, her lips tight, and, assuming no one sits that close otherwise, Bunny guessed the pushed-back chair to his right meant they’d interrupted a tense family conversation.

    “Jackson,” said the father, “this is Will and Bunny. They clai- uh, they’re here to help you.”

    Before the eighteen-year-old might reply, his mother extended a dry hand across the vast polished surface.

    “Anita,” she said.

    The coaxing kick she delivered to her son’s ankle, though well below the depths of the table’s surface, was hardly subtle, and the teen rose to repeat the round of palm grabbing.

    “Thank you for coming, but I don’t-” began Jackson, until a second, firmer, kick landed.

    As Martin retook his position flanking his son, Anita dug into the matter.

    “We realized a month ago. I’ve been to every library and spent hours on Google, yet – well, there’s a lot of superstition and junk science, but no answers.”

    Though Martin motioned towards a chair, neither the shaman nor his companion chose to sit.

    “You say you realized a month ago, how long has it been going on?” Will asked Jackson.

    “Apparently it’s happened six times,” replied Anita.

    Bunny frowned.

    Coffin raised a brow at the youth.

    “Half a year? That’s quite a while to wait before seeking help?”

    “So far he’s -” began Martin, and Bunny laughed.

    “Stop interrupting like he’s f#cking Taylor Swift,” she said. “No wonder you had no clue until recently, kid probably didn’t want to open his mouth in case he caught some of the bullsh#t flyin’ through the air in his teeth.”

    Anita and Martin sat, bolt upright, but Coffin could only shrug. He wanted to get paid, but also wanted to do it in a timely fashion.

    It was Jackson who broke the silence.

    “I need to show you something in my room,” he said, and, without making eye contact, or awaiting parental approval, he headed up the stairs. Anita and Martin moved to also stand, but Coffin shook his head twice and retrieved a long silver chain from his pocket. An intricate hook that looped and wound in on itself hung from its tail, and trapped upon the intricate curve was a plug of glistening meat.

    FP435 – Coffin: Wrong TreeThough Will had no intention of using the arcane artifact, its off-putting appearance was enough to convince the parents to remain in place while Coffin and Bunny followed the slouching ascent.

    At the top of the flight they took a left and entered a dustless room filled with evenly-hung posters.

    The Coffin was formulating an attempt at a fresh start to the conversation when his eyes took in the chamber’s true nature.

    Here was a poster of a fuzzy blue hedgehog hugging a rather well-muscled anthropomorphic lion, and next to it a hand-sketched image of a reclining bipedal fox.

    Before either the mystic or his student could comment, the room’s owner’s voice landed as a mix of plea and anger.

    “I don’t see what the problem is, I feed myself every time – I even learned to bake my own honeyed ham! – and I’ve never hurt anyone, why can’t they – why don’t you just leave me alone?”

    Will’s eyes narrowed. “You’re pretty lucid under the influence? You’re sure you’ve got yourself under control?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Must be the Grecian strain.” replied the Coffin, his voice distant.

    “Have you told them why it happened?” asked his apprentice.

    “No,” answered Jackson. “They don’t want to hear it anyway. They just want the problem to go away.”

    Bunny snorted. “Even if we yank your tail off the truth is you don’t need a f#ckin’ exorcist, kid, you need a family counselor.”

    “You know,” said the shaman, his jacket creaking as he settled onto the nearest corner of the firmly-made bed, “folks with, uh, your sorts of interests are really the vestigial remnants of an ancient age. There was a time when the gods themselves, bunch of sex maniacs that they were, would come down in the form of goats or swans or bulls just to rut – and no one thought twice. Now they call you a furry, but back then they’d have signed you up for an obscure, but respected, holy order.

    “I’ll make you a deal: Give me the name of whoever infected you with your lycanthropy and I’ll come around every full moon to ‘bring you to a safe place.’ Just don’t tell your parents that I’m dropping you off at a private club across town called The Fur Ball, and be sure to wear proper protection – oh, and that my monthly bill gets paid on time.”

     

    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.

    FP429 – Coffin: Dislocation

    FP429 - Coffin: Disclosure, a Skinner Co. Network Podcast

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty-nine.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Dislocation

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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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his apprentice, find themselves dealing with an apparition that simply wants to move on.

     

    Coffin: Dislocation

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

     

    It was a strange gig.

    Bunny stood at the edge of the lake, her hands deep in her pockets and her denim jacket shut against the wind that roared across the water.

    She stood with Mantas and Greta Kulpa, whose hard faces watched Will Coffin swing high his arcane token upon the rocky shore.

    Behind them was a plain white cross, nailed together and painted by Mantas’ own hands.

    The sky howled and the rain came, yet still somehow the Kulpa’s cheeks remained dry.

    Their English was crisp, but they delivered it as embittered spitting.

    Mantas asked, “is this going to take long?”

    Bunny shrugged. “Do you really hate it that much here?”

    “How much do we hate this place?” asked Greta.

    “We hate this place so much we are literally driving directly to the airport to leave,” replied Mantas.

    “We hate this place so much I may lobby the Grand Duchy to declare war on your miserable nation. I hardly think you’ll notice, but hopefully it will be enough to find us on the no fly list, and thus free of your grubby hands, sarcastic remarks, and ironic tourist sunglasses.”

    “Not much longer,” answered Bunny.

    The Crook of Ortez maintained its revolutions, its power, waxing in these late days, summoning up waves as well as pulling at the phantoms of the dead, teasing them to rise.

    Bunny had seen her partner conjure the apparitions dozens of times, but never quite like this. It certainly was dramatic, at least.

    On this occasion, however, no shimmering form appeared. Her partner made no extended entreaties, nor threats, nor even dry coughs. The storm hit a furious tempo, and then he let the chain drop, and the gale with it.

    Thunder broke and rolled across the calming blue, and a downpour began to march in their direction from the distant shore. It’s ferocity, however, was nothing more than natural.

    “It’s done,” said Will, his leather jacket dripping as he approached the cluster of observers.

    “Great light show,” said Bunny, “but next time play some Floyd or something,”

    The comment was out of her mouth before she considered her audience, but, given the Kulpa’s stolid indifference, she found it difficult to deliver a sorry.

    “You spoke with her?” asked Greta.

    “Yes,” replied Coffin.

    “You told her we still intend to depart?” asked Mantas.

    “Yes,” replied Coffin.

    “How did she take it?” asked the mother, and Bunny thought it seemed as if she expected the dead girl would talk back.

    Will shrugged. “She seemed okay.”

    FP429 - Coffin: Disclosure, a Skinner Co. Network Podcast“Indifference? Typical,” said Greta. “I told you this place had warped her. Even in death she does not care about her parents. So ungrateful – so, so: So American.”

    Mantas only grunted.

    Coffin and Bunny stood together as they watched the pair climb the embankment, arm in arm. Within seconds the rented yellow hatchback was back on the highway and out of sight.

    There was no wave goodbye, but Bunny consoled herself with the fact that they at least hadn’t spit on her as they departed.

    “I missed what you were supposed to tell her – was it anything that would make me feel bad about thinking they’re a couple of puckered-asshole righteousness fondlers?”

    “Nah,” answered Coffin. “They said, ‘tell her we can not stand this place. We are still leaving, good luck in the afterlife.”

    “They didn’t seem too fuckin’ wadded up about the untimely death, and still missing corpse, of their only offspring? For all they know the bass are slowly shitting out their daughter down there. Why didn’t they at least ask her where her remains were?”

    “Some use ritual as a system for dealing with the guilt they ignore. Those folks know they are right and proper, so it’s not their fault they’ve failed to make it in America, or failed to raise their daughter, or failed to change in any way as the world has ground on around them.

    “They came to me not to get answers, but to simply put a period on the sentence. They have, to their own minds, done what they can – and now they’ll get on with the next thing.”

    As they spoke, the pair climbed the same hill they’d watched the parents scale. Shuffling towards the car they’d rented at the Kulpa’s expense, a sixteen-year-old girl in a Ramones t-shirt and frayed-kneed jeans joined them.

    “Exactly,” she said, “and it’s that same unthinking dedication to their ancient ways that would have forced them to drag me back to a place I remember hating as much as I remember it at all – or, if I’d fought hard enough, would have left them in a small town half a world away, complaining endlessly about the daughter they never saw, talked to, or in any way helped support. Still, they’d cry over it, and they wouldn’t even understand why. Just that it’s what is done.

    “Better they think I’m dead then a blight upon the family, carousing and living a wild life in America.”

    With no more time spent lingering than Matas and Greta had invested, Will, Bunny, and the very alive Melina Kulpas leaned into a quick U-turn, then sped back to the city.

     

    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.

    FP415 – Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

    Coffin: A Occult Serial Fiction Podcast

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fifteen.

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

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    Download MP3

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

     

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

    Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his increasingly sober apprentice, eat pancakes and aid a man haunted by his past.

     

    Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

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

     

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

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

    “Napkins?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “I’d never seen her cry before.

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

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

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

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

    “‘How could you do this?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    Freesound.org credits:

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

    – and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

    FP414 – Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

    FP414 - Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fourteen.

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

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

     

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

    Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, has a brief conversation with the remnants of the woman he married.

     

    Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Any news?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yeah.”

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

    “Yeah.”

    “Why are you working this thing then?”

    It was his turn to fall quiet.

    At the twelfth floor he changed the subject.

    “You understand what I need then?”

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

    “Sandy, I’m sorry,” he said.

    “So you’ve said,” she replied.

    “It was for your own good,” he said.

    “So you’ve said,” she repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    Freesound.org credits:

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

    – and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

    FP413 – Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirteen.

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

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

     

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

    Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his vodka-dependent apprentice, encounter the strange tale of Laila Hamilton, wife and secret nuzzler.

     

    Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The tale continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “That’s why I’m here.”

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

     

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

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    Freesound.org credits:

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

    – and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

    FP401 – Coffin: What’s Eating You?

    Coffin

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and one.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: What’s Eating You?

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Melting Potcast

     

    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 begin our slow approach towards Halloween with a tale of Capital City tricks and treats.

     

    Coffin: What’s Eating You?

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

     

    Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his sobering apprentice, sat on the faux-wood plastic bench of a Capital City bus stop.

    It was the sort of chill spring afternoon that, to Will, always felt more like fall.

    His roommate’s thoughts were moving in a different direction.

    “Hey-zeus,” she said, “it’s cold as Kris Kringle’s nuts out here.”

    “I dunno,” answered Will, “perhaps it’s last year’s lazy raking job by the city workers, but I’d say it’d make for a solid evening in October.”

    Some days were better than others for the recovering alcoholic. Some were worse.

    Today was definitely worse.

    “Maybe it’s always been this dog-molestingly f#cking miserable outside and I didn’t notice it under the fermented potatoes’ heat,” she replied, her neck craning above her fully-buttoned denim jacket.

    Spotting a jaywalking woman wearing several layers of filth-blackened sweaters while pushing a shopping cart brimming with empty cans, Bunny reminded herself that she was supposed to be working on her perspective.

    “I guess if it wasn’t for my ass freezing to the seat this’d be some decent Michael Myers weather,” she added.

    “Who?” asked Coffin.

    “You know, the crazy Halloween f#cker with the knife and the mask.”

    “Sorry, you’ll have to be more specific, I’ve known a few Halloween crazies with knives and masks.”

    It was a rare thing, in those days, for Coffin to crack a joke – and rarer still for Bunny not to be able to tell if his comment was serious or not.

    “Halloween as in the movies, not as in the kiddie candy orgy,” she answered.

    “Oh, yeah,” said Will.

    The silence returned, and the bus did not arrive.

    “Have you read up on the candy man?” the Coffin finally asked his student.

    “Like, that crazy b#stard with a hook for a hand that appears if you say his name three times?”

    Will turned, his eyebrow raised.

    “Huh?” he asked.

    “Another movie – but, in that case, the answer is no.”

    Shifting to his left and seeing no approaching chariot, Coffin leaned back against the cold plastic, placed his hands in his pockets, and said, “this’d be a few decades back – a simpler era, if you believe the nostalgia. You know, back when the outfit options were mostly Dracula, Mummy, or Ghost.

    “Jarvis Beauford was the sort of old man who cared for nothing more than network news broadcasts, and, even then, simply as proof that the world was going to hell just as he kept telling those who’d listen.

    “Honestly, I can’t imagine there were many of those left by then.

    “He’d spent thirty years working for the city before I ran into him, and his major preoccupation was road kill.

    “Raccoon didn’t quite make it across the street while some van-wielding mother of seven was distracted by a screaming baby? Someone poison a stray dog because it wouldn’t stop wandering into their yard with thin ribs and an empty belly? Sixteen wheeler plow through, over, and around a fawn too fresh from the forest to realize it shouldn’t be wandering across the western highway?

    “Jarvis was the guy you called.

    “Best thing to wash away the stink of the day, he’d claim for the fifteen years he managed to keep his first wife, was a good dose of cheap beer. Hard to say if it was his liquid habits or his amateur taxidermy that finally pushed her away, but I’m guessing it was a little of both.

    “The western end of town was still in the middle of collapsing then, and it was mostly a jumble of cheap World War II housing filled with the usual mix of hollow-pocketed young families, bone-broke students, and those so old they talked about the place in terms of ‘back when it was nice.’”

    Bunny coughed and said, “so far the most unbelievable part of your story is that that neighbourhood was ever not full of craft beer drinking ###holes and greed-eyed yuppies.”

    Coffin leaned forward. “As I was saying, it was Halloween night in an age before grubby-fingered looters weren’t allowed to trick-or-treat after dark.

    “Jarvis had his light on, but it was grimy enough that he didn’t notice me standing in the gnarled mess of his rioting bushes when he shoved open the screen door for the kid in an unusually realistic E.T. costume.

    “”Trick or treat,” says the kid, as he catches some tossed confections.

    “”Little of both, maybe,” replies Jarvis, while grinning like he’s been gifted a tanker full of Milwaukee’s Best.

    “Beauford seems reluctant to let the moment end, but the lingering gets weird so finally he starts retreating – then the kid does something that takes us both by surprise: He unzipped his neck and chin to reveal a soft round face and a glowing mop of brown hair.

    “”I can’t wait!” says the delinquent, and he digs into his bag with both rubber-gloved hands.

    “Jarvis’ face is fighting with itself; he can’t seem to decide if he wants to stop the gluttony or if it’s the greatest thing ever. The grown man giggles, pans his view up and down the sidewalk, giggles again, does nothing.

    “I’m maybe ten feet away, but I can clearly hear the smacking of the boy’s teeth as he chews.

    Coffin“The candy man’s face drops. He can’t look away, but his giddy glee has become total confusion.

    “E.T. turns a little as he ducks down for a second sweet, and I can see the blood running down the front of his costume. I can see the gap where his lip has split to the gum line. I think he knew I was there and it was for my benefit. He even flashed a smile that pulled the slice wide, revealing the pearly whites beneath.

    “Then he stands up and in goes the next mouthful.

    “Now, you gotta understand that I was new to working alone at that point, and – well, before this recent explosion there was very little occult business to be undertaken beyond the occasional haunting. The season has its rep for a reason, though, even if it hadn’t meant much for two centuries.

    “Still, it’s the thinnest the veil gets, as they used to say on In Search Of…, and I’d read up on this wee bugger in a Blackhall tome.

    “Kids’d apparently summon the thing back when the world was brimming with mystic juice and people were willing to sacrifice a cat or two for a harvest festival urban legend. A shapeshifting imp – really just a trouble maker raised to play into the sick sense of humour they had when everyone was dropping dead of plague.”

    “- and people these days talk sh#t about violent video games,” said Bunny.

    Will snorted.

    “As it turned out,” he continued, “between the booze and the blood, that was about all old Jarvis could take. Poor bugger went over like a carp landing on deck.

    “I had to do something. I mean, it’s one thing to set a minor demon free to roam the streets out of curiosity, but it’s quite another to watch a guy in a dingy white undershirt flop to death on his porch.

    “No cell service back then, of course, so there I was, running around his wood paneled living room, knocking over empty Busch cans and tossing aside stacks of TV Guide in search of a phone.

    “You could read those walls as easily as the dog-eared copies of Penthouse Letters spread across the living room table. Here was a miserable man, wallowing in his mire.

    “How miserable? The kind that frames his divorce papers and hangs them on the wall.

    “The kind that has stuffed heads on plaques as the only type of other decoration in the space he most uses.

    “There were three long rows of decapitated animals. It looked like he’d placed them side-by-side, in the order he found them, starting at the door. When he’d completed the loop he’d simply nailed the next stapled-together fawn skull a level down and begun again. Raccoons, a variety of breeds of cats and dogs, deer of various sizes: I’m no expert in the field, but there seemed to be very little care for the condition in which he scraped them off the road. Some skin was so rotten you could see the foam padding beneath.

    “Then I toured the kitchen. Stacks of dishes, rinsed but left haphazardly on the counter – and a pot, the bottom of which smelled sugary sweet.

    “There wasn’t a phone near the table either, where I found the hammer and a shopping list.

    “Well, I didn’t know, as Beauford tossed a wad of hand-wrapped candy into the tyke’s pillowcase, that he’d spent hours crafting the soft taffy, nor that he’d been just as careful in inserting the shards of a number of shattered razors into the cooling goo. I didn’t, but the imp must’ve caught on somehow.

    “I don’t think it knew what would happen, but at that point I don’t think either of us were sweating Jarvis’ heart attack as I crept away to find a too-late payphone.”

    Bunny snorted and said, “perspective is a greasy f#cker like that.”

    The bus arrived.

     

    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.

    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

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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.