Category: Will Coffin

FP164 – Coffin: Siren, Part 1 of 1

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Siren, Part 1 of 1.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Flash Pulp Facebook page.

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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 his thirsty companion, Bunny Davis, find themselves locked in hand-to-hand combat with a civil servant.

 

Flash Pulp 164 – Coffin: Siren, Part 1 of 1

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

 

CoffinThe two-story suburban home’s upper windows had shattered under the heat of the blaze, but those on the lower floor remained closed, except a single pane in the front living-room, which had been cracked against the vigour of the air conditioner, and now allowed an outlet for the black smoke column that blew outwards as if tainted-steam from a roiling kettle.

At the center of the throng which had assembled to spectate the combustion, a steel-haired man held a weeping woman whose eyes peered constantly over his comforting shoulder, watching a lifetime of memories and knickknacks turned to kindling.

On the crowd’s furthest edge, however, Bunny Davis was engaged in a fist fight. Her whisky habit had her at a disadvantage as far as accuracy or balance were concerned, but, liquid bravery, and a fast moving mouth, had kept her upright thus far.

She took another swing at the firefighter, but, again, her punch slid along the clear Plexiglas-visor with little effect.

“Fargh,” said Will, only four-feet away, but entirely occupied with the stinging fury brought on by the can of mace he’d intercepted with his eyes.

“You ####ing pole-sliding truck-rider, just turn a-####in’-round and head back to your Ghostbusters shack.”

The woman behind the breathing mask responded with a strong right to the nose, which put Bunny over backwards, and brought the smell of copper to her nostrils.

Her impediments disposed of, the fire-woman strode towards the burning structure, laid a boot to the front door, then entered.

The onlookers cheered.

Bunny, finding her feet, rubbed at her aching gin-blossoms as she watched a man, unseen by the majority of the gathered, move to the left-most window on the second floor.

With the flames framing his silhouette, he rubbed at his sharp-cornered chin, then stretched his muscled shoulders with a languid roll.

As his white t-shirt ignited, he began to strum his guitar.

* * *

A week earlier, Coffin and his tipsy roommate had been loitering in front of the Eats’N’Treats, busied largely with ignoring the glaring sun and the uncomfortable bench.

Bunny had located an abandoned newspaper, and was filling the time remarking on random entries as she used the broadsheet as cover to move vodka from her pocket to her mouth, and back again.

“Holy ####,” she said, sipping, “looks like they’re playin’ the original Planet of the Apes downtown, I love that movie. Charlton Heston is the loudest ####ing actor I’ve ever seen. Sum##### lands on a planet full of monkeys and what’s he do? Yells at ‘em till they give him part of the Statue of Liberty – or, whatever, I mean, it’s been a while – but what then? Yells at ‘em some more.”

“That’s not quite how the film goes,” replied Will.

“Whatever, all I’m sayin’ is the man was a god #### genius.”

Coffin’s attention, only marginally involved in the conversation, was on a white truck sitting idle between a pair of the lot’s faded yellow lines. The vehicle had parked five minutes earlier, but a passenger had yet to emerge.

“No one shouts like Heston anymore,” Bunny continued. ”I blame Clint Eastwood.”

The pickup’s door swung open, and a squat woman stepped down from the running-board. It was tough to tell her age, as she wore large black sunglasses which reminded Will of the visors occasionally worn by the blind, and the thick plastic left nothing but her furrowed cheeks as a clue. He guessed sixty.

“I’m looking for a Mr. Will Coffin,” she said.

“I’ve heard of him,” replied Bunny. “Lazy #######, that one.”

“Sorry,” said Will, “pay no mind to my, uh, assistant; too much sun, and too much cheap raspberry vodka, and she gets a little talkative. Something I can be of help with?”

“Name’s Euphemia Dumfries. I’m a fire chaser out of the station at main and baseline. A paramedic friend of mine said I should talk to you – I, uh, a month ago we were responding to a basement fire and I heard this song. Simple thing, just an acoustic guitar and a strong voice – but it came floating over the heat, like a melody made of smoke. I’m hearing this tune over the crackle and pop, and I see this guy on the second floor. I lost it a bit, and pushed further inside than I should have. I caught myself just before running into the living room, where the floor was gone entirely. Scary thing about basement fires, you get down below ground-level with no stairs and you’re basically standing in a barbecue pit. Anyhow, I was fine, but I was sure the fella was a goner – thing is, even once things were cleared, we didn’t find anyone.”

She paused in her story, and Will stood, offering her his spot on the bench.

Shaking her head, she pushed out a breath and then continued.

“I’m old for the work – if I didn’t come so cheap and have the strength of an Alabama chain gang, I’d’ve been off the truck a long time ago. I didn’t want to put in for a talk with a doc, as I figured they’d use it as the last straw. A couple weeks later though, we were dousing a garage over on Melville, and it hit a propane tank the home owner had forgotten under a pile of newspapers he’d intended on recycling. Brilliant. Blew out the drywall and his kitchen went up like a match. Now, I’m way back at the truck at this point – and I hear it again. There was the same guy, thirty-ish, and pretty like a TV doctor. He was at the second floor window again, and he was singing – he was singing to me. I don’t really know what happened. I kicked through the front door, which was relatively unscathed, and bolted upstairs. I stomped into a guest bedroom, and there he was. He smiled, then he said ‘44 Wiltshire.’ That’s on the east end of town. What I didn’t know was that things were pretty much under control on the ground floor. As soon as the danger was gone – so was he. I got my ### chewed out something fierce for acting like such an idiot with nothing to show for it.”

“Not your fault, really,” said Coffin, “I’ve heard of your troubadour. Died a decade and a half ago while writing a song for his wife in their bedroom. Story goes that the place burned down while she was off wrestling with his best friend. Now he serenades bystanders, and apparently first responders, from the interior of burning homes, hoping they’ll join him inside.”

“Why does he do it?” asked Euphemia, “and is there a way to stop it?”

“Well, spite, partially, but I figure he’s probably hoping one will go willingly. He’s claimed a few lives, but I doubt they were inclined to hang around with him in the afterlife, so his desire – for companionship – goes unsatisfied.”

“Was a good looking eternity, to me.” she replied. She adjusted her glasses and cleared her throat. “Honestly, I guess I knew the answer all along. I live to help, and, truth is, I’m getting old. If I don’t die in my boots shortly, I’ll end up accidentally doing so alone in my own bed.”

They’d argued the point for seven days.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

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

FP159 – Coffin: Tell Tales, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and fifty-nine.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Tell Tales, Part 1 of 1.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Walker Journals

Life ain’t easy, especially not amongst the undead.

Find them all at youtube.com/walkerzombiesurvivor

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, spins a few barroom stories to a wobbly audience of one.

Flash Pulp 159 – Coffin: Tell Tales, Part 1 of 1

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

CoffinCoffin was sitting in Dorset’s, watching his soggy roommate, Bunny, finish off yet another foamy glass of Corona. It had been her fifth beer.

“You’re going to end up like that guy,” said Will, pointing towards a translucent man in a corner booth.

“The ####’s his deal?” she asked.

“One of the bar’s earliest customers,” he replied, “his habit was getting pretty troublesome by the time he died. He’d nearly managed to drown his liver when he was accidentally run over as he stumbled home. His spirit was too drunk to find its way, so now he comes in nightly to try and collect his thoughts in a mug. Dorset dispenses a pint for him at the stroke of midnight, or the ornery bugger starts throwing things.”

“Can’t you help him?”

“They don’t hold AA meetings for wandering spirits, which is what I’m trying to tell you. Beyond that, not every otherworldly problem has a mystical solution – or any at all. Sometimes people just need to get themselves straightened out, however dead they may be.”

Sneering, Bunny waved down the pudgy tap-tender and demanded a refill.

“You mentioned, like, legends once – what about famous ####? Ever get ####ing Dracula or Frankenstein in here? I mean, anything I might have actually heard of?”

“Yeah,” Coffin replied, “A few of the Greek gods passed through once. They were a bunch of shape-shifting perverts. Had to ask them to leave, actually.”

“You tossed Zeus on his ###?”

“No – Poseidon and Bacchus. They were a pretty rowdy pair. Wasn’t quite as easy as picking them up by the scruff of their neck and giving them the heave-ho, but, when Dorset opened his doors I agreed that I’d act as part-time bouncer.“

Bunny’s replenished glass paused, mid-ascent.

“Wait, what? You work for him?”

“It’s my fault the bloody Englishman even set up a place here. He doesn’t do it for the money, he doesn’t need it. He just – he came across some information regarding the end of the world that he wasn’t supposed to know, and he started following me around. He bought this shack when I finally settled in Capital City.”

“Why you?”

“I was the one who accidentally told him.”

“#### me – and how long do we have?”

“Dunno. That’s what he’s looking to learn as well. I promised him I’d tell him as soon as I had an exact date, but that was almost a decade ago, and he’s still waiting.”

“Jesus, in that case what’s the difference? I could be hit by a car tomorrow, doesn’t mean I’m going to move to a ####ing Toyota dealership.” Despite her bravado, Bunny took a deep sip from her glass before continuing. “I’ve never seen you give #### all for nothing, though, so why are you helping him? You don’t even drink the free beer he offers.”

“Well, I feel somewhat responsible for dropping the apocalypse on him, but I was also a huge fan of Cheers, back in the day.”

“The only time you crack a joke is when you’re avoiding the truth,” replied Bunny. She pulled in another mouthful of ale. “Are those guys your fault too?”

“The three Steves?” said Coffin, turning to the identical trio of blond men in baseball caps. “No, they’re their own problem. He was overseas doing some contract construction work when he found a relic he shouldn’t have touched. Getting his selves back here was a pain apparently, they had to risk mailing his passport twice before they were gathered again. He makes out OK now though, two of them hang out here while the other is back home, and they get a lot of one-off renovation jobs around the city, so a pair can be earning while the loafer drinks the proceeds.”

“Sounds like a sweet deal.”

“Well, there’s a hitch, of course. They all love the same woman, his – uh, their – wife, but they know damn well that if she was aware of the situation, she’d turn the lot of them onto the street. I think he kind of resents his selves for the time he spends with her.”

“That’s ####ed up.”

“Yeah, like I said, not every problem has a simple solution. The guy who sent the Steves this way – you met him once – he came to me looking for help in a professional capacity. He was high on shrooms, and messing around with some friends in a South-side rail yard, when he’d fallen through the floor of a semi-abandoned service building. It was too dark to see, and he said he wandered around for hours before he fell asleep. Woke up in his own bed, no idea how he’d gotten there.”

Coffin scooped a handful of complimentary peanuts from the small brown bowl at his elbow.

“At first he just used the drugs to explain everything away, but he started having a repeating nightmare. He’d dream that he was under his covers, and, although he couldn’t move, he had a clear view of his room’s door. For three of four months, it was the same boring scene, then, one evening, he notices the front end of a sneaker at the entrance. The next night, he had line of sight on a little Adidas runner, with a scraped knee and shin attached. Then he could make out a pair of little blue shorts and a ten-year-old’s face. He figured the boy was getting a step closer every time he slept. Tough circumstances – it was like he was awake, in broad daylight, with nothing to stare at for eight hours but the approaching child. Still, he couldn’t give a decent description to assist with identification – he said the kid’s face looked as if it’d been pulled apart by rats. He could even make out gnaw-marks on the eyelids.”

Grimacing, Bunny finished number six and ordered number seven. She nodded away her interruption, encouraging Will to carry on.

Wiping salt from his fingers, Coffin did.

“He only knew to ask me because he was my cousin by marriage. One of Sandy’s favourites, actually. Honestly, I don’t think it was coincidence. At the time, I could go years without encountering anything interesting, but, between the day he fell into the hole, and the day he came to me for help, I killed a lycanthrope, conducted a phantasmal marching band, and refused four separate offers for my eternal soul. I think he was called down there to wake something up.

“I was pretty green, but I’d read about a ritual that would be of assistance. We started it on the morning after the kid reached the foot of his bed. That was the last time he slept. His brain isn’t quite what it used to be, but he still prefers to not know what would happen if he’d waited any longer – and, given how busy my trade has been since, I’d rather not find out either.”

“Is the l’il b#####d still getting closer?”

“I can’t say. Ghosts don’t appear in dreams, and I’ve yet to find anything that would provide an explanation. I keep hoping to come across an answer that’ll fix them both, I just haven’t – yet.” He shrugged. ”Sometimes there’s no easy resolution. ”

From over the lip of her upturned glass, Bunny’s gin-blossomed nose bobbed in agreement.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP151 – Coffin: Zonbi, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and fifty-one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Zonbi, Part 1 of 1.

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(RSS / iTunes)

 


This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Relic Radio network.

It was TV before TV was TV.

To find out more click here!

 

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 his tipsy roommate, Bunny Davis, receive reports regarding another practitioner of the occult arts.

 

Flash Pulp 151 – Coffin: Zonbi, Part 1 of 1

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

 

“What the #### was that guy’s deal?” asked Bunny, spitting a sunflower husk into the Eats and Treats’ trash barrel.

“He never sleeps.” replied Coffin.

“Huh? The ####?”

“He asked me to do it. He’s better off this way.”

“Was he serious, about the zombie?”

“Yeah, I think so. He’s generally pretty twitchy, but he looked especially rough today.”

The conversation had been a short one. Apparently the insomniac had been wandering about the south end of town, in the pre-dawn hours, when he’d come across a member of the undead. Unsure of how to proceed, the sleepless man had done the only reasonable thing: moved directly away, as quickly as possible.

The idea of informing Will had come the next morning.

Rising from the bench that made up his place of business, Coffin sauntered to the bus-stop. His crude-mouthed roommate trailed behind.

It was a poor time of day to push a vehicle through the city’s congested arteries.

Fifteen minutes into the ride, having replenished her fluid levels from a water bottle full of vodka, Bunny once again took up the subject.

“So, uh, what are we expecting? Is it anything like Return of the Living Dead? Tim used to love that ####ing movie, but I need a chunk bitten out of my ### like I need dental work by Godzilla.”

“Well, it’s not really -” his sentence was cut short by the look in his companion’s eyes. “What?”

“I – if all this other #### is real, if I gotta deal with ghosts and ####ing zombies, is… is Godzilla real too?”

Before responding, Coffin forcefully rubbed his eye with the palm of his hand.

“No.” He expelled a lungful of air through his nostrils. “There are varieties of zombies – it’s a bit of an umbrella term. I won’t know what exactly we’re dealing with until we arrive, but I’m guessing we’re not about to encounter a bunch of undead, 1980s-style, punk rockers.”

“Don’t be a smart ###.”

“I’m just saying we need to wait and see.”

* * *

Finding the wandering corpse in question was a simple enough matter, as Bunny wasn’t interested in asking after the lined-faced men who spoke only French to Coffin, and who consistently pointed him towards a particular paint-flecked townhouse.

As they approached, she noticed that all of the window screens had been ripped out, but their frames left in place – to her mind, combined with the black curtains beyond, it gave the rental the impression of lidless eye sockets.

Coffin thrust hard at the sharded edges of the plastic-hole that was once a doorbell, and a grating buzz emanated from somewhere in the interior.

“Maybe he’s sleepin’?” suggested Bunny, after five minutes of wobbling back and forth on the creaking front step.

Will had at the buzzer a second time, and his persistence brought results.

From within came the sound of a sliding chain-lock.

“Who you think you are!?” The stranger’s blond hair clumped in dirty tangles, and he wore only baggy black shorts. His chest sported an array of tattoos, which Coffin busied himself studying.

“This guy ain’t dead,” muttered Bunny. She reconsidered her flippancy, however, when her eyes adjusted to the patterns of black ink woven over the man, “ – oh ####, is he some sort of voodoo master?”

“Be gone,” the door-holder replied. The gap began to close.

“I’m Coffin.” Will brushed his thumb against the stubble at his chin. “Your fake Haitian accent is terrible, stop it. Show me the zonbi.”

“Uh, Coffin? Like, from the other side of town?”

“Yes – and who are you?”

“They call me, uh, le Roi de la Mort.”

Will raised an eyebrow.

“Seriously? Fine. I’ll call you Roy. Show me, Roy.”

His shoulders slumping, the self-crowned King of the Dead lead them inside. The ground level was well maintained, but Bunny felt no remorse at tracking dirt over the plush carpet. She whistled when she spotted the living room’s massive television, and the leather furniture it was surrounded by.

The basement was another matter.

Lying on a beaten brown couch, set flush with the far cinder-block wall, was a tall man, covered in grime. His eyes were open, and affixed upon the exposed duct-work that ran along the low-roof.

“Get up.” ordered Coffin, but the zombie seemed not to hear.

“Holy ####ing fairy testicles,” said Bunny. She was un-enthused with the odour of the place.

“OK, great, you’ve had the tour, now get out,” replied the home’s owner.

Coffin spoke directly to Bunny.

Coffin“There’s nothing magical about any of this, what we’ve got here is a social issue. This poseur has convinced his Haitian neighbours that he’s a Bokor: a sorcerer,” he pointed at the couch’s occupant, “- and this guy’s getting the short end of the stick. He’s convinced because they’re convinced.”

“How you figure? Mr Stare-y here looks pretty ####ing enchanted to me,” replied Bunny.

“Mostly the tattoos. Feels like there’s a lot of these guys lately – pseudo-mystics branded with badly translated Chinese characters and Germanic runes to look like they know what they’re doing. They catch wind of a few key ideas from someone who should know better than to talk to them, and then they set up shop scaring cash out of anyone gullible enough to believe them.”

Roy began to back slowly towards the wooden stairs that lead to the first floor.

Turning on him, Coffin cleared his throat. The counterfeit conjurer ceased his movement.

“I knew a guy who used to travel with the Grateful Dead. He was mostly just a new-ager, but he’d gotten hold of a tool, the work of an old wizard named Rousseau. Rousseau was a scribe, back when written spells still worked, but he required a method of correcting his labours, as ink was tough to come by – especially when you were grinding it out of bat gizzards and three weeks worth of gathered herbs. In the end his solution was to craft, well-” Will reached into his coat, retrieving a short length of ornate brass, with what appeared to be a glistening sponge upon its tip. “- this. It absorbed his errors. After he was done, he could just squeeze out the valuable ink and re-use it.”

Bunny shook her head.

“I don’t get it, I thought you said these unicorn molestors were playing pretend?” she replied.

“Blondy is, but the imitation-ghoul believes it. He probably tried to resist at first, ask for help when he could, but most of these folks are from Haiti’s boondocks, only here to work a factory job for a few years so they can return with enough money to set up something decent at home. We’re talking manual labourers doing back breaking work on fourteen-hour shifts, and for a lot of them, their faith is their strength, which includes the concept of the zonbis. As for the other locals – I mean, look at him, there aren’t a lot of people well versed in French or Creole around here, and, if this musty stumbler approached you, you’d probably figure he was just a jabbering homeless guy. Jack someone up on hallucinogenic drugs and hold them hostage for a few weeks in a world where everyone shuns them, and their mind goes a bit. He likely fought it, but now he believes.”

As they spoke, the man’s face remained ever-blank.

Bunny drained her tainted water bottle.

“The #### do we do then?”

“Convince him of something new. As I was saying, I got this fancy little stick from a Deadhead. He bartered it for a little help with his lung cancer. I couldn’t cure him, but – well, anyhow, when he wasn’t playing guru, he made his money as a tattoo artist. He told me this thing was fantastic when he’d pooch his line-work.”

Coffin waved the device across Roy’s chest, and a large swath of inscription disappeared. Within seconds the illustrations were fully replaced with bare skin, and the material at the end of the short handle dripped with black liquid.

Will turned, and was pleased to see he held the bewitched man’s attention.

“C’est fini,” said the shaman. “Allez!”

As if awakening from a long dream, the released stood, then approached the stairs with quickening steps. He was running by the time he disappeared from view.

“Do you know how much getting all of those hurt? Or how much it cost?” complained Roy.

“Probably more than it’s going to cost to get your carpets cleaned once I’m done purging my brush. Hope your landlord got a deposit.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP145 – Coffin: Drifter, Part 1 of 1

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Drifter, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp145.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Ladies Pendragon.

Find out more about their Pendragon Variety Podcast at http://pendragonvariety.com/

 

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 his associate, Bunny Davis, awaiting a disreputable delivery.

 

Flash Pulp 145 – Coffin: Drifter, Part 1 of 1

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

 

On the previous evening, Coffin’s roommate had discovered a Western-movie marathon playing on a dusty cable station, and she’d nested in front of the television for a long vigil with her vodka bottle. Now, Bunny was eager to discuss her new found enthusiasm.

“John Wayne? I love John Wayne,” she reported.

“Sure,” replied Will, watching the street.

Except for the waiting pair, the Plexiglas bus stop, and the darkened street beyond, were empty.

“Bullets? #### you, I’m John Wayne. I mean, True Grit – Missing an eye? #### you, I’m John Wayne.”

“Uh huh,” said Coffin.

“Acting? #### you, I’m John Wayne,” she continued, while taking a sip of whisky.

“I heard he couldn’t properly ride a horse.” Will replied, frowning at her upturned flask.

Bunny wiped a trickle of escaped spirits from her chin.

“When’s this #### pusher going to get here?” she asked.

A friend had conveyed the tip to Coffin a few hours previous, and, despite the tardiness of its proof, he still felt confident in the lead.

“The old mute said our drifter would be getting off the seventy-three, and it hasn’t passed yet. It’s just running late.”

Bunny grunted. “Ever seen The Shootist? Now there’s a ####ing -”

She was cut short by the grinding lurch of a city bus rounding the corner.

The behemoth rolled to a stop, its doors fluttering open just long enough to eject a thin man in a heavy brown sweater, then it continued on down the road, eventually pulling to the left, and out of sight.

“You the guy wanting the stuff?” the lanky faced newcomer asked.

Coffin inspected the blackened rings under his eyes, the sloppy grin, and the constant flurry that were the man’s hands.

“You certainly look like the guy with the stuff,” he replied.

“Yeah, I’m Jimbo.”

Bunny thought, at first, that Will had suddenly placed a Twizzler in his mouth – she realized quickly, however, that it was actually an ornately carved length of red wooden tube.

Coffin made a sound familiar to any school-child who’d dabbled with spitballs.

Just below Jimbo’s jugular, a bright plume projected from a sharp metal base.

“Whoa! Where’d that ####in’ come from?” asked Bunny.

Coffin“The south Pacific,” Will replied. He tucked away his blowpipe and motioned for the man to follow him down the sidewalk. With the stumbling gait of a pedestrian not watching their footing, the newcomer trailed the conversing pair. “I don’t use it much. It leaves a mark, doesn’t work on everyone, and I’m down to seven darts. There used to be two dozen, but I’ve lost a few.”

“Lost?”

“Yeah, and when I do get them back, I’ve got to sterilize them, which is a pain to accomplish without messing up the tail feathers.”

Coffin paused briefly, depositing some loose change into a newspaper vending machine and extracting a hefty sheath of weekend listings. He directed his troupe onwards.

“What the ####, anyhow? What do you care about this ###-bucket?” his drunken companion inquired.

“Well, every now and then someone with a little too much information needs to make some quick cash, and they end up tossing some concoction into a friendly drug dealer’s supply chain. Most small-time occultists are dealing in love potions, because, just like everywhere else, sex sells. Mixing the two is referred to as “drifting”. Thing is, these aren’t hippies hocking ditch herbs anymore – science has come a long way, and something like, say, meth, layered with a supernatural compound intended to invoke passionate fixation, can be a problem.”

The streets were damp from an earlier shower, which had kept passers-by to a minimum, but, as they turned into a shortcut which lead over a closing Home Depot’s empty parking lot, a late shopper in business attire pushed his clattering load of paint across their path. Taking in Bunny with her flask, and the heavy-footed shuffle of the slack-faced Jimbo, the suit’s cart picked up speed.

Once the interloper was out of earshot, Coffin continued.

“It’s never the people who get a little pinch here and there that are the real issue, it’s the guy who’s got a supply and is wandering with it. This guy isn’t local, he’s probably come all the way up here from Texas, or New Mexico – this is just another stop on the greyhound for him.”

“What’s with the traveling?” asked Bunny.

“He’s got to sell to live, and, for a while, people adore him as the bringer of goods. Attention is inevitable; he charges a fair price to part with the powder of his affection, and people eventually run out of money – but they still want it. Like anyone caught up in a forbidden affair, they get crazy, and before long he’s not feeling so comfortable about sticking around, because, by then, he’s also deeply involved with his stash, and he’s willing to leave everything behind to keep it safe. You can get a Greyhound ticket for straight cash and no questions, so, on the bus they go, off to play king for a day in the next city, pulling from his own supply the whole time.”

Having reached a point of deep shadow at the edge of a strip-mall construction site, Will called a halt to the procession. He frisked the man, and, taped to the flesh beneath the brown sweater, he found a thick packet wrapped in the white plastic of a grocery bag.

Coffin extracted the illicit goods and tucked them amongst the bright advertisements he’d retrieved earlier in the walk, ripping at the edges of the accompanying business section. He doused the wrapping from a yellow bottle which he pulled from his pocket, then tossed the package, and the remainder of the lighter fluid, into a trash barrel.

He chased it all with a match.

When he was confident the evening’s rain wouldn’t hold back the flame, he again set out.

Jiggling her nearly empty liquor cache, Bunny asked when they were heading home.

“Shortly,” Will replied. “With the dosages their love usually drives them to, many die between cities, on the buses. Some outlive their supply and turn vagrant, but their mind is always gone by then, and they just mutter to themselves about their obsession until they’re rounded up or die of exposure. The best we can do is to send him into a twenty-four hour clinic to make a confession about his chemical habits, and, when they can’t help him in the usual manner, hope that they get him a good psychiatrist.

“Means I’ll be down another dart, though.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 139 – Coffin: Condolences, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-nine.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Condolences, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp139.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the artistic variety of the Nutty Bites Podcast.

Find out more at http://nimlas.org/blog/

 

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, takes his roommate to a bar of ill repute, to meet a man with a volatile history.

 

Flash Pulp 139 – Coffin: Condolences, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Three weeks after she’d moved in, Will Coffin boarded a city bus with his perennially drunk roommate, Bunny, and escorted her to the only bar he frequented, Dorset’s.

As the behemoth lost momentum and opened to disgorge them at their location, Will chose his words carefully.

“I need you to be very quiet,” he said.

“Huh?” she replied.

Bunny had spent most of the trip occupied with a crossword she’d dug out of some previous passenger’s discarded newspaper, and, while her eyes still roved between the clues and the playing area, Coffin suspected the majority of the available boxes were in little danger of being solved.

He tried again.

“We’re here to meet an old fella. He’s excitable, and you need to remain very still.”

“Does he #### magic like the rest of your friends?”

“He’s not a friend, he’s a client,” he replied. “A sad man – a suicidal fext. I need you to behave, please.”

The spidery tracts left by drink, which ran across Bunny’s cheeks, flushed with annoyance.

“Why did you bring me if I’m just going to be a pain in your ###?”

Will touched his thumb to his throat and scratched.

“If I had left you at the apartment, after a bit of vodka you’d accidentally rip a hole between our dimension and one of infinite terror, at which point everyone’s eyes would be eaten by giant moths, as their feet were being devoured by the burrowing of worms.”

“Holy ####, is that even possible?” Bunny asked, her puzzle forgotten.

“Maybe, maybe not.” He coughed, then added, “don’t touch my stuff.”

His lined face made it difficult to tell if he was smirking.

The short walk brought them to the red-brick facade of Dorset’s. Inside was a darkened main room, with tables scattered about its center, and booths lining three of the walls – the final wall, opposite the door, was dominated by a long run of oak. Behind the bar stood an array of cheap liquor bottles, each in a varying stage of consumption, and Dorset, the owner, as squat as his building.

Will waved to the proprietor as he entered, and the man raised a hand in reply.

Coffin had never seen the place with the lights up, and he thought it was probably to his benefit. Smoking had been banned from the interior for years, but the tavern had retained the scent of the thousands of ghostly cigarettes who’d met their end there.

He approached an already occupied booth, and urged his companion to sit before scooting onto the bench after her.

The occupant, an aging gent with short gray hair and a sharp face, nodded at Coffin’s arrival, and the two exchanged pleasantries in a tongue beyond Bunny’s comprehension.

Despite the language barrier, she could tell that whatever good-humour Will had entered with was soon forgotten.

The client swallowed a mouthful of beer, and locked eyes with Bunny.

“When I was but a boy, my mother made me carry about a portion of my afterbirth, under my left arm. Do you know what that does to a person?”

“Gives him a wicked stench? I dunno,” she replied.

Coffin“No – I am a fext, or became one, at least. A Slavic tradition.” He finished his drink, and signaled Dorset at his station. “I am immortal, well, nearly – the list of items which might kill me is short. In my youth, years ago, I fought in wars. I was a man of bravery and recognition, or so I thought. At the age of forty – although I looked twenty at the time – I charged a cannon battery, with a broken-bladed dagger, and killed all who would stay still long enough. I was drunk at the time, but I doubt any of the dead were beyond nineteen.”

The old man rolled his cup along its bottom edge, shadowing the moist circle of condensation that marked its placement.

He continued.

“What is bravery when no normal blade or bullet can cause you harm?”

Bunny blinked.

“She’s not -,” began Will, only to be interrupted.

“I apologize, my name is Colonel Andrik Korda. I was not expecting such lovely company at my funeral, but I appreciate any friend of Mr Coffin’s.”

“Kind of a ####ty location for a wake – who died?” asked Bunny, brushing back a tangled strand of hair.

“I will. The rest of the guests have yet to arrive. Your friend, he is helping me to do so.”

“Why?” she pressed.

“It pays well,” muttered Coffin.

“I have been here over four-hundred years. I am tired,” said the fext.

Dorset deposited another chilled serving, then stood waiting as the old man retrieved a five-dollar bill from his ratty suit jacket. To ease his search, Korda removed a pristine flintlock pistol from his pocket, and set it down on the table.

Bunny’s eyes moved from the weapon to the establishment’s owner, and back again, but the barkeep did nothing but wait patiently for his due.

Will used the opportunity to return to business.

“It arrived just yesterday,” he set a glass sphere, the width of a nickel, upon the table.

As Dorset returned to his position, to deal with the pressing demands of a blond man in a plaid coat, Andrik eyed the ball.

“It does not seem like much,” he said.

“I have been given every reassurance that it will survive being fired. Just don’t over-powder your pistol.” replied Coffin.

The ancient soldier picked up the bullet that would be the instrument of his destruction, and watched Bunny’s warped shape through its curved surface.

“Four-hundred years is a long ####ing time,” she said, “surely there’s something worth going on for?”

Will turned to her then. His face was impassive. but his eyes worked hard to strangle her words.

Korda also looked the woman over, but a different sort of passion seemed to enter his gaze.

“Well,” said Coffin,“Mrs. Davis’ hands are not entirely unfamiliar with killing either, her former husband can attest to that.”

The news did little to negate the embers stoking in the would-be suicide’s psyche. He smiled.

Will pushed on.

“Why don’t you tell her about what you did during the mid-‘80s.”

Whatever aspirations had awoken in the colonel were snuffed.

“It was a different war – a different place. The chemicals of South America were broad and beautiful. I do not know how many died so that I might powder my nose.” Korda shrugged. “Car bombs are quite a bit more effective when you can simply drive them into the offending party’s living room, look them in the eye, wave, and then detonate the trigger.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Anyhow,” Coffin said, standing. “The rest of your mourners will be here shortly, so we’ll pay our respects and get moving along. I have your payment, and you have my thanks – and condolences.”

Will exchanged a handshake with the dying man, then departed, with Bunny in tow.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 137 – Jabber, Part 2 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-seven.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Jabber, Part 2 of 2
(Part 1Part 2)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp137.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.

Find out more at http://neilcolquhoun.com

 

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 must also face down the terrible maw of the Jabber.

 

Flash Pulp 137 – Jabber, Part 2 of 2

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

 

Will Coffin eyed the geese paddling about the smooth surface of Capital River, and thought hard about ignoring the conversation. The flow of water had once been too fast here for the foul to comfortably lounge, but the new construction project down stream had done much to stymie the rush. He threw some bread crust to the eager beaks.

As he sagged against the black railing that hemmed the city park along the bank, the young man who’d been speaking set his elbow on the iron and leaned in.

“So?” the youth said, his breath smelling of hot-dog-cart mustard.

“I don’t know what you want from me, I’m just here to help the neighbourhood.”

The close-talker drew back from the response and adjusted his tie.

“Please. I understand why you maintain this folksy “just helpin’ folks, hyuck-hyuck” persona, but I am a man of understanding. I know you are the keeper of thirteen of the thirty-three relics known to exist. I also know that you are a man of some power, and influence. We are requesting an alliance.”

“I’ve seen crack dealers run this same scam.” Will replied. “To them, a friend today is a customer tomorrow. Your boss isn’t interested in politics, or corporate power, or whatever aspiration you figure you have with that poorly-tailored suit – he’s interested in your gooey mouth-meat; and mine; and everyone’s. I’ve read Blackhall’s book.”

“As have I – the man was a liar and a scoundrel – but, if you have such a distaste, why did you agree to come?”

“Your telemarketer tactics of calling me every fifteen minutes.”

“Persistence is the first step to success.”

Coffin cringed at the chestnut.

Coffin“I sympathize with your situation,” he said, “but the tongue you’re wagging is eventually going to be its lunch. You may not be able to understand that, given its ability to run off with your gray-matter, but its inevitable.”

“Oh, I’m not his slave – think of me as his, uh, manager. The Jabber is likely thousands of years old, but these aren’t the dark ages, he can’t just go around gorging on peasants. Someone has to keep him from eating everybody.” Will gave the man’s grin a hard look. The would-be broker continued, “- and uh, there are uses for an indestructible killer, uses by important people. Good people.”

He wasn’t sure if he believed it, but even the hint that the agent was acting of his own free will made it easier for Coffin to attempt to break his jaw. The force of his punch wasn’t the greatest portion of the impact, however, as the shaman had wrapped his silver chain about his knuckles, and the occult links – usually reserved for interaction only with disembodied spirits – caused a brief ethereal shadow to jump from the emissary’s shoulders, as if the concussion had nearly dislodged his living ghost from his flesh.

He collapsed to the asphalt that marked the park’s paths.

Turning his back to unconscious man, and the falling dusk, Coffin started up the squat hill towards the sharp-faced figure, which appeared near fifty, who’d watched the exchange intently. As Will neared, it did not rise from its splintered seat.

Dropping its lower jaw, it began to speak through a a gray quiver of barbs.

“Jubrun talbotin dallingar ed barimu.”

It continued on, and, as the shadows grew, so did the Jabber’s volume.

Soon the form stood on his bench, towering a head’s length over Will, and flecks of reddish liquid began to take flight from the thing’s lips, under the strength of its non-sense argument.

Coffin heard nothing of the hypnotic babble; he’d donned industrial level ear protection as he’d climbed the short rise. When he was satisfied that his modern defence was strong enough to stand the ancient problem, he lit a Zippo in signal.

Concern had crept into the Jabber’s raging eyes, and it turned at the flicker of a pair of worn jeans, and a Motley Crue t-shirt, entering into its circle of influence.

“You goat ####ing ###hole! I’ve heard about you ####-o – you eating tiny little babies tongues and ####? That’s god-####ed filthy, man! What kind of ####ing walrus tugger are you? Will told me you might have even ####ing killed my great-grandmother – ####ing bull#### you #### glazing feline ####er!”

Bunny, Coffin’s roommate, raised high the rum bottle she’d spent her wait with, then continued on in her rant.

The horror staggered.

Despite it’s best efforts to respond, the beast could make no arcane purchase against the polyurethane and plastic noise-canceling ear-muffs, and its ways were too deeply ingrained by time to make any other gambit.

By midnight – with hours spent by Coffin in an effort to turn away pedestrians from the apparent drunken, and screaming, couple – the creature had collapsed.

Will threw the crumpled form over his shoulder with a grunt, and they made their way to the river’s edge.

Draining the last of her liqour, Bunny asked, “What now?”

“Eight years ago I did a favour for a guy named Jim Bondo. He was a foreman working on an office building in the downtown core, and he’d come to the conclusion that his site was on an Indian graveyard or something. It wasn’t – he just had a lot of superstitious Germans on his crew, and that had attracted gremlins to the heavy machines – but I corrected the situation anyhow.” As Coffin spoke, his companion retrieved another bottle from the interior of her over-sized purse. “He’s huge in construction now, runs one of the biggest firms in the city – big enough that they got the contract for the new dam going in down stream. I figure waking up in a few hundred tons of concrete should occupy him for quite some time.”

It was a long walk ahead, and Will was happy to wet his throat when Bunny offered.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 136 – Jabber, Part 1 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-six.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Jabber, Part 1 of 2
(Part 1Part 2)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp136.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.

Find out more at http://neilcolquhoun.com

 

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 Thomas Blackhall, student of the occult and master frontiersman, standing over a devilishly-tongued man.

 

Flash Pulp 136 – Jabber, Part 1 of 2

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

 

Blackhall held the oil lamp high, letting the dim glow drag along the moist stone walls. It had been many months since he’d last seen the abandoned mine site, and the elements had worn heavily upon the timber works which kept the meager shaft from collapse.

Before him knelt a slight man, clothed in too-large pants and a motley sweater, who would have found himself hard pressed to bluff his age as above that of twenty-one. His forearms were bound at the small of his back with a long run of twine, and a wad of stocking had been forced into his mouth and held there in place by a wide strip of rag wound several times about his head.

Thomas scraped his nails over the stubble at his chin, and gazed down at the stooped form.

Until seconds previous, the figure had lain unconscious, and, now, the portion of Blackhall’s mind ruled by curiosity was tempted to observe what might follow.

The grubby muzzle began to moisten, and the captive’s jaw drew taut as he commenced gnawing at the interior of his facial bindings.

Blackhall filled his lungs and raised a boot to the man’s brow. With a grunt and a kick, the prisoner toppled backwards, plummeting from the stone precipice at which they’d lingered, and into the darkness of the vertical shaft behind him.

The silence of the fall was broken only by the occasional brush of cloth upon the rock face.

Thomas cast a wish into the hole that he might have a stick of dynamite to aid the conclusion of his deposit, then turned to make his way towards the exit.

* * *

Two weeks earlier, he’d been amongst the pines, three-days west of the small town of Sacrime, and preparing to bed down. The evening had been warm, so he’d let the fire gutter before moving a short distance from his camp to correct the complaints of his bladder.

His travels had him trailing at the banks of White River, which ran north and south, and, having finished marking a Spruce as his own, he crouched at the water’s edge to refresh his face and arms from the crisp flow.

That was when he noted the swing of the torch over the babble of the cascade.

Blackhall could not hear the dialogue of the naked, ancient, elder, who held aloft the beacon – the distance across the rush was too great – but it was obvious that the man was expounding at length as he conducted a parade of some fifty capering bodies through the unyielding forest shadows. The leader came to a brief halt as he stepped upon the bank, then he turned northward. As his chain of dancers came to the same location, they too turned, never breaking stride.

The shape and age of all involved varied wildly – some seemed but babes, barely old enough to walk, and others seemed too old to live amongst the wildwoods, much less to maintain the spastic cavorting which currently occupied them.

Thomas remained huddled low as he moved back into the treeline, then, with reckless speed, he collected the accoutrements of his encampment. Once he’d stuffed the last of his loose items into his bag, he slung his Baker rifile at his shoulder, and belted his sword.

Despite his absence, it was a simple matter to relocate the human column as the guide strayed little from the course of the waterway – it was more difficult, however, to intersect it.

BlackhallIt was a twelve-hour chase, during which Thomas was forced into increasingly inhospitable terrain in an attempt to remain hidden, even as the sun once again took the sky. The need for expediency in his rough passage left the frontiersman’s hands bleeding from the effort, and imparted two fresh gashes in his greatcoat which would require mending, but, finally, the old man broke his orientation, and started away from the shore.

As soon as the last of the succession had turned to follow, Thomas thrust into his mouth the stone he kept upon a rawhide loop about his neck, and dived beneath the cool torrent. The breathing trinket made his passage inevitable, but the strong current carried him well away from his intended landing point, and he was forced to recover ground to match the splintered tree he’d memorized as a landmark.

His mind and limbs ached with the fatigue of the pursuit.

Having to slow to mark the signs of his quarry’s passage, he rummaged about for something that might stopper his ears, but, in the end, he could manage only ripped ends from his tattered shirt with which to fashion shoddy plugs.

There was nothing he could do to assist the former residents of Sacrime when he came to the cave that had been the old man’s destination.

Within that lost hour, the Jabber had fed extensively – corpses littered the floor, and, in the furthest corner, a broad-chested man of forty took his last gurgling breath.

The beast, now a youth, leaned low over a woman, the last of the living, whose auburn hair fanned from her head to splay haphazardly across the stone, and whose eyes remained impassive over her chubby cheeks. The boy appeared to be telling a great tale while inspecting the quality of her teeth. Her lips were spread wide, and her neck tilted, as if a child demonstrating the healthy state of her tonsils.

As he neared, Blackhall had begun to hum to cover the sound of its rambling, but, as he stepped into the rocky shelter, with his sword drawn, he was brought up short by the flash of a bristling array of thorns projecting suddenly from the glutton’s still yammering maw – then the thing’s face lost its guise of humanity entirely, and it plunged its spines into the woman’s gaping cavity.

As it fed noisily upon her tongue, Thomas wretched.

He’d never encountered such a creature himself, but he’d heard of its methods while scouring the tomes of his father’s library. It was rejuvenated by its insatiable hunger for the knotted mouth-muscle, and had, as its primary tool of enticement, the ability to drive men to madness, or enslavement, with the nonsensical discourse it maintained.

He knew too that speech was its weakness – it was recounted that the only layman to have survived the approach of such a fiend had done so by providing an impassioned plea for his wife, over which he could not hear the beast’s ravings. After a crescendo of clashing utterance, the monster had fallen unconscious, and had been then submitted to fearful inspection at the hands of the church’s specialists. Every effort was made to end the abomination, but the might of horses tugged uselessly upon its limbs, and even blessed water seemed to have no means of starving its lungs. On the following rise of the full moon, it reawoke, and began to gnaw at the steel links that held it. It was only the voice of Monseigneur Lajoie, reciting script, verse, and even childhood poems, which finally brought the thing under control – and still at the cost of the five other attending brothers.

The Monseigneur had decided that it would be buried, and twenty days of well-manned digging were followed by ten days of filling – then the Jabber was forgotten by all but Lajoie, who recorded the incident and promptly retired from the clergy.

Blackhall was unsure if this was the same as that of the legend – it was impossible to know, given the longevity imparted by its grisly consumption.

He found his lungs.

It was dusk before the rant was complete, a tirade largely filled with memories of his Mairi – and before the horror once gain succumbed.

Thomas already had in mind his next destination, the abandoned shafts which lay to the east, and that it would be days of tough hauling, with a heavy load. He also knew, however, that he would not sleep that evening – at least, certainly, not in that cave of damned souls who’d drowned in their own blood.

He began to bind his foe.

In truth it was another three dawns – three long days of dragging – until he could summon the courage to once again slumber, and, when he did, he dreamt of the visage of the auburn-haired woman, as she was kissed so deeply by the kneeling form.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 134 – Coffin: Debts, Part 1 of 1

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Debts, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp134.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

It’s like a version of the Matrix, in which we write, record, and produce, three podcasts a week of pulpy flash fiction.

To subscribe, click here.

 

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, with his drunken companion in tow, must discuss a vital matter with a remnant of the dead.

 

Flash Pulp 134 – Coffin: Debts, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Will Coffin, and his acquaintance, Bunny, stood at the edge of an empty lot.

Weeds had broken through the cracked pavement which otherwise smothered more than half of the space. At the rectangle’s center sat three low cement pillars, whose exteriors were covered in graffiti that might have been recognized as tribal art in any other age.

Insects hummed invisibly in the grass tufts, and the sun baked Coffin within the heavy leather of his jacket.

“Fifteen years ago,” he said, “this was a convenience store. Those columns were the foundation that held up the roof. If I squint, I can almost still see the freezers that used to be wedged between them.”

Bunny nodded, not quite sure why her roommate had coaxed her so far from her vodka and coke.

“What happened?” she asked, hoping to hurry the trip along.

Will stepped from the sidewalk, crushing a fresh sprout of thistle beneath his boot-heel.

“Well, it burnt down. Electrical failure – poor wiring mixed with a bunch of melted ice cream and a stack of Zippo-lighter-fluid.”

“Oh. I thought it was going to be some god—-ed hell-beast with flamin’ feet, or the ghost of some arsonist —-ing hobo.”

“No. My interest largely came after.” Coffin rubbed the sweat from his palms onto his jeans, then dipped his hand into his pocket. “First though, do you see anything out of the ordinary?”

“Well, you ain’t terribly —-ing normal, but the rest is just an empty lot.”

He puckered his lips and let out a breath.

“There’s a girl who died here. Adele. She was eleven. Her Mom used to come by and leave her wreaths on the third of every June, the day it happened. There was a lot of public outcry at the time – everyone knew the store was a hazard, but it was cheaper for the owner to pay the occasional fine than to undertake repairs.”

“OK?”

Will Coffin“She’s been a great source of information for me – easily the most reasonable phantasm I’ve ever met.” He squinted. “Doesn’t mean I haven’t had to bargain. The kinds of things I need to squeeze out of these leftovers are rarely fun to discuss.”

Bunny continued to look puzzled, and Coffin realized he was stalling. He pulled his silver chain from his coat, letting the intricate hook trawl through a patch of prickly greenery.

After a moment, there was a tug on his hand. With a wrench, he plucked a pale girl into view, as if he’d pulled her from the lot’s craggy earth.

“Holy —-,” said Bunny. “Oh – sorry, I forgot you’re a —-ing kid.”

“I’m -” said the ghost.

“She’s -” said Will.

“Sorry,” continued Coffin, “I’m used to the days when I had to translate for your Mom. This is Bunny, a friend of mine. She can apparently see you without requiring an artifact.”

“Very nice to meet you.” The girl turned her smoking eyes towards the new comer. “You don’t need to worry about your language; I’ve certainly heard worse from the vagrants that squat here after dark. I may look young, but it’s been many years since I was searching for Benjamin, and got pinned in old man McWerter’s store.”

“Benjamin?” asked the stunned drunk.

“My little brother. I thought he was still at the candy rack, so I ran in – I only found out later that McWerter had carried him to safety through the back.”

As she spoke, Adele’s skin blackened and flaked away, carried from her body by currents that were the result of unseen heat. Exposed underneath, eternally, was renewed flesh.

“Twelve —-ing monkeys on an — -zeppelin,” said Bunny.

The combusting child raised a scorched eyebrow.

“My apologies,” replied Will, “- she’s new to the world.”

Coffin sat, unmindful of the bushes, or passers-by. He leaned against the nearest paint-splattered pillar, and made himself comfortable.

He waved a hand at Bunny, and she joined him..

“How’s your Mom?” he asked Adele.

“She’s alright. I guess a chatty grandmother died in the tub, on the floor below her, and they haven’t gotten bored of swapping their stories yet.”

“I’ll let her know that your brother got that job I mentioned last time. He’s started as an assistant engineer, but, considering his degree, in a couple of years he’ll be doing more design work on the cars, and less double-checking of other people’s math. He bought a dog with his first paycheck – named it Addie.”

“Wow. Thanks for sharing, but you haven’t even asked me your favour yet.”

Coffin swallowed, considering his words.

“We’ve known each other a long time. There’s another piece of news I haven’t given you, but I wanted you to hear it before the crews roll in. They re-sold the lot last month. In the morning they’ll be bringing in equipment to start moving dirt on a new McDonald’s.”

The dead child made a sound no living throat could – a mix of a giggle and a groan.

Tears sizzled, then evaporated, on her cheeks.

“What happens after?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” he replied, “I don’t know.”

“Will – can you stay and talk till they come?”

“I owe you that much.”

It was the same service he’d provided her the first time she’d died – although, then his windpipe had been seared from the heat of dragging her from the building.

It troubled him little to appear as if a muttering vagrant, when the workers arrived with the dawn.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 131 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp131.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the collected jabberings of Captain Ignatius Pigheart – tales of high seas, high adventure, and hilarity, straight from the lips of the Captain himself.

Buy the stories at CD Baby

 

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 discovers the source of his vexation, and receives an uncomfortable proposition.

 

Flash Pulp 131 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 3 of 3

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

 

As the doors slid open, Will Coffin came face to face with Bunny Davis, whom he hadn’t seen since his brief conversation with her dead husband, a week ago.

“Whoa – er – hi,” she said.

“Hello,” he replied.

As he spoke, Will moved from the elevator, his eyes scanning the corridors that stretched-out on either side.

“Can I talk to you for a sec?” asked Bunny.

“Sure.”

Despite his answer, Coffin began strolling along the carpet, heading left. After a pause, she followed.

“I really -” her throat caught, and it was a few paces before she collected herself. “I want to say thank you for talking to Tim, but – well – things have been pretty —-ed up lately. This is actually just my third night home – would you believe they wanted to charge me with murder? If I hadn’t started crying, that walrus- —-ing judge would have had me still in the can.”

Will nodded.

“So you’re out on bail now?”

“Yeah. Sort of. I mean, they let me go without paying anything, but I think it’s because they know I’m too —-ing broke to try and make a break for it.”

“Huh,” he replied. They’d reached the end of the hall, and Coffin turned back towards the way they’d come, retracing their steps at a leisurely saunter.

As he passed Bunny, her face pinched.

“Hey – whatcha doing here at this time of night, anyhow?”

“Well -” he spoke with a distracted tone, and, as he walked, his hand fumbled with something in his right-hand jacket pocket. “I noticed the smell of sulphur while I was over at your place the other day. There are a lot of stinks in a building like this, but it still struck me as odd.”

“I remember that. Really, I kind of thought it was coming from Tim’s —. —-ing Tim.”

“Yeah, well, I asked a, uh, knowledgeable friend about it, and when she didn’t have much to say on the subject, I started doing some footwork. Details like that bother me. In the end I found a couple of twelve-year-olds who told me everything I needed to know, once I’d threatened to rat about their nicotine habits to their mothers.”

“Kids? —-ing Kids.” she replied, brushing back a loose bushel of her gray-stranded hair.

It was then that he realized she was probably more than a little drunk.

They crossed in front of the elevators, and continued on.

“Children tend to hear about these things a lot sooner than their parents, and its really the strength of their faith that causes the problems.” Mid-stride, Will snapped from his reverie, and turned on the woman. He looked over her faded t-shirt and frumpy jeans. “Did you know that there were seven other murders in this building in the last five months? A father who killed his family, and then pitched himself over the balcony, and another couple, like you and Tim, who managed to strangle each other to death.”

“Nooo?”

Coffin scrutinized her bloodshot eyes.

“Will you come to the trash room with me?”

“Uhm -” Bunny pinched her gin-blossomed nose. “I don’t even – fine, whatever, but can I ask you a favour? Wait, you aren’t going to try and —-ing murder me, are you?”

“Sure, and no, of course not-” Will’s gaze had once again become unfocused, and he doubled his speed in moving back to the chromed elevator call signal. “I mention the murders because, of all the fatalities in the building over the last while, you’re the only one to survive the crime-scene.”

There was a high pitched ding, and the doors slid open. They entered, and Will lit up the button that would send them to the basement.

Bunny cleared her throat.

“My favour is kind of about that – I know you said sorry to Tim for me, but I – I don’t think he’s gone. I think he’s still hanging out in the apartment. He talks to me sometimes. Calls me names.”

Will nodded again.

“Yeah, that would make sense.”

“Sense? Seriously, how does that make any —-ing sense at all?” Her mouth was open as if she was about to go on, but the pungent smell of rotting egg began to fill the descending box.

Coffin extended the bent right arm of his leather jacket, as if he were suddenly a Victorian gentleman offering a stroll. In his grasp hung his silver chain, with the intricate hook dangling above the floor.

“Put your hand on my coat,” he requested.

She did, and he continued.

“The kids told me the story.” As he spoke, they both watched the digital floor-indicator count down. “Last winter there was a homeless man who froze to death against the double doors that lead into the garbage bay.”

“Took five —-ing guys to pry him off – I watched the whole thing from my balcony. Reminded me of the end of The Shining.”

“All right, well, they said his name was Sulphur Jack. Supposedly he spent the night hammering on the entry, begging to be let in – and that people heard, but ignored it, which is why he promised to avenge himself with his dying rasp. Apparently you smell him coming, with an odour like rotten eggs, and it drives you mad.”

Bunny’s eyes grew large.

“Holy —-. Is that true!?”

Will Coffin“Not really – I doubt the story about the knocking and revenge is true, at least, but, in a case such as this, sometimes it doesn’t matter. He was probably just some drunk looking for shelter who had the bad luck to pass out before someone exited the door and gave him the chance to sneak inside, but occasionally a legend picks up enough momentum to take on a life of its own – especially if there’s a death involved.”

Even with a belly full of gin, Bunny raised a skeptical brow.

“It wasn’t always like this,” Coffin said. They passed the second floor, and the stench became almost too much to ignore. “Twenty-five years ago, when I first got started, even adepts who knew what they were doing could barely manage a table-thump with a room full of focused people and the proper tools. These days it almost feels as if someone like you, who doesn’t mean to do it on purpose, can’t drink themselves into a stupor without stumbling into an entity.”

With a cheerful beep, the feeling of sinking stopped.

As the exit slid back, their new view was not a pleasant one.

Across a barren expanse of gray cement stood a figure in a shabby raincoat. His lips were blue, and his skin ashen. The right side of his face was torn away, exposing the muscle and bone below, and thick yellow mucus streamed from his exposed nostril.

“Holy —-,” said Bunny.

“It’s very important that you don’t take your hands off the leather,” replied Will.

Then he stepped from the elevator, with the woman still firmly affixed to his sleeve.

As he crept forward, he apologized.

“Sorry, they did mention that he was missing the flesh that stuck to the door.”

Coffin took a deep breath, and immediately regretted it – but, to reassure the former Mrs. Davis, he kept talking.

“This handsome fellow is essentially an urban legend powered by a bunch of hormonally over-active imaginations and the afterimage of a ghost that doesn’t have enough willpower left to make its own way. I know it’s tough to remember that when you can see snot dripping from his nose, and freezing upon the ground, but I’ve never found closing my eyes to be any help, because then you know they’re there, you just can’t see them.”

Although he watched their progress intently, the beggared form remained motionless and silent.

Five more steps and they’d closed the distance. With his free hand Will brought forth a key.

He held the nickel-plated shape into the view of Jack’s bulging, lidless, pupil, then spoke.

“This is a copy to the garbage area entrance. I got it from the manager of the building, and he’s also agreed to have it crazy glued outside, in the crack beside the jamb. By tomorrow morning it’ll be buried in the stuff, but that shouldn’t be a problem for you.”

Coffin felt spiny icicles spear through his hand as the apparition took hold of the metal.

Then the man disappeared, and his reek with him.

Flexing his palm, Will scooped the token from where it had fallen. He tucked both it, and the silver chain, out of sight.

“I think we’ve convinced the spirit of the dead man to move on, so long as we keep our bargain. I’d appreciate it if, tomorrow, you could start spreading the tale of why Fadi has a key cemented into the wall. We need to make an addition to the myth to be sure.”

Reaching into her rear-pocket, Bunny fished out a small plastic bottle of vodka. She removed the lid with gusto, and swallowed the contents in a single slug.

“OK,” she said, smacking her lips. “Listen. I don’t know what the —- that was, but I do know that if I go back up to my place, my dead —-ing husband is going to be slapping my — and calling me —–y —-ing names. Can I stay at your place or not?”

Will was startled at the suggestion. He spent a long moment weighing the annoyance of an inebriated visitor against the constant haunting of his own wife.

It wasn’t the first time he’d given someone sanctuary – he guessed that she must have heard such from whomever had originally spread the word of his craft to her ear.

“Fine,” he said, “but you clean up your own mess, buy your own food, and, if you’re more than a couple of days, you’ll need to start pitching in for my bills. No one stays more than a month, I’m not looking for a roommate.”

He didn’t realize then that it would be many years – well after the story of Sulphur Jack had been entirely forgotten – before their association ended.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Will Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song – A New Man, by Kevin Macleod of incompetech.com

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

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp 130 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp130.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the collected jabberings of Captain Ignatius Pigheart – frothy tales of mermaids and seamen, as recounted by the Captain himself.

Buy the stories, full of humour and high adventure, at CD Baby

 

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 must ask a difficult question.

 

Flash Pulp 130 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3

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

 

Stepping from the elevator, Will adjusted his hold on the television he’d recently received as payment from Bunny Davis, and moved towards the small office that adjoined the lobby. Between the slats of the aqua-marine blinds, which the building’s superintendent had hung to provide some privacy within the glass walls, Coffin could see the short Lebanese man behind a stack of paperwork.

As the manager noticed his approach, a hand went to the rosary Will knew he kept tucked in the A-shirt he wore beneath his polyester armour.

“Can I ask a favour, Fadi?” Will said through the open doorway, while balancing the TV against the jamb.

“Of course, my friend.” Fadi tried to smile.

“Rewind the tape twenty-minutes.” As he spoke, Coffin’s eyes tracked to the monitor displaying footage from the only working security camera in the entranceway.

The smile finally took, and the little man rose from his cluttered desk, making his way to the ancient VCR.

“Things are well?” he asked, his fingers stabbing at the device’s faded buttons.

“As well as ever,” Will responded. “You may want to call Kim and her friends to come by tomorrow morning though, you’ll have cruisers parked out front pretty soon.”

There was a moment filled with only the hum of the tape machine taking back time. The office dweller sucked in his lower lip and released it from between his teeth with small pop.

“That should be enough.” With a metallic clunk, the recording process began anew.

“Thanks,” said Coffin.

“No problem, my friend.” the manager replied. His grin had faded.

Will gave a quick good bye, then departed. As he did so, he saw the suit move to grab the phone – likely to make an appointment with Kimberly Berg, a mutual acquaintance who ran a crime-scene cleaning crew.

It was a short walk to his own apartment, and, after storing the twenty-one inch set in a bedroom closet stacked full with screens of all sizes, he threw his coat across the red wing-back chair which made up the only furniture in his living room.

He spent a few seconds staring at the sliding glass which lead to the balcony, then turned to face the kitchen. Stepping onto the cold tiles, Will flicked on the lone still-functioning fluorescent bulb, and considered his options. As he completed gnawing down his thumbnail, he strolled back to his bed and reached for the cheap portable phone he kept on an adjacent nightstand.

He called his sister-in-law.

The conversation took about forty-minutes, and he spent the majority of it listening, or saying “sure”.

Once he’d hung up, he stood, and his knees popped in complaint. He always felt older than his years following a talk with Peggy. Shuffling back into the hall, he spared another glance for the patio door, then re-entered the kitchen and prepared some frosted flakes with milk.

He was half way through the cereal when he dropped his bowl in annoyance.

Unable to bring himself to hold off any longer, he strode across the living room’s rough carpet and moved the locking mechanism downward.

Will didn’t bother retrieving his jacket – he didn’t need the silver chain to speak with Sandra.

Sandra was always there.

He dropped a socked-foot onto the cement outside.

Grasping the warm steel of the railing with both hands, he coughed to clear his throat, then spoke.

“Hello.”

Eighteen floors below, Sandy commenced untangling herself.

She lifted her upper body in a crisp push up, and, despite the fact that she whispered into the parking-lot pavement, her voice carried to his ear as if she had snuck up behind him while he was chasing a mystery through one of the thick tomes that lined his bedroom shelves.

“Hello, Will,” she replied, beginning to crawl towards the wall that ran the height of the building. “How are things? How’s your Mom?”

“Yeah, funny – listen, I need a favour.” His eyes never left her form as she once again forced her fingers bloodily between the cracks in the brickwork.

“Hon, if you want to come down here and have a chat, I’d love to provide you any favour you’d please. You know I’ve been missing you.” She had almost cleared the height of the first balcony, and her useless legs beat a sloppy rhythm against the mortar-work as she climbed.

“Tim Davis, from the south tower, had an accident this morning.”

“Yeah, Will, I’ve already heard about Tim. Didn’t seem like much of an accident, the way I was told it. Speaking of bladed objects to the face, do you remember the time that manifestation of Santa Claus came at you with those promotional steak-knives? Back at the Wallmalton Plaza? Long time ago I guess. Do you still hate Christmas because it? Watching you chucking presents to fend him off must have been one of the funniest things I ever saw. You’re lucky for that jacket, or it would have been you, and not that poor fleet of plastic reindeer, who ended up perforated.”

Her stalling chatter had brought her a third of the way to him, and he could see the trail of her progress staining the route. He knew that the bonds of her prison pulled tighter as she rose; that once she surrendered her will to the inexorable gravity that pulled her back to her twisted fetal position, all of the nail and flesh she’d grated away would also find its way home; but he still couldn’t help but feel a little heart sick for the fingers that had once probed his defenses for ticklish spots.

Will Coffin“There was a smell of sulphur before I went in. Other than the obvious, I can’t think of anything that would leave that sort of stench lying around. Also, after chatting with the former Mrs. Davis, I don’t think she’s capable of killing anything under her own power – even with the provocation she had. I feel like there’s something more at work.”

He took in a deep breath.

She had made it past the three-quarter mark, and he was sure she was getting faster with every attempted ascent. It was time to make his closing pitch.

“Oh, I forgot to mention, I talked to Peggy tonight. You wouldn’t believe what happened to Vilmer Jr. last week at school.”

Although their network of conversation carried much information, the dead rarely had news on the living. On those nights when Will came to talk of her sister’s family, the phantasm would often stop before even reaching the mid-point, not wanting to risk shortening the chat.

“If you have anything interesting to tell me by tomorrow morning, I’ll gladly spend some time recounting the details of Vil’s shop-class saga.”

Sandra paused, and he knew he had her – she might have been homicidal, but she wasn’t unreasonable.

“Will, you really are a dick sometimes. Fine, but you better be here early. Hey, in the meanwhile, how about telling me what else you got up to today?” She had resumed climbing, although at a slower pace.

“Sorry,” he replied.

He turned and pushed back the flimsy curtain, quickly stepping over the threshold and pulling the seal tight behind him. As he reset the small lock, Sandra’s muffled scream emanated through the heavy barrier. He felt a flush of respect for the strength with which she resisted the unseen hands that tugged her back to the center of her universe, the small patch of ground she’d inhabited for the last ten years.

Unfortunately, respect was no help when she finally flopped over the edge of the balcony, and began rubbing the juicy nubs of her fingers against the glass. He dumped the remainder of his cereal down the sink, and marooned the dirty dishes on the kitchen table.

“Sometimes you aren’t a very good wife,” he shouted.

The phone began to ring, and he was pleased at the unexpected distraction. As he retreated into the depths of his apartment to answer, however, he was chased by the squeaking sound of a wet squeegee on a filthy windshield.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Will Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song – A New Man, by Kevin Macleod of incompetech.com

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

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)