Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and sixteen.
Tonight we present, Coffin: Communication, Part 1 of 1.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Jimmy and the Black Wind.
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, find themselves in the company of an estranged family, and an abomination.
Coffin: Communication, Part 1 of 1
An hour earlier, the beast had lost its friends.
It had some inkling that they’d provided good advice; they had plenty to say about the taste of cow, which it loved; and the tending of land, which it cared little for.
There’d been seven of them, and it had been wonderful to feel so snug and close.
They’d been cozy, until the interruption – until the pain.
Its memory had departed with its companions, but it knew the deep lined face that had brought its agony, and it would not forget the screech-mouthed berating it had received from the attacker’s ally.
As it stumbled from the trees, it spotted an isolated home at the cusp of a barren field of muck, and the warm glow behind drawn curtains summoned it like a beacon.
It looked forward to talking.
* * *
The McKean’s lived in a two story house at the furthest edge of Massawa Acres, a planned suburb still in the beginning throes of construction. Doug, the father, had bought early, with the thought that land prices would only rise as development continued. When he’d announced his plan, his family had done little more than nod their agreement before returning to their individual pursuits.
Now, a month after the move, the children – Tanya, seventeen, Jasper, fourteen, and Tracy, ten – were spread about the upper floor, as Melinda, their mother, sat upon a stool at the kitchen’s island, and sipped a glass of pinot noir while awaiting her delivery of Thai food.
She paid no attention to the clamour outside, as she assumed either her husband had returned from work, or the spring rolls had arrived early.
In truth, the noise was their garage door being lifted open against the will of its lock, and dropped behind the intruder. Doug was, however, the next to approach. The man was eager to be out of his Benz, and into a bottle of Stella Artois, so his confusion soon lead to aggravation as he punched uselessly at the flat black button of the automatic opener.
Stepping from his vehicle, he walked to the entrance and stooped, but, as he prepared to give the handle a twist, the rolling shutter suddenly opened of its own accord.
The feeler moved with such speed that the elder McKean had no opportunity to take in breath for a final scream.
Six minutes later, Jasper received a text message.
“Got your movie, come help me unpack the car,” it said.
If his mother had stopped to inquire as to his destination, or if he’d simply mentioned the oddity of the message, his course would have likely been altered, but the boy had been bopping away in his ear-buds when it arrived, and felt no need to stop the music as he made for the stairs. It was a surprise that Dad had decided to buy the concert film after all, but an interest in The Doors was one of the few things they shared, and perhaps he’d thought of it as a peace offering for his surly attitude earlier that morning.
As the house-alarm pinged to acknowledge his exit, Jasper realized how wrong he was.
Within moments the trespasser knew that “Your sister told me about your stash. We’re going for a ride, young lady”, was all that was needed to summon Tanya, but it took two attempts to raise a response from the teen.
Even after a reply of “B right there,” it was a quarter hour till The Mediator ended its wait.
“Got something shiny for you in the car,” was enough to lure Melinda, then Tracy was alone.
The fresh quiet in her home unsettled the girl, and she soon found her focus wandering from the colourful explosion of Lego spread across her bedroom floor.
She roamed briefly, checking the basement and ground level before swinging aside the long blinds that blocked the backyard’s view of the woods. Finally, she began shouting, but was left unanswered.
It was only luck that sent her to the road, and not the garage, where the thing was finishing its most recent conversation.
* * *
Will and Bunny were moving as quickly as their feet would allow, but the size of their search area had Coffin’s stomach feeling increasingly heavy. He’d gambled that it would head north, and, although he’d had found some reassurance in its trail of leaking fluids, it had been too long since he’d seen any sign.
It was getting dark, and the woods felt especially unfriendly in the growing chill.
“Jesus, the parts,” said his roommate, as she drained a small plastic bottle – she didn’t allow her vodka tipping to slow her pace.
“Yeah, you’ve mentioned them already,” he replied.
Bunny tossed the empty container, and retrieved a follow-up from the depths of her thin jacket.
“No,” she said, “I mean, the ####ing PARTS man, it was like you hit a goddamn cannibal pinata. Why the hell is it called The Mediator?”
“Hell if I know,” replied Coffin, “The Victorians had a weird sense of humour, and the books are full of equally unhelpful names. Frankly, I prefer it to a string of random consonants held together with a slathering of vowels. Diplomacy with anything called Rixxargilax is a pain.”
“You call slamming the rental car into a shambling ####ing monster diplomacy?”
“Hey, it wasn’t under our name, and I wasn’t expecting it to come at us for a chat.”
“That don’t mean much when my ass is forced to chase the thing through the set of Sleepy Hollow.”
From ahead, Will noted artificial light creeping along the naked branches.
“Shut it, we’re close,” he said. He hoped he was right.
Another moment’s travel, and they were on the road.
“Do you recognize this neighbourhood?” Coffin asked.
“No, this ain’t my end of town at all,” was Bunny’s reply, but he’d already begun striding towards the shape of a girl standing in the nearest driveway.
“I can’t find anyone!” shouted Tracy, with moist eyes.
“Is this your house?” asked Will, but the question was moot. As if his voice had activated it, the garage door slid upwards, protesting its misuse with a metallic grinding.
The beast, hobbled forward, slowed by its new-found weight and its injured cluster of left-legs.
It wore Doug across what Bunny thought of as its chest – the man’s ribcage had been driven onto the upward-angled skewers that covered the entirety of The Mediator’s body. Like fishhooks, the large pins also held Jasper and Tanya in place, upon two of its limbs; it had forced its thick tendrils into their mouths, and the grasping spines projected from their overstuffed throats like blowfish needles.
“You seem short a vehicle this time,” said the creature.
Bunny turned to Will, and whispered, “ugly isn’t talking like it was before.”
“It lost its little hive mind when we knocked off the farmers with the Corolla,” replied Coffin, “now it’s built a new one – apparently a smart ass one.”
“Mr Flesh-tux has their memories – their thoughts?” asked the drunk.
“This is no place to delve into its metaphysics and implications, we need to -”
Jasper swept left, sending a pair of green trashcans sideways, and the interloper stumbled forward.
Will found it difficult to consider his options while the arms of the former McKeans gave jerking twitches every time the horror moved within its suit of corpses. It was no help that, as the thing lumbered towards him, he noted another member of the parlay: Melinda was affixed across its spine, and the dead woman’s eyes joggled endlessly as it wrapped a free limb around a set of hedge clippers, hung neatly within a marker outline on the wall.
“We’re not interesting in speaking with you anymore,” it said.
Setting aside her disbelief, Tracy began to weep.
Coffin was quickly at the girl’s side, and withdrew a silver chain from his pocket, at the end of which was a hook of intricate craftsmanship. With a twist, he gave the talisman a sweeping momentum, and was soon swinging it about his head.
He knew hope was slim, and that if his trinket should land upon a McKean, and not the brute’s own spiked mass, that he’d likely perish without getting a second chance.
Gulping in air, Coffin held his breath and waited.
Panrit Daoruang was always a man in a rush, and, as such, he hadn’t noticed the oddity of the street-side gathering until he’d already reached his destination. His realization brought the Ford Focus to an abrupt halt, which sent the Pad Thai sliding from its position on the passenger seat, and splayed it across the rubber floor mat.
He rubbed at his eyes as a prickly hybrid of octopus and beetle, covered in bloodied cadavers, seemed to close on the forms of a man and girl.
Daoruang’s hand moved to the gear shift, but, before he could reverse away, his door swung wide, and the stench of liquor filled his nostrils.
“Listen, you poor sum#####, not only am I stealing your car, I plan on turning it into a goddamn meat grinder. Unless you’re looking for some cheap human-beef, get the #### outta here,” said Bunny.
Uninterested in waiting for a reply, she dumped him on the pavement.
Twenty yards away, Will missed his swing, and, rather than wasting time in another attempt, instead grabbed up the child to run.
Though it was injured, The Mediator’s chittering limbs easily outpaced the pair. It raised high its weapon, and hooted its victory – only to have the world lurch suddenly sideways.
Panicked, it realized it could no longer hear the eldest McKeans, though the confused voices of the still impaled youngest babbled at the edge of its consciousness.
From within the Focus, a slurred voice shouted, “that’s three hundred points, dog-####er!”
It would be years before Bunny and Coffin ceased to discuss the gory results of the second impact, and many more before Tracy’s letters of thanks trickled to a halt.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.