Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-one.
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.
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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 discovers the source of his vexation, and receives an uncomfortable proposition.
Flash Pulp 131 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 3 of 3
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.
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.”
“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.”
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!?”
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
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