Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and thirty-one.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Radio’s Revenge podcast.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, finds himself amidst a blood-stained family drama.
Coffin: Hidden, Part 1 of 3
Despite the snow that fell silently around them, Will Coffin, and his roommate, sat idly on the gray bench that fronted the Eats’N’Treats.
“Gimme just one more – no, that’s not it,” said Bunny.
“Nope,” replied Coffin.
January was often a soggy month for Capital City, as attested to by the public bus that passed in a spray of chilled slush.
“If I had another shot -,” she guessed.
“####,” she replied, easing her pain with a sip of her whiskeyed coffee. The brew had gone cold long ago, but she’d be damned if she’d waste the Wild Turkey.
“Look,” said Coffin, “I’ll See You in the Morning was specifically written as an incantation of short term addiction and misrecollection. It’s a one-hit-wonder that roams the radio markets like a virus – even if it’s been mystically wiped from the collective memories of everyone in North America, some Thai station is pumping it into the jungle, and eventually a touring trust fund baby will pick it up and put it on his podcast, or whatever, and the cycle of popularity begins anew. That’s exactly why it re-charts every few years without anyone noticing, and exactly why the smartasses I wrote it for own a castle in the German countryside.
“Frankly, I’m surprised you can even remember the title.”
The pair watched as a white Cadillac pulled onto the lot, with its mudflaps coated in wet, brown, snow.
Humming, Bunny asked “baby, just one more chance?” in a muttered singsong as the sedan came to a stop at their feet.
The man who hustled from the vehicle carried a patch of regurgitated baby formula upon his gray sweat-shirt’s shoulder. The ooze appeared to have dried without his ever being aware of its existence.
“Coffin?” asked the spew-wearer.
“Sure,” replied Will, from within the depths of his leather jacket.
“My name’s Gene Landreau. I – we – need your help.”
The conversation was a short one. The man had a single child at home, a toddler, who’d taken on an unpleasant tendency to vomit jets of blood.
“Man, you don’t need a crazy ####ing street wizard,” said Bunny, “you need a doctor.”.
“That’s just it,” replied the father, “Victoria doesn’t do it while we’re at the doctor’s office, and the sheer volume is literally unbelievable. Worse, it all just evaporates after. Well, not right after. It lingers, and so does the coppery smell.
“Every time we try to explain it to someone we figure should know what to do, we’re looked at like we’re idiots.
“She’s so thin and frail now, but, when she was held overnight for observation, nothing happened. Our family doc, Khalid, thinks we’re a couple of exaggerating hypochondriacs. I’m sure we’ll be called negligent meth addicts, and treated to a visit by child services, if we push any harder.
“We’ve tried recording it, but the cameras always die – low battery, knocked over by the dog, no space to record – just before it happens. I’ve lost two cellphones trying to film it, and they both quit when they were drenched in, you know, the blood. If it wasn’t that, though, it would have been lightning, or spontaneous combustion.“
Landreau sniffled before adding, “or anything.”
Will rubbed at the corners of his mouth with thumb and forefinger.
“I don’t advertise, so how did you know to look for me?” he asked.
“A woman named Suzie, from our daycare place. I was telling my story to a friend there, and she must have overheard, because she came up to me in the parking lot afterwards.”
He recalled Suzanne. Her family had suffered through a minor haunting by a confused man who’d once starved to death within a particularly robust armoire they’d purchased.
Coffin hadn’t expected a referral, as Mr. Suzanne had been quite displeased at his suggestion of scrapping the expensive antique. Perhaps, reflected Will, some time away from the unearthly gibbering for food had eased tensions.
He nodded, and the trio moved towards the ivory car.
* * *
It was a long ride out of the skewed siding and dirty windows of Coffin’s neighbourhood, and into the carefully arranged residences of the west-side. The shaman spent the interval silently enumerating the occult possibilities, while Bunny suckled at plastic bottles projecting from her coat’s breast pocket and hummed.
Gene Landreau only frowned at the pair, and said nothing.
The family’s house was composed of gray-brick and oak, and had obviously been heavily augmented since its construction in the era of the founding of the city. Two bicycles waited on the porch: One, a man’s, was affixed to a small trailer, obviously intended to carry an infant, the other, a woman’s, seemed as if freshly from the store.
Will could spot no mud on its peddles.
“I’m back,” Gene told the depths of the home as they entered.
Although he’d raised his voice so that his message might carry across the abandoned Christmas tree in the living room, down the hall, and past the kitchen, he drew no response.
Taking in a deep breath, the parent straightened his frame and noticed, for the first time, the puke on his sweater. With a shrug, he lead Coffin and his wobbling companion to a guest room which had been hastily thrown over to child tending.
After a quick hug, the Landreau’s held a whispered conference, leaving their company to take in the sick-chamber. A brass-framed bed had been pushed against the wall, with its sheets and pillows stripped, and a portable crib, now occupied, had been erected at the center of the available space. In the far corner, a plush red chair held a heap of crumpled, but otherwise clean, towels, and, just inside the entrance, a dresser-top was awash in diapers, creams, toys, and children’s books.
As Will reached for his coat pocket, Bunny took his elbow.
“There’s your goddamn problem,” she said, whistling. “Do you see the mad ####ing chopper over there?”
Coffin’s fingers touched the cold silver chain which rested within his jacket, and, to the left of the mess of linen, an old man came into view. His shoulders were broad but collapsed, and his face hung with a hard expression over the gnarled wood axe he held across his chest. His translucent knuckles flexed upon the rough handle.
Before Will could draw any further conclusions, however, the cloth sides of the playpen began to shake, and the child within began to weep. The family collie, which had trailed Bunny through the door, bayed a low howl.
Then the room was damp with crimson.
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