Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and sixty-nine.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Haywire.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, professional lush, approach a blackened pit in the wilds of rural Oregon.
Coffin: Infrastructure, Part 2 of 3
Bunny was alone, at a white topped table, sipping from the chipped mug that held her morning coffee. She knew she’d put too much whiskey in, but her irritation at her traveling companion had made her pouring hand heavy.
Across the motel lobby’s sitting area was a freshly showered man whose black suit stood sharply against the wallpaper’s pastel floral pattern. His cologne was far reaching, and there was a laptop bag at his feet, so she guessed he was likely staying on business. He was rifling the breakfast buffet’s selection of muffins, hoping, Bunny thought, for any that might contain chocolate chips.
She knew there were none, as she’d eaten the last three.
Through the entrance’s sliding glass doors she could see Coffin occupying the battered phone booth at the edge of the parking lot, but there was too much distance and filmy dirt between them to speculate on how his call was going.
Finally, as the cloud of cologne receded through a side exit with a lump of bran in his palm, Will returned the receiver to its cradle.
Moments later they were in the rented Volkswagen Golf, and heading south.
Since stepping off of their sudden cross-country flight, Bunny had attempted a passive-aggressive silence, but she was beginning to realize it was akin to teaching a kid proper eating habits by allowing him to devour as much chocolate icing as he wanted.
Outside her window, Bunny watched an unending procession of rocks and trees slide by.
“Nice chat?” she asked.
“I suppose,” he replied.
“Excellent, excellent – and, if I might enquire, what the #### are we doing in Oregon?”
“We’ve come to visit some people I know, and the canary they take care of.”
“So what was that hot rod bull#### last night, and who do you keep talking to on the phone?”
“The people we’re heading towards – they’re the sort of folks you don’t want to surprise. It’s always best to give them plenty of notice before you approach, and it doesn’t hurt to do them a few favours first either.”
Bunny’s bottle of Jim Beam gave out as she was considering her reply.
“Got a few bucks for, uhm, coffee?” she asked, “Mine’s getting a little low.”
“They don’t sell booze in gas stations here, but I happen to know there’s a store ahead.”
By the time she returned to the car, Tom Waits was singing too loudly to allow for further conversation.
* * *
The cold marked the season as unarguably winter, but snow had yet to touch the thick evergreens beyond the gate at which they parked.
The fence stretched into the distance on either side of them, though the majority of it cut through the greenery, and was thus invisible from the road.
Coffin paused at the entrance, gave a badly faked stage-cough, and produced a key.
Though the chain link looked freshly raised – despite the weather, Bunny could see no sign of rust on the razor wire that ran its length – the lock was flecked with red and hanging from a too-flimsy chain.
Once inside, she couldn’t help but remark on the fact.
“Seems like a waste to use such an ancient piece of junk, considering how much the rest of the security must have cost. That thing doesn’t look like it would keep out a determined toddler; I’m surprised it didn’t come apart in your hands.”
“The clasp isn’t corroded,” said a bassy-voiced sprawling pine on her left, ”it’s always been crimson. It used to be a heavy necklace – a locket, of sorts.
“It was originally built to keep a queen safe, but it does well as our door stop.”
“Oh, ####,” replied Bunny, “is this an Ent moot?”
Will suggested she drink her coffee.
From within the shelter of the boughs appeared a set of hazel eyes, under which hung a pair of pressed lips. The needles began to shiver, and the form of a youth pulled free of the timber. Bunny realized his invisibility was achieved through the clever combination of makeup and rags.
“You’re a few months late, Sheriff,” the newcomer told Coffin.
“I’ve been busy,” replied the leather-jacketed shaman.
“You think that means it’s been nothing but a slumber party here?”
“No, I suppose it hasn’t. How’s this: I’ll go apologize to your Pa, then maybe I’ll let you beat me in a few rounds of chess – that is, unless you’ve got too many competitors already lined up?”
“I’d lead you in, but…” started the teen. He allowed his sentence to trail into a smile.
“I know the route,” replied Coffin.
They shook hands and parted ways.
Five minutes down the thin dirt path, Bunny was damning herself for having been so easily silenced earlier.
“Who are these guys? Anything spooky?” she asked.
“Yes and no. They’re berserkers of the old school. Dangerous, but nothing mystical. Ten generations of otherwise normal people raised on rage, ritual, and magic mushrooms. Mathias back there is the middle child, with a living sister on either side of him.”
“He didn’t seem particularly angry.”
“Hard to stay mad when the ice cream guy comes. Besides, I happen to know his younger sister, who could likely take us both on at the same time in a bare-knuckle boxing match, is getting married. Being so isolated, the Keepers are very family oriented. We caught them in a good mood, which is lucky, and a bit surprising.”
“What are they keeping, and what are we doing here?”
“We’re going to hold a party. These people only have two holidays a year – The Waking, and The Feast. Just be glad we’re here for The Feast.
“Before you gorge yourself on cheap beer and over-cooked roasted meat, however, we’ve got to check on an angry twelve-hundred-pound canary.”
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