Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and two.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Mike Luoma.
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, his rarely sober roommate, discover the source of the mysterious suicide.
Coffin: Returns, Part 3 of 3
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Coffin and Bunny’s sole scheduled destination on Wednesday morning required two bus transfers and incredible patience, but the house was easy enough to find once they’d stepped onto the proper street.
Its soggy lawn bristled with tasteful Christmas decorations, and, before entering, they’d paused to take in the powerless white lights and wrapped trees.
Now, in the home’s chrome and marble open-concept kitchen area, Bunny was asking the residence’s owner, Tabitha, “looks like a lot of effort out there, you do the decorating yourself?”
“No, Jorge, our yard guy, did it. He’s so meticulous, he loves that sort of detail-y stuff – and, you know, any excuse to have him over.”
Bunny had been chattier in this last leg of their journey, and Coffin had supposed, incorrectly, that it was the previous night’s adrenaline still rattling around in her system. He’d found her wide awake at dawn – she’d been pinballing between staring listlessly into the open freezer, which contained only a half-box of Eggos, and the couch, where the television was closing out something called “The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. the Monster Army.”
The questioning continued. As Bunny talked, her fingers tap-danced on the island. “How’d you learn to make the voodoo dolls? That the kind of thing you find a pattern for in the back of Better Homes and Gardens?”
Tabitha put on a retail grin. “Me and Nessa were sipping a Sauvignon blanc one day when she mentioned that her grandmother had taught her how to make them when she was young.”
She dropped her tone to one appropriate for back-fence conspiring and added, “they’re from New Orleans.”
Bunny raised a brow. “You say ‘New Orleans’ like the place is ####-deep in witches riding unicorns. I’ve been there. Seemed like it was mostly full of perverts, alcoholics, and people who wished the perverts and alcoholics would find somewhere else to vacation.”
Vanessa bit her lip to suppress a smirk. “It was nothing more than a way to pass an afternoon when I was a kid. For whatever reason, they didn’t hold any power then. Tabby convinced me to try again – the construction technique is a family secret, of course – and, well, let’s just say that Jorge’s never been happier.”
From his position by the button-laden fridge, Coffin cleared his throat. “That’s when you set up shop?”
“Yep, and the business has been, you know, good,” replied Tabitha, her grin having returned. “That’s why we sometimes declare it wine o’clock a little early.”
She waved a hand towards a freshly opened magnum, then returned to the pair of glasses she’d set out before the doorbell’s interruption.
“At ten-thirty on a Wednesday?” asked Coffin.
Tabitha did not move to retrieve any further stemware as she poured.
“Like I said, the business has been good.”
Bunny’s eyes were locked on the filling glass. Her voice seemed too loud for the room as she spoke.
“The business is now closed – like, Mormon #####house closed – but, listen, lemme tell you a little story about this shambling ####ing monster I met yesterday.
“He, er, it – nah, he – he smelled like fish. Not fresh, but, you know, pungent. There’s something more though, underneath it; something like the stink old people get when they’ve started rotting before they’re actually dead. Adults, apparently, aren’t supposed to be able to see him, but we’ve some secrets of our own.
“He’s big, and dresses, these days I guess, as a crossing guard. His face is tired and puffy. You can’t remember much beyond that once you’ve looked away, you just know there was a bit of white froth in the corners of his mouth, and you still have this ####-shower feeling that he’s either got a dirty neck or a massive growth.
“The orange vest he wears also sticks. It has a yellow X across the front and back, and it sits over a mud-spattered winter coat. There’s no forgetting his slobbering ####ing maw, either, as it looks like a shallow graveyard after an earthquake.
“Sounds gross but human, I guess, but, like your pin-collectors, The Bad Crossing Guard is only a shabby imitation.
“He was free to roam until Coffin showed up. Used to stalk schoolyards in high traffic areas. He’d hang back between two cars, his little stop sign in hand, waiting for some first grader whose big sister has run ahead to hide that she’s smoking.
“Then he’d help the kid across the street.”
Bunny’s fingers ceased their staccato. “Except, of course, that adults can’t see him.”
Tabitha tugged at her sweater’s chunky collar.
“Great story,” she said, “but I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
“Did I mention that he’s the one who told us where to find you?”
“How do you kill it?” asked Vanessa, her hand, and Pinot noir, frozen at her lips.
“You don’t,” answered Coffin. “He doesn’t do it for laughs, he’s got an other-space where he keeps the dead. Ending his existence would mean locking those kids into an eternity in his unpleasant little kingdom. That’s when their trouble would truly begin.”
“You’re missing the real point,” said Bunny. “Why did he know it was you?”
“What?” asked Tabitha. Her glass was empty despite her now taut jaw.
“He told us what you looked like, told us your address, told us all about how you operate out of your living room. – hell, he knew the jilted housefrau you sold your death doll to. He also told us about Addison, Felicity, and Brock.
“Kids jabber, don’t they? Always sticking their noses into their parents’ illegal occult sales and such.
“The Guard even knows their teachers’ names. These days he’s got nothing better to do then walk around, watching and listening – he’s hopeful though. There’s always some ####ing dabbler who steps over the line and needs to have their nose broken, or worse, to teach them a lesson.
“Which brings us to the question: You like your kids much?”
“You bitch,” said Tabby.
“We didn’t know it would be so strong. We thought he’d do something embarrassing, that’s all. You wouldn’t,” said Nessa
“Oh, I’d slap your ####ing grandma if I could, twice, for teaching you just enough to be a problem – but that’s what I’d do. You think Coffin keeps a thing like that in line with ###damn hugs? I swear to Gene Simmons, you make another of those things and I’ll come out here and burn your ####ing house to the ground – and I’ll be the one playing good cop.”
With that, Bunny grabbed the tall-necked bottle and stormed from the house.
Will frowned, then followed.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.
Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/
Text and audio commentaries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.
– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.