Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and fifty-nine.
Tonight we present, Coffin: Tell Tales, Part 1 of 1.
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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, urban shaman, spins a few barroom stories to a wobbly audience of one.
Flash Pulp 159 – Coffin: Tell Tales, Part 1 of 1
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Coffin was sitting in Dorset’s, watching his soggy roommate, Bunny, finish off yet another foamy glass of Corona. It had been her fifth beer.
“You’re going to end up like that guy,” said Will, pointing towards a translucent man in a corner booth.
“The ####’s his deal?” she asked.
“One of the bar’s earliest customers,” he replied, “his habit was getting pretty troublesome by the time he died. He’d nearly managed to drown his liver when he was accidentally run over as he stumbled home. His spirit was too drunk to find its way, so now he comes in nightly to try and collect his thoughts in a mug. Dorset dispenses a pint for him at the stroke of midnight, or the ornery bugger starts throwing things.”
“Can’t you help him?”
“They don’t hold AA meetings for wandering spirits, which is what I’m trying to tell you. Beyond that, not every otherworldly problem has a mystical solution – or any at all. Sometimes people just need to get themselves straightened out, however dead they may be.”
Sneering, Bunny waved down the pudgy tap-tender and demanded a refill.
“You mentioned, like, legends once – what about famous ####? Ever get ####ing Dracula or Frankenstein in here? I mean, anything I might have actually heard of?”
“Yeah,” Coffin replied, “A few of the Greek gods passed through once. They were a bunch of shape-shifting perverts. Had to ask them to leave, actually.”
“You tossed Zeus on his ###?”
“No – Poseidon and Bacchus. They were a pretty rowdy pair. Wasn’t quite as easy as picking them up by the scruff of their neck and giving them the heave-ho, but, when Dorset opened his doors I agreed that I’d act as part-time bouncer.“
Bunny’s replenished glass paused, mid-ascent.
“Wait, what? You work for him?”
“It’s my fault the bloody Englishman even set up a place here. He doesn’t do it for the money, he doesn’t need it. He just – he came across some information regarding the end of the world that he wasn’t supposed to know, and he started following me around. He bought this shack when I finally settled in Capital City.”
“I was the one who accidentally told him.”
“#### me – and how long do we have?”
“Dunno. That’s what he’s looking to learn as well. I promised him I’d tell him as soon as I had an exact date, but that was almost a decade ago, and he’s still waiting.”
“Jesus, in that case what’s the difference? I could be hit by a car tomorrow, doesn’t mean I’m going to move to a ####ing Toyota dealership.” Despite her bravado, Bunny took a deep sip from her glass before continuing. “I’ve never seen you give #### all for nothing, though, so why are you helping him? You don’t even drink the free beer he offers.”
“Well, I feel somewhat responsible for dropping the apocalypse on him, but I was also a huge fan of Cheers, back in the day.”
“The only time you crack a joke is when you’re avoiding the truth,” replied Bunny. She pulled in another mouthful of ale. “Are those guys your fault too?”
“The three Steves?” said Coffin, turning to the identical trio of blond men in baseball caps. “No, they’re their own problem. He was overseas doing some contract construction work when he found a relic he shouldn’t have touched. Getting his selves back here was a pain apparently, they had to risk mailing his passport twice before they were gathered again. He makes out OK now though, two of them hang out here while the other is back home, and they get a lot of one-off renovation jobs around the city, so a pair can be earning while the loafer drinks the proceeds.”
“Sounds like a sweet deal.”
“Well, there’s a hitch, of course. They all love the same woman, his – uh, their – wife, but they know damn well that if she was aware of the situation, she’d turn the lot of them onto the street. I think he kind of resents his selves for the time he spends with her.”
“That’s ####ed up.”
“Yeah, like I said, not every problem has a simple solution. The guy who sent the Steves this way – you met him once – he came to me looking for help in a professional capacity. He was high on shrooms, and messing around with some friends in a South-side rail yard, when he’d fallen through the floor of a semi-abandoned service building. It was too dark to see, and he said he wandered around for hours before he fell asleep. Woke up in his own bed, no idea how he’d gotten there.”
Coffin scooped a handful of complimentary peanuts from the small brown bowl at his elbow.
“At first he just used the drugs to explain everything away, but he started having a repeating nightmare. He’d dream that he was under his covers, and, although he couldn’t move, he had a clear view of his room’s door. For three of four months, it was the same boring scene, then, one evening, he notices the front end of a sneaker at the entrance. The next night, he had line of sight on a little Adidas runner, with a scraped knee and shin attached. Then he could make out a pair of little blue shorts and a ten-year-old’s face. He figured the boy was getting a step closer every time he slept. Tough circumstances – it was like he was awake, in broad daylight, with nothing to stare at for eight hours but the approaching child. Still, he couldn’t give a decent description to assist with identification – he said the kid’s face looked as if it’d been pulled apart by rats. He could even make out gnaw-marks on the eyelids.”
Grimacing, Bunny finished number six and ordered number seven. She nodded away her interruption, encouraging Will to carry on.
Wiping salt from his fingers, Coffin did.
“He only knew to ask me because he was my cousin by marriage. One of Sandy’s favourites, actually. Honestly, I don’t think it was coincidence. At the time, I could go years without encountering anything interesting, but, between the day he fell into the hole, and the day he came to me for help, I killed a lycanthrope, conducted a phantasmal marching band, and refused four separate offers for my eternal soul. I think he was called down there to wake something up.
“I was pretty green, but I’d read about a ritual that would be of assistance. We started it on the morning after the kid reached the foot of his bed. That was the last time he slept. His brain isn’t quite what it used to be, but he still prefers to not know what would happen if he’d waited any longer – and, given how busy my trade has been since, I’d rather not find out either.”
“Is the l’il b#####d still getting closer?”
“I can’t say. Ghosts don’t appear in dreams, and I’ve yet to find anything that would provide an explanation. I keep hoping to come across an answer that’ll fix them both, I just haven’t – yet.” He shrugged. ”Sometimes there’s no easy resolution. ”
From over the lip of her upturned glass, Bunny’s gin-blossomed nose bobbed in agreement.
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