FP301 – Coffin: Returns, Part 2 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and one.
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, discuss a public suicide with a dead man.
Coffin: Returns, Part 2 of 3
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Coffin had spent the bus trip watching his companion sway with the turns, her knuckles white around the chromed support rail. They’d been forced to put their conversation on hold when they’d shuffled onto the transport, and into a throng of Christmas shoppers, but, once they’d stepped out amongst the office building canyons that dominated the city’s downtown core, Will resumed the discussion.
“What I was trying to say is that it wasn’t a mistake. I said it to keep Dorset’s blood off the tiles. In that moment he would have gladly slit his wrist to spend forever on that floor, weeping and arguing.
“The thing is, it was obvious that what he was looking for in life wasn’t the kid, it was answers. It was something meaningful to live for – so I gave him one. Even if it WAS the end of the world.”
Bunny grunted acknowledgement and kicked at a pile of gutter slush.
“Yeah,” she said, “you’re the god#### Santa Claus of murder-suicides.”
Coffin winced, and internally wondered how much longer it would be before his roommate wandered into a bottle of Grey Goose.
“Listen,” he said, “about this meeting: You’ll have to keep in mind that the departed get bored after a few years of being pinned in place. They need to feel like they have a little going on. Try and be patient.
“These people deal in – it’s a game of telephone, sort of, with messages that they repeat to each other. The dispatch follows a chain from sender to recipient, but everyone gets to know everyone else through the note that they’re relaying – it fills the hours. It’s also why they’re so handy to talk to.
“Though the dead whisper constantly to each other, however, generally the words they speak are not their own. The vast majority of their time is lonely.
“It’s easy to work yourself up to crazy notions when you’re trapped in your death like that.
“As an example, Wade, the guy we’re about to meet, doesn’t believe there’s anything after. He thinks he’s basically that piece of gum that’s lucky enough to get stuck on the bottom of the trash can, outside the bag, and somehow manages to never get dumped.
“He doesn’t want me to help him move on. He’s afraid of it.”
The conversation had carried them to the base of a large, snow-dusted, window, one of perhaps a thousand such panes that made up the side of the Maderson Building, a glass and granite skyscraper whose steel-loop-filled fountain had been emptied for the winter.
Turning his back to the chilled desk-jockeys smoking on the water feature’s benches, Coffin’s hand dipped into the worn pocket of his leather jacket. His fingers found the arcane silver chain of the Crook of Ortez, and he lifted the talisman’s ornate hook from its place of keeping.
Wade Daly had perished against the impact-proof veneer six years earlier, having been ejected through the windshield of a stolen vehicle by the stubbornly-solid cement barrier that surrounded the lobby. He’d landed face-first, so that his legs, and most of his stomach, rested against the tower, and his right cheek was left at an awkward angle upon the sidewalk pavement.
“Wade,” said Coffin, his boots no more than six inches from the dead man’s nose.
“Coffin,” replied Wade. With some effort, the apparition ground his cheek to a better viewing position. “Uh, and lady.”
Bunny only nodded. Her hands had formed tight fists in her pockets.
Will was quick to move things along. “I hear you know a little something about the televised suicide?”
The ghost shrugged as best he could. “Yep.”
“You want to tell me?”
Coffin sighed, “you understand the guy was a father? He had three kids. They were all watching when Dad suddenly showed up on live TV from the plaza.”
“Not my fault if some schmuck wants to climb the greenery to hang himself with the lights.”
“It’s Christmas, you heartless bastard,” said Will. To Bunny’s ear he sounded more tired than angry, but her sudden return to attention caught Wade’s gaze.
“Hey, don’t judge me lady,” said the phantasm. “I don’t want to be a dick, but what if it’s only my shittiness that’s keeping me here? What if I do a good deed and it balances my punishment and I’m out into the nothing?
“I’d love to help, but I can’t risk it.”
“Look, I’ll cut you a deal,” said Coffin. “Tell me what you know and I’ll smash the old woman’s window.”
Wade frowned. “You smashed her window last time.”
“Yeah, and won’t it piss her off all the more since she just got it replaced? All that heavy karma will be yours, and it’ll easily offset whatever telling me a third-hand conversation might.”
There was a moment of silence as Daly considered, during which Bunny found herself oddly tempted to tuck in the logo-laden t-shirt that had slid up the man’s back at the time of his death, and was now eternally left bunched about his neck. Rather than draw the attention of the locals, however, she instead retreated to her own thoughts.
Finally, Wade said, “I sort of know a stabbing victim from over in the plaza – Tommy Mcelroy. He didn’t see it, but he was talking to someone who did.”
“Yeah, I know Tommy,” said Coffin. “He doesn’t like me much. Frankly, I’m not surprised someone murdered him.”
“Ah, he’s not so bad when you get to know him. After the first three years I barely noticed what an asshole he was. Right, so, as I was saying, Tommy was talking to The Bad Crossing Guard. The Guard was supposedly friggin’ gleeful. He’d been there first-hand when the guy took his dive. He apparently recognized it as a certain kinda abracadabra. Said he even knew the wizards, or whatever, that caused it.
“He also said he was surprised you’d let that sort of thing go on. Tommy thinks The Guard is hoping you’re slipping. I told him everyone knew you were just out of town for a few days.”
When the tale finished, Will nodded. “Thanks, you’ve really helped me.”
“You take that shit back,” replied Wade.
Coffin only smirked and returned the occult hook to his pocket.
“C’mon,” he said, “we’ve got another bus to catch.”
Once she judged herself outside of Daly’s earshot, Bunny asked, “you’re going to break some old lady’s window?”
“His grandmother’s, specifically – but, no, of course not. Every time I talk to Wade I convince him of the same things. He blames her for his death, that much is obvious, but that’s as far as I’ve ever gotten with his case. If he’s got to live on with his delusions, they can at least be helpful ones.
“Still, I wish we were just smashing up some nana’s place. No, we’ve got a much less pleasant trip ahead of us: We’re off to see The Bad Crossing Guard.”
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.