Tag: crossover

212 – Coffin: Cast Off, Part 2 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and twelve.

Flash PulpTonight we present, Coffin: Cast Off, Part 2 of 2.
(Part 1Part 2)
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Pendragon Variety 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, and his drunken roommate, Bunny, undertake a journey at the side of a carrion-masked attorney.


Flash Pulp 211 – Cast Off: a Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 2

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


Will CoffinThe riddle of the dead-face box had paid for the rental car, a hotel room with dirty carpets, and gas, but Coffin had little confidence he’d see any further payment for his efforts – he, in fact, believed that things would end rather abruptly.

He’d spent fourteen hours the day previous, and three since dawn, avoiding the rear-view mirror. Despite the fact that Burt Steward, his client, was largely covered by a hat and upturned jacket collar, there was no getting used to the decaying muscle-work exposed at his cheeks, nor the milky puss he constantly wiped away from his nostrils.

While Will had been quiet regarding the situation, Bunny, his soggy roommate, was less so.

“Zombies are big money these days, maybe you can get a movie role or something,” she said from the passenger seat, as she sipped from a Gatorade bottle filled with a bright red liquid of questionable composition. “Hell, you can be the Lon Chaney of our age – but, instead of the man of a thousand faces, I guess you’d just be the man of one really ####ing ugly face.”

“She’s not serious, right?” replied Steward, his gaze never leaving his furiously-thumbed phone. He’d busied himself for the majority of the ride with prodding the piece of electronics, but was now becoming increasingly distracted by Bunny’s endless prattle.

“I was straight with you when I took on the work,” said Coffin, “I know someone who might be able to help, but this is a matter I personally don’t have a fix for. Perhaps she will, but I’m just playing driver and advisor on this expedition.”

It wasn’t the first time he’d carried out work for Steward. On a previous occasion the lawyer had asked for assistance after being assaulted, on a chill October evening, by dime-sized ice spiders. The beasts had formed upon the surface of his above-ground pool, as he lounged in his nearby hot-tub and enjoyed one last weekend dip before covering the pair for the cold season. It was Will’s opinion that he had was largely saved by the steaming froth of the Jacuzzi – otherwise, he’d likely have been found dead the next morning, with his body covered in a red and black rash of frostbite.

Coffin was at hand to watch the attack repeat itself the following night, and his solution – draining the pool entirely of its cursed contents – had prevented recurrence. It was only once he’d tracked down the grandmother who’d issued the curse that Will had began to understand his client’s day job, but he’d manage to talk the woman into cessation of hostilities over tea. She’d insisted, however, that it was for him, and not because she had any forgiveness for the shyster lawyer she saw as having stolen her life via litigation.

As he’d departed, Will had ensured the promise by removing the small offering bowl she’d used to conduct the ritual – it was a family heirloom, and he rather suspected she’d never seriously considered that the legend attached to it could be true.

It had been Coffin’s theory that holding off on some portion of his questioning, till they’d become better acquainted as traveling companions, might make the rotting man more open to honesty, but it was increasingly obvious that Bunny’s humour was doing little to bring on a sense of camaraderie, and they were running out of highway.

Clearing his throat, Will asked, “Burt, if we’re going to get this thing resolved, you’ve got to be honest with me. How did you get hold of the box in the first place?”

“I told you already, another client-”

“Bull####,” said Bunny. “I’ve seen that god damn thing in the trunk. It’s heavy, it smells, and there’s crazy writing on the side that looks like something out of Indiana Jones versus the Cannibals of Mars. I ####ing hate lawyers, but I never met one stupid enough to shove their face in something like that. ”

“I bought it, from a, uh, private dealer. After the spiders – after watching those sharp little crystal legs melt into droplets while crawling over the side of the tub, I realized there was a lot more to the world than helping part debtors from their bungalows. I started looking, but everything on the Internet seemed a sham, and you, Will, weren’t willing to help me out. One day, this guy in a tweed suit shows up at my door. Bald with a broad smile. He had the cube in tow, and said he’d heard about my search and thought it might be of interest.

“You can feel it when you touch it, your belly gets tight and your palms tingle. I knew it was genuine. I paid less than I’d expected for the piece but finding someone who could translate the writing cost me nearly twice as much. It took me a few months – I had other things going on, you know how it is – but finally I found a professor in Calcutta who could manage it.”

“‘He who places his visage within the box will witness the true face of eternity.’

“That was enough for me – I thought I might see God if I looked inside.”

Coffin bit at the inside of his cheek as he mulled over this new story, then nodded.

“Fine,” he said, “but the artifact isn’t without some history – didn’t you do some research to try and find it’s intent?”

“I tried the local library and online, but came up empty.”

“Oh ####, don’t even,” slurred Bunny. “I ####in’ know a dabbler when I see one. You’re that guy with a broken down mustang he talks a lot about, but never spends any time trying to get running. You’re the guy who buys a piano and never learns to play. You had a toy handed to you, took the first opinion you got on the thing, then immediately shoved your head into the meat grinder. Your a ####in’ dabbler.”

The car was silent until they reached the abandoned hotel. The Scandinavia Inn had once existed as a twenty-room establishment, but now stood in ruin, its interior having been thrashed by the constant wear of nature and squatters. Both floors of the structure looked out over a small lake, but its allure – its promise of isolation – had also caused its financial downfall.

“You sure she’s going to be here?” asked Bunny, as the trio stretched alongside their rented Ford.

“No,” replied Coffin, “unfortunately ancient ladies of the great woods don’t carry cells. That said, she holds all of her meetings here, on the day of the full moon. Frankly, I’m pleased we’re the only ones who appear to have shown up this time around. I say we probably have greater than even odds that she hasn’t found something better to do.”

Shuffling his still-stiff legs over the disintegrating pavement, Will ignored the stoutly locked front entrance, and instead directed the group towards the slope that lead to the shore.

“Stop answering work emails and pay attention,” Bunny told Steward, “or you’ll trip and get a used needle in the eye.”

Burt tucked the device away.

The rear revealed easy access, as a dirt path littered with discarded beer cans and condom wrappers ran directly into the darkened patio of the nearest room.

Stepping through the jagged-edged frame of a sliding door, they entered.

Threading her way past upturned televisions and splintered nightstands, Bunny was forced to remove a lighter from her pocket to fight the gloom.

“Just gotta remember which hand holds the fire, and which one holds my drink,” she muttered to herself.

As he mounted the stairs to the second floor hallway, Coffin announced his presence.

“Hello, madam, we’ve come to enjoy your sparkling conversation.”

He was unsure if he would receive a reply, but, after a moment, a nappy voice called from the third opening on the right.

“A hello to you then, charmer Coffin, and to your delicious smelling friends as well. Come, come.”

The lady of the woods had skewed the window coverings to allow some light to be shed upon her gathered nest of molding pillows, and the den had been carefully tidied, so that the constant trash underfoot ceased abruptly at the threshold.

“Not to shabby,” remarked Bunny, pushing the now unsure Steward onward.

“You’ve done well,” Coffin said, bowing slightly to the hulking wolverine who rested amongst the cushions.

“Bah,” said Sour Thistle, “I haven’t done well since the great collapse. Hooligans run amok in this shelter on those days when I am not on hand – or worse, they stumble across my conferences, and call in brutes who attempt to shove me in a cage. People had more respect before the magic went out of the world.”

Despite her complaints, her snout had turned up a toothy grin at the compliment.

“Perhaps,” responded Will, “that has something to do with the fact that, at the time, you could easily command a furred army to consume their village.”

“They don’t refer to them as ‘the good old days’ without reason,” said the beast, allowing a pleased rumble to enter her voice. “If you’ve come to venerate me, however, you seem to have brought excellent sacrifices. I know not what you carry in yonder sack, but, even fleshless, I can smell the occult upon it, and would gladly consume its potency – and this man, what a gift, he seems to satisfy both my need for power AND my taste for meat. You certainly know how to spoil me.”

The scene was too much for Steward’s frayed nerves, and he collapsed to the ground, tears in his atrophying eyes.

“Please, I’ve come a very long way, I want simply to be fixed – I want my face back.”

“Oooh,” responded Sour Thistle, who was now taking a closer look at the man’s ripe condition. “So it’s the dead-face box I can taste on the air. Well enough, give it here.”

Despite the extreme rarity of such a piece, Coffin was relieved to have the responsibility handed off.

“You’ve read the inscription?” the wolverine asked the shaking man, who nodded. “Blackhall had some trouble in translating, and it was actually in while having it decoded that the curio was lost – although he did find some history, and the phrasings meaning. You took it as a riddle – an invitation. It is not.

“‘He who places his visage within the box will witness the true face of eternity.’

“When it was built, it was as a punishment, and its creators never thought that a day might come when the nature of the relic might be forgotten. I’ve noticed that human empires are rarely capable of acknowledging their own horizons. It was intended as an ultimate exile – to be cast out of human society as an abomination, and usually to die amongst the din of the jungle insects. It’s simply an illusion, however, his own flesh remains unchanged.”

“So,” said Steward, “it must be reversible then?”

“No.” Sour Thistle replied, “You do not invest the effort to create an item such as this with the intention of providing an easy remedy. This was a penalty only for the most irredeemable.”

“I’d rather die than go on like this.”

“Then perhaps I could eat your head? Once exposed to the occult, it is like a glue – the energy remains with you, and emanates until it is dissipated or consumed. All too often, in the olden days, human graves were disturbed to feed the belly of some wandering glutton – and such pilfering often lead to a hunt for the perpetrator, and unnecessary violence. I am hungry, and it is not our way to waste good flesh, any more than you would let a pig rot after slaughter, so come, Sir Suicide, and place your seemingly rotten flesh within my maw. We will correct your lament, and my empty stomach, with a single motion.”

“There aren’t too many who personally slaughter their pigs anymore,” said Coffin, “but, to be fair, I’ve had plenty of roommates leave overripe deli in the fridge. I’m thinking, though, that perhaps it isn’t a meal you need, but a regular partner for conversation? Your tongue seems rough.”

“Ahh, a roommate. A companion,” said Sour Thistle, chuckling at the admonishment. “Perhaps you are right. Whatever the case, Burt Steward dies today – consider this the birth of a homely child. What shall I call you, my grotesque babe?”

“Dabbler,” interjected Bunny, from the corner of a mouthful of liquor.

The beast nodded her agreement. “Sit, Dabbler, and we’ll parlay as to why I should not eat such an ugly babe.”

She then removed the antiquity from its carrying bag, and began gnawing at its corners, rolling the shape over in her nimble paws. Soon freshly exposed metal caught the sun at every seam.

Seeing his opportunity, Will made his move, and plucked the phone from the stunned lawyer’s pocket. It was only then that the man who’d hired him realized that he’d been evicted from his former life.

“You wanted into the magic kingdom,” said Bunny, as she stumbled through the exit, “well, welcome to Disney Land.”

As he exited, Coffin shivered at the scraping sound of unyielding tooth on metal, and the pitiful weeping beneath it.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

211 – Cast Off: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and eleven.

Flash PulpTonight we present, Cast Off: a Blackhall Tale.
(Part 1Part 2)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp211.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Pendragon Variety 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, Thomas Blackhall, master frontiersman and student of the occult, is summoned to assist with a ghastly countenance.


Flash Pulp 211 – Cast Off: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 2

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


BlackhallThomas had taken on two days rustic travel to answer the invitation, and he was somewhat vexed to discover the barefoot woman in ragged clothes muttering about the large house.

The structure was something of an oddity, as was its builder and occupant, a man named J.B. Wilkes. The behemoth sat upon a wide sprawl of grass, but it was a cultivated calm, as all about the trim circular patch raged the workings of a lumberyard. To the east a ribbon of water, locally called the White River, ran thick with incoming wood and the shouts of timber drivers. On the far side of the ring road, which hedged the lawn, were barracks, utility buildings, and the hastily erected tents that indicated an industry on the rise.

The frontiersman’s principal concern, however, was for the dead child laying upon a construct of sawhorses and planks at the center of the the home’s velvet-filled sitting room. Wilkes stood close at his shoulder, which was nuisance enough, but the shriek of sawmill and the pound of hammers were providing an unpleasant dissidence to his considerations.

“She insists,” Wilkes had replied, at his request to seal the windows, so he’d had no option but to ponder the faceless boy on only a half-night’s sleep, and against a gauntlet of distractions.

“Nothing more than a charlatan,” said Thomas, flatly, then he set to readjusting his focus.

The lad, no older than ten, had obviously been slain by the fall of an axe, the head of which still protruded from his chest, though the handle had snapped in the effort. His round face was thoroughly rotted, and the unkempt row of his leftmost teeth clearly visible through his cheek, and yet Blackhall could smell no decay, and neither did the child’s hands, belly, or toes, indicate such decomposition.

“You say he was like this when he was discovered?” asked Thomas, turning on his current employer in an effort to avoid the stink of the burning herb the bush witch was wafting about the room.

Earlier, as he’d approached his destination, he’d noted an encampment of youths running wild not far from the grinding wheels and crushing hooves of the lumber carts and their pulling teams, but it was only once he had entered that he’d realized the source of the ruffians.

Wilkes nodded. “Well, perhaps not quite so dead – apparently he was speaking gibberish, shouting at some of the workmen when they found him. They can’t be blamed for their panic, but I’ve already lost men to the talk of mystic doings, and they need some confirmation that there is no long term curse at hand, or a danger likely to be repeated – not that I have belief in either, but perhaps your presence will bring some closure to their uneasiness.”

Blackhall grunted, wincing again at the perpetual clamour. The smoke’s reek was doing little assist his mood, but at least the charlatan had slipped from the room.

“So,” he said, “am I right in my understanding that, though no one knows how it came to be, this young wash-boy wandered from his post in the kitchen, and, after some time, returned with this countenance?”

“Yes,” replied Wilkes, as he tended his cuff links.

It was then that the supposed impostor returned, planting her feet firmly in the door frame and demanding attention.

“Yes,” said Thomas, “What is it then? Your roaming about the house all morning has accomplished naught but wear on the rugs, so I do certainly hope that some sudden burst of insight has emboldened you to dispose of your sham and return once more to whatever dirt plot you no doubt poorly maintain between deceptions.”

“Do you know who I am? Fausta The Hearer – my services do not come cheap, and I was not called from my home to be insulted.” She turned then. “Do you wish to hear what the spirits have told me, Mr. Wilkes?”

Their mutual employer’s lips were tight with displeasure, but he nodded his interest.

She cleared her throat, and accompanied her speech with swept arms.

“Those beyond tell me that there is an ancient box, said to be cursed. They whisper that the boy found it here – in this very house.”

Blackhall raised his brow sharply, turning to observe the man at his side.

“A trinket,” said Wilkes, “given to me by one of the natives. I believe they thought it might convince me to let them hold onto this choice parcel, but I’d worked hard to talk the price down and its location upon the river is prime – I appreciated the trifle, but it certainly fell short of persuading me not to roust them. Besides, some came back seeking employment, and now carry an axe for half the cost.”

Though he attempted a casual tone, his posture had taken on a notable tension.

The ache at Thomas’ temples had grown loud, and he rubbed briefly at his brow; The Hearer, however, was firm in her insistence.

“You must retrieve the artifact,” she said, “only then can we lift the taint that will forever haunt this house – this entire camp!”

“There’s no bloody curse, and you’ve no idea what you’re dealing with,” said Blackhall. “I do require the box, though.”

Wilkes’ increasing stiffness reached a breaking point.

“Both of you must remove yourselves immediately.” he said, “I would not have summoned you if it weren’t for the surly moans of my lumbermen, but I see now that you wish to muddy the waters further with your lies – in an effort to raise the issue of blackmail, no doubt.”

“Twice now I have been insulted,” replied Fausta, “I shall stand this no more – pay my fee, and I shall be away.”

“Fine,” said Wilkes, moving to gather the sum.

“No,” said Blackhall. In the span of the conversation, he’d retrieved a silver chain, at the end of which was latched a hook whose tip was of an intricate, winding construction. “I’ve no patience today for sorting half-truths and naked lies so you’ve left me with little option.”

Before any response could be mustered, he lay the barb across the deceased’s cold flesh, and gave a jerk.

As if Thomas were pulling a fish from water, the phantom rose from the surface of his body.

“Your name?” asked Blackhall.

“Jerry Mayhew, sir,” said the apparition.

Thomas noted Wilkes attempting a slow retreat, but also observed Fausta’s immobile frame blocking the exit. Her eyes were locked on the boy, as if attempting to determine the crux of the trick – and yet there were no strings, nor mirrors, to account for the cadaver-faced spook.

“Well, Jerry Mayhew,” said Blackhall, “were you murdered?”

It was obvious the phantom was in no small discomfort due to his summoning, but he was eager enough to talk.

“They didn’t know – I couldn’t – my tongue wouldn’t work to tell ‘em it was me,” the specter replied. “I ran up to Old Bill, trying to ask after Pa, but he laid me low before I could cork my weeping. Still, it’s murder enough what Mr. Wilkes did to me – tricking me into puttin’ my face inside his cube.”

His steam spent, the boy’s face withered.

“Might I return now?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Blackhall, dropping the chain onto Mayhew’s chest.

“What? There are still questions to be answered!” said Fausta.

Wilkes was only feet away from departure, but had been rooted by the display.

“The rest,” responded Thomas, “I can theorize well enough. He likely came across your name while searching out an answer to the nature of the relic, but held some evidence that you were a fraud, thus leaving you untapped. My guess is that you were hired as a placebo, to quiet the anger that rose up after the boy’s death. Surely there is some suspicion in the camp. I know, from the man sent to collect me, that I was summoned at the insistence of a vocal minority – likely the same ousted fellows mentioned earlier, with whom I seem to recall having some dealings in the past.”

He turned on Wilkes fully, addressing the man directly.

“Perhaps you thought I too was a counterfeit, or perhaps you were simply unwilling to say no to a rabble of underpaid, whiskey’d, hirelings, but you see now your mistake.”

“Yes!” answered the cowering man, “Yes, of course. What is there to be done? How might I rectify my error?”

There was a pause, during which Blackhall collected his traveling goods, arranged his coat, and pocketed his chain.

“First, the box,” he finally replied.

“Of course,” said Wilkes, sighing. Within moments he returned with a sack, which he handed across.

Thomas provided a quick inspection, and his practiced gaze surmised the authenticity of the piece.

“Now what?” asked his anxious host.

“There is nothing more for the matter beyond a proper burial. Time will do the rest.”

Even as he made his reply, Blackhall passed from the parlour, Fausta was hasty to slip aside and allow him passage, but just as rapidly returned to her former firm stance, and opened with a strong-voiced harangue regarding her remuneration.

With bulky pouch in hand, Thomas retook the veranda, no longer annoyed by the din, but instead simply pleased to be away from the slick meat of Mayhew’s corrupted visage.

Turning, he spotted the hooligan he suspected had conveyed the camp’s whispers to Fausta’s ear, through a yawning window. With a raised hand, he summoned the delinquent.

“Am I wrong to think that you’ve become recently acquainted with the lay of the mill?” asked Blackhall, holding up a palm heavy with coins.

The youth nodded, his eager eyes appearing strikingly like his mother’s.

“Run then,” continued the departing bushman, “find the father of Jerry Mayhew, and tell him plainly that it was Wilkes’ dabbling which left his son so scarred – that the blame for his premature death rests firmly upon this porch.”

The messenger’s heavy pockets jingled as he ran towards the furthest rim of the greenery, and into the muck beyond.

Having dispatched his courier before the boy’s parent could be bought fully into silence, Thomas shouldered his load, and made for the treeline.

Time would do the rest.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.