Tag Archives: occult

FP429 – Coffin: Dislocation

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty-nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Dislocation

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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 apprentice, find themselves dealing with an apparition that simply wants to move on.

 

Coffin: Dislocation

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

 

It was a strange gig.

Bunny stood at the edge of the lake, her hands deep in her pockets and her denim jacket shut against the wind that roared across the water.

She stood with Mantas and Greta Kulpa, whose hard faces watched Will Coffin swing high his arcane token upon the rocky shore.

Behind them was a plain white cross, nailed together and painted by Mantas’ own hands.

The sky howled and the rain came, yet still somehow the Kulpa’s cheeks remained dry.

Their English was crisp, but they delivered it as embittered spitting.

Mantas asked, “is this going to take long?”

Bunny shrugged. “Do you really hate it that much here?”

“How much do we hate this place?” asked Greta.

“We hate this place so much we are literally driving directly to the airport to leave,” replied Mantas.

“We hate this place so much I may lobby the Grand Duchy to declare war on your miserable nation. I hardly think you’ll notice, but hopefully it will be enough to find us on the no fly list, and thus free of your grubby hands, sarcastic remarks, and ironic tourist sunglasses.”

“Not much longer,” answered Bunny.

The Crook of Ortez maintained its revolutions, its power, waxing in these late days, summoning up waves as well as pulling at the phantoms of the dead, teasing them to rise.

Bunny had seen her partner conjure the apparitions dozens of times, but never quite like this. It certainly was dramatic, at least.

On this occasion, however, no shimmering form appeared. Her partner made no extended entreaties, nor threats, nor even dry coughs. The storm hit a furious tempo, and then he let the chain drop, and the gale with it.

Thunder broke and rolled across the calming blue, and a downpour began to march in their direction from the distant shore. It’s ferocity, however, was nothing more than natural.

“It’s done,” said Will, his leather jacket dripping as he approached the cluster of observers.

“Great light show,” said Bunny, “but next time play some Floyd or something,”

The comment was out of her mouth before she considered her audience, but, given the Kulpa’s stolid indifference, she found it difficult to deliver a sorry.

“You spoke with her?” asked Greta.

“Yes,” replied Coffin.

“You told her we still intend to depart?” asked Mantas.

“Yes,” replied Coffin.

“How did she take it?” asked the mother, and Bunny thought it seemed as if she expected the dead girl would talk back.

Will shrugged. “She seemed okay.”

FP429 - Coffin: Disclosure, a Skinner Co. Network Podcast“Indifference? Typical,” said Greta. “I told you this place had warped her. Even in death she does not care about her parents. So ungrateful – so, so: So American.”

Mantas only grunted.

Coffin and Bunny stood together as they watched the pair climb the embankment, arm in arm. Within seconds the rented yellow hatchback was back on the highway and out of sight.

There was no wave goodbye, but Bunny consoled herself with the fact that they at least hadn’t spit on her as they departed.

“I missed what you were supposed to tell her – was it anything that would make me feel bad about thinking they’re a couple of puckered-asshole righteousness fondlers?”

“Nah,” answered Coffin. “They said, ‘tell her we can not stand this place. We are still leaving, good luck in the afterlife.”

“They didn’t seem too fuckin’ wadded up about the untimely death, and still missing corpse, of their only offspring? For all they know the bass are slowly shitting out their daughter down there. Why didn’t they at least ask her where her remains were?”

“Some use ritual as a system for dealing with the guilt they ignore. Those folks know they are right and proper, so it’s not their fault they’ve failed to make it in America, or failed to raise their daughter, or failed to change in any way as the world has ground on around them.

“They came to me not to get answers, but to simply put a period on the sentence. They have, to their own minds, done what they can – and now they’ll get on with the next thing.”

As they spoke, the pair climbed the same hill they’d watched the parents scale. Shuffling towards the car they’d rented at the Kulpa’s expense, a sixteen-year-old girl in a Ramones t-shirt and frayed-kneed jeans joined them.

“Exactly,” she said, “and it’s that same unthinking dedication to their ancient ways that would have forced them to drag me back to a place I remember hating as much as I remember it at all – or, if I’d fought hard enough, would have left them in a small town half a world away, complaining endlessly about the daughter they never saw, talked to, or in any way helped support. Still, they’d cry over it, and they wouldn’t even understand why. Just that it’s what is done.

“Better they think I’m dead then a blight upon the family, carousing and living a wild life in America.”

With no more time spent lingering than Matas and Greta had invested, Will, Bunny, and the very alive Melina Kulpas leaned into a quick U-turn, then sped back to the city.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP416 – Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and sixteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Green Light, Red Light

 

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, Mulligan Smith, private investigator and lifelong resident of Capital City, finds himself drawn to the edge of civilization by one Molly Blackhall.

 

Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

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

 

There were no windows in the room, only empty expanses of bare plywood nailed onto a sloppily erected frame. To Mulligan’s left was a door, to his right a simple table holding a camping lantern that acted as the sole source of light. Beneath him was a creaking wooden chair to which he’d been zip-tied, and before him sat the man with the gin-blossomed nose he’d come to think of as Red Parka.

He knew that just beyond the walls was a view to steal the breath from a Capital City Morlock such as himself, but it did him little good.

Red Parka shifted on his stool, settling the hunting rifle across his lap into a more comfortable position.

There was rarely any magic in Mulligan’s job, and here was the epitome of the mundane: He’d often wondered if this was how he might perish, in some dingy hovel at the hand of a man with petty reasons and a terrible need for a shower.

From beyond the crookedly hung door, in the room that made up the other half of the shack, there came a trio of knocks.

Smith could hear Blue Parka, the one who’d tazed him, rise to answer the summons.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve lost one of my tourists, have you seen an idiot in a hoodie stumbling around out here?”

Smith knew the woman’s voice, longed, in fact, to hear it say just a few more words, but Red Parka’s arms stiffened at the intrusion, and the gun barrel hovered above his knees.

It would do no good, Smith knew, to drag Molly into the calamity.

She’d been the one who’d summoned him to the Arctic Circle. They’d been introduced when he’d had need of a bush pilot on a previous job, and she’d been impressed enough with his work to ask for assistance when the small community of Suinnak had charged her with rum running.

Her email had been as straight to the point as Blackhall herself.

I realize chasing bootleggers sounds a bit ridiculous to a fellow who can walk a block and pass three bars and a booze megastore, but these folks generally see limited supplies, and a sudden bump in the market can cause a lot of havoc. I’ve been the only one in and out lately, so they figure I must be the source, and I haven’t been able to spot any amateur moonshiners while waiting for my court date.

I hate to have to ask – and I think you know it – but I could really use some help.

In truth, Molly’s face, and his trip north, had floated to mind more than once in his idle hours parked outside cheap motels and heavily-curtained bungalows, and he’d been eager to be of assistance.

“I haven’t seen him,” answered Blue Parka.

There was a pause, and Molly lost the majority of the politeness in her voice.

“I heard he was coming here to visit,” she insisted.

Red Parka had the stock of his weapon under his arm now, the barrel endangering the ground midway between Mulligan and himself.

“Nope,” said Blue Parka, “probably best to go back to your plane and wait to see if he shows.”

The door closed. Smith felt his shoulders relax.

At least she’d be safe.

When he’d arrived, a day earlier, it had been an easy enough thing to locate the real origin of the free-flowing liquor. His filing cabinets at home were filled with letters from his ex-police-sergeant father that provided advice along the lines of, “it takes money to catch money,” and he’d known exactly how to begin the search.

FP416 – Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall ChronicleLocating the most notorious drunk in town had only taken three sets of questions, and, as the PI had told Molly when he’d retrieved his bribe from his travel bag, it wasn’t as if the community was about to be overrun with 18-year-old single malt Talisker scotch.

She’d grown red faced and angry when he’d handed the cup to a fellow obviously killing himself with such.

At the first drink, the man had denied knowing anything about locals involved in distilling.

At the second, both men were chuckling, and Molly joined them in a sullen cup.

At the third she too was laughing, as Mulligan laid out his usual jokes and admitted, sheep facedly, that he rarely drank.

At the fourth, the interviewee, still denying he knew anything, did admit it was better booze than the locally made stuff.

When they’d reduced the bottle by half, the private investigator had found his feet suddenly, thanking his host for his time.

“Perhaps you could top my glass before you go?” the drunk had asked.

“Sorry, I need to save some reward for someone who can help,” Smith had replied.

The tippler’s face went to war with itself for thirty seconds, twisting between resolve and thirst, then the man had stood to point at the shack on the hill.

Smiths’ victory was quickly forgotten, however, as Molly landed on a decision that seemed to have been hovering at the edge of her mind for a while, and dragged him back to the cabin she occupied when visiting the remote hamlet.

Two hours later, half-sobered and sweating from exertion, she’d apologized for growing angry over tweaking the old lush’s weakness to dig for an answer.

“We Blackhalls have always had a temper,” she explained.

They’d fallen asleep soon after.

Awaking to her satisfied snoring had given him the chance to creep up the hill and be tazed.

He’d expected to find a still – instead, seconds before being electrified, he’d discovered just a spout to collect snow and a pot-bellied stove that struck the PI as a fire hazard, especially in an all-wood shanty.

That’d been half an hour ago, but now there was a hitch in his chest as he realized the distance between them was so close that he could hear her muttering as she followed the thin trail down the hillside.

“Oh,” she was saying, “I’m-a go back to the goddamn plane…”

In the next room, Blue Parka returned to murmuring. He’d been at it when Smith had originally arrived, and until this second interruption the chanting had been the only relief from Red Parka’s thick mouth-breathing.

Smith returned to the impossible task of finding some leverage that might keep him out of a shallow permafrost grave.

He considered using his increasingly angry bladder as an excuse to attempt to run, but he doubted he’d make it far from Red Parka’s rifle given the barren white slopes that surrounded the hut.

Blue Parka’s droning stopped, and Mulligan’s bladder doubled its demands.

He had little interest in finding out what the pair had in mind once done singing for the day.

It was apparently just another interruption, however.

“You gotta see this,” called the crooner, “there’s a – I think it’s a wolverine? – out front. Bring the rifle.”

Red Parka stood and pulled the door shut behind him.

Through the flimsy barrier Smith heard Red Parka ask, “is it dancing?”

“Maybe it’s rabid?”

The slamming of the outside exit cut off any further conversation.

Breathing heavily, the PI began to thrash in his bonds. The chair went over sideways, but did not break. The zipties dug into his ankles and the flesh of his wrists, but did not give.

Still, it was shouting and gunshots from the far side of the cabin that brought his flailing to a halt.

Then the air filled with the scream of a chainsaw.

As he lay askew on the rough planks, the tip of a high-speed cleaver pushed through the wall and sliced downward in a long diagonal stroke.

Two more incisions followed, and the splinter-edged triangle fell inward.

Molly Blackhall said, “so, sometimes you’re out in the woods and some bloody beavers start lodging up on the river you figured you could use to exit. I keep this Mama Jama to clear the runway, as it were.”

“You shouldn’t have come back,” answered Mulligan, “they’re armed with worse than chainsaws. If that animal hadn’t come along…”

“Oh, she’s part of the plan too.”

“You have a pet wolverine?”

“It’s not a pet, it’s more like a friend,” she replied. “Anyhow, talk less, escape more.”

She did him the favour of using a knife to remove his bonds.

Still, the PI could not resist a final peek into the adjoining room to see the product of the seemingly neverending incantations. He thought the man had been simply whistling while he worked, but the only changes he could spot in the plain chamber were the location of the barrel, which was now at the center of the floor, and the nature of what it held.

Then he was again being pulled along by Molly’s insistent grip, though this time through the ragged hole and down the hill.

White powder crunched underfoot. The mountain range on the far horizon watched impassively. Behind them echoed more shouts, and more gunshots, and perhaps even a gravel-throated chuckle.

It was at that moment Mulligan Smith realized he was in love, but he would be left wondering, for a long while afterward, how the Parkas had transformed a barrel of snow melt into wine.

He would not see the pair again, nor would the people of Suinnak, but the discovery of the supply – and the signed confession they nailed to the Game Warden’s office before they departed – were enough to clear Molly for a brief southward vacation.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP415 – Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fifteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One 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 Bunny, his increasingly sober apprentice, eat pancakes and aid a man haunted by his past.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

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

 

The Denny’s stood at the low tide between breakfasting retirees and office workers on a panickedly short lunch break. Only three other booths were occupied, beyond the trio of customers clustered in the corner, and one of those appeared to be the store’s manager entertaining himself with online trivia instead of instructing the waiter in heavy eyeliner to clear the last of the Grand Slamwich wreckage.

Bunny gave the kid a nod, and the kid nodded back.

“Napkins?” he asked.

“Nah, I’ll take some of the s##t water you folks call coffee, and maybe a two buck pancake stack?”

“We’re only supposed to sell the cheap plates as a side.”

Bunny raised a her brow and shrugged. Coffin waved off the topping-up of his mug, and their interviewee, one Douglas Holloway, continued to gently weep into the collar of his polo shirt.

When they were once again alone, the crying man worked at clearing his throat, then asked, “how did you find me?”

“How badly do you want to be free of -” began Coffin, but Bunny overrode the statement.

“His ex put us in touch with yours,” she said to Holloway, “but don’t worry about that. We’ll get to the haggling and details, just give us the rundown on your wife and girlfriend.”

To Bunny there was something familiar in Holloway’s stunned yet exhausted face that left her with the impression that he’d simply been waiting for this particular dam to break.

“Arlene died five years ago,” replied the widower. “It was eighteen months after we were married, and we were infatuated with each other till the end. We’d known she had a fight in front of her when we went down the aisle – her chemo meant all of her wedding photos were hairless – but she was the sort of person who was strong enough not to wear a wig.

Coffin: A Occult Serial Fiction Podcast “We were the classic goofballs-in-love couple, content just to be close to each other; to hold each other. She seemed magical, and I always assumed somehow that that would win us the war.

“It didn’t.

“She died at home. I did my damndest to make it as comfortable and peaceful as possible, but by the end there was a miniature hospital set up in our living room. It was like a pocket universe in there, an eternity of listening to her ragged breathing over constant Law & Order reruns. I still change the channel as soon as I hear that damned theme. When she let go I was at the bed’s edge, holding her hand, and she was surrounded by her sisters. I thought it was the hardest moment I’d ever have to survive through, but that I’d done the right thing.

“My first notion was to move away from the memories, but two years later I was in the same bungalow, alone with our mortgage and our corgi, Sycamore. Every time I stepped onto the living room carpet I could feel the anxiety of those last days creep in, but I hadn’t finished paying the bills for high powered narcotics and medical staff.

“Even if I couldn’t escape, things changed around me. I spent a lot of hours at the kitchen table with work I’d taken home, just to avoid the rest of the house. If I wasn’t working, Sycamore and I patrolled the block. Despite my evasions, or more likely because of it, I got promoted. I made new acquaintances around the neighbourhood.

“The second January after Arlene’s death I met Selena. I wasn’t looking to. I’d spent so long focused on the next set of reports, and the next patch of sidewalk ahead of me, I hadn’t realized how far I’d gone with my head down.

“I was re-tying a shoelace outside the local Starbucks when she exited with a white chocolate mocha. One of the tallest ladies I’d ever seen, and with a smile as friendly as a children’s television show host.

“She said ‘excuse me,’ because she walked near me while I was hogging the sidewalk and she’s the sort of person who’d rather be polite than annoyed.

“As she’s adjusting course though, she reaches into her pocket and retrieves a dog treat shaped like a bone. Sycamore sits, which is a trick that I’d forgotten Arlene had taught him, and she tosses him the mini-femur.

“That dog was all the family I’d had for two years, and I loved it like a child, but for whatever reason it’d never struck me to carry treats with me. It sounds kind of stupid, but it was just different than anything I’d known until then. Somehow that brought my chin up.”

The tale paused as the narrator was distracted by his audience straightening in their seats. Before he could turn to identify what had roused them, however, the waiter strolled by at a near trot, a plate tucked tight to his side, out of sight of his trivia master manager.

With a twist of his wrist the low mountain of pancakes slid across the largely empty table, stopping just short of Bunny’s coffee.

There was no opportunity for a thank you before he was beyond hearing range.

“Don’t stop now, Dougie,” said Bunny, while twirling her syrupy fork encouragingly, “we haven’t even gotten to the spooky s##t.”

“We dated for six months,” answered Holloway. “A lot of movie theaters, diner dinners, and dog parks with Sycamore. When we started spending the night together it was always at her apartment. Eventually I moved the dog dishes and I almost sort of forgot that I had another home.

“Then I got a funny letter: I’d accidentally paid off my mortgage while I wasn’t paying attention.

“Now, it’s not like I’d ever forgotten Arlene, but I’d had some time away. Selena loves renovation shows, and we kind of jointly arrived at the idea that we should do some repair work before putting the shack on the market and maybe looking for a fresh place together. Thing is, the more effort we sunk into projects, the more it began to feel like a new house – our house.

“One night we were both exhausted from a day of basement drywalling, and we decided to just sleep in my, uh, our, uh, the old bed – the bed that was there – instead of heading back to Selena’s.

“I woke around three in the morning thinking I heard someone talking in the dark. I pulled on pants and went down the hall to the living room, and for a second I thought I saw Arlene’s face.

“Now, I should be clear, it wasn’t a huge ‘Arlene, is that you!?’ moment, it was more like thinking you see a person standing in a corner, then realizing it’s actually that robe you draped over a chair with the shadow of a lamp behind it that looks like a head.

“The only thing out of place was that Sycamore was sitting perfectly upright in the middle of the carpet, but I was so tired I assumed that I’d heard him growling at dreams and went back to bed.

“With the seal off, so to speak, we spent more and more nights there. We were already investing the majority of our evenings tag teaming plumbing, or hoisting hammers, so why leave?

“When we first, uh, made love in the old house, I later awoke thinking I heard Selena crying. I actually prodded her until she responded with a clearly still sleeping “no.”

“It happened again the next night, then everything went smoothly for about a week.”

“The calm before the s##t storm,” said Bunny, through a mouthful of fluffy batter.

“Yeah, then the screaming started. I couldn’t see where it was coming from, it just chased me from the sheets, then around the house. I kind of stopped when I was rampaging along the hallway for a second loop, because – well, it’s incredibly terrifying, but after a bit you lose steam when you can’t see the source of your panic.

“Selena, wearing only my stained work t-shirt, comes running, and suddenly she’s slapped across the face, hard. It kept going, like someone clapping to count time, and then gained momentum into a hail storm.

“I’d never seen her cry before.

“I followed her through the door, but she was in her car and on the street before I could catch up. Her place was close enough to walk, but it was cold, so I decided to risk going back inside to pull something on. Besides, I needed to get Sycamore.

“Everything was silent when I re-entered. I whistled for the dog, but he didn’t come. I found him in the living room again, sitting at attention.

“The call came before I was done packing. Everything had changed for me in the moment I’d seen Selena with that dog treat, and everything had changed for her in the moment she’d been chased from the house by an invisible hurricane. She was clearly having difficulty making sense of what had happened, but it seemed to her that it was my fault.

“While I was sitting there at the edge of the bed, crying, I heard laughter. I knew that giggle. Without even realizing I’d fully accepted all of the implications, I started a screaming match with a ghost.

“‘How could you do this?’

“‘How could you? I’m dead!’ she shrieks back.

“‘You had it easy, I was the one who had to keep living” – and on and on.

“At some point the door slammed shut, and I somehow fury’d myself to sleep.

“The alarm clock woke me for work, and I went in on automatic. Tried texting Selena, but she ignored it. I ignored the ignoring by staring at reports. I went home.

“While I was watching Sycamore sniff around the backyard I heard Arlene say, ‘I’m sorry.’

“That was – I dunno, three months ago? Since then it’s just been crying, every night. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s her. I’d like to try and reach out to Selena again. I miss her – but at the same time, the woman I loved, whatever is left of her, is somewhere in that house. I swear, some nights the bed shifts with her weight.

“I want to move on. I want her to move on. I just feel so guilty.”

Washing away the pancake crumbs with a deep pull of coffee, Bunny said, “in a situation like this, it’s really nobody’s fault. You can’t blame Selena for running off after getting in a one-sided slap fight with Sue Richards, and you can’t blame Arlene for being pissed she’s been trapped in your empty living room until you started f##king another lady in her bed – but you also can’t blame yourself. You didn’t know she was lingering around until she was furious enough to get all Amityville about s##t.

“We think your ex-wife needs to date and we know just the fellow. He’s also into Law & Order and cuddling. He currently has a thing for a lady named Laila, but all you sentimental motherf##kers have the same problem: You need to learn to move on.

“Actually, Laila’ll probably be looking for a new place soon, you should meet her. You might make a nice couple.”

In unveiling her solution, Bunny did not delve into the complicated game of telephone that was communication between the dead. Adding to Dougie’s sense of guilt would not get him any closer to moving, which was clearly the opening step.

In the end, Holloway agreed acting as dating coach to his dead wife was worth at least a nicely pawnable ratchet set, and Coffin had to nod in agreement.

Matchmaking was not his usual sort of work, but rent was due.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP414 – Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fourteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One 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 Bunny, his vodka-dependent apprentice, encounter the strange tale of Laila Hamilton, wife and secret nuzzler.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

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

 

It was chill as Coffin stepped onto his balcony, and the leaf husks of the philodendron that Bunny had attempted to grow, a month earlier, rattled in the wind.

Had he been neglectful in not making more appearances? No, he told himself, he’d simply been busy – but, then, Sandy had also been busy once.

His dead wife, on the pavement eighteen floors below, grunted.

Rolling his shoulders, Will asked, “how’s the afterlife?”

There was a long pause before Sandy’s shattered jaw murmured, “you always were terrible at small talk,” into the unyielding cement.

“Must be going well if you’re not even trying to murder me,” he replied.

Silence, then, “you’re not worth the effort,”

“Huh,” said Will, but he couldn’t help but crack a smile. There were many reasons to fear Sandy’s apparition, but her skill at delivering the cold shoulder was not one of them.

Coffin leaned over the railing. She could have heard him whisper, even at that height, and the slab walls and platform of the balcony echoed with her every crush-lunged breath. Nonetheless, he squinted through the bitter wind to make out her twisted form.

He counted a dozen skipping inhalations, and a dozen moist and whistling exhalations, before she gave up her hush.

“Any news?”

At another time he probably would have just invented something. The matters he conveyed were trivial at best: He could easily fake calls on the two birthdays he’d missed and stitch those falsehoods with the same old arguments Sandy’s family were constantly re-chewing – but he didn’t.

Things were changing. She’d always been so sure when she’d worn the jacket and held the chain, and he envied it.

He knew, however, that her certainty had also been her downfall.

FP414 - Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3“I’ve been too busy to call around. I’m sorry,” he said. It was a vague sort of statement, and intentionally so.

With the dragging effort of a winded marathoner, Sandy’s left arm, the bones at her wrist projecting through her torn skin, rose, and her palm set its heel firmly on the pavement. She began to drag her motionless legs towards the apartment block’s foundation.

“Too occupied with your new sidekick?” she asked.

“The ogre’s amok out west, the city seems to be overrun with Kar’Wickians, and someone’s dispatching ghosts without my assistance.”

“Which one am I supposed to be able to help with?” she asked, as the fingernails of her right hand came loose on a particularly jagged ridge of mason work. Yet still she climbed.

“None,” he answered, and, as she scaled the second through fifth floor, he recapped his encounter with Laila Hamilton.

When he’d completed his recitation, she asked, “didn’t you say there were Kar’Wickians in the city?”

“Yeah.”

“Didn’t you say the ogre was up and the dead were going missing?”

“Yeah.”

“Why are you working this thing then?”

It was his turn to fall quiet.

At the twelfth floor he changed the subject.

“You understand what I need then?”

“Yeah,” replied Sandy, not stopping in her attempt to scale the building and murder her former husband.

“Sandy, I’m sorry,” he said.

“So you’ve said,” she replied.

“It was for your own good,” he said.

“So you’ve said,” she repeated.

With a gap where her front teeth should have been, she bit her lip, then continued. “Don’t get weak kneed now, you put that jacket on yourself. If you were going to start second guessing I would’ve appreciated if it happened before I landed.

“Will, if you can’t handle this business pass it on and join me at the bottom.”

There was a pause then, and suddenly her ascent stopped. Her decades-old plunge played itself back at triple speed, and she once again returned to her place of rest.

“Go buy some belated birthday cards and I’ll ask around,” she concluded.

He turned, eagerly pawing at the sliding screen with chilled fingers.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP413 – Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One 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 Bunny, his vodka-dependent apprentice, encounter the strange tale of Laila Hamilton, wife and secret nuzzler.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Laila Hamilton was maybe thirty. Black hair clipped down to a stout Afro, but otherwise left to its own means. She was nearly in tears, but she kept her chin tight and the tension mostly in her hands.

It wasn’t the sort of job Will Coffin would normally take on, but rent was due even if the mystical seams of the city seemed to be coming undone around him.

Bunny, his currently sober roommate and apprentice, had also insisted.

“I’d hate-ta ####in’ see you have to offer up the tight jeans treatment to the guy at the front office,” she’d explained while offering no financial support of her own.

The bored looking kid in too-much eyeliner poured their coffees and pulled a notepad from his Denny’s apron.

“Can I get you something to eat?” he asked.

“More ####ing napkins,” answered Bunny, her eyes on the wrung and torn serviette the client was working over with both clenched hands.

Snapping his pad shut in a way that conveyed as much obscenity as anything that drifted out of Bunny’s mouth, the waiter departed.

“What do you want to know? Can’t you just go over and fix it?” the woman asked the shredded tissue before her.

“There’s a process,” said Coffin. “For example, what exactly do you plan on using to pay for -”

Bunny cleared her throat, blotting out the statement, and replaced it with, “start barfing from the beginning and tell us everything that happened.”

Nodding, Laila took a breath, held it, exhaled. “I like to watch old Law and Order episodes as I’m falling asleep. They’re constantly running on one of the deep cable channels, and there’s something homey to them. I know they were old even then, but my Dad always had them on when I was a kid dozing on the couch.

Coffin: A fantasy fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.“Anyhow, my husband, Orlando, he’s not such a fan. He’s not much of a fan of anything these days, really. I keep it way down, and I set a timer so the TV isn’t blathering uselessly into the dark, but Orlando still moved the set over to my side of the bed so I could turn it down a couple more notches.

“It’s a queen-sized mattress, but he only uses the lip of the distant edge.

“If I thought he’d bother coming closer if I kept the thing off I’d go to bed in silence, but he was sleeping way over there well before I started allowing myself a little murder in the evenings.”

Will was surprised to see the server return with a stack of fresh napkins, and the trio paused as he laid them on the table.

He did not hover, he simply laid the stack at Laila’s fingertips and said, “let me know if you need me.”

To Coffin’s eye it appeared this small act of kindness pushed Laila as much towards tears as anything she’d related so far in her story.

The tale continued.

“There have been a few nights in the last couple years when Orlando drifts across the bed. I get my hopes up that it’s the sparking of something new, but usually he’s just looking for a bit of pokin’ and proddin’, then he’s back to snoring on the opposite end of the continent.

“Maybe a month ago, the Law is done and the Order has arrived. They’re trying to figure how they can bust a murderous grandmother despite having their best evidence thrown out, and I’m fighting to stay awake for the conclusion. You know how it is: You’re so tired you don’t even realize you should simply give in and be unconscious. I’ve got half my face buried in the pillow and I’m spending more time focused on keeping my eyelids cracked than the jury’s reactions to closing arguments.

“I was sort of drifting in and out of it, missing snippets and then catching myself dozing, and I remember thinking it was really nice that Orlando had come to hold me. When we were kids that’s how we curled-up, his arm on my belly and his leg over mine.

“That’s when I realized there was no one there: I could feel the weight on my stomach and thigh over the blanket, but I could hear Orlando wheezing at his usual distance.

“You’re dreaming, I told myself, then I fell asleep.”

There was a pause as a fresh napkin began to suffer.

“It happened again maybe a week and a half later, but – well, I’d been thinking about it a bit, but I couldn’t make up my mind as to if I’d been imagining the whole thing.

“That second time, I kept my eyes closed, but I let my palm drift over the blanket to where I could feel the heft – and there was something there. Not a hand, only a chill spot. I lay like that for maybe a half hour, no longer near sleep but not sure what to do next. Then the weight disappeared, and the cold too.

“It happened again the next night, and the next. If I snuggled into the feeling, it would shift against me, but moving my arm would leave me with nothing more than frosty goosebumps. Every now and then I’d brush up against something though – my guest seemed to get more solid as the visits went on.

“A week later I awoke holding no one, and it was nice.”

“Slow workin’ Casanova of a #### monster?” asked Bunny.

The question was aimed at Coffin, but it was Laila who replied.

“I – I Googled some things before Martin gave me your names. If it’s a sexy demon type it’s not really showing it. I couldn’t find any good cuddle beasts, online, that matched the profile though.

“That’s why I’m here.”

Coffin nodded. It wasn’t the sort of job he’d normally take on, but rent was due.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP398 – Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 – The Maiden

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-eight.

Flash PulpTonight we present Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 – The Maiden

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Melting Potcast

 

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 we present an occult fairy tale of sorts, as we enter an ancient forest to happen upon a bloody scene and an abandoned child.

 

Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 – The Maiden

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

 

Centuries ago, during the dark times, in a village whose name died with its last progeny, there was a girl of round face and bright eyes. Her mother had not survived her labour, and her father died, moments thereafter, of a despairing jump while attached to a short rope.

Though orphans were not uncommon, the deceased parents had been well liked, and the tales told around their demise struck the community at large as particularly shocking.

The arrival of Nona the Seer an hour after the culmination of events simply reinforced the tragedy. Nona had overseen the majority of successful births in the loose confederation of hamlets that made up the bairn’s home, but ill weather that had kept the midwife from plying her simple magics and root craft at the delivery – or even providing a calming leaf to chew, and thus sustain the mourning father through his grief.

It is for these reasons, perhaps, that Nona lifted the babe from her abandoned swaddling, cut her tie to her dead mother, and carried her into the dusk.

Some frowned upon the woman acquiring a ward, as it went against the nature of her station, but those who complained were equally often hushed with a reminder that the Seer’s bony wrists seemed ever-more frail at each visit, and that even she could not live forever – and, besides, it was better the girl fill the station rather than their own kin.

The Seer’s position was enshrined in regional tradition. It was held solely by a woman of arcane knowledge and occult training – and, though she would be entrusted with the gathered secrets of the people she served, she must treat each nursling as her own, and thus never give birth herself.

According to proper telling, as passed from parent to child by fireside, the title befell only a virgin.

It was obvious by the girl’s eleventh year, however, that this was not entirely true.

Life with Nona was a life on the road. Many was the night that they slept in humbly offered rough-timbered barns, and for the first four of the foundling’s years she was sustained on naught but goat’s milk. To Nona’s thinking each step between visits was an opportunity to collect reagents, and there was not a bush she would not pry apart, nor thistle she would not ransack, to fill the sacks hung diagonally across her chest by a trio of belts.

Though none were labelled, Nona’s fingers never seemed to misstep when contriving a poultice or tincture.

It was the girl’s own education, and slow memorization of where each ingredient lay, that made clear that her mentor sometimes imbibed the same concoction provided to daughters who’d planted a seed too early.

Discretion, however, was also a large part of the girl’s schooling, and so she said nothing regarding her discovery.

Tonight we present an occult fairy tale of sorts, as we enter an ancient forest to happen upon a bloody scene and an abandoned child.Before long the thin-limbed lass whose wide brown eyes seemed to reflect an unflinching depth beyond a natural understanding was known simply as the Maiden.

She was taught the reading of runes, palms, and leaves; balms for rashes and burns; the skill, simpler in those times, of starting a flame with naught but a thought and a few arcane gestures. Her curiosity was insatiable, and, in those endless hours awaiting a delivery or the breaking of a fever, she would inquire after the traditions and superstitions of her hosts.

None refused the Maiden the words whispered by their grandmothers to halt bleeding, cease drunkenness, or cure an aching head.

Many were the maladies of the era that were incurable by prayer or patience, the dominant medicines of the time, and in a decade and a half few were the families who could not claim some assistance by “Nona and her Maiden.”

All – having conveyed some otherwise secret knowledge to the girl – felt some kinship, and even ownership, in regards to the child. Her cheeks were pinched, and her head patted, well beyond a reasonable age for such.

Many imparted the same wisdom in her ear: “Someday you too shall be like Old Nona, second mother to each one of us, and our grandchildren shall be your grandchildren. Tradition says it is so.”

It was Nona who first spoke against her, though they all soon followed.

On the evening of her sixteenth birthday she’d snuck from the birthing room of Adela Rose’s eighth child, and called Adela’s eldest, Marcus, to her side. The boy was but two months her elder, though she’d tended him through an infected broken arm at twelve. She’d held some fondness for him since.

Despite the number, the birth was no quick affair, and the girl and boy had often found excuses to stand close in the quiet heat of the kitchen while the focus was elsewhere.

The mess of the process was not enough to quench the desire pulling at her bones, and it was only noisily amongst the wheat that she finally mastered her need.

Marcus put up a noble attempt at future interest, but the girl had never known a stationary life, and her lust had been kindled on the farmhand’s shoulders, not his mind. He’d seemed just as relieved as she at her departure, hours later, and she thought nothing but kind thoughts of the incident until the day she grew suspicious at her own lack of blooding, a regular reality since the age of fourteen.

She herself had provided the diagnosis often enough to know the cause, but kept the insight to herself through another birthing, a leg amputation, and the lifting of a shaman’s curse.

It was after the extraction of this last, a wolf daemon bound to a woodsman of notorious temper, that the girl let slip her secret.

Nona had selected a field in which to camp beneath the clear stars, and the fire was there but for illumination, not warmth. The spirit had been pulled from its home with much howling, and the shattering of the woodsman’s jaw. Ignoring the blood and tears, the women had driven the phantasm forth, ending its victims unintentional string of homicides – though not before the man had left his own family shredded amongst their bedding.

All told, the girl had thought her own troubles slight in comparison, and it was in this light that she had spoken – and why not? She had reckoned herself a match in intellect and skill to any in the area but perhaps Nona, and she had undertaken matters both physical and metaphysical that would likely ruin the psyche of the farmers and petty merchants she served.

“The traditions!” Nona had replied. “Well, all is not lost. I will mix you up a snifter, and you’ll soon be fit for the position once again.”

“Damn the traditions,” the girl had replied. “I did not ask for this position, but my sole request is a child of my own.”

It was the single time she defied the woman, but it was enough.

There was no solution in the hours of argument that followed, and the news soon grew that the pair had split.

Within weeks there came to be no door friendly to the girl’s plight, and if it was a barn’s comfort she sought she had to be sure to depart before the cock’s crow.

On those few occasions when she was not quick enough, or on which a response might be made to her knocking, the answer for the source of their cruelty was always the same: “There was a tradition to be maintained.”

The girl, however, refused to yield her child.

Under a half moon, on the banks of a glass-surfaced creek, she attended her own birthing, and yet she cut the child’s cord with as firm a hand as she cut her ties with the name of Maiden.

In ten months’ time she was well upon the road, Nona buried of a broken heart, and the county decimated by a plague without a healer in place to check it.

Soon she was known by but one, and he called her simply Mother.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP396 – The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Earth Station One

 

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, finds himself in an unlikely conversation, with a fairy woman and a deaf man, on the lonely banks of the Malhousen River.

 

The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

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

 

Blackhall’s limbs were heavy with memory and heartache as he pulled himself over the side of the tiny rowboat, yet the banshee’s song of tears would not relent.

It took Wyatt’s guiding hand to keep the frontiersman on course through the fog of sentiment that pooled on his cheeks, but it was not a distant journey to the stone on which she perched, head in hands.

A sleek limbed figure in a dress of archaic form, she looked as if a village girl lost some two-hundred years – it was only the bolt of anguish that accompanied each convulsion of her shoulders that marked her as otherwise.

The sound of Thomas’ knees collapsing upon the wet sand drew her gaze, and the curve of her brow betrayed her surprise at their arrival.

Still, though her eyes were red with use, the banshee’s spine braced, and chin stiffened, at the intrusion.

“Is this what it’s come to,” she asked her damp palms, “the hayseeds have rallied to accost me like some whisky-tongued roustabout?”

Her hushed tone broke the weight of emotion upon Blackhall’s spine, however, allowing him to push to the surface of his grief.

Flash Pulp - A Skinner Co. PodcastWhile he could, he said, “not at all – though they do worry over what your despair portends. If hearing the sobbing of a banshee signals death, what then, they must wonder, does it mean for one of your kind to weep so long and so deeply? No doubt they believe the entire township is on the verge of depopulation by plague.”

“Always for you, always for you, damnable humans,” she replied, but her whisper was low enough to let him to stand without aid. “Why should I worry over their lot? The white-collar yonder has launched a multitude of prayerful curses in my direction: First wishing me away, then requesting my obliteration.

“Where is his concern for my anxieties? Does he not consider that I too may seek succor, or at least simple understanding?”

Desperate to be clear of the unblinking memory of Mairi’s slack face, Blackhall nodded, replying, “I’m sure the Father means well, but ‘tis an easy lesson to forget that charity means considering the flow of hard nature, and not just the metaphysical.”

Wyatt, unsure of how to add to the conversation, removed his hat and took a seat upon a tumbled log as if welcomed into any mundane stranger’s parlour. In truth, it was this act more than any of Thomas’ words that brought the banshee’s tone some patience.

“For five hundred years,“ she said, “I watched every birth and burial the Ó Braonáin family undertook. I wept silent tears of joy at the arrival of every bairn, and wailed a warning at the death of every drowned fisherman or tottering grandmother. I chased them from farm to salt and back again a dozen times, and never once did I fail in my craft.

“Yet this is where it ends. I followed the last transplanted branch of the clan over sea and up river. I watched his every struggling effort, and shared his joy at the hope that comes at a new start, even if it means a sore back and tired arms. Still, his fate was nothing more than a growth in his belly, and a moaning death before he might take wife and renew the line in this fresh soil.

“Now it is he who was planted: A year dead in the ground, buried under Father Stroud’s guidance.”

Her tone was thick but controlled, allowing Thomas to ask, “do you feel they treated the last of the Ó Braonáins unfairly?”

“No more than any else,” she answered, “- but what of me? Where should I go? What do I have? There is no one left to watch over, no one left to mourn. I can feel the drain of the occult from this world, yet I can not bring myself to despair any further.

“It would have been better to wither at home, where at least I knew the stones upon which I’d rot.”

Her gaze was locked on Thomas, as if he might have an answer, and, while her lips refused to tremble, he could see the pain of five-hundred-years of loneliness.

However, though he could but make out half her words, it was Wyatt who replied first.

“I spend most evenings in cloistered silence,” said the deaf man, his throat tight, “but I would be most pleased to come calling across the brook, or wherever else you might wish to meet. I have little to offer beyond lopsided conversation, but I would be happy to share my letters from beyond, and perhaps a taste of my dandelion wine, should you be so inclined. Moreover, if you have the patience to tell it to a man who needs much repeating, I would glory in the tales you’ve no doubt collected in your time on watch. There is no reason the Ó Braonáin line you knew can not live on in story.”

His words echoed Thomas’ thoughts. It was a temporary solution at best, but Blackhall knew that any lifeline was better than none to lungs and heart drowning in depression.

Nodding, he added, “- and I can no doubt convince the parish that the peace your company offers is worth a handsome payment, Wyatt.”

It was only then that proper introductions were made, but a night’s worth of conversation brought them to many matters: The foibles of men and women long deceased, the idiosyncrasies of penpals from distant lands, and even the seemingly endless march to Mairi.

By the hour at which dawn fell upon the trio, there was naught but laughter.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP394 – The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The P.G. Holyfield Appreciation Dept.

 

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, chases dark portents into a small town on the river’s edge.

 

The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

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

 

On a morning so fierce and dry it made even the greenest timber seem at threat of flaring up from simple exposure, Thomas Blackhall stumbled into the village of Malhousen.

He had been summoned over the mystic aspect of an apparent impending demise.

Malhousen proper was little more than a trading post facing down a small churchyard, but the two dozen families that populated the surrounding rocky lands were on friendly enough terms to call each other neighbour, and the occasional mail delivery seemed to indicate that the government agreed on the designation.

Still, visitors were a rare thing that far off in the bushlands, and there was no public house, nor inn, motel or tavern – as a field-tromping farmer had passed word to Thomas that any with interest enough to make the journey likely did so because they knew someone in the area well enough to board with them.

“If you need a place to stay, though,” the muck-handed man with the broad straw hat had said, “I’m sure a few coins could clean mother’s sewing parlour for the evening.”

The offer had stood as long as it took Blackhall to explain what had brought him.

Strolling beyond the low white fence that separated the churchyard cemetery from non-hallowed turf, Thomas came to the river that had given the town its name, then cast off his gear with the tender concern of a man who’d just spent a full two weeks cursing at its weight.

Retrieving a small pouch from his breast pocket, he lay his great coat across his packs and sat upon the sandy bank to take in the current’s breeze. In time his fingers found a fine Spanish paper and stuffed it with tobacco, then, in more, the sun nuzzled the horizon.

Not being the Sabbath, there seemed to be only the church’s red-faced Scottish priest to glower at the stranger loafing away the afternoon.

At first, as his smoke had chased the water bugs downstream, Blackhall had thought that the cleric was simply the type to disapprove of all outsiders, but, by the hour at which his stomach began to call for supper, Thomas had decided the Scot likely knew why he was at hand, and that the holy man wanted nothing to do with his occult concerns.

It was his thinking that a true busy body could not be content to maintain a distance, but the priest had spent his day at just the distance necessary to be always aware of Blackhall’s position.

As Thomas began to consider what he was carrying that might appease his complaining appetite, a man exited from the trading post, walked the short breadth of its porch, then joined him on the riverbank via the fence-side route.

Blackhall: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Fiction Podcast“I apologize,” said the prematurely-graying newcomer. “I’m Wyatt, the man who requested your presence. I would’ve joined you earlier, yet – well, you may’ve noted that business is sluggish, but what customers I receive depend on the regularity of my habits.

“I should also mention that my ears aren’t of much use. Though I could hear till my eighteenth year, they’re long gone now. It makes me poor conversation, as I talk too much about nothing and with little response. I’ve some skill at reading lips, but there are few here who will allow me to practice. They have fields to till and cows to slaughter, I suppose.”

“You’re sole occupation is running the store?” asked Blackhall, his words slow and clear.

The man raised his brow.

“The store?” repeated Thomas, his fingers waving in the squat shack’s direction.

“Oh, I act as middleman between those who grow beats and those who grow potatoes. The potato men come to me for their beats, the beat men come to me for their potatoes, and I make barely enough between them to taste either.

“In addition, the same boatman who collects the post brings up a selection of needles and dry goods that I resell. Despite my deafness I hear complaints over even that tiny profit.”

Blackhall nodded, and the shop keep smiled to have a friendly ear.

“The truth,” he continued, “is that I receive a child’s treatment because of my conversational difficulties. You’ve been a kind audience, but those who care for anything beyond inquiring about carrot seed often grow loud, which is a body posture as much as a tone, and neuter their language to a level more appropriate for a mush-headed bairn.

“It is usually those same folks who can’t scratch their own names, and thus can’t simply write out their orders and questions for prompt service.”

“It must be a lonely life,” Blackhall repeated until the man caught his meaning.

“It’s the postal counter that most keeps me in place,” replied Wyatt. “I’ve made a tangle of friends across the globe with those simple scraps of paper, and I collect more news than a dozen broadsheet hawkers. It was those same that gave me your name to search out when the matter of the death bringer raised itself.

“Still, as you can perhaps tell, I do long for the simple pleasure of seeing a face react, instead of outwaiting the slow transmission and careful composition of a letter.”

The conversation continued forward in little ways until dusk, but, due to their minor discussion, they did not note the departure of the flame-haired priest on his sagging, silent, pony.

By the time the frogs had begun to sing and dew was forming on the grass, Wyatt and Thomas were no longer alone.

Several men with lanterns, slurring courage and raising enough noise to find each other despite the wobbling of their illumination, began to gather about the white picket fence.

Their filth-kneed pants marked the crowd as farmers, but Thomas could discern nothing more as they took to shouting commands and demanding answers, simultaneously and without deference for his neighbour’s bellowing.

The priest was close behind.

It was as the Father moved to the forefront and raised his arms for silence, however, that there came, from beyond the river, the keening sound of death – a high and jittering wail that was no more dampened by the babble of men and water than would be a bullet.

Then the evening’s trials truly began.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP391 – Coffin: Weakness, 6 of 6

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-one.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 6 of 6
(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Bothersome Things!

 

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 roommate and apprentice, find themselves rudely rebutted by a nymph.

 

Coffin: Weakness, Part 6 of 6

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

 

Anger, Will reflected, is supposed to be a young man’s game. No one takes a punk band over fifty seriously, and most aren’t interested in seeing two grandfathers beat each other bloody in a boxing ring – well, more than once.

Yet, here at the edge of Lake Clark, with his boots wet and his eyes grimy from too much worry and too little sleep, Coffin was decidedly angry.

Though he’d tried to convince himself it was having to depend on the pretentious owl to locate Jenny Greenteeth that was the source of his unrest, being so far from home had brought Will to finally admit, at least to himself, that it was the notion that his homicidal dead wife might suddenly be washed away like the spirits of the four drowned cadavers that had him agitated.

The moment of truth did little to better his mood.

CoffinNeither did the nymph’s reaction to his demand to surrender.

Her tiny form had surfaced readily enough, but so distant from the shore as to be nothing more than a speck on the horizon.

Jenny’s words had traveled well, however: “Gobble a chode you bloody Tin Star!”

It was also fairly easy to guess which fingers she was waving.

Coffin started to chuckle, and he recognized it as the same dry rattle Sandy had taken on before the end.

He shrugged it off and reached into the black leather satchel slung at his side.

Within lay a jeweled baton, atop which, to his apprentice’s eye, rode a tiny blizzard. The storm seemed held in place by several bands of gold laid across the clouds and snow in thin ribbons.

A flick of the wrist brought a point to the occult tool, its base extending suddenly to the form a staff.

From over his left shoulder, Bunny asked, “what in the Go-Go-Gadget #### is that?”

“The Winter Scepter,” replied Will. “As far as artifacts go, this is actually a fairly recent ancient one. The telescoping does nothing but make it more portable, and it’s just clever metalworking, nothing mystical.

”Watch this though.”

With a firm grip he pinned the water’s edge to the sand below, and the reaction was immediate.

A wave of ice moving at a sprinting dog’s pace began to roll across the surface, and even as practiced a swimmer as Jenny could not outrun its frigid clench.

It was a ten minute walk to the spot at which the nymph waited, her left arm aloft, mid-breaststroke.

“Shoulda brought some ###damn skates,” said Bunny.

Knowing full-well that her song would do nothing against Will’s defenses, Jenny replied, “taste Tartarus, frails.”

There was the rage again, crawling up Coffin’s back and pulling his belly tight. His boot heel twisted in the snow and his fingers dug deeply into his pockets.

Instead of a roar, however, his mouth formed the words, “I’m sorry.”

Both women raised a brow in surprise, but he continued.

“Given your history, trapping you tightly like this isn’t exactly something I’m excited about. I’m not saying you’re justified, but I understand your vendetta.”

The algae upon her chin had begun to frost as Jenny replied, “are you giving a ‘this is going to hurt me more than it is you’ speech? Because it seems easy to be remorseful about how delicious the fish in your net are, and, after the last job I did for him, I’m sure the owl has no more patience for keeping me around.

“Frankly, I would’ve rathered he did it himself, but, that’s never been that dainty fop’s style, so I’ve been left to die at the hands of lice.”

“Actually,” said Coffin, as he leaned low into her vision, “what I do next is going to depend very much on how you answer this question: Were you responsible for the disposal of the phantoms on behalf of the Kar’Wickians, and, if so, how?”

It was the first time Jenny had been in proximity of a non-drowning mundane human in hundreds of years, and she found she missed the other stupid faces the mortals made.

“No, I’d love to drive you mad and claim I made them disappear, but really the spider children’s representative simply passed on that Abe and Tina would ‘clean things up.’”

Standing, Coffin began to stride towards the distant rental car, but stopped to repeat himself.

“I really am sorry.”

Wonder had made the gathered emissaries careless, and it was clear even before he reached the shore that the treeline was brimming with wildlife come to witness his actions – which is why, when Wide Eye confronted him on the beach, the avian lord whispered.

“You let her live!?” he demanded, his four wings in constant motion.

Coffin shrugged. “You were so insistent that the last one was yours to deal with, I figured I’d leave you the pleasure. You’ve got about three minutes before the ice transmutes back to water.”

To Will’s mind the owl, as much as the bird hated acting publicly, could try his luck with Jenny Greenteeth: There were no more questions of secret rituals or unknown magicks or an arcane plague – the shaman finally had names to blame for the spectral disappearances, and now the hunt could truly begin.

He found himself whistling.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP390 – Coffin: Weakness, 5 of 6

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Posted on by

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 5 of 6
(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Bothersome Things!

 

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 roommate and apprentice, discuss the unfortunate history of nymphs.

 

Coffin: Weakness, Part 5 of 6

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

 

It was noon, and they were at Denny’s.

“####,” Bunny was saying, around a mouthful of pancake, “so she couldn’t stop doing it? The incubus thing kinda makes sense then, I guess.”

Turning from the window, Coffin winced. “Not a nymphomaniac, a nymph. Way back in the toga days they were a sort of nature spirit who’d live in rivers, streams, tributaries, fjords – basically every wet place you figure’d be worth taking a vacation photo at would have one.

“Generally they manifested as shapely naked ladies, in their early twenties, who’d come ashore to sing and dance when visitors or worshipers arrived, but otherwise they maintained a dwelling within the depths of their swimming pool for privacy.”

Lifting another wad of syrup and batter to her mouth, Bunny asked, “sounds like they’d be pretty popular, so where’d they go?”

“Well, see, the nymphs were pretty into free love. They didn’t need it, like Valentine, but they were, uh, very welcoming to friendly shore-side visitors. The more civilized folks got, though, the less their spouses appreciated it.

“Nymph culture was slow to change, mostly because they were so localized, and their reputation went from something akin to a regional deity to the mess dumped on sex workers.

“I should be clear though: Their interest was really only in natural beauty. They danced because of the elegance of grass swaying in the wind, they rutted on the shore because that’s the way of the wild, and they sang because it called beasts and birds of all shape to their banks and kept them there in peace.

“Still, as things got worse some of them tried to go clean – the lady who supposedly lobbed the sword at Arthur was probably a nymph – but I think they hoped pants and religion were fads.”

“Me too, me too,” answered Bunny.

Will shrugged, taking advantage of the interruption to sip at his coffee. Despite his best efforts to be patient, his eyes wandered to the window.

There was nothing of note in the tightly stuffed parking lot.

Frowning, he continued. “You’re familiar with the old ‘I read it for the articles line’? In those days sneaky husbands and unsatisfied wives would claim they were just ‘going to hear the nymphs sing.’ Maybe that’s what started the trade – whatever the case, there was no Top 40 back then, and the medieval nobles, sick of having their trophy spouses sneak off, began to improvise jukeboxes.

“The real problem was that the nymph’s mystic song couldn’t help but bring a sense of soothing, even if weepily sung after having had their limbs clipped and being entrapped in tiny caskets.

“Now, this isn’t something just anybody would know about, this is the sort of secret treat rich people like to save for their most special guests. You’d be lead into a well sealed room by a deaf servant and your host. and there’d be a decorated box with what looked like a fairly heavy trashcan upside down on top.

“Your host would invite you to lie down on a lounge chair, priming you the whole time about what a wonderful surprise you were about to have, and the servant would lift the iron lampshade to reveal a young woman who’d lay out a tune so lovely it was like taking a mouthful of rave pills.

“When the allotted period was up, the servant would drop the shade. The attendants were also in charge of punishment for lack of performance, but we don’t need to get into the abuses you can inflict on a head in a cabinet.

“Immortality can be a rough gig like that, but even occult beings need to eat.

“In the end they all starved to death.

“Jenny though – Jenny was a fighter. Jenny gave up her home, the hardest thing for her kind, and set herself loose in the wilds; Let her hair grow long and tangled, let the muck of the river bottoms cover her skin, let decay and fish guts cling to her teeth. She hid like that for years, until even the memory of the slaughter of her people was forgotten, and her rage simmered.

“She started trying to avenge herself.”

“#### yeah,” said Bunny, “I’d go Rambo over that #### too.”

Will nodded, but replied, “consider the flip side though: You’re strolling by the river and you hear a whisper. You stop and there’s a woman – or is it a woman? She almost looks like nothing more than a collection of lily pads and stones – a face hovering at the still surface. Maybe you don’t listen at first. Maybe you’ve got a strong aversion to getting wet, maybe you’re smart enough not to talk to entities speaking from ponds, maybe you just have no sense of curiosity.

“Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter, because that slight, cheerless face begins singing, and suddenly everything is beautiful and calm. Suddenly you have no interest but in relaxing in the cool damp. Suddenly you’re drowning.

“Beloved family pets taking a drink, children roaming alone, lovers skinny dipping – anyone that would make others share some of the pain.

”Eventually she gained a new reputation: As a killer. Even the mystical and the immortal need the occasional human disappeared.”

Leaning back to bask in her victory over the forces of dough, Bunny asked, “so she’s some kinda supernatural hitman now?”

“Basically.”

In truth, however, Bunny already knew all this – she’d read the same texts Coffin was reciting from – but, even with his neck-cramping turns to peer out the window, it was the calmest she’d seen him in days.

She did not mention that the tale explained nothing of the missing phantoms.

The real question she wanted answered involved what exactly was in the worn leather messenger bag he’d taken to carrying. Before she might ask, though, a blur of movement to her left caught her attention. Beyond the dusty cream shades six dozen cats sat atop the sea of sun-baked cars.

Noting her gaze, they began to wail.

It was time to go.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

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