Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-one.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Skinner Co.
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 unusually sober roommate, find themselves transported from the mundane to the occult after encountering a grim accident scene.
Coffin: Shifter, Part 2 of 3
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
He’d rung the bell, but Will Coffin wasn’t interested in getting off at the glass and steel shelter at the end of the block.
He wanted out immediately.
With his eyes still on the blinking lights of the ambulance that was sliding by the bus’ right side, and in a tone too low to be heard by all but the closest passengers, he said, “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon.”
Bunny on the other hand, despite being fully prepared to give up her sobriety for a good four hours, had been dry for the previous seventy-six.
Her thirsty preoccupation had kept her mind busy, and she simply hadn’t noticed the unusual amount of muttering from Will. Her distraction meant missing that he was perhaps as agitated as she’d ever seen him, as his irritation was magnified, through her interminable sobriety, into a mental fire that she was convinced would only be quenched by a river of hard liquor.
Her eyes were locked on the neon bar sign opposite the ambulance. Even a place named De Basement, with its doorway crowded by college students and its all-female wait staff in
short-shorts, seemed inviting.
Coffin began tapping at the chrome bar beside the exit.
It was all the encouragement she needed.
“Oh, ####,” she said in a grinding screech uniquely manageable by addicts in withdrawal, “stop the bus: I’m going to #### myself.”
Thirty seconds later they were on the pavement, and there was nothing, to Bunny’s thinking, that could keep her from beelining directly towards one of the hot-pantsed blondes beyond the faux-graffitied window – at least until Will began running, full tilt.
Even Captain Morgan’s call couldn’t keep her from pausing to watch his unexpected trajectory.
It was the snap and crunch of the paramedic’s nose that finally, temporarily, pushed her need from her mind.
She was nearly as surprised by Coffin’s tight fisted haymaker as the masked EMT seemed to be.
Will had landed three more blows by the time she caught up.
As Coffin again pulled back his fist, which she could now see was wrapped in the silver links of the Crook of Ortez, a second figure emerged from the emergency vehicle’s driver-side door.
Behind his thin frame Bunny could see – shunted against the curb as if it had intended to park in the left-hand turning lane – a shattered Passat. Its side panels had collapsed like cancer-shrunken cheeks, and the traffic edging past was forced to tread over the shattered safety glass of its windshield and the slow bleeding-out of its transmission fluid.
The truck that the wannabe drunk assumed had caused the damage was stationed in a 7-11’s parking lot on the opposite corner. The delivery vehicle’s chrome grill was slightly tarnished, but the majority of the damage seemed to have been done to the driver’s psyche. The twenty-something was pacing the sidewalk and brushing blond strands from his face while interrogating his cell.
The Passat’s driver had been less lucky.
The woman, whose coiled black hair had partially slipped loose of the tie that had held it back, was lying on a stretcher in the open back of the ambulance. Despite the surrounding burr of motors, gawkers, and pedestrians, she could hear the accident victim’s ragged breathing and intermittent mumbles.
Motioning at the newcomer, Coffin shook his captive’s neck and said, “get her down from there. Now.”
The gathered rubberneckers were beginning to produce phone cameras with which to record the bout, and Bunny noted a thick-jawed man of forty taking Will’s measure.
Before the good Samaritan could consider rushing the shaman, however, Bunny raised her voice.
“This guy is a crazy magician,” she said, “you best #### off before he turns your #### into a toad or something.”
As she’d intended, it sounded just insane enough to cause the crowd to take a step back.
In another thirty seconds she was riding in the rear of the ambulance as sirens chased them from the crash scene.
Turning from the rear window, and the injured woman who’d been left on her rolling cot at the street’s center, Coffin shrugged. “That’ll be the actual paramedics.”
“So who the #### are these St. Elsewhere ###holes then?” asked Bunny.
Will examined his hostage’s blue EMT uniform and now-bloody surgical mask, then gave the man a look that seemed to dare him to answer.
The stranger only broke his gaze to stare at the floor, and his second, behind the wheel, offered nothing more than a gentle right turn as he aimlessly drove on.
“Consider this rig,” said Coffin. “Capital City hasn’t seen a working meat wagon like this in over a decade. This is the Phantom Ambulance, and these idiots are too focused on cruising to keep their equipment current.
“Normally they drift around, hunting accidents. They find you and they pick you off the pavement and they whisper to you that you’re almost to the hospital. They drive you in circles – out of town and back again. If they get ahold of your license they’ll deliberately sail through your neighbourhood, simply to take a peek.
“They drive, and maybe you occasionally catch them sniffing the dressings they’re using to clean off your blood, and maybe sometimes you wonder if one of them just licked your arm.”
He paused as the silver links of the chain wound about his right palm gave a grinding complaint, and the bird chest of the fake emergency worker appeared to dwindle a further two inches.
“Then, when there’s no more misery to whet their appetite with, they unhinge their jaw and place your hand inside. They’ve got five circular rows of teeth behind those masks, and with enough effort they can work their way through bone.
“They sort of flap their heads back and forth as they do it. It reminded me of watching a dog with a chew toy.”
Bunny’s own fists had become knotted. She wanted to ask how many more murderers she’d have to face before someone would just give her a bottle, but, instead, she said, “####ing around with their lunch for hours sounds more like a cat.
“I ####ing hate cats.”
“The real question,” continued Will, “is what has caused these parasites to break a decades-old pact? A treaty I only signed as a favour to my now dead wife?”
His focus was now entirely on the monster wearing white latex gloves.
“I am the Coffin. The Coffin. I have done my best to be reasonable, but clearly the members of this district need a reminder that I am not in the business of coddling otherworldly flesh eaters.
“To quote the words: ‘they will know my business is death and they will see my passage as oblivion.’”
“We heard you’d fled the city,” stammered the bleeding accused. “I mean, she – it was an accident. We’re sorry, we just slipped.”
Bunny could see his partner’s vigorous agreement through the gap separating the cab from the array of plastic-wrapped medical equipment.
She snorted and asked, “what are the runaways and day labourers you’ve been hired to haul out to the west side of town? Every single one of those a ####ing mistake too?”
She hadn’t been paying much attention to teen-wolf’s explanation, but it was coming back to her now in snatches, and if she had to be miserable so did everyone else – and, really, if #### had to roll downhill, who better to be at the bottom than some shark-faced serial killers?
The blue eyes widened beyond human comfort, and a single red tear slid along the carnivore’s cheek.
“Oh,” she said, “we know all about your goddamn dog pound. You’re gonna need a real ####in’ ambulance by the time this is over.”
Coffin nodded. “You will take us to the lycanthrope factory if you have any interest in not suffering for the entirety of whatever little existence I leave you.”
The silent impersonator at the wheel did not need the instructions repeated.
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