Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sity.
Tonight we present Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 1 of 2
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Skinner Co. store!
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 Davis, his recently sobering roommate, find themselves beside an ever-consuming maw.
Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 1 of 2
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
“I used to be able to tell myself I was being punished for overdoing it, but the ####’s the point of all this withdrawal puking and shaking if I don’t even get to drink first?” asked Bunny.
Dressed in a fuzzy pink bathrobe, a pair of black track pants, and a lizard-adorned t-shirt that read “In Godzilla We Trust,” she was resting her forehead against the cool porcelain of her apartment’s questionably cleaned toilet.
Coffin, still wearing his constant uniform of jeans and the leather jacket of his office, leaned back on his bathtub perch.
“Well,” he said, “as Socrates was supposedly fond of saying -” but his thought was interrupted by another bout of guttural grinding emanating from his roommate’s throat. The noise was soon chased by a fresh stream of yellow phlegm and stomach acid.
When Bunny was done she said, “shut up,” took in two ragged breaths, then, in a much smaller tone, added “tell me a story.”
“Let’s see,” answered Will, “In the winter of ‘83 or ‘84 Sandy and I were cooling off in Toronto after a kerfuffle with a murderous Santa manifestation – but that’s a different tale for a different time: the important thing is that we were wandering the mean streets of the great white north ahead of Christmas.
“You familiar at all with the Santa Claus Parade they put on? Kind of like Macy’s Thanksgiving without all the balloons.”
Bunny’s response was to groan and set her cheek on the flat expanse of the toilet seat, but with the hand that wasn’t supporting her weight she waved him on.
“Actually,” said Coffin, “let me step back: Sandy and I had read about these pothead cultists in a local rag. They weren’t proper cultists, really, but you’ve got to remember that real mystical incidents were extremely rare in the early ‘80s. Still, for some reason a dead guy by the name of Roderick had managed to make himself heard in the second bedroom of a student-ghetto apartment, and his booming otherworldly demands were fairly straight forward: He wanted the room hotboxed. The terrified, but fascinated, freshmen renting the place would hang out in there with red eyes and ragged throats, constantly smoking, but even their Cheech & Chong wannabe leader couldn’t keep up. Sometimes they’d just place joints next to fans and have them burn down like incense.
“Funnily enough, I doubt Roderick was feeling anything more than an ethereal placebo effect – but, after reading a mention of the situation in a photocopied zine Sandy bought for a quarter from a poetry major and tracking him down, we were certainly feeling the contact high.
“It was this tiny white room with a Battlestar Galactica blanket acting as a curtain for the single window and a black futon set against the wall. The only illumination was, I kid you not, a black light that lit up the galaxy of star stickers that had been scattered across the ceiling.
“Walking into that box was like stepping into a greasy smelling cloud bank.
“‘What gifts have you brought?’ the room asked us, and it sounded like one of those movie trailer announcer guys talking. You know – ‘In a world where one hero will rise to change everything magical that was inside us all along,’ or whatever.
“Hell, I gotta admit, it had me suckered for a minute. Burning bushes and all that.
“Sandy had none of it though.
“Out came the ghost hook, and with one swoop she pulls this corduroy pants wearing, bowl-haircutted lanky goof from the floor.
“I felt for old Roderick; he had a stab wound in his neck, the shadow of a moustache, and the posture of a collapsed tree. Still, when he said, ‘let me go,’ I almost started laughing.
“It was like Shaggy from Scooby Doo had stolen James Earl Jones’ voice.
“We formed a little palaver circle, me, Sandy, Roderick, and the two students who’d met us at the door, and wasted the afternoon talking, drinking, and inhaling the atmosphere of the room.
“I’ve spent holidays in worse ways.
“Now, see, I would have tried weaning the pot first – see if proving to himself that he could go without his crutch would push him into moving on, but that would have taken weeks. It would have also been wrong.
“Sandy was always better at figuring people’s brains.
“She never forced the conversation, she would simply nudge it in the right direction. Finally Roderick broke down. It was his girlfriend who did him in with a knife in her hand after he couldn’t be roused to explain how he’d smoked his half of their month’s rent. He’d been trying to end it for months, and I guess it was his passive-aggressive attempt at convincing her to get angry enough to leave.
“After maybe an hour of passing the peace pipe, Sandy put on her Hear Me Now tone and ended the giggling.
“‘Accountability is a tough gig,’ she said, with her red-eyes focused entirely on Roderick. ‘You spend your days chuckling and craving twinkies, but you think these kids can afford to keep this room fogged like it’s a set from Frankenstein? You need to straighten up, take responsibility for yourself, and get your ass to the other side.’
“That was all it took, seconds later he’d said his Darth Vader goodbyes and disappeared.
“Frankly, I think the undergrads were relieved. She was right that it couldn’t have been a cheap haunting to maintain. Poor schmucks, if they’d been the ones to have the talk and make him feel bad maybe they’d have sent him off before he’d burned down their bank accounts. They were friendly enough delinquents, but they couldn’t seem to take responsibility for the situation. Tough to make that sort of effort when you’re worried about the unknown I guess.
“Anyhow, they rolled in celebration, of course, and chatter turned to how they were happy that, though they’d lose some notoriety around campus, at least Marie Elise Boucher wouldn’t be making further visits.
“That’s when we first heard about the imposter and her cadre of hard-faced French farmers.
“Marie Elise and her murderous Christmas float are really what I’m trying to get at.”
“Yeah,” replied Bunny, “I’m sure all that bull#### about needing to make effort and take responsibility was nothing but a diverting sidetrack, Aesop.”
“Wait till I get to the flaming reindeer,” answered Will.
First, however, he paused to refill her curly strawed water glass.
Flash Pulp is presented by https://www.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.
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