Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sixty-one.
Tonight we present Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 2 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, recounts the arcane tale of a deadly Christmas parade vehicle to his increasingly sober roommate.
Coffin: Many Happy Returns, Part 2 of 2
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Resettling on the edge of the bathtub, Coffin noted the shaking in Bunny’s arms and asked, “all good?”
From her position on, and across, the toilet seat, she curled her fist into a waving middle finger.
As such, Will returned to his story telling.
“Marie Elise Boucher’s front lawn, all eight square feet of it, was dominated by a massive shrine to the Virgin Mary. Behind the poured-cement mini cathedral sat a squat bungalow, and, as we arrived, there were two fifty-ish guys coming down the plastic-grass carpeted stoop. Both had ball caps on and nylon coats – the kind that always came in only red or blue and had white stripes on the trim? Like low-rent varsity jackets.
“They were all part of a community of relocated meat packers and pig farmers who’d become Marie Elise’s first adherents. Every wannabe prophet has to start somewhere I guess.
“Anyhow, I was about to wonder aloud if they’d seen the killer in question when Sandy threw me her shut up elbow. She’d caught that they were locking things down in a hurry and figured that it might be easier to just follow instead.
“Our crap borrowed Pinto managed to mostly stay behind their pickup till we reached a downtown brick-and-boarded-windows warehouse, and a quick bit of illegal parking even left us discreetly close enough to watch the main entrance slam closed behind them.
“Now, listen, we’d already heard about what we’d find inside.
“See, one of the wannabe-tough-guy frenchmen had gotten into an occult pissing match with one of the mouthier stoners. Feeling like he had to outdo the student’s sleepy-eyed apparition, he’d told the kid the story of watching a parade float Marie Elise had ‘enchanted’ flatten a Volkswagen Rabbit.
“He insisted the whole thing was an accident, and apparently the guy inside the car, Etienne, didn’t think much of the float wandering at his rust bucket at half a mile an hour. Someone had left it in neutral and it was literally barely moving. Still, it kissed the side of the Rabbit and kept going. Pushed it across the warehouse floor and pinned it against a wall – then it began simultaneously crushing and running it over.
“Poor Etienne was inside screaming and screaming, watching the frame twist and crumple around him in slomo. I’m sure whatever was left of his body eventually found its way into one of the farmers’ pig troughs.
“It was only when the wall started to buckle that someone thought to put the thing in park.
“This was no halfassed affair either, as we discovered after we pried open a fire exit. It had a little enclosed cab for the driver, so there didn’t have to be a vehicle pulling it, from which rose a set of tiered stages large enough to hold a full choir. Above the platforms towered a fake tree, over whose peak flew Rudolph. The rest of the reindeer team followed behind him in a downward arc, and Santa’s heavy sleigh, clearly an actual antique, sat at the back of the rig.
“They were well into stacking on the wreaths, presents, staging, and whatever, but in places you could see that, across the bodywork beneath the cloth covers and fake cheer, Marie Elise had chalked on every religious, occult, and arcane symbol she could think of – and a bunch she made up to look impressive.
“I don’t know what those French meat handlers were worried about, they were probably having a bad year and pinning their hopes on the success of that expensive bit of advertising. Whatever the case, they were doing their best to take no chances. There were even two guys with shotguns and big grins wandering around avoiding doing any lifting.
“Cramming ourselves into a shadowy corner behind a palette full of boxes, we waited two hours.
“When they were done with the last minute priming and painting, Marie Elise herself arrived. She’d come to dedicate the thing, I assume, and she wafted in with two of her burlier faithful behind her. That brought the count to nine guys with rough hands and Ms. Boucher herself.
“Shrugging off a fur coat you definitely couldn’t get away with wearing these days, she climbed up beside Claus and talked for a while. I didn’t understand most of it, but I got the impression that, if it didn’t work as a promotional tactic, she was suggesting they might still use their new found tank to flatten whichever jerks they felt opposed them. At least, that’s what I think she meant with her squishing hand motions and forced laughter.
“When her mouth finally ran dry she moved around to the driver’s hatch and used the juggernaut to shove around a forklift a bit. I guessed any engine strong enough to carry a float was probably tough enough to do the job without mystical assistance, but it looked done with such ease that it really was sort of graceful and terrifying.
“When Marie Elise got out her smile had grown so large it cracked her thick red lipstick.
“With the engine still running, she started walking around the vehicle. I imagine such dramatic little tours were common, as her flock fell into a trailing semi circle and did their best to look attentive.
“They’d barely cleared the rear tail light when Sandy started sprinting.
“There was no warning, no whisper talking first, she just hit the cement with her sneaks on full.
“I was behind her like the IRS on a Jeopardy winner, and we crashed into the cab without slowing. Being first, she took the seat, and there was so little extra space I was left literally sitting partially on her lap. It still beat riding on top with old man Kringle.
“Sandy wasted no time in making an exit either. Her faith in Marie Elise’ markings was apparently greater than my own, because she immediately gunned the engine to a screaming twenty miles an hour, and, like a sloth pushing into a spiderweb, we exited via the eastmost wall.
“The meat men were in their pickups and on our ass almost immediately. Marie Elise pulled alongside screaming that we’d rot in hell for stealing her float – that she’d curse us and our children and our children’s children, and that she’d call down the wrath of God, Kar’Wick, Cthulhu, and H.R. Pufnstuf to smite us on the spot.
“She screamed until they took a shot at us, but the guy behind the wheel temporarily lost his nerve after it went wide and beheaded Blitzen.
“In the end, Sandy plowed into a closed Shell station simply to get away from her.
“Now, fun fact, unstoppable does not mean nonflammable. A flying bit of scrap must have sparked off of the sleigh struts, because, after being sprayed in gas, the fat man’s ride immediately burst into an inferno that crept its way along the harness and turned the whole thing into a reindeer barbecue.
“We popped through one side of a shuttered Chinese place, which then partially collapsed onto us. It didn’t slow our rampage, but it did go a long way towards scraping the ornamentation off the back.
“We were getting some speed by then too, and the ballcappers were starting to remember what had happened to poor Etienne.
“Now, maybe if Marie Elise had any real idea what she was doing, she could have pulled out some bad mojo and stopped us. As it was, she’d basically accidentally stumbled into exactly the right line work in one of her thousands of symbols she’d sketched – and if it wasn’t for the mystic juice she’d stored from hanging out with Roderick even that wouldn’t have been enough.
“Sandy ended it by slamming us into the side of a carwash and hitting the brakes. It was like a jet had crashed behind us – flaming wreckage and shattered masonry was everywhere – but she’d known she’d likely dislodge a pipe, and within seconds Marie Elise’s only working piece of craft was nothing more than a river of chalk pooling on top of a clogged drain.”
Bunny, who, based on the puddle of drool that had begun to form on the toilet seat adjacent to her mouth, Coffin wasn’t entirely sure was awake, lifted her head.
“The #### are you trying to say? If I work hard and eat my Wheaties instead of taking shortcuts I too can one day be a bat#### insane cult leader with a disregard for human life?” she asked.
“No,” he replied, “but I guess you could think of the liquor like that float – nothing anyone takes seriously at first, but it just keeps rolling and rolling without consideration for consequences because it seems so empowering in the moment. Or whatever.”
“I ####in’ knew it,” she said, “I shoulda had the ###damn The More You Know sound ready.”
Though its face was hidden behind a curtain of unrushed snowfall, outside the bathroom’s tiny window the moon had risen. Despite the hour, however, Bunny knew her body would continue to refuse to give her any rest.
Taking a sip of her water, she said, “tell me another.”
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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