Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-three.
Tonight we present Coffin: Time to Consider
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Glow in the Dark Radio
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 Bunny Davis, roommate and apprentice to urban shaman Will Coffin, finds herself in conversation with his murderous dead wife.
Coffin: Time to Consider
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Bunny found her newly obtained sobriety often made the apartment she shared with the Coffin a stuffy one. Rarely, however, did she step onto the balcony for air.
That Thursday there just wasn’t anything bad enough on TV to keep her attention, and her legs kept pulling her up from the couch before she realized she had nowhere to go. Books were stared at, but the words held no meaning in spite of multiple attempts. Worse, her appetite had abandoned her entirely, and she knew more alternating between opening cupboards and the fridge door would only give her mouth the satisfaction of expelling another long string of obscenities.
So she went outside.
Eighteen stories below, the shattered form of her roommate’s dead wife began the ascent that marked the sole objective the apparition ever held in mind when she moved from the cracked cement upon which she’d died.
Even without Will on hand to attempt to murder, still Sandy made the climb.
Despite the distance between them, Bunny had no issues hearing the phantasm’s broken-windpipe whisper.
“Is he sleeping?” asked Sandy.
“It’s almost 4pm.”
“I can take a message if you like.”
“It doesn’t make you uncomfortable to live in the apartment in which his wife died?”
“Like, when there’s a dead lady rotting on the balcony, or just generally?”
At that point the conversation had gone as far as it ever had, and Bunny was tempted to again head back inside. Instead she finally gave in to her curiosity – or perhaps she’d simply grown accustomed enough to the climber’s trail of broken nails and mashed finger meat to stay.
Whatever the case, she asked “why do you bother?”
Pausing beside a frost-covered window on the seventh floor, Sandy gave her taut shoulders an oddly familiar shrug.
She said, “let me tell you a story.
“Will and I, back in the early days, stumbled across a couple of star-crossed idiot teens, Vincent and Rosa. I guess it happens in every generation, but we’re talking about the sort of kids who would read too much into Romeo and Juliet while listening to Don’t Fear the Reaper on loop.
“They died in ‘71 in a Georgia backwater. He was scheduled to head to the Navy at the end of the summer, as his birthday was in September and his parents thought it would better if he picked a boat job rather than involuntarily backpack through the Vietnamese interior. Her parents couldn’t have been happier, and were really just hoping she wouldn’t get pregnant before the garbage man’s son was safely overseas.
“The problem started one humid August evening while they were making out and telling each other deep thoughts in the upper branches of the oak tree they considered “their spot.” I guess it was overlooking an old rail bridge, and they caught a brief flash of a transparent jumper. Back then that was the most you could ever hope to see of a haunt, but I guess they found something romantic in the way the pilgrim-looking girl had apparently gone over without hesitation.
“News from the war was pretty rough, so Vinnie was sure he wasn’t coming back if they shipped him – and, frankly, Rosa was sure she’d die simply from being apart from him.
“They talked until it was dark and they were exhausted, then they settled on the age old tradition of a lovers’ suicide pact.
“Saying good night with endless dedications to each other, they went home. It was then that Rosa stole the cyanide bottle from her mom’s amateur photo development kit.
“Once their households were asleep, however, they both crept from their beds, put on their most impressive band t-shirts, and snuck to a meadow on the southside of town.
“Her hands were shaking too bad, so she asked for help with the spoon. They kissed and cried and swallowed the powder.
“It was Vincent, though, who couldn’t stay still. Cyanide is no easy way to go. Even as she’s collapsing he’s stumbling off with the notion that he’s got to puke away the pain and he doesn’t want to do it into his beloved’s lap.
“Twenty feet over he collapses. They were found the next morning.
“They thought they’d always be together in the afterlife, but twenty feet means a lot.
“The meadow didn’t stay a meadow. A developer bought it and threw up a suburb which immediately went into decline. Rosa found herself half-beneath someone’s kitchen sink and half projecting into their front room, while Vincent was stuck on the floor of the garage next door.
“They could visit, but it took a huge effort and no matter how tightly they clung to each other the pull of death was – and is – ceaseless.”
As if to demonstrate, Sandy grunted and shifted her bloodied finger tips between the building’s brickwork.
She continued her story, but made no effort to scale any further.
“Worse, by the time Will and I found them the neighbourhood had basically been abandoned, so they were left to weep in the ruins while being unable to see or talk to each other without great difficulty.
“Actually, heh, we helped them by burning it all down. That was my – fortieth birthday? I remember Will turning to me while we watched it catch and telling me to make a wish before blowing out my candles.
“Once they were free to yell at each other it took less than a year until things ran their course and they moved on just to get some space.”
“Uh?” asked Bunny, her eyes unsure.
“Never let twenty feet get between you, you never know what it’ll mean in the long run.”
There was a pause then, and neither woman moved as they inspected the gray sky and silent horizon.
Finally, Bunny asked, “I always got the impression you wanted him dead? I mean, that’s why you climb, right? Isn’t that why you spend the occasional afternoon rubbing your deadness against the locked balcony door and ####ing up my Saturday viewings of Captain Kaiju’s Monster Madness?”
The phantom again gave that same shrug, and Bunny realized why it seemed so familiar: She’d seen it on her roommate’s shoulders a thousand times.
“Look at me and tell me what exactly death means these days,” answered the specter. “If I was careful enough to keep him close, would it be so bad?”
Yet, before Sandy might receive an answer, she allowed her form to drop to the pavement below and return to the position in which she’d expired. With the speed of a blink, her trail of gore followed.
Suddenly Bunny was desperate for toast and the last of the peanut butter she’d seen hiding at the rear of the cupboard.
She went inside.
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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