Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirteen.
Tonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3
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.
“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 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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