Tag Archives: fantasy fiction

FP397 – Coffin: The Hunger for Change

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: The Hunger for Change

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Earth Station One

 

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 increasingly sober apprentice, discuss the occult danger lurking behind the counter of a wandering ice cream truck.

 

Coffin: The Hunger for Change

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

It was a Sunday, and Coffin and Bunny were sitting on a bus stop bench. It was still a little too early in the season to justify frozen treats, but the chiming tune of a persistent ice cream truck portaging between suburbs had summoned their empty stomachs to action.

Bunny had a wagon wheel in one hand and a napkin, to catch the drippings, in the other.

“F##k-bugger, the first of the year is always the best,” she was saying.

Will nodded his agreement, but it was clear to his roommate that his mind was elsewhere.

“Thinking about a cursed sundae from your youth?” she asked.

It was enough to extract a twitch of a smile from Coffin’s lips.

“No,” he replied, “well, not exactly. Notice that I leaned against the truck while waiting for our lunch?”

This time it was Bunny’s turn to nod. “You did appear to be sauntering at an unusually jaunty angle.”

Coffin: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Fiction PodcastCoffin said, “a few years before Sandy died, we fell into this situation down south. Some city-level newspapers had pulled together a string of kiddie murders, but the theories were all over the map.

“Cannibals were a popular editorial choice, with Satanists close behind, but those were mostly just signs of the era.

“The only consistencies seemed to be the apparent fact that the victims were all children, that their remains were found a few miles from where they’d disappeared, and that they were all stripped clean of flesh. Not – not perfectly. Not television-style bleached bone clean, but definitely “I’m done with this chicken leg” clean.”

Pausing to toss his half-eaten waffle cone through the trash hoop, Will moved to the bus schedule, then glanced at his watch.

“We weren’t quite sure what we were looking for,” he continued. “A werewolf? A wendigo? We were young and still had the patience to chase the wind.

“Three weeks in – and with no more to show for our wandering than a backseat full of North Carolina bar receipts – we finally caught a break. Parents don’t like the details of their child’s last moments published, but when a six-ten hulk by the name of Darius suffered the same fate, the press, hungry for something to fill summer headlines, exploded.

“The detail that really caught people was the speed. Darius’s wife noticed him missing just before dinner, and his picked-over carcass was found in a ditch outside Chapel Hill two hours later.

“Takes a lot of hungry, hungry cannibals to eat a guy that big that fast.

“It was no easy thing to raise the dead in those days, but he was fresh, and he’d died quite unpleasantly. We guessed at the route his corpse had taken, and, by walking between his last known location and the dump site, Sandy managed to use the Crook of Ortez to pull him into conversation.

“To be fair, he didn’t make it that far from where he’d disappeared before his finale.

“Anyhow, it was Darius who told us about the ice cream truck hermit.”

The topic had done nothing to slow Bunny’s consumption, and her cookie sandwich was now but a sliver.

“I don’t get it,” she said. “Magic is supposedly receding from the world?”

“It is.”

“- and you’ve said that most of the spooks and mooks haunting today weren’t noticeably around 70 years ago?”

“Also true, most entities were wisps moving outside our vision even just a decade ago.”

“So how the f##k does that explain an ice cream truck?

“There’s no chance some taint-gobbling medieval wizard attempted to summon a converted Ford that clangs out Turkey in the Straw, and no Victorian Hell Club dandy motherf##ker ever thought, ‘s##t son, I need a banana boat FROM SATAN,’ so what the sweet f##k?”

Taking a seat on the short bench and stretching his legs across the pavement, Coffin replied, “you know that saying, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same?’ It’s basically that.

“Every generation of humanity thinks its so advanced, but everything is just a variation on a theme. Maybe it was once an eel hawker in Victorian England, maybe it was a samosa cart in Uttar Pradesh.

“Darius’s story was probably the same as a thousand others, and none of them were particularly dependant on a time period. He was standing on the corner, it was nearly dinner and he was starving, but he wasn’t especially excited about the offerings in the oven. Along comes this happy tune and a huckster hawking treats.

“Well, hell, Darius has a ten in his pocket, and there are no witnesses around to see him murder his appetite.

“He wasn’t the only one to notice that fact, however.

“The guy in the truck has a really impressive moustache, triple curled and well tended. He’s all smiles, but his patron doesn’t really notice much about him beyond the lip hair.

“The hungry husband slaps down his ten and asks for a milkshake, so the guy behind the little window leans forward like he’s going to return his change – except he keeps leaning. He leans so far forward, in fact, his customer thinks he’s actually going to fall out – but somehow his torso seems to be stretching, his white smock distending with rippling ribs, and his hand closes around Darius’ mouth.

“Then the big man’s snapped up and in like a cod fresh from the sea.

“The mustachioed fella is nothing more than a lure of course – like the orb on an Angler fish – but the hermit is really more like the crab Sandy named it after. The phantom told us it’s like a chameleon skin that’s wrapped itself around the entirety of the truck, both inside and out. A dozen eyes watched him from the surface of the soft serve machine as he landed, and a dozen more likely watched the street for witnesses.

“Even the tiny window ledge shifted forward to consume him, as Darius put it, ‘like a bottom lip.’

“The floor looked like plastic matting, but was spongy and thick. Probably the main meat of the thing. The comfortable landing didn’t last long, though, as countless mouths opened in the leathery flesh, and the tinkling speakers kicked in to help cover the screaming.

“Thing is, while he was scoping the neighbourhood to make sure his wife wasn’t going to hear of his caloric indiscretion, the dead man had put his hand on the truck’s side, all casual like. He’d noticed that it was warm and felt strange – like dog skin, even though it looked like white-painted metal.

“He’d been too busy worrying about getting busted to think more of it than wiping his palm on his shirt and moving on.

“Anyhow, I don’t know if the hermit sniffed out that we were onto him, or maybe Darius was finally just a satisfying enough meal, but the killings seemed to stop after that; well, at least in that area. Sandy – she was getting pretty obsessive by then. She had us spinning our wheels for months.”

“Wait,” said Bunny, “that’s why you leaned? You never f##king found Johnny Monster-in-a-Box?”

“Nope,” answered Will, as he stood to wave down the approaching bus, “but everything changes eventually.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://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.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

  • Ice cream truck2.mp3 by 8767yy
  • Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

    – and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

    FP394 – The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-four.

    Flash PulpTonight we present The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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    Download MP3

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The P.G. Holyfield Appreciation Dept.

     

    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, Thomas Blackhall, master frontiersman and student of the occult, chases dark portents into a small town on the river’s edge.

     

    The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

    Written by J.R.D. Skinner
    Art and Narration by Opopanax
    and Audio produced by Jessica May

     

    On a morning so fierce and dry it made even the greenest timber seem at threat of flaring up from simple exposure, Thomas Blackhall stumbled into the village of Malhousen.

    He had been summoned over the mystic aspect of an apparent impending demise.

    Malhousen proper was little more than a trading post facing down a small churchyard, but the two dozen families that populated the surrounding rocky lands were on friendly enough terms to call each other neighbour, and the occasional mail delivery seemed to indicate that the government agreed on the designation.

    Still, visitors were a rare thing that far off in the bushlands, and there was no public house, nor inn, motel or tavern – as a field-tromping farmer had passed word to Thomas that any with interest enough to make the journey likely did so because they knew someone in the area well enough to board with them.

    “If you need a place to stay, though,” the muck-handed man with the broad straw hat had said, “I’m sure a few coins could clean mother’s sewing parlour for the evening.”

    The offer had stood as long as it took Blackhall to explain what had brought him.

    Strolling beyond the low white fence that separated the churchyard cemetery from non-hallowed turf, Thomas came to the river that had given the town its name, then cast off his gear with the tender concern of a man who’d just spent a full two weeks cursing at its weight.

    Retrieving a small pouch from his breast pocket, he lay his great coat across his packs and sat upon the sandy bank to take in the current’s breeze. In time his fingers found a fine Spanish paper and stuffed it with tobacco, then, in more, the sun nuzzled the horizon.

    Not being the Sabbath, there seemed to be only the church’s red-faced Scottish priest to glower at the stranger loafing away the afternoon.

    At first, as his smoke had chased the water bugs downstream, Blackhall had thought that the cleric was simply the type to disapprove of all outsiders, but, by the hour at which his stomach began to call for supper, Thomas had decided the Scot likely knew why he was at hand, and that the holy man wanted nothing to do with his occult concerns.

    It was his thinking that a true busy body could not be content to maintain a distance, but the priest had spent his day at just the distance necessary to be always aware of Blackhall’s position.

    As Thomas began to consider what he was carrying that might appease his complaining appetite, a man exited from the trading post, walked the short breadth of its porch, then joined him on the riverbank via the fence-side route.

    Blackhall: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Fiction Podcast“I apologize,” said the prematurely-graying newcomer. “I’m Wyatt, the man who requested your presence. I would’ve joined you earlier, yet – well, you may’ve noted that business is sluggish, but what customers I receive depend on the regularity of my habits.

    “I should also mention that my ears aren’t of much use. Though I could hear till my eighteenth year, they’re long gone now. It makes me poor conversation, as I talk too much about nothing and with little response. I’ve some skill at reading lips, but there are few here who will allow me to practice. They have fields to till and cows to slaughter, I suppose.”

    “You’re sole occupation is running the store?” asked Blackhall, his words slow and clear.

    The man raised his brow.

    “The store?” repeated Thomas, his fingers waving in the squat shack’s direction.

    “Oh, I act as middleman between those who grow beats and those who grow potatoes. The potato men come to me for their beats, the beat men come to me for their potatoes, and I make barely enough between them to taste either.

    “In addition, the same boatman who collects the post brings up a selection of needles and dry goods that I resell. Despite my deafness I hear complaints over even that tiny profit.”

    Blackhall nodded, and the shop keep smiled to have a friendly ear.

    “The truth,” he continued, “is that I receive a child’s treatment because of my conversational difficulties. You’ve been a kind audience, but those who care for anything beyond inquiring about carrot seed often grow loud, which is a body posture as much as a tone, and neuter their language to a level more appropriate for a mush-headed bairn.

    “It is usually those same folks who can’t scratch their own names, and thus can’t simply write out their orders and questions for prompt service.”

    “It must be a lonely life,” Blackhall repeated until the man caught his meaning.

    “It’s the postal counter that most keeps me in place,” replied Wyatt. “I’ve made a tangle of friends across the globe with those simple scraps of paper, and I collect more news than a dozen broadsheet hawkers. It was those same that gave me your name to search out when the matter of the death bringer raised itself.

    “Still, as you can perhaps tell, I do long for the simple pleasure of seeing a face react, instead of outwaiting the slow transmission and careful composition of a letter.”

    The conversation continued forward in little ways until dusk, but, due to their minor discussion, they did not note the departure of the flame-haired priest on his sagging, silent, pony.

    By the time the frogs had begun to sing and dew was forming on the grass, Wyatt and Thomas were no longer alone.

    Several men with lanterns, slurring courage and raising enough noise to find each other despite the wobbling of their illumination, began to gather about the white picket fence.

    Their filth-kneed pants marked the crowd as farmers, but Thomas could discern nothing more as they took to shouting commands and demanding answers, simultaneously and without deference for his neighbour’s bellowing.

    The priest was close behind.

    It was as the Father moved to the forefront and raised his arms for silence, however, that there came, from beyond the river, the keening sound of death – a high and jittering wail that was no more dampened by the babble of men and water than would be a bullet.

    Then the evening’s trials truly began.

     

    Flash Pulp is presented by http://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.

    Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

    Freesound.org credits:

    Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

    – and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.