Tag Archives: Flash Pulp

FP447 – The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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 we return to Capital City where Harm Carter, father and former military man, has been contending with the homicidal paranoia inducing illness that is The Murder Plague.

 

The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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

 

Here’s the thing about Hitchcock’s. Even as an incredibly sick, sometimes feverish, death-dispensing maniac, you are absolutely convinced that you are the only person on this planet-sized carousel who truly has their situation under control.

You’re hiding in an attic, and you’ve got scraps of paper pinned up on every surface. You spend your days with a flashlight – red filtered, as looted from the home of the dead or fled survivalist down the road – scanning the sheets of paper you’ve pinned to the insulation and roof beams. You’re using the red filter because it’s less noticeable than a white glow, despite the fact that it’s broad daylight outside and there are no windows in your attic.

You trace and retrace the colour-coded dots and scratches you’ve drawn, with pencils stolen from an abandoned school bag, and though the mess of lines and circles has begun to blur and smudge, though the heat has you sweating like a drug mule getting ready for an intercontinental flight, though you keep chuckling to no one but yourself, you feel like the king.

No one, you convince yourself, will ever break the code you’ve used to map out your routes, caches, and traps. No one, surely, could ever come up with such a clever system without leaving a hint or trail. No one is as smart, as careful, as PREPARED, as you are.

At night the only thing you hold closer than the section of map you’ll need for that evening’s expedition is the handgun you plan on using to defend your secrets.

Jokes on you, of course, because the neighbourhood you consider your kingdom is infested with plenty of other fools who also think they’re royalty.

Sometimes the attacks are straight forward, and your survival, if you could admit it to yourself, is just luck. A gunshot rings out and you tell yourself you’ve escaped unharmed because you’re too fast to hit. A large woman with a machete and silent feet does her best Queen of Hearts imitation, and you tell yourself you’ve avoided the grave by knowing to bring a gun to a knife fight. Invaders break into your sanctuary while you are away, and you convince yourself that you’ve defeated the ambush they set by having left semi-hidden rat-poisoned food about the lower floors – and never mind that they might have waited till safely home to snack.

At some point, just before another dateless dawn, you’re almost done scratching Xs across the hand drawn chart of places you’ve cleared out for supplies, and, as you’re tugging at a garage door in search of gasoline or sharp-edged tools, you nearly get taken out by a log trap. A dozen trees, which you’ll later realized were stripped from a local schoolyard before being piled high in the quiet darkness, come rolling at you, and you damn near have your knees snapped backwards and your rib cage trampled by tumbling pines before you can leap left. Lobbing a Molotov onto the roof you wait till the attempted murderer stumbles from his haven and you end the wannabe Boy Scout with your pistol. You don’t think twice about having slain a frumpy man in a Star Wars t-shirt and thick-rimmed glasses. You don’t think twice about the pencil smudges on his fingers. You don’t think twice about the red-filtered flashlight he happens to be carrying.

You simply collect what you can use, shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown, and move on.

I – I simply collect what I can use. I simply shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown. I move on.

In the end the hardest aspect of the Murder Plague is not dealing with the corpses, traps, and scenes of violence, it’s in knowing that it was not some other carrying out these actions. I was not some passive observer staring at my hands as they locked around a stranger’s neck. It’s your fingers, your palms, your squeezing and struggling against the final jerks and snorts and twitches – but you have no control.

FP447 - The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2Maybe a week and a half after nearly being rolled flat like the Pillsbury Doughboy cornered by the Swedish Chef, I was creeping along one of the zig-zag paths I used to return to my shelter when I caught sight of something unusual: A dog barking.

Oh, my paranoia about the feral packs roaming the neighbourhood was already long standing – Were they being trained and controlled by someone else? Would they rush me for my supplies? Could the plague itself affect them? – but generally we’d had an understanding familiar to elevator passengers in a more civilized time: I pretended they didn’t exist, and they pretended I didn’t either.

The thing was, this mutt, a little Yorkshire Terrier that could have used a bath and a seven course meal, was yapping and yapping and yapping at the red door across the street. Now, it was a very quiet time. The sound of gunfire was increasingly distant, probably due to a decreasing population of people to shoot at, and the car engines were rare. There were no songs wafting through the air from a distant block, there were no trash talkers playing basketball on some other street, there were no couples arguing about dinner, the kids, or the bills. Any noise could get you killed, so every noise was suspect.

Yet here was this pooch yammering his heart out.

Given how many real humans I ended in my haze, it’s still strange that I’m struck by shame when I admit that I almost killed him. I was worried about his drawing attention, and my infected mind was so survival focused that it was already formulating the argument that I could use the extra meat.

Never mind that I had six months worth of cans already stacked in the attic, and another couple years’ worth scattered in holes at all corners of my hand-sketched map.

I stepped forward and reached into my right pocket for my tanto-bladed pocket knife. I raised my boot with the intention of pinning the fur ball down beneath the thick sole while I conducted my butchery.

The red door flew open and a bloody one-person SWAT team burst through the opening. The dog sprinted away under the gate to my right and my pistol was in my grip before I even had both feet back on the ground. This wasn’t just some slovenly gun fetishist buying equipment online before the collapse, however: I knew this armour. This wasn’t some hillbilly in a gas mask, this was someone who’d been bestowed the tinted bubble helmet and face mask the military had developed to deal with improvised explosives and ravenous undead.

I got one shot off, which landed with a flat thwack and little other effect, but the mountain of black tactical gear had breached the exit with a taser at the ready. They offered a shocking response.

My fire had nudged their aim, at least, and the electrodes landed askew on my looted rambler jacket. The first jolt hit just as I was peeling the thing off, and fight lost the battle to flight: I was halfway to the corner before my assailant had even tossed down their weapon.

What followed was something like a magic trick.

In my boot wearing days I was not entirely unfamiliar with such gear. More than once I’d had to wade through unpleasant business in a similar too-hot, too-heavy, and too-constricting style of getup. Even with the extra years under my belt I should’ve easily been able to outrace that younger version of myself.

I was aiming for the little blue house at the end of the street. I knew if I could make it that far – theoretically easy-peasy, given the clunky nature of my pursuer – that I’d probably be okay.

Putting a curb-parked soccer mom minivan between myself and the newcomer, just in the off chance that they should decide on a more lethal means of dealing with the situation, I turned my head to see how big a lead I’d widened up. I had maybe a hundred feet of pavement and fifteen feet of dying lawn to cover till I was safely away, and that’s when the miracle happened.

My pursuer dropped one foot at normal speed, then the second at twice that, and was suddenly up to a Corvette’s sprint. Somehow I doubled my own pace, but it damn near wasn’t enough.

As I cleared my objective’s white picket barricade my stalker scaled the hood of the van and left a trail of divots along the roof, and as I gulped a final breath of air and turned the door handle, my hunter went directly through the fence.

I slammed the entrance behind me and hustled to the sliding patio exit at the home’s rear.

It’s likely that not knowing what was beyond the closed entrance, while chasing a homicidally infected maniac through a largely abandoned neighbourhood, was enough to give the incredibly nimble hulk a second of pause, and that’s the only reason I had time to get clear and draw my lighter.

I’d been carrying that damned sparkler for weeks – just the usual sort of kids’ cake topper – but my fingers were so slick with sweat I damn near dropped the zippo.

Then it was lit, and I could hear the door on the far side of the building being kicked open, and I tossed my tiny pyrotechnic display.

The gas oven, unlit but otherwise fully engaged, had done its work well, and the resulting explosion was enough to finish my climb over the back fence.

When I returned to a vague sort of sensibility I stood. If there was anything left of my foe it would be worth scavenging: Especially if I could manage to get the blood off of that armour.

I was too clever to rush in, however. I hunkered down, listening and waiting. What if the intruder had survived somehow? What if the explosion and subsequent fire attracted an inquisitive local? If the riot squad really was dead then whatever kit they’d been carrying wasn’t going anywhere, and it was rare that such tempting bait presented itself to help flush out my neighbours.

As dusk hit, and the house’s embers guttered in its former basements’ rec room, I crept onto the street. There seemed to be nothing but me, the crickets, and the distant barking of a triumphant mutt who’d either found an un-spilled garbage can or the fresh remains of some unfortunate Capital City citizen.

Of course, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, one of the problems with paranoia is that it’s never the things you could possible have calculated for that will get you. A man can spend his life in a Faraday cage to prevent death by cellphone radiation, but it’ll inevitably be the spouse whose sick of his lifestyle who buries him with a butcher blade in his back.

I mean, when I approached “the body” it was still sprawled out on the road pavement, where it had apparently landed on its back. It’s left leg was missing – well, missing isn’t the proper word perhaps, as a kevlar-wrapped chunk had clearly landed across the picket fence. I suspect the door must have sheared it off and tossed it in a different direction than the rest of the meat.

All that to say: The limb was thoroughly unattached, which is why, I’m sure you can see, I assumed that my victim, who had apparently been lying unmoving for at least two hours, was dead.

She let me get as far as the helmet, and then her eyes popped open.

I said “Jennifer?” and that’s when Ms. Atlas, current member of TV’s The Irregular Division and former comrade-at-arms, hit me.

 

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.

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.

FP410 – The Murder Plague: Recoil

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and ten.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Recoil

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Forum

 

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 we attempt to survive another encounter on the streets of Capital City alongside our hero, Harm Carter, a victim of the homicidal paranoia that infects the city’s inhabitants.

 

The Murder Plague: Recoil

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

 

Let’s talk, for a moment, about gunfights – and, more specifically, about gunfights at a time when a solid portion of the population has been infected in such a way as to think they’re the new Gary Cooper in town.

In my more adventurous years, as a young man on foreign soil, I’d occasionally found myself firing the rifles Uncle Sam kept handing me. I have never been a master shot, but, honestly, the technique we employed in dispensing ammunition across the countryside was often more a matter of statistics than precision.

All that to say: Even before Hitchcock’s disease convinced every grandmother to hide a revolver in her purse and every Saturday hunter that he should find a bell tower to climb, I’d already survived the lottery that is the high-velocity exchange of projectiles on more than one occasion.

Even then, I recall, a week or two into my own madness, encountering a darkened baseball diamond. Nothing overwrought, just a neighourhood lot with a chain-link backstop, two benches, a plywood concession stand, and a playground set off to the side to keep the local softball team’s kids entertained while they were swinging bats.

A cargo truck had been stationed in the outfield, and a tall-legged canvas tent had collapsed onto second base. Bottles of water waited on open palettes, and a stack of folding chairs sat, un-deployed, not far from the vehicle.

The scene rang of an aborted attempt at a governmental emergency response. Perhaps they’d tried setting up an evacuation point – I couldn’t tell what had happened to disappear all involved, but there was definitely a feeling as if the hulking rig had been vacated with haste, like a landlocked Mary Celeste.

Flash Pulp's The Murder Plague: A Science Fiction Fantasy PodcastIn search of supplies, I’d been crawling along the garden path between a two-car garage and a bungalow that’d had every one of its windows thoroughly shattered. I remember thinking the fluttering of the lace curtains blown through the living room’s missing bay window quite beautiful as I sat watching for any movement in, or across from, the park.

Feeding yourself when all is paranoia is a tricky matter. I’d spent the previous weeks stepping into booby traps, and there was no greater bait than the rations I suspected were abandoned to the feral grass.

Still, my stomach’s rumbling was a persuasive counter-argument, so the debate lasted a surprising while.

An hour into my vigil a cloud bank fought the moon for dominance of the sky, and my brain chemistry shifted from wait to run. Stooping low, I sprinted, full-tilt, from my location to the shelter of the metal bumpers lining the diamond’s car-less gravel lot, then along the wooden outfield fence and into the relief camp’s shadow.

From that distance I could see more signs of sudden passage – papers spread around the disordered turf and medical paraphernalia toppled near the thick rubber tires – but I could also make out the flat brown packaging that indicated a stack of MREs in the rear of the flatbed.

Things were going really well until I stepped onto the back of the truck.

The two-story houses on the far side of home plate all looked to have been picked from the same catalogue. Most were undamaged, and each one sported equally dark windows and closed garages at the end of paved driveways.

From the second floor of the third home from the right, however, a blinking light of death took to looking for me. Someone was waving a silenced automatic weapon in my direction.

Muzzle flash wasn’t my only sign of danger, though: The exploding bottles of water to my right were also a pretty good indication. I went over the truck’s side backwards, like a Navy diver enters the drink, but I landed like a drunken albatross in high wind.

Yet there was no chance to complain about my injured spine, as the winking flare was already busy conducting heavy duty body-work on the Army’s chariot.

Now, I wasn’t without my own means, but I was as well off chucking rocks at that distance as I was using a pistol. That did not stop me, however, from pulling my automatic from its pocket and making the first noises of the night.

At the least, I figured some excitement in the shooter’s direction would do little to steady their aim.

While throwing away my bullets, I ran. I hustled past the guest team’s bench, the surface splintering under the flicker, and made a dive for the concession stand.

There was definitely a proper door to the shack, but it was around back and I didn’t have the time. Instead, I plunged head long into the large hinged flap that would normally be pinned up to indicate the stand was open for business, hoping all the while that it wasn’t locked.

It was definitely locked.

The panic in my feet was such, though, that it didn’t really matter. The spinning slats of wood they rotated into place to hold the sheet down snapped under my impact, and the hatch gave way far enough to deposit me firmly on the cement slab that made up the floor.

There were two people already sheltering inside.

The man was maybe twenty-five. His hair had been close-cropped at some point, but it’d been quite a while since he’d seen a razor. He was dressed in jeans and a dark blue t-shirt, but I could have easily pictured him in a uniform before the collapse set in. She was maybe eighteen, wearing black stretch pants, a thick gray sweater, and a ponytail that seemed to bounce in defiance of the misery around her.

When I think on that moment I’m always slightly relieved I didn’t kill them, but, honestly, if I hadn’t emptied my weapon ahead of my arrival I’d likely have done exactly what the disease insisted.

They ran then, out the door I hadn’t used. There was a half eaten sandwich on the ground, a small guttering candle, and a harness with three grenades strung across it.

I didn’t wonder, then, how the pair had managed to stick together without murdering each other. I did wonder how anyone could possibly forget such useful equipment when departing, but I was too far distant from ordinary human perspective to understand that sort of surprise anymore.

Whatever the case, I stopped consideration of the matter twenty feet into their escape, when the fellow’s head blossomed three red stitches.

The woman did not pause, but she did scream as she doubled her speed and disappeared between a white Escalade and a maroon Mini Cooper across the way.

There must have been more twinkling from the second floor rifleman, as the SUV’s rear window shattered, but the block settled into silence once the runner was safely in the shadows.

I was left to wait and consider.

It’s hard to know where my will to survive stopped and the disease began. I obsessed about the grenades – how I might use them to defeat the deadly light blinking in the distance – but, the truth was, there was no hope I could cover the ground and remain free of some copper and lead marbling. My logical mind won that argument at least.

My brain worked every corner, rattling every scrap of material I had at hand, but there’s the reality of combat in a nutshell: It’s good to be fast, and it’s good to be accurate, but it’s not always enough.

In the end the madness decided on making a run for the truck. I can see now that I would have been just as dead as the t-shirted lad no further than ten yards from my shelter, but there was a strange commonality between the Murder Plague and being a contestant on Jeopardy. Tension makes the solution harder to see, and there is a constant need to do something. Sometimes that meant anything.

Loading another clip into my marble thrower, I did my best to steady my hand, and stood.

As I’ve said, there’s too much randomness in a firefight for my liking, but there are some rules that seem to hold. One is that chucking bullets will lead to bullets being chucked back at you. This scales all the way from a small bank robbery to the invasion of a Middle Eastern nation. If you’re going to do unto others you either have to massacre them all or accept the same kindness.

Even as I pulled back the hatch and let fly with my peashooter, the blinking became a brief nova, then portions of shredded flower-print curtain and beige house-siding began to rain across the lawn.

Deciding that was the perfect time to shop, I beelined to the brown bags, grabbed a double armful, and made for the same garden path that’d brought me there.

I’m glad I never came across the girl again. I suspect – no, I believe – that she acted out of revenge, meaning she wasn’t sick but a simple, angry, innocent. I’m also not sure I would have survived a second encounter: Even sane she’d thought to do what her lover hadn’t, bring some grenades.

 

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.

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.

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.

    FP393 – Mulligan Smith in Con-tingency

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Con-tingency

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Creative Audio Dept.’s Dog Days of Podcasting

     

    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 our PI, Mulligan Smith, finds himself surrounded by cosplayers, comic hawkers, and conjugal criminals.

     

    Mulligan Smith in Con-tingency

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

     

    Twenty feet to Mulligan’s left Mitch and Mike, wearing matching blue t-shirts with SECURITY emblazoned across the chest, were hassling Godzilla.

    Smith had met the enforcers the day previous, at which point the PI had sworn he was alone at the con, whatever the closed circuit cameras might show. They’d been nice enough, if a little eager to look hard for a couple of tall accountants working to avoid entrance fees. They’d pressed hard about the massive attendee in the Stay Puft Marshmallow costume, but, in truth, after passing a few stern words to Billy regarding the concept of proportional response, the detective had cut the Canadian loose at the door so that he could get some work done.

    In retrospect it had been a solid decision, especially in light of what Winnipeg had done to the greasy fellow who’d repeatedly demanded the various costumed heroines roaming the floor, “kneel before Zod.”

    It was not the first comic convention Mulligan had haunted, but it was certainly the first he’d be receiving a paid fee for.

    The stack of Italian giallo flicks he was carrying would definitely be coming out of his take-home profit, however.

    Mulligan Smith - The Flash Pulp PodcastFive feet to his right stood Lex Luthor, Superman’s greatest nemesis, with his arm wrapped tightly about the waist of Supergirl. Smith knew the tall blonde woman was the Man of Steel’s cousin, but he still doubted Mr. Kent would be pleased to witness the scene – then again, he reflected, neither would Marcia Addison.

    Though this Lex was but one of many bald-capped Luthors in the crowd, he had the distinguishing feature of being the only pretend psychotic-billionaire married to Marcia, Smith’s client.

    As for Supergirl, she stepped away quickly, a shudder shaking her cape.

    Turning on the black-suited cosplayer, she asked, “the hell!?”

    Addison replied with a lopsided grin and a, “well I am the villain, you know.”

    With one eye searching the show floor, Mulligan broadly shook his head, leaving Lex under the impression that he was being judged. The fact that the hoodie-wearing investigator was holding his phone aloft, apparently taking pictures, simply reinforced the idea.

    Luthor didn’t care.

    “What?” he asked his apparent spectator, “look at her – tell me you weren’t tempted to lift this little skirt…”

    His white-gloved hands flicked at her hem and Smith gave up on his head shaking.

    Sure the storm was already thundering on the horizon, the PI kept his cell’s camera steady and spoke as rapidly as his tongue would allow.

    “Someone emailed Mrs. Addison about your convention schedule and your reputation. She was already considering a divorce, but – well, I doubt you’ll have much travel money once the judge is through with-” and that was all he had time for.

    Though they’d missed the harassment entirely, shortly after Mulligan had spoken the word “schedule” Mitch and Mike had begun to curse, and by the time the judge had come up they’d realized they were too far on the wrong side of the hall to stop the avalanche.

    Billy Winnipeg had had plenty of time to pick up momentum as he’d approached from the balcony overlooking the floor, and the show patrons were quick to part before a man whose black sphere of a costume might be mistaken for a moon.

    “He was the Death Star! The Death Star! Fuuuuuuu-” was all Smith could make out before wind and the sound of howling rage blocked all noise.

    The impact of the tackle was enough to shake the tower of t-shirts on sale behind Luthor, and, though he didn’t know it then, the black eye would easily last him till the opening court date.

    Mulligan could only shrug, unwilling to argue with his friend’s policy on public harassment.

    Besides, wasn’t that a Blood and Black Lace poster two booths down?

     

    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.

    FP391 – Coffin: Weakness, 6 of 6

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 6 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Bothersome Things!

     

    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 roommate and apprentice, find themselves rudely rebutted by a nymph.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 6 of 6

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

     

    Anger, Will reflected, is supposed to be a young man’s game. No one takes a punk band over fifty seriously, and most aren’t interested in seeing two grandfathers beat each other bloody in a boxing ring – well, more than once.

    Yet, here at the edge of Lake Clark, with his boots wet and his eyes grimy from too much worry and too little sleep, Coffin was decidedly angry.

    Though he’d tried to convince himself it was having to depend on the pretentious owl to locate Jenny Greenteeth that was the source of his unrest, being so far from home had brought Will to finally admit, at least to himself, that it was the notion that his homicidal dead wife might suddenly be washed away like the spirits of the four drowned cadavers that had him agitated.

    The moment of truth did little to better his mood.

    CoffinNeither did the nymph’s reaction to his demand to surrender.

    Her tiny form had surfaced readily enough, but so distant from the shore as to be nothing more than a speck on the horizon.

    Jenny’s words had traveled well, however: “Gobble a chode you bloody Tin Star!”

    It was also fairly easy to guess which fingers she was waving.

    Coffin started to chuckle, and he recognized it as the same dry rattle Sandy had taken on before the end.

    He shrugged it off and reached into the black leather satchel slung at his side.

    Within lay a jeweled baton, atop which, to his apprentice’s eye, rode a tiny blizzard. The storm seemed held in place by several bands of gold laid across the clouds and snow in thin ribbons.

    A flick of the wrist brought a point to the occult tool, its base extending suddenly to the form a staff.

    From over his left shoulder, Bunny asked, “what in the Go-Go-Gadget #### is that?”

    “The Winter Scepter,” replied Will. “As far as artifacts go, this is actually a fairly recent ancient one. The telescoping does nothing but make it more portable, and it’s just clever metalworking, nothing mystical.

    ”Watch this though.”

    With a firm grip he pinned the water’s edge to the sand below, and the reaction was immediate.

    A wave of ice moving at a sprinting dog’s pace began to roll across the surface, and even as practiced a swimmer as Jenny could not outrun its frigid clench.

    It was a ten minute walk to the spot at which the nymph waited, her left arm aloft, mid-breaststroke.

    “Shoulda brought some ###damn skates,” said Bunny.

    Knowing full-well that her song would do nothing against Will’s defenses, Jenny replied, “taste Tartarus, frails.”

    There was the rage again, crawling up Coffin’s back and pulling his belly tight. His boot heel twisted in the snow and his fingers dug deeply into his pockets.

    Instead of a roar, however, his mouth formed the words, “I’m sorry.”

    Both women raised a brow in surprise, but he continued.

    “Given your history, trapping you tightly like this isn’t exactly something I’m excited about. I’m not saying you’re justified, but I understand your vendetta.”

    The algae upon her chin had begun to frost as Jenny replied, “are you giving a ‘this is going to hurt me more than it is you’ speech? Because it seems easy to be remorseful about how delicious the fish in your net are, and, after the last job I did for him, I’m sure the owl has no more patience for keeping me around.

    “Frankly, I would’ve rathered he did it himself, but, that’s never been that dainty fop’s style, so I’ve been left to die at the hands of lice.”

    “Actually,” said Coffin, as he leaned low into her vision, “what I do next is going to depend very much on how you answer this question: Were you responsible for the disposal of the phantoms on behalf of the Kar’Wickians, and, if so, how?”

    It was the first time Jenny had been in proximity of a non-drowning mundane human in hundreds of years, and she found she missed the other stupid faces the mortals made.

    “No, I’d love to drive you mad and claim I made them disappear, but really the spider children’s representative simply passed on that Abe and Tina would ‘clean things up.’”

    Standing, Coffin began to stride towards the distant rental car, but stopped to repeat himself.

    “I really am sorry.”

    Wonder had made the gathered emissaries careless, and it was clear even before he reached the shore that the treeline was brimming with wildlife come to witness his actions – which is why, when Wide Eye confronted him on the beach, the avian lord whispered.

    “You let her live!?” he demanded, his four wings in constant motion.

    Coffin shrugged. “You were so insistent that the last one was yours to deal with, I figured I’d leave you the pleasure. You’ve got about three minutes before the ice transmutes back to water.”

    To Will’s mind the owl, as much as the bird hated acting publicly, could try his luck with Jenny Greenteeth: There were no more questions of secret rituals or unknown magicks or an arcane plague – the shaman finally had names to blame for the spectral disappearances, and now the hunt could truly begin.

    He found himself whistling.

     

    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.

    FP390 – Coffin: Weakness, 5 of 6

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 5 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3

    (RSS / iTunes)

     

    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Bothersome Things!

     

    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 roommate and apprentice, discuss the unfortunate history of nymphs.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 5 of 6

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

     

    It was noon, and they were at Denny’s.

    “####,” Bunny was saying, around a mouthful of pancake, “so she couldn’t stop doing it? The incubus thing kinda makes sense then, I guess.”

    Turning from the window, Coffin winced. “Not a nymphomaniac, a nymph. Way back in the toga days they were a sort of nature spirit who’d live in rivers, streams, tributaries, fjords – basically every wet place you figure’d be worth taking a vacation photo at would have one.

    “Generally they manifested as shapely naked ladies, in their early twenties, who’d come ashore to sing and dance when visitors or worshipers arrived, but otherwise they maintained a dwelling within the depths of their swimming pool for privacy.”

    Lifting another wad of syrup and batter to her mouth, Bunny asked, “sounds like they’d be pretty popular, so where’d they go?”

    “Well, see, the nymphs were pretty into free love. They didn’t need it, like Valentine, but they were, uh, very welcoming to friendly shore-side visitors. The more civilized folks got, though, the less their spouses appreciated it.

    “Nymph culture was slow to change, mostly because they were so localized, and their reputation went from something akin to a regional deity to the mess dumped on sex workers.

    “I should be clear though: Their interest was really only in natural beauty. They danced because of the elegance of grass swaying in the wind, they rutted on the shore because that’s the way of the wild, and they sang because it called beasts and birds of all shape to their banks and kept them there in peace.

    “Still, as things got worse some of them tried to go clean – the lady who supposedly lobbed the sword at Arthur was probably a nymph – but I think they hoped pants and religion were fads.”

    “Me too, me too,” answered Bunny.

    Will shrugged, taking advantage of the interruption to sip at his coffee. Despite his best efforts to be patient, his eyes wandered to the window.

    There was nothing of note in the tightly stuffed parking lot.

    Frowning, he continued. “You’re familiar with the old ‘I read it for the articles line’? In those days sneaky husbands and unsatisfied wives would claim they were just ‘going to hear the nymphs sing.’ Maybe that’s what started the trade – whatever the case, there was no Top 40 back then, and the medieval nobles, sick of having their trophy spouses sneak off, began to improvise jukeboxes.

    “The real problem was that the nymph’s mystic song couldn’t help but bring a sense of soothing, even if weepily sung after having had their limbs clipped and being entrapped in tiny caskets.

    “Now, this isn’t something just anybody would know about, this is the sort of secret treat rich people like to save for their most special guests. You’d be lead into a well sealed room by a deaf servant and your host. and there’d be a decorated box with what looked like a fairly heavy trashcan upside down on top.

    “Your host would invite you to lie down on a lounge chair, priming you the whole time about what a wonderful surprise you were about to have, and the servant would lift the iron lampshade to reveal a young woman who’d lay out a tune so lovely it was like taking a mouthful of rave pills.

    “When the allotted period was up, the servant would drop the shade. The attendants were also in charge of punishment for lack of performance, but we don’t need to get into the abuses you can inflict on a head in a cabinet.

    “Immortality can be a rough gig like that, but even occult beings need to eat.

    “In the end they all starved to death.

    “Jenny though – Jenny was a fighter. Jenny gave up her home, the hardest thing for her kind, and set herself loose in the wilds; Let her hair grow long and tangled, let the muck of the river bottoms cover her skin, let decay and fish guts cling to her teeth. She hid like that for years, until even the memory of the slaughter of her people was forgotten, and her rage simmered.

    “She started trying to avenge herself.”

    “#### yeah,” said Bunny, “I’d go Rambo over that #### too.”

    Will nodded, but replied, “consider the flip side though: You’re strolling by the river and you hear a whisper. You stop and there’s a woman – or is it a woman? She almost looks like nothing more than a collection of lily pads and stones – a face hovering at the still surface. Maybe you don’t listen at first. Maybe you’ve got a strong aversion to getting wet, maybe you’re smart enough not to talk to entities speaking from ponds, maybe you just have no sense of curiosity.

    “Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter, because that slight, cheerless face begins singing, and suddenly everything is beautiful and calm. Suddenly you have no interest but in relaxing in the cool damp. Suddenly you’re drowning.

    “Beloved family pets taking a drink, children roaming alone, lovers skinny dipping – anyone that would make others share some of the pain.

    ”Eventually she gained a new reputation: As a killer. Even the mystical and the immortal need the occasional human disappeared.”

    Leaning back to bask in her victory over the forces of dough, Bunny asked, “so she’s some kinda supernatural hitman now?”

    “Basically.”

    In truth, however, Bunny already knew all this – she’d read the same texts Coffin was reciting from – but, even with his neck-cramping turns to peer out the window, it was the calmest she’d seen him in days.

    She did not mention that the tale explained nothing of the missing phantoms.

    The real question she wanted answered involved what exactly was in the worn leather messenger bag he’d taken to carrying. Before she might ask, though, a blur of movement to her left caught her attention. Beyond the dusty cream shades six dozen cats sat atop the sea of sun-baked cars.

    Noting her gaze, they began to wail.

    It was time to go.

     

    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.

    FP386 – Coffin: Weakness, 1 of 6

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-six.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Weakness, Part 1 of 6
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Every Photo Tells…

     

    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 recently sober apprentice, encounter a strange party at the river’s edge.

     

    Coffin: Weakness, Part 1 of 6

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

     

    Finding the spot had been fairly simple – the crown of the red balloon that he’d been told marked his destination was bobbing at the center of Nash Bay, one of the river’s calmer nooks – but, though the thaw had come early that spring, the water was still frigid enough to bite at Will Coffin’s skin as he forced his bare toes and jean-covered legs into the Lethe.

    Ten feet further along the shore, Bunny offered her encouragement.

    “Hurry the #### up, it’s as cold as Cheney’s heart out here.”

    In truth, Will was just as in a hurry as she was. Placing an ancient stone of arcane origin beneath his tongue, he tested its long-proven ability to provide air even when none existed, then slipped beneath the mirrored surface.

    Below, it became apparent that the marker was only the top most balloon in a cluster of ten. Pinned to a card table which was itself weighted to the riverbed, the rainbow-coloured column waved gently in the waters flow. There were four attendees at the party, each tied to a thick metal chair and wearing a plastic party hat.

    Coffin recognized but one, the blue-blazered woman who had, until recently, anchored the Capital City News at Six. Still, the note that had divulged their location had also included the identities of all involved.

    Digging into his pocket, the shaman wrapped his fingers in the Crook of Ortez, the mystic chain that allowed for communication with the dead – yet, as he feared, there was not a single apparition on hand to question.

    Will turned back, having seen all he’d come to see.

    As he reached for a towel, his jacket, a blanket, and his hot coffee, he asked his apprentice, “What do a TV news anchor, a Catholic school principal, a rich guy’s trophy wife, and a two-bit dabbler have in common?”

    CoffinBunny could not help but notice the tone in his voice, and it struck her that in the past he would have asked the question with the cool detachment of a man who barely cared. Now she worried that perhaps he cared almost too much.

    “I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s a ####ty punch line,” she answered.

    “I knew the dabbler, Pendleton, a bit,” said Will. “He earned his money scamming people with cold readings, but he nearly managed to get one of those damned cursed monkey paws working in the late ’90s. I was just lucky to get it away from him before the thing scraped together the mystic juice to actually grant his wish.”

    “Do you know what he was hoping for?” Bunny asked with a raised brow.

    “Yeah, infinite more wishes, which, given the ‘one finger, one wish’ nature of that sort of talisman, means we’d end up with a gigantic simian hand growing ever larger on the horizon before it finally blots out the sun with its jungle of gnarled brown digits.”

    As Coffin finished the story a tight squadron of a dozen ospreys formed above the river and swept the opposite shore. As one they turned to cross in front of the pair, then, banking within feet of their audience, the birds drove skyward.

    “Sweet ####ing candy corn,” said Bunny, “that was a ###damn Tom Cruise flock of birds right there. Some real Top Gun ####.”

    “It’s good to know I can still impress,” replied a sleepy voice over her left shoulder.

    Turning, Bunny was somewhat comforted by the frown on Will’s face. At least she wasn’t the only one taken by surprise.

    With a preening ruffle of his furled wings, Wide Eye, animal lord and recently appointed regent of the area, hunkered low on a driftwood log.

    “Judging by your moist nature, you’ve seen the party?” asked the massive owl.

    “Yeah,” answered Coffin.

    “You have spoken with the dead then?”

    “No.”

    Bunny shuffled from foot to foot to fill the pause as Will stooped to lace his boots.

    It was the hulking fowl, however, who finally broke the silence.

    In a slow midnight tone, it said, “you will look into the matter.”

    Will’s shoulders became tight beneath his beaten leather jacket. “I hold an independent office. I do not work for you and you have no jurisdiction over what I deem worthy of my interest. As it happens, you’re lucky that I have nothing better to do.”

    It was Bunny’s newfound mental clarity that kept her from muttering, “bull####.”

    “We shall see,” replied the owl. “Go visit the woman mentioned in my note. Rosanna.”

    Spreading his broad wings, the animal lord made no effort to hide his departure.

     

    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.

    Desktop Decoration: Coffin – War Paint

    Hella talented fellow, Matt Davis, has created this fantastic take on Will Coffin for use as a desktop wallpaper!

    Download and enjoy staring at he who speaks with the dead.

    Will Coffin - War Paint, by Matt Davis

    Download:

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