Wednesday, December 5, 2012


By Mark Slade

"Johnny zero," The cat said, licking his black paws, and sneering. "We have you cornered. there is no way out."

It was true. They had my back up against a brick wall down a lonely alley. There must've been about fifty of those fuckers and all of them were at the whim of their master, Mr Lim. He was an old foe of mine back in the days at college when he could change into human form any time the wind blew.
Those were different times: The poets studied rules of verse and the ladies rolled their eyes--
wait a minute; that's Lou Reed talking. Sometimes his spirit invades my mind. It's hard to control, like turrets. Any ways, I hadn't become a floating head in a spirit cabinet yet. We had a lot of classes together. We became friends. He confessed to me in secret he was man that could change into a cat, and a couple of homosexual encounters. All he had to do was swallow a pill each month and his human form was easy to retain. By accident one drunken night, I spoon fed a monkey that was passed out in my dorm room(the drunken monkey is a long story).
Years later, after my own freak spiritual accident with Houdini's spirit cabinet, I met Mr. Lim at a Celtics game. Talk about uncomfortable.

And here we are.

"What do you want, Mr. Lim?" His friends came closer to me. The wheels on my cabinet were stuck in a groove in the pavement. They kept turning and turning.

"I know you are a private eye," He said, cleaning his ears with his paws now. "I need you to find someone. her name is Colletta Bare. Pinky! Show the floating head her picture." he ordered a tabby to approach me.
The cat took both paws and slid them into his mouth, pulled his jaws open. His head split like a ripe melon. A piece of paper fell out to the pavement. In the picture was a blonde with fat red cheeks and large blue eyes.

"I want you to find her and bring her to my castle. i believe you know the address. I've taken the liberty of paying your debts and buying you a subscription to Highlights children magazine," the black cat hissed.

Damn. I forgot i confessed to him my love for Richard Scary stories.

"And if I refuse your offer?" I asked, smiling.

"My friends will use their claws to scoop out your eyeballs and pour catnip in your empty eye sockets."


The address Mr. Lim had given me took me to a shady hotel located in the basement of a morgue. I was in the morgue and a cabinet opened. A man with skin the color of chalk asked if I was looking for COCO Lounge. I said I was and he pressed a button on a table beside the cabinets containing fresh bodies ready for their funerals. A door opened and my wheels rolled me inside a dark room. I had to roll down three side streets to get to the morgue. Funny how cab drivers will not pick up a floating head in a spirit cabinet.

There was a huge neon sign above a revolving door telling me where I was. A gorrilla doorman asked for the floor I was looking for. I said, “Third floor, number 24.”

He laughed, pulled a lever, “Going down!”

The floor underneath me caved in. I was falling, my head often coming out of spirit cabinet. Finally I landed in a hot bath house in a pile of towels. A fat hairy man stood naked before me.

“Do you mind putting me back in my cabinet, friend?” Begrudgingly, he placed me inside my cabinet and I was on my way after he gave me a push down that long hallway. As I sped by a line of doors, I kept track of the apt. numbers. At the end of the hallway was number 24.

“To hell with knocking,” I told myself and rammed the door. The door splintered into a thousand pieces.

On the sofa lay the blond with large rosy cheeks, pointing a cannon in my direction. It was Colleta Bare. She wore a low-cut green, sequined dress. Around her neck was a necklace attached to an eye.

“I knew Mr. Lim would send an errand boy over soon.” Colleta smiled the most malicious smile I'd ever seen.

“I don't know what your talking about, lady, I do a job for money...or in this case, cause I've been threatened. Not because I'm an errand boy.”

“If he pays you, in some form, you are his errand boy.”

“No...” I thought a moment. Damn it, she had me! “Yes. Alright! I'm here to bring you to him and don't give me anymore lip or I'll have to use force.”

“What in God's name could a floating head use as force when I'm holding a gun?”

I closed my eyes and concentrated. Spirits were awakened. They swarmed all around Colleta. She screamed as one spirit took the gun from her hands. They had her by the arms, as she swore revenge against me and those who opposed her.

Out of no where, a hand smacked me across the head. The spirits disappeared. I realized that hand wasn't attached to a body. A rogue agent of the body politic.

“Thank you, Calvin,” Colleta said to the hand.

“It pleasure,” The hand wheezed, coughed.

She walked over to a window, opened it. In the black void I could hear the hustle and bustle of the street down below, wherever below was!

“Calvin, push the errand boy to the window. I will make sure he falls out!”


I fell through the dark void wondering if I should have called that dumb black cat, Mr. Lim's bluff. He'd threatened my life if I didn't take the job of bringing to him a woman Colleta Bare, who incidentally, pushed me out of a window. I was falling fast, just head and my spirit cabinet had already hit it's mark down below. I was wondering when this day would be over, so I can go home, enjoy an issue Highlights magazine and a can of Schlitz.

Just as I was fretting, I too hit my mark. Tearing through three ceilings. The last was a bar, filled with the strangest people I'd ever seen. Siamese twins, people with toasters for heads. Four legged strippers dancing around spiderwebs. A guy with his dog attached together by an umbilical cord. And the Frankenstein monster serving at the bar.

Of course where I landed, didn't make me any more normal. It seemed I, Johnny Zero, had landed on a headless body. Now I'm stuck. He sure was happy. His hands kept feeling me up. He was sitting at the bar, pouring beer in my mouth, turning a matchbook over and over in his hands. COMA CITY, it stated on the cover.

I was drunk. I was pissed. And I was worried about my spirit cabinet. I turned to the man attached to his dog , “Where the fuck is my spirits?”

The dog laughed, smacked his knee. “That was the best joke I have ever heard, buddy.”

I snarled at him. “Sometimes the kind of people in these places, make me sick.”

The man and his dog pulled out a knife.

I smiled. “Hey, you wouldn't cut a floating head, would you?”

They lunged at me with both knives. Suddenly, a hand smacked one blade out of the man's hand and in an instant later gave the dog two right crosses. The man and his dog whimpered and and ran out the bar with their tails between their legs.

I knew that hand. He helped Colleta throw me and my spirit cabinet out the window.

“I would thank you, but your the reason I'm here---remember you tossed out a window.”

“I'm afraid you have me mixed up. Sounds like my brother, Calvin"a left hand! Open windows are his forte.”


His name was Roberte and his left handed brother was the bastard that helped push me out of a window. Mind you, at that time I was just head in a spirit cabinet. My spirit cabinet is lost, maybe even destroyed. When I fell through that dark void, I had no idea I would land on someone else body body in a bar in a city called Coma.

I realize why the city is called Coma. Apparently all the inhabitants are deep in sleep. I noticed this when Roberte, a hand without a body, like his brother, took me to the city streets looking for my spirit cabinet.

“Was it always like this?” I asked, my body clutching him close to my chest. The fingers on Roberte moved restlessly.

“As far as I can remember. Although I suffer a lot of blackouts. A malady I have for the loss of my body.”

“How did you get here?”

“That's funny you ask. My brother and I were fighting over a blond. They threw me out of a window.”

Suddenly, I felt a jolt. My spirit cabinet was close. The spirits were out of the box, I could feel it. I told Roberte. We were in front of a disco, and the beats were louder and louder. My eardrums were bleeding. Roberte jumped out of the grip my body had on him. He ran into the disco, lost in the crowd jumping up down in unison.

I followed, calling his name, until I saw Robete sitting at table with a Siamese redhead. She had my cabinet beside her and all of my spirits were dancing around her, enjoying the music.

“These are the Fowler sisters,” Roberte said.

“Hello,” they both said. They were beautiful, both of them, sharing the same body dressed in tank top and mini skirt; and sharing the same tattoos from head to toe.

“They've agreed to sell me your spirit cabinet.” Roberte said, chuckling.

“But it's mine not yours to sell,” I said with sharp tongue.

“Who cares? Your getting it back. But you have something the sisters want.”

“What's that?” I yelled over the loud music.

The Siamese twins stood, walked toward me. They knelt, unzipped my fly. A hand reached inside and produced a long mechanical machine with button that lit up. At the end of this machine was a glass jar filled with stardust. The sisters looked up at me and smiled. Their fingers danced across the colored buttons and a window opened. Their faces were littered with sparkling stardust.

In mere moments, all of their tattoos had disappeared.

They stood, wiped stardust from their lips and kissed me. They tasted like sour apple gum.

“The cabinet,” they both said sitting back down. “And the spirits are yours.”


I'd just recovered my spirit cabinet at a disco thanks to a redheaded Siamese twin and removed my head from the body I had been apart of for last two days. It felt right being inside my spirit cabinet. Just as I was getting comfortable being a floating head inside my cabinet, I saw Coletta Bare sitting at a table across the room.

Now was the time not to let her get the edge on me nor Calvin the hand without a body that was her assistant the brother of Roberte another hand without a body. I summoned all of my spirits and sent them to the table. Coletta was bound by the spirits in a trance levitated in a thought bubble. Just then a knife whizzed by my head and stuck firmly into a post in the disco. A gun shot rang out and I saw Calvin lying on the table bleeding from a wound in the palm below his digits. Smoke from the barrel of a gun held by Roberte.

“Life's a bitch” Roberte said. “Then you die.”

With that statement, I called upon the spirit world to transport Roberte, Coletta, and I back to the real world to see Mr. Lim.


That was a first. I've never been able to transport exactly I want to. We were in Mr. Lim's living room obviously in the middle of feeding time. His Butler a chimp with a voice box, was serving Mr. Lim and all of his fifty cronies, tuna casserole. The smell made me want to puke. Being a floating head in a spirit cabinet may not be the best plan, having to float in my own sick.

“Oh, great!” The Butler moaned. “More guests! I only have two hands and these hands can't make another casserole any time soon!”

“Shut it, Binky. They aren't eating. Now go fetch me my whiskey sour, like a good boy.” Lim demanded. Binky scowled at Lim and gave him a Zelig heil. Lim rolled his eyes.

“A chimp as a butler, very strange,” Roberte said, resting on the sofa, two of Lim's kitty comrades sniffed his digits.

“As if you should talk. You're a hand without an arm or a body, for that matter. Okay, Johnny, I see you've brought me the package. Now cut the psychic line and ease her down in front of me.” The black cat said, wiped some tuna from the sleeve of his smoking jacket.

“As you wish, Mr. Lim,” I commanded my spirits to perform that act and Coletta lay gently on the floor.

She woke, still groggy, murmuring about Calvin. Mr. Lim ran up to her and snatched the necklace from around her neck. He held it up, the milky eyeball shimmering in the lights.

“At last,” Mr. Lim exclaimed and promptly bit into the eye, chewing it carefully. Coletta screamed, reached out for the necklace. It was too late, Mr. Lim had swallowed the last bits.

“You monster,” She sobbed. “It was all I had left of my Father before you caused the accident!”

“He was working on a lovely potion to help me become human again,” Lim explained.

“The last drop of potion survived as it splattered in his eye. Delicious.”

In mere moments, Mr. Lim had a violent change to his body. He had become human..only in body, though. His cat head survived, as did a tail.

We couldn't help but laugh, all of us, even his cat friends.

Mr. Lim sighed as he caught his visage in a mirror across the room.

“Oh, shit,” He said. “Oh, well. You can't have everything,” Mr. Lim drank his whiskey sour.

“Very Tacky,” Binky remarked and rolled his eyes.

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I have stories in Burial day, Blood moon rising, The stray branch and Electric chair podcast.
I live in Williamsburg, VA with my wife and daughter.


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