Wherever He Lays His Hat
Lincoln Otis stared at the want ads for the 548 consecutive day. He kept count through the series of 547 gouge marks left on the surface of the wobbly dinette table in his kitchen/bedroom/hall way between the front door and the bathroom. He scanned the ads, his blank eyes skimming over the squares wrapped around the same text over and over again. Sell knives, sell fire alarms, sell anything, sell the idea of selling to your friends. As his eyes reached the last ad, his had shot up and plunged a butter knife through the heart of the filthy rag. The 548th notch was recorded. 42 was a little old to be selling for Kuttcorp Knives Konsolidated. He didn’t get the best vibe from their abbreviated moniker. He wasn’t going to sit in another group “interview” while a 37 year old white boy, clinging hard to the idea that he’s an extended twenty something, lectures me on being ‘money motivated’. Thirty is the new twenty. All the thirty something online contributors to Buzzfeed and Huffpo agree. He was glad he didn’t have the internet. He wasn’t going to listen to another canned speech, delivered by an underachieving, legacy Ivy Leaguer with forced, high school pep rally enthusiasm, going on and on about 'how hard he’s ballin.’ All while sitting on an uncomfortable aluminum folding chair, surrounded by a troupe of popped collars with no socks on, giving him the hairy eyeball.
He looked down as his cat serpentined between his legs. This wasn’t a friendly gesture on the cat’s part. It was left behind when he broke up with his last girlfriend, 7 years ago. The only report he had with it was it telling him when it wanted to eat.
He cranked the knob on the can opener and the jagged disk of the lid curled back. He gazed hard at the glistening, brown puck of meat wobbling in the can. He sniffed it and recoiled. He dabbed his finger on slick surface and inched it toward his mouth. After a few stabbing attempts, his tongue made contact with his finger. He regarded the flavor for a moment, then frowned, looking at the cat.
“Shit,” he said, dumping the wad onto a saucer with a squishy thud, “You eat better than me,” he placed the saucer on the floor. The cat hovered over it then looked back up at Linc, mewling, “If you don’t eat that, I just might.”
He emptied his pockets and dumped the change out on the table, flicking through it with his finger. He grunted and darted for the kitchen junk drawer. He routed around until he produced two nickels and added them to the sparse collection on the table. He flicked the coins around again. Again he grunted, louder this time.
“C’mon on, one more fucking nickel and it’s dollar menu time.”
His head swiveled as he looked for more hiding spots. He unfolded the futon, yielding nothing. He opened both cabinets, to no avail. He dropped to his knees and looked under the refrigerator and range. He pulled out his lighter and struck it. Gleaming back at him were countless coins gathered in piles just out of reach. He looked at his cat.
“Not sure whether to bed mad at you or not,” he hoisted himself to his feet and swept behind the range with a headless broom, until he had fished out a handful of quarters and dimes.
“Daddy’s eating well tonight, Dwayne ‘The Cat’ Johnson,” he patted The Cat on the head.
The Cat’s original name was Mrs. Twinklebottom. But when his girlfriend moved out he no longer felt beholden to that convention. The name had undergone considerable evolution in the last seven years; Mrs. Twinklebottom, Twinkle, Twink, Dwink, Dwayne. Dwayne Wayne, Dwayne Johnson, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, The Rock, back to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for a week, Dwayne ‘The Cat’ Johnson and most recently, The Cat.
As soon as Lincoln exited his building onto the street he knew something was going wrong. There was a lot of noise and not normal city noise. It was Weird Shit. Weird Shit had been happening with increasing frequency in last lew months. And anywhere Weird Shit was happening, they were there. Debates raged in every bar and every watercooler; were they here to protect us from the Weird Shit, or were they part of the Weird Shit. Not in a conspiratorial way, though Lincoln could offer a cogent argument in favor of that position, but as in part and parcel. The din from the neighboring blocks grew louder. Lincoln had been through Weird Shit before. He knew what the oncoming wave sounded like. It sounded like a stampede of scared white folks. He slipped down a narrow alley as to not get swept away. As he watched the throngs sail by he wondered what they could be running from this time. We had the murder robot. We had the Mad Max lizard people. Into view appeared crackling ultraviolet antennas, twitching and probing. These were soon followed by the head, abdomen and thorax of a giant purple ant.
“Giant bug and two fuzzy kung fu dudes,” Linc thought, “This is Weird Shit. And where there’s Weird Shit, there’s…”
The kung fu fighters were descended on by a swordsman in a bathrobe and a man in a suit swinging flutes around.
“...these assholes,” he whispered to himself. He stormed from his hiding spot, “Get the hell out of here. You’re just gonna do what you always do. Make the Weird Shit worse.”
“Sir,” the flute man said, “You need to get to safety.”
“I was safe until you chased that thing down here.”
“Sir, step away from the storefront.”
“Because this creature manifests apparitions based on digital signals and you’re standing in front of the History Channel.”
As Lincoln turned to look a samurai leapt through the glass and stepped toward him.
“See, jackass,” Lincoln said to the robed swordsman, “That’s what these are supposed to look like.”
“If you tell me to step away…” he felt a piercing sting course through his gut. He looked down to find the tip of a katana poking out of his belly, “God damn…”
“Sir, relax, we need to get you medical attention.”
“Man, fuck you…”
As Lincoln slumped to the ground, he watched his vision fade. The last thing he remembered was the reflection of his dying face in glasses of both the sword asshole and the flute asshole. Audience to his own death, simulcast on four screens.
Heaven or hell? Linc thought about his life in exquisite, excruciating detail and came to the firm conclusion that it was a toss up.
“I wasn’t a hero. I wasn’t a villain. I never participated in a stampede. To the best of my knowledge I never got anyone killed or dismembered. My grandmother told me Anubis would weigh my heart against a feather. How much does anger weigh?”
Linc reached up and scratched his nose. It felt cold. He felt cold. His joints were stiff. As he gazed into the inky, black void that sprawled before him, he felt a gritty sensation wipe over his eyes. He blinked in response, but that just made it worse. Against his better judgement he fluttered his eyelids hoping to dislodge the sand trapped under his eye lids. He reached up to rub his eyes and his knuckles stuck a metal surface. He heard popping, like the snapping of bone, but didn’t feel the pain he was expecting. It felt more like he had cracked his knuckles. He knew he had broken them, whenever he wiggled his fingers they moved in unexpected directions. He groped in the dark at his surroundings. He was inside a metal box.
“This better not be some Alfred Hitchcock Presents buried alive shit,” he banged against the sides of the box. It sounded as if there was hollow behind the panels.”
“Not buried,” he shifted his weight and felt the panel below his roll a bit then thud against the panel to his feet, “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
He stomped his foot against the panel until it cracked open and slid himself out. He sat up on the tray and saw the tag wrapped around his toe. From his chest to his abdomen was a laced up incision, like a capital ‘I’ carved into his flesh. He flailed his arms and he rolled off the locker tray onto the floor. He crawl on his knees and broken hands to an examination table. He paw around for something to grab onto and his fingers flopped onto the leg of the corpse laid out on it, apparently abandoned in the midst of an autopsy. Lincoln blacked out.
She awoke a second later looking up at the ceiling. She sat up and found herself on the examination table. The contents of her abdomen spilled out onto her lap from the ‘capital I’ incision.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, my shoelace came undone,” Linc’s mouth clapped shut as she heard the soprano cry as it left her mouth. She looked at the long, painted fingernails on her hands, the Hello Kitties on her big toes and the ample breasts sloughing to the sides from the incision. She noticed the hand of a cadaver touching her smooth, shaven leg. She set her intestines aside and leaned down to ascertain the identity of the handsy corpse. Despite the fact that she already knew what she would see she couldn't help but to jump from her skin.
“Go back, go back, go back in dammit,” she squeaked as she grabbed at hand of her former abode of the soul, “Stubborn ass motherfucker.”
She hopped off the table, but her legs were too stiff and unfamiliar to hold her balance. She tipped forward onto the next table, it’s current occupant patiently waiting its turn to hollowed out and laced back up. Linc’s vision shifted to another view of the ceiling. He looked down to find a young woman’s body draped across his torso. He sat up and examined his latest vessel.
“At least this one’s not all sliced up,” he began tapping the woman’s corpse on the head, “Go back? Go back? Go back, now?”
He pushed her to the side and lowered himself to the floor. He began tapping his original body on the head, “Go back? Go home? Back now?”
He stood, still in thought. He picked up his old old corpse and placed it on the table next to his new old corpse, “Maybe, it takes all three?” he touched them both on the head. Nothing. He made the corpses hold hands while he touched them both on the shoulder. Nothing.
A small, round man with a frizzy halo of hair entered, eating an apple. He dropped the apple and drew a small pistol.
“Back away from the corpses sicko,” he said.
“What?,” Lincoln realized the optics of the situation, “It’s not...no...that’s not…”
“You’re not my first necro, buddy.”
“Necros, both -mancer and -philiac. I get all kinds down here needing corpses for one thing or another.”
“Look, my name is Lincoln Otis. I used to be in here, then I was in here and now I’m in here.”
“That’s pretty disgusting.”
“I don’t mean it like that.”
“I’m sure you think it’s a beautiful and natural thing. Like I said, not my first necro.”
“Please, I need you to listen…”
“I’m letting you walk out of here, without police involvement. That’s all your getting from me.”
“Just 5 minutes,” Linc stepped toward the coroner. The coroner fired and hit Linc in the shoulder. He winced and clutched his shoulder, he face softened, “That didn’t hurt,” he rolled his shoulder around, “A little chunky.”
“You’re not bleeding?” the coroner waddled over to Linc and examined his shoulder, “Your tissue is completely…well hell...I knew there was a necro involved. I was just mistaken in my assumptions which kind. I do apologize for casting aspersions of such a lascivious and vile kind. That’s no way to respect the dead. Especially, one torn from the embrace of eternal peace. I do apologize, sir. I normally run a much tighter morgue.”
“What? For what?”
“I accused you of being a necro of the -phila variety, when, in fact, you are the victim of the -mancer sort.”
“It wasn’t a necromancer. At least I don’t think.”
“You’re just suffering from resurrection sickness. One of the effects is confusion.”
“No, listen. My name is Lincoln Otis,” he pointed to his old old body, “You had me in that locker. Then when I touched her I...became her. Then I touched him...this body and became him.”
“That doesn’t sound like any necromancy I’ve ever heard of.”
“Of course not, who would want to do this?”
“You’d be surprised. I still think you’re delirious from the resurrection.”
“No watch,” Linc went around looking at the bodies under the sheets on the examination tables.
“What are you doing?”
“Looking for one that isn’t all sliced up.”
“The to-do pile is on this side of the room.”
Linc flipped a blanket and looked at the corpse underneath, “This will do. Watch,” Linc touched the corpse and tipped to the floor. The body on the table sat up, “See.”
The coroner squinted and nodded his head, “Okay. I’m a believer. One question has just occurred to me.”
“Why did you touch the first corpse?”