This story has been published in both the U.K. and America, and I think it may be my weirdest story yet. The character of the Cat Man also appears in my story, “Melina Mavrodakis and the Five Something-or-Others of the Apocalypse” in BEACH BLANKET ZOMBIE.
“Your Turn” by Mark McLaughlin
by Mark McLaughlin
She sweeps toward you, laughing, her lace-swathed arms outstretched. She is the Red Nurse and she is about to put her large hot hands on you.
So you run, because you know no one survives her brand of care. You see a small blue house with all the lights on and toys scattered in the front yard. The Red Nurse abhors children so you hurry up to the door and start knock-knock-knocking. Oh please, let all the horrible children be home.
The door glides open and a beautiful young Asian man with platinum hair takes you by the hand and wordlessly leads you inside. You slam the door behind you and command the young man to lock it. He shrugs and does as he is told.
In the kitchen, he makes you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Say something,” you insist. “I’m being chased by the Red Nurse and I want you to take my mind off her.”
“Well, let me think,” he says. “How about this? My name is Peter. My mother is French and my father is Japanese but I never knew him. I’m making you a P, B & J because it has a lot of fat and sugar and protein in it and those are all good things to eat when you’re scared. So here, eat this. Want some milk?”
You nod and take the sandwich. You watch as Peter picks up an empty glass from the counter and turns around. Time passes. He’s just standing there doing something, but you can’t see what. So you watch and eat and watch. Finally he turns around and hands you a full glass.
The glass is fridge-cold and filled with a bluish-gray liquid.
“What is this stuff?” you ask, eighty-five percent disgusted, ten percent amused, five percent intrigued.
“It’s milk,” Peter says.
“No it’s not. It came out of you.”
“Well, yeah. It’s my milk.”
You look him up and down. “What did it come out of?”
He brushes his fingers along your jawline. “If the Red Nurse catches you, you’ll never have any milk ever again.”
Something jumps up on the counter, startling you – you almost drop the milk. At first you think it’s a cat, but it’s too big, and it’s a biped, and it’s wearing a gold mask and a black rubber suit crisscrossed with zippers, and you suddenly realize it’s the Cat Man, and you KNOW that the Cat Man is a very good friend of the Red Nurse, and you turn toward Peter and shout, “Is this a trap?”
He cradles your face in his hands and says, “No, no, no, calm down, the Cat Man is mad at the Red Nurse and he’s staying with me. He’s the one who put all the toys in the front yard. Pretty smart, huh?”
You face the Cat Man. “How do I know this isn’t a double-cross? Why are you mad at the Red Nurse?”
“She lied to me.” His soft little voice sounds like a big tree growing. “She promised me Australia and India and most of Africa and all I got was Hawaii. I mean, Hawaii is pretty and all, but I was expecting a lot more. We had a deal. Hey, if you’re not going to finish that, can I have it?”
You let the little guy have the rest of your sandwich. He removes his mask to eat and you almost pass out because his face is so ugly (pale damp flesh, protruding blue-green veins, watery golden eyes). He eats like a frenzied boar-hog, grunting and heaving and gurgling as he chews.
Peter taps his chin thoughtfully. “So Cat Man. What’s the plan? How you gonna get back at her? What sort of nasty trick do you have up your black rubber sleeve?”
The little guy flashes a slick grin. “Tell ya what. You two help me and I’ll cut you in. Petey, you can have France and Japan and any ten of the fifty states of America. And you, Scaredy Pants: you can have Germany and Argentina and any ten states, too – but Petey gets first pick. Is it a deal?”
It takes days of cool persuasion and heated negotiation, but finally the Cat Man and Peter convince you to join in on the scheme. It takes so long because they won’t tell you what the scheme actually is.
Peter leads the way down into the murky basement. At the Cat Man’s command, he fills a laundry bag with things from a big wooden crate under the stairs. You aren’t quite sure what the things are, but they look like black books or boxes.
The Cat Man hangs the Seal Of Wounds That Won’t Heal on the handle of the old furnace’s heavy metal door. He swings the door open and you find yourself looking into one of the ultra-white corridors of the House of the Ankh. In you all crawl, one, two, three.
“That was easy,” you say.
The Cat Man waves a blacknailed hand dismissively. “Getting into trouble is always easy.” He reaches back into the opening and pulls out the Seal, closing the way behind him.
“Why did you do that?” you whisper hotly into his damp triangular ear. “That was our escape hatch!”
Suddenly an Iguana Man guard rounds the corner of the hall. The Cat Man pulls a wee gun out of one of his many pockets and shoots the reptile between the eyes. The silencer is almost as big as the gun, so the shot only makes a tiny pfffft!
“Hatch schmatch,” the Cat Man hisses. “What a big wetsy baby you are. Let’s get moving.”
You help Peter carry the sack as you follow the little guy through the winding halls. On both sides of you: walls dotted with framed certificates (there’s one signed by the Marquis de Sade) and doors, doors, doors, hundreds of them, all white, some slightly ajar. Every now and then you peek into one of the rooms. In the various rooms you see: locusts feasting on exposed brains; looping, living guts stuck with glowing pins; orifices crammed with gardening implements; and you keep saying to yourself, Italy, they promised me Italy.
In all these rooms, set high up on the walls, are video monitors, all playing exotic, brightly-lit torture scenes. For ambiance, perhaps, like music in elevators.
At last you come to a door guarded by two Iguana Men. The Cat Man plugs them both with his tiny gun before they even have a chance to reach for their weapons. Dying, one of the guards fouls his pants, filling the hall with an eye-watering ammonia stench.
The room you now enter is huge, and filled with computer stations. Each station features a bluish-gray zombie, staring at a monitor and typing. A cable runs from the side of each monitor to the base of the spine of its zombie-typist.
“Here we are,” the Cat Man says. “Took a little longer than I thought to find it. She changes the location of this room constantly.”
“Is this the nerve-center of operations?” you ask. The little guy shakes his damp head. “Nah, this is just where they play the torture videos.”
Each zombie is wearing a black burlap shirt. The Cat Man rips the shirt off the nearest zombie, revealing a square slot in the middle of its back. He presses a button by the slot and a video cassette pops out.
Peter opens the sack and takes out a video labeled SWEDISH HOT-TUB NIGHTS, which he slides into the zombie-slot. One by one, he replaces the torture videos in all the zombies with selections from his porn library.
“Is this the big plan?” you say, exasperated. “Why did you two even bother to get me involved? You didn’t need me at all!”
The Cat Man takes your hand and tugs gently downward. You kneel to look him in the eye. “You, my friend,” he says, “play a vital role in this curious enterprise. A starring role. Starting now.”
He unzips one of his many zippers, reaches in and pulls out a sort of collar, studded with small gems and computer chips. You want to look at it more closely, but before you can, he snaps it around your neck.
From another of his pockets he pulls an oval device covered with buttons. He points the thing at you and presses a big red button.
And now you are a woman, or at least, female: the Green Nun.
Of course, the name is all part of the joke. After all, the Red Nurse isn’t really a nurse. Most nurses like to cure people, not chop them into bits. And while nuns aren’t supposed to like sex, you certainly don’t have a problem with it.
Like the Cat Man, you wear a skintight, many-zippered rubber suit – yours is lime-green, with a yellow and blue swirly pattern over the breasts. You don’t wear a mask, but you do cover your face with a bridal veil.
The revolution was a success: the energy from the torture rooms – the secret source of the Red Nurse’s power – has been channeled away from her and into you. And you feel fantastic.
Your first order of business was to give the Cat Man a kiss and a big hug. Then you twisted off his smelly head. You confiscated the remote (as if he could ever control you), that tiny little gun, and of course, the Seal of Wounds That Won’t Heal, along with the other goodies in those deceptively deep pockets of his. You commanded your new guards, the Tarantula Men, to seize and detain Peter. Then you shifted the location of the zombie room to a transdimensional bunker in Q Sector. There’s no air in Q Sector, but the zombies won’t mind.
In the Imperial Boudoir, you watch as the Tarantula Men strip off Peter’s clothes. You raise an eyebrow at the sight of his convoluted, inhuman privates.
“You were supposed to save us!” Peter cries.
“I am saving you. For myself.”
You press a green button on the nightstand and a silver communications monitor rises out of the floor. The screen lights up to reveal the bristly face of the Head Tarantula Man.
“Any word on the Red Nurse?” you roar.
His mandibles tremble. “She has escaped the grounds. Six-dozen death-squads are out searching. We think she has found her way into the Swamplands.”
“The Swamplands! But – that’s where the Resistance is headquartered!”
You grab a crystal torture device out of your curio cabinet and fling in at the screen. The monitor explodes in a shower of shards and sparks.
Out of the corner of your eye, you see Peter yawn. Yawn? How enraging! “Am I boring you?”
He smiles apologetically, then nods to the left and right at the Tarantula Men holding him. “Maybe we should talk. But first, get rid of your goons. You wouldn’t want them to hear what I have to say.”
You command the guards to chain him to the bed. They do as they are told and depart.
Peter stretches out on the mattress. For a prisoner, he seems awfully unconcerned. “I really envy you,” he says. “You get so far into it, you can actually forget what’s going on.”
His words disturb you, and yet you say, “Continue.”
“You. Me. Her. The three of us.” He taps his chin. “I used to be the Purple Queen. You were the Brown Hunter. She was the Yellow Bishop. Then I was the White Dollmaker. You were the Blue Shaman. She -”
You turn away. “Enough! I don’t have time for these games.”
“No,” he says, “that’s the problem. We have too much time, and only for games.”
You think about this for a moment. Then you sigh. “Say whatever else you’ve got to say.”
“I love you. But I love her, too. Even though she doesn’t care about me.” He laughs softly. “She’s still wild about you. And we’re never sure how you feel about either of us! It’s sad, really, and so very tedious. But at least we have our games! Tricks and terrors, puzzles and perversions. They make it all seem so glamorous.”
You turn back to him, wiping at your eyes with the veil. “I think I liked it better when we were-” Were what? What? ”-playing.”
“Well, then,” he says, “let’s keep playing. But bring back the Cat Man. I made him the last time I was evil, and … well, the game’s more interesting when he’s around. He’s so deliciously treacherous.”
You give him a small nod. Then you push another button on the night-stand and a new communications monitor rises out of the floor.
You square your shoulders. “Reanimate the Cat Man’s corpse,” you thunder, “and bring him to my antechamber.”
Peter’s reflection beams at you from the rounded silver edge of the monitor. How happy he looks. You open a door on the nightstand and bring out a corkscrew and a magnum of passionflower wine. Before long, you and your handsome prisoner are laughing and taking swigs from the big bottle.
There is a knock on the door. You purr, “Be back in a second,” and then glide away from the bed. At one point, you glance back and give Peter a wink.
You enter your antechamber, where a Tarantula Man waits, holding the Cat Man in his arms. The little guy’s head has been reattached, but he is still extremely groggy.
You open one of your zippers and take out a gold pill case and a shiny greenish-blue sliver of metal. The case holds a single hyperstrength super-energy pill, which you slip under the Cat Man’s tongue. Then you slide the metal sliver – a cerebral implant – deep into his damp triangular ear.
These words you whisper into that ear: “Go into the next room, straight to the bed. There you will find a drunken man and a stainless steel corkscrew. Use the corkscrew to remove the man’s brain, a little bit at a time.”
You smile to yourself. Pretty, silly Peter. You still can’t believe that your false tears fooled him. Bored? Soon he will be bored out of his skull! Serves him right for acting so damnably sincere, so real. Ordinarily you like that sort of thing, but not when it’s your turn to be the evil one.