The Switch. Short Story.

He was nervous but he had made his choice, there was no going back now. Well, he could try to back out if he wanted, but that was a death sentence. That was made abundantly clear when he started the whole process. He didn’t have enough money to pay the full fees, if had it would have afforded him a back out clause, where he could back out at any time, but that was the point wasn’t it? He didn’t want to back out, he couldn’t back out. It would make his life better. Of course it would, there were so many testimonials saying so, it had saved so many people’s lives, why wouldn’t it save his? He took a deep breath and stepped outside of the offices, into the normal world. People walked by him without a second glance. Why would they care about him, he was after all, a nobody. He wasn’t attractive, he wasn’t smart, there was nothing special about him. The only thing that stood him apart from others was that he knew this about himself. He was just as dull as everyone else, but no one else seemed to realise it about themselves. He had tried to blend in, pretend that it was worth living this meagre existence he had eked out for himself, but the longer it went on the harder it became to lie to himself. He was stuck in a shitty job, where he was passed over for promotion five times. Five. He was the most senior man in his department, working in that place for the last ten years. God. It seemed so long ago that he had started there, just out of college, all optimistic. What a fucking idiot he had been. His apartment was in a shitty neighbourhood, he couldn’t afford better. The pipes leaked, something the landlord always promised to fix and never got around to, and junkies congregated at the front door. He had no hobbies, no friends. He had moved to the city, expecting it to be exciting and full of life only to find it was as boring as the small town he had fled. There were no ready made friends, no social gatherings, at least not ones he was invited too and no women interested in him. He had been steadily gaining weight over the past few years, not all at once, no that might be noticeable, it was insidious, an ounce here and an ounce there. So slow he could convince himself that the dryer had just shrunk that t-shirt slightly. Now he was pushing thirty three and had a growing pair of man tits. No one would want this life, least of all him, yet he was stuck with it. At least that was what he had thought.

He was wrong.

He wasn’t stuck with it after all. Soon that would all change and things would be better. He’d have to clean up the apartment a bit, it would still be a shithole, but it would be less obvious how shitty it really was if it was tidied up a bit. He could splurge a little. He had some savings, money that he was always too afraid to spend. He could buy a new TV, but what if he needed medical attention? He could get a better apartment, but what if there was another flood? None of that mattered now. Not anymore. He smiled for the first time in months. It was a real smile, not those fake ones you gave to others so they thought everything was fine. It felt as though the world had been lifted from his shoulders. All his worried seemed so small and insignificant. Who the fuck cared if he had no friends at work? Not him, not anymore. He felt bad for the poor sap that would be taking over everything, but that wasn’t his problem.

He had to wait a week, an entire week, doing the same old shit every day. Not that it was so bad now, he had something to look forward to. He didn’t feel like such a loser as he ate his take away in front of the TV, his only real hobby to speak of. He used to read, but then his books were destroyed by a pipe leak. He always intended to go buy some more books, but the act never quite occurred. He had lived in the same apartment for seven years now, and it still looked mostly the same. There was nothing in the place that was uniquely him, nothing that made it seem homey. He looked at the information packet he had been given, he was supposed to destroy it the first day, but it didn’t matter, he’d get rid of it soon. He looked at the pictures, admiring the body, the face, reading over the hobbies, lists of friends. It was all so perfect.  Soon it would be his. That’s what the company did, switched your consciousness with someone else’s. Both parties agreed on the person they were switching with and boom, whole new life. He didn’t know why this guy wanted to switch with him, but he didn’t care, with a handsome face and a body like that he could do anything he wanted. He didn’t know how much the guy was worth, not really, it listed attributes, but not much about finances or where they lived. That information was apparently given on the day. You could do what you liked with the person’s life after the switch. You were free to change as you wanted, there were no emotional constraints to stop you, no worries to make you pause. You could live the life you always wanted. It would be amazing. He knew it would. Hell, worst came to worst he could probably get a modelling job somewhere, the guy he was switching with had the body of a god. After reading it through again, he started to put it away, then decided against it, he’d get rid of it now, before he forgot, he couldn’t screw this up for himself. He wouldn’t. He brought the package over to the sink, opened the window and carefully burned it. He doused the dying flames in water, then threw the clump of ashes in the bin. There was no way anyone would be able to tell what it had said before. Even if they could see it, they probably wouldn’t understand what it was for, after all, it was just a picture and some details.

He walked out of the office confidently, it was his last day in the place, they’d never see him again. Well, they’d see his body no doubt, but he wouldn’t be in it. He left the office and went straight to the company. He didn’t want to be late for his appointment.

When he arrived they were already set up, he had expected to meet the person he was switching with, George R. but George was apparently already in his room. They lead him into a large room, inside there was a single chair with wires snaking from it, at the top a helmet stuck upwards. He was feeling nervous now, jittery. What if it didn’t work? Hell, what if it killed him? He took a breath. If it did he wouldn’t be worse off than than he was now. He sat into the chair, it was warm. The technician pulled the helmet down over his head, as she did she explained what was going to happen, but he heard none of it. It didn’t matter, all that mattered was the end result. He sat in darkness, breathing slowly. A blinding flash was followed by dancing, rotating lights, it wasn’t nearly as bad as he thought it would be. His breath caught in his throat, pain, indescribable pain, worse than anything he had ever experienced. His body started to spasm and convulse then, nothing. No pain, no body. Just weightlessness. He couldn’t feel anything, couldn’t see anything. He was moving, he knew that much. Pain again, less this time. His breathing was ragged and harsh. The lights dimmed slowly. “Ok, I want you to stay where you are for a moment.” The chair started to tilt backwards. The helmet came up and a different technician was standing before him. “How do you feel?” “Um.” How did he feel? “Strange.” “That’s to be expected. Any nausea? Dizziness?” “No…Nothing.” She handed him a glass of orange juice, “Drink this.” He brought the cup to his mouth, the rim hit against his chin. Damn. He tried again, this time he succeeded. He drank it quickly, then she handed him a bar of chocolate. “Now, eat this.” He ate dutifully, then a cup of water was pressed into his hand. “Sip.” He sipped slowly, waiting for something to happen. The seat started to move until it was upright. “Ok, now please try to stand for me.” He got out of the chair slowly, trying to adjust to everything. He felt taller, he looked down at his hands. They were tanned, a web work of veins barely visible beneath them, his forearms were muscular, with just a hint of hair. His hands went to his stomach, it was hard and smooth, curving in and out. He looked down at his abs. “Please walk around the room.” He did as instructed, trying to find his balance. Finally he was able to walk freely and with ease. “Good. Please sit for a few moments, then you will be free to go after signing some paperwork.” The technician disappeared, he went over to a small seat. He felt hungry, hungrier than he had felt in years actually. He’d have to get a sandwich or something on the way home. He tried to think if this body had any allergies, there was none that he could remember. He thought about home, but he couldn’t quite remember his apartment, a different address kept popping to the front of his mind. He’d find it quickly enough. He could remember some things, not much, but some. His parents were dead, it was just him, him and the woman he lived with. Girlfriend. Janice? Jenny? Jessie? Something with a J. The technician reappeared and thrust some papers and a pen at him. He took it and signed. After signing he realised he signed a new name. Huh, he was left handed now. He looked at the signature, it looked nothing like his old one. “Thank you, you are free to leave when you feel ready.” She handed him a card. “Any problems or concerns just go ahead and ring that number.” He nodded and pocketed the card. There was a jacket hanging on the back of the chair, apparently it was now his. He slipped it on then stood, he wanted to get to a mirror, to look at himself properly. He’d wait until he got home though. That would be best.

As he walked he felt his stomach growling, god damn he was hungry. He stopped into a shop and bought a sandwich. As he started eating, little alarm bells started sounding in the back of his mind. That wasn’t good for him. It wasn’t healthy. He’d get fat. He pushed the voice away. Once sandwich now wouldn’t make a difference.

The apartment was a penthouse, the doorman greeted him with a smile and let him through. It all seemed so surreal. The place was larger than the house he had grown up in. He was still peckish so he went into the kitchen. There was no pre-prepared food, he would have to cook something. He never really liked to cook. His hands seemed to move of their own accord, grabbing out food. Soon he was cooking, really cooking. He knew exactly what to do without even having to think about it, it wasn’t long before the food was plated and in front of him. Steak, rare, with steamed asparagus. He ate it all quickly, enjoying the taste. He put the dishes into the dishwater and felt a strange, uneasiness. There was the nausea. He ran to the bathroom and dropped to his knees in front of the toilet, everything he had eaten came back up. When he was done, he flushed and went to the sink. He rinsed out his mouth and looked at himself in the mirror. He smiled, looking at the white teeth. He took off his t-shirt and flexed, looking at the muscles. It was insane, he had changed so much so quickly. “Vain much?” A woman walked into the bathroom, he blushed slightly, she wrapped her arms around his body. Jessica. “Hey Jess.” She moved around in front of him and kissed him gently. “Don’t forget we’ve to hit the gym in about an hour.” Fuck. “I might give it a miss tonight. I’m not feeling great.” She frowned, then looked at him. “You can’t afford to miss it. I didn’t want to say anything but you’re looking a bit chubby.” He glanced at the mirror. “I think I look ok.” “You’re opinion doesn’t matter. I’m the one who’s going to have to look at you, I don’t want to feel like throwing up every time I do.” She kissed him again. “So, Gym. Tonight.” He nodded. God what a bitch, he’d have to dump her. She went into the kitchen, he trailed after. “So what did you eat so far today?” “I skipped breakfast. There was a chocolate bar in there somewhere, some OJ, a sandwich.” He didn’t include the steak, after all that was currently flying through the sewage pipes. “Jesus. That’s a lot of food. You’re gonna have to put in extra effort.” He felt his cheeks bloom with heat. She was right, he was nothing but a fatty. He paused. That wasn’t him. He didn’t think like  that. That was ridiculous, he wasn’t fat at all. No. She was right. He was getting chubby. He shook his head slightly. It was starting to hurt, a steady throb that was growing larger. “I might lie down for a bit before we go to the gym.” “You feeling ok?” “Yeah, have a headache.” “Oh, poor baby. Drink some water. It’s probably all the food you ate.” He nodded and left for the bedroom. It was cool and dark there. He sighed in relief as he lay down. His head was really starting to hurt. He’d have to give those people a ring, make sure there was nothing wrong. The was out there somewhere, where it was bright. He’d do it in a bit. He closed his eyes, trying to orientate himself in Georges life. Jessica seemed to be a right bitch, he’d have to do something about it. He was going to have sex with her, after all he hadn’t been with a woman in a long time. No. That was a lie. He was with Jessica last Saturday. That wasn’t him. He put his hands to his head. That wasn’t him. He was here now. There was no one else, just him. He was himself. He was. God why didn’t he purge after the sandwich? That was so stupid of him. That’s why he felt so shitty. He was so tired, so very tired all the time now. What had he been thinking, he couldn’t dump Jessica, she was all he had. His friends didn’t even like him, they only called him when they wanted something. The money was running out too, soon there’d be no one left. He’d be alone.

The headache suddenly stopped. George opened his eyes, what had gotten into him? He had eaten so much crap today. That was why he was feeling off. He got out of bed and went into the kitchen, Jessica was off somewhere else, probably picking out her clothes for the gym. He considered going to the wardrobe and checking if she was in there, but first he’d have some water. He was feeling better now at least. He was looking forward to the gym, he’d be able to work off some of what he ate. He was feeling fairly shitty lately anyway, maybe he was doing too much. He’d sleep late tomorrow. No, that wouldn’t work, Jess was staying the night, she’d be up at the crack of dawn and force him up too for their morning run. He drank some water, then he put the empty glass down on the counter and went to find her.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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