• Twisted Identities

    The air was cold, and the tile was wet under my feet. Shivering, I walked out of the shower with an inexperienced gait. Stumbling, I leaned against the wall of the bathroom. I wasn’t used to these legs. My hands scrambled over the wall for something to grab onto. I wasn’t used to these hands either. Jeez, I wasn’t used to anything on this stupid body…

    As I finally managed to bumble my way to the vanity, I looked into the mirror. My eyes widened as I peered into that unfamiliar stranger that was now my reflection. Everything in my conscious screamed that the reflection in the mirror was wrong, that there was some sort of mistake.

    With a trembling hand I pulled back scarlet red hair to my ear. Gray eyes followed me disconcertingly. My skin was pale. My nose was too straight. My lips were too full. Everything seemed out of order.

    I really had to start getting used to this.

    I flexed my hand experimentally. It responded in kind just as it should. The familiar movement, though, seemed very strange in this small hand. I sighed and wrapped the towel around my waist—then corrected myself and pulled it up to my chest. This was just ridiculous.

    I thought back to when the doctor had first told me about what had happened to me. The memory was fuzzy, but still there. That must’ve been the first day of the… the Transition.

    He’d told me that I had died. That I, Jeremiah Cordence, had suffered a traumatic head injury in a crash that I shouldn’t have survived. Misunderstanding was the first feeling I had, I remembered that much. It soon changed to confusion. I didn’t see how I was supposed to be dead if I was talking to him just then.

    “How am I here, then? How are you talking to me if I died?” I had asked very hesitantly. That was the first moment that it really sunk in. The tenor voice I was so used to had suddenly changed to a fluting soprano. My throat felt strange as I spoke with a stranger’s voice. The doctor had noticed my confusion and told me the good news that may as well have been the bad news…

    “Jeremiah, do you remember that test trial you underwent with your brother?” the doctor asked. I nodded, my head feeling strangely lighter than I was used to it being. My brother, James, and I had taken a course in which our Neurological Chip Implants (NCI) were modified to record information that the brain received, such as where I put my car keys or when I had last talked to my mother. It was part of a project to enhance human memory as well as provide a sort of black box for police should you ever fall victim to a crime, or if you committed one.

    “I…yeah,” I stated shortly. Hearing my new voice was just too weird.

    “We didn’t tell you about another use we had intended for the NCI modification that we had in mind. It was… hypothetical at best. Our plan had been to use the modification as a sort of record-and-personality keeper should the owner become severely injured. And so we could implant the chip into another body. It would allow a person a certain sort of immortality, I guess you could say,” the doctor had explained to me. I nodded, still noticing the strange feeling of my head being much too light.

    The doctor had begun to speak very slowly then.

    “Jeremiah… when you died, your brain was still recording information. Your chip was not damaged, but your body… was beyond any sort of repair. We could not save your body, but we did save your mind. The body you are in is that of a inmate who had been serving a life sentence,” the doctor explained plainly. Frowning, I lifted one of my hands. It was hard to gain control, but at last I managed to take a look at it. After realizing that this hand wasn’t mine, I looked straight at the doctor and fainted.

    After that, I was sent home. I hadn’t had any weird mishaps by then, but did have many questions to ask my doctor. He had assured me that the person who had first inhabited the body, Moira Henger, was completely gone. I didn’t know why, but that made me feel slightly guilty that a person had had to die for my benefit. Sure she had been a murderer, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

    The bedroom carpet was soft under my feet as I headed to my closet. Surveying my closet I realized that I could no longer wear any of the clothes I’d accumulated over the years. I ran my hands over a soft dinner jacket and a pressed shirt. After realizing that I was about to have an emotional breakdown over a pair of pants that were now three sizes too big for me, I decided that mourning over my wardrobe was not exactly productive. Instead I went to look at the small suitcase of clothes my mother had packed for me. I hadn’t opened it. Nor did I want to open it. That suitcase had memories inside of it, memories that I knew would give me worse feelings than looking through my closet of clothes I couldn’t ever wear.

    Finally, I gave up and threw on a large sweater, some underwear, and a pair of pants that had fit me when I was in grade school. I sat on my bed and looked at the pictures of what used to be me and my mother.

    I had been tall, dark-haired, and nerdy. Well, most people called me ‘cute’ but calling a man of twenty-three years of age ‘cute’ doesn’t help his self-esteem. My nose had been crooked where I broke it by slamming into a tree from an out-of-control swing. My hair used to be tussled and slightly wavy. I used to have blue eyes that made me look like my mother, though people said I acted more like my father.

    Another thing I realized: I no longer looked like mother. Why did God invent tear ducts again?

    I flopped down on the bed and flipped the picture face-down. I didn’t want to look at what I no longer had. An eerie quiet filled the room, and I felt as if there were words unspoken hanging there. I got up and went to the kitchen.

    While making breakfast I realized that I had many more complications than I realized. I had gone through a rather unwilling sex change, I was still in college, and I was allegedly a dead man. How was this all going to work?

    As I gathered my stuff for the trip to the university, I looked back into the mirror at the end of the hallway across from my apartment door. It showed a tall woman with strikingly curly scarlet hair, a straight nose, and gray eyes. If you could’ve seen her bosom, she would’ve been amply supplied, and she had rounded hips. She wasn’t overly tall, but she wasn’t exactly a midget either. I did I explain to my professor that I was actually Jeremiah Cordence?

    I reached for the light panel, but as I did, something stayed my hand. As much as I tried I couldn’t get it to move. It refused to go anywhere and I suddenly realized that I was paralyzed. Nothing of this body would move. None of it was functioning. My heart was still beating, and obviously I’m still thinking, but it was like someone had captured me in a freeze-frame.

    A chilling thought suddenly emerged in my head like a dead body rising out of water. My hand slammed into the light panel and I nearly crashed my forehead into the doorjamb. Breathing hard, I looked back into the mirror with frightened eyes. A flash of recognition clicked in my brain – wait,that wasn’t right, it was her brain—and was gone just as quick.

    My hands were shaking as I fumbled with my books and ran for the phone.

    The chilling thought that had revealed itself to me and the recognition that wasn’t mine flashed through my brain again. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.

    Because the thought that I had had wasn’t mine. It was someone else’s completely. The message conveyed was worse than the fact that I hadn’t actually thought the thought.
    I dialed for my psychiatrist and friend, Dr. Nicols.

    The message I had received said, I’m still here.