That’s the first thought I had when I woke up. Well, on second thought, no pun intended, my first thought
was “Is this what it was like to be born?”
To be even more precise, it was the fifth time I had asked myself that question. The fifth time that I
switched bodies. It was a real bitch.
Dizzyness, a feeling of… how do I explain? Like none of my nerves are lining up right. Um… It feels
like you sense your toes in your ankles, and your knees in your shins, and your hips in your thighs, and your
stomach in your pelvis, and your heartbeat in your neck, and your shoulders and arms are nearly criss crossed and
your head is pretty much the same except you are really dizzy.
I guess that’s what it feels like to switch bodies.
And as I said, this was my fifth time. I stopped screaming for hours on end after the third time. I stopped
crying on the fourth. Now I had resigned myself to bodyswitching as mere clockwork. Every year, within a month of
the last time, I just woke up in another body.
Someone was yelling at me. That wasn’t new either. I was in a room with a flourescent light above me. I was
lying on the cold cement floor. The acoustics were great, since all of the walls were concrete, and the man yelling
at me could be heard from every angle.
“Are you going to cuff up?” He asked. I didn’t respond right away. It’s difficult when your teeth are so
unfamiliar. Although, these teeth weren’t bad.
“Jesus, why does he always pull this shit? Let’s just leave him, say he refused treatment.” I heard another
“Reginald. Are you going to cuff up?”
That name was familiar.
“Can we clear the condition at least? We’re holding everything up.” That second person was speaking again.
“Go ahead.” Said the first.
I heard a solid beep and then some muttering through a radio. The first person spoke again.
“Reginald, we need to get you up to the infirmary. Come to the door and cuff up.”
Infirmary? I thought to myself. Why?
I rolled my head around a bit, managed to look down my arms. Dark skin, lots of scars. My wrists… or
someone’s wrists, were bleeding. I felt adrenaline suddenly and sat up. I looked at both wrists. They were
bleeding. I found a cheap Bic razor nearby; the blade was shoddily bent out. The cuts on the wrists were more like
“Reginald?” The man outside spoke again. He seemed tired and exasperated.
I stood up, shakily, but things felt familiar. It wasn’t as difficult to adjust to this body as the others
had been. Stumbling to the door, I looked out the window.
I was in a prison cell. Outside stood two officers.
“Are you ready?” The older man on my right asked. I nodded.
They gave me instructions on how to be cuffed when I didn’t respond quickly. I imagine cuffing is common in
prison. Maybe the person I became was used to it.
The door slid to the side and I stumbled out. The officers caught me and escorted me down a flight of
stairs. At the time, the sights were a lot to take in. I remember lying down on a gurney. A woman in flowery scrubs
checked my bloodpressure for some reason, then looked at my cuts. There was some talk about suicide watch and
crisis protocol. Two different officers wheeled me out of the cell house and the nurse followed.
“Reginald, why’d you go and spoil my night for?” One officer asked casually, a woman.
“I’m sorry.” I mumbled.
“Don’t you know that the real way to cut yourself is down the highway? Crossing the street with that razor
is just a cry for attention.”
“Really?” I managed an internal chuckle. “I don’t even know my name some days. Trying to remember that
would be a pain.”
The rest of the ride was silent. I was placed inside another cell, though this one had one wall that was
mostly glass. I couldn’t hear too well from inside once the door was shut, though I could see quite a bit. An
officer in a slightly different uniform came in with a lunchbox and sat down at a table about ten feet from my
He was young. In fact, he was so young looking that I wondered if it was legal for him to work here. He had
thick glasses and a shaggy mess of dark hair. Near the table he had a television set, and every few minutes he
would write something down in front of him. He avoided eye contact.
For a little while, I explored the cell. All I was given was a laminated mattress and a roll of toilet
paper. I was in a pair of white boxer shorts, and the nurse had placed a clear bandage over my wrists after she
disinfected them. I had a toilet and a sink with a drinking fountain. I avoided looking directly into the mirror
for a while.
Outside the glass, I could see a small camera up near the ceiling looking down at me. I managed to wave
slightly. Already I wondered how someone could survive in here, alone, bored, nothing to read or watch, no real
human contact… I couldn’t have been pacing in here for more than an hour and I was already wondering how much
longer I could last.
I motioned for the officer to come over. He ignored me at first. I knocked on the window and I could see
him take a deep breath before standing up.
Through the glass, his voice was muffled. I could see his lips and facial expressions, so I knew he said,
“what’s up?” though I couldn’t tell you that without seeing him.
“What time is it, sir?”
“Uh,” he checked his wristwatch, “2 AM.”
I nodded. Night guard.
“This may sound dumb, but what’s the date?”
The guard gave a short, single burst laugh. “Heh. It’s July tenth. two thousand ten.”
That’s exactly five years after my first body switch. My first “Jump” as I started to call it.
“Um…” I hesitated. “What’s my name?”
The guard looked hesitant, maybe a little confused. Did he think I was joking? Trying to trick him? Maybe.
Not a normal question to hear I bet.
“Heh. You don’t know?”
“It’s been a rough night, I guess.”
“William Reginald.” He said, after a moments thought.
I paused. William Reginald was my name. My REAL name. My first name.
“You’re sure?” I asked, feeling some kind of excitement, or fear… or anxiety.
“Positive. You’re one of a kind.”
I looked down at my hands. My skin. Maybe a bit lighter than I remembered it. Scars along my wrists that I
DON’T remember. Overgrown fingernails, facial hair that I never liked… All of my teeth, including that one that
grew in a little funny… My heart began to race. I began to sweat. The officer looked at me funny, not sure what
was going on in my head. I ran to the sink, took a deep breath and looked in the mirror.
It was me. William Reginald.
I was five years older, looked like shit, had more hair than I ever liked to let grow out… But I was back
in MY body. The one I was born in…
And I was in prison.
What I felt right then as I realized that I was back cannot be adequately described in a phrase or word.
There was some relief and excitement at being back inside myself. I felt whole, like my soul had rejoined the body
it was meant to be in. But there was fear inside as well. I had no idea if I’d still be in this body a year from now. A bit less than that was the fear of being in prison. Obviously.
At some point I was issued a citation for stealing the razor. I refused to sign, which they didn’t seem surprised by. How could I even be certain they’d recognize my writing? It didn’t seem to matter, paperwork and technicalities. I was in a white concrete cell with a single window. The graffiti on the wall consisted of gang signs, the typical “fuck the man” rhetoric, and a three foot mural of a woman splayed open at the legs. It was remarkably well drawn, considering it was scratched with a fingernail out of the paint.
I didn’t sleep all night. The majority of my time was spent in awe of my body. No wonder I failed to recognize it right away, considering how many “improvements” the last few users made. Forgive my detachment. I could barely justify claiming some kind of ownership on this bag of flesh. I hadn’t inhabited it in five years, who’s to say it was mine at all?
Each of my arms were covered in scars. I didn’t put them there. Consciously. They weren’t treated well or stitched. The skin knotted and grew together messily. It looked like as soon as one healed, someone cut across the same scars and let it rescar. I passingly marvelled at how skin developed to work this way.
The officer wasn’t talkative. After he went back to the table he sat and nodded off occasionally until breakfast time. He and another officer came to my door and opened up a slot to hand me a paper bag with some food in it. There was a dry sandwich with some kind of red meat on it. Possibly ham. I couldn’t tell. Cauliflower and an apple and two milks later I was completely unsatisfied, but there was no desire to eat anyway.
Shift change was coming up and I was still awake. The officer outside packed his lunch up and left after his relief came in. The relief was an older woman, very chatty with everyone that came by during the day, but was most unpleasant and cold toward me.
A psychologist or some kind of mental health person came to see me before noon.
“Reginald, good morning. How are you?” He asked.
“Hard to say. Who are you?” I looked him over. He was overweight, graying at the temples, wearing bifocals and holding a folder that he was making notes in. My question caused him to raise an eyebrow.
“Randall. I’m the segregation mental health doctor.”
“I have to review your state of mind. Just like last time. And the last.”
“Review away, sir.”
“Right.” He echoed my sentiments.
“Do you want to harm yourself?” He asked.
“Nope. Not myself.”
“Do you want to harm other people.”
“Possibly, but no one nearby.”
“Mmmm…” He took notes.
“Where am I?” I asked him.
“No, I mean… less specifically.”
“You’re in prison.”
“What are you playing at?”
“I want to know where I am.” Mr. Randall paused and looked me in the eyes.
“You’re in the Kansas State correctional facility. Faithill, Kansas. USA. North America. Earth–”
“I get the idea, thanks.”
“Are you feeling confused?” He asked, narrowing his eyes and looking down his nose at me.
“Not particularly. Not too pleased with where I am. Don’t like these scars. Don’t like changing.”
“Mmmm… But you don’t feel like hurting yourself?”
“Fine, fine. We’ll have you out of here and back to your cell in a few hours.” And with that, he was off, shaking his head as he walked out of view.
Less than an hour after russel left, two men in black uniforms came to my door. They didn’t speak much, professionally worded, and routinely enforced.
More cuffs were attached, one of which rubbed right on one of my slices. I didn’t bother to protest.
One officer held me firmly against the wall while the other fastened leg irons to my ankles. together, they escorted me out of the cell and out of the infirmary.
The day was bright and warm, despite lacking most of my clothing, I didn’t feel cold. The yard outside of the infirmary and clinic building was deserted. I caught a glimpse of a security camera just before I entered a larger structure. Inside was a double basketball court that I found out later was also used for meals. The tables were folded and leaned up against the walls on either side. There were only a handful of people in the gym, most of them dressed nicely, but not in any kind of uniform.
When we passed through the gym we came out into another yard, though this one was more heavily fenced in. Razor-wire sparkled in the sunlight, casting rays upon the ground and brick alls of the four cell houses in my view. The two black0suited officers escoreted me to the sescond one on the right.
The front door clicked open. When we were inside, the door echoed shut behind me. It was cool and dry inside, and the cheap tile floors were cold on my bare feet. A moment after the door shut, another door slid open very slowly ahead of me. The two officers nudged me forward into the cave of the prison cell house.
My first thought was “Loud” but that was quickly replaced with “bland.” Everything was gray and white. White walls, gray doors, off-white floors, gray hand-rails, off-white officer’s desk… Gray light filtered through the sky window, and florescent lights cast a sterile atmosphere over everything.
Inmates banged on their doors, screamed out through their windows, and at least two guys attempted to play chess by yelling out their moves to eachother from their cells. I was casually walked up the stairs and into the cell nearest the entrance, if that makes sense.
There was an officer in the room above the entrance. He had buttons and lights that I could see before I was locked up. From inside my cell, there was a window leading into that control center, though curtains hung on the opposite side, preventing my visual access.
My leg irons were removed, and then one of the officers punched me in the kidneys. I slid down the wall, unable to catch myself because of my cuffs (which were chained around my stomach). My chin took most of the slide, rubbing a good deal of skin off. I gasped for breath, and barely had a chance to ask what that was for. The officer ignored me and walked out the door. It slid shut and the slot opened up.
“Are you keeping those cuffs or can I take them back?” One of them asked.
I struggled to my feet, doing my best to ignore the shooting pains in my back.
“Holy shit he’s giving them up…” The officer laughed and nudged his fellow officer.
I stuck my hands out the slot, they called it the foodpass, or beanhole most of the time, and they uncuffed me. Before he closed the pass, I put my hands out on the lip of the slot.
“Sir, that was uncalled for.” I had to look up at him from the waist-high slot, though I could easily see his brow furrow in resentment.
“So was stabbing Harris, you cocksucker.” He kicked the slot closed and I barely got my hands in before they were severed clean off. I dont’ think that would have actually happened, but he kicked it hard enough to probably break some fingers.
I sat back. This cell was the same size as the one in the infirmary, but shaped differently, and instead of one big window wall, I had one body sized window and the rest was concrete. I had a mattress, but no blanket. There wasn’t any toilet paper either, and one section of the floor looked like it had feces smeared across the surface.
So I stabbed someone I guess. These hands used a weapon against a person. Without my permission…
The rest of the day crept along slowly. I think I managed to fall asleep for a few minutes here and there, but I was cold and hungry. I was served lunch, if you could call it that. It was the exact same meal I received for breakfast. I asked the officer outside for toilet paper and they delivered it about an hour later. No one was friendly to me, though I began to come to expect it. The only person that was friendly to me was that first officer in the infirmary… though I couldn’t remember his name for the life of me. I guess that lady that helped escort me to the infirmary was somewhat friendly, but in a sarcastic way.
My chin hurt. It didn’t really bleed, but it stung. I washed it a few times, keeping it moist. I urinated blood and wondered if that could kill me if it went on too long.
I found out I was on Suicide Prevention Protocol level 1, which meant I was restricted from a lot of normal items. If I behaved for another day, I could get my few possessions back. Apparently I was supposed to get a blanket, but I imagine it slipped someone’s mind. Yeah, right.
I finally slept after dinner, which was the same meal as the two before. It wasn’t restful. I had nightmares of my previous lives. Waking up in eastern Africa… wondering if I travelled back in time, or was hallucinating. Then out of nowhere, I wake up in a different body in India. I lived in slums, searching for information. Trying to contact my old self…
Then the attacks, the fights, the travelling, the praying, then falling in love.
Then losing it all.
A few days later I apparently came off Suicide Watch, but there were no empty regular cells to transfer me to, so I was kept in the observation cell without a window looking outside.
To my surprise, the officer from my first night was in the control room one morning. He checked on me once to ask if I wanted my light off and then asked about my cuts.
“How are you holding up?” He asked.
“Well, I’m still in prison, but I have a blanket now.” I smiled and pointed to my little bed on the floor. He laughed and shut the curtains.
I was feeling better and worse, simultaneously, while having time to think in my cell. For one thing, I didn’t have to worry about starving, since I was no longer in the Tribe. Wouldn’t get attacked by lions either. Being in segregation/isolation kept me from violent inmates. I figured I was friendly enough to avoid officer wrath, as long as I apparently stopped stabbing people…
I knocked on my observation window. The officer inside pulled the curtains away after a few moments.
“Sorry to bother you,” I began, “but what’s your name?” He pointed to his badge, but the window was foggy and the light was dim. I leaned over and squinted.
“Thanks. Sorry, I can’t read through this glass.”
“Yeah, it’s hard to clean with the metal… criss cross… escape prevention dealy.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Heh, do you need anything else?” Daniels asked.
“Well, if you have a spare moment, I have some questions that you can hopefully answer.”
He hesitated and thought for a moment.
“Maybe in a couple hours, when things slow down. Will you be up?”
“Yeah, I’ll stay awake. Thanks.”
When it came to feeling worse, I couldn’t help but feel a little worried about where my life was headed now. Assuming I stayed in this body from now on, I couldn’t be sure I’d ever get out of prison. I didn’t even know what I was charged with.
So, not going to starve, not going to be eaten, but probably going to be stuck in this box for the rest of my life. No family, no friends…
After about two hours, best I can tell, Officer Daniels came to the window.
“Everything going alright?” he asked.
“Not getting worse, at least. You free for a minute?”
“Just a minute. What do you need?”
“Well, I have more weird questions for you, like the other night in the infirmary.”
“Weird generally comes with the job.”
“I guess that’s understandable. Lot of crazy people in here.” Daniels laughed at me.
“Heh, sorry, sorry.”
“Why? What’s funny?” I was a little confused.
“No, nevermind. I shouldn’t have laughed.”
“Seriously, tell me. I could use a laugh.”
“Ah… heh, well…” He scratched his head nervously. “You’ve had some uh… crazy moments yourself.”
I looked down at my arms. Crazy, yeah.
“Is this the extent of it?” I asked, pointing at the scars. “Or is there more? More crazy, I mean.”
“Uh… Do you not remember?” He kept glancing behind him at a monitor on the desk.
“You’d never believe me if I told you, but think of me as if I just woke up a few days ago and have no idea who I am or where I am. Can you treat me like that for awhile? Like a brand new inmate fresh off the bus?”
“Most of the brand new inmates don’t threaten to kill your mom in her sleep. Just sayin.” He laughed again, with less enthusiasm.
“I threatened to kill your mom?”
“Yeah. It was kinda cute actually. You were sleepy and I woke you up for breakfast, and you mumbled about murdering her and then asked me for an extra milk.”
Even I couldn’t help but stifle a laugh.
“Seriously? Damn… Why aren’t I more popular with charisma like that?”
“Well, you know–”
“Pretend I don’t.” I hated interrupting people, but I was getting somewhere with this guy, and he seemed nice enough. He paused and looked serious.
“You stabbed an officer.”
“I heard. The Black Suit guys weren’t very nice about it.” I showed him my chin.
“Yikes, you should file a grievance.”
“Would anyone believe me? A guy who cuts himself every couple of weeks?”
Daniels mumbled something, but I didn’t pursue it. It was quiet for a moment, but I didn’t want the conversation to die.
“So, what’s my uh… status, I guess. How much trouble am I in?”
“You are on CBB status.”
“See Bee Bee?”
“Consistent Bad Behavior.”
“Wow.” I rubbed my forehead and felt tired. “For how long? Does that go away?”
“Let me check.” He trotted off and came back a few seconds later. “Says here that you will be CBB for… um… until 2015.”
My eyebrows shot up like rockets.
“On CBB status, but only if you have a perfectly clean record from now on.”
“Then I can get out of here and be with other inmates and get a job or whatever?”
“Uh, no. You can buy ramen noodles and a tv, but you’ll be in this cell house for the rest of your time since you are special management.”
“What’s special management?”
“Depends on the situation, but it usually means that a person’s crime is beyond the scope of regular offenses and they have to be kept under strict supervision.”
“But I didn’t do anything…” I was beginning to feel frustrated, maybe a little hopeless. Daniels probably didn’t know how to respond to my claim. How do you? If your job is to watch and monitor inmates, how can you sympathize with those that claim to be in there for no reason?
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I must have been convicted with something.”
He just nodded, looking a little somber.
“What was it?”
“What was what?”
“My charge. What did I do to get stuck in here?”
“Reginald, this is probably the most bizarre night I’ve ever worked in here.”
“Just tell me, please.” I looked him in the eyes. I had to know.
“Ah… the record says first degree murder. Nothing more.” He looked away.
“But you know the whole story don’t you?”
“It was in the papers and on the news. Almost everyone knows.”
“I don’t have to pretend,” he spoke up, “I can see in your face that this is all news to you.”
“I’m crazy though, right? Maybe tomorrow I won’t make sense anymore and I’ll be biting my ankle off.”
“Maybe. Probably. I dunno.” I looked him in the eyes again.
“What happened? What did I do?”
“Uh… Allegedly, you raped and dissected your grandmother.”
My first jump was pure trauma. I spent seeeral weeks in bed, firghtened, wishing I was dreaming, hnoping I was just having a bad acid trip that some idiot slipped into my food or something but such was not the case.
One day I’m living my normal life, living at home in the grand american midwest, the next I’m an aboriginese east african. For several months I didn’t even know if I was in the present day. I could have been bundreedds of years in the past, and at least then I could just have convinced myself that i time travelled and my skin got darker… and lost a few teeth,,… and became uncircumscised,l.. and grew a few inches… I think you get the point.
Over timne and with a few experiences, namely seeing a plance flying above ands eeing my reflection in a small pond, I assumed that I didn’t time travel, but was somehow seeing things from somene elses eyes. Sensing things through someone elses senses. My new eyes were better at night, my tongue was more sensitive to sugar than mny old one. I coul dhear better in general and my hands were always dry and cracked an caloussed.
I had no memories of this person though. Worst of all, I couldn’t speak a word of the language. A day or two after the jump, I was an emotikonal and mental wreck, naturally, and didnt’ want o move from my bed/hay mat. Everyone seemed frightened by the English words that They didn’t recognize, and I was frighgtened by what sounded like gibberish to me. Then they busted ou t their shmana to dance the illness out of me, which didn’t work. It was a huge disappointment. I wanted to go home.
I think that they gave up on me after a week. I was left alone, they stopped bringing me as much food, and I don’t really blame them. I wasn’t out helping them bring it in, so it wasn’t fair to be eating it. I saw two young men laughing and making sounds forign to their language. I assumed they were making fun of me, probably thinking that I was faking for some rason.
It was always hot, even after sundown. It didn’t bother me as much as I assumed it would, which I think I owe to the previous owner who likely grew up in that weather.
Although i can attribute a lot of things to the body i was in, it couldn’t do everything I wanted. I had more muscle thatn my old body ever had, but I couldn’t throw a spear very well. Therew as some mental connection missing, like the knowledge of the proper form. I think I got btter over time, taking down a few gazelles witin a year, but I was never as good as some of the other tribesmen. If I could have learned their language in time, I would have asked how well I sed to throw.
Survival was what I learned best in that time. It’s not often you find yourslef in a situation where you have to watch other people in order to learn what’s safe to eat. I never did much camping or hiking in my life, so I had no training tin how to live off the land. Trial and error sucks in that genre of knowledge.
When they stopped feeding me altogether, which followed a period when i had to ask for food by pointing at mymouth and stomach until someone gave me a clay bowl of bugs, I was forced to go out and get my own food. Three days of that was enough. I couldn’t live off berries and grass. Gave me a bad case of diarrhea and cramps.
On the fourth day, after I started feeling better from my unfortuante case of the shits, I took hold of a spear aI found lying against a hut and joined the ranks of the hunting party. First, they laughed at me, then a really tall dude smacked me upside the head and took his spea rback. I assume it was his spear because he took it and used it from then on, but not for any other reason. I called him Frank because I was bullied by a frank in high school.
Someone else int he group handed me a shorter spear with ab roken tip, and they chuckled as we all set out for the hunt, just befor edusk. It was a rather uneventful excursion, and we caught nothing. Luckily it wasn’t my fault or I imagine they would have shunned me even more. Nope, that night we just didn’t see anything wroth tracking.
The second night was better. Frank killed us a small gazelle thing. There wasn’t really enough mreat for the whole village (about fifty people, I guess) but it helped us get by for a couple days. I was amazed at how much stuff you could get from an animal. The sinew was cut and laid out to dry. The hide was hung up and tanned (great for keeping the rain out of the hut). The bone marrow was eaten. The meat was dried and eaten. The skull was bleahed and hung up on Frank’s front door.
I wasn’t going home any time soon, I figured, so I mnight as well earn myself a skull. It became a goal of mine, to some extent. I began practicing my throw, began working out (a concept completely lost to my fellow villagers, though i can tell you that not one of them was overweight.), practiced lc iming trees… I was all alone, so I had to occupy yself. I fI continued to participate in the hunt, I was fed. If I did my best, even if I failed to retrieve food for everyone, oI felt that I deserved to eat.
My first real contributi on to the people was turning point for me. It started with our huntin gtrip maybe three months after I got there. I twas a cooler day than usual, and the winds were in oru favor. Carrying ourscent away from our pre. I was feeling lucky, like, spirngy and light on my feet. This was going to be my day to shine.
We spotted a small herd over a rise, and the person on point whistled to let us know. The six of us that went out that day spread so we could converge on the herd and spear them from several directions. We practiced this on every hunt and used rudimentary hand signals to communicate. It wasn’t like being Special Ops, but it got the job done most of the time.
Carefully and quietly, we stalked through the grass, the wind blowing our footsteps into nothingness. The gazelle herd was drinking from a mud puddle that formed during a rainflutorm a few nights before. I could see at least ten of the beatss, completely unaware of our prescence.
I took a slow deep breath and picked my target, a good sized female just a few yards away. With a glance at my fellow hunters, to tell them I was ready, I got the nod to go. I sprung up and flung my spear through the wind with all my might and watched it sail through the air, darting toward its target.
The first shower I got after learning of my crime was… emotional. Just thinking about what this body did to my grandmother made me nauseous. I always had a strong stomach, but the abhorrent act kept jumping into my imagination. My genitals were red and bruised from scrubbing them so thoroughly. I know how bad that sounds, but I was so dusgusted with… myself? that I didn’t enjoy a moment of it. How can you feel shame for something you didn’t do, though?
My frustration and guilt stayed inside for the most part. One thing I learned by jumping through bodies was a great deal of self control It took a lot of training and meditation, but I certainly had a better grasp of restraint than any of the inmates I was housed with.
Daniels and I met periodically. He was randomly assigned a job every night, but was rarely in the same placetwice. Whenever he was in my cell house, we’d have a conversation. It couldn’t be too extensive, or itwould seem suspicious, and I didn’t want to get him in trouble. He was a good officer and one of the few that didn’t automatically hate me for what “I” did. He didn’t hate anyone as far as I know.
He told me that I was on yard restriction for thirty days. This meant that I couldn’t go outside to exercise for awhile, although, by the time I found this out, I only had a few days left.
Glib remarks ensued from officers and the occasional cell mate. “Gonna have yard for more than a week this time?”
“How many of us are you gonna piss on when we get out there?”
I was spit on by another inmate my second time outside. He didn’t give me a reason. Just hawked a big loogie in my face through the fence that separeated us. To my surprise, the officer on duty at the time terminated his yard privileges and cited him for battery. The result of that disciplinary report had his yard time revoked for thirty days.
Life became rather redundant for me. The days began blending together, the only thing that changed were the officers on shift. Sometimes I’d see a face I didn’t recognize and it’d be the only thing to remind me that time was passing by. Like clockwork, we’d have breakfast, yard, lunch, showers, and dinner. A nurse came by every night and asked if I wanted my medication. They had me loaded up on antidepressants and antipsychotics. And I mean loaded. I felt fine though, so I turned them down.
A mental health employee came and saw me after a few weeks of this pattern.
“Reginald, how are we today?” she asked. Her voice was sweet, and I wondered if she spoke this way to everyone and meant it or not.
“Still in prison. How are you?”
“I’m fine. Hey, I see you haven’t been taking your medication for awhile now. Care to tell me about it?”
I paused, thinking of the best way to explain it.
“I… Don’t need them anymore.”
“Is that so? These medications aren’t meant to change you or anything, you know? There’s nothing wrong with them.”
“I know, I’m not saying they don’t help some people, I’m just saying that I won’t benefit from them now. Maybe they helped before, but I’ve… changed.”
“Changed? How so?”
“Heh, I’m not crazy anymore.” I don’t think she saw what was funny about that statement.
“No one is saying you are crazy.”
“Ma’am, you don’t have to lie to me. I’m not going to throw a fit if you tell me I was crazy and acted out. I see the scars up and down my arms. I know I attacked officers and apparently did some really nasty things to people, but I’m not the same person today that I was then.”
She remained silent for a moment.
“You speak differently than you used to,” she finally said.
“You’re telling me.” I laughed. “The last few years have been rough, but I’m ready to move on.”
“That’s really good to hear. Do you have any specific goals? Short term goals or long term goals?”
I thought about it. Every day I thought about goals and what I wanted to do.
“I have a few. Yes.”
“Tell me about them. I’d love to hear about it.”
“Well, first off, I want to be trusted again. That’s a long term goal that started a few days ago. I’m going to work on it every day, to be trustworthy. I’m trying to be more friendly and understanding, and those are short term goals I have that will help with my long term goals.”
“Good good. Those are a good start. How will you keep track of your progress though?”
“I figure if I’m currently being spit on and insulted an average of thirty times a day, and I reduce that to maybe ten or fifteen times a day, then I know I’m making progress.” This made her laugh.
“Alright! That sounds great. Anything else that you are working on?”
“I think I’m going to train my body and mind together, as a way to be more peaceful.”
That wasn’t quite the truth. It was close. I learned a little bit about peace and the mind/body singularity philosophy, and part of me wanted to believe that the mind was an expression of the body, and that the body was an expression of the mind. But when your mind has been in several bodies, you start to wonder if the body has anything to do with the mind whatsoever. Clearly I didn’t teleport my neurons with me to the other bodies. My mind worked differently in them, I think because the wiring was different.
So, for lack of a better word, I think my soul transported bodies. But then I wonder how much of my memories and bits of knowledge are actually contained in the brain, and how much is contained in the soul. In all of my bodies, I knew English just fine. I could tell a person about who I used to be, what I used to look like, and all with a different brain!
But if this is true for everyone, that the soul has written upon it all the knowledge, then why can’t a person with brain damage speak a language, or move, or act one way or the other. Is the brain simply a communication device between the body and soul?
But I digress…
I did plan to meditate and exercise more often, employing some of the things I learned in India and China, but I wasn’t doing it solely to be more at peace.
I was doing it to escape.
I had no idea how, or why I even thought I could, but that was the plan. I didn’t deserve to live in this prison. I had killed people, but not the person they thought I did, and not for any undeserved, malicious reason. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t malevolent. Hell, I’m none of those things to this day.
The Disciplinary commitee was unwilling to have any communication with me. I petitioned them for an early release from Consistent Bad Behavior status, and I can easily picture them laughing at my written plea. The response was nothing to get excited about. “Reginald, you may only complete your CBB time by remaining DR free for the next five years.” No Disciplinary reports of any kind allowed for 5 years… I wasn’t sure how that would work out.
I couldn’t do everything I wanted, but I could get a few things to help me along the way. I changed my religious status to Hindu and requested a prayer rug from the prison chaplain. I requested some library materials (all of which had to be photocopied because I was restricted from holding actual library books.) and began to study up on my yoga and meditation. Unfortunately, I felt that my time spent in India actually taught me more about yoga than any of the books I could find on the subject.
In the tribe, I became something like the town doctor, engineer, and mr. fix-it. I felt empowered in a way that I never had before, even before I jumped bodies. Living in such a technologically underdeveloped area became an epic adventure. Having 21st centure knowledge made me a superstar, and I wasn’t anything special back home.
I showed the villagers how to grow crops. There was a shallow river nearby that supplied all of the water us, but I had a small section of it diverted through a rut with seeds planted on the banks. The tribesmen were living partially nomadically. As long as the game stayed nearby, they would stay and hunt, but if they ever moved on or were killed off in the area, the people would move on. Farming would give them stability, I figured.
Decent living structures would help solidify their stability as well. As it stood, they made basic stick houses and covered the tops with gazelle furs to keep the rain out. Some of the less sturdy huts would fall down if you merely leaned against them. The strongest hut could be knocked over with a strong kick. I don’t know how many times I saw people argue and fight where the conflict came to a head with the two or three people smashing down each other’s houses.
Sucked to be inside when one came down on you too. I don’t know who did it, but I suspected it was Frank, after he had to come to terms with his broken arm. From what I could gather, being injured was a death sentence. If you couldn’t work, you weren’t worth keeping alive. Everyone had to fend for themselves and those that they chose to care for, so they couldn’t look after someone who was foolish enough to be disabled. In Frank’s case, no one chose to help him. Maybe he was mean to more people than me and they felt that he shouldn’t be cared for, but I knew how valuable he was to the hunting party. If his arm healed, he could keep bringing in the food.
I shared my food with him every day. Maybe if everyone saw that a broken arm wasn’t a permanent disability, they’d take notice of how I fixed it. He was proud, that’s for sure. But if I set a dish of food outside his hut in the evening, it would be clear by morning.
Speaking of mornings, egg hunts were the usual morning activity. There were wild birds in the area that laid eggs sometimes, but rarely in the same place twice. If they found some, they would eat them raw, right on the spot. That was breakfast most of the time. My second major agricultural contribution to the tribe was the invention of the chicken coop.
Our village was just inside a dense forest that grew out of a savannah. Thin wooded plants were abundant wherever we looked, which contributed to the current housing trends, but it was very convenient for making small and uncomplicated tools. I stripped the bark from a few saplings and wove it together into a screen, which I tied onto some branches. An old torn up deerskin served as a makeshift roof, and the door simply tied onto the supports. I probably took a week to make the whole thing. I realized it would be much too small for more than one chicken on the first day of work and had to disassemble a good portion in order to start building for a bigger end goal.
My big problem at this point was trying to convince people to help me catch a chicken. I made an unsuccessful attempt to mimic a chicken running around and laying an egg, which made them laugh harder than anything I have ever seen. Since comedy was not my intent, I had to set out to catch one myself.
It took me a week. One. Solid. Week.
Imagine this, if you will. Picture this chicken-like animal, except it’s wearing some kind of stealth camoflage. It always hides in low shrubs if it hears you coming, which it always does, and it runs twice as fast as a human. I know it wasn’t a real chicken, but it was kinda like it. Didn’t fly that I ever saw, and kept low to the ground. I chased them around by myself for at least a day and a half until I decided to just set up a thousand snares until I caught one that way.
So, when I say it took me a week to catch a chickenthing, I mean it took a week to catch on alive. I caught one on the fourth day, but it choked to death before I got it freed. I had no way of knowing that it was caught so I checked the snares every few hours. I was too late for it, but it made a good lunch, and a lady saw my snare and started making her own, looking to me for approval. I called her Alice, for no particular reason. She seemed like an Alice.
The firs tthn=ing that happened after the home was looked through and searched by a team of detectives, was that I was taken in to foster care. I couldn’t really do anything to resist, as I was just a kid, right? At least, they thought so. Mr. Translator was nice enough to tell me his name, Vihang, and so I had an adult friend, but he still thought I was a kid, albeit a very smart one.
I attempted to repay him with a one hundred dollar bill, but he didn’t want it. He wanted to know where I got it, and I found no reason to lie to him. I told him that it as stolen off the potential rapist man, and he laughed, then traded me some rupees for the money. Enough that I could get by if I had to, which was nice of him. I’m not sure if the conversion was even right, but I didn’t care. I had lived off the savannah in Africa for a year. Things couldn’t be so bad.
Foster care was… I might as well call it church care. I wasn’t taken in my some sweet family to live out the rest of my days as a child in India. I was handed over to a Mosque that took in orphans and kids with broken homes, or those who were given up for adoption and unable to get adopted. I was with many other kids, none of which spoke reasonable English. Hell, no one there really spoke any English. They thought Iw as disturbed and unable to speak properly. Mentally unstable or something.
There wasn’t much to do, and I couldn’t communicate with anyone, but meals came three times a day and I had no responsibilities. I found myself playing games with kids, found myself acting like one sometimes. In a way, I was reminded of my own childhood and how to just let go and have fun, but on the other hand, I felt foolish and childish acting like one. Not to mention that I was really uncomfortable with myself. I didn’t like people touching me, and I hated touching myself. I didn’t do my hair, didn’t shower as often as I should have, and I showered fully clothed for the first month.
Can you imagine being flirted with in my position? I was playing with a ball, trying to dribble it like a basketball (though it was more like a volleyball. The actual basketball was punctured and lied in disrepair in the toy room.) when a boy ran up to me and punched me in the arm. Of course, I didn’t realize he was flirting with me at the time; I just thought he was a bully, so I socked him in the mouth. He kept his distance from me after that, probably no longer thinking I was that great. Maybe he still liked me, but learned the valuable lesson that hitting girls doesn’t adequately show them that you love them.
Even though life was good and comfortable at this point, I couldn’t get past the thoughts about my life and the turns I had taken to get where Iw as. I worried about the kids that I was with, but the police didn’t respond to my inquiries. They brushed me off, like a kid (imagine that!) and said they were “working on it.” I think they were a little put off by the fact that I spoke only English and coulnd’t give them the name of my parents. I had to lie and tell them that I had been kidnapped for so long that I couldn’t remember who they were or where they lived. Since I was a kidnapping victim and the kidnapper was still at large, they couldn’t put my face up on posters to advertise for my supposed parents. The kidnappers could try to take me again if they knew who or where I was. I generally pieced that together from bits of evidence and some general common sense.
No, this life wasn’t for me. I couldn’t be a kid all the time. I started talking to the older people around the church and I would sneak out to explore parts of Mumbai, trying to familiarize myself with the surroundings.
Mumbai is one of the biggest cities on the planet, and the population per square kilometer is astounding. I just happened to have been dropped right in the middle of the slums where an astronomical amount of citizens lived, worked, and played. I was in over my head. However, the church was outside the slums a respectable distance. I could see the slums and if I wanted to, go visit them, but for now, I was contented to scope out the area in my immediate vicinity.
Cars were more frequent and tourists could be seen every once in awhile, walking around and taking pictures. That was when I found a brochure and began my own tourist travels. I vowed to see one sight every week, by sneaking out and finding it, then finding my way back.
My first time out, I planned to go to a museum in the urban part of town. I totally misjudged the distance and ended up coming back long after bed time. When I returned, the authorities were waiting for me. Police were there questioning the nun people (they aren’t really nuns when they’re muslim are they? I never figured it out.) and that’s part of how I found out that the police were concerned about my wherabouts. I think that was the firs ttime I was ever whipped. They weren’t too cool about it, things were strict and Iw as a bit of a VIP, supposedly, so they took me to the back room and got out the belt.
Nerves get older and eventually dull as you age, which I found out that night. The whip was actually a belt, and had I been thirty years old like I used to, I would have laughed at how weak the strikes were, but at my age and sensitivity, it hurt like hell. It wasn’t torture, but I cried. I resisted the tears, but it was like I wasn’t even in control this surge of sadness and fear came up over me and tears flowed. No screams or cries could be heard, but I was definitely crying.
Right then, I decided that this wasnt’ the life for me. I was an adult for heaven’s sake! I didn’t need a curfew, I didn’t need to be watched and waited on and cared for! I could care for myself!
The museum was great, by the way. They spoke English for the tourists, and I walked with an american family with darker skin so I blended in just fine.
I was done with the church, done with the childish treatment, done with being treated like some kind of baby. it sucked. No one understood me just because I was little!
It was a no brainer. I took off with some extra clothes and some food I stole from the kitchen and I just walked right out of there at like, three am. It was liberating and freeing. I was nervous, like I’d get caught, like I was doing something bad, even though I was more than capable of taking care of myself.
But then there was the sleeping outside on the street corner, always looking for food, not being able to talk to anyone. lame lame lame.
A spiritual experience changed everything. Ironically, it never would have happened if I stayed at the church.
I was on my last legs. The church, the foster care, all of that was long behind me, long being a little over a week, once I had begun stealing from vendors so I could eat. I had to make do with what I could because there was no way to survive otherwise. Too young to get a job, too oblivious to the languages around me… being stuck between a rock and an illiterate place was no fun.
As an experiment, I decided to attempt to steal from a man who had just bought groceries. He looked old and frail and if I took a good run at him, I probably could have easily taken him down and out. If he reacted at all, he’d be too late and I would have a feast for dinner.
A crowd was coming through, and I was behind him, stalking him. As soon as he was bumping into the people headed his way, I was going to snatch up that purse and make a mad dash. Good job me, thinking up that plan.
A second passed, a few more steps. The dust seemed to hang just as I got a rush of adrenaline, but I held back. The time wasn’t right just yet. It had to be at the perfect moment or he’d know he was stolen from instead of just bumped into. three more steps. then just one.
I sprinted as fast as I could reaching out with my left had to take hold of the meat and fruit laden bag in his right. But something weird happened. The crowd seemed to part unusually. The man didn’t bump into anyway at all. When I took hold of the bag, he pulled me forward, then grasped my wrist with surprising strength in his left hand, then held me up high enough that I had to stand on my tip toes. I wasn’t hurt, but I was screwed.
He eyed me closely, his ancient face concealing his bright eyes.
“I’ve wondered where you were. Come with me.” He spoke in English.
I was awash with a calm sensation. Looking in his eyes made me feel less worried, so I nodded and followed him.
“I’ll make dinner for the both of us tonight.” He smiled and walked on. No one gave us a glance like we were unusual. Things were just fine, as far as anyone else was concerned.
The man walked through the slums at a calm pace. He did not strain to walk, nor did he have olympian strength. He was just amazingly limber for an old man. I couldn’t determine his age, as he seemed young in many ways that defied his appearance, yet he had a mature air about him.
There was no conversation the whole trip. I felt entranced, hypnotized, yet peaceful and not at all afraid for the punishment I should have received.
We arrived at a small home on the skirt of the slums. It was one of the few houses that was not directly connected to every other house by a single wall, nor did it have a home on top of it or below it. The land was seemingly reserved specifically for him and him alone.
He instructed me to sit on a mat in the middle of the floor. There was only one room, and a wall had been contructed… BUT a wall had been contructed to conceal the bathroom in one corner. A kitchenette area lie opposite the bathroom, where the man prepared a soup from the food he bought earlier. When he was done, he handed me a bowl very solemnly and sat on a mat opposite me.
“Make a wish, child, and think of it while you eat.” He looked at his soup and was very thoughtful. For some reason, I broke my own silence.
“I am no child.” I said, simply.
“Ah, but not one of us is, where it counts. The body may be young, but the soul can be old.”
He looked up and smiled before slowly consuming his food with a quiet intensity. I peered down into my steaming bowl, looked over the vegetables, looked at the beans and meat. It looked delicious, quite honestly, and I dove in.
“Don’t forget your wish. Wish with every sip.” The man repeated.
What should I wish for? I thought. The obvious came to mind with so much emotion, that I couldn’t even consider the alternatives.
I wished to go home.
Chapter 12 or 13 or so
Months had passed at the prison. Daniels wanted to know what was up, but I didn’t have anything for him jesus I can’t htink of anything to write. Prison sucks, yea yeah yeah, but what is interesting about it? We covered crisis watch and seg, but since he’s in seg he can’t really observe the general population and the gangs and alliances. There needs to be something more… something… Really, the cogs need to start rolling on the escape by now so he can track down his grandmother’s killer, but I just can’t seem to think of a transition. How does he convince Daniels to cooperate? How does he make him believe in the cause? What does the “Yogi teach him? What kind of adventure does he have in China? There’s just not enough story anywhere to keep going with this. I’m way better at short stories and atmospheric things, but I know I can do this. I just need to know what happens next. What happens that helps Reginald track down the pimps? what does he do to foil their plans, or does he fail? Does he go in with guns plazing to kick some ass or does he just expose them to the cops? I know the german man, Franz for now, is following after Reginald in the body switching cycle, and he kills lots of people. He slaughters teh tribe, he kills the Yogi, he fucks with the Chinese people, but I’m not sure if he should kill Reg’s love or leave her be. I dunno if Reg should get out of prison and track them all down or just check things out one day at a time via internet… or maybe he gets Daniels to check for him? Hmmm….
I may have lied in the beginning. I wasn’t gone for five years, I was gone for 4. I count the last year of my life as Reginald as one, as the aftrican year 2, as the girl year 3, as the chinese year 4, and as the nazi year 5. After my head cleared and I put my grandmother’s death out of my mind for awhile, I revisited the suspects in her case. Of course it was my body that did the deed, but who’s soul did it?
The Chinese man wouldn’t have. He seemed calm and reflective, based on what I learned.
The girl was scared and rebellious, and abused. She could have reacted in fear of my grandmother, but she wouldn’t have been thorough in the murder. She may have killed her, but she didn’t dissect or what’s the word… de virtueize her? virtunate? rape.
The african was manly. In that culture, sex was not so taboo, so it’s feasible to think that he may have wanted to sex my grandmother, but even in that culture, old woman rape was unheard of.
But the Nazi, he was a dick. His wife was tortured and brutalized. If I had to put my money on anyone, it woudl have been him.
My chances of being right were only twenty five percent though. It was very shortly after my first jump that the crime occurred, and it could have been anyone in my body. If all five of us were just rotating, so that the african became the girl, then the chinaman, then the nazi…
Dammit, I just developed a major plot hole. If they are all rotating, like I imagine them, then the girl was a fully grown african man for a year before she was a fully grown african american man. The Chinese man was a girl for a year, then the african… etc.
But the Nazi, if he lived in the mountains like I wanted him to, then he was an innocent girl for a full year before he was a nice and reflective chinese man. Then he was …. err, got that mixed up. He was a calm and reflective chinese man for a full year before he was a young girl, then he was an african and then he was Reginald. There’s no way all three of them would ignore the nazi shit and the wife… How the hell am I going to write around this one? I quit for the night.