Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 34

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

My alarm goes off, but it’s different this morning. It’s not coming from my trusted android; it’s coming from an alarmingly bedazzled iPhone X with a Hello Kitty phone cover. Oh no, it’s happened again.

I throw back the quilt, get to my feet. My body feels lighter, a lot lighter. And I’m a teenager. I went to sleep last night as a 59-year-old man; today I wake up as a teenager. And a girl. I have zero proof that any of this is even real. I brace myself and find my way to the en suite bathroom.

Yep. Red hair, slight build, and very cute, I bet I (she!) have lots of friends at whatever grade I (she!) am in at school.

I pick up the iPhone. The screen is locked, but I trust maybe there’s some muscle memory for the security pattern which will unlock it. I need to do some quick study before I face her family and friends today. I swipe the screen. DRAW YOUR UNLOCK PATTERN.

I make my mind open and empty. I swipe the pattern.

The phone unlocks. I begin my studies.

Which is the delusion here? That I was a 59-year-old male yesterday, or that I am a 17-year-old junior in high school named Brittany (her phone was very helpful in filling in details of her life)?

I had been having this happen to me, but I thought the episodes had stopped last year. But for four months in 2020, every day I woke I was a different person, in a strange body, house, situation; it was wildly disorienting.

I was a depressed, borderline man that worked in an office supply warehouse, a quirky married woman with a dark sense of humor, a miner, a theater director, an Uber driver, a thief casing a bank for a robbery.

Four months of daily identity changes can move one far outside their comfort zone. Mine had always been sizable, before at least. No, I feel it’s nonexistent. I wake up, check a mirror for my unfamiliar face, and always search through the phone. I shudder to think what a ‘slip’ (what I call this action, ‘slipping’ out of one identity into another like I was merely changing my clothes) would be like without the aid of a phone! With the phone, I can find their FACEBOOK app, scroll through their posts, look at their photos, read (or reread) all their text messages. I say reread because, once I begin a message thread, I experience a strong sense of déjà vu, a hint of vaguely familiar memories. Spontaneously I will remember the faces of someone important in my host’s life.

I try to respect whichever life I have landed in for the day. If I know they have a meeting, or, as in Brittany’s case, a homework assignment due, I do my best to see that I handle their obligations in their absence. Once I leave, after my typical 24-hour residence, I assume the original owner returns to their body. That has to be nearly as disorienting as my experience, and I would be mortified if my actions in their absence lead them to any sort of stressful encounter or awkward moments.

‘ … daily identity changes can move one far outside their comfort zone.’

For my 24 hours, I’m a tenant living in their existence. I try to return the body and the life in as good a condition as I found it. I doubt I could have robbed the bank when I was ‘Hank’ for a day. I’m glad I could just hide away in a theater watching movies all that day.

I don’t have a tidy explanation for why or how this happens. I thought about it a lot, but I have come up with precisely nothing so far.

The phone dings. A text message. I’m supposed to meet Michelle for frappuccinos. I better get moving. I scan through my photo albums, find Michelle, pick out an outfit that Brittany has worn with her BFF before.

I shower and stand in the mirror; time to use the muscle memory trick again. I see a bewildering array of make-up products on the vanity. I have no clue how to use any of this! Making my mind receptive to the significant pull of the neural patterns in her brain; I surrender to the process and put on her face.

It’s a bizarre existence. But not one without its charms. I get to see life from a bunch of different perspectives. It has shown me where I’ve been narrow-minded and closed down. It has, I hope, made me a better person.

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