By Ryan Matejka
Based on the writing prompt: You somehow end up switching bodies with your significant other overnight. You wake up at their apartment the next morning. A text on your phone reads "see you in 10 minutes hot stuff ;)" and it's not from you.
Note: This story was originally posted in three separate parts, one at a time, so I've maintained that format here.
I don't remember staying over last night, and yet the first thing I smell when I wake up is one of those peach scent dispensers my girlfriend has in her bedroom. I turn onto my back and stretch out my limbs, except something doesn't feel right about my body - I can't reach the edge of the bed with my toes, even with my head nearly falling off the bottom of the pillow. Slowly, after rubbing each with my open palm, I open my eyes.
"Hey, babe?" I turn around, searching for her sleeping next to me and finding the bed barren. Something else is off, too. I recognize the room as hers - everything from the purple comforter of the bed to the grey Mac sitting on her desk and all the drawings piled around it - but there's something off about the colors. It's as if the color palette of everything in the room has been shifted slightly in one direction or the other from how I remember it. I sit up and call out her name, thinking she must be in the bathroom or something, but there's no response.
And then I see her, and it doesn't register at first what I'm looking at. "What are you doing over-" I start, interrupted by an ice-cold jolt up my spine at the sight of her mouthing along in perfect sync with the words. I lurch back against the headboard, banging my head against the hard wood - and she does the same.
Her mirror. She's in the mirror at the end of the bed.
No. She's not in the mirror. I slowly wave my hand at her, and I don't even need to see her wave back to know I'm not in my body anymore. My round palm and stubby digits have been replaced by a pale, slender hand with neatly-cut and painted nails. I examine my skull - feeling my nose, lips, chin, ears, and jaw - none of it is mine. All of it is hers.
I've seen this happen in movies. I understand what's going on. I should be fine. Everything will be fine. It's going to be fine. I'm going to be fine.
My heart - her heart - quickens in pace. Nothing feels right about this, not even the way I breathe. It feels like I'm suffocating. It feels like my skin is being air-vacuumed tightly to my bones.
Her phone chimes. I'm always telling her to put it on silent if she doesn't want it to wake her up.
Please let it be her. Let it be her in my body, calling to freak out with me. Please don't let me be alone in this. I want to know what's going on. I need to talk to someone to know I'm not crazy.
It's a text message from someone named "Brady." No last name listed and no photo. The message reads "see you in 10 minutes, hot stuff ;)"
What the fuck is going on.
Everything happens for a reason.
That's what I tell myself, anyway, because how else do you justify waking up in your girlfriend's body and immediately getting a text from some guy who's clearly expecting to get some action? Whatever forces are at work here, I believe they wanted me to see this text. I believe they wanted me to know that there are things I don't know about my girlfriend.
I've already searched her phone for any trace of this "Brady" guy to no avail. There are no prior texts or calls, most of the photos she's taken are of us, food, or sketches she's drawn on napkins and scraps of paper, and not even a search of her Facebook friends list yields any results. Whoever Brady is, she's been very, very careful to hide him from me.
You have no idea how badly I just want to be able to call her up and ask who he is.
If I really want to get to the bottom of this, my only choice is to play along. I bring the text back up, type "can't wait <3" and my whole body trembles with disgust and nerves as I firmly press "send."
My stomach churns. Why didn't I just say no? Why couldn't I just use this opportunity to put an end to whatever games she's playing behind my back?
I just need to know.
The wait is unbearable. I consider calling my phone, but unlike her, I silence my phone at night. If she's really in my body and hasn't called me already, then she's no doubt still sleeping from the late night I spent up playing video games. I also consider double locking the door and calling this whole thing off.
But I just need to know.
Her phone chimes. "I'm outside. Let me in," it says. What kind of guy doesn't even knock?
I get out of bed, check myself out in the mirror and then realize I have no idea how I'd change anything if I wanted to, and peek through the eyehole. Brady looks just like his name sounds - stupid. I take a deep breath, unlock the door, and inch it open.
"Hey babe," Brady says, and as he lets himself in I'm reminded of just how small I am in this body.
"You look sexy."
"Why haven't you been responding to my texts?"
"What?" I ask, more confused than ever.
"Did you finally realize what you've been missing?" he asks, putting his hands firmly on my hips. It doesn't feel right. This doesn't feel right, and not just in the body-swapping way.
I clear my throat. "Yeah. How long has it been?"
"Since you made the biggest mistake of your life? Five years. I always knew you’d come back though."
The chill spikes up my spine again. My skin crawls against his touch. "Brady, I’m sorry, I've made a mistake."
"NO!” his grip turns ironclad around my hips. He shuts his eyes tight and shakes his head. “Sorry. I just - I finally have you again. I don't think we should ruin that.” He pulls me in and forces a kiss. I can't fake anymore. I can't play this cool. I need to get him out of here.
I struggle and squirm to get out of his grip, but he just holds me tighter. He forces his slimy, writhing tongue down my throat, and I'm so close to throwing up that I have to swallow hot lumps back down my throat.
This has to be a dream. This is some kind of nightmare. None of this makes sense. I need to wake up.
Brady puts his hand on my chest - my girlfriend’s chest - and that's when my fight or flight really kicks in. I bite him hard on the tongue, knee him in the crotch, and use all my strength to push away as soon as he lets go with a loud, high-pitched yelp.
But I've overestimated my strength. I'm not in my own body. As soon as I've gotten an inch between us, his fist comes up and breaks against my face.
There's no pain.
Everything goes black.
The first thing I notice is the smell. The pleasant peach scent is gone, replaced by my usual musky body odor. I spring up out of bed, and it's my own bed.
I've switched back.
I immediately grab my phone and dial my girlfriend's number.
There's no response. Why isn't she picking up? She always picks up.
I try again. No response.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
Maybe I'm just insane.
It's funny, actually, when you think about it. Either I temporarily swapped bodies with my girlfriend and was assaulted by one of her exes, or I'm batshit insane.
I've never wanted so badly to be out of my mind.
Everything happens for a reason, I remind myself, though I'm starting to lose faith in the idea.
I'm in my car, driving like an asshole on the way to her apartment while calling her cell and getting the voicemail every two minutes. The interior of my car echoes each spat curse and hollow self-reassurance. I lean hard into each turn, ignoring the the impassioned horns of each vehicle I cut off and speed around. I'm trying to shave five minutes off of a ten minute drive, and even that might not be enough. So much can happen in the blink of an eye - five minutes is long enough for the world to end.
I haven't called the police. I wouldn't know how to explain this to them. Sure, I could withhold the body-swapping bit and just say that I know for a fact there's some asshole named Brady at my girlfriend's apartment right now and I know for a fact he's abusing her, but what if they need proof? Worse, what if they don't ask for proof at first, but then it turns out I'm right and they start wondering how I knew?
The best possible outcome is that I'm insane.
On the other hand, I'd do just about anything to speed past a police car who decided to give chase. A ticket and a few points off my license would be a small price to pay if I could lead them to Brady.
But there are no police out. Not on this route. Not this morning.
It's only when I park in front of her apartment that I realize I haven't thought this through at all. What if he attacks me? What if he's locked the door? What if I get inside and he's already taken her somewhere else? I am completely and utterly unprepared for this.
I dart out of the car, to her door, and twist the knob to find it locked.
Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!
I press my ear against the wood, hoping to hear something - anything - to reassure me that she's alright and everything that I experienced was just some sort of extremely vivid dream. All is disturbingly quiet. With no other choice, I take a deep breath and knock sharply three times. My stomach turns over itself as I wait.
Brady answers the door, opening it only a crack before it gets caught on the chain lock. "Can I help you?"
"Yeah, you can get the fuck out of my girlfriend's apartment."
"Sorry man. Wrong address," Brady says. He moves to close the door, but I shove it back open and lean all my weight against it. "Hey! Let go!" he shouts, pushing harder, and indeed the door slowly creeps back toward the frame. I'm losing. He's going to shut the door.
The metallic clang of a frying pan bursts from inside and Brady shrieks in agony. The door shuts.
"Bastard!" I hear her shout, her voice unsteady and slurred.
"Babe! It's me!" I shout through the door. "I'm right here! Hit him again!"
"You bitch!" Brady shouts. I hear her shriek and the pan bounce and rattle to the ground.
"What are you doing to her you bastard?! Let go of her!" I press against the door with all my might, but it's no use. It won't budge.
Her cries of pain are muffled and breathless. I shout and helplessly pound my fists against the door.
He's going to kill her. He's going to kill her right in front of me.
I need to stop him. I need to save her.
I check out the closed door. Unlike the one at my own apartment, this one is old-fashioned and made of thick, heavy wood. Ramming it isn't an option; I'd more likely break my arm than break down the door. I think about knocking on the nearest apartment for help, but I doubt anyone is home or wants to get involved if they haven't already come out to see what's going on.
An idea hits me like a train. Body-swapping. Maybe I caused it. Maybe I can control it.
With no other options, I lean against the wall, shut my eyes, and concentrate all my thoughts on Brady.
All at once I'm in the apartment, my hand wrapped around her neck, holding her up against a wall. Her slender hands with neatly-cut and painted nails grasp at my arm, reach for me, claw at my skin. It worked. I'm Brady.
I let go. She falls to the ground, doubled over and gasping for air.
I want to hold her. I want to tell her everything is going to be okay now, but I'm still in his body. I can feel the hate she has for me - for Brady. She coughs and wheezes for air, spitting saliva and bits of blood all over the carpet.
I need to get out of here. I need to get far away from here and make sure Brady in my body doesn't do anything stupid.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I need to go." I turn to the door.
Just as I reach for the handle, my skull rattles. My vision flashes white. Was that the sound of a frying pan?
I fall to the ground. My ears ring.
From a distance, I hear her scream.
Another clang. Another rattle. White. Ringing.
What's she doing? Why does she keep hitting me? I was leaving.
My head feels warm. I barely feel the third strike. I barely sense it at all. Nothing flashes white. Everything is black. Everything is quiet.
This is nice. This is fine.
What a weird dream.
Another person in my body.
My girlfriend's a killer.