He looked both ways down the alley. He was wearing a football jersey, and had green spiked hair. He felt younger, a bit. He felt a miserable itch, but ignored it.
He approached the gas station, considering what he was hungry for, just a candy bar or a real snack. As he entered, he heard yelling. Looking towards the register, he saw a masked man holding the store owner up. He quickly ducked behind a display, and concentrated to black himself. He felt his body weaken, and start to fall, but before he knew it he was waking as the mugger. He was holding the gun down and yelling for the gas station to accept the offer of protection. The attendent protested, and he cocked the gun.
He struggled for control of the body, arguing with it, fighting with it. This was getting easier with practice, though it always made him feel more like an angel on the body's shoulder than the actual body itself.
He muscled the gun down, and the attendant glanced over him in confusion. The other body in the green hair, he turned to see, was staring in shock and fear at the ordeal. He held the handgun steady, and slowly walked out of the gas station, and into the street, at what point he considered whether or not he should kill this person. He didn't want to start killing now, though, so he just disabled him. Placing the gun to his right shoulder, He fired, and screamed with the pain. Turning the gun to his opposite shoulder, he fired again, and collapsed, both arms useless, and lost consciousness.
He woke up, jerking up in his bed in reflex, searching left and right for anything out of place. His sandy hair hung wet over his head, several strands clinging to his ears, his neck. His eyes twitched rapidly, and he flicked on the light, pulling up his shirt.
HOME, he read, carved into his flesh, his left side above his waist. It wasn't written right side up, so others could read it, but up side down, as if meant only for his eyes. It wasn't cut either, but scratched in, gouged in, as if by the fingernails of a madman. Perhaps it was by a madman. He remembered doing it, but he didn't know at this point if enough of his sanity still remained to keep him from that category. He trembled, but he knew he couldn't stay awake for long. His body was too tired. He was always too tired. Even though he managed to keep himself awake for about ten minutes this time, before he knew it, he was no longer conscious.
He woke, and looked around. He was on a couch, in a crummy apartment. He lay on the couch for a moment, taking in the newspapers and junk food wrappers on the floor, then checked his side to make sure he wasn't home. The scarred word was absent.
He rose, and walked through the apartment to find a bathroom. Upon finding one, he stood over the sink, and stared at himself in the mirror. Seeing the dirty, unshaven, dark complexion framed by black hair staring back at him, he felt slight vestiges of the body's memories. The body belonged to Albert, his father was dead, he worked at the gas station, and whatever extra cash he had on him at any given time he spent at the bar.
He stepped back, and left the sink, stumbling with this revelation. Sitting at a couch, he tried to calm himself and keep himself seperated from those memories, and seeing the remote, he turned on the TV. The TV was on a watchlist channel, and a sketch was being shown of a bald man with a goatee. He caught the word 'identity' from the announcer, and chuckled. For him, identity crisis was an understatement. He continued to watch for a moment. TV had a calming effect on him and often helped him overcome troubles with keeping his memories seperate from the body's memories. When he was composed enough, he logged into his cloud storage interface from Albert's computer. He retrieved his search histories and continued browsing. His own body was too tired for him to do anything from home, and he couldn't allow anything to be traced back to him anyway. The gang was still looking, and it was only a matter of time before they found him. He couldn't let that happen, but he might as well make progress from here. He'd been looking for an answer to what was happening to him for years, but he was getting close.
It was not scientific, what he actually found this time; that is, it was not an experimental thesis. It was a philisophical theory. He found it under the name of Dr. Kenneth O'Brian, both a neuroscientist and a philosopher. He scanned the few articles he could find on the theory. The theory was called dynamic consciousness, and held that when people slept, their minds, with their senses, their disabilities, their and their memories remained intact, but their consciousness, which had no connection to their body when they were unconsious, instead was released into the world, and woke in another body which was gaining consciousness at that moment. The reason no one was aware of this phenomenon, was the memories were biologically recorded. Every person had the only memories of that brain, and so was perfectly unaware of the phenomenon.
He looked further, and found out slightly more familiar words. Dr. O'Bian had experienced nightmares that got recurringly more debilitating in his youth, and then suddenly seemed to end for a dozen years, and then after his work had begun, he'd gone insane, spent two years at an asylum, and died. He looked for some evidence that the doctor had figured out what had happened to him, but couldn't find anything. He located the asylum that had housed the doctor in his last years, and looked up their current employee records. After getting a name, he wiped the ram of the computer, returned to the couch, and turned off the TV. He laid on the couch, and after concentrating heard for a second, he blacked himself.
He woke up behind a hospital desk. He was logged in as a nurse Greg Kirkland, and he quickly searched the computer system for Dr. Kenneth O'Bbrian. When he couldn't find him, he searched for Kenneth, Kenny, and Ken O'Brian, eventually finding him. He browsed the medical record, looking for anomalies, and suddenly realized this was taking him too long. He couldn't risk dealing with Greg's memories right now. Opening an internet line, he submitted it to cloud storage, wiped the ram, and signed of. He leaned back in his seat, and realizing he had to finish this before he returned home, he concentrated on a friend who lived north state, and blacked himself.
He woke as his friend. Satisfied that he wouldn't be traced, he got on the computer again and recovered the documentation. After a few more minutes, he retrieved something interesting. Dr. O'Brian had a rare debilitating birth defect that had caused incredible initial and gradual trauma to his hippocampus, his amygdala, his striatum, and several other brain lobes... all connected to the neuroanatomy of memory. He'd had severe biological amnesia.
He sat back. How could he have had amnesia? He did research, compounding scenarios and ideas together to form hypotheses. How could he have done that unless... Unless he'd repaired his memory. Unless he'd rerouted it... That was it! He had what Dr. O'Brian had... his brain had failed him in keeping memory, but in response, he'd somatically shifted his memory to his consciousness. Like savants, when a lobe failed them, they shifted that function around it. Only he'd shifted his memory to his consciousness, completely isolating it from his body. That was why whenever he slept, he shifted from one body to the next. He must've over time learned to control it, learned to stay in the one body. That must explain how he learned to control where his consciousness went. He wondered if the other bodies must have as memory the events that transpired while he was present, but then realized, if they went straight to his consciousness, it must bypass their minds. To them it must just seem like a blackout.
He sat back. So now he knew what must've happened to him, why he was this way. He supposed that when he swapped consciousness with another, they had no memory in his body, and when they returned, they had no memory of what he'd done in theirs. He was effectively invisible to them.
Feeling the memories of his friend begin to assail him, he concentrated on himself, and blacked himself.
He woke up home, and got up, feeling much more refreshed the night before. Realizing that now he could actually understand what was happening to him, he could probably learn how to better control it, to better use it. Perhaps he could even show the gang not to keep searching for him.
The gang. He wished he'd never followed them, those kids. They lured him down an alley, claiming their friend was injured, and jumped him. He'd blacked himself, and the kids ended up shot in both shoulders. If it had just been that one time, then the gang might not have noticed, but there was the mugging that he heard and interrupted, and the extortion/turned robbery situation he'd intervened in. He wasn't trying to be a hero, but there was so much corruption and crime on the streets, it was impossible not to be involved.
He knew they were looking at him, but he couldn't yet figure if they wanted his employment, wanted his secret, or wanted his body. Either way, he'd have to refuse, so he just continued running.
He realized, now that he was awake, that it was time to work. He'd done many odd jobs over the years, utilizing his secret, both from corporate spying to insider trading to law enforcement interrogation, though that wasn't an official role, merely an assisting one. The job he currently held was one of protection. He employed himself out to people he knew as private bodyguards, a prize rare in this age. As recompension, the clients offered a small fraction of their pay checks to his use. After all, they didn't have to be aware of the arrangement all the time, they just needed to learn to enjoy it. He didn't feel as dishonest, as long as he was looking out for them. He logged off his computer.
He left for work early in the morning, not noticing two men loitering in a white sedan nearby. When he arrived back home that afternoon, he entered to find the house ripped from top to bottom. He saw it from the entry, and ran.
He heard a shout and he put on an extra burst of speed. He heard multiple feet pounding behind him, but kept running fast himself. There was gunfire, and he hid in a ditch. Concentrating on the running feet, he blacked himself.
He looked around, he was stumbling, but he caught himself. He had a glock out, and was in casual clothes, but he had a uniform under his shirt. He felt a kevlar vest under his jacket too. These guys were some sort of guards... or cops. That explains how they were able to find him so fast... but he wondered why they were here, and suddenly was flooded with memories. He saw the man he shot extortioning the gas station attendent, but the man was in uniform, collaborating with other cops. The man he stopped earlier was a cop! He tried to suppress the memories. He needed to know what was going on, but first he had to get away. He slowed down as he and three of the other cops approached the culvert, and breathed deep. Cocking the gun, he pointed it at one of the other guards, and shot him, He shot the other, and then shot himself in the chest, knowing none of the guards would die, but they would be down for a moment.
He blacked himself, returned to his body, and kept running. Were these dirty cops? Or just the one at the gas station? He ran round the corner, and seeing a police car round the curve, he ran into a motel lobby. He heard the sirens grow louder, and ran through the lobby to the back, and hopped the fence. He ran down the sidewalk on the other side, and heard a click behind him.
He whirled and saw the man behind him, his eyes narrowing, his fingers tightening on the rifle trigger. He concentrated hard, as fast as possible, but he heard the gunshot before he blacked out.
He woke, frozen, still holding the gun, and stepped back in horror. In front of him stood himself, his own long sandy hair flying, his bloodshot eyes twitching in panic, and his hands holding his chest, where a blackened hole now fountained dark red. He saw himself stumble, saw himself fall limply, his shirttail billowing up, his eyes blinking in confusion, and he stepped back, knowing in shock that the guards consciousness that had entered him at that last second had no idea why he was being shot.
He dropped the gun, looking at his own fallen body. He'd died... He'd not blacked fast enough, and he was dead. He could still see, as the shirt had lifted, a part of the scar tissue that had crudely formed the word HOME.
But he wasn't gone! He was still here... but he'd died. He dropped the guards gun and stumbled to his body, and held it. He tried to do CPR but the blood just kept flowing until he knew it was too late. He held the body in tearless shock. What next?
He eventually heard voices, and left his body behind, running as the guard away. Pausing just before he turned a corner, he looked back at himself, fallen, cold and alone. He should have stayed in the body. There was no reason why he should still exist. It was all over, and he was alone.
He briefly wondered if Dr. O'Brian had ever felt this despair... and paused. Dr. O'Brian might have survived death too... He could still be alive, and if anyone could find him, he could! He picked up his pace, having new purpose.
Publication Date: 07-26-2011
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