Today is a continuation of Day 5.
The switch always feels like it takes hours, white hot pain racing through my head, body spasming and shaking against the straps. When I finally open my eyes, only a few moments have passed, moments stretched out like a lifetime in my mind. I groan, unhooking the straps and sitting up.
“Des, you okay?”
“Yeah,” I reply, holding my head. “I swear that hurts more every damn time I do it.”
James laughs, short and bitter.
“Yeah, well, most body jockeys burn out within a year or two. You’ve been doing this almost seven.”
“Something like that,” I say, stretching my sore muscles and checking Julie’s vitals.
“Do you ever think about switching out?” he asks, voice quiet with apprehension.
“Every damn day,” I sigh. “Julie’s fine. The drug should wear off in about an hour. Let’s get her back home.”
“You got it, boss.”
I climb into the front seat with him, silently taking the shake he offers. It’s a sickening cocktail of drugs designed to soothe my fried nerves and keep them from being eaten alive. Every jump causes this physical reaction, turning my body on itself in a painful orchestra of aches. James doesn’t say anything, face carefully composed. I know what he wants to say, what he’s wondered ever since he got assigned to my rig, to me.
Is this your original body? It’s the eternal question for those in my line of work. Once you realize you can stay in a body indefinitely, there’s a certain immortality you achieve. You can spend lifetimes on Earth, switching bodies until your soul is dark and bitter enough to choose death.
At least that’s the idea, the theoretical possibility of immortality. The reality is that jumping bodies doesn’t hurt your mind; it hurts your soul. How many people have I taken over, shoved out of their own bodies for the purpose of avoiding a future we’ve been trained to fear? How many people have I killed so that I could keep living? People like James don’t know the truth about what we do; it’s above their pay grade.
James doesn’t know that this isn’t my real body.