Whose body is this? scream Jason's thoughts upon opening his eyes one September morning. Instead of his usual pale, soft and bulging mass, he sees a bronzed, lithe and toned body. He strokes his smooth body with his hands which are bigger, manlier and hairier than his own effeminate and pudgy ones. He sniffs his arm. He smells bitter and foul, of cigarettes and BO, rather than clean and of cinnamon from his ritual late night shower.
He jumps out of the strange bed and dashes over to a photo he notices on the dresser. In the photo is a family. He picks it up. First, he looks at the woman: broad, blonde and glowing. On looking at the man, his hands begin to tremble. He drops the photo then rushes down to pick it up again. He brings it closer to his face but it does not stay there long; it moves back and forth in his jittery hands. He recognises those big, glassy blue eyes. He jumps back. They are the eyes that had glared at him from behind the gun just before he was shot; however, this time the eyes are smiling rather than glaring and threatening. He drops the picture again and picks it up with shaking hands. And those eyes he can see now, reflected in the glass of the frame are the same eyes as the man in the photo. He drops the photo again. He scans the room, looking for a mirror. On seeing one, he darts over to it. There, looking back at him is the last face he saw before being shot; staring back at him is his murderer.
The scream tears around the house, bringing a woman and two children, a boy and a girl, the ones from the photo, to the bathroom.
'What's wrong dear' the woman asks and holds on to him.
He looks into the mirror and points.
'Who is that?' he shouts, and then vomits.
'Go away', she tells the children, holding her nose, 'go and play in your room.'
'Daddy', cries the little boy. Both children burst into tears.
'Where are the keys to the car?' he says, his teeth chattering. He is sweating all over.
'Go on', she whispers to the children, 'go and play.'
The children shuffle out of the bathroom crying, their heads lowered.
Their mother stares at their father, her pale green eyes wide, cloudy and mystified.
'The keys are where they always are,' she says.
'Where are they?' he screams even louder, his hands grabbing her by her broad shoulders, shaking her; his red face, each muscle and line stretched as far as possible, moving close to her.
'What's wrong with you?' She hisses as she brushes his hands off her and hurries backward. She has never seen that expression like a cat whose tail had been trodden on, before. She shivers. Her heart begins to race. What had come over him? Perhaps the other woman had hurt him.
'Where are they?' he screams in her face.
'Sssshh! Pull yourself together! What the fuck has got into you? Do you have to urgently attend to your mistress?'
He pushes past her, into their bedroom where he flings on the closest clothes to hand, and runs through the hallway, past the children who stare at him, their eyes wide and their jaws chattering, tears running down their cheeks. He runs down the stairs. Next to the front door are a row of keys hung up on separate pegs. He takes all of them, jamming them in his pockets, and runs out into the driveway and over to the car. He tries to find the one that will open the car door. The woman comes over to him and takes the correct set from his hands and throws them at him.
'What the hell are you taking to make you like this? Now, get out of here and don't come back.'
Speeding along the coastal highway, he was on his way to see his wife Kathy. He would check she was alive, that she had not been shot dead. He would tell her what had happened that they could still be together, though he had the body of another man and that man was his murderer.
He did not see, although it came into view as the coastal road twisted and turned, the perfect blue sky spread out over the ocean across which the sun thumped like a strobe across a mosaic of blue and white shattered glass. His mind was too busy picturing the previous night, piecing together the fragments to make a whole. He remembered sitting in the sunroom and hearing footsteps. Maybe Kathy was home early from her manicure, he had thought. He remembered sensing someone's eyes upon him and then turning around to the doorway to see the man, the man whose body he lived in now, standing there, staring at him with glassy pale blue eyes set like sparkling jewels into his tanned rugged face. He pulled out a gun with the same hands, big and rough with large fingers, fingers he can see on the steering wheel in front of him right now; and then bang; the light came. He remembered the light, flooding his vision, absorbing him as he slipped away; and then this, the afterlife, possessing the bodies of our murderers. Or perhaps his entire life had been a dream and this is who he really was, that the person he thought he was never existed or they did and he flits between the two bodies.His mind ties itself in knots with these thoughts until it pulls itself straight and he doesn't think about anything but just stares out onto the tarmac ahead in a daze.
He pulls up outside his home. He looks behind it to the mountains; dusty, dirty, golden brown, cutting into the blue sky, across which wispy clouds pass. He gives thanks he is alive to see it once again, his favourite view. For a moment he feels inspired, more alive than he can ever remember. But it is fleeting and the fear and nausea possess him again as he walks up the drive and knocks on the door.
Helen, his wife, opens it.
He bursts into tears and falls upon her.
'You're alive! Thank...'
'Jack!' she exclaims, 'Jack, it's Okay.'
'I thought he might have killed you.'
'But baby, you killed him', she said, whispering and looking around her though no one was in the house but her.
She cradles his head against her shoulder, repeating 'Jack, it's okay, Jack'.
He quickly pulls away.
'Jack? You know me?' he asks, afraid.
She looks intensely into his wet red eyes.
'Yes Jack I know you.'
'I killed me?'
'You killed Henry, Jack. What's got into you? Are you drunk?' Her voice was flat, like she had just been winded.
'I don't understand', he said.
She pulls him to her, kisses him. He pushes her away.
He stares into her dark grey eyes and sees a passion he has never seen before. It is like looking into someone else's eyes. She drags him into the hallway and pushes him close to her, kisses his forehead and his lips as he immerses himself in her smell and her body and kisses her. They had never been passionate like this, not even when they had first met. Their sex life had been stillborn. It had always been in the dark. He had done all the labor until she rendered him unemployed often sleeping in a different room.
He forgets himself until it is all over and he breaks out in sweat and tears. She comforts him as he cries, strokes his hair and kisses his forehead. She had never been like this when he was Henry.
He gazes at her. For a moment he tries to fool himself, tries to deny it, to tell himself she can see the real him, Henry, her husband.
'Jack?' she says, 'are you Ok?'
'You killed me.'
She looks bewildered. She wipes her face. She hugs him tighter.
'I know Jack, it's hard, but I'm glad we did it, okay?' she says.
She glares at him, a hard metallic stare. A stare he is more familiar with.
'No!' he screams and pushes her away with such force that she slides across the floor.
She lays there for a while, her eyes closed, praying he will calm down. She can hear him walking over to her. She can feel him towering above her. He takes her hand, pulls her up and drags her outside and into the car.
'Where are we going Jack?' she asks, her voice jittery.
'Didn't you love Henry?' he roars, starting the engine and driving off.
'That fat weasel? Come on Jack, you know how I felt about him. He got me when I was young and foolish.'
She had been young and foolish alright; a fool for money. She had fluttered her eyelashes at him when they met in the bar and he had told her he was a CEO. She had given him her phone number, gone on dates, laughed at his jokes, bedded him. But she had never been affectionate, passionate or genuinely kind. She had only done what he had asked her, and that had been enough for he had needed a wife and she was a good one to parade around. She had turned a few heads and bought a few deals his way.
The fat weasel looks in the rear mirror but a fat weasel does not look back. Jack is a handsome man. What must it be like to live the life of a handsome man and not a fat weasel? Perhaps he should go back with her to the house and live a handsome man's life a little longer. Maybe he should wander round the town, sit in cafes and bars, sit on a bus and have people look at him admiringly, as his wife had done when he appeared on the doorstep just now; to see in their eyes, the appreciation of a handsome man, and not the revulsion felt when looking at a fat weasel.
He stops the car at the edge of the road so it is facing the drop. Then he turns to her.
'That fat weasel knew you were using him. He was just fooling himself. He should have come to his senses, seen you for what you were.'
'Please Jack, stop it. Just stop it!'
He looks at her dark grey eyes. They are wide and pitiful, calling out to Jack's better nature. But they fall upon eyes that see but may as well be blind. Little do they know they are pleading with the wrong man: the fat weasel. He has never seen that expression on her face before; a look of sorrow and terror. He had never argued with her, never threatened her. He had just succumbed to her strained toothless smiles whenever she had asked for money to go out with her friends or to go shopping. All that time she had been going out with Jack no doubt. All that time she had been using him, cheating on him.
He starts the engine.
'What are you….'
He jumps out the car, runs behind it and pushes.The car drops over the cliff, and her words turn to screams and shrilly fill the sky.
The fat weasel now known as Jack runs down the road to the bus stop to catch a bus into town and take a stroll and perhaps, if the police take their time to catch up with him, drink a cup of black coffee and revel in the admiring eyes of passersby.