"Alright, that's enough
The coach's whistle fought
its way through the humid air, causing everyone to stop running.
One big collective sigh of relief could be heard from anywhere on
the field. We had been at it for about ten minutes, and believe
me, ten minutes was more than enough. Jonathan, a friend that I
usually hang out with during training, had sweat pouring from
what seemed like every pore in his body.
"I think he's trying to kill
us. We should look into this," he panted between
"You may have a point. I'm
too young to die." It's true. I had a third date planned for
tonight with Erin, and I couldn't miss that.
"Jonathan! Lars! Mind
joining us for the rest of the exercises?"
"Mind chilling out a bit?"
John mumbled under his breath as we joined the group for
push-ups. I waited until the coach was out of ear-shot and turned
my head towards him.
"Dawson's just determined to
get us to the finals. The team didn't do so hot last
Jonathan collapsed in the
middle of a push up and groaned into the grass, "But it's August.
Not to mention this is fucking Florida."
"I know, dude. But I'm sure
if he could teleport us to a cooler climate to practice, he
would." I kept at my push-ups. John's decision to slack wasn't a
very wise one. The coach gets pretty harsh when he catches that
John made a valiant effort
to continue his exercises. "I'm just…" grunt, "…so hot
from running under the sun. Not to mention," grunt, "it
doesn't help with all these juicy asses around."
I rolled my eyes. John's
hormones always caused a distraction during practices. "I told
you man, just ignore them. It's what I do."
"It's harder than you make
it out to be!" he hissed. "They outnumber us! It's like…The
The whistle again. I felt
like I could barely hear it with all the sweat that seemed to be
clogging up my ears. Coach Dawson yelled for us to switch to
jumping jacks. Everyone struggled up from their grassy imprints
before the sun could fry them like sausages right there and said
imprints would need be outlined in chalk.
John groaned again. "This is
the worst part."
He did have a point there.
Girls who were jumping up and down had that unpreventable ability
to draw one's attention. I reasoned with him, "I guess that's
what we get for being male cheerleaders."
The coach left us to our
jumping jacks for another five minutes, and then finally started
us on the actual routines. Handsprings and back handsprings,
table tops and tick-tocks, bucket tosses and you probably have no
idea what I'm talking about. Anyways, all of these tricks seem to
work like separate cogs to power one beautiful machine. Make fun
of me for all I care, that's what I think. If I didn't, why would
I be doing it? I'm sure that even John cares more about
cheerleading other than the hands-on experience.
Coach Dawson blew his
whistle yet again and allowed us a five minute break before we
tackled the monster of a routine that we've been trying for the
longest time to get right-The Aviator Without a Plane. Silly
name, yes, but it was extremely difficult and required a lot of
concentration. Basically, after the less difficult routine
leading up to it, we had to launch a flyer so high into the air
to where she had enough time to twist and flip around with her
arms outstretched like a plane. Then, of course, she had to be
caught without a hitch. Needless to say, this throwing and
catching system was mainly done by us male
I turned around expecting to
see Jonathan standing there, but was instead confronted by a pair
of astonishingly grey eyes. Every time these eyes looked into
mine, they seemed to detonate an inner spontaneous combustion of
my whole body. Sounds unpleasant, but the feeling wasn't exactly
unwelcome. These were the eyes of Erin Nelson.
John seemed to have taken
Erin's arrival as a cue for his exit, because he was nowhere to
be seen. That didn't bother me much.
"Are you ready for this?"
she asked me, tucking dark strands of glossy hair behind her ear.
Erin was the flyer, and the best flyer we had. She's the one
that's always thrown into the air to be transformed into a
"I suppose I better be," I
said. Why is it, exactly, that the ability to reply with
something interesting gets flushed down the toilet whenever I
talk to her?
"Yeah, considering my life
is in your hands and everything…literally."
I had no idea what to say to
this. Luckily, Jackie was nearby and had overheard. She turned
around, laughing, and said, "So no pressure or anything." She hit
Erin playfully on the arm. "Jeez, way to freak him
"Oh, he knows I'm kidding."
She smiled, showing those freakishly cute dimples, and brushed
her hand down my arm. Goose bumps were in hot pursuit. "Right,
"Yeah, of-of course." Jackie
followed John's example and disappeared to somewhere less
awkward. Erin and I spent the rest of the five minute break
talking about our plans for that night. By the time the coach
called everyone back together, we had decided that the date would
be spent watching movies in my basement. And to tell you the
truth, I really wasn't sure if "watching movies" meant watching
movies or not. I guess I would have to find out.
"Well," I said, "I can't
"Alright everyone, let's
jump right into it! Get into your positions!" Erin gave me one
more smile as everyone did what we were told. On Dawson's count,
the handsprings and other countless executions were set into
motion. As the coach counted out loud, some of us seemed to have
our own separate routines and others moved according to the same
choreography. But mostly, we repeatedly shifted, rearranged, and
came back together as one.
But these moves weren't the
portion of the routine that required so much meticulous
deliberation. We had this part down pat. It was Erin's tricky
launch into the air that did. So when it came the time for
Jonathan and me to toss her, I tried my hardest to ignore that
damn body-implosion as she took the time to look straight into my
eyes with those metallic orbs of hers. But in the next instant,
John and I had done the launch, and Erin was
And then the laws of physics
underwent an unexpected alteration. Time seemed to speed up most
unfairly as I realized from the gasps of the other cheerleaders
that something was wrong. Erin was flipping and spinning in the
air and flying like a bird, it was true, but she was off course.
But by the time I realized this, it was too late. She came
falling out of the sky in a way that made me vow never to go bird
hunting with my dad again. She fell gracefully, serene, not
knowing the danger she was in. And then all of a sudden her legs
had struck my shoulders, knocking me to the ground. A sharp
crack rang out in the brief moment of
Not knowing where the sound
had come from, I checked my arms to see if I had broken one. All
of my limbs were in fine condition; I only had the wind knocked
out of me. But just as it started to come back, it left me
altogether again when I realized who that cracking sound must
have come from. Still lying on my back, I turned my head-Erin's
leg was to my right. But it could have been a mannequin's leg;
the absolute stillness of it made it devoid of
This was when the screaming
started. The other girls must have been clutching each other in
dread, some were probably crying. I wouldn't know for sure. It
all became background noise; all I was concerned with was getting
to Erin. To get to her and peer into her face to make sure she
was going to be alright, or else to let her penetrating eyes set
off that implosion one last time. The implosion that I loved to
hate, and that I hated to love.
I crawled with this
desperation to Erin's head and immediately wished I hadn't. It
was a sight that I would never forget. Her neck had been twisted
in the fall; her head was now positioned in a most ungodly
ninety-degree angle. A trickle of blood had escaped the lips that
would never move again. Almost as attention-grabbing as all this
was the fact that Erin's eyes were still open. Her eyelids were
suspended in an expression of shock, having been robbed of her
life much too soon.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered,
wishing it could have been heard. Hot tears had already started
to dampen my cheeks.
Just then as I stared into
the silvery depths, her irises shifted ever so slowly until they
rested on me. I was completely taken aback, and even more so when
her left hand jumped to my right and grasped it with the minimal
amount of energy she had left. The most unexplainable surge that
I had never felt before and would never again erupted through my
body, reaching to every crevice from head to toe. My head was
spinning-darkness started to cloud my vision-the world was
upside-down and then inside-out-the ground jumped up to meet me
"He's waking up!" a hoarse
voice said as a woman gasped. There was a clatter and rushing
footsteps as another male voice said, "Finally!"
My eyes gradually fluttered
open as I tested the brightness of whatever room I was in.
Fortunately, the place was dimly lit. Otherwise, I would have had
to keep my eyes shut because I had a splitting headache. A nice
long bubble bath would be in order.
When my surroundings finally
came into focus, I still had no idea where I was at. I was lying
in some foreign bed in some unknown room with posters displaying
bikini-clad women and the Chicago Bears. I don't even like
the Chicago Bears. And sopping wet, half naked women? I don't
swing that way.
Even as I thought this, I
felt a twinge of resentment, which was…weird to say the least. It
was as if I was offended at the thoughts of my own opinions. I
decided to let it slide as I took in the faces of the people
around my-whoever's-bed. Three I didn't recognize: an older
couple about the age of my parents, and a girl who looked to be
around six-years-old. One face I did know-Jonathan. I seized this
comforting association like a lifeline.
"What's going on, Jona-wait,
what's wrong with my voice?" It was hoarse with lack of use, yes,
but it was much deeper than was natural. But apparently no one
else recognized or cared about my predicament. Everyone just
leaned towards me in concern, and the woman even wrapped my hand
in both of hers.
Jonathan leaned forward too
and said, "Are you okay, man?" Man? "You've been
unconscious for over twenty-four hours."
I was scared to open my
mouth to speak again and hear the voice that wasn't mine issue
from what might not be my mouth.
The older man, whoever he
was, put a hand on my blanketed knee and said, "Any idea why you
kept mumbling about birds and flying?" Then the younger girl
started to pipe up.
"There's something wrong
with his eyyyes," she half-whined. No one seemed to hear
The woman looked at me with
misted-over eyes and asked gently, "So…do you remember what
"Not really," I replied,
trying not to let the voice freak me out. "I just remember doing
the routine and getting thrown into the air…and never coming back
down…until now. And now I don't know where I am or what's going
on or why I have a penis…" My eyes widened in shock along
with everyone else's as I realized what I had just said.
Apparently I had been subliminally aware of the all-new sensation
of a slight weight pressing against my thigh. Okay, something was
definitely screwed up here.
The couple retreated a ways
from the bed to deliberate while stealing frightened glances at
me as if I was a bomb about to go off at any second. Well, I
guess I did just mention my heretofore obliviousness
towards having a penis. I would probably be lucky if they didn't
have me committed today.
Jonathan and the little girl
continued to stare at me in what seemed almost like mild
amusement. I decided that now was probably the time to grow some
balls-oh wait, I already had that covered-and investigate my
body. I mean, the body.
My hands were huge. The
veins running through my arms were far too prominent. My legs
seemed to stretch on forever. I had no boobs, which was just as
disconcerting as the new addition to my pelvic
Something on my right hand,
at the base of my thumb, caught my eye. A cute little mole. I
liked it. No, I hate that mole. This mole seemed to have
some kind of back story to it. It was as if I had known this mole
before in my life-that's it! Lars had a mole just like it! It was
weird too because I was pretty sure it was in the same…the same
Jonathan must have noticed
me looking like even more of a loon, staring off into space with
what must have been a look of utter shock, because he said
tentatively, "Are you okay, Lars?"
There it was. The evidence.
I was stuck inside Lars Greenfield's body with no road maps to
show me the nearest exit. This was quite the predicament. I mean,
I know I joked around with my friends about how much I wanted
Lars's body, but I didn't want it this bad!
I felt a pleasurable churn
deep in my stomach and heard a faint voice, as if it was speaking
to me from a distance. You wanted my body? I smiled and
tried to think back at him. Yeah, but not like this. I'd gladly
give your body back if I knew how.
The little girl
(Penelope) made her way around the bed and started to tug
on Jonathan's sleeve. "Johnny. Look at his eyes, Johnny. They
aren't the same."
Jonathan got up from where
he was sitting and came closer to the bed. He stared into our
eyes and said, "You're right, Penny. They used to be completely
brown, but now they've got some grey specks toward the
"Alright, this is what we're
going to do." Lars's parents had wrapped up their emergency
meeting and the father was now taking action. "The doctor told us
to call if we needed him, so that's what we're going to do. You
might have a concussion. I mean, a type that's a little more
extreme than normal." Yep, they definitely think their son has a
few marbles rolling around upstairs. They left the room briskly
to call the doctor.
I couldn't take it anymore.
I had to get some answers. I knew that Lars always called him
John, so I used his full name. "Jonathan." It was a subtle
tactic, but it seemed to have worked. He was now looking at me
with wide, confused eyes.
"Jonathan, the reason my
eyes are half grey…the reason I was surprised about having a
penis…is because I'm Erin." His gaze was fixed. He seemed both
scared and curious to meet our eyes. "You know it's me.
You haven't been able to recognize your friend ever since I woke
Jonathan remained silent. I
took this as a sign that he believed me. "What happened,
Jonathan? Why am I like this? Why are we like
His eyes had begun to fill
with tears. He took a shuddering breath and said, "You died,
Erin. We were doing the Aviator Without a Plane and you
My heart stopped. No, that
wasn't right. Lars's heart stopped. But I had somehow
known all along that this could have been the only explanation
for what was going on. Still, it's not every day that you die in
a cheerleading accident.
"I'm sorry," Jonathan
"So why am I still here? Why
am I not moving on? It's like my spirit didn't want to leave and
attached itself to Lars's. I don't want to be
Jonathan thought for a while
and then said, "Well…whenever these kinds of things happen in the
movies, it's usually because they aren't ready to move on, or
they're in denial."
"I don't think I'm in
"Are you afraid of moving
"I'm more afraid of
accidentally taking over Lars's body for the rest of his
"Well, I was my turn to do
the laundry tonight, so maybe-"
"No, maybe your unfinished
business is to let Lars know that it wasn't your fault you died.
I know he liked you a lot, and he's probably feeling survivor's
"Yeah. That makes
"Okay, so…give it a shot,
At first I wasn't sure if I
should speak aloud, but then I knew I wouldn't have to. Lars was
the one to start.
It's not your fault, Lars.
Don't feel guilty.
Is this the part where you
tell me it's all a part of God's "plan"?
I don't know what it was. I
don't know why it happened. It just did.
I don't want to lose
You have to. You have to let
me go. You don't want to be a prisoner trapped in your own body,
I could hear the edge of
slight laughter to his words. Not really,
Let me go,
Raincheck on that third
That sounds kind of morbid,
but yeah. I'll…see you on the other side, I