“Alright, that’s enough laps!”
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
“I think he’s trying to kill us. We should look into this,” he panted between breaths.
“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 year.”
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 stuff.
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
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 Boob Factor.”
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
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 cheerleaders.
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 plane-less aviator.
“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 out.”
“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, Lars?”
“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 wai—”
“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 airborne.
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 silence.
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 life.
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 halfway.
“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 her.
The woman looked at me with misted-over eyes and asked gently, “So…do you remember what happened, honey?”
“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 area.
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 general…
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,
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 middle.”
“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 up.”
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 this?”
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 died.”
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 said.
“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 a…parasite.”
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
“I don’t think I’m in denial.”
“Are you afraid of moving on?”
“I’m more afraid of accidentally taking over Lars’s body for the rest of his life.”
“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 guilt.”
“Yeah. That makes sense.”
“Okay, so…give it a shot, then.”
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.
I’m so sorry.
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.
You have to. You have to let me go. You don’t want to be a prisoner trapped in your own body, do you?
I could hear the edge of slight laughter to his words. Not really, no.
Let me go, Lars.
Raincheck on that third date?
That sounds kind of morbid, but yeah. I’ll…see you on the other side, I guess.
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