By Simon Barget
I woke up in a body that wasn’t mine; it had most obviously been switched. There were all sorts of subtle differences that you wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t been paying attention. The fingers were slightly fatter. They protruded a little more around each of the distal phalanges. My hands were not my identical hands. The skin was darker. I had more discolorations, more imperfections. The skin was no longer as smooth, as baby-like. I now had liver spots and freckles. There was evidence of jaundice. Some of my moles had joined together to form unsightly agglomerations. My arms were thinner especially around the triceps. My muscle tone had receded. My arms now looked very stick-like, very brittle. Someone had obviously taken advantage of the fact that I had been sleeping and dreaming. I looked in the mirror at my teeth and my eyes, the things that usually gleamed. My teeth had gone brown. My eyes were no longer pellucid. Then the biggest change; my hair. It had gone almost red, nothing like the chestnut colour it always had been. I could see the red at the roots. Someone must have administered dye. How long would it take to grow out?
I felt something inside that I cannot really describe. It felt like sadness but different. It felt like I could not feel my own sadness properly anymore. It felt a little like being constipated. I had not had a problem moving my bowels, but I had not bothered to inspect them either. They were not going to be my bowels in any case. But the sadness kept returning, a feeling that I couldn’t feel because someone had stolen my body. My feeling wasn’t mine and I couldn’t interpret it. When it passed through the natural filters it came out as confused. If only I could have seen this feeling, if only I could have examined it under the light of my bedroom. I could then have made sense of it, I could have interpreted the feeling. But the filters weren’t mine, everything had been taken away, everything now was very slightly different and I would have to learn to accept it.
I started to speculate on my urges. I started to wonder if hunger was authentic. Was I really truly hungry or was it caprice? I couldn’t entirely make sense of the sensations. I half-heartedly went to prepare some of my porridge, but midway gave up. It didn’t feel right. What was the point? Who was I feeding, who was I satisfying? What interest did I have in supporting a body not mine? Another totally random instantiation. A fleeting specimen. A chance replication of DNA. Something with very thin wrists and a different way of breathing, with breath that hardly came out properly from the lungs. As I was eating the porridge, I didn’t want to know about any other person than me, I honestly didn’t want to be implicated.
It felt like I was being forced to adapt and hadn’t been given a choice. Who was it, I mean, who had the power to ordain this? Who had the right? To suddenly take away me just because I’d been sleeping. I had not slept for so long, I had been so very tired. I had not slept for a fortnight. I have every right to sleep. More importantly, I have a right to sleep and to wake up as me. It is the lowest thing a man can do when you’re defenceless. It is too easy. Things that are so easy should never be fun, they shouldn’t be allowed. They can never be anything more than mildly interesting.
I don’t remember exactly how I was although I know this is not me. Maybe that accounts for the sadness. I don’t know exactly what I had and what I have lost. I can only guesstimate and speculate. I could have been much taller, much much taller. I think was probably a little bit taller but I could have been as tall as seven foot. You could tell me it’s unlikely but probability doesn’t rule it out. I could have been black or yellow. I could have had a real fire in my belly. I can examine myself as much as I like and I just don’t remember. I can even slice myself open not that I’m going to. I wouldn’t begin to be able to unravel the secret. I wouldn’t begin to know who I was, who I had been.
And now I am starting to perpetually think and all I can think are the words: ‘You have been switched.’ Yes, I have been switched. And not only that, it is impossible for those four words to escape my attention. I keep thinking about thinking it, and thinking about thinking about thinking it, in a recurrent loop. It has become frightening, exceedingly frightening. I am paralysed and cannot think anything else. I have become rooted to the spot, I have become ineffectual. All the usual mundane things I was used to thinking are just stubbornly not coming to mind. I can hardly even summon the energy to go back, to cast my mind back to the halcyon days before the switch. If I could get myself out of this loop I am now thinking, I might be able to go back. I might be able to return. But I can’t manage it.
But time is as it is and I cannot go back. Time is the lack of awareness of everything happening concurrently. Time is the illusion of the switch, of my sadness. Time says there is a memory. Time holds no regard for back then. Or, in other words, only time says I’m not here and if I can be oblivious to its pull, then I can somehow rediscover my essence.
But no matter how hard I try, my body is off-kilter. It is strange and unhinged, and I will not be able to forget it.