October 29th 2015: Possession
The Other I Am
, by Ashe Thurman

“Dude, stop pushing it.”

“I’m not pushing it.”

“Seriously. Stop.”

“I’m not doing anything!”

“You guys are so freaking stupid.” Aaron sat back from the small group huddled around the spirit board. Their bi-weekly hangout had devolved into whatever this was, but at least everyone was drunk. That made it bearable.

“Aaron, come on. Get down here. We’re going to ask a super special important question and we need everyone’s full power!” The short brunette chick knocked over her drink with her emphatic gesturing.

“Nah. I’m good. I’m not thirteen, thank you.” He patted his pockets for his cigarettes and found them in his shirt pocket. He really needed to quit. The sliding glass door stuck in the track as he opened it, so he had to throw his weight against it just to get out onto the back patio. The lighter was low, and it clicked a few extra times before it ignited. He puffed the smoke out through his nose and watched it spiral off into the chilly October night. It hadn’t gotten too cold, yet, so that was nice.

“It’s actually moving. No way!” There was a fit of gasping and giggles behind him in the living room. He took a swig of his drink and another puff on his cigarette. Some of the bite had gone out of his vices when the world started seeing him as an adult, but he hadn’t dropped them, yet. If things went as planned, he would graduate at the end of the next semester. He would try to shake his habits before then, but he was already of the mind that he wouldn’t beat himself up over it if he failed.

“You’ve gotta come see this.” The girl from before was half crawling across the floor toward him. “The little thingy is moving all on its own, I swear to God. You’ve got to come see it.” She tugged on his jeans frantically. He looked down, expecting to see some kind of drunken grin. She was smiling, yes, but her brows were knitted in consternation.

Aaron slid back into the living room. Everyone seemed to be stuck between scrambling backward and mesmerization with what was happening, bodies frozen in uncertainty.

The plastic planchette was moving on it’s own across the spirit board. There was no rhythm or pattern, just a frenetic zig-zag back and forth across it, faster and faster.

There were no hands within two feet of it.

Aaron approached it slowly, moving carefully through his petrified friends.

He reached out to touch it.

The board snapped shut on his hand, nipping his fingers before he could draw back in time.

He stepped back, shaking the tiny dull pain out of his hand. The board sat there, not quite closed with the planchette sandwiched in the fold of the board. One of the other guys wobbled forward, tripping over the people in his way. In several quick motions, he threw the spirit board back in its cheap commercial box, sprinted through the back door, and tossed the whole thing over the balcony railing onto the ground below. He backed into the living room quickly, pulling the door shut with a few hard tugs. He flopped down onto the floor.

Silence seeped into all the crevices of the room.

Someone started to laugh. Then another. Then the room erupted in drunk, hiccuping fits of laughter.

 

He was walking along a long hallway. The floor kept shifting. Pieces moved under other pieces, leaving tight little squares of empty ground that he had to step around on occasion. When he stumbled and pressed his heel into the ground too hard, he would hear a sharp crack. He would know, then, that the ground might give way if he lingered in too long. He started to pick up his pace. The walls on either side groaned and reached up and over him. Square edges became rounded and the hallway was a high tunnel flooded with blue light. Then the tunnel was a raised promenade lined with tall marble columns reaching their fingers into a wrong-colored sky. He started running, purple paving stones flashing under his feet, sickly brown firmament crushing down on top of him. Then he smashed into a wall. But there was no wall, only the lonely infinity of the horizon and the ever stretching road that met it.

The ground just the other side of the invisible wall started to bubble. It surged up, a geyser of lavender dirt and mud and gray mists of ice cold water. Then it all fell away instantly, and the ground was hard again. There was a figure there, now, a being of pure black light 8 feet tall that didn’t keep its shape for more than an instant. The being reached out through the wall, and, with one long finger, pressed against his forehead right between his eyes. For an instant the world was inverted in position and color, then it was black.

 

Aaron felt like he was drowning and sputtered awake. His gray ceiling spun into view. He had driven home. He shouldn’t have, but he did. It was only now, with the threat of a hangover looming above his head, that he realized how drunk he really was. Luckily it had been late enough that his parents were asleep when he pulled in because he wouldn’t have been able to handle his mother’s reprimand. His parents had been more than understanding when he got evicted from his apartment and let him come back home while he finished his degree, so he tried his very best not to show them any annoyance when they asked after his life. Still, he couldn’t help but be irritated when he felt like they were prying too much.

He couldn’t seem to get the water hot enough in the shower. His skin was turning red, but he didn’t really feel the heat there must have been. He felt dirty from the inside out, like he was filled with something gooey. Dad banged on the bathroom door and admonished him for wasting so much water. Aaron shut off the faucet and stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around his waist. Water dripped on the floor, but that was immaterial to the matter at hand. Why wasn’t this groggy feeling fading? He was usually able to shake it off quicker than this.

He leaned forward over the bathroom sink and stared up at his ragged reflection in the mirror. He needed a shave probably. The part time job he was forced to work as a condition of his residence in this house wasn’t especially picky about employee appearance, but he was already on thin ice. Oh, well. He couldn’t be blamed for being unemployed if they fired him, right? He played with the part in his scraggly blond hair. He needed a haircut, too. Also needed to get some of the squishiness out of his midsection. His chest and back hurt and his teeth were yellow. He was too young to be falling apart like this.

“Well, at least you’ve got potential.”

He spun around to look for the voice. Of course, he was alone in the bathroom.

“Hey, turn around so I can get better look at what we’re working with.” Not sure what was making him do so, he turned his body and twisted his neck so that he was looking at his backside in the mirror. “Hm. Not bad. But you’re right, we do need to get some more exercise.”

Aaron finally figured out where the voice was coming from. It was in his head. It was his own voice talking to him in his own head, but he wasn’t having the thoughts that were happening, like someone was thinking for him. He wrenched back around and slammed his hands down onto the countertop. He stared at his face in the mirror. He smiled quickly. But it wasn’t him that pulled the corners of his mouth. It was like parts and pieces were moving on their own.

“Well that’s interesting,” said the Voice. “I didn’t think I’d be able to control you this easily.”

“Stop it!” Aaron finally screamed, his own, physical voice ricocheting around the bathroom. There was a humming silence in the wake of his outburst.

“You can just think things,” the Voice said. “No need to scream at me.”

Aaron took a few deep breathes. There was a quiet knock on the door.

“Honey? You okay?”

“Yeah, Ma, I’m fine I was just…reworking a conversation I had last night. That’s all.”

“Alright then,” she replied with uncertainty then moved away. Aaron kept peering at his reflection.

“Okay,” he thought. “Okay…um…who are you?”

“I Am.”

“You are what?”

“Just that. I simply Am. And now that I inhabit this skin, I am You.”

“No, you’re not me. I’m me.”

“And so am I.”

Aaron stared at his reflection some more.

“This is…this isn’t going anywhere,” he sighed. “So are you, like, a demon or a ghost or something?”

“I am an Other from the Other Place.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s because you’re trying to use word-thoughts. There’s a little bit of your mind that I’m not in, yet, so if you’d open that part for me…”

“No!” Aaron said with his actual voice. It felt scratchy in the back of his throat. “Look I don’t,” then he paused, and went back to thinking his words. “You’re here because of the spirit board, aren’t you? Like, it actually worked.”

The Voice considered.

“After a fashion,” it admitted. “It’s not the board itself, but the energy of the people using it in ritualized harmony. Someone you know has a little preternatural ability in them.”

“Well, I don’t want you in me, okay? I didn’t even do the spirit board stuff. So, go find that person. I’m sure they’d be glad to have you.”

“Can’t do that,” the Voice continued. “Once I’m in, I’m in. I can’t move back to the Other Place for a hundred years, and I can’t become another. Obviously, you’ll be long gone by then, but I’ll still be here. So, we are one for as long as your consciousness exists, and I get to keep going even after. Actually, I’d like to try something if you don’t mind.” Aaron’s left hand started to tremor. Slowly, it crept across his body, and reached for the razor on the edge of the sink. Aaron tried to pull it back, reaching his other hand up to physically push it back, but even his right hand wouldn’t obey him totally and stopped halfway. He watched as he picked up the razor and brought it against the fingers of his right hand. At the last minute something released him, and he managed to drop the razor to the floor. He had still managed to knick the edge of his finger. It wasn’t a terrible cut, but a dot of crimson blood appeared. He pressed it into some toilet paper, and rummaged through the cabinet for bandages.

“That was interesting,” said the Voice.

“Oh was it?” Aaron thought back at it angrily. “You gonna torture me for the rest of my life?”

“No, no, no! Of course not. I am You. I feel everything you feel. No way I’m going to bring pain to myself. I was just testing how much control I have over our physical parts now that you know that I Am. Making us move or smile is one thing. Making us hurt ourselves is quite a different matter. I am not the primary part of us, after all, and bodily instinct still plays a factor. That’s why you were able to keep from hurting yourself too terribly bad. We’ll have to experiment. We have to get to work, though, don’t we?”

 

Aaron was early to work. He didn’t realize it until he tried punching in his code and it rejected him because it wasn’t in the 10 minute window in which he was allowed to check in for his shift. He looked down at the clock on the code box, then took a sip of the coffee he had picked up on the way. He wasn’t particularly fond of coffee, but this seemed like a good day to start drinking it. The bitterness and caffeine was doing it’s work to bring him around. The Voice wasn’t talking to him, but he felt the sense of Other in his brain, now. He was becoming aware that he wasn’t the only one using his body, but it was softer than it had seemed in the bathroom. It was a gentle tug, a quiet whisper of intent. Even as he started to ring people through his cashier line, he felt like his hands were moving quicker, his smile was easier, and he was calculating out the change faster. The caffeine couldn’t keep him as awake as he hoped, though, and he started feeling drowsy with an hour and a half still left in his shift. He was working closing, so he’d have to cash out and help with end of day recovery and face the impulse buys, then move onto the nearest accessories —

His car was sitting in front of him, and he was clicking his key fob. The lights blinked and the car honked. A few of his coworkers were parked around him and wishing him well on his way home. They seemed not as pissed off at him as they normally did. He stared at his car door, opened it numbly, and crawled into the driver’s seat.

“What the hell?” he finally said out loud.

“You seemed tired,” said the Voice, “so I let you sleep a little. It was a little boring, but it was interesting to move in a body.”

“Wait, wait.” Aaron leaned his forehead against the steering wheel and started think-talking. “You just…took over?”

“Yes.”

“You can do that?”

“I guess.”

“You ‘guess’?”

The Voice sighed with exasperation. “Well, I’ve never had a body before. Does it bother you? Would you rather I didn’t?”

Aaron considered it. “I don’t know. I feel not tired, and I didn’t have to actually do anything. Is there a time limit or something? Why did I wake up all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know how to drive, yet,” The Voice replied earnestly. “And, it’s tiresome. I’m still settling in.”

Aaron started to get nervous. “So, when you settle in, you’ll just be able to take over my body whenever you want?”

“I think it’s just when you’re tired or weakened, but awake. I wasn’t able to wake you up this morning, so I don’t think our body will respond to me while your consciousness is sleeping. And since you know I’m here and can do that, it’s certainly not an easy task. If I chipped away at it really hard, maybe. But I don’t want that. I want us to live in tandem. Things are better that way. So, I’ll just make my intentions known ahead of time the next time, is that okay?”

Aaron stared ahead. It made him feel queasy to think of something using his body while he wasn’t awake to feel it, but it had seemed to go well. He cast his glance across the back of this hands a few times while he thought it out.

“The bandage came off,” he said quietly to himself, noticing that his finger was unwrapped. He took his hand off the wheel and flicked his fingers at himself. “Oh holy crap.” The cut was gone. It hadn’t been deep to begin with, but it had left a tiny flap of skin behind. Now it was as though nothing had ever happened.

“Yes. Now that you are attached to the Other Place, your body will be a lot hardier. It will heal quicker. While I’m forced to reside in it, I can also reanimate it should the worse happen.”

“Whoa, you can bring me back from the dead?”

“I can reanimate your corpse,” the Voice said pointedly.

“Okay. That just might make this whole thing worth it. That is awesome. So, um, do you need me to teach you to drive or something? Because, I gotta tell you, driving into campus after staying up late is a real pain in the ass sometimes.”

“Just drive. Our body will teach me.”

 

Aaron poked his belly. He had abs. They weren’t anything to write home about, but they were present and firm. The Voice liked going to the gym and was happy to use the membership his parents had gotten him the year before. The Voice liked running and playing a pickup game of basketball when it had the chance, as well. Since he had stopped smoking he was breathing easier, and he didn’t feel like garbage all the time. The Voice also knew how to write essays, apparently, and managed to smash out a B+ worthy report in just a night. The professor had even called Aaron into his office to allay his fears that Aaron had turned to plagiarism to get his grade up. It was able to ace pretty much any test with only a few hours of studying and was actually good at the Chemistry lab class that Aaron had managed to fail twice already. All Aaron had to do was give his body over to the Voice.

He gave his arms a quick stretch before tucking his shirt in. He didn’t feel as tired as he usually did at this point in the week. It was probably because was “sleeping” through most of his shifts at work. The Voice liked interacting with the customers. It used that time to learn how to communicate better with other people. Aaron was willing to let the Voice manage every shift he had to work at that terrible place.

“Ma, I’m heading out,” Aaron called as he moved his way from the bathroom through the house.

“Don’t drink and drive,” she called back like she always did, but that was one of the brilliant side effects of having the Voice inside him. When he got drunk, he felt the giddiness of being tipsy, but none of the more dulling effects of intoxication. He hadn’t had a hangover in months, now. It took him more drinks to get buzzed and it didn’t seem to be as strong, but that was an okay sacrifice to make.

Eyes turned to him when he walked in the bar. That was something he was happy to never get tired of. He was certain he looked the same as he always did, but there was something about the Voice that made him radiate a sort of relaxed sophistication. People (girls in particular) really seemed to notice him. At first, he’d get into conversation, and things would start to slide downhill once the other party realized his outside didn’t quite match his inside. Now, though, he was able to hold up the pretense for longer. He knew things that he didn’t remember learning. He had political and social leanings that, somehow, vocalized themselves in an intelligent and objective manner. The Voice probably had a hand in that.

He found his little group he was meeting up with, and he set his sights on her immediately. This little blonde number, Ella, had been in his periphery for quite a while, but she had been attached until recently. Now she was fresh off a break-up, so he intended to catch her on the rebound. She was still a little resistant to his flirting, that was for sure. But she’d give way. They always did after a few drinks and —

He was making out with a girl on a couch, and his hands were creeping their way down a button up shirt. Oh. Well. This was nice. She wasn’t great at kissing, but then neither was he, in all honesty. He reached under whatever shirt he was trying to unbutton. This was nice, indeed. The girl pulled away just a little to breathe. Brunette. Aaron leaned back away from her. This wasn’t Ella. It was the little short one whose bangs were always half covering her face and had the weird tooth. The one who was always knocking over her drinks. Brittany, her name was, if he was remembering right in this weird haze he was feeling.

“Beth,” the Voice corrected.

“What the hell is going on?” Aaron thought angrily.

“Yeah, that Ella girl was not feeling it. Beth’s had a crush on us for a while, though. She kinda liked that standoffishness. Saw it as a sort of ‘troubled but with a heart of gold’ kind of thing. And she’s a lot nicer than that other girl, not quite as smart, but then that’s probably better for us.” And the Voice chuckled.

“So, you took over? We had a deal.””

“This is a better decision for us long term. Ella would have been a one night stand, at best. Beth we could actually maybe start dating. I mean, we probably won’t marry her or anything, but we need a good solid relationship right now. It would be good for us.”

“No, I’m bailing. I’m not doing this.”

“Let her down gently!” the Voice exclaimed. “You’ll change your mind, I know it.”

“Fine. Beth,” and he spoke out loud, the Voice bringing him the words, “um. I think we should stop. I’m too drunk. You’re too drunk. I don’t want us doing something we regret. I’ll talk to you later.” Without waiting for her response or even looking at her face, he stood up stiffly, and walked out the door. He found his way down the steps of what appeared to be her apartment and navigated the parking lot to his car.

“This is bullshit,” he thought as he got in the driver’s seat and pulled out of the parking space. “You can’t just do that without my permission.”

“Oh come on,” the Voice replied. “I woke you up for the good part. She was so ready to go all the way.”

“That’s not the point. It’s my body. I’m the one who gets to decide what happens to it and what it does.”

“Excuse you, but it’s partly my body, too. I know this wasn’t something you volunteered for, but I’m here and I have a right to a say in the matter.”

“No. That doesn’t work for me.” Aaron felt the Voice grow angry. It happened occasionally: a sudden, vague swelling of emotion that wasn’t his own. His hands started sweating. His vision was blurry, and a sharp pain developed right at the front of his forehead. The world began to swim and sway. He felt the car drifting over into the wrong lane, and he jerked it back. He drifted, again, toward a pair of bright lights. There was a loud honk and a crashing sound.

Hospital. That was the first word he thought of when he opened his eyes to the stark white walls. He had been in and out as the paramedics arrived, groggily taking in bits and pieces of the activities around him through a fish-eyed lens.

“What did you do to me?” he whispered out loud.

“Let you feel as drunk as you actually were, is all. But don’t worry about a DUI. They did a blood test, but it won’t come back over the limit.”

“Why, man?” Aaron kept talking out loud. It was the only way he could form coherent thoughts, at the moment.

“To show you that you’re not the only one in here. I live in this body, and I like it here, so you’re going to have to be more congenial to me.”

“By trying to kill me? Whatever. Like that would even matter.”

“Right. You just keep thinking that,” the Voice said quietly.

 

The other party in the accident hadn’t been scratched. Aaron had totalled his car against an SUV that barely felt it. He himself managed to leave the ER early the next morning with little more than a few stitches that were almost completely healed a day later. He had taken off work for the weekend, but he was back in class on Monday. The Voice hadn’t made itself known in all that time. Something was brewing.

The middle of next week, while starting to fall asleep during a lecture he normally let the Voice handle, he felt a tug between his eyes. It was the same sensation that he felt when he let himself go. Only, he hadn’t given the Voice permission, so he fought it. The Voice fought back. He fought harder, until he was pressing his eyes closed and scrunching up his face. The Voice gave up. A dozen more times over the next couple of weeks he fought a tiny battle with the Voice. Then, one morning, he woke up in different clothes than he had gone to bed in. Then he seemed to teleport from the door of the lecture hall, down two flights of stairs, to the building exit, his feet moving all the while. Then he went from sitting in his room browsing the internet to grocery shopping for his mom. The Voice was teasing him. It was showing him what it could do. When he tried to think-talk at it, it didn’t respond.

After about a week and a half of peace, Aaron lost a whole day. Everything in his life seemed to have functioned properly in his absence. Better, even.

Then, a week later, he lost three days. Then ten. Then he stopped sleeping. But then he’d get too tired, and he’d lose another day.

He was sitting on his bed, knees up to his chest, staring at the TV. His parents were two days into a four day visit to his grandparents, and he hadn’t slept since they left. He called in sick to work. He didn’t go to class.

Instead he just rocked back and forth, trying with every last granule of energy he had left to keep himself awake. That was the only thing that mattered to him at the moment.

He was losing his life.

“I’ll just end it,” he said to himself outloud. “No that won’t work,” he immediately corrected. “That asshole’ll just bring me back to life.”

“That’s not very nice.” This was the first time the Voice had spoken to him since the hospital.

“Well, if you’d stop taking over my body…” Aaron refused to think-talk at it and said the words to the empty room.

“I’m sorry you feel that way. Hasn’t your life improved since I’ve started sharing this body with you?”

“It’s not an improvement if I’m not around for it.”

The Voice snickered darkly.

“Were you really living it before? You were wallowing in mediocrity. You were nothing.”

“Shut up!” Aaron covered his ears.

“I’m still here, and I’m not leaving. In fact, I’m rather fond of this body. Maybe I’ll just take it.” Aaron felt his body start to move of its own accord. He fought against it.

“No, I won’t let you!” Aaron flung himself to the floor and focused on each individual muscle in his body. He needed to stay together. There was a flash of black, and he was crouching in the hallway outside his room. He crawled back toward his bed, every movement bogged down in quicksand.

Another flash of black.

Bathroom.

Black.

Kitchen.

Black.

Living room.

Aaron lay sprawled beneath the coffee table. He gripped the legs tightly. He wouldn’t slip away again.

“What are you trying to do?” He screamed, hurting his own ears in the process. “You can’t kill me. You said that yourself.”

“Actually, my exact words were I can ‘reanimate a corpse.’ You don’t have to be in it, when I do it.”

Aaron dug his hands into the carpet. That’s right. How had he not seen it? He’d been so distracted by the prospect of improving his own life, he hadn’t really been paying attention to the Voice’s intentions.

There was a knock on the door. He scrambled out from under the table. Had someone heard all his screaming? He checked the window. It was the brunette from his little group of friends. Beth, he remembered. It was harder to forget after what had happened that night at the bar. How did she know where he lived, though? All those days that the Voice had been in control. What had it done? Aaron opened the door just a crack. She pushed it open. She was stronger than he expected. She slammed the door shut.

She had a gun.

The barrel pressed against his forehead, right between the eyes.

“Beth, what are you doing?” Aaron had instinctively put his hands up.

“I got a phone call,” she said coldly. Her hands didn’t shake on the gun. Her head was tilted down, and she was looking up at him under hooded eyes. Aaron waved his hands at her helplessly.

“Look. You’re not going to believe me, but I have this…thing living inside me. It makes me do stuff sometimes that I don’t always want to do. Whatever it said to you-”

“I know,” she replied. “I noticed you changed, and I began to figure it out.”

Aaron puffed out a quick breath of relief. Perhaps he could reason with her.

“Okay. So, I’m working on controlling it, okay? So if it’s done anything to mess with you…”

“Actually, we all kind of prefer It to you.”

Aaron’s breathing picked up.

“Okay. Okay. I understand that. But, here’s the deal, if you kill me, It gets my body. No going back.”

“Yeah, that’s kinda the point,” she replied.

There was a click and a bang.

And everything was black.

*

After being published in FlashFiction online and a couple of other local publications, I decided to start my own semi-serial passion project of fantasy short stories. Installments can be found on Inkitt, FictionPress, and at latolan.wordpress.com. When I’m not dressing up in Renaissance Faire garb or accosting voice actors at conventions, I’m at home with my husband making polymer clay jewelry and admiring my puppet collection.


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