By quick reckoning, he figured this was his eighth jump. Driven to near insanity by the previous seven, and embroiled in the failed life of the last consciousness, a miserable life indeed, he’d expected oblivion. What else but oblivion—one doesn’t leap off a downtown Denver skyscraper expecting anything but. The fact that he could smell coffee and feel the warm spot in the bed next to him, recently vacated, proved that whatever this was, it was most assuredly not oblivion.
He’d learned a crucial lesson after the third shift, a lesson he now practiced, stay calm and wait. Wait in silence until someone, anyone notices you and calls out your name.
Let’s see what we’ve got this time. He probed his body checking for vitals: hair, toes, aches and pains, limb count, skin color. Excellent, two eyes and two ears—operational and all my fingers. I can work with this.
A musical voice drifted from behind a bathroom door. “Rick, come on. Joanie leaves for academy in one hour and she can’t be late again.” Rick. I’m Rick and I’m married and have at least one child. Well, Joanie might be a French bulldog, so let’s not be hasty. At least this is better than last time.
‘Rick’ gave a shudder and let his mind wander back to what he estimated must be about a month ago. A month and, if previous transitions were any indication, a world away, Denver lockup with slick concrete chilling his bones. That had been his last gift of consciousness musical chairs. The accommodations, though unpleasant, were tolerable. That time, the worst part of waking up was the screaming urge to pee, but without a penis. All his previous occupations had been men. Some old, some black, some disabled, but all of them could pee standing up.
“Rick. Now would be good.”
“You got it, honey,” he said, risking an endearment that had worked in the past.
“Honey? Don’t honey me. I’ve got clients flying in from Brussels and you promised.”
Promised what? “On it.”
Simon had gotten sick and died. Or so he’d thought. For the last eight months, he’s been playing hopscotch with people’s lives. It’s not been pretty. A horrific trail of chaos and disappointment is what he would eventually come to call it.
Today, however, he struck upon a glimmer of understanding, a thread of commonality that each mind that he’d possessed thus far had exhibited. It may have been the somber environments, or the sense of desperation that coated most of the lives he’d visited. But each life had, he believed, reached that critical point that tips between living and dying.
He admitted no knowledge of where the other minds went during his visits. He’d never felt them. And so far, he’d never gone back to check up on anyone after he’d moved on.
I’ve made a mess of things, I’m sure of it. And I’m fairly certain that this is not working out for anyone involved. But damn if I know how to fix it.