What follows is an excerpt from a novel that is currently seeking publication. I have co-authored the larger work with Mariana Tamborell but this section is written solely by me, Jim Sliney Jr. I provide it here as an example of some of my longer length writing.
In my last two experiences I had arrived in the body of Elise while she was awake and in Amanda when she was awake. This felt different though. There was a calmness and a lack of movement. I also couldn’t see anything and all I could hear was static.
I think I felt something. My skin felt really good like it was all exposed and resting on a bed of silk. It was cool and smooth on one side, while my back felt warm, even a little sweaty.
I tried to move my head. I couldn’t tell if it was working. This was so strange. Was I moving or was I not?
My confusion deepened when I realized I could see something. The world around me wasn’t all black like it had seemed at first. There was a hallway in front of me with pictures in frames on both sides. I was standing up too. What the hell? Was I … dreaming? Was this my dream? Or was this Amanda’s dream? Ugh, my head hurt.
The hallway wasn’t dark and the picture frames on both sides weren’t photos either; they were little movie screens. There was a woman in a business suit in an office looking stressed as she scanned her computer.
There was a woman at what looked like a sunny resort in Mexico. She had a young boy with her that looked like her. Her son? They were walking among a large crowd, looking around like they were looking for someone they’d lost.
The next one was of a very pale man with very pale blonde hair. He wore jeans, a long sleeved t-shirt and he was running down the beach like he’d just seen a ghost! The waves crashed around him.
Each picture frame had a different movie playing in it. I thought that these had to be memories or something. They didn’t make any sense to me but I knew they were important, not why, not to me, just that they were. But before I saw the last few frames I stopped.
The hallways ahead of me faded into almost complete darkness. All I could see were a few stairs going down, but the stairs were made of stone, and they were old and worn with moss on them. A thumping coming from the darkness and a cold shiver ran over my body.
“Is somebody there?” I said. My voice sounded unfamiliar and deep.
Something answered me.
I turned and run. My heart hammered in my chest. My breath, deep but fast. The voice I heard, though muffled behind a wall or a heavy door, sounded like the one I had just spoken in but filled with terror. It said, “OH GOD! LET ME OUT!!!”
I sat straight up in bed. The silk sheets were soaked with sweat as was the rest of me. My skin felt open wide like it was leaking all of my moisture away. I was panting like a dog and my chest hurt really a lot.
I was in a dark room. Very dark. I could see curtains drawn tight across what must be a tall window because a sliver of pale light was trying to sneak through them. The little bit of light fell across what I recognized as fairly standard hotel furniture. I reached over to my left instinctively and, sure enough, there was an end table with a lamp on it. I reached to the base where the light switch should be. It wasn’t there so I reached up to the other spot where light switches are on hotel lamps. It was there. I turned it on.
The hotel room looked very neat. A suitcase on a suitcase stand sat open by a full length mirror. In the mirror I could see the bathroom. The door was ajar and the light was on inside. In the other part of the room was the kind of desk that exists in every hotel room. There was a laptop there, open, but off, surrounded by an array of little things – keys, mints, coins and the like.
I resisted the urge to look at myself as I pushed out of the bed. The sheets were definitely made of dark blue silk and must be very expensive, so probably not standard issue. I was in the body of a woman with expensive tastes as least. Was this still Amanda? Had I just blacked out or had a bad dream? A dream about jumping into another person’s body?
I stood and walked over to the full length mirror to see myself.
I woke up on the floor.
My head hurt but not as much as my right arm which seemed to be pinned under me. I had fainted and unfortunately remembered why.
I unraveled my twisted self on the floor, making sure to stay low so I wouldn’t see myself in the mirror. I lay on my side and reached down with my left hand to where … I had a penis.
“Oh god! I’m a man?!”
The voice was definitely deeper, more bass, much like the voice that shouted ‘oh god let me out’ in my dream. But this voice was louder somehow too, though also kind of scratchy. I was very thirsty.
“HOW THE Fff.…” I broke down coughing – choking on spit.
I put my hand down there again. Yup, I’m not imagining things. I looked down at it. Seeing it made me feel… I mean… it was a penis. I like those, right? It was not entirely unattractive as penises go, if penises are attractive, which they’re not. Not really. Not unless. It looked small and shriveled and was huddled in the same package as the two eggs-in-a-sack that were right behind it. How strange looking. I watched for a second and that was when it started moving.
I jumped up to try to get away from it but of course, it was attached. I had a sudden flashback of the big brown snake that had wrapped around my leg in the sea. Oh shit why was it moving by itself? It wasn’t attacking me or anything, it was just sort of shifting and… growing.
My only frame of reference was Blake. When we had sex I didn’t get a very close up look, but there were other times when I got a peak at it. When we’d watch TV on the couch sometimes I would see it under his sweatpants or his shorts. It did kind of move by itself sometimes. Penises fill with blood and become “hard” or “erect”. I had thought that only happened when sex was about to happen. Then I remembered what Blake had explained to me.
“Babe, I don’t know how else to say it but, it has a mind of its own sometimes. It’s really annoying! I might be in class and my boxers would brush against it and it would get hard. Or I’d be nervously tapping my foot and it would get hard. Or I’d wake up in the morning and it would be hard. Or go to sleep, or roll over, or be on the phone with you. I mean, it really has its own agenda.”
I asked, “Does it do its thing when you walk by a pretty girl?”
He blushed, “No! No it’s not like that. But if you and me are just talking, umm…”
“Oh my god, it’s doing it right now!”
Then he really turned red in the face.
It was a strange conversation and he was sooo uncomfortable, but it had ended really, (really) nicely. While we talked I tried to explain how girl parts worked but, honestly, I’m not sure I understood it all that well, so talking about it wasn’t very productive. Like Blake, I had periods of excitement that didn’t always seem to make the most sense. But for me there was usually some kind of personal intimacy involved, or at least the potential for it.
One time Blake had told some guy off because he’d bumped into me at a concert. The guy was drunk and so was his friend. They got in Blake’s’ face but he just got bigger and tougher and louder and he told the two guys to apologize, which they did. Then they just walked away. A whole lot of stuff happened in my pants in that moment. I wasn’t sure why but it came from somewhere down deep inside me, like some Neanderthal woman who just got saved from a saber-tooth tiger or something. I wanted to reward him in a very intimate way. Of course, I didn’t, because we were in public, but my lady parts didn’t care.
I got to my feet and stood in front of the full length mirror.
Yes, I had a penis alright, and at the moment it was standing at attention. I guess because I was not wearing any clothing and because I had touched it, it got a signal or something. Blake’s was bigger, that is, Blake’s was wider. This was longer, and circumcised. Blake’s was not.
I was also in good physical shape. I didn’t see abs, but I didn’t see much body fat either. Whoever this man was he was very fit. I could see veins in his arms and legs. He had a handsome face. Ugh…looking in the face was so hard. There’s so much identity in the face. But anyway, he was clean shaven, but with a little bit of stubble on the chin and lip. He wasn’t movie star handsome but he was symmetrical. He looked a little familiar though I couldn’t quite say how or where I might have seen him, I just felt like I had.
His wiener got the message and decided to go back to sleep, which was a relief. My mouth tasted like birdseed and my teeth were kind of gross so I decided, first things first, let’s brush the teeth.
In the bathroom I saw what my dad called a ‘shave kit’. It had two razors, some shaving cream, some after shave, deodorant, dental floss, tooth paste (some of that weird organic stuff), and some bandages. Right next to it was the toothbrush, perfectly perpendicular to the shave kit and sitting on its own hand towel, folded up into a perfect rectangle.
In the light of the bathroom I looked different. Well, that wasn’t too surprising, every woman knows what lighting is good and what isn’t. But right now I noticed just how pale this man was. I’d never seen skin so pale. And his hair – I thought it was blonde but it wasn’t…well, it was, but…it was platinum blonde, almost white. While glancing (I wasn’t going to try to make eye contact) I noticed his eyes were a very light blue.
“Oh wow, I’m an albino”. Ugghhh. Hearing the voice come out of the mouth while watching it move made this feel way too real. Nonetheless, I concluded that, yes, I was an albino.
“Who the hell is this guy?”
I distracted myself before getting around to brushing my teeth, choosing instead to walk out to the main room to the desk with the laptop on it. I sat down. When I did I kind of sat on my balls…his testicles. It felt uncomfortable like it was caught against something it shouldn’t be. I reached down instinctively and made a minor adjustment. There was that muscle memory again. Frankly I was so happy for it. I was coming to rely heavily on muscle memory.
With my stupid gross testes out of the way of my leg, I opened up the laptop. I hoped there wouldn’t be a password I had to worry about, but the first screen that appeared was the one asking for a 4-digit-pin. I relaxed my hands and tried to let them find the keys themselves but, as I’d come to learn, instinct is impossible to force, it just has to happen. Nothing came to me. I left the laptop open but pivoted to examine the other things on the desk.
“BINGO! A wallet! Holy smokes I’ve got to pee!”
I stood up and made my way to the bathroom and brought the wallet with me. I sat down and immediately discovered that my…appendage…needed to be tucked down because it just sort of sat there on the seat otherwise. So I tucked. When I did, the thing got interested in what was happening again.
“Geez Blake, seriously?”
I laughed my own ass off. I had just inadvertently named my penis Blake. It felt right somehow. Thankfully the laughing diverted attention away from it, it stopped paying attention, went back to sleep, and so I was able to pee. I was worried my aim was off but everything seemed to turn out okay. I instinctively grabbed some TP but then realized I wasn’t going to need that…at least I didn’t think so. I felt around and smiled. It turned out this always-attached-hose design was pretty efficient. No mess.
“Guys, have it so easy. No periods. No mess after peeing. They don’t have to carry babies for nine months.”
I stood up, flushed, and then examined the wallet. There was an Australian driver’s license. The name on it was, “Edward Chalk, Date of Birth, January 21, 1983, Hair, blonde, Eyes, blue”, and a home address. He lived in Sydney just like I did, though nothing about the address was familiar – some street and code I’d never heard of. His picture looked to be a few years old. The face I saw in the mirror was definitely older than the face in the picture, but I still concluded that for his age, which was 33, he was fit and looked fairly young. Maybe it was because he was an albino?
I heard a ding, like a notification on a cell phone. I ran into the living space and scanned around looking for a bright screen. I didn’t see one directly so I turned on all the lights and looked for a phone.
“Geez” I sputtered as I passed myself in the full length mirror. This walking around naked had to stop. I went to the suitcase and quickly found some white boxer briefs and slipped them on. I was distressed to discover that I needed to move my ‘package’ a bit so that it sat comfortably in the underwear. But at least it was covered. I threw on a plain white tee shirt as well and as I did the notification ding repeated.
This time I saw the light. It was on the desk and partially covered by a pamphlet about, of all places, Mulga Island. I took the pamphlet in one hand and the phone in the other. The message on the phone said, “Missed call from No Caller ID”. Damn. I entered the passcode and opened the phone.
I had not even noticed that I had entered the code this time. It works better when I’m not really paying close attention.
I went right to the contacts and recent calls. There had been a few calls from No Caller ID over the last few days. Three coming in and two going out. I checked the text messages. Just like on my phone there were a lot of these. So many that it made my head spin. I wasn’t going to be able to make sense of that here and now. Instead, I just did a search for me, Jessy Stevens.
I found myself, “Jessy Stevens”.
Right above it I found, “Grant Stevens”. That was my dad.
Why was I in the phone of this strange middle aged albino man? Why was my dad here? How did I know this man? Why did he seem familiar? Maybe he was an old friend of my father’s and I’d met him some time back in New York or on a vacation with my parents somewhere. His name, Edward Chalk, wasn’t familiar, though, it just struck me that it was totally ironic – an albino named “Chalk”. I bet he’d changed it at some point.
I looked at the calendar app on his phone. It was riddled with all kinds of appointments but used codes or something that I couldn’t understand, like, “meet WD tmrw at same spot”. That was cryptic. “WD” was probably initials, “tmrw” was “tomorrow” I was pretty sure, but then why write meet Tuesday on the Monday calendar? “Same spot” was pretty vague. It definitely felt like he didn’t want other people to understand his schedule if they had, by chance, like me, found and accessed his phone. Who does that?
I went to put the phone down but then realized I might not remember the security code again, so, I changed it to a number I would definitely remember. Blake’s birthday. Then I looked at the Mulga Island pamphlet.
“Private beaches. Great surfing. Private bungalows. The Great Barrier Reef. Exotic wildlife. Get off the beaten path and take the ferry to adventure.”
“Exotic wildlife! No shit! It should say, warning, giant fucking Mulga snakes!”
I had gone to Mulga Island to surf. I wanted to get away, be alone. Mulga Island was not some huge resort. What was the chance that Mr. Chalk here had also wanted to visit Mulga Island? Pretty slim I wagered. As I put the pamphlet down I noticed there was some writing on the back, lower corner. At first it just looked like the kind of scribble that you make when seeing if a pen worked, but when I looked closer I saw underneath it, “rez#C705411”.
In a sudden flash it came to me – that had been my reservation number for the midnight ferry – the ferry that you take from the pier out to Mulga Island. Since there were lodgings on Mulga Island the ferries ran late and started early; still, it would only run that late if people had reserved it. I had been one of only two people on the ferry.
Once I was done with my shower though I was faced with myself in the mirror and the unfortunate presence of the facial stubble. My father shaved every day. He was always very clean shaven. In fact, except for once on a family vacation that didn’t involve any business, I would never had known he even grew facial hair. Blake too, managed to keep his facial hair well controlled. Only on the weekends did I ever get to experience stubble on his face, which, as a girl, I found a bit abrasive on my cheeks when we’d kiss.
Would it be weird and out of place if Mr. Chalk didn’t shave? Would anyone even notice? I decided it would be less obvious to have some facial stubble than it would be to have cuts all over his face. It was my mother who told me, “Different parts of your body shave differently dear. But that’s no excuse for being a savage. Shave where you can and wax where you can’t.”
I took a moment and looked at the shaving equipment. It didn’t look all that different from what I had used on my legs. But still, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I moved on, put on his deodorant (Old Spice) then got dressed.
His stuff was exceedingly neat. When I packed for a trip I basically shoved everything into my suitcase and sat on it to close it. Mr. Chalk divided up his suitcase into under garments, day garment, night garments, and shoes & socks. I picked through thoughtfully. Just because I was in another body didn’t mean I was ready to look like someone had dragged me around the street.
In the end I was wearing a comfortable pair of tan chinos, a light button-down short-sleeve beach-shirt, loafers and socks. I felt like I should be walking the boardwalk somewhere. Mr. Chalk had a diverse wardrobe. He had two suits, swimming trunks, and an interesting pullover that was flesh colored with tattooed sleeves. More exploring found a clip on ear stud, a leather bracelet, condoms, leather boots, nice jeans, ripped jeans, and more makeup than a woman would probably bring with her. I was ready to think Mr. Chalk was maybe a bit freaky until I found a wig and a mustache. That’s not freaky, that’s hard core. Those are the discoveries that left me thinking he was a cop or private detective or something, though, I didn’t find a gun.
I sat down and tried the laptop again. I got three out of four numbers into the pin code then my brain froze up. So close! At least, I think it was. I decided to try again later.
It was 8:09am when I left the hotel room.