Listen to me. Take this. Swallow. Step into her body and lay flat next to her. If you can feel her heartbeat as your own, feel her chest rise as yours and your fingertips fill with a rush of blood then you know it’s working. I can guide you but only if you hold onto my voice.
You told me you wanted to be in someone else’s body the night we met. Someone different. Like her. You pointed to the waitress, you called her simple and rolled your eyes and I thought that was sad, the way privileged girls can throw around a single word of judgment without explanation. You suggested maybe that all the folk out here are like that. I thought different. I once met a woman here who worked at a crematorium. She said “all bodies burn at 700 degrees, but not all bones turn to ash.”
As the Arizona heat beats down, my pulse seems to move further from my chest and into my ears. My mouth is dry, everything out here is dry and mostly even, that even pallet of dusty brown. Except the red hills. The hills look fresh, like they’ve pushed out of the ground, tearing through an open wound, bloodied and sore. This guy in a porkpie hat lifts the sliding door of the storage unit with all the pomp and ceremony of that fucking show Storage Wars and you and your excitable hopping around like a desert rabbit is enough for me to cave. You saw it there in the corner, tightly bound by a worn leather strap. The Magician’s Handbook. You check the index, there it was listed. Spell 13: How to transfer consciousness from body to body.
When I think of Magic, I think Angel, Copperfield, Houdini. Even Neil Patrick Harris. That’s what I think about when I think of magic. And I think of Disney. Or maybe that’s magical. My first time at Disney World I tried all the flavors of Coca-Cola in one place. That was magical. Then I sat back and watched the international cheerleading championship. My gaze switching between boobs and backflips, my poor little brain trying to figure which I liked best. That was magical. What you’re asking me to do isn’t that. It’s dangerous. What if you switch over and I can’t bring you back?
I told her I love the way her body moves, the way it cuts through the silence of our tiny studio, curved like a sound wave. That I don’t want her in another body for my use. She says the hardest part of seeing the jagged scar on her stomach is that they let her hold on to the baby until she went quiet. She says she doesn’t need the reminder when I’m inside her, or when curious eyes quickly shift over her when she’s at the beach, or the gym. And that it’s her body to change up, lend out or switch consciousness as she pleases. I’ll lose her if I don’t obey so her wish is my command.
I studied Spell 13 over and over. I switched our dog into our cat and then back a few times. They seemed normal when they returned to their original bodies but started eating from opposite bowls. This worried me but she said it was a minor road bump and to keep at it until I was ready.
We found a woman on Nevada’s Craigslist. A magician’s assistant by trade. She once did the big shows but now worked a small Old Vegas club. Five hundred dollars cash would seal the deal, would do the trick. We went for it and handed her five crisp one hundred dollar bills as we explained the risks.
The spell requires you to hold onto my voice. Please don’t let go of it. I will guide you both until the switch is over. Then you will need to lock onto my voice to switch back.
In her new body she is freer. She runs my hands across her stomach, holds them there a while, and then lifts them up, around her neck and into her new mouth. Her new body has scars too, but not her own, different ones, from another life. When she comes, the motel walls shake like the laws of physics have been altered. She cries out in relief, in a voice I do not know, like a great weight has been lifted, a great pain has escaped. The magician’s assistant watches from the teal bathroom door frame, scanning our final movements, caressing her new skin.
I have become a magician. Not Angel, not Copperfield, not Houdini, and definitely not Neil Patrick Harris. But I am magic. Maybe dark magic, but definitely magic. Far from Disney World because it doesn’t feel magical. It doesn’t feel like boobs or backflips or infinite soda.
When she switches back and comes to, she kisses me deep and long and tells me she can’t wait to do it again.
This is magic, but not magical.
Sacha Bissonnette is a short story writer from Ottawa, Canada. He is a reader for the Wigleaf top 50 series. His story Glass Birds in Wigleaf was nominated for a Pushcart. His work has appeared in Wigleaf, Litro UK, Lunch Ticket, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Maine Review, The Emerson Review, Cease, Cows, among other places. He has upcoming short fiction in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Trampset and Terrain.org. He is currently working on a short fiction anthology with the help of a National Canada Council for the Arts grant, an Ontario Arts Grant and a Youth in Culture Ottawa Grant and was recently selected for the Writer’s Union of Canada – BIPOC Writer’s Connect mentorship. He loves film and comfort food and tweets @sjohnb9.
Art (modified) Alex Bellink CC2.0 ALT A woman in a purple polka-dot dress appears to be levitating magically.
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