“Did you leap out of your timeline?” Asked Tara.
“No, I don’t think so?” replied Karl.
“It would be very bad.”
At first he thought he’d OD’d on vials of O, liquid heroin, drifting solitary into the ether; but this time was different. This time he was definitely awake. He could taste Absinth on his tongue. He could feel hot sticky leather beneath his skin. He looked down at his lap. His hand and clothing were all different, someone else’s. He felt between his legs and jumped out of his skin terrified as if possessed by a demon. It was only a flash but long enough to know it was not a dream. He threw the drugs away and wrestled with the experience all night breaking into a cold feverish sweat.
The door rang midday obliterating the silence knocking him conscious. He brushed last night’s fears to one side convinced it was merely a bad trip. An unassuming cute blond knocked on the door, Tara, masquerading as a chugger, plugging a charity for orphan children. Coincidentally he was thinking of committing to something to help the kids in Rwanda. He breathed a sigh of relief, things had returned back to normal. He invited her in and signed up without fuss. He thought it more a case of good timing than a clever sell. Karl still had the TV on from last night watching Big Brother live. Not wanting to appear rude he reached to kill the volume.
“No leave it.” She whispered. He saw a twinkle in her eye. It was curious to say the least. “Do you mind if I try something?”
He shook his head subdued. “No.”
“Close your eyes.” He did as told. She tapped his forehead lightly. It felt warm. His head became light, his eyes heavy, he grew faint then blacked out.
Seconds later he came to startled, scared just as before. “Fuck, my god.”
This time the episode was more lucid. He was definitely awake. He panted hard trying to catch his breath phasing in and out of consciousness his vision blurred. He saw Tara standing above him offering a glass of his Southern Comfort. He knocked it out her hand clearly shaken.
“Get away. What did you do to me?”
“Sshh..I’m sorry Karl really I am. We agreed the only way to convince you was for you to experience it yourself.”
“We? Who the fuck are we. What is this?” He felt shaken, scared of what? he was not sure. “Get away from me, get out.”
She got up to leave disappointed she had failed. She stopped. “The encounter you had last night was real. You should know it won’t stop, you can’t stop it. It will happen again stronger. You will need help.” She walked toward the hallway looked back and smirked. “Did you like being a girl?”
“Hold on hold on. How did you know?”
She sat beside him and looked him in the eyes. “You’re a Photient like me.” He was still dazed but no longer catatonic. “The subject you inhabited we call a kerb. “
Her hushed tone made him feel calm. “A Kerb?”
“Yes. Your first visit happened when you were high on opiates, that can bring it on. You have to enter a transient state for it to work.”
“For what to work?”
“Our ability to possess other people of course.” She declared in a very matter of fact way.
It went quiet. He breathed in slow and easy wrapping his throbbing head round the suggestion. He swept back his hair picked up the drink and began to pour. He paced around a maelstrom brewing asking questions she could not answer (at least in terms he could comprehend), until he found one she could.
“So you’re trying to tell me I became Brenda off Big Brother?”
“The hot-head Latino?”
He pointed to the screen. “Yeah, that’s her.”
“No not exactly. You were physically here but your thoughts were hers. They‘re transmitted on-air via carrier waves”
“And where is Brenda when I’m…”
“Visiting..we call it a visit.”
“She’s still there totally unaware you are controlling her. She thinks it’s – .” she searched aimlessly.
“Business as usual?” interjected Karl.
She spent hours regurgitating pre-practiced spiel waiting for signs of acceptance. In the absence of an alternate explanation he began to tip. It’s all he had. He looked up at her trying to read her face. She seemed sane, she looked sensible. She knew what had happened to him. No matter how absurd it seemed he hung onto it. It was the only thing keeping him sane. Tara stood with an impish grin swinging her arms like a school kid as if it were no big deal. It helped put him at ease.
“Why am I not Brenda now?”
“There are rules. When the live feed stops you return back to yourself.”
“You use these carrier waves to visit?”
“Yes. Your TV acts as a conduit, it amplifies and carries the signal. Each kerb has their own frequency. All you have to do is tune in.”
“So we can only connect when the broadcast is live and when the connection is broken ? It’s over?”
“Bingo, you got it.“ She reached for her satchel and pulled out a book – Quantum Entanglement “The techs in there, theory from the 60s. Huh theory, little did they know.”
Karl shook his head. He was more interested in what Tara could show him than some book. He got up to fix a brew to keep himself busy.
“Was I a…? What did you call it?”
“Yeah, was I a Kerb? Did you visit me?”
“No, we can’t visit other Photients.”
“So how did you find me?”
“A football match at White Hart Lane. I was watching Spurs, they’re my team. You were in the crowd.”
“You can spot other Photients?” Things were getting weirder by the second.
“Yeah. It took a while to track you down.” Karl yawned. “Look you’re tired and it’s getting late. You’ve got a lot to process. I’ll leave you be. My numbers on the brochure when you’re ready?”
“The charity leaflet.”
“Oh yeah, that.” She left.
Karl gazed at the TV with menace. He switched it off and pushed it away into the hall to put it out of mind. He polished off the Southern Comfort all the while wondering if Tara was who she said she was. It seemed strange. As soon he became susceptible to the idea of charity, up she pops on his door step. It seemed all too convenient. The thought gnawed away at his psyche till the bottle ran dry and slipped from favour.
He woke to blinding sunlight streaming through a crack in the curtains and raised his hand to save his eyes. His head was sore but through the haze last night’s events crept back in to view. He set off to Odes café in Finsbury Park on the common and sat in his usual spot sipping hot tea, watching the kids play on the swings opposite. He reached into his pocket for cigarettes and felt something foreign. It was the leaflet. He studied it intently. Her signature was there clear as day. Tara, the cute blond chugger who supports Spurs, his favourite club. He laughed at the absurdity of it all. His world was not his anymore it was hers. He reached for her number and arranged to meet at her flat in Couch End.
The doorman raised the barrier, he drove through and pulled at red brick Victorian Building. She lived in a disused pump house over- looking the canal. The lock was still in use but serviced by new hydraulics. Boats queued one by one, shipping goods down Lea Valley river, a tributary on the Thames. He knocked on a solid gloss white door. Tara looked different, fresh in a tie-dye dress and her hair up in pigtails. The space was vast, the old pipes and machinery still in-situ old and rusted shut. Through the arched Victoria window you could see canal boats gliding by and behind vast green fields, a deceptive backdrop for what lie ahead.
He was led through to the main hall, a hi-tec clinic clean media hub. High red brick retro walls were panelled with banks of TV screens all tuned to different channels.
“We monitor activity. Look out for new Photients.”
Karl was in awe. It shored-up position on his new friend. “How do you spot them?”
“The systems set up to tune in. Photients are have a distinct signature, constantly out of phase. That box down there” She pointed to a small black box with blue LEDs flashing activity. “It makes them easy to spot. I’m working on away to automate it so we don’t have to sit and watch 24/7”
“You said we, there are more of us?”
“Of course. I will introduce to them in time.”
“I beginning to think you’re not a chugger.” Mocked Karl.
“Actually I am on the side. I got tired of bumping into newbies, making it look like an accident so came up with the idea. It saves time.” Tara reached for the handbook mentally. “Look, I know you have a lot of question and doubts. So did I at first but the best thing for you is to learn on the job.” They climbed a set of spiral steps to a cosy spot in the rafters. “The signal is near perfect up here. Crouch End is one of the highest points in London.”
They flicked through TV channels looking for a live feed. “Best to keep it short, ten minute bursts. Any longer and you could burnout.” They went back to where they started settling on Karl’s favourite show, Big Brother.
“Ok let’s do it.”
Karl scoped the screen looking for a candidate. There was a tall handsome man swinging in a hammock. “What about him the guy dressed as Spidey.” Said Karl.
“Nah, go back to Brenda you know her it will be easier.” Karl seemed despondent. “Is there something wrong?”
“It’s a bit weird that’s all, being a bird.”
“Karl you have to let go of your pre conceptions. The old rules don’t apply.” She nodded “okay?” He agreed. “Now study her mannerism. How she gesticulates, does she fidget? How does she stand, is she a leaner?”
“Doesn’t she do that by herself?”
“The basic will be there. She will eat, walk and talk as usual but higher cogs not so much. You’ll have to learn some of her nuances.” He mimicked her in the mirror for five hours straight with Tara pointing out every detail drip feeding information as and when . “You’ll have to supress your own impulses, picking your nose, peeing standing up,” she joshed. “ Things like that. Just think before you do anything. If you have to break cover do so covertly.”
Karl gazed at the screen, he felt anxious as he knew what lay ahead. His mouth ran dry. He could feel the pulse of his heart, the blood coursing through his veins, throbbing so hard his ears ached.
“Relax.” She whispered softly sensing tension.
She would teach him how to make a visit on his own. “Relax, clear your mind.” She placed a bowl a eucalyptus leaves in rosewater underneath his face and began to heat it. “Breath in through you nostrils and out your mouth. Look out across the meadow. Focus on Brenda, look at her. Imagine being there, being her. Close your eyes. Three , two one. ”
He opened his eyes and was there again on the couch. Her white gardenia and lily scent struck him immediately. Just sitting there felt strange as if breaking in a new pair of shoes trying to walk straight without being noticed. He froze saying nothing, playing it safe remaining still, nervous he would be outed. A minute felt like an hour as he sat happy to be ignored. The room was clear. He supressed his smiles, feelings of elation, the fact he had made it into the Big Brother house without selection made it all the more astounding. He went to pick his nose and caught his reflection and scratched the end instead. He became acutely aware pre-thinking every move in his head. He studied his attire shifting his eyes down undetected. Cor’ Blimey Brenda is built. He thought gazing down at ample figure through her crop top. Her short skirt revealed long luscious legs all the way down to his high heels. He was getting hot under the collar for himself. An out of body paradox he found distracting at best. He felt around for the kill switch seeking diversion. It was time to put Tara’s theory to the test. A simple walk should be fine. Be bold he told himself trying desperately to keep it together. If he could manage the walk it would give him confidence and from there everything would fall into place.
He studied his reflection in the gloss black kitchen cabinet opposite. He raised his eyebrows. God Brenda is well endowed. He opened his legs slightly, intrigued. A few of the other house mates entered. He glanced habitually at his watch realising Brenda did not have one so began to shift a imaginary dirt spot from his Watch-less wrist. He sat tight, practicing mannerisms as rehearsed; pouting his lips, flicking his hair in a hand-held mirror. Brenda is hot. Brenda is me. The more he thought about what he couldn’t do the more he felt compelled to do it. His panties felt tight and were chaffing to the point of distraction. Peter, a housemate entered shooting a weird look as he caught her scratching her crotch. As he headed toward the diary room it suddenly occurred to him that Peter was the least of her problems. There were ten million people watching, thirty cameras trained on his every move, two way mirrors. It started to unravel. He sneaked to the bedroom intent on straightening himself out. He checked the mirrors with apparent disregard to see if the coast was clear. He hopped into the nearest bed and snuck under the covers put up his knees to form a tent and dug out his panties. Just as he completed the job, Peter jumped into the bed next to him.
“Room enough for two love!?” he boomed.
Karl woke groggy and fazed back in the rafters at the pump house. Tara pulled him out sensing he was about to break cover.
“Why did you pull me out?” snarled Karl.
“What were you going to do?”
“Nut him.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I guess it could have gone better?” said Karl.
“You got to stop thinking like a man.”
“But I am a man.”
“You are more than that. We are Photients, there’s a difference.” Karl looked despondent. “Try not to think in physical terms. Think of what you have become. Think of Brenda. You are making decisions that could alter her life. You have to act responsibly.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Make better decisions.” Karl looked miserable sorry he had let her down. “Not to worry I know what we’ll do.”
“Do you trust me?”
Tara gave him no choice. She grabbed his hand and sent him back to the House. He was outback in the garden. He felt hands on his rear wandering up his back. His lips were pressed up against someone, it felt strange. A tongue darted in and out his mouth. He felt a touch of bristle. Karl opened his eyes and nearly fell over. He was not amused. For Tara’s sake he played it bashful till he could pull himself together. Peter retired to the bench preening his bleach blond goatee looking strangely un-affected.
Karl grew concerned so he went across as Brenda and sat next to him. “I’m sorry.”
Peter whispered back with a grin. “Don’t worry it’s me.”
She winked “Ta-ta Karl.”
She pulled them both out. Tara stood over Karl in the rafters.
“What was that?” screamed Karl.
“Shock technique. How do you feel?”
“Fucking shocked.” He snapped.
“You got to get over the hump?”
“The hump? I just kissed a guy with a beard.” He shrieked.
“Okay, maybe you’re not ready for this?” She stepped aside showing him the exit.
He remained seated coming to terms with the challenge. “I’m sorry. It’s confusing.”
“I saw the way you looked at Brenda. “
“Yeah so? She was me I mean I was …you know what I mean.”
“Why is that any different?”
“Can I have five minutes. Just five to get my head together, please.” She laughed with a smug grin on her face. He looked at her with disdain “What’s so funny?”
”You’re getting it. Right now you’re beginning to understand. What your feeling is typical. You got a lot to learn Karl it feels strange now but you’ll get use to it.”
“And if I don’t?”
She began to descend the staircase. “You will, they all do.”
Karl stayed at Tara’s for a few weeks straight so she could teach him as much as possible. They visited Brenda and Peter on a daily basis. Playing the game. Manipulating them subtly. The lines were becoming blurred and that was the first phase. They hung out together and Karl got use to Tara, sometimes Peter sometimes both. It didn’t matter he was morphing into new skin a different being not merely flesh and blood but more.
For relief Tara would take him to the games room, a place dedicated to live sports. The rise of cable TV saw an initial hiatus. Many channels with live feeds were born the choice was staggering , but the glory days were long over. The decline in viewership saw many dedicated channels disappear, but sporting events were immune and remained a staple they could use to practice on.
Karl tried a black run at Interlaken, Switzerland and fell on his arse. “I thought I was just a passenger?”
“You have to work at it let him take over. You have to tune out or it will interfere with his performance.”
They spent days fine tuning his skills holed up in the games room by day and doing the more serious stuff in the evenings. Tara was always there as a safety net. She always judged when it was time to enter and leave the kerb.
Karl was missing his old patch so invited Tara to Finsbury Park. They strolled across the common the Odes cafe. It was empty just the way he liked it. Karl bought two macchiatos and they sat dipping biscotti talking shop.
“Can you teach me how to pull myself out?” asked Karl.
“Yes when you’re ready.”
“When’s that going to be?”
“Be patient. I you rush it could be bad and I won’t be able to help.” He looked disappointed. “There are triggers.”
“Like what?” he teased crunching a dry biscotti.
“You have to find your own. Something intense that takes you back.”
“Back to what?”
“Back to yourself.”
“Yes. I have a set of them. Being stung by a wasp, that’s one. You have to work at it I’ll teach you off-line. “
“Have there been casualties? “
“Yeah, yeah.” She said reflecting on the incident.
“It wasn’t good. We lost them both.”
Karl lined up to get a pot of black tea. There was a solitary figure in line waiting to be served the back of her head looked familiar but he couldn’t place it. He looked across at Tara, she nodded in recognition smiling wide, she knew instantly. Then he heard her speak. “Two slices of Victoria sponge and a pot of tea.” The penny dropped. It was Brenda. The cashier handed her a ticket. Karl felt faint, he lost his balance Tara supressed laughter biting her lower lip raising a clenched fist over her mouth. He lost his step and toppled “Be careful,” said Brenda smiling gently. Karl clambered to the exit. He caught his breath and waited outside for Tara. Why was she taking so long. A tall man slim man bounded through the door tucking his car keys into his pocket. Karl pressed his face against the window to see Tara chatting openly with Brenda, they were joined by the tall gent.
“This is Peter” said Brenda. “You probably already know that.”
“Oh my god, are you together?” asked Tara.
“Yeah,” she said leaning in for a kiss.” We couldn’t wait to get out the house.” Karl looked on and Tara beckoned him in.
He did as he was told and sheepishly approached head bowed. “This is Karl.”
“Look Karl it’s Brenda and Peter from the Big Brother house,” said Tara revelling in Karl’s consternation.
“That’s a coincidence,” Said Karl striking back.
“He means we we’re just talking about you,” explained Tara kicking his leg. “Brenda was saying how they couldn’t wait to leave the house.”
“Oh yeah why’s that?” asked Karl.
“They’re calling it the Kiss. The first kiss in the garden. Something happened after that and… here we are.”
Karl did not know what to think. He urged Tara to leave. Having made her point she was happy to move on .
“Did you know?”
“They were coming to the café”
“How would I know that?” Karl looked on doubtful. His old friend paranoia crept back slow and easy. “Sometimes you meet a kerb. It happens.”
“And you don’t think that’s odd?”
“We are all connected Karl. There are somethings even I can’t explain. Did you read the book” Karl looked blank. “ Quantum entanglement, the moons not behind you till you look . “ He shock his head. “ You should read it you may learn a thing or two.”
I am not sure if I should continue the story as its my first attempt at writing Sci-fi . Comments or suggestion would be appreciated especially if you write/ read sci-fi