Escaping Your Own Skin

I hate writing in stereotypes, yet here we are.  We all know not all jocks are dumb, in fact pretty much every NFL or NBA player has a degree in something,  MLB not so much.  The degrees would probably surprise (not everyone studied sports medicine) you.  Nerds come in every shape and size.  Contrary to popular opinion they might not be your boss one day.  Hell, a lot wouldn’t want to, being much happier tinkering on projects as an engineer.  Anyways to make a long story, well, long, I suppose, keep in mind this is an exercise in extremes.  I hope you enjoy.

It was all there; the black candles, a pentagram in blood, surrounded by runes he couldn’t understand and could barely draw.  A sacrifice, his beloved cat, and a skull stolen from the science lab. Everything was there. In his hand he had a chef knife from the kitchen.  It was now or never.

He hated his life.  Scrawny, acne-ridden and his parents insisted he wear dress clothes to school, making him stand out in a world dominated by jeans and t-shirts.  He had headgear braces that made impossible to talk. Well no more. He would make a way out of this horrid existence. What good was it being smarter and more skilled than anyone if you gained no respect for it?  The jocks, they got respect. People loved them and flocked to their parties, the ones he wasn’t invited to.

He began the ritual, lighting the candles one by one.  Chanting what sounded like gibberish, that had taken him months to master.  The circle began to glow, runes lighting one by one in bloody crimson, staining the room in blood.  Finally, the lines of the pentagram began to light one at a time. As the last finished, a blinding yellow flash came from the center of the circle.  

It was time.  He picked up the gentle and loving animal he had owned for 5 years.  He kissed it on the head and held the knife high. His hands shook, and he wasn’t sure he could do it.  Then he remembered the hatred and ignorance of his peers. Tears flowed from his eyes as he brought the knife down.  The cat let out a shriek, then fell limp. He tossed it into the circle and waited.

He sobbed as he waited.  How could he have done this?  There was no way to stop it now.  Wiping his eyes he stood resolute. Moments later a form began to materialize in the circle.  When the yellow light went out he stared at the creature for some time. It wasn’t what he expected.

Whenever you see demons in the movies they are hulking, powerful creatures with mighty black horns, gushing fire.  What materialized was short, squat and froglike, albeit with a sharp set of shark’s teeth. It held a book in its hand and looked him over with bulbous, watery eyes, confusion crossing over its ugly face.

“I was expecting someone more disturbed than you.  You reek of despair, but not bloodlust. Still, you sacrificed love for me,” the creature reached down and picked up the corpse, which twitched slightly.  He tossed it upwards and opened its gaping maw, catching the poor creature in its mouth. The sounds of crunching bones made him want to hurl, and the creature made sure he could see the body being destroyed.  He had to fight not to look away. He needed to be strong or the creature could turn on him.

“You have your sacrifice.  Now give me my desire,” he shouted.

The creature rubbed the sides of its blubbery head. “I can hear just fine.  Keep your voice down. What do you want? You seem to have it made. Wealthy family, bright prospects and a wonderful future ahead,” the creature made a choking sound “still you humans always surprise me.  So surprise me,” he stared in amusement at the boy.

“What do I want?” he nearly shrieked “I am a pariah, everyone hates me.  The girl I love is hanging from the arm of Jason Hartley. I want his life, he has everything.  Exchange my life for his.”

The creature made a huffing sound and flipped through the book.  It looked at him, eyes glowing with flames from within. “If the pact is made, your soul will be mine for eternity.  If you exchange lives, you exchange everything. Body, abilities, and destinies. He will gain your memories and you will have his, but will always know it is not your life. You will still think like yourself, but your faculties will be that of the one you exchange with.  You will remember your sacrifice, and who you used to be,” the horrid maw came up, a mockery of a smile.

“Yes, I don’t care.  Give me his life! It has to be better than mine!” his voice cracked as he spoke.

“Very well,” a quill appeared in its hand and it scrawled in the book.  He tossed it out, with the quill. “Stab your wrist with the quill and write your name.  After you sleep this night you will awaken as this Jason person.”

Tommy picked up the quill, swallowing hard.  With a shaking hand, he held it upwards. He closed his eyes, trying to convince himself it was no worse than a shot.  After a long moment, he thrust the quill down, hard.

First came a stabbing pain, that was bearable.  Then the burning began, tearing through his body, scorching him from within. After an endless moment it passed, and he had time for a breath before icy claws tore into him, pulling something from him. Another eternity passed and he collapsed onto hands and knees, body wracked with spasms.  The book lay open in front of him, his wish glowing before his eyes. He hauled his arm upwards, bringing the bloody quill down and wrote his name, Thomas Harrison” the book flew back to the creature and a croaking gutterance spasmed in its throat. It slammed the book shut and the room shown yellow.

The air filled with a shrill squeal, and he forced his hands over his ears.  In a moment it passed, and after several more, he rose. The circle, skull, blood and all were gone.  Inexplicably his cat walked by him. Had none of it actually happened?

Exhausted, he crawled into bed and passed out.  He awoke to being kicked roughly out of bed. Confused he looked up and saw a fat, balding man in a tracksuit standing over him.  “Get to work you useless little shit,” Tommy remembered he was Jason now and that was his father. Memories of beatings filled his mind and he rose quickly.  Jason’s memory told him to go to the basement to work out. As he went, the part that was still Tommy noted it was dark outside.

As he worked out, muscles straining, sweat pouring from him, he tried to remember the names of all the muscles he worked and found he could only remember the big ones, and the others as areas of the body to be worked.  Tommy assured himself this was a small price for what he would soon gain. For two hours he strained and struggled until finally, his father yelled down “Get your ass up here and eat, you lazy bastard. If you don’t get your grades up to passing you’ll never get a sports scholarship.”

“Yes sir” came the automatic response, and Tommy went upstairs.  A mound of eggs awaited him, along with a protein shake. He ate quickly, then went to take a quick shower before tossing on a skin-tight t-shirt and blue jeans.  The part that was Tommy grinned as he admired Jason’s physique in the mirror.

He went to school and here Tommy was sure life would be better.  He walked through the doors and looked around at the other kids. Weak and pathetic, Jason decided.  He was better than all of them. Now, where was that girl Annie? Amy? Didn’t really matter. If she didn’t put out after the game tonight he’d toss her aside like all the others.  Tommy was horrified, he worshipped Amy and wanted her so badly.

He saw her and walked over.  She smiled and reached up and put her arms around his shoulders.  He responded by grabbing her ass and forcing her into a kiss. She struggled slightly and finally gave in to it.  He let her go and starting joking with his football friends. She laughed at the right times, but Tommy had never noticed how fake it was before.  He used her and enjoyed it. Tommy had always thought they clicked or something.

Then classes began.  Jason struggled the whole time, making crude jokes at the teacher.  Inwardly he felt helpless. Tommy knew the answers, but Jason couldn’t understand what he read, it swam around the page.  Tommy realized he was dyslexic, most likely undiagnosed. He filled in the answers, all wrong, and waited til the others left before approaching the teacher, and loomed over him.

“I gotta pass to play, understand?” Jason was sure he did.

“Of course, coach told all of us yesterday,”  he threw a feeble hand into the air “Go Pirates!”

The day went on like this, until the final bell rung.  Jason marched out toward the field, and spotted Amy, dragging her around the corner out of sight.  Tommy struggled and screamed but couldn’t prevent Jason from sliding a hand down her pants and forcing another kiss.  “You know what I want tonight. You ready?” she shivered and nodded.

Then came practice and the game.  Jason was a god here. He knew every play, every trick.  He handled the ball like a pro. Everyone was sure he would be one.  After the game the players got drunk, and he forced himself on Amy. She struggled but gave in.  After a couple minutes Jason grunted and left her crying on a chair. He decided he would dump her anyway, she was too emotional, and he could have any girl he wanted.  Tommy, trapped, sobbed. He didn’t want this.

This is what he had, however, harsh training, struggling grades, a string of girls and glory on the field.  Tommy wanted out, he begged the demon to let him free, but it wouldn’t happen. He was Jason and would live Jason’s life.  He cheered a little at the thought he was no doubt be famous one day, Jason was the best at what he did.

Then came the knee injury 5 months later.  A tackle gone wrong, Jason’s leg went sideways and something snapped.  The coach, his father and a team of doctors rushed the field and carried him to the hospital, The doctor came in and gave him the news.  They required surgery, and there was only a 20% chance it would work. His father faked concern for the boy as the doctor left the room, he then turned on him.

“You had to blow it, didn’t you?  You piece of shit, you had one thing and you fucked it up,” he walked over and punched Jason in the face, hard. “That surgery better work, cause if it doesn’t I’m throwing you out on your ass.  I put everything in you, and here you are a failure,” his father slapped his knee, and pain tore through him despite the drugs.

Two weeks later the surgery happened.  Two more weeks and it was obvious it didn’t work.  True to his word his father tossed him out, with a beating on the side.  He couch surfed for the rest of the year, but without football to prop him up, he failed his classes.  He got a job at a convenience store, the only work he could get. That got him a shitty apartment with second-hand furniture that came fresh with bedbugs.  He couldn’t afford to get rid of them, so he slept terribly, covered in bites every morning.

Then came the day when Amy walked into the convenience store with a distended belly.  She was pregnant and was suing for child support. She won and he had to take a second job at a fast food joint to pay.

20 years later and he was still at the convenience store, selling cigarettes and scratch tickets.  He was a manager now, meaning he could have one job. His hair had fallen out, and his muscle turned quickly to fat once he could no longer work out.  

The bell rang and he looked up.  A man in a crisp business suit walked in, grumbling.  “Your damn card reader isn’t working on the pumps. I want $50 in pump 3,”  he looked up and recognition crossed his face “Jason, Jason Hartley? It’s me, Tommy Harrison.  I suppose you can’t recognize me without the headgear,” he grinned with shining, perfect teeth, which reminded Jason of the cavity he couldn’t afford to fill.

A beautiful blonde in a skin tight dress that was barely decent came in and hung on Tommy’s arm. “Tommy, what’s taking so long?” she pouted prettily.

“Sorry, just met an old classmate.  Anyway, Jason can you put $50 on pump 3?” Tommy asked.  

“Of course sir” he responded automatically taking the card, and ringing him up.

Tommy watched himself walk out of the convenience store, screaming.  The visage of the demon hung in front of him, letting out croaking laughter.   Jason watched longingly as Tommy climbed into a Porche and tore out of the station. Jason dropped his head in his hands, sobbing.   He pulled the gun the owner kept for burglars from under the counter and held it to his temple. Dead can’t be worse than his life, could it?

Published by Robert C Hartwell

I live in Northeastern Vermont in the US. I am currently working towards becoming an author. I am the proud father of two great kids.

4 thoughts on “Escaping Your Own Skin

      1. I don’t think it is overdone. Considering its patterned behavior keeps continuing, lol. I loved this take on it. I love horror type things anyway, it was darker and you more than made up for anything that could be made up for 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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