“I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon”

[Estimated reading time: 8 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.
The title is a placeholder and only refers to the song I was listening to when posting this story.]

First time

My name is Barry, my wife is Cass, and this is the first time for both of us.
We're in the living room of our small house on the outskirts of Seattle.
Cass is sitting on the couch and I'm in the recliner, our usual spots for watching TV or reading, though today we're doing neither.

We both have bright-blue "swimming caps" on our heads.
Twin tangles of wires come out of each cap and snake over too-old carpet to a thick silver case that sits on the coffee table between us.

"We're ready on this side," a tech by the name of Alexis speaks into a phone as she watches over us and the case.
Alexis is standing on the opposite side of the coffee table, facing us, and the three of us form a rough equilateral triangle, with the suitcase smack in the middle.

I look over towards Cass and give her a smile.
I want to go over to her, hug her, hold her in my arms and whisper sweet nothings into her ear, but the tech said we shouldn't be touching at this point.
Something about messing up the connection.

The cap is starting to itch, but we're not supposed to mess with those either.

"Starting sync," a voice announces from the tech's phone, and I start to hallucinate.

The image of our house, of the living room where we are sitting, is now being overlaid with strange fluctuations, weird patterns that shift and meld and attempt to bend the straight lines of our home.
Then I remember that our Hosts are, likely, sitting and watching the ocean, and things make a bit more sense.

I breathe in, slowly, counting upwards slowly, 1 2 3, exhaling on the count of 4.
Once more, and again, and another time.
Each inhale brings with it a clearer view of the ocean, and each exhale makes some small detail of our house evaporate, as if I'm transferring the ocean here a lungful at a time.

Hawaii

The last vestiges of our house have been replaced by sand, water, or sky, and I find myself sitting on the beach.
A stiff beach chair replaces the soft recliner beneath me.

I can feel the plastic straps dig into my thigh.
The air is full of salt and organics.
A mild breeze comes along and moves the hair on my Host's head, but it feels like it's my head.
The level of sensation is amazing!

I glance around and, first things first, I look at "my" body.
I'm wearing a pair of neon-green swim trunks and a bright red rash-guard shirt, and underneath these is a bronze body of a gym rat.

I turn my head to the right and notice a woman in a similar getup (a red rash-guard shirt over a bright neon swimsuit).
The woman is in her twenties and has a similar complexion as my Host: bronze, tanned, and looks like she can do promotional videos for a gym.
She smiles, and in her smile I can instantly see my wife, Cass.
It's something about the way her mouth elongates, eyes crinkle, and her lips part as she glances towards me.
Two decades and I still can't take my eyes off her.

"Welcome to Hawaii," a voice greets us from behind and we both twist in our chairs to find the source, which turns out to be another tech.
This tech is a man, and he wears the tropical version of the outfit that our local technician (Alexis) has on.
"My name is Troy and I'm going to help with your sync today," the man says as he watches a tablet and taps on it once in a while.
"You may be feeling disoriented, so take your time, watch your breath, and try to acclimate.
These first few minutes are particularly jarring, so we've asked our Hosts to hang back for a bit.
For now, just sit there and look around."

So I do exactly that.

We're sitting on a pair of beach chairs under the expansive canopy of a nearby banyan tree.
Behind us a tech is tapping away at his pad, running diagnostics or whatever it is they need to do.
The waves lapping at the golden sand are a bright turquoise, a coloration I've never seen in real life.

I look at the woman on my right and my heart swells.
I smile, beam at her, and she smiles back, similarly excited and awestruck.

"You're doing great," our tech speaks up.
"Now, I'd like to ask the Hosts to introduce themselves.
Barry and Cass, you're going to hear a voice in your head-"

I briefly think: "Aren't we the voices inside their heads?"

"-and while you'll eventually learn how to respond subvocally, you should respond now simply by speaking, out loud."

Hey, Barry, a voice talks to me from somewhere and nowhere, or everywhere.
My name is Kai and I'm your Host today.

I look around, try to find a non-existent speaker, and notice that Cass is doing the same.
Despite knowing the truth, it's hard not to search for an external source of the voice.

"Hi Kai, pleasure to meet you," I say.

"Hello Mele!" Cass speaks to — and through — her Host.
And I hear her, through my Host.

Warm-ups and a dip

I chat with Kai for a few minutes, as Cass talks with Mele.
Each of us is having a strange conversation with ourselves, while also overhearing one side of a different conversation that happens between a person and the strange spirit that temporarily occupies them.

Welcome to the future, it's weird here!

After we get the intros out of the way, the tech asks both of us to stand and do some stretches.
He wants us to take it slow, to make sure that we understand the limits of our interaction before we get sent out into the world.

To test out Kai's physical range, Kai walks me through his typical warm-up regiment, talking all the while, providing helpful suggestions about properly using his body.
We do stretches, push-ups, squats, lunges, an unfamiliar exercise that Kai calls "burpees", and a bit of jogging.

Kai's body is strong, responsive.
I think "jump" and it does!
I attempt a push-up – something my body hasn't been able to do in a while – and Kai's body responds instantly.

But when I push too much, when I try to reach too far, I can feel my grasp, my control on the body loosening, as Kai takes over for a moment.

Mele is going through a similar exercise routine with Cass.
Or is it the other way around?

Before I have a chance to ask Kai about the appropriate terminology, Troy the tech chimes in and suggests we try going in the water.
I look over and see Cass' exhilarated smile on Mele's face, so of course I start walking toward the surfboards that are stuck upright in the sand next to Troy.

Mele takes her board first, carries it on the top of head, and I follow her example.

"There's about thirty minutes left," Troy helpfully reminds us as we walk towards the water.

Let me get us through this next part, Kai says to me as we're running.
Kai's legs hit wet sand and he takes control of his body, metaphysically shoving me out of the way, and runs into the surf.
For the next little while I hang back and Kai takes us out into deeper water.
Mele follows close behind.

I don't have to see Mele to know that she is there, the body, the Host, seems to possess this knowledge, somehow, and I get to have access to it.
As Kai is paddling, I strain and listen, and eventually I can hear the splash of Mele's paddle, ten feet behind and to the left of us.
Even such information as distance, even that comes through the Host to me.

The ocean water is a clear turquoise and the sand beneath us is bleached white.
As this idyllic scene unfolds around me, I can't help but ignore it, and ponder the technology that is currently manipulating my brain.

Kai and Mele sit up on the boards and we hang out in a nondescript part of the beach.
But, after a few moments, the awareness comes through and somehow I know that this is a good place to catch a wave.
Kai's inherent knowledge seeps in once again.

"We're going to catch a few waves, then we'll head back to the beach," Kai talks to Mele, but of course his comments are mostly directed to myself and Cass.
"Mele and I will do most of the surfing, this first time, so all you have to do is hang back and watch."

So we get front-row seats to some fun surfing as Kai and Mele catch a handful of waves.
They start out slow, just riding on top of the waves, then catch a few more and start tube riding.

Mele leads us through a collapsing wave, Kai follows closely behind her, and I hear an excited scream from Mele, a celebratory yell that clearly belongs to Cass.
I whoop in excitement as Kai trails a hand through the glass-like wave we're riding.

The wave changes shape, a part of it coming down over our heads, and Kai uses this opportunity to shoot himself past Mele.
Using his extra velocity, Kai surfs up the wave and hangs for a moment on its crest.
The term floater comes through a subconscious channel and I realize instantly what this move is all about.
The sudden slam of information throws me, metaphysically, and I unconsciously grab control from Kai for just a split second.

A split second is enough, though, to destabilize us, and Kai plunges down into the roiling sea.
Mele shoots past us and I wonder about asking her for help, somehow, but a calmness spreads through Kai and just like that I am reassured that everything is going to be fine.
I relax and yield to Kai.
He kicks and after a moment we are back up on the surface, the wave past us.

No worries, mate, Kai tells me as we catch our breath and mount the surfboard once again.

Mele paddles over.
"Doing good?" Mele (not Cass) asks, with just a hint of worry in her voice.

"Aye," Kai responds and gives a wave.
"Just tripped over ourselves a bit.
Which brings up a good point!"
Kai is excited about this teaching opportunity, I can feel it.
"There will be times that your reflexes, your impulse will kick in, but it'll be counter-productive," Kai is speaking to Cass and myself.
Mele nods along with the lesson.
"Because your reflexes are not a surfer's reflexes, not yet.
So once in a while you'll accidentally take over one of our bodies, at the wrong moment, and we'll end up wiping out.
It's not a big deal, honestly, and your bodies will learn, very quickly, but you do have to be aware that every once in a while it might happen.
Your reaction may not match our reactions.
Just be aware of it, and with time things will improve."

Kai glances down at his watch.
"And that's about it for today, let's get back to shore."

Back in Seattle

I remove the wired swimming cap and put it on top of the silver case that sits on the coffee table.
Cass does the same.

Alexis, the technician, puts down her pad.
"Your vitals were good for the entirety of the run.
Even that tussle toward the end, you handled it well," she directs that comment to me.
"How was it?"

Cass and I look at each other, briefly, then we both begin to talk at the same time: "so realistic", "the waves!", "the wind!", "I loved riding through the wave".
We go on for a bit, then sheepishly quiet down.
But Alexis is grinning at us, she clearly understands what we've just gone through, and is happy for us.

"Wonderful, I'm glad!
Your next appointment is in two days, on Wednesday, at the same time.
You already know how to use the system, so I won't be around for that.
You might encounter Troy, on the other side, but it's unlikely."

Alexis covers a few more little things about the rig, discusses the insurance, and heads out after a few minutes.
There's a smirk on her face as she closes our front door.

The smirk perplexes me for a moment as I lock the door, then Cass grabs me and practically shoves a tongue down my throat.
The excitement of the session has put Cass into quite a mood, so we quickly retreat to the bedroom, lips pressed together, shedding our clothes on the way there.

2 thoughts on ““I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon”

  1. Boy! This could go any number of interesting directions! One possible typo on this draft: I think you mean “You may be feeling…” not “You may be filling…”. One contextual item: He can’t take his eyes off his wife’s smile after two decades when she is smiling out of the body of a twenty-something? Pretty cool, but may want some context.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Ned!

    Fixed the typo, d’oh, thanks for catching that. And I’ll be adding more context and explanations to this story in the near future.

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