Transplanted Life
Thursday, January 01, 2004
I guess it's better to know
It was a strange experience to wake up with a completely clear head this morning. I've always had nasty New-Year's-Day hangovers, completely out of proportion to how much I had to drink. For some reason, champagne always just has a bad effect on me; I'm in trouble if I drink a lot at weddings, too.

I realized this might not be true any more as I was refusing a drink at Jen's party last night. That's kind of a Martin Hartle-specific reaction; my friends always laughed at how I could handle the hard liquor, but add a little bit of bubbly and I'm useless the next day. My first thought was, hey, go nuts; fortunately, it yielded quickly to a thought about making use of this information.

So I watched what I drank last night and got up early this morning. I located the phone number from when "Martin" called me back in September. I made a list of things I knew, things I didn't want him to know I knew, and things I needed to know, so that I would be ready. And then I waited until ten-thirty to make the call.

I was right - seven-thirty Pacific time would be early enough that the ringing phone would wake my body, but the brain would still be fuzzy enough not to check and ignore my number. I heard a mumbled "hello" and grinned. How, I asked, are you enjoying your champagne hangover?

It took him a second to recognize my voice. "You. God damn it, don't you remember what I told you about us communicating? Now we're going to be like this for even longer..."

"Oh, cut the crap. You and I both know that there's no such thing as witchcraft and that you're not Michelle Garber. What I want to know is, who you really are and why you're doing this."

"And what makes you 'know' this?"

Well, maybe I've talked to Shelley Garber. Not that he needs to know that. "Did you think you'd fool me forever? The thing is, you screwed it up. Everyone says 'I' was cranky and surly when I - or you - started working at BioSoft, which was strange, because apparently 'I' had seemed so nice in the interviews. And besides, Michelle doesn't have the education to do the job you stole from me. So you've got to be someone else. I just feel stupid for not seeing it sooner."

"Well, congratulations. Anything else you want to try and impress me with?"

"Not really. Now why don't you try giving me the truth? Who are you? Why did you do this? Why me?"

"Why you? The truth is, you're nothing special. You just happened to be a guy heading out of town doing a job I could handle without a lot of attachments. You just showed up first, and I didn't want to spend one more second with a pussy than I had to. Not that that's apparently a problem for you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you seem to enjoy taking it from men. I'll bet you're secretly glad your tits are so big, so that you can get a man's attention and have him do you. God, that night in the bar, the only reason I could even talk to you and your friends was because I knew it would get me out of that body, but you... You dress yourself up and go looking for it."

I took a deep breath and waited for the anger to pass. And the shame; being scolded by your own voice is oddly effective. "And I bet the whole idea that I'm doing it turns you on, doesn't it? Why else would you have made me think I should go out with Kurt?"

"You should be thanking me for that. I could have said, hey, keep to yourself, don't talk to anybody. But I got in your body, I felt I owed you something. Don't you get it? Because I pushed you to go out, form connections with people, it became impossible to justify putting the girl's mind back into her body as soon as possible. Because where they put her mind... There's nothing, you understand? It's not quite being dead, but it's the closest thing to it."

A chill ran down my spine as I thought of what Shelley had said about "missing" six months of her life. "What did you do to her?"

"You're better off not knowing. Trust me on this. It scares me to think about it."

"Who are you?"

"Who am I? As far as you need to be concerned, I'm Martin Hartle. Period." He actually laughed here. "You know, it actually feels good to cut through all the mysterious bullshit. Cards on the table? This is my life now. I've got a job, a house, and a girl, and I'm not giving any of them up. And you know, I'm glad you can handle all that female shit. Two weeks of it drove me nuts, but if you can adapt to it, good for you. Because you're not getting this body back, so you might as well accept it - you're Michelle now, and you will be for the rest of your life. And I'd suggest you shut up and live with it, because if you cause trouble... Well, I'm sure the original would overlook six months of oblivion to have her life back."

I guess I knew all this. I mean, not all the details, and I don't know that I actually learned all that many new details anyway. The big thing to me seems to be that the left hand doesn't necessarily know what the right hand is doing here - the guy in my body seems to have no idea that the real Michelle is running around somewhere, or at least someone claiming to be her is.

But I guess this is it. This is my life from now on.

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