Body Back-Up Blues [short fiction]

I woke up and scratched my tuchus. I noticed I wasn’t wearing any underwear. I was in my all-together. Nature’s own. Where were my silk boxers? Why does this hotel room look like a Holiday Inn and not the Ritz-Carlton? I would never stay in a Holiday Inn, even if I was desperate.

I threw off the sheets and stretched. My limbs were limber and the pain in my lower back from sitting all day was gone.

I went to the bathroom to relieve myself, but couldn’t go. I went to the sink to shave and was surprised that I couldn’t find a razor, shaving gel, or my toiletries travel kit. What was more surprising was the face and naked body of the young man looking at me. The young man looked into my eyes, turned his head when I did, and blinked when I did. I leaned in to get a good look at my fog grey eyes and the little freckle I harbored under my left eye. Gone. Replaced by delicate brown eyes and radiant skin. I’m not sure how my mother would have felt about the fact that I now looked… well, Asian.

I fell back on my bed and that’s when it all came rushing back to me. There was a car accident off of 7th and Castro. One of those self-driving cars lost control of the brakes. I could see it barreling down the hill. A family of five was crossing the street. The car swerved at the last minute and chose to hit me instead.

Thinking about it now made me terribly upset! I didn’t want to die! I didn’t ask for this. I was quickly consoled by the considerable craftsmanship of my new body by rotating my wrists and articulating my fingers. No more carpal tunnel from typing too much.

Well, it’s was probably for the best, considering I’m sitting pretty in my Android 9000TM. This was the finest External Body Back-Up you could buy on the black market, which might explain why, when I looked out my window of my Holiday Inn hotel, I could see the bustling metropolis of Seoul instead of San Francisco. A smug grin spread across my face when I thought about how I would get to say, “I told you so,” to Rebecca for spending a quarter of Adam’s college money on this instead.

Rebecca! frantically searched for my phone so I could call her. I didn’t see it on the floor so I checked under the covers of the bed. And then the door handle jiggled. The electronic key reader on the outside went, “neeeeet neeeet” and then it opened.

I stood there naked in shock as a gorgeous woman walked in on me. She wore a black mini-skirt, white blouse, and a sensible black sports jacket.

“Woah, woah! Who are you? What are you doing in my room? Did we sleep together last night?” I said with self-disgust. “You know what, don’t answer that.”

I could faintly hear marimbas playing in the distance. It sounded like a cellphone ringtone. Then it occurred to me that a cell phone was ringing somewhere in this hotel room. Before this woman could answer my questions, I shuffled toward the sound with my hands covering my crotch. In the closet was a phone and a stack of neatly folded clothes that I guessed would fit me.

I recognized the number so I answered the phone immediately.


“Simon, where the hell are you?”

“Honey, I’m-”

“Don’t ‘Honey’ me. We’ve been planning this trip for months. You promised me you’d take time off of work. You were going to take me to Napa. You’ve missed every single anniversary celebration since we’ve been married. You promised me this time it would be different. If you miss our 10th anniversary dinner tomorrow, I’m literally going to kill you.”

I didn’t know how to answer that. I decided that now wasn’t the best time to bring up the fact that I’m now a 21 year old Korean boy and that I woke up with another woman in my room. Luckily, she hung up on me before I could explain.

I put on my clothes as fast as I could. Striped short shorts with no pockets that barely covered my chicken legs and an oversized static grey t-shirt that said, “Disny.” I made a mental note that I would need to find another Body Back-Up provider that had better fashion sense before I died. Again.

Then I rushed out of the room without ever saying goodbye to my new roommate. Outside was a perfectly fine day ruined by a glaring sun which seemed to beam directly on me. It was like a spotlight, highlighting my every move, judging me, watching me stumble around in my new body. I was sweating profusely from the pressure and the heat. And the nagging worry that I might have cheated on my wife on the day before our anniversary. Even though it was early morning, the Seoul streets were flooded with cars. Eventually I found a taxi and that’s when I remembered I didn’t have a wallet. Or a passport. Or a visa for that matter. Did I need a visa? Technically I’m a US citizen, I just have no way of proving it.

I sat on the curb with my head in my hands. I was staring at the pavement, searching for answers in the stubble of the asphalt, wondering how hard it would be to stow away on an ocean liner. As I was doing the math in my head, thinking how far I’d have to walk to the nearest harbor, and how long the trip would be, a pair of beetle black heels parked next to me.

In the heels was the stranger I left in my bedroom.

“Need help?” she asked.

“Me? No, I can ruin my life on my own. Thank you.” I replied.

“I didn’t get a chance to formally introduce myself. My name is Junho Park, but you can call me June. I am your complementary escort for the day. What’s your name?”

“Simon Hoffman, CEO of Summr. And while it’s very nice to meet a young lady such as yourself, I do not need an escort. I’ve been happily married to my wife for ten years, thank you very much.

She shrugged as if I told her it might rain today. “What’s wrong, then?”

“You mean besides the fact that my wife is going to leave me?”

She looked understandably confused, so I continued, “I’m going to miss our tenth anniversary in a row because I’m in the wrong country. And while I have a passport it doesn’t match my mug, and I don’t have any money with me.”

Her face lit up at that. From her inside jacket pocket, she procured a passport and a wad of Korean Won rolled in a rubber band. “These come with the Total New-Body Package you purchased. Would you like me to help you buy a plane ticket?”

“Wonderful! Better idea. Why don’t you give me that and I’ll go to San Francisco, by myself, and then my wife won’t freak out when she finds out I had an escort.”

I skipped to the nearest taxi and spent ten minutes trying to explain that I wanted to go to the airport. The poor taxi driver had no idea what I was shouting about, and couldn’t understand why someone who looked like a young Korean man wouldn’t speak Korean with him. Just as I was about to give up, June walked over. She said something to the driver and handed him some Won. They laughed. And just like that he beckoned me into the car. I gave her a saccharin smile and waved goodbye to her from the open window. “Buh-bye, Buh-bye now, thanks again.” Some people just don’t know when to quit. Oh well, I’ll never see her again.

Getting on an airplane was not any easier than the taxi. The line to the ticket desk snaked like a lazy, sated, boa constrictor. I made it to the front, and there was a direct flight to SFO coming up, but then it took too long to figure out my paperwork, so I would have to catch the next flight. At least I was 16 hours ahead of San Francisco. I just hoped it wouldn’t be too late. I texted Rebecca, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there by 9am.” No reply. There was still a few hours before my flight, so I pulled my arms inside my “Disny” shirt, kicked my feet out, closed my eyes, and tried not to think about how I always think too much.

The plane landed in the sea of perennial fog that I knew and loved. San Francisco. I was home. Now I just had to get to Rebecca before she left without me. The flight attendant was kind enough to let me know it was 7:15am local time, which gave me almost two hours. My seat was unbuckled as soon as the indicator told me I could. I was nearly, but not quite, pushing the people in front of me off the plane so I could get off faster. Then I was sprinting through the terminal with my phone in a death grip, ready to call an Uber as soon as I could. Until one of the security guards yelled at me for running.

It was at this point that my knees started locking up. They were stiff from the plane ride. Not painful like arthritis. I noticed that I didn’t feel any pain. Instead they just didn’t fully extend. I’m sure I looked absurd as a 21 year old boy running like a 90 year old man.

Just as I was exiting the sliding glass doors of the airport, my foot caught on the door jam. My reaction time wasn’t as good in this body. It wasn’t calibrated yet. I could feel time slow down as I stared down at the ground, and watched it get bigger and bigger until it punched me right in the face. I faceplanted on the cement.

I laid there shocked more than anything. It didn’t hurt. There wasn’t blood. But there were two front teeth sitting where my face landed. And two feet away was a trail of glass and a lump of plastic that used to be my cellphone.

Not the end of the world. Instead of an Uber, I’ll just get a taxi. With a huff, I pushed myself upright and patted myself down. And then my world really turned inside out. My shorts don’t have pockets. My money and passport were missing. I must have left them on the plane. It was now 7:45am. There was no way I could power walk back through the airport to the gate to get my stuff and still make it home by 9am in San Francisco traffic.

I sat on the cub and would have cried, but my new body couldn’t produce tears. One hundred questions pinballed in my head all at once. How do I keep getting into situations like this? Where did I go wrong? How could I have avoided this? Besides not dying and leaving my stuff on the plane.

I sat there for another 15 minutes, oscillating between giving up and thinking of schemes to make it home.

“I think you forgot something on the plane.” said a friendly voice from behind me.

I shot up like there was a rocket in my tuchus and spun around to find June standing there. She was holding out my passport and money. Without hesitating I walked up and wrapped my arms around her.

“I thimply don’t believe it!” I said. Speaking without my two front teeth was proving to be a… unique experience for me. “Thank you! What are you doing here? I mean, how are you here?”

“I followed you. You said you were going to San Francisco, so I took the same flight as you. I figured you might need help.”

“You bought a plane ticket just to thee if I needed more help?”

“I charged it to your account” she said apologetically. “I hope that’s ok.”

“It’th fine. In fact, it’th better than fine. Actually…” It killed me to say this, but I didn’t have any other choice, I swallowed hard and gave a heavy sigh, “could you help me? I tripped and broke my phone. Would you mind booking a ride for me?”

We made pretty good time. The dashboard clock said it was 8:45 when we got out of the car. I was so thrilled with my wild success. I couldn’t wait to start on a much needed vacation with my beautiful wife. I power walked as fast as my knees would take me to the hidden key and let myself in.

“Rebecca!” I bellowed into my Bay Area mansion. I checked both bedrooms and the bathroom. The whole house was only 900 square feet, but she was nowhere to be found. Adam was gone too. The clock in the kitchen said it was 8:52, so I knew I wasn’t late. I went into our bedroom to see if she left a note.

There wasn’t a note, but there was a pile of clothes next to the dresser. And one of our luggage bags was missing. I guess I was too late after all.

I could hear a car roll up outside and Rebecca shouting, “Excuse me, what are you doing at my house?” I was electrified. I couldn’t wait to see my wife at last.

“Rebecca! Thank God you’re here. It’th me, Thimon!” I yelled, power walking towards her car.

She yelped and recoiled. “Thimon? I’m sorry I don’t know you and I don’t know what you’re doing in my house. I’m going to call the cops now.”

“Honey, honey! It’th me, your huthband.”

“Simon? Is that really you? Why are you missing your front teeth? And you know… Asian?”

“Long thtory. Can we go to Napa now?”

She sighed and cracked a smile.“Go pack. You have 15 minutes.”

I turned to June, who was patiently standing there, clearly pleased with her work.

“June, I can’t thank you enough.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

I stroked my clean shaven jaw in contemplation. “You know, I’m CEO of Summr. I just decided that there’th an opening for an Executive Assistant. I could use thomeone like you. Would you be interested in helping me out at work?”

“I’d love to.”

“Great. I’ll thee you at 6am next Monday.”