Artwork by Rhea Mehta
D A Y 2
Aditya’s eyes flew open, a shudder running through him despite the room being comfortably warm.
(Huh, must have been a bad dream.)
He turned over to face Kurt, but he was probably on the wrong side of the bed for turning to his right greeted him with only the wall. He flipped over to the other side, this time to see only an empty bed. Still, he didn’t give it much thought. It wasn’t usual at all, but Kurt waking up before him wasn’t unheard of. Aditya would describe it as a once-in-a-blue-moon occasion, but that wouldn’t do the rarity a justice.
What did feel wrong to him though was his own body. It wasn’t…right. It felt too big in some places and too small in others. Flipping over took just a little too much effort than it was meant to. His breathing felt uncomfortable. It was almost as if this body wasn’t his. As if he was sharing someone else’s.
Aditya got out of bed and swung his legs over the side. And that’s when he realised why the body was familiar yet not quite right. Why it was accommodating but not comfortable enough. He was in Kurt’s body.
It wasn’t a bad dream. It was all very real. He was going through the same day but this time through his husband’s body.
(It doesn’t have to end the same way. I’ve got a do-over. I can save him! I can save myself!)
(Kurt! Kurt! Listen to me! You’ve got to save yourself. Save me. Save both of us. Don’t get in that car today. Kurt! Kurt, are you listening to me? Kurt!)
And then a realisation crept upon Aditya. It snaked slowly across his body, leaving a slimy, cold, unpleasant feeling in its wake.
He couldn’t do anything but watch.
He had to watch his husband merrily getting ready, oblivious to the dangers that lie ahead.
He had to watch himself get shot.
He had to watch Kurt get shot.
He couldn’t do anything but watch.
Kurt’s body got up and trudged to the bathroom. And Aditya watched that. He watched him wipe the basin dry from all the water he had left on it himself. He watched him brush his teeth and shave. He watched him cut himself a little when he angled the blade just a little bit off.
And then Aditya realised something else – he may not be able to control what Kurt does or even hear his thoughts, but somehow, he could feel them. He couldn’t discern every word, but he could understand what Kurt was thinking. He could almost see them too – eddies of colour tinting his view of what Kurt was doing.
He felt Kurt’s distaste at Aditya’s admittedly poor bathroom etiquette and he felt the minor annoyance from the cut. He saw the world tinge ever so slightly red. He felt his apprehension at the brunch ahead of them and he felt his body slowly waking up to the new day. He saw the red turn to an equally faint shade of damp yellow. And with each successive feeling, each successive colour change, Aditya became successively more scared. If he could feel these emotions, these small, everyday emotions, with such clarity, how hard would their deaths hit?
Aditya watched as Kurt walked downstairs and was greeted by himself, giving him a kiss and a coffee. He felt love washing over him and, for a moment, he was happy. Aditya relaxed as the rest of the morning passed on in much the same way. He shared Kurt’s contentment when he curled up with his coffee and the book he had left on the window ledge last night and shared his confusion and finally satisfaction at his outfit for the brunch.
As he went along with Kurt’s routine, Aditya almost felt happy in how content Kurt’s thoughts felt, just moving through the motions of everyday life. It felt serene and was a welcome change to his own general restlessness.
But then came the car. And the wrong turn. And then the first shot. That dreadful, awful first shot. He saw Kurt’s field of view snap to Aditya’s abdomen, scrambling and reaching out in a futile attempt to stop the blood gushing out. He felt Kurt’s thoughts with a renewed vigour. With each one came a physical blow to whatever Aditya’s new form could be described as. He felt all the emotions accompanying these thoughts. Those horrid, acerbic, god-awful emotions that felt like they were biting and scratching and clawing their way out. He wanted to die all over again, just so he didn’t have to feel Kurt’s thoughts.
But then came the second shot as he saw Kurt’s field of view snap back to the front and then to his own abdomen. And what he went through with Kurt’s thoughts suddenly seemed tame in comparison to what his own were doing to him right now. Somehow Aditya managed to muster up feelings even worse than Kurt’s thoughts as he saw his husband die, helpless to do anything but watch. All he could do was brace the pain, hopelessly saying “It’s going to be okay” over and over again until he couldn’t anymore and death took over, blackening everything and blocking him out of Kurt’s mind.
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