TSF Series #015: JK no Sarariman – A Turnabout of Despair!

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When the possibility of happiness is gone, the comfort of despair is all that remains.


Disclaimer: This work contains adult materials including strong language, drug use, violence, and depictions of suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

TSF Series #015: JK no Sarariman – A Turnabout of Despair!

Episode 366: The Anniversary

A sense of isolation overwhelmed me as I looked around and saw an office immersed in darkness. The only company I had was the lamp illuminating my desk, and the light of my monitor beaming into my eyes. Within the beige border, a square of the purest black remained, its darkness enhanced only by the stark white characters and symbols that filled it. As this light passed through my glasses and into my tired eyes, I struggled to make sense of what I was looking at.

I brought one of my hands to my face, shutting my eyes as I allowed it to stretch from my chin to my brow. The coarse skin of my palm brushed against the slight hairs that developed on my face over the past day, and as I reached the thin hair before my forehead, I found a morsel of sweat.

As I felt a gust of air burst from my nostrils, hairs brushing against one other, I looked at my monitor once again. Past the beige border and at the information it displayed. Try as I might, I could not see anything amiss with this information and brought my hands back to the gray keyboard before me, typing in the command to send the report to the printer. As the confirmation appeared on my monitor, I heard the whirling of the printer as it was awakened, processing its final job for the night.

A sigh escaped my mouth as I leaned back, my hand reaching for my canned coffee, bringing it to my mouth where a paltry six drops fell onto my tongue. While this did not satiate my thirst, it offered me a modicum of flavor as I celebrated this ‘victory.’ 

I threw the can into the trash bin under my desk and clenched the arms of my chair, lifting my body upward as my joints shouted at me. I grunted as I was reminded of my age, but after some seconds of pain, I remembered something more. Something I had neglected during these hours of isolation.

I passed by the copier, loudly sputtering out paper, and made my way into the men’s room. A flick of a switch brought the tiled room to life, and I found myself instinctively navigating to the row of urinals, unzipping my fly. …At least before I recalled I was truly and utterly alone. I ducked away into a stall instead, pulling down my pants before lowering myself onto the western-style toilet. 

As I listened to the subtle sound of piss hitting porcelain, I looked down at my watch. A Seiko Quartz given to me by my wife for my birthday four years ago. Its gold tone circumference and hands ticked gently against its minimalist design, displaying the time as 21:50 and the date as Friday the 8th. 

My hand returned to my face as I asked myself how I would explain this bout of overtime to my wife. It would be at least a 30 minute trip before I would return home, I knew she would not let me into our bed before bathing, and I had to be here before 8 tomorrow. 

With frustration seeping into every facet of my being, I rose from the toilet, and made my way to the sink, where I washed my hands and splashed water onto my face. The face of Takada Touya, age 48. The luster of youth had left my face faster than it had with most, and I was left with the visage of an old man. One who sneered at his reflection past the glasses that rested upon his nose, a head of short dark hair, and wore an unremarkable suit. 

He was nothing much to look at in any respect. Common, slightly below average, and one who effortlessly blended in with his peers. Yet, he still wore a look of scorn whenever he happened across his reflection. 

This man soon left my vision though, and I returned to the office, where I did what I had to. Packed my things into my briefcase. Shut off my computer per the instructions of the man who installed it. And most importantly, I placed my report on the desk of my superior, its pages still warm. I had been on ‘thin ice’ for weeks now, and I would hate to imagine his reaction if I was late yet again.

My footsteps loudly echoed as I went down the stairwell, the rubber soles meshing against the concrete steps for all six stories, before I finally entered the lobby. The doors had been locked and lights had been shut off. It was a sight that one was not meant to see, and I was clearly not meant to be here. Yet I had seen this sight at least a hundred times this past year.

A cacophony of no less than a hundred noises filled my ears as I entered the outside world. The buzzing of lights illuminating the streets, humming of car engines as they zoomed across the road, and the sounds of people moving past me in both directions. Men and women, most young enough for me to be their father, passed by, paying me little mind as I quickly fell into place and joined the crowd.

The nearest train station was a five minute walk away, and I went about the path with the diligence of a machine running a program. There was nothing new to look at, and the sooner I was on the train, the sooner I could cherish the few hours of calm I have in a given day. As I let out a groan, I felt something grasp onto my arm. 

Without thinking, I turned to investigate, and my eyes landed on a young woman. She was dressed warmly for the brisk early spring weather with a heather gray sweater, dark coat that went down to her knees, and a crimson scarf that obscured the bottom of her chin. It was a cute outfit, albeit one slightly out of season, but as my eyes reached her face, my body clenched.

Her hair was dark and straight, effortlessly falling down her head before being consumed by her scarf. Her skin was clear and, just from looking at it, I could tell it would be dearly soft. Her light brows were furrowed with determination as she looked at me, her brown eyes staring into mine. And as she read my startled expression, her slightly red lips expanded into a smile.

While her face was not without imperfections, I felt the breath leave my body, for I knew this woman. It had been over three months since I had last seen her, and… I never wanted to see her again. 

Her name was Aida Aiko. And she was the person who stole my… everything.

“What are you doing here?” I shouted, my voice louder than it ought to be.

“I was waiting for you, obviously!” Aida said, her voice boisterous and expression sour. “I’ve been mulling about here since 18:00, but someone had to put in four hours of overtime. So thanks for that.”

“I… I’m sorry you were waiting so long. You should not be wasting your youth like this,” I said as I looked away from her.

“Hey! I see what you’re doing. Don’t you dare walk away from me!”

As she objected to my action, I brought my free arm to her hand and lightly pulled it away. She offered no resistance.

“There is nothing more for us to discuss. As I said on New Year’s, the sooner we move on with our lives, the better. You told me everything you could, and I’ve been learning everything else the hard way. So, if you would excuse me, I’ve got a train to catch.”

“You actually don’t. Yumi’s not expecting you tonight. She knows you were working overtime, and thinks you’re sleeping at the office. But for your health, you should probably get a cheap hotel. Sleeping on a bed is far better for your back than sleeping on the floor.”

…Fine. I was not looking forward to tomorrow morning anyway. …But you still have not answered my question. Why are you here? Why tonight?”

“You don’t remember? It’s been one year since it happened.”

April 8, 1987. One year ago to the date. A day I have played back in my mind more times than I could count. For it was the day I went from a high school girl—a joshi kousei (JK)— in her final year to becoming a salaryman— sarariman— nearing his fifties. The father of my best friend. 

Within a single moment, I had lost 30 years of my life, my future, my friends, and everything that had made me… Aida Aiko. Instead, I gained everything that defined Takada Touya. 

His schlubby male body that declined slightly with each passing day. His position as a company man whose co-workers and boss relied on him far more than they should. A wife who, while caring, expected me to intuit so much from so little. And a daughter who, in a twist of fate, comforted and reassured me, when it should have been the other way around. 

I had no choice but to become him, to adopt his name and life as they were my own. And through a hellish and embarrassing series of weeks, I became him. Or, at least, something good enough to impersonate him.

“Right,” I said, my voice deep yet weak. “One year since I became Takada Touya. I had stopped counting the days long ago, as I wanted to… forget that ever happened.”

“Seriously? One year as an old man and you’re already this bitter?” Aida said with a snide expression. “I know that being with me isn’t your idea of a fun evening but… I just want to talk. I’m sure you haven’t eaten since lunch, so let’s get something. Ramen sound good to you?”

I paused for a moment, contemplating a response to get rid of this woman. But as she sneered at me with impatience, expecting nothing less than total compliance, I nodded my head and followed her lead. 

As I walked behind her, I paid attention to the way she moved. Her motions carried with them a slight giddiness of youth, while having the expected grace of a woman as she shook her body slightly, keeping her steps short and movements narrow. Conversely, my movements were large, lumbering, and rife with the fatigue of age as my aching body lurched forward with heavy footsteps.

Though our walking styles were night and day, they brought us to our destination just the same. A small ramen shop I had visited with co-workers several times over the past year. Before I could comment or object, Aida pushed the door open, revealing its familiar, if unremarkable, interior. Clean tile floors and walls, two wooden tables, each with four chairs, off to the right side, while the left side was home to the L-shaped counter, lined with eight stools. 

Despite being so late, there were still customers there, with a quartet of men in suits sitting at one of the tables, their bowls half full, making idle chatter. Once Aida and I sat ourselves at the bar, we only had to wait a few seconds before the owner of the shop, Jun, came from the back of the kitchen. 

His face was round, a towel was wrapped around his head, and his chest was clad in a simple T-shirt that had been dampened with a day’s worth of sweat. He looked at me with a familiar expression, as he did ever since I met him.

“Hey Takada. Who’s the girl?” The ramen shop owner said with a smirk.

“Oh, uh, she—”

“I’m a new employee at Mister Takada’s workplace. I’m still learning the ropes, we wound up working late, and he was kind enough to treat me to dinner. Isn’t that right, Mister Takada?”

“E-Exactly,” I lied, “I didn’t want to keep her so late, but she refused to leave until the work was done.”

“Hah! So young and already so dedicated. That will take you far. So, what can I get you two?”

“Hm… I’ll have your miso ramen,” Aida answered.

“And I’ll have the tonkotsu, like usual,” I said for formality’s sake.

“Got it. I’ll have it ready in a jiffy.”

Jun then began fiddling with things behind the counter, preparing our meals. He had his craft down to a science, but it would still take a few minutes to get everything ready, meaning I had little choice but to talk to the woman next to me. I braced myself, half expecting her to ask me the intricate details about what I was doing for work… only for her to begin by talking about herself.

“As you’ve probably figured out, I graduated last month and, this past week, I began attending university.”

“…Which one did you get into?”

“Meiji.”

I was glad that I wasn’t eating, because if I was, I would have choked. Meiji was one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, and while my grades were always good, they were never that good.

“M-Meiji? H-How?”

“Entrance exams aren’t too bad when you already have a college education. Sure, I forgot a lot, and a lot of things changed, but my old study habits worked just as well as they did back in the day.”

“…Congratulations,” I grumbled. “I’m sure you still worked very hard, and I know your dedication and experience will see you succeed in business.”

“Heh. You make it sound like I want to go back to finance, when… I’m not sure that’s what I want.”

“…But it is what you know, what you are best at. Why would you—”

“Because how many people get the opportunity to start over like this? If I do the same damn thing all over again, then isn’t that a wasted experience? A waste of education? Working in finance was great for the time, and I made good money, but I’m in a whole new generation, and while finance will always be a good career, I want to do something more than a little different.”

“Like what?” I asked with a bemused expression.

As Aida concluded her explanation, the ramen shop owner placed two bowls before us, inviting us to eat while continuing this conversation. It had been ten hours since I last ate anything, so I wasted little time before bringing a broth-soaked egg to my mouth.

“You know, I hated computers at first. That Sharp X1 was this huge, loud, clunky thing that sat at my desk, replacing things I was used to doing by adding more steps to the process. But the more I used it, the more tricks I was taught, the more I began to realize that computers aren’t just some fad. They’re the future. And it was the responsibility of the ‘next generation’ to make them even better. To master them and create a world where technology improves not only workplace productivity, but every facet of life.”

“That’s what I thought back when I was an old man… But now that I’m a young woman, now that I’m part of the ‘next generation,’ I feel that I have a duty to learn all I can about them. And because of that, I enrolled in Meiji’s computer science program. …And if I screw up, I can always fall back on finance.”

“That… that’s some determination you have there. …But have you even used a computer since then? I know your school didn’t have any. At least, none for students.”

“Of course I’ve been using computers. Hell, I spent most of last summer break at a computer store that let me customers use them… for a small fee. It was daunting at first, but after getting some coaching from the regulars, I was able to write my first program. It was just a simple letter writing program, but I was super proud of it.”

I leered into Aida’s eyes as she smiled. She had only known her life for a single year, yet she had done more with it than I ever would. Meanwhile, what have I done to improve the life of Takada Touya? Nothing. If anything, I had only made things worse, given my poor performance at work. Not a week went by where my boss did not remind me of ‘how I used to be such a better worker.’ 

I was thrust into a life where I needed decades of experience to maintain a basic level of competency, so perhaps being able to tread water was an accomplishment. But to everyone at the office, I was just an old man who had grown stupid or lazy for no discernable reason. To everyone but Aida and my daughter, that’s who I was. A stupid, lazy old man. 

“It’s good that you are doing what you want with your life, Aida—”

“Jeez! For the last time, call me Aiko. After what we’ve been through, it just sounds weird to call me Aida like that…”

“That did not stop you from calling me Takada.”

“I only did it to keep up appearances around Jun.”

“Regardless… It’s good that you are doing what you want with your life, Aiko. Youth is a terrible thing to waste, and you should spend it doing what you want.”

“Guh! Just because you’re an old man doesn’t mean you need to be so stoic. You can get at least a little angry with me for taking your— my life in a completely different direction.”

As I deliberated a response, I brought my eyes down to our ramen. We were both nearly done. With a further second of deliberation, I began to finish off whatever remained in my bowl, leaving behind only a small puddle of broth. I then pushed my bowl away and began pulling out my wallet while muttering to Aiko to ‘finish up.’

“I take that back. You aren’t an old man, you’re still a kid at heart.”

“Does it really matter? You already told me what you plan on doing with your life, and I wish you the best. I could tell you about my work, about how Suzuki thinks I’m a lost cause, and how Kudo probably knows enough that he can do my job just as well as I do. But it doesn’t matter to you what I am doing… and it shouldn’t matter to me what you are doing. Our relationship is over. Plain and simple.”

I could tell she was ready to snap at me, to berate me for my behavior. But as this fury reached its apex, it disappeared, leaving behind a forlorn expression on Aiko’s face.

“Even after all this time, the fire in your heart still burns just as bright. You know it doesn’t need to be this way. We went through a lot together, I don’t think we’d ever run out of things to talk about, and… I hate that our relationship has fallen apart like this. …Maybe a restaurant wasn’t the best place to reconnect. Tell you what, how about we spend the night together? If you still hate me and want me gone come morning… then I guess that’s the end for us. For good.”

I looked at Aiko’s face. She was at the precipice of tears, and seeing her like that, seeing my former face like that, it just broke my heart. As such, my answer was obvious.

“Of course. Where would you like to stay?”

“I was just thinking of that cheap hotel that I used to stay at a lot, when I wasn’t sleeping under my desk. Nina’s.”

“Ah, Nina’s. I actually stayed there a few times earlier this year. Not the most lavish place, but… it will do.”

Aiko then pushed her bowl forward and called for Jun, who appeared seconds later. I promptly paid him, but before stepping away, I felt the need to ask him something.

“Say, you didn’t overhear… what we were talking about, did you?”

“Heh,” Jun snickered. “I hear a lot of things… but I know it’s not my place to ask questions. And trust me, I have plenty of questions.”

With that loose security, Aiko and I walked out of the restaurant and made our way to Nina’s. The receptionist was discrete and did not ask any questions, despite how suspicious we looked when sharing a room. Though Nina’s was not technically a love hotel, Aiko explained it was frequently used by couples whose relationships… ended after checking out. It was a place where an old man and a young woman sharing a room was not only ordinary, but quaint compared to some of the things she had seen over the years.

I kept this in mind as I entered the room, but figured that even if it was used for an orgy of dubious legality, its baths were probably clean. Before so much as looking over the room itself, I made my way to the bathroom, shut the door, and began running the water for a bath. While stripping out of my suit, I was reminded of just how sore my joints truly were. From raising my arms above my head to bending my knees as I freed my legs from my pants, it all hurt far, far more than it should.

After folding my suit and underwear into a neat little pile on the sink, I looked down at my body. Small tuft of black hair gathered around the center of my rib cage and my nipples, stopping across the bulk of my chest, before continuing around my belly button, obscuring it in a field of dark strands. Though I was not what anyone would call ‘fat’ my stomach extended outward, obscuring my flaccid penis and the black ‘forest’ that surrounded it.

It was far from what most would call attractive, but nobody looked at an old man like me and expected them to be ‘attractive.’ If anything, this sight was… expected, accepted, and by all accounts normal. Yet the sight still left me forlorn.

Wishing to rid myself of these feelings, I sank into the tub, submerging every part of my body beneath my head in water before shutting my eyes. There, in that tranquil position, warm water tending to my joints and steam filling my sinuses, I became lost in thought.

One year ago, I entered this body. A few weeks later, I committed myself to being Takada Touya. I discarded my old life, and took on everything that came with this one. His name became my name. His family became my family. His job became my job. 

This is what I agreed to. Not because I wanted it… but because it would not be fair to others. Chihiro needed a father to put her through university. Yumi needed a husband to love and support her. And the job needed a worker to prevent the company from collapsing. This is how it had to be. These relationships had to be maintained. Whether I wanted to or not… and I did not.

When people depend on you like this, do your feelings really matter? Are your feelings more important than the feelings of others? Or is it correct to suffer if it ensures the happiness and success of others? This was something I had considered routinely over the past year, and the answer was always the same. It did not matter, for with this body and life, it was impossible for me to be happy. And if I cannot be happy… then the best thing to do is accept despair. To forget that things were once better. To discard any hope that things could ever become better.

As I reminded myself of this unfortunate reality, I heard the bathroom door creep open. Turning my head, I saw Aiko walking toward me, her body naked, without even a towel to cover herself. Her frame was thin and petite, from the bony legs to her small breasts that barely extended from her chest. I turned away as she approached me, not wanting to be reminded of her form.

“It hasn’t even been ten minutes. Are you truly this impatient?” I scoffed as she approached.

Aiko leered at me for that comment, before letting out a small sigh.

“I came in to bathe you. These bathtubs are built for two after all.”

“Bathe me? I am neither a child nor a geriatric. I can bathe myself.”

“You paid for my dinner and paid for this room. Let me do something for you, okay?”

Before I could object, Aiko grabbed a complementary washcloth and entered the bath, shoving me forward while she lowered herself behind me. I lacked the energy needed to push her aside or remove her from the room, so I simply allowed her to do as she pleased. Scrubbing the cloth against my back, reaching every elusive spot and crevice. Taking it over my arms and chest, before leaning forward to reach my legs, pressing her mild chest into my back. 

“Y’know, for most men, this would be an erotic fantasy,” Aiko commented, her hand on my thighs. “But you’re tighter than a crab’s ass. Come on, loosen up and enjoy yourself.”

“Believe it or not, it is hard for me to ‘enjoy myself’ when I’m around you.”

Ouch. Is this how you talk to all girls?”

“Only ones who lived as men for four decades.”

“Heh. I guess that’s sorta fair. But if you want anything from me, then I will be happy to obli—”

“No! What the hell is wrong with you? Why would I want to fuck my former body?”

“I… was just offering because—”

“Because you think I’m some freak?”

“…Because I feel like such a bastard for doing this to you. Touya, I’m sorry. I know how miserable you’ve been, Yumi’s noticed, Chihiro’s noticed, and they’ve let me know. I know I cannot do much to help you, and that you don’t want me to, but… I cannot accept that. I need to do something to make your life better.”

“And as I’ve constantly told you, there is nothing more you can do.”

“You keep saying that, but it’s bullshit! I know life sucks for you, but things can always be better! Things are supposed to keep getting better!”

“And things like this are not supposed to happen!” I shouted as I rose from the tub, spraying water on Aiko’s face. “If I want to be miserable, let me be miserable. If you want to do something for me, give me that modicum of freedom. Give me the freedom to live out my days without being reminded of you. Every time I look at you, I remember what I lost, I remember that my life was stolen. I am taken out of the fantasy that things have always been this way. Just seeing your face or hearing your name brings me back to a reality I want to ignore. So, please. Get. The. Fuck. Out. Of. My. Life.”

As I looked down at Aiko, I saw tears welling in her eyes. Despite granting her my name and life, part of me still saw her as an old man. Someone with a heart like a mound of ore. Yet, as I saw her beneath me, naked, knees against her chest, bathwater covering her face, I, for the first time, saw her for who she truly was. Just a girl. 

Her peers, her parents, her friends, and everyone she happened across, saw her as just that. Even in private, she looked down at herself and saw the body of a girl. Everything about her told her she was a teenage girl and, regardless of what her memories said, it was hard for her to not see herself as just that. Just like how it was hard for me to not see myself as an old man.

“I’m sorry. I—”

“No, I’m… I should have known how much distress seeing me caused you. I’ll leave you—”

“Wait! I… Just rinse off and try to go to bed. A girl like you shouldn’t be walking the streets alone at night.”

With a nod, Aiko left the bath and rinsed herself off on the bathroom stool, using the detached shower head. I submerged myself in the bath and closed my eyes as she did so, not opening them until I heard the door close behind her. 

Once I was alone, I rinsed myself off with the coldest water possible, causing my body to shiver and its hairs to stand up on end. I lingered on this sensation for a moment, punishing myself for being so rude to someone who earnestly only wanted to help me, before I found the sense to dry myself with a towel and get dressed.

I returned to the hotel room proper, dressed in an undershirt and briefs— to avoid wrinkling my suit— and saw Aiko already in bed, lying under the covers. Her head was facing away from me and she had turned off the lights. A sign of surrender if I had ever seen one. I silently thanked her for her compliance as I took in this gesture before I slid under the covers, my head facing away from her.

I allowed my body to sink into the cushy mattress as my eyes lingered forward, settling on the red lights of a digital clock, reading the time of 23:45. I felt one of the only remaining innocent fragments of myself flicker to life as I saw the clock near midnight, pointlessly hoping that, at the arbitrary cusp of midnight, this year-long body swap would be undone. That I would be freed from this burdensome body, and be allowed to return to the life I had once known. I immediately chided myself for such wishful thinking. For such a happy ending would be even more absurd than the very notion of switching bodies with someone.

Like it or not, and I certainly didn’t, this was my life. This was my body. And that would be the case… for the rest of my life.

Das Ende


Afterword

Well, this is an idea that kind of got away from me. Originally, TSF Series #015 was meant to be a sister story to TSF Series #013: Delusion Kamera – Poolside Switching. A story that was directly inspired by a Japanese Adult Video (JAV) by the name of RCT-024. A 2.5 hour long pornographic anthology film with three acts. The first act served as the basis for TSF Series #013, while the second act served as the… inspiration for TSF Series #015.

The second act takes the form of an 11 minute short that features a middle-aged man and young woman who recently swapped bodies and are in the midst of bathing. The girl-in-man character bathes the man-in-girl while they are wearing a blindfold, but after some deliberations, the blindfold is removed and they take a bath together. Things then escalate, and the man-in-girl decides to give their former body a handjob and blowjob. However, rather than ending in an orgasm, this scene suddenly comes to an end as the girl-in-man begins sobbing, causing the man-in-girl to stop, apologize, and… pray? There’s a limit to how much I can gather due to the language barrier.

I thought this ending was so unexpected and powerful that I decided to base a short story around it, and that was the plan for TSF Series #015. In fact, that was the plan for almost an entire year. However, things began to change after I wrote the outline for the story. An outline that, quite simply, did not really work tonally or thematically. 

My initial ideas had the protagonist being something of a secret sex fiend, saw a more affable tone with a larger number of gags, and more references toward the sexual underbelly of Japan during the ‘bubble years.’ But those ideas seemed incongruous to the core of the story I was trying to tell here. I actually wanted to tell a story about the despair and sorrow that comes with losing one’s body and being forced to live as another. One set a year after the initial swap, giving the characters time to settle into their new lives and accept their new selves.

This led me to ignore several paragraphs in my outline, including the scene that inspired this whole short story, and resulted in a 5,000 word story. A draft that I thought was simply too short, so I came up with three ideas for a continuation. 

The first became a 1,500 word epilogue that thematically wrapped up the story, expanded the world slightly, and saw the end of Takada Touya’s story, based on the philosophy he expressed in the first ending. I called this ‘Episode True: The Vicennial.’

The second idea was an alternate happy ending, where Aiko and Touya swap back, but the adventures continue, which was also about 1,500 words. I called this ‘Episode Untrue: Hope & Dash.’

While writing Episode Untrue: Hope & Dash, I came up with a third idea of a continuation— one that continued Episode Untrue— and began frantically writing it, with zero outline. The end result was a  half-thought-out 3,000 word tangent that is mostly a test for a larger story concept. One that I really have not seen explored in body swap fiction, but desperately want to explore one day as its own work. 

I considered cutting this third idea, as it is more of a test than a full concept, and I completely phoned in the ending, but I decided it was too interesting to cut, so I included it and called it ‘Episode Saiko: The Great Tokyo Bonk-mageddon.’


Episode True: The Vicennial

April 9, 2008

The scent of cigarettes, booze, and cologne mingled into the air, creating a potent and disgusting cocktail of smells. At times like this, I cursed my stubborn sense of smell. There was a time— during another life— when I held a certain fondness of places like this. Places where people could indulge in their vices with no shame or judgment. But as I’ve grown older, I realized just how hostile they are to women like me. Which raised a pertinent question.

“What the hell am I doing here?”

Bars had not been my scene for years, but Chihiro just had to call me out and insist that we meet up tonight… without telling me why. Though, I already had suspicions as to what would bring a girl like her to a place like this. And after double-checking the date, all the pieces fell into place.

Chihiro arrived 20 minutes late, still dressed in her usual office attire, her armpit-length hair dyed a stylish auburn. Her body language as she walked toward me told me all I needed to know, and by the time she was sitting next to me, I could see the tears trailing down her cute little face.

“I-I’m sorry I kept you w-waiting,” she murmured, her voice muffled by the clanking and clattering around us.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, guiding her to the stool next to me. “Can I get you something?”

“No. This… this was a stupid place to meet! I just needed to talk to you about what… happened this morning.”

“…Does it involve your father?”

Chihiro simply nodded in response, and I took this as an opportunity to jump to conclusions.

“Touya killed himself.”

“He— He wouldn’t kill himself! My father loved me! He loved my mother! He—”

“—He loved you, but at… 68, he was unable to work any longer. His pension kicked in and it would all go to Yumi if he died. You moved out 15 years ago, so he did not need to worry about supporting you. If anything, he would not want to burden you—”

“Don’t act like you know—”

“I do know. I had not seen him in 20 years. Per his request. But that last night we spent together, he showed me exactly what kind of man he truly was. Not a man at all, but rather a child in the body of one, burdened by everything everyone else wanted, and too good to pursue what he wanted. For someone like him, happiness can only come in change. And when you die, everything changes. Everything changes into nothing.”

Chihiro glared at me in response, analyzing my muted expression as I brought my glass to my face, the beer stinging as it dripped down my throat. After a minute of intense thought however, she relented, sighing and bringing her eyes down to the counter.

“I hate what you’re saying… because I know you’re right. He has been miserable for so long. I hoped he would find something to keep him happy in his old age, pick up a hobby or something, but I guess that was just wishful thinking.”

“I hoped so too. It brings me no pleasure to know that the life I built up for so many years is just gone, but… it is one so far away, it feels wrong to say I had any claim to it. I can remember lots of tiny details, but things as simple as the face… they have all been washed from my mind, decayed through the passage of time.”

Chihiro flipped open her phone, ready, if not eager, to show me a picture of Takada Touya, but I shook my head before she could.

“That man did not want me involved in his life, and I think it would be wrong to disrespect his wishes, even if he is no longer with us. But Chihiro, if you ever need someone, know that I am here for you.”

As I said that, our hands touched, and my mind flashed back forty years. I remembered how small her hands were when I first met her, struggling to wrap themselves around a single finger of mine. I remember how my hands engulfed hers by the time she was going to school. I remember how small they still were even as she was heading off to high school. But by the time she went to college, our hands had become the same size. Hers stayed the same while mine became smaller. And now, 20 years later, our hands remained the same size.

It was then that I finally realized that, to Chihiro, I had been like this longer than I had been her father. That… I no longer saw myself as her father and, based on the way she cried over his loss, and the way she looked at me… she no longer saw me as her father either. At some point, that part of our relationship faded away. We had stopped being family and, instead, were simply… friends.

“Thanks, Aiko. I don’t know what I need now, but so long as I know I can count on you… I think this will be a lot easier.”

“You know what else will make this a lot easier…” I said as I swirled my glass, tempting her.

“Ai-Aiko!”

“What? You picked a bar for a reason. And I know you’re a lightweight, but that’s why you invited me, right?”

“I wasn’t really thinking and—”

“Hey!” I shouted, grabbing the attention of the bartender schmoozing with another patron. ”My friend here wants a momoshu.”

“I… I don’t think I ever had one of those.”

“It’s sweet and you’ll love it. I’d shove my beer in your face, but this stuff’s making my throat a bit raw, so I’m sure yours would be burning.”

“Well, if you think it’ll help.”

“People have been getting drunk after the death of loved ones for thousands of years, so it probably helps.”

On cue, the waiter plopped a nice tall glass before 

From there, we drank, we bitched, and Chihiro let it all out, crying as she thought back on her childhood. She went on and on about the little things her dad did for her. How he spent his weekends doing whatever she wanted when she was little. How he taught her how to tie her ribbon when she first got her middle school uniform. And how he always told her that she could do whatever she wanted, so long as she was resolute in her goals.

After four beers in, I was barely following anything, and I doubt she was making even half as much sense as she was at the start of the night. Then, after maybe two or three more, I went out like a light.

Normally, this is where things would end. I would wake up, hope that I didn’t get robbed— or worse, raped— and try to get on with the rest of the day. But instead of waking up at the bar, in my bedroom, or even on Chihiro’s couch, I found myself in a hotel. 

After getting out of the covers, where I was fully clothed, I wobbled about, my legs feeling like they were made of jelly, where I found a man in a dated suit, facing the hotel door.

I greeted the man, guarded and confused, and then, a second later, he turned around. His thinning hairline, his thick glasses, and sagging face made him look like a lot of folks you saw walking around, but it took only a second for me to remember who he was.

“T-Touya?” I said, almost tripping on nothing. “But you—”

“This is a dream, Aida. Come now, you’re smart enough to figure that out yourself.”

He had a point. The more I looked around the room, the more I remembered it. The thin carpeting, the cheap wallpaper— this was a room at Nina’s. And looking at Touya… he hadn’t aged a day since 1988.

“Okay, so is this… some sort of drunken hallucination?” I snickered, amused by my situation more than anything.


“I wouldn’t know. All I know is that… I came here to tell you goodbye, and that… I’m sorry for ending this life. I spent the rest of my years living as a shadow, and imitator of a man who no longer was, and it ate away at me, more and more, until I didn’t have a soul to speak of. I felt like a demon in the skin of a man and… I wanted out. I gave up. But you… you never gave up. You never settled. You got your degree, made your career, and now develop software that improves the lives of thousands if not millions of people.”

“Yeah… I try not to think about that. That sense of responsibility… can make it a bit hard to sleep at night.”

“What I’m trying to say is that… you became a better Aida Aiko than I ever could dream of being. And even if I was a mediocre Takada Touya at best, I like to think, in a grander sense, my unwilling sacrifice made the world a better place.”

“You weren’t mediocre. You did the best you could, and sacrificed everything to make others happy. You are a more noble man than I ever was in that sense. …Thank you for everything. I only wish we could have gotten closer.”

“I wish so too but, sadly, I lacked the strength to carry such burdens. I lacked the strength to fully accept the truth, right until the end. …Sayonara, Aida Aiko.”

“Sayonara, Tekada Touya.”

As we said our parting words, Touya opened up the door, blinding us with an abrasive light. One that marked the end of his time in this world and the end of this forlorn farewell.

Das Wahre Ende


Episode Untrue: Hope & Dash

April 9, 1988

The empty blackness and nothingness of slumber was cast aside as a mechanical chirping boomed into my ears. Despite the awkwardness of a sudden awakening, I knew this sound well, and wasted little time sending my hand out of the sheets and to the nightstand, where I grabbed the handset and brought it to my head.

“H… llo?” I asked, my throat dry and eyes heavy.

“Good morning, Takada-san. This is your 6 in the morning wake up call, and today is Saturday, April 9th. Would you like a follow-up call?”

As the receptionist’s hoarse voice played back in my ear, I stood up from my bed, my brain slowly booting up as I deliberated a response. Before I could however, I saw something blocking my vision. A sheet of… dark hair… longer than my chin.

A momentary pause led to an explosion of sensations as my body spasmed, a shout escaped my mouth, and I fumbled out of the bed, landing on the carpeted floor below. Moving the hair out of my face, I looked down to see myself dressed in a sweater, two small bumps protruding from my chest, a panty covering my crotch, and a pair of hairless legs poking out from them.

“W-w-w-wh-WHAAAAAT?!“

I felt my breathing grow heavy and uneven as I basked in this sight. A sight that I never thought I would see ever again, and one I did not believe from sight alone. But as I sent my hands down my body, rubbing my legs, squeezing my breasts, and brushing past my underwear, I knew it was not a mere fantasy of hallucination! This shit was real!

“I got my body back! I got my fucking body back! HELL YEAH!”

As I laughed with joy, I heard the voice from the receiver, screaming from the tiny speaker and reaching a volume louder than my euphoric spasms.

“Lady, what’s going on there? Is someone hurting you?”

“No, no, no—” I repeated as I grabbed the handset. “Everything is… wonderful! Thanks for the call!”

I slammed the phone onto the receiver before hopping off the floor without using my hands. 

“Aaaaaahhhhh! I missed doing that soooo much!”

My body shook as I relished in this high, hands shaking and feet tapping beyond my control. However, despite this being the best thing that ever happened to me, I did have two questions. 

One… HOW?! We bonked heads while we were coming and going out of the front door of the Takada household and somehow swapped bodies. We knocked heads together over and over, but it never worked. But now, after a full year, we just so happened to switch back? What kind of shit logic is that?

Two… where was Aiko, or… wait, if I am back to myself, then I guess that means I— watashi— am Aida Aiko again, and she— he is back to being Takada Touya. Guh! Pronouns can be such a bitch sometimes. Point is, I was the only person I could see in the hotel room, and I immediately began to investigate.

I started by looking under the sheets and bed— which was so much easier I could barely even believe it— but then I barged into the bathroom. There I saw Touya, ass naked, sitting on the bathroom stool, his right hand wrapped around his hairy cock. I froze, as one does when presented with a sight like this, but before the questions could come rolling in, I felt something slam into my eye. Something wet, hot, and bearing a potent scent that assaulted my sinuses.

As I brought a hand to wipe away the fluid, I looked down, my fingers covered with a… viscous… white… goo. …It took a fraction of a moment for the round peg to fall into the right hole.

“What the fuck, Touya? You wake up in your body again and after, what, five minutes, you’re jerking off in the bathroom… and you cum on my face? The hell’s wrong with you?”

In response to my fiery questions, Touya just chuckled like a fuck— thinking my pain was funny. I wanted to smack him upside the head for being such a dick, but I wanted to get his cum off my face slightly more, so I made way for the sink.

“I shudder to think what some dirty old man like you did to my body!” I shouted over the sound of running water.

“Well, it involved using a not-so-little purple rabbit and—”

“Stop!” I yelled, turning back to Touya. “Every word, it gets worse, and I don’t want to hear it! ”

“I mean, you’re the one who bought it and hid it under your bed.”

“Th-that is…”

“C’mon, it’s not like you and Yumi didn’t get it on a few times. You had to do your husbandly duties after all. And we thought this was going to be forever, so don’t retroactively shame me for enjoying myself. After all, these days a woman being ‘sexually experienced with herself’ is a good thing, isn’t it?”

“It… screw it, it doesn’t matter. I’m pissed at you for being such a pervert that you couldn’t go a few minutes in your body without jacking off… but we have more important things to worry about. Namely, what the hell is going on? Why did we switch bodies again?”

Touya adopted a terse expression on his face, looking as serious as a man could while sitting on a bathroom stool, his dick still hard.

“I have absolutely no idea. But I’m glad things are back to normal.”

“I… what? I thought you were living it up in my body and—”

“That was just me making the most of a bad situation. You’re a sweet girl. Or, at least you were…”

“What’s that supposed to mean? Anyone with eyes could tell you that I’m a sweet and cute joshi kousei and—”

Technically, you’re not a JK anymore. You graduated last month.”

“Piss off! It still counts!”

“Hah! That’s exactly what I mean. The world of old men has corrupted you, and your innocence—”

“My innocence is not being helped by you sitting there naked. I NEVER want to see your junk again, so put your damn clothes on and… let’s get the FUCK outta here!”

Ten minutes later, we checked out, and were on the streets again. I took a deep sigh as I saw the rising sun overhead and looked down at the city, waking up from a vibrant Friday night as people hit the pavement and made their way back to work. It was before the usual morning rush, so the streets were relatively sparse compared to what they normally were, but things didn’t feel vacant either.

Technically, I didn’t have anywhere to go but home— to see my little bro, mom, and dad— but a year is a long time, and someone had to get Touya up to speed. So I decided to spend one more day in that wretched office with him. I pretty much owed him for getting me into Meiji after all.

It was a pretty short walk back to the office, just about a kilometer, but as we crossed these lightly populated streets, I could not help but relish in the little things. The way my scarf, coat, and hair fluttered in the early spring wind. The slight bounce to every step I took, my movements guided by my body’s muscle memories. And the way everything looked so… different. It was like a light haze was removed from my vision as I looked onward, the city looking clearer and cleaner than it had the past year. And when I looked up, I was shocked by how everything seemed ever so slightly bigger, the massive skyscrapers looking even larger given my shorter stature.

“It’s nice to see you smiling again, Aiko,” Touya said from my side.

I felt like correcting him but… even though he was a dirty old man, he deserved to call me by my given name. 

“It’s hard not to. Every burden I was carrying has been lifted from my shoulders. I feel lighter than air, in both body and mind. While my high school days might be behind me, and a year of memories unrequited, I have my whole life ahead of me, and you put me in an excellent place to… do whatever I desire. For that, I am grateful to you, Touya.”

“Please. I took your life for my own, and nothing I did, I did for you. But everything you did… you did for me. For my family. And for my employer. I do not know what I can offer you, but know that I am forever in your debt.”

In the end, it all worked out. Everything returned to the way it was supposed to be. While I might not want to look back at these memories anytime soon, this year of my life forced me to grow and learn. Learn things that I’m sure will help me get far in life and do whatever I want. What is that? Well, I didn’t really know at the start of my third year, and I had not thought about it since, but I’m sure as fuck not going to spend the rest of my life in an office like that.

As I sneered at my workplace for the past year, looming in the distance, I happened to bump into someone, our heads colliding before I could catch a glance of their face. I immediately fell to the pavement, falling off my ass and onto my back, where I hazily opened my eyes to see the blue sky overhead. 

Instinctively, I sat up on the concrete and looked at who I ran into, only to be met with the sight of a young woman with shoulder-length black hair, wearing a long dark coat and a red scarf. A woman who looked… exactly… like… me.

Looking down, I saw myself in a suit, but it wasn’t the same one I was wearing yesterday. It was gray instead of black, and the body beneath it seemed slimmer and overall smaller. A thick head of black hair covered my head, there were no glasses on my face, and based on the texture of my skin, I was definitely a man. After a year as one and an hour as myself, I was a salaryman all over again.

Nooooooo!!!” I shouted, my voice deep and booming.

As if on cue, my real body hopped off of the ground, scampering away like a frightened deer.

“H-Hey, wait!” I said as I ran after this body thief. “Give me my body back! I don’t want to be a salaryman anymore! Pleeeease!!!

Das Unwahre Ende


Episode Saiko: The Great Tokyo Bonk-mageddon

In the end, it all worked out. Everything returned to the way it was supposed to be. While I might not want to look back at these memories anytime soon, this year of my life forced me to grow and learn. Learn things that I’m sure will help me get far in life and do whatever I want. What is that? Well, I didn’t really know at the start of my third year, and I had not thought about it since, but I’m sure as fuck not going to spend the rest of my life in an office like that.

As I sneered at my workplace for the past year, looming in the distance, I happened to bump into someone, our heads colliding before I could catch a glance of their face. I immediately fell to the pavement, falling off my ass and onto my back, where I hazily opened my eyes to see the blue sky overhead. 

Instinctively, I sat up on the concrete and looked at who I ran into, only to be met with the sight of a young woman with shoulder-length black hair, wearing a long dark coat and a red scarf. A woman who looked… exactly… like… me.

Looking down, I saw myself in a suit, but it wasn’t the same one I was wearing yesterday. It was gray instead of black, and the body beneath it seemed slimmer and overall smaller. A thick head of black hair covered my head, there were no glasses on my face, and based on the texture of my skin, I was definitely a man. After a year as one and an hour as myself, I was a salaryman all over again.

As I stewed in this vile revelation, I looked back at my real body, and saw its hands reaching under its sweater to feel up its breasts.

Son of a bitch!” I shouted, my voice angry but vaguely familiar. “Who are you!”

My real body did not listen to my words. Instead, it stuck its hands into its pants, at least until I grabbed its arms, pulling them away with my masculine strength.

“I said, who—”

We were both still on the ground, and before I could stand up, my real body maneuvered its legs and, clumsily, kicked me in the face. My grip loosened, and it escaped, leaping from the ground while I pushed myself up with my arms. By the time I stood up, I saw my body running away, and I immediately gave chase.

NO!!! You bastard! Give me back my body! GIVE IT BACK!!!

I ran as I shouted, fumbling over my feet as I came to terms with a different center of mass. Women were built differently than men, and fat men were built differently than skinny men. I thought the body thief would have similar troubles adapting to the body of a young woman, but he moved with speed and grace. Like he was a runner in high school and knew how to adapt his technique, regardless of the body.

Fortunately, the chase did not last very long, as the crowds were growing thicker. As I neared him and the tension grew higher, the thief made one bad turn and collided with a delivery man who was writing something in a tiny notebook.

As they crumpled to the pavement, I swooped down and pinned my real body to the ground, grabbing both hands and pressing my weight onto its legs.

“I don’t know what you did, but switch us back! NOW!”

My anger was enough to attract onlookers… but all immediately looked away as they saw a delivery man, the same one who was knocked over just a minute ago, headbutt a middle school girl. Both fell to the ground, but while the delivery man looked stunned, the middle school girl leaped up in joy, before proceeding to headbutt a befuddled old woman.

It was an odd sequence of events, like some sort of violent version of tag. But as I watched this scene play out, and looked at the mortified expression on my real body’s face, the gerbils in my brain started hitting mach 1.

“Bonk heads to switch bodies!” I shouted before craning my neck back, and bonking my borrowed head against my real body’s skull.

A daze of non-sensation followed before I opened my eyes, and felt the air leave my body as a heavy weight pressed itself against my chest. My head was sore, on both the front and the back, but as I felt the hair covering my ears, the scarf around my neck, I realized I did at least something right.

I mustered what little strength I had to shove the body aside, turning it over to look at its face… and saw that it was none other than my kohai— erm, Touya’s kohai— Kudo Kouza.

“So, I switched with Kudo and… he just kept swapping bodies with other people?”

It was a bizarre reaction to switching bodies, but not a totally insane one, I guess. Yet as I saw Kudo’s body look at itself with confusion, I realized that I had tumbled into one fine mess. 

The crowd around me had grown confused, with people yelling and shouting at each other, and a few people who took this opportunity to run away. Especially young men and women. However, just out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an older man run onto a bus and, while my visibility was poor, it looked like he immediately headbutted someone.

As I looked on at this burgeoning chaos, I felt a hand grasp my shoulder. Looking up, it was Touya, a smile on his face.

“That Kudo, he was always a bit of an oddball, but I never expected him to react like this.”

“S-So, w-what do we do? How is this—” I stammered, still struggling to articulate what was going on.

“By bonking heads, we first switched bodies. Now, after a year, it looks like that power— or curse not only returned to us, but now it spreads to others.”

Looking at the crowd gathered around us, we saw over a dozen people headbutting each other before looking down at their bodies with some variation of shock. It was clear, knowing what we knew, that they were all exchanging bodies.

“…What? How is that… even possible?”

“Beats the shit outta me,” Touya said. “But rest assured, things are going to get a lot… stranger.”

“W-Wait, do you mean that we’re just going to leave things like this—”

“Aiko…. What are we going to do? Kudo has already spread it to dozens of people, and we don’t know where or who he is now. Frankly, I’ve had enough body swapping adventures for a good while… but if you want to try out a few bodies and—”

Absolutely not! Aida Aiko is back where she belongs, and she’s never going to be anybody else! Even if I need to wear a goldarn helmet for the rest of my bloody life. For now… let’s just go to the office and hope we don’t run into any more mishaps.”

Oh, how I wished that was the case…

Touya and I then returned to the office, opening things up, turning on the lights, and I began to distract myself by updating Touya on what happened this past year. Pulling out old reports, explaining new procedures, things like that. But as the work day formally began and other people started trickling in, things started taking an eerie vibe. Over half of the office was either late or absent, and those who came in talked to one another about how ‘crazy’ the trains were. 

As gossip began to spread throughout the office, one of the office ladies eventually had the foresight to turn on a radio to see if there was some sort of event going on. After a few minutes of speculation, a state of emergency was declared, as it was believed there was some sort of airborne hallucinogen spreading throughout the city. The broadcaster advised people to stay inside and away from large groups of people while the authorities investigated things. 

By the afternoon, the broadcaster had changed their story, as the truth became too large to be contained. Thousands of people had experienced or reported a body swap phenomenon caused by a cranial collision with another person. While many did not experience it, especially those outside of metropolitan Tokyo, scientists quickly identified it as something that could spread from person to person, like a disease.

My former boss was particularly dismissive of the idea, insisting that it was plain old ‘wasn’t possible.’ …Only for Touya to get tired of his complaining and bonk his head, switching their bodies around. This led to a domino effect of people swapping with others to prove the phenomenon to others. It was a vibrant and playful time for the regular office staff, the people I had come to know, and hate, over the past year. However, the fun and games ended when a senior manager landed in the body of an office lady and ran out the backdoor. Once that happened, people began smacking their heads together to get back to their correct bodies, while others lied, trying to get a ‘better body.’

The rules of society were rapidly decaying and, recognizing the envy many would have for a young body like mine, I left while I could, leaving Touya to fend for himself. …In retrospect, part of me wishes I had stayed in that office.

While a state of emergency had been declared, that did not keep people off the streets. Running, dancing, streaking, or bonking from body to body like they were trying to rack up a high score in a video game. I quickly learned that public transportation of all kinds had been closed, as there were dozens of incidents of people falling onto train tracks. Meaning that if I wanted to get to the only safe place I knew, my home, I would need to travel five kilometers on foot.

Underpopulated areas would make me an easy target for any lurking for unsuspecting victims. While the complete lack of social order would make populated areas just as, if not more, dangerous.

I decided to test my odds by taking the most direct path I could, but before I left, I decided to stop by a store that sold sporting goods. An abandoned store, leaving me with no other option but to steal a bat and a padded helmet. I had gone through too much to ever give up this body of mine, and though I was far from a fighter, I would do all I could to protect it.

Fortunately, I attracted precious little attention as I slid through the crowds and ducked through the side routes. I traveled through the city slowly yet subtly as I witnessed what had to be hundreds of people lose their bodies. Every time I saw this play out, my body tensed, and my grip on my bat tightened. But thankfully, nobody approached me, allowing me to reach a house I had not seen in months, and had not called home in a year. It was a simple single-family home, western in its design, and just the sight of it brought tears to my eyes. For it was my home.

My collected composure collapsed as I fumbled for my keys and entered, locking the door and latching it shut, terrified of the idea that someone had been following me. Once I was somewhat safe, I looked around the house, and found the ground floor empty. My parents’ coats and shoes were gone, as they both worked on Saturdays, but the shoes of my little brother, Junpei, were both by the front door, along with his coat.

I ran up the stairs, moving my exhausted body as quickly as I could, before reaching Junpei’s room. I knocked on the door, calling his name, and while I heard nothing in return, I could feel a faint noise echoing from within. Cautiously, I turned the doorknob, and looked at my little brother. 

Over the past year, he turned 12, and his body was beginning to resemble that of a man. However, he did not look like much of a man at the moment. His eyes were flushed with tears, trickling down his cheeks as he sat on his bed, a pillow against his chest. While a boy can change a lot in a year, my heart sank as I saw this sight. As I quickly reached what would have been an unreasonable conclusion if not for what I had seen this morning. This was not my brother. This was not Junpei.

“Who… are you?” I asked the person in my brother’s body while still standing in the doorway .

“I’m… Aida Junpei,” they said with an uncertain expression.

“No, you’re not my brother. Who were you… before all this. Who were you yesterday?”

They looked at me like I had asked them a trick question, before muttering a response.

“I… was Hitomi, a government worker, in her thirties. But when I was on a train this morning, someone started causing a ruckus, and everything went dark for a moment. It felt like my very soul was being shaked around and, when I came to, I was in the body of a little boy. I did not know where my real body went, and I didn’t have keys to my apartment… so I had no place to go but here. I’m sorry. I did not know your brother and—”

“SHIT!” I said, pounding the doorframe. A male impulse that was left lingering in my brain.

“It’s spreading faster than I thought. There are people all over Tokyo that are just like you, Hitomi. They’re switching bodies with others by bonking their heads together. I’d say we should head to your apartment, and switch you and my brother back, but that relies on a lot of assumptions, and we can’t assume much right now. Your body could have traded hands a dozen times within a mere hour, depending on how desirable it is.”

“How… do you know all this?” She asked, her deepening voice clashing with her feminine cadence.

“I… It’s all over the news and… with a disaster like this, all we can do is hope that people can fix it. Hope and wait.”

Once Hitomi had calmed down, I took her downstairs and sat her in front of the TV. I knew this would only stoke the flames of worry within us, but during times of disaster, this is the only approach I knew.

Things seemed bad earlier this afternoon, but things had gotten worse by the hour. Estimates of ten thousand victims rose to over a million. Travel by air and sea had been shut down. Local transportation across the country was halted. And the government was considering opening the emergency food supply as industry ground to a halt.

It all painted a dour picture, but what worried me the most was the possibility of this spreading outside of Japan. Considering how insane people like Kudo were mixed up in all of this, I did not doubt that at least one of them left the country. And that one person could bonk heads with hundreds of people a day if they were dedicated enough.

As a phenomenon, this was virtually impossible to contain, and the more I thought about it, the more frightened I became. The power to switch bodies is one that dismantles so many facets of society. One that ruins systems that took decades, if not centuries, to build. And when this power is expressed freely and is available to all… it begs the question if it is even possible for a society to exist when everyone has a power so great.

The broadcast continued without end and, after the clock crept past 19:00, I heard a knock at the door. With my helmet still on, and bat still by my side, I looked through the door, opened a sliver, with a woman looking in, her entrance prohibited by the chain lock. As she saw me approach, her single visible eye widened, and she adopted a chipper tone.

“Aiko, sweetie, could you please undo the chain?”

She sounded like my mother, clearly knew my name, but that was not enough. So I asked the first bit of trivia I could think of.

“Mom, what’s my date of birth?”

She paused as I asked such a basic question, but answered quickly, a smile on her face.

“March 1st, 1969.”

Eagerly, I undid the latch and invited my mother into our home, where she placed her bags down and began taking off her shoes. I wanted to hug her and embrace her, as it had been a year since I last saw her. …But as the bags served as a bridge between us, I decided to put them away first, and reconvene later. 

Ever since I was a small child, I had always taken Mom’s groceries into the kitchen and put them away for her. It was part of a routine I had done possibly thousands of times and it felt nice to feel like… me again. I hummed to myself as I engaged in this simple task, a bit embarrassed to feel a wave of euphoria from something so mundane… but then I heard a muffled scream.

Upon turning my head, I saw my little brother’s body, sitting in a kitchen chair… a knife sticking out of the left eye. Blood pooled onto the table, dripping onto his clothes, and in response, I collapsed onto the floor.

That is when I felt it. When I felt something pierce through my chest, narrowly missing my ribcage as flesh ruptured, and I felt my torso grow wet with blood. My head tilted up, slowly and shakily, before landing on my mother, her face smiling, and her hand around the knife lodged within my chest.

“You made this far too easy, Aiko. For the second boss, I expected a greater challenge.”

Their odd wording struck a chord with me and, with strength rapidly leaving my body, I spoke what I thought was their name.

“”Ku… do?”

“Oh, you guessed very well for your first try. Yes, I suppose that name is still somewhat appropriate. But I must say, I never would have even dreamed of being your dear mother, Miho. She is quite the lovely lady, and looks damn good for 40, wouldn’t you agree?”

His chipperness was horrifying. How one could be so jovial after committing two acts of homicide was beyond me. Yet, I still needed to ask him one final question before life left my body.

“W… Why?”

“Because this all started with you. And if they were to find you, then you might be the key to fix this. But you can’t help anybody fix anything when you’re dead, now can you? You see, I did not want to change the world when I woke up today, but when all the rules of reality crumble down, it is wrong to not embrace them. Wrong to try to suppress them. Within a few days, as this power spreads, everybody will be able to become anyone, and a new era of society will be born. It sounds glorious, wouldn’t you say so?”

Try as I might, I could barely listen to this man, let alone understand him. I wanted to call him twisted, radical, and insane. Yet, words failed to leave my lips, and my vision grew dark as the strength left my body. My final thought being… I wish I had never switched back with that dirty old man.

Das Saiko Ende

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