An alien visits earth, and reshuffles everyone’s consciousness into different bodies every twenty-four hours.
Giant red floating numbers appear on my eyelids at noon, and decrease from ten to one. The alien said the first jump would be easy. I don’t think any jump would be easy. I’m a towering male body builder. The odds of me getting someone whose better physically fit than me are basically zero. I had called my girlfriend earlier, and we had agree to skype as soon as the switch is made. The alien had instructed everyone to be seated for the change, and I saw several rebellious coworkers forced into sitting positions. Good, at least I won’t find myself on a tight rope or barreling down the highway at 90 miles an hour
2….1… I’m at an office, I’m sitting in a cubicle with a computer on in front of me. There’s a word document open, and my hands are on the keyboard. My vision looks dirty, and there’s something on my face. I reach up and touch my face, glasses. I notice there is a periodic table of elements on the side of my cube, and to my utter amazement I recognize most of the elements. Wow! I must be smart! I found it reassuring to know that you also got the latent knowledge of whoever I was transported to.
I take a look at what I’m writing, and see instructions. ‘You are a research associate at a well known lab. Your job is to perform column chromatography to purify proteins. Today you are running an experiment on ion exchange chromatography to investigate the possibility of a negative capture of the remaining contaminants.
Hmmm, a negative capture, it made sense. The protein was over 90% purity, so some polishing should be all that’s necessary, and we’ve had good yields with ion exchange in the past. I was smart! This was cool. I see he’s got another word file open. I tab over to it to find the printed instructions for what I was to do. I scroll through and notice it’s just like yesterday’s, but we’re investigating a higher salt concentration in the wash step. Was this what science people did all day? Think in really big words that not many people understood, I could get used to this.
Then I remember my girlfriend and open Skype.
“Hey babe.” A female park ranger on the other end says. There’s a forest behind her. I’m lucky she ended up in a park ranger with a good cell phone plan. “Where are you?” She asks. I can clearly see the sign for the park behind her. It isn’t that far from where I lived before the switch
It’s a good question, I check my surroundings. There aren’t any windows. I consider asking someone, but they’re probably just as confused as me. I look back at my computer screen and my new science brain suggests using the internet. A quick google search later I have the answer.
“I’m only about thirty miles south of you.” I feel an itching sensation in my head. What is that? Am I sick? The itching directs me to some paperwork nearby. Oh, it’s my work ethic telling me to get going.
“I’m in a Biology lab sweetie, and I need to get back to work. There’s science to do!” She smiles.
“Okay babe, call me again tonight, and we’ll recap the day.”
“K, ttyl sweetie.” I say. She says goodbye, and I grab the paperwork to head into the lab.
It’s my first time working in an actual lab, or even seeing one. It looks kind of boring. Most of the equipment looks like it belongs in a kitchen, until my science brain shows me how things are linked. This ordinary looking plastic bag holds a solution that has been carefully refined over years. It is used in conjunction with the sand looking substance to pull out a protein from a blend of bacteria. That protein is then used to combat deadly flesh eating bacteria.
I marvel at the intricacies within the brain I’m occupying. It’s so incredibly interconnected. Atomic structures reveal truths about large macromolecules. The large macromolecules in turn perform precise actions dictated by thermodynamic equations. Those thermodynamic equations also apply to the function of the macromolecules, and the macromolecules are impossibly numerous, and all affect each other. This science brain studied a great deal about channel proteins in his graduate school, and I spend an hour just tracing the pathway of the protein and how it interacts with the other proteins.
I leave the day lost in thought, and instinctively drive to my host’s rather nice house. I immediately boot up skype, where my girl tells me about her day.
“It was a blessing and a curse.” She tells me. “On the one hand this body isn’t as good as the one I have.” My girl is/was a model. “But there’s also less need for one. There aren’t many people out here, and the few that come by aren’t interested in my looks. They value the knowledge I have, and we bond over the shared experience of loving nature. Speaking of nature, there’s so much of it here! I spent half the day walking in silence, just listening to the sounds of wind, water, and animals. I’m used to the hustle and bustle of modeling, and this is so serene.” I’m happy for her, and share my day. All in all, it’s a strange experience, but the new way we both have begun to look at the world has made us both happier and more well rounded people.
“I want to thank the owner of this body.” I tell my girl. “But I can’t think of how. The odds of me meeting him again are basically zero.”
“Do what I’m going to do.” My girl says. “Help out their body. Go for a jog or do some workout. Eat healthy, and then leave a note for the next person to help them take care of the body.”
“But what good will that do if he’s never going to get this body back?” I ask.
She shrugs. “Maybe he’ll never know. Maybe he’ll get the body back, but at the very least you’ll know that you’ve passed on the positive experience to someone else.”
“Yeah, I think I’ll do that.” I say, and I do, going for an extra bracing run, and before I go to bed I use the smart guy’s phone to send him an email that will arrive at 12:01 tomorrow, leaving instructions and information for the next person.
Over the coming months I shift many times. The shifts become increasingly varied, sending me further and further away, to more and more different people. I get to experience other languages, much younger bodies, and much older bodies. I get to be an artist, a politician, a lawyer, a plumber, a doctor, a farmer, and many other jobs. Each job teaches me something different, and I honor their gift with one of my own.
Mostly people do the same things. They either leave strong memories with information, or written messages close to hand. Every day at noon there’s a sort of ceremony that develops where people introduce each other and talk about their own experiences.
Occasionally you get a body with serious problems. A kid with suicide issues, an adult whose homeless, an elderly person who’s terminally ill. For those people all you can do is just leave an extra strong message of encouragement, and make an effort to leave them better than you found them.
Perhaps every 50th shift or so I get to revisit my body, and I’m always delighted with what I find. I’ll have started a book, or my car will be fixed. Sometimes I’ll have job offers from places I did not apply to.
There develops an international sense of brotherhood as well all come to accept that we need to treat ourselves and others with the utmost respect, because the body you harm could be become your own.