Scramble: A Short Story
When she was ten, Addison switched minds with someone for the first time. It was during a playdate. With a girl named Jenny, her best friend. They were in the same kindergarten class and had instantly become friends once sat next to each other. They’d been inseparable since. Jenny was nice, dark hair and blue eyes. Compared to Addison’s nearly black eyes, Jenny’s held light in them like the sun.
They were playing barbies with Addison’s 5-year-old sister, Grace. Addison didn’t really like barbies, but she knew that if they didn’t at least play for a little Grace wouldn’t leave them alone. So there she sat, redressing her Barbie for the seventh time. Jenny is sitting on her left, chattering away with Grace. They both giggle as Jenny puts two different shoes on her doll.
Addison’s still not sure how exactly it happened, she remembers Jenny declaring that dress up time was over. She remembers hearing her sister clap excitedly for whatever was to come next. And she remembers wrestling an ugly pink dress onto her doll’s body.
There’s a moment of intense blurriness.
The pink dress stretches across Addison’s eyesight. It runs into the brown color of her hands. The off-white color of the carpet bleeds its’ way up, from the ground to the ceiling. She can still hear Jenny talking but it’s different now. Before, her friend’s voice had been coming from her left. Now, the voice sounded as if it was coming from where Addison was sitting.
She drops the barbie, hands coming up to rub at both eyes. An attempt to clear away the blurred colors.
Her vision comes back slowly. The light pouring in from the windows behind them is almost blinding. Putting up a hand to shield her eyes, Addison’s eyes catch sight of the arm in front of her. It is no longer the pretty brown tinge she’s used to seeing. Her arm is pink, her fingers thin and her nails bitten down. Addison frowns, knowing that if her mother sees her nails so badly bitten she’ll be in trouble.
Jenny has stopped talking. Which is odd. Her friend talks constantly and all the time. Addison is almost afraid to look at her.
Her eyes move up slowly, from the stained carpet to the bottom of the shoe next to her. A shoe that looks familiar. As do the jeans and the shirt that Jenny is now wearing. Addison snaps her eyes to look at the person next to her in the face.
Her mind goes blank.
Sitting next to her, on her right now. Is herself.
Both girls start screaming.
An alarm clock is blaring. Intersecting with the sounds of screams.
Addison’s eyes snap open. Still large and black. She rubs at them with one hand; the other slapping at the nightstand next to her. The third one hits home and the alarm stops. As does the screaming. Addison dreams of the first time she’d Scrambled almost every night. She’s 18 now and can do it without a second thought, but that first time. It’s burned into her memory for the rest of her life.
She sits up.
They had decided to call it Scrambling. After they had thoroughly confused and terrified Addison’s mother with their screaming, the other woman not understanding what either of them was explaining to her. Looking back, Addison didn’t blame her mother. Two ten-year-olds claiming to have switched bodies. It was ridiculous.
Climbing out of her bed, Addison pushes her hair away from her face.
When she was ten, that was the best word she could come up with for what she could do. Even now, eight years later; it still fit.
She gets dressed quickly. Sending a text to Jenny that she’ll be over soon.
Her mother and Grace are in the kitchen already. The latter eating a bowl of cereal, eyes glued to her outlandishly decorated phone.
It only takes Addison a moment, she scrunches her nose and sucks in a breath.
The blurriness only lasts seconds now. She’s done it over a million times she’s sure.
Blinking her eyes open quickly, Addison snickers as she looks down at Grace’s phone. She scans the text messages, not really registering them but making it seem like she is.
“Oh my god! Addi stop!”
One thing Addison doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to is hearing her own voice. Seeing herself is fine. She sees herself every day in the mirror. However, hearing herself is something else entirely. Whenever she scrambles someone, most of them are in too much shock to speak. Grace though, as mean as it is to say, has been Addison guinea pig for years. Without her sister and Jenny’s help, Addison would have probably scrambled with someone and never gotten back into her own mind. She’s scrambled Grace and Jenny so many times that it’s a surprise the three of them haven’t just merged into one person.
She’d learned a lot about her ability. It wasn’t something that she could just do at her will. The person she was scrambling had to be within her sight. If they stepped out of her view, she was stuck in whoever’s mind. Which made scrambling in public a bit hard. If she lost sight of the random she was taking over, she could get stuck. And that would cause a whole new set of problems. She also learned that if she stayed scrambled too long, her nose began to bleed. Jenny said it’s probably cause she was causing herself brain damage but Addison didn’t like to think of her ability as something harmful. It was just fun.
“Oh come on, it’s not like your crush on Jack is a secret.”
The words come from Grace’s mouth, her lips turned up in a very Addison like smirk.
“Haha,” Addison says from the doorway. “Now stop and switch us back.”
Grace lets out an unimpressed sigh but the blurriness returns. It streaks across their vision, scrambling them for only a moment.
Addison’s vision clears to the sound of her mother’s voice. “…I say about doing that around me?”
She blinks rapidly, rubbing her eyes as she squints at her mom. The woman has been wary of her oldest daughter since the day Addison and Jenny started screaming eight years ago. It may be 2017 but as a God fearing woman, Addison makes her mother extremely uncomfortable and she knows it.
“Sorry.” The 18-year-old mumbles as she grabs an apple from the fruit basket in the middle of the table.
Addison washes it in the sink. Her mother stirring something in a pot on the stove. The silence is tense now, all joking and playful manners gone.
“I’m going to Jenny’s,” Addison states storing the apple away in her bag. She’s already halfway out of the kitchen. Moving fast to get away from the tense air. She doesn’t want to panic and do something stupid, like scramble her mother. That would be bad.
Her mother grunts in acknowledgment while Grace waves happily. “Have fun!” The teenager calls after her.
Jenny is waiting for her on the couch as usual. With her mother gone to work for the door, the two girls spend Saturdays watching music videos and scrolling through social media.
Addison had been under the impression that today was going to be just like all the other Saturdays. Until she sat down next to her best friend, the other teen is grinning from ear to ear. Her happiness rolling off her in waves.
Jenny waves her hand in front of Addison’s face excitedly. Slim brown fingers wrap around a small pale wrist. Addison squints at the rectangle shaped objects in her best friends hand. It only takes her a minute to register what she’s looking at.
Concert tickets. For their favorite band.
“No way!” Addison squeals, releasing her friend’s wrist to hug her. “How’d you get these Jen?”
Jenny grinned. “My mom won them in a contest at her job. She was gonna throw them away cause she didn’t even know who they were.”
Taking the tickets from her friend. Addison scans the details. Tonight, doors open at 7pm. She nodded to herself. It was totally manageable.
“I don’t have anything to wear.”
Jenny blinked before she laughed and waved towards the stairs. “You can wear something of mine silly.”
Addison shrugged and leaned back into the couch, her legs tangled with Jenny’s as they set back to watch more music videos.
They take the bus to the concert.
Addison’s changed out of her lazy Saturday wear, trading it for a pair of shorts and a top that her mother would probably make her change out of.
They sit in the back of the bus. Giggling to each other as they check social media tags about the concert.
Halfway there, Addison glances up from her phone and meets the eyes of a boy sitting a few two rows ahead of them. He’s been watching the teens since they got on the bus. He can’t be much older than them. Maybe a year or two. He’s got a name tag on his shirt, so he’s obviously old enough to have a job.
Blinking, Addison smirks at him. Their stop is coming up, perfect.
She takes a deep breath and the blurriness overruns her sight. The screen of her phone slurring, stretching and glitching in her vision.
It only takes seconds.
She draws herself into focus. Very much pleased to be staring two rows back at Jenny and herself. There’s a flurry of emotions on her face. Confusion. Shock. Even fear. Addison snickers to herself and looks down. The boy she’s switched places with isn’t much to look at. But she likes the way his body feels tucked into the seat.
She looks up again, the shock is disappearing from her face. Addison knows if she doesn’t switch back now, the boy could make her start causing a scene.
She sucks in another deep breath, this boy must be an athlete or something. The breath she takes is impressive. Her vision is unsettled quickly, her mind somersaulting back to where it’s supposed to be. The first thing she’s aware of is Jenny’s shoulder pressing firmly against hers, grounding her for the few seconds it takes her to get everything back in order.
The boy two rows ahead of them is heaving silently. His hand gripping his chest as his eyes dart everywhere around the bus.
Addison snickers as she reaches across Jenny to pull the cord for the bus to stop.
She and Jenny jump up from their seat. Both of them giggling slightly as they rushed for the back doors of the bus. Addison meets the boy’s eyes again, snorting as he seems to be only able to gape at them. That’s the most common reaction. They’re always in too much shock to actually say anything about they just experienced.
Addison winks at him as she hops off the bus after her best friend.
The line nearly wraps around the building that the concert is being held in. As they hop off the bus, Addison and Jenny stare at the others in awe. They were three hours early, so how long had these people been here waiting?
They shuffle to the end of the line, chattering aimlessly. Most of the people in the line are around their age. Several large groups of girls. A few boys. Even a few parents who obviously did not want to be there but were willing to suffer a few hours for their children.
At the end of the line, Addison spreads out her hoodie on the ground and plops down. She peeks through the legs of everyone in front of them. As Jenny sits down next to her, she pulls out a few granola bars from her bag.
“Get comfy babe.” She smirks at Addison. “We’ve got a hell of a wait ahead of us.”
Addison’s shivering a bit by the time the doors open. The sun went down about an hour ago, so the nightlife of downtown has started to pick up. A few hobos pander the long line for the concert, asking for change. Adults heading to dinner and out for a night out of the town, don’t give the line of teenagers a second glance.
The line moves slow. Everyone has to be patted down for anything they shouldn’t have and tickets have to be scanned. It’s a slow process but eventually, they get through the door.
The lobby of the concert hall is packed with people. Over half of them waiting in the merchandise line. Addison’s eyes dart from person to person, she’s always careful around this many people. Scrambling someone in a crowd this size wouldn’t be good.
She and Jenny weave through the lobby, holding hands tightly so not to get separated. It’s not Jenny’s first concert but it is Addison’s. Her mother hadn’t wanted the sheer massive amount of people to overwhelm her. Or at least that’s what she said.
There’s a huge gush of air as they step into the actual area where the concert will be. The area is huge, from the stage to the back of the hall is easily two or three blocks. Addison isn’t sure she’s ever so much space.
Jenny dances happily for a moment before retaking Addison’s hand and dragging her down into the pit. They’re so close to the stage that Addison can’t stop the cheek-splitting grin that appears on her face. There’s so much space for so many people.
It both excites her and makes her nervous.
The two teens huddle as close as they can to the stage. There are a few people in front of them and several are starting to swarm around their backs. Addison bounces a bit on her toes, her head turning to look at everyone behind them. Soon, the hall will be full of close to what she thinks is about a thousand people.
A few feet behind them, a girl in a frumpy lace dress smiles at her. She’s got a cigarette tucked behind her ear and limp brown hair that touches her shoulders. Her friend stands close to her, mouth moving a mile a minute. She’s shorter than her brown-haired friend and her own hair is cut short to her skull. They both seem to be just as happy to be here as Addison and Jenny are. Addison thinks to herself how pretty the girl in the lace dress is.
When the concert finally starts, Addison’s body is vibrating with excitement. She and Jenny stand pressed tightly together, their hands holding tightly to each other. The moment the lights dim the cheering begins and the lead band member enters on loud ass-kicking guitar solo.
Addison already doesn’t want the night to end.
It’s so hot. Addison’s hair sticks to her face. She and Jenny hands slip in each others grip, they’re pressed close enough to each other they don’t really need to hold hands. They do anyway.
The music pumps into Addison’s ears. Makes them ring. The bass that vibrates through the speakers rattle her chest. It jolts her heart with every thump. She can feel this music in her very soul. It’s like nothing she’s ever experienced before.
She turns her face up towards the ceiling. The laser lights make beautiful intricate patterns on the white ceiling. She feels as if she could get lost in the designs. She knows she’s breathing hard, the air is close and thick. There’s someone pressed completely against her back and a girl she’s never seen is pressed to the side that Jenny isn’t occupying.
Addison laughs as Jenny raises their locked hands and sways to the music. She can’t hear herself and she knows that Jenny is singing along but she can’t hear that either. There is nothing but the sound of the music in her ears.
Her eyes drift up to the balcony, it’s just as packed up there as it is down on the ground.
There’s a person standing at the very end of the balcony. Both arms raised high above their head as they sway to the music. Addison catches sight of their grey candy-striped dress just before the two of them meet eyes. And she sucks in a deep breath.
Her vision blurs before she can think to stop it or break eye contact.
Addison nearly tips over the edge of the balcony. Her knuckles are white as she grips the railing. Her head is spinning. Clumpy locks of blond hair cloud her already distorted vision. How can something wear clothes so tight?
She stumbles back, her feet clanking and stepping on the toes of others. Everyone is too enamored with the concert to even notice. Addison is unsure if everything’s moving slow or if something is seriously wrong with the person she scrambled. The fog is thick even as her vision clears. It feels as if their brain is just rolling around in their head, it makes her want to vomit.
The stairs seem to run away from her. They go on for what seems like ages and Addison clutches the banister so hard that the small pale hands ache in pain.
Another gush of air hits her like it had earlier in the night. She’s reached the mouth of the concert hall.
The panic hits her hard.
As she looks down in the crowd, Addison digs what she finds to be acrylic nails into the palms of her hands. There are so many people down in this room. The urge to vomit becomes more pronounced and Addison steps down into the concert hall pit.
She has to get to the front. She has to get to Jenny.
Jenny is still swaying back and forth to the music. Unaware that her friend has left her side. Addison would almost be mad at her if she wasn’t so far deep in a panic attack that she nearly tackles the girl. When their bodies collide, they both stumble into the group next to them. But they just push back, arms raising back above their heads to get back in rhythm with the music.
Addison grabs her, noting now how small this person she’s scrambled into is. Jenny can see over her head and then some.
“Jenny!” Her voice is high pitched and slurred. “Where am I?”
Her best friend looks down at her in confusion. Addison is lucky for Jenny’s friendship. It only takes a minute to figure out what is going on.
“Oh my god Addi!” Jenny yells in her face. “What have you done?”
Jenny grips her shoulders, it makes Addison tingly from her neck up. She looks up at her best friend, slowly processing what she says. It only takes a moment but she can’t help but shout back at her.
“Shut up and help me!”
Addison’s close to hysterics. There are so many people here and her body is nowhere in sight.
The two of them turn in several circles. Pushing themselves up on their toes to try and see over all the heads. It’s an impossible feat.
The fog is clearing in this new mind.
Jenny is holding her hand tightly as they do their best to make their way through the packed room. The now taller girl is speaking quickly. Addison still can’t hear her, not even as the music from the stage fades the further away they get from it.
Her friend’s hair smacks her in the face as she turns to say something to her.
Jenny looks down at her and whatever she’s about to say dies on her lips. Her eyes widen as she takes in the girl in the laces dresses face. Addison’s new face.
“Jesus Addi!” The girl yells loud enough for her to hear.
She lets go of her hand and starts digging through her bag rapidly. Addison’s confuses for a moment before Jenny is pressing a piece of cloth to her nose.
Her nose must have started bleeding. That does nothing to sooth her panic.
She watches as her pale hand snatches the cloth away from Jenny. “We gotta find me!” She yells at her friend.
Addison spins on her heals and begins to shove herself through the crowd. A few people give her odd looks, the cloth is of course white. The blood from her nose is staining it pretty fast. Addison hopes she doesn’t get it on this girls pretty dress.
She is pushing her way to the edge of the crowd when she sees herself. A few feet away there she stands, still with the short haired girl. Still looking as calm as ever.
Addison is confused. Normally people panic. Why isn’t she having a breakdown? A sharp pain shoots through Addison’s head. It’s hot white and blinding.
She’s reaching for herself. Her pale hand covered in lace. She’s so close she can almost smell the perfume that Jenny had insisted on spraying her with. She’s already taking the deep breath, ready for her vision to go blurry.
The world spins.
Addison swears she can feel her mind literally being ripped from the girl in the lace dress. It’s unbearably painful this time and she isn’t sure why.
Her back hits something solid and Addison opens her eyes.
The girl in the lace dress is looking at her curiously. Her hand dropping the bloody cloth. She reaches out to touch Addison. Whether it’s a gesture of comfort or something else, the brown-skinned girl isn’t sure. But she jerks out of the girls reach.
The idea of someone touching her right now makes her stomach turn.
Jenny stops short when their eyes meet. She watches her friends face as her panic turns to relief. She knows that it’s over now. Jenny doesn’t reach for Addison, this is why they’re friends.
Instead, she smirks. “Told you it’d be alright.”
Rolling her eyes hurts but Addison does anyways. She glances at the girl in the lace dress. She’s still standing a few feet away and still just as calm as ever.
“Sorry bout that,” Addison says to her.
She and Jenny hurry away without waiting for a reply from the other girl. They have a bus to catch and Addison feels like she’s been hit by a train.
The two retreating girls miss the girl in the lace dress smirking. And they miss her taking out her phone to send a text message.
‘It’s her. And she’s powerful.’