Graham’s body was blood kin. He was able to glide into that body like a hand into a glove. As a test, he ignored the digits on the hand he had just taken, focusing on his son’s eyelids instead. He blinked three times and then focused again on the right hand. Yes. He was still able to move the fingers without any concentration or effort.
He sought the left limb next, finding the correct pathway after only a few seconds. Once he sent the signal, sensation flooded the entire arm immediately, but it was a minute before he could make it move. When he could move the fingers on the left hand, he tested his motor coordination. He raised both arms to the ceiling simultaneously, index fingers pointing upward. In turn, he touched his nose with first the index finger of his right hand and then the index finger of his left. It was a task he’d had to perform more than once for the local smokey bears when they’d caught him driving erratically down various and sundry Hollow County roads. A field sobriety test, they called it. Most of the time they gave him a pass, especially if he put in a call to his old compadre Abe Wickham. Abe had gone into law enforcement after high school, but they had remained friends. After time stole his youth and energy, Abe was kind enough to drop a six-pack by the house now and then. Lee had passed this self-imposed sobriety test, although he certainly wouldn’t mind having a drink in this new body. It had been far too long.
The boy’s legs proved a bit more challenging to control once he’d accessed them. He could feel them down there, sort of. The sensation was not the same as in the arms. There was an uncomfortableness, a soreness combined with the pins-and-needles of returning blood flow after having cut off the circulation. The legs were there for him, but the commands he sent them at first resulted in a series of jerky motions at the knee that ended with a single straight-leg spasm and release. That, or he’d find the foot on the end of each leg rubbing against the other one irritably, as if he was using one foot to scratch an itch on the other. Other attempts resulted in the legs waggling about against the floor. Each time these things occurred, Lee discovered that he’d lose the pathway to the leg he was feeling. He would have to conduct a fresh search for it from all the way back in the boy’s brain. Maybe he was rushing it, he thought. He tried to lower the sense of urgency that had been building inside him since he’d taken control of the right hand, to take it slow.
Once the connection was reestablished with the right leg, he tried again to move it, first by wiggling Graham’s toes at the end of his Wolverine work boot on the right foot. Next, he contracted Graham’s calf muscle on the right side, then the thigh muscle. Finally, he was able to bend the right leg at the knee on command, without spasm, itching, or waggling, and without losing connectivity. The left leg was still being difficult. He reestablished his connection with it and then lost it when the entire leg spasmed, throwing itself into the air and then flopping around on the cellar floor like a fish that had been abandoned on shore by a summer flash flood.
Lee sighed. YOU’RE FIGHTING ME, AREN’T YOU, BOY? I SUGGEST YOU STOP IT RIGHT NOW. I WAS STRONGER THAN YOU BACK THEN AND I’M STRONGER THAN YOU RIGHT NOW.
Control of the left leg came more naturally after that. He located the path, and the sensation in that leg returned without the pins-and-needles feeling. He was able to wiggle the toes at the end of the left Wolverine, contract the calf, contract the thigh, and bend at the knee, just as he had with the right leg. For all practical purposes, Graham’s body was now his. He controlled the eyes, though the boy obviously needed glasses. He commanded the mouth and tongue. He managed the arms and legs. He decided to leave some of the autonomic systems alone, thinking it might be better for the boy to retain automatic control of things like breathing and heartbeat, functions he was accustomed to not having to think about. At least for now, until he could figure out how to get rid of him. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, the old saying goes. Besides, none of those things were pathways to the arms, legs, or head, and those were the relevant muscles, the ones that gave the appearance of control.
With a final heave-ho, Lee Gordon forced his son’s body to sit up. He gazed at his surroundings through slightly fuzzy but functional eyes. The Maglite that the kid had been tossing around like Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber lay on the floor beside him, still shining its beam against the cinder block wall to his left. Lee rolled on his new body’s butt until he was standing on his knees. He plucked the Maglite from the floor with the left hand, then placed the right hand on the floor and hoisted his new body to its feet. Pain from Graham’s injuries thrummed through him like electricity. He sent commands to every nerve he’d accessed to dial it back. He couldn’t filter it out entirely, not without losing all sensation and collapsing back to the floor, but he thought he could curb it enough to keep himself functional and the pain tolerable. He tested this by taking two steps toward the cinder block wall on which the Maglite was trained. The pain was still there, but felt like little more than a twitch now, an annoying muscle spasm that, with enough practice and a few glasses of water, could be easily ignored if not remedied.
Good. Very good.
Now to figure out what’s next.
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