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The world was blanketed by the cover of night. The twinkling starlight was barely visible through the thick gray clouds. The moon was the only source of light. A large house stood silhouetted against the darkness. The structure was so ancient, it creaked from the faintest breeze.
The dying, overgrown grass surrounding the house swished with the movement of the night. An eerie purple glow emanated from the house, drawing people in. The windows were cracked and boarded. The roof seemed as if it would cave in at any given moment. The door felt as if it were daring you to step inside. The peeling deep red paint revealed decaying wood. Somehow, the door was the most terrifying thing about the place. That is, besides what lay inside.
Robert Snorkel woke when the sun had already completed half its tedious journey across the sky. He grumbled and wished he could go back to sleep. If the day could be spent sleeping, he wouldn’t have to spend time mulling over why life sucks. He didn’t struggle with depression, he just couldn’t understand why people thought living was so awesome. It seemed kind of repetitive, and he was just getting started!
Robert’s life never changed. He got yelled at by the same grumpy mother, got fed the same crappy food, wore the same hand-me-down clothes. Robert’s father had left him when he was a baby, and his mother had never gotten over it. She told him repeatedly that, “Love is for suckers, and people who try are just setting themselves up for failure.” No girl had ever so much as looked at Robert, so he wouldn’t even have the choice. Robert was a wee bit on the hefty side, and his face didn’t line up the way an attractive boy’s would. His nose was a little bump that stuck out of the middle of his face. His eyes were a stunning blue, but they were small and piggish. His mouth was huge, which was a magnet for cruel jokes. He had shaggy brown hair that was in desperate need of a haircut, but whenever he told his mother that, she told him she’d do it. He had politely declined.
“Robert! Your waffle’s in the toaster!” croaked his mother in her smoker’s voice. She had a heavy jersey accent.
“Coming,” he called, pulling on a dirty shirt from the floor. He stumbled down the dusty stairs and gagged as he nearly swallowed a dangling spider. Coughing and spewing, he entered the kitchen. It was terribly outdated, and the windows were thick with grime. His mother was already dressed in her waitress outfit. It was black and strappy. It would be terrifying for any boy to see his mother in such scandalous attire. But Robert was used to it. His mother was very slender, and she was in her early forties. She had wispy bleached hair that was currently pulled up into a complicated updo. His mother’s true passion was hair styling, and it was obvious if one paid attention to her intricate designs. Alas, she was a waitress.
“Hurry up, I gotta get to the diner. Fork it down! And wash your dish,” she barked at her son while pulling on six-inch pumps. She pulled on her worn blue purse and adjusted her thick fake eyelashes. Looking in the cracked mirror above the shoe bucket, she applied another layer of lipstick.
“I might not be home till tomorrow, Larry’s taking me out for drinks,” She informed him in her gravelly voice. She pulled down her dress and adjusted herself, and then strutted out the door. Today was Saturday. The only good thing about Saturday was when he saw her. She was often at the park with her dog, and that was where he would be. She had the face of an angel, and he was pretty sure she was one. She radiated kindness. He didn’t know her name, but he was determined to find out. Unfortunately, she had never so much as glanced at Robert.
Ms. Lucy Foster greeted the day with a shockingly different experience. Her father tapped lightly on her door.
“Luuuucy, wake up,” He coaxed softly. He gently opened the door. She rolled over, spitting out hair. Her father strolled over carefully and placed a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes fluttered open.
“Morning,” she yawned, stretching. She looked into her father’s deep green eyes, rivaled only by her own.
“Mom made pumpkin pancakes, but the littles already ate most of them. I would’ve let you sleep in otherwise,” he stated, chuckling at her lazy form.
She stretched, contorting her face into all kinds of expressions.
“Mmmmmkay,” she mumbled.
She slid on her fuzzy slippers and stumbled out the door. She padded down the stairs, father close behind, and took a seat in the spacious kitchen. Her mother was already fully dressed for work, flipping pancakes. Lucy’s mother was very modestly covered. She was wearing a knee-length floral print dress and her white coat. Amelia Foster was a dermatologist and a darn good one. She had recently cured a wicked case of eczema. To Lucy’s right was her six-year-old brother, who was obsessed with any form of weaponry. Today, he was loading an airsoft gun. He turned and aimed his gun at his sister in greeting.
“Simon, don’t point your gun at your sister,” His mother scolded.
“Mom, it’s not cocked,” He scoffed, rolling his eyes. Moms knew nothing about guns.
“I don’t care, it’s rude. Do I need to take it away?” She asked pointedly, raising her eyebrows.
“No,” Simon mumbled, glaring at his scabby knees.
Lucy’s baby sister sat in a bimbo in front of her mother, bouncing and giggling with chocolate smeared all over her chunky body. Lucy reached forward and turned the seat around so that she was facing her sister.
“Hi, cutie! How’s the wittow baybee?” she cooed, wiping off the girl’s face with her zebra-printed bib. Baby Cecile had a little tuft of dark hair and four teeth. Her blue eyes were stunning and always shone like sunbeams.
“How’d you sleep?” asked Lucy’s mother, absentmindedly turning over pancakes.
“Fine. Cheeto kept barking,” Lucy remarked. She then turned to her father, “Daddy! He hates his crate, can he please come stay with me?” She begged, pleading with her puppy-dog eyes.
“He’ll never learn to sleep in the crate if we let him sleep with you,” Her father stated. Lucy knew he’d cave eventually. He always did.
Mrs. Foster checked the time. She wrinkled her nose in disapproval and stated,
“I gotta get to work.”
Lucy’s father pecked her mother.
“Ewwww! Gross,” Simon moaned in disgust, “Children present!”
He covered baby Cecile’s eyes to prove a point. Mom and Dad chuckled and shared a glance.
“Bye, honey,” She giggled, before placing a kiss on each of her children’s heads. She turned and bounced out the door. Dad then turned to them:
“Okay, kids. I have the early shift, so you be good for Ms. Correro-” his phone buzzed. “That’s her. She says…” he proceeded to struggle with his phone for a moment… “‘I have to cancel, my dog needs to go to the vet.’ Ah crap!” he exclaimed, “I have a surgery today. Lucy, you’re going to have to cover for her.” he ordered, staring matter of factly at Lucy, “Is that alright?”
Lucy was practically bursting with joy. She’d been waiting for this opportunity her whole life! Her parents were trusting her to take care of her siblings! She turned to look at Simon, and he looked horrified.
“Dad, no! She’s gonna make me rub her feet or something!” He pleaded, and then contorted his face due to a painful and smelly fantasy. Simon then turned to glare at Lucy. His blue eyes were the same as Cecile’s, and nobody knew where they got them. Lucy’s father’s eyes were green, and her mother’s were brown. His nose still stuck up like a baby’s and his chubby arms were folded across his puffed out chest. Lucy giggled. Simon intended his position to be threatening.
“Sorry, Simon, I’m running out of options. It’s really Ms. Correro’s fault, her stupid dog needs to go to the vet,” Mr. Foster joked. Nobody laughed.
“Dad, Ms. Correro’s dog has cancer,” Lucy informed quietly, abashed at her father’s insensitivity. He stood there awkwardly for a moment.
“Well, I have to go. I will see you turds at dinner!” He winked and strode out the door.
Lucy turned to face her younger brother. He glared at her, and his face glowed red. He shook from the concentration required.
“Don’t do that, you’re gonna pass out,” Lucy stated, rolling her eyes. Simon thought it was cool to make the blood flow go to his head, which was a stupid idea, in Lucy’s opinion.
“So what are we gonna do today, squirt?” She giggled, waiting for him to explode.
“You’re not allowed to call me that! MOM SAID! I’m not little anymore,” He grumbled, brow furrowed. Lucy chortled. They glared intently at each other.
Their glaring was interrupted by scraping at the back door.
“Simon, go let Cheeto in,” Lucy demanded.
“Well I’m in charge of you, mister,” Lucy giggled, “You’ll also have to watch Cecile while I take him on a walk.” Oh, how she loved getting on his nerves. Simon grudgingly left his seat and turned to the back door. He opened it, and let the orange speckled dog in. Simon took his previous position in his seat and puffed out his chest. He faced his back to Lucy and pouted. Lucy smiled, satisfied. She turned to pet the dog.
Cheeto Foster was having a perfectly lovely day. These were his people. They may have made him sleep in the crate, but he loved them anyway. Also, it smelled good. Also, he had an itch. Now he didn’t. Also, Lucy was very nice. Oooh, a spill. Yum.
Mr. Cheeto very much loved his family. Today was, after all, a good day. But so was every day. Except for when they left. Then it was a boring day. But today was not a boring day. The baby was chocolatey. He jumped on the barstool and proceeded to clean said baby.
“Cheeto! That’ll make you puke!” Lucy exclaimed, pulling him down.
Oh well. He’d lick her later.
“Ooh!” Cheeto thought, “It’s almost time!”
He raced over to his lovely companion. She was, indeed, lovely. She had green eyes and waist-length dark hair. Freckles spattered her cheeks and nose like the stars in the night sky. Even when her hair was frizzy and her face was blemished, Cheeto loved her. Cheeto always loved her.
Cheeto panted with excitement as she approached him. She was walking to the cabinet with the leash in it!
“Cheeto,” oh boy! “Are you ready,” so ready! “To go,” hurray! “On a” Please say… “Walk?”
Hurrah! Yes yes yes! He jumped up on her and licked her face to show his appreciation. Then he sat at her feet like a good boy. She attached the leash to his collar, pulled on a jacket, and walked out the door. Cheeto padded out the door, tongue drooping from his open mouth, tail wagging furiously.
It was a perfectly pleasant day for a walk. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping. Cheeto sniffed the fresh air. He could smell the Autumn leaves as they drifted down gracefully from the trees. He could smell the birds soaring from above, and the rich soil beneath. He could even smell a- SQUIRREL!
He darted towards the scent, pressing his nose firmly into the coverage of wet leaves. He leaped through the air like a trapeze artist, intent on finding his prize. Lucy stumbled behind him, struggling to keep up.
“Cheeto! Heel!” she commanded.
Lucy would understand when he caught the squirrel. He continued darting through the fresh fall air until he pounced. Lucy was dragging him away.
“Just- another- second-,” He thought, striving to continue his search.
“Cheeto, come on boy,” Lucy panted, exasperated.
It was a good effort.
A door clicked shut. An elderly woman in workout clothes from the ’80s exited her condo. She had curly white hair and coal brown eyes. She was wearing a pink leotard, tights, leg warmers, and a bright blue sweatband.
“Hey, Luce! Nice to see ya!” She greeted pleasantly, “Oh, hey, Cheeto!”
Cheeto jumped up on Mrs. Wheatly and sniffed her thoroughly.
Mrs. Regina Wheatly had just set off on her morning run. She was going to the park on this lovely morning, and she was going to have a good time. The divorce was hard, but she could still enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Ever since her daughter Sydney moved out, life had been tough. But, kids have to move. Anywho, today was going to be a good day, and she was darn sure of it!
She set off at a jogging pace and passed Lucy Foster and Cheeto on her way. Lucy was a good kid. She and her family had come to visit Regina for dinner every so often, to keep her company. The park was within sight. Regina drew in a long breath of cool, crisp air, and exhaled smoothly. The playground towered above the grassy fields, and an old abandoned house creaked beside the park. That house had been abandoned for years. Come to think of it, Regina had never even seen a light in the window. She strolled into the park, meandering around the paths through the grass until she found a park bench, which she sat upon. She noticed a rather thick boy sitting on a bench near her. She smiled and waved, and he smiled a sheepish grin back. She withdrew a thick book and pen and began to journal. She journaled for about ten minutes until the sky clouded over. A thick, wet, raindrop splattered on her wrinkled nose. Then another on her cheek. Soon, it was pouring.
She darted for cover, protecting her book. It was a good five years of writing, and a rainstorm would not take it from her. Her bony foot slipped into a gopher hole. Her foot was stuck fast, and her body swerved to the right. Regina heard a pop. And then the pain flooded her body like a hurricane. She screamed in agony and lay on top of her book. She was previously a nurse, and she knew her diagnosis. She had fractured her ankle. Quivering with pain, she placed a shaking hand on her ankle and withdrew it from the hole. She cringed as her foot tapped the ground.
She moaned in pain. Then she saw the same boy she had spotted earlier. He was soaking wet, and his hair was matted to his dripping forehead.
“What’s wrong!?” He exclaimed, gaping at her mangled state.
“I’ve fractured my ankle, I’ll need you to-”
“Mrs. Wheatly! Oh my gosh, what happened! Did you fall? Are you hurt!?”
A terrified Lucy and an alarmed Cheeto raced over to the fallen Regina. Cheeto licked her face soothingly.
“I’ve fractured my ankle, as I was telling- what’s your name?” She asked, turning to the boy painfully. She cringed as her ankle throbbed.
“Robert. Robert Snorkel,” He replied, talking more to Lucy than Mrs. Wheatly. Lucy went on unblinkingly. Cheeto sniffed him, to make sure he was good. He was.
“Mrs. Wheatly, we have to get you somewhere with a roof. I’ll call an ambulance when we get there,” Lucy remarked in a business-like tone.
“Where can we go?” She inquired.
“I’ve never seen a thing in that house there,” Mrs. Wheatly remarked, indicating the mansion. “But I’ll need help getting there.”
The two teenagers placed an arm around Regina, and Lucy pulled Cheeto with her free hand. Robert shivered as Lucy’s hand brushed his own. They helped her edge towards the mansion, step by step.
When they finally arrived at the front door, Lucy tried the handle. It was unlocked. She pulled it open.
A wave of purple energy engulfed them, dancing in shimmering spirals, and they each shivered as they felt it enter them. Then their worlds went black and they fell in unison to the ground. Lucy was the first to wake. That is if you could call her Lucy anymore.
She opened her eyes groggily and then the memories washed over her. What was the purple glow? Was it coming from the house? And why did her arm creak? And why did her ankle hurt? She looked down to an alarming sight. She was wearing a pink leotard. And pink tights. And LEG WARMERS! Lucy gasped. She was in Mrs. Wheatly’s body! She looked at the others. Did that mean Mrs. Wheatly was in her body? It was very strange to see her own body from somebody else’s perspective. Then the realization hit her. She would not be able to undo this! SHE WOULD BE AN OLD LADY FOREVER! And her life was just getting started, but Mrs. Wheatly’s was drawing to a close! She would die early! And she’d never be pretty again! She rushed to her own side and shook herself awake. It was indeed VERY peculiar.
Robert felt himself being shaken.
“Mom. I’m coming.” He groaned. He opened his eyes to find Mrs. Wheatly kneeling at his side. Then he remembered the unfolding of the previous events. He rubbed his eyes. They were in a different place! And what’s more, his hands were slimmer. He ran his fingers through his hair. It was long and thick. He looked down at himself. He was wearing Lucy’s clothes, and he was no longer chubby. He was thin, and… He gulped. He had a lady body.
“Mrs. Wheatly, I think I’m in Lucy’s body!” he exclaimed. He did not know what to do with himself.
“I’m not Mrs. Wheatly. I’m Lucy,” She groaned, “And who are you?”
“I’m Robert,” He remarked, furrowing his brow, “Did the house do this? Why are we switched? He turned to look at the unconscious bodies of the dog and the boy. Robert ran his hands along his new body. Lucy glared at him.
“Don’t touch me!” she snapped. His hands fell to his side. Lucy limped over to Cheeto. She lifted him into her arms and scratched his ears. He stirred.
Regina Wheatly awoke next. She scratched her face. But she couldn’t. She swung her arm. It felt different… Lighter. She glanced at her hand. It wasn’t a hand. It was a speckled orange paw.
“Hey, boy. What’s wrong?” Asked an old woman.
But it wasn’t any old woman. It was Regina’s body. Regina tried to speak, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t speak. She was in the body of a dog. And not any dog. She was Cheeto Foster.
“Oh my gosh! Are you Mrs. Wheatly?” The old woman replied.
Regina nodded miserably.
“I’m Lucy! I’m in your body! And that’s Robert,” Lucy remarked, indicating her own body. Regina took a deep breath. Her sense of smell was amazing! She could smell the wind! And the sun! And the dirt! Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all… But then again, she couldn’t speak.
Robert in Lucy’s body then spoke.
“That only leaves one body,” He noted.
They all turned to face the overweight boy’s body. It stirred.
Cheeto was the last to wake. He rolled his shoulders and stretched his foot for his face. But his leg wouldn’t reach. And it was so heavy!
Cheeto turned his head to face his new body. He was in Robert’s body. He was a person!
“Lucy! I’m a person! And I can’t smell! But I can see good. And why do I sound like this?” He thought. But he wasn’t thinking. And he wasn’t barking. He was speaking. He was talking like Lucy. He lifted his heavy arms, but they fell back to the floor. He swerved and swayed, trying to get accustomed to his new body.
“Cheeto?” Lucy asked timidly.
A tall, slim figure stood silhouetted against the violet doorway. He spoke in a man’s deep voice.
“Well, well, well, what have we here?” He inquired maliciously.
End of Ch. 1