“Before you know what’s up I’m in the next bod
And I don’t even know if I was born in a pod
Next time you see me you won’t even know
Like Chappelle it’s my ass I gotta show
Just so you’ll recognize what’s up in your thighs
Otherwise you’ll follow me around like Samwise
And I don’t even know if I have anymore tries.”
Karl took a deep breath and stared at the producer with a blank expression. After a few minutes of silence, Karl spoke up.
”Alright, Jay, there’s your bars. Where’s my money?”
“Yo cuz that was tight, was that a freestyle?”
“Off the top of the dome. Now pay up.”
Jay pulled out a wad of 20’s and set it on the desk. Karl left the sound booth and collected his pay. Karl didn’t care what Jay did with his rhymes, just as Jay didn’t care who Karl was. An open call for rappers willing to freestyle for pay was their only connection.
Content with his performance, Karl went to the corner store and grabbed a six pack of beer, a burrito and a cigarillo. He then went home and indulged in his vices.
Karl was a creature of instinct. He didn’t care for future planning, nor did he dwell on the past. This is largely because Karl had a secret that he let slip in his freestyle: he was able to hop from mind to mind, or dome to dome, as Karl called it.
After consuming his burrito, Karl went outside to smoke his cigarillo. He struck match, sat down in his folding chair and debated his next move.
The paid freestyle gave him enough money for another week, but after that, Karl was out of cash. His only marketable skill was rapping. He was never in the same place, or body, long enough to make a career out of it.
Karl took a deep inhale on his cigarillo and wondered how long he had been doing this. A good memory was not something that Karl possessed. He often tried to remember his original body and how he got this ability; he always drew a blank for both answers.
No friends, no lovers, no companionship. Karl lived a life of solitude. Sometimes, when he’d hop into a new body, he’d have a lover or friends. However, he was quick to empty bank accounts and disappear.
Content with his level of nicotine, Karl put out his cigarillo and went back inside. After he cracked a beer, he leaned back in his recliner and stared at the ceiling. On nights like these, Karl always became contemplative. Why was he always compelled to hop to the next body once the going got tough? How old was he? Why was he skilled at rapping?
He finished his beer and grabbed another. It was almost time to find a new host, Karl thought. This one was getting fat and unhealthy. Tomorrow, Karl resolved, he’d go find a new body.
That night Karl drifted away aided by alcohol. He dreamt of a girl with long brown hair running in a meadow. He ran a few steps behind her; he was never able to see her face. All night, they ran through the field. Right as she turned around, he woke up.
Karl spent the day moping around the apartment. He resolved that in the evening he would visit an upscale bar and find a new mark. As the day turned into night, Karl showered, shaved and put on his nicest clothes.
Within minutes of walking into a bar, he spotted several targets. Men trying to impress women were always good marks. He sat at the bar next to a man in a tailored suit and sporting a Rolex. Over the course of the next hour, while Karl nursed his gin and tonic, the man bragged about both his car and his high paying job as an investment banker. Perfect.
Karl once planned elaborate traps to switch bodies with people. He’d lure them into a bathroom or alley. Now, he didn’t care. With brazen apathy, Karl lifted his hand and touched the man on the side of the neck. The man started to turn around in response, but then he stopped and started shaking, as did Karl.
Like traveling through a tunnel of neurons and photons, Karl made his way into his new body. Shaking subsided and the hop was complete. Karl now wore a fine tailored suit and a Rolex. He knew that he only had a minute or two before the man in his old body came to, so he asked the pretty woman to excuse him. He headed straight for the front door.
Typical criminals run away with their cash, diamonds or cars until the cops are gone. Karl had to run away from the person whose body he just stole. Once he had ran a few blocks in his new Italian loafers, he stopped and checked his belongings. Keys, wallet with $534, and a smartphone. The man, who was now in the fat, unhealthy body, would likely head to his car. Karl decided that it was best to avoid a confrontation and head back to his home.
He pulled out the smartphone. Excellent, Karl thought, it uses a thumbprint scanner. After gaining access, he went to Google Maps and typed in ‘home.’ Even better, the man used Google’s assistant which stored way too many personal details. Now he knew where the man lived.
Taking a cab to the address revealed that it was in an upscale neighborhood. Karl wasted no time. After opening the door, he robbed the man blind. In the past, he would’ve moved in. However, the man would eventually come by, in the fat body, and the resulting confrontation could involve a gun. Karl didn’t remember much, but he did remember that people hate having their bodies stolen.
As Karl packed several suitcases full of valuables and fine clothes, there was a knock on the door. Surely it wasn’t the man; he was likely still at the bar trying to figure out what happened. Ignoring the knock, he kept packing.
Suddenly, a loud crash could be heard. Someone kicked in the door. Karl froze.
“Paul, we saw yous come in. We know yous in here!” Shouted a deep voice with a thick accent.
Karl scrambled to find a hiding spot. Nothing seemed sufficient, so he decided to confront the voice seeking Paul.
“I’m in here, what do you need?” Karl replied
Around the corner walked three large men with button up shirts unbuttoned to their sternum, gold jewelry and loose fitting suits.
“We been lookin’ for ya.” The man in the center said.
“And what can I help you with?”
All three men laughed.
“Yous late in your payment to the Don. We’re here to collect your kneecaps.”
Karl almost peed himself. What had he gotten himself into?
“Oh, I have plenty of money right here. Let me pay you back.”
“It’s a bit too late for that, Paul. You been dodgin’ us for weeks. You finally came home, that was a mistake.”
Karl knew the only way out of this predicament was to dome hop into one of them.
“Alright fine, do what you gotta,” Karl said.
Two of the men grabbed Karl by the shoulder. When they did, Karl touched their skin. Nothing happened. He touched again. Still nothing.
“Ya know, I respect that yous gonna take your punishment without fighting.”
Two of the men held him down on the bed while the third man pulled out a gun. He aimed it at his right kneecap.
“This brings me no pleasure.”
Karl touched one of the men again. Nothing happened. Karl’s eyes darted around the room looking for an answer or escape. But no answers nor escapes were found.
Karl’s kneecap was blown to smithereens. He shouted in pain and flailed about trying to make contact and hop out of this body.
“I lied,” said the armed man, “I love doing this.”
The left kneecap was gone, too. Karl had never known such excruciating pain. It felt as though a million hot nails were driven into both of his knees at the same time.
“Now, we don’t want yous to bleed out and die. You still owe us a substantial amount of money. Jim, call 911 from his phone.”
One of the men grabbed the phone from Karl’s pocket, dialled 911, waited for someone to answer, then hung up.
“Police will be here soon. We’ll leave the door open for ‘em.” With that, the three men exited the luxurious home.
Karl was squirmed and shouted. Despite the physical pain, one thought stood out in his mind like a rose among weeds, “Why can’t I dome hop anymore?” With that thought occupying his mind, Karl passed out.
“I don’t know how you did it, but I’m glad you did.”
Karl awoke in the hospital to a familiar voice. As he opened his eyes, he saw the body that he abandoned with a smile on its face.
“My name is Paul, or have you figured that out yet. What should I call you?”
Karl hesitate, but decided it was pointless to hold back. “I’m Karl.”
“Well, Karl, I want to thank you. You’ve given me a second chance to live. You, however, I’m afraid your life is almost through.”
On instinct, Karl reached out to touch Paul and switch back. Paul pulled away, and Karl could hardly move.
“I’m not going to let you take this away from me. I came here to thank you, and now that I have, it’s time for me to leave. Have fun cleaning up my mess of a life.” Paul stood up to leave.
“Wait!” Karl shouted.
“How much do you owe the mob?”
Paul laughed, “Which mob? I owe the Italians a few hundred thousand, I owe the Yakuza a million and I owe several smaller syndicates varying amounts. I was in hiding when you found me.”
Karl’s heart felt like it had been soaked in concrete and thrown into a deep lake. Even though he would definitely try again, he thoroughly knew that his dome hopping days were through.
“You picked the wrong guy, Karl.” Paul said as he walked out of the hospital room.
His knees screamed out in pain and his future looked bleak. Karl stared at the ceiling with such intensity that his eyes almost popped out of his skull. The nurse came in with a meal and he shook her hand. Karl had never been a woman before, but he’d try it. Upon making contact, there was no shaking, no neuron tunnel. The gift was gone.
Days turned into weeks until Karl was eventually released. During his time in the hospital, he made a plan. He’d leave the city, leave no trace and head for the wilderness. His first stop was at Jay’s studio, where he asked if Jay needed any verses. Jay said yes and he’d pay $200 if it was good. Karl, with Paul’s voice, stepped into the booth:
“My mistakes are made clear
Let me whisper in your ear
I used to move from body to body
Now I’m stuck in one and I can’t leave the lobby
I can’t use my gifts, I can’t smoke more spliffs
All that’s left is to redeem myself
Help other people to reach the top shelf
I’ve been selfish with a gift I was given
Now it’s time to try some altruistic livin’”
Karl collected his pay and immediately went to the bus stop. He kept his head on a swivel and managed to board a bus to the next town over. When arrived there, he went to a town across the country. Then, he took a train to the north. He felt confident that he had shaken any tails and was completely broke, so he took odd jobs wherever he could find them.
Months passed and Karl was no longer homeless. Years passed and he met someone who he could call his own. Another year passed and he had a new son. For the first time in his memory, Karl was truly happy.
One day, a man came into the store he was managing. Karl greeted him with a smile and said, “Hello!”.
The man didn’t smile back. He simply said, “Nobody escapes the Yakuza.” Karl dove to the ground as the man pulled out a gun and started firing.
Karl crawled to the back exit, but as he tried to push the door open, the man shot Karl in the leg. Karl knew his life was over. As he watched the man approach him and point the gun at his head, he didn’t think of his once almighty ability. He thought of his wife. He thought of his son. As the man pulled the trigger, Karl smiled, for he had finally known love.