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Judy is an isolated shut-in who freezes up during any real-time social interation. She's worked from home her entire life, just getting by on the jobs that require no direct contact, but despite her excellent work, her inability to participate in calls is threatening her work. Now her one remaining major client is at risk unless she shows up to a meeting with his bosses in person! What should she do?
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Judy's past the point of no return now: She's at the mercy of the man controlling her body.
All she can do is hope that he's as professional as he says he is.
JD wasted no time, and Judy felt the tickling in her mind again as it was riffled through for information.
I keep a measuring tape in one of the drawers.
She watched her arm reach out with disconcerting familiarity towards the correct drawer, rummaging around briefly before procuring the tape.
Judy’s silent query about its purpose was answered when her body suddenly began to strip, the transition from fully clothed to completely nude so swift that she barely had time to register any embarrassment.
Instead, she watched her own face examining her reflection with an unfamiliar air of clinical assessment. After a brief pause, she watched herself unroll the tape and take her own measurements with the ease of long practice - something else JD had no doubt done before.
“It’s always important to get the right fit,” her body said in answer to her unspoken question. “I take this part of the job very seriously.”
Judy’s view spun around as she was walked out of the bathroom and back to her computer, which awoke from sleep mode to her login screen.
Judy felt the complicated string of characters that was her password rise unbidden in her mind. As JD puppeteered her fingers, she sincerely hoped that what Susan had said about memory wipes was true.
“It’s true,” Judy’s mouth said as she watched herself open a browser window. “I’ll remember the broad strokes of what I’ve done in your body, but none of the exact details.”
What if you do something like write down what you’ve pulled from my memories? Would you remember what you wrote down?
Judy’s fingers hesitated in mid-type.
“That’s… possible. But only if I did it deliberately and really focused on it, in which case you would see it happen and could report it. For example, I’ve already forgotten your password: I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, I just let your memory guide my - well, your - fingers.”
Judy was about to enquire further when she saw what JD was typing.
---Starbucks CNR Margaret + York---
Before Judy could ask, JD hit the lock screen key combo and straightened up with a sudden sense of purpose.
“Brace yourself, Judy. We’re going shopping!”
Judy felt a sour panic overcome her as she contemplated her already decimated bank account, but her body chuckled in response.
“Not literally, Judy. Relax. Just need to pick up some reinforcements now that I know what I’m working with.”
Not quite mollified, Judy watched herself sort through the clothes she had laid out earlier, picking out a plain grey and white top and bottom combo with tennis shoes, a hoodie, sunglasses and facemask.
“This is what you were going to wear tonight?” JD asked, knowing full well the answer was yes. He wasn’t being condescending, but he also couldn’t completely hide the patronising tone.
Inside her own head, Judy frowned, picturing JD’s intended selection as being probably some garish, skimpy getup with platform heels.
“A little more faith would be nice,” her voice admonished her. “I’m a professional.”
We’ll see about that, Judy thought to herself.
Despite JD’s control of her body, she felt her anxiety beginning to mount as she was piloted towards the door to her apartment. She was used to being able to approach it one step at a time - though admittedly this always led to her psyching herself out - and the inexorable pace made it feel like her own rising panic couldn’t keep up.
Three metres. Two metres. One metre.
And suddenly she was in the apartment block hallway, where anyone could see her and watch her and judge her as her body casually locked the door behind her and strode towards the elevator.
Judy desperately wanted to turn around, turn her head or even just her eyes to see if anyone was peeking at her through partially opened doors or from the other end of the hallway, but was instead forced to stare resolutely ahead, looking down only to call the lift.
“Boy, you really do have some anxiety issues,” she felt herself whisper as she stepped in.
I can’t help it!
“Well, don’t worry. You’ve got me at the wheel now, so you can watch how the experts do it.”
Judy was about to insist that JD take her back to the apartment and get whatever it was he’d ordered delivered when she became suddenly conscious of her own lack of panic. Her breathing was measured, her posture alert but relaxed, her heartbeat barely noticeable. Every memory of being outdoors included the overwhelming physical stress of her anxiety attacks, and now here she was, her body utterly at home under the command of the man who had taken control of her.
Again, she felt a sense of profound unease at how detached she had become from her body, that she couldn’t even feel the physical elements of her own fear.
“It’s a strange sensation, to be sure,” her body whispered - completely silent, but Judy could feel the words in the shape of her lips and the movement of her tongue. “We’ve made some great discoveries about where physiology ends and psychology begins. Not that we can make any of our findings public, but our team of medical practitioners being able to inhabit their patient’s bodies has been able to isolate which symptoms are physical and which are psychosomatic.”
Good for them, Judy thought sourly.
Her body sighed. “If you like, I can put you to sleep until we get back?”
Absolutely not! It was just… strange. To not feel the pounding of blood in her ears, the electric screech of panic flashing through her body or its suffocating grip squeezing her lungs.
“Well, I’m hoping you get used to it quick enough to enjoy it,” her body said as the elevator doors opened.
It was enjoyable. Overwhelming, even. Judy’s body had walked itself into the daylight, and for the first time she could remember, Judy found herself outside at street level: Surrounded by people, cars, and all the other street features that she had only ever observed from above.
The closest she had been to really taking in the scenery was via Google Street View: Every time she had been forced outside herself out of some absolutely critical necessity, she had tunnel visioned straight to her goal, done the task, then headed back. It was the only way she could manage.
“Well, I’m glad you’re getting an opportunity to enjoy the view,” her body said, turning left and walking casually down the street.
JD picked a leisurely pace, and it wasn’t long before Judy realised he was taking the time to look around him at anything that caught his interest: The quirky designs on a cafe’s streetside menu, the door of a damaged car held in place with duct tape, the chalk graffiti some kid had used to declare random parts of the sidewalk “Bad Luck” spots.
Is he doing it for me?
“Well, not just you,” JD admitted. “I’ve never been to this part of the world before, but it’s funny how similar things are, even across the ocean.”
Judy realised that she had no idea where JD even came from. He spoke without an accent, but that’s because he was using her voice. His real body could be anywhere.
“That’s a trade secret, I’m afraid,” her own voice cut in. “Very much against policy for agents to reveal anything about themselves. I’ll forget all the details from today, but you will definitely remember, so I’ve got to be careful.”
That made sense. Judy wondered if anyone had tried to meet up in the past, or had accidentally let slip information that gave away their identity.
“Another trade secret,” her voice said, but with a distinct shift of tone that told Judy her agent knew more than he was letting on.
“No comment,” was her body’s sing-song response.
Well, only an idiot would give away compromising information about themselves under the circumstances, so that narrowed it down to pretty much all of humanity that could make that mistake. The agency would have had to make it very clear - even for the slow learners in the class - that mistakes would not be tolerated. Maybe make an example out of any transgressors.
“Also no comment,” JD said in a significantly less flippant tone.
Her body quickened its pace for the rest of the walk, taking the seat closest to the Starbucks’ entrance when they arrived.
“I always feel a bit guilty sitting down without actually buying anything,” she felt herself mutter.
Then why don’t you buy something?
“Because I hate the taste of Starbucks,” she chuckled, her mouth turning up on one side.
But you picked this spot?
“It’s a reliable landmark. There’s always a Starbucks in walking distance for city clients and nobody pays attention to someone just waiting while seated.”
Judy’s next thought was interrupted by a stranger very intentionally stopping at their table.
“Wardrobe,” the stranger said, their own face hidden by a mask, glasses and hoodie.
“Perfect,” Judy’s body responded, accepting the small luggage case and standing up to leave.
Judy wondered if the stranger was an associate of JD’s, or another rented body.
“Can’t tell you that,” JD said. “But I’ll tell you something - the introduction of facemasks in public has really helped us maintain anonymity without looking out of place. You could meet that person tomorrow without the masks and neither of you would recognise the other.”
Judy had no intention of seeing anyone in person ever again after her meeting with Li’s bosses was concluded that evening, but she wondered what might be in the case JD was now wheeling behind them.
“Mission critical ordinance,” her body said with a grin.
Judy felt the location of the night’s dinner rise unbidden in her mind: A Chinese restaurant Li had assured her was excellent (as if she had any experience dining out).
“About half an hour by car,” she heard herself say. “Plenty of time.”
Judy begrudgingly admitted that she was impressed, as well as more than a little curious how JD had managed to accrue his collection without raising some eyebrows. It was possible he had just bought the lot himself - eyebrows be damned. After all, it wasn’t illegal for a man to buy this many dresses or this much makeup, jewellery and accessories. Not in this country, anyway.
“It’s mostly online nowadays,” her body explained. “I know which brands I like, so I just restock my cache when I have to. The outfits can be a bit hit and miss when you can’t try them on yourself, but I’ve developed a pretty good eye for what works and what doesn’t. For example…”
JD’s vision scanned over the garments now arranged across her bed, ranging from modestly to impressively expensive. Her arm reached out for something silky in black with a low collar and squared shoulders and held it up against her body.
Even without a mirror, she knew it would look good on practically anyone.
“It’s handy to have some reliable outfits when you’re in a different body every day,” JD explained. “Some stuff just works, though I do believe this one is especially suited to you.”
JD picked out a black leather belt, a watch with a matching strap, a light silver necklace, a pair of black suedette semi-heeled pumps and a simple black leather handbag before stripping down once again.
Despite her suspicions, Judy could detect no hint of lechery in JD’s actions with her naked body.
“It’s actually kind of pedestrian at this point,” JD admitted. “I’ve seen so many naked women through their own eyes that I've spent almost as much of my recent life as a woman than I have as a man.”
Before she could stop herself, Judy wondered if anyone had hired JD to perform any sexual acts with their body, and the look her own face gave her in the mirror made her glad she couldn’t blush.
“How much do you want to know?” JD asked, eyebrows raised.
“Suit yourself,” JD said with a shrug. “There’s not much to speak of, to be honest. I specialise in social interactions, so it’s mostly jobs similar to this one: Making a good impression on bosses, entertaining party guests, clinching marriages.”
Marriages!? You… seduce people into marrying your host?
JD frowned and shook Judy’s head sternly. “No. Absolutely not. The people that reach out to me are already committed, but there are often prospective in-laws that are against the union, so the couples hire me to convince their partner’s parents into giving their blessing.”
That’s… better, but also very weird.
“Hey, as long as the couple are into each other, I’m not going to judge.”
Have you ever had a couple that weren’t actually into each other?
“Yes, actually. Jumped straight the fuck out when I realised my host had been pressured into the arrangement. Full refund, no further contact - not worth getting involved. How’s this?”
Judy’s mind had been so preoccupied thinking about married couples hiring agents that she’d stopped paying attention to her own body dressing itself. She came back to reality to find a woman in the mirror who looked absolutely stunning. The full outfit pulled off an air of casual stylishness that Judy would never have believed possible on her own body, and it was only a shame that it was her plain and unadorned face that topped the ensemble.
“Don’t worry about that - give me a moment to strip again so we don’t get any mess on the outfit.”
I thought you were a professional?
“I am. And I can tell you that an ounce of prevention is a lesson I learned the hard way.”
Heading into the bathroom, Judy was momentarily afraid that JD would try bathing in her body.
“You showered before I jumped in,” she said to herself. “I’m just giving your face a quick wash before I get you made up.”
Clad in a bathrobe and with her skin fresh after a hot scrub, Judy watched JD set to work transforming her face. It started poorly, with JD worried she’d be going out looking like a painting in various shades of tan, but quickly evolved to a point where she was recognisable as herself while also being absolutely blown away at the improvement.
“Not bad, huh?” her reflection said to her, wearing a smile that lit up the mirror.
I can’t believe that’s me! Where did you learn this?
“Video tutorials to start with, but one time I had a client who was a professional makeup artist and in exchange for a hefty discount, I spent some time learning from her how to do things like the pros.”
So you CAN take your host’s memories!
“Nope. When I say learning, I mean ‘learning’ learning. With multiple lessons and sessions and all kinds of mistakes. She was very patient in letting me practise while using her face, and she taught me a lot, so I’m really grateful for that.”
Judy’s body spent some more time admiring itself in the mirror, allowing the Judy inside to marvel at the transformation for a little longer. She was tempted to ask him for some lessons of her own, or at least what products he had used on her, but dismissed the idea immediately. It’s not as if she would ever be doing this again.
“It doesn’t have to be for anyone else,” her body said, hearing her entire train of thought. “You can just look pretty for yourself.”
Forget about it! Let’s just get tonight over with!
Her body shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
Dressing herself once more - it really was a great ensemble, despite its simplicity - Judy watched as her body booked a ride to the restaurant Li had reserved a table at before turning back to the mirror for some final adjustments.
“It won’t stay this way all night,” she said to herself. “But I’ll bring enough to keep us presentable for the evening.”
God, did normal people go to this much effort every day? She already knew the answer was yes, but it was a new experience watching her own hands doing the work.
“Normal is relative,” her voice said casually, her face turning to examine itself from every angle.
She looked good. Really good.
“Thank you,” her face beamed back at her, the unfamiliar expression once again making it feel like she was looking at a stranger in the mirror. Which, in a sense, she was.
“No more of that,” her body said, checking her phone to see the rideshare car minutes away.
Judy had never bothered owning a handbag, but watched as her body picked up a few important things - apartment key, credit card, spare makeup, flick knife - flick knife?
“I’m responsible for your safety while I’m in control,” she heard herself explain. “Anything that I allow to happen to you is my responsibility.”
But I don’t know the first thing about using a knife!
“I’ve had some training. It’s funny: I’ve never needed to defend myself in my own body, but after a few close calls in the bodies of clients, I’ve learned to keep a little something on me in case of an emergency.”
Don’t be ridiculous! Li would never!
“So? It’s not just Li that we’re meeting tonight. And we’re getting a lift from a complete stranger to get there. A benefit of being a shut-in is that you never roll the dice just getting from A to B. There’s a lot that can happen to a good looking girl like us out alone at night, so best to be prepared.”
A girl like ‘us,’ Judy noted, watching the knife disappear into a hidden pocket in the handbag.
“You know what I mean.”
Despite her protestations, Judy was acutely conscious of JD’s warning as their driver pulled up outside the apartment. Judy was relieved to see the driver was also a woman, and realised that the physical sensation of relief was because JD had also been anxious.
He made polite conversation with the driver, and JD was a captive audience to the bizarre experience of hearing herself talking to someone she’d just met - a feat she had been literally incapable of until now.
Once they had been dropped off, Judy queried JD about his own trepidation.
“Rideshare companies get over a thousand assault-related complaints a year. Each. And because the drivers aren’t technically employees, they do everything they can to wash their hands and look the other way.”
Judy knew this already - it was just one of many reasons to never go outside - but the bitterness in her own voice made it sound like JD had personal experience in the matter.
“I do. It didn’t… nothing actually happened, but both my client and I were badly rattled afterwards. She tried filing a complaint with the rideshare company, but it got lost in the system. I wanted to push for some kind of action, but she just wanted to forget it ever happened, and there was no way for me to go further on my own without also exposing my identity and the whole agency.”
Judy was shocked.
"I’m sorry that happened to you," she thought.
She felt her face grimace. “I’m sorry I let it happen. Anyway, gotta shake it off: We’ve got bosses to impress, and we can’t let on that they’ve got two guests instead of one, can we?”
In front of them loomed a massive black glass building that glowed golden in the setting sun. The first three floors however, had transparent windows that glittered with lights illuminating floor after floor of mostly already occupied tables, and the sound of conversation could be heard even from the street. Judy had photobashed more than a few concepts for high class modern dining venues and it was as if one of her creations had come to life.
"Fancy," her voice said, equal parts impressed and amused.
"Is it too much?" came a voice from behind them.
Judy saw her vision turn slightly as her body cocked its head to one side. It was an affectation, of course - the normal thing to do would be the turn around. Correction: The normal thing for her would have been to freeze up completely, but JD was deliberately posing her body against the restaurant's lights. It only lasted a split second, but she intuitively knew - or perhaps JD fed her the knowledge - that it would show off the curve of her neck and halo the profile of her silhouette. Just for a second.
Then her vision turned fully, alighting on the sight of Li Yu wearing a tightly tailored grey suit and an apologetic yet wry expression. He looked great - much more charming than the comparatively sterile photo on his business profile - and as her heart skipped a beat, she remembered who was in control of her body's physical reactions.
Completely oblivious to this, Li shuffled awkwardly. "Sorry about this, but I figured that you've done so much for me that I may as well treat you to something memorable."
However off-balance JD may have been, he recovered quickly, and Judy felt her body adopting a coquettish pose, hands on her hips and a smile on her face. "With the number of favours you owe me, I wouldn't have left the house for anything less."
Li grinned, before making a show of looking Judy up and down. It wasn't something she had experienced before, and she shared her body's thrill at his appreciative expression.
"You look amazing," Li said with a hint of disbelief.
"I should hope so," Judy heard JD say with her voice, clearly enjoying the feedback as much as she was. "I see you're also aiming to impress tonight."
Judy heard the question in the statement, and Li chuckled. "Well, it's a special occasion. First impressions and all that."
"Consider me impressed," Judy felt the words leaving her mouth. It was like reading out a B-grade Hollywood script, but delivered with a veneer of irony that somehow allowed the message to be both playful and sincere. "Is the jury already in?"
"Knowing them, definitely," Yu sighed, with a hint of resignation. "And probably on their third round by now. Don't feel pressured to keep up with them: I've already explained that this is strictly to prove that you're a real person so they can stop harassing us both."
"I'll be under your protection for the evening then," Judy heard herself say, her body allowing itself to be taken by the arm.
Contrary to Yu's warnings, his bosses proved to be physically harmless - more of a threat to each other than anyone else and even then, only via competitive alcohol poisoning. Judy had heard of the stereotype of the incorrigibly alcoholic corporate superior, but it was almost surreal meeting several in person.
They proved to be surprisingly lucid however, asking pertinent questions about her work, skills and methods even when neck-deep into their cups. Judy felt her brain tickling as JD pulled the relevant information out of her, firing off answers to every question with an effortless charm that made even outright rejections seem cordial. It was like watching someone juggle, but with words instead of knives: Just as sharp and in a way much more dangerous if mishandled.
No, she had never gotten a formal education in any of her fields - whatever she couldn't teach herself, she had learned remotely from others. Yes, she had been able to turn around their entire winter promotional campaign after the sudden product recall - Yu's history of working with her (and his generous financial remuneration) facilitated the kind of relationship where she was happy to put less urgent projects on hold. No, she wasn't interested in full-time employment in-house - she valued her freedom and was very much at home to working... well, at home.
These straightforward interactions were peppered with jokes, banter and repartee that Judy herself - with her limited experience of even basic conversation - could scarcely keep up with, and she eventually found herself floating on the tide of words.
What she did notice was that her gaze would regularly gravitate towards Yu. More than that: She often caught him giving her a curious look that gave her a delightfully tight feeling in her chest. She knew that it was JD enjoying the attention and her body responding to his own emotions, but it was also easy - so easy - to imagine the same feeling as though she were in control of her body.
Nobody had ever looked at her like that. Nobody had ever gotten the chance. She’d never so much as dreamed of it happening, as waking up from the dream would only depress her further. But here and now, being admired like this, even with someone else in control of her body was… exhilarating.
She barely remembered what she ate except that it was delicious and that Yu’s bosses had happily added the bill to their burgeoning tab. Before long, she was saying her goodbyes to the thoroughly sloshed executives and walking out into the cool night air; not exactly arm in arm with Yu but close enough to be exciting.
The dinner had gone so much better than Judy had dared to hope, and it felt like the fairytale evening deserved a fairytale ending.
“Now that we’re away from the wolves,” Yu ventured, “I was thinking we could get a coffee somewhere? Ice-cream? Both?”
Coffee and ice-cream sounded wonderful to Judy. Any excuse to stay out of her stuffy boring apartment and experience literally everything else. Her thoughts mirror Yu’s own hopeful tone, and it was with a genuine sense of shock and disappointment when she felt her head shake in refusal.
“Not tonight,” she felt herself say with a smile. “You booked me from seven to nine. It’s been a great evening - so much better than I had expected, but I’m a busy woman with lots to do.”
Judy realised JD was speaking as much to her as he was to Yu: Their connection would terminate in sixty minutes, and if Judy wasn’t at home when that happened, it would leave her stranded outside and once again vulnerable to paralysis. In the rush of the last couple of hours, she had almost completely forgotten what it was like being her usual, helpless self.
Right on time, their rideshare pulled up to the curb.
Yu held the door open with a wistful sigh. “Might I tempt you out again some other time, perhaps? Just the two of us?”
Judy felt herself pause just long enough to gently take Yu’s free hand in hers.
“Thanks for tonight,” she said. “I had a wonderful time.”
“Let me know when you get home safe,” Yu said before closing the door.
JD and the driver made small talk on the return trip, but Judy paid them no mind - choosing instead to imagine Yu walking or driving back to his own home. Maybe he’d have other things on his mind as soon as he turned away, or maybe he’d think of her for the rest of the night.
“Well, I’d say that went about as well as it possibly could have,” her voice said, shocking Judy out of her reverie.
She was back in her apartment, watching her body sling the handbag onto the table before slumping onto the couch.
Alone together and free to communicate openly again, Judy remembered the sensation she had felt on and off the entire evening, pointing the mental equivalent of an accusatory finger at JD.
“You were getting sweet on him!”
“On me?” The grin that sprung up on Judy’s face was infuriating.
“Don’t play games with me! Every time he looked at you-”
“At us,” JD corrected.
“At u- at YOU controlling ME. I felt that… that FLUTTER - you were getting giddy from him just looking at you!”
Judy’s body sighed. “It’s a thrilling sensation. Millions of men and women around the world go to a lot of effort every day to experience the exact same thing.”
Judy fumed, but couldn’t disagree. If anything, it was embarrassing that her first experience of it had to be with a man controlling her body.
“Is that why you do this?” she said, and immediately felt bad for insinuation.
“No,” her body said flatly. “In fact, it’s something of a rarity. Most of my clients hire me because they’re trying to make the best of a frustrating social situation.”
“I’m pretty frustrated right now,” Judy pointed out.
“Not for the reasons I typically have to deal with,” her body replied. “Women faced with a charmer like Yu are either happy to be charmed, or would turn him down themselves if they weren’t interested.”
Judy sat silently in her own head for a few seconds before responding.
“Are you interested?”
Instead of getting an answer, Judy saw her gaze turn to the nearby clock. She tutted at the time, stripping down quickly and packing everything away before changing back into some of her own clothes. She caught a glimpse of herself as she finished packing - still gorgeously made up above the neck and incongruously frumpy from the collar down.
“I’ll shoot you some videos if you want to learn,” she said to herself. “And a link to buy what we wore tonight. There’s all sorts of good stuff from the same supplier.”
At twenty minutes to ten, Judy handed off the luggage to another masked and hoodied stranger before returning to her apartment. The body control device went back in its package, and she waved to the figure waiting at the end of the hallway as she dropped it off outside her front door.
“Won’t you need that?” Judy asked.
“It’s just for activation,” JD explained. “Once the control period expires, you automatically regain control of your body and I get pushed out. That way you get your life back even if the device goes missing or gets damaged.”
“That makes sense,” Judy thought absently.
The seconds ticked away as they lay on her bed. One minute to ten o'clock.
“You didn’t answer me earlier.”
“About whether you were interested.”
Twenty seconds to ten.
Ten seconds to ten.
“He’s nice,” JD said. “You should see him again, for your own sake.”
The clock struck ten, and Judy felt the connection terminate.
Great stuff, as always! Judy is such an interesting protagonist.
would love to read a continuation with JD guiding her through an interaction with him
I love how wholesome this is. I was worried it might take a dark turn, but it stayed pleasant, wholesome, and still managed to be engaging and fun.