Flip Side

(600 words)

Traditional psychology can’t explain it. Well, they try to, they say it’s some kind of amnesia. I know it’s not, but they won’t listen to me. I look in the mirror and the person I see is not….me. It’s like I’ve been put in someone else’s body, not a bad one mind, and given a few sheets of A4 to learn about his history, life and work. So when Susan, my ‘wife’ comes to me and says Frank’s on the phone, I don’t have a clue who she’s on about, he wasn’t on the A4 sheets. Then she’ll get annoyed. “Look, Steven, you must go back for more tests. Stop giving them a hard time!” Mind you, she’s not bad-looking though, and bedtime has been fun!
It’s no use though. I know I’m not ‘me’ if you see what I mean. Sometimes in dreams, I’ll see a young woman with high cheekbones, long wavy hair, brown as chestnuts, and two kids, teenagers with tousled hair and braces on their teeth. Jake and Jenny are their names. Then there’s a dog, a black Labrador, called Rusty who likes to roll in autumn leaves and jump in the snow.
The lady, I don’t know if she’s my wife, is called Hannah. She has a laugh that reminds me of milk bottles tumbling over. That’s who I think I am.
So I looked around and found someone, a Dr Nightshade. He’s a ‘displaced personality specialist’. He says what I’m experiencing is not uncommon, something to do with solar flares. They can knock the ‘astral body’ out of alignment, he says. Then another personality can move in and the displaced one moves into the other body, the one just vacated. Or something like that. He calls it TPD, ‘temporal personality displacement’ on account of the fact that the astral body can travel through time as well as space. Of course, your average psychologist doesn’t believe in any of that, he says, but he’s had special training, from those who ‘know’.
Anyways, he says he can fix me. He’s got a machine. Apparently, he doesn’t even need to have the other person present – the ‘me’ with ‘him’ inside, if you see what I mean. He says the machine simulates the effect of a solar flare, but in reverse, so it’ll pull ‘him’ into this body and I’ll just ‘flip’ back into mine, wherever and whenever that may be. So it’ll be goodbye Susan, hello Hannah, Jake, Jenny and Rusty!
He says it’s not without risks though. Sometimes the astral body of a third person can become separated and then there’s a three-way swap, or even more. He says that’s really unusual though, and he just has to run the machine a few more times until all the astral bodies are in the right people.
Well, the good Dr Nightshade ran the machine, took my money, a load of it, and nothing happened! He says it doesn’t always work the first time. To come back tomorrow. ‘Get a good night’s sleep and don’t worry,’ he says. As if!
There’s a knock on the door. Susan. She comes in but she’s changed her hair. It’s long, wavy, and brown. Like chestnuts… “Hello Sweetheart,” she says, “I thought we’d go to the park. It’s a fine day. Take the kids.” She laughs. Milk bottles tumble over.
A tousle-haired girl, lean and smiley appears at her side. She doesn’t have braces on her perfect teeth. I hear the pounding feet of what sounds like a dog racing up the stairs.
“Come on Dad, Rusty needs some exercise!”

Featured in the book and audiobook, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories

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6 thoughts on “Flip Side

  1. “Then there’s a dog, a black labrador, called Rusty who likes to roll in autumn leaves and jump in the snow. That’s who I think I am.”

    This line had me hoping that when he woke up back to normal, he would be the dog. I’m not sure if you intended the ending to be ambiguous, but the narrators initial belief that the machine had failed before revealing Hannah at the door, left me hoping that perhaps, this could imply he was experiencing one of those three way swaps the doctor had mentioned…

    Excellent wordcraft, said all it needed to say without saying too much, but left me wanting more! Luckily, you have a great blog to explore 🙂

    1. Hi Zu-Zu, many thanks for your helpful comment. In fact someone on Community Pool also thought that he might have been Rusty. So I’ve re-ordered that paragraph and it should be crystal clear now (hopefully!) that he is just talking about the general situation!

      No, the ending wasn’t supposed to be ambiguous really. ‘Dr. Nightshade’ was successful. In my mind Hannah etc. were in the house where he was in the story (or so he conceived it) but then would have stabilised in his ‘real’ house, wherever and whenever that was! There wasn’t any more detail on that, to fit in with the word limit. I quite liked the way it ended though, and felt that ‘less is more’ in this instance!

      Thanks for the comment about the blog too! Here are some I’d recommend.




  2. Great story. I had to read it twice to check that I hadn’t missed anything. The way that you inverted the ending instead of a straight forward “it worked” shows you have skill and intellect as a writer. I’m working on 2 stories that I’m struggling with so I hope to read more of your work so I can be both jealous and also an intrigued student to your writing skills.


    1. Hello and thank you so much for your (too) kind comments! To be honest, this story kind of ‘wrote itself’ based on a dream I had, although I tried to keep the dream-like quality about it.

      Right now I’m writing mainly flash-fiction, under 1000 words and haven’t ventured much over that yet. I’ve only been writing a little over a year though, so maybe will try some 2000-3000 word stories this year. I know many people (including me!) tend to balk at reading long pieces though, so I feel a few hundred words is a very accessible length.

      Why not join the 300 word group I run if you’d like more fiction-writing practice? I send the stories out every two weeks and you can enter between 0 and 3 stories each time. So that is a good opportunity to try different ideas out without too much time expenditure. It’s also great editing practice! In fact nearly all my recent stories (including Flip Side) were intended to be 300 words, but knowing I can post longer versions here, I can ‘let rip’ a bit, writing 500 to 800 words, then cutting them down to 300. I’ve learnt a lot from doing that!

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, much appreciated!

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