The Physical | Audio
By Joel Arnold
Joel Arnold's writing has appeared in dozens of publications, including WEIRD TALES and the Cemetery Dance anthology SHIVERS VII. He is also the author of the novels NORTHWOODS DEEP and DEATH RHYTHM.
Nurse Crandall stepped into the waiting room and looked at her clipboard. "Martin Kennebunk?" She waited, scanning the room, smiling. She looked at her clipboard again, and then up at the lone man sitting there.
The man sat squinting at an old issue of Redbook, then looked up, startled. "Oh yes," he said. "That's me." He followed the nurse through a door and into a hallway lined with examining rooms.
"How are you feeling today?" the nurse asked. "In for your physical?"
"Yes. My boss recommended I get this old body checked out."
Nurse Crandall laughed. "Looks like this is your first time here. New to the area?"
She led him to a small alcove that contained a platform scale next to a wall-mounted stadiometer. "Step up," she said, indicating the scale. She read the readout. "236 pounds." She took his height. "Five-foot ten-inches. Follow me."
"Is that normal?"
"236 pounds is a bit high for a man of your size and musculature. Ideally, you should weigh closer to 170." She showed him into exam room number five. "Have a seat."
Martin sat in the chair next to a small desk protruding from the wall. The nurse sat at the desk and typed Kennebunk's information into a keyboard and checked the monitor. "When was the last time you had a physical, Mr. Kennebunk?"
He looked up at the ceiling a moment. "This is my first, actually. And please – call me Martin."
"Your first physical ever? You're fifty-eight years old," the nurse said, smiling quizzically at him.
"I haven't seen a doctor in a long time, that is for sure."
"Let's take your blood pressure, then." Nurse Crandall wrapped the pressure cuff around his upper arm, inflated it and let the air out as she read his blood pressure. "157 over 95," she said, frowning. "That's quite high."
"Not normal?" Martin asked.
"No. Do you smoke?"
"Not at all."
"Do you have a family history of high blood pressure?"
"Not that I'm aware of."
Nurse Crandall typed some more info into the computer. "We may want to check into some medication to bring that down."
Martin tapped his knuckle on the desk. "How is your blood pressure?" he asked.
The nurse smiled. "Last I checked it was 120 over 80."
"And those are good numbers?"
"And everything else about you is healthy?"
The nurse shook her head. "This is your exam, not mine, Mr. Kennebunk."
"Martin," the nurse acknowledged. "Before we head to the lab to take a blood sample, do you have any other concerns you'd like the doctor to know about today?"
"Well," Martin said. "There is one thing."
"Right here," he said, pointing into his mouth. "I have a sharp pain at the back of my throat."
"I'll let Dr. Kominsky know and she'll take a look."
"If you could just take a glance," said Martin. "It worries me."
Nurse Crandall raised an eyebrow. "All right." She grabbed a tongue depressor from the desk drawer and leaned in close to Martin. "Say 'ahh'."
Martin quickly grabbed the back of her head and pulled her tightly against him. His mouth covered hers so that she could not scream.
The transfer took less than ten seconds.
There was a knock at the door.
"Come in," the nurse said.
Dr. Kominsky walked in and stopped, staring at the body of the patient slumped in the chair. "What happened?" she asked, bending down to take his pulse.
"I don't know," the nurse said. "He was perfectly fine one moment, and then just slumped over. Right before you knocked."
Dr. Kominsky looked up at the nurse. "Good God, there's no pulse. He's not breathing."
"I – "
"Help me get him on the table."
Nurse Crandall and Dr. Kominsky hoisted him onto the exam table. "Go get someone. Get the AED," the doctor demanded. "Get some help in here now." She started doing chest compressions.
The nurse hurried out of the room. Instead of calling out for help, however, she glanced at her name badge as she left the office building. "Theresa Crandall," she said to herself, trying to commit the name to memory. "Theresa Crandall." She found the car she'd arrived in while occupying Martin Kennebunk's body, but quickly realized the keys were still in the man's pocket. She felt in the pockets of her newly acquired clothing, found a set of car keys, and pressed the unlock button, watching for flashing headlights. There. A nice little Toyota Prius.
The alien in Nurse Crandall was grateful its leader had recommended getting the Kennebunk man's body checked out before they started their work. It would not do to be halfway through taking over the world and have a borrowed body suddenly give out on you.
Nurse Crandall entered the Prius, took a moment to look over the controls, and soon drove off. There was still a lot to be done before the takeover commenced.