Josh woke up with a terrible pain in his head; he surveyed his surroundings to find that he was lying on the couch. He sat up, his head throbbing in protest as he did. He let out a groan as he made his way to a sitting position. He could hear things coming from the kitchen, it sounded like laughter and something sizzling on the stove.
Josh saw on the side table next to the couch there was a glass of water, and a few painkillers. He didn’t bother with the water and chewed the pills up and swallowed the foul tasting powder. Using the water he chased the vile taste down.
He unsteadily made his way to the kitchen where Kris, or at least her body and Malcolm sat talking. Malcolm said something Josh didn’t quite catch, and Kris began laughing wildly. Malcolm noticed Josh and smiled, motioning for him to come over.
“Hey kid I’m very sorry about the way things went. I should have approached you differently, but god damn you pissed me off last night. I settled down a bit when I tracked you down to that store today, but I figured me and Dan should put the fear of God into you. By the way, you may want to take it easy. You took quite the blow to the head, I’m surprised that there isn’t a piece of counter lodged in there with how hard you hit.” Malcolm said as he proffered a seat to Josh.
Josh more fell than sat into his seat. He reached a hand up to where his head had hit, there was a bandage over the wound, and he gently probed it and was rewarded with an instant flaring of pain. Removing his hand from the side of his head his nose picked out what smelled like cooking meat, and looked over to see burgers cooking on a griddle over the stove. Ha Josh thought to himself, his parents had given him that griddle several years ago and it had never been used.
Looking back at Malcolm, and then back to Kris he said, “What the fuck?”
Malcolm and Kris exchanged looks, and began to laugh uproariously. Kris wiped tears from her eyes and said, “Listen we’re known as what people call hoppers. We can do as you’ve seen; we force ourselves into other people’s bodies. But there is more to it than that. While in another form we’re given certain abilities. Such as the ability to heal faster, which is why Malcolm vacated Kris here and I entered. There’s too much to go over, beyond the basics. If you’re badly hurt, hop someone if you can and you’ll be fully healed up in a couple days. You retain your full strength while hopped, so for instance I could benchpress about 450 with these dainty arms” Kris flexed her biceps, it looked ridiculous.
Josh had a concerned cast to his face and asked, “Okay, but what does this have to do with me? You guys seem nice and all but why are you talking to me?”
Malcolm responded to Josh’s question, “Well Josh…one of our powers happens to help us determine other people that may have this gift. It is standard hopper practice to turn anyone that we find with this trait, and it happens that I found you. I should have explained this to you the first night that we were together, but I got called in for something that had to be taken care of immediately.”
Kris continued and said, “We are very few in number Josh, so whenever we can recruit into our ranks we must. Please ask us any questions that you have”
Josh felt dumbfounded and angry, and a large assortment of other emotions that he couldn’t verbalize at this moment. One question came to mind, “Why me? You must be mistaken there is nothing special about me.”
Kris looked on him with a pitying stare, “Aww kid, of course there is! Our ability is never wrong in this regards. Here is the bit of proof that will show it to you. The day after you were with Kris, with Malcolm driving of course, I’m guessing that you were terribly sick for about a day.”
Josh nodded remembering that damn terrible flu.
Kris continued, “Well that’s called hopper sickness, it happens to all new hoppers and it kicks your ass. In fact I’ve known some initiates that have died from it. Normally we stay with that person after we initiate them, to make sure they make it through. But in your case Malcolm had something very important to contend with, sadly to say more important than you.”
Kris’s last words stung a bit, but Josh tried to not let it show.
The sudden reality of the situation came rushing to Josh, “Wait if I’m one of you, does that mean I can do what you can? I can barely believe that you can do what you can, I can’t imagine me doing it as well.”
Malcolm stood up and started removing the food from the griddle, and plating it. Also he removed something from the oven that had the aroma of fries. Malcolm responded while working, “Yes you can, and I’ll make sure that either Dan or I are with you most of the time.”
Josh snickered and said, “Are you two going to come to work with me? That’s where a large portion of my time is spent.”
Kris grinned at Josh and said, “Well no, but the good news is that you don’t have to work anymore. You can pretty much live off the land if you want. In fact since you’re a hopper now, you can work for us. We’re a small community but we are able to provide services with our abilities. The work includes anything, from companions to the wealthy, to spying. All depending on what strengths and abilities you show. For instance I happen to be strong and resilient so I’m usually doing escort duties. Where Malcolm is talented in other ways.”
Malcolm cut in gently, “Ways that will not be disclosed here.”
Kris looked at Malcolm and hurriedly said, “Of course.”
Josh and the two other men, one who happened to be down to his every detail physically a woman at this point ate the meal prepared. They didn’t discuss any more hopper related things, but instead talked normal guy things like sports.
Winding down that evening Kris and Malcolm made their way to the door to leave. Josh was surprised when he felt a pang of regret for their leaving, he was so unused to company. Malcolm looked at Josh and said, “I’ll be back tomorrow night, Dan will probably hang low in Kris’s body for few days to heal up. We’ll catch you later kid.”
They said their good byes and Josh closed the door behind them. Josh looked down and was pleasantly surprised to see that the blood that was there earlier had been clean up. Josh went to the bathroom and readied himself for bed. He removed the bandage from his fall earlier, and saw that the wound was a large gash, he would be surprised if the entire night hadn’t been a delusion from a severe concussion. Replacing the bandage Josh continued his routine and went to bed.