Vikal Tawakal had no idea where he was, or even who he was. In an instant, his simple life in Indonesia had been replaced with something entirely different. His plain bedroom was now an impossibly luxurious chamber fit for royalty, but, more importantly, his mind now inhabited the body of a tall black man.
There weren’t any black people in Indonesia, but Vikal had seen them in the movies. It was exceedingly strange to actually be one. His body felt strong and powerful, unlike the underfed ten-year-old frame of his previous body. The only thing he didn’t like about it was his chin – it itched uncontrollably. He experimentally squeezed his beard with his hands, wondering why anybody would want to have such an unwieldy mass of hair on their face.
Vikal only realized there was a woman in his bed when she purred “Come on James, you seemed so insistent earlier…” Oddly, Vikal could understand her words perfectly, even though, again, his only exposure to the English language was through movies.
His rumination on the nature of language was short-lived, however, when he noticed what the woman was wearing, or, more accurately, what she wasn’t wearing. Vikal had never seen a naked woman before now, and all he could do was stare. Luckily, the woman was very aware of her own beauty, and seemed to relish in the awestruck admiration that she was getting from “James” (whoever he was).
At some point, Vikal realized that he should probably be naked too. That was about as far as his understanding of sex went: both people had to be naked. He struggled to peel his t-shirt off over his unexpectedly large biceps, then, when removing his pants and undershorts, found that another part of his anatomy was unexpectedly large as well. For her part, the woman seemed just as impressed with his body as he was of hers.
Unsure of what to do next, he clambered onto the oversized bed and lay down on his back.
“Oh, you want me to do all the work?” the woman asked in a sultry voice. “I can do that.” That sounded good to Vikal, who had no idea what that “work” actually entailed. All he knew is that it would be a lot better than the work he had to do back home.
After an eternity which had really only been three hours, James was afforded a break. Nearly sprinting out the door of the sweatshop to escape the glue fumes, he breathed deep of the fresh air. He had no idea how his lungs were going to tolerate another full afternoon of that torment.
Seeing street vendors selling cold drinks, James hopefully checked the pockets of his pants for money, but found none. What was he supposed to drink then? Was he just going to die of thirst in that sweltering, oppressive place?
“No money again? Here.” His friend had shown up at his side and was handing him a plastic water bottle.
James nodded gratefully and, resisting the urge to down the whole thing, took a hearty swig. His friend took the bottle back and went inside again, but James had to milk his break for all it was worth. He escaped to an alley on the side of the building where there was a little more shade and sat down on the dirt.
“Not much fun, is it, James?”
Looking up, James saw an old man leaning out of a window above him. “No, not much fun,” he replied sullenly. It took him a moment to realize how odd it was to be called by his former name; he had already begun viewing himself as Vikal, the ten-year-old southeast-Asian sweatshop laborer. “Hey, how do you know who I am?”
“Let’s just say that the swapping of a basketball player and a basketball-shoe maker was not a coincidence,” replied the man, flashing a grin that was missing several teeth.
“Can you get me back to Houston? I promise that when I get home, I’ll do something about the sweatshops. I’ll talk to the Adidas guys. I’ll put a disclaimer in my Foot Locker commercials. I’ll advocate for the abolition of child labor in second-world countries. I’ll send an autographed basketball to this Vikal kid.”
“I can see into your heart, James, and I see that your remorse is genuine. In some sense, you are exploited by shoe executives just like these poverty-stricken children.”
James was annoyed by this. “Then why not send an Adidas executive instead of me, if my two-hundred-million dollar shoe deal just makes a victim of a twisted global economy?”
“I didn’t make that decision. That was decided by somebody above me,” the old man answered, pointing vaguely up to the sky. “Although sending an Indonesian child into a board meeting would probably have some hilarious side-effects. Anyway, I have a feeling you’ll be going home soon.”
“Really?” James said hopefully. However, there was no time for a response, because, at that moment, everything went black.
“You didn’t last very long,” the woman, whose name James couldn’t even recall anymore, said with disappointment as she climbed off him.
“Yeah, well, at least we don’t have to work in illegal sweatshops to line the pockets of millionaires,” James replied. “So it’s all good.”