Peter and Michelle were sitting at a table in Starbucks, sipping coffee.
“Funny thing,” he said after taking a sip. “This is the same Starbucks we were in almost a year ago, when I’d first heard about the death of Derek Gould, and his wife being a carrier of those things. Everyone, including you, had masks on, while I thought it was all bullshit–“
“You still think the coronaviruses were all bullshit,” Michelle said, with a distracted look on her face.
“Yeah, but I changed my mind about The Splits, remember?” he said, annoyed at her interruption. “Now that the fake pandemic scare is gone, and no one’s wearing a mask or a protective suit, no one thinks we’re in danger–“
“Except the ‘conspiracy theorist wackos’ who can’t get a cellphone-recorded video in edgewise on YouTube,” she said.
He scowled at this second interruption, then said, “And we’re in far more danger now than ever before.”
“Well, we are safe, apparently. Those things don’t feel they need to enter us.” She was frowning, giving her reassurances a bitter irony.
“We’re OK, it seems, but there are other considerations. Your mom–“
“I got the bug spray out of our house, Peter. She didn’t take it away from me.”
“Stop interrupting! I’m not talking about that. I’m actually worried about her now.”
“Wow, you’re joining the club now, eh? Why are you worried about her? I thought she was just an ‘ET’ to you.” Now she was scowling.
“I watched another video today, just before we got together here. Now, listen–this is important, and it directly affects you and your mom. The video was of a meeting of the heads of the Ottawa District/Shopify Incorporated. They, too, secretly know of the alien invasion. They’d spoken with our brand-new American president Price about plans to deal with ‘those things,’ as the aliens are being officially referred to.”
“And what does all that have to do with my mother?”
“The plan is to go after anyone who is, or is suspected of being, a carrier. Targeted assassinations. They know the aliens tend to go for rich and politically powerful people. They revealed at this meeting that the carrier who let loose the aliens on the late President Trenton was his secretary of state.”
“Yeah. Wait for when the news announces her fake death.”
“Her fake death? Of what?”
“They haven’t decided what it officially will be yet. After the audio recording got cut off, it seems they tried to arrest her, those things flew out again, and a man in security pulled out his gun on impulse and put three bullets in her chest. The Ottawa people said as much in the video.”
“Wow.” Michelle was already shaking at the implications this news had for her mother.
“Now, I don’t know if the people in that Ottawa meeting know your mom’s a carrier, but someone there surely knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows she is. In any case, they’ll have files of everyone known to be a carrier from last year, and they’ll have a file on your mom for sure. So just be careful with her, if you want her to live.”
Michelle shuddered. “How am I going to warn her if talking about aliens is itself a dangerous thing for me?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But I assume that, underneath the alien possession of her, your real mom is still in there, buried deep inside.”
“Of course she’s still in there!” Michelle shouted, then covered her mouth and blushed from all the customers and Starbucks staff who heard her outburst. A tear ran down her cheek. “She may just be an ET to you, but she’s still my mother.”
“I’m sorry, Michelle,” he said. “I know I’m tactless sometimes. But believe me when I say I care about you and her. Please be careful with her. Watch if anyone suspicious seems to be following her.”
“Oh, what am I gonna do?” she sobbed. “And those things are supposed to have our sympathy?”
“I know.” He put his arm around her. “What do those little lights want from us?”