Michelle returned home that night to see her mom watching TV. Instead of having that unnatural-looking smile on her face, her mother seemed worried about what she was watching on the news.
“Hi, Mom,” Michelle said in a shaky voice.
“Hi, sweetie,” her mom said, still frowning at the TV screen.
“What’s on the news that has you so worried?”
“Oh, it isn’t so much worrying me as it’s just…this nonsense so many people believe about an ‘alien invasion.’ Ridiculous.”
“Oh, you mean those wacko conspiracy theorists?”
“Yes, dear,” her mom said, turning off the TV and standing up. “People are saying that The Splits was really aliens entering people’s bodies instead of the virus it actually was. How can anybody believe such rubbish?”
“I know,” Michelle said, avoiding Siobhan’s eyes. “There are a lot of dumb, crazy people out there.”
“You wanna know what their ‘proof’ is, Michelle? People possessed of the aliens show little to no emotion.” Siobhan let out a loud laugh, which seemed forced to Michelle. “As if there’s no such thing as ordinary people not showing emotions, especially in today’s world, when all those vaccines were draining people of their energy and making people plod around like zombies. You and Peter have noticed that.”
“Yes, we have,” Michelle said, frowning and still avoiding her mother’s eyes.
“And those vaccines, given out years ago, are still showing those effects, to this day. So why make a big deal about lots of people showing no feelings?” Her mom had a huge, ear-to-ear grin, which was supposedly to show how absurd she thought the conspiracy theories were, but which really just looked fake, as if painted on her face. “They say the governments know about the aliens, and are doing a cover-up.”
“Yeah, but some people in those governments really believe this is happening, and they’re sending out assassins to kill anyone they think is possessed of the aliens.”
“Really? Did Peter tell you that?”
“Yes, Mom. Just today. He says he watched a video of Ottawa politicians discussing this plan to kill anyone known to have had The Splits.”
“Now, Michelle, surely you must realize by now that Peter, as much as you love him, isn’t always a reliable source?”
“No, of course he has his loopy moments, more than I care to admit, but if he’s right this time, we need to be careful with you.”
Her mom stared into her eyes with a frown of suspicion for several seconds.
“It’s not so much that I believe his every word. It’s just that I care about you and want you to be safe.”
Siobhan still suspected insincerity in her daughter’s eyes.
“What are your thoughts about this ‘alien’ business?” She continued staring hard at Michelle. A touch of anger was on Siobhan’s lips.
“I–I don’t know what to think.” Michelle began sobbing.
“What nonsense is Peter telling you about me?” Siobhan asked, looking down at Michelle’s purse, with what looked like a tall can of bug spray poking out in a bulge at the side of her purse. “Some of the conspiracy theorists claim that bug spray is what kills the aliens. Surely you don’t believe such nonsense, do you?”
“No, of course not,” Michelle sobbed. “It’s just that I…I…”
“If you don’t, then why have you been carrying bug spray in your purse?” her mom asked with more than a tinge of angry tension in her voice and face. “You aren’t planning, in your paranoia, on spraying your own mother in the face with that, are you?”
“If the theories are so ridiculously untrue, why are you so nervous around bug spray, Mom?”
“I just told you. I don’t want my obviously paranoid daughter spraying it on me.”
“It isn’t sprayed on the people, Mom. When those little lights fly out at us, we spray them, not the carriers.”
“How do I know you’re not going to get nervous around me, think I’m going to send those things out at you, make you fumble in your purse for the spray can, then spray those toxic chemicals in my eyes as a spastic reaction?”
“Because you’re my mom, and I love you!” Michelle sobbed.
“Am I your mom?” Siobhan asked with a sneer. “Or am I one of the ‘pod people’? What is Peter making you think about me?”
“I only plan on using it on other people,” Michelle said. “I’ll tell you another reason I won’t use it on you.”
“Oh? And what’s that?” Her mom crossed her arms in front of her chest. “This should be interesting.”
“The aliens won’t come inside me or Peter. We’ve confronted the dots of light several times, and they never enter us or try to take control of us. They just hover in front of us, as if they’re studying us.”
Siobhan was calming down. “Why won’t they go inside you?”
“Peter and I believe they think we’re sympathetic to their ’cause’.”
“That’s right,” her mom said after a huge sigh, then uncrossed her arms and felt herself completely calm now. “We know you’re completely sympathetic, though you don’t know why, and it isn’t yet safe to tell you all the reasons for that sympathy.”
“Mom?” Michelle’s mouth and eyes were wide open.
“I just needed to be sure for myself that you weren’t going to do anything on me with that bug spray.” Siobhan spread her arms out to her sides, and dozens of tiny glowing balls flew out of her hands and hovered in front of Michelle. She froze in controlled fear; she was getting used to knowing she didn’t need to fear them. “That’s right, sweetie. They won’t hurt you.”
“But they will hurt other people. They hurt you. They killed Dad. I don’t want them to kill any more people.”
“They don’t actually kill people.”
“Oh, really? What would you call it?”
Anyone who rejects what we want to do dies of his or her rejecting of our plan. Those who die kill themselves, essentially, out of their own closed-mindedness.”
“That sounds like blaming the victim, Mom.”
“Those ‘victims’ are also victimizers, or at least potential victimizers.”
“That sounds like a rationalization. Are you saying that Dad was a victimizer?“
“Yes, I’m sorry to say. I was, too, helping him run that…propaganda-spouting company and ruling over Mississauga, making people think MedicinaTech was the only problem in the world, and distracting people from how we were all part of a much bigger problem, the immiseration of the global poor. Fortunately, when the extraterrestrials entered me, and I went through that painful ordeal, I was open-minded enough to accept the changes they want to make to the world; and so when I got better, I began making democratic changes to the governance of Mississauga and to the management of the newspaper, things your father would never have allowed.”
Something Peter’s parents would never have allowed, either, Michelle thought. “But…you let Dad die,” she sobbed.
“Yes, sweetie.” Siobhan let out a big sigh. “That was hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But there are greater, global needs, more urgent than just those of our family. The needs of poor, starving families we’ve never met.”
I can’t help thinking Mom’s been brainwashed, Michelle thought. Killing Dad didn’t seem so hard to her when she did it in the hospital. And this ‘save the world’ stuff could be a trick, something they’re trying to get Peter and me to go along with while the aliens plan to do something far more evil.
Standing outside their house and looking through the large living room window at them, a man in his thirties was clutching his pistol, debating in his mind whether or not to pull it out of its holster. I can’t get a clear shot at Siobhan with her daughter standing in the way, he thought. I guess I’ll try tomorrow. I wouldn’t want her daughter to see her mother shot, anyway. It would be too upsetting for her.