In Michelle’s home that night, she and Peter sat on the side of her parents’ bed. He had his arm around her. Her face flooded with tears, she barely moved, except for a self-soothing, slow and gentle rocking back and forth.
Her eyes would sometimes drift over to the photos on the dresser and bedside table. Photos of her mom and dad at various ages, sometimes with Michelle as a little girl, as a teen, or when she’d graduated from university, this last one with Peter, too, these were all bittersweet memories now.
He looked at the photos, too, having seen her look at them. “Sometimes I go into my parents’ room,” he said. “I’ll stare at their photos and remember when they were alive, thinking about the minority of my memories with them that were good. Then I’ll feel guilty for not thinking of the good memories as a majority.”
Michelle remained silent.
“Michelle! Peter!” a man’s voice shouted from the first floor. “Come down here! You’ll wanna see what’s on the TV now!”
Peter got up, but Michelle was practically frozen sitting on the bed. “Michelle?” he said.
She still wouldn’t say or do anything.
“Well, I wanna know what your late mom’s two bodyguards are watching on TV,” he said, bending down by her. “They may have failed to save her, but they’re here to protect us from any attempt on our lives by anyone who thinks, however mistakenly, that the alien dots of light are inside our bodies. The way you are now, though, I don’t want you left all alone; so you’re coming with me.”
He gently slid his right arm under her legs, put his left arm on her back, and picked her up. He carried her out of her parents’ bedroom, down the stairs, and into the living room. The two security men were watching the new US president making a speech.
“I knew it,” one of the men said. “There’s going to be a war.”
“I want to apologize to you, the American people, and to the world, for not being honest with you about what’s been happening until now,” President Price said at her desk in the Oval Office, looking directly into the camera in a way that reminded Peter of old video from 2003 of Bush looking into the camera and justifying the Iraq invasion. “We didn’t want to cause a worldwide panic; we needed time to plan our response to the alien attack while debates about ‘conspiracy theories’ of aliens softened the shock for all of you. Such planning necessitated keeping our knowledge of the aliens classified information.”
“Oh, of course, Madame President,” Peter said as he laid still-unmoving Michelle in a chair. “You’ve had nothing but the noblest of intentions, haven’t you?” He sat on the floor by Michelle’s feet.
“But now, of course, we can no longer conceal the truth from you,” Price went on. “I assure you, though, our plans are thoroughly worked out, fortunately in time when all of this was so suddenly revealed.”
“Oh, how fortunate,” Peter said with a sneer.
“Please, Peter,” one of the men said. “We need to pay attention to every detail, to know how to respond ourselves.”
“Sorry,” Peter said.
“All those formerly diagnosed with what was called ‘The Splits’ were and are actually people possessed of those aliens…the surviving carriers, that is. I know it will be hard to hear this, especially for those of you who have family and friends who are carriers, but these people are thoroughly compromised. They may still look human, they may sound like the same people you’ve always known and loved, but the alien in them has completely taken them over. The human soul in them was gone long ago, in spite of how well they may imitate human speech and behaviour. This is hard to hear, but you must steel yourselves to hear this and understand. These carriers are not human.”
“You bitch,” Peter hissed at the TV.
“This is an enemy that hides,” the president went on. “It hides in plain sight, in human form. It can imitate human thought, but it has no real human thoughts. Each and every carrier who is possessed of the aliens is completely given over to their agenda. All that the carriers do is in service of the aliens, not in the service of humanity.”
“Oh, and you serve humanity, Madame President?” Peter said with another sneer.
“Please, Peter,” one of the security men said.
“When the carriers, those in high-ranking government/business positions, claim they are making democratic changes to society, improving the lives of ordinary, working-class people, whatever you do, don’t believe them!” Price warned. “All that talk is just a front, a con game to trick you into thinking they are our friends.”
“Right,” Peter said. “Your hegemony is so much better for us all, isn’t it Madame Pres–“
“Peter, we must hear her!” the other bodyguard said.
“Why?” Peter asked, with a sneer now for him. “Is what she’s saying true? Is it all a con game?”
The bodyguard frowned at him and gave no answer.
“I know that it’s hard,” Price went on, “if one of the carriers happens to be your mother, your father, brother, sister, cousin, or a close friend. What you must try to understand is that that carrier, as soon as he or she became a carrier, was as of that time no longer your mother or–“
“Bullshit!” Michelle shouted, jumping up from her chair and startling the three young men, whose eyes darted away from the TV screen and back up at her. With new tears running down her cheeks, she bawled, “She never stopped being my mother, aliens or no aliens! She was my mother right up until she died, when your people murdered her!”
“Please, Michelle, calm down,” the first of the security men said. “We need to hear all of the president’s speech to know how best to react to their plans.”
Peter got up, put his arms around her, and held her as she sobbed on his shoulder. “They murdered her, Peter! They murdered her!”
“I know, sweetie, I know,” he said, rubbing one hand on her back and stroking her hair with the other. Well, at least she’s finally responsive, he thought.
“Behind the mass deception that they’re improving the lives of humanity is a plan for world domination,” the president continued.
The two security men chuckled at this assertion. Peter looked at them and hoped it was sincere.
“Everyone must be the same as the aliens,” Price said with a hint of sarcasm. “No one is allowed to be different, or think for themselves. Everyone must think the same thoughts, have the same opinions. If you don’t agree with the aliens’ plans, they’ll kill you, tear your body up in that horrible, violent way we all originally thought was a disease called ‘The Splits’.”
“Where did she get that idea?” the second bodyguard whispered.
“It’s a lie,” the first said. “Don’t believe her, Peter. Neither of you agreed with us at first, but we didn’t kill you. Remember that.”
“We have been studying, scrutinizing the carriers we’ve had to detain in order to learn as much about them as we can,” Price said. “Over the months, we’ve even experimented on them to extract whatever knowledge we could. We have learned that the aliens hate individuality, free thought, and ambition to rise high in a freely competitive environment. When the carriers talk to you about the ‘collective good,’ what they’re really talking about is mass conformity. I, as leader of the free world, can’t and won’t allow that to happen.”
“Free world,” Peter scoffed. “What free world?”
“One of the carriers we’d caught and detained, Lenny Van der Meer, escaped a month ago and is hiding, we believe, somewhere in Africa with other carriers,” Price said, with a photo of Van der Meer showing beside her. “Here we’ll show you a brief video of him so you can see the kind of ‘people’ these carriers are. I have to warn you, though, that it will be disturbing to watch.”
“The agitprop thickens,” Peter whispered.
The TV cut to a shaky video showing a dimly-lit room with Van der Meer, a blonde woman in a business suit crouched in a corner, and a few black men and women standing around her. She was in about her mid-thirties, shaking, and in tears.
“You work for the IMF, do you not?” Van der Meer asked her. “Your loans keep poor countries like this one we live in forever in debt, don’t they?”
“Look, if they can’t pay back their loans,” she said in a shaky, sobbing voice, “It’s out of my ha–“
Suddenly, the dots of light flew out of his hands and out of those of the other people in the room. The little lights went inside her body, and red cracks appeared all over her face and hands. She shook and screamed in pain for a few seconds before the video was cut off.
The TV showed President Price again.
“As you can see,” she said, “this is not the kind of man we should be sympathizing with.”
“I beg to differ,” Peter said. “I hate the IMF.”
“Remember that every carrier…every carrier in the whole world, has the exact same agenda as Lenny Van der Meer,” she continued. “Make no mistake. The carriers all think with the same mind. They’ll kill anyone who stands in the way of their alien masters. This is why we must stop them–for the very survival of the human race. So report all known carriers in your area to the local authorities. They’ll do the rest. As we learn more about the latest moves of the aliens and their once-human carriers, we’ll inform you of these latest developments. A full military confrontation is being planned, which will eliminate this menace while ensuring minimal human casualties. For security reasons, I cannot at the moment discuss any of the details of these plans, as it’s classified information.”
“Of course not,” Peter said. “War crimes are best kept as secret as possible.”
“So please have faith in the judgement of this government, as well as the governments of the world cooperating with us, to do the right thing,” she concluded. “God bless America, and God bless our Mother Earth.”
One of the bodyguards turned off the TV.
“So, what do we do now?” the other bodyguard asked.
“Go to Africa,” Michelle said in a monotone, almost trancelike voice. “Find this Lenny Van der Meer.”
“Sounds intriguing,” Peter said. “But how are we going to get there with all this global surveillance and security asking questions about our destination and the purpose of our travels?”
“We still have the private planes of our dead parents,” she said, still in a monotone voice, staring straight ahead in a trance.
“Yes, but people working for the global governments/corporations will still be getting in our way,” Peter said. “After all, they’ll know your mom was a carrier, and they’ll suspect we are carriers, too, as you two men definitely are.”
“Many of those people in the governments/corporations are secretly carriers,” the first bodyguard said. “The two of us can network things so that when you go through customs and checkpoints, you’ll encounter only our people.”
“Well, I guess that settles it,” Peter said with a smile.
“I guess it does,” she said, still looking straight ahead at nothing in particular.
Glowing dots of light floated out of the pores of the bodyguards and lit up the living room. Neither Peter nor Michelle even flinched.
A man in a suit, watching from outside and with a pistol hidden in a holster in his blazer, flinched, though.