“This is getting to be too much!” Peter said to Michelle the following day as both of them flipped through the channels on the TV in her living room. “Every politician and public figure we see on the news making statements on current affairs has that ‘pod people’ Bolshivarian face.”
“They really have taken over, globally,” Michelle said. “The heads of every city-state we’ve seen–London, Paris, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Riyadh, Ottawa, San Francisco,…”
“You name the city-state, the politicians and CEOs representing them all have that mindless grin, that far-away look in their eyes,” he said. “This is really getting scary!”
“I’m amazed we were able to pacify that neighbour of yours yesterday,” she said. “We barely escaped Toronto without being spotted as non-carriers. And there’s no way we’re risking going back. And again, I have to ask: why’d you have to kill Valerie? We could have run outside without you using your switchblade on her. I’m also amazed they don’t have Bolshivarian cops tracking us. I guess they’re more interested in turning us into carriers than arresting us for murder, they’re more upset about the loss of their own than of human life, and they know we’ll spray them if they try to apprehend us. Instead, they’ll be more cunning about catching us.”
“Again, I’m sorry about stabbing her. I acted rashly. We’re all going a little crazy here. But as you said, at least we got out of there without being chased. I guess our acting skills have improved. But we can’t stay holed up in your house forever. Is anybody out there still normal?”
“I got that message from Wendy Callaghan, which was just like Valerie’s. She claims she isn’t a carrier, and that she’s all tense and afraid of being absorbed by the Bolshivarians. She said she’d like to come here, all the way from Los Angeles, because life there is so hopelessly taken over, she wants to get as far away from the Bolshivarian carriers there as she can. Do you think we should meet her, or will it be too risky?”
“Everything we do every day is a risk now,” he said. “But I’m desperate for us to find someone else who’s normal. If she is, it will be well worth the risk. The more normal people we can find, the happier I’ll be. I’m going crazy.”
Three days later, Peter and Michelle were in the hallway of a hotel in Toronto, approaching the room Wendy was staying in. They were wearing baseball caps and sunglasses.
“She must be even more paranoid than we are to prefer a small hotel room to accommodations in your house,” Peter said.
“Yeah,” Michelle said. “For all she knows, we could be carriers, and she’ll have her can of bug spray ready for us.”
“As we have ready for her, in case she’s been made a carrier since our last communication with her. So we’ll have to guard our feelings and only let our real selves out bit by bit.”
“She’ll probably be doing the same thing.” Michelle rang the doorbell to Wendy’s room. “Have your dumb smile ready.” They took off their hats and sunglasses.
Wendy opened the door.
She was grinning from ear to ear.
Peter and Michelle mirrored her grin back, hoping she was putting on as much of an act as they were.
“Come on in,” she said, stepping aside for them. “It’s good to see you both again.”
Peter and Michelle entered.
“What a small room,” she said as she and Peter approached Wendy’s bed. “In my home, I could have offered you a much bigger one, and for free.” She and Peter sat on the bed.
“Oh, that’s OK,” Wendy said, sitting on a chair across from the bed. “I don’t want to impose on you.”
“Oh, it’s no imposition at all,” Michelle said.
“Really, I’m fine here,” Wendy said.
“Well, as you wish,” Michelle said.
There followed a few seconds of uncomfortable silence.
“So,” Peter said, allowing his grin to relax a little. “You said in your message, Wendy, that you were really scared of…all the changes going on around us.”
“Yes,” she said, still fully grinning. “But everything’s OK now.”
“So…we can all relax, then?” Michelle asked, also letting go of her grin ever so slightly.
“Of course,” she said, all of her teeth still showing. “I’m relaxed now.”
“Good,” Peter said slowly, relaxing his grin some more.
There were a few more uncomfortable seconds of silence.
Has she been assimilated, Peter and Michelle wondered, or is she just so paranoid that she can’t let go of the act?
“So, what are your plans?” Michelle asked.
“Oh, I’m just doing what I can to help us all heal the Earth,” she said with that ever-present grin.
“Yes, it’s wonderful, all the progress that has been made,” Michelle said, her cheeks getting sore from all that grinning.
“Yes,” Wendy nodded in agreement. “Bolshivarian influence has stopped the wars, cleaned the pollution away, housed and fed the poor. It’s terrific.”
Peter ventured to lessen his grin a little more. “Is there anything you wish could be done…a little differently?”
“Oh, only that it could all be finished quicker,” Wendy said. “But things are being done fast enough, I guess.”
“And then the Bolshivarians can leave, and we can enjoy our new, healed Earth, right?” Peter asked.
“I suppose,” ever-grinning Wendy said. “Or they can stay with us, if they wish.”
“W-why would they need to stay, if all their work here is done?” he asked.
“Oh, if humans are let go, they might return to their destructive ways,” teeth-baring Wendy said. “And then our efforts will have been all for nothing.”
To Peter and Michelle, her choice of words (“humans,” “they,” “our” referring to the Bolshivarians) seemed to indicate she wasn’t acting.
Still, they didn’t dare take out their bug spray cans unless they saw the dots of light come out from her.
Hence, another moment of uncomfortable silence.
“Oh, Peter, I just remembered,” Michelle said. “There’s something I have to do at the Mississauga Exposé. Damn, I forgot all about it, and it has to be done today. Sorry, Wendy, we have to go now. This is so abrupt.”
“Oh, that’s OK,” she said, always grinning. She got up.
Do I detect a tinge of relief in her eyes? Michelle wondered. Or is that wishful thinking on my part, that she isn’t a carrier, and is acting, as we are?
“Yeah, we’d better go,” Peter said, getting up with Michelle. “Sorry to cut this off so quickly.”
“It was good seeing you again, Wendy,” Michelle said, hugging her and regretting the hug as soon as they touched. She felt Wendy’s heart beating as fast as her own. Wendy was also trembling as much as she was.
No lights came out, though, to their relief.
The women let go, and Peter and Michelle went back to the door. “Bye,” they said to Wendy as they went out into the hall.
“Bye,” Wendy said, keeping her grin on her face until the door closed.