A week later, Peter and Michelle made arrangements to meet with Sid, this time in her house.
“He’s on his way, right from his home in Brantford,” she said. “So, we’re gonna go through with this farce again?”
“Yes, crazy as it sounds,” he said.
“Crazy as it is,” she said. “At the worst, he’ll be a carrier who we’re risking turning us into one of them, or one of us will kill him and we’ll risk–this time, my neighbours finding out, since we’re meeting him here this time. At best, Sid will be the way Wendy was acting: he’ll be one of us, but too scared to show his real self.”
“Or he will let his real self show. As tense as this is going to be, we have to try. I’ll go crazy if I have to live knowing only you and I are normal.”
“And what if he’s one of them, and he makes one of us into a carrier? What if I lose you, Peter?”
“I could lose you to them, too, Michelle. And that terrifies me. But that’s why we’ve gotta try to find allies. What’s going on around the world is like the zombie apocalypse, only it’s the Bolshivarian apocalypse. The more of them there are out there, the more desperate we’ll be to find any of us, ’cause we can’t do this alone.”
She let out a big sigh. “OK, let’s do this.”
Five hours later, the doorbell rang.
They took a deep breath, clutched the bug spray hidden in their jacket pockets, and went to the door.
They opened it to see, predictably, a grinning Sid.
“Hi,” he said. “Long time, no see.”
“Yeah,” they grinned back, much better practiced now.
“Come on in,” Peter said.
They went into the living room and sat down.
“So, Sid,” Peter said through his bared teeth, “how are you coping with all of the changes going on?”
“Coping?” Sid said with a tinge of disbelief in his eyes. “What’s there to cope with? The improvements being made around the world are nothing short of miraculous. Schools and hospitals are being built all over Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Decent-quality housing is replacing all the slums, including those in Regent Park, as you both must know. The unemployed are being given work. The climate crisis is practically over. What’s there to complain about?”
“Oh, of course we know about all the improvements being made around the world,” Michelle said. “We’re more than happy about all that. It’s just…well…”
“Well, what?” Sid asked, his smile beginning to fade.
“We don’t…feel as free…as we used to,” Peter said.
“Don’t feel free?” Sid said. “What could be more liberating than the changes we’ve recently seen? No more war. No more poverty. No more wildfires, flooding, or pollution. The people want these changes. Don’t you?”
“Of course we do,” Michelle said.
“But at what cost?” Peter asked.
“What cost?” Sid asked. There was an uneasy pause. “Has your loyalty shifted?”
Peter and Michelle couldn’t answer.
“You in your nice palace of a home?” Sid added.
There was another uncomfortable pause.
Then the dots of light flew out of Sid’s fingers.
Peter and Michelle pulled out their bug spray, but they then heard some familiar voices in their minds.
Michelle? Siobhan’s voice called to her.
“Mom?” she said.
Peter, what are you doing? his mother’s voice said.
What George is doing is for the best, Peter could hear his father saying in his thoughts.
“You’re not real,” Peter said, aiming his little spray can right at the dots of light. “You’re a Bolshivarian hallucination.”
Sweetie, you don’t wanna spray me, do you? Siobhan’s voice almost sobbed in Michelle’s mind’s ear. If you do, I’ll die a second time, and I’ll never come back.
“Mama,” Michelle answered in a sobbing voice.
“The voices aren’t real, Michelle,” Peter said.
“Oh, yes they are,” Sid said.
“Mom?” she wept.
“Don’t listen, Michelle,” Peter said. “It’s a trick.”
“If you spray them, you’ll regret it, Peter,” Sid said.
We don’t want to take you by force, Don’s voice said to Michelle, but we will if we have to, honey.
“Daddy, you won’t hurt us, will you?” she sobbed.
“Of course they will,” Peter said. “They’re not our parents.”
“Shut up, Peter!” she bawled.
“Fine,” he said. “Speak, can, for me!” He sprayed at the lights.
Michelle! the voices of Siobhan and Don said, fading out into oblivion as the little dots lost their light and dropped on the carpet.
“Nooooooo!” Michelle screamed.
Peter grabbed her by the hand, sprayed Sid in the eyes, getting a grunt from him, and the two ran out of the house.
Peter and Michelle ran down the sidewalk, almost reaching a corner when he saw a few people farther off, with their backs to them. He stopped running and tried to calm down.
“Bastard!” she hissed, hitting him on the shoulder.
“Stop!” he whispered. “They’ll see us fighting.”
She wiped the tears off her cheeks, gave him a brief scowl, then calmed down and imitated his grin.
As they continued slowly walking down the street, she whispered, “The carriers are all around your home, Sid is controlling my home. We’re homeless now, you know.”
“Don’t remind me,” he said through his grin.