Michelle Buchanan was in her living room, watching the news on the TV while her mother, Siobhan, was in the kitchen peeling and slicing apples.
“Well, worldwide there have been no deaths from The Splits in almost six months,” a reporter said while interviewing Wayne Grey, head of MedicinaTech. “And there have been very few infections, all of which have been quickly dealt with, now that the protocol has been established for quarantining and vaccinating new cases. Have we finally flattened the curve? Is this pandemic finally over?”
“Pretty much, I’d say,” Grey said with a smile that some might have thought overconfident, but in which Michelle saw a possible lie. “Our vaccine, Merginin, which came out on the market about eight months ago, and which has been crucial in flattening the curve, has been sent to countries all over the world and eliminated the symptoms of millions of people. I’ve taken the shot myself, as many have who are unsure whether or not they’re carriers.”
“You have, have you, Wayne?” Michelle whispered as she watched the program with her head tilted to the side. Then she looked back, with a somewhat paranoid eye, to see what her mother was doing—still preparing the apples in the kitchen. She looked back at the TV.
“Why is the vaccine called ‘Merginin?” the reporter asked.
“Well, the disease is aptly called ‘The Splits,’ since it causes a splitting of the victim’s body and mind,” Wayne explained. “So the cure is a merging of the split body and mind…hence, ‘Merginin’.”
“A lot of people aren’t wearing those protective suits anymore,” the reporter said.
“As we aren’t!” Wayne said with a laugh, noting also the reporter’s not wearing of a protective suit. “No, I don’t think we need them anymore. And since all those earlier viruses, those coronaviruses, have pretty much disappeared off the face of the Earth over the past year, again, thanks to MedicinaTech’s latest vaccines—I don’t mean to brag—I think we can finally say we can all stop worrying about this plague of diseases we’ve been suffering over the past ten-to-eleven years.”
“Wait, wait, Mr. Grey,” the reporter interrupted. “You don’t want to upset your investors and stockholders now. You don’t want MedicinaTech to go out of business, do you?”
“Oh,” Wayne said with a chuckle. “I didn’t mean that we’ll never ever have diseases again. I just meant that we can all calm down about pandemics…for the time being, anyway.”
“What about maintaining MedicinaTech’s profits?” the reporter asked.
“With the creation and sale of Merginin, MedicinaTech has made such a mountain of profit that we can feel fiscally secure for a long time,” Wayne said. “In any case, I personally am not so worried about profits as I am about ensuring global health.”
“Why do I find that not so easy to believe?” Michelle said. “Sounds too good to be true.” Then she cupped her hand over her mouth at the sound of shuffling feet behind her. She didn’t like her mom to know too many of her private thoughts…and that went double for the little lights inside Siobhan.
Her mother came in the living room with a plate of sliced apples. She set it on the coffee table by Michelle.
“Here you are,” she said with a smile.
“Thanks, Mom,” Michelle said, looking up at that smile and scanning it for sincerity. “So, a week ago, you got a shot of that Merginin vaccine, eh?”
“Yes, I did,” Siobhan said. “I feel much better now, too. As you’ll recall, I felt a little nauseous for the first few days, a typical side effect many vaccinated people feel at first. But I’m all good now.”
Michelle looked deeply into her mother’s eyes. “I miss Dad,” she said.
“I do, too,” her mom said, seeming to be getting choked up about her husband’s death for the first time. “When he died, I had that…virus…inside me, clouding up the expression of my feelings. But now that I’ve been vaccinated, I’m feeling emotions more freely. Last night, in my bedroom, I looked at our picture together on our bedside table, the one taken during our honeymoon, and I lay in bed staring at him in the photo, weeping myself to sleep.” A tear ran down her cheek.
The feeling looks sincere, Michelle thought. I guess.
“As bad as it is that your father is gone, though,” Siobhan went on, “at least we have been able to make some democratic changes in our governance of Mississauga. Your father would never have allowed it, but more tax money is going into providing welfare and subsidized housing for the poor.”
“Peter says he’s seeing that happening in Regent Park, too,” Michelle said. “He can’t believe MedicinaTech is actually using some of its revenue for the homeless over there. Maybe Wayne Grey really doesn’t care all that much about maximizing profits.”
“In spite of the pain we’ve suffered, things overall are changing for the better, Michelle. Little by little, but things are getting better. Believe me.”
Michelle looked carefully at her mother’s face again. That smile she saw looked sincere…maybe…or was she just seeing what she wanted to see?
“Sometimes we have to look beyond the immediate needs of our individual families, and be more concerned about the greater good of the world, of all of humanity,” her mom said, still with that smile.
Michelle’s phone rang. “It’s Peter,” she said. She picked it up and ran out of the living room. “Hello,” she said as she went up the stairs to her bedroom.
“So, The Splits is over, eh?” Peter said.
“Apparently,” Michelle said as she entered her room.
“‘Apparently’ is the key word,” he said.
“The news does seem too good to be true,” she said.
“How’s your mom?”
“She seems OK.”
“‘Seems’ is another key word. Be careful. The aliens wouldn’t have given up the fight so easily.”
“Well, I’ve looked in my mom’s eyes carefully many times over the past week or so, and her feelings have looked–well, more genuine since she got the jab.”
“Maybe the aliens are becoming better actors.”
“OK, let’s be careful, but not outright paranoid.”
Peter sighed, then said, “Look, I understand how you’re feeling, Michelle. She’s your mother, and you love her. It’s only natural that you want to believe she’s back to normal. But you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment, either.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And ‘paranoid’ is just good thinking these days. I still don’t trust Grey. I’ll bet that ‘vaccine’ of his just hides the presence of the aliens inside the carriers.”
“OK…and how do you explain the fact that there haven’t been any more deaths in so long?”
“A media cover-up is the more than likely explanation. The journalists are probably all carriers by now. We’ll need to develop, like, a Voight-Kampf test to know who’s an Earthling and who’s an ET.”
“Maybe,” Michelle said, then walked out of her room, crept down the stairs, and looked at her mom serenely watching the TV, with that all-too-familiar smile on her face. My mom’s in there, somewhere, she thought. She must be in there.
A few days later, Peter sent Michelle an email with a video attachment. The email read:
Michelle, watch this video NOW, before it gets taken off the internet. Note that it’s dated 3:34 PM today, when I sent it. It confirms my suspicions that many, if not most, or all, of the people in the mainstream media, the WHO, and the CDC worldwide are secretly possessed by the aliens, and are lying that the “virus” is no more. I’ve seen a number of other videos like this one, but all the others were taken down within an hour or so of being published. Only this one remains, as of my typing this. Please watch it immediately.
In her bedroom at 3:38 PM, Michelle clicked PLAY on her smartphone.
[She saw the POV of the carrier of a smartphone set to camera. The image jiggled as it would when someone walks while getting video of something. Michelle could barely make out the edges of thumbs at the bottom centre of the rectangular frame of the video.
The carrier of the smartphone was walking with a man down a long, dark hallway to a door on the right side. The man, seen at the far right border of the smartphone, was wearing a protective suit.
“I’m telling you, Greg,” the voice of the smartphone carrier, a woman’s, said. “That suit won’t protect you. I’ve seen those little lights fly into a wearer of a suit, go right through the material as if it wasn’t even there, and tear the guy to pieces. Too bad I hadn’t filmed it then; of course, I was too scared to think of it at the time, but not now.”
“If the suits don’t work, Lisa, then why is it only now that they’re penetrating the material?” Greg could be heard to ask.
“I don’t know,” Lisa said as she pointed the smartphone camera at his hand to record him unlocking the door with a skeleton key and turning the doorknob. “Maybe at first they wanted to give us a false sense of confidence, and only now are they hitting us hard. All I know is that the guy who works here has those things inside him. I saw them fly out and kill someone in a protective suit covering him from head to toe. This time, I’m willing to risk my life to get video exposing him. All I can say is thanks for your help, and I hope they don’t get you.”
“With a little luck, only one of us will be attacked, while the other runs away with the video recording,” he whispered, just audibly enough for the smartphone audio to record him clearly, after they slowly and quietly entered the dark room, and she was heard to shut the door behind them. He flicked on a light switch just as the door was closed. “We should have brought more people to help.”
“There are no other people,” she whispered as they walked through the room, her smartphone getting a shot of the living room. “No one else believes me about the aliens.”
“Then we shouldn’t have talked about alie–” he began, just when the man she was looking for appeared, coming out of his kitchen and into the centre of the smartphone’s POV.
“What are you two doing here?” the man asked with a frown. “This is my home.”
“What are all of you doing here?” she was heard to ask in a challenging voice. “The Earth is our home.”
The man stepped towards the smartphone POV, as if to grab Lisa, but Greg’s arm appeared from the right; it grabbed the man’s arm to stop him. Little glowing white dots of light flew out of the hand of the grabbed arm and, sure enough, flew through the protective suit and into her friend’s body.
“Ungh!” Greg grunted in pain, let go of the arm, and fell to the floor.
“I’m sorry, Greg.” The video POV pointed down at her shaking friend. Red cracks appeared all over his face, his body then splitting into pieces and ripping large holes in the suit.
Get this out of me! he thought as he fidgeted in a panic on the floor. Get it out! “Aaaah!” he screamed, trying with his mind to will the dots of light to leave his body.
The smartphone was kept as still as possible in her hands, and she let out only little gasps, always keeping the smartphone POV on him. “I’m sorry,” she was heard to say again in sobs.
The chest part of the suit came right open, with his ribcage breaking open and ripping a huge hole in the suit, exposing the insides of his entire front torso. A gasp from Lisa was heard again, but the video POV stayed on the horrible sight. A long tear in his skin, all the way from the top to the bottom of his front torso, showed his inner organs: his lungs, his still-pumping heart, his stomach, and his intestines. Oddly, no blood sprayed anywhere.
“Why don’t you stop me?” her trembling voice was heard to ask the man possessed of the aliens. “Why don’t you send those things inside my body?”
“We don’t need to,” the carrier said. “Deep down, you sympathize with us. We can sense it, even if you don’t know that yet.”
“But I’m exposing you to the world. How can I be sympathizing with you?”
“Nobody in the media will show that video,” his voice was heard to say. “Go ahead and try. Within an hour of your sharing it on social media, we’ll take it down. We control all of the media, and the WHO, and the CDC. You won’t stop us. Our outreach has gone all over the world by now.”
Just then, her friend’s body exploded into pieces. The little dots of light flew out of the motionless pieces of what was left of his body. Only now did blood spray out everywhere, some drops of it splashing on her smartphone screen. A scream from her was heard.
The white dots all hovered in the air in front of her smartphone. The POV, with little spots of blood on it, showed no eyes, but the feeling was as if all those tiny glowing balls were eyes, staring at the viewer, getting ready for attack.
They began to fly towards the smartphone screen, then the video became unwatchable in its shakiness, for it was apparent that she’d run out of the room. The video stopped abruptly there.]
“Oh, my God!” Michelle said loudly enough to be heard in neighbouring rooms.
Her mother heard her. “Michelle?” she asked. “Everything OK in there?”
“Oh, uh, yeah, Mom,” she said in a shaky voice. “I gotta go out and see Peter.”
She rushed out of the house.
What if I see those things fly out of my mom one day? she wondered.
The next day, Peter sent another video to Michelle’s phone. He added this message:
Have you seen this on TV, Michelle? I suspect your mom would have made sure you didn’t, for obvious reasons. Otherwise, if you’d watched it and she caught you, it might have been dangerous. The guest on ‘Toronto This Morning’ is named Lisa, also the name of the woman who got that video I sent you yesterday. Judging by what she says in this video, I’m sure it’s the same woman. Watch it and tell me what you think. Love, Peter
Michelle clicked PLAY on the YouTube video, a recording from a local talk show that had been live earlier that day.
HOST: Welcome back to Toronto This Morning. Our next guest says there has been…get this…an alien invasion [sarcastic moaning among the others in the studio]. Remember those tiny white dots of light we used to see giving people The Splits? Well, now they are the aliens our guest wants to warn us about, apparently [tittering among the others]. Our guest says the little lights either kill us, or take control of us. Many of us, she says, are already secretly being controlled by them, mixing in with the public and influencing everything around us. [more sarcastic moaning] Who knows? Maybe I am one of them [more moaning]. [Pointing at the screen with widened eyes.] Maybe you are [laughing]. Anyway, to tell us herself, here’s our guest, Lisa Merrick.
[Everyone in the studio applauds as Lisa walks in and sits next to the host. The applause ends.]
HOST: Good morning, Lisa. Thanks for joining our show.
LISA: Thanks for having me, Mary.
MARY: So, it is your conviction that The Splits was never a virus, but was aliens infiltrating human bodies. Is that right?
MARY [smirking]: …and where do you think they came from?
LISA [with a furrowed brow]: Where do you think aliens usually come from?
MARY: In this case, Santa Mira, perhaps?
[laughter from the others]
LISA: Hannah Gould, widow of Derek Gould–the former CFO of MedicinaTech, who, you’ll recall was the first to die of The Splits–she became a carrier of the so-called virus. She told a few people, including a Doctor Phil Gordon, who treats patients in Regent Park, that she saw the white dots of light fly down to Earth from the night sky.
MARY: Yes, told a few people–a few conspiracy theorists…
LISA: Oh, yeah, never believe those wackos…
MARY: Some people claim she said that. Here’s video of her from a week ago.
[Cut to video of Hannah, who with a grin reminding Michelle of her mother’s, says, “Oh, nonsense. I never said anything about tiny white dots of light flying down from space. When they hit my husband, they flew out from the trees we were walking by in Queen’s Park. I don’t know where people get these stories from.”]
LISA: She’s one of them. Of course she’ll deny it.
MARY: Then why would she have told anybody before?
LISA: Sometimes they confess who they are to people they think will sympathize with their cause, but never to the general public.
MARY: And what ’cause’ is that? Global enslavement?
LISA: We don’t know, but if some of us, if any of us, sympathizes, I don’t think the agenda is enslavement.
MARY: If that’s not the agenda, then what is it?
LISA: I don’t know what their agenda is, if there even is an agenda, but I do know that there are some people they won’t attack and try to get to assimilate, and the only logical reason for that is that either they know we, those not attacked, sympathize with their secret plans, or they at least think we do. I don’t consider myself sympathetic, but whenever those little glowing things appear, they never enter my body, which is really easy for them to do. They’ll hover before me, like they’re studying me, but they don’t come inside me.
Michelle nodded in total agreement with her.
MARY [exasperated]: Look…do you have any proof of any of this?
LISA: I…used to. I posted a video, from my smartphone, of myself and a guy named Greg Ballantine sneaking into the apartment of a guy I know is a carrier of those aliens. When we confronted him, the things attacked and killed Greg, and this was the second time I’d seen them, and they didn’t enter me. [Weeping] Poor Greg. He left a widow and…two little kids.
[A shot of Mary looking at Lisa with no empathy or emotion. Just that all-too-familiar smile.]
Michelle’s eyebrows rose at the sight of Mary’s facial expression.
LISA [sobbing]: I feel responsible for his death. If I hadn’t made him come with me, he’d still be alive. He had big ambitions. He was going to start a business in smartphone apps, and–
MARY [shaking her head]: What happened to your proof?
LISA: I posted it on YouTube. It had about a thousand views before they took it down.
MARY [sneering]: And your original video? If you have your phone on you, we could show it here.
LISA [hesitating, with a look of embarrassment]: I…was going to show you the video here…but when I got in my car,…the white lights flew in and got at my phone.
MARY [chuckling]: They erased your video?
LISA: Y-yes. [She’s looking down at her shoes.]
MARY [gloating]: Well, you seem to have an excuse for having no proof for your fantasies–isn’t that convenient?
LISA [scowling]: Actually, it’s very inconvenient. I really wanted to show everyone the proof on live TV. Get the message out to millions of people, so by the time it got pulled off the air and deleted by YouTube, it would be too late for the aliens to keep their secret.
MARY: Oops! Tough luck. [laughing]
LISA: Tough luck for me, but very convenient for you, wouldn’t you say, Mary? [Looking deeply into Mary’s eyes, with suspicion in her own.]
MARY: Why are you looking at me like that, Ms. Merrick? Do you think I’m one of the pod people?
[Sarcastic moans from the people in the studio.]
MARY [looking at the others in the studio]: Seriously, I think she’s going to reach at me, tear off my human face and reveal my green reptilian form.
OFF-SCREEN MAN’S VOICE: V for Victory! [Loud laughter from all, except Lisa.]
LISA [glaring}: Seriously, if you were one of them, you’d never show it on TV.
MARY: You know, it’s funny. I heard just last week, from one of you conspiracy theorists, that there’s an easy way to kill the aliens. [Grinning facetiously] Just spray them with bug spray, and they all drop–
LISA: Yes! That’s right! [Jumps up from her chair.]
[An explosion of laughter from all around the studio. She tries to speak loud enough to drown out the laughing.]
LISA [very excited]: Spray any kind of insecticide on them, and the little balls of light lose their glow and fall on the floor like pebbles! That will kill them! Really, believe me! A maid working in the White House was spraying bugs when she saw them flying in a swarm into the Oval Office! I saw it in a video deleted by YouTube! She sprayed bug spray on them and, by sheer fluke, they all di–
The video cut off at that moment. Michelle could barely make out what Lisa said over the overwhelmingly loud laughter, but she got the gist of it.
A few minutes later, Peter called her.
“Hello?” she said.
“I assume by now you’ve finished watching the video,” he said. “What do you think?”
“I think I’d better get my hands on some Raid,” she said.
“I already have mine in hand,” he said. “Do you have any at home?”
“Yeah, of course. Two cans in the kitchen cupboard, below the sink.” Still holding her cellphone, she walked out of her bedroom and down the stairs in the direction of the kitchen.
“You might wanna hurry, Michelle. They may have been thrown out by you-know-who. Are they still there?”
“Good question.” Michelle raced into the kitchen. She swung the cupboard doors open.
“Fuck!” she shouted, slamming the doors shut.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Siobhan asked, entering the kitchen.
“N-nothing, Mom,” Michelle said, trying to hide the tension on her face with an uneasy smile.
Her mom smiled back, in her usual way.
“Michelle?” Peter said on her phone.
“Can’t talk now, Peter,” she whispered, her eyes still on Siobhan and making her fake smile seem as sincere as she could. “Bye.” She hung up.
The evening of the next day, both Michelle and her mom gasped as they heard the TV announcement that the American vice president made at a press conference. Her mother turned up the volume.
“Yes,” Vice President Mary Price said. “President Daniel Trenton, CEO of Amazon, suddenly collapsed from a heart attack late this afternoon, dying within minutes. Sudden cardiac death, the doctor said. He was 77, and had been having heart problems for years, so as shockingly sudden as this was at the time, it wasn’t all that surprising, when you think about it. I’ll be sworn in as your new president as soon as this press conference ends. I felt I needed to inform the American people, and the world, as soon as possible.”
As she continued speaking and taking reporters’ questions, Michelle’s cellphone rang. It was Peter again.
“Gotta talk to Peter, Mom,” she said, then ran out of the living room and up the stairs with her phone.
Her mother was so rapt watching the TV that she barely noticed Michelle leaving.
In her bedroom now, Michelle closed the door. “Hi, Peter. What’s up?”
“You know what’s up if you’ve been watching the news,” Peter said.
“Of course,” she said. “President Trenton died of a heart attack. The vice p–“
“Bullshit,” he said. “I just emailed you an audio recording of what really happened. Listen to it with earplugs, in case your ET mom is nearby.”
“Peter! Don’t call her that. She may be a carrier of those things, but she’s still my mother.”
“Michelle, I’m just reminding you not to let yourself be too attached to her. She hasn’t been the same since the aliens entered her body. You know that.”
“OK,” Michelle said with a sigh. “I’ll check out the recording now. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” he said. They hung up.
Peter, why do you have to be such an insensitive asshole sometimes? she wondered.
She found the recording in her email inbox, plugged in her earplugs, and hit PLAY.
At first, she heard only a sea of indistinct voices of men and women in a meeting. Then they quietened down, and a few voices stood out.
“OK,” a male voice said. “Everyone’s here? Good. Let’s begin.” It sounded like the distinctively gravelly voice of President Trenton.
“Now, Mr. President,” a female voice said. Michelle couldn’t tell if it was the vice president’s, or the secretary of state’s, for both women’s voices sounded almost identical to her. “Wait: everyone has a can of bug spray, right?”
Michelle raised her eyebrows at that question. She saw her own can of bug spray poking out of her purse, and she was glad her mom hadn’t found it…yet.
A mumbling of yeses was heard, then the clinking of metal, suggesting the sound of cans of bug spray tapping on tables after having been raised to reassure the female speaker.
“Good,” she continued. “As we all have been briefed, this is the stuff that will kill them, something we’ve learned thanks to the lucky discovery of Miss Arlington, our cleaning lady, whose salary just shot right up through the roof.”
Some chuckling was heard.
“That was quite a misstep on their part,” a male voice said (the secretary of defence?).
“Whose misstep?” another male voice asked.
“Didn’t you hear about that Toronto talk show, the other day, the host–presumably one of…them–revealing what will kill them, and thinking by laughing it off, that the world would dismiss it?”
“Oh,” a number of voices could be heard to say.
“Still,” another voice said, presumably Trenton’s, “we don’t want this whole thing to spiral into a global panic. It was bad enough putting up with that ‘Splits’ epidemic last year, and I’m sure glad that scare is over–“
“Sir,” a male voice said, “this is the same problem as–“
“I know that!” the president snapped. “I’m not that senile, for Chrissakes! I mean that I’m glad the scare is over, and I don’t want the scare returning until we know how to handle those al–oops!…gotta watch my words here–voices carry. You know, those things.”
“Of course, we have no way of knowing who among us has been compromised by ‘those things’,” a female voice said. “We all have cans of bug spray, but do all of us here need them?”
“That’s a good question,” another female voice said. “Many of us have good reason to suspect that the staff of both the WHO and CDC are headed by people who are possessed by those things, if not the entire staff, without exception, of both. I’ll bet the ‘vaccine’ they created just helps to hide them, so our testing can’t detect their presence in their carriers’ bodies.”
“Clever little glowing bastards,” a man (Trenton?) said.
“Clever, but not all that clever,” another man said. “Remember the host of that Toronto talk show, the one who blabbed about the bug spray, hoping to make people disbelieve it kills those things, but probably making many people believe it, instead. The host could be one of the carriers.”
“Or she could just be one of us, one who disbelieves the conspiracy theorists,” a woman said. “I watched a replay of that show on YouTube, and she looked OK to me.”
“I don’t think she was one of us,” the (presumably same) man said. “I watched the program when it was live. The scorn and disbelief of the host and those in the TV studio, in their response to what the conspiracy theorist guest was saying, seemed overdone, almost forced. I’ll bet they had those little things in their bodies. They abruptly cut to a commercial when the guest was raving about the bug spray. I think they realized they’d made a mistake, panicked, then pulled the plug on the show.”
“So, what’s your point?” a woman asked.
“Those things make mistakes, just like we do,” he said. “They aren’t omniscient or omnipotent. We can defeat them. We shouldn’t lose hope.”
“OK, so what do you think we should do, Mr. President?” a woman asked.
“Guard your bug spray with your life,” Trenton said. “Trust nobody else with it. Sleep with it under your pillow. And if those things fly out at you, and you succeed at spraying them all and killing them, arrest the carrier and take him or her to one of our labs, where the carrier can be experimented on, tortured if necessary, to get information.”
“Remember that you don’t have to spray every single one of those things,” a woman said. “Spray a cluster of them, and the neighbouring ones will all fall and die with the sprayed ones. They seem to have a symbiotic, mutual dependency on each other to survive.”
“Does anyone have any questions?” another woman asked.
A moment of silence.
“Good,” said the president. “One more thing I want to say…where’s my head? I almost forgot, and it’s one of the most important things I wanted to say at this meeting. Recall I said I don’t want what we know about the ali–uh, those things!…to be leaked to the general public. I don’t want to stir up a global panic–“
“You already mentioned that, sir,” a man said (the same corrector as before?).
“I know that, Goddammit!” Trenton snapped. “Don’t interrupt me. I was just repeating that. I meant to add that…because The Splits epidemic at least was useful as a distraction from all the stuff the dumb masses are always complaining about–you know, the usual shit: poverty, homelessness, the wars, global warming, the forest fires, yada, yada, yada–this controversy, the conspiracy theorists vs. common sense that there’s no aliens, will be a good media distraction that should buy us time ’til we’re ready to do battle against those things. Tell our media people to frame the narrative around the controversy, always making fun of the conspiracists, of course.”
“Yes, sir,” a man said. “Our people are already on it.” The sound of shuffling feet suggested people walking out of the room.
“Good,” said the president. “We’re running out of distractions to preoccupy the millions of dummies out there. Me and my donors–to say nothing of the Amazon government here in DC–are getting really worried about the rioters here, there, and everywhere. Many cities are poised to have general strikes, as you all know. The tension out there can be cut with a knife. Not even the vaccines are calming them down or making them docile. It’s like they’re wearing off or something; I sometimes wonder if the al—uh, those things are making the vaccines no longer effective in controlling the people. I don’t know how much longer we can hold off those poor dummies, and now with the menace these ali–“
“Sir, look out!” a man shouted.
Michelle heard a hoarse, gravelly scream–it had to be the president’s. A muddle of shouts, screams, shuffling of feet, and bumping into furniture and walls came next. Spraying sounds dominated the audio after that, with the sound of what had to be the little balls of light hitting and bouncing on the hard (wooden?) floor like marbles, but it was too late.
Michelle gasped when she started hearing those all too familiar sounds: the tearing of clothes and flesh, the president’s screams of pain, and, worst of all, the cracking sound of broken bones, all of which took her back to that day in the hospital room where her mother, carrier of ‘The Splits,’ had sent the alien dots of light into her father’s body.
Michelle was so distraught with what she heard that she forgot about her mother. Michelle was weeping and screaming; she was reliving her father’s death in her mind.
She heard a quick series of loud knocks on her bedroom door.
The audio ended abruptly, and she pulled her earplugs out. “Yes, Mom?” Michelle was still shaking.
Her mother opened the door. She saw tears in her daughter’s eyes. “What’s wrong, honey?”
A nervous jolt of terror shot through Michelle’s body as her mother walked in the room. “N-nothing, Mom.”
“You’re crying and upset about nothing?” Siobhan asked with a sneer. “C’mon, honey. What is it? Did Peter say something to hurt you?”
“No, uh…,” she said as she, still shaking, wiped tears off her cheeks. “It’s just…something reminded me of Dad’s death.”
“What reminded you?”
“Oh, it just popped into my head again,” Michelle sobbed. “Thinking about the sudden death of the president reminded me of Daddy.”
“Oh, sweetie,” her mom said while taking her in her arms. “He’s gone and he isn’t coming back. We must move on.”
And you killed him, Mom, Michelle thought as she put her arms around Siobhan. The aliens made you do it, I know, but you did it. They have total control over you, don’t they? I wonder if they can read my thoughts. And is my mom really still in there? She must be! I want her to be…I need her to be!
Siobhan, seeming to be able, indeed, to read Michelle’s thoughts, stroked her hair and looked at her face. “What a beautiful young lady you are.”
“That’s ‘cause I have a beautiful mom.”
“Thank you, sweetie. Your hair looks good like that. You should try a darker, purple eye shadow. It would bring out your eyes much better.”
This comment struck home with Michelle. It reminded her of her teen years, when her mother really started to give her beauty tips, what clothes would look best on her, how to do her hair, what makeup to wear, all of it boosting her self-confidence. Hearing it now was especially touching for her, though. She’s in there, Michelle thought. Deep down, under the alien fake grins, my mom is still in there. Thank God! A tear ran down her cheek.
They hugged each other tighter. Siobhan kissed Michelle on the back of her head, right behind her right ear. There was a good, loving energy between them, for the first time in a long while.
Every time she hugs and kisses me, Michelle thought, she never sends out the aliens. She doesn’t want to scare me with them. She really is in there still.
But then, Siobhan looked over her daughter’s shoulder and saw something that made her shudder.
“I love you, Mom,” Michelle told her, then looked up into her eyes, where she saw some disquieting doubt that broke off the loving energy they’d just shared. “Really, I do. I care about you.” Her fear made her words no less sincere; the fear wasn’t just for herself, but for her mom, too.
Siobhan looked down at her and gave her another one of those questionable grins. “I love you, too, sweetie.” Questionable, but also questioning.
“You’d never wanna hurt me, would you, Mom?”
There were an uncomfortable four seconds of silence.
“Of course not. Why’d you think I would?”
“I don’t know. I’m just scared. It’s hard to think straight sometimes.”
“Michelle, your father died of The Splits, which I deeply regret having given him. I never meant to hurt him. You know that.” With raised eyebrows, she looked over her daughter’s shoulder again. “You wouldn’t want to hurt me, would you?”
Shaking even more, Michelle said. “Of course not. Why would I?”
Then she remembered, with an even greater shudder, that can of bug spray visibly sticking out of her purse behind her.
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 (Like you won’t let me get a word in edgewise, he thought.), 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 cause of death.”
“Her fake cause of death? How did she die, and what are they going to say she died of?”
“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 medical 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 to her 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?”
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 from MedicinaTech, your boyfriend’s parents’ company, 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…to varying extents, but still to at least some extent. 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 and selfishness.”
“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; the sedative the paramedics gave me probably also helped, making me calm down and just accept the aliens’ entry into my body. 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. She looked off to the side with a sad face. “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 on the other side of the world, people we’ve never met. Just because they all aren’t our flesh and blood doesn’t mean that they don’t matter…and for far too long, they haven’t mattered.”
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.
The morning of the next day, right after Michelle left the house to get together with Peter, Siobhan was sitting on her bed with her eyes closed in a meditative state. The little dots of white light were hovering all around her as she sat there, psychically linking with her surroundings.
Somebody was outside last night, watching us, she thought. Someone unfriendly. The vibes of all the carriers I’m communing with are telling me that they have had the same experiences. Michelle was right. The government is sending people out to kill us carriers. I’ll have to be careful. I’ll arrange to have bodyguards monitoring every inch of the newspaper, and I’ll hire two to escort me everywhere.
She noticed how the divide between her and the tiny alien residents in her body wasn’t so clear anymore. It was less than even a blur. Some of this fusion was due, no doubt, to Wayne Grey’s Merginin vaccine, but most of it was simply her full psychological reconciliation with her little alien inhabitants. She felt at one with them, from head to toe.
And she was fine with that.
It was a relief to her that Michelle had accepted the alien presence in her body, and that she felt no hostility to them that would cause her to reject them, tearing her body to pieces. Siobhan didn’t have to do that awkward acting job of being her former self. There was no going back to that now.
The alien presence in her was so soothing, so peaceful, that she couldn’t apprehend how anyone would want to reject it, especially to the point of having one’s body torn to pieces, just to eject something mistakenly believed to be evil. Her body vibrated calm; it was like having a calm sea for a body connected with the whole, oceanic universe, with gentle winds causing slight, slow-moving waves all through one’s body.
This is how it felt to be half-human, half-alien.
Not only did she feel calm and sedate, a calmness that inspired nothing but blissful grinning, but she also felt a connection with everyone and everything around her, a oneness of consciousness that inspired love, empathy, and kindness to all. Hence, her wish to help heal the world.
It made her feel like a Buddha or something.
That connectedness felt like a transcendence of the limitations of her human body, a fusion of her own energy with that of her entire environment. Sometimes her connectedness with everything…and everyone…around her caused her to feel the consciousness of others, including people understood to be dead. She occasionally felt Don’s ghostlike presence, and even the psychic presence of Ray and Donna, Peter’s dead parents, with whom she now felt reconciled. Indeed, it seemed that, through this shared, common consciousness, the aliens had given her, Don, and Peter’s parents the possibility…the potentiality…of immortality.
Not an immortality in her body—that, for sure, would die one day; but the connection with the aliens, provided they weren’t ever killed, would make possible that her consciousness would never die, as long as it was connected to them. Indeed, she didn’t fear a bullet being put in her heart. She feared bug spray killing all those glowing lights within her.
And so, a good thing about that connectedness was that it also sometimes gave off psychic warnings of danger…sometimes, not always—it depended on how attentive one was at any given time. Last night, she had that attentiveness, and now she would contact her network of other alien carriers and get some security walking about and monitoring The Mississauga Exposé.
In her meditation, she sent out some vibrations to let other carriers know she needed protection. It was wonderfully convenient to be able to communicate with people far away without needing a smartphone or computer. Within a few hours, it would all be arranged.
She opened her eyes, got off the bed, and put on an outfit to go to the newspaper in full confidence that her carrier comrades would provide protection.
She just needed to go out to her car without that man outside waiting to get her…with a can of bug spray.
Early that afternoon, Peter and Michelle were walking in a Toronto shopping mall.
“I can’t believe those things in your mom went ahead and revealed themselves to you like that,” he said.
“Her identity has been fused with that of the…aliens,…it seems,” Michelle said, whispering aliens. “She trusts me as her daughter, but they needed to gain my trust.”
“OK, but she’s aware…and they are aware…of the danger of these government assassins, right?” he asked.
“If there even are government assassins. But yeah, she just texted me that she has armed security patrolling the newspaper, just in case you’re right. I’ll see them there, she assures me. I’m sure glad she isn’t using those horrible armed robot-dogs; it’s a sure sign she’s trying to make things better in Mississauga, getting rid of those evil four-legged things. In any case, she should be OK, for now, at least. I’ll wanna be with her when she goes home tonight, though.”
“And what if an assassin tries to shoot her, but you get caught in the crossfire and he hits you instead? I don’t wanna lose you any more than you want to lose her.”
“If she gets shot, I don’t wanna learn about it on the news. I wanna be there with her.” Michelle began to sob.
“Hey, c’mon. Don’t start crying.” Peter put his arm around her. “Look, I know it isn’t easy talking about this, but…how much of her do you think is her, and how much do you think is…alien?” He whispered the last word.
“All of her is my mom!” Michelle shouted, then covered her mouth in embarrassment at all the faces in the mall looking at her. “The…alien part” [whispered] “…is so fully spread around in her, she says, that there’s no distinguishing the one from the other. It’s like…syrup on pancakes, you know? You can’t separate them once the one is poured on the other. What’s more to the point, though, is that, maybe, just maybe, I really am beginning to sympathize with…those things, despite what they did to my dad.”
“That’s your attachment to your mom speaking, I’m afraid.”
“It’s more than that!” Again, Michelle caught herself after shouting. “She’s made genuine changes to the paper, and to the governance of Mississauga District, changes she’d never have made before those things got inside her. Pay raises to all her employees, new health benefits for them, cleaning up the air, new regulations about garbage disposal that won’t hurt the environment, more aid given to the firefighters fighting the forest fires, better welfare, lots of things like that, obviously the influence of the…aliens.” That last word was whispered again.
“Wayne Grey’s been doing all that in MedicinaTech, too,” Peter said. “When he talks about not caring about profits, he seems to mean it, as do all those on the Board of Directors, who by now have surely all been compromised by the…aliens.” [whispered] “…Since they won’t come inside me, I can go back there and talk with the staff in all civility. The things fly out of everyone, but they don’t enter me. They just hover in front of me, you know, the way they always do to us. But I’ll bet there’s another reason these people with those things in them are being assassinated: the capitalist governments of the world want to stop these good reforms. I really think those things only kill the bad guys…”
Michelle scowled at him for that last remark, remembering her dad.
“…O-or change the bad into the good, as they did your mom,” Peter said in an awkward attempt at self-correction. “Hey, I include my own mom and dad among the bad guys.”
Michelle continued scowling at him. “My mom may have been misguided in her running of the newspaper and the city, as were your late parents in MedicinaTech, but my mom was never a bad person, Peter. And you shouldn’t talk that way about your parents, as flawed as they were.”
“OK, bad choice of words. I’m sorry, but you know what I was trying to say.”
“Yeah, but still, I’m not so sure if these changes for the good really are well-intentioned,” Michelle said. “I mean, what if those things are really just trying to win our sympathy and support, to gain our help, then when they’ve totally taken over, they start to do really evil things, and it’s too late for us to stop them?”
“I’ve thought of that, too,” Peter said. “Believe me.”
They were approaching a public washroom. “Wait a sec,” she said. “I gotta pee.”
“So do I,” he said.
She went in the ladies’ room followed by three other women. She and one of them immediately went into stalls while the other two were checking themselves in the mirror.
A few seconds after the first tinkling of piss could be heard, the woman at the mirror to the left released the dots of light from her right hand. As soon as the lights entered the woman to the right, she dropped her tube of lipstick and fell to the floor.
Michelle and the woman in the other stall could hear grunts of pain over the sound of their pissing, but felt powerless to help until emptying their bladders, so full were they. They pressed and tried to go as fast as they could to be ready to help, but by the time Michelle had pulled her pants up and opened her stall door, the grunting woman was up on her feet again and grinning one of those creepy grins at the carrier woman, then at Michelle.
“Are you OK?” Michelle asked her. “I heard grunts of pain.”
“Oh, I’m fine,” the still-smiling woman said, then gave a fake-sounding laugh. “I just had a sudden pang of pain in my stomach. It happens to me once in a while. I took a pill, and it kicked in immediately.”
Michelle stared in her eyes for a few seconds. “Really?”
“Oh, yes,” the woman said with another fake laugh and that grin never leaving her face. “Don’t worry, I’m OK.” Her grin wavered a bit as she saw that Michelle clearly wasn’t buying her story.
“Really, Miss,” the first carrier said, also with a fake smile. “It happened just as she said it did.”
“I don’t believe either of you,” Michelle said, now looking at the first carrier hard in the eyes. “I know what really happened, and I know what you are. And you know exactly what I mean by that.”
The woman in the other stall stayed quiet, but was watching everything through the crack in the door.
“Really?” the old and new carriers said together, then released the lights on Michelle. They, of course, just hovered in front of her as usual. “Oh, you’re an ally,” the carriers also said together, speaking in such unison and synchronization as to seem to possess only one mind between them.
“An ally?” Michelle said with a sneer. “I don’t see myself as an ally of yours. Believe me.”
“You will one day,” the first carrier said. “So will your boyfriend, when all is revealed. But not now. You still aren’t ready to understand what has to be done.”
“Ready?” Michelle asked. “And how do you know about my boyfriend? What do you want from us?” She came out of her stall. The dots of light retreated, returned to, and reentered their carriers.
“You’re not ready to be told everything,” the new carrier said. “Nor is your boyfriend ready for the burden.”
“You’ll know soon enough, though,” the first carrier said.
“How do you know about my boyfriend?” Michelle asked. “Did you see us together out there?”
“We didn’t need to see you together,” the first carrier said. “We know a lot of things you don’t need eyes, ears, or the sense of touch to learn of. But you will like what we will–“
Suddenly, a gun with a silencer went off, the bullets hitting both carriers in the heart and killing them. Michelle screamed and jumped, then looked back.
“They needed their eyes and ears to know I was coming,” the woman in the stall said. She came out with the pistol in her right hand and a small can of bug spray in her left. “They’re nowhere near omniscient.”
The lights flew out of the dead women’s bodies and at their assassin.
Michelle, a voice in her head said, sounding exactly like her father’s, run. Get out of here. Fast!
“Dad?” she whispered, trembling. The stress is making me hear things again.
Michelle, go! the voice said again.
The assassin sprayed the first half-dozen or so of the sparkling lights. They all lost their glow, then fell to the floor, hitting it with a sound like dropped pebbles.
“And now, it’s your turn…,” she said, but Michelle had already run out of the washroom. “Oh, shit. Can’t go after her. Gotta dispose of these two.” She walked over to the bodies.
As soon as Michelle had thrown open the washroom door, she saw Peter walking past it. She grabbed his hand and pulled him along.
“Hey, Michelle!” he said. “What is it? Where are we going?”
“To Mississauga!” she said, still with her hand tightly holding his and making him run with her.
“Yes,” she said as they were approaching an exit. “To the newspaper. Those assassins you were telling me about are real!”
About thirty minutes later, Peter and Michelle were pushing open the front doors of the Mississauga Exposé building. The first floor lobby area was a huge space, with a sea of employees walking here and there.
Peter remembered how, just a year ago, his visits of the place always showed him a virtually empty lobby, due to the former lockdowns. The few people there then all had masks on, and he could almost see through the masks to sense their scowling at him for not wearing one. At least he didn’t have to put up with any of that now; still, the current alien presence and assassin danger made the lockdown and mask issue a triviality.
Masks and lockdowns were the last thing on Michelle’s mind, of course. Her agitated eyes were darting around, spotting all the female heads and hoping to find her mother’s among them. She noticed some of the newly-hired security men in their distinctive black suits walking about, too, but they gave her little reassurance of Siobhan’s safety.
“Oh, where is she?” Michelle asked in a shaky, breathy voice.
“Chances are…she’s upstairs…in her office,” Peter said in pants.
“Yeah, but sometimes…Mom comes down here…to chat…with her employees…about something,” Michelle panted, her head always shifting from left to right and back again, tirelessly trying to find Siobhan. “And sometimes…she leaves the building…on an errand. If she’s about to do that, I don’t want…to miss her…as she walks out the door.”
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “You keep looking…among these people, if that’s what you want to do; I’ll go ask…the receptionist…if she knows where your mom is.”
“OK, thanks, Peter.” He left Michelle as she looked around, especially by the front doors. “Where are you, Mom?”
Peter reached the receptionist after fighting his way through the crowd; her desk was way off at the back of the lobby. You’d think her desk would be closer to the front doors, he thought.
“Hello,” she said. “How can I help you?”
“Yes,” he said. “I need to talk to…Siobhan Buchanan.”
“Do you have an appointment?” the receptionist asked.
“N-no, but this is urgent,” he said. “Her daughter, Michelle, needs to talk to her. I’m Michelle’s boyfriend.”
“Where’s Michelle? She’s free to see her mom whenever she wants, but unless I see her confirming you’re with her, I can’t let you see Siobhan. There are fears of security breaches. This may surprise you, but there are actually possible death threats against her.”
“Oh, I know all about that,” he said, finally catching his breath. “That’s why we want to talk to her.”
“And that’s why we have to be careful with anyone who can’t be vouched for,” the receptionist said. “Sorry.”
“W-wait–Michelle is with me. I’ll go get her.”
Peter looked around behind him, but Michelle was nowhere to be seen among all those people walking about in the lobby.
He left the receptionist’s desk and slipped back into the crowd to find Michelle. The jostling people were making it difficult for him to return to the front door area.
Finally, when he got to a clearing of the people, he heard Michelle shouting, “Mom! Wait, it’s me, Michelle! I wanna talk to you! Peter, I found her!”
Siobhan was approaching Michelle with two security men walking on either side of her, their pairs of beady-brown eyes always on everyone else in the lobby; with short, dark brown hair, the two men, in their nearly-identical black suits, looked as if they could be twins. Peter raced over to stand beside Michelle.
When Siobhan was three or four feet away from Michelle and Peter, she and the two men stopped walking.
“What is it, sweetie?” she asked. “Why do you and Peter look so agitated? What’s wrong?”
“We–I mean, I just saw an assassin shoot two women–carriers of The Splits in the ladies room in the Northeast Mall just now,” Michelle said. “What Peter told me is true. You’re in danger.”
“Well, that’s what I have these security men here for,” her mother said. “As you can see, they’re watching the whole area like hawks, and I have others in the lobby looking out for me and on the other floors of the building. Remember that I’m not the only one in danger from those hired assassins. Many, if not most, of the employees here had The Splits, and the assassins will be after them, too.”
“Yes, well…I just wanna be with you, Mom,” Michelle said in a trembling voice. “I’m afraid for you. If something happens to you, I wanna be there.” A tear ran down her cheek.
“That’s very sweet of you, Michelle, but I should be OK with these two men here,” Siobhan said. “Now, we have to get going. I have an important meeting to chair in ten minutes in North York. I’m going to be late as it is. I can’t stay and chat. I’ll see you tonight at home. Bye.”
“No, Mom, please!” Michelle sobbed as she saw her mom walk past with the men. “Let me go with you.”
“Sweetie, I’ll be OK,” Siobhan said. “Don’t slow me down. I’m in a hurry.”
“I won’t slow you down, Mom.” Michelle ran over with Peter in front of Siobhan. “Just let me go with you.”
They were all by the front doors now.
“Do you have your own transportation?” Siobhan asked with a sigh, gently moving Michelle to the side. “If Peter didn’t bring his car, we won’t have enough room in mine for him, you, and my two men here.”
Just outside the front doors was a familiar man with his right hand inside his blazer and his left inside his left pants pocket. Siobhan’s daughter is with her again, he thought. But she isn’t in the way of my line of fire this time. I may have to upset her daughter after all.
“Oh, your car is big enough,” Peter said. “We should all be able to squeeze in.”
Siobhan opened one of the doors. “Oh, this is getting ridiculous,” she said. “With us all squished in like that, it will be awkward and uncomfortable. You worry too much, Michelle.”
The man was standing right in front of Siobhan.
“Mom, please,” Michelle sobbed. “For my peace of mind,–“
The man began slowly pulling his pistol out of its holster in his blazer. The other hand was fumbling with a small can of bug spray in his pants pocket.
The security men’s eyes widened at the sight of the emerging pistol. They reached for theirs.
“I’ll tell you what,” Peter said. “I won’t go. That’ll leave some room in your car, Ms. Bucha–“
The man fired a bullet in Siobhan’s chest.
“Mom!” Michelle screamed.
Peter was so shocked, he almost lost his balance, barely keeping himself from falling.
The can of bug spray fell out of the assassin’s fumbling fingers and dropped to the ground.
The dots of light flew out of Siobhan’s body as she fell to the ground. They also flew out of the hands of the two security men, who no longer needed their pistols.
Those lights entered every inch of the assassin’s body, as others flew in from other nearby carriers both inside and outside the building. He dropped his gun.
Gunshots from other assassins in the area killed a few other carriers, but the other assassins were no more adept at getting out their cans of bug spray than Siobhan’s killer was.
Swarms of light dots were flying into the bodies of the other killers. Smiling with vengeful thoughts, Peter watched the tearing-up of their bodies as his eyes moved around the area to see the whole spectacle; but Michelle, her eyes flooding with tears as she held her mother’s bloodied body in her arms, focused on the ripping-up of her mother’s assassin’s body.
Yeah, aliens, she thought as she wept, tear that bastard to pieces. Go, aliens, go. You have my sympathy now.
The remaining aliens inside Siobhan’s body were giving her temporary extra life, just enough to let her communicate with Michelle one last time.
“Michelle,” she gasped after coughing out some blood. “Now, you know…who your enemies…are. Fight…them…with us.”
“Yes, Mom,” Michelle sobbed. “I’ll do it for you.”
“No,” Siobhan panted. “Not…for me. For…the world.”
“Mom, don’t die. Can’t the aliens heal you?”
“No….It’s too late…for that now…but it’s OK, sweetie. I’ll always…be with you…Let me go. It’s for…the cause.”
It’s OK, Michelle, that voice of her father said in her mind. Let your mother go.
Michelle refused to listen to what had to have been a stress-induced hallucination. Shut up, stress, she thought.
“It’s OK, sweetie,” her mother gasped out. “It’s…O…K…”
Her body flopped down and stopped moving.
Michelle screamed a mix of grief and rage. She reached for the gun of the assassin, whose body was tearing out of its suit and exposing his brain, heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, and thigh muscles. The widening and narrowing of those huge tear-holes in his body persisted long enough for her to point his gun at his heart; but before she had time to pull the trigger, his body blew to pieces, spraying his blood everywhere, soaking her and Peter in red.
“Eww, God,” he grunted, then looked over at her. “I’m so sorry, Michelle.” He put his arms around her. She hugged him back, bawling hoarsely.
The security men felt the lights fly back into their bodies. They looked around at all the screaming people, obviously non-carriers.
“We won’t be able to hide this,” one of the two said. “Someone will have filmed it on their phones, for sure. It’ll be sent to the media; social media, too. Published too quickly and circulated everywhere for us to stop it. We’ll have to accelerate our plans.”
“Yeah, the news media and governments can no longer pretend this is all just a conspiracy theory, either,” the other man said. “They’ll be accelerating their plans, too. Get ready for a war. A global one.”
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. You had your differences with your mom and dad, too, but you had a lot of good memories with them, a lot of happy moments. They were kinder to you than my parents were to me, and by a long shot.”
Michelle remained silent. Her head was slouched down to her shoulders, her eyes on her feet. Her hair was hanging down, obscuring her face.
“Hey, Michelle. Can I see your face again? Don’t hide it from me.”
She kept looking at her feet. That hair stayed where it was.
“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 their laughing response to the president’s words 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 to 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, in his forties, bald on top with dark brown hair on the sides, and a moustache and goatee. “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 han–“
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 bulging, bruising 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 heard her father’s voice say. She didn’t ignore it this time. Find Lenny Van der Meer.
“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.
Three days later, Peter, Michelle, and the two bodyguards had arrived in Angola, and were driving in their rented car through the streets of Luanda.
Michelle, in the back seat with Peter, was looking at photos of Luanda on her phone and comparing them with what she saw out the car window.
“Wow, Luanda looks really different from what I see in these pictures, and from how I remember friends of mine who’ve been here had described the city,” she said. “I remember how they described the place in minute detail. If they were to come here now, they’d think it was another city if they hadn’t known better. Nothing, from the airport to these streets, would be even remotely recognizable to my friends.”
Peter looked at the photos on her phone. “Oh, those photos must be really old ones. When did your friends come here?”
“Oh, years ago,” she said. “About seven or eight years ago, at least. What I see in the photos confirms how my friends described Luanda, but what I see out the window denies all of it.”
“Well, that explains the difference,” he said. “So much has changed over the past ten years, with the restructuring of all the cities into their own individual city-states, and with the tearing down of old buildings, many of which had gone out of business because the big corporations either crushed, merged with, or acquired them, replacing them with new ones to accommodate the corporate takeovers of local governments all over the world. Even many streets and roads have been totally redone with all these changes. This has happened everywhere; remember Mississauga when you were a kid?”
“Oh, totally different from now, structurally and in almost every other sense,” she said. “If I were there as a little kid now, I’d be totally lost.”
“That’s right,” he said. “Just like Toronto. I’ll bet there isn’t a city anywhere in the world that wasn’t radically remade in the mid-2020s. If someone back in the 2010s, or early 2020s, were to have gone in a time machine to today’s world and looked around their own city, they’d scratch their head and think, ‘Where the fuck am I? This isn’t my town!’”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said.
“It’s true,” one of the bodyguards said, the one on the passenger side at the front. “We’re from Hamilton. We lived there our whole lives. The Hamilton of our childhoods was a totally different city, structurally and otherwise, from the Hamilton of today.”
“That’s right,” the driver said.
After about another ten minutes of driving around, they arrived at their hotel. They went up to their rooms. The couples’ rooms were right next door to each other.
“Remember,” one of the bodyguards told Peter and Michelle before putting the key into the door of his room. “If you need us urgently, bang on the wall, and we’ll be right over.”
“OK,” Michelle said as she put the key into the door of her and Peter’s room. “Thanks, Bob.”
“One of us will guard you as you sleep,” the second bodyguard said as Bob opened their door. “Me, tonight. Bob, tomorrow night, and back and forth between us, night after night.”
“Thanks, Phil,” Peter said as she opened their door.
“We’ll put our bags on our beds, then come right over to your room to discuss our plans to meet up with Lenny Van der Meer,” Bob said. “We won’t be long discussing it, as we know how tired you two are.” They went in their rooms and closed the doors.
“I’m amazed at how well they were able to get us out here so fast,” Peter said as he and Michelle put their luggage on their bed. “There really are a lot of carriers out there in so many parts of the world.”
“And they all link together so well,” Michelle said. “Those little balls of light in their bodies seem to be able to feel each other’s presence from miles away.”
“It’s like they’re using the Force, or something,” he said. “I just don’t understand why they chose such a cheap hotel for us. We have money; we could have gotten something much nicer.”
“They said they had a reason for choosing this place,” she said. “We’ll know why soon enough.”
They heard a knock on the door. Peter hurried over to open it.
“Wait, be careful,” she said. “Look through the peephole first. Remember that guy who seemed to be following us all the way from Pearson Airport. Bob and Phil think he’s another assassin waiting to strike.”
Peter looked through the peephole. It was Bob and Phil.
“It’s OK,” he said, and opened the door for them.
“Our contacts tell us we’ll be able to meet with Lenny tomorrow afternoon at about three in their hideout just a mile outside of Luanda,” Phil said as he and Bob walked into the room. Peter took a quick look around the empty hall before closing the door.
“It’s great to have you two to give Lenny and his people assurances that we’re on his side,” Michelle said.
“What about that assassin, though?” Peter asked. “Are you sure he’s an assassin? How do you know he’s not someone who by coincidence was just coming to Luanda on our flight?”
“We know,” Bob said, with a hard look of self-assurance in his eyes. “We knew he was outside your house the night we heard the president’s speech.”
“And you lit up the room with your dots of light, so he’d know who to target?” Peter asked with a sneer.
“He already knew about us,” Phil said. “His people killed Siobhan…”
Michelle shuddered when she heard that.
“…knowing she had us to protect her,” Phil continued, “and now to protect you. We didn’t reveal anything to him that he didn’t already know; we weren’t in any less danger before the lighting up than after it.”
“We were taunting him, if anything,” Bob said. “We were hoping he’d strike that very night, when we were ready for him. All alone in your house, without anybody outside knowing about it.”
“Unfortunately, his stalking us like this is dragging it out,” Michelle said. “I hope he doesn’t strike when we meet Lenny tomorrow.”
“He’ll want to strike in a public place, to expose us,” Phil said.
“Still, if he strikes in Lenny’s hideout, he’s stupid,” Bob said. “With so many of us to protect Lenny, the assassin will be split up into pieces almost instantly.”
Michelle turned on the TV. “Let’s find out what’s going on in the world,” she said.
“I’m hot,” Peter said, reaching for the hotel phone on the bedside table. “I’m calling room service for some drinks. What d’you want, Michelle?”
“Ginger ale, if they have it,” she said as she went through the channels to find the news.
“You guys want anything?” he asked them.
“I’m OK, thanks,” Bob said.
“Me, too,” Phil said.
Michelle switched the TV to CNN. It was showing a live press conference with President Price, who was listening to a reporter’s question. “BREAKING NEWS” was showing in big letters along the bottom of the screen, with “ALIENS ATTACK AFRICA.”
“What?” Michelle said, wide-eyed and her jaw dropping. She turned up the volume.
“What is the plan for dealing with all the American troops suddenly killed in all of these military bases?” a reporter asked the president.
“Our first plan is to send deployments of our air force to the bases and surrounding areas,” she answered. “Including drones. We will start with airstrikes in the areas most severely hit, places like Burkina Faso, Angola, and Zimbabwe. If the airstrikes are successful, we will do the same to the other, less severely hit areas. If not successful, we’ll have to consider…well, a more sweeping response.”
“Which is…?” the reporter asked.
“That is something I’m not at liberty to talk about at the moment,” the president said, then left the podium and began leaving the room. “We’ll update you as soon as we’ve gotten word on the outcomes of the airstrikes. Thank you.”
“Madame President?!” another reporter shouted, but she had already left the room.
“Holy shit,” Peter said. “We just entered a war zone.”
“The war has begun,” Bob said. “Just as you said it would, Phil.”
Michelle continued following the developing news story; her eyes were glued to the TV.
“Do your connections know about this?” Peter asked. “Have they told you about their plans?”
“We know of a general plan to make carriers of all the people in developing countries,” Phil said. “Not much more detail than that.”
“Certainly nothing about hitting American military bases,” Bob said. “We should have thought twice about coming here, given the planned American response.”
“Oh, that’s OK,” Peter said. “I feel more comfortable being around you than around the powers-that-be back at home.”
“Thank you, Peter,” the bodyguards said in perfect unison and synchronization.
Wow, Peter thought. Their voices sound like that of one man. Do they lack individuality, as the media claim they do?
The doorbell rang. “Room service!” a male voice with an African accent said.
“Our drinks!” Peter said, rushing to the door. “Good!”
Michelle was still distracted by the TV, but Bob and Phil looked over at the door with frowns.
Peter opened it wide. A black man held, not a tray of drinks, but a pistol.
“Shit!” Peter shouted, then jumped out of the way and fell on the floor.
Michelle looked behind her, her eyes and mouth even more agape.
Bob and Phil pulled out their pistols. Phil ran for the door and let out his dots of light.
“No!” Bob screamed, aiming at the assassin.
But the assassin shot first, hitting Phil in the chest just as he’d reached the doorway. He fell on his back, and the dots of light flew at his killer.
Not missing a beat, the assassin pulled a small can of bug spray from his left pants pocket with his free hand, and he sprayed the first several balls of light coming at him. All the lights dropped like marbles on the floor.
Before he could shoot or spray again, Bob fired a bullet in his forehead. He dropped on his front, right by Phil’s feet, with his own legs still outside the door and in the hallway.
“Peter?” Bob said, bordering on sobbing. “C-could you please pull the killer’s body into the room for me? I can’t risk getting too close to it, with that toxic spray in the air.”
“Sure,” Peter said, then went over and pulled the assassin’s body in, getting his feet past the doorway, and closed the door. Bob pulled Phil’s body further into the centre of the room and away from the assassin’s body. He knelt before Phil’s head and wept.
“Was he your brother, or something?” Michelle asked, noting Bob’s and Phil’s similarity of appearance; they looked, in her opinion, practically like twins.
“My lover,” Bob said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Oh, sorry,” she said. They have feelings no less than we do, she thought. The aliens inside them don’t diminish human emotion; they may be odd in expressing it, but they don’t feel it any less.
“What about the rest of the people in the hotel?” Peter asked. “They’ll have heard the gunshots.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Bob said. “Everybody in Africa is being made a carrier, or being torn to pieces if they reject us.” He closed Phil’s eyes. “That’s what hitting the US military bases was all about. If we can succeed in taking all of them out, then taking out, or converting, the rest of the African population will be all the easier.”
Suddenly, they heard a man screaming from down the hall.
The three of them ran out into the hall in the direction of the voice. They turned a corner and found the man who’d gone with them on the plane from Toronto.
“We told you he was an assassin,” Bob said after seeing the man’s pistol and can of bug spray lying on either side of him on the floor.
He lay there on his back, shaking and screaming, his body ripping open wide enough to tear holes in his shirt and pants legs. His heart, lungs, and stomach were showing behind his ripped-open ribcage, and his leg muscles were showing. Though he had the bruises and red crack marks on his face, since he hadn’t opened up there yet, he was recognizable to Bob, Peter, and Michelle.
A crowd of guests and hotel staff were standing in a circle around him, staring down intently at him. The glowing little white balls were hovering everywhere among and around their carriers.
The man’s head was ripping open now, exposing his brain. After one last scream, his body blew apart, spraying blood everywhere.
“He must have provided our ‘room service’,” Peter said.
“No doubt of that,” Bob said. “And now you understand why we chose this cheap hotel to spend the night. Our people are everywhere in it. People in a richer hotel would have been more resistant to us, and therefore it would have been harder to gain control of it. And assassins like him would have found it easier to get at us. Anyway, now that he’s out of the way, we should be safe to stay here until we go to meet Lenny Van der Meer.”
“Then we’ll just have to worry about the coming airstrikes,” Michelle added.
None of the three of them slept well that night. Bob could feel, through the energy of the alien balls of light in his body, the psychic presence of Phil trying to console him, though it wasn’t enough to stop Bob’s sobbing or to help him sleep.
All Michelle could think about was the impending air strikes. Actually, she was trying to think only about that looming danger, because it was taking her mind off of something far more painful. She was trying not to think about her dead mother, though the killing of Phil, and how it reminded her of her mother’s killing, was making it difficult to forget. Only her worries about the American air force and drones bombing where they were could approach helping to take her mind off the loss of her mother…and those worries did nothing to help her sleep.
Peter, who held Michelle’s trembling body in his arms in bed, and stroked her hair, still found himself unsure if he could trust Bob and the aliens. He wanted to trust them…needed to trust them, for Michelle’s sake…but he couldn’t completely. The only way he could reconcile himself to them was to know he trusted the Anglo-American empire far less.
The next day, Bob drove them east out of Luanda in their rented car to the hideout where Lenny Van der Meer and his army of human carriers–of the tiny, white balls of light–were. On the way, Peter and Michelle looked out the window and saw a wildfire the local firefighters were desperately trying to put out. They arrived at the hideout at about 2:55 pm.
The place was a huge warehouse in the middle of nowhere: it was surrounded by a flat, empty landscape of pebbly ground dotted with occasional tufts of grass and even more occasional, isolated trees. Two people were standing at the entrance to the building. A parking lot was filled with cars. Bob parked there, and he, Peter, and Michelle got out of the car.
Bob was the first of the three to approach the two at the large doors in the front centre of the building. He let out the balls of light to assure the two that he, Peter, and Michelle were friends. They were let in.
Inside were aisles of pallet racks filled with stored goods in boxes throughout. No employees were anywhere to be seen, though.
“Where is everybody?” Peter asked.
“Downstairs,” one of the two at the door said, gesturing with his outstretched arm at a stairway to the basement at the far left of the warehouse. “Go that way.”
“Thanks,” Michelle said, and she, Peter, and Bob walked over to the stairs.
As they approached the stairs, they could hear a crescendo of buzzing voices speaking indistinctly as a group. Obviously there was a large group of people down there.
They went down to the bottom of the stairs, where they pushed two large red doors forward to lead them into a huge basement filled with people. The glowing dots of light were floating above the heads of everyone, illuminating the entire basement so well that the electric lights had been left off the whole time.
Peter, Michelle, and Bob walked through the sea of people with no resistance from anyone. In fact, every face that looked at them greeted them with a smile.
“I’ve almost forgotten the days when those lights actually used to scare me,” Peter said loudly in Michelle’s ear.
“Me, too,” she said in his with equal loudness, as if in revenge for his hurting her eardrum.
“We know the feeling, too,” a middle-aged man Peter was passing by said to him.
“What?” Peter asked him.
“You aren’t a carrier of the alien lights, are you?” the man asked, to which Peter and Michelle shook their heads. “Neither are we,” he said, gesturing to a middle-aged woman standing with him. He shook Peter’s hand, and the woman shook Michelle’s. With greying hair, they were twice Peter’s and Michelle’s ages.
“I’m Peter Cobb-Hopkin. This is my girlfriend, Michelle Buchanan.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Tory Lee, and this is my wife, Karen Finley.”
“You kept your surname,” Michelle noted with a smile.
“Yes,” Karen said, grinning back. “It’s the feminist in me.” She gave a little chuckle.
“My dad was the Cobb, my mom the Hopkin,” Peter said. “She thought similarly. So, the lights never go inside you two either, eh? They know you’re sympathetic to their cause?”
“We were sympathetic right from the beginning,” Tory said. “We took note of who the victims of ‘The Splits’ were right away–either wealthy, powerful people, or their bootlickers.” He then frowned slightly.
“And we never bought that story that ‘The Splits’ was a new virus,” Karen said, who also frowned slightly at Tory’s last words. “We caught on early that it was an alien intervention.”
“I didn’t know about aliens, but I’d been skeptical that The Splits was a virus from Day One,” Peter said. “That’s because I’d been skeptical of all those ‘coronavirus variants’ that had come before.”
“Oh, yeah,” Tory said. “Those were all obvious government psy-ops.”
Two men and two women walked over to them.
“Oh, Peter and Michelle, let me introduce you to some more non-carrying sympathizers,” Karen said. The four people put out their hands to shake Peter’s and Michelle’s. “This is Wendy Callaghan, Pat, Valerie, and Sid. Wendy, Pat, Valerie, and Sid, this is Peter and Michelle.”
After all the handshaking, Pat asked, “So, where are you two from?”
“Toronto,” Peter said.
“Mississauga, Ontario for me,” Michelle said.
“Really?” Sid said. “I’m from Brantford.”
“Wow!” Michelle said. “It’s a small world, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Sid said.
“How long did it take for you to realize ‘The Splits’ wasn’t a disease, but really an alien inva—er, intervention?” Pat asked.
“Oh, quite soon,” Peter said. “I hadn’t caught on to the aliens right away, but I didn’t buy the idea that it was a disease.”
“Hey, listen,” Valerie said. “They’re starting.”
The dots of light were humming a soothing middle C, getting everyone’s attention and stopping the talking. They then lessened their glow, dimming the room and making everyone look towards a podium with a spotlight.
Lenny Van der Meer stepped onto the podium.
“There he is,” Tory whispered.
“Who?” Peter asked, not recognizing Lenny’s face from far off.
“Lenny Van der Meer,” Karen whispered. “Our leader.”
“Friends, brothers and sisters,” Lenny said into a microphone. “Let us all remember why we’re here; and for those humans who haven’t been altered by us from the planet Bolshivaria, those honorary humans with no need of a purging, we Bolshivarians will allow you to receive our communication as we would communicate with each other, for ease and clarity of understanding, without the limitations of human speech.”
“That sounds a bit arrogant,” Peter said.
“Agreed,” Pat said.
“Peter, shh!” Michelle whispered, frowning at him.
“Let’s all close our eyes, clear our minds, and listen,” Lenny said. “Relax, take deep breaths, and let us come inside you humans. We won’t hurt you; don’t be afraid. Remember, we’re your friends.”
I want to believe you, Peter thought. But I’m still not sure. Well, I’ll open my mind and give you a chance.
He, Michelle, Tory, and Karen, as well as all the other non-carriers in the basement, felt the lights enter their bodies. They felt no pain at all; in fact, the gentle vibrations felt from head to toe were quite soothing.
Indeed, the Bolshivarians’ intentions were communicated with a clarity and precision that no words, of any verbally expressed language, could ever convey. One didn’t hear or see a language: one felt it.
The Bolshivarians’ mission was to save the Earth from her Earthlings. Not only would they rid humanity of corrupt, warmongering politicians; not only would they eliminate world poverty, homelessness, and inaccessibility to healthcare and education; not only would they purge the world of the greedy rich. They would end the ecological destruction of the planet. The oceans, land, and air would be purged of pollution. No more wildfires. No more rising sea levels. Global warming wouldn’t only be stopped…it would be reversed.
This seems too good to be true, Peter thought. Pat and Valerie had the same doubts, as did Tory and Karen, though they all wanted to believe it as much as Peter did.
Michelle fell in love with the message vibrated throughout her body, as did Wendy and Sid.
The Bolshivarians’ message continued to be sent directly into the brains of everyone in the basement: no more city-states, each governed by a corporation. The numbing, apathy-inducing effects of vaccines imposed on world populations would be nullified. No more loneliness. No more alienation, no more mutual hate and anger, but communities of loving people, working and helping each other. We Bolshivarians can transform your world. We are your salvation.
This, from the aliens that killed my parents? Peter wondered.
This, from the aliens that killed my best friend? Valerie asked herself.
This, from the aliens that killed my kid sister? Pat asked himself.
I watched our 22-year-old son get torn to pieces, Karen thought. He was an ambitious yuppie, but did he deserve to die because of ambition? Did our salvation really necessitate his death?
We’ve had to bury our feelings deep down, just to survive, Tory thought. Just to escape our son’s fate.
Now the message changed from promises of an improved world to a kind of communion with the Bolshivarians, a shared consciousness. Vibrations passed from person to person in waves moving from one side of the basement to the other. A collective empathy washed over all of them in a cool cleansing.
Oh, this feels wonderful! Michelle thought, grinning. Beautiful!
All in attendance experienced a peaceful, oceanic state. Ripples of soothing vibrations flowed back and forth, left and right, among all of them. They were no longer separate entities: they were all one. Even Peter, Pat, Valerie, Tory, and Karen let go of their doubts and began to enjoy the experience.
Not even acid feels this good, Tory thought.
Oh, this feels like heaven! Valerie thought.
Nirvana, Pat thought. Sheer nirvana!
What peace! Karen thought.
I am loving this, Wendy thought.
Everyone, always with his or her eyes shut, always breathing in and out slowly and deeply as if meditating, fell into a dreamlike state. They all started seeing familiar faces from their pasts.
Bob saw Phil approaching him. I miss you so much, Bob thought, a tear running down his cheek. It’s as if you’d been gone for years.
Don’t feel with your human body, Phil told him in his thoughts. Feel through the Bolshivarians inside you, and it will be as if I’d never left you. We’re all united through them. You know that.
Tory and Karen saw the face of their son. Cameron! mother and father shouted out to him in their thoughts.
Don’t be angry with the Bolshivarians on my account, he told them mentally. They didn’t kill me. My rejection of their values did. I lived a greedy, selfish, ambitious life. They gave me a chance to rethink my attitude, to reject my greed, and I refused to. It’s that kind of selfishness that’s destroying all life here. Better that a few of us should die than everybody. If only I’d had the eyes to see where I was going wrong, while I still had the chance. I failed you both. I’m sorry.
Both parents’ faces were soaked with tears.
Joyce! Valerie said in her thoughts. You’re back!
Gabriella? Pat sobbed in his mind. Is that you?
Peter saw his mom and dad before him. His heart thumped harder and faster. So, when I’ve heard the voices of my parents from time to time, I wasn’t hearing things? he thought.
You were right, son, his father told him. We should have listened to you instead of chasing money and power. And I’m sorry for all the mean things we said to you all those years. It was hard for us dealing with your rebelliousness, but that didn’t give us the right to treat you as we did.
Yes, Peter, his mother echoed in his thoughts. We are so sorry. The Bolshivarians tried to show us the way, and we wouldn’t open our minds to it. Our deaths were all our fault. Don’t blame them.
As touching and healing as this communication felt, Peter tried not to let it seduce him. Are these really my parents’ spirits? he wondered. I’d really like to believe it’s them…I so, so want to believe it’s them!…but is it an illusion the Bolshivarians are pushing on us to make us all side with them? Was President Price right in warning us of their attempts to get us on their side, or was she lying, the way the American government always lies? Again, the only thing making me side with the Bolshivarians is my hate for the political establishment of our world, which has already proven itself the worst that anything could possibly be. But can there be anything worse than that?
Finally, Michelle saw her father.
I’m so sorry for not listening to you, Michelle, Don told her psychically. I brought my death onto myself. It was all my fault.
“Oh, Daddy, don’t blame yourself,” she whispered, her closed eyes letting out a few tears. “You didn’t know.” So, the occasional voices of my parents in my head were real, and not hallucinations brought on by stress? she wondered.
I refused to allow myself to know, Don said in her mind’s ear. Your mother did, and she allowed herself to adapt, as I should have done.
Then Siobhan appeared, standing next to him in Michelle’s vision.
“Mom!” Michelle sobbed audibly. “How are you two here?”
(Peter heard her, turned his head in her direction, then resumed listening to his parents, his eyes kept shut the whole time.)
When the aliens came inside us, they absorbed our energy, her dad said. We are part of the Bolshivarian collective consciousness, even in death. We’ll always be with you, Michelle.
We’ll never leave you, sweetie, Siobhan said. Don’t grieve.
Michelle was sobbing louder.
Just let the balls of light come inside you, and you can commune with us anytime, Don said.
It’ll be as if we never left you, Siobhan said.
“Yes,” Michelle sobbed. “So when I’ve heard your voices, it was really you, not me imagining things?”
Yes, of course it was, her mom said. We never really died, sweetie. We died only in body.
“I love you,” Michelle sobbed.
We love you, too, her father said. Now, to show us your love, do as the Bolshivarians wish.
“I will,” Michelle said, wiping the tears off her cheeks.
It’s for the good of humanity, Siobhan said.
The apparitions vanished. The dots of light came out of everyone, they rose up above the people’s heads, and everyone opened his eyes. All eyes were now on Lenny again.
“Friends, brothers and sisters,” he said into the microphone. “It is time to band together. Our enemy is about to strike, and we must be ready.”
OK, Peter thought. I just hope that you won’t become an even greater enemy.
Back in their hotel in Luanda that night, Peter, Michelle, and Bob slept much better than the night before. The Bolshivarian lights in Bob’s body gave him a psychic connection with Phil that soothed him to sleep; some of those lights also flew into Peter’s and Michelle’s room to soothe them to sleep with the energy of their parents.
Michelle especially slept like a baby. Her connection with her parents felt so comforting, it was almost as if they’d never died. She felt the Bolshivarians to be the surest of friends.
Peter enjoyed no less restful a sleep, hearing the now-loving words of his parents’ energy calming him. He felt them telling him that they were sorry for all the times they’d berated him, from his childhood until his adulthood, and that they should have listened to him more. This mental communication of theirs, again, as agreeable as it was for him to experience, still seemed too good to be true. Indeed, though he enjoyed his sleep and woke up the next morning thoroughly refreshed, he wasn’t sure if it was his parents that had lulled him into such a perfect sleep, or just the skillful, yet deceptive, charm of the Bolshivarians.
The next morning, after breakfast, Bob apprised Peter and Michelle of the situation regarding the American response to the Bolshivarian takeover of Africa.
“The first of the airstrikes is coming today,” he told them. “The Bolshivarians informed me of their plan to engage the fighter planes and drones, which will hit us not only with missiles and gunfire from the planes, but also with bug spray from the drones.”
“How will the Bolshivarians be able to counterattack with bug spray shooting at them?” Peter asked.
“They didn’t tell me exactly how they were going to avoid the bug spray, but they’re aware of the danger and planning a way to evade it,” Bob said. “Don’t worry: the Bolshivarians are clever enough not to let themselves be exposed to the drones’ spray guns, which our intelligence tells us will all spray only forward. We can sneak up from behind and their radar won’t pick us up. The American and NATO forces are the ones who need to be cleverer, not our side.”
“How will the Bolshivarians fight them?” Peter asked.
“They’ll fly into the planes’ cockpits and into the bodies of the pilots,” Bob said. “You know what happens next.”
“What if the pilots wear those protective suits?” Michelle asked.
“Oh, everybody knows by now that those suits never worked,” Bob said. “Bolshivarians can fly through them with ease, just as they can through the jets and drones.”
“If so, then why did they let people think they were safe in the suits last year?” Michelle asked.
“For several reasons,” Bob explained. “First of all, we wanted humans to have some sense of hope, so they wouldn’t feel all hopeless and despairing. Secondly, we came to Earth right when you humans were so worried about all those coronavirus variants. We wanted you, for the time being, to think our presence was just another disease, to distract you until enough of us had settled in and established enough carriers around the world so we could move around among you and blend in with you, so you wouldn’t be able to tell which ones were carriers and which ones weren’t.”
Clever plan, Peter thought, and devious.
Bob looked at him as if he’d heard Peter say those words out loud. “We’re here to help you, Peter, not to dominate you. Our ways may be strange to you, but that doesn’t mean we have ill intentions.”
Whoa, Peter thought with widened eyes. The Bolshivarians can read my thoughts. I’d better bury my feelings deeper down in my mind from now on.
“We know your doubts, Peter,” Bob said. “But we don’t doubt you. Don’t worry.”
“I don’t doubt you,” Michelle said.
“Even though they killed your dad, my dad, and my mother?” Peter said, glaring at her.
“You know the real reason they died,” Bob said.
“I know your rationalization for it,” Peter said, and then with sarcasm, “‘They rejected the new way, so their deaths were their fault, not yours’.”
“Our parents still exist in spirit, Peter,” Michelle said. “Didn’t you feel them last night?”
“Did we feel their spirits, or did we feel hallucinations?” Peter asked, looking hard at Bob.
“Peter, if we Bolshivarians had wanted to kill all of humanity, we could have done it like that!” Bob said with a snap of his fingers. “If we’d wanted to take control of all of your bodies and enslave you, we could have done it like that!” He snapped his fingers again. “But we didn’t. We could have gotten through every protective suit and either controlled or killed every head of state in your world, every CEO/leader of every city-state government, with none of you able to stop us, in the blink of an eye! But we didn’t…and many, many Bolshivarians have died because of the fluke discovery of bug spray toxins.”
Now Peter looked down at his hands.
“We want to save your planet and your people from destruction, but before we can do that, we need to gain the trust of at least a reasonable number of you, and gain the willful cooperation of enough of you. We’ve given as many of you as we can a chance to choose either to work with us or against us. We’ve allowed many to be non-carriers, because we want your friendship by free will. Even those who’ve died, like your parents, can still communicate with you through our collective psychic energy. Can you please try to trust us, Peter?”
Peter looked at Bob for several seconds.
“They cured the world of the coronaviruses, didn’t they?” Michelle added. “You, Peter, of all people, should be grateful to the Bolshivarians for doing away with the masks, lockdowns, and vaccines, right?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Peter said. “Wayne Grey did pull all of that off. I’ll give him that. I wish I hadn’t punched him.”
“And those were not hallucinations of my mom and dad,” Michelle said in a shaky voice, looking in Peter’s eyes with pain and conviction.
“Can you try to trust us, Peter?” Bob asked again.
“OK,” he said. “I’ll try. The governments here on Earth have certainly proved themselves untrustworthy.”
“Good,” Bob said. “Now let’s get ready for those airstrikes.”
Four hours later, Bob was in his room, sitting crosslegged on his bed in a meditative position. The balls of light were floating on all sides around his body. He could feel the messages the Bolshivarians from other parts of Angola, including those of the warehouse hideout, were sending him.
Oh, no! he thought.
Peter and Michelle were in their room, too, lying on their bed in each other’s arms and waiting for Bob to tell them what was going on.
From outside their window, they could hear approaching planes.
Just as they got off their bed to look out the window, Bob rushed into their room.
“Hey, Bob!” Michelle shouted in annoyance. “We could have been indecent in here!”
“Sorry,” he said. racing for that window. “I didn’t have time to knock.” All three of them looked out the window.
Four fighter planes were approaching, accompanied by half a dozen small, brown ovoid drones with spray guns on them.
“Just as I feared,” he said. “Not only did they know that Lenny Van der Meer and the other Bolshivarian carriers are hiding out in that warehouse, but they know we’re here, too!”
“Who informed the Americans?” Peter asked. “Were there spies hiding out in that basement? Are there spies here in this hotel?”
“Unlikely, bordering on impossible,” Bob said. “We’d have been able to sense treason among us; it would take an extraordinary ability to bury one’s feelings for us not to sense traitors. Spies must have been hiding out among the trees or bushes outside.”
“There aren’t many trees or bushes to hide behind around here, or near that warehouse,” Peter said. “Years of global warming and wildfires have ensured that.”
“Not many trees or bushes, but enough for, say, one or two spies to hide among,” Bob said. “In any case, somebody from outside, somewhere, found our people there…and here. We’ve gotta get out of here. Move!“
The three of them rushed out of the room, down the hall, and down a flight of stairs to the ground floor. Just as they were making a run for the front doors, the striking of the first missile shook the building.
“Oh, shit!” Peter shouted.
“Are these the same fighters and drones that hit the warehouse, do you think?” Michelle asked.
“No,” Bob said. “Lenny and his people took them all out as I described before.”
“So, Lenny’s still alive?” Peter asked.
“As far as I know, yes,” Bob said. “Let’s just hope the Bolshivarians here can be as successful.”
Three more strikes shook the building, causing it to collapse. Peter, Michelle, and Bob screamed before losing consciousness and being buried in rubble by the front door.
Outside, drones were shooting bug spray at swarms of dots of light flying at them; after a dozen or so of lights flying in front were sprayed, all of them lost their light and fell like marbles on the ground, all lifeless. Then, the fighter jets shot at the carriers who’d been sending up the lights. They all lay on the ground in a bloody lake.
These victims, however, were just a sacrificial distraction.
A swarm of Bolshivarian lights far greater in number were flying behind all the jets and drones. None of their radar could detect the approach of the lights, whose advanced alien technology could easily evade being picked up by radio airwaves.
The overconfident pilots had no idea what was coming at them.
The first man to feel the tiny lights entering his body screamed. His jet veered to the right as he fidgeted and struggled in his seat, feeling his body tearing to pieces and ripping out of his uniform.
“James, what’s wrong?” the pilot to his right said; but before he could say any more, James’s plane crashed into his. A huge explosion lit up the sky. Three drones flying nearby also got destroyed in the explosion.
A number of carriers looking up from the ground cheered when they saw the explosion.
“Half of the threat gone, all at once!” one of them shouted.
Sadly, he was gunned down, seconds after, by one of the two remaining fighter jets.
The remaining carriers sent up their balls of light; one of the drones sprayed them, causing them all to drop on the ground, as lightless and lifeless as the other ‘marbles.’ Then the fighter jets shot at the carriers and left them all in a pool of gore.
Meanwhile, the other two drones turned around to face the swarm of lights behind. They sprayed at the leading dozen or two of them, causing them and many more behind to fall on the ground. The third drone turned around to help the other two.
Now, the remaining carriers were free to shoot their lights up at the two fighter jets.
As the pilots screamed, fidgeted in their seats, and felt their splitting bodies rip out of their uniforms, the lights took control of the jets, aimed their guns at the three drones, and shot at them.
The carriers cheered as they saw the drones explode up in the air. Then they dodged out of the way when the two jets fell to the ground, a few feet away on either side of the hotel, and blew up in flames.
The surviving Bolshivarian lights flew over to the rubble of the hotel, soon to be joined by the surviving carriers, who ran over. The lights scanned the rubble for signs of life: only three were found to be still alive, and barely so–Peter, Michelle, and Bob.
The carriers, about a dozen of them, worked fast to pull the pieces of brick off the bodies of the injured three. Bob was unconscious, approaching death; Peter and Michelle lay there, hovering between consciousness and unconsciousness, moaning and sighing.
The lights hovered above and around the three. Their light and warmth touched the three hurt bodies.
Bob, being the closest to death, was the priority. The lights scanned his vital signs: his pulse was extremely weak and rhythmically irregular. He had broken bones all over. He was bathed in his blood; his life was fading fast.
Even with all the Bolshivarians’ medical knowledge, centuries in advance of that of humanity, they couldn’t save Bob. Since Peter and Michelle also urgently needed help, they switched their focus onto them. They weren’t as near death as Bob had been, but they weren’t much further away from death, either.
A crowd of people, carriers and non-carriers, watched the process of treating Peter and Michelle. Their eyes were locked on the two injured–eyes full of worry. A tense several hours ensued.
Peter’s and Michelle’s broken and fractured bones, their cuts and bruises, were hardly fewer than those on Bob. All onlookers, including the carriers, who knew of the Bolshivarians’ abilities, and even the Bolshivarian lights themselves, were full of doubts as to whether or not they could save the two.
Their pulses, though not as bad as Bob’s, were still weak and irregular. They showed considerable shortness of breath. The struggle to heal them involved a back-and-forth movement between weaker and stronger pulses, more and less irregular pulses, and greater and lesser shortness of breath.
Broken bones were set, fractures were healed millimetre by millimetre, bruises and cuts ever so slowly faded away–the bloody red slashes lengthening, shortening, and lengthening and shortening over and over again, the blotches of black, blue, and purple shrinking, growing, and shrinking again and again.
But finally, the white lights’ healing efforts succeeded here where they hadn’t been able to with Bob. Non-carriers–local Angolans as sympathetic to the Bolshivarians as Peter and Michelle–watched with dropped jaws and agape eyes at the aliens’ ability to bring Peter and Michelle fully back to health, all in only three to four hours.
Peter and Michelle, of course, were no less amazed.
“What?” he said, getting up slowly and awkwardly.
“We’re better?” Michelle said, also getting up and testing her arms and legs by moving them around. “So quickly? How could they do that?”
“To explain to you what Bolshivarian medicine can do,” one of the carriers said, “would be like explaining computers to cavemen.”
Peter and Michelle looked down at Bob’s lifeless body.
“He didn’t make it?” Michelle asked.
They could feel a sad answer in the negative from the floating lights.
Peter moved his body around, to test how well he’d been healed. “Wow,” he said. “The Bolshivarians make our doctors look like…well, witch doctors in comparison.”
“Now do you trust them?” she asked with a sneer.
“Yeah, I guess I do,” he said.
“If only their skill could have saved my mom,” she said with a frown. “I guess she was as close to death as Bob here, too close to be saved.”
Peter’s cellphone rang. “Wow,” he said as he pulled it out of his pants pocket. “My phone didn’t get damaged. Hello?”
“Peter?” a woman’s voice said. “This is Karen Finley. It’s a good thing you gave us your cellphone number yesterday. Are you and Michelle OK? We know about the attack on your hotel.”
“Oh, hi, Karen,” he said. “We’re OK now. The Bolshivarians just saved our lives after the fighter jets hit our hotel. They’re the most amazing doctors.”
“I’m glad for that,” she said. “That’s so awful, what happened to you there. I’m so sorry.”
“How did you know the jets attacked us here?” he asked.
“Pat and Valerie told us,” she said. “They found out from the Bolshivarians, who as you know can find out anything, you know, if they focus on it. First, we learned about the warehouse being hit, then Tory and I wondered if you two were OK, so we asked Pat and Valerie.”
“Actually, Pat and Valerie asked us where we were staying, so we told them,” he said, then wondered why Karen said the Bolshivarians told them. “But thanks for your concern.”
“Wait,” she said. “Tory wants to talk to you.” She gave her phone to her husband.
“OK,” Peter said. “Hello, Tory?”
“Hi,” Tory said. “Lenny says we’re all going to have to get out of Africa. More airstrikes are planned. Now that we’ve seen how badly the Americans and NATO can hit us, how well they can find us, thanks to their spies, the plan is to go to South America, where the Bolshivarians have many contacts who will help us. Lenny and his contacts here have arranged airplanes to take us there. There’s an airbase not far from where the warehouse was. The Bolshivarians can guide you to it. We all have to hurry, though, OK?”
“OK,” Peter said. “Thanks for the call. We’ll get over there right away. Bye.” They hung up.
“What’s the plan?” Michelle asked.
“We’re going to South America.”
“South America?” she asked.
“Yes, and we gotta hurry,” he said, taking her by the hand. “I’ll explain on the way. Let’s go.”
“B-but Peter?…” she said.
Michelle, Bob’s voice said in her mind. Go!
Yes, Michelle, Siobhan’s voice now said. Go with Peter.
Peter and Michelle started running towards a car one of the carriers was gesturing to.
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