‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Nine

In Michelle’s home that night, she and Peter sat on the side of her parents’ bed. He had his arm around her. Her face flooded with tears, she barely moved, except for a self-soothing, slow and gentle rocking back and forth.

Her eyes would sometimes drift over to the photos on the dresser and bedside table. Photos of her mom and dad at various ages, sometimes with Michelle as a little girl, as a teen, or when she’d graduated from university, this last one with Peter, too, these were all bittersweet memories now.

He looked at the photos, too, having seen her look at them. “Sometimes I go into my parents’ room,” he said. “I’ll stare at their photos and remember when they were alive, thinking about the minority of my memories with them that were good. Then I’ll feel guilty for not thinking of the good memories as a majority.”

Michelle remained silent.

“Michelle! Peter!” a man’s voice shouted from the first floor. “Come down here! You’ll wanna see what’s on the TV now!”

Peter got up, but Michelle was practically frozen sitting on the bed. “Michelle?” he said.

She still wouldn’t say or do anything.

“Well, I wanna know what your late mom’s two bodyguards are watching on TV,” he said, bending down by her. “They may have failed to save her, but they’re here to protect us from any attempt on our lives by anyone who thinks, however mistakenly, that the alien dots of light are inside our bodies. The way you are now, though, I don’t want you left all alone; so you’re coming with me.”

He gently slid his right arm under her legs, put his left arm on her back, and picked her up. He carried her out of her parents’ bedroom, down the stairs, and into the living room. The two security men were watching the new US president making a speech.

“I knew it,” one of the men said. “There’s going to be a war.”

“I want to apologize to you, the American people, and to the world, for not being honest with you about what’s been happening until now,” President Price said at her desk in the Oval Office, looking directly into the camera in a way that reminded Peter of old video from 2003 of Bush looking into the camera and justifying the Iraq invasion. “We didn’t want to cause a worldwide panic; we needed time to plan our response to the alien attack while debates about ‘conspiracy theories’ of aliens softened the shock for all of you. Such planning necessitated keeping our knowledge of the aliens classified information.”

“Oh, of course, Madame President,” Peter said as he laid still-unmoving Michelle in a chair. “You’ve had nothing but the noblest of intentions, haven’t you?” He sat on the floor by Michelle’s feet.

“But now, of course, we can no longer conceal the truth from you,” Price went on. “I assure you, though, our plans are thoroughly worked out, fortunately in time when all of this was so suddenly revealed.”

“Oh, how fortunate,” Peter said with a sneer.

“Please, Peter,” one of the men said. “We need to pay attention to every detail, to know how to respond ourselves.”

“Sorry,” Peter said.

“All those formerly diagnosed with what was called ‘The Splits’ were and are actually people possessed of those aliens…the surviving carriers, that is. I know it will be hard to hear this, especially for those of you who have family and friends who are carriers, but these people are thoroughly compromised. They may still look human, they may sound like the same people you’ve always known and loved, but the alien in them has completely taken them over. The human soul in them was gone long ago, in spite of how well they may imitate human speech and behaviour. This is hard to hear, but you must steel yourselves to hear this and understand. These carriers are not human.”

“You bitch,” Peter hissed at the TV.

“This is an enemy that hides,” the president went on. “It hides in plain sight, in human form. It can imitate human thought, but it has no real human thoughts. Each and every carrier who is possessed of the aliens is completely given over to their agenda. All that the carriers do is in service of the aliens, not in the service of humanity.”

“Oh, and you serve humanity, Madame President?” Peter said with another sneer.

“Please, Peter,” one of the security men said.

“When the carriers, those in high-ranking government/business positions, claim they are making democratic changes to society, improving the lives of ordinary, working-class people, whatever you do, don’t believe them!” Price warned. “All that talk is just a front, a con game to trick you into thinking they are our friends.”

“Right,” Peter said. “Your hegemony is so much better for us all, isn’t it Madame Pres–“

“Peter, we must hear her!” the other bodyguard said.

“Why?” Peter asked, with a sneer now for him. “Is what she’s saying true? Is it all a con game?”

The bodyguard frowned at him and gave no answer.

“I know that it’s hard,” Price went on, “if one of the carriers happens to be your mother, your father, brother, sister, cousin, or a close friend. What you must try to understand is that that carrier, as soon as he or she became a carrier, was as of that time no longer your mother or–“

“Bullshit!” Michelle shouted, jumping up from her chair and startling the three young men, whose eyes darted away from the TV screen and back up at her. With new tears running down her cheeks, she bawled, “She never stopped being my mother, aliens or no aliens! She was my mother right up until she died, when your people murdered her!”

“Please, Michelle, calm down,” the first of the security men said. “We need to hear all of the president’s speech to know how best to react to their plans.”

Peter got up, put his arms around her, and held her as she sobbed on his shoulder. “They murdered her, Peter! They murdered her!”

“I know, sweetie, I know,” he said, rubbing one hand on her back and stroking her hair with the other. Well, at least she’s finally responsive, he thought.

“Behind the mass deception that they’re improving the lives of humanity is a plan for world domination,” the president continued.

The two security men chuckled at this assertion. Peter looked at them and hoped it was sincere.

“Everyone must be the same as the aliens,” Price said with a hint of sarcasm. “No one is allowed to be different, or think for themselves. Everyone must think the same thoughts, have the same opinions. If you don’t agree with the aliens’ plans, they’ll kill you, tear your body up in that horrible, violent way we all originally thought was a disease called ‘The Splits’.”

“Where did she get that idea?” the second bodyguard whispered.

“It’s a lie,” the first said. “Don’t believe her, Peter. Neither of you agreed with us at first, but we didn’t kill you. Remember that.”

“We have been studying, scrutinizing the carriers we’ve had to detain in order to learn as much about them as we can,” Price said. “Over the months, we’ve even experimented on them to extract whatever knowledge we could. We have learned that the aliens hate individuality, free thought, and ambition to rise high in a freely competitive environment. When the carriers talk to you about the ‘collective good,’ what they’re really talking about is mass conformity. I, as leader of the free world, can’t and won’t allow that to happen.”

“Free world,” Peter scoffed. “What free world?”

“One of the carriers we’d caught and detained, Lenny Van der Meer, escaped a month ago and is hiding, we believe, somewhere in Africa with other carriers,” Price said, with a photo of Van der Meer showing beside her. “Here we’ll show you a brief video of him so you can see the kind of ‘people’ these carriers are. I have to warn you, though, that it will be disturbing to watch.”

“The agitprop thickens,” Peter whispered.

The TV cut to a shaky video showing a dimly-lit room with Van der Meer, a blonde woman in a business suit crouched in a corner, and a few black men and women standing around her. She was in about her mid-thirties, shaking, and in tears.

“You work for the IMF, do you not?” Van der Meer asked her. “Your loans keep poor countries like this one we live in forever in debt, don’t they?”

“Look, if they can’t pay back their loans,” she said in a shaky, sobbing voice, “It’s out of my ha–“

Suddenly, the dots of light flew out of his hands and out of those of the other people in the room. The little lights went inside her body, and red cracks appeared all over her face and hands. She shook and screamed in pain for a few seconds before the video was cut off.

The TV showed President Price again.

“As you can see,” she said, “this is not the kind of man we should be sympathizing with.”

“I beg to differ,” Peter said. “I hate the IMF.”

“Remember that every carrier…every carrier in the whole world, has the exact same agenda as Lenny Van der Meer,” she continued. “Make no mistake. The carriers all think with the same mind. They’ll kill anyone who stands in the way of their alien masters. This is why we must stop them–for the very survival of the human race. So report all known carriers in your area to the local authorities. They’ll do the rest. As we learn more about the latest moves of the aliens and their once-human carriers, we’ll inform you of these latest developments. A full military confrontation is being planned, which will eliminate this menace while ensuring minimal human casualties. For security reasons, I cannot at the moment discuss any of the details of these plans, as it’s classified information.”

“Of course not,” Peter said. “War crimes are best kept as secret as possible.”

“So please have faith in the judgement of this government, as well as the governments of the world cooperating with us, to do the right thing,” she concluded. “God bless America, and God bless our Mother Earth.”

One of the bodyguards turned off the TV.

“So, what do we do now?” the other bodyguard asked.

“Go to Africa,” Michelle said in a monotone, almost trancelike voice. “Find this Lenny Van der Meer.”

“Sounds intriguing,” Peter said. “But how are we going to get there with all this global surveillance and security asking questions about our destination and the purpose of our travels?”

“We still have the private planes of our dead parents,” she said, still in a monotone voice, staring straight ahead in a trance.

“Yes, but people working for the global governments/corporations will still be getting in our way,” Peter said. “After all, they’ll know your mom was a carrier, and they’ll suspect we are carriers, too, as you two men definitely are.”

“Many of those people in the governments/corporations are secretly carriers,” the first bodyguard said. “The two of us can network things so that when you go through customs and checkpoints, you’ll encounter only our people.”

“Well, I guess that settles it,” Peter said with a smile.

“I guess it does,” she said, still looking straight ahead at nothing in particular.

Glowing dots of light floated out of the pores of the bodyguards and lit up the living room. Neither Peter nor Michelle even flinched.

A man in a suit, watching from outside and with a pistol hidden in a holster in his blazer, flinched, though.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Eight

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.

Michelle’s 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 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.”

“OK.”

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 eyes always on everyone else in the lobby. 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, 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. With Schadenfreude, 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 OK, sweetie. Let me go. It’s for…the cause.”

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. “We’ll have to accelerate our plans.”

“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.”

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Seven

The afternoon of the next day, 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 says she has armed security patrolling the newspaper, just in case you’re right. I saw them there. 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, 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, 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 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 other woman in a 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, seeming 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. “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. She sprayed the first half-dozen or so. They all lost their glow, then fell to the floor, hitting it with a sound like dropped marbles.

“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.

“Mississauga?”

“Yes,” she said as they were approaching an exit. “To the newspaper. Those assassins you were telling me about are real!”

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Six

Michelle returned home that night to see her mom watching TV. Instead of having that unnatural-looking smile on her face, her mother seemed worried about what she was watching on the news.

“Hi, Mom,” Michelle said in a shaky voice.

“Hi, sweetie,” her mom said, still frowning at the TV screen.

“What’s on the news that has you so worried?”

“Oh, it isn’t so much worrying me as it’s just…this nonsense so many people believe about an ‘alien invasion.’ Ridiculous.”

“Oh, you mean those wacko conspiracy theorists?”

“Yes, dear,” her mom said, turning off the TV and standing up. “People are saying that The Splits was really aliens entering people’s bodies instead of the virus it actually was. How can anybody believe such rubbish?”

“I know,” Michelle said, avoiding Siobhan’s eyes. “There are a lot of dumb, crazy people out there.”

“You wanna know what their ‘proof’ is, Michelle? People possessed of the aliens show little to no emotion.” Siobhan let out a loud laugh, which seemed forced to Michelle. “As if there’s no such thing as ordinary people not showing emotions, especially in today’s world, when all those vaccines were draining people of their energy and making people plod around like zombies. You and Peter have noticed that.”

“Yes, we have,” Michelle said, frowning and still avoiding her mother’s eyes.

“And those vaccines, given out years ago, are still showing those effects, to this day. So why make a big deal about lots of people showing no feelings?” Her mom had a huge, ear-to-ear grin, which was supposedly to show how absurd she thought the conspiracy theories were, but which really just looked fake, as if painted on her face. “They say the governments know about the aliens, and are doing a cover-up.”

“Yeah, but some people in those governments really believe this is happening, and they’re sending out assassins to kill anyone they think is possessed of the aliens.”

“Really? Did Peter tell you that?”

“Yes, Mom. Just today. He says he watched a video of Ottawa politicians discussing this plan to kill anyone known to have had The Splits.”

“Now, Michelle, surely you must realize by now that Peter, as much as you love him, isn’t always a reliable source?”

“No, of course he has his loopy moments, more than I care to admit, but if he’s right this time, we need to be careful with you.”

Her mom stared into her eyes with a frown of suspicion for several seconds.

“It’s not so much that I believe his every word. It’s just that I care about you and want you to be safe.”

Siobhan still suspected insincerity in her daughter’s eyes.

“What are your thoughts about this ‘alien’ business?” She continued staring hard at Michelle. A touch of anger was on Siobhan’s lips.

“I–I don’t know what to think.” Michelle began sobbing.

“What nonsense is Peter telling you about me?” Siobhan asked, looking down at Michelle’s purse, with what looked like a tall can of bug spray poking out in a bulge at the side of her purse. “Some of the conspiracy theorists claim that bug spray is what kills the aliens. Surely you don’t believe such nonsense, do you?”

“No, of course not,” Michelle sobbed. “It’s just that I…I…”

“If you don’t, then why have you been carrying bug spray in your purse?” her mom asked with more than a tinge of angry tension in her voice and face. “You aren’t planning, in your paranoia, on spraying your own mother in the face with that, are you?”

“If the theories are so ridiculously untrue, why are you so nervous around bug spray, Mom?”

“I just told you. I don’t want my obviously paranoid daughter spraying it on me.”

“It isn’t sprayed on the people, Mom. When those little lights fly out at us, we spray them, not the carriers.”

“How do I know you’re not going to get nervous around me, think I’m going to send those things out at you, make you fumble in your purse for the spray can, then spray those toxic chemicals in my eyes as a spastic reaction?”

“Because you’re my mom, and I love you!” Michelle sobbed.

Am I your mom?” Siobhan asked with a sneer. “Or am I one of the ‘pod people’? What is Peter making you think about me?”

“I only plan on using it on other people,” Michelle said. “I’ll tell you another reason I won’t use it on you.”

“Oh? And what’s that?” Her mom crossed her arms in front of her chest. “This should be interesting.”

“The aliens won’t come inside me or Peter. We’ve confronted the dots of light several times, and they never enter us or try to take control of us. They just hover in front of us, as if they’re studying us.”

Siobhan was calming down. “Why won’t they go inside you?”

“Peter and I believe they think we’re sympathetic to their ’cause’.”

“That’s right,” her mom said after a huge sigh, then uncrossed her arms and felt herself completely calm now. “We know you’re completely sympathetic, though you don’t know why, and it isn’t yet safe to tell you all the reasons for that sympathy.”

“Mom?” Michelle’s mouth and eyes were wide open.

“I just needed to be sure for myself that you weren’t going to do anything on me with that bug spray.” Siobhan spread her arms out to her sides, and dozens of tiny glowing balls flew out of her hands and hovered in front of Michelle. She froze in controlled fear; she was getting used to knowing she didn’t need to fear them. “That’s right, sweetie. They won’t hurt you.”

“But they will hurt other people. They hurt you. They killed Dad. I don’t want them to kill any more people.”

“They don’t actually kill people.”

“Oh, really? What would you call it?”

Anyone who rejects what we want to do dies of his or her rejecting of our plan. Those who die kill themselves, essentially, out of their own closed-mindedness.”

“That sounds like blaming the victim, Mom.”

“Those ‘victims’ are also victimizers, or at least potential victimizers.”

“That sounds like a rationalization. Are you saying that Dad was a victimizer?

“Yes, I’m sorry to say. I was, too, helping him run that…propaganda-spouting company and ruling over Mississauga, making people think MedicinaTech was the only problem in the world, and distracting people from how we were all part of a much bigger problem, the immiseration of the global poor. Fortunately, when the extraterrestrials entered me, and I went through that painful ordeal, I was open-minded enough to accept the changes they want to make to the world; and so when I got better, I began making democratic changes to the governance of Mississauga and to the management of the newspaper, things your father would never have allowed.”

Something Peter’s parents would never have allowed, either, Michelle thought. “But…you let Dad die,” she sobbed.

“Yes, sweetie.” Siobhan let out a big sigh. “That was hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But there are greater, global needs, more urgent than just those of our family. The needs of poor, starving families we’ve never met.”

I can’t help thinking Mom’s been brainwashed, Michelle thought. Killing Dad didn’t seem so hard to her when she did it in the hospital. And this ‘save the world’ stuff could be a trick, something they’re trying to get Peter and me to go along with while the aliens plan to do something far more evil.

Standing outside their house and looking through the large living room window at them, a man in his thirties was clutching his pistol, debating in his mind whether or not to pull it out of its holster. I can’t get a clear shot at Siobhan with her daughter standing in the way, he thought. I guess I’ll try tomorrow. I wouldn’t want her daughter to see her mother shot, anyway. It would be too upsetting for her.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Five

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, 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.

He sighed.

“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.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Wait for when the news announces her fake death.”

“Her fake death? Of what?”

“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 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 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?”

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Four

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, 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.

She found the recording in her email inbox, plugged in her earplugs, and hit PLAY.

She heard a sea of indistinct voices of men and women in a meeting.

“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 complaining about–you know, the usual shit: poverty, homelessness, the wars, the environment, 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. 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 already 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, 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.

“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. Can they read my thoughts?

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. “Really, I do. I care about you.” Her fear made her words no less sincere.

Siobhan looked down at her and gave her another one of those questionable grins. “I love you, too, sweetie.”

“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. I can’t think straight.”

“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.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Three

The next day, Peter sent a 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]. 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?

LISA: Yes.

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.

[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 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.

No Raid.

“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.

Analysis of ‘Misery’

Misery is a 1987 psychological horror novel written by Stephen King. It was adapted into a movie in 1990, directed by Rob Reiner and starring James Caan and Kathy Bates, with Lauren Bacall and Richard Farnsworth. Bates won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Annie Wilkes. A theatrical production in 2015 starred Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf.

Misery grew out of King’s wish to break free of the horror fiction genre (i.e., his 1984 fantasy novel, The Eyes of the Dragon), yet many of his fans wanted him to stick to horror. He was also struggling with alcohol and drugs at the time, of which the fictional drug, Novril, is a symbol. Since Novril can be seen as a pun on novel, and King once said, “Annie was my drug problem,” we can see how Novril symbolizes both his addictions and his troubled relationship with his fans.

Links to quotes from the novel and the film can be found here.

So, the struggle that Paul Sheldon (Caan) goes through with Annie is the same struggle any artist goes through in wanting to grow and be free to express him- or herself without restrictions…yet the Annies of the world keep imposing those restrictions. Give the fans what they want. We have to please the fans. Make art to make money. Produce a commodity that will sell…or die.

Sheldon no longer wants to write his hit romance novel series, the Misery books, about the female protagonist, Misery Chastain. He’s never meant those books to be his whole life. He wants to write something new, in a bid for artistic respectability. So he has killed off Chastain in what’s meant to be the final book of the romance series, Misery’s Child; and he has just finished writing a totally new and different novel, Fast Cars (the new book is untitled in the movie).

The film begins with him having just finished typing the manuscript and smoking a cigarette; then he drives out of his Colorado hotel during the opening credits in the soon-to-be snowstorm (while we hear “Shotgun,” by Jr. Walker and the All-Stars…in the novel, he listens to a cassette of Bo Diddley–page 21) and gets into the accident that breaks his legs.

The novel, however, begins when the accident has already happened, and his legs are in agonizing pain. The pain comes and goes in cycles (page 4), which are compared to those of the rising and falling tide.

Sheldon remembers a childhood experience of being with his parents on Revere Beach. The boy saw a broken-off piling jutting up from the sand; to him, it looked like a monster’s fang. He found the sight disturbing, but as the tide came in and covered up more and more of the piling, he felt better. Once the entire piling was submerged in water, he was at peace.

But then, the tide started going out, and he could see more and more of the piling again.

Now, his broken legs feel like two broken pilings (page 7), and Annie’s pain-killing drug, Novril, is the tide that will submerge those pilings (page 10)…until it wears off, and the pilings reappear from under the water. She controls the tide, so she is the Moon-goddess, “the lunar presence” (page 10).

He finds her body solid, all too solid (page 9), like a pagan idol (pages 9 and 10). How apt for a moon-goddess. It’s important to see Annie as symbolic of a goddess, especially the Moon-goddess. For, just as the goddess that Robert Graves wrote about inspired his poetry (as Graves said, “My thesis is that the language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse…and that this remains the language of true poetry” pages 9-10), Annie, in her own perverse way, will inspire Sheldon to write.

Of course, her inspiration is a bad one, right from when she finds him injured in his car. Recall that inspire is derived from the Latin inspīrāre, “to breathe upon or into.” Recall how Annie breathes her halitosis into Sheldon’s mouth, which he experiences as a kind of rape. (pages 5, 6, and 7)

He is “raped back into life” (page 7), which perfectly expresses the dual nature of his relationship with her: she saves his life, yet she abuses him as well. She takes care of him, yet she tortures him. Like that lunar-influenced tide that goes up and down, she both relieves and causes his suffering.

This duality is inherent to Annie’s personality: she presents a False Self of wholesome, Christian goodness to the world, but underneath, her True Self is narcissistic, sociopathic, and emotionally dysregulated. We typically hear her use ridiculously childish euphemisms (“cock-a-doodie,” etc.), but occasionally, actual swear-words come out of her mouth, too. It has been suspected that she has bipolar disorder, her manic ups and depressive downs being symbolized by the crests and troughs of her lunar influence on the tide.

Just as Annie presents a false version of herself to the world, so does she love reading fiction that presents a false, fantasy version of the world: romance novels, Sheldon’s in particular, of course. And when he presents her with his down-to-earth, realistic view of the world in Fast Cars (or the untitled manuscript of the movie), with the coarse language of slum kids, she hates it. She hates the reality, the truth, that his new book expresses.

And this lunatic woman controls whether he feels pain or comfort. “She kept the capsules. The capsules in her hand were the tide. She was the moon, and she had brought the tide which would cover the pilings.” (page 24) Recall that the rising tide that covers up the pilings doesn’t make then non-existent–it just makes them invisible. Just as her escape from reality in reading his books doesn’t erase her pain, the dope she gives him doesn’t heal his legs–it just make their fragmentation seem unnoticeable. His novels make her forget her pain; her Novril makes him forget his.

Just as she’s breathed life into Sheldon…as God did to Adam, and he “became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7)…so does Sheldon “breathe life into her [Misery Chastain, with whom Annie identifies and sympathizes].” (page 26) Annie, the Moon-goddess, inspires him, and he inspires her with his Misery books.

Annie and Sheldon are the two characters who, in her lonely house in snowy Colorado, make up the great majority of the story. All the other characters are mere details who only briefly have their appearances. The whole novel is about the dyadic, one-on-one relationship between Annie and Sheldon.

This is a relationship cut off from the rest of society, what Lacan would have called the Imaginary. Annie and Sheldon look at each other’s faces as if looking into a metaphorical mirror. Being Sheldon’s “number one fan,” Annie idealizes him as this brilliant, god-like author (recall how he can “breathe life into [Misery]”). She is the Moon-goddess to him, and he is her god. The idealizing is mirror-like in its mutuality.

We must be careful to qualify this mutual idealizing, though. She idealizes him, but he, of course, far from willingly idealizes her, for this Moon-goddess, as we know, is an evil one. He is merely dependent on her, as a baby is on his mother. His ‘religious devotion’ to her is based on fear and need, not love. She’s his ideal only in the sense that she relieves his pain, and is the only one who will do it.

This idealization must be understood in a dialectical sense, for the shadow of hate always accompanies the light of love. Just as a baby loves what Melanie Klein called the good mother and the good breast for nourishing him, and he hates the bad mother and bad breast for failing to nourish him and for frustrating his desires, so is Sheldon split in his feelings about Annie when she feeds and cares for him, and when she neglects and abuses him.

She experiences similar splitting in her attitude towards him when he succeeds at living up to her expectations as his ideal, or fails to do so. This splitting, or black-and-white thinking, is a common trait in people with borderline personality disorder, a comorbidity presumed to be part of Annie’s personality.

Splitting is also a manifestation of the duality theme in this novel: when the tide is up, and the pilings are submerged thanks to the Novril, Annie is the good mother; when the tide is down, and Sheldon is in agonizing, piling pain because she neglects to give him his dope, she’s the bad mother. The same ups and downs can be seen whenever he pleases or displeases her. Dialectical opposites.

A number of references are made to Annie as a kind of mother figure to Sheldon, all in the split, love/hate attitude, “with that same mixture of sternness and maternal love” (page 31) we expect to see in her.

In chapter 17 of Part I, when she’s about to make him burn the Fast Cars manuscript, he calls her “the devil,” that is, she’s the bad mother. Annie retorts with “Oh yes! Yes! That’s what a child thinks when mommy comes into the kitchen and sees him playing with the cleaning fluid from under the sink. He doesn’t say it that way, of course, because he doesn’t have your education. He just says, ‘Mommy, you’re mean!'” (page 57)

Earlier, when she has finished reading Misery’s Child and realizes Sheldon has killed off her beloved heroine, she goes through a similar flip-flop of splitting by saying, “I thought you were good, but you are not good. You are just a lying old dirty birdie.” (page 46) In the film, her temper tantrum over his killing off of Misery is fittingly preceded by a shot of the full moon just outside her house.

Just as she is the Moon-goddess for him, sometimes good (feeding him, nursing him back to health, giving him Novril), and sometimes bad (obviously), so is he “God” for her, sometimes good (in his Creation of the world of Misery that she loves), and sometimes bad (in killing off Chastain). As she says to him, “God takes us when He thinks it’s time and a writer is God to the people in a story, he made them up just like God made us up and no one can get hold of God to make him explain, all right, okay, but as far as Misery goes I’ll tell you one thing you dirty bird, I’ll tell you that God just happens to have a couple of broken legs and God just happens to be in MY house eating MY food…” (page 46).

In this world, the pagan Moon-goddess is more powerful than God, for Sheldon, in his helpless convalescence, needs her as a baby needs his mother. And nobody knows this better than Sheldon himself, to his “Misery Chastain[-like]…chagrin” (page 73, my emphasis). He may be “Paul Sheldon, the literary Zeus from whose brow sprang Misery Chastain,” but Annie is the Moon-goddess on whom he depends, she whose self-control and kindness waxes and wanes.

This lunar…and lunatic…waxing and waning of goodness in Annie is typical of the cyclical nature of the abusive relationship. The provocations and tension rise between the abuser and the victim until an explosion occurs, then a fake apology is given, then there’s a ‘honeymoon‘ (interesting word-choice) of brief kindness to the victim, then the abuse begins again, creeping in insidiously with small, growing provocations. The effect this cyclical abuse has on the victim is to establish traumatic bonding: one hates and fears the abuser, but one cannot live without him or her.

Another crucial aspect of this emotional abuse is Annie’s use of projection and gaslighting, the former symbolized early on in the novel through her breathing in Sheldon’s mouth to resuscitate him. Her bad breath going into his mouth feels like a kind of oral rape, as described above: in this act, she is symbolically projecting her badness into him.

As for the gaslighting, since this exhaled projection has been accomplished, she can easily blame the victim for her temper tantrums over the profanity in Fast Cars (“Look what you made me do!” page 29, when her agitated outburst makes her spill a bowl of beef soup on Sheldon’s bedspread, then throw the bowl into the corner of the room, breaking it and splashing soup on the wall.)

She continues to blame him for the mess she’s made in the following chapter on page 30. She tortures him by not giving him his medication until she’s finished cleaning up the mess. It’s safe to assume she’s calmed down by now, but her sadism is at its height, given the agonizing pain he’s in. “The tide went out. The pilings were back.” (page 30) “He began to cry soundlessly. The tide had never gone out so far” (page 31).

And when she finally gives him his three capsules of Novril, she makes him drink them down with the dirty water from the bucket she’s used to clean up the mess: “…he saw her lifting the yellow plastic floor-bucket toward him. It filled his field of vision like a falling moon.” (page 32)

After promising never to make her mad again (“Anger the moon which brought the tide? What an idea! What a bad idea!” –page 33), she kisses him on the cheek and tells him she loves him. Nasty waxes back into ‘nice.’

While Annie is associated with the moon, she also represents all of his fans, who want him to keep churning out Misery novels. Recall that fan is short for fanatic, an overzealous religious extremist, for example. Annie, who is worshipped as a lunar deity, is also a lunatic worshipper of Sheldon’s deity. That she’s his “number one fan” just makes her all the more fanatical…just like those other women readers of Sheldon’s work, each of whom also claims to be his number one fan (page 36), protesting whenever he takes a break from Misery to write something else.

Here we come against the tension between the wish for artistic freedom vs. the unending demand to satisfy the customer to make more money. This problem is fuelled by the profit motive. The author writes not to fulfill his or her urge to be artistically expressive, but merely to make money to survive.

That Annie bullies him into resurrecting Misery Chastain with the writing of Misery’s Return is symbolic of this capitalist coercion. Sheldon is Scheherazade, desperately fighting to keep himself alive by telling stories. The capitalist commodification of labour forces all workers to sell their labour, to sell themselves, rather like prostitutes, to have money to stay alive. There’s no voluntary choice being made, in spite of the nonsense we hear from right-wing libertarians and ‘anarcho’-capitalists: we workers provide a commodity or service, or we get thrown out in the street, starve, and die.

So we see this two-way, mutual idolizing going on. Annie worships the god in Sheldon as his number one fan, and he worships her lunar, tide-controlling deity to relieve his suffering. But she, as a pagan goddess, requires sacrifices from her devotees; and the sacrifice he’ll have to make is his manuscript of Fast Cars. (pages 54-55) “So he burned his book” (page 60).

This is the first part of her stifling of his artistic freedom; the second part, of course, is reviving Misery. He has to go back to churning out product like an assembly-line worker.

She gives him a Royal electric typewriter (page 76). Just looking at the thing is giving him bad feelings. “The Royal grinned at him, promising trouble.” (page 78) The banked semicircle of keys seem like teeth in an eerie grin. What’s more, he notices “a missing n.” (page 77) The missing n, in the context of the typewriter keys’ smile, looks like a grin with a missing tooth.

The “missing tooth” might remind us of that of Trelkovsky in The Tenant, which I interpreted in my analysis of that film as symbolic of castration, a symbol in itself of any bodily mutilation, or of any lack, which gives rise to desire. Sheldon has experienced the lack of his burned manuscript, and the missing n, one of the most commonly used letters, is symbolic of his lack of freedom to write as he wishes, a restriction of his artistic expression. Annie’s abuse is symbolically a castration of him.

This symbolic castration is carried further when she hobbles him as ‘punishment’ for secretly leaving his room. Recall that in the film, she uses that huge sledgehammer to break his feet at the ankles; but in the novel, she hacks off his left foot with an axe (page 279), and cuts off his thumb with an electric knife.

That the loss of the typewriter’s “teeth” (in the novel, not just the n of the film, but also the e [page 292] and the t [page 285]) and the hacking off of his foot and thumb are symbolic of castration is not just some indulgence on my part. King himself makes such associations in the narrative by juxtaposing them all.

“Sitting here in front of this typewriter with its increasingly bad teeth…he supposed he had been his own Scheherazade, just as he was his own dream-woman when he grabbed hold of himself and jacked off to the feverish beat of his fantasies. He didn’t need a psychiatrist to point out that writing had its autoerotic side–you just beat a typewriter instead of your meat” (pages 302-303).

A little later, Sheldon muses about “…the loss of his thumb. It was horrible, but…think how much worse it could have been.” (page 303)

“It could have been his penis, for instance…he began to laugh wildly…in front of the hateful Royal with its gaptoothed grin. He laughed until his gut and stump both ached.” (page 304)

The hobbling is related to restrictions on his artistic freedom (symbolized by the freedom to move around–to think of ideas to write, Sheldon used to take walks!…pages 153, 154, 155), capitalist restrictions on freedom (i.e, wage slavery). Recall when Annie mentions how the British at the Kimberly diamond mines hobbled native workers (which is historically apocryphal) so they’d continue working without being able to steal diamonds or run away. (pages 276-277)

She restricts his freedom to write anything other than her philistine Misery books, yet she so fails to see the production of such books as a business that she imagines “the talent God gave [him]” to write such books as the opposite of a business (page 94). It’s offensive to her to think of his writing as a business.

One interesting aspect of the story, developed far more in the novel–of course–than in the movie, is how we see the writing process in operation. Sections of the novel give us scenes from Misery’s Return presented with a type font different from that of the Sheldon/Annie narrative, with the missing ns (and later, the missing ts and es) filled in. All of these letters are among the most commonly used, so again, their lack–with the need to write them in–symbolizes Sheldon’s decreasing ability to express himself freely.

Things degenerate to the point where, his writing hand swollen and painful (page 380), some of the final pages of Misery’s Return must be hastily hand-written (pages 363-364) to finish it before the increasingly inquisitive police catch up with what Annie has been doing and arrest her (She’s planned a murder/suicide for herself and Sheldon to escape the shame of the arrest).

The ironic thing about her coercing of him to write a novel he doesn’t want to write is that he eventually comes to regard this new novel as his best work…at least, of the Misery novels (page 253). Her pushing him to rewrite how it is that Misery Chastain survives the death she’s supposed to have suffered in Misery’s Child, to make it more believable, is a case in point. In this sense, Annie is being Robert Graves’s Moon-goddess after all, inspiring Sheldon to write better.

All of this good inspiration must be qualified, however. Perhaps Misery’s Return is Sheldon’s best writing yet…from a technical standpoint. It’s ‘the best’ in the sense that it is a hugely entertaining story that will delight his fans (after all, unlike in the film, in which he burns the manuscript to spite Annie, in the novel, he hides it, burning only a decoy of it, and takes it out of her house to publish it later).

Still, as commercially successful as Misery’s Return will undoubtedly be, it’s still the same philistine schlock that he finds so artistically unsatisfying. Sheldon’s regarding it as his best work is, I suspect, more of Annie’s gaslighting, traumatizing influence on him.

Now, Sheldon has his book, and Annie has hers–her scrapbook, in which she keeps newspaper clippings of all the events in her life that she deems significant. Apart from such mundane things as the announcement of her birth, her graduation from nursing school, and her being made the new head maternity ward nurse in a hospital, a disturbing theme runs throughout these clippings: death.

“FIVE DIE IN APARTMENT HOUSE FIRE” (page 229); “two copies of [Annie’s] father’s obituary” (page 231); USC STUDENT DIES IN FREAK FALL” (page 231); and so many others like these. Sheldon, as he’s flipping through the scrapbook and surmising that she has killed all these people, muses: “This is Annie’s Book of the Dead, isn’t it?” (page 235)

Just as Annie’s maternalism is a cover for her sadism, the white of the moon and its dark side, her “maternal love and tenderness” and “the total solid blackness underlying it” (page 194), so is her nursing career a cover for the serial killer she really is, her true and false selves. As with her Christian posturing, her work as a nurse is just reaction formation, a professed concern for preserving life masking a contempt for it. “Keeping up appearances is very, very important.” (page 117)

Annie, like Dr. Herbert West in Re-Animator, pretends to care about preserving and reviving life, but is really an example of what Erich Fromm called the necrophilous character, one excessively preoccupied with death. “Necrophilia in the characterological sense can be described as the passionate attraction to all that is dead, decayed, putrid, sickly; it is the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive; to destroy for the sake of destruction; the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical. It is the passion to tear apart living structures. (Fromm, page 369, his emphasis)

Now Sheldon knows he’s Scheherazade, telling his Misery story to stay alive. He hates having to continue with this philistine fiction because, like Annie, he has his own narcissistic tendencies. He wants to write serious literature and be admired by the critics (pages 357-358); being a bestselling author of popular fiction–something most struggling writers (myself included) would dream of being–simply isn’t good enough for him. Both he and Annie, when looking at each other’s faces, are looking into narcissistic mirrors.

Yet he’s as addicted to writing the novel as he’s addicted to taking the Novril; writing is as much a pain-relieving, therapeutic activity as taking the pain-killing dope is.

Unlike in the film, in which the local sheriff, Buster (Farnsworth)–prompted by Sheldon’s agent, Marcia Sindell (Bacall), who in the novel is barely mentioned, except to be named Bryce (page 37)–is seen early on investigating Sheldon’s disappearance, it isn’t until late in the novel that police appear (page 316), disturbing Annie’s dyadic, one-on-one, mother/son-like relationship with Sheldon.

In his state of traumatic bonding and learned helplessness, Sheldon at first can’t scream to the cop for help (pages 320-321). When he finally does yell (pages 322-323), Annie kills the cop, then projects her guilt onto Sheldon (page 332): “You killed him. If you had kept your mouth shut, I would have sent him on his way.”

Narcissists typically defend their fragile egos from criticism by projecting and repressing the shameful parts of themselves. Annie knows the police will be back, so she hides Sheldon in her basement (page 337), a terrifying, dark place where the rats are. “Spiders down there, he thought. Mice down there. Rats down there.” (page 336) The basement represents her unconscious, where all of her ugliest, most repressed thoughts lie. “He had never been as close to her as he was then, as she carried him piggy-back down the steep stairs.” (page 337) He finds himself left in the dark realm of her madness. The police, who represent her superego, must never find him in that ugly place.

Her gaslighting of him is working. Sheldon may try to fight it off as best he can, but her projected guilt does get into him. “Did he believe that [he was responsible for the cop’s murder]? No, of course not. But there was still that strong, hurtful moment of guilt–like a quick stab-wound…The guilt stabbed quickly again and was gone.” (page 367)

Two more cops arrive, also representative of Annie’s superego. Sheldon, not knowing their names yet, calls them David and Goliath because of their relative sizes (page 366). Sheldon is out of the basement now, back in his room, so he can see the cops out from his window. He dares not yell; her control of him is absolute. His room is symbolically the preconscious, meaning he’s able to bring the truth to consciousness, to the public, but he won’t, because he’s being suppressed by her.

All these visitors, be they the cops, the taxman (“not a cop but someone IN AUTHORITY”–page 185), or “those brats” (page 376–the TV news, actually), represent the Other of society who are invading Annie’s dyadic, one-on-one world with Sheldon. All three of these groups of people are authorities of one kind or another–the news media are understood to be an ‘authority,’ of sorts, on what is happening in the world.

Such authorities are symbolically associated with Lacan’s notion of the nom, or Non! du père, the father who, as a third party, forcibly ends the dyadic mother/son relationship (the other) and brings his son out of the Oedipus complex and into the larger society (the Other). But in the mother/son role-play we see in Annie and Sheldon, it is she–not he–who doesn’t want to be pulled out of the dyadic relationship.

So instead of Sheldon having a transference of Oedipal feelings for Annie (he loathes and dreads her too much for that, of course), she, in her ‘love’ for him, is having a transference of the Jocasta complex. She won’t let go of her narcissistic monopoly on his life, the way a child who Oedipally desires one of his or her parents doesn’t want to give up hogging that parent all to him- or herself.

Annie is certainly childish enough in her narcissistic hogging of Sheldon, and in her temper tantrums and violence when she complains about the taxman, brutally kills the cop (projecting her guilt onto Sheldon), and projects her childishness onto “those [TV news] brats.” In her petulance, Annie is the Bourka Bee-Goddess, with her needle syringe stinger (pages 256-257).

This bad-tempered Bourka Bee-Goddess, with her sting, reminds us of wasp-like Katherina, who warns Petruchio to beware her sting. Of course, the only way Sheldon can tame his shrew is by killing her.

The trauma she has put him through, though, means he’s stuck with the memory of her in his head. He hasn’t been traumatized once, but many times, and in a predicament from which he’s felt he can’t escape. This is the essence of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

After he’s been rescued by “David and Goliath,” and has been brought back into society–with a prosthetic foot (page 411)–Sheldon still can’t get Annie out of his head. At the end of the film, in a restaurant with Sindell, he has a brief hallucination that the approaching waitress is Annie. In the book, he imagines her leaping up from behind his sofa in his apartment. (pages 414-415)

This reliving of his trauma, an inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality, and the inability to put his trauma into words, is the essence of what Lacan called the Real. Because of this intense pain, Sheldon feels he can no longer write.

Eventually, though, he does get his writing Muse back. We see the beginnings of a new story typed in that different font (pages 419-420), but with no letters missing, because this is Sheldon writing for Sheldon, not Scheherazade writing for Annie.

He can express himself through language again, so he has escaped both the terror of the Real and the narcissism of the Imaginary, and reentered the expressive, healthy social world of the Symbolic.

His misery is over.

Stephen King, Misery, New York, Pocket Books, 1987

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter Two

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.

Love,

Peter

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 they wanted to give us a false sense of confidence, then hit 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.

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 tore right open with his splitting body parts punching a huge hole in it, exposing his entire front torso. A gasp from Lisa was heard again, but the video POV stayed on the horrible sight. His inner organs were now showing: 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. “I’m exposing you to the world.”

“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 Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book II, Chapter One

2031, Mississauga

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.

“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, 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.

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 are changing for the better, Michelle. Little by little. Believe me.”

Michelle looked carefully at her mother’s face again. That smile she saw looked sincere…maybe.

“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 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-Kampff 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.