‘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 if 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.

Masks

With our breath being blocked in these,
so much remains inside,
too little is set free,
and we cannot express
the pain that we all feel within.

It is presumed that all we have
is ill within, no health,
expiring bad, no good.
So we must keep it in.
Expression will make others perish.

It’s hard for us to share our thoughts
if we cannot exchange
our smiles, our energy,
or what makes us unique.
Those muzzles make us look the same.

We cannot walk outside our walls.
We cannot blow beyond
the walls before our faces.
Trapped and anonymous,
We have become prisoners of fear.

‘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.

‘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.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Twelve

After walking out of the hotel and down the street in the opposite direction from which they’d come, it didn’t take long before Peter and Michelle found themselves in an area where there was far less poverty. The two saw the occasional homeless person, but not rows of tents of them.

“It’s good to see that not all of Regent Park is as badly off as I’ve heard,” she said.

“Didn’t I tell you that there were some nicer areas?” he said. “I just wish my parents had provided better for the worse-off here.”

After another block of walking, they reached a building with a sign that read, Dr. Phil Gordon’s Clinic, Virus Testing, ENT, and Other Medical Services.

“Here we are,” Peter said. “My doctor friend’s clinic.”

They went in and up the stairs to the second floor, where a sign on the door said the same as the one outside. They went in.

A nurse in a protective suit was at a desk. She looked up from her work and recognized Peter.

“Peter?” she said. “What brings you back here again? You don’t want another test so soon, do you?”

“Yes, both of us do,” he said.

“Wow, you never used to be this worried about viruses,” the nurse said.

“Well, strange things have been happening to both of us lately,” he said. “We really need to talk to Phil.”

“Well, Dr. Gordon should be finished with his patient in there in a few minutes,” the nurse said, gesturing to the examination room to her right. “Why don’t you both have a seat over there?” She now gestured to the seats in the waiting area on the other side of the room, opposite her desk.

“OK,” Peter and Michelle said together, then went over and sat.

She picked up a copy of The Mississauga Exposé. She flipped through the pages and found an article about the difficulties MedicinaTech was having creating an effective vaccine for The Splits.

“Peter, check this out,” she said, showing the story to him.

“Oh, of course,” he said. “And we both know why they’re having those difficulties, don’t we?”

A man in a protective suit walked out of the examination room. As he left the clinic, the doctor–with the examination room door still half-way open–recognized Peter.

“Hey, Peter,” he said. “Welcome back. Come on in.”

Peter and Michelle got up and approached Dr. Gordon.

“He still isn’t wearing one of these suits,” Peter said.

“Yeah,” she said, shaking a little.

They all went into the examination room, and Gordon closed the door behind them. “So, what brings you back here?”

“Well, for one thing, I’ve been meaning to ask you, Phil,” Peter said, “why you never have on a protective suit, like everyone else.”

“Well, I have to wear one outside of Regent Park, because out there everyone’s paranoid about The Splits, not so much here, and I don’t wanna worry them or make waves.”

“But why don’t you wear one here, too?” Michelle asked. “Your nurse is wearing one. Your last patient has one on, too.”

“Because I know, for a fact,” Doctor Gordon said, “that I’m never going to be ‘infected’ with The Splits.”

“How do you know that?” Peter asked, his eyes and mouth wide open.

“You know how, whenever people are known to be afflicted with The Splits, they first see a swarm of little, glowing balls of white light entering them?” the doctor said.

“Yeah,” Peter and Michelle said together, anticipating Gordon’s next words.

“Those things never enter my body,” he said with perfect self-assurance. “And I’ve seen them hover inches before my uncovered face too many times to count. I’ve tested myself every time after, too, just to be sure. All negative. I’m not even a symptomless carrier, like Hannah Gould.”

Peter’s and Michelle’s jaws dropped.

“There’s a kind of confession on your faces that you’ve had a similar experience, I’ll wager,” the doctor said, “or you’ve known others who’ve had that experience.”

“Actually, that just happened to both of us a few hours ago,” Michelle said.

“The little stars flew out of a carrier,” Gordon said, “one who had at least part of his body exposed, and instead of entering your bodies, they just floated in front of you both, as if they were checking you out to see if you were friends or foes?”

“Yeah, that’s how it seemed, anyway,” she said.

“That happened to me, and to a number of other people who’ve come here, too,” the doctor said. “I’d say you needn’t ever fear The Splits.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Based on all the observations I’ve made of this ‘Splits’ phenomenon, there seem to be about four different reactions to those little glowing things: death, as happened to both your parents, Peter, I’m sorry to hear; second, a struggle with those things, leading either to death, or survival and becoming a carrier, this latter which seems to have happened to Siobhan Buchanan, head of the Mississauga Exposé and the district–“

“That’s my mother, by the way,” Michelle said.

“Oh, you’re Michelle Buchanan,” Gordon said, putting out his hand to shake hers. “I read about your family in the papers. Sorry for the loss of your father. I trust your mom’s doing OK now?”

“Thanks,” she said, shaking his hand. “I guess so, though she acts strangely.”

“That’s the result of being a carrier,” the doctor said. “It changes you. And hey, Peter, why didn’t you introduce me to her? She’s your girlfriend, right? You talk about her enough when you come to see me.”

“Yeah, I’ve been waiting for you to introduce me,” she said to Peter, glaring at him. “Where are your manners?”

“Sorry,” he said in embarrassment. “Phil, Michelle; Michelle, Phil. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

“He’s a little uncouth,” she said to the doctor while giving Peter a hug. “But I love him all the same.”

“Anyway,” Peter said, “what are the other two reactions?”

“The third reaction is what happened to Hannah Gould,” the doctor said.

“The wife of Derek Gould, MedicinaTech’s old CFO,” Peter said.

“Yes, he was the first victim, you know that,” the doctor said. “Hannah actually came here a week after the attack; she came here to talk to me about this supposedly medical issue. The little white lights enter you and only slightly change you, as happened to her–you feel a warm, vibrating feeling, and you’re a carrier. And the last reaction is nothing at all–no entry of the body, or what happened to us.”

“Why do you think there are these different reactions?” Peter asked. “Why do those things kill some, fuck other people up for a while, live in people’s bodies without harming them, or don’t touch us at all?”

“Well, according to Hannah, who when she visited me, had those little stars fly out at me and not enter me (my first experience of that, by the way), she said, ‘It depends on how sympathetic you are to the cause’.”

“Sympathetic?” Peter and Michelle said together with sneers.

“The ’cause’?” Michelle asked.

“When I dealt with patients who had The Splits, and their bodies were ripping apart, closing back together, and ripping apart again, there was a sense that they weren’t accepting what was going on inside themselves,” the doctor said. “Their bodies were rejecting those little glowing things, and that’s what was making their bodies tear apart.”

“And if the patient got better, he became a carrier, and had that changed, emotionless personality,” Peter began.

“Or personality with fake emotions,” Michelle added, thinking sadly about her mother.

“That all means they came to accept ‘the cause,’ whatever the fuck that is?” Peter asked.

“That’s how it has looked to me, every time I’ve seen it,” Gordon said. “And if they totally rejected those things, they ripped up into pieces and died. But the more accepting of them that a person is, the less they will bother him.”

“So they aren’t bothering us at all because we totally sympathize with whatever they want to do?” Peter asked. “Is that what you’re saying?”

“It seems that way,” the doctor said. “I can’t know for sure, but that’s the way it looks.”

“Well, I fail to see how I ‘sympathize’ with the killing of my father,” she said angrily.

“Or how I can ‘sympathize’ with the killing of both of my parents,” Peter said with even more anger.

“Hey, I don’t sympathize with any of the killings I’ve seen,” Gordon said. “Those things seem to go after powerful, influential people, not the powerless, hence we don’t see the homeless here with The Splits. Now, I don’t like the powerful any more than you do, Peter, but as a doctor, I don’t want to see the rich and powerful die any more than the powerless.”

“They attack only the powerful,” Peter mused. “This is no disease, is it, Phil?” he asked with fear in his eyes.

“Nope,” the doctor said, shaking his head in all self-assurance.

“Do you have any idea where those things came from?” Peter asked.

“When I talked to Hannah, she said she and Derek saw them flying down to them…from the night sky,” the doctor said, then heaved a sigh.

There was a moment of tense silence among them.

“You mean,” Peter said in a trembling voice, “that those things are from…?”

“Outer space?” Michelle said.

“Hey, you said that, not me,” Gordon said. “Hannah told me that the less we know, the better.”

“And you trust her?” Peter asked. “I’ll bet she knows, but is hiding valuable information.”

“I don’t know who to trust,” the doctor said. “But I do know how not to rock the boat. In any case, if you’re uncomfortable wearing those suits, I’d say you can take them off.”

Peter looked at Gordon askance and asked, with a sneer, “Why should we take them off?”

“Hey, you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” the doctor said.

“Oh, I want to,” Peter said, “but…”

“Then take your suit off,” Gordon said.

“Do you want us to?” Michelle asked with a sneer.

“I don’t care either way,” the doctor said, noting the suspicion in their eyes and waving his hands to assure them that he had no hidden agenda. “Do whatever you want.”

Peter and Michelle just stood there, motionless and eyeing him carefully.

“Those things didn’t attack you before,” the doctor said. “Even if I’m a carrier and lying to you, I assure you, they won’t attack you now.”

He isn’t showing any of the carriers’ lack of emotion, Peter thought.

He isn’t showing the fake smiles my mother shows, Michelle thought.

Peter and Michelle looked at each other, then back at Dr. Gordon.

They ever so slowly took off their head coverings, ready for anything, ready to pop them right back on at the slightest sign of danger.

Nothing.

Then they ever so slowly unzipped their body suits, never taking their eyes off the doctor.

The suits came completely off.

Nothing.

Peter and Michelle breathed a sigh of relief.

“I told you you were safe,” the doctor said. “Do you think you can trust me now?”

“OK,” Peter said.

“Sorry,” Michelle said.

“Look, I have no idea what those things want,” the doctor said. “But I have reason to believe that they don’t think of the three of us as enemies. I have no idea why, but we’re not their enemies, or so they think.”

“I’d say they’re wrong about that,” Michelle said with a frown. “They killed my dad.”

“I’d say they’re wrong, too,” Peter said. “I lost both parents because of them. I may not agree with my parents’ politics, but that doesn’t mean I wanted them dead. Those little lights have got a big-ass enemy in me.”

Just when he finished his sentence, the glowing little dots flew into the room from an open window.

Peter and Michelle gasped. The doctor stayed cool.

The little lights just hovered before the faces of all three of them.

Peter and Michelle froze. Dr. Gordon leaned comfortably against his desk.

“You killed my father,” Michelle said with tears in her eyes. “I’m not your friend. Kill me now.”

“You killed my parents,” Peter said with gritted teeth. “I’m not your friend, either. Kill me now.”

The little dots just stayed there, hovering inches before them.

“Kill me now!” Peter yelled.

“Kill me now!” Michelle screamed.

After a few more seconds of hovering, the lights flew out of the window.

Peter and Michelle were still shaking a minute or two after.

“Now what?” Peter asked Dr. Gordon.

“I guess they don’t want to kill you,” the doctor said with a shrug.

“They have a plan for us, or something?” Michelle asked.

“Who knows?” Gordon said with another shrug. “I guess you won’t be needing a virus test, will you?”

“No, I guess not,” Peter said.

END OF BOOK ONE

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Eleven

Peter and Michelle hailed a taxicab and got in.

“Take us to the nearest gateway to Regent Park,” Peter said. “And hurry.”

“OK, from here, that’ll be Queen Street East,” said the cabbie. What do they want to go that dump for? he wondered as he started driving.

“I guess we don’t need to wear these suits,” Peter said to her, “if those little white dots aren’t going to enter our bodies.” He was about to take his head covering off, raising Michelle’s and the cabbie’s eyebrows.

She put out her hand to stop Peter. “Let’s not jump to any conclusions,” she said. “What just happened to us may have been a fluke.”

The cabbie let out a sigh of relief that Peter kept his whole suit on.

“What could have caused those things not to have entered us?” Peter asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be foolish or overconfident until we know. We need to find out more about ‘those things’ before we can be sure of what we’re dealing with.”

“I really don’t think we’re dealing with a disease,” he said. “I’d swear those things have some kind of intelligence. It’s as if they knew when to strike, right when we took the head coverings off, and no sooner. They didn’t come off when Wayne took off his gloves, because they seemed to know we weren’t vulnerable yet. I’ll bet they raised the temperature in that room, too, to make us too uncomfortable to keep the head coverings on.”

“Yeah, OK…and then not enter us?” she asked while sneering at him.

“Yeah, I know it doesn’t make much sense, but maybe they have some kind of subtle plan for us that we haven’t figured out yet. Like they wanted to show themselves to us…to toy with us.”

“Here come the conspiracy theories again.”

“Well, do you have a better explanation for what happened back there?”

“No, and that’s why I think we need to err on the side of caution until we know for sure what’s going on.”

“Well, that’s why we’re going to Regent Park.”

“Getting us a hotel room is going to help us know for sure?” she asked with another sneer. “By ‘knowing,’ I don’t mean in the Biblical sense.”

The cabbie smirked in envy at the thought of Peter soon to get it on with his pretty, shapely girlfriend in a hotel room.

“Well, after the hotel, we’ll meet my doctor friend.”

“You think he knows something about this?”

“It’s the only recently discovered ‘disease’ he admits to being real,” Peter said. “And while you’d think he’d have been wearing a protective suit, he wasn’t when he tested me. Maybe he had the same experience we had.”

“You never asked him why he wasn’t wearing one?” she asked.

“Part of me was glad he wasn’t succumbing to all this fear, so I didn’t.”

“OK,” the cabbie said. “Here’s the Queen Street East entrance gate.” He stopped the cab. “Don’t let any of those bums sneak out when you get in, as a favour to all of us.”

Peter paid the fare, and he and Michelle got out.

Peter took a key out of his pocket, opened the locked gate, holding Michelle’s gloved hand with his free one, and they went in. By the sidewalks on the way to the hotel, they saw rows of tents of homeless people. All of them were filthy. All of them held out their hands for spare change. None was wearing a suit.

“Take a look around,” Peter said as they rushed past the tents and stepped over the stretched-out legs of beggars lying on the sidewalks with hats and bowls beside them, hoping for spare change. “The rejects of Toronto. I’d love to give them some money, but if you or I drop even just one penny into a hat or bowl, they’ll all be mobbing us for more, and I didn’t bring enough pocket money, rich as my family is, to satisfy all of them at once. I feel like such a dick to deny them, but there’s nothing I can do.”

“Same here,” she said. “I don’t have much on me, either. I wish I could give them something.”

“If you think this is bad, wait another few years, when the world completes the transition to a totally cashless society,” he said. “The homeless will really be fucked then.”

“Oh, that’s awful.”

“Yeah, MedicinaTech all but abandoned this part of Toronto. A piddling amount of government taxes goes into helping the poor here, but as you can see, it’s nowhere near enough. The gates keep them from entering the richer parts of the city; only people here with a reasonable income have a key to get in and out, like my doctor friend.”

“Why did he choose to live here?”

“He wants to help the poor by providing either affordable or free health care. Without volunteers like him, if the homeless–note the lack of protective suits for them–ever caught The Splits, or any other disease, real or imagined, they’d be in a pretty hopeless situation.”

They reached the Ritz Hotel.

“Here we are,” he said.

They went in and got a room.

“I guess we can finally take these off,” he said, then slowly took off his head covering.

They paused for a moment.

Their eyes darted around the room for glowing little dots of light.

Several seconds of tense silence.

“I guess we’re safe,” she said, taking off her head covering and looking around cautiously. “The woman at the desk was wearing a suit, and those things only come out from people’s uncovered skin, don’t they?”

“Yeah, and they don’t seem to want to enter us, as you’ll recall,” he said, removing the rest of his suit. “Don’t worry. We should be fine.”

“OK,” she said, still in a cautious attitude. She took off her suit with her eyes always on the alert for the little white lights. Peter was already naked and under the covers. She slowly began unbuttoning her shirt.

“If they were gonna get us, surely they’d have already done so by now. Stop worrying.”

“Well, if I’m gonna die, I want us to die together,” she said, then soon got naked and went under the covers with him.

As they made love in the missionary position, they sighed not only with pleasure, but also from the relief of finally being able to enjoy close physical contact.

For too long, he thought as he went in and out of her, kissing her and caressing her cheeks, all of us have been denied closeness. Fear of disease has split us all apart from each other. We can’t truly help each other if we’re apart, not hugging, not touching, not seeing each other’s facial expressions because masks are hiding our smiles and frowns.

She was thinking these very same thoughts.

When they finished, they lay together and cuddled, their arms tightly around each other.

“Oh,” she sighed. “I’d forgotten…how good that feels. Not just getting laid, but…feeling the touch of someone else. I’m glad we took…the chance here. I’m sick of being afraid…and alone.”

“That’s what I…have been trying to get…you to understand,” he sighed. “We need closeness. It’s what makes…us human.”

“You’re right. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” They kissed. “Now, let’s go…and meet my doctor friend.”

They put on their clothes and left.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book I, Chapter Ten

At 8:02 that night, Michelle sat in the lobby of MedicinaTech, looking around the crowds of people in those protective suits walking by and looking indistinguishable from each other except by suit colour. Growing impatient as she hoped to see Peter among them, she wondered if she’d see him without a suit on.

Finally, after about ten minutes of waiting, she saw him walking along, chatting with Wayne Grey. Both were in those suits.

It took a while for her to be sure it was Peter approaching, for his suit obscured his face. But when she saw through his head covering (made more difficult because she, of course, also had a head covering to look through), she breathed a sigh of relief to see that he was finally complying with the safety precautions.

She stood and waved at him. “Peter, over here!” she said.

He and Wayne walked up to her.

“Wayne, this is Michelle, my girlfriend,” he said. “Michelle, this is Wayne Grey, MedicinaTech’s new boss.”

“Pleased to meet you,” she said with a smile while her gloved hand shook his.

“Nice to meet you, too,” he said with what looked to her like a forced, unnatural smile.

She and Peter exchanged glances of suspicion.

“I just want to say again, Wayne, that it does my heart good to hear you say you want to make some more democratic changes in the government of the city,” Peter said with a fake smile of his own, for he doubted the sincerity of such promises.

Michelle remembered similar promises from her mom, and similar smiles. It was hard to know if any of these promises were genuine.

“Well, don’t get your hopes up too high,” Wayne said. “I won’t be able to make a lot of changes right away, what with the stubbornness of all the members of the Board of Directors and their sympathy with your mom’s and dad’s way of doing things; but I do have a plan or two up my sleeve, ideas of how…to persuade them to see things my way.”

“I see,” Peter said, again exchanging doubtful glances with Michelle. Already I hear ready-made excuses for not keeping his promises, he thought. We’ll see.

“How about we go into that room over there,” Wayne said, pointing to Peter’s right. “Since you’re so concerned about finding a cure for The Splits, there’s a computer in there, and with it I can show you in detail all the progress MedicinaTech is making.”

“OK,” Peter said, and he and Michelle followed Wayne into the room, which was a small meeting room with a computer at the far end of a long table surrounded by chairs.

The three of them sat by the computer: Wayne using it, and Peter and Michelle on either side of him.

“I can’t type the keys with these thick gloves on my fingers,” Wayne said. “So I’ll need to take them off. I hope you don’t mind.” He looked at Peter intently, then the same way at Michelle.

Peter and Michelle looked at each other nervously for several seconds of silence.

“I was tested by Dr. Teague this morning,” Wayne tried to reassure them. “I tested negative.”

There was another pause, of five seconds of silence.

Good old, trustworthy Dr. Teague, Peter thought, as did Michelle.

“Have you both been tested?” Wayne asked. “If you keep your suits on, I’ll be safe.”

“Yes, we’ve been tested,” Peter said. “Just today, in fact.”

“I was tested a short while ago, too,” Michelle said. “I’ve been wearing this suit pretty much the whole time since.”

Now Wayne looked at the two of them, his eyes going back and forth from left to right, with some suspicion of his own. Then he took a deep breath and smiled.

“Well, even if you’re lying, I can feel safe as long as you two are both suited up completely,” Wayne said, then he took off his gloves and turned on the computer. “This should take only a minute to get ready.”

When it was ready, he began typing away. As he did, and then found reports and data on the testing of the vaccine MedicinaTech was working on, Peter and Michelle felt their nervousness abate, since no white dots of light were flying from Wayne’s fingers. What’s more, Wayne seemed so caught up in his work that he didn’t look at all nervous about catching anything from the two on either side of him.

It was as if he didn’t care one bit about it.

Now, Peter was feeling an increasing itch to take off his head covering. Actually, Michelle was feeling that way, too, for the suits were just that uncomfortable. And the room, inexplicably, was getting hot.

“As you can see,” Wayne said, pointing to some figures on the computer screen, “we’ve done over a dozen trials with Aziprom, with no outright successes, of course, but with what seem to be some repellent quality that, to a small but notable extent, eases the symptoms. It isn’t ideal, but it is progress.”

“I see,” Peter said, fidgeting and sweating in his suit. How’d it get so hot in here all of a sudden? he wondered. Wayne seems safe and healthy. Nothing’s flying out of his bare hands. If he had The Splits, surely I’d see those tiny stars by now.

“Why is it so hot in here, all of a sudden?” Michelle asked. It was hot like this in the hospital room with Mom and Dad, now that I think of it, she thought.

“You feel hot?” Wayne asked.

“Yeah,” Peter said. “Me, too.”

“That’s odd,” Wayne said. “I don’t feel hot at all.”

“Well, you seem safe of The Splits, anyway,” Peter said, putting his hands on his head covering. “I’m taking this off. I can’t take it anymore.” He pulled it off his head.

“Peter, wait!” Michelle yelled. Then, when no little dots of light flew out of Wayne’s hands, she calmed down.

Peter put his head covering on the table. Both he and Michelle froze for a moment, looking around for little stars.

Wayne looked at Peter and then at Michelle, sneering at both of them. “I told you,” he said. “I was tested today, and it came out negative. I can see that Peter’s test also turned out negative, which is very gratifying to me. I can trust you; I think you both can trust me. How about it?”

“OK,” Peter said. “Sorry.”

Drops of sweat were running down Michelle’s cheeks.

“Well, if you two can expose your skin, so can I,” she said, then she removed her head covering and put it next to Peter’s. “Oh, that feels so much better.”

Immediately after her sentence, those dots of light flew out of Wayne’s hands.

“You lying fucker!” Peter shouted, punching his fist into the plastic face covering on Wayne’s suit, knocking him off his chair and onto the floor. Peter and Michelle reached for their head coverings. They were about to put them on in panicky speed…

…but they noticed something odd about the little lights.

They weren’t entering their heads.

Still with their head coverings off, Peter and Michelle stared at the tiny, glowing stars, which just hovered in the air a few centimetres in front of the vulnerable couple’s faces.

It was as if the little dots of light were staring at Peter and Michelle, observing them, sizing them up.

Their eyes and mouths were wide open; they were shaking all over, but from terror, not from the entry of those floating things.

Wayne got up and removed his head covering. He looked stoically at Peter and Michelle while he rubbed his chin, where Peter’s fist had hit him.

Several more seconds of frozen silence went by.

Those little dots of light just stayed where they were.

“Why aren’t they coming inside us?” she asked. “They don’t even want to make us carriers?”

“Yeah,” Peter said. “Why don’t they want to?”

“Neither of you have anything to fear from them,” Wayne said in perfect calmness.

“You lied to us before,” Peter said. “You’ll lie again. C’mon, Michelle. Let’s get out of here.”

“As you wish,” Wayne said with a shrug.

Peter and Michelle put their head coverings back on, then they ran out of the room and out of the building.

The dots of light flew back into Wayne’s hands and head.

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

“So, you finally admit that The Splits is real?” Michelle, talking on her cellphone in her bedroom, said.

“Yes,” Peter said with a sigh of embarrassment. He, too, was calling from his bedroom. “I’m sorry for having been so pig-headed about this whole thing. It’s just that there’s so much bullshit out there in the media, it’s hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction.”

“I know,” she said, “but the media didn’t split our parents’ bodies into pieces. Our eyes aren’t the TV. We can trust what we see, and you can trust me to tell you the truth.”

“Yeah, but still,” he said. “There’s something strange about this ‘disease.’ As they say, it isn’t like anything we’ve ever seen before.”

“Split-off body parts acting like entities unto themselves. I know what you mean.”

“They were talking, Michelle. My mom’s and dad’s body parts were actually talking.”

She felt a shudder at those words, remembering her father’s death. “It seemed that way to me, too. I thought I heard the parts of my dad saying, ‘No, no, no…’.”

“I saw faces forming on my parents’ ripped-off body parts,” Peter said. “What looked like eyes and mouths in their innards, saying, ‘I don’t want it. I don’t want it.'”

“It’s more like demonic possession than a disease.”

“Exactly. No disease does anything that freaked out.”

“Anyway, have you been tested?” she asked. “And do you have a protective suit?”

“Yes, and…yes,” he said with a sigh of annoyance. “I’m gonna hate wearing it. It’s so uncomfortable.”

“I know, but it’ll be less uncomfortable than feeling your body tearing up into pieces, and nowhere near as traumatic as seeing other people’s bodies tear up into pieces, especially if we’re the ones responsible for passing The Splits onto them.”

“Yeah, I guess. It still sucks, though.”

“But at least we can be together, and since both of us have been tested recently, we can be intimate. When did they test you at MedicinaTech? Earlier today?”

“Oh, I got it done today, but it wasn’t there. I know a doctor in Regent Park.”

“Regent Park? Why’d you go to that poor-as-fuck place? Why not in your parents’ business, where they have the best medical equipment and doctors?”

“Because I don’t trust the doctors there,” he said. “Dr. Teague, our head scientist, is a carrier, and he infected my mom and dad, though nobody saw it was him, and nobody believed me when I said it was he who passed it on. I think many of the staff are carriers, and trying to keep it all a secret.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. That’s why I doubt that this is just a new virus. There’s a weird, body-snatcher kind of thing going on.”

“Like my mom and her fake smiles,” Michelle said with another shudder.

“Yeah. I’ll tell you another thing. Now that both my parents are dead, I’m supposed to succeed them as head of MedicinaTech, right?”

“Yeah, and what’s going on there?”

“They made Wayne Grey, head of R and D, the new CEO of the company.”

What? Why him? How could your mom and dad do that?”

“Oh, come on, Michelle. You know why.”

“Because you’d end the company and its rule over Toronto as your very first act as new CEO.”

“Exactly,” Peter said. “And this Wayne guy, who’s been with the company since it began, has shown more loyalty to MedicinaTech and its government than even any of the surviving members of the Board of Directors. Mom and Dad would have given it to that Derek Gould guy, the old CFO, but The Splits killed him, remember? And his replacement is too new to be trusted to lead the company and government.”

“I see,” she said. “But why did you get tested in Regent Park? It’s so filthy dirty there. How can you know they did a good job there?”

“I don’t trust rich people. And I know the doctor there personally. He’ll test you without any agenda. He doesn’t buy into any of the older diseases, though he acknowledges The Splits. For me, that’s reliable enough.”

“OK.”

“In fact, I suggest we go over there and rent a room in a hotel there.”

“Eww! Why there?

“It isn’t all that bad. There are some nice places there. The hotels are nice and cheap, too, and we won’t have to worry about surveillance cameras watching us and penalizing us for not wearing the suits, the way we do even in our own homes now. The government doesn’t care about the people in Regent Park, because they’re too poor to do anything against the powerful; they’re not allowed to enter the middle- and upper-class sections of the city, so nobody worries about them spreading any diseases among us.”

“Well, I guess that makes it OK,” she said, still wincing. “If we’re alone and don’t have any of the residents near us.”

“We can wear the protective suits all the way to the hotel room, then when we’re all alone, we can take them off…and everything else. Then we’ll leave with the suits on, we can get tested by my guy again, just in case, then go home.”

“You think it’ll be romantic in Regent Park?” she asked with a sneer.

“I like the poor a lot better than the rich,” he said. “I like to be reminded of how the other side lives. And I think you need to be reminded of their plight every now and then, too.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right about that,” she said. “I feel a little guilty about my ‘Eww!’ before. I need to be reminded of how lucky we are. When do you want to meet up?”

“How about tonight at around 8:00? I’ll meet you in MedicinaTech. I want to talk to Wayne about the progress they’re making on finding a cure for The Splits. Not that I trust him all that much, but I’m so desperate, I’ll do whatever I have to so we won’t have to wear these suits anymore.”

“OK, I’ll be in the lobby at about 8:00. Bye.”

“See you then,” he said, and they hung up.