“I am here today with someone who has done the impossible...someone who has given hope to millions of people throughout the world. Just last week, she defeated unthinkable odds. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this woman’s name. So, without further ado, let’s give a warm welcome to Dr. Penelope Griffin - the cancer conqueror!” The host’s voice swelled towards the end and she began to sound more like a sports announcer than anything. Less than a second later, I watched myself as I stepped out from the hallway that led to backstage, waving and smiling to a roaring audience. I was surprised to see how much I, myself, resembled an athlete - making my way to the chair adjacent to that of the host. I even did that little half-jog thing that always made celebrities seem so relaxed - so confident. I must have been nothing but a mess of nerves on the inside as I couldn’t seem to remember the experience at all. I fought the urge to look away from the T.V. - to bury my face in the pillow on my lap and hide from the world forever. I would have done just that if Finn weren’t sitting on the couch right next to me. His eyes were glued to the screen - a huge grin plastered across his freckled face. At that moment, anyone who walked into our living room could have easily mistaken him for a child. “Look at you! You’re amazing! How is it that you’re mine?” He said almost breathlessly. I didn’t deserve him. I didn’t deserve any of this. I cast my eyes downward as a huge lump caught in my throat. I could barely breathe. Panic was beginning to set in. Before it progressed any further, I excused myself and hurried through the kitchen to the bathroom no one but guests ever used. I supposed that explained why I could have sworn there had been a different light fixture above the mirror just last month. I stared at myself, hands clasped so tightly around the edge of the counter my knuckles were white. How could I have let it get this far? If I didn’t tell someone soon, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could last. By the time I switched the bathroom light off, I had made a decision. I walked back slowly, cautiously, as if the mere thought of what I was about to do would break everything around me. Much too quickly, I was at the edge of the living room, staring at the back of my husband’s head. I knew at least one thing was about to break. “Finn?”
“Hey, you okay? Want me to shut it off?”
“Actually, yeah. I have something to tell you.”
“Hmm...I don’t know. Sounds a little too serious for me.”
“I’m not kidding.”
“Oh man, I swear I put the seat down last time I was in there.” I said nothing. I was beyond humor at this point.
“Sorry,” he said softly as he leaned forward to reach the remote on the coffee table. The footage clicked off, and my shoulders dropped. I hadn’t realized I had been holding them up.
“It wasn’t me.” There was a pause. I took a deep breath and looked at the ground in front of me. Anything was better than meeting his gaze.
“It was this...voice...in my head. It came up with the cure. All I did was follow it’s instructions.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s called an ‘internal monologue.’”
“No, this was different.”
“Interesting.” That was not the reaction I was expecting. The lights flickered. But not just the ones inside - the entire outside world did too. I blinked, questioning my own sanity as I was sure Finn was doing too.
“What do you mean, ‘interesting?’”
The lights went off again and this time, they didn’t come back on. It had gone from midday to the dead of night instantaneously. The T.V. came back to life, although Finn was nowhere near the remote. In fact, he was nowhere to be seen. I watched as the footage of my interview continued to play. Instead of asking me a question, however, the host put her hand to her ear, her brow furrowed. “Okay, jig is up. Everyone relax.”
“That was shorter than usual,” the T.V. version of me commented. Not a second later, both her and the interviewer completely transformed with a single swipe of the hand across each of their faces. I wanted to scream, but the wind in my lungs failed me. The creatures that replaced them were pure white. That is, everything but their eyes. Those were huge, depthless. As black as the space outside the living room windows. The only difference between their forms and that of a human was the length of their arms. The grotesquely long appendages swung at their sides, almost brushing the floor. The one who had been playing me snapped her head to look directly into the camera. Directly at me. She slowly rose from her chair before shooting forward to the point at which only her emotionless, colorless face filled the screen. “Hello Human Subject 45809,” a warped, hollow voice echoed through my head. It was so loud I jumped backward into something cold and hard. A haunting rendition of Finn’s voice came from behind my shoulder. “If we cannot trust one, we cannot trust any. You have just condemned billions of your kind.” I finally found my voice, although what I managed to make out was pitiful.
“Out of over 45,000 trials, no subject was able to decipher between their own thoughts and the ones we implanted. We have the cure for the deadliest illness known to your race. Unfortunately, you have ruined humanity’s chances of obtaining it. There is obviously a threat of our discovery, and no Interplanetary Justice Award is worth that.”
“What happened to the 45,000?”
“That information may be upsetting to you considering you share their fate.”