Tim sat cross legged on the cold cement floor, staring at his wife of a quarter century with a frown as he pulled strands of hair from his head. Samantha’s face was ashen and the bags under her eyes were puffy and accompanied by dark half moons. She looked at her husband and said, “We knew something was happening, why didn’t we do something? We should have protected our children. We need to get them back!”
The man shook his head and threw strands of his plucked hair on the floor. “What the hell could we have done? They are way more powerful than us.”
“You’re a coward. At least we could have tried. Now we’re here waiting to be tortured.”
“Why is it always up to me? You could have done something too! Quit blaming me and take some responsibility for once.”
Samantha threw her hands in the air and let out a screech. Tim shuddered as his wife ran forward and banged her head into the concrete wall.
Tim knelt by her side. The woman had a bump the size of a golf ball on her head. He turned her over and smacked her cheeks. “Please wake up.” Tears streamed down his face.
A buzzer sounded while a little door raised across from the couple in the room. A miniature wagon holding a basket rode through the door and stopped in front of Tim. Inside was a pitcher with a sticky note attached that said: Dump the contents onto your wife.
He shook his head. “This is a game to you sick fucks, isn’t it?” No answer. “Fuck it.” He grabbed the pitcher, turned it upside down over her head. Liquid splashed all over her hair and face. She didn’t even flinch.
The buzzing noise returned once more as another cart made its way to Tim carrying a small bowl with dark contents. The man gagged as he took a whiff. A sticky note said: Bring the bowl up to your wife’s nose. The man kept gagging. He prayed he didn’t vomit the contents of his last meal. He held his nose with one hand as he brought the container up to his wife’s nostrils with the other. He managed to keep the container steady, preventing anything from falling out. Her eyeballs popped open, and her body flung forward as she vomited all over Tim. He ejected his own liquid onto her. They had puke all over their hair and faces.
In another room, a group hovered around a television. On the screen was the couple next door. “I told you friends, their kind is nothing like us, making them the ideal playthings. They think they had a chance. How fun. Hahaha.”
Three Days Ago
Samantha, dressed in a suit, popped slices of toast in the toaster before adding coffee grinds to the machine along with water and pressing the button to start the brew. “Carla! Hurry up, you’re going to be late for school!”
Brian sat at the table dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He pounded back a full glass of orange juice.
Tim walked into the kitchen dressed in a black jumpsuit. “Good morning, Love.” He kissed his wife on the lips. “Morning son. Ready for your first day of high school?” The boy nodded while scarfing down spoonfuls of cereal and milk.
Samantha grabbed her husband’s arm and pulled him close to the sink behind their son so he couldn’t see. She whispered in Tim’s ear, “He’s quieter than normal and look at his right eye. It’s moving side to side.” Tim raised an eyebrow.
The coffee machine beeped, and the toast popped up. Carla walked into the kitchen dressed in pajamas with her head hung low and her hair a mess.
Samantha gasped. “Why aren’t you dressed? You’re going to be late!”
“I’m not feeling well. I’m going to take a sick day.”
Samantha stared at the girl. Her right eye moved from side to side. She took a deep breath before approaching her daughter. “Ok hunny come on, back up to bed, I’ll bring you something to drink and some medicine.” The girl nodded and left the room. Samantha turned back to face her husband, raised her eyebrows, and scrunched her mouth. She whispered, “She’s never sick and did you see the eye?” Tim nodded.
Brian finished the last of his cereal, got up, kissed his mother on the cheek, patted his father on the back, grabbed his knapsack and left to go to school.
Samantha shook her head and whispered, “What the hell is going on with our children?”
“Don’t know,” Tim said. He grabbed the remote and turned on the television that was mounted on the wall in front of them. Prime Minister Frieda Nelworthy was on the screen. The camera zoomed in for a close-up. The woman’s right eye moved from side to side. Tim and Samantha gasped and said, “Not her too.”
Upstairs in her bed Carla watched her parents on her phone. She dialed a number and put her phone to her ear and whispered, “They’re onto us.” She got up out of bed and ran downstairs into the cold cellar.
Tim and Samantha were still staring at the television in disbelief as their local leader spoke on the screen with his right eye moving side to side. Tim grabbed his wife and whispered, “What are we going to do?”
Carla crept down the stairs and entered the cold cellar. “Mom! Dad! Help!”
Tim let go of his wife and bolted toward the basement door. Samantha ran after him, grabbed his arm, and whispered, “Stop! It’s a trap. We need to get out of here.”
“Dad! Mom! Hurry! Help me!”
“We’ll be right there hunny!” Tim grabbed his wife’s hand and ran in the opposite direction. When they got to the front door, Samantha pulled on the handle, but the door didn’t budge.
“Let’s go through the window,” Samantha whispered.
“My own parents are letting me die here!”
“It’s no use, we have to go,” Tim said as he grabbed his wife and dragged her to the stairs.
She dragged her feet. “You’re an idiot! You’re going to regret this.”
She pulled back and he pulled her forward and they both tumbled down the stairs.
“I’m in here,” Carla said.
Tim crawled forward into the cold cellar. Samantha got up and followed.
Carla smiled. “Gotcha!”
Before they could do anything, a flap opened below them. They let out screeching sounds filled with anguish as they slid through a long tunnel and landed with a thump on a hard surface.
Tears streamed down Samantha’s face as she rubbed her hip. Tim tried to stretch out his arm but stopped midway. He groaned and grimaced.
They both struggled to sit up and grabbed onto each other as four creatures hovered around them. They had eyes the shape and size of chicken eggs with noses that resembled an upside-down v and a small underscore line for mouths. The rest of their gray naked bodies were disproportionately small with skinny necks, torsos, arms, and legs.
“Welcome humans,” the creatures said.
Samantha placed her hands on her hips. “Who are you and where did you take our children?”
Two more creatures entered the room. Two held Tim while the other two held his wife. The remaining two undressed the man and woman until they were wearing only their birthday suits.
“Where are our kids! I demand to see them right now,” Tim said.
One of them laughed as it said, “You are in no position to make requests, but you’ll see your children soon enough. Or will you? Hahaha.”
Mechanic arms came out and grabbed Tim and Samantha by the neck leading them out of the room and down the hall to a giant room.
They came to a halt in front of a large screen where they could see the silhouettes of their children behind it.
A creature stood in front of them. “Do you want to see your children?”
Tim and Samantha nodded.
“Not so fast. You must pay to play.”
The two mechanic arms moved them twenty feet back. A dome like netted cylindrical structure dropped to the ground between the couple and the screen. Yellow and black bugs flew within the closed walls. The wasps buzzed so loud it was deafening. Tim’s and Samantha’s jaws dropped. The creature handed each of them a bee suit that left their arms and legs exposed.
“Walk through and you can see your children,” the creature said.
“No,” Tim said.
“Then you’ll never see them again.”
Samantha stepped into the suit and pulled it up her body, pushing her arms through. “If he won’t do it I will.” Tim pursed his lips and shrugged before joining her.
The creature opened a zipper on the structure and Tim and Samantha walked in. As soon as the man closed the screen, they opened the door and walked through. They only made it a few steps before running back to the entrance. Welts covered their arms and legs. They passed out as soon as they got out. They woke up in their concrete room.
Five Days Later
Tim kneeled beside his wife. “You’re right, I wish we did more but now it’s too late.”
She nodded and looked up to the ceiling. “I can’t handle this torture anymore. My mouth is full of blisters, my body is sorer than it has ever been. We’ll do anything you want, just please bring us our children.”
A voice through the speaker said, “The games have just started, my friends, but you can have your kids.”
A buzzer filled the room and a door slid open. Brian walked in wearing only boxers and shaking like a leaf. “Thank God,” he said as he ran toward his parents and extended his hands around them both as they reciprocated. Carla stepped in and dropped to the floor in the fetal position with her face covered sobbing. Samantha let go of her son and husband and rushed over to her daughter. She sat on the floor next to her and pulled her baby in her arms. “You’re safe now, darling.” She kissed her on the forehead.
The daughter cried into her mother’s shoulder. “We’re never going to be safe. These creatures are taking over our world. We are doomed.”
The voice over the speaker said, “This reunion is touching but you have work to do.”
Four mechanic arms came out of the walls, grabbed each of the four people, and placed them on the floor below hatches that opened in the ceiling. A navy suit was dropped out of each one, landing in front of each of the four humans. Tim grabbed his and on the front was a giant number 450. Samantha’s was number 451, Carla’s 452 and Brian’s 453.
A door slid open, and the mechanic arms led the humans out the door through the hallway. “No! Where are you taking us now!? What the hell is this!?” No response.
The mechanic arms dropped the family down a tube where they slid down a long dark slide. They smashed into each other one after the other as they landed with a thump on dirt.
In the yard were hundreds of thousands of people. They were all dressed the same with numbers on their suits. The gray figures were nowhere to be seen.
The voice through the speaker said, “Welcome to your new lives. Your clones will continue to play your roles in your old lives while you assist us in taking over your world. Grab a shovel and start digging.”
Teresa Cimarelli writes novels and short stories in the genres of fantasy and horror. She has bachelor and master degrees in Sociology. She is currently on maternity leave but is employed full-time as a consultant. When she isn't writing she spends her time doing yoga, baking and hanging out with her husband and son.