Samantha rose from bed groggily. What time is it? She asked herself. She smoothed over the sheets, patting the bed in the dark for her phone until her hand knocked it, wedged beneath her dozing husband’s lower back. Careful not to wake him, Samantha retrieved the phone and confirmed the time. It’s an ungodly hour to be waking up, she thought, rubbing her tender neck as a sense of apprehension passed over her like a delicate veil.
What was that dream? It was so real…
She moved at a slug’s pace; hung her head for a moment, groaned, and set the phone in the charger, reprimanding herself for not doing it hours earlier. Now she couldn’t use it to get back to sleep. It didn’t matter, Samantha’s early morning rises were a usual occurrence. They happened since she first gave birth. No longer did she desire sleeping in, as she did in her youthful days. She had responsibilities.
Whenever she woke at this hour, it was for a reason, and sleep wouldn’t find her again until a perimeter check was completed. As soon as she left her bed, the dream came back to her, and the more she recalled, the more tense she became. Her son was an alien again, roaming around an abysmal realm. No longer did he possess the innocent wide brown eyes or puffy cheeks she yearned to squeeze whenever she told him, I love you. He was from another time, another place where people didn’t have faces, and with their shifting abilities between creatures to human, she couldn’t look at them as actual individuals. Even her son transformed out of his alien skin into an indistinguishable, majestic beast.
Was he ever human in the dream? Samantha thought.
Nightmares such as these meant danger had to be hidden elsewhere in her waking existence. This forced her to begin the perimeter check, a personal confirmation that everybody made it to bed and was still breathing. As evident by her husband’s snoring, the entire world knew he was alive. Samantha snorted, then covered her mouth. She didn’t want her amusement to wake him. As she listened to his rhythmic wheezing, she observed him as well; her laughter subsided when she imagined him as an alien too. Faceless, with the same body as a human but able to shift between bodies to his liking.
Who is this man? Is he someone else beneath the flesh? Or am I losing my mind? What if I’m an alien too? Samantha imagined.
She bit her lip and turned away. She always joked with her kids that, as a mother, she enjoyed utilizing her special powers, such as using the eyes in the back of her head. This little lie, also backed by her husband, would prove correct. Samantha could always foresee what her kids were about to ask before they said the words. She realized what happened before she saw what took place and was a master of deciphering tears by pitch alone. Now there was silence, the occasional clatter of ice being made in the refrigerator, or the gentle hum of the air conditioning system. Otherwise, everybody was fast asleep. All was well, except for Samantha and the troubling nightmares. It would take some time before she made it back to her desired slumber.
Hours later, Samantha’s eleven-year-old son, Alessio, joined her in the kitchen. He dragged his bare feet across the floor like a pouting ice skater after a poor performance. In between sips of her French vanilla coffee, Samantha smiled at him and ruffled his hair. “Good morning,” she began. He met her loving gaze with emotionless, video game strained eyes from the night before. He was quiet as a library; the morning never sat well with him until he had breakfast.
“You know, I had the strangest dream about you being an alien, then I woke up and thought we all were,” she scoffed, giggling to herself. “It’s silly. I can’t believe how spooked I got. I’m amazed I made it back to sleep. You ever get those crazy types of dreams where everything seemed so real?”
Alessio didn’t answer. He stood in front of the open pantry with his video game in hand, already fighting in a timed battle.
“Find anything interesting?” Samantha joked, stunned by how long he stood at the pantry doing nothing, “any aliens in there?”
“Just you,” Alessio said with a you-should-already-know-this imperious tone.
“Huh?” Samantha took another leisurely sip, while she scratched her increasingly itchy scalp. “Ouch! What was that?” her hand caressed the back of her head and pressed her finger into a thick, circular chunk. Another was beside it. She felt around her entire head. “What the hell?” Samantha panicked. She grabbed hold of the lumps stuck to her scalp and jerked her hand backward, ripping them out, root and stem.
“They’ll just grow back, Mom,” Alessio said, shaking his head.
She opened her bloodied hand. Two eyeballs stared up at her.