The pain is what finally caused me to wake up. Ugh why does it feel like I just got hit by a truck? I opened my eyes. I wasn’t on the doctor’s chair or even in a hospital. I was in a small room that was made out of the same weird material the walls had been made out of. I gingerly raised my left arm and ran it along the wall. Hmm not concrete or packed Earth. Feels a bit like sand? Packed sand maybe? I feel like I’ve felt it before.
Aha! A memory from my grade six class learning about seismic activity and volcanoes flashed through my mind.
“Now who can tell me the name of an extinct volcano?” Mrs. Smith asked the class. A few of the students in front of me shrugged their shoulders, more shook their heads. I raised my hand.
“There’s one called Shiprock in the States I think” I answered. My classmates giggled at the weird name. I just rolled my eyes; so I’m interested in things besides the newest hair cut or who the cutest boy in the class is, who cares? Use the internet to learn new things already, geez.
“Very good! Now extinct volcanoes have been very useful for scientists to research. They’re able to see how lava is formed, examine the caverns beneath the surface and predict how active volcanoes will erupt.” Mrs. Smith smiled at the class and took a piece of rock from her bag.
“Here is a piece of an extinct volcano. It’s made of molten rock, most of which used to be hot lava but has cooled.” She passed the piece of rock around the class. When it got to me I ran my fingers along it, feeling the different type of rock.
The memory fell away from my mind as the pain took over again. I gingerly lifted myself up on my good arm and looked around. My left hand was bandaged, covering the cut from my last minute weapon. My right arm was in a sling and a makeshift cast. My left leg was bandaged tightly but I could still feel an intense pain near my ankle where the bullet had hit.
“Oh good you’re finally awake”
I looked to the entrance of my room and saw an older man with a grey beard and a shotgun. I would have been terrified of him if not for his twinkling dark eyes.
I groaned, “So you mean I’m not dead yet? Don’t you dare put a soul inside me”
“Let’s get one thing straight, we are human. We don’t put souls inside anyone, we aren’t deceiving you” The man said to me, adjusting his grip on the gun.
“But then who-?”
“You mean her?” The man said turning away to beckon the girl I saw earlier with the soul eyes. She smiled shyly at me but didn’t come too close.
“This here is Wanda. She’s a soul who is our friend. She chose Earth as her last life and saved us instead of ratting us out to the Seekers. It’s kind of a long story; you’ll hear the rest of it soon. The main point it, don’t be afraid of her, she wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Hey now Jeb, maybe not in this body but my past bodies I have been! Do you want me to refresh your memory about Rides the Beast?” The girl named Wanda said indignantly. My eyes bugged out. Rides the Beast? This girl is craaay. Jeb chuckled to himself, "The name's Jeb." He said pointing to himself, "These are my caves and everyone here are my guests, my extended family."
“Now then, mind telling us who you are and how’d you find us?” He said turning back to me. Wanda and Jeb walked into the room and leaned against the wall, looking at me expectantly. I took a deep breath and explained.
I started my story around the time of the first colonization. The souls had started their attack in large cities like New York, Washington, Toronto, Vancouver, etc. My family had been camping in north Canada at that time, a yearly get-together we usually did to get away and reconnect as a family. My brother and I had both brought our significant others along as well. My brother, Seth, and his girlfriend Sonya were an adorable couple both quirky and full of fun. My boyfriend of three years, Josh, and I had spent most of the time hiking, kayaking, etc., anything to get us outdoors. My parents loved having the family together, as we were getting older it was harder to get everyone together. The high of excitement the trip had given us was dashed when we came back home. A notice was sent out calling everyone into the city for a census and health check-up. Their reasoning was that there was going to be a comparison between countries of who had the best education, health etc. My parents were immediately skeptical and told us to turn back around and take another week’s vacation while they checked it out.
Because my hometown was small, and no one’s body had been taken over yet so an extended leave of absence didn’t raise any eyebrows. Seth, Sonya, Josh and I travelled back to the campground and waited anxiously for news. We caught snippets of information from our radio and the campground newspaper. We were all shocked to read how all the wars had stopped (Korea and Iraq had surrendered) and the drug dealers and murders were handing themselves in. We were all very suspicious and were nervous for our families. We didn’t hear from them until a few days later.
We were sitting around the campfire when they came for us. My parents pulled up in their truck and got out. I knew immediately something was wrong. My father jumped out of the vehicle and jogged around to open the door for my mom. She in turn planted a big kiss on his lips and then they walked arm in arm towards us. Seems normal for any couple but my parents don’t display any public affection besides slight hand holding and my father definitely does not jog. That was when I saw their eyes.
I’ll never forget them. They still give me nightmares, seeing your parents’ eyes glimmering unnaturally in the firelight. We all fled to the woods around the campsite. Josh and I ran hand in hand but we lost my brother and Sonya. Josh and I ran and didn’t look back. We found out later that they had been taken as well and were now on the hunt for us. Josh and I managed to find an abandoned cottage west of Hudson’s Bay and we stayed there for a while. We began to make a routine of our days: cleaning, scavenging, exploring. We almost forgot about the invasion.
One day while I was out getting clean water from a nearby river I heard a gunshot. Josh and I had decided that we would rather be dead than be taken so we kept a loaded gun in the cottage. My blood ran cold and I wanted desperately to go back to the cabin to see if it was just a misfire. But I knew better: Josh never took the gun out of the cupboard, even for a wild animal. I ran and ran until I couldn’t run anymore.
“I moved by night to avoid detection and if I had to go by day I wore sunglasses to try and blend in. Eventually I found a human woman who made the lenses for me that made me look like a soul. I’ve been using those and travelling, trying to gain intel on the souls and find any other humans.” I finished.
“Whoa nelly that’s some story.” Jeb said rocking on his heels, “She could give you a run for your money” he said turning to Wanda.
She nodded in agreement. “So whatever happened to the woman with the lenses?” She asked.
“I stayed with her for a few days then went off again to travel. When I came back she was dead.” I replied.
“How did you end up here?” Jeb asked.
I sighed again, “The car I stole ran out of gas along the highway a few hours from here. I had started to walk along the road to the nearest gas station when I heard Seekers coming. I quickly ran behind the nearest rock and started walking the direction I had just came from. They didn’t think the car was mine because I looked like I was hiking. I knew if I went back they’d take me and put a soul in me so I kept walking. Eventually I ran out of water and the sun got to me. I would have died if your people didn’t save me”
Jeb stroked his bread thoughtfully, “I see I see. Good to hear. We scouted the area but didn’t see any signs of them, looks like you weren’t followed.”
“I’m glad” I said. I stretched my right leg out and bent my chest to my legs, stretching out my back. I winced in pain as my broken leg and arm twinged at the movement.
“Ah yes, we used up the last of our medicine fixing you up after the cougar attack. Jarred and Ian went to go meet up with Ethan, a soul from a group of friends nearby, to get some more. They should be back soon. I thought it would be a good idea for Wanda here to stay behind and get acquainted with you.”
I winced again at his words, “I’m so sorry for using your supplies. I know how hard it can be to ‘borrow’ some from the souls”
Jeb waved away my apology, “Nah, the stores were getting low anyways, it was time to restock.” His expression turned serious again, “Now, I bet you’re getting pretty hungry aren’t cha?” My stomach grumbled in response.
Jeb chuckled, “Thought so. Let’s get you up” He moved towards me and extended a hand. I used my good hand to take his and tried to pull myself up. My hurt leg throbbed in pain when I moved and caused my balance to be off-kilter. I fell painfully backwards onto the seat/bed/thing again and winced in pain.
“Hmm that might be a problem.” Jeb muttered. He looked back at Wanda then shook his head. “You both stay put, I’m going to go get Kyle to help” Wanda flashed a worried look at Jeb. He chuckled but said seriously, “He won’t give her a hard time don’t you worry, not when I’m around.” With that, the peculiar man left the room.
“Sorry for swearing at you earlier,” I apologized to Wanda, “I thought it was a trap and everyone was posing as humans”
She smiled at me, “Oh don’t worry, I’d feel the same in your position”
“So what’s your story? How did you get here?”
She proceeded to tell me how she was actually originally a soul in Melanie’s body. Melanie had been captured by the souls and Wanda was put in to help them find the pocket of human resistance. Wanda had complied at first but Melanie’ soul was still in the body and fought her every second of the way. Wanda grew to love the people Melanie did; Jarred and her younger brother Jamie. Together they ran away from their Seeker, following directions to Jeb’s old place out in the desert. They had almost died out there, like I had, but Jeb found them and took them in. Of course, no one knew the soul of the human could stay in their body while another soul was in it so they thought Wanda was a Seeker. It took a while but with the help of Jeb and Jamie who both believed that Melanie was still in there, they convinced the rest of the humans. Wanda, in Melanie’s body, had grown to love Ian. It would have been fine if not for Melanie and her body still loving Jarred which made for a very confusing love…trapezoid?
“That must have been so hard for you” I exclaimed.
Wanda nodded, “Yes, it was. But it all came out in the end.”
“So how did you get into that body?” I asked.
“Souls know how to safely extract others in case of an emergency. I showed Doc how to do it; he and the others had been killing both the human and the soul when they tried it themselves. I told him with only one condition; that he wouldn’t send me to another world. I wanted Earth to be my last. By the time I reached the next world, everyone on this one would be long gone.”
I smiled at her, “Guess they had different plans for you eh?”
She laughed, “Yes, despite my wishes they kept my soul here and put it in another body. They told me they had been removing souls and giving humans their lives back for over a month when this body’s human didn’t resurface. They said the only way to save the body was to put me in it.” Wanda winked, “But I know better. They were picking a body that would be perfect for me and prayed the human wouldn’t resurface.”
I laughed, “Well I’m sure they’re happy with you being back”
“I am too. The only reason I didn’t want to be put back in a human body was because I didn’t want to be a parasite anymore, stealing someone’s body away from them” Wanda explained, “I’m very happy to be back with the ones I love”
I leaned in, "So what's with this Kyle guy? Why were you worried when Jeb said his name?"
Wanda opened her mouth like she was about to say more but the sound of two pairs of footsteps made her turn to the entrance of the room.
I looked up as well and saw that Jeb had returned. He stepped into the room and my mouth instinctively formed an O shape: he was accompanied by the tall man I had been threatening just hours ago.