By JENNY BARDWELL
Alice sat across from her sister Martha at the dinner table. Their conversation had dulled into the usual silence, and Alice was trying to avoid her sister’s eyes. The two sisters had once been very close, but both of them had changed over the years, and they were now unable to connect with one another. Alice stood up, sick of the silence. She was desperate to escape and almost made an excuse to leave when something strange happened. Her mouth opened, and she spoke as much to her own surprise as to her sister’s.
“It is time Alice, I am coming.”
Alice’s hand flew up to her mouth in shock, and a horrified look consumed the upper half of her face as she felt her lips, which were no longer responding to her commands, move on their own. She looked desperately at her sister, with fear forming tears in her eyes. Martha looked back in deep confusion, watching the disturbing mixture of expressions on her sister’s face. Her eyes were clamped open in fright as her mouth twisted into an unfamiliar, cold smile. Perhaps, Martha thought, she was playing some sort of practical joke.
“Poor Martha,” mocked Alice’s insubordinate mouth, “she doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening. Shall we show her, Alice?”
As the calm, cruel words spluttered from Alice’s mouth, her left hand uncontrollably shot toward her face. She grabbed it with her right hand, desperately trying to force the alien limb back. For a brief second, a sick look of pleasure flickered across her face, only to return to its original petrified state shortly after.
“You’re fighting.” The mouth said. “Not that it matters. I will win. I have beaten countless others, and I will beat you too.”
Suddenly both Alice’s arms went limp and she looked up at her sister with a face entirely her own.
“Alice,” Martha began, realizing what had occurred was no performance.
“Martha,” interrupted Alice, “Run!”
With those words, both of Alice’s arms sprang back to life, reaching, not for their owner’s face, but for Martha’s. They grabbed the edge of the table, trying to pull their host closer to their prey, but Alice’s legs resisted, firmly anchoring her body against the wall of the dining room. Her terrified look cracked into a demonic smile, and she tilted her head ominously to one side as she strained forward. The right leg gave in and Alice’s body lurched violently toward her sister, gradually pulling the remaining leg away from the wall.
Then, Alice’s body collapsed to the floor. A weak, tear-stained face pulled itself from the ground and begged.
“Please Martha. Please help me.” Martha rushed toward her sister, and knelt beside her.
“As I said, they always give up eventually,” continued an unfamiliar, taunting voice. The newcomer smiled at Martha again, getting up quickly and circling her to exhibit its newly acquired control. Alice’s body contorted as it went through the forced motions. Her limbs twisted in strange angles, and her body threatened to topple over as the creature inside struggled to work its new muscles.
“My apologies, Martha,” the soft, haunted voice whispered, “I didn’t originally plan on hurting you. I was hoping Alice would be alone when I made my invasion. But I couldn’t postpone my plans, not when getting rid of you would be so much easier.” The beast took a step closer to her as it spoke, its eyes glinting with excitement. But the look faded into concern, and then into a deep look of sorrow, fright and remorse.
“I am sorry,” choked Alice, her body still twitching from the battle. For one beautiful moment, Martha thought her sister was victorious, but Alice’s face then knotted with a deep inner strain, and before she surrendered to the force that was consuming her, Alice turned away from her sister, and with her last controlled movements, jumped through the apartment window. Martha sat paralyzed in the empty kitchen, her sister’s last gaze of fierce determination plastered in her mind. It had to be hers, Martha believed no beast could imitate an expression that powerful.