A Nest Of Cuckoos

Janet looked sideways at her teething son playing on the bedroom floor. It was there a second ago. The strange green halo had dissipated again. She had watched it rising from his skin in a pale mist.

Her mind went back to three days ago. She had meant to take a half hour on the back porch to sit and watch the evening light from the two moons that hung over their quaternary planet, Agni.  She had taken the anti-nausea medication minutes before and was waiting for it to still the clenching stomach pains caused by a reaction to a local plant the Intergalactic Scientific Association had approved for eating.

Her two older children were sitting together on the back step having a conversation in an alien language. She had stood frozen to the spot listening. They must have made up a language of their own in the many hours they were left to their own devices.

Today Janet was sick again. Her husband had forgotten her intolerance to the carrot-like plant. She took out the bottle of anti-nausea pills from the bathroom cabinet and swallowed another pill.

The morning was quiet. The older children were in their room studying. Eric, her six-month-old, sat on the floor drooling and chewing on a soft toy.  Janet busied herself making the beds and cleaning the dust out of the house. Agni had a lot of dust. Every day at about four in the evening, a wind would blow up over the barren hills that overlooked their valley and fill the air with dust for miles. It was all she could do to keep the red soil out of their meals.

Half an hour after taking her pill and fifteen minutes after getting the settled feeling in her stomach, Janet had another incident. Her beautiful son sitting calmly in the sun was glowing again. This time the glow was a bright effervescent green. She rubbed her eyes and blinked a few times. Still green. She stared and as she watched her son it seemed to her as if his facial features were in constant flux. There was something underneath moving under the skin.

She stared at him a scream rising in her throat and then ran out of the room and pressed herself against the hallway wall. Her pulse raced and her breath came in ragged gasps. What had she just seen? She glanced around the corner at the glowing boy and quickly ducked back. She could hear her son Ben and daughter Carly in another room speaking to each other in a language she didn’t think was possible to pronounce with human vocal chords.

She slid along the wall to where their door stood ajar. Inside were two glowing and barely recognisable figures, humanoid but not her children. One of them turned to look at her staring into her eyes with large catlike pupils and orange irises. “What’s up mum?”

Janet put her hand over her mouth to stifle the scream and ran out of the house. She waited for her husband to come home. When Janet saw him, she ran into his arms, tightly clasping until he had to prise her off gently. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“The kids! They are aliens! I can’t explain it. There must be something wrong with me, tell me you see it too. Eric glows green in the light!” Brett could not see the glowing mist.

Later, sitting in the doctor’s office, Janet pulled at a loose seam on her coat, it was the only thing that seemed real to her. In the waiting room had been another two alien-looking children, their big orange coloured eyes blinking as they gazed around the room.

The doctor could find nothing wrong other than lowered dopamine and serotonin levels from the anti-nausea medication. Janet remembered that the incidents coincided with her taking the pills. She told the doctor and he advised she stop taking them.

For a few days, Janet continued taking the pills out of curiosity and after a week became well acquainted with the alien creatures that were her children. She tossed up secretly medicating Brett’s food so he could see them too. But where were her children if these were not hers? Who was looking after them? Were they dead? The thought was too much to bear. She watched the little glowing baby with the strange shifting face that could still be her son as long as she didn’t take the anti-nausea pills.

Two weeks after she threw away the pills Eric started to crawl. Her children scampered around the house and diligently applied themselves to their studies. The images began to fade and Janet hoped that one day she would forget that strange time when her children were not human.

© E. Landon, 2018

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