Tuesday, August 22, 2023

“Invasion of the Family Snatchers” • by Jonathan Worlde

Jason was beginning to suspect his family had been replaced by aliens.

He was working on a project in Baltimore when a giant starburst lit up the eastern night sky, rattling homes like an earthquake, breaking windows and cracking sidewalks, baffling eyewitnesses and scientists alike.

When Jason returned home a week later he immediately began noticing something was out of whack about his family. His wife Jeanine’s usually infectious smile seemed somehow forced. Similarly, his two teens, Justin the track star and Andrea the violinist, were both slightly off. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but when speaking to them his kids avoided sustained eye contact, and his family had always been close.

Then he started seeing messages on Facebook by other people who were having similar unexplainable doubts about family members, some even claiming their loved ones had been replaced by creepy copies and calling the copies “Familysnatchers.” When Facebook crashed and stayed down, his natural suspicions were replaced with fear. What if aliens were behind the lengthy social media disruption?

Jason couldn’t detect any overt physical differences in his wife or either of the children, but he just knew something was wrong. But they couldn’t be replacement copies, could they? They were too perfect. He decided to see if he could trip up any of them in normal conversation, starting with Jeanine.

“Honey, we haven’t had your mother come to visit for some time. Don’t you think we should ask how she’s doing, maybe invite her down for the weekend?”

She shook her head and her voice bore an edge of frustration. “Jason, we’ve been over this. Every time she comes you get upset with her disapproval of how we furnish the house and the fact we only have a single bathroom.”

That was true, and there was no way a faker could have known about that and his underlying hostility toward Jeanine’s mother.

After school he was waiting for Justin in the front yard holding a football, with a fool proof test in mind. “Justin, before going inside to start your homework, why don’t you humor your old man and take off for a long pass?” He tossed the ball up and down while fixing Justin with a stare.

Justin was baffled. “Dad, you know the doctor said you’ll throw out your shoulder if you ever try a pass again. The last time we did that you were in pain and on OxyContin for a week.”

Now how could any imposter have known about that?

He had a similarly ingenious idea to test Andrea’s authenticity. He called her just when she would be leaving school, using her childhood nickname: “Boopsie, I had an idea, you wanna stop by your favorite seafood place on the way home and pick up some lobster rolls?”

Her irate tone sure sounded like his real daughter. “Dad, are you getting early onset Alzheimer’s? You know I’ve been allergic to lobster ever since I turned twelve! What, you want to kill me?”

The flippant, insensitive response was exactly what he’d expect from his teenager, and again left him questioning his own sanity. How crazy was it to think your family has been replaced by aliens? Was he losing his grip on reality? None of his family had presented themselves as a threat to him—yet. Was it only a matter of time until he was also replaced while sleeping?

Jason saw no reason to doubt Rosy, the family’s energetic black Labrador. At just two years old she was still practically a puppy. When he took the frayed tennis ball out to the field to play with her, she was the same old Rosy, dashing after the ball and then running circles around him while he feigned cutting off her path to catch her. She switched directions on a dime, keeping her eye on him just as always, then dropping the ball in the grass to gaze quizzically upon him, awaiting his next move. At least there was nothing in her behavior to raise any doubts.

He followed Rosy back up the sloping drive to the house and into the open garage where her food bowl and water were kept. She was breathing heavily from the exertion, with her usual look of anticipation for the coming meal.

But when he poured the dry, dusty, foul-smelling food into the bowl, she suddenly lashed out, speaking with something like an Australian accent, “What the hell’s wrong with you? I’ve been telling you all along I prefer a bloody steak!” Her enlarged canines gushed saliva, her angry red eyes holding his frightened gaze.




Jonathan Worlde’s Latino-noir nystery, Latex Monkey with Banana, was winner of the Hollywood Discovery Award with a $1000 prize. His speculative fiction has been published in numerous magazines including Stupefying Stories and most recently Daily SF.

He is also a country blues performer, stage name Paul the Resonator, with CD Soul of a Man.


Made in DNA said...

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bang on. Loved it.