Under the Skin
I was violently shaken from deep sleep and I sat up in terror as the sound of an explosion outside. I shoved my fingers in the blinds and peeked my eyes through to see what was going on. It must be the barn, I thought, as I saw flames peeking out from behind the house where the barn lay in the forest about 200 feet from our back door. I heard my grandma yell: “OH SHIT!” from her and mom’s room. I ran down the stairs in my boxers and t-shirt and heard my mother racing behind me to look out the sliding glass back door. I felt my eyes widen and let my mouth drop as I saw that our barn had been replaced by a giant purple fireball. Some fir trees to the left of the fireball had fallen over into the fire as if something crashed into the barn from that direction. I felt a strange magnetism, an attraction to the barn and whatever had destroyed it. I felt like a dog looking sideways in curiosity at its owner. My mother was now next to me, speechless, and my tiny grandmother in her nightrobe squeezed in between us to see what the commotion was about.
“Well, there’s no use in trying to put that out,” she said.
“Robert, call the police,” said my mother.
I ran for my phone upstairs. I grabbed it hastily, but it read: “no service” in the top left. No service? What about our WiFi? I ran back downstairs to the router in the office. I flipped the light switch on and off. Nothing.
“Power’s out!” I yelled.
Why didn’t I have any service though? Even if the WiFi went out, normally we would have one or two bars. I ran back to the door.
“No service, nothing. What is going on? What do we do?” I asked anxiously.
“I’m going out there,” said my mother.
“Pff. If you’re going out there, I’m not going with you,” offered my grandmother.
“What? No, are you crazy? I’m going with you,” I said.
I wasn’t very scared, I felt strangely eager to get closer. I wanted to touch it. The amethyst-colored flame was absolutely mesmerizing. I noticed a large piece of black matte metal deep within the flame. Trees around the barn began to catch on fire.
“Robert, come on, grab the hose!”
We ran for the front door, as it was closer to the waterspout on the side of the house. Just as mother grabbed the door handle, our porch light seemed to get brighter. Was that on before? Was the power back on? I felt the strange gravity pulling me to open the door.
“I thought you said we didn’t have any power,” my mother looked back at me and shuddered.
“It might have gone back on, I don’t know,” I tried to reassure her.
I looked at my phone. No service, no WiFi still. The light brightened. Mother took a deep breath and opened the door.
I saw was a flash of bright white light, I tried to look into it, shielding my eyes. I saw my mom pulled sharply into the light. Then, nothing.
I sat up violently from my bed. I was sweating heavily. It was morning. “Only a dream,” I reassured myself, and smiled, thanking the universe that it wasn’t real. I smelled bacon downstairs. It was a Saturday, praise the lord. I got on my phone to check the news and opened the New York Times app. The first headline read: “A Series of Strange Meteorites Crash into Earth’s Surface.” I clicked on the article. The caption under a picture of the night sky said: “Never have so many meteorites survived travel through the Earth’s atmosphere and crashed into the Earth at one time, residents present have been reporting strange activity by crash sites,” I gulped and started sweating again. “No, this can’t be real,” I thought. I ran downstairs. My mother was staring out the glass sliding door. A weirdly shaped bacon was cooking on the stove. Grandmother was sipping her morning coffee at the kitchen table haphazardly, reading a book. I looked out the back door for the barn. It was gone. No burnt patch, just grass where the barn used to be. The trees that I had seen fall into the fireball were standing upright where they normally had.
“Mother?” I asked, “Where’s the barn?”
She turned around in a swift, robot-like movement. She did not look like my mother. It was her, but she had on a smile that looked nailed to her face and stretched too far up her face. She did not blink; her eyes were wide, and her pupils covered where her eyes were normally colored green.
“What barn, dear?” She had never called me ‘dear’. “I made you some bacon, eat up! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”
What a dolled cliché, I thought. Mother had seen so much grief throughout her life that I’d never seen her this energetic, and especially not with the heightened, stereotypical mother energy. Not to mention, she never made bacon for us. She hated it. My uneasiness turned to terror. What had happened last night?
“Why are you sweating so much, dear? Have a bad dream?”
“Uhhh, yeah. Thanks for the bacon,” I said shakily.
“I sure had a strange dream last night,” said grandmother, “What was it that you said about the barn?”
Mother turned around in another precise robot movement and stared out at the forest, before it, the grass patch where the barn was when I went to sleep last night. I looked at grandmother. She seemed quite normal. I walked to her and grabbed her arm gently, not to startle her. She looked up at me, relaxed. I motioned towards the backyard and mother. She looked towards the door, peeking out the window past my mother, looking for the barn. She looked back at me. Her face changed, looked grim achieving the realization and I saw the color drain out of her cheeks.
My mother turned her head back at us, abnormally far for her neck to travel. “I think I’m going to go for a walk!”
She opened the door, and walked out, her movements free of any personality, any of the weight that my mother normally carried on her shoulders. She didn’t have any shoes on and wore the same clothes she had been wearing last night.
I saw my mother walking into the forest and grandmother swore that someone else was wearing her skin.