“You’re not real. You’re in my imagination.”
“I don’t believe in you.”
“I can live my life without you just fine.”
“I’ve never seen this many fair folk. I’ve never seen anything like this many so close to a city.”
“Or ghosts. It’s like everyone who ever died here is back…”
Paula was, generally, a well-grounded, sensible, rational young lady, or so her bosses had said, so her teachers had said, so her friends had believed. She had her feet on the ground and she didn’t, as a general rule, believe in things she couldn’t see.
She was also, and had been for several months now, infested with an alien symbiote that read her mind and sometimes controlled her body.
The bugs had invaded dozens of planets, some successfully, some failures, but none, she was getting the impression, as big a failure as Earth was becoming for them. Their system of bonding with native hosts had, she had been told, served them well even on planets where they couldn’t manage a full-scale invasion. They could sit undetected that way, breed that way, and conquer large parts of the planet from “on the ground.”
They had, she was pretty certain, never faced this sort of resistance, a two-front rebellion from the un-infected outside their walls and from their hosts, the hosts they needed to survive the pollution, in their very homes and bodies.
And Paula, the sensible one, the one who didn’t believe in, say, faeries and was a fan of pharmaceuticals to help the unstable, found herself slipping from host to host, suggesting that they look at the fae, asking how they dealt with the voices in their head, reminding them to forget their allergy meds.
She was too practical and too calm for any of this to really work for her, sadly; she couldn’t really see the fair folk or ghosts that well, and she had never heard another voice in her head before, except her conscience and the echoes of her mother.
But she could help the others. She could sit down with a new friend and talk her through a panic attack, talk her through a dark moment until the friend could look up and say “this isn’t real. That’s not me saying that,” and have control of her head again. She’d done that before, for college friends, bad acid trips or just bad brain chemistry, more than a few times.
She knew it was working the day that three of her friends, all at once, sat down and said “You’re not real. You’re not real. You’re not real.”
And it was, finally, too much for the symbiotes, as all three fled their hosts and lay choking, dying on the ground like so many ant-fish looking things.
“You’re not real,” another friend said, and a fifth said “the ghosts are really thick here. Do you think bugs have ghosts?”
And that was it. AS their non-symbiote family watched helplessly from their controlled-environment ship, well over half the hosted bugs fled their clearly-insane human hosts, as unable to handle the strange brain chemistry as they were the atmosphere.
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