The Parents Aren't Alright

Jason had noticed that his parents had been acting quite unusual recently. Whether it was the way they didn't call him "Jay" anymore or play with his favourite toys. Or, more unusually, how their hands sometimes seemed misshapen, like a loose-fitting glove. Sometimes when doing the dishes or sweeping or hoovering, their movements seemed too calculated, too efficient for a human to be making them; their movements lacked the humane imperfection that makes us what we are. Maybe it was the fact that he kept missing sleep due to the mechanical whirring & buzzing & throbbing that often came from the basement most nights; just the result of the machinery needed to keep the house running, in his young mind at least.

He had first noticed something was wrong when his mother looked him in the eyes before school one morning & said ""Make sure you have a good day in school, Jason". Her delivery was flat, monotone. Something about it just shook Jason. It never left him for the whole day - the chilling, cold, dead stare into his eyes, unblinking glassy eyes. Were they always blue? He was sure they were brown before, but he couldn't be certain. Something about it had unsettled him, enough for his teachers to notice that something was wrong.

Sometimes, on warmer days, Jason noticed his parents faces were somewhat droopy, like melting wax. The stench was horrid too, a fetid, pungent odour that clung to Jason's nostrils, his clothes & his school books. When he lay on them when he got tired in the evenings, he found it was uncomfortable, like laying on a flat stone surface, too rigid to act as a pillow for his head & they no longer hugged him when he wanted attention. Maybe, if he was lucky, a pat on the shoulder or one cold, unmoving hand on his arm. He had begun to feel distanced from them & their now cold demeanor.

Jason's teachers were starting to get worried. He would come to school visibly shaken, hurrying from his parents to his school doorway. He would peer out from the windows to watch them go, hiding. Something was obviously off. Just a few months ago they were happy; Jason would hate to leave his parents arms in the morning, he sometimes cried when he had to leave them. His parents seemed different too. They didn't wave like they used to, or smile or in any way express anything to the teachers. Only dealing in blank stares & sometimes a stiff wave, but never anything meaningful, nothing nice. For the rest of the day, Jason struggled to socialise with his classmates, with anyone. He seemed scared by everyone else, save for a few moments wherein he seemed to cling too strongly to any genuine human connection.

The final straw for Jason came on Bonfire Night. He had wondered why they weren't lighting fireworks & writing their names with sparklers. Grown tired of sitting in his room alone, he ventured downstairs to ask. Posing the question to his still, sitting parents, he asked "why aren't we outside like everyone else?" Two heads turned in perfect synchronicity, unblinking, glassy stare. No words were spoken for a few moments, before Jason's mother's mouth opened, unleashing an ear-piercing mechanical squealing, like a screw caught between two grinding gears, both unwilling to give in to the other. It squealed & whirred & whined for a few seconds. Then, a squelching, sucking, organic sound. Jason was horrified to see his mother's face was tearing, ripping along her cheek. A red, glossy, thick liquid poured from the wound, splashing onto her favourite pyjamas, dirtying them. She made no noise, no sudden movements. The glare remained, as though the whole morbid occurrence was simply one of Jason's nightmares. He almost believed that too. The stitching along his mother's right cheek the next morning made him doubt himself, wondering if it had really happened. His teachers had noted the extreme change in behaviour the next day, & social services were called. When they searched the house, they found it in immaculate condition. The only out of place thing in the entire house was some odd machinery in the basement. No one knew what it was. The only other odd thing was a handprint on the door handle, a shiny, thick, glossy, red, oily handprint on the door handle.