Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
Did you ever look a loved one in the eyes and not recognize what you see? The face is the same, but there’s something…else. Something that wasn’t there before. Something that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, but you don’t know why.
When my wife came home from the hospital, all I could think was how relieved I was, how happy that she and the baby both made it. We were warned about possible complications with the birth, but I didn’t expect her to flatline. My heart almost stopped along with hers. Fortunately it was almost over and the doctors saved our daughter before they brought back my wife. She was officially dead for nearly three minutes. I’ll admit, I cried, and I cried again when she opened her eyes. I should have noticed it then.
She rested a lot, spent most of her time with our daughter. At first I worried she might have post-partem depression, but she seemed content. No crying, no screaming, no curling up in bed and staying there for days on end. She was always so attentive, making sure our daughter had everything she needed. Something still nagged at me. I couldn’t shake the sense that she was different somehow. They say motherhood changes a woman, but I should have known better.
One night I heard her on the baby monitor. She used to sing for our daughter before she was born, but I hadn’t heard her sing since. I eagerly listened, hoping I would hear her beautiful voice again. Instead what I heard gave me chills and made my stomach turn uneasily.
“That’s it,” she said in a soft voice. “You drink up so you can be nice and healthy when you’re older. It may take a decade or two for you to be ripe, but I’ve waited longer. You’re a prize worth waiting for…” Then she laughed, but it wasn’t my wife’s laugh.
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. For days I watched her, finally noticing all the little things that weren’t quite right. She barely left the house, wouldn’t let anybody else come see the baby, she even told her own mother not to stop by. That was the final straw. Something was wrong, and I had to know what.
I confronted her, the thing that looked like my wife. “What happened to you?” I demanded.
She smiled, but it wasn’t my wife’s smile. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. You’re not my wife. You haven’t been for weeks. Who are you?”
She stopped pretending. I looked into her eyes and I didn’t recognize what I saw. “Well, you were bound to figure it out eventually,” she said. “No, I’m not your wife. Your wife was dead. Or, rather, her heart stopped and she had an out of body experience. That lovely body of hers, with all her memories tucked away in the synapses of her brain, was open for the taking. So many of us scrambled to claim it, and I got here first.” She did a smug little curtsey, as though I should be impressed.
My eye twitched. “And what are you?”
“You might call me a wandering spirit, or a ghost, or even a demon, though frankly I can’t remember what I used to be. I don’t even know if I started out human. What I do know, is that when a person dies, and their spirit leaves it, if they don’t come back to claim it when someone revives them, there are plenty like me who yearn for a physical form. It has been ages since I took over a woman, and with a baby too? There were spirits lining up hoping for a shot at that life. But that’s not what I wanted. I want to start over again. I’m tired of being an adult.”
I choked as my heart leapt into my throat. “You wouldn’t—”
It laughed. “Well, I would, but I can’t. She’s not old enough. She would need someone to take care of her, and that seems like it would get annoying after a while. Besides, she’s so fragile, there’s no telling if her body would actually survive.”
“I won’t let you lay a finger on her,” I snarled, my fists balled in rage.
“Ha! I suppose you’d kill me first? Think that one through a little. If you kill me, and you get caught, then you go to jail, and your poor baby girl grows up an orphan, or bounced around the foster system.”
“At least she would get to live.”
“Oh, she wouldn’t be dead my way. Simply…banished. Without a body. Until she could find one to jump into, like I did.” It smirked. “Besides, I don’t think you have the guts.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to protect my daughter. My wife was already gone, cursed to some hell I couldn’t even imagine. I ran to the kitchen and took a knife from the counter. Then it was scared. It tried to run, but I was too fast. I thought of all the times I had playfully chased her and caught her with kisses and merciless tickling. She would scream with laughter then, but now it was just screaming as I drove the knife into her chest.
With its last bit of strength, it wrapped my wife’s hands around my throat and squeezed. In all my shock and grief, I didn’t fight. My tears ran down her arms as everything faded to black.
And that’s when I took over his body.
Credit: Feral Sephrian