“Oh my llamas!” I screamed.
I couldn’t believe it! A strange woman with alarmingly yellowish skin, prominent red bruises up the side of her face, and appalling cosmetics growled as she leaned into the first floor bathroom window from the vegetable garden. I jumped back, startled as she pressed her face into the window, smearing her disgusting lipstick on the glass.
“What is it?” Bea appeared at the bathroom door first, knocking before I told her she could enter.
“Whooooo? Whaaaaat? Is that?” I shrieked, pointing to the window.
The young woman bent over and began ripping through the plants below with a rabid desire.
“Holy Maker!” Bea screeched.
Clark arrived at the bathroom door and walked over to the window, seemingly surprised to see the stranger rummaging through the garden bed.
“Is that a zombie?” he shook his head as if in disbelief.
“Oh Maker, we’re going to all die!” Bea screamed and ran from the room.
Clark motioned for me to leave. “Kass, have your mother go call the police and ask her and Bea…” he grimaced as the caretaker continued shrieking in the hallway.
I frowned, wondering how she didn’t freak out about ghosts but she did about zombie-like people.
“…and make sure all the doors are locked…” Clark continued.
“Okay…” I stepped backwards slowly, gripping the door frame to steady myself before turning to find my mother. “For heavens sake, Ms. Honeywell, Bea…” I gripped her arm as I walked down the hallway. “Calm down.”
“Oh… oh… oh…” the older woman reluctantly followed me into the front hallway.
“What’s going on?” Mamma inquired, rushing to meet us, the worry written all over her face.
I tried to calmly explain what I had seen, but my insides were still shaking. First a ghost and now a…
“Zombie!” Bea howled.
“Not a zombie,” I grimaced. “She’s obviously very sick.”
“Aannnnddd rrraaabbbidddd!” Bea said, her teeth literally chattering.
I sighed. I knew Dr. Bachelor had told me that advanced stage EXCES caused zombie-like behavior and symptoms.
“Mamma, we should call for an ambulance,” I urged.
“I’m going to… call the police first…” Mamma bit her lip and began punching numbers into her cell phone.
I pulled out my phone. If Mamma wasn’t going to call for immediate medical attention, I would.
“Zero-zero-zero, what’s your emergency?”
“Yes, my name is Kassiopeia Fullbright and I live at 16 Crooked Road. We need an ambulance. There is a…” I paused, wondering what I should say. “…woman here who needs help.”
“Ma’am, what kind of help? Can you describe it to me?”
“I think she’s suffering from EXCES,” I whispered.
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Ma’am is this a hoax?”
“What?” I exclaimed. “No! What do you mean?”
“There’s no such thing as EXCES.”
“What? Yes there is. There’s a woman in my yard and she’s rummaging through our vegetable garden…”
“We can send a police dispatch.”
“No! Not just police… an ambulance… I think she’s really sick… she is exhibiting signs of late stage EXCES.”
“We’re sending a police dispatch to your home.”
“Are you hearing me? Send the paramedics. She has EXCES.”
“Miss, prank calls aren’t appreciated.”
“This isn’t a prank call, you ignorant waste-of-taxpayer-dollars!” I shouted into the phone and threw it across the room.
“Kassiopeia!” Mamma interrupted me sternly. “What are you doing?”
“Mamma, she didn’t believe me. She thought I was making it up. I think the lady in our yard is suffering from EXCES.”
“How do you know? You didn’t see her that closely.”
“Mamma, I just know. Why didn’t she believe me?”
I had heard of prejudice against alien-Sim hybrids and EXCES victims, but to blatantly dismiss the disease as if it didn’t exist was plain stupid in my opinion.
“Why did you talking to the emergency dispatcher like that? I’ve taught you better than that.”
“I’m sorry, Mamma, but do you believe me? Come look…” I walked through the house again and into the bathroom and looked out the window. The woman was no where to be seen. “What?” I rubbed my neck. What’s going on?
“Kassiopeia, you know that EXCES is mostly a myth, one that a few doctors and research companies made up to get some extra money,” Mamma said when she walked into the bathroom. “What are you looking for?”
“EXCES is real,” I insisted. “There are people dying… from it…” I thought of my father. “…everyday…” my voice broke.
“Why are you getting so emotional?” Mamma frowned. “Let’s go sit in the family room and we’ll watch some TV or you can go rest.”
“Mamma, I’m not crazy. Why aren’t you listening to me?” my eyes widened. “EXCES is real and you should know that because your…” I stopped before I said anything about her ex-husband.
Dad had made it clear he didn’t want my mother to know anything unless I was diagnosed as a carrier or a victim of the disease too. I had to respect his wishes even if that meant that Mamma didn’t believe me.
“My what?” she frowned. “Oh Clark, there you are,” she turned as the back door opened in the nearby hallway. She stepped out and put her arms around him. “Did you see anything?”
“Not really,” he said, sounding out of breath. “I didn’t catch her, but the yard is torn up like a dog went through it or something.”
I winced. To reduce a victim of EXCES to a dog was dehumanizing, but I decided if I wasn’t going to win my battle with my mother, I shouldn’t drag my stepfather into it.
“Well, thank heavens you’re all right, and she ran off,” Mamma said, muffled in Clark’s shirt.
“Is everything okay?” he asked, looking at me leaning in the doorway.
“Yeah, everything’s fine,” I said quietly, twisting the toe of my shoe into the carpet fibers.
“We’ll go wait for the police in the family room,” Mamma said decidedly guiding Clark through the hallway and I reluctantly followed behind.
“Mamma, why don’t you believe me?” I asked angrily after a half hour of bland television passed.
My mother looked up at me, her eyes widening with surprise. She laughed lightly. “Kassiopeia, you know that EXCES is just a trumped up disease. No one’s ever been able to prove that aliens actually mated with Sims.”
“Mamma, how can you be naive? You know they’re aliens right?” I waved my arms dramatically. “Up there… I mean, we fought in a war… we’re in a dang cold war right now with aliens. We know they’re out there. And Sims who suffer from EXCES don’t just contract the disease through direct sexual contact…”
“Oh Kass, stop it,” Mamma interrupted.
My stepfather tried to stay focused on the television set, but I could tell he was thinking about intervening from the occasional pursing of his lips.
“No, I’m serious, Mamma, I’ve done lots of research,” I protested. “There’s a doctor in Simcago named Honey Mustard who developed a treatment called cellular replacement therapy. She’s a prominent doctor with funding…”
“Funding?” Mamma looked at me in disbelief. “Kass, she was the doctor that was on the news last year who had been publicly disgraced because her treatment was a sham. What were the statistics? Clark, do you remember? I think it was originally only ten percent effective for treating people who believed they’d been impregnated by aliens. It’s a mental disorder, not a medical one.”
“Forty-three percent,” I corrected. “And not by people who thought they’d been impregnated by aliens, but people who actually were alien-Sim hybrids or were born to alien-Sim hybrids or who had a bad blood transfusion.”
“Kass, are you hearing yourself?” Mamma shook her head with disbelief. “Why are you worrying yourself about this so much?”
“Well, it’s like me saying depression doesn’t exist, but we all know, you suffer from it, Mamma,” I said coldly.
“Kass, that’s enough,” Clark interjected coolly.
Uncomfortable silence stretched to near-breaking point over the room. The television droned on in the background. I stared at the floor feeling defensive. Why didn’t my own mother believe me? Her own ex-husband suffered from EXCES and here she was trying to deny it wasn’t real? Granted my mother didn’t know the truth, but I would still need to get tested every year for at least another six years. I thought about revealing the truth, but thought against it. Mamma looked deeply hurt and confused. She stood up slowly.
“I think I’ll go make us some dinner,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
When she left the room, Clark looked over at me, and muted the television set.
“Kass, why did you do that?”
“She didn’t believe me,” I said sullenly, crossing my arms.”EXCES is real whether you believe me or not.”
“I don’t doubt that you think it’s real, but who’s putting these ideas in your head, Kass?” Clark frowned. “The government has most definitely denied that aliens have ever made it to our surface in over eighty years.”
I shrugged. I didn’t care if I was acting like a little kid.
“There’s no proof,” Clark leaned forward, and folded his hands between his knees. “I know that doesn’t mean anything to you apparently but that’s no reason for you to be mean to your mother.”
He was right, but I didn’t want to admit it, at least about being mean to my mom. The doorbell rang.
“That’s probably the police cruiser they sent,” Clark stood to his feet. “I’ll handle it.”
“I want to talk to the officer,” I tried to stand up, but felt my legs buckling.
“Why don’t you go apologize to your mamma?” Clark suggested gently and left the room.
I grunted. My dad would’ve believed me. Why didn’t Mamma and Clark? I couldn’t believe their ignorance and incredulity. I knew maybe it wasn’t fair to hold it against them because they’d just been programmed like the masses by the government and medical professionals. It was mostly because the symptoms could be attributed to nearly a dozen different diseases. It was true that Dr. Mustard had been run out of her own clinic last Simgust after her treatment for a widely disputed disease was revealed to be nothing more than hypnotherapy hoax designed to make patients believe they were getting better. I’d even heard Dr. B say how medical practitioners and researchers who did believe in treating the disease were being blackballed in their professional community.
I leaned forward about to get up off the couch to go apologize to my mother like Clark had said when I heard a rustling noise in the bushes. I walked over to the window as quickly as I could and peered through the panes. Another woman was rummaging through the bushes, attacking the leaves with a haphazard directionless frustration, growling and drooling as if rabid, but I knew better. I gasped quietly. I could go tell Mamma and Clark and the police officer who was most definitely standing in the foyer, but I thought better of it. Instead, I called the one person who’d believe me.
2.10 Coming Soon!
- Will Kass’s mother believe her?
- Will we learn more about late-stage EXCES?
- Who did Kass call?
Author’s Note: What’s different?
- Dates were changed.