"Call it evolution, or an invasion, it didn't matter."
By Rick McQuiston

•   •   •
Alexis set her cup of tea down on the counter. Light plumes of steam drifted into the hazy air of the kitchen, mingling with the countless dust particles floating about. Dull sunlight streamed through the dusty blinds above the sink, diluted by the three-quarter-inch slats. And an outdated fridge and stove stood at attention in the far corner of the room like two forgotten sentries.
It was a warm morning, dry and relatively comfortable, but Alexis didn't feel comfortable. In fact, she felt downright uncomfortable, a stranger in her own house, an actor on a stage with no lines to read and no plot to adhere to.
“I know it's not just my imagination,” she whispered to herself while playing with a lock of her auburn-tinged hair. “There's something going on here, something unnatural.” 
As if to verify her suspicions, Alexis glanced down at her cup of tea. The cup and its contents appeared normal, the faded image of a very cute baby seal spread across the porcelain of the vessel, but something felt off.
She narrowed her baby-blue eyes and focused on the cup in an attempt to find something, anything that was out of place.
She couldn't find a thing. Same cup with the baby seal image, same hot tea that she had made not more than ten minutes earlier, same...
It caught her attention in a flash.
The cup was the same but it was where it was that was different.
Alexis stared at her cup of tea. It sat on the countertop a full two inches over from where she had just set it, a light-brown ring (a residual imprint on the tile) had been bisected into a half moon, definitive proof that the cup had in fact been moved.
“Did I move it?” she thought out loud, but immediately became upset with herself when she realized that she hadn't. And, she reasoned, the ring on the counter was proof that it had been moved.
She leaned in and studied the cup and its contents.
It only took a few seconds to notice yet another anomaly: the level of the tea was much lower than before.
Alexis couldn't believe her eyes. She found herself unable to tear her gaze away from the cup. She hadn't drunk that much before she had set it down. She was sure of it.
A sharp noise jarred her from her thoughts.
It was the neighbor's dog, a noisy Terrier-Poodle who seemed to revel in causing her ears to ring.
She stepped over to the small window above the sink and peered out into her yard, and then over to the chain-link fence that separated her property from her neighbor's.
The dog was there, its wet brown snout squeezed into one of the numerous diamond-shaped gaps in the fence.
At first glance it seemed normal: the same dusty beige fur, the same bushy tail, the same slavering mouth partially hidden behind tufts of dangling hair. But then she did notice something odd: the dog had a lump (for lack of better word) protruding between the eyes. It was fairly pronounced (about the size of a golf ball) and seemed to gyrate with a life all its own.
Alexis focused on the spot, boring a hole in it with her stare. She felt a shiver dance up and down her spine and involuntarily stepped back from the window. Her nerves were frayed and she had a sick churning in her gut.
Get out while you still can.
The thought had pushed its way into her head without her even realizing it. It seemed alien to her somehow, like somebody else was saying it. She lived alone, and for the first time in her life she regretted it. Being fiercely independent had always been good to her, she preferred it, but now that she was faced was something odd, unnatural, frightening, she wished there were other people in the house with her.
Gradually, the neighborhood dog slid out of her view as she stepped away from the window. The barking didn't stop though, flowing from a familiar annoyance to a raspy growl, a sound she had never heard the dog make before, much less any dog for that matter.
She backed up until she bumped into the dining room table. It was an antique, something she had found at a garage sale a few years earlier, and although it didn't match anything else in the room, she still liked it.
She reached down and settled her hand on the edge of the table, expecting to feel the familiar ornate wood etchings on it done so long ago by some forgotten craftsmen. She didn't take her eyes off the window above the sink, afraid that the dog somehow would leap through the glass if she did.
She felt the rigid stainless steel edge of the table, and spinning around, her breath caught in her throat.
The table was a retro-style model, complete with laminate top and polished steel frame. The chairs matched too, and were accented with red seat and back rest cushions.
“That's not my table,” Alexis mumbled. “What happened to my table?” 
Things are changing. It's happening everywhere.
She shook her head in a vain attempt to dispel the unsettling thoughts, but they persisted.
They want their chance now. I want my chance now.
The last statement caused her to fall back against the far wall, stumbling over her own feet.
She felt it then: her labored breathing punctuated by an odd sensation, her forehead felt as if it was elongating, stretching to accommodate a foreign object, a lump that shone from just beneath the flesh, rotating ever so slightly, yearning to free itself from the confines of her skull.
You had your time...
The lump split the skin and squirmed like a newborn struggling for breath.
And now it's my turn. It's all our turns.
Alexis couldn't stand it any longer. Her legs buckled, sending her crashing to the ceramic tile floor. She noted as she fell that the floor itself was different than hers. Gone was the light blue laminate she had installed a few years earlier. She liked blue, particularly light shades. It reminded her of a clear blue sky. But now there were sterile, one-foot-square white ceramic tiles.    It looked like a hospital room floor.
She had to admit that it went well with the table, adding to the vintage 50s-era style.
Her head slammed into the tile, transferring her from the comfortable normalcy she had enjoyed her entire life to a dimension of painful darkness, and eventually, the realization that her life, that everyone's life would never be the same. Something was taking over. An alternate state of consciousness was supplanting the existing one, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and most frightening of all: physically. Somehow another state of being was taking over. Humans, dogs, cats, birds, fish, even insects and microbial life forms, everything on the planet was changing.
Alexis drifted into the void. She could feel her identity slipping away. Something was draining everything that made her who she was.
And then, just as she was about to disappear into the chasm, she felt a burst of energy suffuse her body. All at once strength, power, and health returned to her, as well as the resolve to implement them to her advantage. She was renewed, bursting with vitality.
However, the joy from her newfound vigor was short-lived because something was changing in her as well. Her thoughts were slipping away. Her dreams, memories, hopes, fears, they were all fading like so much mist in the dawn.
“Alice. Yes, Alice will do,” she heard herself say, although she didn't know where the words came from. “It's a bit similar to Alexis, but I do rather like it.”
No, it's me, Alexis. Not Alice. I'm here! I'm here!
She lifted herself up off the floor. The third eye in her forehead blinked several times; dust had irritated it. Her head spun around as a whole batch of new thoughts and perspectives flooded into it.
Shouldn't be long now. Most of the Northern Hemisphere should be assimilated soon. Will miss the yellow glow of the sun, although blue is better. A cold, blue star. Must remember to suggest to Those Who Bridge Gaps about altering this portion of the cosmos. She glanced down to the floor and then over to the stove. Needs to match.
Instantly, the stove transformed into a retro 50s-style appliance, complete with bright chrome accents, Art Deco design, and baked-on red finish.
It matched the dining table perfectly.
There, that's better.
Alice closed her eyes, took a deep, cleansing breath, and ran her fingers through her auburn-tinged hair.
Blond. Needs to be blond.
She ran her fingers through her blonde hair.
“No, I'm still here. Please...”
With a soft grunt Alice expelled the remnants of Alexis. She felt clean then, clean and fresh, and decided at that moment she would make an effort to help ease the transition process for the victims next time. There was no need to prolong their fear or pain.
With a gentle sigh, she stepped over to the counter and picked up the cooling cup of tea. “Not sure I'll keep this,” she said quietly. “I think I'll delete it. Don't care for the smell.”
The liquid in the cup crystallized, hardening into clear, razor-sharp shards.
Alice raised the cup to her lips and quickly sucked down the contents.        
She looked out the small window above the sink. A dog was barking from the neighbor's yard, a raspy, deep, almost painful-sounding noise that split the relative serenity of the day.
A jolt of excitement festered in her gut. She could hardly wait to see the rest of the world, their world, and explore how things would be different. Too long they had waited in the shadows, gathering strength for the changes that would come. Too long they had been denied. Too long they had been patient. Now was the time, their time. Call it evolution, or an invasion, it didn't matter. All that did matter was that Alexis was gone and Alice was here.
Alice closed all three of her eyes and took a deep breath. Her mind wandered between the noisy dog next door and the style she was going for in her kitchen. 50s-retro was definitely to her liking. Maybe she would do the rest of the house in it as well.
After all, she did enjoy making changes.
•   •   •
Rick McQuiston is a horror fanatic who has been writing for 25+ years. He's had over 400 publications so far, and is under contract with Raventale Publishing for several novels. Currently, he's working on a new novel and more short stories.

You may also like: