In the old ‘50s sci-fi movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” aliens replaced happy-go-lucky humans with their brain-dead, easy-to-control evil twins. The twins were grown in creepy, coffin-sized pods while the defenseless humans slept. You would go to bed human then presto-change-o, you wake up a pod person, part of some giant collective-hive entity.
You would look just like your old self, but in reality you are a zombie-like creature that’s doing whatever your alien overlords command you to do, which is mainly to talk stiffly without emotion and to walk as if you are just learning how. Aliens always get a big, unearthly kick out of this, and no one knows why.
Becoming a pod person is just about the worst thing that can ever happen to you – the possible exception being asking your cousin to be your prom date or accidentally sending your boss an e-mail addressed “To Whom It Might Concern” that explains why you are actively searching for other employment. Or saying a dirty word extremely loudly just as all other conversation stops.
I bring all this up because suddenly, my health club is full of pod people.
“Hello, how are you today?” I asked my old gym buddy Brian today as I walked past him. He was on the treadmill. Nothing. No response whatsoever. The blank stare, the telltale thin, white wires coming out of his ears. The good news was that he didn’t seem to notice I was not a pod person. So, it wasn’t a completely bad day. But it bothered me that he had become a pod person overnight. The white wires weren’t there yesterday.
I pretended not to notice that Brian was no longer human. I don’t want him to alert the other aliens that I’m not a pod person. I don’t want to fall asleep some night and wake up the next morning with no will of my own, not alive but not quite dead, obeying someone else’s orders all day long. I’m married, so it wouldn’t be all that different from the way I live now, but even Sue hasn’t stuck the thin white wires in my ears.
“Don’t you miss being a human, talking to other people, having a life, feeling joy and pain?” I wanted to ask Brian. I also want to ask, “Why are you even bothering to exercise? Your alien masters will keep your body in good shape until they have conquered the entire planet and no longer need you. Why do you need to be in good shape for that?”
Of course, I couldn’t say that to the pod person who used to be Brian. His evil pod master might suspect that I was still human. In a very calm, even, emotionless voice. I said, “Silly humans,” and lurched off as if I were just learning how to walk. Later I saw Brian conferring telepathically with one his demonic overlords in the weight room. They were looking in my direction, as if I was the one who was acting strangely.
About the only place free of pod people was the pool. Maybe there’s something in our Earth water that’s poison to pod people. Perhaps water blocks signals from the mothership? Had I discovered something that could save our planet?
That night the aliens revealed themselves on television as black, writhing shapes speaking their own hideous (at least to human ears) language, which consists largely of random static pops and white noise. And from their ears came the long thin, white wires.
“Sue, you’ve got to see this,” I called out.
Nothing. No response at all. I walked out of the living room looking for her. She was in the kitchen canning tomatoes. There were long, thin, white wires coming out of her ears.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at email@example.com
Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.