"C'mon, couldn't you at least think about getting a dog?" Ten-year-old brother, Nathan asked Mom. So far, Nathan had asked Mom that question thirty-nine times ever since his best friend told him about his cocker spaniel.

"No no and NO!" Mom replied sharply. "And that ends that. . . ." trying to reflect on an example in her flavor she added, "beside you already have pets, you have an ant farm. Sounds like enough pets to me."

Their conversation stopped as the doorbell ringing interrupted. And since Nathan and Mom continued their heated discussion, I chose to answer the door before Mom yelled at me to do it.

I yanked open the front door, next to the door down to the laboratory/weight-lifting room/basement.

At that second, I felt as if I had stumbled into the Twilight Zone. My reason for thinking that lay on the doorstep. There in a woven basket, nestled in several blankets, a darling little golden retriever puppy, whimpered in the darkness.

I hurried into the living room, where Mom had about finished up their argument by grounding Nathan.

It took Mom time to pull away from Nathan. Yet, eventually, Mom and Nathan came with me to the door. Mom went ballistic when she laid her eyes on the puppy. Mom glared at Nathan.

"Mister, how irresponsible of you!" Mom bellowed in anger. "Honestly, bringing a dog here after what I told you!"

Mom grabbed the teeny little puppy and scowled at it. Then something weird occurred. Mom's eyes of rage transformed into eyes of compassion. Then, her compassionate face grew pale and emotionless.

"Perhaps," Mom began in a dry voice. "We . . . can . . . keep . . . It. Watch . . . Nathan . . . Hal. I'll . . . go . . . get . . . dog . . . food . . . for . . . her."

As Mom walked out the door, she left Nathan and me with several questions. Like this one: What had happened to my real Mom?

Real Mom. I savored those words. Without her, I'd have no more real parents.

My mind drifted back to simpler times. Once, real Dad took me down to the weight lifting room and laboratory and taught me reality. I could do the bookworm routine and lift weights without having to seem unreal, he said. It sounded weird, though, what would all the other kids think. Beware the eyes of judgment, he would say, they see only what serves them and ignore the rest, he always said.

With all his insight, my father never realized his advice could not solve all problems. Though the doctors all agreed on one thing. In all their years dealing with cancer patients, they had never met a man more at peace with death than his father.

My head felt heavy. Mom hadn't come home yet. What better time for a Saturday night sleeping?

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz! Zzzzz! Zzz! I awoke to a hissing sound during the night. It sounded like air hissing out of tire. I sprung out of bed to investigate the noise, armed with a baseball bat.

It came from Nathan's room.

I felt terrified out of my wits about what the sound could mean. Still, I somehow managed to muster up the courage to reach for the doorknob. I closed my eyes tightly and twisted the knob. Halfway, I realize I no longer needed to twist the doorknob. The door bursted wide open all by itself.

Nathan stood like a child learning to walk. Unfortunately, this Nathan felt different from the one I knew. This Nathan's appearance formed a wicked glare that stretched his inelastic face. And his eyes bulged and glowed an infernal blood-red. As If testing something he spliced a gash in himself. It healed over as soon as I noticed the blood.

"You should have stayed asleep," Nathan croaked, grimly. "I grow tired of these games myself actually. Should've invaded your mother when I had the chance, single-bodied earth-parasite!"

"Come on, Nathan, stop messing around?" I tightened my grip on the baseball bat. "And why did you call me 'single-bodied earth-parasite'? I don't found that funny."

My voice trailed off as I gazed at what Nathan tossed in front of me. The golden retriever puppy fell lifeless as a rag doll to the floor. "Soul Leaper know only conquest!!! Take her life/body and now this one I did. I need take a new body. This body and mind reeks of weakness."

Then I realized the idea behind this gross mockery of nature. In this Sci-Fi movie I once saw, there an alien thrived by leaping from body to body. It must have gone from the puppy to Nathan able to heal instantaneously from even death itself. I threw to the baseball bat aside. This would not help, it might not even slow him down.

Nathan went behind me and I turned to him. Fixing a mind-numbing gaze of me, transparent red tentacles blasted out of Nathan's eyes and into mine. Without warning, a sharp pain shot down and forth down the back. Memories began popped up into my mind rapidly. Kind of like all my thoughts fast-forwarded like a tape.

As my life flashed before my eyes, the image of my father emerged from deep within. "Beware the eyes of judgment. They see only what serves them and ignore the rest." As the vision ended, my whole body seemed entirely paralyzed. Next, I heard that familiar high-pitched noise.

"Pathetic human, you cannot fight me, I've already won."

I backed into Nathan's room. Nathan's ant tank plunged to the ground. With all my might, I tossed some ants into the air. An ant fell into the red tentacle of energy, a ripple of crimson light flashed against the walls. Nathan collapsed, his heartbeat echoing across the room.

The Soul Leapers merged completely with the ant's mind, unable to control his ability to Leap effectively. Mom returned home, not knowing why she spent the night driving in circles. Darryl remembered everything and told nothing. The dog died and reported him as an unhealthy stray. Nearly taken by a Soul Leaper, I can now see them. And I see them everywhere.