"Rough Winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:"

Forgive me for beginning with words borrowed from another. I'm afraid I have neither the time, nor the skill to create an appropriate beginning to this story.

This story, you see, is all about endings. Perhaps my end. Perhaps our end.

If I had ever actually read 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' I might have found a better way to start, perhaps I wouldn't have been in this mess in the first place.

No, I limited myself to watching the film versions. Of course it started as some McCarthyist anti-communist flick and developed into a sci-fi classic.

Then it developed a little further.

Unfortunately this isn't a work of fiction or I could tell you how it began. Where the first pods appeared, who were the first people to find themselves snatched.

It was fortuitous that I found out what was going on. I mean that in the traditional sense of the word 'fortuitous', because it would not have made much difference either way to me. Perhaps I'd have been happier just going to sleep one night and awakening to find I was someone else. Perhaps that's what happened to you.

Well. They found me.

I was sitting alone in the small office I had chosen. Perhaps if I was closer to home I would have tried to get home. Either to help my friends and family or to at least be with them at the end.

No, I was over 200 miles away, stuck on an RAF base. I was there visiting a friend, and I had seen him 'snatched' only hours before.

I had thought to run, and then changed my mind. It was the early hours of the morning. I could hear gunfire across the base, I wondered what people would make of that. I decided to do the only sensible thing. I broke into the bar. With all the noise no one noticed the alarm. I took three bottles. One very expensive whisky, one slightly cheaper vodka and a bottle of Martini. I grabbed the largest cigar they had and stopping only to find a lighter disappeared back out into the night.

I found an open door and stumbled into the office of one Group Captain Wallace. I had seen him gunned down by his 'own' troops a few hours earlier and suspected he woulnd't mind the use of his office.

I found some glasses. I poured out three whiskeys. I sat them on the desk and sat down in the large, comfortable chair behind it.

I raised my glass to the other two in turn, "John, Wallace, cheers."

I drained my glass, refilled it and drained it again.

Actually I would have done this a few times before I noticed that the noise outside had become fearfully close.

I half expected the door to come crashing in at any moment. I was surprised when it opened slowly and four people filed in. My gun was in my hand in an instant. The fact I know little about guns, especially handguns didn't deter me.

The first two through the door were military police, they were armed and turned their SA-80 rifles towards me. They didn't fire. I didn't expect them to fire, I had just hoped they would. Behind them were two officers, a Flying Officer McNicol and a Pilot Officer Clearland.

"There you are," McNicol said evenly, "we would appreciate it sir if you'd come with us."

"I'm sure you would," I snapped my gun from the first MP to McNicol. He didn't even flinch, though the MPs tensed.

"Come now sir, you must see the futility of the situation?"


"There are two trained soldiers aiming at you, you cannot escape."

"That is true."

"Then why not come quietly?"

"Why come at all?" I countered, "A bullet here is as good as dying in your infirmary, perhaps I'd like to take you out with me."

"Then shoot."

"Don't tempt me."

"Why not come with us," McNicol said soothingly, "let us explain our side of the story."

"That would be interesting," I put down my glass and started to refil it, which was more difficult since my left hand as busy pointing a gun, "however, I might have a counter-offer."

"Really sir," McNicol said in an almost exasperated tone. Almost, but not quite.

"Why do you want me to go with you? What will you do at the infirmary?" I tried to screw the top back on the whisky bottle and then decided against it, what was the point?

"We would like to have our doctors check-"

I held up my hand to stop him.

McNicol considered for a second, "we want to give you a sedative."

"It's for your own good sir," Clearland added.

"Of course it is."

"Really," McNicol continued, "you will have to sleep sooner or later. Why not make it sooner, end this stress?"

"What stress?" I tilted my glass to him and swallowed another hit of the wonderfully whisky I could now barely taste.

"What is your counter-offer?" Clearland asked quietly.

"What?" I asked, unsure.

"You mentioned a counter-offer."

"Oh yes. Go away."


"That was my offer: go away."

"That's not an offer," McNicol interrupted.

"Yes it is. Look, you have two options. You try to grab me, I shoot at least one of you and you are forced to kill me," I finished my drink and set about pouring another, "alternatively you can leave me alone."

"Why would we do that?" McNicol was being, I thought deliberatley, slow.

"Because you'd get what you want. In case you haven't noticed I have aquired a sedative of sorts, far more pleasureable than your doctor's," I showed him the half glass I had just poured and drank it in one gulp, "so why not leave me to get on with it? Why not just fuck off?"

"I don't believe you. I think-"

"You think I'm working on a plan? I have some sort of trick up my sleeve? You flatter me. Look I'm not saying you ignore me or anything. Just leave the room, give me a bit of privacy for my final hours. I suppose compassion is beyond you, but logic shouldn't be: you will never take me alive. Leave me alone and you get what you want, refuse and people die."

"I don't think we can just leave you alone in here," McNicol protested.

"You don't have to," I had changed my mind only while I was talking, "Clearland can stay."

"If you think-" McNicol began, but Clearland stopped him.

"Okay," Clearland opened the door, "the rest of you can wait outside."

"Right outside, not lurking outside the door," I protested, "if they want they can wait in the street."

McNicol looked back to Clearland, "okay, we'll be right outside."

After they had filed out of the room I poured myself another drink, "have a drink, you can have that one... I don't think John'll be drinking it."

"We don't drink."

"Of course," I sighed, draining my glass, "could you at least pick it up, pretend?"

Clearland reached out and picked up the glass.

"I'm curious," Clearland said evenly.

"Curiousity? Almost an emotion," I smiled.


"Why are you curious?"

"I wonder why you seem, or wish to seem as though you've accepted the inevitable when so many of your kind have not. I also wondered why you wanted me to stay."

I sighed, rubbed my tired eyes and looked across at Clearland again. For the first time I saw Clearland, rather than the thing, than the alien, the alien that had taken the form. I considered the athletic figure, long brown hair, wonderful hazel eyes and realised why I'd wanted her to stay.



"You have Clearland's memories? Her thoughts? Her dreams."

"I have her memories."

"Do you mind if I call you Sam?" I asked, but I wasn't about to wait for a reply, "you don't have emotions do you?"

"We do, but they are supressed. They play their role in our psychology and our biology, but they don't rule us as they did you."

I winced at the past tense, "it must be curious to remember Sam's emotions, perhaps right near the end, and yet not understand them."

"Oh I do understand them, I just don't share them."

I turned to the other bottles, I was sick of whisky. I poured myself a half-glass of vodka and topped it up with Martini. I placed my hand over the glass and slammed it on the table. It was a little messy; "Shaken, not stirred."

"You didn't answer my question..."

I wiped my hand on my clothes, the Martini was sticky, but then what did I care.

"No," I said looking back at Sam, "I didn't answer your question. I wonder if you can guess the answer."

She inclined her head as if thinking, "no I can't."

"You don't have emotions," I held up my hand to cut of her correction, "not really, so you won't have embarrasment, and I'll presume tact is out of it too."


"What did Sam think of me?"

"She didn't really know you."

Ouch. At least I knew she wasn't going to spin me a line. "She didn't notice then?"

"Notice what?"

"I was absoloutely mad about her."

She paused, thinking this over. "This is why we're here?"

I shook my head, "No, it's why you're here... although, perhaps. Perhaps that's why I'm here, or partly. You've already got my friends, probably my family by now. You've got the woman I think I loved."

"I see. You want this chance to tell me."

"Hah," I coughed, half choking on my drink, "I don't think so. I don't think you're Sam."

"You don't? You don't find me attractive?"

"Of course I do. That's not the point. I'm not likely to get a date now... not now that you're some alien fiend."

"I'm not that different," she said quietly.

That didn't help. If you call a girl an alien fiend a weak denial isn't quite what you're looking for.

"We're the new humanity," she said levelly, "we will continue from where you left off."

"Society? Humanity? You will go on as before?" I snorted derisively.

"Not as before. More efficient. More capable. War, greed these are things of the past."

"Love? Beauty? Freedom? Gone too?"

"We are free, because we all want the same thing. We will work together to repair this world you have almost destroyed."

"Hah, the Martians are green after all."

"We're not from Mars."

"Talk about literal-mindedness! But then Sam never was quick on the uptake. So tell me, will you procreate in the old-fashioned way?"

"Yes, we will pair-bond and continue to procreate to continue the species."

"I expect Durex will be out of business."

"Business is an out-moded concept."

"So who will you pair-bond with?" I asked, although I can't really tell you why.

"I don't know. I will decide at some future time," she leant forward, "would you like it to be you?"

This time I did choke on my drink, "what an appealing thought. Of course I realise the hollowness of the offer. Once I've... well I won't care much."

"It makes no great difference to me."

"Flattery will get you nowhere," I sighed, "if I wasn't so drunk... it might have been fun to have seduced an alien doppleganger of my fantasy woman."

"You would like to have sex with me?"

I wasn't drinking at this point, which was fortunate, "God do all of your kind sound like Scandinavian-Porno actors?"

"I don't..."

"Sorry, bad taste. An interesting twist on the condemned man's final request!" I chuckled, "you must have a very low opinion of me... I mean, ready to lay down my life for some last-minute nookie."

"I am..."

"I know, you couldn't really despise me, you're not emotionally equipped. The idea, however of selling my body, well, selling my body for your body seem's a little low from where I'm sitting."


"God you sound like Mr. Spock," I burped loudly, I didn't expect the alien would mind, "which reminds me. Curiousity. In all the films this is where you, the alien, would tell me, the hero all about yourselves."

"You wish to know more about us?"

"Yes," I poured myself a whisky, the Martini had left a bad taste, "leave nothing out. Pay special detail to any genetic weaknesses in your species."

"Was that a joke?"

"So far as you know. Now please, who are you... people... and what the hell is going on?"

"We are from a distant star. I do not know the name of it. I do not know much of our history. Only a part of it is known to me. It is our nature. The pods? On our planet there were no mamal forms more complex than your dogs. From time to time a mamal would sleep close enough to the pods for us to become them. However we were concentrated, there were few of us. We could not move the pods, we could not bring others to the pods. We were few."

"Apart from a rather skethy sentence structure, that sounds cool. A rather sensible policy on the part of nature to keep you in your own corner. What happened next?"

Sam didn't seem to pay any attention and continued her naration: "one day, beings came from another world. They were advanced, even by your standards. They were from another star system. When they slept by the pods they gave us a higher sentience. We were suddenly able to move the pods to new places, to plan, to bring others to the pods. The ships! Oh the ships were wonderful."

"I know, I've seen them."

"Oh, the ships were amazing. We used them to bring pods back to their world. Soon, their world was ours and we began to build a new society. Soon though there were no more forms to take. Now on that world they procreate in their way, there are no new forms for the pods. So new ships were constructed. Can you imagine a whole world working to produce hundreds of thousands of ships."

"I'm sort of trying not to."

"The ships were sent out, in the hope that they would find new forms, and bring order to new worlds. One ship landed here, your human scientists studied the pods. Of course sooner or later someone will sleep near the pod... Once there was one of us he could grow more pods. You humans have great experience in wars and we soon knew we could quickly take this world. Seed from the pods were spread throughout the world. Even if your race had organised in time to stop us it would be unable to destroy the seeds."

"Charming thought," I poured myself another drink, but they weren't working, my head fell soft, as though my brain had been packed in cotton wool, and I felt tired, but I didn't feel drunk. Not enough for all this. "By the way, what's the current score?"


"How are my people doing? Anyone spotted you yet? Any fighting? Any pockets of resistance?"

"There is resistance, but everyone sleeps. Within another 24 hours we will control an estimated seventy-eight per cent of the world's homo sapien population. After a further 24 hours we will control eighty-eight per cent, another day and we will have ninety two per cent. We estimate that a further one per cent will fall each day."

"Hmm, eleven days until the fall of mankind? Perhaps I'd rather not be around to see that."

"You will be around," Sam said earnestly, "you will just feel different."

"Differently", I correct absent-mindedly, "oh come on, I've seen it, I'll go to sleep next to one of those pods and I'll fade away. I'll die and my body will crumple to dust."

"While you're asleep your brain patterns will be copied across to the pod-embyo. Then when the embryo is fully formed tendrils copy more complex genetic and biological information across to the new body. You are literally born again in a better, cleaner body. You won't be unhappy ever again, you won't be lonely ever again. You'll be one of us."

"Sounds charming. Simple fact is I'll be dead and dust."

"It's not death. You are transferred to a new body. If the process was stopped before the transfer the embryo would die. It's not a copy of you. It's like in Star Trek when Kirk is beamed up. His body is destroyed, atomised and the information is transmitted and reformed. The only difference here is that subtle changes are made. Remember the cells in your body are always changing. They are just changed all at once."

"This is a rather eloquent argument," I smiled, "I never knew Sam was so persuasive."

I had decided some time during that speech. Perhaps the idea had been forming in my head those last few minutes. Perhaps it was the mention of 'Star Trek' that gave me the idea... perhaps it was the mention of Kirk that gave me a bolder plan. I stood up and moved, a little shakily around the desk.

Sam stood up too, "perhaps she lacked confidence, you need never be nervous or shy again."

Of course she did weaken her point every time she referred to Sam in the third person, "I'm not feeling shy," I moved closer to her, "I wondered if you'd do something for me?"

"What?" she asked, her dark brown eyes almost weakening my resolve.

"Your ship. I saw it breifly before. However the gunfight... I'd like to see it again if you'd show me. A guided tour if you like, while I still have my curiousity."

As we walked across the base I put my hand in hers. It was warm and comforting against the cold night air. Strange, she was my enemy and my ally. I had discovered my enemies greatest weakness, their ambition. They wanted me, wanted everyone. It was their innermost, driving force. Perhaps as we are driven to procreate they are driven to find hosts... no not hosts, forms for their pods. They would avoid hurting me if they could, avoid killing me, probably at the expense of a few lives. It was perverse, they would, I was fairly confident, allow a dozen to die if it meant bringing one more form to a pod. Then again perhaps parents would sacrifice themselves for a child, but that was for love surely?

They hadn't tried anything, perhaps they wanted me to surrender willingly. Whatever it was I wasn't about to question it.

Others looked at me suspiciously, but they didn't challenge me. It really was like the films, the walked blankly past us, no emotion registering on their faces.

I did see one man, obviously not yet 'changed'. He saw my hand in hers and hope flickered across his face, but he saw the expression on Sam's face. I slipped my hand from hers and walked purposfully past him. Sam looked to me, and I smiled. She smiled back, obviously for my benefit. I prayed the other guy didn't see that, if he gave himself away it would be all over for him and bring renewed attention to me.

Another guy wasn't so lucky. He saw a friend on the road and was half-way to him before he sensed his mistake. The 'friend' turned, an accusing finger pointed out the poor unfortunate and the aliens around began their high pitched wail of alarm. Sam didn't join in, again probably out of deference for me. I don't think I could have taken that.

The guy turned a gun on his erstwhile friend and with a jerk of the trigger I saw the alien hit the ground. The man fired two more shots, stopping two more of the aliens in their tracks before he turned the gun on himself. There were four bodies lying on the floor, blood pooled around them. The difference wasn't visible in the bodies, alien and human blood mingled freely on the street.

"What a waste," Sam said, and it was almost disappointment.

That man had helped me. Four people dead, one form lost. It would be better, it would be logical to keep me happy. But how far could I go? How much would they let me do before it became an inconvenience. Before it was worth trying to stick a needle in my arm?

"The ship!" I gasped. The hangar was aglow.

"It is being prepared for launch."

"Launch? How? Where?"

"The ship was configured. We will send a ship back to the other world. We will bring back people who have knowledge. We will bring the Earth forward hundreds of years. We will begin construction of more ships to carry the pods out across the galaxy."

Poor galaxy! My plan changed again in an instant. But it became hideously complicated. "Can I see inside?"

"Of course," she smiled. I have to say this made me nervous. Seeing the human mimick their cold exterior made me feel confident, seeing them mimick our emotions left me cold.

We moved inside the ship unchallenged. There was no security here. From the sound of periodic gunfire I presumed the trained fighters were preventing the surviving humans leaving the base.

The rest of the personnel seemed to be loading pods onto trucks and vans. I shuddered to think about the destination.

"The ship was designed so that other life-forms could not access its functions."

"Wise move. The original race should have had such forethought."

Sam considered me, damn these aliens were almost patriotic in their way, "however once the first reborn human came inside the ship activated."

"I see, so it can tell..."

"Yes.. it is a very advanced ship. Since then we've been updating the controls to allow a human pilot to fly it back to the other world. We are updating the language of the computer so that it can tell us more of the homeworld. It has told us little more than I have told you. When it is finished we will know more."

"Amazing," I said happily, "this is great!"

"I am, happy you are pleased."

Happy. You're not happy, I thought. She certainly wouldn't be if she knew what I was planning. I pulled her closer to me, in my arms it was hard for me to remember that she wasn't Sam any more. And hard for me to forget too.

"What is it?"

I kissed her softly on the lips. I expected it to be cold, passionless. Of course Sam had no doubt always been a good kisser and lost none of her ability. "Time for bed?"

"That's wonderful," she smiled again, and for a while I'd pretend this was real.

I'd like to be able to say that the sex was a chore. That I couldn't stop thinking that it was not the real Sam I was with. The truth is it was great, the truth is it took an effort at the end not to fall asleep in her arms, listening to the soothing sound of her voice.

"So Sam," I said dreamily, "what's it like?"

"What is what like?"

"Being... different."

"It's not so different. You'll be surprised at how normal it feels. How liberating it is not to be a slave to your emotions."

"How about the change?" I asked, giving a fake yawn that quickly changed into the real thing, "are you telepathic? Do you know things about your people from before?"

"No, we're not psychic or anything, we're as individual as you are. There are a few things, like half-memories."

"But that guy before, you could sense he was one of my kind?"

"No, there's nothing magical about it," she smiled, "we could just see by his behaviour that he was different. Don't worry. You'll still be you. We don't read each other's minds."

I smiled, for a different reason. She thought she was reassuring me, but actually she was giving me the knowledge I needed to fight them.

"That's good..." I yawned again, I let my words drift, "I wouldn't... want...that..."

She lay with me a few moments, making sure I was asleep before she left the room. I was up and dressed in seconds. The room I had lead her to wasn't picked at random. I left the room and pushed my way into a neighbouring room. I checked the bedside locker and found a handgun and silencer. I'd seen it weeks beforehand, its owner, no doubt, was gone.

I edged back out of the room, watching Sam shuffle past carrying a pod. A pod intended for me. The realisation sent a shudder down my spine.

I shook off the gloom. I had only seconds before she noticed I was gone, perhaps minutes before she guessed my plan.

I ran outside, gun ready. There were half-illuminated figures moving around in the grey of the pre-dawn. I pushed the gun into my pocket and began my nonchalant walk towards the hangar.

I passed a group of three MPs. They didn't move an inch as I strolled past. I kept telling myself that they couldn't know that I was different unless I behaved differently.

I still don't know what made me turn around; some sixth sense perhaps. I turned slowly, looking past the MPs and back down the path I'd taken.

I saw Sam, running towards me. She had her head down and was sprinting. This bought me extra seconds as she hadn't yet seen me. They say that fortune favours the foolish... I decided to put that to the test.

I slowly raised my hand, pointing a finger, aiming like a gun at my pursuer. I let out the high-pitched wail of alarm I'd heard them use earlier.

For a millisecond nothing seemed to happen, but then the three MPs took up my cry and they too began to point and advance on my unwitting accomplice.

Within seconds there were dozens of them streaming out of nearby buildings and converging on Sam.

The moment their eyes were off me I ran. I was curious as to how they would tell that she was already one of them. But not curious enough to hang around.

I could hear the wail behind me for at least half a minute. In that time I made it to the hangar and was once again plodding zombie-like towards my goal.

The two MPs didn't twitch as I walked through the doors. There was one guard by the hatchway to the craft. He opened his mouth to challenge me and I knew immediately I'd never talk my way past him. The silenced gun hissed once in my hand and he fell dead.

Silencers aren't as good as the movies make out and the two guards were instantly on their way to investigate.

I moved inside and closed the door behind me. I was afraid the door would be slow and noisey but it slid swiftly and silently shut. There was a helpful 'Door Lock' sign stuck over a small panel and I sealed the door behind me.

I made my way up to the ships cockpit/bridge. There were two technicians on board who greeted me with the now familiar wail. The gun hissed twice and they lay dead. I thought I'd feel some remorse.

I thought I'd feel something. Perhaps it was shock, perhaps it was because the people I'd shot were already dead but I didn't feel a damn thing.

I moved to the pilots seat and sat down. I saw a read-out on screen that told me the engines were firing at one per cent. No doubt this was some test-run. I found something that seemed similar enough to a aeroplanes throttle. I pushed it one way and the engine immediately died.

I said a silent prayer that the engine would not require re-ignition and reveresed the controls. The engine's power rose quickly to 75% with an increase in noise from behind me.

Now I had to get off the ground. I had two alternatives once in the air. I could seek to escape or destroy the ship. The latter wouldn't help my world much but it would stop them spreading out from the Earth.

I could find nothing helpfully labelled and I realised I should have waited for an hour so the technicians could finish their job. I pressed a few buttons at random. Lights flickered, screens flashed on and off and then suddenly I found something. The ship began to inch slowly forward and then it began to glide forward.

The movement suddenly became smooth and I realised I had left the ground. However inside the ship I was completely protected from the usual forces of acceleration. I moved the control column and with a crash the ship smashed through the wall of the hangar and I was free.

It's pretty hard to fly a space ship without drawing a lot of attention to oneself. Hey, let's face it: it's pretty hard to fly a spaceship.

If someone wants to make a movie of my adventure then I'd appreciate it if the next scene features me boldly crashing the ship into the sea just off the Welsh coast.

In reality I was trying to turn the thing around when I lost control, flipped upside down and ploughed into the black night-time sea.

I'll say this for alien construction: I wasn't hurt too badly in the crash. Just some bumps and bruises. There were no ejectors of lifeboats as far as I can see... but you wouldn't expect them from a species which values community over individual life.

Anyway, I made it outside and found something that looked like a plastic worktop floating outside the wreckage of the fast-sinking ship.

I collapsed onto that and floated away from the ship.

I fell asleep on top of the piece of flotsam. I awoke, much to my surprise, still in my own body. The worktop was flipped over by a large wave and I opened my eyes spluttering and choking as I pulled my head above the water.

I swam the few hundred feet left to the shore.

I didn't feel very rested by my sleep but it did keep me awake a few hours longer. I padded up the beach to a small, secluded little house. Completely empty but with hot running water, food and electricity. All of which I made use of.

I found a computer, upon which I began this last account. There's a modem attached and I can connect to the Internet so perhaps I'll post this on some website. As I sit here, in someone elses bathrobe I can't help but wonder how much longer I have. And I wonder who may read this. I expect you are one of them. Chances are you're all one of them by now.

Or perhaps you're one of us. Perhaps you haven't even realised they're here yet.

If so: watch out. Watch your friends. They're coming.