"I hardly recognize him," Tina said in the somber gloom of the funeral parlor. "I'm so used to seeing him without a mustache."
Her fiancé, Edward, nodded as he gazed down at the marble-like visage of his departed friend. "I know. Me too, but I just saw him a few days ago, and I don't remember him having one."
Tina glanced over at Edward. His remark struck her as odd but she shook it off. Grant was his friend, and noticing small things was probably just his way of dealing with the loss.
She nodded. "Do they know what killed him?"
"Not yet, but they should know soon. Probably a heart attack. Grant never did take care of himself."
A tap on the shoulder pulled Edward from his thoughts. He turned to see an elderly man, tall and with the unmistakable drain of grief on his face, standing behind him.
"Mr. Dayz," he said as he grasped Grant's father's hand in his own. "I'm so sorry. I'll miss Grant something terrible."
The man forced as much of a smile as he could. "Thank you, Edward. I know he'd appreciate you being here."
Tina watched the man walk away. Her heart broke for him; losing a child was truly life's greatest tragedy.
As she stepped away from the casket something caught her eye.
"What's the matter?" Edward asked.
Tina said nothing. All she could do was stare at what she thought she saw, trying to affix some rational explanation to it.
He moved! I saw Grant move!
"Tina? Are you feeling all right?"
But he couldn't have. He's dead.
Tina continued staring at the body. She didn't hear Edward, only looking at the lifeless thing in the casket. She stepped forward and felt the sour perfume odor of the parlor settle over her like mist on a damp morning.
There! I saw it again! His face twitched!
She rested a trembling hand on the edge of the casket and focused all her attention on Grant's face, watching for even the slightest twitch, the faintest movement.
Edward came up behind her. "Tina? What are you doing?"
"He moved," Tina said, fearful of what Edward would think of her. "I saw his face move."
Edward didn't know what to say.
"Tina, I don't think…"
"I know I sound crazy but it's true!" she forced herself to calm down. "It's true. His lips moved, and his nose too. I saw it."
Doubting her sincerity but not wanting to upset her further Edward turned toward the body. He tried to find something in the face of his dead friend but couldn't. All he saw was a painting of death, peaceful and indifferent to its surroundings.
The movement caught his attention just as he was turning face Tina.
He looked back at the body.
"You saw something, didn't you?" Tina's question was spoken like a statement. "You saw him move, right?"
Edward felt fear creep into his gut. He grabbed Tina's hand and pulled her away from the casket. He avoided the uncomfortable stares from the other people by looking down as they headed for the door.
"Edward, talk to me!"
"When we're in the car. Let's go."
As they drove away from the funeral parlor Edward tried to put his thoughts in order.
"Okay, I saw him move. You weren't imagining it."
Tina felt relieved that she wasn't losing her mind. "All right then, what do we do now?"
"I don't know. We move to another state; we call the police; we Google it to see if there's a logical explanation. I don't know, I've never had to deal with something like this before."
"I vote for all of the above."
As he drove Edward couldn't help but entertain crazy notions in his head. He imagined ridiculous but frightening scenarios about aliens invading Earth, malevolent extraterrestrials in the shape of…
Edward pulled into the parking lot.
"What are you doing?" Tina asked. She too had been trying to wrap her head around what they'd seen. "Nobody will believe us, least of all the police."
Edward parked the car, shut off the ignition, and jumped out of his seat. "We have to try." He didn't want to tell her what he'd been thinking, but he had no choice. "Maybe it's aliens. Maybe they invaded Earth and are turning people into some sort of zombies." He leaned against the car and waited for Tina's reaction.
To his relief she nodded her head in agreement. "I know. I'm thinking the same thing. What you said about Grant not having a mustache before makes sense now."
"All right then, let's go."
The pair shuffled into the police station.
A swarthy, clean-shaven officer was seated behind an information desk near the door. "May I help you?" he asked.
Edward pulled Tina up to the desk. "I know this will sound crazy, Officer, but I think something is happening, something to a friend of mine who died."
The officer perked up. "Someone died?"
"He was already dead," Tina added. "We were at his funeral and both saw him move in his coffin."
The officer raised an eyebrow. "I see. He moved in his coffin?"
Seeing the doubt on the policeman's face, Edward continued. "His face moved. He had a mustache even though he didn't before."
"So he grew a mustache?"
Tina stepped in between Edward and the officer. "I'm sorry, Officer," she said calmly, "but we've had difficulty dealing with our friend's death. We won't take up any more of your time." She then pulled a confused Edward out of the building.
"What was that about?" Edward asked.
"He was about to put us away."
"No he wasn't."
"Yes he was. I told you nobody would believe us."
Edward grumbled under his breath as he got into the car. He hated to agree with Tina but she was right. "Okay, so we have to find someone who will…"
The man pressed his face against the windshield. He had a chalk-white complexion and his eyes were clouded-over orbs set deep within their sockets. A leering grin split his expression, raising a bushy mustache beneath his nose up at the corners.
Edward caught sight of a gleaming badge on the man's uniform.
"Please step out of the car," the man said without losing his disturbing grin. He flashed a semi-automatic.
Edward and Tina dutifully stepped out of the car.
The officer, waving his sidearm back and forth, scooted up to Edward, his face mere inches away. "You can't stop us," he drawled through his mustache. "We are too many." He leaned forward until his nose touched Edward's. "And we are too well hidden. In fact, you could say that we are right under your noses." His disturbing pun caused the man to chuckle. "Right under your noses."
Tina recoiled when the man's mustache began to quiver. She felt helpless as it bunched itself up and leaped off his face, landing squarely beneath Edward's nose. She could see it burrow into the flesh, rooting itself to its new host with hundreds of razor-sharp barbs.
Edward began to scream but in the fraction of a second it took for the creature to settle on its new home, he abruptly stopped, his feeble cry for help choked off.
The policeman toppled over. His lifeless body crashed to the ground and lay there like the discarded heap of skin and bones he had become.
Paralyzed with fear, Tina stood beside the car. She could only watch the love of her life become the newest host for the alien parasite.
Edward fell forward. His body slammed into the car but quickly righted itself as the creature took full control of it. He looked at Tina. "There, that's better," he said in a cheerful tone.
Tina felt her stomach churn. "What are you?"
"Merely visitors. We are scouts, if you will, for our brethren."
"Yes, sent here to begin the preliminary stages of our arrival."
Tina saw that as he spoke Edward was inching closer to her, moving so delicately and with such stealth that it was barely noticeable.
She just as carefully stepped back.
"Our brethren are due any time. In fact, I believe I see one of them now."
Tina followed Edward's gaze to a tall buxom woman who was casually sauntering toward them. She wore a devious grin that contrasted sharply with the conservative clothes she wore.
Edward bowed down to the woman. "My Lord," he said with an air of reverence. "All is proceeding as planned."
The woman smiled even wider. "Excellent" she replied and began adjusting her huge head of blond hair.
Tina could see the barbs fastened to the scalp.