art by Cheryl L Owen-Wilson
by Rene Sears
The vitamins stick in my throat worse than the old pre-natals, but I force myself to swallow. The babies need the nutrients, and they'll suck them right out of my body whether there's enough for all three of us or not.
I make sure to switch them every time so each child nurses on a different side in case one breast produces more milk. The invaders don't care if Christophe gets as much as the other one--he's only human, after all--but I do.
The regulator is hardly noticeable: a series of small raised circles on my abdomen, like subcutaneous watch batteries. It would show if I wore a bikini, but it's not like anyone's going to the pool since the invasion. My husband hasn't touched me since they put it in. The regulator alters my body chemistry so my milk will feed the other one. The invaders assured us it won't hurt Christophe, but do they really know? Does it matter to them? Every time he nurses, I wonder what it's doing to my baby.
The invaders have five different forms, although they've told us they're all the same species. The one they force me to nurse is a Priu. I thought that was its name at first, but it doesn't have one. They identify each other by a complex mix of pheromones. The papers call them stinkers, but the human nose can't actually pick up much of it. Christophe smells of milk and baby lotion. Our Priu smells of milk, too, but green and astringent like pine, and something that makes me think of the dirt of another planet, though it was born here. I feel I'll never get the smell out of my clothes.
Their heads bob at my breasts, one brown with a shock of black hair, the other the pale silver-green of lichen. Their toes intertwine across the nursing pillow, Christophe's with tiny, perfectly formed nails, and the Priu's nailless and faintly shiny. How can that tug of suckling mouths feel the same when they look so different? My husband watches and his hands flex. I glare at him. He knows to harm the Priu is to kill Christophe.