Waves of red swept over my eyelids. I sat up quickly, pulled from my slumber. The sound of scuffling feet pounded down the stairs away from my bedroom. 

I jumped up and tried to remember where I was. What was going on? I looked around my darkened room. There was someone here. Someone was in my house. My alarm clock gleamed 3:01 across the blackness. Grabbing the slugger that leaned against the book holder, I ran out of the room. 

I knew this dwelling very well by this point. 

Creeping down the stairs, my gaze darted from corner to corner, looking for any sign of movement. I cocked the slugger back ready to hit someone to kingdom come. 

No movement. 

My bare toes padded across wooden floor after descending the stairs, inching toward the telephone. I should’ve called the authorities upstairs, but I hadn’t been thinking clearly. 

From the corner of my eye, a small dark figure moved along the wall space toward the vehicle room. 

I needed to get to that phone, but instead I ran after the dark figure. “Who are you? What do you want?”

The figure took an abrupt turn at the cleaning room.

Clenching the wood tighter in my grip, I pulled it back ready to hit. 

The intruder must have sensed the blow coming because a tiny squeak came from her as she dropped the portable light.

I stopped. “What’re you doing in my house?” 

She backed up into the room. “P-please.” 

I eased up on my grip and flipped the switch on the wall. The light reflected off her dirt covered face. Her appearance startled me and I pulled slugger back, waiting for her to make one move. 

She was one of them. They were all supposed to be in the penitentiary. How had she gotten out? 

“I-I-I thought my house was empty.” She held her filthy hands out in front of her.

“This is my house and it’s not empty! And you are intruding on my property.” 

Her innocent eyes filled with fluid. That was their defense mechanism. “I just wanted to come home. I’m sorry. Please, don’t turn me in.” 

“It’s the law. We can’t simply let you beasts loose on the streets.” To my surprise, she didn’t lunge at me like I’d heard on the news. Maybe this one was planning a sneak attack. I had to call the authorities. “Stay here!”

“No. Please. I’ll go.” The mess of dark thread sprouting from her head quivered in response to her shaking body. How could they deal with such a disgusting growth? I would have those strings permanently removed. 

“You can’t leave. You have to be taken in. Safety comes first. It’s the law!” Slamming the bathroom door, I waited to see if she would come after me. She didn’t. 

I moved quickly toward the telephone listening for the squeaky hinge to warn me of movement, but all I could hear was the beat of my heart.

I picked up the telephone and sighed. 

Why hadn’t she tried to kill me? All we knew about them was that they were vicious. This one didn’t seem to be violent. We’d been told that they would kill us without batting an eye, but this one only seemed afraid and harmless. 

I walked back toward the door and opened. She sat inside the large water basin, but why? 

Streaks ran from her eyes, cutting through the sludge on her face, revealing her creamy tone. That was a defense mechanism, but it didn’t seem to be working on me. 

Curiosity got the better of me. “What kind of weapon is that?”

Her eyes widened as she held her hands up. “I don’t have any weapons.”

What a liar! “The fluid in your eyes. Is it poisonous or is it some kind of gaseous compound that exudes mind warping chemicals?”

She wiped the fluid and examined it. “It’s just water.”

Liar! “That’s what you want me to think.”

“I promise. It’s not a weapon. I’m scared and I cry when I’m scared.” Another drop of the liquid drained out of her eye.

“It makes sense that you would try to kill me with your venomous eye chemicals when you’re afraid.”

Then she did something completely unexpected. Her lips drew up, displaying her flesh eating teeth as she made an uplifting sound that pushed her breath out, rhythmically. “I don’t have any venom in my body.”

I stared at her. “You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you?”

She pushed her shoulders up. “I don’t know how to make you believe me. You can touch them if you want.” 

What a repulsive suggestion! She wanted me to put my antenna directly in the chemical. That was ridiculous. I looked at the telephone and pushed talk. 

She stood up quickly, making me jump back. “No. I can’t go back there! Please. Please.”  

More of the deadly chemical drained down her face, spilling onto her orange smock. There appeared to be no reaction. If the chemical was deadly, wouldn’t it burn through the cloth? That’s what the authorities had told us. 

I clicked the phone off and took a step toward her. “Why isn’t the fluid burning your smock?”

She looked down. “Because it’s only water. I can’t burn anything. Crying from our eyes is what we do when we are sad or scared. I’m such a wuss. I always cry when I’m scared.”

Could she be telling the truth? Had we been mistaken about the fluid? Maybe it was only water. 

With a surge of courage, I extended my antenna to touch her face. I flinched slightly before making contact. Once my antenna touched her face, I found the girl was correct. The fluid we were led to believe was deadly turned out to be a simple mixture of mild salt water.