Jade’s eyes were green. Ben had known her since kindergarten, and her eyes had always been green. They were definitely green before he’d left for Cape Cod, so when he returned from vacation to be greeted by a Jade who had hazel eyes, it left him quite confused. So far, it was all he could pay attention to during their lunch.
She was telling him some story about something she and their other two friends, Casper and Erica, had done while he was away, but all he could focus on was her eyes. Nothing else had changed; at least, nothing particularly noticeable. But her eyes...what had happened to her eyes?
Her voice trailed off as she noticed him staring. “Are you okay?” she asked.
Ben leaned in a bit closer, nearly knocking over his soda as he attempted to get a better look, which made Jade visibly uncomfortable. She moved away, not by a lot, but enough to make a point. “I’m sorry,” he said, trying to shake himself out of his head. “But, did you get contacts?”
Jade frowned. “Uh, no.”
“Oh. But your eyes look…” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously and said, “Maybe it’s just the lighting. Sorry.”
Shrugging, his friend waited a few moments to make sure he was alright, and continued the story. He tried to listen this time, and told himself that it had to just be an illusion of some sort. Still, he was determined to know for sure, so as she was talking, he pulled out his camera and snapped a photo. Jade paused for just a moment as he did so, then continued the story without questioning it.
It wasn’t unusual for him to be taking pictures, because truth be told, he was practically obsessed with his camera. Originally, he was only interested in it because it had belonged to his father, who had passed away a few years ago from lung cancer. The more he used it, the more interested he became in photography, and, similarly, in investigative reporting. Something about photography fascinated him. Perhaps it was the way a whole story could be captured in a single image, or perhaps it was the potential secrets that could be uncovered.
This time, his focus was definitely on the mystery aspect. Something was up with Jade’s eyes, and he hoped the picture would be able to give him some clues. If nothing else, it would be useful in comparing how his friend looked before and after he left for vacation. Of course, he would have to account for lighting, camera angle, Jade’s pose... but he was sure he had enough pictures to do the job.
An hour later, they’d finished their lunch and had met up with Casper and Erica at the latter’s house to go swimming. By then, Ben had been able to put the concerns about his friend’s eyes aside, because he knew he had the ability to figure everything out later. Focusing on something other than wild theories about what was happening was a bit harder, thanks to his chronically overactive imagination. However, eventually he was able to calm down.
That was, until he noticed Erica’s medium-length hair was now shortened. Just by an inch or two, it seemed. But it was shorter, and that’s what counted.
He might have just been looking for things to be paranoid over, as he had been accused of several times before for believing things like that one of the teachers at school was a murderer or that the noise he’d sometimes hear at night wasn’t the house settling, but a monster attempting to kill him. It wasn’t his fault that his stepfather’s insanely loud snoring sometimes sounded like a growling beast… Anyway, this time was different. He remembered that her hair, before he’d left for vacation, had reached down to the strap at the back of her red-and-white bikini. Now, it hovered just above it. Ben nearly took a picture, before he paused and asked, “Hey, Erica. Did you do anything to your hair? It looks different.”
Her brow furrowed in confusion as she looked at him and said, “No. I just brushed it.”
“Maybe that’s it,” he muttered.
She rolled her eyes and set off for her backyard with Jade in tow. With her back turned to him, he quickly snapped the picture, zooming in specifically to see where the tips of her hair ended.
Now, he was just left in the living room with Casper, who’d spent the time quietly putting on suntan lotion. However, he knew he’d been paying attention to the exchange between Ben and Erica, so he wandered over and said, “What’s up?” He leaned against the door frame, waiting for an answer, but with the usual air of cool he always had. Ben only wished he could be that relaxed, especially now that the theories were returning to his head.
“Jade’s eyes have changed color and Erica’s hair became shorter,” he blurted, after a moment. “I’m not going crazy because I know I have the pictures to prove it. But I need to know what the hell is going on.”
Casper’s eyebrow raised, and then he moved away from the wall to come closer. “Have I changed at all?”
With anyone else, the question would have seemed mocking. He was sure Casper was just humoring him, but he was a trustworthy friend, and Ben felt confident as he checked him over. As far as he could tell, not much had changed. The tattoo Casper had on his shoulder of a cartoon ghost was in the right place and looked correct. His eyes were still the same shade of gray, and his hair was still the same shade of black, as well as the same length. He hadn’t grown taller or shorter, he wasn’t carrying himself in any new way. He was the same Casper he had known when he left two weeks before. “No.”
“Good to know.”
“I really don’t understand what’s going on with the girls, though. It’s like they’ve been taken over by shape-shifters who just can’t get the image perfect, or something.”
Casper blinked at him, then shrugged. “I guess that’s possible, but why would they be taken over by shape-shifters?”
“I don’t know. But I’m sure I can figure it out.”
“C’mon, man.” He moved to open the door, letting sunlight stream into Erica’s living room. “They’re waiting for us. I’ll help you figure out what’s going on tonight, alright?”
Ben put down the camera and grabbed his towel, but hesitated as he neared the door. “What if they’re demons who will reveal their true form and try to kill us?”
Casper snorted. “Isn’t that just a thing girls do?”
He threw his hands up. “Alright, alright. If they try to murder us, I’ll help you escape and we’ll deal with the demon apocalypse or whatever’s going on.”
Ben still didn’t feel completely safe, but knowing that he had someone on his side, he agreed to go swimming.
Luckily, Jade and Erica had acted normally the whole time. They played Marco-Polo for a while, before having a few races and a pathetic diving contest that really involved stupid jumps more than it did actual tricks. He was wary around the girls, but decided that if they really were possessed by a demon of some sort, pretending everything was fine wasn’t a bad idea. If they weren’t demons, then he was just fine, anyway.
At one point, Casper swam over to him and whispered, “So, I’m not sure about Erica, but Jade’s eyes have definitely changed color.”
Ben’s heart started beating faster with excitement. “You see it too?” he asked, his voice coming out louder than he intended. He took a breath and steadied himself as he continued. “Isn’t it weird?”
His friend nodded. “I don’t think they’re demons, but something’s wrong. I’ll crash at your place tonight and we’ll figure this out, yeah?”
Casper splashed him a bit, and motioned toward Erica, who had turned at the exclamation looking confused.
“Just making plans for tonight,” Ben explained. She turned away and swam back toward the diving board. “That was close.”
Rolling his eyes, his friend said, “Relax. We’ve got this.”
“I know.” He watched Jade do a cannonball, sending ripples throughout the pool. “I just hope it’s not actually demons.”
Casper let out a light laugh and dived down under the water, leaving Ben alone with his thoughts. He joined back in with the activities, but spent the entire time trying to imagine what the problem could be.
Clones? Maybe, but if so, there’d have to be some weird science-fiction shit going on, and that would be an even bigger investigation. He simply told himself to pay attention for any clues that might point to a secret laboratory somewhere.
Aliens? It was more sci-fi stuff, but this one felt more plausible. In theory, all it would take would be an abduction; any cloning elements would have likely come from the technology on the UFO, and there was always the chance of the aliens being shape-shifters.
It didn’t seem likely to be possession of some sort, unless whichever pair of spirits were controlling two of his best friends only wanted to change their appearance slightly. There was still always the chance of demons, but he hoped desperately that that wasn’t the case.
The day ended on a pretty average note. He hugged the girls goodbye, though it was mostly to make sure they weren’t somehow swimming robots. Then, he and Casper drove to Ben’s house, where they prepared some snacks and got the pictures ready to compare.
As Ben spread out the pictures on his bed, Casper came in with a bowl of popcorn. Then, his friend paused, and nearly spilled the popcorn all over the carpet.
Casper motioned toward the mirror in the corner of his room. Ben nervously approached, before seeing something that made his stomach drop.
His eyes had changed color.