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The False Persons Effect

Greg struggled to get free from the officers all around him. His heart was pounding in his ears as he thrashed about in the back of the van. Greg didn’t need to be a lawyer to know that his rights were being infringed upon by the government. Who were these people and what gave them the authority to haul him off like a common criminal? Hadn’t they all seen the mob outside his house with pitchforks? Hadn’t they heard the mob’s hurtful chants about his whiteness? They were the criminals. They needed to be hauled off in chains… not him!

“This is unconstitutional!” Yelled Greg as he push away the face of an officer wrestling with his arm. She was incredibly strong and seemed to be searching for something at her belt. Greg tried to sit up. “I demand a phone call!”

“Stop struggling, you idiot!” The officer said. “We are not arresting you.”

“Lies!” yelled Greg. “You’re all lying! No one can be trusted!”

“We are a branch of The Department of Health and Human Services!” said the woman as she pulled out a sedative from her pocket. She shoved the syringe into the albino man’s arm and pushed down on the plunger. “We are here to protect your rights as a recipient of the Dead Man Act 2025. Under the new federal law we are required to bring you in for re-education.”

The woman discarded the syringe and backed away.

Greg’s world was spinning as he sat up and pushed himself towards the front of the van. His back hit cold hard steel. Greg kept a sharp eye on all the officers sitting around him. They were all wearing black Kevlar suits with steel plates in the chest. It looked like the swat team had been deployed to come and get him. Greg touched his bruised arm where the syringe had breached his pale skin. It was throbbing like crazy. “What did you do? Why do I feel funny?”

The woman who had been wrestling with Greg moments ago pulled out a file. She opened it and reviewed the documents. Her sharp brown eyes didn’t look at him as she spoke. “You are going to be okay, Mr. Cardoon. We just gave you a sedative that was designed by Prewitt Labs to prevent you from making portals. It was crafted with your specific DNA in mind.” She turned one of the pages of the document and continued to read it out loud. “The federal government cannot grant you all the rights of citizenship if you become a flight risk. The Dead Man Act is effective only with your complete co-operation. It’s all part of the re-education process of the nightshade race instituted by the federal government.”

“During the what process?” asked Greg. He was getting confused by all the legal mumbo jumbo coming from the federal agent. He thought he had heard her say re-education. “Why do I need re-education? I like the education I have currently. You guys promised me that if I liked my education I could keep my education.”

The officer rolled her eyes at this. She looked at Greg now. “Under the Dead Man Act of 2025 it states that all nightshades who have -STOLEN- the identity of a human must be…” She paused suddenly as her colleague sitting across from her spoke up. The man sounded pleasant but firm as he corrected her speech.

“There is a reason the U.S. State Department gave you a script to read, Gwen. We know how you love to go off on these hateful tangents about the nightshades.” The man crossed one leg over the other and cleared his throat. “I wouldn’t have to come with you on these interventions if you would just stick to the script. All nightshades that have -TAKEN- the identity of a human must be re-educated. It says nothing about stealing identity in the document.” He pointed to Greg sitting on the ground watching them. “These beautiful creatures don’t -STEAL- people’s identity from them… they merely explore it to the fullest extent by becoming the host.” He took off his glasses and cleaned them on his Kevlar vest. He laughed slightly as he continued. “I mean, we can debate for hours and hours on the subject of true identity. I would debate that our identity isn’t really ours to begin with. I mean, we don’t even know who we are when we start out in this life. We barrow ideas and concept from each other.” The man speaking looked around the van at all the other officers. No one seemed to hold the same sentiment on the topic of nightshades.

“Thank you very much Dennis for that enlightening speech. It never gets old no matter how many times you say it,” said Gwen as politely as she could muster. She hated that these guidance counselors had to be here for the whole admittance process. It was a crazy push for sensitivity training that drove her up the wall; these creatures didn’t deserve sympathy. She cleared her throat and tried to speak with conviction. It was hard to read trash she didn’t believe in. “I must have misspoke back there while reading the law… This topic is still a touchy subject for me. I am sure you understand.”

Dennis nodded his head. He knew all about what happened to Gwen; he had read her file many times. Dennis leaned over and put his hand on Gwen’s knee. “I know you are still trying to accept the beautiful nightshade that is your younger sister now, but we must learn to be inclusive to all interdimensional-body-snatching persons… You need to reach deep down and eliminate that unconscious bias you have for nightshade… Even if it rings close to home for you. Your sister being digested alive by a nightshade could be seen as a great honor in their culture!”

Gwen grabbed Dennis’s wrist and twisted it sideways. The guidance counselor yelped in pain as he came out of his seat and dropped to his knees. His glasses fell to the floor as he gripped his arm and tried to pull away. Gwen’s grip was like iron.

“My sister was murdered at the hands of these bloody bleachers! She suffered as they –STOLE- her life away.” She twisted Dennis’s arm further. The guidance counselor yelped again and tried to pull way. Everyone in the van was watching now.

“P-P-PLEASE!” said Dennis, “Let go!”

She pointed at Greg. “It’s insane that we want to grant them citizenship after all the destruction they caused our society.” She was looking into the little man’s eyes now. “Don’t ever touch me again… and don’t ever speak of my sister’s murder as an honor.” She turned and looked at the men sitting in the van. Gwen made it clear to all of them. “Unwanted touching is sexual assault and I am well within my rights to defend myself against the guidance counselor’s advances.”

They all nodded their heads quickly.

Dennis had his eyes closed.

Gwen smiled and let go.

Dennis collapsed and held his wrist to his chest. He was sure she had broken a bone. He tried to smile as he reached for his glasses. He put them back on his face and awkwardly sat back down. Greg could tell he was trying not to cry.

Gwen looked back down at the file she was holding. She had lost her placed in the scuffle with the councilor. “Where were we?”

The mood of the van seemed ridged now.

“There has to be some kind of mistake,” said Greg softly. He was choosing his words carefully after seeing Dennis get his arm twisted into a knot. Greg held his own arm close to his chest. “I am not one of these nightshade you keep talking about. And I don’t need any of this re-education business. I am just fine with the education I have.”

“You were identified as a nightshade yesterday morning,” said Gwen as she held up the file for all to see. “This was during a government analysis of your blood through a calibrated Blood Thermistor. These things don’t lie…. Bleachers lie… but these thing don’t.”

Greg shook his head at all this nonsense. He leaned forward and held his hands out as if to calm the federal officer. “No, no, no. You guys definitely got this situation all wrong. That doctor in that office was a nightshade in disguises. She tricked you into thinking I was a nightshade because I found out about her. She made that Thermistor change the wrong color.”

“Why do they fight it so much?” asked Gwen under her breath. She looked physically tired of all the lies. “It says here in the file, that prior to your evaluation with Dr. Banes, she was tested and cleared.” Gwen turned the page. “Her results came back negative for nightshade allele contamination. She was completely red before your evaluation! She is 100% human!”

“That woman was not human!” said Greg as he recalled her monstrous form staring back at him. He tried to stand up but couldn’t; his mind felt heavy. He was beginning to feel the effects of the drug they had gave him. “She was a nightshade in disguise. I saw her spit out purple fire into the air and transform! I know it sounds crazy but that’s what happened.”

“That’s what you say happened,” said Gwen.

Greg could tell that none of them believed him. A profound sense of defeat washed over him at that moment. He had never felt so depressed in his whole life. He would be the guy that everyone thought was a nightshade.

“It’s okay to come out of this interdimensional closet, Greg,” said Dennis encouragingly; he knew all about coming out of closets. He was still holding his arm and trying not to make eye contact with the federal agents. “We are all friends here in this cozy little van. There is no need to make up stories about who you are. You are a big, beautiful nightshade and you don’t need humans to define you anymore. You should be proud of your heritage! Wear it as a badge of honor.”

“Badge of Honor?” said Greg sarcastically. He felt like vomiting at the thought of transforming into one of these things. “I am not one of these bloody bleachers… So there really isn’t a closet to come out of. I am a human! I have been a human for 29 years of my life! I don’t plan on changing into anything else.”

“Sound liked the ‘False Persons Effect’ to me,” said a man sitting next to Dennis.

Everyone in the van grunted and nodded their heads.

Greg was confused. “The ‘what’ effect?”

“The False Persons Effect,” said Dennis as he straightened his glasses. “It’s when a nightshade has taken on the identity of the host so long that they literally think they are that person. It only happens with higher sentient creatures, but it does happen. The nightshade becomes that person both body and mind. They don’t even know they are one.”

“You are a False Person!” said Gwen sharply.

Greg felt suddenly scared by this thought of being a false person. Where they saying that a person could be a nightshade and not even know they were a nightshade? That was crazy on so many levels. Greg was almost 100 percent sure he wasn’t a nightshade…

There was a long pause as he thought. He sifted through all his memories that made him human. They felt so real to him. The time he had broken his arm while climbing a tree. The vacations to Vancouver. The Christmases with friends and family. All of it was his!

“I am not a nightshade!” said Greg. “I am sure of it!”

No one seemed convinced; not even Dennis.

Gwen pulled a blood thermistor out from under her seat. She kicked the thing towards Greg and gave him a blank stare. She was going to call this nightshade out on his lies once and for all. Gwen held up a remote and synced it with Greg’s data disk. “Prove it, cowboy!”

Everyone in the van was watching the scene unfold. This was definitely not part of the Dead Man Act protocol. They were to be sensitive with the creatures they captured, not hostile.

Greg was surprised by the sudden appearance of the blood thermistor at his feet. He pointed to the thing with both hands. The data disc at the back of his neck vibrated slightly as it transferred information to the tower. “This thing can’t be trusted!”

“No,” said Gwen. “You can’t be trusted!”

“Now G-G-Gwen,” said Dennis politely and with a stutter. He didn’t want to upset the strong, independent woman any further than he had to. “Let’s be open to Mr. Cardoon’s needs for a change. If he has completely adopted the identity of a human he ingested long ago… He might be suffering from the ‘False Person Effect’. We should let him feel comfortable in that impression. It could be that through the re-education process at Camp Snowflake, Greg finally wakes up to what he is. He shouldn’t have to prove himself to anyone at this time!”

Gwen ignored the egghead and pushed the button on the remote anyway. This bloody bleacher needed to know what he was. All this flowery talk about feelings wasn’t going to change anything.

The pyramid shuffled as Greg’s DNA code was analyzed. Everyone in the van leaned forward to see what the blood thermistor would tell them. It flashed white slowly for a minute and then it lit up green. One of the guys next to the back door cursed and passed a 20 dollar bill to his neighbor. Everyone was whispering to each other.

Gwen smiled devilishly. “Looks like we got a false person, boys!”

Dennis sighed and placed his face in his hands. The department was not going to like how they handled this case.

Greg cursed as the green light started flashing. The test felt like a punch to the gut.

“I know what you really are Mr. Cardoon,” said Gwen as she pointed to Greg. Her voice sounded cold. “And I don’t need a blood thermistor to spell it out for me.” She tossed the file under her seat and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll never accept you bleachers as human. You can go through all the re-education classes you want, but you’re still a monster to me.”

Greg wanted to protest but didn’t know how. All this knew evidence was mounting against him quickly. What if he really was a nightshade in disguise? What if he had accepted the identity of a human he had eaten years ago and didn’t realize it yet? What if he was that person? He looked up and noticed a small green icon hovering over each and every officer’s head. Greg had totally forgotten about the index and Evelyne. She was probably still there watching the whole thing unfold with him. She had spoken to him as if he were a nightshade back at his home. Evelyne had wanted him to eat Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury.

Greg watched as parentheticals expanded over each humans head. He turned and read the one hovering over Gwen’s head.

¨(Gwyneth Ann Garcia, Mexican American, 140 lbs, Life span 75 years, Female. Battling Cancer, Extremely Edible.)

Greg mumbled the words “Extremely Edible” under his breath. His mouth was salivating now and he couldn’t explain why. He looked down at his own body and noticed a green icon hovering next to his chest. It read the words “Nightshade” in bold lettering. He lifted a hand and passed his fingers through the text. What if he were a nightshade in disguises? Would it really be that bad if he found out he wasn’t human?

The van lurched forward as they came to a stop. A man called over the radio and informed Gwen and the company that they had arrived at Camp Snowflake.

“Excellent!” Said Gwen as she turned to Greg. “It’s time to go Mr. Cardoon.”

The back of the van opened up revealing a harsh desert landscape beyond. Greg couldn’t believe his eyes. They had somehow traveled to a desert. A hot dry wind filled the air as Gwen grabbed him by the arm and pulled him from the vehicle.

“Time to say hi to your new home!” said Gwen.

Greg shuddered inside about what this might all mean.

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