It was very dark at first. After a while, a dim blue light appeared on the horizon. It grew until it completely covered my line of vision. A harsh screeching came with no warning. I needed to cover my ears, but my arms felt trapped at my sides. Right when I thought that I couldn’t take it any longer, everything was dark again.
When I came to, my mother was gone.
At first she seemed normal. Her hair was still short, straight, and snow-like, and the crease between her hazel eyes was as prominent as ever.
“Andy, are you alright?” she said right when I woke up. She was sitting next to the hospital bed in a white chair. She called me Andy like she had my entire life, and her voice was still deep with a slight New York accent.
“Hey, Mom,” I mumbled with a smile. “How long have I been out?”
“A little more than three days.”
“What happened to me?” I asked.
“You were just in a really bad car crash,” she explained. “A drunk in a Ford pickup truck slammed into you after he veered off to the left. You’re right leg is broken.”
I looked down and saw it encased in a white cast. Her and my father had signed it already.
“That’s weird,” I said. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”
“You’re hopped up on a lot of medicine. You probably don’t feel all that much.” She laughed a little.
Leaning my head back on the pillow, I looked through the window. There was a beautiful, sunny courtyard outside. It made me relax a little bit.
“Your sister called yesterday,” Mom said all of a sudden. “She couldn’t be here, but she’s really worried about you. Her kids and her are sending their prayers.”
I smiled to show my appreciation.
She got out of the chair and gave me a hug. “Oh, Andy,” she muttered.
It was then that I realized that something wasn’t right.
“Who are you?” I questioned her.
She backed away quickly. “What?”
“You’re not my mother. Where is she?”
Tears started to stream down her face.
“It’s ok, Andy, you’ll get better. I promise,” she sobbed.
“I want to know where my real mother is.”
I couldn’t tell what the difference was, but I knew for a fact that it was not my mother.
My father came in, and could tell that something was wrong.
“Honey, are you okay?” he asked, putting his arm around her lovingly.
“I’ve gotta go,” she choked out. She left the room quickly.
“Dad, you know that’s not Mom, right?” I asked.
He looked startled. “What do you mean? Of course it’s her.”
“No, it’s not.”
He was speechless. His short black moustache seemed to twitch a little, and his bright blue eyes looked horrified.
“Andrew, this is ridiculous,” he uttered.
“Dad, I’ve known my mother for twenty-eight years, and I am certain that this is a different woman. I don’t know how I know, but it is.”
He patted my shoulder.
“Andrew,” he said, “you were just in a really bad crash. Your head's all messed up. You’re seeing things differently. Soon enough you’ll be better. You’ll know Mom again, things will come back to normal, and you’ll be able to go home. Okay? This is foolish talk.”
I closed my eyes and nodded. I was really tired, and I felt like going to sleep, when I snapped my eyes open and screamed.
“Where’s my dad!?”
The imposter moved back to my side.
“Andrew, calm down,” he whispered. “Relax.”
I writhed away from him. “Who are you?”
“I’m going to get some nurses. They’ll help you calm down, at least for a bit. I love you, son.”
I was trying to shake out of the bed, to escape from the hospital, to turn things normal again.
A group of nurses in freshly pressed white uniforms came to my bedside, plunged a needle into my left shoulder, and I soon felt the dull hum of an induced sleep come over me.
When I woke up, it was clear that the hospital was worried about my condition. Nurses scurried into my room every couple of minutes to make sure that I was eating the foul food that they kept sending me. One of them told me that my psychiatrist, Dr. Fremont, would be coming in to talk to me later in the day.
This was a glimmer of hope. I had known Dr. Fremont for five years, and I had full confidence in him. Maybe he could explain to me what had happened to my parents.
Dr. Fremont arrived a few hours later. He wore a green checkered vest with a sweater underneath it. His horn rimmed glasses were perched on his nose and his gray hair was as frizzy as ever. I told him everything.
“Doc, those people aren’t my parents. I don’t know how I can tell, but I just know.”
He jotted down some notes on his clipboard.
“The hospital thinks I’m sick, but I know I’m not. I’m not in any pain from the crash, and my thinking is clear. Those people aren’t my parents, and I want to know where my actual parents are.”
After some more jotting, Dr. Fremont put down the clipboard and looked at me.
“Andy, I’m not really supposed to tell you this, but I really like you, and I want to be honest. You are suffering from a rare syndrome called the Capgras Delusion. It’s where you think that the people around you are being replaced by identical imposters. There are some ways that I might be able to snap you out of it, but none of them are-”
I jumped out of bed and tackled him to the ground.
“You’re replaced too!”
“Andy, stop!” he sputtered.
I wrapped my hands around his neck.
“I’m not falling for this psychological garbage. You’re an imposter. You know where the real people are, and you’re going to tell me.”
His face was turning blue, but he was able to get out a whispered “ok.”
I loosened my grip.
“Talk,” I said.
“Andy, we’re still the same people,” he managed after catching his breath, “it’s you who’s been replaced.”