She has returned to the mysterious world of darkness and fog. The shadows are dancing around her feet. She can hear faint laughter in the distance. Maybe it's the wind, or maybe the shadows are laughing at her. They know she can't escape. No matter how much she runs, she is only burying herself deeper into the never-ending abyss.
The darkness is almost suffocating her body and her senses, like a damp, musty, thick blanket that clings to every part of her. Then she freezes. Right there in front of her is the illuminating, translucent figure. Her white light is still dazzling, providing a sharp contrast to the gloomy air.
"Hey there," the soft-spoken voice says. The voice that Mia dreaded to hear.
"Ugh! Not you again," Mia replies with no attempt to conceal her dissatisfaction.
The figure snickers. "Well, it's nice to see you too."
"Can you leave my dreams alone?" Mia asks in a snappish tone. This makes the figure chortle louder, her laughter seeming to naturally echo in such a thick and secluded place.
"Wow, you really think these are dreams, hmm? Even after I revealed myself to you multiple times in the real world - for how long now? One, two years? You still refuse to believe in the unnatural. Must be nice being so naïve."
"What do you want?" Mia asks coldly.
"I'm here to help you," the figure replies. "I've been trying to reach out to you for a while, but you kept blocking me out and rejecting me all those times. You must be getting very desperate now, hmm? Well, no worries. It's my purpose to guide you."
"How? All you've been doing is insulting me and making me feel bad about myself. Especially since your last visit, you said some awful things that I can't forget," Mia says, narrowing her eyes in anger.
"That's not what I'm trying to achieve here," the figure says, massaging her temples. "I admit, I've been harsh towards you but it's the only way to get you to listen. I've tried being nice to you before, but it flopped. If it means having to show you tough love, then I will. Trust me, I have good intentions and I'm trying to open your eyes to the truth."
"What truth?" Mia questions, raising an eyebrow in skepticism.
"About your son."
"I don't want to hear it."
"And why's that?" The figure asks, tilting her luminous head in curiosity. "Are you afraid of something? Do you think you can hide and ignore the truth? But at what cost?"
Mia presses her lips together firmly. She doesn't know what to say.
"Let's break this down, shall we? Max isn't normal. We can both agree on that, correct?" The figure says in an almost condescending manner.
"I don't know what you're trying to get at here," Mia speaks slowly and cautiously. "Of course, he's a little... strange, but so what? No children are ever the same. They're all different and they are rightfully their own people. I still love my son, no matter what."
"This isn't about love. This is about trying to figure out why he's so unnaturally different," the figure explains. "You've been trying to search for answers over these years with no success. Numerous professionals couldn't even diagnose him properly. That's rather baffling, don't you think?"
"Because they're incapable," Mia spits out. "They say that they're the best around, but they're all useless. I'll find better ones that know what they're doing."
The figure titters. "Look at you getting all worked up. You really don't like this, do you?"
"I don't like you," Mia states bluntly.
"At least you're honest," the figure says, amused. "I like it. Keep up that honesty. Now, I want you to listen very carefully."
"No. I don't want to talk anymore. This is all pointless."
"Shh! Listen closely," the figure hisses.
At first, Mia hears whispering floating through the atmosphere. Then those whispers become louder and clearer. Their words overlap with each other, ringing through the air, and if she focuses hard enough, she can decipher certain statements.
"He's kept the same poker-faced expression from the moment he was born into this world."
"I think he zones out from this world, and he lives inside his head."
"It's like I'm invisible to him."
"He shuts out everyone."
"Babies want to communicate with their moms. They want love and attention for positive development... for basic survival."
"I noticed something about him... it's... negative. Like a dark energy."
The voices whisper frantically in the background, seeming to swirl together like a frenzied tornado. It makes Mia feel anxious and slightly dizzy from hearing all these uncertain voices torment her mind. Then there is a loud scream, which is followed by silence.
"These are all words straight from your own mouth," the figure says. "You've been desperately trying to find some logical answers, but you went about it the wrong way. Let's try to piece this together, shall we?"
Mia stares at the figure, stunned for words. She feels like shrinking to the floor.
"Firstly, you're completely right about normal babies wanting to communicate with their moms for survival needs. As the famous psychologist, Bowlby once said, a child desires their mother's love and presence more than food itself! That's why so many kids are usually attached to their moms. But Max hasn't acknowledged you in the slightest. There was that moment he noticed you for the first time in four years, and you got all excited and cried over it. Doesn't that seem so bizarre to you? It shouldn't have to be that way - but it is. Why do you think that is?"
"I don't know," Mia says, her voice cracking.
"Come on. I thought you'd be honest with me. Don't be scared to face the truth."
"I don't know!" Mia repeats, aggressively louder.
"Screaming it doesn't make it true," the figure says with a small chuckle escaping from her. "Alright, I'll spell it out for you, since you're too afraid to say it aloud."
"Shut up," Mia demands, crossing her arms in annoyance.
"Max isn't responding to you like a normal human, and he doesn't show any human emotions, and he doesn't want to interact with you or other humans-"
"Shut up!" Mia shrieks, shaking her head frantically in denial.
"He has an obsession for monsters - things that can destroy humans. You've seen how his eyes never leave the screen when humans are being torn apart gruesomely-"
"Shut up!" Mia cries out, as she blocks her ears with her trembling hands.
"He's very advanced in his other stages of development, perhaps too advanced compared to any ordinary human kid. Not to mention, his father is-"
"Please shut up," Mia says through a strangled voice.
"You've known it along," the figure says, grabbing a hold of Mia's quivering shoulders.
"You've known it from the moment he was in your womb. Every time he kicked you, it felt like someone was punching your internal organs, making you double over in pain. You knew it when you looked into his unnatural, soulless, black eyes, void of any emotions, and you felt that sinking feeling in your stomach. You knew it when your house burnt down in flames... and there he was! An unfazed toddler. All this time, you knew the truth, but you feigned ignorance because you were scared of losing him, right?"
Mia grits her teeth, as defeated tears pour down her cheeks.
"Your son isn't human," the figure states, squeezing her shoulders.
Mia smacks the glowing white hands away from her. "If he's not human, then what is he?"
"Finally, you're asking the right question," the figure says, applauding her. "Honestly, I don't really know what he is. You'll have to figure that out for yourself. All I know is that he doesn't belong in our world. He is a threat to mankind... to our planet. When the time comes, he won't hesitate to wipe away Earth and everything that exists within it. It'll be easy for him, considering he hasn't - and he won't - form any meaningful attachments."
"No," Mia whispers. She refuses to believe such nonsense.
"You have a choice to make. You either sacrifice Max, or lose everyone else that you love. Think about all the innocent lives that will be lost in the process. If you deal with him now, while he is still young and vulnerable, there is hope for this world. The longer you wait, the stronger he will get and the quicker he will learn. It's important that you deal with him now."
"No," Mia says stubbornly. "You're lying! You don't know anything! You're just a figment of my stupid imagination."
"I'm not your imagination," the figure says calmly. "I'm you."
Mia shoots upright, her eyes snapping wide open. She is sweating profusely and it takes her some time to realize that she is in her bedroom. Her heart is pounding with adrenaline rush and she feels lightheaded.
After a while, she exits her room and enters her son's bedroom. The five-year-old boy is sleeping, safe and sound. She creeps closer. The moonlight streams in through the window and illuminates his little face. He has no visible expression, yet he seems peaceful.
It'll be so easy to kill him right now.
Mia shakes away her thoughts, shaking away the demon in her. In this moment, Max appears to be an innocent, little angel to her eyes. Seeing him calms down her frantic mind and heart. She feels a compelling desire to guide and protect him through this big, complicated world.
"It's just a stupid dream," she whispers. Then she bends down to kiss his cheek. "I love you, forever."