Rebeccah stayed off the computer for the rest of the evening. She just couldn't bring herself to even turn it back on. What the hell had that been? She looked at the glass of wine she had poured before sitting down. Was she turning in to some sort of blackout drunk? Maybe she hadn't had half of that glass but the whole bottle and just couldn't remember. She actually double checked the bottle in the kitchen to make sure. No, just a bit gone. So she was now hallucinating sober. Great.
After a fitful night of not much sleep she headed in to work. There was a flyer on the windshield of her car. She pulled it off and saw the bold printing LOOKING FOR ANSWERS? and had to laugh. If only it were that simple she thought as she crumpled the paper and tossed it in to the trash.
Walking in to work she bumped in to a man handing out leaflets. "Don't throw it away this time, Rebeccah." he said very softly as he handed her a copy of the flyer she had tossed just a few minutes earlier. Oh, well that wasn't creepy at all she thought shoving the leaflet in to her purse.
When she got to her desk she pulled it out and looked at it. It was a notice for the local AA meeting. There was one that night after work. So whoever was monitoring her computer was also spying on her at her car and thought she was an alcoholic? Was this one of those family interventions? Somehow she really didn't think so.
And that's how Rebeccah found herself in a local AA meeting listening to people share about their struggles with alcohol. She didn't speak, she really didn't feel it was her place. But she listened although nobody stood up and told a story about hallucinating aliens feasting on their friends or any real hallucinations at all. She stayed for the whole meeting and as it was breaking up one of the gentlemen who had shared a story came over and shook her hand. "Thank you for coming, I wanted to give you this. It's your first meeting chip."
"I don't really think I need one. I'm not actually sure that I belong here..." Rebeccah trailed off realizing just how much she sounded exactly like an alcoholic making excuses for why she really wasn't one.
"You might find it comes in handy." He pressed the chip in her hand and closed her fingers around it. Then made a very subtle nod toward the door. Rebeccah guessed that meant it was time to go. Once she reached the street she opened her hand to look at her new sobriety badge and saw it wasn't an AA chip at all but a token for a cup of coffee and a nearby diner. She was beginning to feel like some sort of spy.
She walked in to the diner and started to take a seat at the bar when a waitress took her by the elbow, "Your friends are already here, Rebeccah, come with me." Again with the first name basis from complete strangers. She was seated at a table with the man from the meeting and three other people. One looked like the guy who was handing out flyers earlier but the others she didn't think she had ever seen before.
She looked around the table and started to speak when the guy from the meeting held up his hand and mouthed "Wait" then one of the women she had never seen before pulled out what looked like a giant lady bug and set it on the table. She flipped a switch on the side and it started to hum softly. "It mimics the sound of a dragonfly's wings and keeps mosquitoes away. Well, that and other things."
Rebeccah looked around the table, "So you've seen them too? I'm not crazy?"
"Well we don't really know you well enough to say if you are crazy or not. But..." the leaflet guy said.
The woman with the lady bug smacked his arm lightly, "Don't tease her. You remember what it was like at first. No, we don't think you are crazy. We've all seen them."
"So what are they? And what do we do? And shouldn't we tell someone?"
"Slow down," the gentleman from the meeting said, "We'll try and get you answers, but you have to understand that you aren't going to like all of them. And that you will probably just have more questions when we are through. First, when did you see them? How did it happen?"
Rebeccah told them her story. It felt good to let it all out. Though as she was listening to herself talk she realized it sounded completely crazy. When she was done she looked around the table half expecting them all to either laugh at her or tell her how nuts she was, but what she saw was a lot of nodding heads. Then she listened as they told their stories.
Lady bug lady had first seen them when she was a child. Her parents were big party people and one night she had woken up thirsty. The house was quiet so she thought all of the guests must have gone home, when she turned the corner and saw the living room she saw a scene very much like Rebeccah had in Hawaii. She had gone right back to bed and spent the next decade plus trying to convince herself it had been a nightmare. She probably would have succeeded except she was an emergency room nurse and heard stories from people who had come in to the hospital on psych evals of the same sort of thing. People don't share hallucinations.
The man who had handed her the leaflet had a story very much like hers. But he had been late to a party. Stopping by the party after working a late shift as he walked up to the house he saw it all through the front window. He had yelled and run for the house but by the time he got through the door they were gone and all of his friends were acting as though nothing had happened. He thought he had lost his mind.
The worst story was from the man at the meeting. He had woken up one night with one of them attached to his head. The spike drilled in to his brain. He could feel it pulsing as the thing sucked his blood or lymph or what ever it was they were taking. He had screamed and the thing looked down at him, tilting it's head and moving the spike, he felt it shift just as he passed out again. He woke up later to the party going on full swing around him again. He hadn't touched a drop to drink since then thinking it was an alcoholic's nightmare. It wasn't until he shared the story in an AA meeting that he found out he wasn't the only one. And that he needed to be very careful about whom he shared it with.
And that's where the last woman at the table came in. She had been at the meeting he had told his story and had brought him out for coffee afterwards. Introducing him to others that had experienced similar things. "We've all seen them. We tend to call them aliens but I'm not sure that's true at all. They feed off of us, after all, that seems to suggest that they've been around as long as we have. Parasites maybe? We don't know. But what we've gathered through the years, through stories like yours, is that they prey on large groups. Alcohol is always involved. We aren't sure if it's necessary to be in the fluids they are feeding on or if they use it to mask the side effects of what they are doing."
"Yes, the blank spaces that happen in an evening of drinking. The hangover the next morning. We think those aren't caused by alcohol but by them. The blanks obviously being when they feed and the hangover from the loss of whatever it is they are taking from us. It's no wonder why people are dehydrated if something is feeding off of them in the night."
With that Rebeccah remembered the sound of the sucking and shuddered.
"Oh, I'm sorry, dear. I don't mean to be so very matter of fact about it all. I forget you are still new to everything. It will be less difficult later. It will never be easy. But it will be less difficult."
"So if there are a lot of us who have seen them why don't we tell someone who can do something? I don't understand."
"Why didn't you tell anyone?"
Rebeccah gave a half smile, "Because I thought I was crazy. I get it. But if there are more than one of us? If we all have similar stories? Wouldn't more people come out of the woodwork and support us? There have to be people who have never said anything, right?"
"Sure, people would believe us the same way they believe the people who say they were abducted by aliens. If you haven't seen it for yourself it's too crazy to believe. And they won't let you find others if they can stop you. Why do you think we stopped your internet searches last night? You are lucky we found you first."
"Tell me what you know about alcoholism. Specifically about the DTs."
"Oh the delusions people get when they stop drinking, I've heard about those, awful, really realistic scary things that....Oh. I see. People just think you are an alcoholic and have the DTs?"
"Worse than that, we think if they find out you've been trying to find others, to stop them in any way, that they will cause them. The siphon works both ways. They can drain us or fill us with..." She shook her head, "We don't know what it is. More alcohol? The stuff that knocks everyone out to begin with? Or maybe they just know where to poke in our head to cause issues. I'm not positive that they can't cause addiction. If they can make you an alcoholic they have a steady food source as well as a silent witness. Nobody believes an addict right? So they monitor. They are at AA meetings listening to stories, they are searching the internet for chat groups that might be talking about them. They are in bars. They are everywhere. But we can't see them. You don't see them unless they are feeding."
Rebeccah was starting to think maybe she was crazy. Or at least maybe they were, "They are everywhere but you can't see them unless they are feeding?"
"Think about your story. You were in the hallway, right? Nobody left past you. How did they get out of the room? We think they exist in our world but possibly on another plane of existence. Have you ever wondered where science fiction writers come up with things like phasing in and out? We think they have seen it as well. Or heard about it from someone who has. They are here, but not completely, except when they feed. So they have to make sure we are unconscious to do that. Most people will never see them. A night out with friends, maybe a little blank spot in the evening, but maybe not, depending how smoothly it's done. A little rough around the edges in the morning, but that's to be expected from drinking right?
It's just when something goes wrong, when someone sees something they shouldn't have, that's when their system breaks down. And our job is to get to that person first. Like we did with you."
"So now what? What do I do?"
"That's up to you. Now that you know you aren't alone you get to decide your next step. What do you want to do? We have people who go to meetings. We have computer experts. We have drug and alcohol counselors. We have emergency room nurses. We have psychologists and neurologists all in our ranks. We each add to our network. Trying to protect those around us. And protect ourselves. Where and how you fit in is up to you.
You won't see any of us again. It's best if we aren't seen in groups. But you will be contacted again next week by someone asking if you are interested in some volunteer work. Answer yes and you are a part of us, answer no and you won't ever hear from us again."
That had been five years ago. Rebeccah had said yes. She learned from the group. The things only seemed to feed in groups, at night, from people who had had more than three drinks. So her own rules were set. Early evenings and light drinker Rebeccah was born. Her part in the support system was meeting new people and giving them a place to vent safely.
She also listened closely when people talked seeing if she could pick out a hesitation in a story, a slight waver to a voice describing a nightmare, anything that might identify someone who had seen. She worked at prevention. The more people she could keep sober and in at night the less opportunity there was for those things to feed. So she told her story over and over. Not the real one. Not the whole story. But the one people could hear and understand. And each time they went home early she was relieved.
She hadn't had a hangover in 5 years.
She also hadn't had a full night's sleep without nightmares.
And she couldn't stand to be around anyone drinking a milkshake.
The woman she thought of as her first sponsor was right. It got less difficult. It never got easy.