It is definitely weird, being in the Now, with cars, and cell phones, and other lines of communication beyond telegrams, letters, and shouting, as we've been stuck in the 1870s for the past two years.
Every Thursday night at 10:00, a support group for abduction victims meets in the basement of a church in Manhattan. These aren’t your run of the mill abductees (if there really is such a thing) these people have stories that are strange. Off.
A young woman named Meagan – Rule #1: no last names – runs the group. She’s a wild child, a lone wolf, never content to stay in one place for very long, although she’s been heading up this group for the past several years.
Also in the group: A young woman named Morgan who favours the Gypsy styles that go along with her chosen profession of fortune telling. Wallace (Wally), a Korean kid who works the over-night shift at a 24-hour CVS pharmacy and has a scary aptitude for science. Gareth, a skinny freelance artist with a history of drug use and the track marks to show for it. New to the group are Alex, a guy who works odd jobs, primarily in the janitorial sector, and is looking for the daughter he left behind when he was taken, and Drake, a dark and smarmy fellow who works as a private accountant. There’s also a strange fellow known only as Goom, who works at the church cleaning things. He’s quiet and suspicious, always cautioning the others to live off the grid and under the radar so that They won’t find them.
Meetings progress about as normally as these things do. People share stories of daily struggles and small triumphs. Alex had a panic attack at work and had to spend the rest of his shift cleaning toilets. Gareth just had a mildly successful art show in the Village. Meagan shares that a former member of the group, a fellow now known as Michael “Mickey” O’Shannahan, recently committed suicide. He had been close to Meagan, sort of a sponsor. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he’d been medicated until recently, though it was debatable whether that was truly effective.
The group all acknowledges that they know they were replaced in their old lives by Others. Others who look like them, who sound like them, who have taken over whatever it was they each were doing at the time they were taken. Others whose existence means that they can each never go back to what they used to have, can never be who or what they were before. Others who, it must be admitted, are all far more successful than those that were taken might ever have been, abduction or no.
Are they mad? Of course, some of them are. But not all of them are filled with the venom that Drake seems to have.
Three weeks into our story, Meagan announces that she’s ending her time in NYC and handing over the group to Morgan, the next most senior member. Meagan will be shipping off with a “School at Sea” to teach photography.
The next week, the first without Meagan, the group convenes at the church as normal. When they go into the meeting room, however, an unsettling sight greets them: Scattered maliciously about the room are several copies of seven photographs, all of Meagan. One of them, on the seat she usually occupied, has had the eyes cut out and black permanent marker scribbled across her mouth. Turning the photograph over, they find “TOUCHED” scrawled in permanent marker. None of the other pictures have been vandalised.
The group discusses whether or not to call the police, ultimately deciding against it, because what would they say? There’s also a healthy amount of paranoia among the group, which helps sway that vote. Gareth collects one of each photo, as well as the defaced one, and tucks them into his ever present sketch book. Others take some of the photos as well.
It is decided not to hold group tonight, as they don’t know what might be lurking around. Everyone makes their way out of the building and up to the street.
That’s when the bus explodes.
The #7 bus goes up like a torch, spewing scraps of white hot metal and debris into the air. The fire is hot, so hot, and all the bystanders in the area (including, of course, our wayward foundlings) scatter. They notice that it is not all entirely bus materials, some of it is biological.
With emergency sirens starting to scream in the distance, Wally finds himself grabbed and pulled into an alley – he takes a wild swing that misses before he realises that it is Goom. Goom mutters something about keeping low and not letting anyone find them before he ultimately disappears into the shadows, presumably going back to wherever it is that Goom lives.
The group all return to their respective abodes, keeping close watch on the news. Over the next several hours, nothing of note is said. The word “terrorism” is never directly stated, although the officials suspect it is an intentional bombing, and they are closing the harbour, bridges, and airports, and are looking for multiple suspects.