When last we met, our heroes were subjected to some supreme mindfuckery inside the surreal night club known as The Box.
After receiving their consolation prize of $500 each, the group departs, going their separate ways. Alia starts to head off, but Morgan stops her to make brief introductions and to hand her a flyer for their support group, on which Morgan scribbles her phone number.
As he heads down the alley, Wally realises that his nose is bleeding heavily and does what he can to staunch the flow. He feels that the air seems to be carrying a charge, almost thrumming. He turns and sees the others making their way, stumbling, down the alley behind him, and everything around him seems shadowy. The door of The Box, however, seems to be backlit purple, and out of the shadows he sees creeping tendrils of darker darkness. He turns and runs out to the street and eventually makes his way to Gareth’s apartment, though the entire way he feels as though he is being followed, although the feeling passes once he is in the apartment. At some point in his travels, the light also returned to normal.
Gareth, Morgan, and Drake all head to a bar that Drake knows to still be open at this time of night. (day?) For the first two blocks, Gareth feels intense unease, as though something is following him – the same sensation Wally had on his way home. He looks around and sees nothing out of the ordinary, and after two blocks it subsides.
Goom returns to his lair and drifts off to sleep, where he has another horrendous nightmare. This time he is in a MASH unit, suffering from some awful jungle virus. Time passes and as his caretakers argue about what is wrong with him, he receives no treatment and gets increasingly worse. He feels a throbbing pain in his right eye that only intensifies with time. Eventually the vision in that eye occludes. One night he is finally left alone, and, covered in filth and sweat, he rolls out of bed. He searches the infirmary for a mirror and after registering that he appears to be young and fit as he was when he was in Vietnam, realises that his eye – the actual eye itself – has swollen to several times its normal size. It is then that his eye explodes, and out of it pour dozens of honey bees.
Goom awakens screaming and feels a warm wetness on the left side of his face, touching it, his hand comes away with blood mixed with some clear fluid. There is also a hollow where his left eye used to be, and his eyestalk is lying on the outside of his face. He feels no pain when he pushes it back into his eye socket, and gets some cloth to tie around his head to keep it in. He makes his way to a hospital.
Meanwhile at the bar, Gareth, Morgan, and Drake are all drinking and discussing the night, each sharing what they experienced in their vision, although Gareth holds back some details of his. They are interrupted by two ageing Jersey girls who start trying to hit on Drake and Gareth, completely ignoring Morgan. When Gareth declines the offer, the girl who had been talking to him starts loudly berating him for being queer, and her friend joins in, prompting Drake to ask the bartender to throw the ladies out. Gareth thanks him, though says that it is not necessary, he’s dealt with this sort of thing his entire life. Last call is made and they depart, returning to their respective homes.
Alia goes out on the street trying to scrounge up a John or two so that she can make her money for the night – the guys she had gone to The Box with never paid her in full. Due to the lateness of the hour (or is it earliness?) she is unsuccessful and only goes back with the $500 from the club. Her pimp berates her, saying that she’s going to owe him in a big way, and gives her $100 out of the envelope. Alia goes to her room to sleep, also falling into a fitful dream. The four guys from the club are there, and they’re all fucking her. She finds that she keeps drifting in and out of her body, sometimes experiencing it from her normal perspective, sometimes watching from across the room. The dream turns violent and the first guy, the leader of the bunch, yells at her for leaving him in the club after he’d paid for her, as he starts beating her with a baseball bat. She is out of her body and crosses the room in just a couple of strides, and tears off the guy’s head with her bare hands. She sees that her hands have become claws, and she is covered in fur with zebra and leopard markings. The other frat boys start to scream and run. Now she’s in a dark hall and the first guy is there, head back in place, with a comically oversized erection, and he looks furious. She sees that she is abused, bruised and bleeding. He tries to take another swing at her with the baseball bat, but she lunges and tears his dick off. The bat explodes against her head. He runs and she gives chase, gaining on him as he trips over his enormous phallus. She leaps at him, biting on to his foot and shakes him violently, and then starts consuming him. Alia awakens suddenly, finding herself on the floor next to her bed, tangled in her sheets.
Alex is at work as part of a crew cleaning a local high school. He’s mopping the front of the building, where there are several pay phones that line the walls – relics of an older time. One of them rings, and he goes to answer it. It stops just as his hand touches the receiver, and another phone across the hall starts ringing. This dance repeats several times, and each time a phone stops ringing, it dispenses a quarter out of the change slot. Finally, all the phones start ringing, and Alex lunges to answer one. On the other end is his daughter, frightened and pleading. She asks him why she can’t regognise his face, what is wrong with his face? It is then that he catches his reflection in a window and he appears featureless – hollows where eyes nose and mouth should be – and the hand holding the phone appears to have no fingernails. His daughter’s voice grows urgent, saying that they’re coming to take her, the same ones that took him, and that he’s got less than a month, begging him, “Don’t go.” He hears her struggle with something, and there is a chittering sound on the line before the call ends.
Across the hall, a closet door starts rattling, and when Alex opens it, hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of butterflies come bursting forth, completely covering every surface of the hallway. The sound of their wings is deafening. Alex gingerly makes his way through the swarm to a bathroom where he inspects his face which again appears totally featureless in the reflection, and he feels that his skin has gone malleable, with a putty-like texture. He hears a coworker calling to him, and they begin trying to figure out what to do with all the butterflies, which are apparently very real indeed. They try to clear them out, though before too long students and staff start arriving on the very confusing scene. There is also a news crew that shows up to document this bizarre occurrence, and Alex does whatever he can to avoid being seen by the cameras and crew. He makes his way away from the commotion and messages the group to see if anyone is awake.
When Gareth arrives home, he sees Wally asleep on the couch, a piece of paper folded on his chest. Gareth gingerly picks it up and sees that TOUCHED is written on it – the same message and handwriting that had been on the back of one of Meagan’s pictures in the old meeting place. He tires to gently awaken Wally, who comes to with a violent jolt. Gareth shows Wally the message, and they both notice that the apartment is cold. Too cold, to the point that they can see their breath. Gareth begins to inspect the apartment, finding the window nearest his bed is open, with a bare human footprint lingering in the frost on the sill, angled as though it were stepping in. He combs the room but finds nothing, asking Wally to look around, to no avail. He inspects the rest of the apartment. Nothing. He can’t shake the feeling that he’s overlooking something, and the two of them do not sleep, with Gareth opting to work on an art piece, television turned on to local news to help keep him awake.
At some point during the early daylight hours, Gareth and Wally catch the story about the butterflies at the high school Alex had been cleaning (although they don’t know he was there). That’s when they get his text message, and Gareth replies that he’s awake and at home. Alex says he will stop at Gareth’s place on his way home, as he has to tell them about what really happened with the butterflies.
When Alex comes into the apartment, Wally freaks out, as he sees Alex’s visage changing as he moves in and out of shadows. When he’s in the light, he appears normal, though when he crosses into a shadowy patch of the room, his face looks featureless. Alex notices the same thing about Wally, although in shadow, Wally looks dead, though still with his face intact. Both of them say something to Gareth, who doesn’t know what they’re talking about – they both look normal to him, regardless of the lighting. Wally tries to leave, but both Alex and Gareth caution him, since they don’t know what is going on, and think it is safer to stay. Wally decides he’s having none of this, and bolts from the apartment out to the street.
Out of an alley next to him emerges a monster. It is a man, but not a man. It has one large eye in the middle of its forehead – a Cyclops straight out of an ancient legend. Wally screams and the thing steps out of the shadows into the sunlight, changing form, and Goom starts to say something to Wally. In a blind panic, Wally turns and runs into the street where he is struck by a taxi. Upstairs, Alex and Gareth hear the thud and squealing tires as the car screeches to a stop.