“Thank you all for coming to St.Christopher’s Cathedral. Happy Friday night! I know we have a new person here, as well as some familiar faces. We only have about 45 minutes before the alarms are set and we have to get out of here. There have been a rash of church fires in the area lately, hence the alarms, so our time is short. Are there any items we need to address before we begin?”
No one spoke.
“Alright then. Welcome to Narcotics Anonymous. I’d like to state the purpose for the meeting and briefly explain what we do here in NA, and then we’ll get right to sharing, ok?
“Ahem. Paraphrasing our basic text: Narcotics Anonymous is a nonprofit society of men and women for whom drugs and addiction have become a major problem.We are recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean.
“During this meeting, members are encouraged to share their stories about addiction and recovery. There is a lot of need out there and not many places or groups meeting at night, let alone Friday night. We only have this room for about 30 minutes and the alarms are set in 45 minutes. I know we all have schedules, so please, keep your sharing to 5 minutes or less. During the meeting, I ask that all phones are placed on silent and that there is no side chatter. It is distracting to the person sharing and rude. We are all here to help everyone else.”
No one said anything.
“We have a new person with us tonight, so I am going to go around the room and ask each person . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 5 . . . 6 . . . we have 6 people here tonight, 7 with me. I ask before you go into your story that everyone give your first name, how long you’ve been in recovery, and how long you have been clean. I will start us off.
“My name is Michael. I am 60 years old, and I’ve used for 27 years, starting at age 16. I have been sober for 17 years, four months and eight days, and this is the first meeting I have facilitated. Who would like to speak about their journey?”
A man stood up. He was tall at least 6’ 5”, had a thin but also muscular appearance. He looked to be in his mid-forties and he wore all black in casual clothing but at the same time, elegantly dressed. His clothes fit very well and were obviously tailored or custom made. His hands were casually in the front pockets of his pants. Sporting a few days of beard growth and a shock of blonde hair on his head, he looked like a middle aged surfer. His clean look was in stark contrast to his eyes, though. They were red and bloodshot, like he had been crying.
“My name is Lawrence. I am new to this group, but have been to a few meetings lately. I have been an addict for 7 years. I’m trying everything I can to meet new, clean and sober people to help me overcome this curse. It has been 5 days since I’ve used, but I am feeling the need fiercely right now. I am trying to be strong.”
Michael spoke. “Welcome Lawrence! You are among friends and we are all dedicated to helping you succeed! However, we usually don’t have new member share their first night.”
“I promise to be brief.” Lawrence replied
“Alright. That’s fine, Lawrence. Just no more than 5 minutes. We want to give everyone the chance to share their story tonight.”
Lawrence nodded his understanding. “I know,” Lawrence said. “I mean, I’ll be brief.”
Lawrence wiped at his eyes and nudged his leather duffel bag on the floor by his feet.
“I had a pretty normal life. I grew up in California, and was at the beach every day. When I graduated from high school, I went to college and met my wife. We married right after we graduated and life was great! A couple of years later, we were able to buy our first house. Five years later we wanted to expand our family and my wife became pregnant! Twins! I was ecstatic beyond all belief and never knew happiness like that. She gave birth to two girls nine months later. Move ahead 16 years. My wife and daughters were killed by a man driving drunk and high. I don’t remember what he was on, only that he lived. He didn’t even have a scratch on him. My life was ruined. Everything I loved was torn away from me. At the funeral, I met someone that changed my life again, and is the reason I am here today. They told me they could give me something to take away all of the pain I was going through. The rest is really history. ”
“Thank you, Lawrence. I am sorry for your loss, but I am glad you found us today. Anyone else?” Michael asked.
A large, heavy set man wearing Crocs, dressed in dirty grey sweatpants and a black Star Wars shirt stood up. He was looking at his phone the whole time he was seated, with white earbuds blasting away videos from YouTube. He now faced the circle with tired, beady brown eyes. He put his phone in his pocket and pulled the earbuds out of his ears. He looked to be about 30.
“My name is Timothy. I used for 5 years. My family gave up on me and moved away, so I have nowhere else to get the help I need. I haven’t slept in 7 days because of the nightmares I’m having. My doctor prescribed me Xanax and Ambien to help with that, but I don’t want to replace one addiction with another. I have been clean for 91 days, 19 hours and hope that I can find a job soon now that I’m in recovery. Thank you.”
“Timothy, the struggles that come with recovery are many. I hope you are able to get some sleep soon, and glad to hear that you are still on track,” Michael commented. “Next to you ma’am.”
An emaciated, but very pretty blonde woman stood up, clutching her Coach purse in front of her like a shield. In her 40’s, she was in great shape. Everything about her was designer, down to the bedazzlements on her exquisitely manicured nails. She was a stark contrast to Timothy.
“My name is Abigail. I used for 14 years. When I got clean, I picked up and moved here so I could be successful. I have been sober for 24 days, 22 hours and, on a great note, I start a new job next week! Timothy, if you’re looking, where I work is hiring.” He had his earbuds in his ears again and was disengaged from the group. He never heard her.
“Outstanding and congratulations, Abigail! Gentlemen? “ Michael said, nodding towards the two younger men next to Abigail.
The two men looked around the room, then at each other. They appeared to be brothers and in their early 20’s. By the looks of them, they were fans of heavy metal music, tattoos, and piercings. Both were dressed in faded black t-shirts, black skinny jeans, and their jet black hair was secured in sloppy man-buns.
The older looking one started first by saying, “Hello. My name is Joseph and this is Troy.”
Troy mumbled something but kept his eyes focused on the floor.
Joseph continued. “We started using when our parents died six years ago.We were still in high school when we started using together. We’ve both been clean for 132 days, nine hours.”
Troy stood up slowly, and started walking around the small room, wringing his hands.
“My name is Troy. I started using in high school right after my parents died when I was 17. I started with alcohol, just to help me sleep. Then I started taking meth in the mornings to get over my hangover. Joseph caught me one morning right before school. He had been using pot and speed since their death. We both took a hit of meth in my room before we left to catch the bus. Pretty soon we were using heroin, and then that turned from a once a month thing to daily. We got in deep and lost my parent’s house and their cars because all of our money went to drugs. We were on the street less than a year later. We moved in with family, but had to steal from them to keep up with our habit and they kicked us out after about a month. Went to live with friends, but we ended up stealing from them too and got kicked out. We were homeless up until the mission where we were staying required us to get help with our addiction. That was 132 days ago. We quit cold turkey and together have been clean ever since.” He sat back down in his seat.
Michael whispered “Wow. What a story! I’m so sorry to hear about your parents but am so happy for you guys being on the path to a better life!”
The final participant stood up slowly. He was at least 50, dressed in rhinestone enhanced jeans and an Affliction shirt a size or two too small. He was wearing Prada dress shoes and lots of big, gaudy and expensive looking jewelry. He had obviously bleached blonde, spiked thinning hair. He either slept wrong or was trying to give himself a “faux hawk” by the looks of it. He reeked of four or five sprays too many of Acqua Di Gio.
“My name is Vincent. I started using when my wife of 22 years left me ten years ago. I got myself clean so I can start dating again.” With that statement, Vincent leered at Abigail, moving his eyes up and down her body. When Abigail noticed his stare, she pulled her purse closer to her body and shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Vincent, realizing he had been caught ogling her, continued. “I want be the best Vincent I can be to the future Mrs. Me. I have been clean for two years, 11 months and 19 days.”
“Great! Great stuff! Great SHARING! Our time here is almost up and I have to lock up the room before we go since we’re the last ones here. Does anyone else have more to say? We do still have a few more minutes.”
Michael looked around the room, making eye contact with everyone.
“Nothing else?” Michael questioned. “Well, I guess we’ll wrap it up, then.”
Lawrence raised his hand. His fingernails were horribly long and painted black.
Michael acknowledged him and said, “Great Lawrence! What’s on your mind?”
Lawrence stood up and wiped his eyes. They were almost solid blood red. A few tears rolled down his cheek. He grabbed his bag, and began to pace around the room.
“Well, remember how I told you I met someone at the funeral who changed my life? She made me the addict I am today. She said she knew I was hurting badly, and she could give me something to take away the pain. A ‘gift’ she said.”
Lawrence circled the group and made his way to the area by the door of the small room. He walked slowly, shifting the bag from one hand to the other. As he circled the group, his bloodshot eyes scanned all in the room, looking at them as Vincent had looked at Abigail. It was a longing look, but not sexual. It was the same kind of gaze a patient in pain gives a doctor, waiting for something to take their agony away.
“Well, the gift she gave me definitely took away the pain of losing my family, but it replaced that pain with this awful addiction. I have this hunger, this NEED, gnawing in the pit of my stomach and it forces me to find relief. It’s agony trying to fight it. Addiction always wins, doesn’t it?” He set down the bag and began wringing and rubbing his hands. He also scratched and clawed at his arms, like he was trying to get something off of them. Users know this feeling as the “Coke bug”.
His stomach growled loudly, loud enough that everyone in the room heard it. He extended his hand and, as he grasped the doorknob, the rest of the group was transfixed by his painful and obviously emotional display.
“I know I’m an addict. I have been for a long time. It’s impossible to fight. It always wins. And when I give in to it, I feel better for about a week. But it always comes back. You all know what I mean, don’t you? I mean, that’s why we’re all here, right?”
The group nodded uncomfortably. At this point, the temperature in the room seemed to fall dramatically. Abigail shivered and she noticed they could all see their breath as they exhaled. Lawrence’s hand remained on the doorknob.
“I guess, since you were all so honest with me, I should really be honest with you. My wife and family died over 50 years ago.”
Vincent and Abigail both exhaled scornfully and loudly. Troy and Joseph both yelled out “B******T!” and started laughing. They started to get up and looked at the others to see if they were getting ready to leave as well. Everyone else remained seated. Timothy had his earbuds in, music blasting in his ears and had fallen deeply asleep. Seven days of insomnia had taken its toll.
“I’ll explain. I was born in San Diego in August of 1915. I went to college in 1933 at the age of 18 and met my wife.We were married in 1937. The draft for World War II started in September of 1940. I went to fight for my country soon after. I made it back alive in late 1945. My daughters were born almost nine months to the day after I got home. They were all killed when the car my wife was driving was hit by a high and drunk driver in 1961. I was 45 years old at the time.” He began moving his jaw repeatedly, opening wider and wider every time and clenched his jaw tightly upon closing. The addicts in the room heard the bones in his face click and pop with every move and the sound was unnerving. His hands appeared splotchy, and ashy skin became visible through what now looked to be makeup on his hands. Lawrence’s breathing changed too; it was raspy, almost labored. He sounded like he was panting, and it added to the growing tension in the room. His hand was white and visibly tremoring, demonstrating how hard he was squeezing the doorknob.
“The day of their funeral, I was indeed approached by a woman who offered me something to take the pain away and I accepted.But it was no drug. She bit me.”
“This is so B******T!!” Joseph yelled. “C’mon Troy. This guy is f*****g out there, man. Let’s go!”
Joseph and Troy both got up and approached the door to leave, and were just a few feet away from the door.
“Joseph, Troy, SIT DOWN!!” Lawrence bellowed, without even turning around. His voice was abnormally loud, to the point it was painful to hear.
“You will all listen to what I have to say, and then we leave! SO SIT DOWN!”
Abigail whimpered. Troy and Joseph robotically complied with Lawrence’s order, almost like a soldier complies with a superior officer. They stumbled to their chairs and sat down, holding their ears and obviously in some pain. Vincent and Michael looked to be in a trance and Timothy was asleep with headphones in his ears.
“I never felt pain like that, when the venom coursed through my bloodstream. It wasn’t killing me, but it was killing what made me human. And it killed the pain of losing my wife, my children.”
Lawrence’s voice changed. It got gravely, deeper. The group shifted in their chairs, but no one got up.
“After the venom ran its course, all the pain left my body.What replaced it was a hunger. It’s an unbelievable, unending hunger that only one thing will satisfy. These days, people put so many bad things into their bodies; fast food, sugar, artificial this, artificial that. They just pollute themselves with crap. Couple that with all the drugs – Xanax because life is too hard, Wellbutrin, Valium anything to get away from life. And those drugs are legal! Mix the legal drugs with the illegal ones, and now people like me have to be really careful. Did you all know, the average time for a drug to clear the bloodstream is anywhere from a few hours to a week? Except marijuana, but weed doesn’t affect the blood in the same way something like cocaine or meth does. It tastes kind of nutty, believe it or not. Still, I have to be careful with my diet. I can’t eat tainted meat.”
He locked the door with an audible click. Everyone in the room started to panic and stood up.
Lawrence turned to face the now terrified group. When they saw his face, they all ran, some to the back of the room, some looking for another way out. The handsome surfer’s countenance had become that of a demon; hard, chiseled lines and sunken cheeks. His eyes were solid red and no pupils were visible. His nose was sharp like a dagger and his mouth opened into a too wide grin. It literally went from ear to ear and was filled with hundreds of small, jagged teeth.
“I’m so f*****g hungry.” he growled, as he turned out the light.
Vincent went first. His heart basically exploded from fear when Lawrence pounced and he hit the ground hard. Lawrence’s long nails easily disemboweled the man, and he ate the warm liver as the screams and pounding only got louder.
Troy and Joseph were next. Lawrence decapitated Joseph with a vicious bite to the throat and Troy could only gurgle as a powerful hand penetrated his chest and removed his heart. Even over the screams and pounding, the remaining victims could hear Lawrence’s lips smacking as Troy’s heart disappeared down the predator’s wide gullet.
Michael stood his ground when Lawrence attacked. After 27 years of addiction, he took up boxing and martial arts to help his recovery and knew how to fight. Even though he couldn’t see, years of practice paid off briefly as fought off the creature. He succumbed to blood loss and shock after Lawrence ripped apart his chest cavity. Lawrence devoured his liver and lungs in three to four seconds.
Abigail hid in a small cabinet toward the back of the room, praying the darkness would conceal her. Lawrence, now covered in warm, sticky blood, honed in on Abigail’s ragged, fearful breathing. He punched through the cabinet door, his nails cutting deep into her shoulder and causing her to shriek like the wounded prey she was.He pushed his face close to hers and remarked, “Tag! You’re it!”
He split her head open with one mighty blow and sloppily ate her brain.
The predator approached Timothy who still had his ear buds in, music blasting and still in a deep sleep. He never woke up while Lawrence drank his blood from a bite to his carotid artery.
All the wasted bodies were thrown into a pile in the center of the room.
The attack lasted less than three minutes.
Lawrence shed all of his gore-soaked clothing and threw them into the pile of bodies in the room. He reached into his bag, pulled out a fresh set of clothes, a towel, and several packages of baby wipes which he used to clean himself in the darkness. He then placed the bag which also held a large container filled with a substance similar to napalm on the pile of meat in the center of the room. He dressed, then set a timer in the bag and left the building quietly before the church alarm set.
St. Christopher’s Cathedral burned down that night. Six fire departments couldn’t tame the inferno. The only scheduled event at the cathedral that night was a NA meeting.No bodies were found.
Five days later, a well-dressed man, all in black with a shock of blonde hair and looking like a middle aged surfer introduced himself to another small NA group across town.