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My first thought was that my medication had suddenly and severely stopped working. It was really the only rational explanation at the time. I want to start out with that because, before I explain myself, I want you to know why it's taken me this long to take action. You see, I have a condition. Well, maybe that's not the word most people would choose. I suppose most people would say that I'm batshit crazy and, to tell the truth, I wouldn't blame them, but that's really not fair.

When I'm on my medication, I'm pretty much normal. Eccentric, yes, but nothing for worry. It's taken me years to get this far, a multitude of failed prescription cocktails, and over a dozen institutions, but what I tell you next is true, is real, and is, most importantly, urgent. I know that knowledge of my past will work against me, but please try to look past that and see me for who I am now. Do I sound mad? Do I sound irrational? Ask yourself these things as you listen, and ask yourself what you would have done.

It occurred roughly eight months ago. I work the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven (Unfortunately, with my sort of past, it's one of the only jobs available, but it's an honest living and it gets the bills paid, but I digress) in Chicago. One of the benefits of living in the city is that I'm walking distance from my apartment, so there's no need for a car.

As I was walking home, my cell phone went off. I remember thinking it was strange since it was a little after four in the morning, but I wasn't too alarmed. My friends and family know I work the graveyard so there was a good chance it was someone I know being polite and not interrupting my sleep during the day. Whoever it was hung up before I could answer and I couldn't call back because the number was listed as private.

Shrugging it off, I continued on, only to have it ring again as I got to my apartment door. This time I answered in time, but the line was so filled with static that I couldn't make anything out. That's all that happened that night. They may seem mundane and unimportant, but it isn't. It happened again the next night, the next, and has happened every night since then, including last night, and I'm sure it will happen tonight. It was the first sign that something had gone wrong, but I didn't know it until four days later. I had assumed that someone was just prank phone calling me every night, but when I went to see my sister that weekend I found my second sign.

My sister lives in the suburbs, has been happily married for the last eight years, and has a three year old son named Francis. It's become something of a tradition that I take a taxi over to her place for dinner once or twice a month, so my showing up on a weekend unannounced shouldn't have been a surprise, but when I got there her house was empty. Ah, I can tell. You don't understand. When I say her house was empty, I mean it was empty. Deserted. Nobody was there, and there were no signs of people having ever been there.

There was no furniture, no locks on the doors, and no light fixtures - just bare walls with exposed outlets and bare floors. I told you of my condition earlier. While I had never had this sort of hallucination before, I knew better than to think that what I saw was real. An entire family just disappearing in the middle of suburbia doesn't make sense, so the logical thought was that they hadn't disappeared, I just wasn't seeing reality as it was. I called another taxi, went home, and called my psychiatrist.

Three days and innumerable blood tests later, it was declared that my medication was still at full strength in my blood stream and that perhaps I had dreamed the whole thing. It is worth noting that at this point I had tried calling my sister several times and only received a wrong number message. With no immediate options available, I decided to take a friend to see my sister's house. If nothing else, I would at least have someone to confirm that it was empty.

I should note again that this started with receiving phone calls. The day that I decided to enlist the help of a friend, the number of calls doubled. I don't have many friends, and of the friends I do have there aren't many who are aware of my condition, so I didn't have many options to choose from. I eventually decided on Lisa. She knew the most about my past, the most about my problem, and I knew I could trust her not to judge.

When I called her, she told me that I was dumb to have waited that long to call her and to get my ass over there so my life could get back to normal. God, I miss Lisa. She was always so good to me. I headed over to her place that evening only to discover it empty as well. Since then, everyone I know has disappeared, one by one, and the damn phone calls have continued to plague me.

I threw away my cell phone months ago but to no avail: pay phones ring as I pass, I find cell phones in my pockets... the type always varies, but the end is always the same. Ringing. The world continues on, though, even though every last house I come to looks as if it's never seen a living soul. When I pass a street vendor's empty shop I can still pick up a paper with today's date and a new story.

That's why I'm writing this. If the world can still talk to me, then maybe I can still talk to it. Maybe I can still send out a message, and it is a very important message. You see, I don't care so much about the loneliness - I don't even care that much about the prospect of never seeing another living creature again. I care about warning the outside world. Reading the papers has become an obsession of mine, and I've come to realize something: it isn't the world that's disappeared, it's me.

I also know why I haven't been missed. You see, I didn't just vanish without a trace, I was replaced. I don't know what it was that replaced me, but it doesn't have good intentions. When I said earlier that I'm okay with the prospect of never seeing another living soul again, I meant it...but every time I open up one of the cell phones that appear in my pockets, I'm greeted by an image of my hand clutching a knife and a slit throat.

It's been roughly eight months, and I've seen thousands of cell phones.