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Hello reader. I know, I should better introduce myself, but I don't even know who I am. Literally.

When I see myself in a mirror, the picture blurs. When I look at my name on a passport, the letters make no sense. Anytime someone speaks my name, I don't understand. I don't remember what I'm called, what I look like, or even what my gender is. All I know is that I'm in my early twenties, wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

Only reason I'm still alive at all is thanks to my friends. I can't even apply for food stamps anymore. Please show this text to my landlord, my employer (if I ever get one), my taxman, and everyone else. They need to realize that I can't fill out forms by myself anymore.

You probably wonder how that happened. Well, I haven't forgotten. How could I?

Above all else, I blame this bloody pandemic. Everything I'm about to tell you happened some time in 2020. There are so many curse words I could throw at covid-19, but I'll try to keep this PG-friendly. I lost my job, couldn't attend parties anymore, and had nothing to do in my spare time. Even my roommates agreed to stay apart from each other, except on some Sundays where we played video games.

My only friend was the park nearby. I went out jogging every morning and every night. I had to give myself the sense of time passing. I had to prevent myself from going mad.

The park was the size of a small city block. It contained graveled paths, a playground, a small basketball court, and air so cold that I saw my breath. Junk lined my running trails left and right. It was the only indication that anyone other than me even came here. No-one sat on the benches and the swings remained stationary. It was so quiet that, had there been anyone else walking, I'd have heard them.

One day, I saw another soul in this park. It was a child, maybe half my age, standing near the basketball court. It had tousled black hair and wore no mask.

I took out my headphones. That day, I had listened to music on that iPod my parents gave me as a birthday gift. It even still had a piece of paper with my name on it. I really needed some motivation, especially with the rain sprinkling on my nerves.

Oddly, the child was not affected. While my hair had been glued to my scalp by the drizzling raindrops, the child's stood as straight as ever. It didn't even have stains on its clothing.

That child's wardrobe was just plain weird. With its wool-spun shirt and old-fashioned trousers, it looked more like a medieval farm kid than a child from this day and age.

It didn't even notice me. It just stared at the basketball court as if into a void.

"What's wrong, kid?" I asked. "You look sad."

"It's nothing. I'm just alone."

I explained how I felt the same and how everyone felt that way during the corona lockdown. The child, however, looked at me as if I was talking in a foreign language.

It offered me a bar of candy. I politely declined, but the child didn't let loose. It saw me as a friend because I talked to it.

I felt rude declining on such a sweet offer, so I took the bar. Then, I thanked the child and told it we'd meet again. I munched my chocolate on the way back home.

Next day was our video game Sunday. Normally, that was always Christmas to me, but that day, I didn't feel well.

The others realized. We chose some kid-friendly racing game because the others thought it'd lighten up my mood. While they meant well, it didn't help. I got thrown off the road more often than I could count and ended up being last every time.

The others asked what was wrong with me. I said it was just a headache. I wasn't lying, but I left out details.

Various weird things happened ever since I accepted that candy bar. I felt hungry for more, but none of the candy I had at home could still that hunger. I also kept seeing things. That kid, for example, didn't go out of my head.

I saw it in my dreams, staring into a well, into a deserted blind alley, or into that damned basketball court. Even when awake, I couldn't enjoy anything. I didn't enjoy my food, I just wanted candy, the kid's candy. I didn't want to jog anymore. I spent my days lying in my bed and doing nothing.

One day, that changed. At around 11:33 PM, I went back to the park. I went back to the basketball court and, to my surprise, saw the kid again. It stared at me and told me it knew I'd come.

Two people came. One was a man, clad in a black Victorian longcoat while the other was a woman in a white nightgown as fine as mist. Their faces were so symmetric it looked unnatural, like if someone had photoshopped them into existence. They had those fake, sickeningly sweet smiles.

The kid introduced them as its parents. They were glad their child now had a friend and they wanted to throw a party. The rest of their family would arrive soon, too.

Deciding I had enough, I ran away. Soon, I realized I forgot the way back home. I took random trails. Even though I thought I ran in a straight line, I saw the family again. They hadn't moved from their place, although the basketball court behind them disappeared.

Soon, they were joined by other people whom I took to be their relatives. They had the same old-fashioned clothes, the same put-on smiles, and the same unnatural symmetry.

The father calmly explained that I couldn't run away. Now that I accepted a gift from the child, I had to pay them back. It was a custom in their family.

I asked if I couldn't just give it candy, too, but the mother laughed. She said I had to pay them back by dancing.

I had an awkward conversation with the parents. I said I couldn't dance and that I had no time, but they didn't want to hear any of that. They had a ball and their relatives arrived. Like that, they celebrated their child's first friendship. Naturally, they made me dance with their kid for that reason.

This made me feel even more awkward, given how the tiny tot barely reached my waist with its head. When it grabbed my hands, however, I couldn't break free anymore. Whatever they fed it, that kid was strong for its age.

At least the dancing wasn't hard, as the kid took the lead. It led me through a waltz where we moved right and then turned around in box steps. I remember because we did this over and over and over again.

We danced for what seemed like hours and didn't even have music to distract ourselves. My legs felt like tree stumps while my lungs exploded my gasps.

None of them listened to me when I asked when this was over. They were like robots that could do nothing, but dance, dance, dance like there's no tomorrow.

Then I had an idea. If I had to dance forever, why not make it bearable?

I asked the kid if I could take out my iPod. It wasn't attached to any headphones, so, the music was for everyone. I chose a simple pop song.

The kid and its family stared in awe as if they had never heard music in their lives. Or seen an iPod, for that matter. They even stopped dancing.

I rejoiced. Taking deep breaths, I recovered from the hell they forced me through.

The kid asked if it could borrow my iPod and look at it more closely.

Since the child didn't look like a pickpocket, I gave it the iPod for a minute. The kid claimed it couldn't read so well and pointed at my name sign, asking me to tell what was written there.

Then, I made the dumbest mistake in my life. I read out my name loud for everyone to hear.

At this moment, the letters on my name sign blurred. I had forgotten what I said, even though it happened just a few seconds ago.

I asked the others if they heard what I said. They repeated my name, but the syllables didn't form a coherent word in my head.

The parents explained everything. The name wasn't mine anymore. They were so thankful that I gave up my name because they didn't know how to call their child. Now, their child has my name and its face even changed so that it looked like a younger version of myself.

While they said this, I think I shouted "Are you kidding me?" at least thirty times. I asked if they had drugged me. I asked if this was some bad dream or some hallucination or if I was just sick.

They said it was neither. They claimed to be magical fairies living in a realm that mortal humans couldn't even comprehend. They had rules in this realm and, when someone gives you a gift, you have to pay it back. I should read some old fairy tales, they said, this wasn't the first time they did something similar. Now that I made my payment, they let me go.

In the blink of an eye, those people had disappeared and I saw the basketball court again. Now, I could go wherever I wanted.

I checked my phone and, to my surprise, it was 11:34 PM. Weird, I thought we had danced for hours, but in reality, just one minute passed. So many thoughts jumped through my head. Was this real? Was I dreaming? Did these people tell the truth? Did they really come from a realm science couldn't understand? Or were they aliens or something? Or was this real?

Despite my exhaustion, I limped back home as fast as I could. I found my apartment room, incapable of reading the sign before the door. This was real.

Later, my friends came to me, asking me why I looked so tired and beaten up. They mentioned my name several times and I didn't understand it when they said it either. This was real.

I tried to explain everything that happened in as much detail as possible. They asked if I had taken psychedelic substances or if I was just plain tired. Everything sounded so surreal to them. They concluded I was just depressed because of that whole lockdown thing and that I should see a psychiatrist.

But that didn't help. My delusions didn't go away. Because they weren't delusions. This was real.

I googled for "fairies stealing names" and read some nonsense about True Names and all. It didn't make any sense. This was real. This was real. This was real!

Magic fairies, demons, aliens, monsters, whatever they were, this was real!

How am I supposed to live a normal life again?

As you read this, I'm lying in my room, counting the days until my death.

Every night, I can hear those people in my apartment. As I'm typing this, I'm hearing their steps. I think by giving them my name, I've also given them access to my home somehow. I know how paranoid it sounds, but I can hear them. This is real! They're in the rooms of my sleeping roommates, knocking over lamps and playing with stuff they don't understand. This is real! They're coming for me, I know it. This is real! They're coming for all of us. This is real!

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