hello darkness, my old friend.

Jack awoke on Thursday morning to the sound of mooing, which was odd considering a cow was one of the few animals he refused to allow on the farm he and his wife owned. As he opened his eyes, he found the room was empty. "Harper must have started feeding the other animals already," he told himself as he got out of bed and started about his morning routine.

That routine consisted of happily singing whatever ear worm he had stuck in his head while he showed and dressed. That particular day, it was The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. He sang the chorus as he washed, as he dressed, and as he began to cook breakfast. Pancakes because it was always pancakes. The Winston family inhaled pancakes. Because of this, Jack found it strange when not even one pet came running to investigate the smell of the food cooking. Not even the aroma of cooked bacon lured one of them.

That was his first clue that something was not right. Where was everyone? He turned the eyes of the stove off and wandered off to figure just that out. He searched every room of their home before moving outside. The more he looked, the more apparent it became that no one was home. None of their pets, not his wife, not even Harper's apparent sister that liked to crash with them sometimes. For the first time in a long time, Jack was completely alone.

Fear began to creep through his veins as he searched the last bits of their property. No goat, no dogs, no cats – they were all gone, and there was no evidence they had been there to begin with. It wasn't until he went back inside that he spotted a piece of paper on the counter next to the stove, one that had not been there five minutes ago. His name was written on the outside of the folded paper in Harper's handwriting.

My dearest Jackie Poo, the letter began. The animals and I have decided to join the circus. Don't try to find us. We'll be happier without you and your video game bar.

Jack stared at the piece of paper for what felt like hours. Just days before, he and Harper had started talking about creating real family together. Having kids. Someone serious about procreation didn't just up and join the circus and take all of their pets with them. Something was not right. He needed to find his friends. Maybe they would know where Harper and the animals were. The letter had to be a fake. This was some sick early April Fool's joke, it had to be. Nothing else made sense.

He left the empty farmhouse behind and teleported straight to In Another Castle, which was strangely empty despite it being happy hour. The sun was down, drinks were half price – it should have been full. "Drew? Gabe? Diana? Vanessa?" he called out, but no one responded. Just like before, he went over every inch of the place to no avail. Just when he thought he had searched everywhere, he noticed a letter in a spot he'd already checked. His stomach tied into knots in the moment it took him to approach. Before he even opened it, he knew it would be similar to the previous one.

Just as he expected, it was. Drew told him that he was sick of putting up with Jack's bullshit and that they were opening another, better bar without him. First his wife, now one of his best friends and business partner. Either they were all in on this or something wasn't right. Either way, he was growing more frustrated by the minute, so he crumpled up the letter and decided to go find Anna. If she was not aiding in this prank, she would know what to do.

It did not surprise him when he discovered that Anna, too, was gone. Again. It was not the first time she had abandoned him for a more southern climate. Her letter said she had gone back to the bayou to start a life with her new husband. She didn't have time to take care of him any more, didn't want him messing up her happy life.

Naturally, it was the same with Sebastien. He found a letter written in French, but he was somehow able to understand it. Mon ami, I have moved to France to build a house for all of the cats I'm gonna rescue there.

After that, panic began to set in. He knew that, logically, none of their letters made sense. Numerous attempts to find them proved unsuccessful. It was as if they had vanished entirely, so he turned to trying to find anyone he knew in the slightest. He oouldn't find any of them. Everyone in Jack's life, everyone he relied on, was gone. Even those he had only met in passing seemed to have vanished. The streets were vacant, buildings empty. Everyone was gone, presumably having left for a better life, a life away from him. It was bad enough his pets had abandoned him, but it seemed everyone in the city of Boston had done so as well. No one wanted him, maybe they never had. His family certainly never had, all because he was different.

Maybe they were right to abandon him. Maybe he deserved to live his life alone. Having an entire city to himself didn't seem so awful. It was not like he deserved the happy life he had. That it had taken the powers that be this long to realize that and revoke his privileges was actually a surprise.

As he walked the vacant streets, he heard something calling to him. The same faint moo he had woken up to earlier that day. It was the darkness calling, the invisible force that was desperate to claim him. With everyone he loved gone, Jack had no choice but to succumb.

It was better this way.