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"They"

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They is all that I can call them. They have no name. They have no origin. They are just there. Who exactly are They? Surely they were someone before.

It was a warm mid July day when I first had an encounter with them. I had just made plans with my friends to hang out for an afternoon. This is slightly unusual as we seldom do anything together. We had made plans to eat at some sort of restaurant that I had never heard of that is way out in the middle of nowhere. These friends that I have are just one guy, Mark, and two ladies, Vanessa and Lily. Mark tried to convince me that I had been to this restaurant before, and I just didn't remember. So we made our plans, and we all got into Mark's car. Mark drove because it was his car, Vanessa sat next to him in the passenger side. I sat in the back behind Vanessa with Lily. Everything seemed normal.

It was July and we were in a middle of a drought. All we could see on the way to the restaurant was dried up farmland and rotting barns. No one was out because of the heat. The whole trip up was very pleasant. The radio was blasting Great White and Led Zeppelin, we were all laughing and telling jokes and stories about our lives. After driving for about an hour we had reached our destination. There was the restaurant, very small, but also well maintained, unlike the neighboring houses. After recuperating from the long drive and the sinus pressure brought on by being in the valley, we went in. We had a great time, service was great, but the food was absolutely horrible, it tasted as if it was microwaved. With our stomachs full we decided to drive around and look at the scenery as we digested our food.

This is where I noticed a change. We drove around for what seemed to be an hour, looking at abandoned farmlands and listening to all the Foreigner and John Mellencamp that the radio station threw at us to hear, naturally I started to get a little bored. I asked, "How much longer are we going to be driving around?"

No answer. So I repeated, "How much longer are we going to be driving around?"

"This farmland is beautiful, I wish I lived on a farm!" Vanessa exclaimed.

"You know, I always wanted to live on a farm," Mark happily replied.

"How much longer are we going to be driving around?" I repeated a third time.

"Look at the silos, Lily, you used to be obsessed with silos when you were a kid right?" Vanessa asked, completely ignoring my question.

I repeated my question a fourth time, then a fifth time, "How much longer are we going to be driving around?" Then I realized something. They couldn't hear me.

They couldn't hear me. These were not the same people anymore.

Every comment I made, every question I asked was ignored. Vanessa kept blurting out how much she loved the scenery, Mark kept adding on to her comments, and Lily just went along with it. I was just invisible to them. They would ask me a question, but never hear my answer to it. Not only that, but some change occurred over them. Vanessa just stared at all the scenery with a stupid smile on her face. Mark had some sort of blank grin going on, and Lily just quietly smirked while looking out the window. These were not the friends that I had grown up with. These people just became them, not my friends.

Mark kept driving around and around stuck in his trance along with everyone else. They had all become one. They had become they. Mark drove around for another hour as it felt. The sun was still shining bright, not a cloud in the sky, all the farmland plots looked exactly the same as the farmland plots next to it, until we came across an abandoned church-like building.

This building looked a lot like a church, but it was about the size of an old one-room schoolhouse. Mark screeched to a stop. He wanted to check it out. "Hey guys, let's check this out!" he practically shouted.

"No, what if someone is there and they yell at us?" Vanessa said with a sudden tone of concern.

"No," I replied, "it is obviously abandoned and there is not a single house in sight."

Of course they did not hear me and Vanessa complained as Mark stupidly drove around the building over and over until he came to a decision. Lily still staring blankly outside with that smirk on her face pretty much repeated what I had said earlier about no one being there.

"See Vanessa," Mark replied. "Lily knows everything, why didn't anyone bring that up before I circled this building five times?"

We pulled over onto the side of the road. Still nobody at all. The entire time we drove no one was around, and it was just about rush hour. I got out first and then they got out. I went up to the building along with Mark while Vanessa and Lily stood back. Mark noticed the door was open and went inside and I followed right after him. I try telling him about all my knowledge on the subject of school houses, but of course he couldn't hear me. I was examining the interior of the school house when Mark started calling my name.

"Come out of there!" Mark yelled with an unusual gleeful tone.

"No," I replied. I wanted to look more.

"Come out of there," Mark kept repeating himself until I gave up and went out there. "Take a picture of it." He handed me his phone despite my complaints of not wanting to do it. I took the picture and we got back into the car, and the same thing happened just like the entire trip there.

"We should really head back now, we have been driving for four hours," I stated. He must of somehow caught some of what I said because he turned to look at me. I nearly jumped out of my seat. His face was melting. The skin just dripped off his face until it just looked like a skeleton with eye balls. He payed no attention to me and turned to Vanessa and started speaking some gibberish which was a childhood story of his that I never experienced. Vanessa laughed at him and she turned her head to face him and the same thing happened to her. Her skin just melted right off her skull. I turned to look at Lily; I could not see her face but there was a puddle of a skin colored liquid in her lap that was not there before.

I'm never going to get out of here. That thought just kept repeating in my head. Mark just kept driving, and driving, and driving, and driving. Talking and laughing, talking and laughing, talking and laughing. Melting and melting, melting and melting and melting and melting. I started to panic. Just the thought of driving nonstop for hours and hours. The perfect day just kept going and going. The sun shone as bright as ever, it had not even set the slightest. Eventually the conversation just came to a stop and it was complete silence while they were all in their trance. I was in panic mode for at least a couple hours until I found that I was smiling too. I began to feel like I was sweating more despite the temperature being exactly the same. However I did not care. I also discovered something else...

I felt fine.

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