Chapter 02: The Boy Vanishes

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Zayn Malik was the first to disappear.

Only the first. Many others would soon follow, utterly vanishing from the face of the Earth in the blink of the eye. No clues, no notes--just gone, suddenly and irrevocably. Like they'd been torn out of a picture.

The disappearances happened every few days, but it would be weeks before any sort of pattern began to emerge, before anyone even began to suspect that they might in any way be linked. Before anyone realized the harrowing enormity of these events, and before an intractable despair settled over the heart of every male celebrity. Wondering if they might be the next to disappear. Knowing there was absolutely nothing they could do to prevent themselves from being taken.

But Zayn was the first.

It happened like this.

One Direction had just finished playing a sold-out show at London's O2 Arena. Three encores, including You & I, Stockholm Syndrome, and Best Song Ever. The boys exited the stage still fully powered up from the energy and excitement of the crowd. They were lightning bolts, bouncing and jolting off the walls as they laughed and hollered their way through the tunnels that connected the arena to a nearby hotel. They were in no hurry to get there, bumping and jostling each other, stopping along the way to pose for pics or sign an autograph for someone who'd been waiting all day in desperate hopes of meeting them. This is what they lived for--those lingering moments just after a perfect performance when they still felt high off the crowd, and could feel themselves practically floating from the power and joy it filled them with.

The boys rounded a corner, almost to the bank of elevators that would take them up to their suite of rooms at the luxury hotel. Liam wanted to check out the minibar. Zayn wanted to invite some people up from the lobby and have a little party in the room. Niall wanted to hop in the jacuzzi. Louis wanted to throw things off the balcony. Harry wanted to do flips on the beds. His record was 2 and half flips off a single jump and he was sure he could break it. It would be a long night; plenty of time for everyone to get their needs met.

There was a man with a camera standing right at the corner. Maybe a paparazzo, but Harry didn't care, there were always cameras everywhere, that was part of the fun. He paused for a brief second and turned and bugged out his eyes and stuck out his tongue, mugging for the camera. Tomorrow the picture would be all over Instagram.

Louis was walking right behind Harry, too close in fact. He was trying to tell Liam a joke but was completely screwing up the punchline. Liam insisted that Louis was remembering the joke wrong, that he was a shite comedian. Louis was outrageously indignant, and so caught up in his insistence that he'd told the joke perfectly, and that in fact it was Liam who had no sense of humor, that he didn't notice Harry's feet planted right in front of him.

Louis's feet got tangled up in Harry's. As Louis began to fall, he reached out to grab Liam for support. Liam quickly went off balance from Louis's weight and began to topple, and without even thinking he lunged out for Niall, who was walking arm-in-arm with with Zayn. Louis and Liam and Niall and Zayn all crashed quickly and decidedly down to the floor, with Harry maybe falling on top of them, or maybe just resignedly, delightedly jumping down on top of the pile for the dumb fun it.

Now the boys were in a tangled, twisted pile on the ground, giggling and screaming and unable to extricate themselves from each other. It was hilarious and somehow so them, and they knew it.

Their handlers and bodyguards stood by, sighing. This happened basically every night. They rolled their eyes and began the process of pulling the wriggling boys apart and setting them back upright. Their limbs were like magnetic spaghetti.

The bodyguards reached in and pulled them up one by one. Harry, then Liam, then Harry again because he couldn't stop himself from jumping down on top of Louis, then Niall, and then Louis.

They stood up and dusted themselves off, then had a nice group hug about it, always a good idea after a successful brush with calamity like that. They they stood around, laughing and drying their eyes while their handlers checked them to make sure no one was seriously injured or bruised.

And then, wiping the last of the tears out of his eyes, finally able to catch his breath from laughing so hard, Niall looked around and asked where Zayn was.

And then the boys counted off to double-check that they were all present, and sure enough Zayn was missing. They turned to their handlers, who turned to the bodyguards, who turned to the now growing crowd around them, but Zayn was nowhere.

He had fallen into the pile. Niall and he had been talking about their favorite scenes from the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and then their gravity had taken a sudden turn and they'd all fallen into the pile. Only Zayn--somehow--had fallen in and never come out.

It was unprecedented. It was too bizarre to even wrap their heads around. What do you do, what procedure do you follow, when your friend disappears right in front of your eyes? In the moments after, and then in the days and weeks that followed, people assumed that it must be some elaborate practical joke. A well-orchestrated marketing ploy leading up to their next single. Zayn would turn up in a few weeks with a new and achingly gorgeous haircut. Of course he would. Just wait, his fans said. But the other members of One Direction were there. And then knew Zayn. And the knowledge that this wasn't a stunt, that it wasn't a practical joke of some kind, chilled them to their very bones.

Michael Clifford disappeared a few days later.

He was at the airport, about to get on a flight, when he realized he'd forgotten his passport. He rushed back to the hotel to get it. His 5SOS bandmates watched as he climbed into a cab. They waved him off, laughing and partially flipping him the middle finger as his cab drove away down the street. The cab never arrived at his hotel. That was the last time they ever saw him.

Byun Baek-hyun from EXO disappeared a few days later. Then Big Sean. Then Austin Mahone. Then Jared Padalecki. And many others after that.

They were there one moment, and then they were gone.

No one knew what to do. No one knew who or what had taken them, or why. Or how these disappearances could possibly be connected. There were no clues, nowhere to even begin searching. Governments and armed forces were like: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Scientists were like: wtf idek.

It all seemed so hopeless. It wouldn't be until much later, when Kim finally discovered what had happened to Zayn and all the others, that she realized how hopeless everything truly was.

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On no where's Zayn you guys. And what on earth does this have to do with the rest of the story? We'll find out at some point I'm sure.

This chapter was a bit darker but things will lighten up next, with Kim and Nori and a certain pet dog. Please vote and comment and tell me what you think! Which celebrity disappearance would be the most devastating to you? Thank you for reading!

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