It didn't start when one morning, elderly Mrs. Van Der Hooven of the Flatbush Van Der Hoovens, while out walking her Shi-tzu, watched in horror as a long-taloned blackish seven-fingered hand shot out of a storm drain and grabbed Sir Lancelot III in mid hysterical bark, a bark which ended in an abrupt canine scream that sounded almost human to the now equally hysterical octogenarian before ending in a sickeningly wet crunch.

Followed by a slithering, hissing noise - which Mrs. Van Der Hooven didn't hear as she screamed for the police, for her husband, for her son-in-law, a prominent trial lawyer, for the Marines, for anybody who would listen…

…too bad New York had learned long ago to ignore the screams crazy old women – what with there being so many.

Nor did it start when the homeless shelters and soup kitchens, of which there were also many, noticed that the usual steady stream of human wreckage coming in hourly decreased to an erratic trickle, even as rumors of desertions from the ranks of the Army of the Unwanted… increased?

Then there was that rapid decrease in unwanted cats and dogs being brought to the normally overcrowded animal shelters…

...that's not when it started either, though Animal Control had to admit that there were fewer and fewer calls to come remove the flotsam and jetsam of human whim and indifference from the streets, abandoned buildings and underpasses…

So, what about the rumors of sewer workers and other underground employees walking off the job, mid-shift without so much as filing for unemployment?

The Unions didn't make the connection either, even though it sent them and Management at each other's throats… nothing new there, either...

Then there were days, entire days, when the many pest control companies went without so much as a call to come remove Mickey's undesirable cousins from the toilet, from the basement, from the crawlspace before he or she could cause an epidemic, or more likely an electrical fire… of which there were an elevated number that week, had anybody cared to consult the records of fire departments all over Manhattan…

(No…)

How about Missing Persons?

(Or the steady downturn in the number of prostitutes...)

None of it started with an absence of unwanted humans, cats, dogs, and rodents in a city known for all four…

No…those were just symptoms…