# # The Face - short fiction

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

The Face – short fiction

He wasn’t sure when it began but it seemed that now, no matter how he tried, he couldn’t escape it.

It was everywhere. In the chrome of the toaster, rippling up at him from the surface of his morning’s coffee, in the smear of color playing across the glassed face of a clock. He’d lean forward to turn off the TV and, if the light was right, there it was, staring back at him from the grey of the still dying tube: the face.

Had it been his own face, no matter how ugly that might be, it wouldn’t have been so bad but that which appeared, though ever-changing, was never recognizable to him.

He noticed it most, of course, in his bathroom mirror and for a while it was a daily rude-awakening, his fascination and revulsion at the sight of it mixing together in a sickening, swirling wave that rolled over and dominated him, leaving his day stained with a sense of hopelessness that no amount of vigorous scrubbing with his washcloth could banish.

Sometimes it was a tangled mass of flesh-like vines and bracken, their roots gnarled around a pair of black and rolling jungle eyes, the mouth just a shred of a hole, all a-snarl, as if waiting for some foolish prey to trundle within mauling distance.

Other times it was more human, yet no less unnerving: a contorted knot of rippling meat with two punched and ragged boreholes where the eyes should be. The unmoving rictus below just taut enough to indicate the scream not far behind; a ratcheting ululation of impotent despair clawing at the other side, so close to tearing through you could see it.

The visions jumped out at him from all sides throughout the day: here a withered, peach-pit shrivel of a corpse’s face with shifting, puckered eyes, there a lurid, pink shred of skin pulled rip-thin and contorted as if over a sharp-ribbed, uneven framework. He tried blinking, shaking his head, rubbing his eyes; the face remained. He wondered if he was going crazy, had ingested some toxin, was having a stroke, but the rest of his day was as usual … as usual as any day can be when your reflection is not your own but a monster’s.

Every so often, his reflection would serve up the face of a very small boy that looked back at him with a quizzical, innocent helplessness; a naked and open vulnerability that so filled him with unhinging terror he felt he could dash his head against the nearest solid object just to escape it.

Worst, however, was a flat, blank plain that sometimes appeared: a non-face, pressed and worn to the nubs, almost featureless but for that unmistakable sense of want scrabbling across it; a yearning for the artist’s brush to gift it, daub by daub, with some purpose or feeling, no matter how slight.

Too often, the eyes in the face stared back at him with a recognizable surprise and revulsion that equaled his own and he was left wondering what it saw.

Further, he wondered at the experience of others. Did they see the same, twisted, changing face when they looked at him? He hoped very much that they did not but sometimes caught them edging away from him on uneasy, shifting feet and feared the worst.

His attempts at avoiding the reflections were in vain. Even after he removed all the mirrors and other reflective planes from his home, papering over his window panes inside and out, the face would appear when least looked for: in the upper warp of his windshield as he checked the traffic light, in the distorting curve of the bell on the loan officer’s desk, reflected back at him in the eyes of the pretty girl serving his meal. Seeing it full-on, he would freeze in startled thrall as if in the power of some carnival hypnotist, his soul ensnared by the reflection’s haunted, mocking stare.

The long-term result of this visual assault produced in him an involuntary, ducking twitch that occurred whenever he caught the merest glimpse of any face, even those of other people. He lost the ability to meet other’s eyes, walking with his head low and his shoulders hunched up around his ears, his stuttering muscles ready to jerk away at the slightest provocation. The posture caused him to develop ever-worsening back, shoulder, and neck problems; pains that ran the gamut from dull throb to spasmodic pinch and his spine began to curve in upon itself.

As a child, he’d heard the warnings that, if you didn’t watch out, your face would “stick like that” but now he felt that his face hadn’t stuck at all. Was gone, in fact. He wished he’d ignored the advice and held his face in some way that would’ve stuck, no matter how bizarre or inappropriate, just so that it was one he could recognize as his own.

The problem was, he was no longer sure what he looked like. Would he even recognize himself if his face should suddenly appear in one of the reflections? He tried going through old pictures to find himself but was never certain who he was supposed to be in them. Was he even there? He had to be in some of them, didn’t he?

What he feared most, what ate away at him, night after night, his head interred beneath a pillow in anticipation of some new, transient reflection, was that he would begin to glimpse familiarity in the faces. Not that they would look like him but that he would begin to see himself in them, growing into them.

He’d seen a movie once, where a man had cut off another man’s face and lain it over his own as a sort of disguise. He wondered if he could do that, somehow wear someone else’s face or a mask to fool his tormentor into leaving him alone but felt a more likely solution might be simply cutting off his own face and throwing it away. Just disposing of the whole face thing entirely and going without.

Eventually, he tried this.

It didn’t work.


2 Responses to “The Face – short fiction”

  1. Mel Edwards says:

    Super awesome painting! The mouth looks better with the lighter paint colour around it. Plus, the nose evens it out. Great Job :]

  2. cae says:

    Thank you! (grinning with pleasure)

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