Masks

Another ordinary day in my ordinary life. Walking home from my ordinary school to my ordinary house. Sometimes things just get so boring. Not that my life is bad at all, actually I think I’m doing pretty well. Good grades, parents that get along very well and many friends to hang out with. Maybe that’s why I sometimes feel bored? Sometimes I just wish something would happen, something exciting. An adventure I can later turn into a great story for my friends and family. I don’t know what kind of adventure, maybe just something that lures me in. Something that makes me follow its lead and me just waiting to see where things are going. Oh well, I shouldn’t be complaining. Some have it worse. Like my best friend, Lilly. She’s often trying to escape from the life in her home because of the constant fighting her parents are doing. Often telling stories about these parties she pays a visit to, ending up drunk or high on whatever drugs she got her hands on. Probably to forget about the place that is her home. Can’t say that it’s boring, but I can’t call it a healthy lifestyle either. I actually feel bad for her. So obviously, I shouldn’t complain.

After finishing my ordinary dinner, talking about how my day was like I do everyday, I’m retracting to my bedroom to do my homework. It’s a lot today. Teachers seem to love to burden their students with loads of homework. But first, some music. I can concentrate myself better with some background noise. The silence just makes me wander off into my thoughts anyway. Now, time to finish the pile of homework I’m stuck with for the evening…

Finally, done. It took me a bit longer than I expected. Maybe I shouldn’t text so much while studying. It’s pretty late now and my parents have wished me goodnight about an hour ago. I just want to go to bed myself as well. Next time, I certainly will complain during class when getting this much homework again. Well, complain more than I do already.

I overslept. Damnit, that’s what you get with that much work. And then the teachers complain for being late in class. I quickly throw on some clothes, put some make-up on in I-overslept-style and rush downstairs.

“Mom, I’m late! I’ll see you when school’s out!” I yelled to her, where ever she was at the moment. Normally we’d drink coffee together and talk a bit in the morning. I have one of those great mother-daughter relationships with her.

“Ok, hun, have a good day!” I hear say when making my way through the front door.

Maybe I can still catch up with Lilly. We have walked to school together for years now. When I turn around the corner of the street, I can see her almost taking the next turn ahead of me.

“Hey! Lilly, wait up!”

She turns around and waits so I can catch up. She seems a bit late as well. But, she’s often late. She doesn’t really care that much about school. Too preoccupied with other things. I understand, although I sometimes do try to motivate her into caring just a little bit. I run towards her.

“Hey Sue, ‘sup,” she greats me as I walk up to her out of breath.

“Hey, also on the late side?”

“Yeah… I haven’t slept very well. They were at it again. Kept it going way past 1 am… Why can’t they just go look for help or something? I mean, I really love my parents but sometimes it’s hard…” she does sound exhausted.

“I’m sorry to hear that Lil… I wish there was something I could do…”

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t want to think about it either,” she interrupts.

We chatter on about this and that on or way to school. I complain about how all the homework consumed my free time and she tells me how she tried to do some of it but stopped bothering due to all the fighting.

Arriving at school, the playground was already empty. Everyone’s probably already in class. 10 minutes late, well, I’ll use the homework as an excuse. It did keep me up longer than it should have so I think it’s valid. Arriving at our class, I quickly knock on the door before entering with Lilly behind me.

“Sorry we’re late sir, we…” I stopped. Everyone turned around to look at us, as classmates always do when someone enters their classroom. And when they did, my heart skipped a beat and my body froze. I’m puzzled by the sight of them not having any eyes to look with. Actually, their whole face is just blank skin where their facial features are supposed to be.

“What’s wrong? Why aren’t you going inside?” Lilly asked, trying to look over my shoulder before letting out a gasp: “Huh? What the…?”

Everyone keeps staring. Our teacher saying: “Well, aren’t you two coming in? You’re already late.”

My surprised and probably horrified face finally relaxes and makes way for a smile and a chuckle: “Oh I get it… This is a prank, right? Funny, everyone, really. Halloween has been months ago, you know. I do have to admit, great job on the mask. When did you all plan this?”

Lilly pushes me aside: “I want to see as well! Wow… they really did a great job.”

Some of our classmates look at each other, lifting their shoulders. Some went on copying the things our teacher had written on the blackboard.

“What are you talking about? What prank?” our teacher asks.

“Oh come on. You made us startle but how long do you think you can hold this act together after that?” I reply, sounding a bit unimpressed. The masks and all are great but they’re not actually thinking that we’re going to be tricked any more longer, are they?

“What? Stop it, both of you, there’s no prank. Take a seat before I’m going to write you both a note for holding up the class.”

“Sir, you all lack a face,” Lilly said, a bit irritated.

“All lack a face? What do you mean, lack a face? Do you want a note for being rude as well, missy?” he sounds a bit annoyed, putting both his hands to his sides. Some of our classmates start smirking.

“Oh come on, I’m not going to play along…” I reply while stepping to the kid sitting the closest by the door: “Come on, take it off, enough with the shenanigans.”

I put my hands on his faces, looking for the edge of the mask.

“Hey! Get your hands off of me!” he says while getting up: “What’s wrong with you?”

“Stop that!” teacher says angrily: “Young lady, I demand you…”

“Hey, Sue!” Lilly interrupts him while grabbing my arm and pulling me back to the hallway: “Look…”

Another kid is walking our direction, probably going to the bathroom. To my surprise I can see she doesn’t have a face either.

“What the hell?” I’m getting annoyed: “Hey, hey you! You’re in this class right?”

She must be. There is no way the whole school is pulling a prank on just the both of us. I quickly glance into our classroom but there are only two seats empty.

“What? No, I don’t even know you. Weirdo…” the girl replies while walking past Lilly and me.

This is impossible. This isn’t right. I walk up to the classroom across mine and open the door. Everyone in it turns their head to look at me.

“What the… Lilly come look…” she takes a peek as well.

“What the hell…” she almost whispers: “Sue what’s going on? I’m starting to feel frightened.”

“I don’t know…” I too start to feel more uneasy.

“Can I help you two?” the teacher of the class asks.

Without answering, I walk to the next classroom, open the door, only to find more heads with no faces turning to see who’s disturbing their class. Now I’m starting to feel scared. This isn’t normal. Did we pass any people on our way to school looking like this? Maybe we didn’t notice, I didn’t really pay that much attention to other people. Lilly follows me into every classroom I enter. She looks pale.

“What’s going on, Sue? I want to get out of here!” she says in distress.

Where are all their faces? This prank… this can’t be a prank. But this can’t be real either. How can you not be aware of not having a face? Don’t these people take a look in the mirror before going out? What if the two of us are lacking a face? I doubt it since I put on make-up this morning and there was a face.

“Come,” I drag Lilly to one of the bathrooms in this hallway. Without hesitation, I take a look in the mirror. Lilly doing the same thing.

“We still have a face,” Lilly says. She touches her nose and mouth, as if she needs to feel it’s there before believing it.

“I don’t understand…”

“Let’s go home Sue, I don’t like it here,” Lilly’s voice seems to be trembling and a bit husky.

“Ok come on, let’s go to my house. It’s the closest.”

I cautiously keep notice of other pedestrians. It’s becoming very clear that our entire school isn’t pulling a prank on the two of us. The first person we encounter is missing a face just like everyone at school. He nodded to the both of us. Being both too creeped out, none of us two felt the desire to act polite and answer his gesture. Instead, we both stared at him with big eyes and speeding our pace. Someone across the road calls my name, waving at me. He sounds happy to see me. I recognise his voice and clothing. The familiar checkered shirt tucked in neatly into his pants that he wears a little too high up, as usual. It’s one of my dad’s colleagues and a good friend of the family. I could only answer with a gasp and a startled look before continuing, Lilly closely following me.

“Hey! Sue! Everything all right? Hey!” mr. Riley sounds a bit aghast, being somewhat ignored by us.

“This is so strange,” I say more to myself than to Lilly.

Finally reaching my home, we basically rush our way into the house. Mom only works three days of the week and today is one of her days off. Without looking for her first, I start to yell:

“Mom! Mom, you won’t believe it! We went to school, then everyone…” I’m out of breath from all the running, all the excitement but most of all of being creeped out: “… I mean no one, none of them had a face!”

Lilly bumps into me when I stop rushing at the kitchen door. My mom is busy doing some dishes. She’s finishing the last bit of it before picking up a towel to dry her hands with.

“Oh hi honey, already back from school?” she says.

“What? Mom, didn’t you hear what I’ve just said? No one at school, and… and basically no one we’ve encountered on or way back here had a face! I mean, no nose, no eyes, no mouth…”

“What do you mean dear…” she says, putting back the towel before turning around. Horrified, I listen to her finishing her sentence while looking at the blank surface of skin where her face used to be: “… we’ve always looked this way.”

Lilly standing behind me, grabs and clutches my arm so tight that I can feel her nails digging into my skin, whispering: “Sue…”

Speechless myself, I start backing off slowly, still staring at my mother.

“Oh hi Lilly, how are you? School’s out early today?” she didn’t sound any different at all. Not even worried in the slightest. Hasn’t she taken a look in the mirror today?

“I… I have to go,” Lilly replied my mother, then whispered to me before rushing out of my house: “I need to check on my parents…”

“Oh ok Lilly, say your hi to your parents,” mom said. She walks towards me to give me a hug. It’s making me shrug. I can’t even hug her bag being too creeped out and a bit terrified. She then looks at me, resting her hands on both my shoulders.

“Is there something wrong, sweetie?” she says. I think she’s looking at me but I can’t really tell. Looking back at her though, makes my skin crawl. Then I get a closer look on her faceless face. Something’s wrong, more wrong than her not having her face. Pinching my eyes to make sure I’m getting a good look, I see something’s moving. Something is moving under the skin that used to be her face. As if I didn’t already go through enough horror, very vaguely I can see contours of her mouth. It’s making movements, as if she’s yelling something but I don’t hear anything coming out. Like frozen, I keep looking at these movements. It’s like she’s yelling for help. Slowly I move my gaze up to where her eyes are supposed to be. Under the skin covering them, I can almost see her eyes. Not very clear, not at all, but enough to see them displaying terror.

“I…”

“Well? Aren’t you going to talk to me?” she asks. I can still see her mouth moving, yelling for help, under that thick layer of skin. Those lips definitely aren’t asking me if I’m going to talk to her or not.

Without uttering another word, I run my way up the stairs, almost tripping on one of its steps. I couldn’t get into my room fast enough. Slamming the door behind me, I turn the key and start pushing the little cabinet standing next to it in front of it. Whatever that thing is down there, it’s not my mom. Well, I think it is but she seems trapped. And until I figure out how to help her, I’m not coming out of this room. But how could I help her? Maybe dad can help me… unless… Of course he’ll be faceless as well. If everyone in this town is, than he must be as well. What if I have become faceless by now? Should I take a look? I don’t really want to, what if my face is trapped as well? I don’t want know.

With my eyes closed, I stumble my way to where my mirror covers a tiny bit of the wall. Still holding my eyes closed, I pick it off the wall and turn it around. At first, I thought of throwing it out of the window, but hiding it under my bed will do. I don’t feel the urge to look at it anyway. Not even close. What should I do next? Maybe I should find some information on how to deal with this on the internet. No better plan comes to mind anyway.

“Sweetie? Can I come in? I’m worried, I think you should at least try to talk to me,” a knock on the door and my mother’s voice startled me out of my thoughts.

“Go away! I’m not letting you in! You’re not my mom!” it occurs to me how hard my voice is trembling at this point. Actually, my whole body is trembling. Now that I’m alone, hopefully safe in my room, I finally notice how scared I am. I was horrified, flabbergasted, somehow a bit amazed but now? Now I’m just frightened. Afraid that this nightmare isn’t going to end. Afraid that it will take me over as well.

“Are you sure? We can both sit down and have some tea,” the thing outside of my room continues.

“No! Either give me back my mom or go away!”

“What do you mean? I am your mother. You’re acting very strange, dear. I’ll leave you alone, so you can calm down and when you feel ready, I’m here to listen.”

As if I’m frozen, I listen how she walks down the hall and down the stairs. Finally downstairs I snap out of my statue-like state and take a seat behind my desk. Hopefully I’ll find something online. Still trembling, I open my browser but quickly wonder what to type into the search bar. I’ll try ‘people without a face’. It sounds kind of stupid, as if I’m looking for a scary movie to watch. Nothing from the given results seems to be pointing to a faceless town either, other than articles and websites suggesting scary movies. Some articles about deformed people are showing up as well but that’s not what I’m looking for.

Maybe someone posted about it on Facebook. Well, I can try. My eyes grow bigger as my Facebook page is loading. My newsfeed… it’s filled with faceless people. Pictures of friends at the party we attended last weekend, all holding a drink facing the camera. Only no faces to smile at it. Just blank skin directed at the camera. It’s a picture I took. I took most of the photos that night, because I don’t like my face on picture. Scrolling further through my news feed feelings of disgust and disbelief settle in my stomach. Is it like this everywhere? I needed to be sure. I turn on the tv sitting on a little table across of my bed. Somewhere I already know what was going to come up and the sight of the people on the screen sadly confirm my thoughts. All faceless. I start to go through all the channels and all of them show the same. People talking, acting, dancing, singing, all as usual. But without a face. Now a feeling of dread is washing over me. I feel as if I’m defeated. What the hell was going on? Why isn’t anyone freaked out by this? How come Lilly and I are the only ones left with a face? Why is everyone just acting as if everything’s normal?

To be continued

 

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