Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Faceless Child: Chapter 1

The Faceless Child

“Of all Mother-Monster’s children,

Only one did she despise

So much she could not even bare

To look into his eyes.

She reached out one massive claw,

And off his face she tore,

O Hear the Faceless Child’s Cries

In the night forevermore”

Maryanne Webber stepped inside the lobby, the large glass doors closing with a his of air behind her. Inside, the cold air conditioned air washed over her, shocking her senses after the ride in the hot car during the summer heatwave. The front desk bled out from behind a corner and wrapped around the front wall before disappearing behind another corner, like the body of some colossal gray snake. Sitting behind it was what appeared to be a woman. She was dressed in grey button up shirt that should have been ironed, while glasses that weren’t in style even back in 1974 when she first got them rested low on the bridge of her nose with a thin brushing of dark hairs beneath it quivered as she strained with the pencil being macerated between her teeth. This was the lone security guard on duty. Straining all her might to figure out D-42 across.

Maryanne gave a small smile, one she rarely showed but frequently felt. It was the warm glow of accomplishment, of success, that only came when she was in the presence of someone who had obviously screwed up their life. This woman looked like she had been working this same spot for the last twenty years, while Maryanne had been promoted twice in the last year alone. Not to mention the obvious lack of a wedding ring. Not that Maryanne was married, but she definitely still had plenty of time and the body to make it happen– if she wanted to of course.

“Excuse me....” she said clearing her throat as she replaced a stray blonde hair behind her ear.

“Yeah, I saw you hun, hold on one sec.” the woman behind the counter answered, still not looking up from the crossword, resting her whiskered chin in her large, manly hand.

“Excuse me, but I do not have time for this! I have an appointment and I’m only 5 minutes early!” She added the last part as another gentle reminder that she was the type of woman who would show up early, not like this tramp without an iota of punctuality.

“Well, hun.” The woman said, making eye contact with Maryanne, which drained a lot of Maryanne’s confidence from her, “You’ll just have to wait. Won’t you?”

“Sorry ‘hun’ but I don’t wait for anyone!” Maryanne said as she began walking past the woman, following the body of the grey coiling desk.

“Uh-uh-ah.” The woman intoned, swiveling around in her chair, holding up a large metallic box with a red switch prominently at the center. “Take one step over the yeller line and I drop the switch. Lock down. Boom. Then you’ll be more than five minutes late for that meeting.”

Maryanne looked at the yellow caution-tape like line that ran from the bend of the snake-desk across the floor. She turned and made eye contact with the woman. Her own off green eyes were reduced to slivers as she met the woman’s sharp blue ones. She folded her arms, tapping her foot.

“I want to talk to your supervisor.” Maryanne said tersely as she tapped her foot faster.

The woman just laughed, reached into the desk and pulled out a small black pouch. Maryanne rolled her eyes. Great this woman was going to eat her lunch before she did anything to help her. This was perfect. But at least now she would have an excuse if she was late. And just wait until she was back at the cafe with her friends. She could see the conversation now.

“Jocelyn, hold on!” she would yell as she saw her friend pull her card out first.

“No, Maryanne. You paid for drinks last night. I’m getting our coffee.” The older brunette would say.

“No, really Jocelyn, you’re just being rediculous.” Maryanne would add, pulling her own card out, making sure that the platinum, diamond edge would flash just enough to make Jocelyn realize Maryanne was doing very well after getting the raise.

“Please, just take my card.” Jocelyn would say, handing her card to the poor cashier, as Maryanne’s hand would push ahead of hers.

“No, take mine. She’s crazy she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I am paying.” Maryanne would say, half a tease but half the hammer blow to remind her friend just where the power dynamic lay.

But in the end, Maryanne would “let” Jocelyn pay. That was how it worked. She was there to console Jocelyn, to help her, to remind her what her life could have been like if she hadn’t married that two-bit accountant from Indonesia who promised he would make CFO someday. A constant reminder to Jocelyn that if she isn’t careful she’ll make more mistakes like that. She’ll be less and less like Maryanne. So Jocelyn will pay for the privelge and benefit of sitting with Maryanne at their table by the corner window.

From outside they’ll be able to see the old sign, “Cafe de Joure” overgrown with ivy all over the brick. The low wrought iron fence enclosing the outside seating will usually have a cardinal or raven sitting on it, a nice enough place during summer. But they almost always sit at their spot inside, where they can see all the other people in the cafe and comment on them.

“Oh my lord, will you look at that!” Jocelyn will say, looking towards a couple in the corner booth.

A young boy, no older than nineteen might be helping a girl who looks barely seventeen into the booth. His jeans are worn at the knees, his t-shirt has a superhero silk-screened on it, his baseball cap looks like it came from his high school team not too long ago. She has her hair back in a ponytail, wearing sweatpants and what must obviously be his hoody. She is also obviously pregnant.

“Hmmm, looks like Niles and Miranda.” Maryanne would say, hiding her satisfied smile in a sip of coffee.

“Oh! Maryanne! You are terrible!” Jocelyn would fein surprise that her friend would name names, laughing and smiling before replying, “Though you are probably right. I mean, Miranda was what? Sixteen at the most?”

“You mean the first or the second time?” Maryanne would reply, smiling coyly at the bit of gossip she so ‘accidentally dropped’.

“Second time? What?! No! You’re joking!” Jocelyn would say, eyes growing larger as she scooted closer, leaning in as if Maryanne should whisper it to her.

“Well, I mean it’s no secret the type of person Miranda is.” Maryanne would say, putting the cup down, “I mean, really, people like her, who don’t have a lick of self control. It’s disgusting.”

“But Miranda and Niles were only together for six months before–” and then Jocelyn’s eyes would grow even wider, “No! You mean... but then... does Niles know?”

“Not as much as he thinks.” Maryanne would say, “But then again, I always did say only an idiot like Niles would fall for someone like Miranda without knowing what they were getting themselves into.”

“It’s a shame.” Jocelyn would say, always trying to sound the saint, “They are both really nice.”

But Maryanne would not be outdone by her, “Oh yes, I love them both to pieces. They are really great. I just wish they hadn’t made such poor decisions. It’s their decisions that push people away” and by people she meant herself of course “Sometimes I wish I had kept more in touch. But I guess that’s just life.”

But then before Jocelyn would have a chance to say anything else, to possibly defend Niles and Miranda, the idiot and the tramp, Maryanne would quickly change the topic. This is why she was not actually as upset at the security guard as she was making herself out to be.

“Speaking of frustrating people though! The other day I went for the meeting at the corporate offices, and you would not believe the nerve of the security guard at the front desk!” Maryanne would say, acting as indignant as if it was happening to her all over again.

“What happened? Did he frisk you?” Jocelyn would say with a half giggle, sipping from her cup.

“No! It was a woman!” Maryanne would correct Jocelyn, not pleased that Jocelyn should be amused at her expense.

“A lesbian groped you?” Jocelyn was almost visibly salivating at the gossip she would be able to share with her yoga buddy or her running partners.

“Please. Control yourself. It was nothing graphic.” Maryanne would let only disgust and disdain drip as she said it, putting Jocelyn squarely back in her place, “But she would not let me in, even after I told her I was running late!”

“What?! The nerve!” Jocelyn would say, as if she could somehow understand what it felt like, as if her daughter’s nanny who frequently talked back to her was the same level of insolence at all.

“That’s what I said. And then when I tried to walk in anyway she threatened to lock me in the lobby and call the police!” Maryanne decided that it was okay for her to stretch the truth a little.

“What on earth possessed the woman?” Jocelyn would say shocked.

“Well, if you must know.” and here Maryanne would drop the clincher, proving to Jocelyn just how wonderful and interesting her life really was. “She reached down and pulled out her lunch!”

Instead of thinking of all the possible reactions that Jocelyn might have, Maryanne decided that she would instead focus on the contents of the black bag. At the very least, it would be amusing to tell Jocelyn of the contents. Probably not a single vitamin or nutrient in the lunchbox. The woman probably didn’t even know or understand free-radicals or omega-3. And what if she pulled out a salad? Well Jocelyn would never know. All she would hear about would be fried pig’s ears or doughnuts. Doughnuts, that dillectable and yet oh so trashy dessert that she and Jocelyn both craved yet could not– and would not– afford to eat or even mention except in passing. To think would cause calories to collect.

Maryanne had already decided that no matter what the security guard pulled out, she was going to say it was doughnuts either way, when her attention was pulled back by the woman.

“That was pathetic.” the woman said, her voice suddenly much higher pitched and less gravely. “Of all the shallow, miserable people I have had to eat, you are definitely the most inferior. It’s like watching neural synapsis kill themselves.”

“Wh-what?” Maryanne said, unnerved by the way the woman’s voice had changed but also by the way her black eyes were staring into Maryanne’s own. “Eat?”

For some reason none of it made sense to Maryanne. It was as if the world had suddenly slowed. Maryanne just could not make the woman’s words form meaning. Why did she say eat? She must have meant something else. But what could she have meant to say?

“No, Maryanne. I meant exactly what I said. I am going to eat you. And not enjoy a moment of it.” the security guard said, before pulling her hand from the black pouch, revealing a gleaming gun. “This isn’t the first time I’ve used a gun. It’s just difficult to keep things... clean.”

Maryanne could not come to terms with what was happening. This was her life! She wasn’t supposed to ever see a gun, much less have one pointed at her! She was supposed to always make it, even if she had to call her Daddy and have him make a few phone calls. She was the one who would never die. Now, she stood there, trembling as a cool barrel of the gun was forced against her temple. Her body began shaking, her fingers turning numb as adrenaline and cold fear coursed through her veins like cool fire.

“Who are you?” she said, her voice cracking.

“Maryanne, the question is not ‘who’,” the woman said, getting up and stepping up on the gray desk. “The question is what?”

Maryanne tried to look around. Tried to think of a place to run to. But not only did the woman have a gun. She had the lockdown button. There was a bathroom, but it was probably too far away. Unless. Unless Maryanne jumped over the desk, and ran behind the corner and then jumped for the bathroom.

“Ah, but that won’t work.” the security guard said, “I’d shoot you as you jumped over the desk.”

That was when Maryanne realized that the woman had been answering her thoughts. “W-what are you?”

A cool hand, much younger and much paler than had belonged to the old security guard rested on Maryanne’s cheek. In a state of shock, she followed the hand to the arm and then to the owner of the hand. The black irises, like oceans of ink and darkness, threatened to drown Maryanne. It was only when he said it that she realized what lay beneath the eye-line.

“I am the Faceless Child.”

The cameras do not show what happened to Silvia McCohe the security guard. The last time she was seen, she had left for home two weeks before. When the neighbors complained about the smell, the police had been called to investigate. What they found was so terrible, they never spoke of it afterwards. Silvia was found, sitting in her chair in front of a TV still turned to infomercials. On her lap was one of her cats. It was pulling strips of flesh from what used to be her arm. But what was most shocking was her head. Her entire face was gone. No marks, no bruises, no flesh, no bone. Just the empty darkness of an empty skull. The body was sealed in a bag, labeled with a standard white name tag, which was left blank except for a massive black F drawn over it. From there it was taken to an undisclosed location on the Cascade Mountain Range in the Pacific Northwest, to an old concrete building marked with the same letter F . Inside, a group of old and forgotten scientist were woken by the disturbance when the truck baring the body bag arrived. They placed the still sealed body on a slab and slid it into a freezer unit next to hundreds just like it. Then they wrote the number 292 on the tag, and left, turning the light off as they did.

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