Faces of the Train

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
"It's not your fault, you know. Your face has expired."

Submitted: January 03, 2014

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Submitted: January 03, 2014



The smell of hot sewage filtered in and out of the subway car at every stop, mimicking the passengers’ movements. I sat alone, my knees rubbing against each other as we moved; the whisper of denim sliding against denim fading into the cacophony of city sounds. A shoulder brushed against mine and a sudden jolt of heat ran down it. I automatically pulled away. They muttered a mechanical apology. It was the slow slur of a toy whose batteries would need to be changed in a week. There was no interaction between people here. Their lives did not intersect. This car was nothing more than a room decorated with too much furniture.

It was then that I noticed him. His shoulders sagged around a weathered briefcase balanced in his lap. It was as if gravity was pulling them down with an invisible string.  The people around him swayed but he was uncomfortably still. His skeletal hands were frozen on the briefcase. He reminded me of a wax figure at a museum.

Freckles danced across the top of his cheekbones which jutted out from his face. His cheeks looked like dark valleys. His eyes shone bright white against his dark skin. There was no iris. His pupils were a sharp black. The black reminded me of ink blots that would change the longer I looked at him.

“I got a sale you can’t resist.” The statue’s mouth remained motionless. My shoulders tensed closer to my ears and I watched him, a discontent pounding in my stomach.

At first, I thought I was the only one to hear the eerie sentence, but a few of the lifeless forms surrounding us stiffly craned their necks. The man’s inkblot eyes didn’t leave mine as his lips parted to reveal a golden front tooth flashing in the artificial lights of the train. The sides of his mouth warred with his sagging skin and what was meant to be a grin looked more like a grimace.

The man’s frozen posture suddenly animated. Every disk in his back realigned, one by one as if he was a balloon being blown up at a small town fair.

“I have sale you can’t resist.” He repeated as his boastful voice slipped from his sneering, smiling mouth. He turned his body towards the middle aged woman sitting next to him. One of his long fingered hands wrapped around her shoulder. She inhaled deeply, but her hunched shoulders and defeated eyes remained on the floor. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled into a greasy ponytail at the base of her neck.

“I know it’s been hard ever since your husband left you. Money’s has been tight. You don’t mean to yell at your boys. You don’t have much, do you? Not since you were laid off six month ago. And now they are choosing him. Everyone is abandoning you. You are so close to giving up.” 

Tears glistened on the woman’s washed out face. The droplets burned red across her cheeks standing in stark contrast to her otherwise black and gray existence.

“It’s not your fault you know. Your face has expired.”

His index finger pushed aside some of the fallen hair tucked behind her ear making it dangle lifeless against her face. He pointed to the soft skin at the bottom of her skull.  He made a satisfied grunt as he announced, “This face spoiled 3 months and 4 days ago.” His finger affirmatively tapped the date three times before he turned away. The woman’s hand impulsively reached toward the spot the salesman touched and she felt the small, raised numbers imprinted there.

“Now why don’t we try a different one; one that isn’t so rotten. I can’t believe you didn’t notice.”

His brown, sun spot covered hand reached behind her ear. His fingers fumbled until his face once again rolled back into a smile.  

“There it is. Sometimes these zippers can be hard to find.”

 It was then that the salesman with inkblot eyes began to gently trace the woman’s chin. His fingers gingerly followed every curve of her jaw. His other hand brushed her hair out of the way as he circled around her forehead. One hand still on the invisible zipper, his other wrapped around her face and he pulled it away, revealing nothing but a black hole.

The salesman put the face down on the train’s muddy floor. A resounding metal click sounded as the man opened his briefcase. He hunched over and began to dig. With a content grumble he pulled out a small Asian face with soft features.

“Let’s try this one, shall we?” He turned his entire body toward the middle aged woman and placed the face in front of the vacant hole. His outstretched fingers held the new face in place as he reached behind her ear again. He grasped the zipper and began to pull it around her chin, cheek, forehead and back to the other ear. There was a moment where the new face looked as inert as the hole and then the eyelashes shivered. Brown eyes blinked and the new faces’ pinched lips trembled.

“See? Now doesn’t that feel better?”

The woman tried to open her mouth, but no sound came out.

“Now, now. Don’t worry. You might notice a few side effects. Dizziness, nausea, and a sore throat are common. They should be gone in a day or two.”

The woman’s pert face struggled to smile and gave a short nod.

It was then that the train erupted into voices. Everyone reached behind their ear and peeled their old faces off to exchange them for a new one. Some of the old faces shattered as they hit the floor like pottery. Pieces of eyes and noses littered the ground. With each discarded face, the car grew quieter. Black holes bobbed up and down as the train continued to speed to the next destination. I screamed and drew my knees to my chest.

The salesman happily handed out the new faces to his eager customers. The car swelled with chaos as passengers would trade faces and struggle to zip the new ones into place. A few of the faces ripped as their new wearer tried to stretch the skin to cover the hole.

The doors struggled open at the next stop. The riders’ feet crunched the cast-off faces. Some of the pieces were still intact and a glassy green eye stared at me from where I was still seated. Directly across from me, the salesman was softly whistling as he closed his briefcase and locked it. The weathered man coiled around his weathered briefcase. His pupils slowly shifted in his cloudy eyes as he began to sing, his gold tooth winking at me as if we were sharing a private joke.

“I’ve got no strings, to hold me down,

To make me fret, or make me frown.

I had strings, but now I’m free,

I’ve got no strings on me.”


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