Faceless

Lindsay Gallant

Jan 13th 2023

.

The technicians perform the regimen twice a day. You are taken to a medical center, down a long hallway, into a dark room. Here, they unbind your mask, a dark, pliable fabric that obscures your face. You have worn this mask since childhood, as all the pre-faceless do.

You see their faces, the technicians, they always have faces, yet you cannot see your own. Mirrors are covered. Reflective surfaces are painted black.

They apply lotion to your face and massage it in, over and over, in lazy circles. These daily visits are the only time your face is ever touched or seen while still worn by you.

You have never seen your own face because you are destined to become a faceless one. No features, no angles, only smooth planes of skin, blotchy and pink.

#

Today is your turn for the procedure. They tell you to sit in a vinyl chair. You don’t resist, it’s better for the skin if you relax. Above you, a light shines down. It’s too bright, and you shut your eyes.

The doctor stands over you, a small laser pen in his right hand. As he makes tiny cuts in your skin, the outer layer peels away, and the nurse follows behind, cauterizing. You can smell your skin burning. It smells of charcoal and something metallic.

After the procedure, they give you a mirror. It’s a small square, set in plastic with a pink handle. You don’t want to look, but you do. You are still inflamed from the operation, your eyes barely visible, peering out from behind swollen skin.

#

In the evening, the faceless gather in a large room, with vaulted ceilings and a wooden stage in the center. A runway extends out from the center of the stage and is surrounded by folding chairs. Around this runway, thick plexi-glass has been erected as a precaution. There have been incidents before. Not everyone is able to understand, to part with their face so easily.

The faceless sit. String music plays and the room darkens. The runway is bathed in light, and then you see them: newly attached faces. Scores of them. The faced ones walk up and down the runway, tilt their heads to the side and smile. You cannot know which face is yours, so you hang onto every angle, examine their noses, the slant of their brows, the strength of their chins. You have only this moment to catch a fleeting glimpse of yourself.

As the event comes to a close, the faced ones gather their old faces, the ones they have deemed too old or too ugly and throw them into an incinerator on the stage. They catch fire and vanish into ash.

#

Later, the other faceless tend to you. They slather the smooth and featureless planes of your skin with ointment to help with the scarring.

You miss your face, although you never knew it. And you dream every night of the laser, the tiny cuts, the faces parading down the runway. You wake with the smell of burnt flesh in the space where your nose used to be.

You feel the phantom itching of your skin.

Lindsay Gallant currently lives in Barrie, Ontario, Canada with her family. Her work has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Clove Literary, and Blank Spaces.

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