By Richard Bleil
“Everybody sees faces.”
“Yes,” replies Steve, “but not everybody draws them in a journal like this!”
“That’s true,” replies the therapist.
“So how is it that so many of these faces reappear?”
“But don’t you understand?” the therapist answers. “These are not really faces. They are constructs of your own mind, created in the patterns of tile designs, painting patterns, towel fibers…the locations may be different, where you see them, but it’s always your mind making the constructs. Another person looking at the same pattern may also see a face, but it will be different for that individual than it is for you, because it’s a different mind.”
It’s true, we all see faces in random patterns, and Steven is aware of this, but somehow is still dissatisfied. Years of writing down the locations, and drawing them out carefully, it is clear that the faces have been repeating. Not all of them, and not frequently, but going through the pages, there are a few, just a few, that do come back. Always the same horrific demonic face, always evil. Only the expression changes.
“He wouldn’t even listen to me,” Steve complains. He takes a drink from his beer, as the bartender cleans a glass. “What kind of therapist is so dismissive of his client?”
“Can I see them?” the bartender asks.
Steve looks up. He pulls a few of his journals from the satchel. There are a few pages with color coded tabs. He opens to the green tab in one journal, and the corresponding tab in another. “This journal has another green tab here,” he explains. He opens a third journal to the green tab.
The face on each page was clearly demonic, with an elongated sharp chin, stark facial features, and even what appears to be a horn. Although it is not as clear on the first one, each subsequent seems to bring it more into focus, and more frightening.
Each page is marked with a date and location, including the surface on which the face appeared. Of the four green pages, one is from an old apartment, one from a public restroom tile floor, and two from Steve’s current apartment in two different rooms.
“Wow,” the bartender exclaims, “there’s no denying it. That’s the same face. Looks like he’s getting angrier.”
Steve doesn’t really hear what the bartender is saying. Instead, he is furiously drawing in his newest journal, looking intently between his drawing and a spot on the counter. When finished with the drawing, he reaches into his satchel, pulling out a pack of tabs. He marks the angry drawing with another green one. Looking up, he says, “Do you see it?”
The bartender looks at the counter. “Not really,” he says. “Why don’t you try posting your drawings online and see if anybody has any ideas?”
“May we speak?”
Steven looks up from his coffee. “It’s not often that priests take an interest in me, father,” Steve replies. Steve’s table is right by the railing at the outdoor seating area, so the two are at a standard discussion distance. “Is God angry at me?”
“I can’t imagine why He would be,” the monk replies. “But Satan might be. This is iconcerning the drawings that you posted online. I’m Father Thomas, and I have somebody I think you need to meet. When might you be able to stop by and see us?”
“She came to us about a month ago,” Father Thomas says. He and Steven walk through the hallway, drab and almost without decoration save the periodic crucifix on the wall and the large cross on either end of the hallway. “It seems she has been drawing faces from patterns that she sees. When she came to us, she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It seems she came across your post online, and it scared her almost to death.”
The father knocks on a door towards the end of the hallway. “Maria,” he says gently, “we have a visitor for you. May we enter?”
There is a delay, before a feeble “yes” comes from the other side of the door. Inside, her room is covered, floor to ceiling with bland, smooth paper, with every care taken to ensure that there are no random marks, no patterns, nothing at all.
She looks up. Her face is scarred and disfigured, as if she had been in a horrific fight. “Maria,” Father Thomas says, “This is Steve. He posted the photos that you…”
“Oh, god, NOOO!” Maria screams. She begins crying and screaming uncontrollably. “GET HIM OUT!” she shouts. Her hysterics draws the attention of other monks who rush in and try to restrain her so she won’t hurt herself as Father Thomas rushes Steve out the door.
“With her permission,” the head priest said, “we visited her apartment. She told us where to find these.”
Old and sage-like in appearance, the priest’s face betrays years of experience, his crooked and arthritic fingers slightly trembling. His demeanor is a curious mix of calm and concern. One can’t help but take him seriously, with a sense of relaxed urgency.
The images were from a camera, with features highlighted to show the faces she saw. Apparently, Maria had been doing the same thing as Steve but taking photographs, modifying them just enough so any viewer can see what she did, and printing them on her home printer. The images had been organized so similar faces were together.
“I’m glad I’m not the only one,” Steve says while examining the images. He looks up at the priest. “My psychiatrist tells me it’s all in my mind, a ‘construct’ is what he calls it.”
“There is another possibility,” the priest replied. “You are not the first people to question this. The church has been gathering information for quite some time. What I am about to tell you does not leave this room, agreed?”
Steve sits back, suddenly more nervous. A church secret? “Agreed,” he says.
“Lucifer has many ways to keep an eye on us,” the priest says. “A lot of these ‘faces’ that we see are just what your psychiatrist claims, figments of our imagination. But have you noticed that sometimes you will see such a face in, say, your kitchen one day, and never be able to see it again?”
“Yes,” Steve says. “Are these significant?”
“Perhaps,” the priest says, “but, perhaps not. It is the church’s position that he will send some of his demons and hell spawn agents to spy on us. Some of these images are these creatures, sent for just this purpose. Sometimes they stay for as long as the focus remains, like a painted swirl that one sees for years in their own home. Sometimes they show up and quickly return, being present just long enough for the subject to see them.”
“Demons? Come on, that seems a bit far-fetched even for what I’ve seen,” Steve says skeptically.
The old priest sits back, as if debating in his mind. He opens a drawer, and pulls out a smaller pile of about half a dozen photos. “Apparently, she had a hellish spy,” he says handing the pile to Steve.
Steve cannot withhold his instinctive gasp. In fact, the face looks exactly like his green demon. Frantically he flips through them, arranged by the time stamp in the photo. The first couple seemed almost complacent, like an observer at a party, but each new photo looked more stern and angry. Steve can’t formulate his words as he looks up at the priest. Steve was so engrossed in the photos that he failed to notice that the priest had picked up a phone, and had it ready to hand to him. “This was the last image she took,” he says, sliding the phone to Steve. “She gave us the password.”
On the screen was an image of the same demon. “I don’t get it,” Steve says. “It must be a trick of the lighting. This one looks almost like it is coming out of the wall.”
The priest crosses his hand, and looks down. “Her neighbors in the apartment building heard what sounded like a brutal fight, and screaming. Fortunately,” he continues, “one of them is a police officer. When he entered the apartment, the sounds subsided immediately. He found her, bloodied and beaten, lying on the floor, next to dead. She wasn’t expected to survive, and was in a coma for over a month.”
“What…what…” Steve stammers, trying to formulate the next question.
“We would like to send out a priest to your home,” he answers without waiting for an answer. “We believe you have an agent from Hell, and they don’t like being recognized. We believe you are in great danger, and would like to exorcise your home.”
“Blood is everywhere,” the forensic scientist explains to the detective. “Throughout the house, on the broken glass front of the oven, even on top of the refrigerator. Whatever happened, it seems as though it continued throughout the house. It looks as if the victim tried to escape for part of it, and had his body dragged part of the time, possibly even unconscious.”
As they tour the house, both are in protective hazmat suits, with special booties stamped with their police logo so any prints inevitably left by them will be identifiable from others. Walking up the stairs, smeared with blood, and with apparent chunks of flesh marked for photography and awaiting collection, the detective can’t help but notice that one set of prints do not look human. The clearest prints appear as if the perpetrator was wearing some kind of costume, with clawed feet, as if from a giant bird with three front and one rear talon.
Eventually, they reach the body, eviscerated, and missing chunks. “Was he…” the detective begins to formulate his question.
“Partially devoured,” the forensic scientist continues. “The imprints left behind on missing pieces of the body makes this our assumption.”
The detective looks down at the journal they had found where they believed the fight began. He looks at the incomplete image Steve had been frantically trying to draw, an image they will eventually match to other journals marked with green tabs. He looks back at Steve’s face, and the expression of horror that will haunt the detective’s nightmares for the rest of his life.
2 thoughts on “Faces 4/17/19”
These are great
I love short stories.
Thank for reading and thank you so much for your kind words.