I couldn’t sleep because of the crying.
This wasn’t the first night I’d laid awake and listened to that horrible sound. For the past several weeks I’d suffered through the sound– no one else seemed to hear it. I’d asked Rupin, but he’d assured me I was only dreaming. I knew that couldn’t be true. There was nothing dreamlike about it, it was weighing on me. Every morning I bore the bloodshot eyes of someone who hadn’t slept… with a nightmare, wouldn’t I at least be rested?
Tonight I made the decision to get to the bottom of it. I knew that I couldn’t keep ignoring the voice, or it would never go away. The past few weeks were evidence of that!
Determined, I slid out from beneath the covers— quiet to avoid waking Rupin. I edged out into the darkness, sensing my way down the narrow hallway. My feet felt out the floor, the cold slats creaking with each tentative step. The wailing and whimpering continued, leading me down the hall which stretched out, unfamiliar in the darkness.
The only light came through the window. On this cloudy night, the shadows shifted at the whim of the clouds wrapped around the moon, choking out its light. The crying stopped with a sudden abruptness that made the silence seem deafening. Only my heartbeat could be heard as I sucked in a slow breath, staring straight ahead at my destination—Rupin’s home office.
I’d never been inside. Rupin kept confidential client information in there, which we’d both agreed was none of my business. However, the sleepless nights were wearing on me—I’d been brought here. I needed to know why! I was sure he’d forgive me when I explained it!
I tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge- It was locked. I was shocked, I knew he hadn’t wanted me in there but had he really needed to lock the door? What was in there that was really so important?
Defeated, I drifted back to bed, falling into an uneasy half-sleep.
In the morning, I was the first to wake up. I felt dead tired, but I didn’t want to disappoint Rupin so I put on make-up to cover up my exhaustion. My relationship with Rupin was a little unconventional. He was a cosmetic surgeon- good looks were his bread and butter!
I’d actually met him through his work, but not due to any insecurity or vanity. I’d been in a terrible accident, losing my face in a brutal hit-and-run. By some miracle, Rupin had managed to reconstruct a face for me. In fact, my case had brought him a good deal of attention—no one had thought it was possible, other surgeons had turned me down because failure would ruin their success rates.
Rupin wasn’t afraid of the challenge. In fact, he seemed to relish it! The recovery was long and painful, but it’d been worth it. The only catch was that I looked nothing like my old self, but I was still grateful. In fact, Rupin thought I looked even prettier than before! Sometimes I struggled with feeling like a stranger when I looked into the mirror, but I was grateful to him. So grateful in fact, that I’d asked him if there was anything I could do for him in return…
He asked to marry me, and I accepted.
“There.” I whispered once I finished fixing my face. I opened the closet so I could change, slipping into the first dress that caught my eye. I didn’t recognize it, but my fiancée was always buying clothes so this wasn’t unusual.
Today’s dress was simple and feminine, cut just above the knee with a flowy skirt. Cream in color, the most notable feature was the print of bright flowers. I looked into the mirror resting a top the vanity… even now I wasn’t accustomed to my new face, but there was a certain familiarity in my reflection today.
I felt energized as I headed into the kitchen to make breakfast. On the table I found a surprise. In a white vase upon the table was a fresh bouquet— flowers soft white and elegant. The petals were bathed in early morning sunlight, but they looked as though they were lit from within. I admired the arrangement for a long moment, my heart feeling lighter thanks to the romantic gesture.
I didn’t want to eat breakfast alone, so I decided to wait and flipped through the newspaper instead. I instantly regretted my choice– on the front page there was terrible news, a body had been recovered at the bottom of Lake Zinnia. Foul play was suspected because several identifying features had been… removed, including the woman’s face. I decided I didn’t want to read anymore.
That was when I heard the crying again.
At first, the sound was subtle and soft- but it escalated into a scream, growing so loud that the whole room trembled—and so did I. Now it was going to happen in the daytime, too? Was there no escape?
“The room is locked!” I sobbed, but the wailing only grew louder in reply. I tried covering my ears, but nothing could block it out. The vase on the table shattered from the piercing, vibrating scream– sending white porcelain scattering across the table in every direction. The flowers fell into a heap in the center of the table, dripping mud which spread across the white tablecloth and seeped onto the floor.
I was sobbing in terror, tears leaving tracks on my cheeks as I stumbled back—but that was when I noticed a silver gleam in the muddy tangle of stems. Reluctantly, I moved closer and found something strange: a key. My hands were immediately stained with cold mud, but the key was pristine. There was only one locked door in this house, I didn’t have to wonder what it was for.
My heart raced in fearful anticipation; I moved almost unwillingly towards Rupin’s office. The key fit! I felt both compelled to move forward… and too afraid. I had to put this cry to rest—
The first thing I saw was a mannequin. I froze! As if sensing my hesitation, the scream only grew louder! The mannequin was a life-sized version of a ‘perfect’ woman. Her nude form was marked up in black lines, like a surgery being mapped out. Worst of all was the missing face; there was just a gaping hole. Just looking at it made me feel a certain sense of wrongness.
I threw my arm out in front of me like a shield, pushing past the figure. It fell to the floor into several pieces—a bizarre mound of limbs; they jutted up at odd angles as though they were reaching for me. My hands were sweating, my heart racing its own circles in my chest. Why wouldn’t the screaming stop?
That was when Rupin came running in, wild-eyed. “Iris! What are you doing in here?” he was still wearing his pajamas, pale as a ghost. Suddenly, it was silent again. He stared straight ahead, straight passed me—and I turned to see what he was looking at.
It was then I saw her: a woman with her back to me. She was slim and lovely, and… wearing the same dress I was, though it was much filthier– and wet. Her shoulders shook, wracked with now-silent sobs.
“Miss?” I wanted answers, but my first impulse was to see if she was alright.
“Iris… don’t”! Rupin cried as I reached towards her, but before I could touch her she spun to face me— she was wearing a mask. In fact, she was wearing the mannequin’s missing face! She pointed, towards the corkboard on the wall which was covered in different pictures. Before and after photos of the many surgeries he’d completed.
“Who are you?” I asked her, the glassy eyes of the mannequin mask seemed to stare right through me. “Why are you wearing that mask?” The woman did not answer me, but she reached up to touch her painted-on expression… lowering it slowly.
My breath caught, hands clapping over my mouth when I saw— she had no face! Her face was merely smooth, pale skin without any features. A blank canvas. Was this even real? Was I having a nightmare?
Perhaps because she had no mouth, she did not speak—merely pointed back to that corkboard, patiently waiting for me to react. I looked at the pictures, finding nothing strange about them at first– merely a board of Rupin’s accomplishments… until I looked closer.
On the bottom of the corkboard, lined up uniformly—there were different pictures that stood out. They weren’t before-and-after shots, just picture after picture of smiling women. One in particular caught my eye, a woman in a flower-print dress—with my face. I felt sick! The back of my throat burned with bile as everything began to click.
The respectable doctor was not only an unethical surgeon, but a murderer. I knew the faceless ghost before me was the one in the picture. My mind immediately went back to the article I’d read in the newspaper this morning: all identifying features had been removed, to include… her face. Her face, which had become my face—it was what connected us. Only I could hear her crying, because I was the one wearing her lips!
I had to be wrong. That couldn’t be true! With tears and trembling hands, I turned to look at Rupin. He seemed to see the ghost, but he wasn’t panicking like I was. He must have known she’d been in here all along!
“Rupin… the pictures—why does the woman in this picture have my face?” I whispered.
“Because it’s the same.” He replied, whispering excitedly without shame or regret. “It was wasted on her anyway, she was dead!” His eyes were filled with unfathomable madness. “You have to understand- I had to fix you!”
I shrieked, unable to get any words out— reaching for the phone to call the police. Rupin made no move to stop me. In fact, he just seemed to admire me with a dreamlike smile settling across his features.
“You’re beautiful.” He sighed, satisfied.
It was only when the police arrived that the faceless ghost disappeared, leaving behind only a soaked dress and a pile of perfect white begonias. Rupin didn’t resist arrest; he stood by ‘his work’ and felt no guilt for his actions—offering a full confession without even being prompted.
I’d later learn the woman’s name: Rose Thompson. Once her picture was circulated on the evening news, it didn’t take long for her family and friends to identify her. Her parents wanted to meet me, but I declined. It would be too strange, and crueler still to let them see her stolen face.
I didn’t attend Rose’s funeral, but I always visit to leave flowers with messages of gratitude and guilt upon her grave. I haven’t seen Rose since, except when I look into a mirror.