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Changeling

September 16, 2013

I pull out my caring Face from my bag, wide, round, with almond pink tourmaline eyes, and place it on.

By Cailean Darkwater
I have a Face for every situation. Whatever they want me to be I can be.

I have a Face for every situation. Whatever they want me to be I can be.

Light’s grasping tendrils drag me from my dreams.
I’d prefer to stay in my cozy, warm bed, but I suppose I should get myself into gear…
A thundering knock at the door!

Groping vaguely on my bedside table. I pick up my confused Face, a cacophony of color, motley hues chasing each other across glossy painted surface inset with black opal eyes. Slipping it on, I shamble towards the front door.

The delivery guy gets the full effect of the Face, he’s fairly used to seeing someone not quite “with it” at this ungodly hour. My mumbled replies and shaky signature seem good enough in his opinion!

I trudge somewhat reluctantly off to work, but what can you do? Another day to march the treadmill…

My arrival is met with bitter weeping and intense sobbing. My co-worker has just been dumped by her boyfriend; immediately I pull out my caring Face from my bag, wide, round, with almond pink tourmaline eyes, and place it on.

She feels my heart going out to her, my comfort and love enfolding and absorbing her pain. My sincere hug seems to help her greatly, my sympathetic tears show her that she is not alone, someone feels for her plight.

When she’s a little more composed, we go out for morning tea. I change Faces to my cheerful Face, golden shades with a happy grin, bright-glowing topaz eyes. Quickly I manage to convince her that she is better off without that deadbeat loser.

She’s so very nice, she doesn’t deserve this sort of treatment, especially from slime wrapped in human skin, like that! She deserves something better, I wish her well and leave her happier, and buckle down to mindless tedium.

— 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 —

I have my competent Face on now, deadpan expression stamped deeply in, rigid and inflexible, light corporate gray with smoky quartz eyes. The very model of a modern employee.

I’d never wear this Face in front of friends, it’s too distant and impersonal, but it’s perfect here, giving me that professional edge, dressed for success; as forbidding as it would be at parties!

My boss interrupts my everyday humdrum routine with some new idea he wants to run past me. Covertly, I slide my attentive Face on, gleaming diamonds looking out of oblong pearly white, furrowed brow and raised eyebrows carved carefully.

Immediately, I’m so very interested, a dedicated listener hanging on to his every word. It’s always worked so very well, and today is no exception; it works its magic upon him — who knows? Perhaps I can eventually connive a promotion from him?

Things are looking up — I’ve impressed him so much that he wants me to discuss the matter with HIS boss! While we make our way to her office I grab my charming Face, emerald eyes and beguiling smile on soft pink, and casually place it on.

I’m confident, cocky, I KNOW I can do this — piece of cake. Freedom at last! A ticket from my round-and-round hamster wheel of a dead-ended position. That’s it, I’m OUTTA HERE!

As I thought, not a problem. Instantly captivated by my beguiling presence, I can see myself climbing the ladder any day now.

After all is said and done, I remove my Face and kiss it tenderly. It took a great deal of time and effort to create, but it’s all been worth it, it’s paid for itself a hundred times over.

Feeling on top of the world, I almost dance out those barren confines of boredom that is my workplace. To top it off, my love has arranged a beautiful evening out, a perfect end to a perfect day.

I get ready, pretty myself up and slip into something more appropriate, my elegant Face; pale robin’s egg blue, refined, cool and “just so” with an elusive knowing smile, a “Mona Lisa” smile with flashing sapphire eyes. Looking at myself in the mirror I feel like a million dollars, and I look like it, too. Fantastic!

— 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 —

I knew it was too good to be true, how could I have been so naïve? My love rejects me, discards me as an afterthought. No screaming or shouting, just very icy and matter-of-fact. Shockingly, my love is totally out of my life, just like THAT!

Tearing away my elegant Face, I plunge myself into my wrathful Face, dark crimson with streaks of ebony, savage snarling fangs and burning garnet eyes. Feeling the full fury of this malevolent rough-hewn Face, my love flees from my merciless onslaught.

Returning home on the accelerating tin can that they call a train, I radiate a palpable aura of menace. Spines of my anger definitely get me my requirement of personal space. My fellow commuters see the signs: DON’T MESS WITH ME!

The fires of hate burn out once I get back into my very empty residence. The silence seems to crash over me like ocean waves, intensifying my abrupt loneliness.

Tossing my wrath Face on the couch, I slump dejectedly next to it, acutely aware of the vacant space next to me where my love would have been.

With trembling fingers directed by blurred vision, I wear my melancholic Face, indigo long oval, and pained azure eyes with a downcast mouth. Like a monsoon coalescing, my tears rain down, rending, racking sobs strangling my voice which attempts to console my agony.

But I can’t drown myself sinking into self-pity I have to be perky for tomorrow’s daily grind. Work is an unforgiving, implacable mistress. Time to get some shut-eye… I remove the Face and carefully collect all of them, arranging them before me, awaiting storage for another day’s application.

They are works of art, maybe more than that. Sure, a painting’s pleasing to look at, but what does it actually DO? My art, my myriad, carefully crafted Faces help me in my everyday life. They’re so precious to me, I don’t know what I’d do without them.

I’ve put so much of myself into them, they are a part of me now. I have a Face for every situation. Whatever they want me to be I can be. Anything at all!

— 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 —

Yeah, the PERFECT end to the PERFECT day. Moments after I’m in the land of dreams, the old, yet still terrifying, nightmare strikes.

I’ve had this recurring vision of being in a large crowd of people busily going about their lives. I suppose I’m just another one of them, I’m used to being another Face in the crowd, that doesn’t scare me.

What scares me is that I slowly start to fade away, people don’t see me, even walk straight through me. It’s like I’m not even there, that I don’t truly exist, not really “real”. It always terrifies me, I don’t exactly know why.

As usual, I wake screaming, pajamas soaked in chill perspiration. Still in fear’s clammy despairing grip, I rush frantically to the bathroom and gaze at myself in the medicine cabinet mirror.

Nothing.
There’s nothing.

I can see the tiled wall behind me, light burning above showing all those stubborn stains I couldn’t be bothered scrubbing out. I can see my sodden PJs, fine pastel silk. Like some B-grade special effect, they hang in space, clothing only air.

It wasn’t a dream. I don’t exist. I’m not really here.

As these realizations slip like knives into my mind, my beautiful though damp nightclothes slide right THROUGH me and lie crumpled in a heap on cold, chequered tiles.

In the midst of panic, I know where my true strength lies. Dashing back towards the lounge room I fumble through my Faces, scrabbling, clutching for something that will cease my inexorable fade into oblivion.

I pull out my calm Face, sunflower yellow, contented smile and soft aquamarine eyes. Shoving it hurriedly onto the void that is me, my dwindling reality.

Immediate effects. What was I thinking? There is nothing to fear, everything is fine. Everything is OK.

I serenely walk back to the bathroom, wondering what possessed me to charge like a mad thing through the house, causing such chaos. Redressing myself in my rumpled pajamas I look nonchalantly at myself in the mirror, my own placid eyes staring at my tranquil features.

Nothing to worry about. I get back into bed, my Face still resting quietly on me, rising with my deep, sedate breaths.

Sweet dreams.
I’ll face my problems another day.

Image Courtesy: morguefile.com

This short story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).

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