Sunday, December 30, 2012


 I only see them when it's noisy.

The first time I saw one, I was walking back to my hotel from a train station in Chicago. They have the big, suspended-in-midair trains – I guess the locals all call it the El – that make this incredible sound when they go by overhead, and for a minute or two as it passes you can't hear anything except this enormous racket. It's a whole body kind of sound, and you can even feel the sidewalk vibrate under your feet when it goes by.

Anyway, this train is coming by above me, which I'm not used to. The Chicago natives seem totally unperturbed, but me and a couple of other tourists all look up to gawk at it. I look down after a couple seconds, and that's when I notice him staring at me. Well, staring, I guess. I don't know the verb for when something is looking at you without eyes.

He doesn't have a nose, either. Or a mouth. It's all solid flesh, from the top of his forehead all the way down to his chin. He has hair, and ears, and all the space where the missing things should be, but there's nothing. But he's facing straight at me, in a way that says “You are the most interesting thing in the world right now,” and I can tell that even though he doesn't have any features to tip me off. It's really predatory, and really creepy. But then the moment ends.

The train is gone, and as the sound fades away, he looks away, and when I see his face again, it's normal. He has green eyes, I notice. They'll always have green eyes.

After the first time, I thought it was just an optical illusion, or my brain playing tricks on me, or just fatigue setting in. I tried to rationalize it, and forget about it. And for a while, it works. It doesn't bother me at all until the next time I see it.

This time, I'm on an airplane. I've already taken my seat, and so has everyone else. The captain goes on the intercom to announce that everyone needs to buckle up and the safety speech starts as we start to taxi down the runway or whatever you call it. Anyway, the big jet engines on the wings start to fire up, and it gets real loud real quick. I look up for a second, because the sound of the fasten seat belt light catches my attention, and on my way down I see one of the flight attendants.

Like the guy in Chicago, she's staring at me without any features. I get the same sense of predation, like she's sizing me up to chase me through a forest. And everything about it is profoundly wrong. And this time, it doesn't go away after a few seconds. It's at least a minute of me looking at her, her looking at me, and no one else seeming to notice.

The guy in the seat next to me stretches and knocks my head, and I look away for a second. When I look back, the attendant has her features again. Full, pretty lips with red lipstick, a nose with a mole on the side, and green eyes. She turns around and goes to take her seat, but I swear, I don't take my eyes off the back of her head for the entire flight.

That's not the last time, either. At a concert once, when the amps are tuning up, one of the roadies loses his face and stares at me, until there's a burst of static and he turns around. Green eyes. A subway station in New York, a homeless man in a ragged hat and jacket stares at me until the train pulls to a stop and I look away because I have to step on. Green eyes. A car accident in front of me, with the strain of metal twisting out of shape, a pedestrian in a raincoat stops and stares, her eyes and mouth and nose gone, until I get out of the car to describe the accident to a police officer standing nearby. When I look back, green eyes.

I've never seen anyone's face disappear or reappear; it's always gone when I look and back when I look again. The only things in common are the loud noises and the eyes, every single time. I couldn't tell you if they had green eyes before; I never notice before the change. I've tried to point it out to other people, but they never see anything wrong. My friend at the concert looked but didn't see anything odd about the roadie; he says he didn't even see him looking in my direction. The guy next to me on the airplane didn't notice anything odd. No one else has said anything to me about it.

Then there was the worst time.

I was visiting home for the holidays. Seeing the family, catching up with old friends, visiting old haunts. I was sitting in the living room with my mom, just watching TV. The family dog wanders into the room and snatches up the remote in his teeth, and the volume shoots way up. I go to grab it, and I see my mom's face.

Or where my mom's face should be.

I take the remote, slowly and gingerly, as this thing sitting in my mother's spot follows my every move. I don't dare to look away. I turn the TV off, back out of the room, and then turn and run to my bedroom. I lock the door behind me. A few minutes later, my mother comes and knocks. I can't see her, so I don't know if her face is back or not. I don't want to know, either, so I pretend to be asleep when I hear her whisper something through the door.

“There's nowhere you can hide from us.”

And then I remember my mother's eyes are green.

They've always been green, for as long as I can remember.

I haven't seen my mother since then. That was almost two years ago. My father still calls now and then, but he has green eyes too. I think he always has. I haven't returned any of them. That's still the only time I've heard one speak, but every time I go outside and hear a loud enough noise, I see them. Staring that same stare, always looking at me, always gone if I look away. I try to leave my house as little as possible. Sometimes I would see someone through the window, so I closed the blinds.

The mailman came up to my door to see why I wasn't checking my mailbox. I answered just as a helicopter went overhead. I almost saw his face change, that time. I slammed the door so hard I would have broken his nose if he had one. He hasn't been back since.

Even with all my precautions, I can't avoid them all the time. All it takes is one person in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I feel their eyeless gaze on the back of my neck like a deer being stalked by a wolf. I have to leave the house. They're everywhere.

I have to leave the house.

They're everywhere.

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