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Stories
Saving Face
Susumu, a young salaryman, has an eerie encounter in a strangely empty subway train. Now he's racing against time to restore what he's mislaid before it is lost forever.
Author(s): Rellawing | Editor(s): Trismegistus Shandy | 3 Warnings!
Content Keywords | Status: Completed | To Disqus!
MyReviews: 0
Preface
Susumu faces his fate when it seems to be full only with darkness.



Chapter Six : Part Six: Palefaced
Posted: 2018-10-22 07:35:58 | Updated: 2018-11-06 21:49:27
Words: 1889


“Look… I’m beautifullll…” it slurs at me. “Why are you in my home? Get out, you are not… weeerrrrrrrrrrllllcommmeeeee…” it moans out. Its voice is my voice! It’s like I’m speaking to myself! I lift my phone and shine the flashlight on it, revealing my face on its dark form. It grimaces at me and flinches for a moment before darting forward with the crowbar held up. “Like me… get your own collection… out, ouuuuutttttttt!” it rages at me, and I roll back and forth to avoid its frantic strikes. I roll up against the wall, seeing the faces above me. They terrify me even more! I climb to my feet as I prepare to run. Nohface strikes at me again, and I have to weave, stumbling from side to side as I back myself into a corner of the room. I see the faces turn towards me in the darkness at that moment and I scream as Nohface brandishes the crowbar towards me.

As it lifts the crowbar to deal a probably lethal blow, it staggers as its own head is struck. It screams and wails, turning towards Rui, who has blood dripping down the side of her face. She wields the umbrella like a sword, menacing the noh face with it with aplomb. She wobbles on her feet, and it capitalizes on the situation, retaliating. Rui blocks its strikes with the umbrella hastily, but it buckles and bends under its repeated furious attacks.

I stare at them for a long moment. With a wail, I rush forward amidst the floating faces and tackle the noh face. It snarls and moans piteously as we hit the ground. We roll violently across the floor as it starts struggling and striking at me. I fight it like I haven’t fought anyone since my youth. Hatred for this creature consumes me as we grapple. The crowbar falls to the floor clattering as we fight, rolling from one side to the other. It moans piteously with my voice as though I’m fighting myself. An insane version of myself!

“Be careful, Susumu!” Rui cries out loudly, sounding unbelievably worried for my wellbeing. When did the oni come to care for me? Would she mind if I were to die, here? I wonder as I throw and fight the noh face. I grasp for the crowbar and suddenly the darkness starts diminishing. I begin to feel strange. I can see suddenly as though it’s daylight. I seize the crowbar and whale on it like it whaled on me with it; it flinches, dodges and flees.

“Noooo, nooooooo! Mine!!!” the noh face screams at me, trying to close on me, but I wildly wield the crowbar.

“No! Mine! My face! You’ve stolen it! It’s mine! Give my face back! Now!” I scream out loudly, and the words I babble out stun me. What now… is a change? What time… how much… I think, and all I can do is continue harassing the noh face with the crowbar. I chase it out of the room, shrieking and yelling incomprehensibly. It yells back at me, equally unintelligible. It desperately bolts forward, ignoring my wild flailing of the crowbar. With savage intent, it knocks the crowbar from my hands and I wail as it closes on me and grapples with me. It throws me fiercely; as I fly, I grab hold of it and my momentum wrenches it back to the pavement. We jostle and wrestle madly and shortly fall a short distance to a hard lumpy surface. I groan and continue to wrestle with the noh face, ignorant of the situation. I regain a measure of clarity when I hear a strange noise that is yet hauntingly familiar. What’s that sound? I try to remember it.

Susumu! Hurry! Get off of the tracks! Look! The train is going to hit you! Please come back to yourself! You’re losing your mind! Don’t let the transformation take your mind from you. You still have five minutes!” Rui cries out, her voice echoing loudly in the tunnel. I gasp and cry out a response. “Five minutes… only five minutes to be human!” I sob.

I see the train barreling down on me along the tunnel. I look towards the noh face, and as it moves to attack me, I score a heavy blow on its face. No, my face. It wails annoyingly as I jump from the tracks and scramble to safety. The noh face scrabbles at the ground amidst the tracks as it mindlessly yells and shrieks. I look down towards it with satisfaction in my heart, knowing what will happen to it. Then I realize what will happen to its face. My ugly face! It finally notices its danger and an expression of terror comes across my face. I gasp; reacting by instinct, I reach down towards it and madly gesture. “Take my HAND!” I scream at it.

It stares at me for a moment that seems to stretch out. I see my mouth open gape with an expression of idiocy that I could not have imagined my face to be capable of expressing. In the last moment, it reaches out and takes my hand, and I haul it free from the tracks with a grunt and a grimace. I moan with the effort. The train roars past us a split second later, its horn blaring at us as we collapse to the ground beside it.

“Nearly DEADso a BAD… such a bad… to be the hunted… the feeling! I KNOW it! You terrrrrrrrfffffffyyyy meeeeee!” it wails.

I terrify YOU? Really? Who is the monster here? What a strange creature this noh face is! I wonder at its odd behavior, and rue the fact that I was reduced to that myself in my excitement. I look at it with a no-expression of terror myself. Will I succumb to it again? It’s almost… isn’t it?

“Susumu saved you, fool yokai! Be grateful! I’ve never seen such bizarre... mindless... selfless... kindness. I can’t believe you.” Rui bends down to pat my head and I gasp as sweat and blood leaks from my head.

“Noh face… give me my face… quickly… now… I don’t want to be… like you. Please,” I plead. The noh face climbs to its feet and stares at me blankly with my face. It nods and actually smiles as it dashes into its lair, making gleeful noises. I find my cellphone on the ground as I cast my eyes around, still able to see everything clearly. I wince as the screen comes on and blinds me a moment, but I look at the clock and see that I only have one minute left to be human. I hear its feet slap the pavement as it rushes back, screaming gleefully.

“I LIKE you… no fear now… I will not hunt anymore for faces… take my favorite pretty thing… is my thanksness to youuuuuu,” it moans, and makes a gesture to throw something at me. It flies at me and strikes me, bowling me over. I gasp and nearly pass out due to the pain and shock. I open my mouth and lick my lips and I wonder that I have lips and a tongue again. I reach up to touch my face and I exclaim finding simultaneously that the voice is not mine while the face feels subtly different. The voice that I hear that issues from my throat doesn’t match up with the one in my mind. It’s incredibly disturbing. Rui closes the distance between us and places a hand on my shoulder as she shines her flashlight on me.

“Oh… Susumu! You were gorgeous! You didn’t tell me!” Rui gushes as she crouches in front of me. She’s only faintly illuminated by her screen, but I think she’s actually blushing. I stare at her, stunned by her words and manner. She’s never looked at me like that before! She hates me, she can’t stand me. Why has she warmed up to me suddenly? I cast my eyes around me as it finally dawns on me that everything is pitch dark around us again except for what the flashlight function illuminates. It occurs to me that at this point I don’t see the noh face. Rui looks around with me and shines her flashlight around us.

“Where did the noh face go?” she asks as she stands again and paces around, searching. She checks the room and shines the light around it. “The faces are gone… what has it done with them?” she asks, pondering.

I watch her with a sigh, crying tears of joy that I’m alright, but I also cry for those people who lost their faces forever. I wonder what the other victims will do? Maybe they will do what I thought to do. I was going to throw myself from just any building at hand, but ideally, I would have preferred that it be the same one Reiko-chan threw herself from. I climb to my feet as I rub my head where the noh face first hit me. Rui rushes back to my side and smiles warmly.

“Well, we should get out of here to your home, Susumu. It’s been overwhelming, I know! But gosh, you’re so beautiful!” she giggles as she gushes. “I’m so happy for you. Come on!” She takes my hand and leads me away. I look down at her, watching her acting so cute and happy. I can’t think of her as an oni anymore now that she’s showing me her kind side. Maybe it’s karma? I muse.

“Yes… you’re amazing, Rui! Oh.. sorry… you called me by my name, so I automatically… I’m so sorry.” I bow to her as we go back the way we came. She looks towards at me in the darkness and giggles at me.

“It’s fine. Thank you for complimenting me! I’m pleased that I was able to help you regain your face. Don’t worry about my payment right away. You need plenty of rest. I’ll come see you in the morning. Can you give me your address, and your phone number? I’m concerned for your wellbeing now, so I suppose we can be friends,” she says. I smile, touched by her words, and laugh softly.

“I… I would like that. You helped me so much, Rui. I hope I never see another yokai ever again for my entire life,” I assert and blink again, touching my cheek, wondering at how my voice sounds. Something hauntingly familiar about the voice catches my heart. I wipe tears from my eyes as we break out into the light of the station and vault over the chained-off area again.


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