Flash Fiction Winner: Face Thieves by Tim O’Neal

  • Writing

Please join us in congratulating the winner in Page Turner Magazine’s third flash fiction contest: Monsters! Tim O’Neal delivered a story of deception and fear that left even the strongest-willed of us hiding under blankets. With the highest level of horror and shock, we present you with “Face Thieves.”

Dear Kathleen,

My time is short. The worst has happened; I’ve become one of the faceless. 

You’ve seen them on the street—a crusty mass of brown musculature all that’s left of their old visages, hollowed-out eye sockets staring, gristly caverns of absent noses leering. 

We, the faceless, are all victims of the Thieves, who mysteriously appeared during the aughts. While the world was panicking about Y2K, fearing computer malfunctions would bring the end, it arrived instead, masquerading underneath the faces of neighbors, spouses, and colleagues. 

One such Thief attacked me yesterday, wearing the face of my old friend—Nate Forbes. I was headed for my carpool when he called out, “Hey Garry. Wait up, bud.”

Let me pause here, my love, and emphasize there was nothing amiss about his appearance, nothing to reveal the horror about to befall me.

“I wanted to talk to you,” Nate said.

“What’s up?”

“Come over here,” he said, leading me behind a concrete pillar, out of sight.

I should’ve realized something was wrong, but we’d grown up together and I trusted him. I sure didn’t expect him to immobilize me against the column.

“Hey, what the fuck, man?”

Ravenous hunger colored Nate’s gaze. My last visual was of two scythe-shaped proboscises erupting from his eyeballs. They lengthened and embedded into my forehead under my hairline. Excruciating pain ripped through my skull. The sensation of flesh ripping from bone seared through me as the Thief efficiently peeled my features off like a mud mask.

Mercifully, my brain passed out, blocking the torture. Temporarily.

When I came to, everything was dark. Agony was my new reality. Exposed nerve endings bellowed. I wanted to sob, but no longer had eyes. Blindly, I felt my way home.

My shaking fingers fumbled for my keys, but they’d vanished, along with my wallet and IDs. The Thief had taken everything.

Frantic, I jabbed at the bell.

The door opened and I heard you, my dear wife, gasp. The horror and revulsion in your voice actualized my destruction. I don’t blame you; I can imagine what I must’ve looked like—an anonymous monster, bleeding and gawping on the porch, struggling to produce intelligible sounds from a lipless maw.

To your credit, you didn’t slam the door on me—a gory stranger. How can I express my depth of gratitude?

Oh, Kathleen, my angel, help me, I wished to shout, desperate to warn you about the monster standing beside you.

Then I heard him say, in my voice, “Leave us, you wretch.”

The front door slammed and locked. Locked you inside with it.

Heartsick with worry, I stumbled into the night. What else could I do? No one would listen to me. They’re all too afraid. I’m just another anonymous horror, awaiting his premature death from ghastly infections.

But, sweet Kathleen, I had to jot down this note since I can’t communicate my fate elsewise. If my blind scribble is legible, take my warning: protect yourself. Trust no one. And run.

Your loving husband always,

Garry