faceless

Once upon a time, O children, there was a woman who worked as a librarian. She was a very good librarian, and she lived a long, successful, and generous life. Eventually, through no fault of her own, she became elderly, died, and went to hell.

Now, when you go to hell, O children, the first thing that happens is that your face is removed. All the skin and the fat. Your nose and your eyelids and your ears. Zip!

This leaves only the nerves, the muscular fascia, and the eyes. This is for a variety of reasons: so you can’t recognize people you knew in life; so you can’t make subtle facial expressions; so you will exist in near-constant pain; so you can’t judge attractiveness; so you cannot look away from unpleasant things; and so on.

The second thing that happens when you go to hell, O children, is that your fleshless head is removed from your body and mounted upon a small platform with wheels. Then your platform is placed in an enormous room, larger than all the oceans, alongside all of the other fleshless heads, each with their own wheeled platform. Then, the floor tilts and pitches and yaws, and all of your heads roll hither and yon, colliding and spinning and moving very quickly.

Now, children, because you have no hands, you cannot protect yourself from colliding with other heads. Because you have no skin, every collision hurts and aches and stings. Because you cannot cover your eyes, you have to watch every impending crash. Because you cannot cover your ears, you can hear every other fleshless cranium screaming and complaining and cussing.

Remember, children, this is not every hell; this is just the hell where this particular woman went.

The woman spent many years in this hell, never sleeping, never knowing the respite of rest, or cool water, or food, or the nonviolent touch of another living thing. The sun perpetually beat down upon her, and the hot wind was unceasing. There were days when the tilting of the ground was lazy and slow, and days when it was very steep and fast.

One day, the tilt was very steep. The woman found herself clumped up with a great many other fleshless heads, with more heads raining down upon them and grinding into their tender nerves. The woman clenched her teeth and waited for this particular pain to subside, and found that many others did the same, although some of them were doing it to try to keep their mouths shut so nothing would drip inside.

There, in the large pile of heads, waiting for renewed and different pain, she listened to the heads around her, which she normally could not do, because everything moved too fast.

“Boy, this is terrible,” said one of the heads. “My cheek meat is raw from crashing into another fellow’s forehead. My tongue is torn from flipping over on the surface. One of my eyes burst last year and it’s been growing back so very slowly, itching the entire time. This is awful. I mean, this is really, really bad.”

“Aw, it’s not so bad,” said one of the other heads. “It could be worse.”

“You kind of get used to it after a while,” said a third head.

Aha, thought the woman. After a while, I will get used to it. This, at last, is something I can look forward to.

Then, O children, the woman crumbled into nothingness and returned to earth, a fresh-faced infant ready to begin anew.

The art at the top of this post is by Grady Gordon.

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