I wake up, heart pounding.
And I remember.
I remember a young man whose face was peeled off, I remember a lady, I…!
I tear at my hair, this can’t be because of drugs, can it? I’ve never used such, or at least I’m not aware of it myself. Is someone putting drugs in my food?
I jump up from the bed, rushing to my calendar to see if today is June 4, and my worst fear appears to be true. Today is just another iteration, tomorrow is no more. But how the hell? No, how can I remember the previous iteration in the first place?
Calm down, calm down, calm down…
“The hell is going on!?”
First of all, I need to find out how the day resets itself. Secondly, I need to find a way out of this loop. No, why am I believing this crap? It was just a dream, right?
I take a deep breath and sit down. “Calm down, it was just a nightmare…”
Soon enough, I’m calm and ready to go. I drink my coffee and prepare for the upcoming school day. As I’m about to exit my apartment, a voice resounds behind me.
Startled, I turn around, the previous fear making a come-back. “W-who?”
“Your very end, my friend.”
“W-what do you mean?”
“I, my friend, am the one who’ll eat your face over and over and over again.”
It can’t be.
Tell me this isn’t real.
Who put drugs in my coffee?
Gulp. “Are you real?”
“Hah!” The lady laughs. “Oh, yes I am. Mind if I ask where you’re going?”
“To school, I hope.”
“You know, I’m very curious. How do you do it?”
I’ve got no idea as to what she means by that. “What do you mean?”
“Recover your memory.” From her smile, I can read some of her thoughts. ‘I’m curious.’ ‘I’m intrigued.’ ‘I’m enjoying.’ ‘I’m clueless.’
She is an interesting character. But on the other hand, I’d like it if she just disappeared, for good. I’ve never felt this kind of a fear, the kind of fear you get when you’re about to be killed. Nay, I take my words back, I have felt this fear before, for who-knows-how-many iterations it has been.
“I see your point. I don’t know either. In fact, this is the first time I totally recover my memories. Wait, do you know how many iterations it has been?”
The lady giggles. “I do. I’ve reset the day by eating your face 32 times. If I’d have to count all the iterations thus far, I’d say the number is too big for a human mind to comprehend. I usually eat a person’s face about two thousand times before I change the prey. You were an exception, as you remembered the previous iterations, you began to act differently each time. It was annoying, Each and every time I had to go looking for you.”
“However, After eating a stupid person for a few years, I remembered you for some reason. I had this thought ‘though it was annoying, it was interesting’ and with that, I came back to you. R.I.P.”
“So you’re saying that you’re tormenting me out of self-interest?” What should I say? Should I curse her?
“Umm, yeah. Also, I need to feed on someone, so.”
“Then, tell me, how does this whole cycle work? What must be done and what happens if you eat someone’s face?”
“Mind if I have a snack?” She smiles.
“I’d like it if you did not.”
“Time to feed!”
“So, as long as you eat my face, I’ll live, right?”
As soon as I wake up, I ask that from my tormentor. My heart is racing. I mean, I was eaten just a moment ago, wasn’t I?
“Should I eat your face right away?”
“Please, don’t. It’s not like I can escape anyway, so at least tell me how you do this to me.”
“You’re just trying to scheme your way out of this loop. How interesting.”
I was caught?
“You see, I have no reason to reveal you anything. Why should I?”
“Are you bored?”
“Huh?” She snorts.
“Maybe I am.”
“I might be able to fix that, if you tell me how this cycle works.”
Her eyes gleam in anticipation. “How, exactly?”
“Let’s say, depending on the rules, I might be able to craft a spectacular show for you, a show where you’re the main character. You’ll be fed, you’ll have fun, and I’ll get out of this loop. Something like that. Of course, if you find my ideas boring, it’s not like you can’t eat my face anymore, right?”
She retreats into her thoughts, pondering over it. If I’m to be tormented, at least I want to know how. Am I asking for too much?
I make a victory pose in my mind.
“However, I’m far worse than you think. If you start playing tricks with me, I’ll make sure you regret it.”
She sits down beside me on the bed. I haven’t stood up just yet, for as soon as I woke up, she was there, waiting for me. I dare say I’d be embarrassed if she was a human. You see, I have my boxers only.
“Rule number one. Eating a human’s face causes that day to be reset to 2 AM. The reset happens 11 PM, so there is a 3-hour gap where I can eat faces without causing the reset. I seldom eat during that time, however.”
“Rule number two. The latest person whose face I eat before the reset will have his life saved. Let’s say, if I ate your face and then someone else’s, you’d die, for good. If I just ate your face, no problem. People whose faces are eaten outside the time cycle will die instantly.”
“Rule number three. I live externally, so I’m not inside this loop. I grow older every second, and resets won’t make me younger. However, I won’t age physically like humans, so I’m an eternal being. Also, I need to feed daily, but I can manage two days without a snack. Of course, I have no reason to go on a diet, so know this: I will eat someone’s face each and every day, end of the discussion.”
I wonder if those were all the conditions. She didn’t explain her own self, though. I’ve got no idea what powers she possesses.
“Give me a moment of peace and I’ll craft something for you,” I ask of her.
“You’ll have two hours.”
Okay, I’ve written down a nice show. She has been watching me silently from the side, not even once looking at my notebook. What I wonder the most right now is that how can she smile for all this time?
“Took you an hour and sixteen minutes.”
I just hope that my memory serves me right. I have a recollection where I see her teleporting. I have to be careful with that part.
“Is there a way to recover objects from previous iterations?” I ask.
“Depends. I have my clothes recovered with each iteration. I don’t like running around naked, even though I’m Face-Eater. I have a woman’s heart, too.”
Right, that’s not what I wanted to hear. “Can you make this notebook remain as it is right now?”
“Nope, I can’t show the contents to you.”
“If you that notebook to be excluded from the reset, then give it to me.”
Jeez, I didn’t think it’d be like this. “Then I need to wrap this notebook with something. No matter what, I can’t show you the contents until after the play is over.”
She smiles rather unhappily. “Hmph. This better be worth the time. I’ll make sure you’ll suffer for all of eternity if you betray me.”
Now that statement makes my hairs stand on the edge. I better keep that in mind as I proceed. Once I have the notebook wrapped in paper, I give it to her.
“Shall we begin? Though I think we might need to start a new iteration.”
“Oh, I’m fine with that.” No longer unhappy, she smiles beautifully.
“Is the notebook okay?” I ask as soon as I wake up. Shouldn’t I be more worried about the fact that my face was eaten once again?
“This?” She hands it over.
“Good. Though I don’t need it right now. As long as you make sure that it will remain like that, it doesn’t matter.”
“So I’ll keep it?”
“Yes. Now, let us begin. I will be amused by this, just play along.”
“Something about that sentence makes me wonder if my girl-hood is in danger.”
“Girl-hood? Nevermind, I probably shouldn’t question a monster lady.”
“If you’re offended, you shouldn’t smile as if you actually like being called that!”
We’re both walking to the school I attend. I’m nervous, I’ve never imagined that I’d be doing anything like this. Hold your psyche together, my heart and mind.
“I’m bored.” She complains for the 12th time.
“Hold your horses. It’s been an hour and a half since we began.”
“I’ve been bored for eons, so if I’m suddenly promised amusement, can’t I be impatient for once? Nah, I should I just eat your face right this instant.”
“Please, don’t.” I don’t fancy being eaten.
My plan doesn’t really include anything until we get to the school building. As long as she won’t eat my face until we get to school, I think I can keep her amused from then on.
“Then when does the fun start?”
“As soon as we get to school. But first, may I ask something?”
“Depends.” Her unhappy smile sure captures my interest.
“Have you seen humans panic? Like a herd of headless chicken.”
“A few times, yes.”
“Describe the situations.”
“Ancient or modern time?”
“Let’s see, one occasion was Hiroshima’s bombing. Another was the World Trade Center. Once I happened to come across with a murderer who shot two civilians. His face was tasty…”
I didn’t want to hear the last part, but okay. “So you haven’t been the cause of a panic even once?”
“…Eh?” I guess I hit the bullseye.
I speed up, marking the end of the conversation. Let’s see if that made her interested. I don’t think she minds being an antagonist of a horror show, does she? After all, she can reset the day so that no one remembers her doing anything, except for my case.
“By the way, how far will you go with my play?”
“How far must I go?”
I smile for the first time while in this loop. “You’ll be my girlfriend for the next few hours.”
Once we enter the school grounds, I teacher who likes to look after the students is standing under the shadow of the building. She is an old hag, though a good teacher.
I try to sneak past her with my temporal girlfriend. “Good day.” She greets.
“It is.” I greet back and try to hurry past her.
“Stop right there.” Damn, this hag.
“Yeah? What is it?”
“Who is she, may I ask?”
“When did you get a girlfriend? I thought you were the kind who can’t afford to have a girlfriend.”
“I was such a person, but youngsters change at the pace of heart, and heart can either remain as it is, or it can change several times in a short period.” I’m majoring in psychology, so I should be fine.
“Always so dramatic. However, I can’t let her stay on the school grounds for long.”
Now the temporal girlfriend of mine speaks up, very slowly tilting her head to the right, smiling brightly. “What I’m curious about is the limit of the human heart. Just how far is it willing to bend? Will it fall for dark even when there’s light, if the dark offers something great in exchange for the light?”
Now I’ve never heard her talk like that. By the way, she’s drooling. The teacher probably didn’t notice as it’s early in the morning and we’re in a shadow. Seriously, she claimed to have a woman’s heart but what I see is a glutton.
“I wonder, how’s your face?” She actually asks that…
I pinch her arm to tell her that she should stop. “Let’s go.”
The teacher is left puzzled as we hurry inside. My heart is racing as we do, for I may not be able to do this. I mean, I need to entertain a monster who has lived for eons, so the method I’m going to use may very well spell me a psychopath or something. But hey, I don’t feel like being eaten over and over again for what, eons?
“I need you to separate from me for a while. Eat someone’s face, leave the body so that someone can find it, but don’t get caught. Once you’re done, look for a young man with a red hoodie and blue jeans. His hair is brown and short. And do not open the notebook until I say so. I’ll find you later.”
“Trust me, if you’ve lived all your life eating people’s faces, this will make you feel refreshed.”
“Fine. But remember, no one escapes Face-Eater.”
“I know. If you start eating someone else’s face to reset the day, you’ll eventually find me.”
“Exactly.” Like always, her smile is beautiful.
I have no idea where she went, or who she’ll eat, but I can’t care about that. I’m looking for a certain guy, the one I described to her. He isn’t my friend, he is just an acquaintance whom I might have to sacrifice.
Yes, I’m literally killing people now. I’m a human, and humans tend to do anything in order to survive.
I find the person in question walking in a hallway. I rush over, tugging his sleeve. “Got a minute?”
“Huh? I think so, yes.”
“Once a young lady finds you, tell her this, ‘I’m free now.’ And I suggest that you run for it once you tell her that.”
“Hold on, just what’s going on?”
“No time to explain. Just tell her that, okay?”
“I don’t know, if some young lady comes looking for me, I’ll say that, but know this, if she’s a beauty, heh.”
“Trust me, she has a cold heart.”
Next step is to run for it. Ideally, I want to get out of this loop, and if she did as I told her, she ate someone else’s face. Now if I just hide for long enough, I’ll succeed.
I’m fleeing to a certain restaurant, there I’ll lock myself in a restroom. Of course, I don’t think that a restroom door can hold her back, but I doubt she’ll find me until the reset, unless there’s some factor I’m not aware of.
As soon as I get to the restaurant, my phone rings, someone sent me a message. I check the message as I walk, and as expected, the message came from the monster lady. I’d given her my phone number in the morning for a good reason. I need to know what she’s thinking right now, and since I’d angered her for certain, she will send me a message or two to demonstrate her wrath. She is a girl, too, after all.
Rule number four: all whom I eat are marked for all of eternity, I know where they are no matter what they do, and you, my dear prey, aren’t different. Either come to me, or I’ll come to you, eating your face, and killing you off by eating another person as soon as I’ve eaten your face. You know the death rule, don’t you?
I think I fucked up. She didn’t even use caps lock to write her message, so I guess she thinks that she has the upper hand, and I won’t deny that. But she didn’t mention my location, so it’s fifty-fifty whether that rule is true or not.
I’m seriously fucked up.
Tail between legs, I enter the school grounds again. For some reason, the sun has disappeared although it’s midday. I wonder if that has something to do with her wrath? It’s dark now like it was a night.
Once I get a better view of the school grounds, I see that my calculations betrayed me.
There are countless bodies lying around.
None of them has face.
Countless people who’ll never live again.
My psyche can’t hold, I feel like throwing up. I knew that people were going to die, but I never expected to see so many casualties… I, I think…
Am I a… monster?
Is the actual monster more humane?
“Do you see what you did?” A mocking voice resounds.
There she is, standing in the middle of the faceless bodies, eyes glowing yellow, unearthly. She’s spreading her arms in a manner that she wants to show something big, and a big graveyard there is.
“Do you get it? You made all these people die, for good. There is no way to resurrect them now. I’ve eaten my fill here, leaving only one person alive. The very person who told me the words that spelled the end of these people. Do you get it? You killed them.”
“I… never thought that—”
“Did you really think I’d tell everything? Of course I hide a stratagem to ensure my victory. Are you stupid?” Her voice is unearthly, wrathful.
“Don’t say anything. I’ll eat your face, and once I’ve done so, I’ll eat that boy’s face next, that stupid idiot who tried to hit on me. Hah, hitting on a monster, now that’s new. You used my longing to get away? You abandoned me, a girl who longs for amusement. I may be a monster, but I can get angry just like any human. I’ve lived for 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 years in the iterations, multiplied by 1,056,201,030,009,678,040. Do you even understand how desperate I am to find amusement? And now that I was promised amusement, I get betrayal!?”
“No, I won’t listen, I’ll just eat your face and be done with it.”
And the last thing I can remember is her insane smile.
The Beginning of the Future
My heart is racing. Funny, it has been racing for a long time now. I mean, I’ve been eaten by a monster several times now.
Wait, I was eaten!?
Horrified, I sit up faster than ever before, and the thing that’s only an inch away from my face as soon as I wake up, is the face of my predator.
Startled, I back away a little. “W-whoa, there!”
“You. Betrayed. Me.”
“Shut. It. Be. Thankful. For. I. Spared. Your. Life.”
“I. Am. Going. To. Make. You—”
“Open the notebook!!!”
For a second, she stops, her facial expression changing to puzzled one. She looks at me with suspicious eyes. She digs for something in her hoodie pocket while staring at me. You know, I’m not going anywhere, especially now.
“Read what I wrote back then.”
She tears off the paper, then she looks for the page where my writing is.
“Look for Path 1 Branch 6. Read it slowly so that you’ll understand my point.”
For now, she does as I told. Now I just need to hope that she won’t snap suddenly. I need her to understand it, lest I’ll be tortured and eaten, and most likely killed for good.
Though I feel like a monster now. Because of me, all the teachers and students are dead. Psyche, please, don’t crumble. I feel like committing suicide right now. No, I won’t do that, I can’t.
She seems to have read it. “Are you telling me that you planned six different paths for future ahead of time, and eleven branches for each? And all of them lead to one final ending: you and I sitting here? With each of those paths spelling you as a betrayer?”
“Correct. It was intentional, to make you angry. You most likely haven’t felt anger for eons, so the emotion alone should be amusing enough, now wasn’t it?”
Her facial expression is so neutral that I can’t read a single emotion from her face. After a moment of silence, she tilts her head to left, really slowly, her expression changing as she does. I think I pissed her off.
“So, you controlled me? Am I that easy to read? Am I like an open book?”
I can’t lie here, that’s what my instinct tells. “Yes.”
“Then,” she begins, taking a deep breath, “do you hate me for that?”
I considered thirteen possible sentences she might blurt, but that wasn’t one of them. Maybe she isn’t like an open book after all.
“I don’t see why I should hate you for that. Rather, if there’s something I’d hate you for, then that’d be tormenting me.”
“Should I stop then?”
“Rather than asking me such, mind to explain why you’re acting like this?”
“Because I’m not amused by your show.”
Should I run for it? I mean, she literally stated that she’ll kill me. Or at least torture…
“However, I am amused by you.”
W-what does that even mean?
“You risked your life, you risked the lives of others, and you even did something that no one else has done before—recovering your memories, that is. Tell me, why wouldn’t I be amused? You even controlled me.”
“I don’t know…?”
“So, you don’t mind if I’ll hang around with you for rest of your life?”
“I want to be amused, but now that I was, I thirst for more. Take responsibility, as they say.”
I never thought that I’d actually have her as my girlfriend, a monster that has eaten my face several times.
Maybe this wasn’t the end, maybe this was.