Smooth. Short Story.

Jacob smiled at the young woman as she approached his till, she was quite attractive, bright green eyes, dark black hair and plump red lips.
“Did you find everything you needed today?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Her voice was soft and lilting and Jacob found his smile widening. He scanned her items, trying to think of anything to say but his well of inane chatter had run completely dry. He picked up a can of hair spray and scanned it, “My sister really likes this one.” She smiled at him, “Yeah it’s really good.”

He could feel his cheeks start to burn, why did he have to bring up his sister of all people? Couldn’t he have just said friend or even better, nothing at all?
Once he was done scanning he gave her the total and packed everything into a small bag. He took the money from her and got her change.
“And two is your change, have a wonderful day.” She took the money from him, her soft hands gently brushing against his, he knew he was blushing again, he looked up and jumped, pulling his hand away. Her face was gone. Where her eyes, mouth and nostrils had been was just smooth skin, he stared open mouthed at her as she took the bag “Thanks” how could she speak? She had no mouth. His heart was hammering in his chest, he was breathing, but it felt like he was getting no air. Fast, shallow gasps. She turned and left the till, another customer was approaching and placed their basket on the counter. Still struggling to breath his hands reached out automatically and started taking things from the basket.

“Did…Did you find everything?”
“Are you ok?”
“Huh? Yeah. I’m, I’m fine. Sorry, just got a little light headed there.”
“You shouldn’t be on your feet all day, it isn’t good for you, you should go have some water and a chocolate bar. He looked at the old woman and smiled at her, “I’m sure I’ll be ok in a moment, thank you.” He looked back over her shoulder to see the faceless girl walking from the shop. No one else was looking at her, no one else noticed that there was something wrong. Was it because there was something wrong with him? Was he having an aneurysm or something? He scanned the old woman’s items, packed them away and took her payment.
“You still look very pale, you should take a break.”
“Yeah, it’s almost time for one anyway, thank you and have a wonderful day.”
“You too, feel better.”
The old woman walked off slowly, she reminded him of his own grandmother who had died about two years back, always fussing over people, making sure they were ok.

“Are you feeling all right though?”
Jacob turned to Jessica, “I think so. I don’t know. Did you notice anything odd about that girl I was just serving?”
“Who? The girl you were drooling over?”
“Uh. Yeah. Her I guess.”
“No, nothing at all. Why?”
“No reason. Just something felt a little off about her is all. Listen, I’m going to go on break, I’m not feeling great.”
Jessica gestured at the empty line in front of them, “How ever will I cope without you?”
“Haha. I won’t be long anyway.”
“Take your time, the place is dead today. Besides you do look a bit off.”

Jacob sat in the break room, a bottle of coke in front of him. The break room itself was a depressing place to begin with, bright yellow walls, bright blue plastic chairs, an old, battered table and plenty of signs reminding him of all the little rules he had to follow. They had tried to make it bright and happy, but had failed miserably, the bright colours only served to underscore how false the entire place was. He took a sip of his coke, the sugar was helping but he was still worried. He had seen something weird and there was no explanation. It had to be something like a hallucination but what would cause that? He never had problems with low blood sugar, he hadn’t taken any kind of psychedelic in his life, hell he only drank every now and then. He took another sip. Oh god. What if it was a tumour? Tumours could cause hallucinations, couldn’t they? He reached into his pocket for his phone then remembered it was in his locker. There were no rules about having it in the break room, but it was frowned upon. He checked his watch, he had been sitting up here for almost twenty minutes. It only felt like five.

Jacob shoulder on his jacket, his manager hadn’t been pleased but what could she say? She could easily keep everything going with one less person. He grabbed his phone and did a quick Google search, after a few minutes he felt a little better in that he probably didn’t have a brain tumour, but it still didn’t answer the question of what the hell happened and what he saw. He left the shop quickly, hoping that some fresh air and sunshine would clear his head. He felt off since seeing that girl, like the entire world was just slightly out of focus, like everything was moving when he wasn’t looking but would dart back to place when he turned around. He kept sipping his drink, the sugar was helping a little. He wasn’t hungry but he forced down a bar of chocolate, which seemed to be doing some good. His head felt a little less spinny.

He was jumpy the entire trip home, he kept expecting to look at someone one the bus and find that their face was gone, replaced by smooth skin. He felt like people were looking at him weirdly, he even checked his clothes a few times to make sure he hadn’t spilled anything on them.

He was feeling light headed again when he got home. He went into the bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face, which helped, then he changed out of his work uniform. He kept scratching at his face, sometimes as there was an itch but mostly to reassure himself that his eyes and lips where still there.

Jacob found himself in the sitting room, he didn’t quite remember sitting down on the couch, or making the cup of coffee that was sitting in front of him. He rubbed his eyes, what ever he had seen it had really screwed with his head. Maybe it was just one of those things, a strange blip in his life and everything would just go back to normal. It was probably just something simple like dehydration or a trick of the light. Hell, maybe it was a mask or some kind of weird prank, he might even see himself on YouTube in a week or two with people laughing about what a gullible idiot he had been. He had a drink of his coffee, relieved to find it was still hot. He turned on the TV to distract himself, he needed to switch off his brain for a little while, just turn off and not think.

It was late in the evening, he had dozed off a little on the couch, but mostly watched mindless TV. About an hour in he had grabbed a beer and after a few cans he was feeling better. Tomorrow, after a good nights sleep of course, he might really believe it was just a dream he had, or maybe a day dream. He always did have an active imagination. He flicked around, then stopped on the news. His can of beer sat perched precariously on his knee, his mouth had dropped open. Both the News Anchors were missing their faces. Their hair was there, perfectly styled, but their eyes were gone, it was just smooth skin. He watched their jaws move up and down, like they were talking, and he could hear someone speaking, but how could that be possible? They had no mouths. His head started to swim, he turned off the TV, feeling like he was going to throw up. It wasn’t a weird dream, what ever it was was happening again. Was it them or was it him? His stomach was churning. He flung himself from the couch and out the door, not even noticing the beer can as it fell to the ground.

In the bathroom he threw up until there was nothing left, his eyes were watering and his throat and nose burned. He sat with his head against the cold tile floor, the coldness of it made him feel a bit better, made everything feel more real. He should have gotten a photo, to show someone. He giggled slightly, not that they’d believe him. He couldn’t stop the giggles as they turned into great baying whoops of laughter. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew this wasn’t right, that he was being hysterical, but he couldn’t stop. Eventually they died away and he sat up. His parents weren’t home, they wouldn’t be for another few days, he had been so excited about having the house to himself, even planned a party for tomorrow night. Maybe he should cancel. It was only going to be a few friends anyway. No. he wanted people around, he didn’t want to be alone. He patted his pockets, looking for his phone before he realised he must have left it in the sitting room. He’d ring someone, get them to come around and keep him company. Maybe he’d be able to keep things together if there was someone else here. He stood shakily and rinsed out his mouth, then he spat in the sink and looked at himself in the mirror. His face was gone. Jacob screamed, his hands flying to his face, prodding at his lips, his eyes. He could see, he could speak, hell he could even feel them beneath his fingers, but there was nothing there in the mirror. His breathing quickened, what was happening? Why had this happened to him? He really was going crazy. His stomach clenched and he heaved into the sink, a few thin strands of mucous came out. He spat it out then felt another fit of giggles coming. As the first one escaped he slapped himself across the face, as hard as he could. The pain was bright and intense and enough for him to hang onto himself. He looked in the mirror again, he could see the bright red handprint across his smooth face.

He was in the sitting room again, he cleaned up the beer and had another. He scratched at his hand absentmindedly. He was crazy, he knew it, that was the only explanation. Maybe he’d just get used to it, in time. It would just be one of those things. His kept brushing his fingers over his lips and across his eyelids. Did his mouth feel a little smaller? No. It was just in his head, that was all. It would be fine. A low thud started in the back of his mind, punctuated by sharp spikes of pain. He put the can of beer on the table and stood, intending to get some painkillers, as he stood a wave of light-headedness came over him and he collapsed.

When he woke the headache was gone. What had happened? He picked himself off the floor, he must have drank more than he realised. Why had he been drinking anyway? Jacob shook his head, he had some weird dream about people without faces or something. Probably just the stress of work, besides he hadn’t been feeling well either, must have been something he ate. His mouth was dry, his tongue fuzzy. He stumbled to the bathroom and splashed some water on his face then brushed his teeth. He was starting to feel better, more alert. A cup of coffee and he would be in tip top shape. What ever had been wrong with him it seemed to have passed now. He finished up in the bathroom, smiled at himself in the mirror then left.

In the kitchen he made himself coffee. He absentmindedly scratched his face then froze, why was it flat? His lip was itchy, his lip wasn’t flat. He prodded at it carefully and felt the bump of his lip and laughed at himself. He was still feeling the after-effects of the bug he must have caught. He went about his day, getting in a few things, tidying the place up a bit, but still, he had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. He scratched at his eyebrow then frowned, there was smooth skin, a second later he felt the bristly hairs and shook his head. Maybe he should cancel the party. No, it had been a while since he had seen them and he was looking forward to it, what ever was wrong with him would pass soon enough.

Jacob picked up his phone, he was only having a few friends over but now he was reconsidering, why not make it a proper party? It wasn’t often he had the entire house to himself and as they said, the more the merrier. He rubbed at his eye, the smoothness of it all no longer bothered him, besides, how could he be worried or in a bad mood? After all he was having a party.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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