How do you stand against a monster without a face? A small girl is forced to do just that.
|Fear Without A Face
Bonnie hated monsters, period. They had no worth—they were only here on this earth to scare and make their lives a living hell. They fed off of fear like blood-sipping leeches, and perhaps that was the source of their true power. She believed most of them were cowards themselves and the only way they could feel secure was if they made others become cowards.
Bonnie was no coward—she wasn't raised that way. There was no way she was going to cower.
She was in the kitchen assembling her arsenal of weapons while the chicken noodle soup was warming up on the stove. From the drawers, she pulled out four steak knives; from the pantry, she obtained two hammers hanging on the wall; from the basement, she had already acquired some rope, a chisel, and a Louisville Slugger bat. She put all this stuff on a sheet she had laid out on the kitchen floor. This eleven-year-old black girl was going to war.
Her pigtails swung loosely as she began to wrap the item together inside her Looney Tunes bed sheet. She tied it the way her friends had taught her to in case there would ever be a time when she would plan to run away from home—but she dare not think of such thing. You don't run away from monsters that invade the privacy of your home. You stand tall and you face them as they come—unwanted and uninvited.
What had come into her home had no face, so how was she supposed to face it if it should ever return?
Well, the facts should be faced—this was Yobego the Faceless Phantom that had decided to come to Bonnie's residence. She only knew about him from a scary story her father had told her. He had said that Yobego was a monster that had no eyes, no ears, no nose, and no mouth.
How does he see, hear, smell, and talk? Bonnie had asked her father while lying in her bed, as curious and as interested as a scientist in the field of the paranormal.
How does he eat and breathe?
That's the scary part, honey, her father had replied. He had sat there right on the side of her bed with a vicious grin about his face. He takes other people's ability to see, hear, smell, taste, talk, eat, and breathe. I heard if the Faceless Phantom steals all these things from you, you might as well be considered dead.
Who does he come after?
Yobego only pursues those who know he exists. Basically if you know about him, then him knows about you, and that's when all hell breaks loose and the fun begins.
So that means he'll come for us, right? Bonnie had been drawn deeply into this account. All the rest of her father's scary monsters had been too ridiculous to be real, like the Human Squirrel and the Troll Under the Bridge and even the Man With A Hundred Heads. This Yobego guy had seemed like the real deal. Since we know he really exists, will he mess with us?
Do you believe me?
She had thought about it and said, No, not really, Daddy, but...
He doesn't exist, hon, but sleep and school does.
Her father had kissed her on the forehead and turned off the light, allowing the little nightlight at the base of the wall to shine like an aspiring movie star. He had stopped at the bedroom door to deliver that goodnight grin that Bonnie always adored.
Daddy, who told you about the Faceless Phantom? she had asked him while she lay under her Looney Tunes covers, not sure if she pronounced the monster's title correctly.
Some old amusement park worker in Wildwood, he had replied. Moments had passed as he stood there staring at the floor without any facial expression, then: I was fifteen at that time. Right when that old guy was telling the tale, I laid eyes on your mother for the first time...Goodnight, Bonnie.
Just like that, he had shut her door and left. That was yesterday, when everything was swell.
* * *
That night, Bonnie springs awake from a blinding light that pervades every ounce of her room. She wipes her eyes and yawns. She sits up in bed and says Daddy, is that you?—but how strange that is, because she doesn't hear any sound spill from her mouth. She calls out frantically for her father once again and once more and many times after that, but she cannot sense nor perceive any audible sound from her voice box; she doesn't even feel the vibration in her voice box. As her tired eyes begin to focus on the world of her bedroom, in the air above the base of her bed floats a tall figure with long, narrow fingers with pointed nails at the end of them. The figure is garbed in a dark blue cloak unmistakably made of silk or some excellent imitation; the cloak flips and flaps like a large flag in strong wind on the figure's body. The face is concealed within the black of the hood.
Bonnie screams with her covers tight to her chest, but still no sound comes forth. She can feel her jaws moving at a hundred miles an hour, shouting for her father to come save her from the hooded figure above her twin-sized mattress—but not even a mouse-like squeak comes out. The figure in the light pushes his hood back and unveils his identity—a pallid baldhead that has no eyes (nor sockets), no nose (nor bulge to contain nostrils), no ears (nor holes on each side of the head), and no lips (nor line that indicates the existence of a mouth). There isn't a face on that head, but Bonnie can feel the figure's glare upon her.
The Faceless Phantom, she thinks.
"That's right, little girl," says the Phantom—but how? The voice comes from his direction, but it is her voice that she hears. Never did she even think about saying what her voice that comes from the Phantom said. He has stolen her voice her voice and made it his own. "You are lucky that you woke up in time—if you did not, I would have taken your eyes, your nose, and your ears. I like your voice—it is so wonderful for a girl your age. Too bad it is mine now. I will be back, and I will take and take and take!"
The Phantom reaches out and slashes at Bonnie's covers with one milky hand. Before her, the cushion inside the covers flies up in shreds like confetti, cut off arms and legs of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and Porky Pig everywhere. Bonnie tries to roll off the bed and run to her dad, but there is no luck there, for the hot, white hand grapples her ankle and slings her across the room like a rag doll. Her back slams hard against the wooden dresser and dolls and stuffed animals on top falls on her as if an earthquake has prevailed. the Phantom soars to that side of the room and knocks the dresser over with one big swoosh of his hand; Bonnie rolls to the right just in time as the dresser falls over like an sawed oak tree in a southern New Jersey forest. She is now crying, trying to shriek but there is no reason to, since the Phantom has taken her ability to speak. She cannot move because she is petrified of that faceless monster.
He slowly retreats into Bonnie's open closet, laughing haughtily with her feminine voice; the blinding white light goes with him as he closes the door that he had entered. Bonnie slowly climbs onto her bed and lies down, not making a peep as her tears soak her pillow. She cannot sleep because her back is in agony and her eyes are glued to the closet door as if it were a television set in high definition. The Faceless Phantom said that
* * *
he'll be back, Bonnie thought.
She finished tying the bed sheet of weapons and went to the stove. The soup boiled feebly and she turned off the front burner the pot was on. Her dad had said she wasn't allowed to use the stove unless she received his consent to use it; he was also the one who had told her that scary story and that Yobego wasn't real, so there wasn't any reason to listen to him anymore.
Actually, there were more concrete reasons why she couldn't listen to him.
She gingerly poured the soup into a big china bowl. Putting the pot back down, she accidentally burned her fingers; when she winced, no crying could be heard. All she could do was take an ice cube from the freezer and apply it to the burn and hope that her back didn't throb from what happen last night. The hope she had within herself was slipping away like a dying spirit, the very hope she had depended on to help her keep the Phantom away.
Or maybe that evanescent hope was transforming into unwieldy desperation, since Bonnie was waxing the urge to kill that faceless monster. This new feeling was alien to her, however. She wasn't focused on driving Yobego away anymore—she was focused on using everything tied up in that bed sheet to slay him. Sine when did cute little girls develop the instinct to murder? Even though this instinct ws foreign, it was great to flourish it. The ferocity steadily growing inside of her was hungry—starving—for something she never tasted on the tips of her fingers.
Bonnie grabbed the china bowl and a spoon and went into her father's room. It was a disaster in there—everything was either knocked to the carpet or out of place. Her dad always had been an organized gentleman, and here this gentleman was, walking in circles next to his bed like a dog chasing its tail. He was deliberately knocking things over. His arms were all over and he ran into walls and fell over the stuff he had pushed over. His TV was on its side, lying there like a chunk of tar, and her dad tripped over it and fell on his chest.
* * *
Bonnie, who becomes an insomniac overnight, finally gathers enough courage to go into her dad's room. She finds him twirling around like a human hurricane. He is moving with no intention to stop. At first Bonnie is afraid to come closer to him, but then remembers what he told her just nine hours ago.
He takes other people's ability to see, hear, smell, taste, talk, eat, and breathe.
Since she can't produce sound from her mouth and that her dad may not have the ability to hear, she tries to get his attention. She jumps up and down, waving her hands in the air (like she just don't care); her dad faces her for a moment and turns to the side, still feeling around his room. Bonnie concludes that he is blind as well as deaf and mute, and cries because upon hi face hangs a tired expression of twisted sorrow and hopelessness.
She finally goes to him and hugs his waist. He grapples her arms and tries to fling her off of him. When one of his hands feels on Bonnie's hair and face he recognizes his daughter, he picks her up off the carpet and embraces her as if she were a long lost relative. The fact his smile is still the same as before relieves her a bit. She wriggles her way out of his arms and takes hold of his hand. She leads him to his bed to have him relax there so that he doesn't hurt himself. He responds accordingly, reclining with ease. After he pulls the covers onto his body, Bonnie puts his hand on her lips, imitating something she saw on a movie once. She mouths The Faceless Phantom did this to you.
Her dad twists his face in confusion, and then instantly his face transitions as if he should already have known. He now looks sad (very down in the waste management dumps—he'd say that if he had a voice to say it and Bonnie would laugh hysterically if her larynx would allow it). She smiles sitting next to her dad, holding his hand snug as if he were sliding down an abyss (was that what it was called, another name for a black hole?) and then she realizes that he is in the depths of a black hole.
Because, like he said last night, when Yobego steals all those things away from you, you might as well be dead.
Bonnie begins to nurture a fiendish abhorrence for the Phantom—she can literally feel this atrocious sensation blossoming like an infernal flower with poisonous petals. How dare that faceless thing do that to her daddy? Bonnie lost her mommy to a car crash, so there is no way she is going to let Yobego take her daddy.
Families stick together even when one member passes on—Bonnie remembers her teacher, Ms. Patch, saying that when the class gave Bonnie a big card with all of their names and handprints on it, entitled: "You Lost Your Mommy: We're Very Sorry and We Want To Share Ours With You." Bonnie believed that Ms. Patch told her and still does, and that gives her the incentive to listen to that abhorrence and avenge her dad. That means that she will have to slay the Phantom, even if her dad doesn't gain back what the monster has already taken.
As she rubs her dad's sweaty forehead, Bonnie marks Yobego for death.
* * *
Bonnie sat the china bowl on the dresser next to the bed. Her dad lolled there on the carpet on his back, breathing powerfully with frustrated look about his face. His hands and forearms were scraped up. She exerted all of her strength to help him to his feet; when she gripped his arm he winced away and got to his fee by his lonesome. She attempted to conduct him into bed, but he refused to follow and ran into the wall, knocking a few frames down. He was too heavy and too strong to subdue. Moreover, Bonnie knew he was probably going crazy.
While he leaned against the wall, she sat on the bed, thinking about how she was changing. Without her voice, things were more real. She was seeing things in a totally different way; before, if she was looking at her dad's 48-inch Magnavox TV, it would just be a mere TV. Looking at it now, she actually wanted to know what it was made of and how it worked. At her fingertips, she could feel the complex weaving of the bed sheet fabric. She could hear the faint heat spilling from the vents. The savory aroma of the chicken noodle soup permeated in the air, and she could truly distinguish the ingredients of the soup as separate scents: the chicken, the carrots, the celery, the noodles, the minor spices such as salt.
It was like waking up—why couldn't she detect these things before? This self-interrogation infuriated her, and at that point she didn't know whether to be angry at the Faceless Phantom for taking her voice or herself for never taking the time to fully observe the awesome world all around her. In fact, she even had the audacity to thank Yobego if she were to see him again—
Yobego was the bad guy, the intruder, the thief, and the monster—there was no reason to thank the bad monster that intruded and stole precious things like sight and hearing. The monster had transformed her dad into a vegetable—Ms. Patch's term for a baby born blind and deaf. The monster had to pay for the destruction he had caused and then some for messing with the family. As much as she liked this awakening of the senses, it couldn't cancel out what the monster had done. She wanted to kill him.
Bonnie tried one last time to get her dad into bed; he was not well, and according to what she had learned in school, he was going to need his family to nurse him back to good health. This time he gave in and pulled is covers up to his chin. Bonnie obtained the soup and tried to feed it to him, all the while assuming that that he couldn't taste it—he probably didn't even smell it when she had come in with it. He ate though, sometimes spitting some of it back up and failing to catch the spoon with his mouth.
When he finished the soup, Bonnie placed the bowl back on the dresser and embraced her dad with all her God given might. She put his hand against her lips and slowly mouthed I'm gonna kill him for what he did. After all, he was the man of the house, and he needed to know everything that was to go down in it. He shook his hand and mouthed No, please don't do that, honey!
She rose to her feet and headed for the door. She could hear her dad getting out of bed. She ran out of his room and shut the door behind her. Before he could even turn the doorknob, she had a chair from the dining room table in her arms. She forced it up under the knob. For at least three minutes her dad was stubbornly persistent on trying to open the door. He gave up and no sound was then heard on his side.
He wanted to stop her, to protect his daughter from Yobego the Faceless Phantom, but he had failed already when he had told her the tale about the pale terror in the blue-black cloak.
Her dad wasn't well if he wanted to stop her from killing the monster.
He may have been the man of the house, but she was a girl on a mission.
* * *
Bonnie locked her dad within the boundaries of his room twelve hours ago. She looks over at her Spongebob Squarepants digital clock—it reads three twenty-seven a.m. She is sitting up in bed with her weapons under the covers (she obtained another set of covers since her original one was shredded). Once again, her nightlight is the movie star in this dark room. She is careful not to make any fast movements—there are knives on both sides of her bare legs. The baseball bat and the rope are residing at the edge of her bed; the hammers and the chisel is beneath the pillows she is using to support her back to sit up straight.
Her weary eyes are focused on the closet door before her bed. There is no reason to look at anything else—not even the twinkling stars that can be seen through the window draw her attention away. The crickets and grasshoppers are chirping like umpteen flocks of frantic sparrows; she wants so badly to curse each and every one of those vexing insects that are aching her uptight nerves, but she remembers that she is incapable of doing it.
As she clenches the covers in her lap with unease, she acknowledges something crucial—she is getting drowsy. She has been up the entire day and six hours past her normal bedtime—every cell in her body yearns to slip off to sleep. She notices that pattern of her eyes which slowly close and abruptly pop open like kernels above high heat. More than anything at this point she wants to awake, for if she doesn't, she will slide down into the dark pit with her father and the family would be forever lost.
Right when her sizzling eyes are completely shut, the closet door creaks open on tight hinges. When her eyes open she witnesses the growth of a blinding white light with the slow opening of the closet. She doesn't look away, though.
First, the long, chalky hands cling to the outside of the closet door, a jagged nail on each finger and thumb. Then the hooded head makes arrives. The figure in the dark blue cloak floats right into Bonnie's room as if it were his. He folds his arms together, and through the darkness in the hood, Bonnie can feel the Phantom grinning in a way that her eyes won't allow her to see.
"I see you are wide awake," says Yobego, this time using her dad's deep voice. His giggling sends a series of wretched echoes throughout the room. The warm love she once had for her dad's voice is replaced with cold revulsion. "No matter—I came to take and it is impossible to stop me once I get started. So just lay back and let it happen."
Bonnie's fatigue instantly converts into fury. She takes hold of a knife in each hand. Tears fall—she knows that attacking him can yield the ultimate consequence of death. If she fails, she loses it all and the Phantom will go on to do savage deeds unto other people, thus ruining innocent lives.
She slowly stands on the bed with the knives behind her back. Yobego giggles harder and throws back his hood, revealing his faceless head.
"Do you plan to wage a war against me?" he asks, placing his hands behind his back as if to mock Bonnie. "Do you call this your attacking position? How sweet! I dare you to stand against me—your fear!"
With every inch of her power, Bonnie springs from her mattress with the knives drawn out like the enormous fangs of a saber-tooth tiger. Her lips are pulled back to display a grin of an infuriated maniac. Right when she is sure that her knives will plunge into the phantom's chest, he dodges to the left. She soars into the closet, which is nothing but a world of total white. She never really lands anywhere, but stops soaring altogether. The closet door is about twelve feet away.
Yobego enters this blank world. "Welcome to the realm I dwell in," he says. "Here there is no ground nor sky. No floor, no walls, and no ceiling. Distance, area, and volume are infinite here, so you can keep on running from me—there is no place to hide."
The Phantom slams the door shut behind him and flies directly at Bonnie. He backhands her and jabs her in the stomach. She doubles over and lets out a silent scream; up close, the Phantom is frightening in ways indescribable.
"I want to hear your painful screams, so I will give you your voice back," he says and snatches her up by the hair. Her body ails all over, and with Yobego pulling her hair, all she can do is let out a shriek—
She hears the shriek spew from her mouth. It feels so good coming out of her throat that she shrieks even louder. She can hear Yobego chuckling and pulling harder at her hair, which makes her shriek even louder than before. Then suddenly the Phantom stops chuckling and lets her go. He puts his hands up to where his ears would be if he had any and moans in agony. Bonnie takes a deep breath and increases the volume of the shriek. She remembered that this is a place of infinite volume.
"I am not afraid of you!" she yells, ecstatic to hear real words coming from her mouth again. She flies closer to Yobego, who is steadily backing away. "Do you hear me loud and clear? I am not afraid of you anymore!"
"Yes you are!" Yobego shouts, now in the voice of Bonnie's mom. Bonnie shrinks back—she hasn't heard her mom's voice in four months. Her mom told her that she had to attend a book club meeting that night and left Bonnie and her dad home forever.
Yobego went on. "Yes, my darling, you are very much afraid of me. I am fear! This is you mother talking to you. You've been a bad girl since I died, Bonnie, and now it's time to punish you, since your daddy doesn't use stern discipline. I was waiting for your dad to tell you the story of Yobego so that he could get you too, bad girl."
"You're not my mom," Bonnie says with courage. "You're right—my mommy is dead, and I'm old enough to know that she isn't coming back the way she went out. She is in my heart. I stayed up to face you once and for all. I'm awake to take back what you took from my daddy. I am not afraid to fight for my family!"
She pounces at the Phantom and drives a knife into his neck. She stabs him in the stomach with the other one. He punches her in the head and sends her hovering farther into the whiteness. He grabs hold of his neck and stomach which both leak black blood.
"You will pay dearly for what you have done, you little witch," Yobego says in a deep voice she doesn't recognize.
Something is trickling down Bonnie's temple and she knows it can only be her red blood. With that thought she becomes feral. She tightens her grip on the knives and screams inexorably. Yobego holds his head again and while he is in that position of vulnerability, Bonnie shoots forward and slashes up the monster's body. In at least a thousand different voices he cries for mercy—but Bonnie spares him none. She doesn't ease up, even though the Phantom's black blood splashes all over her face and pink nightgown. When she finally grows tired, she stops. What now floats before her are chunks of the monster, some parts covered with shreds of his cloak and soiled with his blood. She seizes the chunk that is half of is head and puts it up to her face.
"I'm looking straight into your face," she says, "and I am not scared to do it. Let me make this clear—don't come back through my closet, or I'll burn you up. I want you to give back what belongs to my dad. And thanks for everything."
Bonnie cocks back and heaves this piece of the Phantom as far she can in the whiteness. Those voices moan and she is sorrowful for the other families that Yobego has already wrecked. She wishes she can save those unfortunate people, but she isn't even sure if her dad is now all right.
She flies hurriedly to the door, opens it, exits, and slams it shut. After tossing the grimy knives on the carpet, she opens the closet—it is back to normal, her outfits and shoes and coats and other gear everywhere she looks. She drops onto the bed in relief, not only because she defeated the Phantom, but because she escaped that empty world that she could have been trapped in with no way out.
Bonnie walks into the bathroom and looks into the mirror. She is drenched in the black blood of Yobego. She rubs her head, where the bleeding has stopped. There is a bruise on her cheek. She lifts up her nightgown. Right over her belly button is a dark patch.
“At least I faced a fear,” she says and returns to her bed.
She is relieved that she can finally let her eyelids close and slide off into another world where dreams are kept.
She has confidence that her dad will be back to normal when morning comes—she faced a fear, a deed that grownups don't even accomplish as they age.
Her fear didn't even have a face, for crying out loud.
* * *
A week after that night, Bonnie was back in school. Her dad, who had gained back what the Phantom took away, told her that if her school noticed that bruise on her face, they’d be quick to blame it on him and cry child abuse. It was one of those elementary schools that would ultimately conclude the reason for a scrape on the knee was the parent or parents’ fault rather than an accidental fall off a skateboard.
In school, at lunchtime, Bonnie told her friends the story that her dad had told her. She had the divine urge to narrate. She was no longer afraid of that pale monster in the cloak, but her classmates would be as time passed. As she told her tale, she grew happier and happier; holding in a story like that was heavy on the nerves. Yobego would be happy, too—if Bonnie’s friends knew about him, then he knew about them, and that was when all hell would break loose and the fun would begin all over again.