Aspects of Emptiness
Paula D. Ashe
The Man with the Face of Teeth didn’t make me do this, I chose to. I want you, reader, to try something. Go into a room with a mirror. Preferably not a full length one, because you’re going to be staring at your face and you need to not be distracted by the rest of yourself. Dim the lights (don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to do anything perverse – not in the sexual sense anyway). Make it dusk dark. Just so dark that you can barely see the outline of your features. Now, stare at yourself. Try ten minutes. Twenty if you’re feeling brave.
At some point, you’ll start to ‘unrecognize’ yourself. You won’t recall your mouth being so wide or your ears being so pointy or your nose being so prominent. Maybe your cheekbones will suddenly become hollower or your eyes brighter. Most people say this is a trick of the low light, that it is dark adaptation in stasis, which is unnatural. Low light is a half-state that the human eye is relatively unaccustomed to. We can deal with dark or with light but unbalance the two and vision scrambles to force sense onto what it is seeing.
There’s another face beneath your face. You’ll see it, peeking out from behind the face you were born with, only revealing itself in the half light. It is what you looked like Before, when you were Unstructured. When you, when I, when all of us, were aspects of emptiness. Thing is, if you stand in front of a mirror in complete darkness, the other face is fully visible. In fact whenever there is complete darkness, you can feel the soft shift of features, can feel the shadows unfurl from beneath your skin. You synapses relax because the void wants only reunion. Of course, as soon as you turn the lights back on, the façade returns and your appearance rights itself.
Some people, once they see themselves negated, they can’t rest until the artifice is destroyed. Any method will do; razors, hooks, fire. I know several people who used a cheese grater. Tedious, but effective. Our ancestors used sharp rocks, shells, the trunks of trees even. I used acid, because that’s what the Man with the Face of Teeth brought me. People like him have never had the burden of a face. They have never been separated from their lightless purity. He held my hand as the chemical ate away at my mask, leaving the bone and muscle somewhat damaged, but relatively intact.
I am a blistered, blasted nightmare.
What, underneath, are you?
Sean M. Thompson
Sand whips through empty homes
Vermin and scavengers within
The end draws nigh, forevermore
As Nature smiles a toothy grin
Yes this, the final hour approaches
They dance within the streets
The moon it rises, bathes the roaches
The ones that walk upon two feet
Look in their eyes, what do you see
The destiny of you, of me
Not from above, or from below
Came from a place where cruelty rose
There is no cure
It’s no disease we can endure
The dead within their sepulchers
The spirits in their haunting spots
They rise, and howl
Humanity who once proud prowled
Now proved to matter not