I couldn’t tell where it was coming from—all I saw was red. You know how if you ever see a deer in the woods, they stop dead in their tracks when their eyes meet yours? That’s exactly what happened. She mumbled something. The red on her face dripped and dripped as she slid from view, but I kept walking.
Those eyes fell into the sea of tired faces going through the motions of the everyday. Like the blood that stained her porcelain skin, there was now something in my mind which I couldn’t let go of. And somehow I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep.
The kettle simmered in wait of boiling while I came crashing down on the couch in the next room. I tried to think how nice tea would feel on such a scratchy throat, but distractions wouldn’t linger quite long enough. Like an undergraduate bisects frogs and various animals to go towards a degree, I studied those brief flashes of memory like no other—trying to freeze it just a moment longer for a good look.
But more than anything, I wanted to hear what she said.
My dog Kelsey didn’t seem so bothered by it all. She’s quite the escape, and often takes to curling up at my feet when all the day’s work is done. That’s at least worth a smile, right? Sure. It was enough for me to rest my head awhile longer. Kelsey cut through the chill of my ankles as she lay there on the other end of the couch, and I tried to picture it through closed lids.
You won’t forget me, those lips said—vivid as rose petals. And you’d be naive to think I’d forget you.
I opened my eyes to the godawful screaming of the kettle, and didn’t quite mind the disrupted leisure—if you could call it that. It must have been around an hour sitting with my glass of tea (emptied and filled a handful of times,) before I even thought about taking my work clothes off.
Sometimes people come home to find holes nibbled in their drywall. Sometimes they realize they have rats, roaches, or some other godawful thing hiding in the dark. When I stepped into the living room—gearing to discard my overcoat and unbutton my search, I found those stains all over my couch. Her stains.
The cushions were as red as her bottom lip, and trickling down into small pools on the carpet. Kelsey had vanished from her spot. I stared. Blinked. Though my mind was still littered with doubts, I couldn’t ignore the message left in front of me. She was here, and she wanted to make sure that I knew.
What frightens me most isn’t that I know what she said, but that her words were true.
I’d seen that face day after day. I was the one who painted it.
[PART 2 Coming Soon]
Red Face is my latest experiment in flash fiction. M. R. James was known for his epic ghost stories, but I wanted to see what was possible telling my own in an ultra-sharp format. 1000 words or less per part, with little room for extraneous detail or development. Can a ghost story have any impact in bite-sized chunks? I guess we’re going to find out.