"Did you have a name? Ever?" Delilah asked, her voice cracking.
"No. I'm a faceless creature. What could I do with a name? I had a number, but it was so insignificant even I forgot it. It wasn't until I was thinking one day…watching. Watching the people go by that I realized there's no difference between us, the faceless, and them, the Roleholders, but their beautiful eyes. Mother knows it too."
She stumbled. Earlier Somebody had blindfolded her, rendering her to see darkness, to stumble along behind as he led her with his strong hand. She felt the uneven ground beneath her feet, felt his slippery hand, heard his fervent words. His voice rose and fell, passion highlighting every syllable.
He spoke, "We will be free. Liberated. This world…this world of rules and laws will see and understand because now I have the foreigner. Isn't that it? Foreigners are so special for some reason."
She tuned his rant out, and only caught words here and there. Fear clouded her senses, her shaking legs only kept stable by his hand on hers, leading her to some unknown.
He stopped, his tone suddenly a thoughtful whisper. "And what are laws but unbroken crimes?"
She shuddered, when suddenly he withdrew the blindfold from her eye. Revealed was a forest, trees shooting tall to a sky that constantly shifted between night and day as if it was caught in indecision. The strange wind blew not from the side but up from the ground, shaking the trees with a rustling sound. Glistening in moonlight, shining in sunlight was the foliage itself, every inch of it colors of purple and red. The place was an island unto itself, the trees serving as fortress-like walls, cutting it off from the rest of the world.
In a clearing was a door leading deep into the earth. Somebody yanked her forward, heaved the door open and pushed her down. She found herself falling into darkness. Screaming, clawing at the walls until her fingertips bled, she imagined the way her body would crumple in the end as her body hit the ground, skin bursting on impact.
Death never came. She hit the ground lightly on her feet. It took her only a moment to recognize Somebody before her, a flashlight beaming in her face as he smiled. Around them was a cavern, and she thought of how its earthy walls must have been carved by something large tunneling through. Everything was perfectly smooth and arched.
He moved gracefully down the way. She followed, hearing her footsteps echoing back to her as he spoke the whole way. "This is where The Nobodies live, my dear! You'll love them. They're—"
His flashlight illuminated not just any room, but a place marked by struggle. Tables and chairs were overturned, and it was not unoccupied. Phantom figures stood unmoving around. She could see vaguely through them, their wavering dark forms translucent, the blood-stained wall behind them visible. No eyes, no features, just shadows in the dark, their long, monstrous arms reaching out for clocks on the floor and cuddling them softly to themselves. The gentleness reminded her almost of how one would hold a baby.
There was absolute silence, and she was unsure if the figures even knew she was there. She perceived Somebody quivering, his flashlight trembling in his hands. "Is that you? Is that you?" His words were caught on repeat, tumbling from his mouth, the phrase growing louder each time it was echoed. "Is that you?"
They did not answer, but only stayed put, cradling the clocks. Somebody frowned deeply, lips quivering. He looked as if he could cry, but his lack of eyes didn't allow for tears. Instead sobs choked him, but he could not release the utter sadness he felt. It stayed put in his heart, now a well of deep emotion he could never adequately show.
"My friends…." His voice cracked.
His friends were but clocks. For once he felt small and helpless. He felt like the pathetic faceless he was, doomed to rebirth, interchangeable in an unchanging world. Clenching his fist, he fought fiercely against this emotion, even as the phantoms drifed unthinkingly past him into the darkness. They became the darkness.
"Whoever did this will pay!" he cried in anger.
Delilah had watched this conflict. She was fearful, of course, but also curious. Here was a man who fought so hard against what he was. Here was a man who could not accept, and so he struggled against something he could not change. He would fail, she reflected.
Please don't let me be there when he does.
The young faceless stormed about, fury written in his deeply frowning mouth. He kicked the leg of an overturned chair.
"This is the rebel movement!" he said. "See it? See it? It's just me and you now, so you have to be strong, foreigner." He laughed bitterly, madly. "But I know who did this. How could I not? The ole' Knight of Hearts. Ace, that card! Killing all my friends!" The laughter continued. "Can you believe it? They're all dead. Sure, they'll be reborn…but they're pretty much dead. Dead to me, anyway." His face paled in the light.
"There's no death here, is there?" Delilah said softly. "Then how do you know anything about the word 'death'?"
"Foreigners taught us. They bring more than just themselves to this place. Foreigners bring ideas. They bring life and death. Through them we know that we're individuals, and we realize this pathetic game. I fell in love…." His voice trailed off. "Love is interesting. Liberating. It requires you to be you, rather than just another faceless. It taught me everything. The special thing about foreigners is that they change the world by just existing."
Delilah was enraptured by him. He had no eyes, but it didn't matter. His words were expressive, thoughtful. He seemed to be caught constantly in the formulation of ideas, mouth moving in rapture. Foolish and blustery, he spoke too much, but he was also entrancing to the young foreigner.
"We can probably stay here," he said quietly. "The Knight isn't likely to come back. He's a messy person. He's effective, but not thorough, you know." He gestured to the ground. "The afterimages are gone. Don't look so scared."
Delilah was frightened, her limbs shaking. She took her place where he indicated, the hard ground greeting her soft body with pain. "I'm supposed to sleep here? With no pillows?"
"Nobody uses pillows here…or did use them. What's the point? We're tough." He grinned rakishly. "But, yeah, if you're tired just sleep. I'm going to think." Propping his feet up on a table, body leaning in a chair, his face focused on the wall, mouth drawn in a thin line.
She watched him for a few steady moments before drifting into uneasy sleep.
For an instance Delilah saw herself in a mirror, her hair falling from her scalp in clumps, curling on the floor. She wanted to reach up to touch her bald head, but found she could not move an inch. Thick cords sprung into existence suddenly, cutting holes in her lips as they bound her mouth shut. Lastly, her eyes melted from her face, vision becoming smaller and smaller as they ran down her front.
No eyes, mouth tied by thick cords, she could not speak, could not see. She cried out into the darkness, and only the darkness answered. She could not see the world around her, and she realized she was nothing. Blood pooled in her mouth, seeking exit but finding none in her closed lips. She drowned slowly, but could not even sputter and choke. Her forcibly still body wanted to writhe. The urge to fight was tingling in her very fingertips and toes, but she was stuck, caught.
She was not just faceless. She was voiceless, useless and nothing.
A man's voice came from nowhere, reaching her numb ears. "This is the life of the faceless. The Roleholders…we are something. The faceless are nothing. Don't confuse the rules of this ancient game, dear foreigner." Echoes of his words remained even when he stopped.
She wanted to cry, but no tears came to the eyeless.