I dreamt of the faceless man again, and this time we were alone.
He was choking me, with a fingerless hand, pressing it against my skin.
He choked me tenderly.
He was close to me, like I imagine that a lover would be.
It was a one-sided eroticism, and he whispered mouthless gratitude to me, thanking me for that ecstatic pleasure he derived from taking my life.
He nearly took it.
He wet my face without a tongue, and then pressed down harder with the weight of his inhuman appendage.
I felt my throat collapse underneath it.
I awoke to my mother screaming, berating a servant for some imagined problem or another.
Her voice, her insignificant cruelties, and her asinine perfectionism are some of the most deeply annoying and enraging things on this planet.
They stir primal, immature parts of my mind with a rotten, quiet fury like nothing else can.
I am known to most as a mild soul, and she makes my blood into burning vinegar.
Yet on this morning, her abuses soothed me, for they took me away from the faceless man.
I coughed for a few minutes after I woke, and my throat is still sore even now in the twilight.
Strep travels around the manor in recent days, so I must think these to be symptoms of the illness, not bruises from that fingerless hand.
I must do all I can not to let the faceless man convince me that he is real.
Too many nights have been lost to that man and his faceless army.
Too much grief found in his wake.
Too much of my life has been lost in fright.
But he is a shrewd conversationalist, despite his wordlessness, and it is a great effort to remain skeptical having had the experiences I’ve had.
I sit, and study with my old friend, King James.
I read his bible.
In it, I find the familiar words of a mighty God.
I try to find him in my heart, through prayer.
But he is only in the book.
When I do not read it, he is not with me.
He does not follow me into my dreams.
Only the mouthless mutterings can be found there, in my sleeping soul.
Only the bleached toothless smile of that rotten creature is left.
I was not built with much gumption, and he has shaken what little I had out, and into the heap.
I could cope with my grief for God, with my sadness that he does not follow me into my dreams, If only the faceless man would follow suit.
If only he would stay in my dreams like God stays in my bible.
If only they could sign a truce.
If that were the case, I would not be so hurt by God’s apparent neglect.
But the faceless man appears in other places.
He appears in paintings, my family portraits which adorn the walls.
As someone native to the painting, but appearing without a face.
Others deny seeing him when I point it out, so I keep it to myself.
The worst time I saw the faceless man was also the first.
He had interrupted my life, destroyed my eden, as if the snake had instead stuffed the apple into eve’s throat, I was taken from my paradise without warning or reason.
At once I did not know him, but by the end of that day I did.
I walked back into the house after playtime with my cousins.
They had told me that Africans could conjure magic.
I did not believe them, so I went to ask a trustworthy source.
There he was in the kitchen, my family’s oldest servant and head chef, Bertrand, cooking.
“Good Morning Bertrand!” I called to him with joy.
He turned to me, and it was not him.
Bertrand had a face.
This man did not.
Bertrand was black.
This man was not.
He was pale, one flesh colored rung above marble.
He looked at me, and with one forceful swing, he cut his left hand straight off with a cleaving knife wielded in his right.
It was like a statue broken cleanly at the wrist.
I collapsed in a fit of labored breathing, which the doctors later said had likely damaged my lungs irreparably.
I blacked out.
That episode is why I am bound to this manor.
I have not the constitution for the outside world.
When I later asked of Bertrand, they told me that he was not in the kitchen that day.
He had been found burned to a crisp, a fire had broken out in the slave quarters that night.
A few months later, I went to the blackened rubble of the burnt building.
It was of sturdy construction, as it’s frame still stood tall.
I walked across the pine needle rug toward the black ruins.
I remember the birdsong of that morning.
That day was the second time I had ever looked into that building.
I looked in through the front window, at where I remembered seeing Bertrand sitting in a wooden chair the other time I had looked into the house.
There sat the faceless man, naked, featureless, and immobile.
I was equally immobile, from fear.
The immobility continued for a time that felt unreal.
He turned to look at me, right as I blinked, and before I could run, he had vanished.
Only in retrospect can I see that each encounter has brought him closer to me.
Real, or imagined, each meeting has become more intimate.
Tonight I fear that I will see the faceless man again, in my dreams.
Last night I dreamt of near death, and I feel it’s touch linger on my flesh.
I worry that tonight I shall dream of the faceless man once again.
THE LAST KNOWN WORDS OF ELEANOR LAWSON
CAUSE OF DEATH : UNDETERMINED
PROPERTY OF THE LAWSON FAMILY ARCHIVE
ARCHIVED IN 1798 AFTER HER BURIAL AT AGE 26