You, a Room, and an Ugly Face

A metaphorical short story about the dark side we try so hard to keep hidden under this disguise we call "human".

Today I was stuck in a locked room with a very ugly face. I could not tell if it was male or female, only that it was human. I couldn’t put my finger to its complexion either, for it seemed as if the face were colourless, like water. Nor could I estimate its age, for some places had deep, folding wrinkles, while other regions were bursting with adolescent warts. There was no innocence in the face, but then there wasn’t any guilt either. Its eyes ran haphazardly, following imaginary objects in the air. I could see the lust in them, but without the usual devilish glow that accompanies such lust. I guessed it couldn’t make tears, but then I saw faint tear-marks on its ragged cheeks. Its mouth remained open the whole time. I couldn’t see any teeth or tongue inside – only darkness.

I don’t know how I ended up in a locked room with such an ugly face. I couldn’t remember much from earlier, but the room looked somewhat familiar. There were empty lockers lined up against one wall of the room. There was an empty desk lying in another dark corner. Apart from that, the face, and me, the room was empty, which was surprising, since the room was pretty big. What were just the two of us doing alone in such a large room? Surely there were other people who could have been there. It was a clean, spacious room – must have been safer than whatever lay outside. I think I had heard sounds from outside. They seemed like faint, incessant knocks, floating in like a helpless murmur – as if someone were begging the wall to open up from the outside.

The locked door seemed to be the only entrance or exit to the room. I hoped it would open, so I could either escape the presence of that ugly face or at least have the company of someone apart from it. I couldn’t look at the face, and I surely couldn’t make conversation

with it. One has to be able to close one’s mouth in order to talk, and by the way, the face had its mouth gaping wide open, I was sure it was incapable of movement. So I tried to bang at the door to see if anyone would come and open it. No one came, but the sounds coming from outside did not stop. I tried to communicate with them, but they continued to just knock and talk to the wall. I think we didn’t speak the same language, for I couldn’t comprehend anything from their murmurs.

I realised that all I could do was wait, so I just sat against the wall, and looked around the empty room – anywhere except the face. But then, it spoke. It was the worst sound I had ever heard. Like the face, I could not classify it. It was as if it was screeching, screaming, crying, and laughing all at once – as if there were different, independent parts inside it that did different things simultaneously, perpetually confused and discordant. I thought that it was just a senseless sound, but I soon realised that it was in fact speaking. I tried to understand what it was saying, but the voice was too hoarse for me to comprehend. The face seemed to have assumed a devilish expression, which surprised me, for it had been hard to imagine a

face more repulsive than what I had previously seen.

I couldn’t understand what it was saying, but it seemed to be saying something that I anyway did not want to know. There was something very evil in that guttural sound – something even uglier than the face, something more desperate for reconciliation. But then there was something overpoweringly brazen about it too – something that immunised the face from all empathy. The cacophony continued. I wished for the earlier silence to be back, but to no avail. The face kept on going. It angered me. People say that you learn to live with the worst when it is your only companion. I didn’t. The face was so ugly in all its aspects that I wanted to kill it, even if it were my only company. To extinguish the sinister fire that ignites the stygian vacuum of what was supposed to be its soul. For a beast such as this was not worthy of a soul - in its place dwelt only darkness and other elements of devilry. There was something so repulsive about it that it felt that there was no circumstance under which it deserved to exist.

Nobody should have to put up with such ugliness, yet there I was. I wondered if there were others locked in rooms with such ugly faces.

What were they doing? Had they killed it? Had they befriended it? Or had they just learnt to live with the noise? It seemed impossible to do so, but then so was imagining such ugliness.

I tried living with it. It would have to stop eventually, I thought. But it didn’t. Hours passed, but the cacophony continued. I had to do something, but the face was so ugly that I could not get myself to even come close to it, let alone touch it. It seemed as if doing anything with it would pollute me also - make me as ugly as the face. I didn't want to have anything to do with it. I banged against the doors and walls. The sounds coming from outside had drowned in the dissonance. I sat down, quietly losing my mind, waiting for someone to rescue me.

At that moment, the noise suddenly became louder. I looked up and saw the face jumping around on the lockers stacked to the long end of the room. It seemed to be dancing to the discordant rhythm of its noise. That was it. I got up, paced furiously across the room, picked up the ugly, sneering face by its ropy hair, and smashed it against the metal lockers.

The noise stopped. The face fell to the floor with a bland thump and started to dissolve. The layers of wrinkles and dead skin fell off and merged with the sparkling white floor until all that was left was a smiling face with the most tender, infantile skin I had ever seen. The door opened with a slight creak. I went outside, and found myself in a large, sparkling white compound of similar locked rooms, stretching acres into the horizon. I guessed there were

people like me in them, stuck with ugly faces that represented the worst in the world. All they had to do was end it – not put up with it – and the cacophony would stop.