Artwork provided by author
The face is a phantom, haunting the hallways of my head. It stalks the empty passageways and raps on the walls late at night when I’m trying to sleep. It moves around my furniture and messes with my books, yanking them off of the shelf and flipping through the pages. The face leaves footprints in the dust on the floor; it leaves streaks on the bathroom mirror. It comes and goes of its own accord.
The face is an echo that reverberates through the caverns of my mind. It shakes loose the dirt overhead and furthers the progression of cracks and crevices. I watch as they spread and delineate. The face collects like sediment, over time it forms stalactites and stalagmites. The face lets the light in, in long pillars across the floor, inching with the rising of the sun.
I found the face etched in stone, hundreds of meters beneath the earth’s surface. There it was, right there in the bedrock, carved in jagged strokes like Stonehenge graffiti. Every detail of the face rendered in absolute clarity in the substratum, its ghostly lineage preserved in the substance of geologic time. Its likeness fossilized in the interior. I tried to sand away the features of the face, but there was no getting rid of it. I stopped spelunking in the caves and I stayed out of the way of its ghost. I did my best to forget.
I tried spending more time outside—getting reacquainted with old friends whom I had lost touch with. I went to work and occasionally talked on the phone with my family. I watched my face change in the mirror. Sometimes I went for a walk. I did my best to take care of myself.
I found myself up in the attic—I'm not sure how much time had passed between the face and I. There were old boxes with its name on them. I did my best to maintain my composure as I walked through the house it used to haunt. I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed at the motes of dust and dirt in all of my corners. I cleaned all the mirrors and I organized my bookshelf. I found no trace of the face. I combed through the catacombs for the slightest hint of its presence. I dug out my old headlight and descended deep into the darkness. I retraced all of my old steps. I walked past caverns full of crystals and murky mineral water that swam with blind fish. I ran my hands along the cold stone walls trying to trace the fault lines back to the engraved face. I lost all track of time. I forgot what the sun looked like. I fed on sleeping bats and drank the water that dripped and collected off the smooth stone. I searched and searched for the face, but there was no sign of it. Eventually I gave up. It took time, but I was able to make it back to the surface. Several weeks had passed. The light greeted me like an old friend and I fell down on my knees and wept in the tall grass. I commanded Roman Sentinels to close off the cave entrance and guard it forever.
I resumed my residence. I no longer seek meaning in the patterns of dust. I know now there's no sense in trying to interpret the raps on the wall and the bangs on the ceiling; memory isn't written in Morse code. Even ghosts find peace eventually. I crossed its name off of the boxes in the attic, I wrote “FREE” in big bold letters with a sharpie. I didn't look inside. There was nothing in there for me. And even though I lost it, I know the face is still deep inside of me somewhere, carved in limestone, standing the test of time.