The earth fell upon the corpse ever so softly. Its blank eyes stared up at the crazed man who was shovelling frantically, his beard speckled with sweat. He stared into the face, finding it staring back at him with a judging glare. Gritting his teeth, he worked faster. Even when the body was covered in dirt, the grave filled to the brim, the man still felt the eyes staring at him. The sensation didn’t waver as he walked back to his car, nor when he closed the door to his empty home, nor when he closed his eyes in an attempt to escape to a world of fantasy.
Pin for Later!
The next morning, Frank woke up to a warm sun. Something within seemed to click in favour of his sanity. The thoughts of the night before, of the supposed friend he buried, seemed to be fading quickly. The eyes that he felt watching them seemed to have shut, giving him a new sense of peace he had almost forgotten. He thought back on the man that he thought he knew so well and burned the memory in his mind.
Steadily, he climbed from his bed and walked to the bathroom. A tired face stared back at him through dreary eyes. Not seeming to recognise it, Frank found his razor and began to shave. The process took some time but once done he felt a little more familiar. Next, he took scissors to his hair and although he wasn’t an expert at cutting his hair, it wasn’t too difficult working the mass down to something manageable.
With a quick wash to get rid of all the loose hair, Frank stepped out from the shower, combed his hair and prepared for work. Coffee gave him temporary energy, helping him find the strength to climb into the truck and drive to work. The engine purred happily, a sound which only made Frank smile. He had been worried for a long time whether the old problems with the engine would surface again, but thanks to…thanks too…
Puzzled, Frank tried to remember who worked on his car, but nothing seemed to come to mind. Confused for only a moment, he soon stopped the truck near the mechanic shop. Stepping in, he greeted all the others who gave him funny looks but then smiles and laughter.
“Hey, junior, where’s your dad at? Oh...ha...wait…”
“Frank, my ma-, uh ah, forget it.”
“Hey, hey, Frankie, you seem to have dropped your Y chromosome!”
The jokes came thick and fast about his lack of beard and wild hair, but Frank only laughed them off as he went to work. It seemed to surprise the others, who thought Frank’s temper would act up and help make the scene a little more fun. Instead, they got submissive nods and ‘good one’s. Thrown off by the reaction, everyone shrugged it off and went to work on the cars and trucks people brought in to be fixed.
Frank worked diligently, finding problems quickly and fixing them just as fast. In a moment, he was finished with his work for the day and was helping others with theirs. Steadily, Frank got every truck and car working again. The other mechanics scratched their heads, but once more opted to shrug it off, thinking Frank was having a good day.
Frank began to notice some peculiarities around him too.
“What...uh…” Frank murmured as he walked to his truck with the other mechanics.
“What’s up?” one asked.
“I thought I heard a yell for a second, was it the boss calling me?”
The mechanics looked back, but only saw their boss busy with the menial paperwork. He seemed far too concerned with the numbers to have called Frank and the other mechanics could confirm not hearing anything. Frank made a joke about being lucky, but he felt sure that he heard something. Throwing it to the back of his mind, he focused on just getting home.
As Frank drove home, he found himself tapping out the beat of the song on the radio as he went, unaware that he took several wrong roads, ending up on a dirt road out of town. It didn’t hit him until he saw the flash of red and blue lights ahead of him. Looking out on the old hill, he saw the flash of cameras and a crowd of eager reporters and cops keeping them back. Frank kept driving, averting his eyes.
Something was welling up in his chest, but it receded just as quickly. All anxious thought seemed to go with it and he was soon tapping out the rhythm on his steering wheel once again. Correcting his car, Frank turned down the road that led home and relaxed in his seat. Thoughts of TV dinner and quiet time to himself played in his mind, but a thirst for something different peaked up.
Stopping at a gas station along the way, Frank went inside to buy himself a pack of cigarettes. As he walked towards the gas station, he reached instinctively in his pocket to check he had his wallet on him but stopped short when his fingers graced plastic wrapped around a box. It was a box of cigarettes and even though he cannot recall smoking any before, he felt the brand was right as well.
“Let me back!”
Frank shuddered, a familiar voice resonating within him, but was immediately broken when he found the source.
“Let me back!” a child shouted at his brother, who locked him out of the family car.
The mother was already on her way to discipline the brother and let her child back in the car. Yet, as that problem was being resolved, Frank found himself thinking on the voice he heard. It was far deeper, far rougher...yet…
Lighting a smoke as he climbed in the car, Frank pondered the familiar voice as he drove home. Finally arriving, he slammed the car door, with unreasonable anger fighting to take hold of him. Frank could not comprehend what was happening to him but fought to maintain himself. He wondered if he was ill or if it was the cigarette in his mouth that made him feel so wrong. In his mind, it felt as if a part of himself didn’t seem to sit right.
Unlike before, this anxiety was not receding.
Walking inside his home, Frank broke out into a sweat. Voices were roaring in his head, voices that belonged to a single man. A man with a familiar face...a face that he tried so hard to forget, a face that seemed to look back at him whenever he looked in…
Frank’s eyes widened and he searched for the nearest mirror. He stomped to the bathroom to look in the same mirror he looked in that morning. What he saw was a bearded face, his face, but not his face. Recalling that he shaved that morning, Frank reached up to touch his smooth skin and found the reflection did not do the same. Instead, the reflection was revolted by the audacity that Frank showed.
“It’s not yours!” the reflection shouted within Frank’s mind and it reached for him. “It’s mine! Let me back in!”
Frank felt the hands wrap around his throat and he grabbed at the wrists. Clasping at the air, Frank found himself choking and unable to stop. It was closing his eyes that helped weaken the grip. Frank wrenched himself out of the reflection's grasp, throwing himself against the bathroom wall. His head collided with the wall, a hot pain flashing his mind. Frank tried to maintain control, but his mind already began to darken.
Stumbling out of the bathroom, Frank fell unconscious.
Frank awoke with a throbbing pain in his head. It felt as if one side of his skull was threatening to cave in, or his brain trying to push out. Afraid that moving too fast would kill him, he took his time climbing to his feet. He steadied himself against the wall, returning to the bathroom in darkness. Hesitating at first, Frank eventually looked into the mirror and saw only his bloodied head.
He touched the wound on his head, feeling the dry blood. Frank wondered how long he had been out. With a deep sigh, he slowly walked out the bathroom in search of his phone. As he searched for his phone in the dark, the front door clicked and opened, scaring him for a moment. In the doorway stood his wife who saw him in the dark.
“Drunk again, Frank? Why am I not surprised.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Barbara cut him off. “I’m just here to get my-”
As Barbara flicked the light switch, she was greeted by the sight of her bloody husband. Frank twinged in pain, the lights blinding him for a moment. Shaking on the spot, he clung to the couch to keep from falling. He felt his wife’s hands hold him steady. She was concerned, even more so when she could not smell any alcohol on him.
“What happened, Frank? Are you alright?”
“I-I slipped…” Frank murmured before the sensory overload beat him unconscious, once again.
When Frank woke up again, he was in a hospital bed, his wife sitting beside him.
“You’re a stupid man, Frank,” Barbara’s voice echoed. “But a lucky one.”
“Lucky to have you,” Frank groaned, the pain surging through as he tried to move.
Barbara placed her hand on his chest, keeping him down in bed.
“Had me,” she told him. “Don’t get any ideas, Frank. You know we’re done and he always treats me better.”
“You know, Sean.”
Frank recognised the name.
“Sean...my best friend, Sean?” Frank grunted angrily.
“I thought he told you...whatever, not like he kept his promise anyway. He wasn’t home last night. Maybe it’s just you men...Frank, calm down!”
Frank was shaking with rage, wanting to climb out of the bed and hunt his friend down.
“I’m going to kill him,” Frank moaned. “I swear I will.”
“Isn’t that just like you,” Barbara’s eyes rolled before holding him down again. “How about you do something for me, Frank?”
Frank stopped, laying back in bed in a huff. He looked up at his wife, staring furiously at her nonchalance. Still, he loved her more than anything and those words made him see through the red mist. She watched his expression change to one of sadness and shame.
Frank began to open up, to make promises, to do all in his power to convince her to stay with him. It nearly worked, but Barbara had reached her trust limit. The news about Sean came through Frank’s friend who called him at the hospital. The body mutilated, save for the head, which made it easy to recognise. Frank mourned like all the others, but deep inside he felt nothing.
Even deeper, he was happy he did it. Yet, there was always the faint feeling of being watched. The soft voices of an old friend. Frank, the real Frank, would not be letting his spirit be taken again. He held onto the body that was his while Sean slowly faded away, leaving only the nightmarish thought that he was never really dead.