By John Wayne Comunale
Carrie peered through the curtains of her bedroom window. The man was still there. She didn’t know why she expected anything different, since he had been standing on the sidewalk across the street from her house for the last five days. Every time she looked out, he would hold up his hand, displaying a finger for each day he’d been there. It took her a couple days to figure what the fingers represented, but now it was clear as he held up his hand with all five fingers extended.
The man wore a long trench coat that plunged all the way to the ground, completely covering his feet, and the collar seemed larger than usual. He kept it popped up and pulled close to his face, obscuring his features. The only thing she could make out were his dark eyes, shining like polished onyx from the shadow cast by the collar. Carrie had taken to referring to him as the Trenchman. Since his arrival, things had gotten strange, and she couldn’t help but think he was directly responsible, but she didn’t know how, since all he did was stand there.
First the power had gone out, followed by cellular and landlines and the Internet shortly after. Carrie had no way to contact anyone, and nobody could contact her. Her parents were gone now, the first victims of the Trenchman, on the second day he’d been there. Carrie had told her parents that the man had been standing across the street, staring at her window, for the past two days, so her father strutted across the street while her mother watched from the lawn, Carrie from her window. Her father engaged him politely, as she knew he would. The Trenchman reached out and pulled her father’s face off. He didn’t rip it off like the bloody, gore-filled scenes she’d watched in monster movies. Instead, the Trenchman simply grabbed the skin below her father’s chin between his thumb and forefinger and peeled it off like he was removing a bandage.
The Trenchman opened his coat just enough to slip her father’s face inside. His body swayed before collapsing on the sidewalk. Carrie’s mother screamed from the lawn and dashed across the street. She knelt next to her fallen husband for a moment before standing up to confront the Trenchman. He reached out, grabbed her face in the same manner, peeled it away, and slipped it into his coat. Carrie watched as her mother’s body wobbled for a moment before collapsing next to her father’s.
By the fifth day, bodies piled up on the sidewalk around the Trenchman. Carrie could only watch from her window as he removed the faces of most of her neighbors, the mailman, random passersby, even a few police officers who couldn’t call for backup, since their radios weren’t working either. One by one, the Trenchman peeled their faces off with no noticeable effort and added them to the collection in his coat.
Carrie sat at her window, watching the Trenchman watch her. They watched each other until the sun began to rise, and the Trenchman held up all five fingers of his left hand and one from his right. Carrie stepped away from the window and knew what had to happen next. During the whole fifth day, nobody approached the Trenchman. No one else was coming. Now it was her turn. She was the only one left.
Carrie slipped on her winter coat. She stepped into her boots and pulled the fur that lined the hood of her coat close to her face so she could smell it one last time. Then she stepped outside. The piles of bodies looked much different from this vantage point, like they’d gotten impossibly bigger. Thin wafts of steam rose steadily from the bodies, something she hadn’t noticed from her window. Another thing she didn’t expect was the smell, rather, the lack thereof. Carrie thought the dead bodies would produce an overpowering stench, but she smelled only the crispness of the winter air.
There was a clear path from Carrie’s front door directly to the Trenchman, and she wondered if he did this on purpose, having some kind of power over where the bodies fell. The collar still hid his face, but Carrie could see the floating black orbs still trained on her from the shadow. She pulled her jacket closed and held it tightly against her body as she began to walk towards the Trenchman. He stood frozen; the only movement came from the steady rise and fall of his chest as he breathed calm and evenly. She studied the bodies as she walked by. They all were faceless, only instead of the bloody, exposed skulls she expected to see, there was only blank and featureless flesh. It sat smooth and flat across the space their faces used to occupy.
Carrie stepped up to the Trenchman and stood confidently, staring into the black eyes of his shadowed face. Several seconds of silence passed between the two, and Carrie thought the way his eyes were jumping around made it look like he was smiling.
“You made it six whole days,” said the Trenchman, finally breaking the silence.
“Yeah,” said Carrie, unsure if he expected her to answer.
“Too bad, I can do that standing on my head,” he said and reached out and tapped her on the shoulder. “You’re it! Oh, and good luck beating twenty-seven faces!”
“What?” asked Carrie. The Trenchman had already run past her, down the path, and into the house. The door slammed behind him.
Carrie stood puzzled, staring at the house as if she expected it to explain to her what had just happened. Suddenly, up in the window, her window, appeared the head of the Trenchman. He pulled down his collar to reveal that he was actually a little girl, a little girl who looked similar to Carrie, except for the eyes. The eyes remained black and continued projecting the ominous vibe. An icy wind blew and Carrie pulled her jacket to her body even tighter, noticing she was now wearing a large trench coat that scraped against the ground at her feet. A chill ran down her neck, and she pulled the oversized collar to cover her face and neck. She looked back to the window. The little girl smiled, waved, and held up a single finger. Carrie mimicked the action back to her to signify the start of day one.
She heard someone call to her and turned to see a man approaching from up the sidewalk, weaving in and out of the bodies without giving them a second look.
“Hey, buddy,” said the man. “What are you doing here? You can’t be here. You understand me?” Carrie sighed, and when the man was within arm’s reach, she grabbed the skin under his chin and peeled.
John Wayne is an American actor who died in 1979. John Wayne Comunale is a writer for the comedic collective MicroSatan and contributes creative nonfiction for the theatrical art group BooTown. When he’s not doing that, he tours with the punk rock disaster johnwayneisdead. He is the author of The Porn Star Retirement Plan and writer/illustrator of the comic-zine: The Afterlife Adventures of johnwayneisdead.
Flash Fiction Friday is edited by Eric Hendrixson, who is mostly biodegradable. He is the author of Drunk Driving Champion and Bucket of Face. You can send him bizarro flash fiction stories for this series by pasting them into the body of an email (no attachments or flamboyant formatting) to FlashFictionFridaySubmissions@gmail.com. Submissions should be no longer than 1000 words and in the bizarro genre.