The Man of a Million Faces

Trigger warning for violence and sexual assault.

 

Alan Watson opened the door slowly. He already knew what was in the room, waiting for him. With his enhanced senses, he could see it from the parking lot across the street. It wasn’t caution that slowed his hand, it wasn’t doubt that made his trigger finger twitch.

The room was dark, but again it didn’t matter. Alan could see in a hundred spectrums, hear heartbeats across town, smell skin cells and sweat glands. He had to do this. He had to stop this thing.

“I can’t believe you actually found me,” the man said. He was looking out the window, wearing a wife beater and striped boxers. He seemed shorter, stockier, yet also knobbier since the last time Alan saw him. “I haven’t seen you since… what, 75? 76?”

“July 1978. You won’t get away again.”

The man turned. His face was different, it was always different, but the eyes were the same. The same as they were the night the two first met. Blood red, luminous pupils.

“I had a feeling it would be you. It was always going to be you. You were different from the others. You were special,” said the man.

“You were there at the Flywheel job in the Techno Wonderland exhibit. Fifteen years ago. It was you who chartered the Forgotten Bridesmaid two years later. Indiana, Chicago, San Antonio, Maine. You left your fingerprints everywhere.”

“It’s one of my favorite things to do,” said the man. Alan shivered when the man’s eyes looked him over.

“I was just a kid! Just a fucking kid! You animal!”

“Not after I was done with you. That night, you became a man.” Alan raised his gun. The man hadn’t even noticed it. “Is this what you’ve been reduced to? The great Super Sleuth wielding a Saturday night special? You poor boy. You’ve fallen so far from the supple young thing you used to be.”

Alan fired three times. The man felt a dull sensation in his chest. Rather than bouncing harmlessly off his rubber-like skin, the rounds embedded themselves in him. He felt weird.

“If you knew anything about me, you’d know better than to let me shoot you,” said Alan.

“What did… My body…” the man began to say. Alan punched the man’s face with the force of a bullet. The man fell backwards into the cheap dresser, knocking the TV over.

“Anti-shapeshifter rounds. Designed specifically for you. You’re going to feel every second of this,” said Alan. The man shakily rose to his feet.

“Gud shthow,” the man said. His jaw was almost hanging off his face. His cheek was sunk in and his right eye was basically destroyed. Instead of looking afraid like Alan had hoped, he looked pissed.

The man grabbed a chair and swung it, but Alan turned it to wood chips with a single jab. He grabbed the man’s shirt and punched him again and again, but somehow he didn’t cry out in pain or call for help. He just took every blow without the slightest yelp. When he’d had his fill of violence, Alan took out a set of power null cuffs.

“Show’s over,” he said. He grabbed the man’s left hand and went to flick the cuffs on. In less than a second, Alan was on his back.

“That was good. Refreshing.” The man’s face was returning to a normal shape. And his eyes, bulging out of his face with an intensity that was barely human. Just like that night.

Suddenly Alan was 14 again, standing in the charnel house that used to be Mr. and Mrs. Turner’s bedroom, his senses flaring from the thousand varieties of death that only he could feel. The skin curtains hanging everywhere, that Alan thought had been some sick psychopath’s calling card, came together, folding into itself until it resembled a man in shape, but that Alan realized wasn’t even remotely human in character. Blood red eyes and a perfect white smile, burned in Alan’s memory forever.

“You’re going to pay for everyone you’ve hurt. Every child you’ve killed.” Alan went to reach for his gun, only to realize he was wearing the null cuffs.

“I don’t have time to indulge your revenge fantasies. I’m actually very busy right now. But since you went through all the trouble of coming out here, I might as well show you a good time.”

The man became a wave of skin, swirling around Alan until he was engulfed. Alan couldn’t really see anything anymore since the cuffs were hampering his senses, but he had the distinct feeling he was floating. Then he was flying out the window, into the rain. Before he hit mud, his arms and legs all caught at once. He was hanging precariously like a pig on a spit.

“Goddamn you!” Alan screamed as the man coalesced in front of him.

“You remember this, don’t you? Used to be my signature move back in the day.”

The memory came flooding back. Alan hanging while the man entered him through every orifice he had. For hours. It was worse than dying.

“Let me down,” Alan begged.

“Do you know why I wear people?” The man asked as Alan squirmed. “I think it’s important to walk a mile in someone else’s… shoes.”

The man’s head elongated towards Alan’s mouth.

“Fuck fuck fuck!” Alan hissed.

“Open wide, son,” the man said. Suddenly there was a clicking sound. The man snapped painfully back into shape. Alan fell to the ground.

“Gotcha! Thank Harry Houdini in Heaven, I got you!”

“You picked the cuffs and put them on me. You crafty bastard.”

Alan dialed a number on his phone that wasn’t the police. Ten minutes later, a van rolled up to the shoddy motel. Alan sat in the back with his quarry of thirty five years, watching rivulets of rain stream down his unrecognizable face.

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