A short story, in three parts…

Hey Face­less,

I stum­bled across a neat, quirky piece of art a few weeks ago… it was a paint­ing of a man stand­ing in a cheesy motel room, wear­ing a trench coat and dark glass­es. He looked like he was wait­ing for some­one to arrive, to walk in and find him stand­ing there…no con­text giv­en, no sto­ry of any kind. (I can’t even tell you the name of the artist that did it, because I’d sure­ly give them props, which is also the rea­son I did­n’t post the pic­ture itself.) 

Any­way. This sto­ry popped up from that image, prob­a­bly to shift my focus away from what­ev­er-else-I-was-sup­posed-to-be-doing, and I thought I’d let you have a read. It’s short, it’s bro­ken up into three pieces… and feed­back is wel­come.

Who. Are. You.

Part One.

I had been trav­el­ing so much those past few weeks that where I was and where I was going had blend­ed into a homo­ge­neous blur. I had become an automa­ton, duti­ful­ly dri­ving from one spot to the next, the trunk of my car filled with the tools of my trade: pro­mo­tion­al sup­plies most­ly, with the odd par­ty or gag gift in tow.

It was pret­ty com­mon­place to find me on the road in the wee hours of the night, dri­ving off to my next town. The fol­low­ing day would almost always start the same way: my eyes would snap open in some shit­ty lit­tle motel room, fol­lowed by my naked stum­ble into the dim bath­room to assess the dam­age of the night before, my eyes usu­al­ly fire engine red and my face sport­ing some form of unex­plained booze bruise–the coun­te­nance of a man I bare­ly rec­og­nized stared back at me through the mir­ror every morn­ing. Some morn­ings, I’m cer­tain I caught him shak­ing his head.

After a quick show­er and shave, I’d walk over to one of the two suit­cas­es that fol­lowed wher­ev­er my trav­els took me. One was filled with vir­tu­al­ly iden­ti­cal navy suits, crisp white shirts and dark blue ties, along with my toi­letries and such. The oth­er case held the vari­ety of items I had on hand to sell that day, or that week, or that month. See­ing how I was on the road for weeks at a time, every­thing I need­ed came along with me, and would be replen­ished along the way at our field offices. This was a par­tic­u­lar­ly long stretch, and my sup­plies were run­ning low. But I would still have to get through two more towns before I reached the near­est one to get topped up.

I was beyond exhaust­ed on this par­tic­u­lar night. Maybe it was the stress of the last few weeks on the road final­ly catch­ing up to me, or per­haps it was the four or five drinks too many I had at the lit­tle bar around the cor­ner from the motel ear­li­er that evening. But the entire trip had been a deba­cle: can­celled meet­ings, lost mer­chan­dise, car prob­lems and out­right dis­as­trous demon­stra­tions… the trip would shape up to be far from a pleas­ant mem­o­ry, and I had good rea­son to drink it away if I could. To add to the may­hem, I had been nurs­ing what can only be described as a nev­er-end­ing hang­over the entire time, unfazed by the hand­fuls of pain killers I had been chew­ing like can­dies. The copi­ous amounts I had drank both in my enter­tain­ing duties and in my down­time did­n’t help mat­ters, sure­ly.  But the most trou­bling bit lay some­where in the large voids in my mem­o­ry that I could­n’t seem to fill with an accept­able amount of detail for the life of me–an occu­pa­tion­al haz­ard of sorts, I sup­pose.

The room I walked into that night was iden­ti­cal to the hun­dreds of road­side motels I had called home in the past. The over­all hue of the room was a famil­iar shade of beige, and the car­pet an odd­ly-wel­com­ing brown and green check. One wall was adorned with a sub­tle flo­ral print, like­ly a cou­ple of decades old; a sin­gle bed sat in the mid­dle of the room, dressed in plain white linens while a non­de­script pic­ture of an unin­spired land­scape stood sen­try over a plain wood­en desk. Home. Noth­ing at all note­wor­thy here, with the glar­ing excep­tion of the man in a black over­coat, wear­ing a black short-rimmed fedo­ra pulled low across his brow and dark-rimmed glass­es, smok­ing a cig­a­rette while sit­ting with his legs crossed at the end of my bed. Even in my com­pro­mised state, this seemed out of place.

From the full ash­tray sit­ting beside him on the bed, it appeared that he had been there for quite some time. He hur­ried­ly stamped out his cig­a­rette in the ash­tray and placed it beside him on the floor.

There you are! God, it’s good to see you. Come in, my boy. Sit down!”

Oh! My apolo­gies, the atten­dant must have giv­en me the wrong room key.”

He smiled at me. “Non­sense. Now don’t just stand there, you must be exhaust­ed after com­ing all that way. Come in and put your things down. We have much to dis­cuss, but you real­ly must get your bear­ings first.”

To say I was con­fused would be a mas­sive under­state­ment. If I had any sense at all, and per­haps if my head was­n’t throb­bing like a band was play­ing in it, I would have stepped back­wards, closed the door and run back to my car. But instead, as if under some form of spell, I came into the room and closed the door behind me, rest­ing my suit­cas­es on the floor against the wall. I real­ly need­ed to sit down. He scoot­ed over on the edge and ges­tured for me to sit, and I sat.

Did you have a pleas­ant trip? Not too much adven­ture, I hope?”

I was baf­fled, and the expres­sion on my face made that clear. And yet it did­n’t seem to reg­is­ter at all on this fel­low, his bright eyes fixed on mine behind his thick dark frames, his face twist­ed into a look of gen­uine fas­ci­na­tion and smil­ing broad­ly from ear to ear.

You’ve been wait­ing for me…?”

He looked per­plexed. “Of course I have. I was start­ing to wor­ry, if I’m being com­plete­ly hon­est. You should have been here days ago.” He let out a ner­vous chuck­le.

Days ago…? I’m sor­ry,” I said, “but who are you, exact­ly? Are you with head office? I’m run­ning low on sup­plies…”

He pat­ted my shoul­der just then, as a father would a young child. “We’ll get to that in a moment, I promise you. Right now, who you are is the key bit of busi­ness here. Or at the very least, who you think you are.”

To be con­tin­ued… (you can skip ahead to Part Two here)

Whatcha thinking, Faceless? Share those feelings.

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