Face Hunter

By: Dawn DeBraal

Daniel moved through the streets of Caverbury, searching for new faces to assimilate. He never got attached to any of them, the faces he wore in his afterlife. He was not allowed to wear his own. The curse of a witch hung his face encased in metal on a chain she put around his waist.

Daniel was forced to find a new face when the old one decayed. The harvested faces only lasted a week or two before they would not allow him to pass in public as human, even in the dark.

Tonight, he sought a new victim. As he moved through the darkness, the clanking of his chains made grown men cower at the sound of the "Face Hunter."

With each new face, he took, poor Daniel placed the souls in a cage that hung on his belt. Haunted by them each night, they appeared taunting him for taking their likeness. Daniel could not rid himself of them, for he had taken their souls as well as their identities. Such a cursed life he led.

Angeline was a beautiful young woman who took the time to get to know him. Little did she know Daniel planned on her to be his next victim; he was taken by this woman who was not only fair in face, but her soul was also beautiful. He decided that he needed better souls in his life to offset the bitter ones.

As the night drew to a close, he did not take Angeline. He couldn't do this to her. He let her go. In the alleyway, he found himself looking for his new face when Angeline appeared before him.

"Daniel," her radiant smile captivated him. He was excited again with the thought of obtaining such a beautiful face but could not make himself go against the woman he'd fallen in love with. Time flew by; Daniel tried to excuse himself when the town clock tower struck twelve. He needed to find a face soon. Angeline would not recognize him tomorrow. This saddened him.

"Daniel, please, don't go." He stopped in his tracks, turning to Angeline.

"I need to. You cannot come with me. You will never see my face again." Angeline stopped him from walking away.

"I'll give you my face. I know who you are."

"What? Why would you do that?" he was shaken. Angeline would give up her life for him.

"I am dying. I don't have long to live, and I know that you carry souls in that cage you have around your waist. It means we could be together forever. I love you, Daniel, even in the short time we've been together. I shall never meet a man that I love as much as I love you."

"I cannot do that just yet. Let me come to you tomorrow with a different face. You will know me by my clothes and voice."

Daniel found the most handsome man that night and harvested his face and soul. He applied the mask and opened the cage dropping the stranger into the container. The next night he was in the alley, near Angeline's home, a hovel, in a dilapidated building. She did not meet him that night. Daniel worried about her. Perhaps it was for the best. On the last night of his ageing face, Angeline walked with a walking stick down the alleyway. She was very ill.

"Daniel, I have come. Please do not deny me my wish." Angeline fell into his arms. Daniel stroked her beautiful face and wept for her. She was so weak and frail. He couldn't watch her suffer another moment. When the hour was right, he painfully peeled the used mask off his face, taking Angeline's face and putting it where the dark hole was. Angeline's spirit rose from her body, but instead of putting it in the cage, he left it free.

He left her body behind when his former lover, the witch Dahlia, stopped him.

"Daniel, leaving her soul, will put you to death." Daniel signed. He was no longer angry with Dahlia; she only made him sad.

"She gave herself to me freely. In all these years, I have never had anyone give me their life. I will give her soul freedom." Dahlia told him to stop as he walked away.

"If you leave her soul free, I will take yours."

"Dahlia, without Angeline, I would not want to live another day." Dahlia raised her hand and struck him down with a bolt of lightning. The face hunter lay dead in a heap.

*

Angeline's ghost appeared, seeing Daniel lying on the side of the road. She plucked her face off the hunter and put it back on her spirit. Taking the iron mask from Daniel's belt, Angeline put the molded mask on his face. Why didn't he obey when Dahlia told Daniel to stop?

Angeline cradled Daniel's head in her arms. She said her goodbyes, kissing his metal lips. When Angeline's tears spilled on his cheeks, she felt him move in her arms.

Daniel moaned. The metal face became that of a real man. Angeline felt herself come back to life with Daniel's revival.

"What happened?" Daniel put his hands up to his face recognizing himself. "I'm me!" Angeline laughed. In her joy, Dahila's face took over Angeline's, only for a moment. "Daniel, you now understand what true love is. You can love me as Angeline or as Dahlia. I lift the curse." Daniel opened the cage on his belt, setting the souls free. The chains around his waist fell away.

He reached for Angeline, that beautiful face. He stroked her neck and received her kisses. While they embraced, Daniel twisted her head until her neck snapped. Angeline's dead body lay on the ground turning back into Dahlia. He heard Angeline's voice in the wind urging him to carry on. Daniel was free of the curse.

The End

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