A Remarkable Capacity for Facial Recognition

01
No matter how bad things got on the island, there would always be room in his heart for at least a shred of gratitude for the poor drowned man whose belongings washed up on the shore along with him long ago.

 

02
One never knew what surprises the bag would bring. Often it would deliver into his hands the means to amuse himself and pass almost the whole day’s worth of time.

 

03
Sometimes, however, like anything in life, it couldn’t help but disappoint, and offer something only a niche member of the world could chance upon and find valuable. A man with one leg, for example.

 

04
Nonetheless, on days where the hunger became otherwise too extreme to handle, when that and the long stretches of no sleep created lucid hallucinations of persecution and dissociation he otherwise had trouble shaking off, he was grateful the bag was always there for him to calm his soul. Little did he know that this time the bag would give him much more than mere disappointment or amusement.

 

05
Who knew exactly how long it had been since he looked upon a mirror? Certainly at least once before he reached the island, but how long ago was that?

 

06
Which then got him thinking, was that really what he looked like? True, the mirror seemed regular, it being not angled or curved like one of those magician’s tools, and therefore professed an image for him that was for the most part trustworthy and free of guile.

 

07
But could he really be sure that these were indeed his features? Surely a look upon a glass wouldn’t have given him such doubts if it was accurate. No one questions a mirror if there’s no cause to do so. And while it had indeed been a while since he looked at his reflection, he wasn’t entirely blind to his own face, wasn’t he? He felt the bumps and creases along his face, poked his fingers in the holes in his nose, wiped the sweat from his own brow, rubbed the salty tears away from his eyes, many times before.

 

If only he had some sort of frame of reference to compare to the visage in his mind’s eye. Was that glass indeed the only reflective surface on the island? The world is rife with stories of people looking upon the shimmering surface of water and gleaning an undeniable truth in reflection. Perhaps the sea could offer a glimmer of clarity in the matter.

 

 

No, it couldn’t.

 

11
He had to be sure, but how? Maybe there was another on the island with him? It seemed plausible enough. If at least two people had once reached the shores here, those being himself and the unfortunate man with the leftover sack of belongings, there was a reasonable chance there could be one more as well.

 

He therefore set out for the long trek around the circumference of the island, in the hopes of finding another soul, and more importantly, another face.

 

It took him half the day (though how could he be sure? Did the sun even rise or fall around here? That was a question for another time), but there was indeed another face, taking an afternoon nap out in the sun.

 

He took a glance at the other man’s visage, and it struck him to his soul. His face. His face was not his own.

 

Yes, it was uncanny.

 

He was sure in his heart he could remember those features, that nose, those eyes, that clean-shaven chin, even better than he could remember his own “face” through the glass darkly.

 

The false man, however, stirred from his nap and noticed him.

 

Before he had a chance to inquire to the man about his curious features, he rebuffed him and went back to his own business.

 

He was discouraged, but nonetheless determined to get at the truth.

 

Upon a closer look of the man’s face it was all so plain to see. Yes, that visage was his own property, pilfered from him as easily as one would have grabbed an object out of that bag of goods. The difference being, of course, that he was still alive and so still had need of it.

 

When the man woke once again, he took a glance up at him and said nothing, undoubtedly nursing the wound of his duplicitous crime in his heart. He was caught in the act.

 

Before he even had a chance to voice his grievance, the man immediately began to leave, muttering something about his disturbed slumber, and he could have sworn he heard something along “never seen the man before in my life, he’s mad, has to be…”, but he knew better.

 

Look at the scoundrel scurrying away after a moment’s scrutiny, he grumbled to himself, like a nest of bugs scattering here and there after someone lifts up a rock they’ve been hiding under. Truly a guilty man has no need of an accuser.

 

Later that day he returned to the bag of goods and took a survey of his situation. Someone had taken most of the useful things while he was gone, a one-legged man finally took the single shoe off his hands, and someone known to him took his own face.

 

The mind-boggling question of “how?!” oppressed his soul as much as the sheer treachery of the act.

 

Perhaps, so he thought, another gander into the bag, rather than the mirror, would calm his spirits.

 

There was nothing useful left over, at first anyway, until the very last item made all clear, perhaps even more than the mirror possibly could.

 

So the thief came in the night (or perhaps a time when he was not conscious), tiptoed to the bag, and grabbed the shears he needed to perform the horrible deed. Once he had what he needed, he emptied the bag’s contents and put the wicked instruments all the way on the bottom.

 

And to think there was once a time he was so foolish to believe that a man stuck here, at the very lowest depths of the soul such as he was, could never possibly sink to such an even lower depth of turpitude! To think that he expected, in the rare event anyone would sneak about his back on the island, that they’d take from the bag! Never did he think their greed would extend to his own very person!

 

Well, he knew what had to be done. Holy writ had clear instructions on how to deal with a man who took out your own eye, and he always considered himself a spiritual man when it suited himself (or that’s at least what he remembered the beginning of holy writ saying, anyways. It was a long book, after all, you couldn’t seriously be expected to read it all front to back).

 

And there’s the guilty man himself, spending what little moments he has left before his inevitable reckoning, trying to eke out a mere moment’s worth of peace…

 

…trying all in vain.

 

And now, the critical moment. Folks, please be warned that this will be a most distressing scene to watch.

 

While it’s understandable that to witness this man’s just retribution can be a hard thing for some to stomach, nonetheless it is important that you do not divert your eyes, reader.

 

Man is a social being, even on a deserted island. To betray the trust of your fellow man in this life, then, is to betray the very foundation of society itself.

 

Since as long as mankind existed in a civilized manner, the morality play held primacy among all other narratives, and for good reason.

 

The rulers of men from the ancient times all the way up to today realized that mankind needed to be taught the right and proper way. More importantly, they needed to understand that for those who deviated from the straight and narrow, they would suffer the consequences.

 

(38)
And that’s what this story is about, reader. There are consequences for everything we do, always. Whether in this world or the next, swift justice will come to… ah… erm…

 

Erm, excuse me… there’s, ah, been some kind of mistake.

 

If someone, maybe… if someone could move the frame… a bit over… oh… oh my…

 

Well, uh, okay… this was a disaster, wasn’t it? I guess… I guess we have no choice but to wait this out.

 

Alright, we’re back. There certainly was a hard struggle endured by the two men (you couldn’t hear it, true, but I could. I’m the omniscient narrator after all.) But due to an unfortunate clerical error with the mise-en-scéne, it seems you will never know its outcome.

 

It is clear that someone emerged from the scuffle with a face, and the other is most likely still lying on the sand in agony, his face hacked off and probably not replaced, his exposed skull and eyes and face muscles being pecked at by hungry seagulls.

 

But you will never know if that man with the face gained justice as well, or if he merely escaped from his reckoning with free rein to commit more wickedness on the island.

 

You will never know if that other poor man sprawled on the sand without a face is suffering his just deserts, or is suffering from the profoundly bad luck of coveting his true face, only to end up with no face at all.

 

You will never know which man it was who returned to the bag of goods and found nothing there save a curious mirror.

 

Who knew exactly how long had it been since looked into a mirror? Certainly at least once before he reached the island, but how long ago was that?

 

Which then got him thinking, was that really what he looked like? True, the mirror seemed regular, it being not angled or curved like one of those magician’s tools, and therefore professed an image for him that was for the most part trustworthy and free of guile.

 

But could he really be sure that these were indeed his features? Surely a look upon a glass wouldn’t have given him such doubts if it was accurate. No one questions a mirror if there’s no cause to do so. And while it had indeed been a while since he looked at his reflection, he wasn’t entirely blind to his own face, wasn’t he? He felt the bumps and creases along his face, poked his fingers in the holes in his nose, wiped the sweat from his own brow, rubbed the salty tears away from his eyes, many times before.

 

He had to be sure, but how? Maybe there was another on the island with him? It seemed plausible enough. If at least two people had once reached the shores here, those being himself, the unfortunate man with no face, and the unfortunate man with the leftover sack of belongings, there was a reasonable chance there could be one more as well.

 

And this time, things were different. If he didn’t like what he saw, he had the means to change things around.

 

Yes, with a little bit of hard work and gumption, and maybe a little bit of luck, he could finally stop worrying about what he saw in his own reflection. He would finally bring things back to normal around here.

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