Alex scratched at his cheek while he drove, for all the good it did him. It wasn’t his face that itched. It was his essence.

He had been wearing this face for too long. He should have changed weeks ago, but he just couldn’t find a face that felt right.

“Stop being so damn picky,” he said to himself. He was going to have to choose someone in the next day or two. The itching would only get worse, and it wouldn’t take long for it to drive him insane.

Maybe a woman this time. He’d been a man for the last five faces. He needed to break out of his rut.

He pulled in to his assigned parking space, right next to the shiny, black hearse. He took a moment to make sure his hair was neat and his tie was straight. He had to look professional. He’d see people hurting today. There was very little he could do to mitigate that, but it was his job to do everything he could to help them.

Jane was at the front desk.

“Where have you been?” she said, a nervous tone in her voice. “Mr. Terrance has been calling you all morning!”

Alex patted his pocket and grimaced. “Left my phone at home,” he said. “I’ll go see him now.”

Jane started to say something, but Alex was in too much of a hurry. He was very aware of how much he owed Paul Terrance; not many people would have agreed to keep his secret. If Paul wanted to see him, everything else could wait.

But when Paul saw him, he winced. Alex hadn’t been expecting that, but in a moment, it became clear. He had been speaking to a older woman. She was vaguely familiar, and she was looking at Alex like she had just seen a ghost.

Which wasn’t too far from the truth.

“Johnny?” she choked out, tears forming in her eyes. “Is… how is this possible?” He could see the conflicting desires in her. She wanted to run to him, but she was afraid of reliving the pain if she did. Hope was a beautiful and terrible thing.

“I’m sorry, ma’am.” It was an ingrained reflex. “You’ve mistaken me for someone else.”

It would have been less cruel to hit her. She almost collapsed right there, but Paul guided her to one of the plump armchairs.

“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping at her eyes. “It’s just… you look just like him. I see his face everywhere, but… if I wasn’t his mother, I’d wonder if he’d had a twin.”

Alex remembered her now, but he should have known who she was from the start. He was getting complacent. It was sometimes difficult to recognize people you’d only seen grieving, but that was no excuse when he had stolen her son’s face.

I’m sorry,” Paul said, offering her a handkerchief. “When I realized you were coming in on Mrs. Jonas’s behalf, I tried to tell him not to come in. We didn’t mean to subject you to this. Alex, I’m sure there’s some work for you in the mortuary.”

The meaning was clear: go get a new face. And Alex couldn’t argue. He was getting careless, and things would only get worse if he kept putting it off. His kind weren’t meant to keep to one face. Soon, he’d start to get violent, and eventually it would drive him mad.

He nodded, mumbling an apology to Mrs. Abraham as he left.

There were only three bodies in the basement, all of them old men. That was unfortunate; ideally, he wanted a face near his own age. These men were three times his age, and he knew their faces would start to itch within a week or two.

It would last him long enough to find a better face, though. Until then, it would be his punishment for putting this off so long.

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