Lisa stopped, turned to find where the voice was coming from. She met eyes with him, and felt time had stopped and continued again. She almost felt the sloth smile creep back to the corners of her lips, soon her upper lip exposed the lower ends of her upper teeth. “I guess?” Lisa said slowly.“These fakers, right?” he said to her.
“What do you mean?” Lisa said, only to be cut off by this stranger.
“Don’t tell me you’re one of them,” he offered her a glass of wine, still full, and she wondered if he had even drank from it.
“And you’re not?”she grabbed the wine glass regardless, brought it to her nose to smell it, swirled it, but didn’t drink it just yet. She didn’t want to look out of place. Most people in this party couldn’t drink anyway, so although she would love a glass of alcohol right about now she had to keep up appearances.
“I am what I am,” he told Lisa, almost insulted by her insinuation.
Lisa still fidgeted but tried her best not to show it. She still wanted to get out of this party now. She came for the food, for the wine, but now she had enough, and then he came along.
“Am I a faker, then?” She asked but instantly regretted the question.
“I thought you were supposed to be overseas?”
“Says who?” Lisa asked aloud, this had caught her off-guard. Did she check her social feeds before she came here? Was there something she had missed out? She had to remain cool, she couldn’t let slip her own deception. “I’m right here, aren’t I?” She had to take a mental note to check her social feeds when she got home.
“Says Lisa Wang.” The creases of his eyes were smug, confident. It deserved a punch. Lisa wondered if she punched him how his skin muscles might look like. She had heard of skin fibres and muscle being customised. There was even a sub fetish of half-faces, exposed motors and flesh and muscles, and Lisa even considered running within those circles if her looks would one day wear out. These fetishists would pay broken faces a healthy sum of money to have sex with them.
When asked, some might claim they had begun to hate the artifice and found the imperfections welcoming. There were even rumours of some of the extremely rich paying good money for time with the faceless; the faceless whore would strip and so would the rich client, stripping away his face, then his ears, then his hair. Sometimes, he would strip his skin away too.
Where in the old days one might find lingerie and boxers strewn along the bedroom floor, these days the rich fetishists would have their fake body parts littering the floor instead, skin plates, faces, body suits laying on carpet like mounted snake skin, and if one did the research one would find that most of the fetishists were women who did it with female proles, and dick jobs need not apply.
The virus was slightly kinder to women, their genitalia and pleasure zones still intact. In the old days men would sleep with someone and leave them by dawn and never know their names, these days women slept with other women and paid well never to know their faces, because everyone was faceless.
That smugness in his face never truly left, but he did try to steer the conversation back into less antagonistic territory. “You wanna get out of here?”
“You paid your donation, right?”
Lisa hesitated, and gave a half-convincing “Yeah.”
He was too excited to notice it anyway.
“Don’t I get your name at least?”
“Han. Chang Han. Now will you go already?”
“Alright, alright,” Lisa put her glasses and when she raised her head again she saw Han’s hand outstretched, waiting for her fingers to mingle with his. She did, and then asked where they were going to go?
“My place,” he said. “We can search for Lisa Wang. I’m tired of Chang Han, Harrison Peters and God knows who else I’ve been.”
Lisa couldn’t help but giggle a failed stifle. “Anyway, I don’t think you’re one hundred percent caught up in Lisa Wang news.”
Han lead her out, hands and fingers still intertwined. “Catch me up on her when we reach my place.”
Soon they were in his electric car. “You know what?” Han said. He waited for her to turn his way, to wait for his next say. “I didn’t pay for no donation.”
“Me neither,” Lisa giggled as the engine started.
She tried to glimpse herself via reflections formed by dark surfaces, to see if her seams were visible. She wondered even as far as guessing again if he was a natural or a dick job, since he implied he was from the streets just like she was. Once, when she first began being other skins, she felt guilty that she was enjoying the high life while others of her kind suffered, panhandling, stealing food off scraps in garbage heaps, but now she felt, fuck it, tonight she was going to enjoy being Lisa Wang on Lisa Wang’s behalf.
Han caught her more than once checking herself out, finally spotting her and said, “I do that sometimes, too.” He made a signal to turn left, and after Lisa stopped checking herself out, she noticed something else.
The roads were barren, save for a few cars she could count, and change, with her fingers. In the larger world, she realised, rich were just a small percentage in this wide world, the same way a phone or a ring fit in the hand in degrees large and small but fit nevertheless, but when thrown intothe sea, the phone or the ring were insignificant things that got swallowed in the tide, by the infinite hunger of the infinite sea. Were the rich at all that significant in the larger scheme of things? Were they just pebbles to be taken in by the rolling in of the ocean onto the shore, pebbles that overstated their self-worth?
The car turned into a neighbourhood where faceless proles begged for loose change, some even approaching their car as it slowed down. Lisa knew this neigbourhood because she recognised the graffiti, the stink of it, it even permeated into the car, that mix of weed and sewer stink and the occasional exhaust that came from old stolen cars.
“You know any of them?” Lisa asked Han.
Han took a quick peek at the faceless one approaching their car, and almost immediately said, “No. This wasn’t my neighbourhood.”
Lisa leaned back, knowing if she were afraid like the rich were if the faceless homeless came to her, she wasn’t one of them. She did not flinch, but she wished now she was never part of the homeless. She wanted now to be Lisa Wang forever, affiliations be damned.
They stepped out the car, and a homeless, faceless one walked toward them, but with just a wave of his hand the faceless man walked away, as if his hand repelled the faceless man, or maybe Han was lying when he said he didn’t know them at all. That motion and that reaction seemed to her like acknowledgment and partial subservience. She didn’t want to probe him any further.
They went into the elevator which rode up to the 12th floor, the highest floor there was on this building, but once they entered his apartment everything seemed so minimal, steel and glass and glow of lamps, an emptiness only the rich could afford, empty, except for the row of short stands that held replacement faces, a lineup of Chang Hans, ready to replace the old face.
As Lisa walked along this row of faces she also noticed the wall, lined with pictures that felt like a museum, documenting the fall of mankind as it were, shots of the original victims of the virus, faces slowly losing their resolution, their integrity, the faces of loved ones first losing an ear, nose, eyelids, eyes, finally just walking smooth heads with a couple teeth remaining.
“History buff,” Lisa said nervously.
“Reminds me of what we survived, huh?” Han said as he poured her a blue liquid concoction. “The streets are littered with filth, homeless, they reek of vape and weed and stink of shit. We are all thats left of the old world.” He hands her the glass and she takes it slowly, fakes a fake smile, turns away, pensive, thinking about something.
“Look,” Han cut the ice, “I didn’t mean to be so grim. I rarely have guests here, is all.”
“No it’s just, my parents, you know? Even my little brother. I remember how they were when they were, you know? Normal. This shit doesn’t leave you I guess. I mean, you know what life can be like when we’re on the streets, but there’s so many of them you get numb to it. But to see this, it hits hard, you know?” A tear drips out the corner of her eye, and she wished she could take her face off right about now, because she wanted the tear to be unencumbered by the lines of this false face.
“Hey, hey,” Han said. He motioned toward her and pat her shoulder. “It’s all right, just left it out, its good just to let it out, let it all out, you’ll feel better.”
Lisa didn’t know if he meant what she thought he meant, but she felt next his finger against her neck, to where the release switch was. Her fingers joined his and both of them pressed the switch together. A mechanical hiss. Soon her face fell to the floor. He removed his face too with that same mechanical hiss.
“Han’s not my real name,” Han told her.
The faceless Lisa felt Han’s artificial face, then felt the rough features of his real face before her. “Lisa’s not my real name, either.”
She removed her face right then. “Where did they make yours?”
“According to the trademark and QR code here, it says China,” Han told her. “This face, it isn’t mine, anyways.”
“Just like our names.” Lisa rubbed her fingers along his head, a head without ears, without hair, nose or eyes. Just a mouth, slanted at an odd angle.
Soon his voice gave way, without the external voice chip at the bottom of his mask not making contact with his neck anymore he began to start slurring.
“Jusss…laik…ourrrrr….namessshhh….” Han mimicked her words. The rest of his speaking was a series of slurs.
“So, where did you get your faishhh from?” Lisa said.
“Heroin overdosshhh. How about’choo?
“Shooweeee shide jumper.”
“I been Han Chang for a year now.”
Both of them laughed, got closer and embraced one another.
“You ever wonder, when or if ever they might find ussssh out?”
“All the time.”