Has a Face

Oct. 16th, 2009 05:12 pm
sunmoonandspoon: (Womblike)
[personal profile] sunmoonandspoon
Title: Has a Face
Author: [livejournal.com profile] speaky_bean
Characters/Pairings: L, B, A.
Rating: R
Word Count: 3,715
Notes: I got this idea from an RP-sequence I had with my sister [livejournal.com profile] ich_bin_puppy. I decided I really liked the idea and ought to expand on it. What started off as a simple hallucination caused by L’s profound lack of sleep turned into a nightmare where he finds himself being accused by A’s corpse of killing him, and then being physically and mentally assaulted by B. This is by far one of the strangest things I’ve written in a long time. The language includes a lot of bizarre metaphors and similes, and reality is rather tenuous here. I would call this a hallucination/psychological portrait, and I would not say that it makes perfect sense. This is very experimental for me, so I hope it turned out well! This was written for week #81 - hallucination, at [livejournal.com profile] dn_contest.
Warnings: This gets very gory and graphic in parts. I did a lot of research on how to accurately describe the victim of hanging, and I was shuddering as I wrote some of this. Please keep that in mind!



L hasn’t slept in three days. Maybe it was four days, or five…or six. Christ, he’s too tired to count. It probably wasn’t six, because then he’d be dead, or at least unconscious. He is, at the very least, not making a tremendous amount of sense, and maybe he’s shaking a little, maybe making tidal waves in the sludgy, scalding coffee that he shouldn’t be carrying when he’s this tired. He won’t spill it, if he concentrates. And once he drinks it, he’ll be fine. Caffeine will wake him up, dehumanize him. L the great detective doesn’t need to fucking sleep.

He can’t seem to bring the wide, white mug to his lips. He keeps nodding off, keeps shaking too hard to control his hands, his mouth, his anything. It takes six fits of hard blinking, six kicks against the floor and six stabs in the eye with his index finger, to wake himself up enough to drink the coffee. When he finally takes a sip, it’s too hot to drink, and this makes him furiously angry for about ten seconds, before he forgets what made him feel that way and wants to cry. Which is pathetic. Which doesn’t make any fucking sense, he’s just. Tired. No, not tired, exhausted. Fatigued. He hasn’t slept in years.

The coffee tastes like markers, like markets, like meerkats, like meat…the coffee tastes like sugar and roasted bean juice. And like milk, because it’s got milk in it, he shouldn’t have put so much milk in it, he’s diluting the caffeine. He’ll have to make more, next time, or eat more candy. Probably the candy because he has a lake of work to wade through, and because if he drinks another cup of coffee he’ll have to piss, later, and he doesn’t have time to go to the bathroom, doesn’t want to have to relieve himself into a soda bottle like last time…oh sweet holy fuck, he’s exhausted. The thought of working any longer tonight makes him want to kill himself, but if he doesn’t finish this case, there goes his reputation. (So precarious now, because everybody wants to knock him off his pedestal and steal his name.) There goes his personal safety, there goes other people’s lives. But how can anyone keep working under these conditions, how can anyone read let alone synthesize and deduce…he can’t. L cannot. He will kill himself first.

Except, that’s massively inappropriate. L doesn’t want to die, he just wants to sleep. Which is not possible because of the caseload (viral load, dreaded drudgery from hell, god who the fuck decided he should dedicate his life to this?) he’s struggling under. Also, once he’s finished (around never o’clock) he has to straighten up his room. It’s a dark, barren nothing-place with splintering floors, a desk, and a bed. The bed looms menacingly, threatens to jump from its customary spot by the window and rip L’s limbs from their sockets, to rip open his abdomen and feast on his organs and…his stomach hurts. The bed is small, and still, this isn’t happening. He isn’t working. His computer is frozen (it isn’t), and the numbers on his clock are getting bigger (they aren’t), then smaller (they aren’t), then bigger again (they are not!).

There is blood on the floor.

Two black drops of new blood, combining to make a small puddle.

L has not injured himself (maybe he has, he’s mindless with exhaustion and he might have knocked into the ravenous beast of a bed, cut himself on the bathroom door) and he doesn’t know where else the blood could’ve come from. Once, he coughed up blood, and he couldn’t decide if it tasted like pennies, or nickels, or dimes. Except when that happened, he hadn’t thought about the taste of blood, just getting to a doctor. His mind can be so clear when he’s not tired. Right now he’d a muddled mess, right now there’s blood drying between the slats of the hardwood floor, and he cannot begin to explain it.

Until he looks up at the ceiling. The ceiling was once a flat, barren landscape of cheerless grey plaster, but now it’s a barn ceiling, with wooden rafters crisscrossing madly from end to end. Hanging from one of the rafters is a noose, made from pain and brown plasticky rope. The noose is curled tightly around a broken neck (a hangman’s fracture, C1-C2) and from that neck sprouts a swollen, cyanotic head. Blood marks (petachiae, petri dish, pea coats, L doesn’t look good in pea coats) stud the skin like flower petals, and the eyes look like L’s do when he hasn’t slept in centuries (wasn’t it just years?). The hair is blonde, like soiled straw, like piss and ash and angels. The blood marks are disappearing now (goodbye pea coat, goodbye petri dish), leaving only the pale blue moon of this ruined human’s face.

It’s Alternate, sweet studious A who stood first in line, waiting patiently for the chance to suck the marrow from L’s cracked bones. His successors are bloodsucking freaks who would do anything to ruin L and steal his identity. But A is swinging from the rafters now, his daddy-longlegs hanging limply, his toes pointed down. Light pours from the pores in the wall (since when does a wall have pores), and illuminate the body. The light makes L’s eyeballs ache, but he tries his best to look at the body. Facing the glare of the blood, the bright sheen of it pooling purple in the corpse’s legs, isn’t easy.

Because, this corpse, this obviously dead thing with its broken neck and its ligature marks snaking its throat like a necklace, with its cadavarine stench and the maggots swarming its slack mouth, hung himself months ago. His suicide was due to too much pressure (too much pressure, who the fuck does he think he is? How about solving life-or-death cases when you’re eight years old and having to learn everything while you were solving them, how about being a fucking feral child before assuming the role of L, instead of a pampered fucking genius brat who never did anything but studystudystudy!) and that pressure would never have existed if not for the bulk of L’s accomplishments.

And so, everything beautiful that L has ever done caused A to die. And so, this noxious beast hanging from the rafters belongs to L. He may as well have tied the noose himself.

It’s three minutes (four, five, six?) before anything else happens. L begins to wonder where the body came from, why it’s invading his concrete box of a bedroom. He wonders, too, where his coffee went and whether it’s grown cold by now, or whether time has passed at all. Perhaps it hasn’t. There are no clocks here, his computer is a swirling vortex of static and lightning and triangles, a miasma of lymph and hurt and mitochondria. Of nothing. There is no computer, no bedroom; just the rafters, and the light, and the corpse. Which has begun, apparently, to move.

He (if the body is moving, than despite the broken neck and the stiff inklings of rigor mortis in the legs, then it must be alive, a person, an A) lifts the rope from his ruined neck. L tells himself (really tells himself, with his pink tongue and his oxygenated lips) that this is not possible. A has nothing to steady himself with, nothing that would allow this escape from the noose’s plasticky grip. The ligature marks are like smears of chocolate (smears of shit, there’s shit running down the leg of A’s khaki pants) and he’s grinning. The grin isn’t devious, or menacing, it’s just a grin. A mild smile made for greetings, for the very slightest of pleasures. A tired smile.

“Hello,” he says, voice strangled by the cracked bones and blot clots. “How’s it going, L?”

This is when A speaks that L begins to feel terrified. So far he has been casually observing, thinking to himself that perhaps this isn’t real at all, perhaps it’s merely hypnogogia. Now it’s starting not to matter very much if this is real or not. What matters is that this stinking corpse is speaking to him. That A, in spite of L’s huge share in the blame for his death, is being friendly. This, he knows, cannot possibly last long. Something terrible is about to happen, and whether it’s real or not makes no difference, unless he somehow make it stop. His heart is pounding like a monkey at a drum set, and his throat has grown dry with fear. He might start screaming, if he doesn’t hold himself in check. And he might not choose to hold himself in check at all.

He doesn’t. His brain has been kneaded for hours and tossed carelessly into an oven. He cannot think, cannot reason. L is exhausted and so L shrieks, “you’re dead! You can’t be here, you’re dead! Dead dead dead dead dead! We buried you, I went to your funeral and shoved my fists into my eyes to stop myself from crying! I had to leave midway through to talk to a client, but I saw them put you in the ground, A! You can’t possibly be here, you’re not...”

Outburst out of the way, L sinks to the ground. It’s grassy and flower-choked out of the corner of his eye, but when he stares it down it’s his own splintered, bloodstained floor. A leaps from the rafters (had he been floating? What are the physics of a nightmare?) and picks up a book with his blackened fingers. He’s charred and wrecked like a burn victim, but his smile remains utterly benign. “I don’t suppose you know which chapters we’re supposed to read for Monday’s class,” A murmurs, sitting cross-legged on the floor (dripping blood on the infinitesimal black hole of L’s computer!) and thumbing through the book’s weathered pages. “Statistics has always been my worst subject. I understand math in general, but statistics is so fuzzy to me. I get bogged down in how easy they are to manipulate, how when we talk about percentages they usually don’t mean very much. To the general public an invented statistic is just as valid as a real one, and it’s so easy to mix up the two…”

“What are you talking about?” mutters L, grinding a sweaty forehead into shaking knees. “You don’t have to understand statistics if you’re dead.”

So far A’s birdlike chatter has been entirely unconnected to anything that L does or says. But he actually responds to him this time, says, “don’t be ridiculous, L! I have an exam coming up soon, I’m going to have become a statistics expert by Friday. And that’s not the only subject I have to master. I’m taking so many classes right now, it’s really rather terrifying. I don’t know what I’ll do if I fail.” His cheerful features twist into something brutal and wounded, and he takes a deep, gulping breath (like a kitten that’s been crushed beneath a careless foot) and mutters darkly, “death doesn’t change anything. It’s not an escape pod that speeds you away from everything that’s wrong with your life. All it does is cancel your ability to make repairs.”

After that, A smiles again. Thumbs through the rapidly deteriorating book in his hands. The pages are breaking apart in his hands, tormented by the inexplicable indoor wind. The book in question isn’t even about statistics, the pages have his name, his true name, L Lawliet scrawled over them in blood.

“What is this?” he snaps, picking a bloody piece of paper that’s flown over and clung to his bare foot. “How do you know my name? I never told you that, I never would have told you that, so how the fuck do you know my name?!”

“Being dead does have some privileges,” A concedes, crouching down to look L with bloodshot eyes. “Dying is awfully painful, especially death by hanging. I didn’t die instantly—I thought I would, but I didn’t do it right. It took some time for my neck to break completely. Do you know, my head almost came off! It would’ve been better if it did, because that would mean that I’d been put to death, wouldn’t it? Nobody cuts their own head off, but ‘off with her head!’ is the Queen of Hearts favorite line!” He pauses, and he doesn’t breathe. The only carbon dioxide in this room is coming out of L’s own lungs. A says, giggling softly (softly, not cackling like that hideous writhing monster B!) that he wouldn’t exactly call L the Queen of Hearts, but that he certainly did cut off poor A’s head. “If you hadn’t been so fucking amazing, I wouldn’t have had to drive myself insane trying to keep up. B wouldn’t have gone insane trying to become you, and then he would’ve let me alone. If you hadn’t been such a success, nobody would be trying to clone you, nobody would be trying to drink your blood. Your blood is poisonous L, didn’t you know? Why didn’t you stop us from drinking it?”

A’s face is now a molted skull, a mask of bone with drips of fat and skin caressing it. “You’re a murderer,” he hisses, leaning over and raking his skeletal hands through L’s crow-feather hair. L names the bones in his head (sphenoid, ethmoid, alveolar process) in a vain attempt to stay sane. Alive, A would never have touched him like this. He wouldn’t invade his personal space, wouldn’t stroke his cheeks or drag his nails along his tear ducts, wondering aloud why he had not yet begun to cry.

And indeed, this beast is not dear sweet Alternate. It isn’t even his corpse. This reanimated monster is B.

This changes everything. A might have been a squawking baby bird with his mouth gaping open to receive the drips from L’s veins, but B is the mother bird with razorblade talons that tore the veins up in the first place. A wanted L’s job, his clothes, his paperwork. B wanted to stretch L’s skin along his bones like a canvas. If this is B, then he will not be content with stroking L’s twitchy face and crooning threats to him. He will take action and tear off that face.

He does. B’s broken-twig fingers clutch at L’s withered skin, and they pull. It hurts (this can’t be a dream if it hurts because of pinchmei’mdreaming but L dreams of shrieking spinal agony and weeping third degree burns when he finally wins the battle for sleep) and once it starts to hurt L starts to scream. He hadn’t thought himself capable of such a violent, throat-scraping howl, but there is it, tearing from him so fast that he almost chokes. His face is soaked in blood and stinks of nickels, but B is licking it up like a kitten, tearing at the skin with his teeth. It comes off in shreds, epidermis first, and after that B begins to attack the dermis, and the subcutaneous membrane. L knows this isn’t real (what is it, a drug trip, insanity, a break from this earth?) because if it were real he would’ve kicked this corpse in the fucking balls, he would not let B of all people pull his face off!

But here he is, standing in the middle of an airless, rotted-wood room, with his skin falling like snow around his feet. The light from the pores of the wall (the pores of his skin) has begun to bleach his skull and dry the blood. The muscles fall off in B’s twisted hands, leaving L’s face a mere skull. B plucks his eyeballs out like grapes, and wraps his forked devil-tongue around the stalks, crowing, “oh L, how desperately I’ve always wanted to destroy you! Now you have no face, do you see? Look at that, you’re nobody! Now you’ll have to steal someone else’s identity, just like the rest of us did! Do you think you can spend your whole life trying to be someone else without going crazy? Oh L, I don’t think you can! You’ve marched us all into death camps, you’ve killed A and you’re going to kill me too! You’re going to kill all of us!”

L has been screaming and writhing and trying desperately to escape, but it’s no use. He cannot fight Beyond Birthday, cannot even attempt to. B is stronger because he is insane, because in this wreck of a place he is a monster. L is violently, pathetically human, and he stands no chance against this supernatural fiend, because all humans have to fight with are logic and reason, and those gifts have left L long ago. B’s smile might be strained and wide and manic, but he is right. “B isn’t going to let you get away with it,” he says, spitting acid onto L’s exposed bones as he scratches at them with a black permanent marker. “B is going to mark you for what you are. There will be no more Lawliet, no more personal identity. All you are is L. All we are are photocopies. But we will have our faces, we will be people at Wammy’s House. Except B. B is going to take your face.”

B clamps his menacing claws on L’s shaking shoulders, and leads him towards a rust-damaged mirror that has suddenly sprouted from the wall. Somehow his painful lack of eyes doesn’t stop him from seeing this, and this doesn’t bother L until he’s forced to look at himself in the mirror. B has sketched an Old English L across his bleach-white skull. It’s bold and proud against the backdrop, dominating his face, stretching onto the remnants of skin and flesh that cover his neck and ears and forehead. This bothers him. This bothers him immensely. He nearly screams again, but B drives his throat into the mirror, hand on the back of his neck. “That’s you,” he sneers, dragging him backwards, spinning him around. “Now look at me.”

Standing before him is not the crowlike demon who had cawed and screeched over L’s injuries. Standing before him is not the sweet studious boy who was led into death by L’s hand. No, standing before him is an exact replica of L. The same snarled mess of black hair, the same diluted pupils and black-ringed, profoundly exhausted eyes. The same milk-white skin and twisted spine. No more smiling, either sad and slight or crazed and ecstatic. Just a hard, flat line of a mouth. L with his face on. B has stolen this from him. “You’re pathetic,” he says, his caustic cloying voice turned flat and raspy jut like L’s. “There’s nothing special about being you. B can do this job much better. Do you know, B is much more attractive when he isn’t trying to look like you? B is much better. But it’s okay, because you’re not going to live much longer anyway.”

Suddenly, B rips the mirror from the wall. L tries to run but his bones splinter and rust into ruin. He’s on the floor, hunched spine pressed forcefully against the living wall. The light makes B look like an angel, but the angel is beating L over the head with the mirror, laughing gleefully as little bloody rivers flood his seal-black hair. All L can do is gasp and wince and pray to God (to anyone, fuck God!) that indeed this is a product of his mind. Glass rains from the mirror, bloodying his bone-white shirt, his shirt-white bones. He cannot speak (he has no mouth), but B continues to brutalize him with endless scorn and mockery. “Poor little L!” he crows, bashing his skin-draped skull against L’s bare one, shoving his tongue past L’s teeth and mandible. “Did you know, you’re an absolutely awful kisser. I bet you’ve always been, even when you had lips!”

The pain reaches critical mass, and L kicks violently in protest, sends B reeling backwards, pin wheeling his gangly arms to keep his balance. L wants to crow his victory, but mouthless and sapped of strength, he can’t. All he can do is curl into himself, shiver violently and try in vain to will the illogical tears to cease pouring from his eye sockets. He had tear ducts, but they’re gone now, there are no tears when you have no face but L has a face goddamn it.

He has a face. He has a face. He is L Lawliet and he is a brilliant detective but he is other things too, he is an awkward weirdo who haunts cake shop and doesn’t shower, he is an insomniac, a sugar junkie. He is Quillish Wammy’s surrogate son; he is his mother’s son and he watched his father throw her down the stair and shoot her in the gut; he is the son who helped dye his mother’s hair teal blue. He is the abandoned street child, mugging wealthy passersby. He plays Tetris on his cell phone, sometimes, when he has time, and he likes techno music, and DDR music, and Beethoven. He is allergic to carrots and he coughed up blood once and had pinkeye twice and he is very very tired. He had his first wet dream at age thirteen, about a pretty girl who grew up to be a thief. Her name was Wedy, and his name is L Lawliet, and he has a fucking face.

The room is empty. There is no more blood, and no more barn ceiling. Just slats of wood and cheerless grey plaster. The dreaded headers of the Alphabet are gone. L is alone in a dark and lightless room. When he brings his shivering hands to his face, his pasty, ghostlike skin is whole. His heart is beating furiously, and he is breathing in great, ragged gasps, but save for a bruise or two that must have come from thrashing around, he isn’t hurt. A is still dead, and B is in Los Angeles, slaughtering children on the off-chance that this will bring him closer to his idol-rival L.

L will find him, and L will stop him. First, though, L will sleep.

Annie-Dog - Smashing Pumpkins

Date: 2009-10-16 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daigranon.livejournal.com
Love.

LOVE.

LOVE this.

Sleep deprived myself, I can sympathize. This was great, I really enjoyed it. The reality that slowly becomes a dream <3

(xD But this makes me sad, since I did an entry too--but my mind is so preoccupied that I haven't had any time to work on writing! I can't write well anymore! *SOB*)

Date: 2009-10-17 01:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sabriel75.livejournal.com
Quite brilliant use of A (Alternate) and B (Back-up)... and their intensely singular voices to bring L to his senses... because being L and being his own person are two separate things. One should not blur the two and yet after awhile, it would be very difficult not to do so, therefore demeaning himself and becoming something rather like Kira.

Which if truth be told, I believe happens. L's just as much an egoist as Light when they confront each other. Both started with grand designs of boyish idealism for "bettering" the world, but neither in the end, were sane enough to stave off the human inclination to covet power.

The imagery here renders L human though, and fearful of his place in the mad, mad existence he lives. Insights into A and B gorified and maniacally managed make the scene all the more horrific. Poor unsuspecting, naive L, still believing he's something more, something meaningful on his own... as L Lawliet. That's the awfulness of taking on a title. One loses one's self to its implied, never-your-own creation.

Nicely done.

Date: 2009-10-17 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nevacaruso.livejournal.com
This is truly remarkable: a surreal, brutal, horrifying, yet vividly described and believably redemptive look at the burdens of L's position. You've outdone yourself here.

Date: 2009-10-20 03:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darkgreylenses.livejournal.com
Most excellent, except I have never encountered the characters A and B in the anime before, despite their being in many fics. This is odd, and I do not pretend to understand it.

Date: 2009-10-20 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] speaky-bean.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked it, thanks for the comment.

A and B are characters from the Death Note novel, Another Note. They are not in the original manga or in the anime.

Date: 2009-10-20 05:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] usagi-no-hotaru.livejournal.com
That was really well-written, and I really got a vast sense of imagery; you describe things very well!

Honestly, I love the idea of B in any story, but I love the idea A and B in any story. Wonderfully executed. <33

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