This is the fifth story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is inspired by a prompt from Ray Paterson (aka @newhack58). If you haven't already, it's worth checking out part 1.
Although September is over, I'm still going to honour all the prompts that came in (which may take a while 🙂 ). If you want to see the full list of prompts or check out the other stories from that post then click here.
Of course she was scared, this was the first time she’d seen Abigail without a head, but Beth didn’t scream or run away. The body in the cellar below had a strange dignity, demanding contemplation as much as horror.
Before fear had time to take over, Beth was creeping down the ladder. The naked bulb in the cellar’s roof dazzled her as she passed it.
After blinking rainbow spots from her eyes, Beth looked at the floor and noticed an absence of blood. No red circles pooled out from the neck, no slick glistened. Whoever had taken her friend’s head had done it somewhere else. She wasn’t sure if this was good or bad.
Beth stepped from the ladder and her gaze dragged to the far wall, where a row of headless figures stood. There were six in all, a range of heights, from four foot up to five and a half. Each was wrapped in plastic but Beth was convinced they were all women.
Movement to her right made her startle. A figure sat by a table, regarding her quietly. Beth struggled to make words. “Abi…is that you?”
Beth’s mouth hung open.
“This is my other secret. It’s my last one, promise! I’ll tell you about it if you want. But you have to promise not to tell anyone.”
Beth nodded drunkenly.
“Promise then, out loud.”
“On your mum’s life?”
“And your dad’s?”
Beth paused. “And my dad’s.”
“And on your own?”
“Abi! What’s going on? Why haven’t you been in school? And why do you have a fake body of yourself? And…and why won’t you look at me properly?”
Abigail looked away. “I dropped part of my face when you rang the bell. It’s on the floor somewhere. I was hoping you’d help me find it.”
A few seconds later Beth dropped onto all fours and began crawling around.
“You’re being totally cool about this by the way. You see Beth, it’s like this: my embryo was all messed up when I was in the womb.”
Beth pulled a face.
Abigail didn’t seem to notice, getting louder and faster as she continued her story. “My body wasn’t growing properly and my heart was failing. My mum wanted to flush me. I don’t blame her.” Abigail shrugged. “I was only going to be strapped to some machines for a few hours and die. But then gramps, my grandfather comes and asks if he can have me instead and they say yes, and do this operation to get me out of mum’s tummy. Are you ok Beth? I mean is this too much? I can stop if you want.”
Beth looked washed out in the pale light. “You can’t stop now!”
Abigail smiled but Beth noticed she was careful to hide the open part of her face. “Okay, this is the freaky part. He grows me in this gunk tube and then when I’m born he scrapes out my brain and my eyes and nerves and stuff and puts them in here.” She tapped the side of her head for emphasis.
“Oh…” said Beth in a small voice. “I think I’ve found your face…It’s…still warm.” Beth passed up the missing plate.
“Thanks.” Abigail turned the plate in her fingers. “Gramps wanted me to have as normal a life as possible. My brain is alive and it ages like everybody else’s and he wanted to give me a body to match. But building a prosthetic,” Abigail pointed to the row of bodies, “that could grow up was impossible. So instead he made lots of them for different stages of development.”
Beth shook her head. “Sorry?”
“A bit like shoes. I change up to the right size as I get older. I’ve been a baby, a rug rat, a little girl, just like you.” Abigail’s smile was hopeful.
“Your grandfather sounds…special.”
Abigail shoulders slumped. “He was. Each time I got older he’d move my head to the next body up and then adjust my head to the right size. This is the first time I’ve changed up since he died. It’s been a disaster! I botched it so badly I broke the dial in my new neck. I can’t tell you how hard it is adjusting your own head! That’s why I had to make a replacement in the workshop.” Abigail stopped, suddenly nervous. “Do you think, I mean, if it’s too much then say and I totally understand, but would it be okay if you helped me put my face back on?”
Beth swallowed hard. “Okay.”
“Thanks. I’m glad it was you Beth. I wouldn’t trust anyone else.” She chuckled sadly. “Which is good because there isn’t anyone else.” They looked at each other, neither able to voice their thoughts. Abigail cleared her throat. “Now I’m going to pull back the skin. If I’ve resized it right the plate should fit over the hole. The screws are on the table.”
Beth got to work. It was tough and her fingers ached long before she was done.
“Now smooth the skin along my jawline, and please, don’t leave any wrinkles! There’s a clip for the loose skin under my hair.”
“I’ve always liked your hair,” said Beth.
“Thanks! I do it myself. It’s easy when you can take it off.”
Beth smiled weakly. “Can you do mine sometime?”
“I’d love to.”
“So,” Abigail said shyly. “Are we still friends?”
Beth squeezed her friend’s hand, surprised at its warmth. “Always.”
(Original prompt: Of course she was scared, this was the first time she had seen Abigail without a head.)