's 2019 Horror Write-off:

The Feast of Faces

Submitted by D. Matthew Beyer (email)

Stephanie didn’t know whose party it was, only that it was a masquerade and that they were going. She’d dragged Lindy along as part of her ongoing and increasingly invasive campaign to help Lindy “make friends.” Once again, Lindy cursed the housing algorithm for pairing her with an extrovert.
In front of the party house, Lindy froze. Even from outside, she could feel the bass of the music in her bones. Laughter, screaming, and all manner of other noises where coming from inside.
If asked to describe hell, Lindy would have come up with something like the party.
But Stephanie would not be deterred. “C’mon!” She tugged Lindy towards the chaos. “It’ll be fun!”
Lindy crossed her arms. “I want to go home.”
Stephanie scowled behind her cardboard cat mask. “No roommate of mine is staying inside on Halloween! And you are not wasting that costume!”
Lindy shifted, uncomfortable in her fancy filigree mask, cheap party-store wings, and shimmery dress. Stephanie had ambushed her with the dress as soon as she got back from class. “I feel more like a freak than a fairy.”

“You look great and you’re going to have a great night. We’re going in!” Stephanie announced. She yanked Lindy towards the open door.
Inside, the party was too loud and too hot. A catchy remix of the “Monster Mash” blasted over the speakers. “Steph! You made it!” Someone shouted over the music.
Stephanie responded with an incoherent squeal and vanished into the sea of writhing bodies on the dance floor. Lindy pushed her way through the other partygoers to the safety of the wall, trying to find some space to breathe.
“Yo, Tinker Bell! Sprinkle me with some of your fairy dust!” Someone in a gorilla suit yelled at her as he bounded over.
Lindy shot the gorilla a withering stare. “Gross.”
The gorilla leaned in close enough for Lindy to feel his breath through his mask. “Lindy, It’s Carter, from bio!”
Lindy adjusted her mask. “Doesn’t it defeat the purpose of a masquerade if you announce who’s behind the mask?”
“Just wanted to make sure you knew who you were shooting down.”
“I would’ve shot anyone down who said that,” Lindy said.
Before Carter could reply, the music stopped. “Welcome, everyone!” A voice so low it scraped the grave said over the speakers. “Halloween is no ordinary night, and this is no ordinary party!”
“Somebody sure loves Vincent Price,” Carter muttered.
The voice continued. “This is the Feast of Faces, and you are all invited to try as many as you can! When I say ‘change,’ everyone must trade masks. Now, change!”
Around Lindy, partygoers started swapping their masks. Lindy shuddered. Something about the voice made her uncomfortable.
“Oh, don’t be a scaredy-cat!” Carter thrust his gorilla mask at her. He pulled her fairy mask off, making her feel utterly exposed. “Live a little, Lins!” Her delicate mask looked ridiculous on Carter.
She laughed despite herself as she donned his gorilla mask. The music resumed, and the party went back into full swing.
“I’m too sober. It’s unacceptable!” Lindy yelled at fairy-Carter, who shrugged. The dance floor separated her from the makeshift drink station. Rather than skirt around the edges, Lindy plunged headlong into the moving mass. She danced her way to the booze even though she knew she couldn’t dance. Nobody on the dance floor could, and none of them cared. The energy was too infectious.
Lindy made her way to the drink table. “Hey gorilla asshole!” Another guy from her bio class- Sean, she thought his name was- pointed at her, which made her realize she was the asshole to whom he was referring. To her surprise, his face was bare. “Why’d you steal my mask?” He demanded, towering over her.
“Ouch, that ugly face isn’t a mask?” Lindy quipped.
Sean scowled, unamused. “My bird mask, Carter! Yanking it off like that hurt, man.”
Lindy chuckled. “Dude, I’m not Carter.”
Sean blinked. He looked down and noticed Lindy’s very not Carter body. His face turned bright red. “Oh, I’m so sorry-”
“Hold that thought,” Lindy said. Stephanie was in the corner, intensely scrutinizing the floor. The cardboard cat mask had been replaced by some kind of ghoulish hood.
After snagging a beer, Lindy wove her way through the mass of people to Stephanie. “You good, Steph?”
“Why do I only fall for people who want nothing to do with me?” Stephanie whined.
Lindy elbowed Stephanie. “Because you know you need to swim upstream to get out of the shallow end of the gene pool?”
Stephanie shrunk into herself.
Lindy almost choked on her beer. Stephanie was actually sad. This required an intervention. “It was a joke! Everyone wants to be around you. Any guy at this party would be lucky to get even a minute of your time.”
“Even him?” Stephanie pointed to a tall man in a beaked mask.
“Especially him,” Lindy said. “Go over there, start talking, and get what you want!” To punctuated the pep talk, Lindy shoved Stephanie towards the beaked man.
With a yelp, Stephanie stumbled and almost fell, but beak-mask caught her with one arm, the other still holding his drink. He whispered something in her ear, she giggled, and then she took a sip of whatever it was he had in his cup. The whole scene was straight out of a sickeningly saccharine rom-com. Lindy chugged her beer, proud of a job well done.
Until Lindy watched beak-mask yank Stephanie off the dance floor when he thought no one was looking. She struggled as he forced her upstairs
Lindy chased them. It was dismal, dark, and uncomfortably quiet upstairs. Huge cobwebs covered the furniture. None of the music or the voices from the party drifted up from below. The floor creaked in protest as Lindy crept towards a door that was ajar.
She pounded on the door. “Steph! You okay?”
There was no answer. Lindy pushed the door open. Somebody lay crumpled beneath a window across the room. Lindy fumbled with her phone’s flashlight, turned it on, and nearly vomited.
Stephanie was on the floor. Her face had been removed by force. Strips of raggedy flesh clung to her bloody skull.
Before Lindy could scream, the door slammed behind her. When she whipped around, Stephanie stood between her and the door, smiling at her from behind the ghoul mask.
“This some kind of halloween prank?” Lindy asked, her voice shaking.
“I don’t like this one,” Stephanie said, her voice high and bubbly. “It tastes so sad… Can I try yours next?”
Lindy slapped Stephanie, hard.
When Stephanie raised her head, the skin of her face looked wrong. It bunched in strange places, looking loose.
In one smooth motion, Stephanie grabbed her jaw and removed her face. Lindy stared at the emptiness there, unable to comprehend what she was seeing. Blood dripped from the real Stephanie’s face, limp in the thing’s hand. It reached for Lindy, its fingers caressing her jaw.

Lindy closed the door behind her, eager to get back to the party. There were still more faces to sample from the feast. She wouldn’t leave until she tried them all.