The stars look so dreamy; it’s amazing how they can light up the skies, making a blank landscape seem complete. Sarah was one of those girls that loved looking at the skies at night; no matter how busy she got or how occupied she was, she would always spend at least five minutes just to lay down in her backyard, stargazing by herself, reminding herself that she got through another day of the world that filled with mouth people.
She could feel the wind on her face as it got breezier by the minute, but it was to be expected as she had been outside for almost an hour, but to her, it felt like it was only 5 minutes. Before she got up from her favourite spot in her backyard, a small but comfy green space of grass close to her favourite roses, she closed her eyes, smelling the beautiful scent of the roses while gripping the grass to feel connected to the earth.
She opened her eyes moments later and smiled as she felt refreshed after a long day spent with the mouth all day. She got up, got the bit of grass off her clothes, and headed into her house. Before she closed her sliding door, she took one more look at her backyard and hoped she will be back there tomorrow night.
She headed straight to bed as it was midnight. She usually doesn’t sleep late because of her very early schedule, but this week, she kept finding herself struggling to sleep. Instead of going to bed, she found herself wanting to spend more time in her backyard.
Why is her backyard so important to her? She thought to herself as she fell asleep.
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.” With a deep breath, she opened her eyes and looked up to the ceiling, hoping today she won’t come face to face with the mouth people.
She looked at her alarm clock, “5:30 am, why can’t I wake up at the time I wanted?” she sighed and sat upright in her bed. She recalled yesterday afternoon. It was one of those days that she felt down; she felt unworthy and it was all because of the mouth people. All of the mouths kept moving and talking, but there were no noises, only mouths moving that she couldn’t control them.
It has become tough for her to handle ever since this month; all she could ever do was watch them, watch those soundless mouths moving. She got up from her bed and headed into the shower.
Sarah’s life was not always like this, sleepless nights, empty thoughts, craving personal time, hating the mouth people, or even feeling suffocated by them. As a child, she faced difficulties that have forced her to grow up more than her age. Her sister’s death caused her to realise the impermanence of life.
She sat down at the dining table, eating breakfast while trying to read a novel. Books are one of the ways that she found relief in other than her daily stargazing. Sipping her black coffee without sugar and her simple egg scramble with sausage is enough for her to get through the morning.
“She felt alone in this world, nothing makes sense,” her left eyebrow slightly lifted, feeling a sense of closeness to the story she was reading. She closed the book and got ready to leave the house. Before she walked out, she took one more look at her backyard and smiled slightly. “Don’t go anywhere,” she shut the door and went to work.
She arrived at an empty office; her heels echoed as she walked through the hallway. As the Head department of Public Relations, she was always the early bird. Looking at the clock, quickened her pace to get in before 6:45 am. With coffee in her hand that she bought on her way there, she sat in her office, going through her schedule for the day, praying that today won’t involve the mouth people.
Her heart skipped a beat when she learned that today would be another day of the mouth people. She sighed and closed her eyes, feeling helpless and alone.
In the darkness, she recalled an old memory of when she was 12, swinging her legs as the gentle evening breeze blew.
“Sarah,” she heard her mom call out to her. Sarah smiled slightly, knowing that only her mom and her family understood her. She didn’t have to don a mask around them. She turned around and looked for her mom but got a weird feeling when she saw a tall black figure instead.
Curious, she stood up and walked in the direction of the figure. Why was her mom’s voice coming out from this figure, her 10-year-old self wondered. As she got closer, she could feel her body getting heavier with each step while her mom’s voice grew distant with each step. Every step required extraneous strength. She felt her cheek wet and the knot in her stomach grew tighter. Something felt wrong the closer she got to the figure. Yet, she wanted to get to mom. She needed her, she needed her mom.
“Sarah..” the voice echoed.
“Yes Mom, I’m right here,” Sarah struggled to reply. She was nearly two steps away but the ground felt heavy. Sarah felt as though it was pulling her into the earth.
“Can you see me, Mom? I’m right here, please see me,” she cried as she tried lifting her leg.
“Fall,” the figure said in a deep voice. Sarah looked up and saw the figure’s face, which looked nothing like her mom’s. The face was covered with mouths of varied shapes and sizes, but before she could say anything, she fell to the ground.
Sarah woke up screaming.
“Mom! Mom! Mom!” She squeezed her sheets as she cried her heart out, grabbing her pillow, and hugging it as if it was her mom. Tears kept streaming at the memory of her mom and brothers’ tragic death caused by the mouth people.
“This is all your fault! All your fault!” Sarah trashed the pillow. It fell to the ground.
She wiped her tears and tried breathing deeply. However, she heard a whisper behind her.
“Now, fall again.”
She woke up from her bad dream, gasping for air. The alarm clock rang on her bedside.
“What was that, who was that?”
She took several deep breaths and noticed the pillow on the ground. Sarah went pale as her heart raced.
“It was just a dream, just a dream,” she picked the pillow up.
“It can’t be back, it can’t be,” she repeated to herself, hoping to rationalise it. “I must have kicked the pillow down, right? Yeah, that must be it,” Sarah nodded. But the punch marks on the pillow made her wonder.
“That was a weird dream..” she thought to herself as she sipped her coffee while looking out from her office window. Her office was on the 7th floor, providing a stunning view of the city. Working in one of the successful news stations in Malaysia, she was one of the few women that enjoyed huge success in her youth.
Below, she observed people walking past her office building. Watching them rush to work made her wish that she was back in her backyard.
“Miss Sarah, your 3 o’clock meeting will start in 15 minutes,” her assistant broke her reverie.
Sarah turned around and simply nodded while reaching her hand out for the files.
“Do you want Mr. James to wait in the waiting room before the meeting?” her assistant asked.
“No need, he will be harder to handle if he sits out there,” Sarah said as she opened one of the files.
Mr. James was one of her clients in the company that is very invested in the public relations department. He gave out a CEO vibe even though he is actually a billionaire’s son. Sarah never treated anyone differently but Mr. James was one of those individuals she can’t stand to be with for more than 30 minutes. This meeting unfortunately will take more than 45 minutes.
Sarah entered the meeting room and sat at the front center of the table, crossing her legs while taking a slow breath in. “I can do this, it won’t be too bad,” she nodded to herself as Mr. James entered the room.
Sarah stood up to greet Mr. James “It’s a pleasure to meet you again Mr. James. Please have a seat, my team is on their way. They should be here any moment.”
Before Sarah could sit back down, James shot back, “I didn’t come here to sit around, either your team comes here in 30 seconds or I’ll leave.” He glanced at his phone impatiently.
Sarah smiled calmly, “Don’t worry, it will take less than that.”
The door opened and her team walked in with their devices.
As her team led the presentation, Sarah sat in her chair observing everything. Something felt amiss.
Mr. James interrupted during the middle of the presentation. He turned to her, “Miss Sarah, will you ensure this method won’t fall into emptiness like your dream?”
As Sarah struggled to reply, Mr. James’ face morphed into a disgusting shape filled with sharp teeth. Even her team members’ faces molded into the mouths. They all moved soundlessly.
She tried getting up to run but realised that she was glued to her chair. Everyone in the room ambled toward her with their sharp claws and moving mouths. Before she could scream, one of her team members tapped her shoulder.
“Miss Sarah, are you okay?” Sarah spun around, shocked. Everyone had a quizzed look on their faces.
Sarah nodded nervously and looked at Mr. James.
“I hope you are satisfied with what we came up with,” she said with a slightly shaking voice. He nodded curtly, stood up, and left the room.
Moments later, as her team walked out of the meeting room, Sarah remained seated in her seat, taking in deep breaths while processing what had just happened.
“I could not be dreaming just now.. Am I hallucinating?”
“No, you’re not.” She heard a voice say.
Cover image by Wardina Bee. The copyright of ‘Mouth People’ belongs to Wardina Bee.