The Face Thief

by Ella Anañeva
Issue 11: Governance | 5,294 words

in a trap, © Andrey Kiselev/Adobe Stock

Life had lost a part of its mystery since face tracking became ubiquitous. In a bar, on the street, in a metro station, at your workplace—no matter where you are, you’re always read, recorded, known. Exposed.

I shouldn’t have had so much to drink.

A green flash blinds me, charging the last fifty bucks from my bank account. The barmaid puts the face-reader back on the counter; the thud sounds like thunder in the quiet of the midnight bar. I exhale through gritted teeth. I’m not nearly tipsy enough to get through my fiftieth birthday.

“Soli-puzzle. Color your well-earned freedom!” A modulated voice sounds from above. I throw my head back and gaze at the bewitching face on the screen. The famous actress, Asa Mi, babbles about how beautiful your life becomes with this Soli-puzzle game when you’re over fifty. Hatred squeezes my throat. She’s young. She has twenty, maybe thirty years before our overgrown society will spit her out like week-old gum. How dare she?

“Do you like her?” The barmaid crouches over a robot helper and taps at its glistening control panel. Her cropped black hair curtains her face, reflecting the few neon lights that have been left on.

I glance over my shoulder. The long tables and benches are empty, and no one is stomping over cigarette butts and scraps of paper on the stained floor. The girl must be talking to me.

“You mean Asa?”

“Yes.” She straightens, her agate eyes the only living spot on her plain face. She doesn’t have eyebrows. So weird.

I shrug. “She’s a young wealthy bitch. No brain, no experience, no problems; nothing but a flexible spine and rubber features. Of course I like her.”

“Funny. I never guessed this is what people thought about me.”

I gape at her.

She nods. “Yes. I’m Asa Mi. Or, I used to be her four months ago.”

“Okay. Yes. Have a nice—”

“Wait!” Thin fingers clench my forearm with surprising strength. “Miss Dale… Rita. I’ll buy you a drink.”

How did this lunatic learn my name? Right, the green flash, the face-reader. It showed my name along with my profession and age when she scanned me to complete the payment.

My head is dizzy as I look back at the girl. My lips form a no. “Okay.”

The bar stool is still warm from the hours spent there pouring beer into my dark future. A screech makes me jump, but it’s only the robot helper who slides across the lounge, cleaning the tables. The girl runs her fingers over the wall panel, and all the lights in the bar turn off. Only one single yellowish lamp continues to shimmer above our heads. She mixes two mint juleps—my favorite cocktail, information she’s no doubt gleaned from the face-reader—and leans on the counter across from me.

“Thank you,” she says.


“You’re willing to listen.”

“I’m willing to have a free drink.” It runs down my throat in a refreshing wave.

“You’re turning fifty today.”

“Thanks for the reminder. So?”

“That means you can’t work anymore. As a retired journalist, you can make use of my story. Of Asa Mi’s story. Money, perhaps.” She gets closer, and I sense her mint breath on my cheeks. “You can earn a few years free of Elysium.”

My heart falls at the sound of the despicable name. I take a colossal gulp to wash over its aftertaste. Her words sink in my mind. The fascinating face on the screen, shining with health and money, bears no resemblance to that sallow figure in front of me. Her? Asa Mi? It makes no sense.

Still, any chance to postpone Elysium is worth it. Plus, another cocktail.

“What’s in it for you?” I ask.

“It can set things right.”

I scoot against the short back of the stool and thumb the faded green button on my recording ring. “Okay. Speak.”

The girl tilts her head. “It was Sunday night.”


It was Sunday night, and I had only three minutes to scrape off Donald Krates’s face. Jared hated it when I greeted him by stretching someone else’s lips in a smile, and his disappointment resulted in humiliating acting contracts, media scandals, and money leaks. My changing room was a mess, pieces of men’s clothing and false flesh lying all over the fluffy rugs and glossy furniture. I’d already peeled off the fake stubble and eyebrows and gotten rid of the all-too-natural blond wig. The pupil of the projector implant glistened between the strands of my bangs as I squeezed the last drops of a makeup remover on my cheeks.

I winced as sudden pain stabbed at my temples. A nameless doctor in the acting school inserted the face-projecting implant eight years ago, but it still hurt from time to time. Occupational hazard.

I stepped back and checked my reflection. A babyish chin, round cheeks, a short nose—too bad I didn’t have time to remake the proper Asa Mi image for Jared. I scrolled the wheel behind my left ear, and semi-transparent illusions streamed on my face, some distorting my features, some making them prettier. I stopped when I reached the beginning of the list again, at my official on-screen persona. I swung my head from side to side, checking if the illusion fit. Not as natural as using makeup, but it had to do.

“Good evening, pretty.” Fast approaching steps followed the voice. Blood warmed my cheeks, my hands curled into fists, but I bore Jared’s usual kiss in the neck without a motion, apart from a shiver. “Oh, not so pretty, I see. How was the meeting?”

“Krate’s business partners were surprised he decided to donate to the Chinese Wildlife Organization, but they’ll get over it. Five hundred thousand dollars are on the way to your account.”

“Great.” He pulled away and sat on the chair cross-legged, his crimson pants a striking contrast to the furry grey blanket. “By the way, happy anniversary, baby girl. Four hundred tasks. A great job for someone who’s in this shit for only eight years.”

I leaned against the sink. Its marble corner poked my butt painfully. “Don’t tell me you’ve had enough of me.”

His eyes twinkled. I put on my best blank face, cursing myself again for that talk two weeks ago. How could I have been so garrulous? But then, Jared always knew how to handle me. Softened by the semi-sweet memories of our long-past romance, I had told him everything. More than everything. I hated the job he’d given me, and for the first time, I showed how much.

I would never have become a celebrity without the support of the shadow organization Jared worked for, but I stopped enjoying my official life years ago. An actress by day, an identity thief at night, I had to wear alien faces, apply the gestures and gaits of strangers, and play hour-long roles to lure money from legal businesses. I was sick of my double life; I wanted freedom so badly I had to apply waterproof mascara before every stint to make sure my tears wouldn’t spoil the disguise.

So when I muttered, “Don’t tell me you’ve had enough of me,” I wanted to hear they had.

And Jared didn’t disappoint me. “We have! Don’t gape at me like that, girl, I’m serious. You’re getting old; soon, your features will be too hardened to transform into anything. Your dream is about to come true. I’m here to familiarize you with your last order. The last one, mind it!”

My knees buckled and I slid down on the fluffy carpet, semi-sincere, semi-acting in my astonishment. Jared guffawed. The first word he mouthed, wiping the tears of laughter, smashed my heart.

It was a name. Nori Suzuki.


The bittersweet drink spurts from my mouth. I reach for a napkin on the bar, trying to catch the weird, eyebrowless face from the darkness.

“Bullshit! Suzuki case! That Suzuki?”

The barmaid makes a grimace between smile and frown. “He wasn’t ‘the Nori Suzuki’ then. Just my ticket to freedom. And… something else.”


My first reaction was “No,” and I was crushed enough to mouth it.

“No?” The tattooed snake on Jared’s cheekbone slid up as he raised his eyebrows.

“I mean…” I clenched the sink to pull myself up, my thoughts bouncing chaotically in my head.

“Do you know him?”

I had to compose myself, to keep my secret safe. Sometimes, being an actress could be a good thing.

“Of course not!” My voice sounded almost natural. “I haven’t heard the name, and I’ve learned all significant players on the field. Suzuki? Who the hell is that guy?”

Jared stared at me. I fought back a shiver.

“It doesn’t matter who he is,” he said slowly. “Have you forgotten the terms of our collaboration?”

I swallowed.

“Let me remind you.”

“Please, Jared…”

He got up from the chair in a blur and hovered over me. “Rule number one: you never question the order. Rule number two…”

“I remember.” I turned my head, but he gripped my chin and made me look into his eyes.

“It seems you don’t! Where would you be if I hadn’t picked you from the street? The life of a street actress is short. You’d be selling your skinny body by now, and with every year, the number of buyers would decrease. You owe me everything, but I know your lot too well to expect gratitude.”

“You don’t need my gratitude,” I spit. “You have my car, my home, and all my bank accounts. I can’t even sign a contract without your approval! You own my life, and you say I should be grateful?”

He released me and stepped back. I rubbed my chin, breathing heavily. How I longed to scratch that chuckle from his face!

“So you do remember. That’s a good girl! Then, you know better than to say ‘no’ when your breadwinner brings you a new task. Your last task, mind it.”

He tossed a palm-sized sheet of transparent plastic on the chair and marched out of the room. The door slammed shut.

I sat still for a few minutes, or maybe hours. Then, I grabbed the piece of plastic and brought it to my face, activating the system. The 3D interface unfolded, and I poked at the first file. It showed Nori’s face.

My vision blurred. I dropped the sheet and took myself to the penthouse roof. There, when I came to the edge, I grabbed the railings and howled.

My bare feet gleamed with the orange of the shimmering city. The pale moonlight melted into the hundreds of shining holograms that nodded, stood, and walked between the skyscrapers. Dozens of them were me, wearing different bodies and faces. “The best night cream!” “Fastest ID recovery!” “Robopet—no regret!” My howls sank into the chorus of voices thundering across the city, some of which belonged to me.

Nori was my object now. When I agreed to work for Jared, I couldn’t even imagine that possibility. Most often, I played business owners or heirs to large fortunes. I would show up at a meeting and exploit proprietary data or sub for a stubborn CEO who didn’t want to sell their company. That was it. But Nori, he’d always been a nerd. Jared’s data said he worked as a senior engineer in FaceNetwork. So, Jared’s bosses had jumped into politics. It was a new level to the game.

It was FaceNetwork that infested the city with face scanners and cameras. Perhaps our tools and tricks would be insufficient to fool them. The risk was even higher than two years ago, when I had to transform into a forty-eight-year-old British man to squeeze four hundred bucks from his young wife. The encounter with the wife took place in a pool. Not only my face and behavior, but also my body had to look natural, including quite a few grey hairs on my chest. I managed to pull it off, but for months after, I had nightmares about being revealed, exposed, and shamed.

“It’s a shame I have to do this,” I whispered. For a moment, I considered jumping into the sea of lights, sinking in the holograms that dispersed my identity throughout the city. I ran down to the garage instead.

An hour later, I stood in front of the house I’d sworn I would never see again. The wind penetrated my silk robe and sent chills down my spine. I hugged my shoulders, gaping at the dark, two-story house I remembered too well. It must’ve been 2 or 3 a.m.; nothing but the whispering of the cherry trees broke the silence of the prosperous old neighborhood. My eyes hurt from tears and useless attempts to see something behind the blind windows.

Yellow light flared up where I knew the bedroom was, and a stout female silhouette grew in the window. A sonorous voice sent shivers down my spine. “Who’s there?”

I took off in a blur.  Back at the safety of my penthouse, I drank myself to oblivion.

Nori was not in danger, only me. If I had done my work properly, he wouldn’t have even known, or at least that’s what I thought then. Three days later, I called Jared and said that I was ready.


“Wait, wait, wait!” The sugared edges of the three empty glasses remind me of Christmas decorations and snow. My vision is swinging, and my mind must be, too. “Which house was that? Nori Suzuki lived in a skyscraper next to the FaceNetwork building. Am I nuts, or are you?”

The girl who said she was Asa Mi sweeps the glasses onto a tray and clucks to call the robot helper. “Coffee?”

I nod.

She turns to the machine. Her movements melt into an exquisite pattern. Why haven’t I noticed how supple she is? She moves like a cat, a dancer, a spring. Maybe she’s indeed an actress. Maybe she’s good enough to mimic other people’s postures and gestures and fool modern behavioral scanners as well as face-readers. Maybe she’s telling the truth.

I could make it believable if I wrote this story.

A steaming mug lands on the counter before me. I take the first sip when she says, “Nori used to live in that house twenty years ago. It belonged to our parents.”

I choke again.


Of course, Jared wanted to know how I managed the preparations so quickly. Usually, it took two days to suck in the videos and bio he shared, and then a week more to practice the new role. Wearing someone else’s face wasn’t enough to fool modern identity-scanners; you had to mimic postures and gestures as well. I didn’t need that much time to transfer to my brother, even though he was nine years older and I hadn’t seen him in a decade. We’d always been alike.

I couldn’t tell Jared that. My past was the only thing that made me a person, the only true thing in my fake life. I didn’t want him to spoil it, so I lied that I was eager to do away with the last task.

At 3:45 a.m., we parked in the driveway by Nori’s apartment complex. Jared tapped at his bracelet to launch a holographic map, a handy invention of the shadow organization whose name I still don’t know. Tiny dots and squares marked all the cameras and face-readers in the city. In this neighborhood, they flared red, one by one. This segment of FaceNetwork was about to reload. It would only last up to three minutes, but for us, the face thieves, it was enough.

I slipped from the car. A ribbon bound my breasts tight, my feet swam in sneakers two sizes too large, my head sweat in a short brown wig, and my false beer belly clung to a silk shirt. Jared slammed the driver’s door and paced behind me, carrying a medical case and a much older face. A thick layer of foundation covered the snake tattoo on his cheekbone.

You can’t enter a building unless your face or fingerprints are in the landlord’s base, so Jared jimmied the panel and dialed an emergency code, borrowed from the firefighters’ database.

“You’re on pins and needles today,” Jared said as we dove into the elevator.

I licked my dry lips—the gesture I didn’t have to borrow from Nori because we had always shared it.

He went on. “You don’t need to worry. The cameras will be off for one more minute. We have plenty of time.”

Nori lived alone, or Jared’s masters would’ve chosen someone else. Jared hacked the lock with another emergency code, and we entered.

I had no idea what the interior, the walls, or the floor looked like. All I saw was the face of my brother when he rose on the bed, blinking at Jared’s flashlight. In a split second, Jared drove a needle in his shoulder, and Nori collapsed in a profound sleep. I did my best not to flinch.

“Clean work,” Jared nodded. “Go dress. The subject doesn’t leave home before 7 a.m., so we can have some coffee.”

The soft woolen sweater smelled of Nori: burnt wires, latte, and earth. I didn’t cry as I changed. With the illusion secured on my face, I was Nori’s copy, only with a redder nose.

At 7, I marched out of the apartment carrying a rolled sheet of plastic. I crossed the street in broad strides, my arms swung along my body, and my neck bent forward. I kept this posture as the face-scanner at the entrance confirmed my identity, and a few early-bird colleagues nodded hello on my way to Nori’s cubicle. There, on the desk, I unrolled the semi-transparent piece of plastic–it lit neon green, proving the quality of my disguise. Directory, Projects, Albino, Databases, 001200219. I repeated the path Jared made me memorize as I traced my fingers across the 3D interface that grew above the sheet. I swear my hand trembled before I started typing the identifiers that sealed Nori’s fate.


“So, it was you. Not him.” My hands tremble too, I gaze at my recording ring, unable to meet the eyes of the girl who set her brother up. She set him up. Now this is an engaging story. “You added eleven records in the exclusion list. Who were those people? Your bosses?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who else would be interested in becoming invisible to all tracking devices? Your brother went to jail for them!”

“Robopet—no regret!” A voice laughs from the screen, and I blink as I raise my head to see Asa Mi’s gorgeous features. The contrast with the eyebrowless face in front of me is striking.

“They recorded this ad after I left,” she says. “I knew they would find someone else to play Asa Mi.”

“You should have left before you ruined an innocent life.”

She buries her face in her palms, her thin shoulders shake. I don’t pity her.

When she speaks again, her eyes are puffy and red, and her voice brittle.


After the task, Jared hadn’t shown up with any side projects. He continued to work as my talent agent, but I appeared to be free from the criminal aspects. The freedom tasted bitter. I couldn’t sleep; I drank. I agreed to all offers, signed five contracts each week, ate and napped in my car between film sets.

We were filming the Soli-Puzzle ad. My hands and legs were sore after dancing four different parts with four different faces, and two more roles were to come. I felt grateful for the fact I didn’t have to apply false layers of fat and muscle to change my body; that would be done digitally. That minor relief was the last positive feeling in my life.

“Hey, Asa,” the senior operator called me during a break, “have you heard the news? They locked him up! That FaceNetwork engineer! Must be the shortest case ever!”

My lips went numb. I clenched into the cool back of a chair, desperately trying to keep myself from falling, and stared at the operator’s face.

“Which… engineer?”

“Why, that Suzuki guy! Baby, haven’t you heard anything at all? The media has been buzzing about him for weeks! He violated their code or something, I don’t know, but the fact is, the accuser won! He’ll go to jail for twenty-two years, and I think he’s lucky that they didn’t execute him!”

I rushed to the director and mumbled the first excuse that came into my mind: that my projector was glitchy, causing a grinding headache. I didn’t wait for the response and didn’t waste time on changing into myself but hopped in my car and left in a blur. I thought I was driving home but found myself parking in front of my parents’ house. My legs carried me out. I crossed the paved path with a single thought bouncing in my head. What would I say?

I had run away at fifteen. When my Dad turned fifty and lost his job, I didn’t check on them, knowing that my Mom had at least three years to continue her service as an Emperor Guardian. Even now, the title tastes like shit. She wanted me to follow the family tradition. To soak up the ancient etiquette, protocols, and procedures. To behave in a way no one cares about anymore and to handle weapons that went out of use before my great grandma was born. Emperor Guardian is a female profession; Nori was free to choose his path. But me, she had pushed me, so hard I ran away. And I didn’t regret it. But—what would I do here now?

I knocked on the door. A young woman I’d never seen opened it. Her hand rested on the head of a toddler boy who leaned on her leg.

“Hello, how may I help you?” she asked.

“Hello, I… I’m sorry, I’m looking for Ada and Koichi Suzuki.”

Her perfect eyebrows went down to the bridge of her nose, and her lips formed a thin line. “Why would you ask? Who are you?”

I wore a face of an aged woman, so I lied. “An old friend.”

Her eyes rounded with surprise and pity. “Oh. Please, accept my condolences.”

“Why? What happened? Where are they?”

She stroked her boy’s head, as though this simple move could give her strength.

Finally, she spoke.

“In Elysium.”


Cold beads of sweat form on the nape of my neck. I swallow lukewarm coffee, but it doesn’t flush my fear away. Elysium. The last refuge for aged people who don’t have younger relatives to support them. The first step to hell.

The girl is silent, and her face is a mask of such despair that I start to pity her. “Asa… your parents had a house. They sold it, didn’t they?” She nods. “But then… they could… they shouldn’t… How did they end up in Elysium?”

She bites her lips. “The woman in their house said… I don’t know, maybe it’s just rumors. But it sounds like the truth. She said they sold their house not to buy themselves a better life. They bribed someone in the court to save my brother. In vain.”

Her expressive face is unbearable to look at. I gaze at the beer stains on the counter, at the dark spots of cigarettes, at the pattern of scratches and cracks. By the time she speaks again, I know all the marks by heart.


The moment I learned my parents’ fate, I knew what I had to do. The problem was, I couldn’t do it.  Everything I owned was in Jared’s name. I could use the limited credit lines with my official Asa Mi face, but Sara Suzuki was as broke as the moment when Jared found her in a street theater. How else could they make sure I wouldn’t slip away? But now that my last task was over, they didn’t need that leash anymore.

Or so I thought.

“Asa! What the hell? I told you! Never come to my place unless it’s a life or death issue!” Jared’s face on the entrance screen was red, thunder-browed.

I hugged my shoulders, shivering in the wind. The porch was covered, but the rain hit so hard it soaked through me the moment I got out of my car.

“It is!” I shouted, trying to top the noise of rain. “It is just that—life or death.”

He frowned in disgust, but let me in.

“What?” he asked as I entered his penthouse, my whole body trembling. “Come. I’ll make you a drink.”

“I need money, Jared,” I jogged after him to the living room. “Not a drink. I need it now.”

“Are your credit lines empty?” He popped a bottle of bourbon.

“No, but I need more. Much more. Jared. I decided to retire. I don’t need more money than I have now, and you don’t need me anymore. So—” My voice broke.

“What do you need money for?”

“It’s my business.”

He put a glass of wine before me. “Don’t you remember what we agreed on when I hired you? Rule number three?”

I shivered. The wet dress clung to my body, but that wasn’t why I felt so cold. “I do. But.” I swallowed. “This is not the case, right? You needed to make sure I’d work for you when asked. Well, I’m free now, am I not?”

He nodded.

“No, not yet. You still own all my accounts, and even the new contracts I sign are bound to you. Let me be, Jared. Let me sign the contracts in my own name. Keep all that I earned while I worked for you but let me earn my own money from now on. Let me be.”

“Asa, Asa…” Jared shook his head and smiled. The snake on his cheekbone flinched. “You’re adorable. We don’t need you anymore, right, but what made you think we’re letting you go? Where’s our guarantee that you don’t take our secrets to the cops? Or sell us to a third party? There are no former face thieves, Asa.”

I splashed the wine in his face. “You lied to me!”

He stepped back and laughed. “You’re so naive it hurts. Get out.”

“Yes, I will. I will go, and the next thing I’ll do, I’ll steal your face, and I’ll sell your home, and your cars—and your fucking helicopter!”

I regretted my words before I finished yelling.

He wiped his cheeks. The wine left burgundy traces on his silk cuffs, and when he brought his hands away, his face didn’t have one hint of a smile. “So, it ends like this. Okay.”

He was at me in no time, reaching for my head. I dodged. He grabbed my neck. A sudden headache crushed me, and blood streamed down my forehead, into my eyes, nose, and mouth. I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. I hit the floor.


The barmaid spreads her bangs, exposing the ugliest scar I’ve ever seen. A part of her skull is missing, and thin white skin covers a hole the size of my ring.

“I woke up in a hospital, with my own face,” she says, “Homeless, unemployed, and free.”

“What did you do?”

She shrugs. “I couldn’t help my parents without money, so I found this job. The owner, Miss Baker, is a good woman. She took pity on me. She let me live in a room on the second floor and hired me as a bartender.”

 She bends her head so low I can’t see her face.

“As soon as I got my first paycheck, I walked to Elysium.”


The smell of decay and death made me choke long before I crossed the invisible line separating the district. The same skyscrapers hovered above, the same web of wires and pipelines shattered the gloomy sky, the same bitter air filled the nostrils, but the heart was not so easy to fool. My body weakened, and walking became so tiresome, as though I had to play a sumo fighter with false flesh all over my legs.

The few pedestrians cowered by the walls of the buildings, hiding their faces behind conical hats or low hoods. Fewer cars passed, spattering the lone walkers with murky water. Self-made mooring helped people cross the streets in some places, but mostly, one had to squelch in ankle-deep mud.

By the time I reached my parents’ new home, I was soaked, exhausted, hopeless, and coated with filth. It was a one-hundred-floor anthill, lower than most Elysium buildings, but just as dilapidated. No lock or face-control guarded the entrance.

The ride on an ancient elevator took an eternity. One question gnawed at me: What would I tell them?

Hello, Mom. I wanted to start with these two simple words, but the moment I saw her tall, stout figure in a black kimono in the doorway, I went numb. She sold the house but kept the kimono. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Why was it black?

Mom? My second attempt to talk failed. I froze on the spot, exhausted, terrified, and stunned by Elysium.

“Sara,” she said. “Is that you?”

Tears rolled down my face, and the words, the wrong, stupid words flushed out of my mouth.

“It was me, Mom. I stole Nori’s face. He isn’t guilty, it was all me! I didn’t know… No, I knew, but I couldn’t guess FaceNetwork would find out what I’d done. Here, please take it. I’ll bring more. I…”

“You what?” She stepped back and crossed her arms on her chest. The credit card hovered between us, trapped in my trembling hands. She didn’t reach for it.

“I…” The air stuck painfully in my chest. “I. I became an actress, Mom. Right after I left. And… Also someone else. Not… Legal. I thought I would break free. I’m so sorry. Please, accept it.”

Accept me. Take me back. Those were the words I never said.

She stood still, silent, pinning me to a point with her eyes. I babbled explanations, excuses, and promises until the critical absence struck me.

“Where’s Dad?”

Her shoulders flinched. She raised her chin. “He’s dead. As well as my daughter. Go away.”

I yelled and tried to squeeze past her, but she was so much bigger and stronger than me. The next moment, I sat on the ground, stunned. The credit card lay next to me, and blood streamed from my nose.


“So, is this it?” I ask. “Is this the end of your story?”

She buried her hands in her hair, her elbows and head forming a rectangle.


She doesn’t move.

“Come on!”

I look around, my body answering the movement with pain. The red light colored the windows from outside. My birthday had passed. I am fifty now, and that means… Elysium in less than five years. Why didn’t I have kids, or at least some savings?

One day. I have always lived telling myself one day.

My gaze falls upon my ring.

The girl is right. If I take her story seriously, it could bring in thousands. But how can it pay off, with such a bitter ending?

The bar door swings open with a burst of the wind. A stout woman, wrapped in a black kimono, steps over the threshold. Her face is swollen, and the sacks under her reddened eyes hint at dozens of sleepless nights.

She kneels down in the rustling of silk, surprisingly gracious for someone that monumental, and prostrates herself until her forehead touches the tarnished floor.

Sara squeaks and hops over the counter. My throat tightens.

If the reunion hadn’t happened, I would’ve faked it.


Ella Anañeva

Ella Anañeva

Ella Anañeva is a Russian immigrant residing in Silicon Valley. She uses her IT background to write speculative science fiction. Ella’s favorite technique for fighting against a writer’s block is lucid dreaming. You can visit her website at