Jeff was a fairly famous model, appearing in teen magazines across the country, known for his boyish good looks and his wide smile. To the outsider, his life was good. He didn't have to go to high school like other kids his age, he didn't have to endure the regular trials of teenage years, and girls everywhere taped his pictures to their walls. He brushed elbows with movie stars and singers, and had everything a young man could want.
At least, that's what it looked like on the outside.
No one knew the reality of his life, the endless photo shoots that stretched from the early morning until late into the night, the ache of standing and posing, the cattiness of the people he had to work with. If everyone else wanted the glamorous life of a model, all Jeff wanted was a normal one. A life where he could get a full night's sleep, where he could eat whatever he wanted and wear whatever he wanted and socialize with whoever he wanted, to go to class, to go on dates. To be unknown and unnoticeable.
It seemed like he was doomed from the start, he felt. As far back as he could remember, everyone had always commented on his looks.
"Look at those eyes," they would say, leaning down to peer into them. "Those are eyes that stay with you."
"Look at that smile," they said. "You should smile more, Jeff. You have such a beautiful smile."
Jeff rarely smiled of his own volition. Usually it was at the insistence of some pushy photographer while his mother, who was also his manager, glared at him from her chair in the corner.
"That isn't right at all, Jeff. You have to look happier. This is a happy shoot, remember? Smile wider. You want to make people happy, don't you? You look like you're half-asleep, that's not going to cut it."
But Jeff was half-asleep, even under the bright lights of the studio. He had not gotten any sleep that night thanks to a tirade from his mother. She was angry that he had not gotten a contract with a watch company; he'd been passed over for someone else, and that was not acceptable.
"This isn't acceptable, Jeffrey. This is completely unacceptable. Do you think this is what I've worked so hard for? For you to lose to this shrimpy little waif? I have a beautiful son, but where's his ambition? Don't you want fame, Jeff? Don't you want people to know who you are? Or do you want to be some little no one wasting your life in some crappy job? Is that what you want, Jeff?"
It was exactly what Jeff wanted, but he said nothing, just stared at the floor.
"You have something special, Jeff. You have a beautiful face. But you're always walking around with your eyes half closed and no smile. You think you could survive without that face?"
In the studio the photographer stepped out from behind the camera and walked over to Jeff, signaling for the other model to give them some space.
"Jeff, open your eyes. You have gorgeous eyes, hon, but you're not letting us see them. You're being all gloomy and it just looks awful. I don't understand. Do you want something? Coffee? What do you want?"
"I just want some sleep," Jeff said, but the photographer laughed.
"Oh, honey, no one sleeps in this business. Get used to it."
"People who succeed don't sleep," snapped Jeff's mother from the corner.
She was annoyed after the shoot. It was already four in the afternoon; they had been there all morning.
"I think you just want to fail sometimes, I really do. You're nothing without your face and you don't even care."
Jeff stood in front of the wall of photos in his house. All his best, wearing designer clothing that cost more than most people could begin to imagine, lounging on elaborate sets, next to beautiful women. He peered closer at the photos, and he realized something.
He barely recognized himself.
It wasn't the makeup and the photo editing, no, it was something else. It was, he realized with a chill, that he simply did not know the face in the photos. The young man in the photos was a stranger, a perfect, unknowable stranger with features he did not recognize.
Whoever this was, it wasn't him.
He ran to the mirror, but there was the face again, not his, but the one from the photograph. It had been his once, but no longer. Now it belonged to the magazines, to the photographers and the agents and the advertisers who used it, molded it to their own needs, dictated its expressions and its emotions, ordered him to smile and smile for the camera. And it belonged to his mother, who thought he was nothing without it. Who thought it was her tool for gaining fame and wealth.
This had gone quite far enough, Jeff decided.
His mother was awakened by the sound of breath, rasping and strange. She shrieked when she opened her eyes, at the horrible face leering down at her. The mouth had been cut along the cheeks into a jagged, permanent grin, now crusted with blood, exposing the rows of white teeth underneath. The cuts were fresh, and blood and spittle ran down his chin. But worst of all were the eyes. They were lidless, ringed in black ash and staring down at her with palpable hatred.
"Yes, Mommy," the thing said. The thing that was once her son.
"What have you done to yourself?"
"I've made myself beautiful. Don't you like my smile? Aren't I beautiful?"
She scrambled back towards the wall, away from him.
"Aren't I beautiful, Mommy?"
"Yes," she whispered carefully. "Of course you are." Her arm was sliding down the wall behind the bed. To where she kept the gun.
But of course Jeff saw her. He could see everything now, eyes open in the darkness.
"You're lying, Mommy. You're lying to me. But it's alright. I'm beautiful now. Now I'm the way I was supposed to look."
"Jeffrey, what have you done? You're not even my son anymore, you"
The knife cut her off. The last thing she saw was Jeff's smile, his dead and blackened eyes.
"You said people who succeed don't sleep, Mommy. Well, you've succeeded. You can go to sleep now. Go to sleep."
In the morning, when the police finally came, they found his mother's body lying on the bed, and above it, smeared on the walls in her blood, were written the words
YOU WILL ALL
GO TO SLEEP