After the faces appeared on the egg shells I could no longer bring myself to cook with them. In the dark they manifested like daguerreotypes, a little more visible each time I opened the fridge. I tried watching, but nothing happened. When I shut the door they developed on the shells. Sepia lips here, a strand of tears running down a cheek there. Ovoid Turin shrouds.
While I was away for the weekend I left them sealed in the cold and the dark. The masks colored themselves in.
Each was unique. All had red noses, but that was where any similarity ended. One was a bulbous snout of whiskey, another a dab of color on the tip of an upturned pixie nose. Triangles and lines bisected eyes. Lips outlined in black or red, stretched back to reveal crooked teeth.
I thought about leaving them where they were, nestled at the back of the fridge between juddering motor and slightly rotting veg, but they made a good talking point.
In an antique shop on the High Street I found an old wooden storage box, fine wire mesh for a door, and placed it in the middle of the dining table. I nestled each egg inside a chiseled out hollow, smoothed by generations of the unfertilized.
A few weeks later I threw a dinner party for some friends in the neighborhood. The eggs were a talking point, as I hoped they would be. After a few bottles of wine we got them out, giving them different voices. Squeaking words. Holding the shells up like puppets. Bryan played Entrance of the Gladiators, hitting the wrong notes on purpose.
Marie nipped back to her house and got some face painting make-up she used at kid’s parties. We decorated each other, copying the clown designs on the eggs. Upturned lips and rouged cheeks. Arched, black, eyebrows rising almost to our hairlines. Finished, and too drunk to clean our skin, we put the eggs back in their box, turning them inward so they didn’t look out into the darkened room.
In the morning all the eggs were turned, their clown designs facing forward. The door of the egg box hanging loose on broken hinges. Edges sticky with thick white foundation. Someone must have woken in the night and torn it loose. I straightened the fine metal plates. Tightened the small crosshead screws.
Turning the eggs back around to face inside the box, I latched them inside. They never stayed that way.
I’m not sure when the first one hatched. I hadn’t looked at them for a couple of days. On the floor I found a shatter of shell held together by thin, stained membrane. Albumin and glitter trailed across the carpet toward the skirting board. I tried to clean it up, but no amount of scrubbing would shift the mess.
Over the next week four more hatched, leaving the same trails of afterbirth across the room.
I heard them moving in the walls. Oversized shoes with toe-caps of cartilage scraped against the wires as they practiced their tumbling routines in the cavities. They didn’t emerge during daylight. On mornings I came downstairs to find birds strangled with strands of banana skin. Balloon animals made from mouse intestines with their inflated throats ripped out. Furniture stained with a powder that was a cross between rouge and brick dust.
Yesterday I found glitter trailed across my pillow, stuck to the cotton with some kind of organic glue that smelt of rendered fat. I tried the front door, but the key was snapped off in the lock. The telephone filled with stagnant water. I heard them laughing in the walls.
This morning I found the last egg broken, the hatchling no longer inside.
I hear them running behind the sofa. If I turn on the taps there’s only sawdust. All the food in the fridge is rotten. They keep singing me out of tune lullabies and I find juggling balls shaped from crushed plaster and bone.
They’re getting bolder. Soon they will start their skit. I dare not sleep.