This story dates back to the late 70's, early 80's. It was in an anthology of award-winning short stories. (Perhaps edited by Lester delRay?) The story line is about a super-star actor famous for his ability to 'become the part'. He not only acts the part, his facial features & body image transforms(which most attribute to his a Ex: One role was that of a skid-row drunk, which he portrayed perfectly after months of wearing filthy old clothes & drinking himself into a stupor for weeks on end. Another was his rendition of a mental patient. For that story he had himself admitted to a facility for the mentally ill & submitted to strait jackets & other restraints.

His 'secret'is revealed when the actor is accused of murder. He'd won the role of a serial killer & in his pursuit of learning how it felt to actually kill another took the life of a young woman. He was identified by several witnesses who recognized the actor. The plot twist comes after his arrest. The actor begins regressing through his stage & film roles & triumphs, playing each part in reverse order.

Several months later the reader finds out no one could communicate with him except by going along with whatever role he was currently re-enacting. He's been put into a mental hospital where he continues to regress. One evening the prosecutor is told to rush to the hospital where he's met by the doctor in charge, who's clearly shaken. He warns the prosecutor what he's about to see is horrifying. The actor, having regressed all the way back to his first part is turned towards the back wall, utterly still & silent.

When the acotr turns around,having run out of parts the detective steps back, horrified & sick, for the man has no face.


All the Sounds of Fear, by Harlan Ellison, from his 1962 collection Ellison Wonderland.

This story of an actor who is such a willing slave to his craft that he (unwittingly?) sacrifices his very identity to it. In a clever bit of construction, we meet Richard Becker as he assumes his first role, his first identity (that of a Bowery soak), only briefly glimpsing the nice, young man who stepped into the Salvation Army retail store. Who is he? Who was he, before? We never learn his origins. Oh, we follow him through several other identities - tortured artist, melancholy Dane, bigot, Willy Loman, Marco Polo, pimp, and "Jesse Helms," right down to that role which proves to be his undoing, Tennessee Williams' murderous religious fanatic - but we never, ever get to see Richard Becker. Perhaps he is unfamiliar with the dynamics of that role. We never see him, only hear his tortured, frightened, lost screams, in his self-induced darkness, as he calls desperately, chillingly, "Give me some light!"

Here's the end of the story:

The sound of his soft sobs in the corridor held the others back. They stared silently, still hearing that never-spoken echo reverberating down and down and down the corridors of their minds:
Give me some light!
Fumbling beside him, Tedrow slammed the observation window shut, and then his arm sank back to his side.
While inside Room 16, lying up against the far wall, his back against the soft passive padding, Richard Becker looked out at the door, at the corridor, at the world, forever.
Looked out as he had come, purely and simply.
Without a face. From his hairline to his chin, a blank, empty, featureless expanse.
Empty. Silent. Devoid of sight or smell or sound. Blank and faceless, a creature God had never deigned to bless with a mirror to the world. His Method now was gone.
Richard Becker, actor, had played his last part, and had gone away, taking with him Richard Becker, a man who had known all the sounds, all the sights, all the life of fear.

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  • Ellison Wonderland - great title :) – Eborbob Aug 27 '15 at 9:11

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