You’ve probably seen one of their members in public before and never suspected that anything was, well, off. One can only join the Society of Headless Americans if it is not readily apparent that they are missing a head, as this privilege is only extended to those who can prove that they have mastered their own decapitation.
The hardest thing about being headless, as most will tell you, is learning how to think without a brain. Over time, the rest of the body must learn how to replace the functions that were lost along with the nervous system’s centerpiece. During this transformative period, consciousness retreats downward into the spine, the stomach learns how to taste as well as digest, and breath becomes not only the usual automatic process, but also another sense. The headless body is remarkably resourceful; with enough practice and meditation, even its bones can be made to store memories.
Once the afflicted is fully acquainted with navigating and engaging with reality once more, they must then master blending in with the rest of humanity. The key to this subterfuge is being able to create a convincing facsimile head; while the Society has hidden workshops across the country dedicated to this art, the newly headless must build their first alone as a rite of passage. Most begin by dissecting a mannequin or sculpting with plaster on wire, but more desperate candidates have been known to take up grave robbing in order to perform their work “from the skull up.”
Obtaining a believable disguise is just the beginning, however, for the headless candidate must entirely relearn how to control their body. No longer does the self reign from atop the shoulders, but rather, from the solar plexus, from which the arms seem as distant as the branches of a tree, and the heart feels more like a waterfall than a pump. In this state of mind, the shape of the world is no longer ascertained horizontally, but vertically, from above to below as the wind is inhaled.
Every now and then, someone who has never lost their head attempts to join the Society, just to see what will happen. After all, the primary criteria for membership is being able to convince others that their head is real, something which anyone who has never lost theirs can manage with little effort. Most fools who attempt this fraud are unaware of the initiation ritual that follows, however, in which the new member’s false head is removed with a guillotine in front of their peers, then burned upon a pyre.