A Mask

My name is Guy Garrison.

I am a nobody. Well, nobody I would like to be. Plain, plain as the cruel God above would have me be. Without any special talent. Absent of any remarkable ability. I am not the beating heart of any party. I bring not the light of the rising sun. I am simply here. Insufferably, obnoxiously, here.

I wake up. I accept the sin of life. I pretend for my family. I attend school. I socialise. The last bell rings. I return home. I rest. I wake up. A cycle. A hand on a clock. The notion of routine simply maddening.

There is only one aspect of my life that keeps me sane – if that is appropriate a word to use. It is the fact that I am insane. Surely that is paradoxical! Yet can one be aware of one’s own insanity? Can I know that I am probably – most definitely – mad? Or am I of some modicum of sane thought to examine the possibility that I may be…too sane? Hmm. Super sane.

My head is a cloud. The outside world is vast and senseless. My colleagues and classmates and teachers and friends are nought but an obligation to me. I want something more for myself, but I am not worthy of more. I am flesh. I am moving parts stripped of purpose. I am without identity.

I am only ever whole in the safe, quiet darkness of the night; through one single secret. My sweet, sweet secret, hidden in a pit.

In a man-made hole in my wall, buried beyond my belongings, is a mask.

It is gold, it is gruesome, it is brilliant. Hardened and heavy, black sockets for eyes, pressed lips. Of human form, but unmistakably adrift of being human. Oh, it’s beautiful! It’s exquisite! There is nothing quite so divine as it. What am I, mere flesh, before its glittering perfection? Oh, I worship the very alter it rests upon. It smelled of steel and rust; sweetly potent. It was always cool to the touch of the hand. But my fingertips would only linger upon it for moments before I would retreat and cleanse it for the thousandth time.

All I have is my mask. The one true thing in this world that I call mine. The moment I had seen it I had known that something would always rule me, and the golden brilliance would be mine and mine alone. Each night I stare at this mask, and I bask and bathe in the wonders of what it could bring. My heart would rise. My mind would swim and swirl and soar. Do I wear it? No! For I am weak, and I am too afraid to put it on, because beneath it I can be anything I desire. I can be worthy, I knew it, were I only able to form an identity. I could do nothing but caress its cool metal.

What, oh what, could be my identity?

I thought of fear, but the insolent brat who bullied me had long left the school.

I thought of heroism, but my distressed damsel had long ago found comfort in the arms of another.

I thought of chaos, but I lacked grit.

And so night after night and day after day I looked upon my mask, and in the hours I felt free to dream, free to wonder, free to explore the depths of what I could be. The only hours of the day I could seduce my restless soul with notions of peace.

Perhaps one day I could have the courage. One day, someday, today.

I walked the hallways at school. Minding my own business. Invisible, away, in a faraway place. A boy, a pompous egotistical child by the name of Marcus Greene, shoved me aside purposefully while running ahead. I fell hard. I stared after him. I collected my scattered belongings. And I was livid.

I don’t know why I was so angry. If I was to be honest it was not all directed at the boy. It was frustration at myself beyond anything else. My insides felt somewhere between humiliation and grace, rage and serenity, fire and smoke. The way he had shoved me aside like I was nothing, nothing at all. It was only natural of him to assume such a thing, for I assumed it of myself.

I returned home that night; still the anger had not left me. Surely it would drive me mad. I was consumed by it. I was tormented by the idea that Marcus would go unpunished. That his action would be without consequence. That he would have left me feeling like the nothing I was, and I would only stand by and entertain it. It was a choice I could make. And it wasn’t a particularly complicated one. To live with shame, or to conquer such vile self-torment with a new self?

I approached the hole in my wall. I had flirted with romanticism for far too long. I just had to move. I reached for my mask with alacrity. It was greater than I. My heart hammered like a drum, threatening to burst forth from my chest and ruin me.

But in my rage I caught sight of a truth. The mask was greater than I, but was its wearer.

I lifted the heavy mask from its altar. I placed it over my face. The facade of flesh peeled away, and Guy Garrison was just a name in a high school yearbook. The mask was all that remained. I observed myself – no, not me, but something elemental – and drew my black hood to hide my human hair. I pulled thick gloves over my hands. The transformation was complete. The mask had come to life.

I moved like a wraith and picked up my baseball bat. It purred in my hands, and I knew that when I swung it, it would sing.

Marcus Greene would be having supper with his parents. It was little more than a ten minute walk from home. The mask was in control of my body. At this point in time I merely observed.

I saw him through his windows. I reached for the phone in my pocket. A simple text message that told him to step outside. A great oaf like him surely would obey my command; a challenge sent must be responded to in kind.

The great gladiator stepped outside of the safety of his house to investigate the origin of the message. But the mask was cloaked in the shadow of the night. I waited. I counted. I breathed. It was easy.

Marcus Greene turned his back to me, and the poor fool’s mistake became his last.

The bat did indeed sing when I swung it at the back of his skull. He made barely any sound as he crumpled to the ground in a big fat heap. The mask was perfectly in control. The action was not difficult. Guy Garrison may have hesitated, but not the mask.

The mask was wrath. Wrath was punishment. And punishment felt sorry for no one.

The mask raised the bat and brought it down – again and again – on Marcus Green’s skull. Beat it, battered it, ruined it. The face was gone. Blood pooled and splatted and gushed. Still the mask struck. The punishment continued. Shock travelled up my arm with each blow. Electricity surged in the air. Fire raged behind my pupils. Immeasurable pleasure warmed my insides. Fatigue had long ago gripped me with its agonising shackles, but the mask was without any desire to cease.

When the punishment was at last done there was nothing left but a red mess.

I pulled off the face and let my human eyes see retribution. Oh? But it wasn’t I who did it. It was the mask.

I returned home and placed the mask gracefully atop its holy altar. Stained with flecks of scarlet blood, beneath the pale shafts of moonlight from above, I to thought to myself what a wondrous identity I had found for me.

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