There is a saying, a quote whose origin has been lost, eroded into dust by time, reformed and passed down through the ages to be bastardized for modern listeners:
“Everyone wears a mask.”
It’s far truer than most people think. I know better than anyone else in the world. Though I know that what I can see and the saying have only a skin-deep connection.
As I sit here, watching the silvery needles of rain stab the grey concrete and listening to the faint hum of the dim electric lights overhead, I wonder how long I have left. I know that I have alerted the authorities to my activities and I know that they won’t let me leave here alive, not when I could plant the seeds of doubt in the heads of the people who have lived under their secret rule.
It’s useless to write or record anything, they’d find all records and destroy them. Eons of shadowy dealings have made them very cautious when it comes to any information about their existence.
They’ll be here soon, I can feel it, but I don’t know the exact moment and I don’t know what face they’ll be wearing.
But they will be here. This dingy little diner, with its bacon grease stink and cracked vinyl seats, will be where I make my final stand.
The knowledge of my imminent death angers me more than it frightens me. I had been so careful, so utterly meticulous in how I disposed of the bodies and destroyed all evidence of my involvement.
I was fast, almost mechanical in my efficiency, my knives parting their false skin and spilling their blood on rote. I made a dent in their ranks, but they’ve been here since before humanity learned to be afraid of the dark, breeding in the shadows like bacteria and infiltrating all aspects of society.
I remember when I first saw one. I was only twenty, my life had lost purpose and I was a few weeks away from ending it all when I saw the President’s speech live on the air. I saw the things that stood behind him, watching him spew meaningless rhetoric with their lidless, flower-like eyes and smiling with their angler-fish teeth as if they knew a joke that no one else was privy to.
They were dressed like the president’s personal escorts.
I was horrified to say the least, and I wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me. But my mind was empty of all imagination back then, I didn’t have the mental capacity for such hallucinations and on some subconscious level, I knew this.
Of course, I still tried to explain away what I had seen, telling myself that I was overworked and that the stress was playing havoc with my mind.
But then, one night, when I was out walking, letting the chill October air numb my senses and wondering if a noose or a bullet was the better option, I saw a man in a ratty, filth-encrusted hoodie watching me from the other side of the street.
I lived in a nice, cookie-cutter suburban spawn at the time, and the sight of someone looking so out of place made me uneasy; The man was an intruder in this peaceful neighborhood, like a spider in the flower garden and I instantly felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I tried to ignore him, but I could feel his gaze in me and I knew that he was following behind me, though he was silent in doing so.
The man kept up with me for several blocks, always getting closer with each step I took.
I chanced a look back and felt my blood go cold when the rays of the fading sunlight illuminated the writhing, blackened tendrils that squirmed under the hood and caught the gleam of rows of thin, jagged teeth.
The fear rose in my stomach like bile, making me choke and gag. The man was getting closer and the low, chilly breeze caught his rancid stink and blew it to me; He smelled like low tide and rotted vegetation.
I broke out into a run just as I felt the stench grow stronger, alerting me to the fact that he was only a few inches from me. I ran until my lungs burned and I couldn’t breathe, but the stink stayed in the air and not even the rain that came later that night could wash it away.
I saw them more and more after that: loitering on street corners with cigarettes clamped between their thorn-like teeth, staring back at me from the counter at my local pharmaceuticals store, contracting the moist petals that enclosed their eyes like a perverse wink, and smiling hungrily out at me from behind car windows.
I was getting hemmed in and I knew it. They knew that I was aware of their true faces, and they let their masks drop to show me that they knew… and that the hunt was on.
I stopped taking my anti-depressants, I couldn’t go back to the pharmacy, not when one of them could easily poison my pills.
I started to leave the house less and less, fearing that one of them would be waiting for me in some darkened alley, but I also grew to dread the confines of my own home, knowing that one night I might wake to see a shadowy figure standing over my bed with a knife in its hand.
The remainder of my pills left my system and I fell into a depression that was deeper than anything that I had experienced. I wanted to kill myself, to escape from the nightmare that my life had become.
But something stopped me. An emotion that I hadn’t felt strongly in a very long time, not since I found out that my mother had a tumor in her brain, and spent my every waking minute ranting and screaming at the injustice of it all as she wept and tried to escape creatures that only she could see.
Anger, white hot, flared up in my gut and I felt myself drawing away from the noose and the bullet as my anger directed all my attention towards the flower-eyed beasts that stalked me.
How dare they threaten me? They had obviously been around for a long time, and there were almost definitely more in other countries. They had been running all forms of government and entertainment for ages, feeding off of people and killing anyone who found out about them.
There had been others like me, that I was sure of. They all looked at me with such excitement, it was obvious that they had done this sort of thing before and in all other cases I bet the people that they hunted gave up and let them win.
That was wrong. I was not going to roll over and let them stick the knife in. I would fight back, let them know that I was not like the other cowards who couldn’t bear the truth about the world, who couldn’t bear the thought of monsters who wore human skin.
But I knew that monsters were real. I had seen them on the news and on the internet long before I saw their true faces, and the thought of letting them add another body to their tally made me furious.
I suddenly had an ambition in my miserable life, a true cause that I could devote myself to, mind, body and soul.
I would hunt the hunters, I would kill as many of those vile things as I could before they caught up with me. Maybe I would even manage to out them in the process.
So, a day later, I donned an old ski mask that I had bought for a vacation that I had never taken, grabbed the gloves that came with the mask and pocketed a switchblade that had belonged to my father.
I went out that night and located one of the creatures, one which had, until recently, been my next door neighbor.
I saw those fleshy hollows unfurl as I walked closer, saw the flytrap of a mouth open to call to me, and I flicked the switchblade open and rammed it into his neck before he could speak. The look of shock on his inhuman face was worth all the foul-smelling, dark blood that splattered my face when I tore the knife free.
I fled the scene before anybody could spot me and I returned home with a fire burning in my mind. I was elated, happy for the first time in a very long time, I had struck a blow against the things which were stalking me.
I had a new purpose in life.
I abandoned my house a day later, taking my clothes and anything that I could pawn with me. I drove into the city and sold all that I could, then I bought a few new “toys” with the money that I had gotten: a revolver, a machete, a shotgun and several knives of varying size.
Once my weapons had been acquired I took an old pillowcase and constructed a crude, but effective mask that I used in place of my ski mask. After all, the creatures needed a face to their reaper, and a zipper-mouthed, dark-lensed, dingy-grey one seemed like the perfect choice.
I began my hunt not long after that.
It was difficult at first, tracking them down and killing them as quickly as I could without attracting attention, but it got easier as time wore on.
I made the papers not long after my tenth kill, when someone had managed to spot me and had taken a picture of my masked form standing over a slaughtered creature; I personally loved how the flash reflected off of the lenses in my mask, making my eyes look like tiny fires.
They dubbed me “The Back-Alley Butcher” and my deeds soon became the top stories on many news stations. I saw many of the creatures who, in the guise of news anchors, read off the details of my latest exploits with terror etched into their features.
They were afraid in what had to be the first time in a very long time.
I relished their fear and laughed at how baffled everyone was at my seemingly random patterns. I had lacked imagination before, but now my mind was filled with creative ways to hunt and slaughter, and that was all I needed.
I stopped sleeping after the fifth week, but I didn’t care. I tinkered with my mask and bought lightweight kevlar armor after a close encounter with a creature who had a gun.
And the bloodshed continued.
The intense summer heat and the deaths made reporters dub the month of my reign, “The Summer of Blood”. I love that title, it suits me perfectly.
I was at the top of my game, striking fear in whatever alien organ served as the monster’s hearts. But, somewhere deep down, I knew that I would be caught eventually, but I didn’t care as long as I got to whittle away at their numbers.
My fall came about because of my lack of sleep. I was too high on my successes to realize that my sleepless nights were affecting my health and I began to grow dizzy and lightheaded.
I was on another hunt, stalking an infamous lawyer who got child molesters and the like off scot-free. I had him cornered and was in the process of gutting him when a bullet tore through my shoulder.
The lawyer had been tailed by one of the thing’s bodyguards who had seen me. He was too late to save his employer, but his shot had penetrated deep and had drawn blood.
I was forced to flee as the bodyguard called out and brought several people running. I left a blood trail and was forced to take shelter in a storm drain in order to tend to my wounds.
I knew that my hunt was at an end. They had my DNA and that would lead them to me. I saw my face in the news, and gritted my teeth in anger at the toothy smirks of smug satisfaction that the creatures flashed when they said my name aloud.
That was a few hours ago, now I’m sitting in this diner, watching the rain fall, seeing the creatures, with their flower-eyes and needle-teeth, gathering at the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
The sounds of police sirens are getting closer. The human waitress had done her job and called the police. I don’t blame her, she can’t see what I can.
I look down and check my bag. My shotgun and revolver gleam in the dim light, inviting me to one last fight.
I take out the shotgun first and load it.
It’ll do the most damage to the bastards.
I take out my mask and put it on, savoring the smell of their polluted blood and my sweat. I place the revolver into my pocket and stand up just as the first policemen arrive. I can see the tendrils of their faces pulling their maws into triumphant smiles.
Written by Hopefullygoodgramar