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Mask nan Vodou

Today was like any normal day. I followed my normal routine: get up at four in the morning, shower, slug back some coffee, get properly dressed, and race to the subway station. The one thing I forgot was to grab a fresh mask.

It would seem otherworldly, dystopian even, if I’d been told about a world with a necessity for masks everywhere, before living in it. Any enclosed public space warrants one now. Can’t shop for groceries, can't ride the transit, can’t even buy liquor without your mask. God damn pandemic.

Whether one agrees with the way all of this is being handled or not, the new universal constant is a masked one.

I may have realized what I’d forgotten earlier, but I swear, I saw the weirdest thing on my way to the subway station. There was an oddly dressed man. Top hat, long dark coat and smoking a cigar while digging in the snow. I paused and looked at him. There was something chilling about him. More so than just the cruel winter’s air. I realized I was not only wasting time, but rudely staring. The cold dark of a winter’s morning isn’t the appropriate time to draw the attention of local weirdos.

As I continued on, I looked back over my shoulder. He was gone, but the shovel remained, standing upright like the marker to a shallow grave.

I only realized I’d forgotten my mask once I reached into my pocket to put it on, as I entered the station. The dingy scent of the cavernous depths on my virgin nose felt invasive, yet nostalgic. I can’t even recall the last time I’d ridden the transit without my face covered.

I thought it over in a few quick moments.

“Go back for a mask, or just go unmasked?”

Hell, if I was going to go all the way back home, I’d just stay there. It’s a pain that at this early time that there’s nowhere open to simply buy one.

Ultimately, I decided to go ahead anyway. When around people, I’ll just tuck my face into my sweater, or something.

No one said anything. But I got a lot of uncomfortable stares, despite my face being buried half into my shirt.

Once I switched trains, to the Yonge line, an older guy, clad in the heavy and glaring garb of a construction worker in winter, sat in front of me. For a few minutes, he simply leered at me, as if he was seeing more than just me. Seeing into my soul.

"Hey. Here brotha." He said in the thick accent of a Caribbean islander, as he held out a pack of disposable masks outstretched. I couldn’t help but notice a peculiar tattoo he had on his forearm. It was a meticulously detailed cross on a podium, with what looked like coffins on either side. At the risk of being rude, I stopped staring.

"Hey, thanks man." I eagerly pinched the pale blue fabric, and tugged one out. He began nodding.

Strapping it to my face, his nods rhythmically continued. I swear I could see him smiling a devilish grin under his mask. It was off putting, but I didn't think twice about it until he started chuckling quietly.

“Heh, heh, heh….”

I finally crawled out of the gloomy underground, eager to breathe in fresh air despite the winter’s biting cold. I attempted to remove the mask.

Left loop, right loop. The rest didn't follow. The thin fabric had gotten caught tightly on my stubble. I began to peel it off, but it was yanking on my unshaven face. Just then, the blast of cold air hit me. I decided to keep it on for the time being. Warm face wins out over fresh air today, I guess.

After a brief few minutes, I arrived at work. Another day, same old crap. Have to wear my mask inside anyways. On my way down to my office, in the basement, I felt a weird itch under the mask. As I tried to stick my finger in, to give it a scratch, I couldn't. It was as if the mask was too tight to my face.

I swiftly headed to the bathroom, once again undid the loops, and started to pull. It wasn’t just the hairs. I could feel it pulling my skin. There was a moment when my heart stood still. What the hell was happening?

I stared into the mirror, examining the mask for any abnormalities. I noticed some intricate detailing that I didn’t pick up on when the man first handed me the mask. I assumed it was just like any other disposable PPE, and hastily put it on.

"Heh, heh, heh..." I could hear the deep throaty chuckle of the man on the subway echoing through my mind.

Along the edges of the mask, there were fine little stitches, they looked like tiny pieces of bone sewn in. The loops looked like some kind of rawhide leather.

I had begun to let my imagination get the better of me.

“Were these human bones? Human skin? Is this some kind of black magic shit?” I muttered, as I leered at my reflection.

I began to panic. Pulling at every angle, every which way. There was nowhere this mask was going. Not without my face.

I slowly tried to stifle my freak-out. “There has to be a rational explanation…” I buried my face in my hands, then ran them slowly over my scalp. It felt strangely irritated. I looked at my clammy palms to see small clumps of hair, caught in the sweat laden crevices between my fingers.

Looking back into the mirror, my skin was pale. My eyes were glassing over, as if cataracts were forming on the spot. I looked like a corpse.

As my vision began to fog, I called 911, but the second I heard a voice on the other side, I felt my tongue loosen, and start to slide like a giant, hot, moist slug back down my throat. I began to choke as I dropped my phone into the toilet.

I was reduced to a heaving wretch, hunched over, gagging and spewing. I could feel blood welling up in my bound mask. My teeth loose, decaying teeth followed in the spurting coughs of death.

I felt death spread through every inch of my body, more virulent and efficacious than any disease known to man.

One last time, with what remained of my foggy vision, I dared glance into the mirror. What I saw was terrifying. A husk, barely resembling a person. More akin to a “zombie”, or a “mummy”. Behind that person, stood a dark, lanky figure. Cotton plugs in the dark nose that protruded from under his lensless glasses. I could just barely make out what looked like a skull in the shadow of his large-brimmed top hat.

“Heh, heh, heh…”

That brings me to where I am now. As I feel my life force dwindle, slipping away from my mortal coil, my strength fails me. I desperately attempt to use all of whatever is left of my spirit to try to share this message with anyone who will receive it.

Whatever you do, don’t forget your mask. If you do, and someone kindly offers you one? By all that is holy.

Do not take it.

Written by Tewahway
Content is available under CC BY-SA