The Mask Maker (A Short Story of Horror and Suspense - Written by Matthew Munsey - Edition 2)
The Mask Makers’ eyes were wondering. Scanning the racks of leather and hair, his makeup kit sat open and ready. He saw every possibility laid out before him, of every life that he could lead, if even for just a moment. Who would he become today? “Ah yes, this is the one.” The whisper came suddenly into the room, filling the blackness with a suffocating sense of glee. The Mask Maker reached out deliberately, lovingly. He carefully placed the bolt of skin he had chosen from his moisture rack onto his desk, removed his tools from the lone cabinet, and settled down to work.
With a brief click and a snap of the fingers, the Mask Maker turned on the rooms solitary lamp. The beam of light hung down from the ceiling above where the Mask Maker sat, illuminating a small, vibrant circle on his dingy, battered desk. Within this halo of blinding light now lay the beginning. The Mask Makers brow began to sweat. It was always exhilarating, the start of a new project. The rebirth of once lost life. Greedily, the Mask Maker stared down into the leather. In the light, he could see every detail of the material. Every imperfection, every line, and crease. It was beautiful, and yet somehow, terrifying. The beginning always was.
Methodically he plied his trade, stretching and refining the supple material. Honing the rough edges, smoothing the battered, age-worn skin. Too many imperfections and the work looked sloppy, but not enough, and somehow it felt… Wrong. When he had first begun his journey into the fine art of face crafting, he had been a perfectionist. Every detail was accounted for, every nuance intended. But that never felt right. It never felt real.
Soon after his work had begun he had started to notice them. The subtle age lines in the grocery store clerks face, the acne scarring on her managers young, unfortunate forehead. The frown lines etched deeply into the mail man's face. The truth of humanity, the Mask Maker soon discovered, was not in its pursuit of perfection, but rather, in its flaws. For within these imperfections, within these defects of nature - there lay the true character of a man.
And so the Mask Maker had adapted. No longer was he removing the deep lines, no longer was he detailing the pockmarked cheeks. Finally, he had understood the truth. For a mask to hold any meaning, any power at all, it had to be real. It had to be the truth.
And so he had worked. Diligently the Mask Maker shaped and molded face after face after face, each one becoming truer than the last. Before long it was uncommon that a man would stare for more than a few seconds, whereas in the past whole swathes of men and women had been known to point and stare. He was undoubtedly improving, and fast. It got to the point where the only tell was the eyes. They were always dark, sunken, unmoving things - no matter what the Mask Maker did to breathe into them some semblance fresh life. But still, he improved. Day after night after day, the Mask Maker worked tirelessly, determined to become the thing that he knew he needed to be.
The mask that laid before him now was already beautiful. Its leather was supple, its complexion nearly the perfect shade of light, delicate pink. With deft precision, the Mask Maker made his adjustments. The lips needed work. Somehow they always seemed as if they were the first thing to go. The ears as well needed touching up, another of mother natures common early absorptions. The Mask Maker worked ceaselessly, unsleeping each time he began a mask until the moment he knew it was ready to be worn. The delicate metal instruments that he wielded with such precision poked and cut into the skin before him, manipulating the mask into the image that the Mask Maker desired. He cut into the flesh of the mouth and the eyes, widening and stretching them as to accommodate their new host. Carefully, he hollowed out the nose from within, delicately stretching and prodding the material as to allow his own nose to slip comfortably inside.
To his left sat a spray bottle. Common water, nothing special here. It had been on one of his first masks that he had discovered the need for hydration. It was shocking to him, the speed at which his material could dry out. As you can imagine, it was no easy task for the Mask Maker to acquire his materials, as rare as they were, and so care had to be taken. Every few minutes the Mask Maker would set aside his gleaming instruments, and laying his work down on the table, he would set to spray his project down. Every inch of leather had to be cared for. If even one mistake was made, the mask would be ruined.
Soon the mask was complete. The features had been hollowed. The leather had been tamed. The delicate imperfections so imperative to the human condition crafted and honed, as if by the hands of God himself. And that’s what he felt like when he was done. The Mask Maker, sitting alone in his darkly lit room, surrounded by the faces of men and women he had helped to bring alive. Who besides God, after all, could do what he had done? The Mask Maker, the keeper of lost and reborn life, was satisfied.
Along the back wall of his musty workshop was a long and bristled rack. Covering the wooden bars were scalps, each one more beautiful than the last. There were long, brown and golden locks that fell to the Mask Makers lower back when he adorned them, tight buzz cuts clingy delicately the skin that they grew from. Brief shocks of dapper trims, befitting the likes of only the finest men of society. The options were endless, but the decision was always a simple one. Every mask, after all, told a story. All the Mask Maker had to do was listen, and the rest always fell easily enough into place.
The long, full body mirror sat resolutely in the corner of the room. Oh what horrors she had seen, and yet, what beauty. The Mask Maker stared deeply into her reflective visage, inspecting the work that he had done. A long, beautiful display of auburn hair cascaded down his lean and sloping shoulders and brushed delicately against his soft, pink cheeks. His smile was radiant. This mask was his finest yet. The beauty of his own reflection set off emotions that the Mask Maker had not felt before. Love, perhaps? He was not sure. All he knew was that it was ready and that he must take it out at once.
Walking slowly out of the darkness of his workshop, the Mask Maker made his way down the dimly lit hallway and into his bedroom. It had once been his mother's room, a long time ago. The Mask Maker often, in fact, still considered it to be, even though she had been dead for years now. Walking quickly over to his closet, the Mask Maker began to rifle. And there it was, that long, delicate, blue dress. He still remembered his mother wearing it as if it were yesterday. He only hoped that he would look as beautiful as she once did. Slipping the soft blue material over his now naked body, the Mask Maker felt at home at last.
His excitement mounting, the Mask Maker grabbed his favorite pair of high heeled shoes and headed for the door. His dirty shovel sat stoically by the door, a resolute reminder of his basest and crudest method. He had always felt a little wrong, gathering his materials the way he did. But what other way was there? He did not know. For a moment the Mask Maker stared down at the dirty, oddly smelling shovel and wondered. How funny it was that all of this beauty had been unearthed by such a crude and imprecise tool. With a hearty chuckle, the Mask Maker turned his attention to the door. No use in brooding over the means of his art, especially not now. Now that he was so very close to the end. With one final glance down at his meager instrument, the Mask Maker put his hand on the doorknob and turned. Behind his door he could hear it, the city and its denizens hustling and bustling, moving about their idiotic, pointless lives. The Mask Maker laughed again, more quietly this time. If only they knew what true happiness was, if only they could see me.
Stepping out into the afternoon sunlight, the Mask Maker squinted and stared. The road was busy from one end to the next. Car horns blared, workers yelled, men and women, jostled one another needlessly in their attempt to keep up with the flow of the crowd. What a spectacle it was, the Mask Maker thought. And to be one of them, it was fantastic. Without missing a step, the Mask Maker made his way into the great flow of men and women, all heading in one direction or the next, but never really going anywhere. He jostled and moved like the rest of them, effortlessly becoming one of the many as he had so many times before. They hardly glanced twice at him. It was only the eyes that caught their attention. The eyes were never right. Every once in awhile the Mask Maker would see a young child staring at his direction, mouth agape and eyes full of wonder and fear. A small smile was usually all that was needed to set them off, back towards the comfort and safety of their parents or their peers. But besides them, no one stared, not anymore. Careful not to move his mouth too much as to give himself away, the Mask Maker began to whistle. The sound was strangely muffled, the sound having to travel over twice the amount of skin. No one ever seemed to notice. The Mask Makers blue dress swung loosely around him, as his beautiful auburn hair swirled and danced in the wind.
“Hey ma'am, care for some roasted nuts?” came a voice to the Mask Makers left. Slowly and deliberately the Mask Maker turned and responded. “No thank you.” Was all he said. For a moment the eyes of the man behind the nut stand grew wide. Something was wrong, he knew, but he could not place what. But before he could say another word the Mask Maker had turned and continued walking, whistling in time now to the loud click-clack sound of his long, pointed heels. The Mask Maker smiled, revealing a thin deviation in where the upper lip and that of his masks met. No one seemed to notice. Or maybe they just didn't care. Either way, it mattered little to the Mask Maker, as for now at least, he was happy. For now, for a short time, he was one of them. He was alive.
Hey Reader, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my story, please don't hesitate to upvote it, and follow me for more! Looking forward to seeing you again - Matt Munsey
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