Putting On the Mask

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After three centuries of endless searching, his quest has reached its end.

The object he requires stands before him now, sparkling beneath a glass case atop a plain wooden stand that belies its incredible power. He glances about before returning his eyes to the display. He knows there are cameras recording every angle of the room—the world has advanced considerably over the course of his unnaturally long life—and though he’s sure the glamour he learned during his exile is still working, he’s paranoid. Things can’t go wrong now, not when he’s inches away from the thing that will fundamentally shift the balance of power in the world forever.

When the white men butchered his people, including, eventually, his wife and children; when they planted their flags in the blood-soaked fields and claimed their land in the name of a foreign crown and an equally foreign god; when they obliterated all traces of his once proud and affluent culture, leaving his homeland in ruins; he thought his life was over. But there was one thing that kept him going, one thing that kept the withered heart in his desiccated chest beating long after it should have stopped along with those of his people.

The mask.

The priests, having foretold their own destruction more than a thousand years before the invaders came, saw fit to pass it down from one generation to the next, not under heavy guard or behind the locked doors of a fortified structure, but through a secret succession of descendants that even he, as their king, was not allowed to know.

The priests, in their wisdom, had understood a vital truth: that the greatest security sometimes lies in obscurity. A guard or a temple would have advertised the mask’s importance and would have surely fallen. But a simple family heirloom? No matter how zealously or how violently the invaders sought to stamp out their heathen practices, there was no way for them to reach everyone—no way for them to know that somewhere, in a simple fisherman’s village, in a quiet bamboo beach house, the future restoration of their people abided in peace.

Unfortunately, the priests were slain, and with them their secret.

He searched long and hard, trudged through creeping rainforests and windswept mountains. But he never found it, and the history of his people soon faded and was lost.

Then a miracle: a report in the Los Angeles Times. An archaeological exhibit had come to the Getty Museum, and among the artifacts on display was a peculiar wooden mask.

The mask.

Now, he hesitates with arms outstretched. He knows the instant he lifts the glass, an alarm will ring. But, of course, once he puts on the mask, that won’t matter. Once he puts on the mask—once he dons the vengeful spirits of his people like a shield—nothing will be able to stop him.

He removes the glass.

An alarm bell rings.

When he places the mask over his face, a dark energy swirls before his eyes like motes of electrified dust.

The guards arrive a minute later, and he turns to greet them, face twisted in a rictus of supernatural ecstasy. Let them come, he thinks. Let them bear witness to his revenge.

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Buried Alive

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This post was originally published through Patreon on April 24, 2016.

They said it was for the common good. They said it had to be done, that there was no other way. Eventually, no justification was needed. They were too great a liability. It was too dangerous for them to live among society and there was nothing that could be done to improve their condition.

So in the end, thousands of men, women, and children were rounded up like cattle and buried alive. Polite society did its best to ignore their shocked and disbelieving cries, their futile pleas for mercy and redemption.

It was necessary.

It was for the common good.

When it was over, the truth was buried along with the victims. Thousands of years passed, and society almost forgot. But the truth refused to remain buried.

Now, in an open field far from the city, in a barren patch of earth that’s remained empty to this day, a dark energy stirs. The ground rumbles, a deep bellowing groan.

They’re coming, and they want revenge.

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Wish

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“See you later, Shit Face,” said Steve, spitting on the ground.

Lucas, crouched on the sidewalk where the bully had pushed him down, glanced up and tried very hard not to cry. Steve signaled to his lackeys that it was time to go, and a couple minutes later Lucas scrambled to his feet, wiped the dust and dirt from his jeans and continued walking.

Steve had cornered him on his way home from school again. Lucas hated the condescending smile, the insults, the shoves and headlocks and kicks. The kid was a monster, and Lucas wished he were dead.

He passed the school yard, glancing cautiously over his shoulder in case Steve decided to come back, and brooded with his eyes lowered to the sidewalk.

That was how he noticed the match.

The dingy partially consumed matchbox lay open in the gutter, a single unused match peeking out from the packaging.

It’s a well known fact that there’s nothing so attractive to a nine year old boy as an unused match, and all thoughts of Steve and his lackeys vanished as he knelt to retrieve the forbidden object.

He glanced over his shoulder again, this time to make sure there were no grown-ups to see what he was doing. Then he picked it up and turned it over to examine the cover.

Fritz Gentleman’s Club, where all your dreams come true.

Lucas didn’t know what a gentleman’s club was, but he knew all about wishes. He tore the remaining match from its cardboard binding and held it up to the light.

“I wish I had more,” he sighed before striking. The tip erupted in a bright green flame.

Lucas goggled. He’d never seen fire like this before. The flame crept dangerously close to his fingers, and the sharp bite of instant heat made him drop the match.

“Ow!” he cried, pulling his fingers into his mouth.

He looked down again at the matchbook…and beheld ten unused matches.

“No way.”

The match had granted his wish. Lucas thought of Steve, and his mind ignited with possibilities.

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