Their Mask

October 30, 2010
Mitae glanced at the clock. Five minutes till lunch. Her stomach growled. The noise was drowned out by the loud snoring of Mr. Dot, Mitae’s science teacher.

Mr. Dot was pushing 78 and should definitely have retired long ago, yet he always seemed to get out of it. The reason for his continued stay was a mystery to the students, since he obviously had little passion for the job. In fact, he had none.

Every class began the same. Mr. Dot would start playing a film (always the same one, a documentary about the life of an ant) and take his seat at the front of the room. Within five minutes he would be sleeping like a baby. One of the students would turn the projector off. After that, they basically had a free period. The next day, Mr. Dot would remember nothing and the cycle would repeat.

As Mitae’s gaze drifted from the clock to her sleeping teacher, she noticed Nikko DeAnjeles sauntering towards the front of the room. Mitae scowled as she did every time she saw Nikko, purely out of habit. Suffice it to say they did not have the best of relationships.
About thirty years ago a strange new disease began infecting the people in Mitae’s city. The scientific term was Comenia, similar to mythical vampirism. While those it infected could live a pretty normal life, they did need to consume large quantities of blood to live. Naturally, this caused a problem.

Luckily, scientists quickly found a solution, a special vitamin, which contained a large amount of iron. Those with comenia could take it in place of eating blood. It wasn’t the same, of course, but at least it kept them from killing. For most, life went back to normal. For a small few, it did not.

Some people believed that these comeniacs were a danger to society, even though many had never tasted human blood. These same people tried to get laws passed to keep those they amiably referred to as “blood-suckers” caged like animals. These laws were rejected, but the people didn’t give up. They had to be content with shunning and bullying those who drank blood. They never truly gave in.
Mitae’s family had the disease, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at them. They looked like a happy, fairly attractive group of Asian Americans with slightly longer than normal incisors. Nikko’s family was one of those who hated people like Mitae. From day one it had been war.

No wonder Mitae scowled. As she had done for as long as she could remember, she shrugged it off and started wondering about her lunch. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Nikko turn his back to her near the front of the room where there was a large collection of scientific items they had never used. As he came back up the aisle she had only just noticed that he had something in his hand before it was in her face.

Before she could flick it off she noticed the smell. Blood. Without thinking, acting on instinct, Mitae shoved the thing into her mouth biting down hard with her sharp teeth. The warm liquid ran down her throat, barely enough for a mouthful. All at once, common sense returned and she slowly looked down at the thing in her hand. It was the shredded body of a small field mouse.
She knew her classmates were watching her; she could feel their eyes on the back off her head. For a moment, neither said anything, both parties afraid to speak.
Then Nikko’s laughter filled to room. Had Mitae turned around she might have noticed that although he was defiantly laughing, his eyes showed only sadness. Had she been able to see inside his mind she would have know that he wasn’t basking in the success of his cruel joke, and was, instead thinking about how perfectly her long brown hair framed her face. Maybe then she wouldn’t have done what she did. But she didn’t turn around.

Slowly, Mitae raised herself from her desk and turned to face Nikko. Dark red blood covered her bow shaped mouth. There was anger in her eyes.

“Stop laughing.” She said. As if she had pulled some imaginary string in the back of his head, Nikko’s mouth snapped closed. “You’re sick do you know that? What did I ever do to you? Answer me that!”

“You’d kill people,” Nikko snapped in a perfectly rehearsed superior tone. “If you were hungry enough you know you would.” Oh why did he have to say that? Why couldn’t he ever let it alone!

“I want to live. Just like anyone else. Just like you.”

“How could you ever compare yourself to me!”

“You’d kill.” Mitae said, a malicious look darkening her eyes. “You’d kill him. You want to. Every time he hits you you want to.”

“What are you talking about?” Nikko said in what he hoped was a casual way. Please, Mitae, I’m sorry. There, I said it. Just please don’t tell them THAT.

“ Stupid boy!” Mitae mimicked bringing her small fist down on an imaginary person’s head. “ Worthless little brat! They’re freaks, do you hear me? Freaks!” With one final hard whack, she stepped back, red faced.

“I live next door to you.” she said. “How could I not know?” Nikko didn’t respond. He squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath through his mouth. He was trying not to cry. Crying was for the weak. Nikko was not weak.

Pity flickered across Mitae’s face. The evil look fled from her eyes. The very boy she had looked on with scorn just seconds before she now looked on with only pity.

“I told you we were alike.” She said softly. The bell rang. Class was over.

Nikko stared out of his bedroom window right into Mitae’s backyard hoping to catch a glimpse of the girl he was fated to loath. How many times had he asked himself why? Why were things like this, why did they have to hate each other? He didn’t like it, he never did. Every harsh word, every push in the hall was a dagger in his heart. What he had done today had twisted the handle all the way round.

Nikko always used pain in his metaphors, that was just the way he was. When his parents looked at him with a cold stare, it was a bullet in the head. When he sat in school surrounded by friends who were not his friends, laughing an empty laugh, it was a knife to the ribs.

Turning from the window, Nikko saw himself in the mirror. An olive skinned boy with shaggy black hair and sad grey eyes stared back at him. Nikko forced a smile. The boy did too. He and the boy took one last look toward the enemies’ house. Nothing. Nikko suddenly remembered part of a song he’d once heard. Slowly, softly he sang it to himself.


Every face a different shade


There he paused before covering his reflection with his hand. In a sad whisper, he finished the last line.

Hide your face so the world will never find you.

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