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Welcome to the Masquerade
The hall was dim, softly lit, and it was chilled with frigid emotions. Cold as ice and as sharp as knives, I could feel the blood chill in my veins. I was alone, in a crowded room, a room full of specters and ghosts.
Throughout the hall, there were men and women in masquerade garb. I was amongst the masked multitude, those unfortunate and unholy souls who could never reveal their identity. We would wander, from one person to the next, talking, dancing, drinking, romancing, and never removing our masks. Many bore scars from when they last revealed themselves and only a fool would endure such a punishment again.
I wandered through the hall, drinking fine wine, courting young ladies, and discussing business with other gentlemen. It was my trade and my life to do so. As my eyes swept the grand hall, I saw a face, disfigured and grotesque. Its eyes were dark and dreadful to behold, and its fang-toothed mouth smiled in a malicious grin. Its body was dressed in the same garb as I. Its demeanor, its posture, and its musculature were the same as mine! It motioned to me and beckoned me nearer. I was overcome by curiosity and I began to close the distance between it and myself.
I took a step forward and it began to run from me. Through the crowd, it moved and sifted like a grain of sand through stones. I followed it as best I could, driven by a spirit unfamiliar to me, but I was constantly slowed more and more by the merrymakers crowding the shadow of the hall. Eventually, I broke free and found myself in a dark corridor of cold stone.
The corridor was dimly lit, even dimmer than the grand hall, and it was colder. The periodic candle bolted to the stone was all the light I was to see within it. Before me stood the hideous creature from the grand hall, which spoke to me. “Hello, my friend.”
“Who are you?” I asked it.
“One without a mask, for no mask can hide this shame.”
“You are most misfortunate then, my friend.”
“As are you.”
He began to groan, saying, “Why must you do this to us? You disfigure us and give us scars which will never heal, and they will see them.” He pointed through the stone wall to the grand hall.
“I’m not you. I’m not a disfigured wreck such as you are.”
“Oh, if only you could see, my friend.” He laid his hands on me and said, “We must remove your mask, if we are to see our own scars.” He attempted to pull my mask from my face.
I took my knife from beneath my jacket and stabbed him in the stomach. As the knife pushed into him, his hand fell from my face. His eyes lost what little light they had within them and he fell in a pile on the mud of the floor.
As I withdrew my knife, I felt a warm sensation come over my core, as if it was pouring over me. I pressed my hand to my stomach and felt a liquid spreading over it. I pulled my hand away and gazed upon a red spot of blood covering my palm. I stumbled out of the stone corridor into the grand hall, seeking help, but no one made a move.
I turned and gazed upon my reflection in a wall mirror and saw the blood pouring out upon my fine clothes. The creature’s words rang in my mind: “If only you could see, my friend.” I attempted to remove my mask, but then stopped myself. I refused to believe his vulgar words. “I’m not him,” I told my reflection.
I hit the floor, unable to stand, and when my knees hit the tile, my mask was knocked from my face. I looked up and saw the creature staring back at me, fang-toothed mouth spread in a malicious grin. As I screamed out in horror, the crowd was upon me, lips beneath their masks spread in a malicious grin, and all were ready to give my body the shame which my face deserved.