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The Mask

by Alyssa Westhoek

He took the subway from 238th Street to 79th Street, got out and continued for two blocks until he hit 77th Street. Rows and rows of white and green market tents appeared as he looked up – GreenFlea market. ‘No time to lose,’ he thought. He got there so early that most vendors had not finished unpacking their merchandise. He didn’t mind and started on his unspecified quest; perusing, searching, looking, not knowing what for. He picked up a vase – ‘imitation’ – and continued. The next stall was filled with wooden knick-knacks and knock-off turquoise - ‘hardly worth my time’. Though something caught his eye. It was a mask of some sort with the same white and green pallet of the market stalls.

He reached for it, wanting to take a closer look at its expression. It was one of utter bewilderment; its mouth open wide in a gasp of surprise. He had barely touched it when a salesman hurried to his side. Both sides of his tanned head were bald and covered in an angular pattern of tattoos. He had a thick braid with one grey streak that started at his widow’s peak and seemed to go on forever. He was dressed like a member of the Village People.

Wanting to avoid a purchase, his customer said: “I don’t have much cash on me.”

“That’s fine, just give me what you’ve got,” the sales-man said eagerly.

“I don’t know…”

“Look, I’m not a real Native American. I bought all this crap off the Internet. You can have the mask for anything you have left in your pockets, just take it off my hands.” Intrigued by the mask and the salesman’s fervor he dug deep into his pocket and found $2,58.

“This is all I have.”

The salesman grabbed it, bit one of the quarters and said “That’ll do, now off with you,” his smiling eyes turning dark and envious.

Already bored of his purchase, he threw the mask on the couch as soon as he entered his apartment. He heard a soft rustling noise and saw that a letter had fallen out of the mask:


HEED THEE, FINDER OF THIS WRETCHED MASK. THIS IS A WARNING!

Plymouth Bay, 1620


I write to you, dear reader, to inform you of the events that transpired in the last few weeks, end-ing in the tragic death of my dear friend Mr. B----.

It began two fortnights ago. We had visited the Wampanoag Indians who had, in return for a small shipment of guns, taken some of us hunting. Mr. B---- stayed behind to barter a deal over some pelts and other supplies.

After we had returned, he asked if I would join him for a drink. He seemed overly excited, though I was unsure why. I sat down in the parlour while he eagerly grabbed something from a jute bag he had brought back from the Indian camp. It was a large wooden mask; green and white, with an ex-pression of remarkable calmness, serenity, even wisdom.

“I got it from an old, docile man for an iron shovel. They are truly ignorant of the value of things aren’t they?” he said.

“Yes, I believe they are.” I answered.

“He was strange-looking, a thick, grey-streaked braid ran betwixt his bald temples, which were covered in triangular tattoos.”

He spoke in frantic tones, his eyes wide with excitement and I observed Mr. B---- was peculiarly influenced by the presence of this bizarre mask.

After that, I barely saw him. When I did, I noticed a dark shadow had fallen over his countenance. After a few days of absence, rumors started to spread.

“’tis as if he has disappeared from the earth,” one woman said.

“I heard he’s become unmanageably violent,” Old Man Creed said.

“He will not leave the house under any circum-stance,” his wife exclaimed after church. “He has changed,” she whispered only to her closest friends.

Yesterday, a scream so loud it shook the founda-tions of the church and all those in it, emerged from Mr. B----‘s house. When I found him, the mask he wore bore a look of pure terror and its mouth was locked in an eternal scream.