The radio was tuned to some talk show or other – a health programme or something similar talking about body image. The anchors sounded young and enthusiastic, possibly to mirror their intended audience. They certainly didn’t mirror either me, or my mood.
I stared at the mask on the table. It, in turn, stared back and was stubbornly uncooperative in revealing its secrets. It had turned up in the flat a couple of days ago, but where it had come from remained a mystery. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d found bits of costume or items without context among my possessions.
I mean, let’s face it: everyone has those moments where orphaned objects turn up: whether as left-over detritus from parties and nights out, or scooped up by mistake, or left behind by visitors. They just don’t normally make an appearance neatly presented on top of a pile of fresh laundry. If anything they’re normally under a pile of laundry you’ve dumped somewhere while wrestling to assemble a wire clothes horse.
It was a simple enough item. A plain red whole-face mask with no mouth. There was a slight contour to accommodate a nose, but nothing defined beneath it. It was light, and made of some kind of molded fabric. Kay swore she knew nothing about it.
I was inclined to believe her. Utterly incapable of telling a lie, she was not averse to running loops with half-truths and misdirection around me, but a flat denial left little wriggle-room.
There were no maker’s marks. No embossed “Made In China” or designer label as clue. There wasn’t even elastic to fasten it. There was no way I was putting it on. Quite aside from not knowing what the inside had been in contact with, I’ve seen too many films and TV shows with possessed masks.
But Dorian, I hear you say, they’re just stories – stop being a wuss. The answer is still no. There’s no benefit to wearing it, and I don’t like messing in the narrativium. If it’s a story waiting to happen, full of magic and intrigue, betrayal and doom, it can wait until after supper at the very least.
I carefully lifted it in both hands and watched the light shimmer across the satiny surface. No, I thought. We’re not playing that game, you can cut that right out. From this new angle the cut of the eyeholes seemed sad, like a puppy in the rain. Shameless.
The mask went on the arm of the sofa, well out of the way. Supper first, I resolved. This mystery can wait a bit longer. Kay brought plates and cutlery through from the kitchen, and I fired up Netflix.
What? You thought I was going to explain it all away? Some of us have self control, I’ll have you know. Stop laughing at the back. Half the horror stories in the world start with someone fiddling with a seemingly innocuous mysterious object of unknown origin. I’m having a night off.