I told myself I would never wear it again, but today, I wore it.
Masks are supposed to be cheap, and funny. Jim Carrey made masks a punch line, at least for a while. There are masks that are meant to be scary, but they’re too fake to be taken seriously. Everything today is ‘cosplay’ this and ‘make-up’ that.
No one knows the myths origins, the idea of a mask is ancient. It tickles the part of our brain we don’t like to acknowledge in modern times. In the same breath we must admit modern life forces us all to wear masks – professionalism, manners, service to others.
Some of the masks are dangerous. Only a few survived the millennia, and I’ve lost track of who has the others. They still exist, because while wearing this mask, I can feel the other masks.
Every guardian of ancient artifacts thinks their artifact is the best, most powerful, most scary. I know how I sound. My mask terrifies me.
It’s in tune with every child. I see through their eyes, feel through their skin, a single child up to a country’s entire population of children. It’s all rough estimates – who decides what a ‘child’ is, and where the borders are? Only the artifact creator knows the limits.
I care for this item because in other’s hands it was a tool of devastation, then later sacrifice. I guard it so no one else must. Some would argue I do it to remain immortal, but living forever isn’t a reward I would inflict on anyone. There are benefits, but they are less novel when you been widowed twenty times, been to a thousand funerals, begun to forget the names of your own children.
The mask called to me the other day. I knew it would, and as it’s guardian I must don it at least once a decade. I’ve resisted it for 50 years, and this call would not be denied.
I dug it out of the attic chest. It’s wrapped in fine silks. It nearly climbed onto my face it was so eager.
What washed over me was indescribable. Terrible pain, from so many within the masks reach. There were so many tiny humans, more than I ever remember before. Abuse, neglect, birthday parties, bullying, tests, techology, commercials, fashion, hunger; a medley of modern society directly through the eyes of every walk of life in a modern city. I knew if I lived in another state, it would be similar.
The pressure to be perfect never goes away. It was there 2000 years ago. What feels different this time is how many ways kids are shown they aren’t perfect, how they will never be perfect. When they can see the whole world, they see the beautiful not of their own school, or town, or state, or country – they see the best beauty of the whole world. Who would be able to live upto the world’s best?
How does this mask being protected do anyone good anymore? I know the foolishness of the question, it can always get worse. I will continue to protect the Ugly Baby Mask, as it was fondly named so long ago. I will continue to resist to put it on. The horrors hinted through the mask are more than anyone should have to endure.