The Mask

The Mask

2015, 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” it read in big black letters. ‘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 Delft blue vase – ‘hm, imitation’ – and continued. The next stall was filled with wooden knick-knacks and knock-off turquoise – ‘hardly worth my time’ he mumbled. 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 opened 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 gray 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, he told the salesman: “I don’t have much cash on me.”

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

“I don’t know…”

“Look, I’m not a real Native American. I bought all this crap off the Internet to increase sales. You can have the mask for anything you have left in your pockets, just take it off my hands.”

Intrigued by the mask’s expression and the salesman’s fervor he dug deep into his pockets and found 2 dollars and 58 cents – “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 ominous.

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



Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts, 1620

I write to you, dear reader, to inform you of the events that transpired in the last few weeks, ending 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 some glass beads and copper, taken some of us fishing. 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 as to 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 expression of remarkable calmness and serenity – even wisdom.

“I got it from an old, docile Injun for an iron shovel. They are truly ignorant of the value of things are they not?” he asked.

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

“He was a strange-looking fellow. 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 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 orth,” one woman said.

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

“He will not leave the house under any circumstance,” his wife exclaimed after the Sunday Sermon. “He has changed,” she whispered only to her closest friends.

Yesterday, a scream so loud it shook the foundations 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.