As Bryce looked through his latest haul he still couldn’t believe his luck. The tip he had gotten from the guy that ran the pawn shop had paid off big time. He’d been skeptical at first since it seemed too good to be true. What kind of art collector had such a crappy security system? But he just couldn’t get the idea of some quick and easy money out of his head so he had gone and checked the place out. Sure enough the security was nearly non-existent and the stuff the guy had could be sold to Bryce’s fence for a small fortune. He had robbed the place about an hour ago and was now sitting in his apartment gloating over his loot.
He didn’t recognize most of the things he had grabbed off the shelves but that didn’t bother him in the slightest. It wasn’t his job to know what he was stealing, his fence would take it all and get back to him with a good price, minus his fee of course. As he sorted through the statues of ancient gods, bits of broken pottery, solid silver cups and the few old coins he had taken, a mask caught his eye. It looked to be Mayan in origin, he knew that much at least. It was made of many pieces of abalone shell polished to a gleaming finish. It wasn’t smooth but multi-faceted and had no real features other than a square nose and ears. There were holes for the wearer’s eyes and mouth. He suddenly had an overwhelming urge to put it on.
“Bah! I’m being daft.”
But the more he held it the more he wanted to know what it was like to feel it on his face, to be connected, even for a few moments, to those people in the past who once wore it.
“Well, what could it hurt, right?”
He raised the mask to his face and settled it there. Immediately there was a rushing sound in his head, like a huge waterfall. The mask seemed to grow slightly and shape itself to fit his face. Terrified, he frantically tried to pull it off but it wouldn’t budge.
The roaring in his head became louder as he slipped from his couch onto his knees, clutching the sides of his head. Then, just as he thought his head might explode from the noise, it stopped. He knelt there, fingers madly scrabbling at the sides of mask.
Art thou my new Master?
Bryce heard a deep baritone ask a question.
“Who the hell was that?” asked Bryce frantically scanning the room.
Art thou my new Master?
“Where the bloody hell are you?”
I am Xonoth. I inhabit the mask. Art thou my new Master?
“What? What the hell are you on about?”
You have donned the Mask Of Xonoth, therefore your needs must be great. I confess I did not understand you when you awakened me and I needed to learn. I apologize if this was… inconvenient.
“God, is that what that was? Don’t do that again!”
I have no need to.
“How do I get this damn thing off?”
If you desire to remove the Mask all you need to do is say so. However –
“Fine! I want to take it off!”
At once Bryce’s efforts to remove the mask were successful and it fell from his face into his lap.
“Thank bloody God! So mask thing, now what?”
There was no answer. He held it in his hands and looked at it.
Still no answer.
“Oh you’ve got to be bloody joking.”
Slowly Bryce held the mask up to his face and once again the mask seemed to grow slightly and shape itself to fit his face.
– if you take off the Mask I can no longer communicate with you.
“Yeah, I figured that part out. So now what?”
I do not understand.
“Well, what good are you? Do you grant we wishes or something or can I fly or what?”
No. Neither of those things. What I do grant is enhanced physical prowess. Something you could find useful I believe.
“What do you mean “enhanced physical prowess”? Speak plainly!”
You are stronger and faster when you wear the Mask.
But that is not the Mask’s greatest gift. You can look into the hearts of men and see their true worth.
“You mean I’ll know all their secrets? That’s bloody fantastic!”
“Have you got any idea how amazing this is for someone like me mate? Stronger? Faster? And I can find out everyone’s secrets so I’ll know exactly where they hide their best stuff! I am going to be so damn rich!”
The gifts of the Mask are not to be taken lightly. All those who have been my Master before you have used them for the betterment of their society.
“I’m the Master, you said so yourself. You have to do as I say.”
This is true.
“Ha! Then we’re going out and I’m going to be rich!”
As you wish, Master.
Bryce got up off his knees and ran to his bedroom. He grabbed his best black sweater with a hood from the closet and put it on, drawing the hood over his head. He closed the closet door and stepped back to admire himself in the mirror.
“What the fuck?”
Reflected back at him in the mirror was a gross misshapen form. It was wearing a black sweater with a hood and black pants as he was but there the similarities ended. Its back was humped and it stood slouched over. Its flesh was green and rotting. Pus dripped off of it in various places and a viscous black drool oozed out from beneath the Mask it wore. Its eyes were a deep red and kept daring back and forth like it was looking for a way out of the room. There was a dark void in the center of its chest where its heart should be, blacker than midnight, which seemed to suck everything into it, even the light.
Behold your true worth Bryce Condon! You are nothing but a petty thief, jealous of all those you perceive to have more than you. You long to have more than your lot in life, you drool over petty things and you are not above stealing in order to have them. You are constantly looking around you for ways to use others to your advantage. Your heart is an empty void that will never be filled no matter what you do. When presented with a great gift like the Mask all you can do is think of yourself. You are pathetic. Take a good look, for it is as I told you: the Mask lets you look into the hearts of men and see their true worth.
Bryce was still staring at himself and screaming when the police showed up 30 minutes later.