The eyes…the eyes…the eyes. He tried to turn away, but his muscles wouldn’t obey. His head spun back to stare at…the eyes. Light Robin’s egg blue irises not even found in most Scandinavians. A dilated pupil in the center of wide-open eyes strongly suggested visceral pleasure. The smudged whites were ravaged by age. The eyes. They bulged noticeably from the face. Large black lashes ringed the lids, abnormally spaced apart — frozen open in astonishment. The eyes…the eyes…the eyes.
“The eyes are extraordinary, aren’t they?”
He turned to face the voice of a young Hispanic male dressed in a dark suit and sporting a red tie.
“Yes, I can hardly see anything else.”
“Pardon me for interrupting, but I thought I might be able to help you. Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Diego Montoya. The clerk here in the gift shop called me. I have some expertise in these indigenous Mexican masks. Perhaps I might assist?”
They shook hands.
Diego continued, “I’m the assistant curator here at the Museo Nacional de Antropología y de Arte Indígenas.”
“Nice to meet you, Diego. I’m Renato Pérez, from New Mexico.”
“Small world, I’m originally from Albuquerque, and I received graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of New Mexico.”
Renato smiled. “Go, Lobos.”
“What are you doing here in old Mexico, Renato?”
“I thought I’d come and do a bit of genealogical research. Family folklore says we’re descendants of a conquistador who accompanied Oñate. I confess I’m totally captivated by these masks. My father has a collection of historic indigenous Mexican masks. We’ve exhibited them throughout the southwest. I’ve been thinking about starting my own collection.”
Diego turned to view the wall. “Yes, these old masks can certainly captivate. Take, for example, this one. Once you can break free of the eyes….” Diego pointed at the mask. “Consider the overall shape of the face. It’s Caucasian — larger than life-sized by about half, but proportionally accurate. Notice the skin, more of a pinkish hue than found in most Hispanics.”
“Why would they exaggerate the skin tone?”
“Many of these theatrical masks were supposed to be a parody of the Spanish. They have purposely exaggerated features. The eyes are obviously larger than life, and so is the nose.” Diego explained, “Yes, the nose is hooked, extending the overall mass further. Bulbous. Look at the flared nostrils — like the nostrils when a bull is about to charge.
“The red paint on the inside of the nostrils makes you wonder whether the idea was to emphasize the internal blood of the character.”
“Did the indigenous peoples have such hooked noses?”
“Not normally, but this is not a mask depicting a native. The mask represents a European.”
“The nose is bigger, and the ears are fuller than those on any person I’ve ever seen.”
“Yes, artistic license. Exaggerations, perhaps to indicate the character had excellent hearing. The ears are normally shaped. Perhaps larger than on most people. A surprisingly small lobe extension at the bottom.”
Renato leaned to the left and the right to view the ears from a different perspective. “Do you know where this mask originated?”
“We do. This is an original from the Tlaxcaltec people.”
Renato interrupted. “Say that again?”
“Of course, it is pronounced ‘lash caltec.’ They originated in what is now a state east of Mexico City. The ancient Tlaxcaltecs allied with Hernán Cortés and helped overthrow the Aztec Empire. They had a major role in taking the capital city of Tenochtitlan. Their language was Nahuatl. Can you say ‘nah watl?’” Diego reached up, lifted the mask from its peg on the wall, and handed it to Renato.
Renato mumbled, “nah watl,” then added, “Surprisingly light.”
“Yes, carved from zompantle, a soft white wood native to eastern Mexico. Easy to work by hand with basic tools.”
Renato rotated the mask and ran his hand over the cheeks. “The finish is smooth.”
“Burned to remove splinters. Then sanded and polished before being painted. Look at these eyebrows.” Diego pointed to the face. “Painted on.”
Renato fingered strands of long black hair hanging over the ears. “The entire mask is not wood.” He ran his hand across the top and across smaller locks dangling over the forehead.
“No, the creator used horsehair most often on a mask like this. I’m not sure about this one, though. Might be actual human hair.”
Renato’s stomach tightened as he took a rapid, light breath. “Human hair?”
“Yes, sometimes the masks were made to represent a specific individual, and the use of original hair or teeth was considered appropriate.”
Diego laughed, “Yes, my friend, but not in a mask like this. Look!” He took the mask from Renato and turned it face up with the mouth clearly displayed. “The mandible on this character juts forward, so the elongated, massive lower teeth clear the upper lip and appear outside the mouth.”
“These two are extra long.”
“Yes, the lower canines are extremely exaggerated and connected to only three lower incisors.”
“What are they made from?”
“This is some carved wood added to the main portion of the mask. Real teeth were probably too difficult or simply not available.”
Renato touched the large dirty white teeth and peered inside. “I can’t see anything inside the mouth.”
“No, the artist wanted you to focus on the power of these teeth, perhaps indicating the model had powerful jaws and could tear you apart.”
Renato shuddered and felt his mouth lower into a grimace. “The lips are a bright blood red. Matches the inside of the nostrils. Also, this reddish tinge around the mouth, on the cheeks. Even on the top of the hook on the nose.”
Diego chuckled. “Yes, perhaps he ate something and didn’t have a napkin.”
“The character appears to be old. These painted lines represent wrinkles, right?”
Diego rotated the mask to expose the multiple lines streaking the cheeks, nose, and brow. “Wrinkles, for sure. Sometimes the mask is made more horrible than the original character, especially if the mask was used in a pageant. For example, those used in the Baile de los Viejitos depict wrinkled old men. When you analyze the performance, the dance and masks simply mock old men for their lecherous behavior. So perhaps this character also is supposed to be mocked.”
“Or feared. Why does it have these slits under the eyes? I can look right through the mask.”
“Of course, how else would the wearer see?” Diego handed the mask to Renato. “Put it over your face and look in the mirror.”
Renato stepped to his left and lifted the mask in front of his face. He could smell paint, varnish, and a hint of burned wood. He shook his head and fit it to the inside of the hollowed-out back of the mask. The wood was rough on his skin. The black hair hung over his scalp and tickled the back of his neck. After a minor adjustment, he could see through the slits. Renato’s body tensed and breathing ceased. His skin tingled as the tickling from the back of his neck spread down his chest and up into his face. He turned and gazed into the mirror. The eyes…the eyes…the eyes….
Diego clasped his right shoulder. “The mask, my friend, is called temiktiloni, in Nahuatl.”
Renato spoke through the mask, “What does that mean, Diego?”
“El asesino, my friend…”
“What’s this?” The Dallas-Fort Worth Airport customs agent stood back, eyes wide open, gaping at the shiny wooden piece of wood with dark stone chips along the edges.
Renato finished the unwrapping to reveal a three-foot-long weapon. “It’s called a macuahuitl.”
The agent squinted her eyes and nose.
Renato explained, “maque awitl.” Renato turned the blade to reveal the other side. “The word comes from an Indigenous Mexican language known as Nahuatl.”
“Is this a sword?” The agent’s face screwed up as she shook it from side to side.
“No, more like a long flat ax, but look here, it’s shaped like a cricket bat. You pick it up by this grip — with this one, you can only fit one hand around it.”
Renato grasped the light green handle shaped like a snake but decided he wouldn’t use it to illustrate his next point. “You’d swing it through the air.” He laid the weapon back down and swung his empty hand above his head in a broad circular motion. He made a “swooshing” sound with his mouth.
“What are those teeth along the sides? Aren’t they sharp?” The agent ran her forefinger along the outer edge of the dark stones. “Ouch!” Blood oozed from a long, thin wound.
“Those are obsidian shards. Notice how they are fit to both sides of this polished flat piece of wood. They’re extremely sharp, as you just found out.”
The agent placed her finger in her mouth and nodded. “Yes.”
“It’s one continuous piece of wood. A strong warrior would use this weapon to decapitate a horse. Well, the taller two-handed version could. This one might easily take off a human head.”
The agent’s mouth turned down, and her nostrils flared. “Is the…manchuka…real?”
“Macuahuitl. Try it — maque awitl.”
“No, this is only a replica. The last known original burned in Madrid over a hundred years ago.” Renato sensed he was not going to have a problem with the agent. He re-wrapped the macuahuitl, careful not to touch the razor-sharp dark pieces of stone. Renato saw the agent shift her attention to the bubble wrap still in his luggage.
“What’s in there?”
Renato lifted the mask from the bubble wrap package and set it on the examination table. He peeled back the tape holding the package together. When he removed the last layer of covering, he stepped aside to allow the agent a direct view.
The agent recoiled, eyes wide open. “Good God, those eyes are…well, the whole thing. I mean, it’s disgusting. Why in the hell would you want to bring anything like that out of Mexico? Should’ve left it behind for the cartels. What you gonna do with it?” She shook her head as she held a tight grimace.
“Put it on the wall of my house, along with the macuahuitl.”
“You crazy? I hope you don’t have a wife or girlfriend. No way I’d let anyone put up those things in my house. Why don’t you give it to someone you really, I mean really, hate? You got an ex who’s sucking you dry?”
Renato turned his back to the agent and re-wrapped the mask. His hands trembled as they made contact with the hair.
“Reminds me of folklore tales told by my granny. You better watch out having those things around. Might be more to the story than you know. Take that ugly mask and the manchuka thing…or whatever the hell you called it…and get outta here.”
Joycelyn smiled at Renato, withdrew her key from the lock to his house, and stepped through the door. “Welcome home, my dear.”
Renato rushed forward to give the blonde a warm hug and a kiss. “Welcome back, yourself. How was Washington?”
“Exciting as always. Can’t wait for the day I actually get a job at headquarters. This back-and-forth is killing me. How was the flight back from Mexico?”
“Not too bad. I wish you could’ve come visit me, for part of the time anyway.”
“I would’ve if I could’ve swung the time off. Always another crisis. Never ends.” She dropped her purse on the table near the door and her luggage on the mat. “So, what’s got you so excited? You wanted to show me something right away?”
“First, a glass of wine.” They moved to the sofa, and Renato poured from the bottle he had been decanting. “Salud.” They clinked glasses and sat a while as they got caught up.
“So, you verified your family came with Oñate from Santa Bárbara, that’s south of Chihuahua, right?”
“Yes, although the origins of the expedition are in the silver mining area around Zacatecas. What I found most interesting is that our family roots go back to the original conquest of the Aztec Empire by Hernán Cortés. The first Pérez must have come over on the initial expedition from Cuba.”
“Not too many people I know can trace their lineage back to Cortés.”
“I really want to show you some of the artifacts I brought back with me.” Renato refilled their glasses and led Joycelyn into his study.
Joycelyn’s left hand flew up to her mouth as she inhaled sharply as she entered the room. “My God, what’s that?”
“Striking, isn’t it?” Renato beamed.
“The eyes, they’re horrible.” She lowered her hand and inched closer to the mask hanging on the wall.
“It’s a theatrical prop.”
Joycelyn backed away from the wall. “What possessed you to bring such a grotesque object back here?”
“I don’t know. It’s like I had this overwhelming need to take it.” Renato walked over to the mask and touched the left cheek. “Fortunately, this beauty was for sale in a museum gift shop.”
“Beauty? Really? Sure, they didn’t pay you to take it?” She finished her wine and extended her glass for a refill.
Renato chuckled and filled both glasses. “No, but the price was quite reasonable. On the other hand, the macuahuitl was a bit expensive.” He lifted the weapon off its mounting and held it out to her.
“Do they go together?” Joycelyn backed away from the macuahuitl and sat on the corner of the desk.
“No, the macuahuitl is a replica of what the ancient indigenous peoples used to fight my ancestors. The mask was used in some village pageants. Absolutely nothing to do with each other.” He put the weapon back on its wall mounting underneath the mask. “I find them absolutely captivating.”
“Well, I might think of a few other words to describe both of these things. Why would you want to put them where you can see them while working at your computer?”
“I only want to admire them for a while. Perhaps I will find another place for them at some point.”
“Would you like a suggestion? Why not put them in the garage?”
Renato frowned. “You’re an educated woman. Why would you let some inanimate historical items get to you?”
“Because I am getting some very bad vibes just being near them.”
“Really? They’re lifeless — made from dead wood.”
“Why would you want to have that ugly face staring at you? Why would you want a weapon like this in your house? I mean, if I looked at those two things every day, I’d have nightmares. Don’t even think about putting them in the bedroom.”
“Well, I don’t plan to do anything other than to admire them when I’m at my computer.”
“Renato, you need to think seriously about the effect having such negative artifacts in your home will have on you. Or us!”
“What are you talking about? These are hunks of wood. They can’t affect anything.”
“Renato, they have terrible vibrations. There’s something odd about them, especially the mask.” Joycelyn rose and stood before Renato, arms crossed, eyes squinting as she looked directly at him. “I’m not going to spend any more time here as long as these…things…are hanging in public. You put them away somewhere, and I’ll be back. Thank God I kept my apartment.” Joycelyn turned and marched out of the room.
Renato heard the front door slam, and he refilled his glass. Women can be so…. He walked up to the wall and pondered his two new acquisitions. Two hunks of wood. He reached up and lifted the mask off its peg, brushing back the hair. Can’t hurt anything.
He turned towards the mirror and held up the mask in front of his face. Renato shook his head and fit it to the inside of the hollowed-out back of the mask. He could smell paint, varnish, and a hint of burned wood. The wood was rough on his skin. The black hair hung over his scalp and tickled the back of his neck. After a minor adjustment, he could see through the slits. Renato’s body tensed, and his breathing ceased. His skin tingled as the tickling from the back of his neck spread down his chest and up into his face. He turned and gazed into the mirror. The eyes…the eyes…the eyes….
Renato sat in front of his computer. He read the text.
“The purpose of the masks is to convert participants into other beings or characters.”
This site usually has good information.
“Jaguar and eagle warriors dressed themselves like these animals in order to gain their strengths.”
Renato rose from his chair and walked over to the mask. He reached up, took the mask from its peg, and put it over his face — not too close. He turned to review his image in the mirror and moved the mask to the side so he could see himself. Nothing special happened. Must have had too much to drink last night.
Renato shifted his view to the macuahuitl. He put the mask back on its peg and picked up the weapon, careful not to nick himself. Heavier than the mask. He hunkered down and raised the weapon over his head. Renato admired himself in the mirror and smiled.
After returning the weapon to its wall mounting, Renato glanced at the clock. Time to call Diego. He sat and dialed on his Skype phone +52 55….
“Diego, hola, it’s Renato from New Mexico.”
“Hola mi amigo.” They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before getting down to business.
Diego continued. “The Tlaxcaltecs who made the mask were taken from their native area and used by the Spanish to set an example for other indigenous peoples. They modeled good behavior and were used to work in the mines. The museum obtained this mask from a collector in Zacatecas.”
“Zacatecas, the area where my family originated. They came north with Oñate.”
“Tlaxcaltecs were involved with a series of rebellions by the native population. The Tlaxcaltecs fought on the side of the Spanish. They defeated the Zacatecos in an uprising that started after Coronado left the province to explore the north.”
“So, what does all this ancient history have to do with the mask?”
“The mask dates from the mid-16th Century. From what we can tell, the Zacatecos used it for about fifty years. By that time, some of the native groups had changed sides and were now allied with the Spanish. This specific mask was used in a type of theatrical performance teaching taboos. Might explain why the figure is a Caucasian parody.”
“You told me at the museum the mask was of Tlaxcaltec origin. Any idea why the mask was made by one group and used by another? Why does it deliberately have grotesque European features if used to teach law and order? I would think a teaching mask would be stern and powerful.”
“No, but maybe I can contact the collector. Wonder if he’s still alive. All we know is that the Zacatecos stopped using the mask around the same time as they were wiped out. It was a combination of combat and smallpox that did them in. About the time Oñate left Zacatecas for Santa Bárbara.”
“Surviving remnants of all of these groups intermarried with the Spanish and lost their own separate cultural identities. Most of the cultural possessions from groups like these were sold off to feed the survivors. The mask probably traded hands dozens of times before ending up with the collector who sold it to the museum.”
“Thanks for the info, Diego. Shoot me an email if you find out anything more, and we’ll talk again.”
Renato clicked the keys and commanded his computer to find Zacatecas. In an instant, on his screen were images of Spanish conquistadores with their allied Tlaxcaltec warriors holding macuahuitls, doing battle with the rebellious Zacatecos.
Renato turned toward the mirror and held the mask in front of his face. Leaning his head forward, he loosely put it into the hollowed-out back of the mask. He could smell paint, varnish, and a hint of burned wood. He shook his head and fit it to the inside of the hollowed-out back of the mask. The wood was rough on his skin. The black hair hung over his scalp and tickled the back of his neck. After a minor adjustment, he could see through the slits. Renato’s body tensed and breathing ceased. His skin tingled as the tickling from the back of his neck spread down his chest and up into his face. The eyes…the eyes…the eyes….
“Hello, anybody home?”
Renato ripped the mask off and hustled it inside the armoire. “In here, honey.” He closed the door to the cabinet.
“I smell steaks. So what’cha doin’ in here?” Joycelyn walked into the study, twirling her key ring.
“Just putting away some stuff. Let’s go into the dining room.”
“What’s wrong with your face?”
He looked in the hall mirror. “What?”
“There’s something different about your face. Your eyes are bulging out. Your nose seems larger.” Joycelyn took Renato’s head in her arms and frowned as she looked at him.
Renato pulled his head free and shook it as he moved closer to the mirror. “You’re dreaming. There’s nothing wrong.” He moved his hands along his skin like he was getting ready for a shave.
“I think I know your face by now.”
He continued his inspection. “Yeah, maybe, but I’ve known it longer.” Renato shook his head and walked into the dining room. “Come on in here and let me get you some wine.”
The two made up, got caught up, and sat at the dining room table to a meal Renato had prepared.
“When did you start eating your steak rare?” She leaned forward with her fork to turn the cut bloody red side of the meat towards her. “Is that even cooked on the inside?”
“I don’t know, today, I guess. Tastes better. More wine?”
“You get rid of the mask?”
Renato’s stomach tightened. “I put the damn thing in storage.” He raised his right hand. “I promise you’ll never see it again.” He searched her face for a favorable response.
Joycelyn stared at him long and hard, seemingly probing for an answer. “OK.” She smiled.
Renato took a shallow breath and smiled like a load had been taken off his shoulders. “It’s been too long. Let’s hit the sack.”
After their energies were spent and their muscles slackened, Joycelyn rolled on her side. “Where did you come up with all these new tricks? Have you been experimenting with someone else?”
Renato’s head pounded as he panted, lying on his back. “What do you mean?”
“Weren’t you a bit like a wild beast? You should have seen your face when you, well, you know. I know it’s been a few weeks, but really. I would swear you were someone else.”
“I didn’t realize. Got caught up in the moment.” He continued to pant. Images of the mask swirled through his consciousness.
“It was a bit savage. I’m not complaining. Just be careful when you give me those little love bites. I think you drew blood on my neck.”
Renato picked up the telephone.
“Renato, I’ve learned a great deal about the mask. You got some time to discuss this now?”
Diego’s call surprised him, but he really didn’t have any reason not to talk to him at the moment. “Thanks, Diego, go ahead. I’ll put you on speakerphone.” Renato pushed a button, leaned back to listen…and appreciate the mask and the macuahuitl on his wall.
“Renato, the mask was fashioned to represent a specific individual of mixed Tlaxcaltec and Spanish blood. I learned the mask you have is related to a son, one of several children, a Tlaxcaltec woman who bore one of the Spanish soldiers.”
“Yes, that wasn’t particularly unusual. The conquistadores often took native women as they pleased.”
“One of the children was unusual. Cruel to animals as he grew up. About the time he was a young man, the family moved into a Zacatecos village where a number of unmarried women died under unusual circumstances. They were all hacked to death, and parts of their bodies were missing.”
“Really? A serial killer in the 16th Century?”
Diego challenged. “Why would you think crime has just been invented?”
“Well, you’re right.”
“Anyway, the villagers eventually figured out this young man was guilty and executed him immediately.”
“Sounds like he deserved it.”
“He did, but remember; this was the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Methods of killing the guilty individuals were quite barbaric.”
Renato remembered reading about the methods of torture employed by civilized Spain. And the explicit drawings he found on the Internet.
“Renato, this young man was hacked to death, his head placed on a pike, and the body burned.”
“About par for the course in those times.”
“Before the young man was executed, he told his victims’ fathers and mothers he raped their daughters. He told them he eviscerated their hearts while they were still alive — then ate them. A priest wrote to the Inquisition. He told the families that their daughters deserved to die. Women were the source of original sin, and they all needed to be punished. If that were not enough, he cursed the village and their descendants and vowed to come back and demonize their survivors.”
Renato’s stomach tightened. “Wow, a bit excessive.”
“Well, apparently, the villagers thought so too. So, before they hacked him to death, they cut out his heart, his tongue, broke his teeth, and scalped him alive. And, of course, they cursed him, his family, and any descendants of the family.”
Renato swallowed hard and held his breath. Exhaling, he sputtered, “I thought scalping was only in the American West?”
“Not when the Mexican indigenous tribes wanted to use the scalp to create a mask.”
Renato sat up straight and looked at the mask on his wall, eyes widening. “You mean….”
“Wait, it gets worse. The Zacatecos villagers forced the man’s Tlaxcaltec family to fashion a mask out of an unburned section of zompantle wood used in the fire. And yes, they used the hair. The young men of his family were forced to wear the mask in a pageant. The object was to warn young women about the dangers of associating with the Spanish. They would threaten the young women with a macuahuitl. By the end of the play, the villagers would ridicule the Tlaxcaltec family member wearing the mask.”
Renato sat in total silence. Bass drumbeats pounded in his ears. Sweat soaked his brow, torso, and shirt. His body started to tremble and shake.
“You still there?”
“I suppose they hacked him to death with a macuahuitl.” His neck hurt. He rolled his shoulders forward and gritted his teeth. Mouth dry — like it’s been used as a dustbin. His body flushed with warmth, starting at his feet, and rising up his torso.
“Naturally. The macuahuitl was their weapon of choice. The villagers held theater for many years until the young Tlaxcaltec re-enactors began to meet mysterious endings. Many committed suicide, some went mad, and others disappeared. Some escaped joining the Oñate expedition in New Mexico. Of course, the Zacatecos people all disappeared as a distinct tribe.”
Again, Renato was speechless. His eyes were swelling. They feel like they’re going to pop out of my head. Bright flashes of light exploded in his brain. As he looked at the mask and the macuahuitl, he realized his vision was altered. The top of his view was normal, but the view blurred about one-third the way down the vertical picture in his brain. Like cheese melting in the hot sun. The entire image in his head abruptly swirled right ninety degrees. It extended across a third of his horizontal plane. The photo in his brain then dropped directly down to the bottom of the picture. Like Salvador Dali’s painting with melting watches drooping from boxes, trees, and figures. Renato could not grasp which way was up or which way was down. He had no sense of balance and grasped the edge of the desk. His whole body quivered. His chest heaved in great spasms.
“Renato, you understand you now have this exact same mask. You might also be a descendant of the same Spanish conquistador who fathered that killer. You need to get rid of that mask!”
Renato’s stomach wrenched. He clenched his jaw and fought back the tightness in his chest and throat — and the overwhelming nausea and taste of bile. He forced open his teeth and started panting with shallow gasps of warm air.
Renato sensed the metallic taste of blood. He smiled as his nostrils flared, and he took large, deep lungsful of warm air.
The young man turned to face the mirror. He held up the mask in front of his face. He had to lean his head forward to get his face to fit into the hollowed-out back of the mask. He could smell the fresh paint. The mask still had the odor of the flames from when they put the mask into the fire to burn off the rough edges. The young man shook his head, then his entire body, as he molded his face to the inside of the hollowed-out back of the mask. The wood was still too rough — it rubbed his skin. Why do they make me wear this? As he became more comfortable with the mask, the black hair hanging over his scalp tickled the back of his neck. He adjusted the mask. Now I can see through the slits. His body tensed. His breath ceased. He realized his skin was now tingling. He sensed a tickling sensation from the back of his neck down into his bare chest and back up into his face. He looked directly ahead and realized he could see himself in a clear mirror unlike any they had in the village. Then he saw them. The eyes…the eyes…the eyes….
The young man ripped the mask from his face and stared at the mirror. His skin hurt, and his eyes felt like they would pop from his head. He put the mask back on and repeated this same process a half dozen times. Each time more frantic. Each time the smell of paint and the fire increased. The young man’s throat tightened with each repetition until he let the mask dangle in his left hand. He was transfixed by the image in the mirror.
“Honey, you home?”
The young man heard a woman make some noises in the distance and walk towards him. Her feet made a strange sharp sound on the floor.
“Honey, you in here?”
He watched her enter the room.
“Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!” she screamed and collapsed.
The young man observed himself in the mirror. The eyes…the eyes…the eyes. He tried to turn away, but his muscles wouldn’t obey. His head spun back to stare at…the eyes. The center of the eyes had the color of a bird’s egg. The very center was dark black. He felt a surge of strength and pleasure — just like when…. The whites were dirty and looked older than his age. The eyes. They bulged noticeably from his face. Large black lashes ringed his lids. The eyes were wide open and dominated the face. The eyes…the eyes…the eyes.
He saw his face in the mirror.
He saw the mask dangling from his left hand.
Again, he saw his face.
Again, he saw the mask in his left hand.
The mask was his face.
His blood surged. As he took in a deep breath, heat rose into his cheeks.
He put the mask back on the peg on the wall.
The young man stared in the mirror at the image of the mask that was now his face.
The young man turned towards the wall where he hung the mask.
He took down the macuahuitl from its mounting.
He walked towards the woman.
All these women deserve to be punished.
El asesino swung the macuahuitl through the air. It swooshed with the same “shlock” sound made when a guillotine falls.The young man smiled and raised the macuahuitl over his head….
“The Mask“ previously appeared in: Currents: Corrales Writing Group 2015 Anthology, Patricia
Walkow ed., North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, November 2015, pp. 181-199; Writers’
Anarchy IV: Horror (Volume 4), Alex Hurst, ed., Fiction Writers Group, North Charleston, SC:
CreateSpace, October 2015, pp. 64-77; The Red Fez, no. 91, July 17, 2016; Haunted Horror, A
Rainfall Publication – Rain 292, Steve Lines & John B. Ford, eds., pp.1-18; and Until Dawn: A
Supernatural Anthology (The Red Penguin Collection), JK Larkin, ed., Red Penguin Books
(September 3, 2021), pp. 129-145. “The Mask” was awarded First Place, Single Short Story in
the New Mexico Press Women 2016 Communications Contest.
If you would like to read more of Jim’s work, his novel Panama’s Gold (co-authored with Sandy Hoover and published by Red Penguin Books in 2022) is available on his Amazon author’s page.
If you would like to be part of The Chamber Magazine family, follow this link to the submissions guidelines. If you like more mainstream fiction and poetry with a rural setting and addressing rural themes, you may also want to check out Rural Fiction Magazine.
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