Tuesday, June 28, 2016


A man sits at a table on the city's busiest sidewalk. His table is big and covered with masks, hundreds of them. People pass him in an endless stream, just as they have been doing for years.
The man picks up one mask and puts it on. Then he takes it off and tries another. And another. Except for short breaks to heed the call of nature or to take a short nap, he is always at the table: morning, noon, and night.
He puts on the mask of an old, kind woman. Takes it off.
Then the mask of a lonely child. Takes it off.
The mask of a white-haired senator, of a scoutmaster, of a beautiful or handsome movie star.
Sometimes the man changes masks so fast, his hands blur in the sun, or seem like wings at twilight.
But always, no matter how slow or fast his hands move, it is obvious to passersby that the man himself has no face of his own. Instead of mouth and nose and eyes, he has only a smooth, rounded mound of skin, devoid of detail and empty of expression.
Still, the people are fascinated with the masks and occasionally stop when he dons a new one. Then some will gasp and point at the mask he wears. "Yes!" they shout, their voices rising in a chant. "That one! That one! That one!"
*Published in Strange Horizons, 6 November 2000