Once Upon A Time: The Mask

(By request. A continuation of the box.)
One upon a time there was a mask.
The mask had been forged by the Gods for the use of their messengers. Or, if such things offend you, the mask had been created through a set of random volcawhale tail sandcastle with point judith lighthousenic events that molded a mask suitable for human use. In either case, the mask had existed through time immemorial. It’s owners became soothsayers and prophets. The great oracle of Greece owned the mask and passed it down through successive oracles until the Roman legions marched through Athens. Then the mask wandered about in the middle east, giving some of the many prophets true insight. In every generation, there was one messenger of the Gods, which at some point got shortened to a singular.
Now there was no room for such things in modern civilization. So the mask had become a throwback, a way of seeing the world that no one else saw. Rather than help the wearer speak a truth that no one would hear outside the white padded rooms of our many, many sanatoriums, the mask showed them a truth that allowed them to circumnavigate the many hurdles of modern life that we all assume are there.
The current wearer of the mask, a younger sister named Judith who had lived at 167 Wickamore Dr. in Chelsea, Maine, was enjoying several benefits of the mask. One was that she was clothed in the fire of the Gods, which in this case looked like insulated pants and a top-of-the-line insulated coat. She was also enjoying the seven-league shoes, which were in this case ordinary looking leather topped LL Bean boots that took her seven leagues with every step. In her wonderment Judith was eating up the miles down the Maine coast and calculating just how fast she was going. A league is equal to about 3.45 miles, giving Judith about 25 miles to a step. Ordinary careful walking takes up around 2 miles to the hour, and Judith was certainly walking carefully. But the average person covers about 2.5 feet per step, rather than twenty-five miles, and it takes the average person about 2,000 steps to cover a mile. So without the shoes it would take Judith 30 minutes to walk a mile, and now she was covering 48,300 miles in the same period of time. The distance around the earth is around 25,000 miles, so it would not be an exaggeration to say that Judith could have walked around the earth in less than twenty minutes. Judith contemplated this briefly as she entered New York City sixteen steps later.
New York City is a fascinating place for most Mainers. It’s sort of a shiny elevator of a city, with everyone shoved up against one another in an almost indecent squashing of bodies. Mainers understand this sort of intimacy from attending hockey games or sharing a smelting shack with one’s buddies, but it boggles their minds that anyone would choose to live that way. Judith continued on toward that great Mecca of Mainers, Florida. She was in Orlando in fifty-eight steps.
Florida is where Mainers think of going to get warm. Nothing farther north makes any sense to them. The absolutely worst thing one could experience after going south is cold weather, so Mainers head for southern Florida.
Judith had never been. Her older sister Helen said it did not fit into their budget, and she suspected it never would. So she took a seat on a beach lawn chair, and let the fire of the Gods melt away back into her shift.
It had been odd to put the mask on for the first time. At first it was hard and wood, shoved on her face with leather ties there in the stuffy attic. But then the mask had softened around her face and it felt very much like a custom made face mask. She’d taken her glasses off to put on the mask, and was mostly surprised that she could see clearly through the eye holes. Very clearly. More clearly than any other time in her life. Every dust mote, every spider web, stood out in sharp relief. Even the buttons of the little man who stood on the dresser sparkled in a wonderment.
The little man on the dresser cleared his throat. “Takes a bit o’ getting used to, doesn’t it? Take yer time, no hurries. We’ve been doing this little dance of ours for almost a year now.” Judith looked at him closely. He looked like a fairy folk person should look, but with a quickness about him that she didn’t trust.
“Here’s the thing,” said the little man. “When you put on the mask, you put on a whole set of responsibilities. You also get a whole set of perks, I think you say. So we’d best get through them quick like because you’ve been needed in various parts for a very, very long time.”
Judith found her eyes wandering over to the soft glow of the attic through the mask. “Hey now,” said the little man, “stay with me here. You’ve got to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to anyone who asks ye. That’s the responsibilities in a nutshell, besides being in the right place for them to ask ye. The perks include everything ye might need to keep ye comfortable.”
“Anything?” Judith asked incredulously. “Pretty much. Don’t go looking to raise an army of the undead or suchlike, because world domination doesn’t necessarily fit the definition, but pretty much anything short o’ that.”
“So,” said Judith speculatively. “If I wanted it to be spring right here in the attic…” as she spoke, the furniture, long dead here in the attic, sprouted green leaves. Flowers pushed their way up through the floor boards. “It’s all illusion?” She said to the little man. “Pretty much,” he nodded. “But there’s enough of the real to tie it down. If you pick the flowers, they tend to stay around even after the rest of it has gone. Little things like that.” Judith impulsively picked handfuls of the flowers and let them cascade down the attic ladder downstairs. She was feeling very warm and unfastened her cleaning gear, letting it fall to floor and kicking off her shoes, treading on the thick spring grass with her bare feet.
“That’s nice,” said the little man. “We’ve been needing ye in Brazil for almost twenty years now. So let’s find a pair o’ boots.” He spied the L.L. Bean boots in a corner. “These’ll do. Step into these if you please.” Judith did a pirouette as she did so. “What now?” She asked with a giggle.
“Now, I’ll meet you two hundred steps south of here. You’ll know the place. Just count carefully.”
So now, fifty-eight steps later, Judith was basking in the Florida sun. She stood up with a sigh. A lifeguard, who had been walking over to her, sped up. She imagined he was about to say something about her being in her shift and it not being proper beach attire. As if she wasn’t wearing ten times the clothing of anyone else here. Judith took several steps quickly. She found herself walking on water, or what seemed like water. Looking down she saw a surprised porpoise looking up at her. Interesting, thought Judith. She counted out the rest of her journey.
There in a jungle grove stood the little man and a band of very modern-looking natives. “Welcome,” said one of the men. “Our Ayahuasca has returned.” Judith found herself led to a stone seat and the men lined up to ask her questions. When they asked in Portuguese, she found herself answering in Portuguese. One man asked a question in a native tongue, and Judith felt her mouth form some very interesting sounds. Another man spoke in Russian, and Judith both understood and replied perfectly.
The questions were obviously very important to the men, but fell within the range of the sort of thing Judith read every day in her local paper. The Russian man had asked what to do about his brother, who had been stealing from him. Judith thought her answer, to repost him in Siberia, was both fitting and lenient. So she settled herself to be an Emily Post of the spiritual set.
Judith had left her sister a note, very short and trite, when she left. On her world tours she thought about going back. What would they have to say to each other? Judith’s life involved having chats with the world’s leaders, who all knew her by a different name. For food and drink she went to five star restaurants and stayed in luxury hotels. No one knew her and she always seemed familiar. It was an easy lifestyle to get used to, and had nothing to do with the penny counting she and her sister had practiced all those years.
But it wasn’t much trouble to swing up to Maine after talking with a number of older men in Utah. Judith dropped by the house. Her sister wasn’t home, but Judith saw the evidence of a man about the place. Muddy boots in the mud room, beer in the new refrigerator. Even shaving cream in the bathroom. Judith smiled to herself. Her sister had done all right for herself. She left her sister a short note, and stuck it in an envelope on the kitchen counter. “I’m fine. Don’t worry. Enjoy your life.” Then Judith went back to her job as messenger of the Gods.

Gods (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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