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Mask by Tim Pratt | by crossmage
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Mask by Tim Pratt

Feathers and paint, kohl sticks and smeared

pigments, cerulean blue beads, scales

and links of chain mail heaped on a rough

wooden table in a narrow room, four

hurricane lamps lighting it up. This is

the maskmaker's workshop on the avenue

of greater dreaming, a place only open

at night.

 

I have come to find a new

face and body, a truer expression

than the one I see in the mirror. Here is

the Lakota ghost shirt, feathered and white

and clacking, and stone jars of pale

face paint. Here is the zippered leather

mask of a fetishist; it gives me a chill

because I think it can only destroy

identity, not reveal a deeper one. I move on, to

Carnival masks, a crocodile headdress I linger

over but know is not mine, a harlequin's

cloth face of fixed hilarity, a beautiful

smooth gold mask of the sun. These all have

power, but none are mine.

 

Then the maskmaker

enters, a lush woman serene and regal as

the moon, her eyes blue and lively behind

a simple silver domino mask. "You want

to be a serpent," she says, picking up

a length of python skin and putting it down

again. "Or an angel, above everything." She lets

white silk run through her fingers. "Or

a manitou, with a face that shifts like the sky or

water, changing to fit your needs." She shakes

her head.

 

"But you are not those things." She lifts

a bundle wrapped in gray cobwebs. "You are a

spider. Lonely architect. Thought-maker. Weaver.

Moving in two worlds. Poison-head." She unwraps

the webbing. I see segmented legs, glossy

black mandibles, and something scuttles under

the trapdoor of my heart. Not a lion, then, or

an eagle, but this feels right. She holds out the spider

mask, sticky filaments still trailing, and eases it

onto my face. I see with spider's eyes, geometry

and possibility and vibrations in the air, corners

and spirals and prey. The legs on the mask wrap

tightly around my head and I

 

wake in my dusty bedroom,

looking at the corners where the ceiling meets

the walls, thinking

 

"I've never noticed how much

a spider's eyes resemble diamonds."

  

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Taken on December 27, 2007