The Mask by Sybil Rain

Flash Fiction

 

          Bemused but never incredulous, he guides you gently onward, coaxing out the sickest specifics of your exquisite, corrupt chronicle. The catalogue of miseries, despairs and dreadful delights that twisted together form the pure substance of you: your essence, the eye of your hurricane, the cruel, majestic force of nature that is you. 

 

You think:

 

I’m…

 

 

so…

 

                                                                       fucking…

 

 

 

                              high…

 

          In the stall of the diner bathroom you curl the charger cable round your sleeve, flex and slap the forearm’s skin ‘till POP! – the vein extrudes its sweet blood, your precious liquid prolapse erupting up the needle’s point, the bloody chamber brimming over with your rich incarnadine brew. The DNA of your father’s father, your eternal ancestral admixture mingling with the needle’s perfect poison. Even before you depress the plunger you gasp, concentric circles radiating outwards from your heart, your flesh, every single part becoming rich, infinite, vast. You feel the hum of the God-vibration skull-fuck your eardrum, crunching down each vertebra, from the thymus along the scapula, down the bones of your body’s arms and up its legs, twisting down and up the spine to the sacrum and back, from the chunks of gloss-encrusted skin flaking and falling from your lips like late October leaves down to the curled and quivering tarsals, the thin strip of rare, bloody meat in the tips of your toes. Your pupils bulge and expand to the size of the universe, great sucking whirlpools that attract and absorb all things in your orbit, whole dimensions curling inwards at their edges and collapsing, universes dissolving and colliding in your mind. Everything is everything, and you are one with this unity. You feel life expand and contract like the soft, spongy lining of Satan’s lung, pussy pink like the inside surface of some long-sleeping tentaculoid, a scarlet, serrated hagfish, a cannibal crow with crystalline plumage. You are flayed by its teeth, boa constricted by its infinite suction cup arms, your flesh turned outside-in ‘till the bones wither and crack in the scorched desert of a long-dead Earth.

 

 

 

*

 

          Something else is in here with me. I feel it every time I slam. It shares my body. It looks out through my eyes. It laps up my soul with its many-toothed tongue. It melts down my brain stem and steeps my spirit in the juices.

 

          Something soft and forever and wicked, like me.

 

          It fills me, becomes me.

 

          It takes me in its loving arms and sucks the life through all my holes. Mouth, anus, eye socket, urethra: I die, and am reborn. I die again. It eats me. I am destroyed. Torn apart, tossed away, and finally, fatefully, emergent.

 

          I’ve never been so in love in all my life.

 

          “You girls sure love your bathroom time,” Kareem says. If he knows I’m high he doesn’t show it. “How about we get out of here? I’ve got something I want to show you. A special place. I think you’re going to love it. No, it’s not my bedroom. Not yet, anyway. I want to get to know you first. You’re a real special girl, Miss Sybil Rain. I like you. Just might like you a lot. So what do you say? Come with me? Blow this dive? I’ll grab the check…”

 

*

 

          He sees it in your eyes. How could he not? He’s a cop, an officer of the law. They’re trained for this, aren’t they? To be able to tell what’s what and who’s who? But think – all the cops you’ve fooled, all the times you’ve spoken to them and lied. Did they really believe you, or did they just not care? One more spoiled little rich girl, about to get sprung from the pen with a phone call from Daddy’s lawyers. Why book her when she’ll be out again in an hour? But this is different. This is personal. Exciting. Dangerous. Can he tell? If he can, he’s good at hiding it. A gifted actor, perhaps. But what part is he playing? What’s his angle? He pays for the food and you bounce, you in the passenger seat of the cruiser, classic rock on the radio turned up full blast: Don Henley’s ode to his brown-skinned summer muse. He turns on the cop car’s flashing lights and you cruise down the BQE doing a hundred, windows rolled down, your blonde hair flapping across your face. Have you ever felt so free? He steers with one hand, places the other on your thigh, his skin rough, his grip steady. You picture him squeezing you in his muscled arms, lifting you up, smashing you hard against a wall. Devouring you with kisses. His hand slides up your thigh beneath your dress and stops. You look down, lay your hand over his. Your two skins look perfect together, the contrast in color. You fly over the Brooklyn Bridge and up the FDR. The construction lights from half-built high rises across the water glistening like constellations. You breathe in the moon and exhale madness.

 

*

 

          “You’re going to love this place,” he says. “I just know it.”

 

*

 

          His smell – pink pepper, bergamot, lemon. Musk, sweat and shaving soap. He smells like a real man, not like these fuckboys you’ve been dealing with, the boys at school, the hotel room junkies, the wannabe pimps. They smell like babies, like talcum powder, shit stains and B.O. Not like real men. Not like him. He leads you by the hand through the lights of Times Square. You spin in circles past the hundred thousand tourists, the bright flashing billboard lights. You pass down a dark alley, a place you’ve never seen. One of New York City’s last remaining mysteries. You’re going back in time. To when Times Square was a different place, electric with danger, madness, sex and death. You pass through a heavy door and up a dingy flight of stairs, then another and another. He pushes the shop door open and you enter.

 

*

 

          “Not many people know about this place anymore,” he says. “I’m excited to show it to you.”

 

*

 

          You pass down the aisles of the shop, past all the tools and technologies of perfect perversion – leather and lace, rubber, latex, rose red and obsidian black. Stiletto heels and fleshlights, animal face masks, poppers, thousands of bottles of slick, sweet lubricant. Anal beads and dildos, filthy books, magazines, VHS tapes and DVDs. Kareem parts the perverts in the shop like Moses did the Red Sea. They all want to stare, and some can’t resist, but whether because of his badge or simply in deference to the radiant, powerful aura the two of you exude, the shop’s customers cast furtive glances then sneak, shuffling, away.  

 

*

 

          “I only want to help you,” he says. “That’s all I’m here for. I know a lot of things have happened in your life, Sybil. Bad things, horrible things. And all those bad things have gotten inside you. Changed you. Made you think that somehow you’re bad, too. But I’ve seen bad, and babygirl, you ain’t it. You’re a good girl, Sybil Rain. I just know it. All that pain and violence. You have to transform it. To find the right place to put it. I can help you, if you let me. What do you say? Let’s figure it out together. Take control of your destiny. You deserve the world, Sybil. And not just the world, either. You deserve the moon and the stars. Will you let me get them for you? Will you give yourself that chance?”

 

*

 

          Heeeere, pig pig pig. If your girlfriends could see you now. Sybil Rain, copfucker. But isn’t that what makes it special? What gives it that edge? When we exhaust all available transgressions we must create our own new taboos. Sure, we’re all supposed to hate the cops. That’s what’s in fashion. That’s whats en vogue. Is that what makes this feel so good? Maybe it’s part of it. But there’s something more to him as well, a sinister layer deeper down. He has a deep end, an edge, one he’s careful to conceal. He’s disturbed. He’s bad. People say Times Square has lost its grit, all the character stripped away. All the criminals locked up, the perverts beating off to Internet porn alone now in their apartments. But the energy of a place doesn’t change so easy. Times Square will always haunted by the ghosts of its former self. You’re unsure how, or in what way, but you know Kareem is at home in that element. He’s of a piece with the grit, the puke, the porno house and the street corner hustler. You know there’s something sinister there, though you can’t pin it down. All you know is you need to find out more. 

 

*

 

          “Here,” he says. “Try this on. It may turn out to be just the thing.”

 

 

          The latex feels cold against your skin as he pulls the mask over your head, gently pulling back and tucking your hair up beneath. From inside, you see the world anew. Colors become brighter. The air within your aura grows crisp, defined. The sounds of the shop and the city outside sharpen at first, then fade and finally give way to a low, throbbing hum. Your energy crackles with intuitive clarity. A transformation is occurring, at once subtle and all-pervasive. You know now what you have to do. You know who you are. What you were meant for. 

 

*

 

          “What do you think, Miss Sybil? Does it speak to you? Is this your mask?”

 

*

 

          You look at your reflection in the shop’s full-length mirror and barely recognize the girl looking back. The eyes peering out from inside the latex mask are perfect, their pupils enormous. You see through them to distant galaxies, a space whisper away, a billion light years distant, whole generations of alien terror, wickedness, war, unfathomable love and despair, tender tentacular embraces and exotic new ways to torture, dismember and decapitate. You were born to separate spirits from flesh suits. You think: What am I? You think: Am I fucking alien? In your little black dress you might be anything: a harpy, an angel, the devil herself. There’s no way to tell when you’re wearing the mask. 

 

*

 

          “Will you let me in, Miss Sybil?” he says. “Into those big black eyes? Will you let me see the girl behind the mask?”

 

*

 

          He wants to devour you. This much is clear. But you’re hungry, too. There’s a long-dormant part of you that’s positively famished. Lately you feel like you could eat the whole world. But who eats who first? That’s the question. That’s the game. 

 

          And there’s nothing you hate more than losing. 

 

          Trust. 

 

*

 

          We stop at a cocktail lounge on 48th Street before heading to the hotel where we’ll spend our first night together. I sit at a high table on a stool while Kareem orders drinks at the bar. I check my phone. There’s a new message on SnapChat from ItGuy2020. I don’t remember following any ItGuy, but I open the message anyway. 

 

          I can barely make out the outline of a face through the raw static and eerie glow the  screen emits, the picture blurry, out of focus. The voice is garbled like it’s coming through a scrambler, deep and feral and raw. It wheezes like a dying oxygen machine pumping one last breath into a corpse. An ecstatic shiver runs up my spine. 


          Hey baby, the voice says, it’s me. Can you hear me? I love you. I loved watching you tonight with the cop. You two look great together. So sexy. Can’t wait to see more. I love to watch you make it with other guys. Just don’t forget your number one. Remember how I’ve always taken such good care of you. See you soon, baby. I love you. 

 

          For a second the image on the screen sharpens, just long enough for me to see a gray, wet slug face with slits where the eyes, nostrils and mouth should be. The mouth slops open and closed a few times, the clicking soft tongue puffed and greasy within. An oily saliva drizzle collects at the corner of the mouth-slit as the face splits open and shut like a sock puppet burn victim. Smack, smack, slop, goes the mouth. 

 

          Kiss kiss, says the voice.

 

          Then the screen goes blank.  


Sybil Rain is a writer from New York. She currently lives in Hell.