Masks

Masks

by Doug Langille. 

Every day of the week he wears masks, trading one mask for another. His true self always guarded and held apart from the world of men.

He wakes up every morning as daylight breaks through the full window. The light is indirect, casting upon the shaded side of the house. It makes him safer. It makes the nightmares easier to bear.

He never rises immediately, always taking stock of his physical condition. Where are the bruises? Where are the breaks? Where are the marks that would show? How would he explain them this time?

Always the same questions. Always the same planning. All that changes is time. He’s getting older, getting tired.

Disciplined exercise followed by the ritual of the first mask. Tape for his ribs and back. Bracing for his joints. Concealer for his hands and face. Scars new and old. Not broken. Not beaten.

Business is doing well, which is good. He needs his rest more and more these days. Stimulants and painkillers help, but the addiction is swelling inside him. He knows this. He fights it. His mind is strong even as his body betrays him.

When darkness falls, the civilized mask is cast aside. It’s no more than a façade of convenience, a contrivance to good functioning in good society. It’s a lie of course, but no more so than the mask he adopts for the night.

The black of midnight brings its own sorrows and triumphs. He quietly takes guiltless joy from the process. Methodical research. Constant surveillance. Always listening. Taking action. Efficient and effective. Brutal and elegant.

Hard-fisted vigilance employed above the rooftops, below the sewers and all that can be surveyed between.

Thief. Fighter. Sleuth. Villain.

Shadowy shades of black and gray with splashes of deep crimson.

The nights are long and end at dawn’s promise. The grim battlefield remnants are someone else’s problem. A fitful sleep awaits him.

But today is Sunday. Sundays are a little different. Even the darker elements of society tend to observe some absurdly arcane peace. It’s not that people are nicer. They aren’t. But the sins are smaller somehow.

He let out a controlled breath as he reached the cavernous room deep below. He needed a break. Today there would be no need for masks.

His two friends were already at the console reviewing the predictive models from the last few hours.

“Anything brewing today, gentlemen?”

“Nope”, Dick says hopefully. “It’s quiet”.

“Perfect.” He turns to his oldest friend and mentor and touches him on the shoulder. The old man straightens, his aging back creaking. He patiently waits.

“Alfred, call Gordon. Tell him we’re all going fishing. He already knows the spot. You’re coming too”.

“Right away, Master Bruce”.

Before Alfred can leave, he adds, “Ask him to round up Barbara as well. She’ll love this”.

The wizened sage nods and quietly backs away to his task. Bruce turns to his ward, now certainly more man than boy.

“Still quiet?”

“Still quiet.”

“This will be a good day.”

 

AUTHOR BIO

Doug Langille is a husband, father, writer and shameless technophile living the good life in Nova Scotia. He’s also a grandfather, bird keeper, dog owner and cat butler. You can find him online at: douglangille.ca and on Twitter: @douglangille.

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