IN THIS TWILIGHT
The Mask Collector
Tuesday June 3rd 2003
Car keys in one hand and his cell phone in the other Darren headed out for work, his mind was already on his plans for this evening. It was just a few drinks with some guys from the office but Darren thought it would be the perfect time to test the waters and see if he had his dating mojo back. He’d been quite the player in college and that wasn’t so long ago now was it?
He almost collided with the old woman standing on his doorstep. She was naked except for a tattered, mostly open bathrobe and swayed in place. Darren drew back from her, "The Hell?"
"In the walls," she said, her voice a ragged falsetto, "In the walls crawling around..."
“What are you talking about? Who are you?"
Shuffling, ponderous, footsteps started to echo up the stairwell, every few steps were punctuated by the sound of labored breathing. The old woman's face grew pale and she fled into the apartment on the opposite side of Darren and locked her door.
Chad Lunt made his way onto the landing, there was a thick parcel under one of his flabby arms. He was wearing a bright orange muscle shirt and dark baggy shorts. "Morning," he wheezed.
"Morning." Darren said, "You know I was meaning to talk to you-about-"
"I see you met your other neighbor." Chad drew closer, heat and odor radiated off his body, "Crazy Agnes. She's schizo or something. Too nuts to have a job but not nuts enough to be locked up."
Darren looked back towards her door, "She seemed a little out of it.”
"She probably isn't taking her meds. The meds I bet your tax dollars pay for."
"Is there anyone we should call?"
"You wanna get sued? Just leave well enough alone. She probably won't burn the place down and the damn landlord won't kick her out as long as he's got those government checks coming in."
"Actually, I wanted to talk to you about something..."
"Oh I can imagine." Chad hefted his parcel, "Bet you wonder if I'm getting drugs every day or porn or something."
"No! I just -”
"I got them off EBay, they're reproductions of Tibetan spirit masks."
"I don't know what to say to that."
"I have all kinds, Melanesian skull masks, old Halloween false-faces, ceremonial Eskimo masks- I have a little bit of everything. Reproductions mainly, who can afford the real thing these days?"
"Why are you-”
"My sociology dissertation was on the subject, it was called Vizards and Veils: The Transformative Evolution of Masks. It would have been groundbreaking, too bad some cunt with an associate’s degree had to go and decide she couldn't take a joke. Too late to cry about it now."
"Late? Oh man." Darren checked his watch, and realized that if he ran every yellow he might just be on time for work, "I've gotta get going."
Darren ran down the steps, Chad still trying to talk to him all the while, "Working for The Man eh? A smart kid like you should be self employed like I am..."