IN THIS TWILIGHT
The Mask Collector
Wednesday February 4th 2004
“…flesh an illusion… reality a dream…”
“…NOGGAR-DALLIEON -- the shapeless and everlasting…”
The alarm clock was flashing twelve. Darren stared at it for a good long time, trying to decide if he was awake or dreaming. Then he realized he was awake, it was the middle of the night and Chad was at it again.
“…peel back the unworthy face…”
“…Pool of the Maelstrom… Lords of the Churning Oblivion…”
It sounded like there were at least a dozen people over there, shouting and chanting over one another. Darren was amazed, this was on the second floor of a busy apartment complex. Why had no one called the police about this nonsense yet?
“…hear our pleas in this unworthiest tongue…”
“… Sacred Messenger the Hierophant… The Mask of Wisdom, The Mask of Secrets…”
Of course Darren already knew the answer, the woman that lived below Chad Lunt’s apartment worked a night job, and Darren was leery of calling the police himself.
What if the police weren’t content to speak to him in his doorway? What if they asked him to explain his empty apartment? There was no furniture, no TV, just a crappy Hello Kitty radio he’d gotten from a garage sale and pizza boxes tacked waist high. And what if they found his stash? His baggie full of pills?
“… hear this dream…”
“… The Dark Gods… The Black Pantheon…”
That would be the end of everything then wouldn’t it? The web of social welfare programs and lies he’d hidden himself behind would all come crashing down. They would realize he wasn’t disabled, just fat and addicted, they would realize that it wasn’t that he couldn’t re-enter the workforce it was just that he no longer cared to try.
“… complete the cycle you have begun…”
“…The Ancient Blood… The New Covenant”
Darren had to slowly rock himself until he could get the momentum to push himself up off the bare mattress he used for a bed. The voices echoed around his bare bedroom walls and buzzed in his ears.
He banged his thick fists on the wall, “Keep it down. Keep it down God damn it. People are trying to sleep!”
The voices fragmented, chants becoming guttural syllables and nonsense rhymes. It sounded like a restless theater audience was milling around behind the wall.
No, not behind. It almost seems to move through the walls. Is it louder at the outlets?
“For Christ’s sake!” He banged on the wall again, “Keep it down!”
That tore it. Darren struggled into his cleanest pair of sweatpants and his best fitting t-shirt and stomped out into the hallway. By the time he reached Chad’s door his fingertips and toes were tingling, he didn’t want to think about why.
When Darren pounded on Chad’s door it sounded like gunfire. He paused and banged on the door again.
“For God’s sakes what?” Chad looked half awake and he was wearing a loose bathrobe.
“What the Hell are you doing?” Chad said, “Having some kind of a party in there?”
“I was sleeping.”
“With all that noise?”
“You must have the TV turned all the way up!”
Chad shook his head, “Do you hear a TV?”
“But… you woke me…”
“It’s three in the morning,” Chad explained, “I just got home a few hours ago.”
“Where…” Darren looked up and down the hallway.
What am I doing here? What am I doing?
Chad shook his head, “Good night neighbor.”
The door clicked to a close, Darren stood in the hallway afraid to move, afraid to think. Was he going crazy? He stared down at his body, so swollen and jittery and twisted out of true. Was he really losing touch with reality? From apartment 1668 he could hear a muffled, feminine voice, asking worried questions.
There was a sliver of something familiar about that voice but Darren couldn’t trust his senses anymore.