13 Jun The Masked Man
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"The Masked Man"Written by
Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
Tuesday, October 11th
Today, I drove my 7-year old son James into town to go Halloween shopping. I didn’t have to buy any candy this year because we live in a cul-de-sac out in the middle of a farming community on the outskirts of the city. I moved last year because I had divorced my wife and lost my old house along with custody of James. It’s rather the shit-end of the stick, but James and I love Halloween. It’s one of the few times a year that Tracy finds it acceptable for my only son to come visit me. James stays with her on every other holiday throughout the year, his birthday, and everything else in between. I get to see him only on my birthday and the week preceding Halloween, unless the high bitch-court finds it suitable for him to come spend the night every once in a while. Hmph. Frankly, I’m surprised she let him come shopping with me.
Upon perusing the aisles, James showed a strong affinity to a flamboyantly green and purple Buzz Lightyear costume. It’s really typical for a kid to have an eye for the most expensive thing on the rack, but I didn’t have the heart to say no to those bottomless blue eyes. He also picked out all the house decorations. I know we won’t be getting any trick-or-treaters out where I live but adorning the exterior of our home was always one of our favorite things to do together.
Friday, October 21st
It looks like James and I will be having some competition for the “Best Halloween Decorations” award, which sadly, in this neighborhood, is only a pat on the back. When I lived with James and my ex-wife, he and I won the trophy every year since he was three.
Reminiscence aside, my next-door neighbor is really giving us a run for our money. He did quite the splurge on decorations. He must have ordered everything online because aside from the cliché “Happy Halloween” banners and the like, the festive treasures found on his house and lawn were nowhere to be seen in the store where James and I shopped- which sold only festive decor. The fellow’s garage door sat below a strand of kite string on which hung dozens of expensive-looking bones and skulls. He also placed several other bones sticking straight up out of his lawn. There was no color or detail, just random bones placed here and there; strewn about his unkempt lawn. Truly, though, he’s nothin’.
Saturday October 22nd
While walking through my house at dusk, outside the dining room window I noticed a quick flicker of movement dash in and out of my peripherals as I was preparing for James’s week-long stay. I inspected. I don’t even know if I should be glad that I did. I walked back in front of the window and saw the same animation, but this time in the center of my vision. I walked back away from the window, and slowly, I peeked out from the corner of the glass. I made out the shape of the very top of a person’s head peering over the top of my fence, and it seemed to be watching me. Whoever it was ducked down again right after they realized we had made eye contact. I backed away from the window. I don’t know why. I crawled over to the family room window, which was about 15-20 feet to the left, but facing the same direction as the dining room window.
I stayed knelt. Timidly but curiously grasping the curtain, I ever so slowly pulled back the cloth, only to gaze upon the masked fellow who was snooping around behind my property. This time, I saw his entire head. The mask had a gaping, dangling mouth, similar to the mask used in the Scream series. The only difference was that the jaw of this particular mask was swaying about in the wind, and it also had teeth. Long, thin, fang-like growths that appeared almost like the strands hanging from the mouth of a whale, though fewer in number. The expression on the mask was plain, and the color was rather pale, with slight gray discoloration. It didn’t have a goofy smile or an intimidating stare, just a mouth hanging wide open and a couple of perfectly round, beady little chameleon eyes- eerily shaded.
After about ten seconds of observation, one of the eyes appeared as if it was steadily drifting off- away from where it was fixated, and very slowly, began to scan to the left- and as soon as he seemed to lock on to where I was, he quickly disappeared.
Tuesday, October 25th
I don’t really know my neighbor, much less where he gets all of his decorations. I noticed a new ornament of sorts in front of his door today. It was a ceramic bowl full of guts, comically placed where he would place a bowl of candy were he too lazy to answer the door for trick-or-treaters. Behind it was a large white piece of paper bound to the wall of his house. On it was written in nearly illegible chicken scratch: “TAKE ONE”. The whole sign had bloody fingerprints smeared all over it. More convincing yet was the bloody tape. And the bloody wall. Nearly the entire wall was smeared in brownish-red. Spooky. The streams of blood that ran from the handprints were, strangely enough, dry. I didn’t know they made novelty blood that could dry like that.
I’ve only ever spoken to this guy once, and it was around the time that I moved. He seemed rather distraught. As I approached him, I asked if everything was alright. He said that he was late for work, which was odd, because it was around 8:30 at night. I asked him where he worked, and he revealed to me that he was a biologist and worked at the military base, with no other details. It was strange. Every time I saw him after that encounter, his pants had traveled up his ankles another centimeter. Midlife growth-spurt, I guess. He was henceforth stumbling around awkwardly and tripping over himself. My other neighbors and I mocked him from time to time. I remember one specific instance when he was watering his shrubbery, and one of his knees gave out. Backwards. Kind of like a large bird’s leg. A pelican, or perhaps a heron. It looked excruciating to me, but he just walked it off. I’ve only ever seen him outside again once after this display, but it was months ago.
And last month, as I walked to the mailbox late one afternoon, I heard his kids crying frantically. Screaming, almost. It continued into the evening. The noise stopped eventually, though. I was having trouble sleeping through that horrifying racket. I sincerely hope he had his parenting privileges revoked; however, I’ve never even seen his kids. Let’s hope he’s only an uncle.
Wednesday, October 26th
Ever since James arrived earlier this week, he has simply abhorred the idea of removing his costume. Little Buzz has been running rampant throughout the house quoting Toy Story. He hasn’t disrobed once since he put it on, save for when I demanded he allow me to wash it because he was quite literally rolling around outside in the dirt.
I haven’t seen any more of this weirdo in the mask lately. Probably some mischievous kid from the neighborhood behind mine. It’s a cul-de-sac too, just a bigger one. There is a dirt road that accompanies an irrigation canal separating the two neighborhoods. My house is the farthest house from the main road, and the canal runs parallel to my fence. I don’t know of any bridge he could have used to come across, but I never look back there, and I don’t particularly care to.
Neighbor-man bought a new ornament. 200 feet of lights to accompany the 200 feet of intestines he had previously thrown all over the tree in his front yard. The lights coexist uniquely with the prior décor, though; all I could smell when I went outside was the burning odor of the sizzling ensemble of mix-matched decorations hanging from the tree. The moisture of those oddly-genuine-looking innards had adhered to his archaic festive bulbs, producing a deep red glow. Intentional or not, the smell was almost enough to coerce a complaint out of me. Almost.
Come to think of it, the smell wasn’t so bad. Almost like a barbecue.
Friday, October 28th
I’m going insane. No simple words can properly describe what I believe I have witnessed. As the sun was setting this evening I got another glimpse of this “masked” man. What I saw now was not at all what I would describe as a “mask”. I was sitting in my living room reading. The bay window in my living room overlooks the entire street, and I had my blinds open. I had startled and looked up and out the window toward the nearly-dissipated sun because I had heard what sounded like an asthmatic man gasping for air through a megaphone over top of a vocal, frightened cat. I stood up from my couch and walked briskly toward the window. I cupped my hands above my eyes to deter the sunlight, and pressed my face against the window. And I saw it. It was pursuing a small cat. It ran like an Ostrich. Where it was not bald and discolored, it was spotted with long patches of spindly hairs and networks of pulsating blue veins. Thinning, isolated strands of gray hair flat against its flaky, decomposing head. Its flapping, low-hung chin keeping rhythm with its bounding stride as the sprinting thing began to overtake a creature built for agility. Ultra-thin, ultra-broad shoulders dutifully bounding up and down in harmony with its tree branch-like arms, easily giving it at least a five foot reach. Mammoth hands, chopstick fingers, and those repulsive, chameleon eyes. Buckets of drool spilt impatiently from behind its hellish teeth. Emaciated, stilt-like legs completed the horrific image. Altogether, I observed an eight-and-a-half foot freak show with greasy hair practically leaping from yard to yard chasing this poor kitten for a reason ostensibly beyond simple sustenance.
The cat approached a fence on the left side of the street. It leapt towards a delusion of safety. The beast proceeded to effortlessly jump from the sidewalk, over the lawn, and snatch the animal from the top of the fence with its talon-like claws, as a falcon might. The cat didn’t stand a chance, nor did it even manage to voice a squeal. The thing disappeared into the shadows with its, erm, meal. An unforgettable two-and-a-half seconds.
Then I thought of my son. He could have very well been in the place of that plaintive animal. No, I should never say such things. Regardless, what am I to do? Forgo what little time I have throughout the year with my boy because a scary monster is on the loose? Tell my ex-wife that my neighborhood in the middle of nowhere has become too dangerous for our son to stay with me? Buy a rifle and hunt the thing myself? No matter. With only two days until Halloween I doubt there will be any more trouble.
Saturday, October 29th
I’ve thought about calling the police, but for what, exactly? I definitely couldn’t call in and report a burglar- or even anything human for that matter, because they wouldn’t be looking for what needed to be caught. No one can know.
Earlier tonight, my neighbors threw a street-wide costume party at their place down at the entrance of the street. I didn’t go because I had to work late, and after I picked up James from his friend’s house, we anticipated having a game night with just the two of us.
Sometime during the night, James took a bathroom break. He was gone for over fifteen minutes. When he returned, he seemed excited to inform me that he looked out the living room window, in between the blinds, and saw what he described as a “Really tall weird-looking person with a bag” running patiently to the house where the party was being held, empty bag in hand. According to James, it would disappear into the back yard of the house, and seconds later, bolt out of the yard with a full bag and tear off towards my neighbor’s house, wearing a costume. It repeated this process several times, each time, wearing a different costume than before.
He said that on its last round, it stopped in the middle of the street, cocked its head to the right slightly, and its right eye slid to the side of its head and stared right at him as if there weren’t blinds between them. He said that it then turned its head 180 degrees and locked eye contact with him, and then its colossal mouth sluggishly transformed from a probing expression to the widest smile he thought he’d ever seen. “Millions of teeth” were his exact words.
He said that its smile had then hastily collapsed, dropping the chin into a visible freefall which ended with a swinging slap on its chest. It then darted off into my reclusive neighbor’s yard and that was when James decided to come alert me of his findings.
I thought of that horrid monster smiling at my beautiful boy. I despised the idea. I tried to envision what that particular smile might look like, though I really couldn’t. I didn’t think a flapping maw that gargantuan had the muscle to maneuver that flailing chin in the first place. Then again, it has to eat sometime.
Sunday, October 30th
More decorations were, stealthfully as always, erected by my mysterious neighbor. A couple-dozen or so skeletons, all different sizes, all dressed in cliché Halloween attire. There was a Marilyn Monroe skeleton, a Darth Vader skeleton, an Abraham Lincoln skeleton, so-on; so-forth. Every one of them was strung up by the back of its neck, feet swinging, head looking down. I really wanted to ask this guy how he comes up with all this. Where he gets it all. Perhaps if he knows that last night’s rain washed the color off of most of his little knick-knacks. Gotta hand it to ‘im, though. That slew of morbid décor in combination with his filthy, run-down, cobweb covered home emits a true horror movie feel.
It’s now just past midnight. I just got finished with my work, I brushed my teeth, and now the doorbell’s ringing. Again. And again. And again. Reluctantly I rise up and walk toward my front door.
I open it. My neighbor. No, the freak next door, but the fellow who lives behind me- on the other side of the canal. He’s disgruntled. He’s practically out of breath and is threatening me about something but none of it is sinking in because one of the skeletons hanging from my neighbor’s tree- a newcomer- is staring right at me. Its jaw unhinged, unlike the others. It’s smaller than the other skeletons- and appears to be dripping with something. Moonlight revealed to me its eyes. Big, blue eyes.
I turn to face the man yelling at me.
Him: “You listenin’ over there?”
Me: “Oh… Yeah.”
Him: “’The hell y’tryin’ to pull. Y’almost gave my wife a heart attack with that mask”.
Apparently my son and I aren’t the only ones who have spotted the neighborhood missing link. How could he possibly confuse that thing with me?
Him: “And don’t try and smooth-talk yer way outta this one pal. I saw ya jump clean over that fence a’ yours- ‘the hell you managed to do that I’s a-still wonderin’- and crawl right back inte yer basement. It’s dark n’ all but no doubt it was you, pal.”
Me: “….I’m terribly sorry…” I improvised. “I don’t know what came over me…” “If there’s anything I can do-“
My heart sank.
Me: “Wait here.”
There’s no way. I’m running like a fool into my own house because this asshole bangs on my door at 12:15 in the morning to tell me that he saw this… thing jump into my basement. With my trembling hands applying convulsing energy to the doorknob, I turn, and fling the door wide open to reveal my son, sleeping, facing the wall, just as I had left him. Figures. He’s never all the way under the covers like that, but it is a bit cold in here. Goddamn, though, this guy at my door really does have some nerve. He scared the shit out of me.
Me “Sorry… I just-“
Him: “Aww, save it. I ain’t give no shits at all about yer problems. Y’just stay the hell away from me and mah family. Y’hear?”
Me: “Yeah… Sure…”
A calming chuckle digs its way into his angry tone as I recognize those freshly familiar bottomless blue eyes stuffed inside the head of that skeleton.
Him: “I gotta hand it to y’though. I nearly busted out laughing when I saw y’runnin’ around wearin’ that little kid’s Buzz Lightyear Costume.”
Credit: Harrison Dimpley
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