Aimee's First Mask

By Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy 

     Halloween had never been a favorite holiday. The celebration was too filled with terrible things and haunted with fear. Aimee was not comfortable with her identity and so she found it difficult to become someone or something else even for a single night.  Even as a child she had not gone trick-or-treating but had manned the door for her parents, passing out candy to the parade of masked children who rang the doorbell.  Fear dwelled within and she was frightened of everything, on Halloween and each day.  Spiders scared her, storms were something to fear, muggers were a threat she heard about on the news, and she felt the symptoms of any disease she heard about firsthand.

     The invitation to a Halloween party had been unexpected but since it was hand delivered by Mark, the six foot nine inch basketball forward, she couldn’t decline.  She shared a morning history class with Mark and spent most of the hour inhaling his fresh, clean scent.  Aimee lusted after his tall, lanky body and dreamed of the day when he might invite her out to a dance or for dinner.  Fear was banished by desire at his invitation.

     “Be sure to get some kind of mask or costume.” He had called back to her after she accepted with giddy glee.

     Choosing a costume had been a dilemma.  At the costume rental shop Aimee found no interest in dressing as Marilyn Monroe in a blonde wig and white dress that still had someone else’s sweat stains under the arms.  She didn’t want to dress as a 50’s girl with poodle skirt and false ponytail or as Cleopatra with a fake snake pressed to her bosom.  She headed for the nearest discount store and searched the stock of Halloween masks in the hopes that she might find something she could bear to don.

     Shy was an understatement for Aimee.  Tongue tied in the presence of any but her closest friends, Aimee still blushed scarlet when called upon in class.  Even as a college junior, she became nervous when she had to ask a question.  Her clothing was drab, basic navy, black, and brown garments without style or trim.  She wore her hair long and never bothered to curl it.  Even her glasses were plain and simple, wire-frames that looked as if they had grown on her face.  If she was attractive, it was something she had never noticed.  She was too afraid to think about fashion or her looks. 

     In public she tried to blend and never wanted to attract attention.  As she passed through crowds, she imagined that each one was a closet rapist, a murderer, or a pervert.  Fear of what lay within the human heart made her backward and bashful.

 Staring at the rack of masks, she wondered what it would be like to be the focus, to be stared at and watched.  Although her heart beat faster at the thought, she felt a tiny yearning to try it.  With that desire newborn, she chose a sexy vampire mask, one with yards of silky black hair.  The face was feminine with large red lips and bared fangs.  Eye shadow shaded the area above the mask’s eye holes bright blue.

     Worn with a black turtleneck and black slacks it might work.  Aimee longed to keep Mark’s attention and she thought the sensual vampire style might succeed.  On impulse, something she had never experienced, she bought the mask.  Over the next few days, fear haunted her but she, for the first time in her life, ignored it and shut it out.

     On the morning of October 31, she skipped classes and had vanity nails attached to her fingers.  The nails were long, sharp, and fire engine red.  Aimee took a long, scalding shower and washed her hair.  She brushed back the hair and pinned it on top of her head to be hidden by the mask and its’ attached wig.

     With a liberal application of her roommate’s Tabu perfume (her normal fragrance was Avon’s Sweet Honesty) Aimee put on her black garments and then pulled the mask over her face.  The mirror reflected back a strange creature, someone she didn’t know, someone that wasn’t afraid or timid.

     Mark didn’t recognize her when she came down the stairs moving in a way she had never moved.  Her limbs felt unbound, unleashed and she walked with a blatant sexuality that had been foreign to her.  She spoke and he turned, surprise and admiration moving across his face.  He wore black as well with a pair of Harry Potter glasses perched on his nose.  Without any fear, she linked her arm in his and they walked out of the dorm.

     At the party she danced, another first time event, and laughed without restraint.  The mask made her someone else and hidden behind it, she was different.  No one recognized her and she overhead chatter that speculated who Mark’s date might be.  She giggled with pleasure and danced not just with Mark but with anyone who asked.  As midnight neared, she realized that everyone was expected to unmask at the stroke of twelve.  Inhibition returned and she felt her buoyant mood crash to the ground.  Fear threatened to return and she required air, she needed to be outside the crowded room.

     Her dance partner, another vampire, was groping her body like a hungry sow at the trough.  She extended her red claws and pushed at him.

     “I want to go outside and get some fresh air!” Her voice was a hiss.

     He shrugged. “Whatever.”

     Aimee expected him to make way for her to pass but instead he seized her hand and pulled her toward the exit.  Afraid, she allowed him to be in control.  With some instinct from deep within she embraced the fear and in doing so, mastered it.

     They emerged into an alley where it was very dark.  Despite the faint stink of adjacent garbage bins, the cool wind was fresh and she inhaled.  Her hair felt hot and she knew she had sweated inside the mask so she pulled it free.  With a toss of her head, she turned to face her companion who was grinning.  His teeth seemed very white in the faint light but it was not until he pulled her into a tight embrace that she realized that he wore no costume.  Her observation came without fear even as she understood that he was a vampire, a creature of the night.

     As his fangs sank deep into her throat Aimee felt an unholy pleasure surge through her body and she moaned.  He released her and his eyes asked the question.

     “Bite me again.” Her voice sounded strange to her own ears, sultry and husky.

     “Three times and you’re eternal.”

     “Yes!” She craved his bite, she longed for eternity, and she reveled in her very absence of fear.

     He cocked his head, shrugged his shoulders and bit her again, then once more.   His lips darkened with her  lifeblood and she laughed aloud, free and timid no more.  With a savage joy, she realized that the mask had become her reality and that fear had been replaced by a dark power that belonged to the night.