Second Hand

By Karras Bommer

     The mask was an awkward thing, all loaded with feathers and beads and well more than two-feet in width. It had once graced the face of a voodoo priestess in the dark secret days of New Orleans culture. Now it stood gathering dust against the back wall of an old second-hand store in a lazy bayou town known as Lacombe.

  Sidney could care less about the mask’s history. He had twenty-four hours to come up with a Halloween costume and the mask was perfect. The feathers gave appearance like a big black bird with empty eye-sockets trimmed in gold bead and for all its size it was light-weight-easy to wear. To top it all off, the mask was cheap. A mere thirty bucks and Sidney had possession.

  Once home he stood before the full-length mirror in his bedroom matching the mask to a pair of black leather pants with a black satin shirt. Not bad, he thought. It wasn’t quite clear who or what he was in all that black but the look was dark, sleek, and somehow dangerous. Sidney Rheems was ready for Halloween. He went to bed quite happy with his find.

  All Hallow’s Eve dawned, if such a thing could be possible. It was Halloween. The chill of October air added a light mist as the evening approached and soon the streets were active. Children appeared in costumes as carved pumpkin faces showed strange expressions and. porch lights glowed from nearly every home. At 7:00 pm, Sidney walked out his door, dressed to kill.

  The Halloween party he had dressed for was only six blocks from his house, set up in an old warehouse, and definitely within walking distance. No problem with a designated driver for this one. He passed the costumed children running beside him, behind him, and in front of him as they disappeared up driveways to shout at screened doors. Smiling women handed out candy and apples and occasionally something frightful would appear in the doorway so the children could laugh and squeal. Sidney cut cross a tree-lined street of busy houses to emerge on an expanse of empty parking lots. High wire fences blocked much from view yet the warehouse was soon within sight. The street was so desolate that at first Sidney wasn’t sure he’d heard a voice from behind him.

   “Ewe booguh, booguh, ewe booguh, booguh, ewe booguh, booguh…zin.”

  Sidney stopped.

  “Ewe booguh, booguh, ewe booguh, booguh, ewe booguh, booguh…zin.”

  He heard it again. When he turned he saw nothing. Within another second he reconciled that some child was taunting him, playing games behind him and ducking into the shadows every time he turned around. “Very funny,” he taunted back. “Now go away and leave me alone.”

  He made it a few more steps, thought he heard a sound behind him and spun to catch the culprit in action. There was no one behind him, no one on the empty street, yet when he turn back around a woman stood directly in front of him. She was difficult to describe in the dark. Not too tall, with what seemed to be long curly hair, and wearing a long robe that glinted slightly in the moon-lit night.

   “You are late,” she chided with an air of impatience. “It is almost time and you are late.”

  She had to be from the party. Sidney smiled and answered quickly, “I thought it all started at 8:00.”

  “Eight? We began at dusk as we have always begun and you should have arrived at that time.”

  “Oh come on, “ Sidney smiled again. “The night is young. I’ve never known a party to even get started before 9:00.”

  “Party?” The small woman removed a large rattle from within the folds of her robe.

  “Ewe, booguh, booguh, ewe booguh, booguh…” “Oh stop it!“ Sidney smirked. “Come on, lady, this is ridiculous. What are you supposed to be…some sort of voodoo queen?“ The minute he said the word voodoo he stepped back from the woman. “Wait a minute. Did you…did this mask…?”

   “Child,” the woman answered softly. “The shop-keeper was incorrect. It was not I who wore the mask. It was boomghada, the sacrifice. You have chosen the mask. You are boomghada.”

  The sound of the rattle grew louder. Sidney reached to tear the mask from his face but it held tight as if attached by dozens and dozens of microscopic suction cups. Soon the rattle and the chant were all he could hear and though he fought the power of what he thought his own imagination, he soon saw himself amidst a circle of chanting, sweating, undulating forms. Fire flickered, a flash of steel caught his eye…and it was over. They found Sidney’s body the next day, not far from the old warehouse, a corpse dressed in black with no sign of a mask.

  The moral to this story? Know the history of a second-hand mask before you wear it on Halloween. Always remember that Halloween is the night when the veil between the living and the dead is most thin. Way too thin for Sidney.