By Iaian McLachlan

Sempsy thought it was the ugliest thing that he’d ever seen in his life.

The latex Halloween mask had a label identifying the product as “Undead Fiend – Made in Malaysia.” A more accurate description would have been “Road Accident Victim”.

It was indeed very ugly, but ideal for the job in hand. The others in the gang were all wearing very similar masks, bought from the bargain bin at Wal-Mart the night before. Although the masks were superficially identical, Sempsy detected some subtle but important differences in the one he chose to wear, particularly in the pattern that the glued-on scars formed, the contour of the evil sneer made by the mouth and especially the area around the eyes.

It was when he actually donned it he immediately realised how special the mask was. It completely obscured the numerous real scars that he had acquired from his girlfriend, Jules, the result of one of many violent fights that he and her had over the course of their relationship. She had certainly done a number on him this time with the aid of shattered beer glass. To cap it all, she had then sold his medication and then quit town on the first available Greyhound.

So the mask perfectly reflected Sempsy’s mood. Ugly. And mean.

It was also a surprisingly snug fit, easily fitting to the contours of his face, as if especially tailored for him. The fact that he refused to take it off ever since putting it on hours ago added to the sense of unease felt by the other members of the gang. Because he had not had access to his medication for over a week now, Sempsy had been prone to excessive sweating, periods of hyperactivity and mood swings. As a result he had to constantly reassure his companions that he was indeed up to the job.

And, in fact, with the mask firmly in place, his whole demeanour changed. His fever had completely disappeared and he appeared calm and collected. His mind, normally a jumble of emotions and fantasies had almost completely cleared, leaving only one cold thought.

He had to use the gun he was carrying.

Sitting in the car, watching the jewellery store across the road, Sempsy decided that no matter how the job went down, some blood was going to be spilled. What really settled it for him was the appearance of the girl checking the stock in the store front window. She looked a lot like Jules.

4:58. It was time. Sempsy pressed the mask against his face. He had the strange sensation that the latex had actually began to meld to his skin. It was not an uncomfortable sensation, just odd, and seemed to subtly excite him.

He took the safety catch off and went to work.