The Mask.

The Mask

“Timmy!” his mother called from the hall. “There’s a parcel in the post for you. I think it’s from your father. Come and see.”

“Looks like it might be the young man’s birthday then,” said the postman.

“Yes, Halloween and birthday rolled into one. He’s ten today."

“Wheeee!” Timmy squealed as he left his half-eaten breakfast on the kitchen table. “Where… where… where?”

“Happy birthday Timmy,” said the postman handing him a parcel the size of two shoeboxes, “and don’t forget now, trick or treat.” He chuckled at his own humour, and then turned to walk back down the steps to the street.

Louise shut the front door while Timmy tore at the brown wrapping paper as fast as his small hands were capable. Soon, there was a pile of ripped shreds on the floor, and he was able to lift the lid. Two envelopes lay on top of something wrapped in tissue paper. One envelope was addressed ‘To Timmy' and the other marked 'Louise.'

“I think this one’s for you mum.” He handed it to her, and then dropped his own unopened on the floor. Ripping the white tissue paper away, he reached in and lifted out a red and black cape.

“A Halloween costume! Count Dracula! Wow!” His shining blue eyes were agog. He pulled out another package wrapped in tissue paper. “And a vampire mask! Look mum.”

Louise looked up from the letter she was unfolding. “Yes dear, that’s very nice.”

“Can I go try them on?”

“All right, but only for a minute. You still have breakfast to finish before school.” She focused on the open sheet of paper and read, “Dear Louise, Well, you now have your wish for the divorce. However, I will not let you take my son away. I will fight you for legal custody of Timmy, you can be sure of that. Someone will be in contact with you very shortly, maybe more quickly than you expect. I will not rest on this matter. Your affectionate ex-husband, Bruce.”

Louise screwed up the letter, picked up the discarded wrapping paper and walked back to the kitchen before dropping them into the waste bin. She watched through the window as the neighbours’ cat stalked a sparrow. It was not the first time Bruce had made such threats, but as the case had already gone through the courts, she knew there was nothing he could do.


Startled, Louise jumped. She spun round clutching at the edge of the table as she staggered backward. “God Timmy! You scared the hell out of me.” Timmy giggled. “That must be the most horrifying Halloween costume ever,” she continued. “Come on, you’d better take that mask off and finish your breakfast.”

Timmy peeled the latex film over his head. He dropped it on the table and picked up the spoon to attack the boiled egg. “Mum! Can I wear the mask to school?”

“No, I don’t think so. The other kids will only get jealous and damage it for you, then you’ll have nothing to wear tonight when Michelle takes you trick-or-treating.” She picked up the pasty-white face with dark shadowed eye sockets, holding it to the daylight. It had a red-tinted film over the eye holes through which the wearer could see, and two sharp fangs stained with red paint behind blood-red lips. She stroked the long strands of white hair. “How do they make them so realistic? Trust your father to find something like this.” She placed it back on the table. “Have you finished?” He nodded with his mouth full. “Okay, get your satchel and let’s get you off to school.”


The doorbell rang at two minutes to six. “Hello Misses Taylor,” said the witch as Louise opened the door.

“Michelle. I’d never have recognised you in that costume. Come in. Timmy’s almost ready.” She led the way into the lounge. “Now remember, Timmy must be back here and in bed by nine thirty. I should be back by eleven. Any emergency, my cell-phone number is programmed into the main phone.”

“Yes Misses Taylor. You enjoy your date and don’t worry about us.”

Louise watched from the door as they joined other children dressed in macabre outfits on the street. Timmy turned to wave. The yellow glow of street lighting shone on the long grey hair blowing around his shoulders in the autumn breeze. She waved back, closed the door and returned to preparations for her dinner date with Derek from the office. It was the first real date she’d been on since the divorce, so she wanted to make a special effort for him.

Derek arrived at eight thirty, punctual as he always was at his desk. Fifteen minutes later, they were perusing the restaurant menu at the Blue Boar inn. Their conversation was a little stilted, the main topic they had in common being work. Louise was more nervous than she would have expected, but the food was good, and after a second glass of wine, she began to relax. She had almost finished the second course, lamb casserole, when her phone rang. She took the device from her bag; furrows of concern formed on her brow when she saw the caller displayed was her landline number.

“Misses Taylor? You’d better come home quick.” The female voice sounded distraught. “It’s Timmy, I can’t get his mask off.”

“All right Michelle, calm down. Let me talk to Timmy. He’s only being difficult.”

“No, you don’t understand. He’s not…it’s not… Timmy? Timmy, what are you doing?” There was a short pause. “No Timmy! No!” The sudden scream from the earpiece almost caused Louise to drop the phone.

“Michelle? Michelle! Are you okay?” There was a clatter as if the phone had fallen then a loud thump. “Michelle!” There was only the brrr from the line, and then silence.

Derek looked up from his food, eyes wide. “Is everything all right?”

“Can you take me home now? Sounds like something awful’s happened.”

“I’m sure it’ll be okay. Finish your meal first. They’re only playing games.” He wiped his mouth in the serviette.

“No Derek! This is serious!” She jumped up from the table almost knocking the chair over.

“Okay…okay. Here’s the car keys. You go and get in, I’ll just settle the bill.” He stood beckoning the waiter as Louise ran for the door.

Fraught with worry, she almost decided to take the car and drive off. She had the engine running when she saw Derek running from the door of the inn. She wriggled across to the passenger seat. “Please hurry Derek.” She was almost crying as he climbed in.

The car screeched to a halt outside the house. Louise had her door open before the vehicle stopped moving. The house was in darkness. She searched in her bag for the keys as she ran up the three steps to the front door before realising it was already ajar. The door swung inwards at her push, and she searched inside for the light switch. The sudden illumination showed a scene of chaos. The hall table on which the telephone normally rested was knocked over, the phone and stand thrown against the wall. Broken ornaments were scattered across the carpet. There was a thick, dark trail of blood leading into the lounge.

Louise gasped, raising her hand to her mouth. “What’s happened? Derek asked joining her in the doorway. “Oh my God!”

The door to the lounge was partly open. Red handprints were smeared over the white paint. Derek pushed past Louise and went to open it fully. Light from the hall showed Michelle lying in a heap, face down on the floor, with crimson gore still oozing from puncture holes in the side her neck. Derek ran to kneel at her side. He picked up one hand, his fingers searching for a pulse without success. He rolled her onto her back, and emitted a sharp hiss as he sucked air through his teeth. The bulging lifeless eyes showed a look of pain and abject terror.

Louise watched his actions from the doorway. “Where’s Timmy?” Her voice trembled as she spoke.

“I’m here mum.” The voice of the boy standing behind her was calm, gentle.

She turned. “Oh Timmy.” He stood in the passage, his hands behind his back.

She ran to him and wrapped her arms around his shoulder. “Thank God you’re all right. Come on, take this mask off.” She ran her fingers under the long black hair searching for the edge of the vampire face. There was none. “Timmy?” A memory from breakfast flashed through her mind. Had the hair not been white?

“It’s all right mum. Dad’s here now.”

She gasped; a sudden stabbing pain in her stomach caused her to flinch. She stepped back and looked down in horror at the wooden handle of a kitchen knife protruding from her abdomen. A stream of yellow bile ran over the handle as she fell forward, embedding the blade even deeper into her gut when she hit the floor.

“And you must be the new man in her life.”

Derek looked up, surprised to hear the adult voice from behind the vampire mask. Still on his knees, he never saw the meat cleaver sweeping down to embed itself in his skull.

© 2008 Robert A Read. aka Mysteral.


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