Number Nine

(The following is one of my winning pieces of flash fiction in the 2014 HSW writing competition.)

"The sheer beauty of the mask," Dr. Goodman explained, "is its capability for complete transformation--its ability to transfer its power into the one who wears it."

At the bar within the opulent well of the doctor's study, Stanley harrumphed. "Good God, Goodman." He sipped from the glass of Scotch. "It's not the mask that possesses the power--it's all in the mind. The power of suggestion. A simple form of self-hypnosis, if you will, that alters the persona. A mask is merely a prop for the subconcious."

"Not so, Stanley. Each mask is an individual in iteself. Each contains its own unique properties." Dr. Goodman stepped across the room and pointed to the display upon the wall. "Take, for example, this specimen here, number seventeen, which I obtained in Kyoto." Goodman's fingers traced the length of the bronze mask, painted blood-red. "It is the mask of a warrior and any man who wore it became driven to kill."

"It's nothing more than a piece of armor worn in battle," Stanley rebutted. "Its wearer was hardly possessed."

Dr. Goodman moved on, indicating another display, a woven-reed mask with bird-like qualities. "Number twenty-two. This little treasure I picked up in Guatemala. It imparts the power of foresight."

"Worn by a curandero, no doubt, possessed only by peyote, and whose every word was taken as absolute truth by his tribe." Stanley sipped his Scotch and pointed to an enigimatic, black and tan mask of carved wood. "And, pray tell," he chuckled out. "What magic does this hideous one supposedly possess?"

Dr. Goodman removed the mask from the wall. "Number nine." He gently stroked the ebony smoothness. "My most prized piece. Decidedly extraordinary. I managed to take acquisition of this in Mozambique. It is an unparalled cleansing tool, said to banish the demons that torment one's soul."

"That special, huh? Since you've taken it down, may I see it?"

Protectively, Dr. Goodman drew back. "It is quite valuable. It's the only one of its kind."

"Goodman, I assure you it will come to no harm. I would simply like to put your claim to the test."

After a long moment of consideration, Dr. Goodman cautiously handed it over. Stanley set his Scotch aside and quickly snugged the mask on. The wood seemingly molded to his facial contours, wrapping itself across his warm skin.

Through the eye slits, Stanley stared out at Goodman. "I'm afraid it doesn't seem to work,"

he laughed. "You're still here."

"My dear man," Goodman replied with a wry smirk. "You must give it a moment." He adjusted his tie and then knelt to the floor. He retrieved the mask from the spot on the rug from where Stanley had just vanished.

"Good riddance to yet another insufferable boor," Goodman muttered as he once again affixed the mask to the wall. Lifting the glass of Scotch, he returned to the bar.

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