Saturday, March 31, 2012

Empty Woods

Golden light shimmered from underneath the surface of the water; the shape of the object distorted by the lapping of the little waves that hit the grass and dirt edge of the stream before bouncing back out.
Antony knelt beside the stream to peer down at the thing that lay on the mucky bottom, its golden glow reflecting on his face. Still distorted, he thought it liked like a face, with hollow eyes and mouth.
Hesitantly, he reached down, dipping his hand into the cool spring waters and touched the object’s smooth surface. His fingers slipped underneath its edges as he lifted it out of the mud with a sucking plop sound.
It was a mask, a golden mask of a man’s face that seemed to glower at him with its open eye and mouth holes. Droplets of water fell from the shining surface of the mask and glistened in the afternoon sun that shone through the over-hanging trees.
Antony turned it over in his hands and looked at the darker underside. Not a gleaming gold, but perhaps a cracked and worn iron reverse of the outer facade, its eyes and mouth still scowling.
With the mask in both hands Antony brought it up to his face, briefly closing his eyes as the mask touched his skin with cold wet.
He opened them to look out from the carved openings, half expecting a change in what he saw, but it was still only the shallow stream running through the sunlit woods; nothing wondrous.
He turned his head as he took the mask away from his face, but out of the corner of his vision he saw a figure standing opposite himself across the stream.
Quickly, he hid it behind his back, embarrassed at being caught alone in the middle of the woods, trying on a golden mask. Yet, when the mask was off, the person was gone.
Antony scanned the trail and area but there was no one, nor even a hint that anyone had been there. The trees rustled gently in the soft breeze, the water babbled quietly, and the birds chirped away happily, but all else was calm and undisturbed.
Turning his attention back to the mask held in his hand, he brought it up again, meaning to try and look at himself in the waters’ reflection. Yet, when he looked through its eyes once more, the figure stood across from him.
The other man held the same golden mask to his face; he even seemed to be wearing a similar outfit to Antony’s.
Antony took the mask away to say hello, but was startled when the other disappeared from sight.
Warily, he looked through the mask again and the person stood staring back through his own mask on his side of the stream, and Antony could see that the other was holding the mask in the same way, just bringing it back up as if he had pulled it away quickly as well.
This time they kept holding their masks up and inspected each other.
Antony now saw that the other’s clothes were not just similar his own, they were the exact same.
He tilted his head, trying to think of something to say, and the other tilted his head the same way.
This was getting too creepy for Antony, so he ventured a hello. It only echoed within his mask.
Did the other say hello too, or was it just his own reverberated greeting?
Antony lifted his free hand to wave and so did the other man, aping his movements exactly.
Putting down his hand down slowly, as did the other, Antony asked if these were both their masks, and again, nothing but a muffled echo.
He took the mask slowly away to look over its top, but once more, his double disappeared from sight so he looked back through the mask. The other seemed to have just done the same.
Moving forward a step, Antony watched as the other took the same step.
He put his mask down and was alone again.
Thinking for a moment, Antony looked down the stream for a way to cross over. There were a few bigger rocks protruding out of the water so he moved over to the nearest one and hopped carefully from one to the other until he leapt to the opposite side from where he had been standing.
Facing where he had been, Antony donned the mask and looked through its eyes again.
Nothing; the other was not there. He brought the mask down with a sigh.
He shifted his gaze down at the water and he saw another distorted reflection standing beside his.
Looking quickly to his side where the reflected other should have been he saw nothing.
Antony narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips in annoyance. Then, slowly, he brought the mask up to his face.
When he looked through the oblong openings, his eyes widened with terror. The other stood staring face to face, without the mask.
Antony screamed and dropped the mask.
It fell back into the bubbling waters of the stream with a small splash that was drowned out by Antony’s screams of horror and pain.
Soon the screams were just an echo that no one heard, deep in the empty wood.

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