In a remote mountain village lived a man who wore a mask. The residents of this town regarded the new arrival as a pitiful curiosity since it was assumed by all that he was hiding some hideous deformity. He stayed inside his cabin, venturing out only to purchase provisions or for solitary walks at night. The mask covered his entire face, was made of silver, molded to resemble smooth features of a chin, lips, cheeks, nose, and forehead – polished to a reflective sheen. The top and back of his head was concealed by the hood of an oversized leather jacket. He wore hiking boots and baggy jeans and turtleneck sweaters which hid the rest of his skin. When making payments to merchants his hands were mittened, emerging like cautious white mice from his pockets. Seldom did he speak, communicating with gestures. But when he did, his voice was barely audible, thus adding to the mystery. A group of children were the first to challenge him by asking to see his face. He refused with a shake of the head and retreated to his cabin. He evaded the adults too who began enquiring about his circumstances and physicality. This face, like a mirror, became an object of scorn. The stranger was mocked for being aloof, then taunted on Halloween, called names and was known thereafter as the Tin Man. The communal urge to see behind the mask escalated until one day he was stopped in the street by villagers who tore it off. They were more surprised by what they did not find. The man was actually a woman. Her face beautiful – without a trace of any disfigurement. Bewildered by this discovery, several of the men felt compelled to tear off her clothing too. Again, flawlessly beautiful! She screamed and ran to her cabin. The woman was crazy, they assessed. Why else would she disguise herself? Never would they have resorted to such violent action had she conducted herself in a proper forthright manner. Why – and what exactly – was she hiding? They demanded answers. They agreed it was their moral duty to confront her with these questions. But she shot herself in the head before they reached her door.
Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)
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