She bought the mask as a gift for his 19th birthday. It took all the charm she had to talk the antique dealer down to a price she could afford, but instinctively she understood that the boy and the mask belonged to one another.
After her death, six months later, the mask took on deeper meaning. It bewitched him, whispering dark secrets and filling his head with stories and colors he never could have imagined. In pencil and ink, his fingers flew, bringing the carnival of characters trapped within the mask to life.
For the boy, grief was not something to be discussed or expressed in ordinary ways, but it bled from his fingertips onto the canvas. With dark hues and haunting detail, his own tragedies intertwined with those which the mask inspired until even he could not untangle them.
Some nights, exhausted with the effort and frustrated by the medium, he painted his face, making his own mask and took to the stage as a merry minstrel. Make ’em laugh. Make ’em cry. Make them feel … anything. Afterwards, he’d go home, wash off the paint and stare at his naked face in the mirror … feeling empty, without identity. Then he’d lie down, put the mask on and let it fill him up again.
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