Mask Collector

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Crouched in the Carving Room, I wiped blood from my cheek. Beautiful crimson dripped from the tip of my blade to the skinless face of a woman below me. How pretty she appeared now, with exposed meat like grapefruit pulp and eye whites stained red. Her pupils were still watery from tears she shed moments before.

Carefully, I picked up her facial skin and dipped it into a preserver and hardener of my own creation, turning it into a mask, the skin comparable to porcelain. It was such a lovely mask that captured the ambiance of near-death marvelously.

After a few quick dips with my paintbrush into the vermillion blood-pool, and a few quick swipes over the hardened skin, my mask was completed. Red streaks designed the mask, the lips and around the eyes colored, too. My craftsmanship made me shiver in delight.

I then cleaned the Carving Room and headed off to the Mask Room.

My Mask Room was a wonder to step into, a gateway to a fantastical world. Row upon row of my homemade masks lined the walls in this cubic room. I featured near-death faces of all sorts here. Terror, regret, joy, acceptance, and my favorite, vengeful. My collection would've been complete if only I had betrayal, the emotion I never thought I would see before this day.

I'd never much cared for others, nor did I become friendly enough with another person for them to trust and love me wholeheartedly. The closest to love anyone felt toward me—and often was this felt—was lust, for I had an ample chest and a mild thickness most men swooned over.

But this trend of mine changed half a year prior to this day. I'd become quite acquainted with a burly young man, an honest worker and strong soul, by the name Bjarke. Indeed was he like a bear as his name suggested, and indeed was he a Norse-looking man. He'd invited me to a masquerade happening this night, the perfect time to collect my betrayed mask.

I donned a mask from a spiritualist for the masquerade, a pretty woman who accepted her death with a grin. The lips were scarlet, and so was the checkered pattern over the left half of the mask. It was simple, yes, but simplicity can be charming.

Soon, I left the Mask Room and headed off to my bedroom, then to the masquerade when moonlight first fell.

My white ball gown swayed as I opened the ballroom door. Chandelier light beamed down on me, filling the magnificent dancing hall—which was stuffed to the brim with twirling masked dancers—with a yellow glow. The sounds were joyous, and the melodic music touched all hearts, even my own.

In the distance, a tall figure in an ebon tuxedo made his way toward me. It was Bjarke. I could tell though he was wearing a white mask over the upper half of his rough-hewn face; no one else strode as pridefully as him.

As they typically did, his cheeks glowed and his sharp, sapphire eyes looked me up and down. When we came together, he gifted me a black rose and a kiss on my hand. He held me close to his muscled body, close enough for me to smell his own rose, which he was wearing like a pin. I tucked mine behind my ear.

We remained quiet. Bjarke never was one for words. Instead, we stared at each other, taking in our appearances. His face would appear wonderful in my collection, I thought. He gestured me to dance, and I followed in his brawny arms.

His firm hands were on my waist, while mine were on his broad upper body. Protectively, almost instinctually, he kept me close. We danced like a gentle breeze. I sensed that he wished to lower his grip, but he controlled himself and kept it where it was. Slowly, he brought me closer until my cheek was against his chest. His ginger beard tickled my forehead. Our loins nearly touched.

Amid the enchanting dance's sways and turns, Bjarke rubbed my obsidian hair tenderly and asked, "Are you happy?"

He was always so straightforward in our conversations. It seemed as if he didn't know how to communicate sometimes, nor were his expressions ever quite right. For instance, his smile faded throughout the night as he forgot about it, though I knew butterflies flew in his stomach.

I answered quietly, "Yes."

Bjarke's eyes glimmered with joy, though his smile was now a neutral expression. He hugged me tighter in that bear grip of his, kissing the top of my head several times excitedly. Then, by mistake, he kissed the lips of my mask, the ones painted in blood. My heart throbbed when I saw crimson on his lips, having smeared from my mask.

I uncovered my face and smooched him, and, apparently, he melted. His knees wobbled, but the strong man stayed up. I never kissed him before this time, and I only did now to remove the blood from his lips before he tasted iron.

"I was mistaken!" Bjarke cheerfully said. He shook me softly. "I was mistaken! I feared you didn't love me, and that only I loved you, but you do have feelings for me, as well!"

I smiled. "Of course, I do," I lied.

Bjarke again embraced me, using all his strength. Then he took my hand, kissed it, and pulled me with him. I didn't resist, even after we left the masquerade. We walked along stone pathways, our heels clicking, picking up pace when Bjarke saw his house approaching. I'd only ever seen the exterior.

He brought me inside, not slowing down, and took me directly to a room. It wasn't the bedroom, I noticed, for we past it a while ago. I shrieked as he yanked my arms behind my back and cuffed them. His mouth was on my neck, smooching it longingly. My eyes widened as I recognized our surroundings. We were in a Mask Room, a much bigger one than mine, and I'd collecting since I was a teenager. Bjarke removed his mouth from my neck.

"Do you like it?" he asked. "I'm sorry for the handcuffs. You have no reason to fear, but I don't want you escaping, my love."

I didn't know what to say. My mouth wouldn't open. Bjarke looked at the mask beside him, a smiling one, and adjusted his own expression to match it. He grinned, kissing my cheek.

"I should explain," he said. "I was watching you, and I followed you into your house. Your movements were so majestic that night. Then I stumbled upon your Mask Room, as it was labeled. They were beautiful, so beautiful, and I needed to learn how you made them. Once I did, it became an obsession. I needed to impress you."

Bjarke brought me further into the room, holding me by the handcuffs. Truly, it was a marvelous room.

"Do you like it, my love?" he asked again.

"It's beautiful," I stuttered.

"Wonderful," he said.

He carefully placed his mask on a shelf, then took me to his bedroom. It was dimly lit, with bookshelves lining the wall opposite the king-sized bed. He laid me onto this bed, cuffing my arms to the frame, then tying my legs to the end with chains. When he finished fettering my ankles, he straddled me. His chest pressed against my breasts, and his burly arms wrapped around my body.

"Are you comfortable?" he asked, adjusting himself over me.

I nodded, paralyzed like a deer staring into headlights. This odd experience was my headlights.

His fingers slid under my shirt and removed it, then he shuffled from his own. His muscles were tight, and his ginger chest hairs glistened, his skin coated in a thin layer of sweat. His lips returned to my neck, smooching down to my lacy bra. He removed it, too. My back arched as he sucked my perked nipple. His saliva chilled my flesh while he bent his head back up.

Bjarke cupped my cheek. "I love you so much," he purred. "So much. You're beautiful, my love, and smart, and cruel, and so much braver than me. I would never have started killing if it wasn't for you, something I've longed to do for so long. You are truly my love."

Instead of retrieving my betrayed mask, the finishing piece to my collection, I was in Bjarke's bedroom, bound to his bed, unable to move. I never felt so weak, so powerless, and when he stripped us fully, I had nothing. Without any resistance, I let him into me. It would be over finally, I thought.

When he finished, however, his chest heaving and body glistening, I knew it would never be over. Under his breath, he said, "My love will forever be with me."

A silent tear fell from my eye as Bjarke cuddled me in his restricting arms.

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