This week, we welcome Guelph’s Andrew Hood to the blog. Bitingly funny and often absurd, Andrew’s fiction crackles with originality. He’s the author of the short story collections Pardon Our Monsters and The Cloaca, and Who Needs What, a monograph on musician Jim Guthrie. He has been nominated two for the Journey Prize and won the 2008 Danuta Gleed Award.
Three years in, the mother masks started to show their age. Mouths and eyes sagged, the colours dulled. Each mask took on an odor general to the material and specific to the wearer. One Mother tried washing out their mask, but one whiff and their child knew something was wrong. What had become offensive to us was familiar to the children.
The podgy redhead became standoffish and was removed. For our own wellbeing none of us dared imagine where he was removed to.
Though intolerant of washed masks, the children weren’t bothered by cosmetic changes. Some Mothers touched themselves up, revivifying sallow skin, re-ventilating hair that had been tugged out by growing grip strengths. Some went the extra mile to affix the drooping eye sockets to their own faces. At three, the children grabbed. The danger of exposure was becoming increasingly clear and present so better attaching the masks made sense. Some suspected, though, that vanity was becoming as important as utility to some others.
Under the guise of longevity, some Mothers started keeping their masks on in the barracks. Donning and shedding accelerated wear. It followed that those Mothers who stayed masked also maintained the maternal personality they affected in the field. Years were passing. The children were needing less from us, getting more from one another. Our own senses of duty and worth became fragile. The unmasked sought out the masked for comfort.
Passing single rooms, you’d see a Face and a Mask in bed together, the Mask stroking, speaking in the soothing voices they had become adept at. The program didn’t last long enough for the taboo of furthering this intimacy to ever be resolved. When a Mask was found strangled dead in their room, mask torn, we assumed the unspeakable act was connected to other acts we still hadn’t decided how to speak about.
After thirteen years, the program ended. The children were reintegrated.
We watched them be approached by children born outside captivity, all feeling the stress of the meeting. There was some of us in those children, which made it all the more difficult to see them turned on, to see their insides brought outside, to see their flesh being torn as our masks might.
In the observation theatre, the horror and the failure registered on our all our faces, except those in their mother masks. Their expressions remained unmoving and stoic as their children were disassembled.
(written by Andrew Hood, read by Chioke I'Anson)
That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here
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