She shouldn’t be here. It’s not the white-faced mask. It’s not the black horns sticking straight up like satanic antennae that must be attuned to my thoughts. It’s the wings. Her tattered black wings. For one thing, they’re taking up too much room. She got on when the car was mostly empty. But now, three stops later, there are more people on board and there just isn’t enough room. Why doesn’t she do something about them, those wings?
I think she must be watching me. That must be why she’s wearing a mask that hides her eyes so well. You can’t be sure of what she’s watching. But I’m sure she’s watching me. It’s not unusual to wear a costume on a subway. She’s carrying her trick-or-treat basket, looking perfectly normal, just like any Halloween trick-or-treater. She’s standing primly, feet together, as if she were on review. But behind that mask you can’t tell what she is thinking, you can’t see where her eyes are turning, you can’t tell if she’s sniggering to herself.
I can hear the rustling sound of those wings. It’s infuriating. When she flaps them I can hear the faint cries of the cursed. I know what will happen when she reaches her stop. Those wings will carry her aloft, up the subway staircase and into the streets. And then who will she meet? I can tell you. It will be others of her kind, the watchers, the ones who stand quietly and stare at you and snigger behind the whiteness of their masks. The ones who burn in the fevered torment of their hate. The ones we must despise.
I know what I must do. Some things cannot be allowed. I pretend not to see. I pretend to read my book. But as we approach her stop, I am alert. I wait for the door to open and then I slip out behind her, well behind, looking down, appearing innocuous.
She drifts up the stairway to the avenue above, a busy street crowded with cars and pedestrians, then turns right and crosses the street to enter an apartment building. But before she reaches the entrance I approach from behind and tear that mask from her face and plunge those pointed horns deep into the blackness of her heart over and over. And when she is still, when she can no longer watch me with her fevered eyes, I drag her body into the alley and seat her under the dim forgiveness of a porch light and fold her wings over her chest and tie them tightly so that she could never rustle them again.
by David S. Moore Published with Permission
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