The following was my submission for #NYCMidnight (NYCMidnight.com) #FlashFictionChallenge for 2017. I left it as is (even though I now want to change multiple things!) just to see how far the pressure of deadline’s and editor-less hours get me! If you have a NYCMidnight account and participated in the challenge you can read my reviews from the other participants: Here (Coming Soon)
*My Prompts: Horror/A fashion show/A monster mask
When attempting to provide for her family, Dreana sacrifices everything about herself; but should she, or is it too late to change?
She was late. It had taken a year to get into the shape she needed to be in for someone, anyone, to hire her for any fashion shows. She hadn’t eaten for nearly a week just to prepare for Nomeda’s show. ‘It was all right,’ she thought, ‘I hardly have enough money to feed my baby, he needs food more than me.’
After a long drink from her water bottle, she entered the back door to the dressing rooms. Mirrors, costumes, flesh, and the smell of chemicals; normal things infiltrated her senses. She hurriedly looked for an open beauty station, but couldn’t find one.
“Dreana! You’re late,” Nomeda called.
She rushed across the room, “I’m sorry! The babysitter was in traffic. It won’t happen again!”
“You’re a broken record. That foul beast at home is a problem!” Nomeda accused before continuing, “I have something special for you. Come.”
Nomeda disappeared into the wardrobe room, and Dreana had no choice but to follow. ‘At least she seems to be letting me walk,’ she thought dejectedly. “Shouldn’t I be getting my face ready?” She asked, confused, as they made their way through one abstract outfit after another.
Nomeda laughed, seemingly more to herself, “Don’t worry about makeup.”
Dreana felt the malicious raised corner lip of Nomeda’s wrinkled face. The room grew darker being away from the hanging lights in the center as they approached the far corner. She shivered, not because of the temperature. Nomeda had scared her from the moment that she had her interview with her. Nomeda was the only one to hire her, though, and more importantly, pay her so she could keep her son fed and housed. Nomeda’s deep inset eyes turned to her as she stopped, hollow sockets with black orbs for eyes.
Displayed in front of Dreana, alone, away from all the other outfits, hung a dark maroon dress with a white cowl. A side table showed a solitary wooden mask, the grain of the wood spiraling from each cheek into the empty holes where eyes should be. Bone white spikes on the outside of the mask, a quarter the size of her little finger, curved down towards the chin, evenly spaced along each edge and where lips should be.
Nomeda motioned to a chair next to the side table. Dreana sat, shying away from the monstrous mask displayed next to her. Distracted by the mask she, for the first time, noticed she was at a beauty station next to the side table.
“Put it on,” Nomeda said, her nasty smile having faded into a frown seemingly drawn down with anchors that hung to the floor.
She hesitated, and Nomeda demanded again, more forceful. Dreana flinched and grabbed the mask. The texture of a cedar plank with the weight of old oak greeted her touch. The odd texture threw her off for a moment, and she stalled. Nomeda grew impatient and snatched the mask.
“I said put it on!” Nomeda lunged and smashed the mask hard onto Dreana’s face.
Dreana could feel the mirror crack against the back of her skull, and she tried to cry out, but the mask covered her mouth. ‘She’s so strong,’ Dreana thought before she felt the pain. Points dug into Dreana. With horror, she realized the spikes on the front of the mask were reversing into her skin. She didn’t have time to wonder why, or how, she could only feel the points stabbing into her with a cacophonous laughter from Nomeda filling her ears as she held her against the broken mirror.
The spikes digging into her lips and sealing her mouth shut felt distant, Dreana could feel her mind retreat. She watched her body respond as Nomeda released her and motioned to dress, her body followed, Dreana was no longer in control.
Dreana watched in horror as her body followed Nomeda’s requests and went to the catwalk. Without so much as a glance from the other models, Dreana’s body began the walk for the crowd awaiting the display.
She screamed and tore within herself. She had to regain control, not for her, but her baby.
‘No,’ Dreana said to herself, ‘NO!’ She screamed again, still voiceless, but determined.
She dug the eight fingernails that she had left and pushed as hard as she could into the space between the horrific wooden mask that had leeched itself into the skin of her face. After the fourth nail broke away from her finger, she finally dug deep enough past her jawline and into her cheek to get leverage below the wooden texture of the mask and pull as hard as she could. The skin on her cheeks tore like threads strung too taut where the mask had latched inside of her.
She couldn’t hear herself screaming as she continued to pull despite the pain. It was her tears seeping under the mask touching skin, her skin, that gave Dreana hope. The salty burns streaming from her eyes was the motivation she needed to pull with all her might, ignoring the pieces of flesh the demon of a mask took with it.
The cold rush of air across her skin was nearly enough to send her to the floor fainting. Tears continued to sting her cheeks, but it didn’t matter, they were her cheeks, her skin, she had broken away from the mask herself. She turned the mask over in her bloodied hands and stared into the empty eye sockets to the catwalk below. Drops of red spotted the white light of the panels on the runway, and she was distantly aware of buzzing in her ears; looking up she saw all the people around her through watery eyes.
The seats were full, and everyone was standing. Dreana’s mind was blank. ‘What is… Where am I?’ Was the only thought she could formulate. The buzzing in her ears began to make sense, they all were clapping, a thunderous noise through the silence of the pain that still filled her.