Chapter 62 - Masks
Grant finished his food and licked his plate clean.
“You’re still eating like an animal, Grant,” Saraiya said as she leaned back in her chair.
He smiled wryly as his eyes met with Rhett, who gave a grim expression. They really did feel that Grant could be part animal now, but to what amount?
“I’m going to go prepare for my ceremony duties now.” Kale’s shoulders drooped down as Zair bounced atop. His gloved hands stroked through the cat’s fur as he walked towards his trailer.
“What is it that Kale has to do?” Rhett asked Ambri.
“He probably wanted it to be a secret from you guys,” she lowered her voice. “He is tasked with giving the speeches and performing the rituals.”
Grant froze. “R-rituals?”
Rhett and Grant once again locked eyes, this time Saraiya’s bewildered stare joined in the jumble of unease.
“Of course! Rituals! What kind of ceremony would it be without any kind of ritual?” Ambri smiled and began collecting together all the plates, stacking one upon another.
“I guess… It’s not going to be anything weird though, right?” Rhett asked.
“Depends on your definition of weird. Our culture here could be considered strange to an outsider I suppose. But, you guys aren’t really outsiders anymore. Still, you guys will just have to wait and see.” She then gathered the dirtied silverware and dropped them onto the top plate. A clash of metal spoons, forks, and knives; the silverware had fulfilled its role. Only when a utensil had been cleaned of all the wear would it be useful again. Grant felt like his entire being needed a cleansing, his ability to judge was now broken, anything seemed possible in this new world.
“You guys really don’t have any need to worry though,” Ambri said.
“I’ve read up on many “rituals,” the majority do seem odd, but not terrible… Unless you guys have one of those disturbing rituals, like religions of the past used to practice,” Saraiya laughed.
“You guys don’t need to worry, it’s just a small symbolic ritual. As if cleansing the soul. Calm down you two.” Ambri looked at Grant and Rhett whose bodies were both stiff with fright.
They were lousy at keeping up this endeavor of acting, they really did themselves a favor by not telling Saraiya. At least she was able to remain calm in this situation, unknowing of the possibilities.
What possible outcomes could even be in store for this ceremony? Neither Grant, nor Rhett knew, but their minds focused on the worst case scenario. Becoming human experiments.
As everyone else helped clean up the mess from dinner, the three new family members sat and waited. Being waited for and cleaned up after, while not being at a restaurant felt abnormal to Grant. Their manners in this moment knew no bounds when it came to kindness, if it weren’t for the connections Rhett brought to light last night, he would have thought their goodwill was one of neighborly love. But that sliver of doubt grew strong.
Helda came approaching the three, holding a bundle of white in her hands. As she neared, Grant’s face scrunched up. The horrific masks made their way over.
“I’ve brought you guys your ceremony attire,” Helda said, holding the masks out in front of her. “They’re handmade too!” She fumbled her fingers through the masks, separating them and displaying them before the group.
Rhett reached out and grabbed one right away, no hesitation. How could he be so brave all the sudden? Even Saraiya hesitated to grab one. The disturbed expressions carved into the faces, as if crying out for help. Drowned in a layer of cemented horror, the faces permanently positioned in fear.
After Saraiya grabbed one, Grant reached out and took the final one and felt the dry crusty material.
“What do you mean by attire?” Grant asked.
“You guys need to wear it for the ceremony! It’s tradition!” Helda said, her smile an extreme display of happiness that contrasted with the masks’ dark anguish. Which feeling was appropriate?
The three looked at each other in disgust. Things just kept getting stranger.
“Don’t worry! We will all be wearing our masks too!” Helda pulled a string around that was on her neck, revealing her ugly face she would wear.
The three once again looked at each other, this time eyes open fully, terrified. Even if Grant hadn’t learned anything from last night, this situation would still have created a chaotic stir amongst them. A room full of fake faces. Fake emotions. Fake people. People?
Grant’s breathing grew quicker, but he quelled it. Rhett and Saraiya seemed to feel just as perturbed.
“Aw all of your masks are kind of cute!” Ambri said as she approached them, patting Grant and Rhett on the back as they both twitched.
“Cute?” Saraiya scoffed.
“Well, compared to mine,” she said while reaching out to pick up Saraiya’s mask. “Helda has got a lot better at designing these I have to say.”
“Oh thanks, dear.” Helda scratched her head, her mask held to the side of her face. “We are about done cleaning now, perhaps you three should hop into Lars’s truck! The guests of honor need to arrive first anyway.”
“Sounds good to me! Go ahead and get in guys!” Lars said, as he strolled up.
The three walked up to the truck and all jumped in the backseats. It seemed Lars had actually cleaned his car for this occasion. It was immaculate. Grant was used to having to be wary about stepping or sitting on clutter.
“I can’t wait until today is over,” Saraiya said.
“You’re telling me…” Rhett sighed.
“This keeps getting more and more strange. I’m actually getting nervous for the ceremony,” Grant said.
“I don’t think there is anything to be nervous about though.” Saraiya placed her mask over her face. “Well, maybe just this.” She brought her face close to Grant, the face of a crying devil and made her impression of a spooky sound, but she sounded like a dying cow.
“Honestly, what the hell is the purpose of those? These are terrifying.” Grant let out a small chuckle and turned his head, quieting, not wanting to stare at Saraiya’s mask for too long.
“Kale warned me ahead of time about these being for us, but he never said we’d have to wear them…” Rhett stared at his own mask.
Saraiya took her mask off. “By the sounds of it, we have to keep them too?!”
“I know where I’ll be keeping mine…” Grant said.
The front door opened and Lars hopped in. “Okay everyone, I hope you are ready for the real show!”
The three gave an unenthusiastic affirmation, and Lars chuckled.