Hiding Behind A Mask | MASKLESS TRILOGY BOOK 1

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CHAPTER 1

“I must never take the mask off.”

“I must never take the mask off,” the crowd repeats.

“No matter the scoff.”

“No matter the scoff.”

“No matter the torment, no matter the pain.”

“No matter the torment, no matter the pain.”

“Taking off this mask will admit that I’m vein.”

“Taking off this mask will admit that I’m vein.”

It’s long past that dark and traumatic night of the man in the mask. Becca is ready to receive her teen mask, ready to choose her side. The Dark Clan or the Light Clan.

The Dark Clan is mysterious and the trouble to the obedient. They create chaos and malevolence in the world. Most of them are mentally unstable or downright stupid.

The Light Clan is quite contrary. They keep the peace and keep busy fighting the Dark Clan. These characters are majestic and intelligent, and everything they do is for good. Being on the Light Clan will, piece by piece, pull your mask back to where you can finally take it off when you die.

The Dark Clan’s masks seem to grow over time. They become shrouded by black cloth, starting by attaching it to their masks and working their way down their body. A fully cloaked Dark Clan member can mean one of two things. One: they’re old and getting close to dying, or two: they’re young and they’ve gotten into trouble more times than they should have.

The second is the one to fear.

“This mask is to hide the shame of the terrible, horrible things you have done. Know this as you switch masks behind this curtain,” the man in the white mask behind the podium sweeps his arm parallel to the stage curtain behind him. “Behind it, there are two masks. Many of you have pondered this decision, and many of you are still pondering. Once you are back there, you must pick a mask. They are plain and ordinary, and the only difference is one is black and one is white. Trust yourself and your heart, and choose. Once chosen, you can use the mirror for one hour in the next room to decorate it.”

The crowd is silent, trained not to speak unless told to do so.

“With each mask, comes a different responsibility. Break any of the rules, and you will be stripped of your mask and placed in the Dark Clan. After that, they will put you on trial and decide your fate for you.

“Now, we begin.”

One by one, Becca watches as the seats beside her empty. Each person goes up onto the stage and walks out in either mask, the crowd clapping politely. They then disappear behind a door to the left of the stage, off to decorate the mask.

The decoration of the mask is more for identification. Becca had always loved that part because she felt she was free to do something of her own. The mask she wears has been hers, and its a reflection of who she is.

“Becca Reed,” the man announces.

Slowly, she makes her way to the stage, feeling all of the eyes framed by masks following her every movement. She counts the steps as she makes her way up them and looks up at the man in the full white mask. He nods and she moves the heavy curtain aside, making a slit big enough for her to slip through.

Behind the big curtain, there are two piles of masks. A white pile and a black pile. Before them are two tables with a sheet of paper and a pen placed neatly on its surface.

Her feet are heavy, weighed down by this decision.

Becca has never been a troublemaker of any kind. She followed the rules and was always on time to everything. She never talked back, never set things on fire, and she never ever wanted to, either.

But she has broken rules by accident before.

As she reaches the tables, she glances over at the black pile. Being in the Dark Clan was a dangerous decision, deadly even. That group is for the insane, for the rejects, for the rule breakers. Becca would never fit in, should she choose that.

The image of the man in black appears in her mind as she stares at the pile, and she looks away quickly.

Becca glances down at the tables. Dark Clan – Name and Light Clan – Name are placed at the top of each paper in bold print. Below the words, numbers line themselves down the page like little army men, and off to the side sit names of the students that went before her. There are more names on the Light side, of course. Most of them will break a rule and be excluded from the clan within the next year or so, or at least that’s what Becca and her class was told.

She picks up the pen and glances over at the black pile one last time. A shudder goes through her as she brings the pen down to touch the paper. She will never be like the man was that night she threw her mask on the ground.

Becca stands up after making sure she spelled her name correctly (mind you, she’s very nervous, very nervous indeed). She reaches up and unties the knot that wraps around her brown hair to hold the mask in place.

The cool air touches the skin that’s been hidden underneath the hot mask, and she sighs. She hates wearing the mask, she always has, but she doesn’t want to break the rules, doesn’t want to make anybody mad.

Becca drops the mask to the ground, the sound bringing back the traumatic memory again. She stands still for a moment to collect her thoughts and calm down.

The white pile seems to smile at her welcomingly as she looks upon the masks. Most of them are of a person smiling, and only a few of them have huge, dramatic frowns. These masks are different than the adult masks because they have bigger eyeholes and you are able to see your mouth. Once she reaches the adult stage in her life, she will acquire a new mask, one with smaller eyeholes that have tinted glass in them and without a hole for her mouth to be seen.

She walks towards the pile, trying to decide which face she wants. This will be her face for the next seven years, until she turns twenty.

Becca reaches for a face that reminds her of a doll.

Her hand is seized by a black clothed hand.

She shrieks and tries to twist her arm away from the stone-grip. The masks slowly fall away from the figure as it stands up.

“You’re choosing the wrong pile,” the voice behind the mask slithers down to her ears as she realizes it’s the same man who scared her in the alleyway. “Choose the black pile. You need to choose the black pile!”

He starts to pull her over to the other pile and he reaches for the first black mask he sees. Becca still clutches the white mask with her left hand for her life, as if it could save her.

The man takes the mask and looks at Becca’s bare face. She doesn’t understand. Why her?

“Oh, Becca,” the man coos. “Oh, Becca, Becca, Becca. You’re not pure. No, you’re not pure. You need a black mask. You can’t have the white mask.

“Help!” Becca cries, finally finding her voice. “Somebody help!”

The curtain is flung aside and the man with the full white mask comes in. He hesitates as he takes in the scene before him.

“Unhand that girl,” he demands, and the man looks at him. “Unhand that girl right now!”

“No,” the man in black hisses. “No, she needs to be with me.”

The man in the white mask charges forward and reaches out to rip the hand from Becca’s wrist. Before he can lay a finger on the man in black, he lets go, laughing.

They all deserve the black masks.”

The man in black turns and walks away, leaving Becca shaking in terror and with tears threatening to fall from her eyes. Why hadn’t she done anything? Why hadn’t she ran?

I froze, she thinks. I froze just like I did in the alleyway.

She looks down at the white mask in her hand. She had been gripping it so hard that a piece from the top of the forehead was broken off and crumbling in her hands.

The man in the white mask turns to her and she hears him sigh from behind his mask.

“Why did he do that…?” Becca whispers to the man. “Why did he do that to me…?”

The man places his hands on her shoulders and looks into her eyes, as far as Becca can tell through the tinted glass in the eyeholes.

“Because he’s part of the Dark Clan. He’s mentally unstable.” The man looks down at the mask she holds in her hands and touches the place it was broken. “I suggest you do everything you can to not become one of them, especially when he’s still alive, Becca Reed.”

She nods and he helps her with her mask, tying it in a tight knot behind her head. She pulls the brown hairs that had gotten caught in the ribbon and flattens them down.

The man nods and walks back out on the stage with her, as if nothing had happened at all.

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