I wrote this for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: New Life.

Let’s get to it.

Masking Guilt

I had only ever used the mask for small things before. Pulling pranks on my friends, speaking my mind to people, a one night stand here and there.

Now that we were out on our own, the fun I could have with it! There was only so much you could get up to in a small town like Sonder. In a city like Arver though, the possibilities were near endless.

Earlier this evening I used it to take a ride in the first car Arver had ever seen. It easily hit forty, putting a horse to shame. I convinced this pretty little blonde girl to go along with me. The car handled like a beauty, and so did she. Maybe it was because she was my first away from home, but she easily made my top ten.

When we were done, I dropped the girl off and put the car back. Aside from a stain on the passenger seat, no harm done.

I tried to walk away from the scene of the crime, but found myself surrounded by guards.

“Arrest that man!” The car’s owner was shaking his fists over his head, his extra chins shaking as he did so.

I laughed. I almost forgot about the mask. I removed it from my face, banishing the new life and returning to my life as Oliver.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I threw my hands up, exaggerating my shock.

The guards lowered their spears. If head-scratching was a tone of voice, you could hear it in their murmuring.

One spoke to me, “Did you see a man… ” I tuned him out as he rattled off a physical description. It didn’t matter to me. The mask made me someone different every time.

“Nope, sure didn’t.” I said, walking past the equally confused car owner.

I was heading back to the tavern to call it a night, hoping my family hadn’t noticed my absence. A roar disrupted the silence of the evening. I ran, following it to a house with its door literally knocked off its hinges.

I can’t help it. I go to trouble like a moth to flame, especially when the trouble involves my family. That roar belonged to Weiss.

I found him inside, beating the boy that Vidalia, Weiss’ twin sister, had been seeing.

I didn’t have a clue how this had started, but Weiss worked him over so badly that it looked as though he had been trying to paint the room. His fists were still hitting, slinging blood about. If the boy ever made a noise, I didn’t hear it over Weiss’ bellowing. He was silent, no movement, when I showed up.

I wrapped my arms around Weiss, tucking my head to keep his horns from poking me anywhere vital. Gods, he was strong. A half foot shorter than me without his horns, but I couldn’t do a thing to stop him.

“Weiss, buddy! It’s alright, calm down.” I pleaded with him. “It’s over, you can stop.” His blows ceased.

He turned to me as the glowing red left his eyes. “Oliver?” He seemed disoriented.

I wanted to ask what happened but there wasn’t time. I heard a woman shouting for guards before I stepped into the house.

“Here, put this on.” I frantically slapped the mask on him, just in time. The guards stormed the room.

“What the fuck?” Weiss seemed stunned by both bewilderment and enlightenment as the mask told him my secret.

“He did it!” I shouted, pointing at Weiss.

“Hey!” Weiss protested as I snatched the mask from his face, before the guards could close on him.

The guards showed signs of confliction, as though they felt something was wrong, but the masks invocation was strong.

“Well? He’s getting away!” I pointed out the door. They gave chase to my suggestion.

With the guards gone, Weiss asked, “So, it was you?” His speech slurred, and it occurred to me he had probably been drinking.

“Me what?” I feigned ignorance.

“Did all that shit before.”  I couldn’t tell if he wanted to laugh or hit me. After  what I had just witnessed, I hoped it was the former. He laughed.

“Yeah, but you’ll forget by tomorrow. Come on.” I wrapped my cloak around him, hiding the blood on him as best I could. I took the chance to get a whiff of him. He reeked so much of alcohol. I suppose it was excusable that I had failed to notice it in the midst of his assault.

We were both quiet as I led him through shadows on the way back to the tavern.

I learned what had incited Weiss’ rage from Arabella, his younger sister. It made sense. I was inclined to say I might have done the same.

Morning came and Weiss sat across from me, his brow furrowed. “Is that guy alright?”

I hid my surprise. “Yeah, Weiss, he’s fine.”

So fine that I had stayed up the rest of the night getting the cart ready to go just as soon as day broke.

“Alright. I just wanted to make sure the bastard didn’t hurt her again.”

“I know.”

He wouldn’t hurt anyone again. Weiss had made damn sure of that. The kid was as dead as dead could get before I managed to stop him. I’d bear the guilt for him, covering up his murder by pinning it on some fictitious persona of the mask’s creation.

“Just don’t talk about this around Vidalia. Better we never talk about that asshole again.” I wanted to get out of Arver before Vidalia found out what happened. I’m sure Arabella knew. You can’t wash that much blood off a person without wondering who died.

“Sounds good to me,” Weiss said.

Later, as we loaded ourselves in to the cart, I wished to myself I would never have a reason to use the mask like that again. I knew that should I ever have cause to do so, I would. Anything for my family.

The End?

No, it’s not.

These characters, Oliver, Weiss, Vidalia, and Arabella are a group I intend to write a novel for later. They have a ton of material that I can use for short stories.

I made a list of my characters that I felt could fit the topic and Oliver seemed most fitting.

I can’t wait to share more about them. But I have to. I can’t give too much away and I can’t write everything I want to at once.

So… later. If you want to read more, or want info on my upcoming novel The Sarimist Loyal, I’d appreciate the hell out of you for signing up for my mailing list over on the sidebar. Comments would also be a thrill.