by Erin Oweczkin
Faces. They are something that I think largely about. No-one is unique where I stand. No-one can get a clear glimpse of my green eyes or know the length of my hair. We all wear masks, the kind that refuse any emotional recognition; all anyone knows of the person who wears a stylized, white monkey mask is my name: Hisaru, the ‘Fire Monkey’.
We stand in organised lines, elite at the front and novice at the back. I stand at the front; and all of us before an Empress with a face too delicate to crease from the job she fulfils. She watches our Master name orders; he doesn’t have to raise his voice, we are all listening.
“Tonight on the twelfth stroke we attack. We will show no mercy.”
This is all, he waves his hand and we disperse like moths.
My comrades slice and maim their enemies, doing as Master said.
I come to face my first enemy; he wears a classic black mask that shields his expressions from the world not that mirrors my own. Throwing him over my hip I accidentally knock his mask off. I see his face and it is not as I expected. Only fear pains it; no real hatred. Two blue eyes show me that his heart is not in this. This man has a life, a world where he is loved and would be missed.
We leap, swords raised and my head swarming.
I can’t do this anymore.
My katana clatters onto the ground along with my shuriken and I feel a cold steel kiss my shoulder.
I can’t keep my eyes open. I am gone.
My eyes barely flutter open. I know what waits for me again; a bitter white room, an unimpressive bed and hopefully this time, a window. There will be no faces to show their happiness; that I will be alright. Just another collection of masks. How can parents care for their son if they themselves were lost long ago?
My hand reaches to my bandaged shoulder, yes; that will become a new scar; one of many. It doesn’t matter though; I am for the first time in my life angry that blood was spilt. It doesn’t matter whose; just that it was spilt at all.
One week passes; I am healed and standing in a familiar line of faces that I will never see.
“The battle was won…” Master says proudly.
I don’t want to hear anymore. I take no notice and look up at the Empress. She is not smiling, but she is not sad. Her face never moves. It might as well be a mask. She knows she caused something needless. She knows that the enemies weren’t enemies at all and they posed no threat.
The Empress knows this and yet she still begins wars.
She will not always be right but she will always have the right to do as she pleases; that is her mask.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'The Hoops of the Road'