Who is next?

The first time Sidhu had found it in their local market, he thought it would be a nice gift for his son. A black mask with curvy edges and square face was, of course, very rare. Somehow, there was something in that mask that drew his eyes. Hundred bucks for a mask was a bit expensive but it was even more rewarding for him to see his son jumping up in delight.  He bought it immediately and tucked it under his shift.  

“Dhruv, fetch me a glass of water beta!”

His son, Dhruv, went inside for water. Sidhu, gingerly, took out the beautiful mask. 

“Look what I’ve had for you. A beautiful gift”

Dhruv widen his eyes with a bright smile. 

“Is this for me, Papa?”. 

He could not contain his happiness. Running into his hand, he picked it up immediately and put it on his face. But the next moment, he tossed it aside and shrieked out in an agonizing pain. 

His face was partially burnt before he could untie the mask. 

The next morning Sidhu had to dispose it off a little away from their house. His mind fell well short of logic anyway. His son did recover from the pain, but his mind did not.

***********************

The dingy lane had been filled out with people as soon as the sun sneaked through the tattered huts. Naman was also in that lane, walking briskly towards the shared toilet of their slum. Suddenly his eyes darted to his right. There was a black mask on a pile of debris. He picked it up before anyone could find him there.

A wicked smile ran on his lips. The leftover of this city was heaped near their slum. ‘The mask may not be important to this city, but to me, it certainly is.’ He thought and then blended into the crowd. 

An hour later, Naman was caught up in a fierce battle with his wife. Not able to find enough money to look after his family, he was often driven out of his home. Sonu, his wife, was tired making both ends meet. She leaned onto the door and her eyes looked at distance. 

Naman held the mask tightly on his face. He came to meet his mistress, Ruhi, and stood outside her gate. He’d planned to shock her with that mask. As soon as he broke into her house, three police constables held him by his collar. “Scoundrel, so you have behind this honey-trap’’. The mask slipped off his face.

***********************

“This must fetch me good price”. Murmured Manoj, the Police constable. The black mask was in his bag. Slowly, he walked inside the trading market and cut a good deal.

That evening, inside his blanket, Manoj was half asleep. There was no one in his house. A long fine white thread slithered into his ear. A moment later, a thin streak of blood crawled down his nose.

Next morning, that mask was again there in the market.  

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Pritam Sen
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