A trip to the museum can have unexpected consequences…




“When, exactly, did you begin seeing this dark face?” asked Dr. Huntley, his washed out blue eyes peering through his round glasses at me.

I was reluctant to talk about it, but it had become so disturbing that I had to tell somebody.  It had to be a hallucination so who better to tell than my shrink?  I shifted on the couch, the stiff leather crackling as I moved to cross my legs at the ankles.  I stared at the ceiling.

“It resembles a mask more than a face, Doc.  It showed up a month ago, after my trip to the museum.”

He perked up.  “What did you see at the museum, what exhibits?”

I didn’t want to say it; I knew what he would think, but… “I looked at paintings, and saw the African crafts display.”

“Ah, and what was in the display?”

“Carvings of animals, people, examples of homespun cloth, that sort of thing.  No masks if that’s what you’re thinking.”

He stared at me, then looked down at his notes.  He cleared his throat.

“This…mask, how does it behave when you see it?”

“It just stares, Doc.  It doesn’t do anything.”

“Well, Gerald, I know you’ve been disturbed ever since your accident, so I’m going to give you a prescription for something that will calm your nerves.  Let’s try it for a while, see if it helps.”

I was dubious but I nodded, and he called the prescription in.  I picked it up on the way home from work.

Later, the mask stared at me from the darkened entry hall at home, disappearing when I hit the light switch.  I eyed the medicine bottle.  Take two tablets twice a day with water.  Okay.  I popped two into my mouth, upended the water glass and swallowed.

After a half-hour of TV, I glanced around the room seeing no sign of the mask lurking in any of the dimly lit corners.  The knot in my stomach uncoiled, and I went to bed.

Of course, I’d lied to the doctor.  There were masks in the African exhibit, but I couldn’t tell him about the one that had looked at me, could I?  The dark, elongated one with slits for eyes that seemed to watch me as I stood there; that had smiled at me with a cruel twist to its full lips that had sent a spear of ice down my spine.  I’d fled the museum, relieved once I was outside in bright, cloudless, daylight.  Short-lived relief, because, afterwards, the thing loomed in every unlit spot, every shadow.

Now, a sound awakens me.  Oddly, I can’t move.  I realize I’m in the museum, in the African exhibit room.  A man stands before me.  He looks familiar: he’s my doppelgänger.  Raking me with his cold eyes, he smiles wickedly, knowingly, and exits the room.

Then, I see the mask staring woodenly at me.  It’s a reflection from a mirror on the opposite wall.

If I could scream, I would.