The Mask of Mano
by Austin Treat
“The mask made me do it,” said the young Liberian. He was tall for his age, slouching his sweat-glazed head to his chest as he stood in the musky odor of the hut. Incense and blood tickled his nose. He shuffled forward.
Smoke obfuscated the hut, obscuring the boy’s visibility. He squinted and kept walking. On a gnarled wooden table with three small chairs and a goat’s carcass, lay an ancient mask. A weak flame from a brazier flickered in the shadows. The mask came into detail.
It was carved from a single piece of wood, smoothed to a shine. Gonlekpei, that was its name. Luogon, the barefooted boy, liked that name for the mask—“Man under the Hut,” it meant. He thought it fitting, Gonlekpei’s high cheekbones, elongated nose, and coarse beard reminded Luogon of his Colonel.
Luogon bent over to pick up the mask, a small wedge of hashish escaped his pocket. Gonlekpei glared into his dilated eyes, bloodshot and vacant. A woman’s scream erupted somewhere behind him.
“My boy!” she cried, shrill and quivering with grief. “What did you do?!”
Luogon searched for answers in Gonlekpei’s empty sockets. “Too old...” he whispered. “Bullets…”
Luogon returned Gonlekpei to his altar. Then he found his kalash and shot the woman six times. He went to investigate the body. His foot struck against the wedge of hashish which had fallen from his pocket moments before. He smiled at his good fortune, retrieved his treasure, and gently secured it back into his pocket.
On his way out of the pungent tent, ripe with decay, Luogon almost forgot to check if the woman still drew breath. The Colonel always rewarded due diligence.
One of his bullets had struck her left eye. “She’s dead,” he thought to himself. Her lifeless body was crumpled in a heap on the floor, her arms draped over the skinny frame of her eldest son, his skin porous with bullet holes.
Among the gore and spent cartridges, Luogon almost didn’t recognize the faces of his mother and older brother.
“The mask made me do it,” he said, more to himself than anyone.
*Luogon can be translated as ‘boy born after the death of a sibling’
First Published at The Umass Scribe
It's Deadly to be Trans in America
by Austin Treat
By fusing morality into his rhetoric, President Trump creates an invasive idea that associates the Equality Act with something ethically compromising, reinforcing the ideals of MAGA propaganda and wordsmithing.
Published at the NUHA Foundation
Coke Bottles Over Golan by Austin Treat
An Israeli tank division is ambushed by Syrian forces during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
Published at Everyday Fiction