• 30 Jan - 05 Feb, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

I'll cope."

I coped.

One of Myron's bodies blew in after I'd signed the contract (and Briony had ordered pizza for dinner, and I'd been quizzed on how many second cousins I had and how many times I'd read my favourite book). I was expecting to be grilled. Actually he just shook my hand and asked my name and wanted to know if I was sure, read Briony's notes and asked if they were all right, made sure I'd signed the (interminable) contract –then,

"You want to schedule a trip to the mask maker for later or just go on now?"


"She's not busy right now but we can probably get an appointment later this week if you need to wrap anything up," he smiled.

I swallowed and said, "Now's fine."

The mask maker’s workshop was bigger than it needed to be - masks were easily made, quickly enchanted. But the ability was so scarce that they could charge exorbitantly, and the place was beautifully expensive, tiled wall and floor in marble with gilded molding and curtained against the sunset. The maskmaker barely talked to me at all. She just murmured to Myron and took his money and pulled a white mask - no eyeholes, just a cast of a generic face - out of her safe. She chanted softly while she made a short, deep cut across his forearm and caught blood in a pool in the mask. She asked my shoe size. They were too small for Myron and she told me to take them off.

Then she took my hands in hers and arranged them so I could cup the mask like a bowl, and gave it to me, and gestured for me to put it on.

My hands shook.

"Clock's ticking," said Myron. "Has to be fresh, first time you put it on."

I held my breath and pressed my nose into the accumulated blood.

And I was Myron Lasko.

Not being in control of how I moved didn't feel like anything. In the same way I could walk without paying attention to individual steps or hold an object without concentrating moment to moment on keeping my hand closed, I moved as Myron wished. Maybe he was being very deliberate about every bit of body language but I didn't have to be.

He was really healthy. He had good posture. He took deep diaphragmatic breaths and went around by default with a faint smile. He had a low resting heart rate and clear uncorrected vision and a smooth way of moving our hands when he tried them out.

We fixed his other body's hair - a bit of it had fallen out of place. Tipped the masker. Begged the use of a changing room to get out of my clothes and into a set his other body had brought - it did feel strange when he talked, with a little of the phatic reflex of "thank you" and "you're welcome" and "you too" but for full sentences. We sounded like him, but distorted: this was what he sounded like to himself.

Then the other body left, and it was just us being Myron there, which was strange. I wasn't operating the muscles, but I was all alone in my head, and there was a vertiginous feeling of being unsupervised in Myron Lasko's skin. Who knew what I might get up to? But all I got up to was what he thought was next - he changed into the snappier clothes, dumped mine in the bag, thanked the masker again, went out and hailed a cab.

The clothes he'd brought included a phone in the pocket; we pulled it out and started reading his social media aggregator (the contents of which I was contractually obliged not to divulge). Eventually he emailed Briony.

I'm sure you've already seen the debit in the account but yes, the mask's on. Please make appropriate purchases for the house, XOXO

I couldn't ask what appropriate purchases might be, and that - didn't feel like anything, exactly, but did remind me that I wasn't driving. I simultaneously felt like I merely hadn't chosen to speak, and knew that I wanted to.

Myron couldn't even tell. He might talk to me at some point but some point was not this cab ride. We shooed the social media and went into a pitch tuning app and we sang into it, warming up.

We sounded amazing.

Holy shit, I was Myron Lasko.

We got out of the cab at his mansion and nodded to his security. Sang in harmony with another body who was home, though I never saw it; our twinned voices echoed through the halls while we poured our self a cup of juice and the other body did Myron only knew what. Well. Myron and the applicable masker. It was easy to forget they were there. Presumably they could forget about me, too, they might not even notice I'd signed on if they weren't in use for the mask bleed or the preliminaries. Might not find out till they saw the updated estimate of how many bodies Myron had or he decided to have an all-hands concert. Or orgy. We all looked alike.

The juice tasted nice; whether it was because I would have liked the blend on my own or because I was using Myron's taste buds was unclear. We sang a bit more. Sat on the sofa and picked at lyrics (which I was contractually obliged not to divulge) on a battered legal pad.

Maskers needed sleep per body as much as anyone else and it was getting late. We'd only gotten one line down without crossing it out before he put us to bed. Stashed the bag of my clothes in a box in the closet, brushed our teeth, changed into pajamas, crashed.

He fell asleep easier than I did. We didn't toss and turn. Just closed our eyes and morning came.

After we were up and showered (which was really something, although Myron wasn't as fascinated as I was and didn't linger like I might have if I'd been solo in his skin), dressed and breakfasted.

The house seemed empty; the other bodies might have gotten up earlier, or they could be still asleep, or scattered in half a dozen hotels.

"So, how are you?" we said.

It took me a minute to realise he was talking to me and that I might be able to move our mouth, if I tried, if he was

letting me.

"...fine," I croaked. I still sounded like him, but like a distorted version, his timbre and my tone.

"Forget anything you remembered last night, need a few to tell your folks, having trouble adjusting to the mask...?"

"No. It's just… there's not much to adjust to."

"I've been told that. I never tried it myself from your end. You're all set to go back under?"

Is that what it was called. "Yeah. Thanks."

"Mm-hm." And he went back to working on the lyrics from

last night.

I didn't have to think about lyrics for lyrics to appear. Without even secondhand access to the creative process I might have expected to get bored, but I didn't. I just went along for the ride and occasionally my mouth hummed or muttered, my hand jotted down a line in his handwriting. Crossed something out, added a question mark in parentheses.

He played a lot of instruments and I was apparently on tap to practice all of them, after he decided to put the lyrics down (they didn't look done). He danced my fingers over piano keys, drilling tricky bits and performing flowing run-throughs of classics and his own compositions. We strummed his guitar and we sang along with it, trying chords. We applied his ridiculous breath control to wind instruments because there were no fewer than six people wearing his mask and he could sing while accompanying himself on the flute if he wanted to.

We had lunch. We called Briony in response to a text I hadn't seen.

Two of his other bodies showed up and he test-drove harmonies for the new song. I kept expecting it to descend into an orgy but he was so resolutely focused on music that I wound up surprised when it actually did.

It wasn't like I'd imagined, which was in some ways a disappointment - no, Myron Lasko did not conveniently have all my favourite kinks - but mostly much improved. Myron Lasko, surrounded by himselves, was as smoothly unselfconscious as if he were alone - he might as well have been for all the attention he had to pay to us, but distributing the sensation across multiple bodies did what one might expect for the experience. Also he didn't pause in the middle of his choreography to be sure that he was acting in character and imagining his own abs in sufficient detail, which gave it all an advantage over fantasy. He might have been careless about distributing the fun and the work between the participating maskers, but I lost track somewhere in the middle, having come out well in the allocation.

So it was a startling upset when suddenly all of us froze and fled in different directions, seizing several of Myron's phones.

We called 911.

One of the other bodies had been murdered.

I didn't get a chance to ask any questions for longer than I considered reasonable. If someone killed a masker, Myron was fine - witness how he was running us around, contacting everybody to tell his family he was fine. Whoever had owned the body, if it wasn't Myron's original, wasn't so lucky. But he chose to first give the police all the information he had on the circumstances on the murder. It didn't sound like much; a different masker wound up being the one who spoke to the police as Myron propelled me to the door to peer through the peephole and let Briony in.

"I came as soon as I heard," she said, wringing rain out of her hair onto the welcome mat and hanging up her jacket on Myron's coatrack. "You're already giving a statement?"

"Yeah. I didn't see anything conclusive but I can give them what I've got. Might help if they know how tall the guy was or something," we said. She opened her arms to offer him a hug; we took it.

"Who was it? I need to notify the family, the lawyers."

"You know I don't keep track of them except by vacation dates."

"Have the ones who are left sound off," Briony suggested.

Myron released my voice. I croaked out my name. He took it back before I could ask anything. A moment later he reported, "It was Brightman."

"I'll make the arrangements," said Briony. "I don't think there's any reason someone would have been after her, do you."

"Even if they were, how could they keep track when I don't? It has to be someone has it in for me, I'll need you to talk to the security company, remove everyone who was posted there tonight just to be safe, double security on net."

"They could be after MacDougal, and just willing to go through people to get him."

"No one even knows about MacDougal," objected Myron. "Not that I've got him in particular."

"His family do, the court does."

"All right, yes, but they've known for the last fifteen years and nothing's happened. Meanwhile, I get a heap of mail from people who want to lick my eyes and see my liver every week."

Briony shook her head. "It's more likely they're after you, but it can't hurt to let the police know that it could be someone trying to get at a masker they can't identify through you."

"Right. Fine," we said. "But give the cops all the creepy fan mail they could ask for, don't deliberately lead them down a rabbit hole about MacDougal."

"But you should warn MacDougal."

"He hasn't exactly been catching up with people from his past on his breaks! He's the one who reads Flat Earth articles and watches women's volleyball!"

"I didn't need to know that, Mr Lasko."

to be continued...