- 10 Apr - 16 Apr, 2021
- 27 Feb - 05 Mar, 2021
"My masker," Myron told her.
"This isn't your original body? I'd understood it to be…"
"…you people don't know how masks work, do you," said Myron in exasperation. "Okay. I'll explain. You need to know this if you don't want him to run off and disappear." And he took it upon himself to go over everything there was to know about masks for her. It was soothing, in a way; yes, the police department was dangerously undereducated about a key characteristic of the case, but we were making a contribution to the effort now, even if it was appalling that the effort needed making.
When he'd run out of things to tell the cop about masks, he subsided. "Is it all right if I hang up?" he asked.
"Yes, but we're going to send a squad car out to your house to keep an eye on you," she said. "You don't have to let them in, but they'll be parked in the driveway to scare him off if he approaches, all right?"
"Mm–hm," said Myron, "thank you, officer," and he hung up and went to find us something to eat. Hunger had hit suddenly, after stress had kept it at bay. He fried up a burger. I told him to put pesto on it, and he did.
"I like this being able to talk thing," I commented, when the burger was gone and he was putting milkshake ingredients in a blender.
"I could get used to doing it sometimes. Not in public – though you do have to show me pictures of everyone else you're related to, seriously, especially women aged eighteen to forty."
"I will, I will."
"I can do it sometimes. It'd be weird if you started talking to the other maskers, though."
"There aren't any yet, perhaps it'll turn out we have nothing in common," I said.
"It would be weird," he repeated. "But if we're alone in a room, I can let you talk in case there's anything you need to say. That's not going to – ruin your experience of being me, or anything?"
"Nah," I said. "Maybe if I talked while you were trying to do music, but I can just not do that."
"If you did I'd stop letting you, I need silence," he said firmly.
"But if you're just making food…"
"You want to tell me to put pesto on it," he interrupted dryly. "Understood. I can work with that."
"No problem. Thanks for, uh, saving my life."
We waited by the phone. He plugged it in to charge, when it got late. He looked at the squad car at the end of the driveway, paced a little more. He attempted briefly to play piano but couldn't keep focus on it. He went to bed.
In the morning he had voicemail from the cops; they'd used Carol's information to find one of the murderer's masks and removed it from the wearer, they'd found the security guy's kid and taken that mask too. The one in prison had been demasked and the wearer released on bail, supposedly tried for the possibility of collaboration in a likely futile prosecutory effort. Which seemed insane to me, but I suppose nobody could prove that he hadn't been the murderer's pawn, helping mow down Myrons just like I occasionally volunteered opinions on pesto.
They had the real, original body of the murderer – they believed – cornered in a hotel room, but he'd gotten a hostage. The hostage was wearing him, and they both had guns, and were pointing them at each other. Cartoonishly enough, the cops didn't know which they could shoot without getting an innocent bystander, and couldn't approach to remove the mask forcibly without whichever one was wearing a mask getting shot. They were having a standoff, or maybe it would be better called a siege. The murderer's bodies could sleep in shifts, each training a gun on the other to maintain their indistinguishability though one would never really fire, but they didn't have any food in the hotel room. Sooner or later they'd, or rather he'd, give up.
Still, they weren't turning themselves in yet, and Myron worried that the murderer was waiting for someone to put on their own mask of him, held in abeyance for whatever reason. This would work if there was still at least one living body of his at the time, but a dead person can't live in an inert mask; if some sleeper masker waited until after the police had shot him to don the thing it would just be stained papier–maché. As long as the murderer was still alive in any body – and this very flight risk meant that he couldn't count on being kept that way in custody – he could turn up across the planet on a moment's notice, supposing that he'd prepped for this.
His face was all over the news. Myron kept it on in the background, and the occasional detour into stories about a fraudster in the finance industry and a guy caught smuggling exotic plants across the border and a speech delivered by the First Lady were invariably interrupted by bulletins with a series of photographs of the fellow: the one from prison before they'd taken the mask off, the ones they were besieging, the one they'd found worn by the security guy's son. The anchor's voice went over and over, maybe prerecorded, over the danger he posed.
"That's not going to be good for my odds of getting another body," muttered Myron. "Everybody was thinking about how much this incredibly dangerous murderer wants to waste me and anybody wearing me."
"Was there anybody you had to turn away in a screening before you could get a hold of again?" I asked. "Somebody who you would have had to keep closer track of, not use for some things. Right now you'd rather have one who didn't want you to have sex in their body than nobody, right? Or someone who wanted more days off, or didn't want you to eat, uh, non–kosher food or something."
"Maybe. Briony would know better than I would – she might have already thought of it –" He grabbed the nearest phone, picked out a message to her. "She screens everybody; I only meet people who pass her filter. I don't know how hard she tries to scare people off, but that's mostly about the money and a lot of insurance just paid out big, and it's worth more to me now..."
"She didn't try very hard except for making me read the whole contract," I said, "that part
"You'd rather have just been stuffed in a mask with no idea that I could clause–fourteen you?"
"I wasn't expecting any of the weird contingencies to come up!"
"They usually don't! But you've had an exciting time of it, now, haven't you," Myron commented. "Not at all the sort of authentic being–Myron–Lasko experience I try to deliver."
"A little too exciting, yeah. I'll be glad when it settles down and you're just back to working again and can play piano for more than five minutes at a time. I like it when you play piano."
"Maybe I should keep better track of this sort of thing since I'm going to start distinguishing bodies with jewelry anyway. What's your birthstone?"
"Alexandrite," I said. "Some months don't have several to choose from, though, you don't want Briony turning someone away because they're an amethyst and you already have an amethyst."
"Drat. I mean, I could vary it in some other way... and it'd help me memorise your birthdays..."
"Oh, do I get a present?"
"Maybe. Not that I know what to get you, you took me off before you exhibited any characteristics on your break and then I died a few times before you could even get very far into wherever you were going with that, so."
"I didn't have any plans. My life was incredibly boring."
"How does that happen?" wondered Myron. "I know it does, of course, but – how? If you're bored, can't you... go.... do things?"
"...some people aren't as passionate about something as you are? Or they're not good at it, and so when they try to do it as much as you do music, nothing interesting happens, and it feels like a waste of time, and they get less passionate," I said. "Or – or it's like when you start trying to play the piano, and then you can't, and you stop. All the time, with everything, not just while they're recovering from near death experiences."
He looked at his hands. "Yikes," he said.
"It'd be good if more people were like you. I mean, by them," I said. "But we're not. So apart from the whole murder thing I'm glad you and me could work something out."
"Me too," he said. "I mean, I feel like you're getting the raw end of the deal here."
"Funny," I said, "I feel like I'm getting something for nothing."
The cops risked tear gassing the hotel room after the siege hit twenty four hours, and the murderer and his masker didn't fire in the distraction; maybe he'd even lost track of which was which however he'd coded their clothing or posture to mean "this one's the hostage". Or he didn't want to endure the pain of getting shot if he couldn't be sure of his aim getting a kill shot on the first try. Or it had been a bluff to give a sleeper time to decide to don a mask to begin with.
They went in and got the guns away and took off the mask. The murderer's original body got shot. There wasn't a protocol for extra judicially executing a guy for being a mask making murderer, but considering the sleeper wearer possibility, nobody really expected the cop who killed him to be convicted, and if she was it'd probably come down to a suspended sentence or something like that. Call it defense of the innocent, whichever patsy had one of his masks in a drawer somewhere and instructions to put it on.
Briony dug up past screened–out candidates who didn't want to have sex with men even if they were other Myrons, or eat anything spicy, or go without a day off every week, and found some who were still interested if their conditions were met. Myron picked and masked two of those whose limits he felt best able to work with. I memorised their names, just in case it ever came up. He also got another parolee, a violent recidivist drunk who wasn't too put off by MacDougal's fate. MacDougal had lived to be fairly old without suffering a day's infirmity, being Myron Lasko, and it was safe enough now with the murderer mopped up (or at least deprived of the advantage of surprise) – there'd been no sign of him rearing his head anywhere, living on as another body.
We were probably safe.
"It would have been poetic if you'd masked the mask maker," I commented.
"Probably cruel and unusual for him," Myron said. "Being me when he hated me so much. And that would have left him alive, left his masks active if he even did have any..." He hovered a spoonful of pesto threateningly over a bowl of ice cream.
"Don't you dare," I said, and we laughed, or I did, or he did.
He bought us all silver rings with our initials engraved into them and put them on each right–hand ring finger.
Myron felt more like themselves in four bodies again. He announced a comeback tour, of sorts – after a hiatus of only weeks it was more of a confirmation tour. He called it "Resurgence", wrote a new song about being murdered several times for it – I would have liked it more if it had been a metaphor, but everything in the song was literal.
He looked at my ring a lot, and I saw his other bodies looking at those rings too.
He kept track of us.
He did most of his piano practice with me. Ducked into the bathroom to check in before picking anyone up even though he could now recognise my entire family tree and all my exes.
My sister wrote long emails about throwing my life away, but I wasn't. I was exactly what I'd wanted to be when I grew up since I was twelve.
I was Myron Lasko. –Anonymous