A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "The Renewal"
[Text by rugal.]
What Mike says is true: you found the book so of course you should take lead. You admit there's trepidation but what's the harm? Besides with Kim and Josie here you can't help but want to be a bit brave to impress them... and impress Mike and Fairfax to a lesser extent.
So you pick up the mask from the table and brace yourself by leaning against a stack of boxes. Taking a deep breath you raise the mask and put it to your face. For the briefest of seconds it seems like nothing happens, then everything suddenly goes dark.
* * * * *
"Oh my god, Will are you okay?"
It's Kim's voice that you hear as you come to. How long were you out for? Doesn't seem that long really but you suppose that's because you spent all of that time unconscious so it seems more like the blink of an eye. You can merely try and shake your head to try and get rid of the grogginess. "Hey, Kim. You sound freaked out," is all you can mumble.
"It was pretty freaky, dude," says another voice, Mike you realize. "You dropped like a sack of potatoes."
"Michael!" comes the admonishing voice of Josie.
"It's a crude way of putting it but it is true," says the calm voice of Fairfax as he and Mike help you to your feet. "You put that mask to your face and you were out."
You're starting to feel a little better now. "I guess I just got too nervous or something," you say. "I can't say that I've ever gotten so nervous that I've passed out before. Where is that thing anyway?"
The answering silence unnerves you. "A better question might be, where did it go while you were unconscious," Fairfax says.
Before you can ask what he means, Kim bends down and picks the mask up off the floor. "It went into you," Mike says.
That doesn't make any sense, and you ask him what he means. "He means just what he said, Will," Fairfax replies. He wears a very sober expression. "You put it onto your face, and it got very bright, and then—"
He raises his hands to his face, holds them there, then drops them. "Then it just vanished."
You lick your lips and glance around the faces of the others. They all look very serious, and Josie looks a little scared. "Yeah?" you say.
"Mm-hmm," says Fairfax. "Then you fell over and we couldn't get you to wake up. We were on the point of carrying you out and calling an ambulance when the mask reappeared on your face." He eyes you closely. "It doesn't seem to have left you the worse for wear, though."
"Well, that's a relief," you start to say with no little sarcasm, but you're interrupted by a shriek from Kim. The mask clatters on the floor as she drops it.
"Jeez, what's got you so spooked?" Mike asks as he goes to pick it up himself. "I'd have expected that out of Josie not you."
"Oh fuck off Michael," Josie says as she crosses her arms in a huff.
"I'm just joshing you," Mike says, "you don't need to get bent out of sh--whoa!"
"I am not getting bent out of shape," she replies in a manner that betrays her. "And what are you all 'whoa' about anyway?"
"Here, take a look at this," he says as he holds the mask near her. "Notice anything?"
Josie, arms still crossed, bends a little bit to look at the mask. You see her eyes begin to narrow as she focuses intently on it. Then you see a look of slight confusion appear on her face. She then raises her head to look at you as if she's studying you, then she looks down at the mask once more. "That is so freaky!" she finally exclaims as she looks back at Mike. "I think you should show that to him."
Mike passes the mask to you and you study it. It looks like the same brilliant blue it had been once you'd finished polishing it and you're not sure what's got the two of them amazed at first. But you look at it a little more and suddenly something catches your attention. Popping out from the face of the mask is what looks, very faintly, like the ghostly hologram. Though colorless you can eventually make out that it's a face and with a bit more effort you realize that it's your own face. You turn the mask left, then right and are able to view the face from those angles. From the top down you can see a chest, shoulders, torso... everything.
"What the hell?" you say as you pass the mask to Fairfax who looks it over closely.
"Maybe that's the trick," he says as he goes over to the table where the book is. "Putting the mask on activates something in the mask which then responds to the book and should, in theory, allow the page to turn."
"But that's bullshit because that implies that there's some electronics in the mask or something," you counter, "and I made that thing so I can tell you there's nothing electronic in there. Plus Kim said the book looked old back in the library so if it's old I don't think they'd have something that advanced."
"Looked old, yeah, but maybe I was wrong," she says quietly.
"There's what it did when Will put it on," Mike says. His voice rings loudly in the confined spaces of the basement, and makes your ears hurt. "I can't think of anything electronic that could—"
"When I said 'activate'," Fairfax says as he opens the book, "I was speaking in the broadest possible sense. And we can at least try to confirm the broad hypothesis about unlocking the next page or puzzle," he continues as he opens the book. The rest of you crowd around him as he turns to the page with the spell.
"Wait, what?" you say as you look at the page. "That wasn't there before." You point towards what looks like a stain, oval-shaped and approximately the same size as the mask.
"Are you sure?" asks Fairfax.
"I've seen enough mystic jungle society genre stuff to know that you probably have to put the mask on that thing," Mike points out.
Fairfax does so for a moment and there's, you believe, the faintest of glows coming from the area where the mask is. Fairfax removes it and nothing seems to happen. But then he reaches for the page and is able to turn it. That causes loud gasps and murmurs from everyone else, yourself included. All of you had seen how the pages wouldn't turn no matter the effort put into it. Only Fairfax retains his stoic mask as he looks at the next page.
* * * * *
The reverse of the page contains a continuation of the spell, but it's not so long that it takes more than ten minutes or so to decipher with an online translator. It explains that the mask, if left "unsealed" will continue to absorb images and mix them so as to form new images.
"I suppose this means," Fairfax says, "that if Mike or I put on the mask, it would mix our features with Will's, the way certain algorithms can mix photographs so as to form a composite or average of the originals." He cocks his head. "Very interesting that someone should have had the idea several centuries ago," he murmurs.
"Or you could mix all three of our faces into it," Mike says, and Fairfax nods.
Mike then points at Josie. "Hey, what would happen if we put it on Josie and mixed her image with Will's? I mean, if it copies the whole body," he continues, apparently oblivious to the green color that Josie is turning, "what would it look like between the neck and the knees?"
The suggestion may have left Josie speechless, but she doesn't need her voice to punch Mike hard in the arm.
"Maybe we should figure out how to seal it," Kim says after Mike has finished howling. "Maybe that's what the next spell does?" She pulls the book over to her.
Fairfax pulls it back. "I think we should be meticulous in the way we approach this. Let's put another face in this thing—mine or Mike's, or both of ours," he says, and you notice he edges a step away from Josie. "We'll have time to figure out later how to seal it."
"Hey, it's my face in that thing," you interrupt. "I think I should be the one to decide what we do next with it!"
"That's reasonable," Fairfax replies. He cocks his head. "So what do you think we should do?"
Next: "Discomfiting Doubles"