Two-Faced

“My, my, that’s quite the piece you have there,” the man at the front desk remarks, his eyes going round like saucers at the sight of it. I feel a slow smirk creep across my face as something, or someone, shifts in my head.

Days have gone by with no luck capturing anything of substance on camera. I suppose I should be grateful that I haven’t dissociated again, but I’m not. I feel as if I’ve been walking through life while holding my breath, and sooner than later, I’m going to need to take a breath before I burst.

I roll over in bed to stare at the dark walls. I haven’t been sleeping well, as the stress of everything has left me feeling restless day in and day out. My thoughts have been jumbled, and I’ve been having frequent headaches. I’m running on fumes at this point. “I have to do something about this,” I say to the empty room. I purse my lips in thought before finally tossing the covers aside. Screw it. I’m not going to fall back asleep, anyway. 

It is still dark outside. I’m not even sure how many hours of sleep I actually got. I kept drifting in and out. I grab my phone off my dresser, turn off the alarm, and then pull up the app connected to my cameras. It sends me a notification if there’s movement during a set timeframe. I have it set up to alert me if there’s movement in the drawing room during the night, as that seems to be when and where my dark alter is most active. I don’t see any notifications, but I skim through the footage anyway, just in case. When I inevitably come back with zilch, I throw my phone on my bed with a cry of frustration, hands running through my tangled hair. 

“You’ve had no qualms about ruining my life all these millennia, but now you choose to play shy,” I growl at my other half, as if she can hear me. I’m definitely going crazy. But maybe that’s what she wants… I rub my temple, already feeling another headache coming on. This has to end. I don’t know how. It just does. I can’t live like this. No one can.

I pull on some clothes, a short a-line dress with a lace collar and mesh sleeves, grab some low black heels and a bag, before storming out of the room. I’m a muse on a mission as I head straight for the drawing room. I make a beeline for the display case, unlocking it and pulling out the tragic mask. My skin vibrates with energy as I hold it in my hands.

“We’re going on a trip!” I exclaim. And with that, I shove it into my bag. I have no love lost for it. I want it gone, but first, I need to figure out exactly where it came from. And before I can lose my nerve, I head out the door.

###

I pull up in front of the 24-hour pawn shop and put my car, a black 1957 Cadillac DeVille, into park. The neon OPEN sign flickers as the dawn’s light peeks above the horizon. I crumple up the trash from my breakfast, tossing it into the to-go bag. Grabbing my bag, I check for like the fifth time this morning that the tragic mask is still there. I let out a sigh of relief, collapsing back in the driver’s seat. Dear Rhea, this thing is making me paranoid. 

With a sigh, I open up the car door and step out. My platform heels click on the damp asphalt as I walk across the parking lot, my bag clutched close to my side. Maybe this place can give me some insight into the origins of the mask. Maybe. Probably not. You know it would be easier if you just—

No! We are not including my family in this freak show!” I yell, stomping my foot. Wait. Did I just refer to myself in the plural? Also, did I just say that out loud? I let out a huff, blowing a stray piece of hair out of my face. I take a deep breath. Get your shit together, Melpomene.

My gaze gravitates back to the storefront, really taking it in for the first time. It’s small and in a notable state of disrepair. Dust and cobwebs dot it, and some of the wood structural beams are rotted. A large chunk of the windows are boarded up where the glass is broken. Turning slightly on my heel, I notice that there are only two other cars besides mine in the parking lot. Apart from the occasional car, there really isn’t that much traffic in this part of town at this hour either. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, a shiver going through me as something feels amiss. 

My gaze flicks back to the entrance, noticing a security camera above the door. It’s covered in cobwebs and may not even be functional any longer. I stand up taller and, with some hesitation, pull open the door. A bell chimes above me as I step inside, and my eyes flick around the room, taking a moment to adjust to the dim lighting. It’s just as grimy inside as it is outside, the shelves lined with various antiques coated in a fine layer of dust. There’s also a pungent smell that I can’t quite put my finger on. 

I inch further into the room, keeping my arms close to my sides to avoid the years’ worth of dirt and grime that covers everything. I work my way through the maze of shelves and display cases to the front desk. An older man, with balding hair and a portly stomach, comes from the back room. 

“Hello there, little lady, how can I help you?” he inquires, a rasp to his voice. The smile he gives me, showing teeth presumably stained from years of smoking, causes my stomach to twist. I can hear movement in the back room, alerting me to the presence of someone else, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Everything in me is suddenly screaming to get out.

“I—You know, never mind. Sorry to bother you.” I turn to make a break for the exit, but I stop short with a startled yelp when I see a heavily tattooed man now blocking my path. Where in Tartarus did he come from?!?! 

“Where are you going in such a hurry? You just got here.” Not seeing a way out, I turn back to the man at the front desk with a nervous smile. 

“Right. I-I have an artifact I wish to get appraised.” My hands shake a little as I open my bag to pull out the mask, my gaze never leaving his. “I know it’s an ancient Greek tragic mask, but not much more than that. P-perhaps you can help me?” I can feel the energy of the mask hum through me as I take it out, showing it to him. Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, I see the tattooed man circling in closer.

“My, my, that’s quite the piece you have there,” the man at the front desk remarks, his eyes going round like saucers at the sight of it. I feel a slow smirk creep across my face as something, or someone, shifts in my head.

“That it is. Want to try it on?” He nods his head vigorously, filling me with delight. As he takes it from me, I feel the last of its energy leave me and transfer to him. My platinum hair bobs as my head snaps over to the other man. “Aren’t you a robust man? Could you be a doll and do me a favor?”

I don’t give him a chance to reply, my tragic song already leaving my lips. It doesn’t take long for his eyes to glaze over as he falls under my control. I saunter up to him and place a hand on his cheek, standing on my tiptoes to look him in the eye. “Please go delete any security footage and take care of any other lurkers in the building.” 

He nods his head despite the blank expression on his face. “Perfect!” I exclaim in a shrill voice, clapping my hands together. I spin back to face the front desk where the man, who’s now wearing the tragic mask, makes airplane noises as he plays with various nicknacks. I grin. He’s definitely lost his marbles. 

I bounce over to him, taking the paperweight out of his hand and replacing it with a box of matches I snagged off a shelf. “Have at it! But first, I need the mask back.” I hold out my hand, palm up, and he gives back the mask without issue. I let out a giddy squeal. 

“Have fun!!” I blow him a kiss before skipping merrily out of the pawnshop. By the time the sun rises, this place will be going up in flames. How tragic. 

Melpomene (M.N. Kee)
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