The story begins with Masked – The Fortress (1). To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.
Now lying on his back on a sofa in a cramped living room, his feet propped up next to a pizza box on a coffee table, John immediately noticed that the skin of his shirtless torso looked icy pink, rather than slightly golden as it had always looked before. The second thing that he noticed: this torso had a much flatter abdomen. Also, he felt no pain where he had made the gash with his box cutter. Gingerly, he touched his side with fingers that somehow felt smaller than those he knew from within. No cut on his rib cage.
He looked around. Not much space between the coffee table and a battered television stand. He didn’t recognize the characters on the TV screen but did recognize contemporary haircuts. An old prog rock poster hung on the wall above the TV, and as he scanned to his right, he saw a pair of sliding glass doors leading onto a wooden balcony. He scanned farther. An easel with a large sketchpad – the paper blank. A rack of art supplies. Other racks holding console video games.
When he sat up and turned around, his heart knocked wildly at his sternum: Amica sat at a desktop computer, next to the video game racks, wearing earbuds. She paid him no attention. He could see over her shoulder that she had a vector program open in order to manipulate interlocking triangles.
Cautiously, he continued to take in the room clockwise. To Amica’s right stood a small open coat closet. The door on the far side of the room from him had a chain lock and had to be the entrance to this apartment. To the right of that, a kitchenette even smaller than that of his own apartment winged off next to a doorway that logically led to a bedroom. Next to the bedroom door, a small dining table and four chairs nestled against the back of the sofa. At that point he had taken in the entire unfamiliar room, which smelled strongly of pizza and faintly of weed.
John suddenly felt the need to urinate, and he wondered where he could find a toilet. When he stood, the objects in the room seemed consistently taller than usual, leading John to wonder if he had somehow shrunk. He also felt lighter on his feet than he remembered, and he could see as well without wearing any glasses as he usually saw with them on. Perplexed, he reached up to rub his head and discovered gel – which he never wore – had hardened in his hair. He did his best not to stumble in disorientation as he made his way into the apartment’s bedroom, looking for a toilet. Amica, completely absorbed in the graphic on the computer screen, paid him no mind, a cause for relief.
He recognized the darkened bedroom as the one he had seen in Bloodwater’s cavern vision. He crossed it to the open bathroom door, groped for the light switch, turned on the light, and shut the door behind him to look in the mirror. Could it be…?
Sean’s pink, handsome, blue-eyed face looked back at him.
Thank you for reading! In the next installment, John pretends from behind his mask.
Previous Aum stories include Globe Without Goodbye.
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