The Sundark Festival was in full swing, with smoky scents, voices raised in laughter, and music from different instruments clashing in the streets. Irena paused and stepped, weaving her way through the crowd in the not-dance that everyone employed. A cluster of children surrounded a nut vendor, blocking her progress. Her stomach rumbled at the thought of the fresh roasted treats, and she joined the ragged line.
The vendor was quick, and she soon had a leaf-cup of nuts in her hand. As Irena turned away, someone jostled her elbow, spilling the nuts. Nettled, she spun to face the oaf. “Ay–!”
She stared into the blank face of one of the Masks, those who told of the winters to come, a single word of foretelling. Bad luck to yell at one. Swallowing her annoyance at losing her snack, she bobbed her head. “Have you a word for me?”
Silently, confusingly, it extended a hand.
Irena wasn’t sure what to do; she’d never encountered a Mask personally before. When the Mask gestured again with its hand, she took it and found something pressed into her hand. Opening her hand, she found a white disk, round and white, lacquered like the Mask’s face. She looked back up, but the Mask had gone.
She slipped the disk into her bag. She’d think about it later; now she had a festival to enjoy.
The disk slipped her mind until she turned toward home and saw a pair of Masks standing, heads leaning toward each other as if they conferred in whispers. They could talk? But of course they could; they shared words with people each festival. But no one ever heard more than a single word from a Mask in a lifetime. She itched to step closer, to hear what they said to each other.
Her hand crept inside her bag and grasped the disk there. What did it mean? It was like — and she knew the word she had been given. She crossed to join the other Masks, glad that she had had one last Festival before she hid herself behind a blank and lacquered face.
My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.