The Man Behind The Mask – A Flash Fiction Piece
Today’s flash fiction challenge, courtesy of the brain-power of Chuck Wendig, invites the writer to conjure a short story based on a Completely Unexplainable Stock Photo (see Chuck’s Blog for further info). A random number generator gave me picture #47 – A luchador enjoying his first vacation in several years. I present to you:
The Man Behind The Mask
El Ardillo Voladora lifted the bottom half of his mask and raised his glass. The straw sticking out of the garishly coloured tequila sunrise wobbled precariously, but then his lips found their target and he sipped the fruity cocktail. After a lengthy sip, he lowered his mask again.
Laughter rang in his ears, and he spotted a group of bikini-clad women staring and giggling at him from the poolside. The bronze-skinned beauties waved to him when they saw him looking. There were smiles, too, an intriguing combination of come-hither and coy.
He shook his head. It had been the same ever since he’d arrived at the resort, eight days ago. Men looked at him in envy, wishing their bodies were as buff, their muscles as perfectly formed as his. Women looked at him with unrestrained longing, wondering what it would be like to run their slender fingers over those bulging muscles… wondering what lay beneath the mask.
One of the beauties made her way over. The pale purple sarong wrapped around her lower body, showing the alluring curve of her hips, swayed as she walked, but it was her eyes which caught his attention; they were green, and made for a stark contrast to her dark brown hair.
“Señor?” she asked, gesturing to the empty deckchair beside him.
“My name is Isabella.”
“I am El Ardillo Voladora. You may call me Ardillo, if you wish.”
A smile started to creep across her lips, smothered quickly. “I’ve watched you for the past six days, señor Ardillo. You come straight here as soon as the pool bar opens. You have the same drink every day. You sit in your chair, never swimming, never talking to anyone, just drinking, and staring into nothing. And I ask myself, why would a man come to Cancun merely to do these things; things which he can do at home? And why does a man who gladly soaks up sunlight by the pool each day, fear to show his face?”
At the mention of his face, his hand rose, and he subconsciously fingered the material of his luchador mask.
“I do not fear to show my face, señorita. I simply enjoy my privacy. I have the same drink every day because I like the colour, and I like the taste. I do not swim because I do not know how, and sitting is preferable to drowning. I do not talk because I have nothing to say. I have come to Cancun because it has been many years since I did anything but work, and if I were to stay home, I would not be afforded the time to sit and drink and do nothing more than enjoy the sun on my skin.”
“And the reason you stare into nothing?”
“I am not staring into nothing. I am staring into my past. Remembering.”
“May I ask what it is you remember?”
He looked into her green eyes, hesitant to speak of his past actions… yet with who else could he speak of these things? He had tried for over a week to overcome his turbulent thoughts, but solitude had not helped. Perhaps this was why he had come here, to Cancun. So that he could talk to somebody who had never heard of El Ardillo Voladora.
“Two weeks before I came here, I killed a man.” He looked for fear or concern in her eyes, but saw only green. At her silent invitation, he continued. “It was the first life I have ever taken, and it made a liar out of me.”
“So you are a murderer?”
“It would seem so, yes.”
“Are the police looking for you?”
“No. They don’t know it was me.” Her eyes asked him to elaborate, so he gestured at his mask with his free hand. “This is my real face. El Ardillo Voladora is not just a stage name; it is who I am. When I take the mask off I become… someone else.”
“You become a killer?”
“No.” He hesitated, then decided he had come too far to stop now. “There are many words for what I become, and which you use would depend upon your perspective. Vigilante. Super-Hero. Protector. I become all of these things, and my face beneath my mask becomes my mask; one of flesh and skin, a mask that nobody outside my family has seen since I was a boy just starting out in his wrestling career.”
“So it was not you who killed a man, but the vigilante?”
“That’s what I have tried to tell myself.” He let a small sigh escape his lips. “Until now, I thought I was two people. Now, the memories of one haunt the thoughts of the other. Now I do not know who I am.”
She leant forward, allowing a view of her generous cleavage. But he sensed it was not an action designed to excite his thoughts. Her green eyes held his for a long moment.
“Can I tell you something I have never told another soul?”
“I, too, have killed a man.”
A thousand questions swarmed inside his mind, but only one passed his lips.
“Would you like to talk about it?”
“Yes.” She stood up, straightening her sarong. “Tonight. I will come to your room; I have seen which one you retire to every night. And I will tell you about the man I killed. I may even take off my mask, and allow you to see my true face.”
He watched her walk away, her friends clustering around her, no doubt peppering her with questions about the mysterious stranger. Tonight, he suspected, he would learn what had drawn him to Cancun.