The Halloween Store
She told me to try it on, so I did.
It’s funny almost in a way how a young man can be ruled by something other than his brain. I’ve heard most of the jokes that go on about how a guy loses his mind at a certain age for a while, only to get it back years later when he’s either screwed up too much in life to make much of a difference. I thankfully don’t have that problem to worry about any longer. If I did I’d get to tell the girl that got me into this what I think about her and her insistence that I act a little less like myself and a little more like a character off of a sitcom or a movie.
I suppose I can’t really blame her for this, but it’s a lot easier than taking the blame for something that wasn’t my fault either. Really, how does a person find blame for something that seems like it should be happening in a B horror flick and not real life? It’s a lot more comforting to try and find a scapegoat for such things, and since she told me to try the damned mask on, I’ll focus on her.
Her name was Naomi Rogers, a young woman I met nearly a year ago, and was dating until, well, I’m not sure how long it’s been. I know my “eyes” have opened onto the light at least twice since it happened, but time doesn’t seem to fit right in my head anymore. Actually that’s not accurate. It’s more like time just passes, but I no longer have any idea how much or even when it does. My sense of time is gone, leaving me only enough of comprehension to know when I’m being taken out into the light again, to be put up on display.
Naomi and I lived on Hayden Island, Jantzen Beach to most people. We’d each been raised here, though we didn’t know of one another really until only a few months before we got together. Hayden Island isn’t much, mostly shopping centers and restaurants spread as its core and residences further towards its edges. On the far western side lies a train station that I’ve never seen but always heard growing up, while to the eastern tip are homes, a yacht club for people rich enough to own such floating luxuries, and Tomahawk Island, which is a good deal smaller than Hayden Island and is mostly private homes. Don’t ask me how it got its name, as it’s not germane to this story.
Sorry about that, I get a little testy sometimes, and it makes my surroundings a little more pungent. Or maybe it’s because of the odor, I don’t know. There are so many things nowadays that I can’t really think clearly about that it’s a wonder I can even relate this to anyone anymore. But where was I?
The two of us were raised here, going to school over in Vancouver until we graduated, whereupon Naomi then went off to PSU, moving into the city. I attended PSU on an athletic scholarship but washed out after awhile. Naomi and I managed to meet before I was done at the school though and got along well enough. Our physical relationship managed to keep us together, though sometimes I had to wonder how long it would last. I lived in the poorer side of town, the trailer park where I’d been raised with my folks until they hit retirement age and moved on down to California, where I suspect they are now. I don’t talk about them much, so I’ll just keep moving on.
Naomi came to stay at my place a lot, said it was a relief from the city and she would walk by the water since the Columbia River is just a stone’s throw away from the trailer my parent’s left in my care. It’s still in their name, but I’m the one paying all the bills, or at least I was. I guess technically I still am, but I’m not. I know that sounds crazy, but keep with me and maybe it’ll make sense.
There used to be almost nothing in the mall where so many shops sit now. The building I’m , and consequently you’re, in right now used to be nothing but a massive parking lot, with a Lamont’s, Montgomery Ward, and a few other stores located further away within the center of the lot, there was a K-mart too from what I remember. The store I’m in now, the big, expansive store that was cut in half by the flimsy barriers that the current owners put up to discourage people from traveling too far inward, was at one time a Linens N’ Things, kind of like a Bed Bath and Beyond, with all sorts of stuff for the house, like pots and pans, bed linens, and a variety of other junk.
Linens N’ Things went out of business nearly two years ago, they just up and went under, like a lot of places around the island did. I heard they filed for chapter eleven bankruptcy and as a result every one of their stores went out of business, no matter if they turned good numbers or not. It’s the way of the world I guess, you either toe the line or get replaced. Yikes, that just sent a shiver down my spine, good thing though I don’t have one, otherwise that’d be kind of annoying.
Getting back to what I was saying though, the store went under. Nothing replaced it for awhile until just last year when it became a prime location for an independent couple and their friends to turn a dollar for profit. As far as I know they only rented the space out, but it made them good enough money I’d guess that it didn’t really matter if the rent was extraordinarily high. Judging by how much they charged for their products I’m not surprised at all that they’re back, which is accurate enough judging by the view I’ve been given.
It turned into a Halloween store, a place filled with costumes, masks, implements to make a costume more scary or at least more amusing, and items for the house and front yards of those who like to get into the Halloween spirit. Everything from fake bloody limbs to life-sized witches and ghouls that run on batteries and feature motion sensors so that they’ll cackle, groan, and even move a little bit to frighten guests and tricker treaters alike. There used to be a time when I loved Halloween, but now the novelty is kind of wasted on me. I’ll get to why in just a second.
Naomi fell in love with this store since she’s a Halloween nut too. She likes to decorate her home, likes to scare the bejeezus out of everyone she can, and she really, really likes to dress up. The first Halloween we spent together she dressed up as a saucy French maid, and I’ll tell you, the costume barely made it past the party we went to, since I, ah, well, I won’t go into that just now. Let’s just say I really got into the role of the pirate I was dressed as and found a hidden booty. No? Not even a laugh, damn, I thought that was kind of funny. Oh well.
So when this store came out with its wares, sometime in early September, Naomi was all over it. We just had to go to the Halloween store, just had to try on costume after costume, just had to look at all the gory and interesting things to buy. And of course, I just had to try this one damned mask on. You’ve seen the movie Scream right? You remember the ghost face that got so popular because of that? Who could have ever known that a piece of molded plastic that seems so simple in design could have gotten so huge? Anyway, I didn’t want the damned thing, I wanted to dress up as a Jedi knight that year, but Naomi insisted that I try on the mask, and even came into the dressing room to, ah, help me try it on. Okay, okay, we fooled around in the dressing room, with full knowledge that more than one person saw us go into the same booth. Who cares? It was innocent enough, it’s not like we were going to leave the door open and give people a show. Besides, I never even got to really enjoy myself after the mask went on.
You know that smell you get when you try on a department store mask? It’s kind of musty sometimes, maybe even kind of nasty, like sweat and other people’s odors since so many people try on one mask after another around this season. There’s also that latex smell that’s inherent with so many of the damned, man I keep using that word, disguises. This one wasn’t any different, but when I turned around to look in the mirror, something kind of happened.
I can’t really explain it that well, but it was almost like I was looking back at myself. That sounds kinda dumb I know, a mirror does give you that ability. But what I mean is that I was looking at myself as though I was looking at someone else, it was my body and all, but I couldn’t shake this feeling that someone else was in there, someone who was looking back at me and liking what they saw. It happened so fast I’m not even sure how real it was, but I know how real it got. As soon as I, or me, I mean the person pretending to be me, took the mask off, it was like being directed by something else. I could see the floor, I could see the saggy blue jeans I liked to wear so much, and I could even see Naomi’s hand grabbing my waistband. But I couldn’t feel it.
I saw the me but not me as my face grinned down at me, shaking my, his, head as he/I left the dressing stall with Naomi. He, I, put the mask back on the rack, hanging it kind of askew as I, he, walked off. Naomi gripped my, his arm on the way out of the store, the two of us, them, laughing about something as I tried to tell her that it wasn’t me she was walking with, that he was someone else. But he sounded like me, he looked like me, I even wondered if he was going to act like me.
You ever have the kind of disassociation in a dream? You can see what’s going on, and you know it’s you, but it carries no meaning to your brain, like it’s you, but not you. Ah I know this all sounds crazy, but I bet you’re feeling it right now, aren’t you? After all, you put the mask on, just like so many other people have, just like the rest of us in here. And you know what? I forgot to formally introduce you to the club. Get used to this, cause next year it’ll be your turn to tell us all a story.