Mask and You Shall Receive

Submitted into Contest #117 in response to: Write about someone whose busiest night of the year is Halloween.... view prompt


Suspense Thriller

When you’ve been a bespoke costume maker for as long as I have, you don’t normally get surprised. I’ve pretty much seen it all. But one letter sent by a potential customer three days before Halloween night perplexed me more than any other I’ve ever received.

The letter read:

Mr. Robert,

I require a mask made from the photo attached below. Make it as realistic as possible. My head measurements are written on the backside and so is my address. Have it ready by the 30th and leave it outside the door of my house. Your payment is enclosed. 

I look forward to seeing your work.


In the envelope, I found five thousand dollars in cash and a crisp passport photo of a middle-aged man with dark hair and a pinkish complexion. His eyes were blue, and his ears were disproportionately big. The backside of the letter bore the neatly scribbled head measurements and an address not far from my shop.

The letter hadn’t been posted and was likely just hand-delivered to my mailbox by the sender. This Andy person. Why did he want a mask made of an average-looking white male? Was it his friend who he wanted to surprise? Was it a picture of himself? He was obviously very serious about this as he had paid top dollar for an exact facsimile of the mysterious man in the photo.

Like I said, I receive a lot of requests and most of them are very similar. This year I delivered a lot of pink jumpsuits and black masks with some weird symbols on them. Something about an Octopus show. You also get the standard mummies and frankensteins of course and every once in a while, some kid wants to go as their favorite Japanese cartoon character. Human masks weren’t too strange either; a lot of people want to go as their favorite celebrity every year after all. 

But something about Andy’s anonymous letter and offhand dealing of his relatively simple request made me feel very uneasy. And this is coming from someone who created a Jabba the Hutt costume for some overweight geek in Arizona. I thought of running some background checks or doing some more research into the sender but eventually decided against it. My clients and their requests were of no concern to me. They paid me to bring their ideas to life. Not to be their counselor.

After my initial hesitation, I finally got to work. I found some structure molds that matched Andy’s measurements (his head was rather small) and a textured face mold that resembled the man in the photo. Making masks from pictures was always difficult as the color variance could always be a little off. Not to mention the little details you have to be aware of. I wasn’t going to make any excuses though and so with the help of my two assistants, a lot of latex, and more coffee and beer than I care to admit, the mask was ready by the due date.

I was pretty proud of my handiwork if I do say so myself. The rough hair looked very realistic, and the skin’s pinkish hue was within a couple of shades of the original. I carefully packed my strange creation and got ready to deliver it.

Standing outside the house, I noticed no abnormalities. It was a nice neighborhood, and the property was well maintained. Andy had decorated the lawn with pumpkins, skeletons, and a cheeky sign that said,” NO TRESPASSING. We’re tired of hiding the bodies!” I placed the package outside the door and rang the bell. I stood there waiting for someone to respond but I remembered that he had specified to just leave it on the porch in his letter. 

As I walked away from the house, my curiosity got the better of me. I took refuge in the shade of the neighbor’s tree and peered at the house’s entrance hoping to catch a glimpse of my mysterious client. Half an hour passed and after reevaluating my current life trajectory I decided to just leave before someone noticed and called the police on me. 

But just as I was about to walk away, the front door of Andy’s house opened. A young girl stepped out, looked around, grabbed the package, and then went back inside. She couldn’t have been more than twelve years old, and she looked oddly familiar to me for some reason. 

“He sent his daughter to take the package, that’s all,” I told my overactive imagination. Finally, with some closure, I discarded Andy’s request from my mind and refocused on making sure my other, not strange clients, were happy with their costumes the next day.

Halloween night is always an exciting time for someone like me. I enjoy walking the streets seeing the kids in their costumes having fun. It’s also a great place to get new ideas for next year. Many of my customers would usually send me photos of them wearing my creations too. I never got one from Andy though which was probably for the best. A man going as an average-looking white guy is hardly a showstopper.

I went back home late that night exhausted from my busy day. I took a nice long shower, fixed myself a delicious microwavable dinner, and sat down to watch some TV. Flicking through the channels, I noticed many of the news outlets were broadcasting the same breaking story. I paused on one of them and froze, my carefully constructed microwaved steak bite inches from my mouth.

They were showing a picture of the man whose face I’d turned into a mask. It was the same photo too. I quickly increased the volume to hear more about the story.

“Timothy Reed went missing two weeks ago and the police have just discovered his body from a house right here in the city,” the reporter stated. “The body shows signs of severe blunt force trauma to the neck and head. The whereabouts of the assailant are still unknown, but the police’s investigation is ongoing. Timothy left behind a daughter who has also been reported missing.”

“In a morbid turn of events there have been several stabbings and murders tonight on Hallows Eve,” the reporter continued. “The killer has been spotted by CCTV footage.” The clip cut to a photo of someone wearing a hoodie outside a supermarket looking directly at the camera. “As you can see, the killer bears a remarkable resemblance to the murdered Timothy Reed with experts saying that the disguise is an intricately designed mask of the deceased’s face. The reasons for this are currently unknown.”

“The killer is still at large. We urge our viewers to stay alert during this time and to report any strange behavior or events to the police immediately.”

I looked numbly at the photo on my TV screen. The masked murderer stared gleefully at the camera, and I had a feeling they knew I was watching. 

Even as my mind started to put the pieces together of the girl who had taken the package, her resemblance to this Timothy Reed fellow, and the diminutive stature of the masked killer, I could only focus on one thing.

I hadn’t made the ears big enough.

October 28, 2021 09:56

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Kendall Defoe
00:38 Nov 06, 2021

I really like this one (is something wrong with me?). I want to see the movie you put in my head...


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Tommie Michele
20:02 Nov 05, 2021

I liked this story! Really enjoyable read, and I loved the last line—perfectionism is something I definitely relate to. Nice work! —Tommie Michele


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14:48 Nov 05, 2021

This is so cute. It’s a really enjoyable story nicely written with some very funny lines. Can suggest to vary the sentence lengths a bit, sprinkling longer, complex sentences and sentence fragments among the medium length. Otherwise the rhythm feels a bit “same same” all the way through. Or throw in a bit more dialog to break it up. I hope this is taken as it’s intended. I really liked the story and look forward to reading more.


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Emily Snyder
13:39 Nov 05, 2021

The last line of this made me smile! Without it, the plot may have been a little transparent. By making it about the main characters perfectionism, you rounded it out nicely. Great read!


Aitazaz Asrar
14:11 Nov 05, 2021

I'm glad it made you smile Emily :) You're doing some great work yourself too!


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