A Masquerade Ball
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It is often said that love can do anything. The outside is nothing but empty images. Works of art cherished by the most sybaritic eyes. Irrelevant vessels hiding what few want to see. A soul, molded to taste and pleasure by a past, and swindled by irrelevant dreams. No one understands these souls. No one wants to carry them on their backs. We are content to admire the gorgeous masks behind which they hide. And there is no need to blame ourselves for that. Love is a bee pollinating flower after flower, and the nectar of the fragrant flowers can become jaded and unclean. We neither like to drink the same wine for years, nor see the same picture either. And, here, we pity mankind for such deceitful passing pleasure.

It was then my occasion on a warm summer night. Something enviably forgettable as would be, in Angel's words, "a few drinks at the trusty bar". Romance will be tedious, but its absence is even more so. In a state of perpetual depression one searches exasperatedly for a simple source of forgetfulness. But even so, having abandoned my heavy memory in the grimy corner of the tavern, what I would never forget is that angelic figure dancing to rhythmic but inaudible music during such a magnificent spectacle. Letting fly her red tailed dress, the only thing that prevented to look away from her hypnotic movements was her seraphic gesture, worthy of the gods. She would raise her gaze exhibiting her divine eyes of the purest indigo in existence, occasionally being covered by a wavy brunette river that reached beyond where her shoulders could see. Always passing by the inevitable whitish lantern that was her smile.

And my companion, Angel, watched me contemplate her glow, and scoffed with laughter.

-Like a moth, you can't tear yourself away from its light, eh?- He remarked.

-It's been a long time since I've seen anything like that. What would someone of your caliber do in a miserable place like this?- I replied.

-I don't know. Why don't you go ask her?

It would be because of that comment. It would be because of my unconsciousness at the time because of my drinking. But I was able to pluck up my courage and approach that beautiful damsel.

-Laura.- She clarified without warning.

Nice to meet you. I am…

-I didn't ask you. Do you dance?

-Uh… Dancing has never been my thing.- I answered slightly surprised.

-What a disappointment! Well, you'll learn. There'll be time for that,- she murmured. -Maybe not here, but maybe at my place things will change, don't you think?

-Yes… Of course.

-Is that your friend over there? Tell him to sign up too. I have a little surprise for him.

Having heard the proposal, Angel and I remained perplexed, looking at each other with surprise. After an eternity for both of us, he nodded and I imitated his gesture without noticing it. Something inside me knew that I would come to regret that decision, but from then on it was as if my body was acting on its own.

On the way to the vehicle that would take us to her home, Angel whispered:

-I prefer them blonde with brown eyes and a little more curvy but that's something. You owe me big for doing you this favor, for the record.

That was a spacious red carriage with small illustrations of flowers made with gold leaf. It was also driven by two graceful white steeds. It was a long ride, at the end of which a colossal mansion awaited. At its entrance, a garden that stretched as far as the eye could see, displaying as many types of flowers as he thought he knew, coloring the sad beige of the mansion purple with its hydrangeas and orchids, gold with its lilies, white with daisies and daffodils, and many other colors with tulips and carnations. In the dim light of the lanterns, they were even more resplendent that night than they would have been bathed in sunlight.

As we passed through such a memorable Eden, one became aware of the clamor inside the mansion. Gradually our dirty minds began to take a different approach to the matter.

But we would never have guessed the celebration inside. Hundreds of figures occupying the immense halls. Dancing souls, always in pairs, hiding their faces completely by masks worthy of museums. And a fine mist rose at their feet, reminiscent of dancing on clouds. Simple mortal lives look different in the firmament, replacing the most radiant stars. I remember that a silver-handled wall clock would already strike 11:59.

And who would have thought it? Amidst all the commotion it's pretty easy to get stray. I began to push individuals aside with a certain degree of arrogance to realize that I had also neglected Angel, but he was pretty sharp minded, so that was a minor concern. And at one point, I managed to spot a figure in a red tailed dress, unforgettable. I approached her again, this time sporting a Venetian-style mask of argentium with ruby and emerald fragments inlaid, and five black feathers protruding from her forehead. The protrusion of her nose and mouth would be wrapped by a white silk scarf, only revealing her abundant hair, flowing with every stroke of her movements.

-Splendid soirée. I was about to leave until you showed up, honey. A pleasure, I'm Laura.- She said.

-Yes, I know that.

-Impossible. If we'd been met, I'd remember such a handsome face perfectly. Shall we dance?

-On this occasion, all right.

We danced to the same song for what, fortunately for me, turned out to be hours. There was something different about her. At first she had seemed rough and brash at the venue, but this time she was much sweeter and more charming.

-You know, it's not so strange that we met in this place.- She said.

-What do you mean by that?

-Human romance, in this very place, is like a chain. Every link that goes up always has two purposes: to link itself to the initial chain and to remain waiting to be linked to the next link. What I still don't understand: why aren't you wearing a mask yet?

I did not understand anything he had said, so I suggested she went to get a drink. As I wandered through the labyrinthine corridors of the mansion, at one point, out of the darkness Laura emerged again, her face uncovered, holding two vermouth glasses in her hands with champagne in them.

-Let's drink a toast!- She exclaimed.

Not a big fan of this drink, but that one especially was incredibly exquisite. She then offered me to follow her to her room with a wink, which I offered to do without much delay.

The room was perfect: spacious, painted pure white with hints of gold leaf. A chandelier hung over the massive bed, with a dozen velvet pillows covered by a delicate white silk curtain. The baroque paintings that decorated it gave it even more charisma, all near a gold-framed mirror.

She pushed me firmly against the bed.

-Don't move. I'll be right back.- She said before vanishing into the darkness of the hallway.

Impatient of what was to come, my mind traveled in his creativity. Slowly, however, my will was relapsing, as my eyes grew heavier. I could resist no longer. I lay in that bed for who knows how long, and eventually awoke with my companion Angel at my side. It was still dark back then. He, still sleeping, wore a white mask, with lime ornaments simulating clover leaves in the center of his forehead and under his eyes, on what would be his cheekbones. He also had a small illustration of a golden daisy around his lips, tinted in the crimson mask. I tried repeatedly to wake him up in vain, his lethargy was too deep.

I decided to get up, and in an oversight I ended up in front of the mirror. Without feeling it, I also had a mask on my face. It somewhat imitated the style of Venetian harlequins. From the nose down it was a worn white with golden ornaments forming small spirals, while on the forehead and eyes there were rhombuses alternating between navy blue and black, with a golden lion culminating at the top of my forehead. The part that would cover my nose was exaggeratedly prolonged ending in a point, and my hair was protected by a hat with 4 indigo fallen tips ending in bells.

I took off the mask to discover something that would leave me shocked: I had no face. What once would have been a youthful and vigorous face became flesh and bone wrapped in a thin layer of clotted blood, teeth without lips, torn ears and bulging eyes without eyelids. There was a wig similar to what was once my hair on a shelf near the mirror, which I put on under my hat and repositioned the mask, ready to flee at all costs.

In my desperation to escape from that place, I only managed to get even more lost in the house, arriving for the fifth time to the same room from which I started. Until I finally managed to reach one of the main halls, where the revelry continued as before. Making my way through the crowd, I spotted the main door, but when I tried to approach, a Venetian mask in a red tailed dress stood in my way.

-At last, you've decided to wear a mask! It looks good on you. It matches the costume.- She said with a chuckle.

-What have you done to me?- I shouted -Monster, I'll take you to the police.

-Hey, calm down. I didn't do anything to you. Like everyone else, the host decided to change the mask you had before, pretentious and boring, and gave you one that would allow us to see into you.

-What the hell? Get out of the way. I'm getting out of here right now.

-Really? You think the people out there are gonna like the real "you"? No. They're gonna lock you up. They're going to hate you. They're going to banish you. Out there they only idolize masterpieces, and you're not that anymore. You'll never be that again. If you leave, you will condemn us. You, by perpetual hatred, and us, by breaking the chain. Stay. Here. With. Me.

At the end of the speech, the main door began to open. And among flashes in the darkness, a beautiful lady of golden hair, chestnut-colored stars and slender figure emerged, accompanied by a feminine shadow that I could barely make out, and by someone who seemed familiar to me. It was Angel. But his attitude was not the usual, kind and honest, but haughty and empty. And at one point, he smiled. A familiar smile, and it was not Angel's smile. A smile seen for what had already turned out to be an infinity in the tavern. In recognizing it, I could not help but laugh, and still to this day I have not stopped laughing. I continued dancing with my beloved until midnight. The silver-handled wall clock would strike 11:59.

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