“I can see you,” the mask on the wall said.
Lillian convulsed in surprise, sending her full mug of coffee spewing across the coffee table and onto the white carpet.
“No, no, no…” She rushed into the kitchen and opened the towel drawer before she remembered all her kitchen towels were in the laundry, two floors down. She grabbed the paper towels and dashed back to the spilled coffee. One giant wad of paper towels later, she knelt beside the stain, glaring at the mask.
“Did you wait this long to talk on purpose?”
The clay mask vibrated a little and blinked its eyes. Or the holes where the eyes would be. “Of course not. It just takes me a few hours to wake up once someone finds me.”
Lillian didn’t know how she’d missed it. The mask had been hanging in the thrift store for years, and she’d only noticed it this morning when she was organizing the purses.
“So you can’t talk when no one owns you?”
“Someone needs to believe I can. My previous owner died without telling anyone what I was.”
Lillian’s knees cracked as she got up. “Well, are you feeling up to a walk in the woods?”
The carpet was a loss until she could get some stronger cleaner, so she might as well go now.
“What’s in the woods?” The mask narrowed its eye holes.
She grinned. “A body.”
An hour later, Lillian was deep within Hedgeford Park, the mask tucked into her knapsack. The first snow had just begun to fall, and she couldn’t stop smiling. Finally, the day was here. The woods were empty and silent. She neared the center of the park, and the massive giant oak came into view.
A breeze stirred the tree’s leaves.
“I’ve brought something for you. I think you’ll like it.”
She pulled out the mask, and its complaints grew louder.
“You have no idea what you’re doing, little girl!”
She smiled at it. “Oh, you’d be surprised. I’m a professional.” She lifted the mask and pressed it against the tree. The bark began to grow around the edges like glue, and the mask sank into the tree until they became one. Now it was a face with mossy eyebrows and bark lips.
The face squinted. “Hmmm….hrmmm…hoom…” It smiled, showing teeth made of acorns. “I suppose you knew what you were doing after all, little girl.”