This Is All Your Fault
You step off the trolley, no flickering neon greets you, just the distant chatter of wrestling children. You take twenty-two steps eastward. You locate the address you have previously memorized. There is no doorbell, you knock twice. A wrinkled man answers, lets you in, takes your hat and jacket. You follow him down a long corridor. There are portraits but their eyes do not follow you. He opens a large ornate door. The room is crowded, it's a masquerade ball. The masks are handmade, papier-mâché, zoo-animals. There is no band, only a Bluetooth speaker. You walk through the room; everyone pauses to greet you. The women curtsy, the men look you up and down. The hostess emerges from the crowd. She is wearing a mask of a German Shepard. You kiss her hand but immediately realize that this is a faux pas. The hostess tries to hide her embarrassment, but her body language is obvious. An obese man with an ant mask glare at you irately. You try to move past this, you ask the hostess if she's having fun. Her mouth hangs open, A flamingo spits on the ground, an ostrich rolls up his sleeves. You realize you're not welcome here and need to make an excuse to leave. You apologize profusely and tell a story about a sick uncle newly arrived from abroad. There is a noise from above, a skittering, as you stammer out symptoms. The crowd divides. Mammals and marine life on one side of the room, birds and reptiles on the other, insects to the back. The hostess is furious, she's gnashing at her mask, she cannot remove it, you know if she does it will be the end. The noise above you intensifies, you finally look up and see the children. Suddenly you are aware that there are trap doors everywhere and that the floor can drop from underneath you at any time. Tuxedo clad Peacocks put down their drink trays and assist the hostess in removing her mask. You carefully back out of the room clutching onto tables and walls. You cannot locate the door you arrived in. You crawl under a table and hide behind the tablecloth. Your entire family is there, your sister puts her finger to her mouth, your grandmother takes out a locket and silently motions for you to take it. Inside is a photo of the hostess, her mask is off, but the resolution is too low, her face is pixelated, unclear. You see her heels pace in the gap under the tablecloth. She knows you're down there. Any second she's going to whip it open. Your family refuses to comfort you, this is all your fault.
Louis Zieja (he/him) is a cinematographer, collage artist and writer originally from Philadelphia. His poetry has been recently published in The Ghost City Review and The Neologism Poetry Journal and is upcoming in Rogue Agent. His comic book series "The Subliminals", a collaboration with artist Anton Blake, will be published in late 2020.