They gather about you. Their voices as full of gaiety as the music that drifts to the veranda from the gardens below; where the masked dancers continue their masquerade with gleeful abandon.
Reaching they touch your face. Fingers recoil slightly from the cold of skin on smooth clay chilled by the night air.
They have all removed their masks by now. The wearing of a gaudy disguise is only demanded when one is dancing in the gardens below. Here on the balcony the sparkling, bejeweled and feathered masks lie discarded in a pile beside an elaborately carved stone urn from which sprout tall green shoots topped by long finger like petals of deepest purple embracing a spindly golden stamen.
They gather around you. These pretty young things draped in chiffon and silk, barely into adulthood. Mere boys and girls thinking themselves so far removed from the innocence of what they considered to be their youths. Innocence that must be stripped away from them like the expensive and intricate masks they have so carelessly discarded to the floor.
A young woman asks why it is that you have not removed your mask.
Her companion recoils aghast, when it becomes clear that you wear.
The first layer is peeled away.
This is, of course, a bit of a riff on Robert W Chambers King in Yellow. Hope it doesn’t offend.
The full text of Chamber’s stories can be read here in a variety of formats.