Joint Third Prize: “The Mask Maker”

Cole Andrade

There lived a great spider that made the finest masks in the world. Inside the spider’s cave were hundreds of masks on hundreds of shelves. Each mask was a masterpiece, decorated to perfection with paints, ribbons, jewels and gems.

A mirror sat on the cave wall. The spider spent a great deal of time in front of the mirror modeling, dancing, and pretending the masks were companions.

The spider wanted to be respected as a mask maker, but could never sell a single one. Nobody could bear to see the spider’s face. The townspeople would run in horror when they saw the spider’s many eyes and limbs.

So the spider thought and thought, and came up with a plan.

The next morning, the spider put on a mask and went about town dressed as a human. Carrying a sack full of masks, the spider went first to visit the house of Lady Penelope. The spider knew she collected many fine things.

“Dear me!” said Lady Penelope, “what wonderful masks!”

“Thank you, My Lady,” said the spider with a bow, “Do any catch your eye?”

Lady Penelope picked out many handsome masks, and paid the spider in silk and gold.

“Pray you remove your mask,” said Lady Penelope, “so I can thank you properly.”

“My sincerest apologies, Your Ladyship,” said the spider, bowing again, “but I am terribly ugly, and I wouldn’t want to disturb your ravishing beauty.”

Lady Penelope chuckled and said her farewells. The spider then went to the Master of the town’s acting guild.

“My my my,” said the Guild Master, “these are magnificent masks.”

“Thank you, kind Sir,” said the spider with a bow. “Do any catch your eye?

The Guild Master picked out many stunning masks, and paid the spider in silver and stories.

“Remove your mask, my friend,” said the Guild Master, “so I may remember your face.”

“Worry not,” said the spider. “I have no face you’d want to remember.”

The Guild Master chortled and said his goodbyes. The spider then went to the marketplace, and took to trading with a wealthy merchant.

“Goodness,” said the merchant, “these are the finest masks I’ve ever seen.”

“Such a compliment warms my heart,” said the spider. “Do any catch your eye?”

The merchant picked out a dozen masks, but took a liking to the one the spider wore.

“The one you wear, my friend,” said the merchant, “is without a doubt my favorite.”

“I am embarrassed to say this mask is not for sale.”

“Oh? What is your reservation?”

“You see, I take mostly to my own company. People find me to be very ugly, and I would not want to make a scene,” said the spider looking around.

The merchant laughed and slapped his knee.

“Worry not, Mask Maker,” said the merchant. “I know of ugliness. People find me to be terribly ugly. Even my own children can’t look at my face. Why do you think I took interest in such beautiful masks? Ugliness, it seems, is a mutual friend of ours.”

The merchant seemed to be honest, so the spider removed the mask to sell to him. But the very sight of the spider’s face horrified the merchant.

“Kill it! Kill it!” said the merchant. “Or it will eat us!”

The merchant and the townspeople ran to their homes, and shut their doors and windows. They peered out at the spider with eyes full of fear and hate.

The spider went home and cried for many days. The spider didn’t understand.

“What did I do?” said the spider, “Why am I so ugly?”

Soon, the spider’s tears and confusion turned to rage. The spider felt so lonely and ashamed.

“I will look like them,” said the spider. “I will be beautiful!”

The spider looked in the mirror and tore off four legs, and tore out six eyes, and ripped off both mandibles, and bent into the shape of a human. The pain was terrible!

When all was done, the spider looked to the mirror and leapt back in fear. The spider couldn’t recognize the face that stared back.

Tears rushed down the spider’s new face.

“What have I done?” said the spider. “What have I done?”

From then on, a mask never left the spider’s face. Even the spider couldn’t bear to see the horrors behind such a beautiful mask.

Cole Andrade is a musician and writer from Brockton, Massachusetts whose interests span the spectrum of artistic synthesis. In his music, he commutes from the orchestral world to that of songwriters and improvisers. In his writing, he drifts between history, fiction, tale, and myth. His hobbies include playing Stardew Valley, collecting stories, listening to Rage Against the Machine, and cleaning his apartment.
Featured Artwork: Albarubescens [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]