Masks

Every little sound was crystal clear: footsteps, the snapping of latex gloves, the rustling of coats….
Just that he was in darkness.
Charlie reached up to feel his eyes and felt gauze. His hand, trembling, made a hasty retreat. Authoritative footsteps approached and stopped. The person checked his IV tubing.
“What happened?” he asked the… whoever.
“There was a bomb. You sustained corneal abrasions, a concussion, burns. We’ll keep you under observation for a week or so.” A doctor, then.
“And when can I see again?”
“We’ll take off the bandages soon.”

Charlie noticed after a while that the voices around him sounded identical. It scared him.

On his ninth day, a doctor approached and drew the curtains around his bed.
“I’m going to remove your bandages now.” He heard scissors cutting the cloth, then felt the pads over his eyelids being removed.
“Keep your eyes closed now. I’m putting a pair of sunglasses on now. Okay?”
“Yeah.”
The doctor put a pair of glasses on his nose.
“Open your eyes…”
Even through the tinted lenses everything felt too bright. Charlie looked up at the doctor’s face. The mask hid his features, so Charlie couldn’t tell if he was smiling or stern. He was oddly homogenous.
“I can see you!”
“That’s good. You can’t be discharged yet, though, we still have to observe you.”
The doctor pulled open the curtains and left. Several people approached the foot of his bed, all wearing surgical masks. Charlie inspected each face-
All identical. All the same.
“How are you feeling, Charlie?”
“Can you see now, Charlie?”
“I was so worried about you, Charlie…”
They closed in. The masks concealed their faces, making it impossible to differentiate…
“Get away from me!”
“Are you sure you are all right?”
“Go- away-“
Charlie tried to get up from the bed. The figures loomed over him. Their masks. It hid their faces. What was underneath? Why did they need to hide it?
“He seems quite ill…”
He would run, if his legs would listen to him. But the ward was getting darker and darker…
Charlie fell unconscious.

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