“Masks of the Mud God”

from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #213

bcs213Miriam fashioned the inner lining of her mask from a single piece of cured and softened pigskin. Pressing the soaked leather over a plaster gauze mold of her face, she cut it to shape with a pair of shears, and with a naked razor carved holes for the mouth, nose, and eyes.

She baked it only long enough to fix its shape without sacrificing flexibility, then conditioned the inside with neatsfoot oil, so it would remain kind to her skin, and supple. She mixed her own plaster with clay, sand, and water, which she smeared over the mask’s exterior. She sculpted cheekbones, nose, and chin not from memory but from imagination and desire. With a sliver of wood and meticulous care, she pressed detailed texture into the lips and drew the finest lines around the mouth to suggest kind and frequent smiles. When the plaster dried, she brushed it with the softest hues of pink and red paint. It was a pure face, a face with only a few innocent secrets, if any at all. It was the face of a woman with freedom, contentment, and children who brought her joy—all the things Miriam lacked.

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