A True Holiday Story
A few years ago, Jessica, my brother Codos, and I, were Christmas shopping in an HMV, when we encountered something I have never forgotten.
A woman entered the store from the mall beyond, a bundle in her arms which she held with some care. As she moved to speak with a friend who’d already been browsing the albums, the angle changed and I could see what she was cradling.
It looked like a child, a boy of maybe five, but his skin was a shade I’m hard-pressed to describe. Pea-soup green maybe, or the colour of lush but rotting jungle foliage, and with an aspect as if a portion of skin might peel away and fall to the floor at any moment; not in the sense of a dollop of costume make up, but in that of an advanced leper.
The most unsettling part were the boy’s eyes, lolling as his mother turned about the store, bright against his Lovecraft-ian face.
I certainly do not mean to offend, I have no idea what condition the child might have been suffering from, but it’s a hard image to shake: the tender affections of the woman as she cradled a boy who looked like he may have been dead a week.
That is a very uncomfortable image, and using the mask for illustration just highlights the creepiness. In some ways it reminds me of stories where strange creatures replace human children with their children, or other stories where a mother can’t grasp that her child has died, but this is all the creepier for the apparant normalcy in which the friend reacts, or rather doesn’t react to the baby.