Foxtrot (Part I of III)

Happy Valentine’s Day! This week at the PLC we’re writing a Round Robin story. Is it a love story? I honestly don’t know.

FOXTROT

I looked at the unmarked brown paper parcel sitting on my doorstep and felt my mouth go dry. A Foxtrot was dead. I was a Foxtrot.

Sean and I had signed up to be Masks six months ago, when Serena died in the St. Mary’s bombing. Effing Pures. only thing worse to them than aliens landing on earth is aliens having babies on earth. Effing Pures, always wanting to turn back the hands of time to a past that never existed. Popular sentiment, so what.

Serena, she thought the aliens were fantastic. Thought they’d come to guide us to a higher purpose. But they don’t tell us what they want from us. They don’t seem to understand the question. That never bothered Serena. Beautiful Serena. My daughter. Sean’s  wife. She never doubted. She just wanted to help them. Losing her to a Purity attack, well it made my life a punch line to the world’s nastiest joke. I didn’t want to be myself anymore. Not Thomas Castello. Anything but that. I didn’t want to remember. The pieces that they found. And Sean, Sean just wanted to be a fist, to hurt the ones who had hurt him. So, Masks it was. Sean, being young and spry, got drafted in the week after we filed. A Beta, he confided. The muscle. The right hand man. I’m going to be a Beta. He got the parcel that Tuesday.

I never saw him again.

And now, now it was my turn. And I was a Foxtrot- the old sage, the anchor, the salt. And as soon as I put on what was in the parcel I would never be anything else again. Thomas Castello, gone forever.

I could hardly wait.

I dead-bolted the door and threw the package down on my coffee table. I sat down on the couch, then found myself sliding to my knees as I leaned forward. My joints barked, and my hands shook a little as I unwrapped my new uniform.

It was like something out of a B-movie. Black shit-kicker boots. Black socks. Tight black pants. Black bulletproof chest plate. Black shirt with long black sleeves for hiding tricks. Black gloves. Black cloak. And of course, the mask, a demon’s fixed snarl, A child’s nightmare mated with a kabuki play. The alientech miracle of plasti. When I put it on, it would meld to my flesh, ride me like a leach until I died. And join me, too, let’s not forget that. The plasti would open my mind to the rest of my unit, psychically linking us into a creature with many bodies but one mind. A Mask was Superhuman.

Or sub-human, if you wanted to get romantic about it.

I set the clothes aside to reveal a slim case at the bottom of the parcel that was, I surmised, full of weaponry. I touched the case, but didn’t open it. Cold and closed. Let it stay that way for a while.

I peeled off my old clothes. Penny loafers. Dress socks. Khaki pants. White button down. Also a uniform, also a mask. And here I was. Wrinkled, skinny-flabby, sprinkled with moles. Goodbye Thomas, I thought, as I pulled on the last set of clothes I would ever need to wear, goodbye old man.

I pulled the Mask over my head. The plasti writhed on my face, and I scrabbled at my cheeks like an ape, trying to pull it off as it melded itself into my dermis. It burned. God, it burned.

Then the pain flickered out like a lost radio signal as the plasti joined my mind into the rest of the Mask. The sound in my head was like the swell of an opera and I felt a rush of humility and awe as I realized I would never be alone again. Five other minds, that was what I thought I had joined. And it was. And yet I felt them all, male, female, young, old, not just MY unit, but all units, past and future, and I, I was Foxtrot, I was all the Foxtrots before and all the Foxtrots yet to come.

Foxtrot is live, I thought into the swirling rush and hum of mind inside me.  Foxtrot is live.

 
Foxtrot Part II will be posted on Wednesday by the wonderful Amy K. Nichols. Part III will be posted Friday by the fearless S.C. Green.