The Masque of the Red Death
by Sirius Tyde

Let it not be said that death is a cruel master, for it can bring peace and quiet rest. For some, a rude interruption in their fun and games, but for others, a reward, a blessing, as it ends their suffering. It has been some time now that I have resided with pain, my constant companion and faithful shadow, and as it hurt most deeply last night, I slept fitfully and dreamed of dying.

I had received an invitation from Prospero to attend a masquerade, a ball, with many a distinguished guest, and had determined I would come dressed as a highwayman or, a gentleman of opportunity, if you prefer. My hair was tied back and my left ear was adorned with a magnificent ring of gold. A dark blue waist coat with heavy brass buttons was worn over a laced white shirt. My breeches were of doe skin brushed to a velvet touch and black riding boots polished to a gleam were pulled to the thigh. A simple black mask and a black hat with wide brim completed my attire. I presented my invite to the man at the door and bowing low, he ushered me into the ball room. As I passed through, he turned and locked the door.

The lights were bright, and laughter and gay talk filled the room. I surveyed it carefully to see if I might know someone there, but not a soul did I recognize. I was with strangers all, our identities hidden behind our masks, some hideous and some with mirth, and all of us the same, obscured.

After some time, I was approached by a Tiger and asked if I would care to dance. Not having had opportunity to dance with such a marvelous creature before, I accepted the offer and begun to waltz about the room. The tiger smelled of lily's, and sweet perfume, and it had the familiar voice of a girl I once knew. I asked for a name, but the tiger remained silent, and now the waltz having ended, the tiger crept away. The evening wore on and I danced many times over, once with a repulsive cyclops that never blinked. It just stared as if it could see the future, and again with a patron whose mask smiled on one half with the other half crying. It spoke with laughter in its voice, while tears streamed down the sad cheek.

At long last, I found myself dancing with a Red Mask of frightening countenance. It had deep lines etched into angry features, and still there was hint of ancient knowledge. Neither of us spoke as we began the next waltz. All my moves were matched perfectly as we danced about the room, our steps in unison. I began to feel as though we were destiny. The red masked patron whispered quietly in deep voice, "when the music stops, follow me". I feared for the ending of the music, and wished it go on forever. I couldnt fathom what it was that intrigued and excited me, and while I felt anticipation, there was much apprehension in my heart.

The waltz now finished, I followed the red mask out to the balcony and the cool evening air. The night was becoming stormy and the moon was swept behind passing clouds. The patron turned and spoke; "I give you now an opportunity, a choice if you will, to continue with your life of pain, or be relieved of it forever". Oh, what a surprise this was, an offer of the greatest value."Surely there must be a catch", I said.
The Red masked patron replied; "the only way to be relieved of your pain is to forgo life".As my pain was more than I could bear at most times, there were subtle moments when I felt that I might overcome it at last. These moments were short lived, and soon I would give anything to be free of the torment.

"Suppose I accept your offer, what than", I replied. "Just say the word and breath deeply and it will all be over", he answered. "And if I change my mind, what than", I stalled. "You won't care to alter your decision as you will be free from all your cares. I see that life has been nought but trouble for you, and death is not as unjust as some perceive it. You will be enabled to live your dreams, you will see". The orchestra was once again playing a barouche instrumental and I turned to see gay couples twirling and spinning about, their costumes disguising their malignant fate. All seemed as it should, and I, having made up my mind replied; "Before I say yes, you must reveal yourself to me", and with that spoken, the patron removed his mask from off his face and I found myself staring into a looking glass. I was peering back at myself and could see beyond that into my past. There were also things there I couldnt understand and than a mist, a wisp of crimson breath from the red masked patron, and all went black.

I awoke the next morning feeling fresh and well rested, in fact, a better rest was never had by man nor beast. I leapt from my bed and ran down the stairs. I was vital and felt my body surging with energy, and than it occurred to me that I hadnt any pain. The scenes I had dreamt last night were not but foggy memory, veiled in purple haze.