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The air is still, stagnant with the suffocating smell of strong perfume and bitter wine. The room is bathed in a dim glow, lit only by the brightness of the moon and the gleam of white candlesticks- stained yellow with age -crying wax while their skins burn under flickering flames.


The candles are everywhere, scattered in differing numbers. Some bound to the wall, sitting on golden sconces that shine faintly with a ghost-like quality in the light. Others clustered, placed on hanging chandeliers which dangle heavily on metal nooses, swinging mindlessly from where they are bolted to the ceiling. Most are left on the tables, lifeless decorations chosen to create a bold statement of wealth and class.


The host sits on a throne- the epitome of luxury -its cushions made of velvet, fine and new, framed by a structure of metallic gold bejeweled with diamonds and engravings. It glittered with new polish.


In his hand was a drink, a fine, dark red. Strong, bitter but sweet all at once. He wore a mask, sculpted perfectly for the occasion, crafted of only the finest materials.


He watches as his guests dance to the music, faces hidden in favor of their new identities, all beautiful and perfect.


For what use does one have for their true self if it leaves them as nothing in the eyes of others?


Your individuality is inconsequential and insignificant. You are nothing if not a blank slate, an empty canvas waiting to be painted with your lies in hopes of appeasing the expectations of others.


The rhythm of the music falls flat and slow, echoing alongside the sounds of footsteps hitting the tiled floor.


A moth flutters inside, thoughts absent in the strong allure and brilliant lumosity of lights, its fan-like wings a dull brown in comparison to the splendor around it.


It burns.




My lungs are burning.


The smell of concentrated, medical alcohol hanging like a blanket in the room, trapped in a box of closed windows, cold air conditioning and shut doors.


Fluorescent lights, piercing in their brightness, are built into the ceilings where they continue to glow, letting out a low buzzing hum.


I peer out the window, glancing at the pedestrians below, rushing along the street in collective silence. They all wear masks- remade to fit a new use -their noses and mouths covered with plain cloth and industrialized material.


While faces still remained covered, the eyes were now visible for all to see, the sign of a new era. Eyes are the window to the soul, after all.


But what use do we have for looking at eyes if we don’t see them at all? Shielded by the protective barrier of small metal boxes constantly on hand.


Phones we call them. Devices which lead to the discovery of yet another mask.


Another identity made to imitate perfection, crude and cheap in nature. Made to hide the ugliness always present in your life. The ugliness, always present in you.


The moon hangs still, despite the passage of time, a shining beacon in the darkened sky.


The phone stirs to life, shaking from its position on the table with a sharp chirp.


A notification appears in white text on a colorful background.


Care to dance?


BY Juliane Liu


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