Chapter 2: The Clerk
Face Me (2020)

"Good afternoon, sir", said the smartly dressed attendant wearing one of the lighter shades of this unassuming face. He had appeared from somewhere without drawing attention away from my investigation of these faces of liberation. Had he been standing there watching me the whole time, blending in to the background like an observant bystander on a crowded street? Had he been observing me and noting which faces I took interest in, so that he could make a prescient suggestion?

The mask was realistic in every way except for the eyeholes, which were creating a bit too much depth to the wearer's eyes. The face had an unnerving quality about it somehow, yet I could sense that the tenant was a calm and peaceful man.

Avoiding close scrutiny was the key to hiding the fact that it was indeed a facade you were showing to the world. The photographs on that placard showed people wearing cloth hats and hoodies, scarves and winter coats - all manner of clothing to conceal the edges of the prosthetic. This was not a strategy one could hope to employ in tropical environments.

"That is our most popular mask", the clerk continued in response to me reaching out to a face on the shelf. "We call it the Bruno. It's an unremarkable look, right?"

For a moment i wondered what the face beneath the face looked like as I slowly lifted the face from its head. The mannequin was a featureless white shape with no identifying marks. For a moment I had thought myself to be unmasking someone. Why would the wearer of this face have any identity, any characteristics at all? Only real people who wear the mask eschew familiar traits and reputations.

"This will fool the facial tracking systems then?" I asked clumsily, as I studied the lightly tanned version skeptically. I was sliding my fingers along the contours of this face like a blind person cataloging the facial geometry to commit it to memory.

The clerk showed a slight smile, perhaps a bit muted by the Bruno, and asked, "Would you like to try it on?"