The Man in the Harlequin Mask

This happened maybe two years ago.

I live in Massachusetts and I enjoy an activity called Live Action Roleplaying. If you’re not familiar with it, imagine spending a weekend immersed in a made-up universe, playing a character you invented. It’s like long term improv or theater if you think about it. It’s really just amazing.

The place I go to is a medieval fantasy themed universe. That being said, we were in the forest with no electronics and the only lights came from candles or the two large campfires which were on opposite sides of the grounds. At that time, I played a noble who had a lot of functions in game.

Generally, I wore a fancy dark green dress laced with a trace of gold around the sleeves and the large hood it bore.

There was one evening that was actually very confusing and thinking about it gives me chills.

So, one night, the people who animated the event had decided to make a masked ball. I had brought with me a beautiful dark green lace mask ornated with gold that matched my dress. I had bought it in venice when I had the chance to have a student exchange in Italy. I had never worn it until that night.

It was a very cloudy night, so we couldn’t see the moon or the stars. Needless to say it was very dark.

Everyone gathered around the campfire and the animators started the music (since they orhcestrated the whole event, sometimes, they would use soundboxes and such to make events more immersive) and it was a three-stroke waltz.

At that time, I had absolutely no idea how to dance to a three-stroke waltz, even if it is the easiest dance in the world.

One of my friends had given me a bit of prior training as we were putting our costumes on; everyone had brought a fancier outfit for that night, because usually, since there were many battles and such, people dressed very much like medieval peasants, depending on what style they went for. Since I was a noble woman, I always dressed a little fancier. I didn’t change for that evening, because it wasn’t necessary.

Everyone paired up and I watched, sitting by the fire, mesmerized at how amazing it looked to see people dancing.

Soon enough, a man approached me.

He was wearing a full mask and I didn’t recognize his build. He was neither a player nor was he one of the animators. I know these people; most of them, I went to college with. Him, though, I didn’t know at all.

I brushed it off and figured it was a new player that could only make it to the event that evening.

“Would you care to dance with me?” He asked me in a deep voice. He was holding a hand out to me, waiting for me to grab it.

“I’m not really good at dancing.” I say, a little intimidated.

I was a bit creeped out by his mask, although it was very nice looking.

A full-face harlequin mask; it was black and burgundy with a diamond shaped pattern layered all over it, separated by lines of gold.

Now, usually, in La Commedia Dell’arte, Harlequin’s mask is brown and his clothes have red, green and gold triangular or diamond shaped patterns all over, but I still recognized the character’s mask from the mischevious expression plastered onto it.

“Just follow my lead. After all, in a waltz, the man leads the dance.”

I finally agree on sharing one dance with him. It was rather enjoyable, since he took his time to show me where to put my hands and how to move my feet. He even encouraged me to relax.

Throughout the whole thing, I had no idea who’s voice it was. It really bugged me. Everything about him seemed bizarre. Unusual.

He kept suggesting we should go take a walk in the forest, further away from the crowd, but every time, I refused. It was dark in the forest and I didn’t know him and my character was known to be scared of the dark, even if I, as a person, don’t mind it at all. Still, since I didn’t know him, even I, Melody, the real person behind the character, wouldn’t have followed him. Something didn’t feel right.

When the waltz ended, I thanked him, he bowed at me and walked into the crowd of people who had started chatting.

I figured I’d try and find him later in the evening. I always like roleplaying with all sorts of people. It’s fun.

But I never found him.

The evening went on and there was no trace of him anywhere. I asked around and none of the other players said it.

I even described his mask exactly and no one recalled having seen such a mask.

For the sake of the evening, I brushed it off, joking that I had danced with a ghost.

Fast-forward to the end of the weekend. Everyone was packing up what was on the grounds and we were all chatting, so I asked.

“Who did I dance with, saturday night?”

No one spoke up.

Everyone looked at one another, rather dumbfounded.

“Was there a late arrival?” I asked the animators.

They all told me there couldn’t have been a player who would have arrived that evening because all the animators were in game; they weren’t at their spot where they put their costumes on and such; all of them were with the players, in character. Absolutely no one was out-game.

That suddenly chilled me even more than it did earlier.

My mind suddenly traced back to that night. How he had kept suggesting to go for a walk in the forest where there wasn’t anybody so we could talk…

I kept getting these bizarre vibes from him, but at the time, I just figured it was the excitement. I loved the idea of a masked ball.

But what if he was a man with intentions I don’t want to think about?

I’m so grateful for the fact I refused to follow him. I can’t begin to imagine what could have happened.

Maybe he was a good guy, but there was a chance he wasn’t. And I’d rather not find out which it is.

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