The following is a piece that I wrote and illustrated years ago with Shel Silverstein’s poem “Masks” in mind. I remember always loving Silverstein as a kid, but his poetry has resonated so much more with me as an adult. “Masks” spoke to me on an especially powerful level, and because of it, a short story about a lost girl named Blue began to form.
This was originally performed as a spoken word and visual piece for the 2013 Miss SAE Pageant at the University of La Verne.
Once upon a time, a girl named Blue lived in a village in her native land. She was happy and safe at home with her people, but sometimes she wondered what it was like out there in the world, what it was like out in the unknown lands.
Suddenly, one night, Blue woke up and saw red. She saw fire all around her, burning down her village, and she was scared.
A group of gray invaders had come. They destroyed all that they found, except for her, to her knowledge.
Blue only narrowly escaped the fires, hiding away unseen.
In the morning, two gray men found her, bruised and bleeding, and took her away.
Across the ruins, the only surviving blue boy was taken away, too.
“We will not kill you,” said one of the gray men to Blue, “This we promise and swear. All that we ask is that you wear a mask, to obscure your savage face from our view.”
Blue didn’t want to wear the gray mask, but when she showed up to her new, gray school without it, she quickly suffered the consequences.
“You’re disgusting!” said the gray kids. “How dare you flaunt your bright, blue skin!”
“It’s no use,” thought Blue that day. “I’m not beautiful when I’m blue. I’m no good this way.”
Meanwhile, the blue boy was receiving the same fate.
Blue became so tired of being chastised and hurt, even with the mask on, that she decided to run, and wandered into the unknown lands. The blue boy was just as lost as she was.
But what the grays didn’t know, when they killed off the blues, was that blue people can see into the future.
As Blue walked through the lands, she journeyed through time, and began to see the grays’ history unfold before her eyes.
In 1860, there was a Civil War between the grays. Just like they did to her people, they killed each other, because some believed in one thing, and others in another.
She saw many men fighting, with masks and without. She wondered why the men with colored faces, like her, the captives from all across the land, fought in a war alongside their oppressors.
But she remembered that fear is a powerful thing.
She watched on, and the Civil War wasn’t the end of it. By 1950, two world wars had come and gone, and the masked held their masks up, trying to stay strong.
When the men returned home from the second war, and found the women without their masks on, it was the last straw. So they created a new kind of mask.
With this new mask, the people no longer had to hold them up to their faces—instead, the masks clung and stuck to their skin, molding into it, becoming their faces. They lost themselves more than ever before.
Soon, Blue could no longer tell who wore a mask and who did not, and she felt like the only blue person alive.
Even though she was not.
Blue watched from a distance until tears came to her eyes. She became so angered by the history of masks that she wanted to do something about it.
Now, she realized, was the time to stand up. Now was the time to climb a mountain, break the mask, and show that she was free.
Blue found a peak, broke her mask into two, and shouted for everyone to quickly do it, too.
A crowd gathered to watch her shout, and suddenly, another war began to break out.
But this war was a war between the masks and their inhabitants. People of all colors, pink, green, gold, violet, were at war with themselves, tearing off the hate that had kept their colors within.
By 1970, Blue was a hero. The war was not yet over, it would be a long, hard fight, but the colored people thanked her for leading them, in spite of her fear. They thanked her for starting what so many could not begin.
She was at peace with herself, but still, something was missing.
She still wept for the loss of her people, the great, blue women and men. She thought that, besides the mirror, she would never see another blue face again.
But one day, a boy who held a mask, who’d been too afraid to show his face before now, crossed the field to meet with her, at last.
He took a deep breath, lowered his mask, and when their eyes met, and she filled with joy, he said,
“Hello, beautiful, I’m blue, too, and I’ve been waiting for someone like you.”