As a dangerous psychopath it’s my responsibility to blend into society, to take my taboo tastes and hide them behind a persona that dogmatically adheres to social mores. The psychiatric community calls this my “mask of sanity.”
Think of me as a trend spotter, but instead of wide waist belts and cashmere scarves, I sense which norms are in fashion. At the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew that limiting the contagion would be in this season. So I invested in face masks before supplies went scarce. I’ve been wearing a mask of sanity all my life. What was one more?
I never thought I’d be making a political statement, much less virtue signaling.
In truth, I never feel a moral responsibility for my actions. I hold no reverence for the social contract and I have no compassion for the downtrodden. Apart from a morbid curiosity, I feel nothing for my community. From the cutest infant to the wisest grandparent, I see people as a means to an end. I fantasize about the fall of civilization so I that I may showcase what I truly am. Until then it’s important that I fit in.
And yet I never thought wearing a mask, during a global pandemic, would win me many points.
Like an actor researching a role, I’ve spent a lifetime studying the human condition. I’ve learned when to echo righteous sentiment, when to mimic mob mentality, and when to emulate the empathy of those around me. Lacking an emotional core, I am a classical actor, inhabiting behaviors, and leaning into the expectations of my audience. I am a cultural chameleon swapping spiritual and political convictions based on how I read the room.
But I assumed a mask would fit every occasion, because they just make sense.
Attributes like charity and virtue are but merit badges on my person suit, pieces of flare to draw the eye away from the scales underneath. Every time I give away my spot in line, open a door, or bless a sneeze I am approximating altruism. Every time I refuse a compliment or feign humility I am playing a part. Nice guys finish last, but performatively nice guys get all the moral dessert they can stomach.
And yet when I first put on a mask, I never thought anyone ought to pat me on the back.
I have only ever admitted to having the mildest of psychological conditions for the privileges it afforded me. I have only ever grieved for attention. I have only ever shown weakness so that others might mistake it for kindness. I shed crocodile tears on command. Inside, I’m all apathy, a reptilian robot who’d drive you to madness just to settle a bet with myself.
But I’d put a mask on before doing it. Of course.
While you look for an out from watercooler banter I dig my heels in. I relish ever opportunity to practice social graces to check if my mask has slipped. Introversion is a luxury for those still clinging to some semblance of sanity. Serial liars need to audit themselves to see if others are still buying what we’re selling. We stock up on empty pleasantries and make a big deal out of small talk. We gage our baseline all the time.
People assume the best about me. My manipulation is so subtle, you’ll thank me for it. My cruelty is so casual it doesn’t have a tell. Even dogs can’t sense my intent.
My persona is a Craigslist ad come to life, a piece of corporate copy on a Golem’s tongue, a living parody of a positive people person. The real me sits at the 3-way junction of Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. I’m like a Shakespearean villain whose only motivation is the schadenfreude I get from all the chaos I’m unleashing.
Accept when faced with wearing a mask or defying medical establishment I went with the mask. Now I don’t care if you or you extended family get sick. Plagues and forest fires are all part of the natural order, but as long as lumbers on I’m going to use it for cover.
Like a death’s head moth in a chrysalis, I am still evolving, still growing to my full strength. What the DSM-5 calls a characteristic of antisocial personality disorder I call “my great becoming.” I am demigod casting off this filth-riddle vessel. Soon I will singe the remains of this flesh prison and transcend the laws of man.
And yet the entire time I’m rising to my rightful place in the pantheon of the dragon I’m doing so with a mask on.
On Facebook, I see articles with titles like “People who ignore social distancing rules may have psychopathic personality traits, study finds” and I can’t help but think, “Stop giving those weak-ass sociopaths that much credit.” If you score under 30 on the Psychopathy checklist, and refuse to wear a mask, you’re not a psychopath. You’re not privy to a great becoming.
You’re just an asshole.
Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.
Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.
Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.
Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?