Every now and then, the hero hears it.
It’s a voice as thin as paper calling up to him so sweetly, getting into his ears from nowhere, slipping down his neck gently and lingering in the air around him.
It doesn’t have any ill intentions, no - it’s similar to a hummingbird’s call, it’s harmless. But it’s there, and has been there with him for years, at first so soft it couldn’t be heard, and then louder, but only enough to catch his attention.
To lead him into the forest.
On those tree stumps.
The voice has grown louder since then. Just enough for him to be able to recognize it if he’s in a noisy crowd. Usually, however, there is nobody else. Just him, in his own home. Alone with the voice.
Though now he can feel, sometimes, something brushing over his hands. Like fingertips. Loving, gentle fingertips caressing slowly his knuckles. They are a little rough, like the bark of a tree, and they are very loving.
It feels sweet. He closes his eyes.
The voice asks him if he’s mad at it. No, he’s not. He’d love to meet it. Where are you? I want to see you. I want to meet you. Where did we see each other?
The voice giggles, and his hands are taken into smaller ones. The hero stands up and lets himself be lead by rough hands in the light-hearted parody of a waltz. The kind a child dances with their parent.
And with his eyes closed he follows the tapping feet and gentle pressure on his palms, without even trying to oppose the little thing making him move around the room childishly as the voice keeps on laughing sweetly, so sweetly. A hand shifts to place itself on the back of his neck while something soft brushes against his forehead and nose. It feels so in love, so happy. It giggles excitedly and giddily like a child. It’s adorable.
Then something that feels like arms wraps around his neck. It’s a hug at first. But it tightens, a lot, with desperation. The voice stops chuckling and instead murmurs with a pleading voice.
Are you mad at me? Are you mad at me?, it whimpers obsessively into his ears. No, no, I’m not mad at you, I’m not, why should I be?
Because he killed you.
It’s like emerging from a deep pool of water.
The hero is alone. Of course. No one is in his house. His eyes trail slowly to the wall where it is hung.
A mask. With no mouth. Eight horns. And big eyes. Staring.
It’s the mask. Just that. Nothing to be worried. It doesn’t do anything. He found it following the voice. It helps the voice. Having it makes him feel the body to which it used to belong. If he gets rid of the mask, he will never feel those fingertips again. Those quiet, loving fingertips that brush against the back of his hand and invite him to dance with someone who knows him, but he himself doesn’t know. Someone who, by the sound of it, loves him.
He needs the voice.
He feels so alone here, sometimes.
It comes back when he’s in bed, trying to sleep. Just a word hitting his nape similar to a whimper, and rising up to his cheeks as it looks for warmth.
The hero shivers and closes his eyes, trying to give it a body.
He just wants to see him.