Monstrous Femme

Minato Tanaka was sick and tired of all the health regulations that had been set by the government, but no other annoyed him as much as having to wear a surgical mask everywhere. It itches. I cannot breathe. He objected with these excuses, although the mask did not, in fact, suppress his ability to breathe nor itch. The truth was tied to his inability to let anyone tell him what to do. And so he relentlessly complained to the point that no friends wanted to hang around him much these days.

After lying to his wife about his whereabouts, he made his way to a sleazy nightclub where exotic dancers masterfully performed for a majority-male audience. His blood boiled when he directed his lustful gaze over his favorite dancers to their faces, covered in masks. When one of the dancers got close enough, he bent forward, ripping the mask off. “C’mon sweetheart, don’t hide your pretty face from me.” He was immediately thrown out having broken the one rule: never put your hands on any of the girls. Another stupid rule.

Half-buzzed, he walked the dark, filthy streets and took the train that would bring him home. It was already past three in the morning. That’s when he saw her, through the window of the last wagon of the train. Captivated, he purposely boarded the same cabin and leered at her from a distance. A crisp black pencil skirt, a blazer wrapped around her slender waist, long ebony hair falling smoothly over her shoulders—but what most intrigued him were her large, almond-shaped eyes, peering at him from above the mask covering her nose and mouth. He imagined she must be beautiful and ached to reach over and tear off the mask.

“You seem familiar.” With the cabin being empty except for the two of them, it was easy to have a clear sense of what they were saying. “Have we met before?”

The woman spoke in a soft, clear voice: “Perhaps. Do you come here often?”

Minato laughed. “As a matter of fact, I’m a regular.” He was almost certain he recognized her. She might have been one of the dancers on her way home—otherwise, what would she be doing out here so late? If only he could get close enough to snatch her face mask. “Say, maybe you and I can get to know each other some more.”

She didn’t reply. Only peered at him curiously.

“Oh what, you worried about the virus? Don’t worry, I got to ditch the mask because I’m vaccinated,” he lied.

“Won’t your wife mind?”

Minato glanced at the ring on his finger and cursed himself internally.

“This? I almost forgot I had it. I wear it just as a sentimental gesture. Separated, actually.”

The eerie swishing of the train chugging forward echoed between them.

“Do you think . . .” The train suddenly stopped. The doors whooshed open and onward a pair of homeless men stumbled, fighting. In the commotion, Minato became distracted—and when he turned back, the woman was gone.

This wasn’t his stop, but he still lurched out onto the train platform. On the last step of the automated stairway, he saw her slender legs climbing up. Minato rushed after her. Outside, the wind lashed furiously. Around the far corner, he caught a glimpse of her dark hair under the streetlight. He sprinted to catch her. Through another sharp turn and another. Always almost losing her each time he finally managed to catch up.

Finally, she stopped by an intersection across the train tracks.

“Hey babe, you trying to get away from me? C’mon, I know a place where we can get to know each other better.”

The woman stared back. “Do you think . . . I’m pretty?”

“I think you’re gorgeous.” He reached out to her face and gently un-looped the mask’s elastic bands from behind her ears. But the mask didn’t slide off. It stuck to her face. He gave it a fast pull and it came off with a slight, rippling tear.

Minato’s body reacted as though he was hit by lighting. His arms and legs spasmed and he revolted backwards, making him land hard on his posterior and sending the nerves on his legs into a frenzy. The woman’s mouth was slit from ear to ear, set in a perpetuate macabre smile. The dried blood was what kept the mask from sliding off her face, and now the wound spewed fresh blood that dripped from her chin. She opened her mouth to reveal a series of sharp teeth covered in saliva. Yet still, her voice came out sweet and clear.

“You think I’m pretty.” She stepped closer. Minato’s legs did not react to his commands. He dragged himself backwards as the woman reached into her pocket and took out a silver scalpel. “Let me make you pretty like me.”

“Get away from me, you disfigured whore!”

The woman stopped and her face contorted into an expression of hurt and anger. She began to sob.

“Freak!” Minato kept yelling. The woman glowered at him with fury in her eyes.

“You say I’m a freak. I’ll show you a freak!” She lurched forward at incredible speed as Minato screamed into the night. A misty coldness passed through him. Then silence.


He opened his eyes and found himself alone. Patting his body in search of the mortal wound. Nothing. For a moment, he firmly believed it to be a product of his drunkenness. What the heck was in that drink?

He rose to his feet and spun around. The street sign read Kawabata-dori Street. Only a couple blocks from his house. Still perturbated, he made his way home. His wife slept soundly. He walked into the bathroom to relieve himself before he slipped in bed next to her. Not wanting to turn on the bright overhead lights, he settled on the dim brightness of a small nightlight plugged in above the sink. He splashed some water, fixed his gaze at himself in the mirror, and—

A strange sensation overcame him. Slow, tingling at first, then a fiery burning spreading to his face, and finally the pain. In the mirror, he watched as a thin red line spread from the sides of his mouth to his ears.

Now you’re pretty like me,” her voice whispered through the darkness. Minato opened his mouth to scream and in doing so, the flesh ripped open, making his jaw drop lower than humanly possible. The blood flowed freely, and he continued to scream and gargle in an agonizing manner.

When his wife came into the bathroom, she too began to scream.