It was old now, and its shriveled inside pinched and scratched his stinging face. But as he glanced in the full-length mirror, he could see its outside still peacefully smiling. Ever since he put it on, it had been smiling exactly that way.
When he had arrived at the party and someone had handed him the mask, he had politely declined, saying he didn't care for it. But someone in a huge grinning mask said that if he didn't put it on people might not think he was enjoying the party. And if they thought him unhappy they might even ask him to leave.
At first the mask seemed tolerable. It felt good, looked real, and made him feel like one of the crowd. Once behind it, it didn't matter whether he liked the party or anyone at the party. Nobody would know.
But as the party progressed, he noticed all the masks beginning to look more and more alike: smiling, happy, self-satisfied. He glanced in the mirror; even his own mask was beginning to look that way.
Suddenly he was afraid. What if his mask should slip down in an unguarded moment? What if everyone should discover that behind the mask he wasn't really having fun at all?
He stared at his peaceful smiling reflection in the mirror. It was nauseating. Behind him some masks were whispering among themselves. A masked voice was saying they should try harder to spread more masks around.
But something inside gnawed at him. Perhaps they wouldn't dismiss him after all. Perhaps, if he took it off, he could start a trend. Perhaps others would follow and they could all just be themselves again.
He had worn his mask too long already, and it was getting old. Its drying, shrinking inside chafed and pinched his face. Suddenly it lost all meaning. It hadn't changed the real him at all. It was a sham, a facade, a mockery. He would tear it off and throw it away!
He reached for it, no longer caring what anyone else thought or said or did. He despised it. He wanted his face to be his — not some grinning mask. His fingers searched for the string, for the edge — but the string was gone, and he couldn't find where the mask left off and his skin began.
Looking in the mirror, he clutched frantically at the shriveled mold and pulled until his whole face stung and burned in pain. A scream escaped his smiling lips. The mask had grown onto his face.