Halloween is my favorite time of year, not just mine but my whole village. Every year we would have this big festival for the whole week of Holloween. As you would think this brings in lots of tourists and different businesses to our town and its only been getting bigger every year until… something happened… people started disappearing. Kids started disappearing usually one or two every year. They always vanish when the man comes on the last day of the festival, the 31st of Halloween. I know he’s the one that takes them… because I was the only one who saw what he did to them…
The first time I saw it happen saw 5 years ago, I was 12 and like every year I was deeply into the Halloween spirit. I was walking around eating my candy apple when a man came into town, I remembered that he looked very strange. He looked to be in his thirties, walking with a load of items upon his back. He had red hair and an almost skeleton-like frame and he wore the biggest grin on his face… that was the only thing that got to me. It was a large inhumanly smile that stretched across his face, beyond his cheekbones, and into his eyes.
No adult notice as he strolled into town with that joyful expression on his face. Everyone was occupied with either setting up more stations for vendors or buying the many items for sale. They didn’t even notice him speaking in almost a whisper to children who were lined along the road looking at the many attractions. They would stare emotionless as he whispered to them, almost as if they were in a trance-like state. I couldn’t make out what he was saying from the distance, so I sat on the centerpieces in the town square, waiting for him to cross my path. I felt genuine fear growing in my gut, but I didn’t know why like something was telling me to run and stay far away from him. Even though I felt this growing fear, I wanted to wait for him, I wanted to know what he was saying to everyone. He slowly starting approaching me and with a low voice almost a whisper, barely audible over the dull roar in the square, he spoke o me.
“Spread the Joy, spread the laugh with every mask. Do please come by the Happy Mask Shop”
I looked up, to catch his face and without him even making eye contact, he slowly turned his head to me, he opened one of his squinted eyes and stared directly at me with it with the smile never disappeared from his face. Intense fear washed over me as he stared into my eyes with only one eye open. I completely lost track time as I became immersed in the eerie silence of his stare, I wanted to run but I couldn’t, my body wouldn’t move no matter how hard I tried it was as if I was frozen.
The smile felt like it was looking at me, almost through me as if it was looking into my soul. After what felt like forever, he slowly his head turned back to face the road and he began to go on his way again. As he walked off I realized that there were masks on his back, he must have been a mask collector of sorts. Every mask you could imagen was there, from shape to color… but they all had the same expression of feel to them… pure terror…
That night I couldn’t sleep, I was shaking violently, I felt like I could throw up. Every time I would fall asleep I see his eye staring at me and would wake up in a cold sweat. All I could think about was the meeting with him in the square. From a distance, he looked like your everyday traveling seller of different wares, colorful clothes, a giant pack of goods, and a smile. I didn’t know what it was, but that man was not human, everything about him just seemed wrong to me. That ageless feeling wouldn’t go away like if he was an ancient being, wandering the Earth.
I wanted to know more about him and that terrified more than anything else. I needed to know who the smiling salesman was and tomorrow I would search for him and see if he was in town so I could learn more about him.
The next day I went into town and saw a small group of people gathered around a vacant building in the corner with a small sign next to it read:
HAPPY MASK SHOP—HAPPINESS IS JUST A MASK AWAY!
I ran over to see the smiling man standing in front of everyone speaking about how he was opening his “Happy Masks Shop” here in the square for the festival. Anyone who was listening seemed mesmerized by his words preached, "Come one, come all," to the crowd. When he finally finished his rant he headed inside the tiny building.
Once the crowd of people thinned out I ran inside to inspect the store and find out more about the so-called mask seller. The store was quiet, so silent in fact that you could hear a pin drop… this unsettled me because there were already a few people in there. There was a man, a child next to him, and a woman behind him.No one was talking or event moving at all if it weren’t for their eyes blinking most would mistake them for life sized manikins. they were only staring at the Happy Mask Man.
The smiling man nodded his head and handed two masks to the man and child. When the masks were in their possessions they turned and walked out with a glazed look in their eyes. The woman was out just behind them carrying another mask and then I was all alone… with Him.
He cocked his head, maintaining his silence and in the bravest voice a 12-year-old can muster I asked him about his shop and where he came from. He just kept grinning at me, not saying a word and as more time passed y nerve diminished and the more frightened of him I became. In a shakey voice, I told him to answer me as I stepped back towards the door. Just then a child a few years younger than me walked in.
He walked up to the ever-smiling man without any hesitation or fear as the salesman stood there hunched over the boy. The boy held out his hands, expecting to be gifted a mask like the people before him. In an instant, the man opened his eyes and stared the evilest glare I had ever seen at the small child. Before I could process what was going on the smiling man grabbed the boy by his neck and with the greatest of ease, lifted him off the ground as the small child screamed bloody murder as he struggled to break free from his grasp.
Just then, still smiling, the salesman’s mouth began opening and grew wider as the bone in his jaw started snapping and his skin tore. My body was frozen in place with my hand trembling on the doorknob, I wanted to run to go get help, but my body wouldn’t move. I watched as the child was being consumed halfway down the salesman’s throat, slowly but surely the small child slid down his throat and disappeared. The boy was gone… consumed by this monster and yet I still couldn’t move, I began crying and screaming hysterically. With his mouth still hanging wide open, he slowly turned to me and then put his hands to his face… slowly he started to peel away his face. Even though I was still screaming I could hear the haunting sound of him stretching and tearing his off. He arched his back until his hands separated the skin from his face in a clump of flesh at least two feet long.
Underneath the skins that he pulled off were the same face and soulless smile as he stood there with the mass of skin in his hands. With my now broken voice, mind, and spirit I backed into the corner as he began to kneed and mold the lump of skin into something and soon it turned into a small shape in his hands. Holding out the object with pride was a new mask… made out of flesh a pure terror shown on it… was the child’s face.
I began vomiting into my lap as a soft chuckle came from the Salesman, without even opening his mouth he spoke to me one last time “Do you want a mask, my boy?”. Without skipping a beat I got up and ran for the door, with tears streaming down my cheeks I ran across the town square. I could hear people gasping as I ran by in a mess of tears and snot, I didn’t stop when they asked what was wrong I just ran home. Covered in filth I ran past my mother and into the closet of my room, there I stayed until the next day. I didn’t answer my parents or the police when they came asking for questions about the missing boy.
To this day I’ve never told anyone because I know no one will believe me. I tried to continue my life as normal after that day, but I could still hear the screams of that child it haunts me to this day… knowing I couldn’t do anything to help him. The Happy Mask Salesman comes back every year on Holloween and more and more children and even some adults go missing. Dead ends were everywhere when trying to pin the crime on him… there was never enough proof. I try to steer people away from his shop, sometimes I’m successful… other times… there ends up being a new mask on display.
I’m not sure of where he travels to, but if you see a man in your hometown claiming to sell masks, a man who looks off and seems… off. The man with the eternal smile… stay away from him, he isn’t human he is something sinister…