At the age of five, or so the little girl was told, you were given the mask.

Under no circumstances, with the exception of bathing, was this filter to be removed; but even then, only in private, and only for a short interval, and only with no mirrors present.

What about when I am at home on my own?

Not even then. Just in case you forget to put it back on.

When I sleep?

No. Just in case your dreams find expression on your face.

When I fall in love?

Never. Because love’s illusion will be burst when your lover sees who you really are.

In death?

Yes. But someone else will remove the mask for you after your passing, and reveal your true self to the flames.

What about in birth?

Not even then. For then your child will glimpse a uniqueness it will never possess.

At that moment, the little girl realised why she had never beheld her parent’s eyes. She held her gaze into a nearby pool of water, carefully painting a memory of her reversed reflection.

But can’t we all just show our faces, wouldn’t that be better and more beautiful?

It was tried, my child. But we found difference a difficult thing to live with. Difference caused wars. Difference drew borders. Difference caused people to both lust and loath.

But …

No more questions. It’s time.

And as her features were cloaked beneath the hood, she took one last glimpse of herself before her perception would be forever filtered through its veil.

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