Flash Fiction Friday: The Dreaming Mask

Beauty itself.

Nothing else more aptly described the mask hanging on the wall in the Intergalactic Museum in the Ancient Arts section. Crafted by an ancient people indigenous to the Andromeda Galaxy and once held as one of their most sacred artifacts, it had finally come to rest here, vacuum-sealed behind thick unbreakable glass where nothing so unholy as dust or museum patrons could touch it.

Every hour, every day, hundreds of people of varying species milled through the museum, pausing for a moment to admire the breath-taking beauty of the mask. Deep blue-green, it shimmered with a different hue depending on what angle one viewed it from. Graceful feather-like decorations surrounded the eyes in a soft, purple halo, and purple and white gems sparkled on the forehead and cheeks. A mouth could not be found in the mask, however, for this species-the only telepathic race known in intergalactic history—did not have mouths. A placard explaining as much, as well as explaining how the race died out much like Ancient Earth’s Mayan people, hung next to the display.

A S’iovnen woman of the Triangulum Galaxy stood before the display, one hand on her chin, her three other arms folded across her chest. Something about the mask—labeled in Universal as “The Dreaming Mask”—held her so entranced she did not move on with the rest of her tour group. She had been staring at it for so long she did not even realize it until all six of her eyes stung from dryness. As she blinked and the mask flickered in and out of sight, the shimmering hues shifted in a full spectrum of color, ranging all the way from infrared to ultraviolet. Shocked, the woman squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. When she opened them again, the mask had returned its usual resplendent blue-green.

She shook her head, realizing that she needed to catch up to the rest of her group. She read Universal and spoke a little of it, but found it almost impossible to understand when others spoke it. Losing her group entirely would put her in an inconvenient predicament, to say the least. She hurried down the museum hall, finally catching up to the other S’iovnen tourists in the Milky Way portion of the ancient arts section.

As she tried to focus on the display which compared Alpha-Centauri arts to Terran arts, she found herself becoming drowsy. The world cycled through the spectrum of color in pulses like her heartbeat. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she tumbled over backwards, barely aware of the gasps and cries rising around her. A foreign voice danced through her mind in cadence with the shifting colors, musical and soothing. It blocked out all the other sounds flickering at the last surface of her consciousness.

Everything was color—beautiful, bright, pure color. The colors were musical notes. They were soft breaths of wind. They were the fresh earthy smell of the world before a rainstorm; they were raindrops against a windowsill. They splayed and danced and swirled, each one carrying meaning just beyond reach.

She felt. She saw. She existed in a way she had never existed before.

Slowly,the woman’s eyes rolled open again, rising to consciousness like a diver to the surface of a turbulent sea. She found herself surrounded by Terrans in medical dress. One of them said something in Universal, which she could not quite understand. The colors danced through her perception one last time like a lover’s farewell.

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Do you speak Universal?” one of the doctors asked.

“I saw,” she said, the words slipping from her tongue before she even realized it.

“What did you see?”

She closed her eyes and slipped back into her native tongue:

“Beauty itself.”

“The Dreaming Mask” copyright 2017 by A.L.S. Vossler.

What did you think? Share any thoughts or criticisms in the comments.

Creative Commons image courtesy of Karen Arnold through PublicDomainPictures.net.

Review: Star Wars: Kanan

Firstly, I need to start this review by saying that I do not like comic books or graphic novels. I actually have a harder time following the action when it is drawn out in pictures than when it is written out for me. Plus, if I’m going to read something, I would like to imagine it for myself, rather than have a picture somebody else came up with. For some reason, I feel that the images on the page cannot fully convey the emotion that books or movies can. Maybe if I grew up reading comic books, I would feel differently. That being said, I nevertheless enjoyed the two series of comics about Kanan Jarrus put out by Marvel Comics : Star Wars: Kanan, and Star Wars: Kanan: First Blood. There are a lot of tie-ins with both the shows Rebels and The Clone Wars, as well as a tie-in with the novel A New Dawn.

The first series of six issues begins with the crew of the Ghost on their way to the planet Kaller, to get supplies for the starved and needy citizens of Tarkintown on Lothal. Upon learning they are going to Kaller, Kanan gets lost in horrified memory—because this is the planet is the place where his Master, Depa Billaba, was killed. The first five issues are set in his flashback—remembering her death, remembering how he survived, and how he was subsequently hunted down by clones. The sixth issue cuts back to present day, where Kanan has to find the missing supplies and is injured in the process. The second series of issues begins with Kanan in a bacta tank, and we see his memories go back even farther to before he was chosen as Billaba’s Padawan. It shows how Billaba chose him and then how he was sent out to fight in the war. There is plenty of action and complex military politics (in a good way!), along with a great fight scene with General Grievous. The final issue, just as in the first series, cuts back to present day, and Kanan goes on a mission to help an old friend, along with the help of Ezra Bridger. I think what I liked best about the stories was that it was not just a direct, “Here is the history of Kanan Jarrus.” It was presented enveloped inside a story with its own separate plot. I have always enjoyed the “story within a story” format, so that was a definite bonus—it felt like I was watching an episode of Star Wars Rebels with flashbacks included. The plotting was tight and well done—no space or words were wasted or unnecessary.

The artwork is pretty good, though not being one for comics and graphic novels, I cannot say I am much of a reliable judge on the matter. Still, even for me, I was able to follow the action and story fairly easily. I liked that it felt enough like the show to be recognizable, but distinctly its own. The character proportions were drawn more realistically, particularly when it comes to the ratios of head size to body size—this is likely due to the fact that CGI has to skew proportions in order to avoid uncanny valley in a way that 2D artwork does not have to.

I also loved the characterization of Kanan. He is, as the title of the comics would suggest, center stage. I already liked Kanan’s character from the show, and the comics only reinforced that. I loved the introduction of the scalawag character Janus Kasmir, a ne’er-do-well who takes Kanan under his wing—even after delivering a great line where he says, “Kid, I get it. You’re used to following a master, so you’re in the market for a new one…trouble is, I’m not in the market for a padawan.” Seeing more about Depa Billaba’s story is really cool too—since I haven’t seen anything in the new canon about her other than her brief appearance in Episode I. The fight between her and General Grievous is really cool and well-drawn. I do have to say, I wasn’t as crazy about the way the Clones were represented in the comics. Firstly, they seemed like a completely different ethnicity than they appear in the movie and shows. Secondly, while the comic gives them some character development, they don’t really have enough depth when they reach the pinnacle of their character arc—at least in my opinion.

All in all, the Kanan comics are a fun read. I wouldn’t say they are a must-read, but if you are looking for something to fill the time while you wait for The Last Jedi and season four of Rebels, this is worth reading—even if you don’t especially like comics.

Image of Kanan comic books is taken of my own personal copies and used for editorial and review purposes only.