The story you are about to read depicts the truth about the political crisis in Macedonia. It is about the greed, vanity, avarice, gluttony, violence and hatred imprinted on the faces of the family and ‘friends’ who have ruled the country for more than a decade. It is inspired by an episode of the “The Twilight Zone” called “The Masks,” and in it one may predict the future of the country’s small, but excessively rich dictator, and the grovelling concubines and spineless profiteers surrounding him.
The story goes like this:
A wealthy elderly man awaits the arrival of his grown up children and grandchildren, who are coming to spend his final hours by his death bed, before inheriting his wealth and property. Accepting his death poses the man no problems, but the notion of who gains control over his estate burdens his departure; his family are all crooked. The man realizes that he has some final tasks; some debts to settle and some justice to mete out to his family. He sets up a plan, a final dinner, with its participants all hidden under masks.
Four impatient, angry, greedy and selfish people arrive at the house, disregarding the final hours of a very sick, old man. Disturbed by their ignorance, the man lashes out and labels his offspring as caricatures, who falsely present themselves as honest and hardworking members of society. In denial, the family reject all insinuations about their true character.
Standing in front of the mirror
In order to prove them wrong, the man asks the family members to indulge him, and play a game — as a small provision for being the new beneficiaries of the estate. To play, all four must wear a mask until either the stroke of midnight, or his death. Impatient to grab the estate, the four players unwillingly comply.
Each individual is then asked to make an honest self-assessment based on their best character traits, before receiving a mask representing the antithesis of their being. All four people speak highly of themselves. When standing in front of the mirror they see honest, just, beautiful, generous and kind members of society.
The game begins as each person states his or her character traits. The old man hands the first mask to his son in law; a wealthy and accomplished businessman, who believes he has an outgoing persona, is a fair, charming friend and a lovely father. He receives a mask of greed, avarice and cruelty.
The old man’s daughter sees herself as a victim. Ignored by her family members, she presents herself as filled with pain, battling with an unknown sickness for 25 years. Constantly complaining about the hardships of her life, she receives a mask of self-centeredness and cowardice.
The grandchildren, being young adults, seem distracted. One is constantly in front the mirror with make up in her hands, while the other is sitting impatiently in a chair, frowning over the rules of the game. The old man hands a mask representing ugliness, arrogance and vanity to his granddaughter, as an antithesis to the beauty reflecting in the mirror, while to the “timid, courteous and gentle boy,” he gives a mask depicting a stupid, dull faced clown.
Taking of the face-masks
Finally, the old man puts on his own mask, a skull representing death, the antithesis of the life he is about to lose. He addresses his family:
“You all came for one purpose, to watch me go and cry ‘bon voyage.’ To put coins on my closed eyes and start grabbing things from my shelves with your free hands. That’s the truth. You came to rip up everything I’ve sown, to collect everything I’ve built. Well, I shall not disappoint you. Everything is yours. Money, the house, property holdings, stocks, and bonds, everything… But only if you wear the masks for the few hours until midnight, if not you’ll receive a train ticket back home.”
Faced with the possibility of losing their inheritance, the family members indulge the old man and put on the masks. Five minutes before midnight, they grow impatient, complaining of the cruelty of the old man for making them wear these despicable masks.
Desperate to take them off, they appeal to the dying man’s senses, completely disregarding the few minutes he has left on Earth. “Is there nothing else you have to say to me?” he asks. The family members continue nagging about the masks being unbearable, asking why they’ve had to undergo this cruel treatment. “Because you’re cruel and miserable people,” the man replies. “Because none of you respond to love.”
The man continues, depicting the true character of each individual as a last attempt to make them accept their wrongdoings and change their ways. As the hands of the clock collide on midnight, death arrives and the room is filled with the joy of the old man’s departure. Blinded by their wealth and power, the family members forget the rules of the game. The masks fall off, and the brief moment of joy turns to horror and misery. The ugly masks are imprinted on their faces and there is nothing they can do about it, with or without the old man’s inheritance.
Let’s unravel the metaphors of the everlasting political crisis. The old man represents the people of Macedonia; dying everyday due to illness, social insecurity, poverty, violence, hatred and the people who stood against the criminal regime regardless of their individual or collective identity. The family members represent the leadership of the party: reluctant to stand down, and grabbing all material and spiritual possessions of the people.
Unwilling to face justice and repent the wrong doings for the past decade, on April 27, 2017 they created another violent and potentially deadly scene. Hidden behind the masks of nationalists, these cowards shall see their true faces in the reflection of a mirror hanging on the wall of a prison cell.
As for you, readers, please don’t forget: “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”
Image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.