Dreams, Tea, and Terror – Part Three
That afternoon, we travelled south to the village of Stavelot and then spent the evening walking the lovely countryside and the charming village, admiring the old abbey grounds and speaking with the friendly residents. Had the circumstances been different, I might have actually enjoyed myself.
As it was, I could only pretend to be at ease, to play at being friendly with William as he chatted away. As he talked about some nonsense, I kept asking myself how my curiosity had so usurped my good sense. I knew William was here for some strange reason and, worse yet, that it was not wholly borne of madness. Perhaps that was why I had come. The stranger on the bridge had made the mystery too compelling to ignore.
The next day after a solemn Mass, the festival of the Blanc-Moussi commenced. A man of the village told me that this festival began centuries ago, when the slothful and indulgent monks of the abbey were forbidden from celebrating Carnival. Unable to part with their favorite debaucheries, they disguised themselves so as to join in the celebrations anonymously.
This festival honors or perhaps mocks their bad behavior, for the men of the village dress in the same disguises as the monks once used and parade through town, singing and beating about the place – and us – with pig-bladder balloons on sticks.
It was truly bizarre, my dear, but still rather jolly in its simple mischievousness. The only thing I didn’t like were the masks the men wore. It wasn’t the fixed smiles nor comically long, orange noses that troubled me. It was the eyes.
There was something off about them. One could usually see the bright, cheery eyes or a villager shining through as he bounced a balloon on your hat. Sometimes, though, when the light was bad or the reveler moved quickly, you would only see dark slits, hollow sockets that made the cheery masks sinister. In those moments, the masks looked as if they were being worn by shadows.
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