Masks

There was an explosion. The building burst into glorious combustion as it fell, kicking and screaming into the earth. Blackened metal twisted around charred remains as it spiraled down to oblivion, and the flames reached higher and higher into the sky.

Just two people died in the explosion. One of them was a monster, planting the bomb and relishing in its promise of destruction and death. The other was a hero, ushering all civilians out of the building before finally going to confront the villain, making his final stand against evil as the building went down.

Those he saved remain the witnesses to his glory. N the updraft of the flames, his cape curled over his shoulders like wings, and as he hurled a girl into the air bag procured by fire fighters four stories down, she said it was like being baptized all over again.

It took three hours to quell the flames, and as the firefighters rushed in, eager to bask in the triumph of the hero, they found two identical corpses, blackened by the fire. The heat of the flames had burned the clothes into an unidentifiable heap of ask and Kevlar, stripping the flesh from the skin and leaving two garishly grinning skulls, maskless and anonymous.

They bring the corpses to you and ask you to tell them who to blame and who to mourn. Who was a villain and who was a hero. Who to love and who to hate. One was good and one was evil, and please tell us who was who?

Your fingers pick apart the remains, passing bits and pieces of corpse into their eager hands. You place a heart in each waiting hand, and ask them to judge the difference. A brain here and a brain there, and see if you can trace the guilty thoughts through the cracks. Strip what is left of the skin from the bones and share the skeins, and try to compare the scars.

You are left with precious little when you cannot see the face.

Let them ask you ask you who deserves a parade. Who deserves a condemnation to infamy. You will refuse to give either without 100% certainty. You will not make the final accusation of a man, nor send a man to martyrdom without first knowing who hides behind the face.

The hero and the villain are dead, but let them keep their masks, and let us keep the mystery.