The image received from the mask was confusing and seemingly meaningless. Yet, it was simultaneously terrifying and unsettling to watch. But what did it all mean? The titanic machine of almost alien nature was unlike anything she’d seen before losing her sight. More so disturbing than the image was the feeling of emptiness that followed. Lydia could no more be sure what the mask had devoured than how to control what knowledge it gave, if there was even such a way. Doubtful.
Lydia snapped back into reality from her train of thought. Finding she’d been staring at the mask in her hands for some time, she let it drape from her finger by its eye-hole as her hand hung at her side in its resting position.
“Lydia, are you going to give the mask back,” Harlan asked.
“No,” she answered quickly and took a step back. Having felt the mask’s effects first hand, Lydia was unwilling to allow anyone else to be robbed for senseless images. She thought that perhaps in the right hands the mask would be invaluable. The chances that she or any of her companions would be able to make sense of anything the mask had to offer was simply too slim.
Harlan was hardly someone that Lydia admired, even if he had started to grow on her. Though he’d made a series of cute gestures to earn her respect, Lydia had been unconsciously hard set in her first impression that the man likely had a criminal past loaded with nefarious dealings. However, Lydia felt that even if Harlan was an idiotic ruffian, allowing the man to wander into the wrath of the mask without fully understanding the consequences would be wrong. No human deserved the mysterious sense of loss she’d suffered. It was one thing to trade a memory willingly, and another to have one whisked away from your grasp without ever knowing what was missing.
“Look,” Harlan explained with a harsh firmness, “I was the one who found the mask in the first place, and I was the one who climbed all the way up those chairs to get it. That, and it’s most dangerous to you since you have the gift. So just give the mask back, alright?”
Lydia lowered her head slightly to avoid the many pairs of eyes she was certain were now fixated on her. She sensed a thirst for power and control in Harlan’s voice past the excuse regarding her safety. Lydia had been warned countless times about people with selfish intentions. While she couldn’t know for certain what thoughts occupied his mind, the girl feared what lengths Harlan would to go in order to get such a powerful object back.
What would he do if she said no again? Would Harlan simply accept her decision, or grow angry that she’d defied him? Lydia was painfully aware that she would be unable to defend herself from from a man who if nothing else had proved his physical prowess. Harlan could simply walk up and force the mask from her hands, or beat her to a bloody pulp if he managed to find her alone.
Lydia took a deep breath and cleared the uncomfortable images from her mind. She wouldn’t be so scared or half as paranoid if not dealing with an object of limitless value. Lost for a different course of action, Lydia held the mask out for Harlan to take without another word. She couldn’t explain herself without risking false accusations. The girl felt him snag it out of her hand and turned her head away in shame and remorse. Lydia knew she could not protect someone who did not want to be protected.
“Be careful Harlan,” Lydia thought to herself, _"I’m not strong enough to save you from yourself."