By all appearances Marcia is a normal city. You enter into Marcia and everything you expect to see in a city is there. There are sky scrapers, shopping districts, museums and a cultural district were cafe’s, libraries and bookstores are located, along with used record shops. Art galleries, concert halls and historical landmarks are all present. To the eyes of a visitor Marcia is everything a city should be. You wander around admiring the architecture and without realising it you get lost. You go into a cafe to ask for directions and the reality of Marcia presents itself to you. Everyone in Marcia wears a mask.
People of all ages in Marcia wear masks. They wear their masks from birth till death, never removing them. All that is seen in Marcia is the mask. No resident in Marcia has ever seen another’s face. They only see the mask. When a child is born in Marcia a set of assessments and calculations are made and that child is then assigned a mask. The variety of masks is quite astounding. Native American, African Tribal, French Theatre, Nordic, Ceremonial Indian, Buddhist and Taoist. Gas masks, Halloween masks and masks made of paper. Masks of every size, shape and colour are present in Marcia resulting in the surreal sight of shops, streets and libraries filled with people, all wearing masks.
Why the need for masks no one is quite sure. The locals refuse to speak about it. Pre – mask history has been eradicated and library books only go back to the beginning of mask time. The pre – mask time is curiously absent so finding out why the population of Marcia chose to abandon their original appearance for that of masks is an impossibility. Maybe all people in Marcia are disfigured and wish to hide their visages. Perhaps they feel that masks are the best of expressing themselves and giving their emotions representation. Imaginably it could be the way Marcia has immortalized a great tragedy from its past. It could be that this is something that no one outside of Marcia will ever understand.
People from Marcia can remove their masks, providing that they leave Marcia never to return. They have relinquished their anonymity. And maybe that is why masks are prevalent in Marcia. A desire to remain anonymous, a desire to remain unknown and secluded. For when you remember your visit to Marcia it is not the colour and spectacle you remember but its the non-existence, the innominate nature and the masquerade.
The city name comes from Richard Brautigan’s set of poems The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, dedicated to Marcia. The story originally started off as an idea for a war story involving masks and evolved into the story about a city which in the end reminded me of one of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I will hopefully be doing a series of these, none as good as Calvino’s. By the by, Invisible Cities is an outstanding book and if you can get hold of a copy, do so. As always comments and criticism welcome.