“The Beak and the Mask” by Hatchet Face; September 2023

I get shifts daily, usually the combination phantom and mental kind where the talons come associated with their own set of instincts but they come and go. The phantom beak never really goes. I feel it every day almost 24/7. It starts between my eyes, above the bridge of my nose where my forehead begins. White-tailed sea eagles have a long, deep, and quite massive beak, larger than any other eagle’s beak aside from of course the gigantic Stellar’s Sea Eagle. The beak was one of those diagnostic devices I used to narrow down on species – the huge talons and killing-with-feet instincts were consistent with large birds of prey but the way I picked between hawk and eagle was the beak (the other stuff fell into place later – preferred habitats, flying quirks, The Fish Thing, etc). I’d look at any hawk or even a golden eagle and that beak starts too low and is too curved, it doesn’t project straight out like a hatchet. The entire front of my head is beak.

During particularly intense moments when I become aware of it, I can’t change my facial expression. Not quite resting bitch face but more of a blankness, no nose lips mouth cheeks eyebrows etc only eyes that move. I move close to things and I feel like my beak should intersect or clip through and it’s uncomfortable. When I shake my head I feel like there should be extra weight or inertia, not just empty air.

Now here’s the part where I go “and it’s all in my head” because, well, yeah. It is all in my head. I’m autistic and I think of the concept of ‘masking’ very literally, as in a physical mask going over my face to cover up the blunted facial expressions that my brain has chosen to perceive as a beak. So it feels like a mask going on almost on top of a mask (if we can call the beak that).

One of my life dreams is to get one of those hyper-realistic bird masks/hinged resin fursuit heads and just wear it at home the whole time.