The man without a mask bent his face towards the flame.
“We hereby sentence you to burning lips as a reminder of those silenced by your carelessness.” The white-wigged magistrate read clearly from a scroll through her silk mask, having spent years practicing the art of articulation through the fabric.
The man without a mask allowed his arms to be seized on both sides. A black onyx surface housed the light that never goes out. It reflected up at the guilty a church steeple, symbol of possible salvation, and now the man’s own mouth, intact for the last time.
Soon his lips would blister and deform. Crusted sentinels, both his singing voice and sense of pride forever charred.
His mask, once cursed, will become a blessing. It will shield the world from his crime of singing to a crowd uncovered. His life’s encore, another outbreak of the virus.
After the flame, his melodies will be numb. Regret, his final refrain.
They waited for him to speak the oath: “I kiss this flame, and seal for myself the blame.”
The man didn’t close his eyes as two hands gripped the back of his head and slammed him down into the flaming cocktail. Even as the smell of bbq filled his nostrils, he told himself, it ain’t enough. It just ain’t enough.