Around the world, people are making and wearing facemasks. “Shield your face,” is not only a declaration for safety but for solidarity, as well. In the Keweenaw, like places elsewhere, sewing facemasks is a way to “protect me, protect you, and protect the community.” Shields have long protected humans from armored knights to face-shielded emergency room workers.
This week, writers thought about ways — new or old — to consider how the declaration could be used. Who states, “Shield your face,” and why?
The following stories are based on the April 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face.
PART I (ten-minute read)
Staying Fit by Geoff Le Pard
‘What are you doing, Morgan?’
‘Hang on… There.’
‘The duck mask does what exactly?’
‘It’s my upgraded internet security.’
‘You’ve lost me.’
‘Barty warned me. He was watching this video…’
‘About staying fit…’
‘Working up a sweat?’
‘Exactly. Anyway, they filmed him through his thingy.’
‘They said they’d show his friends…’
‘That he was watching an exercise video?’
‘Imagine if the lads knew.’
‘Quite. Barty in Lycra… horrid.’
‘I’m shielding my face. No one’s stealing my personality.’
‘I’m sure the online world is breathing more easily.’
‘More than I am. Can you help me take this off?’
Good Friday, 2020 by Anne Goodwin
Matty has been abducted by aliens. She lies on her back, examined by spacemen, her lungs fit to burst on their oxygen-depleted rock. Matty has been rescued by welders. They will fuse the parts of her windpipe that have rusted and split. Matty is backstage, amid mumbling servants in fancy dress. Preparing for a new production, a mime for Easter, a Passion play. Naturally, Matty is the star.
The star? The chosen one? God’s only child, Jesus Christ? Matty does not want to be crucified. She struggles. She spits. “Shield your face!” says an alien. A welder? A nurse?
TV Night by Michael Fishman
Derek stood up and jumped in front of the television. Blocking Fannie Flagg’s answer to a Dumb Dora question, he grabbed the collar of his t-shirt and ripped, revealing a sunken chest and a round belly fueled by pizza, soda and Big Macs.
“Whatcha gonna do,” he growled wide-eyed. “When Derekmania runs wild on you.”
Jessie nuzzled closer to her mom on the couch. “What’s wrong with dad,” she whispered?
“It’s the sheltering at home, kitten. I think it’s finally gotten to him. Don’t worry.”
“But that –”
“He’s only having fun.”
“Just shield your face, dear.”
Shield by FloridaBorne
“Hey, Yeshua,” Lucifer said. “I’ll betcha I can destroy the USA in six months.”
“You’re on,” Yeshua laughed.
“I’ll take the common cold, have the Chinese weaponize it, use statistics from the yearly flu, and then…then…”
“What’s so funny?” Yeshua asked.
“You know how much American’s hate Arab face and head coverings?”
“I’ll bet I can willingly make them walk around like that!”
“What do you want if you win?”
“I want every churchgoer in the USA forced to stay home on Easter instead of worshiping you.”
“My people aren’t that naïve,” Yeshua laughed.
And Lucifer won… again.
July, 1933 by Margaret G. Hanna
John ran in. “Dust’s coming, Mom!”
I grabbed the basket. “Maisie, help me get the clothes off the line.”
I could taste dust. Russian Thistles bounced across the yard. “Where’s your dad?” I yelled at John.
He pointed. “Across the tracks.”
The wind twisted the clothes. “Mom, the dust’s stinging my face.”
“Here, use this pillowslip to shield your face”
I heard horses and the discer clatter into the yard. Caleb unharnessed the horses and put them in the barn, then rushed to the house, his kerchief over his face.
The dust cloud hit. The world was blotted out.
Bucket Heads by Doug Jacquier
‘We’re going to have to tell him.’
‘What do you mean “we”. It was your idea!’
‘But you went along.’
‘True. You do realise he’s going to go mental?’
‘Oh, I realise alright. Hence these two buckets?’
‘OK, why the buckets?’
‘From what’s going to happen when I tell him.’
‘You’ve lost me.’
‘You’re familiar with the phenomenon that is euphemistically called the waste substance hitting the revolving blades?’
‘The waste … oh, yeah, I get it.’
‘So when I tell him, put the bucket over your head to shield your face.’
Shield Your Face by Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Frustration washes over Cathy, and she concentrates on keeping her voice steady. A shaking voice will be misinterpreted as anxiety. Thank goodness this meeting is virtual, and she can hide behind her computer with the camera off. Nobody can see her face which is suffused with blood. She has never been good at disguising anger and strong emotion.
The facts are decisive, and she can’t understand this lengthy argument against the obvious answer. Then it strikes her. This discussion has nothing to do with logic or getting to the right answer. It has to do with pandering to fear.
Knights So Bold by Anita Dawes
In days of old
Knights may well have been bold
Not so much when facing a leper colony
Their faces wrapped in filthy rags
To hide what lies beneath
No hand will shake
those dark wrapped fingers
No hug given in greeting
Their eyes tell of a thousand deaths
Each day grows darker
Leave food outside the dark
open mouth of forgotten caves
Where no family dare enter
To watch from a distance
As bread is eagerly taken
So many lost in dark hollow walls
Then comes a Knight so bold
To tell of bright new life to unfold…
Battle Of Newbies by Tanmay Jain
The King had decided to try and break the siege. No one believed it’ll work. But he was the king and following the king even if you know you’d die is the kind of stuff they’d agree to do around here. So tomorrow, they were gonna break the siege.
Aion didn’t care about such treasonous opinions, all he wanted was to live and die for the king.
He started getting ready for battle.
”Wear the helmet, boy,” the muscly soldier next to him said. ” Your head may not work very well but that’s the first thing you gotta protect.”
Showing Emotions by Susan Sleggs
An IED bomb is a localized small blast meant to destroy one vehicle. All Michael remembers of the fateful sunny day when he met one was going outside the fence in a convoy. A month later he would be told, “Private Amanda Jennings was driving the truck behind your jeep. We had all come to accept her as one of us, but when your jeep went up, the male in us automatically took over and we made every attempt to shield her face from the sight. She cried right there on the spot; we wish we could have too.”
Anxious Impression by Kerry E.B. Black
Bobby’d stolen a peek at the clock. The numbers were either wrong, or Daddy should’ve been home long before. He scanned the road outside his window, his heart beating an anxious rhythm.
He wasn’t the only worrier. His mom curled under a quilt and stared unseeing at late-night television.
Finally, the crunch of gravel and a car door’s thump restarted Bobby’s heart. Though long past bedtime, he dashed to fling open the door. He buried his face in Daddy’s unyielding uniform. Daddy’s silver shield badge imprinting upon his face – the way his Daddy left loving traces on Bobby’s heart.
Landing by D. Avery
He hadn’t expected to get shot at for trying to land at the airport.
*It’s not the virus, just cancer; her dying wish is to spend her last days at the cottage.*
He flew low along the deserted shoreline, circled back into the wind. Resisting the compulsion to shield her face, he kept his hands clenched on the yoke, *Nose up, come on, there it is, yeah!*
*Here we are, Dear, let’s just catch our breath before getting you settled in the cottage. I’ll unload the plane before the tide comes in, then together we shall enjoy the sunset.*
Trissemene Sea: Diamante by Saifun Hassam
Jagged lightning lit up the skies over the thundering stormy Trissemene Sea. Fine grains of sand danced madly in gusty gale force winds. Shifting sand dunes piled up on rocks and boulders.
Diamante ran down to the shore when the lookout at the ancient temple hit the giant bell three times. Other men followed swiftly. Diamante pulled up his multilayered bandana, shielding his face against the pelting sand.
Against all hope, a single fishing boat rode the rising waves in a cove of the headland. Diamante prayed for the three fishermen who had not returned. Two boats still missing.
Shield Your Face by Allison Maruska
I stand behind the barricade, bracing myself. Nearby, my soldiers grip their weapons and wait for the signal. A wind gust blasts through our bunker, coating us with dirt.
“Ugh.” James removes his mask, wiping the debris.
The alarm blasts. My soldiers rush out, weapons pointed.
James tosses his mask and runs into battle, unprotected.
“Shield your face!” I yell.
Soldiers holler. A round hits James, sending streams of green into his face. He closed his eyes just in time.
Sighing, I hurry to him. “What’s the first rule of paintball?”
My twelve-year-old rolls his eyes. “Always wear protection.”
Starfall by Joanne Fisher
There was a sudden flash and instinctively I raised my arms to shield my face. I opened my eyes to see one of our starships was in smouldering pieces. No doubt our enemy was using nukes.
“The use of nuclear weapons has now been authorised.” The Commander ordered.
My heart sank. I feared for our populations across the many worlds we had colonised that would now face destruction, as well as the “enemy” populations that would meet a similar fate. We almost had peace, but the talks had failed, and now led to this.
Then there was another flash…
Recover Home by Jo Hawk
Heavy metal blared, drowning the crackling and buzzing, as sparks flew. The fiery shower bounced on the cement floor.
Switching off the torch, he pushed his heavily gloved hand against his forehead, lifting the face shield. Except for the music in his helmet, the garage was silent. Hot wind blasted through the open door.
He was alone.
Desperation clutched his heart. Glancing at his watch he assessed his chances of completing the needed repairs. He couldn’t stay. He had to find the passage home.
“Shield your face. Return to me.”
Or I’ll die trying, he vowed.
PART II (ten-minute read)
Shields Down by Liz Husebye Hartmann
She’d gotten in near midnight, after the evening shift at the group home. Her own home was a shambles: beer cans and wine bottles, scummy bong water, butts strewn all over the floor, some of them human. They weren’t supposed to be here.
Rodney emerged from the bedroom, a very drunk, half-clothed Britanny hanging off his shoulder, sharing his wide grin.
“Sheralynn,” Rodney drew up his familiar shield of nonchalance. “I thought you were working a double shift.”
“They sent me home. Likely COVID exposure,” she wiped her brow, unsure if it was fever, or rage. “Everybody out. Now.”
Homegrown Ingenuity? by JulesPaige
Working with what they have on hand folks become creative in the ability to shield themselves and protect the ones they love. Prototypes and various patterns abound with the use of basic cotton envelopes pleated on one side, folded to make pockets to hold layers of more cotton and other accepted shop type towels that are N95 approved.
Working with coffee closures (found on bags of that product) to hold the nose channel in place and headbands and ponytail hair circles of various sizes in side channels; paperclips and zip ties hold the elastic tight against cheeks. Stay safe.
Shielded by Cara Stefano
Karen awoke with the sun, before her children, her husband, even her dog was awake. She sat at her dressing table in a cozy robe, arranging her pots and powders, brushes, wands and other devices seemingly meant only for torture. Painstakingly she straightened her chestnut curls and twisted them up into a serviceable ponytail. With exquisite care she applied her makeup: foundation, blush, eye shadow, and eye liner, mascara in darkest black. She glossed her worried lips in poppy flower red. Satisfied, she stood. Her mask firmly in place, Karen went downstairs to make coffee.
Whatever Gets You Through the Night. It’s Alright by Tina Stewart Brakebill
Frustrated, Jane muted the tv and glared at her roommates.
Returning Jane’s glare, Peter lit up a joint and took a deep hit before blowing the smoke directly into her face.
“Damn it! Pete. You know I’ve got a Zoom meeting.”
“Not my problem. Shield your face. Wear one of those damn masks you keep sewing.”
Ignoring Pete, she returned to the muted tv. But watching the orange faced idiot gesticulate wildly just made it worse. Feeling the rage building, she closed her eyes and surrendered. Humming “whatever gets your through the night” she whispered, “Pass me that joint.”
Shield & Taylor by Janet Guy
I need a face shield.
Certainly, Ma’am. Will it be used for hiding? Protection? Disguise? Fear? Shame?
Hiding and disguise.
One of our most popular combinations. This suburban-camouflage balaclava is a best seller. Blend into any background whenever you can’t listen to the children for one more second. It comes with a flask for “mommy juice.”
It fits like a dream, but do you have anything for summer?
Here is our latest line of contouring makeup. All the rage with Gen-Z. ‘Look Carved From Marble.’
I prefer something less artistic.
I have a vintage catcher’s mask in the back…
Beaten by Lisa A. Listwa
Carla stepped into the sunlight as she had on a hundred other Monday mornings.
The bright beauty of the day was stark contrast to the terror she would experience once she completed the journey from school bus to classroom.
The brutality was relentless. She suffered in silence, no one aware of the battle scars she accumulated day after day.
Protection and safety were illusions. No suit of armor deflected the assaults. No knight came to her rescue.
She learned to believe the things they said. No one told her to shield her face from attacks on her own self-esteem.
At the Supermarket by Joanne Fisher
Jess and Cindy drove down to the supermarket in Lawrence. Lucky sat in the back seat with his head permanently out the window and his tongue hanging out.
While shopping they saw Lynn, a former classmate of theirs. She took one look at them together and suddenly shielded her face from them and began walking down another aisle.
“Maybe we’re just too damn awesome to look at.” pondered Cindy as they loaded their shopping into the back of the station wagon. Jess smiled.
“No, she’s totally jealous of us,” she suggested. They knew the real reason but laughed anyway.
Screens by Sarah Brentyn
The door was wide open.
She never had that screen installed and cursed herself for it now. Nothing stood between them. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
She shifted, torn, wondering if she should relent or fight. Quickly dismissing her chances winning, she thought of running. How far could she get? Her eyes darted to the back slider, the yard beyond stretching into dense woods.
“It’s cold out here. You going to make me push my way past you?”
“What? Oh, sweetie, you caught me off guard,” she smiled, shield up. “Come in, please. What a pleasant surprise.”
Shielded Eyes by Ann Edall-Robson
Raking a hand through his blonde hair, he watched the moving silhouette in the arena. Stepping onto the bottom rail of the fence he settled his hat on his head in an effort to shield his eyes from the fall sunset.
The woman reined the buckskin gelding towards the intruder, offering him a flash of a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
“You’re a long way from where you should be.”
His eyes never wavered from hers.
“You know damn well this is where I should be!”
“You don’t belong here. Never have, and you never will.” She taunted.
A New Dance Begins by Charli Mills
The Texas sun baked the canvas tent where Jess ripped lengths of satin. She cranked her sewing machine, finishing the edges of royal blue scarves. When she had enough, she carried the stack outside and handed two to every man who rode for her husband’s brand. The trail ride to Montana with a herd of longhorns would be arduous. Her husband survived the War and sacrificed all he had for this cattle drive. The least she could do was sacrifice ballroom gowns. “Shield your face,” she told him. He understood the gesture, her willingness to trust a new dance.
Public Service Announcement by John Lane
As Sylvia crossed the New York border in her two-door Chevy, her coughing picked up the pace.
And she refused a mask.
*It messes up my make-up.*
She wanted more toilet tissue, although she had enough for two weeks.
But she refused a mask.
*It itches my face.*
At the store, Sylvia coughed on the toilet tissue located on the shelf where eight-year-old Melissa took a pack. Sylvia then coughed on Bobby, the cashier.
Without a mask.
*It’s too tight.*
Four days later, Melissa and Bobby died in the hospital from complications of COVID-19.
Be safe. Wear a mask.
Keep Your Guard Up by Dave Madden
“Every time you start throwing a combination, your hands drop, and you don’t shield your face properly.”
Derrick didn’t think his older brother was a liar, but it’s not like he had a lot of fight experience of his own.
“Three amateur boxing matches doesn’t make you an expert,” Derrick fired back.
Derrick’s brother chuckled, “That’s been your best defense all day.”
What Derrick didn’t know was that his brother had been video taping the entire training session. When he watched back the tape and saw his hands drop for himself, he knew his brother was telling the truth.
Bat Girl by Padre of Padre’s Ramblings
Some called her a vigilante, others a local hero. Whichever viewpoint you took, one thing was certain, petty crime had fallen in Braddockville. She wore no Lycra-based catsuit or cape, but a plain set of blue denims and a blue patterned bandanna tied cowboy style about her face to shield her identity.
No one knew who this foiler of misdeeds was, but she was popularly referred to in both casual conversation and the local papers as Bat Girl. Bat Girl? Yes, the term was first used to describe her by the drug dealer that first experienced her Louisville Slugger.
The Shield Of EDICT by Bill Engleson
“Move along, rogue. This is not your place.”
He wears the shield of EDICT.
I make to move.
I always move.
Even before the scourge, I had no true place. But now the frayed net that caught bits of me, bits of all the others like me, has dissipated.
We have no voice to stand our ground.
We have no ground.
And certainly no shield.
This one’s no mucky muck.
He could be me.
“You deef, buddy?” he persists.
Why do I hesitate?
Could now be my time?
Can I utter the words, “When I’m good and ready!”
Unveiled by Ritu Bhathal
I stepped outside, onto our rooftop veranda.
The sun, still warm, was beginning to set.
I needed to collect the clothes from the line, but first, I just had to make the most of this moment.
As far as the eye could see, roof terraces were visible, but, unlike other days, no one was out on them.
This virus had scared everyone.
Slowly, I unhooked my veil, allowing the warm rays to touch my face.
This was a bliss I was rarely allowed to experience.
“Shield your face!” My father appeared.
I scrambled to reinstate the veil. “Sorry, Abba.”
Anarchists and Aliens by Chelsea Owens
Despite overwhelming evidence of humanity’s intelligence and observational abilities, Dr. Straussnüd’s research covering the period shortly before the collapse of civilisation appeared to lead to one conclusion: that people failed to utilise said abilities in order to avert subjugation and demise.
For, for what other reason did the records he had unearthed bear markings of carefree ignorance on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?
When a literal invasion of alien species flashed its conscience-altering devices, they had not followed admonitions. Why? Once informed, audio records proved their leaders to have yelled, “Shield your faces!”
Straussnüd frowned. He required further study.
Essential Characters by D. Avery
“Kid, where’s Frankie? I’m waitin’ fer a delivery a coasters fer the saloon.”
“Really, Pal? Times like this an’ yer worried ‘bout bar coasters? Even fictional folks is busy. Ernie’s runnin’ his still agin, makin’
‘Corn-U-Cope-Ya’ll’, his homebrewed antiseptic lotion. With aloe.”
“Uh, hello. An’ where’s Pepe LeGume?”
“Pepe an’ Logatha been hunkered down sewing masks en masse, fer folks ta shield their face, pertect one ‘nuther. So let’s have Frankie send them coasters along ta Pepe, ta use as inserts.”
“Ok. Whut kin we do, Kid?”
“Reckon jist keep the Saddle Up Saloon open as an essential business.”