He handed me something done up in paper. 'Your mask,' he said. 'Don't put it on until we get past the city-limits.' It was a frightening-looking thing when I did so. It was not a mask but a hood for the entire head, canvas and cardboard, chalk-white to simulate a skull, with deep black hollows for the eyes and grinning teeth for the mouth. The private highway, as we neared the house, was lined on both sides with parked cars. I counted fifteen of them as we bashed by; and there must have been as many more ahead, in the other direction. We drew up and he and I got out. I glanced in cautiously over my shoulder at the driver as we went by, to see if I could see his face, but he too had donned one of the death-masks.'Never do that,' the Messenger warned me in a low voice. 'Never try to penetrate any other member's disguise.' The house was as silent and lifeless as the last time - on the outside. Within it was a horrid, crawling charnel-house alive with skull-headed figures, their bodies encased in business-suits, tuxedos and evening dresses. The lights were all dyed a ghastly green or ghostly blue, by means of colored tissue-paper sheathed around them. A group of masked musicians kept playing the Funeral March over and over, with brief pauses in between. A coffin stood in the center of the main living-room. I was drenched with sweat under my own mask and sick almost to death, even this early in the game.At last the Book-keeper, unmasked, appeared in their midst.Behind him came the Messenger. The dead-head guests all applauded enthusiastically and gathered around them in a ring.Those in other rooms came in. The musicians stopped the Death Match. The Book-keeper bowed, smiled graciously. 'Good evening, fellow corpses,' was his chill greeting. 'We are gathered together to witness the induction of our newest member.' There was an electric tension. 'Brother Bud!' His voice rang out like a clarion in the silence. 'Step forward.' (Graves For Living)
Cornell Woolrich
You are a hater of activity in life; quite right, for before there can be any meaning in activity, life must have continuity and this your life lacks. You occupy yourself with your studies, that is true, you are even industrious. But it is only for your own sake and is done with as little teleology as possible. Otherwise you are unoccupied; like those workers in the Gospel, you stand idle in the marketplace (Matthew 20:3). You stick your hands in your pockets and observe life. Then you rest in despair, nothing occupies you, you don’t step aside for anything: if someone were to throw a tile down from the roof I wouldn’t get out of the way. You are like someone dying, you die daily, not in the profound, serious sense in which one usually takes that word, but life has lost its reality and you always reckon your lifetime from one day’s notice to quit to the next. You let everything pass you by, it makes no impression, but then suddenly something comes which grips you, an idea, a situation, a smile from a young girl and then you are in touch; for just as on some occasions you are not in touch, so at others you are in touch and of service in every way. Wherever something is going on you are in touch. You conduct your life as it is your custom to behave in a crowd, you work your way into the thickest of it, trying if possible to be forced up above the others so as to be able to lie on top of them; if you manage to get up there you make yourself as comfortable as possible and this is also the way you let yourself be carried along through life. But when the crowd disperses, when the event is over, you stand once more at the street corner and look at the world. A dying person possesses, as you know, a supernatural energy and so too with you. If there is an idea to be thought through, a work to be read through, a plan to be carried out, a little adventure to be experienced - yes, a hat to be bought, you take hold of the matter with an immense energy. According to circumstance, you work on untiringly for a day, for a month; you are happy in the assurance that you still have the same abundance of strength as before, you take no rest, no Satan can keep up with you. If you work together with others, you work them into the ground. But then when the month or, what you always consider the maximum, the six months have gone, you break off and say and that’s the end of the story. You retire and leave it all to the other party, or if you have been working alone you talk to no one about what you were doing. You then pretend to yourself and others that you have lost the desire and flatter yourself with the vain thought that you could have kept working with the same intensity if that is what you desired. But that is an immense deception. You would have succeeded in finishing it, as most others, if you had patiently willed it so, but you would have found out at the same time that it needs a kind of perseverance quite different from yours./Or: A Fragment of Life
Søren Kierkegaard