Zac was a bully and knew it.
(Zac, solid boy, with backpack on, holding opened backpack of crying, smaller kid with doll, while stuffing his mouth with other kid’s lunch.)
Until, one day, he found something left out as if just for him.
(Zac’s hand reaching down to mask on tree stump. It is a fox mask, made with owl feathers. Beautiful, sleek.)
When he wore the mask, he saw amazing things.
(A flock of small birds, about 100 are rising above him, half curving over and back to the right, the other half over and back to the left.)
He even heard trapped mermaids sing.
(Zac, wearing mask, sitting against a tree, watching an old abandoned well, several birds, a possum and lizards are on its rim, looking down into it, too, one lizard is dancing.)
At school, if Zac didn’t act like a bully, the other bullies would pounce! Nothing much changed.
(Zac, two bigger bullies behind him, is pushing a geeky kid, who is falling backwards over another bully on hands and knees behind him. Other kids recoiling, giving Zac space.)
Until Zac wore his mask.
(Zac walking, with mask on, in crowd. Nobody paying him any attention.)
With the mask on Zac could do anything.
He learned music,
how to stare into space,
(sitting, hunched/relaxed shoulders, on top of a windmill, looking out.)
even help other kids.
(Billy cart with broken wheel. Kid, sniffling, bloodied knee, being given a shoulder ride away by Zac in mask.)
And noticed other people with masks all over the place.
(Zac walking through crowd, zebra mask on very small kid, giraffe mask on tall man, full head tiger mask on man in lane, policeman with carved wood mask, little baby with mouse mask, cat with angry dog’s mask, magpie with hawk mask, all intermixed with normal people who don’t react to them.)
“Mr Stick,” he said, to the school’s meanest teacher, “I need help with saving a beautiful creature.”
(Zac with mask on, looking up at tall, lean, balding man in a suit, but wearing a full eagle face mask.
Next, Zac recruited the local garbo.
(Overweight, blue singlet, hairy shoulders, wearing a three-eyed alien mask.)
And Polly from next door, who everybody thought was quiet and shy.
(Roaring lion’s mask, holding a small doll.)
And bush creatures and story characters he saw through the corner of his eye.
(Zac leading his small pose past a lane mouth, between stone fenced yards, a few creatures poking their heads out from hiding, here and there. Behind bins, lamp posts, etc. One in small tree.)
By day, it was bully routines as usual.
(Zac holding child’s toy out of reach in air, while kid tries to reach it, two bigger bullies behind Zac, watching him, hard.)
But by nights Zac and his friends dug a channel from the creek (that eventually lead to the ocean).
(Zac and friends digging, with masks on, a bath, bucket of fish, and mounds of dug dirt/shovels/etc on ground, little girl in bath, with umbrella, a bright blue octopus waiting/watching in dug part of channel.)
Polly sang a song, to make sure the mermaid was still there.
(Polly singing on stump, a few creatures, a rabbit, around her. Octopus slithering into well, dragging bathtub and bucket of fish.)
The mermaid sung back.
Zac and his friends set about freeing the mermaid so her songs might carry through the night without fear or despair.
(Octopus, in channel, its tentacles holding up bath full of water and overweight mermaid, fish in bucket, in bath, holding an umbrella. Zac, then friends, running behind)
“My songs,” the mermaid whispered, “sometimes lure sailors to their doom.”
(Old sailing ship crashed on night rocks, big waves, sailor, torn clothes, trying to hand on to rocks, lighthouse in background)
“You’re a force of nature. You have to be free,” Zac told her.
The last thing the mermaid did was give a gift by taking one away.
(Mermaid’s hand reaching out, taking Zac’s mask off as he runs. Zac’s eyes closed, hair ruffled.)
“These things you have done were simply you all along.”
(Zac and friends on bank of water, full moon behind them, watching a mermaid tale disappear into water. Zac only one not wearing mask. Polly is just starting to take hers off.)
“Anyone can be tough,” her voice faded. “Be brave instead…”
(Zac, looking at his own, maskless reflection.)
“You don’t have to wear a mask to hear a mermaid’s song.”
(Zac walking home alone through the night, head down, thinking.)
And after that, each time Zac heard the flowing notes of a mermaid’s verse…
(Child sitting on ground, crying, reaching for small doll. Zac standing defiantly between it and two much bigger bullies.)
He hummed along.
(Zac, slumped,/relaxed shoulders, slight/content smile, and child and doll sitting on water’s edge, looking out to sea.)