Kathryn Long sulked miserably to herself. She was a grown woman, sure, but that didn't mean she was immune to brooding. She hadn't been feeling very well of late. She couldn't quite name it but, for some reason, she was moody all the time. Anger and bitterness were the norm. The feeling of being trapped was incessant. Nothing she did offered up any joy or escape. It was like she was in an iron cell, nothing but endlessly gray walls to stare at all the time. It seemed that her own mind had turned against her, refusing to allow her to see any goodness and color in the world. Although she really did try to see the positives and even though she really did want to get better, nothing that she did ever helped. Instead, it felt like the harder she tried, the less she succeeded.

"Ugh!" her frustrated sigh filled her tiny old apartment. She buried her face in her pillow, punching her bed. She knew it was immature of her to lash out like that, but what else could she do? The medication wasn't working. The therapy wasn't working. The journaling wasn't working. The happy thoughts weren't working. Everything she tried failed. Everything she tried had no impact on her. Everything she tried only made her more miserable and hollow than when she'd started.

It was like there was a cloud hovering between her and her sun, but nothing would make the cloud dissipate. There was no wind to blow it away and the cloud never burst and rained, no matter how moody she felt. Instead, it was just always there, in the way, right there, distracting her and keeping her from seeing the good in the world. It was literally impossible for her to think positively. It was like her mind had been locked into a very tight and narrow crawlspace and could only move forward, except the road ahead was totally dark and endless.

"UGH!" she moaned even louder, rolling over onto her back to stare angrily up at the ceiling, chest heaving with anger. At least it was better than last night, when she hadn't felt anything at all. Last night had been rough, miserable and lonely. She had been unable to tell back then, was she getting so little done because she was depressed? Or was she depressed because she was getting so little done? It was like the "chicken-egg" paradox, except with more depression and less of an answer. Tonight, however, it was just bitter and smothering rage...

A couple months later, Kathryn found herself heading from the big city to a small town in the next state over to visit some distant relative, an aunt. The dates of her visit coincided with Halloween and, at her aunt's behest, she got a costume to participate.

"But Auntie!" she had first pleaded. "I'm too old for all that kiddie stuff! I'm 24!"

"And I'm 54, but I'm still going out!" her aunt had replied, whipping out a giant fairy dress. Kathryn had failed to hide a disgusted face, but instead of getting offended, her aunt only laughed and pushed her back out the door, pointing her in the direction of the nearest costume shop.

That evening, however, Kathryn found herself standing at a lonely little place at the very edge of town. It was a costume shop, and it was the only building on the entire block that was open. Undeterred by the creepy and lonely atmosphere of that section of town, however, Kathryn strode bravely inside. None of the masks up front were very scary or impressive, but then she noticed a back door. It wasn't labeled and Kathryn could already see other masks back there, so she assumed that they were fair game and walked right on in.

Ok. She would admit it. The masks back here were way cooler. They were almost enough to get her into the Halloween spirit! Almost...

"NO!" the shopkeeper bellowed at her as soon as she reached out to touch one of the masks that had caught her eyes. She whipped around then, heart suddenly exploding in fright. Then she turned cross.

"You didn't have to shout at me like that! I wasn't going to steal it!" she grunted as he stalked in angrily towards her.

"That was not my concern," the shopkeeper replied coldly, voice almost deadly. "You should not be back here."

"Then mark the door next time," she shot back rudely before stepping away from the backroom and back out into the front. For the rest of her time there, the old shopkeeper watched her like a hawk. He didn't follow her around, but she could feel his wary, watchful eye digging into her back. It made her unreasonably angry and hurt until she finally strode out of the store altogether.

"You have nothing that I want," she snarled as she opened the door to go.

"Happy Halloween," he replied easily, giving her a sarcastic farewell. Her scowl deepened and, in that one little moment, she snapped. She quickly doubled back around to a rear entrance of the store and, using a stray piece of wire and a screw that she had found on the side of the road, she picked the lock to sneak back inside. Now she was in the backroom again, but she knew that this time, she would be safe to study the masks at leisure. The shopkeeper would stand guard at the front door, never even realizing that she'd broken in the back. Grinning in dark satisfaction, she finally took the chance to inspect the shelves of masks better.

"Woah!" once again, she was floored by their detail and horrific beauty. She was certain they must've been designer, made by professional costume creators. Maybe that was why the shopkeeper had been so against her touching them? She couldn't deny that he had a point. They were just so well-made that she was sure they were incredibly valuable. Their detail and realism was unmatched, every face seeming to pulse with a warm and real life all its own. All of them were so graphic too, drenched in blood with chunks of discolored and misshapen skin slowly rotting and peeling away to reveal broken bones and maggots and vermin underneath.

The mask that truly caught her eye, however, was one whose face was totally pitch black. It had a very wide mouth lined with two rows of tiny but razor sharp teeth. The corners of the mouth were cut open and it made the mouth even more grotesque and wide. Its nose was large and flat. Its eyes were large with no pupils and giant red irises that almost reached the edges of the whites of the eyes. It had a rat's nest of hair, black stingy stuff that shot out in all directions. It even looked damp. Was it from moisture? Or blood? Kathryn thought she knew the answer.

The young woman reached out and touched the black mask almost reverently. The moment she did, however, she felt as though an electric shock had shot from the mask through her own arm. She did not cry out, however, because the shock did not hurt. Instead, she suddenly felt paralyzed and subdued. As she stared into those endless red eyes, only a tiny bit of white around their edges, she began to feel... different. She could not explain it, but the longer she stood there alone, just touching the black mask, the stranger and stranger she felt. It was not a bad or painful "strange", it was just... strange. She could not bring herself to pull away, however, and remained still, as that little hum of electricity continued to pass from the mask into her arm, burning all the way up until it seemed to wrap around her heart and mind and very soul as well.

"Hmmm," she sighed, eyes slowly closing as she continued to stand there with her hand on the black mask. Then all at once, her heart began to pound as though she'd just finished running a marathon. Following that surge of adrenaline came a surge of anger. It was so deep and profound that it was unspeakable. Literally. The very breath felt ripped out of her lungs and she let out a hoarse, raspy hiss. She clenched both of her hands into fists, the one touching the mask squishing part of the top of its head as her hands closed in raw fury.

Kathryn's head began to pound and her vision got fuzzy. She grew angrier and angrier, hardly even aware of how hard she was grinding her teeth. Instead, all she could see was red. And memories. Swirling in the back of her chaotic mind were memories. Every little bad thing that had ever happened to her suddenly resurfaced all at once, like water flooding out of a broken dam. Even though she had never suffered to serious a trauma, all she could think about was her anger and bitterness. Even the tiny things, like someone cutting her in line on the playground 20 years ago, resurfaced and made her so angry that she wanted to murder the one who had cut in front of her.

Every little argument with her parents, even when she had been in the wrong, suddenly seemed like monumental offenses. She found herself despising every coworker and boss who had ever tried to give her more work or force her to stay overtime, even though she was not the only one to face such treatment. She remembered when her first college boyfriend had cheated on her. Even though, back then, it had broken her heart, now she only felt RAGE. Pure, unadulterated, RAGE. Rage and hatred. That was all. Just standing there in the back of the Halloween store, she could feel every little injury she'd ever received being ripped brutally back open and turned into a war wound.

Without even thinking, she ripped the grotesque mask from its shelf and forced it down over her head. The anger increased tenfold after that and it suddenly became hard to breathe through the warm, stuffy material of the mask. She was shocked at how warm it felt and she was shocked at how well she could feel her own pulse beating through it (or was it someone else's pulse?) but her outrage quickly overrode those minor observations and she went flying back outside into the crisp autumn air with alarming speed, growling all the while.

"Move over!" she snarled at one point, brutally shoving a man off of his motorized scooter. She quickly mounted it and went screeching off, ignoring the man as he cursed her out and threatened her with jailtime and a lawsuit. She instead howled in triumph, throwing her head back and opening her wide mouth even wider. She could feel the blood from the sides of her gaping maw trickling into her mouth and she swallowed it willingly. She could also feel the dampness dripping down her wild black locks and she was certain that she could feel something tiny crawling around on her scalp, but she didn't care at all.

Then there finally came a point when Kathryn stumbled upon a small group of kindergartners who were doing some sort of Halloween activity through the school. She watched them laugh and play, singing and stuffing their faces with candy. Just for one second, a genuine warmth filled her chest and she watched the scene with a smile under her mask, but then another inexplicable wave of destruction washed through her mind and a very sick, sadistic, twisted idea shot through her brain like a lightning bolt.

Run into them.

"What?"

You heard me. Run into them.

"But why?"

Because you can. Because it'll be fun! Because why not? Because don't you want to see what all of that gore would look like? Because no one else would ever dare. Because it would be something EXTRAVAGANT!

Kathryn revved the engine on her stolen motor scooter and then shot forward. She crashed through the grass and shrubs before slamming into several kids in her path. She kept on driving even after their blood began to coat the front of the scooter. She ignored the screams of pain, terror and rage, instead raising one hand to flip the survivors off. Then she kept right on chugging, screaming like a psychopath as she continued her path of destruction, callously and carelessly driving right through whatever she pleased.

Car incoming on your right.

"Think I'll make it in time?" it was a sarcastic question and she gunned the engine yet again, pulling out right in front of the car.

"HEY! I'M DRIVING HERE!" thundered the woman behind the wheel.

"So am I..." she raised her hand to flip the driver off again.

Kathryn continued to tear on through the night, feeling higher than a plane. It was exhilarating, ecstatic, agonizing and outrageous all at once. It was the utmost savage and selfish pleasured combined with the hottest and most desperate of furies. She was delirious now, and incapable of stopping. Then, once the scooter stopped running, she crashed it into the side of an abandoned building before running off to find another victim to harm. For some reason she started getting a high off of causing destruction and agony to others. There was something so empowering about causing harm to the innocent and dominating them like the filth that they were. She was the strongest one now, the alpha, so she deserved the utmost respect. Anything less had to be punished, even she hurt a few innocents along the way. But life was tough. They could get over it.

"Hey! Let go of me!" one man thrashed as Kathryn reached out to grab him. Even though she was almost a head shorter, however, it was as though her anger was giving her strength. She managed to hold him still as she looked around for something good to beat him with. She finally settled upon a loose chunk of sidewalk nearby. The man was a bloody and lifeless mess in about two minutes, head thoroughly bashed in with all of its contents spilling out around his body and her feet. She panted as she looked down at him, throwing the stone into his stomach with a triumphant snarl. Why did this feel so good? Why did it make her feel so strong?

"PUT YOUR HANDS UP!" Ah, and now the cops were onto her. But she only smiled, turning a bloody, blackened face at them and waving a scarlet hand in their direction before bolting. With speed that she didn't even know she had, she turned tail and fled. The cops couldn't keep up as she darted through trees and shoddy neighborhoods. She ran and ran and ran and ran and ran and ran. Then she found herself facing the police station itself, splattered in blood but still as lively and energetic as ever. She was breathing hard, but the cold air filled her lungs in the most satisfying way possible. She managed to sneak in since all the cops were out and either searching for her, or tending to the people she'd hurt. Of course, there were a few cops behind and radioing in to all the others, but they were so focused on trying to help out that they didn't even realize that she, the object of their search, was right there. At least not until she'd managed to steal a cop car and drive off with it, blaring the sirens just because she could and just because it was fun and just because no one else would ever dare...

By morning, there were five other people dead. One had been beaten to death, two shot and two run over by the cop car. Kathryn was nowhere to be found. But there were posters all over, demanding that "The Black Mask" be caught and brought to justice at all costs. No one in that tiny town ever saw Kathryn again. The only two people who even noticed were her aunt, who had panicked when she had gone missing and never returned, assuming that she might've been kidnapped by the infamous killer without even realizing that Kathryn and the killer were one in the same, and the mysterious old man who ran the Halloween store.

"The black mask!" he gasped when he realized that it was gone. "The mask! Where is it? WHERE IS IT!?" but that Black Mask would never be seen again either.

AN: And, Knight-Bishop, here's the "previous owner of a Haunted Mask before Carly Beth ever arrives" fic. Hope you like it and hope it wasn't too dark. The character name is Carly Beth's actress' name in the 2000 series.