I'd seen enough costumes on TV to realize that, more than anything else, their purpose was to create a narrative. When someone wanted to be 'Cat-Dude', they slapped on some claws, a tail, and cat-ears. Then they carved some funny-shaped shurikens ('cat-arangs') and bam--they were in business.
But the purpose wasn't to actually become a cat. The uniform would always resemble its subject in only superficial ways; it was a reference. A symbol. You see the costume and go, 'Oh, I bet he has powers and a back story that has something to do with felines'. And then the costume had served its purpose.
The Skull's costume was different.
It would have been enough to wear a stylized skull on the chest or head, but that's not what the uniform had. Instead, it looked like someone had actually mounted a very real skull on top of a living shadow.
This wasn't a costume designed to create an identity, or connect to a backstory. This was a costume designed to honestly scare the bejeezus out of people.
And it was freaky. It was almost impossibly black; it drank in light, letting scarcely a mote escape. Anyone wearing this thing would be nothing more than a pool of shadow interrupted only by the white of that skull--staring out at them from the darkness.
The costume included a backpack--a box coated in the same material that rendered the uniform without apparent texture. It was lined with grooves and knobs that were difficult to see, but after some experimentation, I discovered it was a utility belt of some sort. With just a twist and pull, dozens of items would unfold from it--including, I discovered, a small device that resembled the MP3 player my mother had left behind.
Hesitantly, I hit play.
I heard that barely discernible shriek--only amplified to the point of being nearly unbearable.
The sound made me grimace, but not much else. I remembered my mother's warning--not to play it on a loudspeaker. I hit the stop button and put it back into the backpack--it snapped into place with a click.
"Cool," I said, and then I concentrated on putting the costume on.
It was adjustable, which was a good thing because I sure as hell didn't have my mother's figure. When I was putting on the helmet, I noticed an interesting detail.
The interior of the helm was white. Someone had written something on the inside of it with a black marker. It read:
I filed that under 'things to look into later' and put the helmet on.
The helmet's on-button was on the side; you pressed it down for two or three seconds and it would power up. When I activated it, my vision instantly went from 'staring-through-a-halloween-mask' to 'mask?-what-mask?'.
It took me a moment to realize what I was seeing. I was no longer looking through the mask's eyeholes--instead, I was staring at a projection on the inside of the mask, broadcasting what was outside. A green HUD flared up into my vision--complete with transparent text that floated in the bottom left corner, feeding me information about the helmet's current status and battery power.
"Holy crap, mom," I said. This thing was frigging awesome.
The suit felt good; it was easy on the body. A little more bulky than normal clothes, but--besides the helm, and a few rigid plates at the chest and shoulders--there was nothing that interfered with movement. I went to the exercise room and toyed with it for a few hours, trying to grasp the basics.
I managed to figure out how to pull the 'shrieker' (my nickname for the sound device) out with a flick of my hand; on top of that, I found a set of unfoldable electric prods that would slip out the bottom of the backpack. They were made of a hard, solid plastic--when I brought them down against one of the practice dummies, they made a satisfying thwunk followed by a harsh electric zzzt.
I went to the equipment room. There was a laptop there; I plugged it in and flicked it on, pleased to discover that it picked up the wi-fi from upstairs. Still in the costume, I went online and pulled up a map of the area around Sullivan street.
It was a small, rich community nestled in the nearby foothills. Most of the people there didn't pay much attention to each other--which made it a great place to do something illegal. Assuming you could afford the real estate tax, anyway.
Getting there would be the big challenge. I didn't have a car, and even if I did, the thought of getting pulled over while wearing my costume presented a rather absurd situation. 'Why yes, officer, I always drive in a skull-shaped mask. Why do you ask?'
I could hoof it through the woods for most of the way--there was a danger of getting lost, but if I kept in eye-sight of the roads--I could probably make it there in an hour. And the costume would make it downright impossible to see me at night.
I had a plan, of course. I was going to go there--sneak a peek under the cover of darkness--and see if I could find them doing anything illegal. And then?
Then I was going to call the police and run away.
Okay, maybe my plan wasn't breathtaking in scope. But I was angry, and this was the best I could do. I figured that unless I stopped them, they might come back once my aunt was out of the hospital.
The best part of this plan was that it didn't involve me punching anyone. After spearing the intruder upstairs, I'd lost my taste for it.
I road the lift up from the basement into the house. The clock on the HUD read 12:32 AM; it was night outside. I briefly wondered how my mother had managed to get out of the house in this costume to fight crime.
I made my way to the cellar door, heading outside into the night.