Skin Deep (Finish The Story #61 Entry)

in #finishthestory2 years ago (edited)

Opening by @brisby

"Our company stands by our satisfaction guarantee!" beamed the processing clerk with her row of brilliant white teeth.

Arnav returned her smile with a tight one of his own. That hadn't answered his question. Before he could repeat it again, the woman raised a pale green arm and gestured to the hallway on her left.

"Please proceed to the end of the hall to begin your procedure. We thank you for choosing DermaTru." Shimmering, the glass partition darkened as she turned from the console. Punctuating a blunt end to the transaction.

Arnav blinked, debating if he should knock on the blackened separator to demand a better response. Anxiety from the thought of creating a scene thrummed a timpani beneath his ribs. Lara would never forgive him for an embarrassing display in public. Besides, the blatant avoidance of his concerns had told him what he needed to know. There wouldn't be any going back.

Flickering screens aligning the hall were alight with a dazzling rainbow of customers. Each one a testimonial touting appreciation and joy for their operations. Waiting beside the iridescent number four in line, Arnav focused on one he hadn't seen before. A teary-eyed blue woman, Bonnie, was thanking DermaTru for giving her back her life.

"After my accident, I hid away." Sympathetic music underscored the images of a crumpled car and her body mottled with burn scars. "People would stare at me in the stores. I couldn't stand the looks in their eyes." The music swelled into inspirational notes as she continued, "Then I found DermaTru." Azure hands clasped over her heart as she stared from the screen, "They gave me more than the skin of my dreams, they gave me my life back."

A pneumatic hiss drew his attention as the door next to the screen slid open. Arnav's stomach flipped, readying to paint the floor with its own colorful mix of pastrami and bile. Closing his eyes, he forced down the nausea with measured breaths. There wasn't a reason to get himself worked up over this. There hadn't been a single case reported of nanite rejection. It was a simple and safe procedure performed by professionals.

His tremoring hands and quaking knees refused to acknowledge his attempts to calm himself. How like his life, even his own body ignored him.

But, all that would change after today. One quick injection and Arnav would have his wife smiling at him again. His Lara would be happy again. His hands fisted. He could do anything so long as it was for her. His knees eased their quivering. Anything to have her look at him again with something other than disappointment. His eyes opened.

Rallied by the thought of seeing love in Lara's eyes, Arnav stepped forward into the implantation room.

My Ending

@BluebellBonnie perched on the corner of her bed, unaware of the slow slide of the duvet, gently lowering her to the floor.

She stared at her hands, the tropical blue skin. Smooth. Faultless. Perfection. A crystal lagoon marred only by the movement of her bones. The nanites had done more than cover up her scars, vamp up her shade. The nick on her finger joint, the time her grandma had taken her to see horses. She’d tried to feed one and hadn’t quite flattened her hands. Gone. The shadow on the edge of her knuckle, catching the oven element, trying to cook her new husband his first roast dinner. Gone. Her manicured finger traced across her palm. The faint outline of blisters. Gone. Scaling the rock faces of Elkaba Reservations wasn’t easy, the rope had worn through the layers of her formally plain skin. Her husband had suggested she gave up, let the lift come and carry her down, but she’d hauled herself on. Those three rings, they were her self-belief. Proof, she could do things no one believed she could.

She still could.

Bonnie took a deep breath. Karnik had left her after the accident. He’d blown up her direct messages when she’d posted the pictures after the surgery though.

Elisie had congratulated her on turning it around, winning Karnik back, but his insincere, physically greedy sentiments had made her feel hollow. Not even Rosa had understood that. “But you looked like a horror show! No wonder he walked, maybe if you’d told him you’d get yourself fixed, but it’s all working out now, you’re getting your whole life back! You look amazing now Bons, plus with the modelling, you’ll be a SeeMee influencer in no time.”

She didn’t want Karnik back. The memory of coming home from hospital to find an empty house, his things gone, still clawed at her.

She didn’t want the photos, the posed shots, fake lips, fake smiling, in a fake face. She didn’t want the followers, the trending friends, who didn’t give a fuck. She didn’t want to open SeeMee ever again. She hated that advert, the idea of it being on repeat, the possibility of her convincing someone else this was what mattered.

Her life had fallen apart in that crash, and all she had done was paint over the cracks. The thick duvet cushioned the end of her slow descent, depositing her on the floor.

Bonnie, the latest face of DermaTru, smiled. Her fresh blue skin hadn’t wrinkled this sincerely since she got it. The final dose was kicking in. Her whole month’s supply of SatisfactionGuaranteed, taken in one go. It might not be real happiness, but at least she could feel it.

She closed her eyes, the gentle curve of her hued lips crinkling up her cheeks, a soft wash of bliss blushing sky blue through her sweet azure.

It only mattered how she looked. And, as the breath slipped away from her for the last time, she looked flawless.

"Arnav Kelot? Congratulations, your procedure has been a complete success, please collect your SatisfactionGuaranteed supplement on the way out."

Damn what an opening, plenty of characters to work with, ways to go. I ended up side stepping the main story here, even though it has a lot of potential, and was struck by Bonnie. I wanted to give her a happy ending, but the more I thought about this world, this place, this life, and high value society placed appearance.. and as the words came out, happy seemed far fetched. Although in the end... well, I guess she was happy. I got a lot of emotion out in this one, and am so grateful to these wonderful people for the chance to do this every week <3 Plenty of time to enter still, so make sure to check out the latest round, and all the entries under #finishthestory to see where other contestants went with this one

This is an entry to @bananafish's #finishthestory contest which is out every week! We have the wondrous @brisby taking the lead, and she had delivered us an opening that really gets it's hooks into your imagination - prime for anything!! Check out the latest round for all the details on how to join in!

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Damn, the writing is getting better and better here. I blame it in part, on that squirrel. She offers up rich material that is more than a narrative. It's a meditation on values. An exploration of character. I'm holding my breath before I finesse the end I've had in mind for two days. There have been other matters to pull me away, but I see no end yet that goes where I would like to take it.
Yours is brilliant, but I don't think happy. Tragic. It's a dismal world where the only happy end is annihilation.
Your writing is extraordinary.

Yeah the openings have been so very good! I am sure that nutty squirrel will be pleased <3 she is a skilled author indeed, it has been really interesting reflecting on the way people have interpreted the values aspect of her opening, and even more interesting looking at how people have then interpreted their interpretation. I love a good opportunity for insight into the way people view the world.

I am very much looking forward to reading it in the morning!! I have this great image of you frantically skimming through the entries looking for potential elements of what you were planning to do and thankfully, relieved not to find any. I had a lot of ideas, but I went with this one cos I hoped it was less likely to be along the lines of someones idea who hadn't got round to writing it yet ;)

Thank you. A rainbows and sunshine story didn't feel right, and I haven't been in the place to write that. The more age catches me up, the more I feel like dying happy, being able to smile, surely is the best ending anyone could hope for? Although having someone to smile at it probably a bonus. I just feel like everyone has to die in the end, if nothing can last forever then regardless of what led up to it, the inevitable ending being a moment in which a person is happy is well, literally a happy ending. I get that happiness is subjective, and there will be people who would prefer to go out knowing they fought and suffered right until the end. Although yeah, not really the happier ending I first had in mind when I thought to pick up Bonnie

Rainbows did not feel right. I think you can see I went dark, also, but in a different way.

Your latest edition of tellastorytome has not been overlooked. I've been busy...writing a complicated blog on science, then @brisby's great story. All the while, battling a couple of physical issues that I refuse to stop me from doing what I want. However, they do slow me down :)
Your story next, and also another science blog I've been planning.
I'll have to start reading the entries in your contest. The prompt is rich. I especially like that you give us such latitude. I do love latitude :)
I'll see you around the bend, at tellastorytome :)

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You Killed It! Damn good stuff. The personality fractured and then rebuilt upon a skin change and a drug dose, all well and good till reality starts to barge in. Very plausible, that's what makes it more horrific.

Quite literally ;) awww you have made me so happy, that is very much what I was going for.

I like the dark side that you tapped into, with Bonnie becoming a perfect image and loosing herself in that, how changing your appearance so dramatically changes your self identity.
I like the subtle hint that the feeling of satisfaction is manufactured, what else has DermaTru lied about?

I hope that hint would come through, in a world where even someone's skin is manufactured for the sake of appearance, why not that as well? The way Bonnie talked in the first half, she didn't get the procedure because she wanted it, she got this because of how people judged her, and how the judgement of others made her feel. Her own happiness hadn't been a factor, just what other people thought happiness was, and imposed on her. Awww yeah <3<3

This is an incredible and powerful piece, Cal!

Right from your start we're given such a strong indication of this woman's self identity. She isn't Bonnie. She's @BluebellBonnie, a flawless public persona.

I love this for so many reasons. One is the consideration of a person's 'skin record'. The divets, scars, blemishes, lines, et al. upon our bodies largest organ portray some of our history. Bonnie's contemplation of her hands, the knick removed and the blemishes from the rope burns, brings up a great point. Many would choose to remove scars from unhappy events but what about those which carried a happier memory or a lesson from our youth? Personally I've many scars that aren't what anyone would call pretty but to me, they're a part of who I am. Proof of what I've been through. Would I be willing to trade them away in order to attain a more 'attractive' look? (Nope. 😉)

Secondly, your story hits deep on how the shallow actions and feelings of some can drag one's self esteem and sense of worth straight down into the gutter. Her (in my mind 'pathetic excuse of a') husband abandoning her following a horrific accident only to return once she'd had the injections and her (in my mind 'crappy') friend only care about the surface. Bonnie's turmoil roiling beneath doesn't matter to them, she doesn't matter to them.

Third, your additions of the supplemental product of SatisfactionGuaranteed (so on point and devious that the name deserves a shudder effect) and the tie in with SeeMee (really what pretty much every social media site could be named) tie in to enhance the feeling of the value this society places on appearance. It's about what matters to people and for as much as DermaTru touts revealing one's inner beauty, it's made obvious that this is FAR from the truth.

Bonnie's choice to end it all, her death while still appearing flawless ends with such a chilling and heartbreaking tone. Terribly thoughtful as there are mirrors to this scenario in our society today (not a stretch to draw lines between the nanites and plastic surgery).

Onward the cycle continues in your closing, with Arnav receiving his doses of SatisfactionGuaranteed. Considering his reasons for the injection, there's little hope for his story to end differently.

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