Skin Deep (Finish The Story #61 Entry)
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.
@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!