I bit my nails. The eyes of the models on the wall glared down at the people in the waiting room. I didn’t want to be beautiful; I just wanted to disappear.
A girl plopped down next to me. “Can you believe we won free makeovers?!”
I looked towards the exit, but my step mother’s eyes burned into me over her Beauty magazine. She seemed to think that a makeover would help us grow closer.
“I’ve heard they can even change your body shape.”
I squeezed my arms around my flat chest and squirmed, imagining razors slicing me up like a chicken.
“It’s like magic!” The girl fiddled with her Tinkerbell zipper pull.
I texted a friend: Save me.
I took a deep breath. A door opened and staff in long leather coats called out names from their clipboards. I felt sick.
The girl beside me squealed.
I froze in my chair, but my step mother’s eyes got me moving again.
The woman in the leather coat glanced at me. “You must be so excited about this opportunity.”
I glanced back as the door slammed shut. It was heavy. Reinforced steel? My bones went cold.
The woman led me down a hallway of doors. The only sound was the rubbing of plastic as she walked. I pulled my wool poncho closer. It smelled like my neighbor’s alpacas. My boots left muddy smears on the white tile floor.
The woman opened a door. “Right this way.”
“Um. Maybe I don’t want to…”
She laughed. “Don’t worry. You’ll come out beautiful.” She shoved me into the dark room.
I heard a lock click. I groped at the door. LEDs flashed on. There was no door knob. I turned to a thousand eyes. I shuddered. They were my own eyes, reflected from every angle, duplicating me endlessly. The room was empty except for me. “What is this?!”
They were like mirrors in a crazy house. I walked around the room watching my reflection change. Even my clothes changed. My hair twisted into tight curls and grew out straight. My eye color flashed from brown to blue to green. My heart pounded. The room spun.
I collapsed clutching my flat chest, my fingers tangled in my frazzled hair. It wasn’t real. They were just reflections.
“Let me out!” I pounded on the mirrors, wailing into my reflections until they looked nothing like me. I stared through my reflection.
Beyond the reflective glass, it looked like inside a dry cleaners. But it wasn’t clothes moving on the racks. They were skins. Human skins: colored, stretched, and empty.
My legs gave out, but my reflections remained standing. They posed. “Choose me,” one said. “I’ll make you happy,” another said. “Pick me!” “No! ME!” They screamed. A thousand of my voices jabbing at me.
“NO!” I yelled. Something pulled my voice; I couldn’t breathe. I smothered my mouth.
The room went dark. Something tugged at my clothes. My scalp burned. I clutched my alpaca poncho as the rest of my clothes were torn off. The floor opened under me, and I breathed in water. Sharp spikes pierced my skin, but all I felt was a numb sensation as my skin was peeled away like peeling wax off cheese.
A warmth surrounded me. It squeezed until I thought my lungs would collapse. I felt my chest expand and stretch. A flash of blue burned into my eyes. My legs ached. There was an elastic tension through the numbness, like I was being drawn and quartered.
All I could hear was the whirling of the gears moving the skins throughout the building.
I woke up on the floor and saw a girl in the glass. “Run! Get out of here!” I yelled at her. But, she just stared back at me. She held something to her chest. A scrap of cloth?
I felt a damp softness between my fingers. I looked down at my shred of poncho. It no longer smelled like alpacas.
My chest felt heavy. I staggered on long legs. I looked at the girl in the mirror and followed her hand through my hair, now blonde and straight. “This isn’t me!”
Everything was numb as I ripped out blonde hair and tore at the growths on my chest. I beat the mirror, smearing red on everything. “I’ll kill you!” I screamed. I choked the reflection until I couldn’t breathe.
The impostor fell.
My vision flickered red…