Saturday, February 20, 2010


Most of the entries I post here are the result of a writing community that I'm a part of. Everyone in the community who wants to participate writes a short story based on a central theme given by the moderators every week. My favorite pieces get added to my "professional" (read: this) blog.

When the topic for this piece was presented, this was the first idea that came to mind. I've always been fascinated with science fiction, but not the flying cars and laser guns type. Science fiction with a touch of realism always struck a chord with me, partly because we're a lot closer to living science fiction now than at any other point in history.

This was a hard story to write. For the record, I hope that the technologies in this story are never actually created. Everyone in the world (that I've ever met) has body image issues, and if this story were ever to be reality, I can only imagine how much worse it would get.

"Different"- Aaron M. Smith
(written February 2010)

Abby wiped away her tears. She would not cry. She would not allow herself to cry. This was going to be the best day of her life. The day that her whole life would change forever. She should be happy.

She shoved her hands into the pockets of her rain jacket and squeezed the fistful of cash she’d brought with her- two years savings, since her sixteenth birthday. Any doubt she had would have to be left at the door. Steeling herself and taking a deep breath, she pushed opened the door to the clinic.

Of course, there was nobody inside. People didn’t work in buildings like this anymore. The only thing that greeted her was a huge mirrored elevator door. She read the guide on the wall: Appearance reassessment treatment, twenty seventh floor. She punched the up button on the elevator.

She tried not to stare at her reflection in the mirrored door, but it was impossible. Ugh, she looked awful. She’d worn the most shapeless clothes she owned in preparation for the procedure. While she didn’t look forward to having to replace her entire wardrobe, she’d never miss having to wear these clothes again.

Abby’s mind raced through the same checklist it always did when she looked at herself in the mirror. Too short. She barely came up to most boy’s chins. Things would be better when she was taller. And thinner- she hated her broad, wide hips, and she hated these jeans that made her look even larger. Habitually, she raised her sweatshirt up just enough to see her pale stomach. She wasn’t that big, but as short as she was and with hips like hers she looked huge. Ugh, and that skin. She was as white as a sheet. She’d be so much happier when she was finally bronze and pretty.

It had rained that morning, of course, so her mousey brown hair was frizzy and totally uncontrollable. She raked her fingers through it habitually to try to tame it, and then stopped herself. She wouldn’t even need to worry about it soon. She’d have straight, perfect blonde hair on the way home from the clinic.

The elevator continued to ding. Ugh, it must be stopping on every floor, she thought. The waiting was torture. She just wanted to get to the 27th floor, get the procedure done and be finished with it. Finished with everything.

She walked closer to the door in anticipation, looking at herself in the face to avoid looking at her body any longer. Her face was plain. Plain brown eyes, plain mouth. She leaned even closer to the door, her nose just inches from it now, so that all she could see was her eyes. Soon, she’d have blue, or maybe green eyes- she hadn’t decided on which color yet. Anything but brown.

Why couldn’t she stop the tears? They were running down her cheeks before she’d even realized she was crying- suddenly, a loud ding announced the arrival of the elevator, and she self-consciously backpedaled away from the door, covering her tears with a sniff and a rub of her eyes.

A woman was getting off the elevator. She smiled shyly, politely at Abby before stepping off and heading for the door.

Abby watched the women go. She didn’t realize her mouth was agape until after the woman had walked out onto the street, though Abby followed her through the large glass windows with her eyes as she walked down the sidewalk. She was short, with broad, feminine hips and curves that were noticeable even though she wore similarly shapeless clothing as Abby. Her wavy brown hair fell down her back in a sheet that was shiny even in the meager sunlight. She had round cheeks and a small, intelligent smile that caused her brown eyes to flicker with mirth. She was beautiful.

And she was carrying a folder that read “Appearance reassessment treatment: how to handle the first 24 hours.”

For a moment, Abby stood transfixed. The elevator door dinged again, and the doors slid closed. When they did, and Abby saw herself in it reflective surface once again, it was as if she was seeing an entirely different person. Nothing about her looked plain anymore.

She turned away from the elevator and ran, bursting through the double doors of the clinic and onto the street. To her right, the woman who just left the clinic was rounding the corner. She took off across the wet sidewalk, half slipping in the rain, and ran after her. She had to know one thing: What had that woman seen to make her choose that?

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