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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)

TITLE: Skin Deep
By Jan Ackerson
01/28/08


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Crystal Hilliard was beautiful, but not quite beautiful enough. Her hair was long and blonde, yet it lacked a certain sheen. Her large eyes were blue, but not the vivid blue of a summer sky. Her nose was a tad too pert; her lips not particularly pouty. And although she wore a stylish size four, she was not a perfect size four, being rather smaller on top and larger on the bottom than the models who scowled at her from the pages of her fashion magazines.

Fortunately, Crystal was the heiress to her father’s millions, earned by selling mink accessories to the pampered pets of the wealthy. So on her twenty-first birthday, Crystal sat in the office of a plastic surgeon and spelled out her demands, declaring “I’ll spend anything to get what I want.”

Dr. Auric was well-tanned and perfectly coifed, with a dazzling white smile. He regarded Crystal for a moment, then reached into his desk and pulled out a glossy brochure. “If you’re really willing to spend any amount,” he said, “then perhaps you’d be interested in this.”

“What’s this?” Crystal flipped impatiently through the pages.

“It’s my own invention, not yet approved for public use. Worn unobtrusively in a pendant around the neck, it will surround you with a holographic projection of whatever look you desire. No painful surgery, no recovery period—and no one will ever know.”

Crystal tossed the brochure aside with a sneer. “Don’t be ridiculous. That’s not possible!”

The doctor touched a silver medallion at his own neck, and the air around him shimmered for a fraction of a second. Crystal gasped. Dr. Auric sat before her—balding, buck-toothed, and splotchy.

Minutes later, a check with six zeroes on it had changed hands, and Crystal left Dr. Auric’s office with a new piece of jewelry and an aura of splendorous glamour.

***

Samuel Blackthorn adjusted the cufflinks of his tuxedo shirt. Surveying the sumptuous buffet that stretched along two walls of the ballroom, he winced at the irony: a charity event for hungry children at which thousands of dollars worth of food would be consumed by the glitterati.

He wandered to the far corner, where a small display had been set up out of the way of the partiers. Under the charity’s logo were a dozen black-and-white photos: round-eyed children with matchstick arms protruding from tattered tee-shirts. “Oh, man,” said Samuel softly.

He turned away from the display and braced himself for the coming ordeal. Another absurd charity ball full of superficial people. Just once I’d like to meet someone at one of these things with some genuine human warmth, some—His thoughts were interrupted by a glimmering vision. A woman of surpassing beauty stood across the room, bathed in light, one slim hand fingering the jewel at her throat.

If she has even a tenth as much compassion as beauty, I’ll…I’ll…good grief, I’d marry that girl. Samuel shouldered his way across the crowd, stopping in front of the paragon of loveliness.

“Samuel Blackthorn,” he said, offering the woman a flute of champagne.

“I’m Crystal Hilliard, but of course you knew that! Because me me me blah blah blah me me me.”

Samuel gaped in disbelief. Crystal talked about herself nonstop for several minutes, pausing only to take a sip from her glass and to gaze about the ballroom. When it became clear that no new admirers were approaching, she looked expectantly at Samuel—a look that clearly said let’s talk about me some more.

With a surge of generosity, Samuel gave Crystal another chance. She’s young—maybe she’s just nervous. “So, Crystal—this is a great charity, isn’t it? I can’t stand the thought of even one hungry child. It’s unacceptable, and we should do something about it.”

“Well,” said Crystal, “me me me blah blah blah me me me.” She flipped her blonde mane and struck a pose.
Dejected, Samuel excused himself and wrote a check for twice the amount he’d intended. He drove home with a sense of melancholy, embarrassed at having been dazzled by Crystal Hilliard. She’s as insubstantial as light. Some day I’ll find a woman with a heart.

He was greeted at the door by his dog, madly wagging its tail and begging for attention. Samuel scratched the dog’s ears, then loosened his ascot and thumbed a tiny button on his watch. His Compassionizer2020 clicked off.

Samuel felt a momentary chill. He shivered, shook his head as if to clear his brain, and kicked the dog.


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This article has been read 1004 times
Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw01/31/08
Wow, what a freaky twist at the end. Well done. I love "Crystal"'s name...the "me me me, blah blah blah" part. Very creative.
Leigh MacKelvey01/31/08
So original! I, too, loved the blah, blah, blah and also all the "glittery" words. You made the man characeter completely symphathetic until the end and thus : Surprise!

Well Done!
Lynda Schultz 01/31/08
Whoa, this one caught me by surprise. Crystal was obvious, but Samuel sure wasn't. Very good.
Kristen Hester01/31/08
That really was a shock! This is creative, well writtten and captivating. Loved it!
Joanne Sher 02/02/08
What a twist! I definitely didn't see that coming. Very creative take on the topic, and very well-written.
Sherry Castelluccio 02/02/08
Yeah, I wasn't expecting that last bit, lol. Great story and very entertaining. I think I know Crystal.
Betty Castleberry02/02/08
I love the originality in this piece. It's clever and well written, although I hate that the dog had to get kicked. Very well done.
Karen Wilber 02/03/08
Oh yeah, was not expecting the Samuel twist at all. Nicely done. Love that you used the name "Dr. Auric" - clever.
Peter Stone02/04/08
This is sci-fi at its best. And I loved the surprise ending.
Pat Guy 02/04/08
Love the title. ;) And love everything about this entry.

Fantastic ending.
Laury Hubrich 02/04/08
Wow! Love this little piece of Sci Fi! I can't even think of anything to say -- why, I think you've left me speechless! Wow!
Laury
william price02/04/08
Extremely creative, well written, masterfully delivered and the twist of all twists at the end, BUT what I loved most was the Dr.s name, Auric, and this is why I like your writing, nothing is wasted, not even a name of a supporting cast member. I know what auric means, but it is also Goldfingers, as you well know, first name in the Bond movie of the same name. I would have gave you an A plus just for that. God bless.
Linda Watson Owen02/04/08
When it comes to the unique and unexpected, you reign, my friend!! What refreshing twists and turns in this one as well as in so many you write! It's always a treat to be swept along in your masterful stories, then to be rewarded again with your 'zingers' at the end!
Catrina Bradley 02/04/08
Ooh, this starts out great and progressively gets better. A creatively written, perfectly on-topic, delight. Don't know why I didn't guess the ending (it must be your talented writing) but I was surprised. Awesome.
K. J. Cash02/05/08
Absolutely brilliant! It's everything a story should be. It has foundation, follow through, surprise, intrigue, with a moral to boot.
Rita Garcia02/05/08
A fabulous read! Creative from start to finish. The ending was sheer perfection!
Paula Titus 02/05/08
There's that twist we all love :) What I love about your writing is it always leaves me thinking long after I've read.
Hanne Moon 02/06/08
Oh wow, GREAT story Jan! And I absolutely love the ending! You had me cracking up with your MC...she was something else!
Tim Pickl02/06/08
A sci-fi story lifted right from the pages of our newspapers and magazines filled to overflowing about the gods of this world -- the celebs! Fascinating storyline with a 'twist kick' ending!
Holly Westefeld02/06/08
Ouch! Poor dog.
A clever double example of the topic.
Joy Faire Stewart02/06/08
Oh, I was completely caught up in the story and didn't see the end coming. Very entertaining and on topic.
Gerald Shuler 02/06/08
"great,great,great,blahblahblah,great,great,great."

The only one that wouldn't love this is the dog.
Sara Harricharan 02/06/08
Whoa! Skin deep indeed, I almost wish that I didn't know who those titles would fit so pefectly (myself, at times included) the 'aha' moment came at the end. Double twist! I liked it. Nice job! ^_^
Dee Yoder 02/06/08
Sci-fi? Not really-if we look at the people we are and the believers we sit next to in church every Sunday, we'll find all these masks and we don't even have to wear a device! What a clever way of bringing out the topic and making me think about my skin deep Christianity. Jan, you're a master writer!
Loren T. Lowery02/06/08
So reminescent of Oscar Wilde's "The Portrait of Dorian Gray". Ditto to all the remarks so far and I can only add, thank-you for sharing your gift.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/06/08
Knowing what a clever and creative writer you are, I kind of thought maybe Samuel had a piece of jewelry like the blond's, but you caught me perfectly with the final twist. It's a good thing he had his compassionizer on when he wrote his check. :-)
Corinne Smelker 02/06/08
Another WOW Jan! And perhaps another Winner too!!

Wonderfully imaginative and perfectly written.
Pam Carlson-Hetland02/06/08
Ditto all the comments above, Jan. Loved the title, the story, and that marvelous twist at the end. Just excellent all the way through!
Debbie Wistrom02/06/08
Great twist! They would have made a great pair. Very creative!
Marlene Austin02/06/08
I came to your site just to thank you for commenting on my piece. What a kick-in-the-head I got! This piece is super. I want to put down a mat and soak up any crumbs you let fall. ;)
Thanks so much for "slumming" with us at Beginners. It's really appreciated.
TJ Nickel03/12/08
Wow, one of my favorite articles of yours. I thought it was going to be one I wasn't captured by, and then boom....