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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)

TITLE: Killer Beauty


The grape seed exfoliating scrub awakened a desire in Lucy to shed everything old and unnecessary. Everything Bert. Irene had been right. This was the life. The only thing Lacy was responsible for was flipping over at the appropriate moment or showering off one treatment to allow a new one to begin. Off with the detoxifying algae wrap and on with the humidifying yogurt. Adjust the thermal blanket to the perfect setting. Beautify.

“Madam?” said Greta, the clinician. “Hallo? I give you this robe, okay? Then you relax on the terrace. Madam feels fine, yes?”

“Wonderful and woozy.” Lacy achieved the vertical position and accepted the thickest terrycloth robe she had ever seen. She folded the collar along her neck. Soft as cashmere, just as Irene promised. Greta set satin slippers at Lacy’s feet and then led her through the glass doors leading outside.

There waited Irene, generous Irene, who had barely aged in the twenty-five years since high school. Just over Irene’s shoulder, the Swiss Alps crested above the heavenly Lake of Geneva. Lacy could die right now. Even the air seemed luxurious. She opened her eyes after several deep breaths, noticing how similar the guests appeared, almost penguin-like with their slicked hair and padded walks. Her own toes were curled inside the cushioned slippers to keep them from falling off as she made her way along the porcelain tiles toward Irene who was clapping and smiling as if Lacy was taking her first steps.

“Ooh, you look beautiful. How do you feel—great, I bet. You are radiant—glowing from head to—let me see your foot.” Lacy complied. “—toe. Didn’t I tell you this was the cat’s meow? Come-on-come-on-come-on—tell me all about it.” Irene patted the stool next to her. “I ordered you some pomegranate juice with a wedge of peach. Drink up.”

“Thanks—for everything, really.” The bar provided leverage for Lacy’s quivering muscles as she lifted herself into the seat. A slipper dropped, but it would have to stay dropped. She drained her glass in a single breath and sat panting.

“That’s only round one, Lacy. When they’re finished, you won’t recognize yourself.”

“So when I jog it won’t feel like my butt’s an extra appendage?”

“Nope. All regions—especially the upper ones—arms, legs, back—taut as a drum. And the face—you’ll lose twenty years. When you go back to Omaha, you won’t need Bert the Mechanic with the rough hands. You’ll get anyone you want.”

“His hands are rough. They’ve snagged most of the fine sweaters you've sent. I wish I'd married a German pharmaceutical hotshot, too. Does Helmut have brothers?” Lacy laughed lightly, but guilt pinged her like a small pebble. She did feel sorry for Bert, ignorant soul that he was, but she’d outgrown him. Who could judge her for that? She plucked the straw from her glass and chewed the end for a moment.

“Are we being self-indulgent?”

“We’re maintaining. So we can go out and do good in the world.”

“Europeans sure appreciate the finer things. We don’t have spas like this in America, do we?”

“Fraid not. Americans are squeamish. Too many hang-ups with nudity, government, and the Great Moral Dictator in the sky—meaning God, Lacy—don’t look so confused; it’s bad for the face. Anyway, nothing gets approved over there, but they’re making progress—won’t be long. Now listen, you’ve got your face consult next.”

“Oh, right.” Lacy’s other slipper fell to the tiles and her feet which earlier had been warm and pampered, were left to rest on the cold, metal bar. Something larger than a pebble began thunking her fuzzy brain. “Are these treatments more than Botox or liposuction?”

“Botox? Child’s play. We’re talking about total rejuvenation. Tissues and organs. Only one thing does that—embryonic stem cells. Nothing else like it, Lace. Not just for your looks, but all your aches—gone. That arthritis starting in your joints—a memory.“

“Oh,” she said.

“It’s okay, Lacy—completely safe. Hey, don’t worry. Now where’s that smile?”

But Lacy felt as frozen as the embryos she was suddenly picturing solidified in petri dishes and stored alongside the algae and yogurt treatments. How could she be so stupid? She and Bert were similar after all. Someone was taking her hand then. It was Irene, generous Irene, and Lacy followed obediently, saying not one word.

She’d been wrong.

They weren’t penguins.

They were lemmings.

She hoped God would forgive them.

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This article has been read 849 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sonya Leigh02/27/09
I love the clever imagery here where the slippers drop just as the poverbial shoes drop in their conversation. The first shoe drops before they talk about shedding the old, rough-handed husband, the second just before she discovers that stem cells are used in this spa's rejuvination therapy.

This is a very clever way of bringing to light a continual, horrendous practice occurring today in spas throughout Europe.

Wonderfully creative writing.
Joanne Sher 03/02/09
Excellent storytelling and use of imagery. I'm with Sonya - love the shoe dropping timing! What an excellent cautionary tale.
Jan Ackerson 03/02/09
This had a huge 'gulp' factor--the writing pulling you on inexorably to a horrifying conclusion. Yikes!
Chely Roach03/02/09
Wowzers! I was all wonderful and woozy with Lacy, and then had that sinking stomach feeling when the other shoe dropped, so to speak. Excellent writing!
Carol Slider 03/02/09
A very well-written expose' of a horrifying practice. I had never heard of this procedure, though I've been a member of a pro-life chapter for several years. Thank you for educating us!
Joshua Janoski03/02/09
Wow! Talk about a surprise and shocking ending. I had no idea that this practice was taking place in European spas. I thought it was only happening in science labs.

Very intriguing story. You took me from relaxation to uneasiness with this one. A sign of very good writing to be able to evoke emotions like that in your reader.
Norma-Anne Hough03/03/09
Amazinng story about an awful practice. You held my attention throughout.
Well done.
Holly Westefeld03/04/09
A chilling tale, with excellent characterization and use of repetition. You made Irene slimy and detestable, and Lucy/Lacy's return to reality uncontrived.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/04/09
What a merry ride you took us on. You truly have a gift for storytelling--a wonderful message included without moralizing necessary.
Mona Purvis03/04/09
I read this several times this week. I kept coming back to it; it drew me and I wasn't sure why.
It is one of those that make the reader feel heavy. Truth, sad truth. Really says alot about PEOPLE. Most of us can remember similar situations and OUR reactions. Maybe, that's why it drew me back. Powerful piece.
Diana Dart 03/04/09
WOW - this piece was full of mini-masterpieces. The descriptions were lush, I could actually feel the textures. The dialogue gave us glimpses, peeks into the minds and motivations of the characters, bit by bit - until the nasty revelation at the end. It may be just me, but it felt almost like a Hitchcock film. Very well done.
Gerald Shuler 03/04/09
Masterful writing with a pupose. Loved every word, shock and falling slipper.
Gregory Kane03/04/09
I am a man. I wouldn't know an exfoliating liposuction on my right pectoral from a retroactive botox in my inverted umbilicus. It was scary reading this story. Do women really go through such experiences willingly?
Sara Harricharan 03/04/09
Title says it all. wow. killer beauty indeed. The twist in this here was horrifying and amazing at the same time. You certainly did your research, thanks for sharing this!
Karlene Jacobsen03/04/09
Oh my! I had no idea! This was an incredible piece, enlightening and troubling. Very well done.
Shirley McClay 03/04/09
Wow... very unsettling. I only wish we as American were MORE squeamish! Great job with a tough subject. Very eye opening.
Lyn Churchyard03/04/09
oooh, I didn't notice this sentence until the second read... Lacy could die right now What a chilling warning; was that deliberate?

Well written story. Scary but great.