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A New Me 💄

A Tale of Jealous Beauty

By Zach BurgerPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
A New Me 💄
Photo by Sergiu Vălenaș on Unsplash

A swarm of notifications coalesced on the backlit screen of Emery’s smartphone. Facial recognition auto-unlocked the device pushing pieces of information from applications by the hundreds into her short-term memory for review. The magnitude at which each grouped notification was delivered overwhelmed lesser humans, but Emery was a seasoned veteran of the digital age, part of an expeditionary force who preferred the unadulterated landscape of augmentation over real-life.

Media sharing apps continued to be all the rage over the past five decades, from still photography to video clips and conglomerations to augmented reality pieces and virtual spaces. The need to be seen, to be noticed, to be important drove the need for progressive media innovation based on the self and the expression of that self.

Emery focused on a purplish notification from her most recent post, and the visual AI scanner identified where her eye movement initiated a command. The application enveloped the screen and holographic comments with real-time reactions expanded off the side of the physical device, enlarging the application landscape by three times.

One comment caught her attention and it was immediately brought to the forefront. The pinkest lips without filler appeared—a photorealism technique defining something real and unique about a human and imitating the action with a lifelike animation.

This was a playful smooch with XOXO text from her best friend, Daisy.

Daisy wore the defined features of a goddess: enchanting, emerald eyes with symmetry Da Vinci could not have conceived of or duplicated, and a nose modeled after Cleopatra’s likeness. This teenage queen was the envy of every other female her age, a carbon copy of the Kardashian lineage without any known relation. Her unblemished skin of a golden, porcelain make, and a triangular face with a custom-cut chin and jawline suggested a hidden bloodline of royalty, or at the very least, celebrity. Every peer treated her as such.

Emery blushed at the comment, and a rippling, red sheen alerted her to an inbox notification.

hey, Em! 💋 Looking fab, as ever. love, love. 💖 C U tomorrow in chem! ⚗️🧪💥

Adoration was something Emery couldn’t anticipate. Any time she was given praise, her reaction was fundamentally the same. What was even more embarrassing was her freckled skin, fairer than a maiden from a nursery rhyme, a mess of ruddy hair from her Irish descendants, and a face awash in rosacea with any emotion—an inherited trait.

Sitting alone in her room, her cheeks were burning red, but the augmentation software she downloaded kept her rosy features an emotionless field of freckles. This masked her true reaction, as the auto-capture blasted a notification back to Daisy.

As she lay back on her comforter and melted into the SmartFoam, jealousy, and thoughts of fame danced in her head. Despite the praise, a person with half a brain recognized the praise as pity. Emery decided tonight was the night she’d open the creepy, ancient-looking book she’d found beneath a black rock in the open-air park.

“What could it hurt?” she thought.

The book was a real object with real pages, so old and brittle they were yellowing on the edges. It was heavy and the mass was unlike any of the superlight materials used to create objects or consumer goods in the present day.

At first, the fairytale tome was laughably unreal, so she quick-checked the authenticity with a VR scan. There was little doubt in her mind that this was a virtual re-creation from some LARPing nerd who left it as an Easter egg. However, the scan scrubbed the surface and identified the simple outline of a flower pressed into the leather with a slight marigold paint lining the imprint. But the VR scrub came back negative, labeling the book as a real object (a relic even), and sending her information on the identification of the item.

According to the description, it was lost in the 13th century, somewhere off the North Coast of the Scottish Highlands, when ancient clans ruled and roamed without a single piece of technology.

“How tragic,” she had thought.

Legend revered the book as a pagan talisman, something able to evoke magic and spellwork capable of changing the outward appearance of the spellcaster. The British claimed it was created by evil, which Emery snickered at, knowing the concept of evil was proven to be of human construction in order to maintain rule over the masses long ago. The marsh marigold flower on the cover was the distinct identifier, but how it ended up in East Putnam under a rock was beyond Emery’s wildest imagination.

Rolling out of bed and discarding her phone, her AR lens switched on and layered her natural vision with interactive, neon features. The sweeping closet opened as she approached, compressing like an accordion into the sidewall. Emery felt the book drawing her nearer, captivating and stealing her attention underneath a pile of old blankets. It was a strange feeling, sort of like anxiety.

Uncovering the tome, she picked it up and brought it over to her desk, compelled to open it and read the pages. It was this same need she ignored when she found it in the park, the creepy vibe of unfamiliarity with a hint of inescapable fear.

Opening the cover, the first line spilled off the page as if the effect was a virtual manipulation. Emery toggled off her augmentation contact lens, but the line of cursive script continued to ripple.

It read:

For thy maiden of whom thine eyes setteth aglow,

may fortune cast beauty from thy hair to thy toes.

Whomever shall lust to swoon over ye page,

a seed for ye soul thou hast but to trade.

Emery found the silly poem beautiful, hard to understand, and archaic, but enticing. Each line of verse compelled her to turn the page, but when she carefully opened to the next page, it was blank. Puzzled, she pulled back the next page, then the next, and the next, until she was no longer being careful, but rather ripping through page upon page upon page.

Yet, every page remained blank.

Frustrated and feeling entirely foolish, Emery grasped the heavy tome and hurled it at the wall, like an Olympic discus. Slowing her breath, calming down, and feeling her racing heart recede to a steady pace, she noticed the book laying halfway open on a page that subtlely glowed in the corner of her room.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she grumbled.

Emery stood over the marigold tome, the cursive script unraveling in a magical way, revealing images and sketches of a humanoid figure reciting dialogue and hand motions in black and white ink. While augmented and virtual reality brought the unreal to life, allowing fantastical, impossible animations to become commonplace, this technology was nothing like AR or VR. This animation was seemingly real, almost feral with an anticipatory hunger for a reader’s eye.

Emery began to consume the first line.

Fairest, fairest;

the wearer of riches, enchantress of passion,

ye goddess of glamour.

The language and rhyme scheme reminded her of a Brothers Grimm fable with the dark underpinnings of an antediluvian ideology. A sensation of music tickled her ears.

Thy bosom of health, thy figure of renown,

thy shape of good fortune, thy beauty without bounds.

Each word, then phrase, then stanza brought shivers to her spine and goosebumps to her flesh. Emery was overcome with a feeling of lightheadedness and fatigue, yet a sense of gladness filled her chest in ripples. She noticed her hands were moving freely above her head, and her feet brought her to and fro, twisting her hips and body into a pirouette. The dance was almost spiritual, lifting her up and up, and easing her back to the ground—a form of yoga and oneness without written record.

Words continued to spill over the page, duplicate depictions of her swift motions guiding her legs across the bedroom floor. For a moment, Emery felt like a ballerina.

Luminescence continued to arise from the book’s pages, and they turned freely as if a wisp of wind plucked each parchment page with an invisible forefinger. And as suddenly as it started, a final gust of energy swept through the room, and the book slammed shut. The music stopped.

***

When Emery awoke underneath her self-wrapping comforter and deep within her SmartFoam bed, she felt alive. Of course, she had always felt alive with every inhalation and exhalation from her lungs, the experience of color and motion with sight, and the sound of music, voices, and nature from her ears. But, this was entirely different.

Putting her two feet on the ground, a sensation of nausea hit her immediately in the temples, charging down to her stomach, and causing her to rush to the bathroom before sickness overpowered her ability to walk in a straight line. Pulling back her hair after the episode, it felt much longer than she remembered. Emery touched her throat, scratchy and acidic from vomiting, and her hand moved to her chest, which did not feel like her own. When she looked down at her breasts, they had grown by three cup sizes, and she gasped, rising to her feet with her back against the wall.

An LCD signal blinked on and off on her interactive mirror, until becoming solid and bringing the digital display to life as she stood in front of the reflective glass. Emery had changed.

A single tear slid down her natural cheek, then another and another, until the tears transitioned into a weep, and the weep became a frantic cry. Nothing about Emery was the same, and yet, everything about her was the same.

Removing the hairband and ripping out strands of lush, healthy hair in the process, her strawberry blonde locks fell to the small of her back, and her eyes were the same blue but with a noticeable tone of effervescence, like she had altered her eye color with her SmartLenses. The most noticeable change was her figure and physique.

Full breasts and a slim waist with a toned abdomen were reflected back to her as if her body had undergone plastic surgery and liposuction overnight.

“How is this even possible?” she thought with a mix of intrigue, confidence, and horror wrapped into a tight ball expanding inside her chest. “It’s the mirror! It’s the mirror,” she exclaimed, rationalizing the incomprehensible experience by blaming a faulty AR display.

Emery powered off the mirror and silenced both the spatial and visual commands for augmentation, but the person staring back at her was unchanged. Running to her bedroom door where a glass mirror hung without any digital interface, she observed the stranger who was so completely herself, but not at the same time. She was taller, slimmer, as toned as a dedicated gym rat and marathon enthusiast, with a perfect complexion and a full chest and butt.

“Who am I?” she wondered, but Emery knew exactly who she was. What she was didn’t matter.

Grabbing her phone off the nightstand without any recollection of the night before, the media sharing application appeared on her phone. The AI camera lens captured her image, enhancing the exposure, auto-adjusting the brightness, contrast, saturation, and definition of her portrait. A simple gesture of satisfaction (rumored to be triggered by an upward curl of the lip) distributed her likeness to the public en masse.

The caption read: a new me. 📸💃👸✨

“I am a goddess,” she said.

***

In the corner of her room, the book remained closed, inanimate on the floor.

In the following days and weeks, no one mentioned her abrupt change, neither her peers nor her parents, but everyone noticed her stunning beauty. It was as if her former facade vanished from memory. Emery assigned little regard to such an ancient old book without giving any thought to the implications within its words. And yet, she was reluctant to touch or move it, out of worry, fear, or simple lust.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Zach Burger

At a young age, poetry found my pen, sourcing prose as a coping mechanism. 🖋️ Poetry transitioned to lyricism 🎶 the words following the melody, until one day, I needed more space. Melodies became narratives and fantasy was given life. 🧙

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    Zach BurgerWritten by Zach Burger

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