Skin Deep. Short Story.

“Aren’t you excited?”
“No, not really. It’s always a big let down, isn’t it?”
“Not to me.’
“That’s not what you said last year.”
“Last year was different. They were all crap.”
“And the year before?”
“Cock-eyed.”
Dan shook his head, “You really need to be more realistic about all of this.”
“Stop being a killjoy, just relax. It’s fun.”
“Every year you say that and each time there’s something wrong with them. You’re never happy and you never will be.”
“This year is different, I can feel it.”
Dan let out a sigh and gave up, there was no point in trying to convince her. He had tried for the last seven years without success. Sally had wanted to go out for it, watch it with everyone at the pub or something, but Dan had overruled it. You always got idiots drinking and shouting every year. He didn’t want to deal with it. It seemed nice to be at home. It had been a much more respectable event five years ago, then you could actually attend, now it was all lotteries to get tickets. People didn’t get pissed and spent the night acting like hooligans back then either. It held an almost religious tone before. Now look at it. How fast the human race could degrade things never ceased to surprise him. He took a swing of his drink, then stood, “what anything?” Sally shook her head, attention never leaving the TV. Dan entered the small kitchenette and began to look through the cupboards. He didn’t really want anything, after a few moments of rooting around he returned to the small sitting room empty handed and sat down again. He took another drink.

It was almost time. Sally’s hand reached out for his and gripped it tightly. He gave her a brief, reassuring squeeze. People got so caught up in it all. He never really understood it. He could from a logical standpoint, it was necessary for the continuation of the human race, but he couldn’t understand why people made such a big deal out of it. It was going to happen every year for the foreseeable future, there was no sign of it stopping and really, at this point even if it did they would be able to continue on without it. The theme music started to play, that sound that had once been hopeful on pipe organs now blared out on guitars and drums, the tempo upped to a more poppy version of it. He grimaced slightly. The old version held more gravitas, made the event seem solemn. This made it seem like some kind of trashy party. The screen misted over as steam began to pump from the machine, its doors slid back silently, revealing the first person. They stepped out, looking slightly confused and disorientated, lights flashed around them, spot lights endlessly spinning. Someone approached with a blanket and led them to a small section where they were sat down on a couch, in front of them was a selection of water and fruits. Still looking faintly confused, the person took up a glass of water and started to sip. The music reached its crescendo then started again as the doors slid closed and opened once more. As the fifth one came out he heard Sally make a small noise of disgust, “What the hell is wrong with their faces? Seriously.” Dan rolled his eyes. Sure they looked a little…off, but that was to be expected. No one was perfect.
“No, seriously, I’m not being funny, but what the hell is that supposed to be?”
“They’re people. Like us.”
“No, I know, but look at them. I can’t even tell which are which.”

Dan didn’t bother to point out it was always hard to tell. When the emerged they were bald and had thick jumpsuits that obscured body shape. Some were immediately obvious, but others held features that were both hard and soft, masculine and feminine. In a few weeks their hair would grow in and they’d be wearing normal clothes.

They watched for an hour, the machine showed no signs of slowing down, Sally grabbed the remote and switched off the TV. Dan looked at her, she shrugged, “There’s no point, they all look the same. Ugly.”
He sighed, every year.

“Give it a week or two and you won’t be able to pick them out of a crowd.”
“Sure I will. It’s easy.”

“In a generation or two no one will ever know.”
“Maybe. Ugh. Can you imagine if they had beautiful kids and everyone else had ugly ones? That’d be cruel.”
“You know that isn’t going to happen.”
Sally sniffed, “It might. We don’t know all the ramifications, not really.”
“What if people were talking about you like that?”
“I’m sure they are. I don’t care, they can say what they like. Besides, people wouldn’t dare say anything in public. We’re third generation, we’ve got status. It’s why we have such a large and lovely home.”
They looked at each other and started laughing at the same time. Their home was just a bit too small for the two of them, they’d be upgraded if they had a child. Even then all rooms of the same class were identical.
Dan leaned over and kissed her, “You’re like this every year.”
She sniffed, “Am not.” In a day or two she’d decide she actually kind of liked the new look and then go around telling off anyone who said otherwise. Truth was none of them could really talk. Everyone had something wrong with them. It was just the way the world was at the moment. In a few years that would all go away, but for now, people dealt with it. He looked at old pictures sometimes and wondered what they’d say about his generations, about how ugly they were. It wasn’t like it was their fault, if anything it was the fault of those who came before. They hadn’t designed the machines well enough to ensure there were no physical deformities during the gestation periods, and at the moment they were too technologically unsure of it to start messing around. At least they knew it was just down to the machine rather than genetic abnormalities that would be passed down.
Dan stood from the couch and Sally reached up, he pulled her to her feet then they kissed again. Still holding his hand she lead him to the small bedroom, the night was still young and they had plenty of time for fun. They only had a few more months left before they’d have to start trying properly for a family, but until then, they would make as much use of the time as they could.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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