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The bold text is highlighted under the image of a shirtless, perfectly chiseled man running his fingers through his wet hair. The poster hangs right underneath a clock that’s ticking too loudly and behind the clinic’s receptionist, who hasn’t rung me up yet. I subconsciously reach to snap a non-existent rubber band on my wrist, rubbing on the disfigured surface of my skin, when I find the band isn’t there.
I grab a thick “Build-a-bod” pamphlet from the coffee table and mindlessly flip through, rereading material that I have been internalizing for the last few months. I mindlessly run my thumb over a before and after picture collage.
I signal the orderly and he makes his way to help me with my duffle bag. I follow him along a series of corridors that lead to the recovery suites. I have a room overlooking the pond. There isn’t a lot of time to appreciate the aesthetics because the doctor walks in as the orderly walks out.
“Settling in okay?” He flashes rows of bright teeth in a wide tight smile.
The file he is holding out in front of me spells it out. Pages and pages of medical information and images, but my attention is held by the render of what I will look like after my procedure; a size two, several sizes down from my current sixteen, and with my curves exactly where I want them.
“We’ve actually just introduced a couple of new add-ons,” he continues.
There’s polymer plating around the neck to make it less susceptible to injury or penetration and a skin graft that will age thirty percent slower than ordinary human skin.
I smile politely, tucking my upper lip into my gums just so I can’t say yes to any of it. I wouldn’t need much encouragement to max out my credit. I’m sure I must look like a clown, but he gets the idea and mumbles a goodbye.
Every detail of my stay is executed perfectly. I’m slowly weaned off food and a compact oven built into the wall beeps to inform me my meal in a tube has been dispensed. A little device on the nightstand buzzes to let me know it’s time to sleep and lights-out follows shortly after. I am relieved that after this, I will have no need for food journals or rubber bands.
I know something is wrong when I’m conscious but can’t open my eyes. I can part my lips, but I’m not sure I remember how to speak. I decide to focus on what I can do. Hear. Heavy breathing, the squeak of rubber soles on a freshly waxed floor, the creak of a stretcher’s wheels rolling. I try to focus more, but a dull ache attacks my frontal lobe and I pass out.
The room I wake in is a dull eggshell color instead of the calming turquoise of my recovery suite. A battered cross hangs above a green metal door and a small window is miserly with the sunlight. Besides opening my eyes, the rest of my body doesn’t seem to want to function.
A matronly woman walks in, a man following behind her, pushing in a large pink box. He moves it to the other end of the room and places a tiny pink outfit on a chair next to it before walking back out.
“Your procedure was a success, Ms. Jones.”
A loud horn blares off in the distance; we must be near a shipping dock.
“You’re not at the clinic anymore,” she confirms, answering a question that doesn’t leave my lips.
She crosses the room to lean on the wall and stare out of the tiny window. I’m alive to her surly disposition.
“I should be thanking you,” she smiles, a thin wry smile that prompts beads of sweat to form at the tips of my fingers. She adjusts her position and a glint of metal peeks from her blouse, a rosary. I realize she is wearing a habit without a veil.
“People like you, ungrateful wre—“ she pauses, taking a deep breath and unclenching her fists. “You don’t appreciate the gift that God gave you.”
She looks at me, challenging the sarcastic response I would give if I could speak.
“Cassie, God will forgive you if you make penance.”
She proceeds to explain the details of my act of contrition. How my death was staged at the clinic, my body taken and preserved in a process called plastification.
“There’s been a demand for lifelike dolls in the last few years, Cassie. Nasty business, really. But you see, it helps fund so much of our good work. The man who has purchased you… Well, don’t worry your pretty little head about that. I couldn’t tell you how many children you are going to help feed and educate and how many homeless people will now have a home thanks to you.”
She makes her way over to the edge of my bed, and leaning over me, she strokes my hair.
“Thank you,” she whispers tenderly.
Copyright 2022 Stella Wamae