Author : Lisa Marie Andrews

“What’ll you choose?” She stood behind the boy and looked into the mirror. His cheeks were dusted with freckles; eyes darkened with indecision.

“I don’t know.” He said. He’d always thought it odd that the skinless wore no clothing. They walked exposed in bright coppers, burnished golds, and tarnished silvers.

“Once we weren’t given a choice.” Her fingers were polished from use. They through the windows refracted light from fingers to mirror to the boys pale skin. “Once it wasn’t voluntarily and the process would have lasted years, now you can choose, Jacob. How long do you want it to last?”

Jacob inhaled slowly. The soft scent of ozone crept into his lungs and he wondered if he could stand to never taste the air again. The glass misted over as he exhaled.

“Why’d you pick to be the way that you are?” He asked.

“The way that I am?” Her laughter rippled in waves and bounced off of the walls. “You’re of the fourth generation, Jacob. You should be used to this by now. Natural growth is a slow process and I’d been flesh for long enough.”

“But, mother, is it really enough? You lost things when you chose to Transition. You could have stayed flesh, you wouldn’t have lost anything.” The metamaterial that was his mother’s face grimaced, but the emotion didn’t, couldn’t, touch her eyes.

“Look outside, Jacob.” The room shifted and the walls became windows. “How many adults do you see wearing original skin?” The figures that lined the streets below were varied in shapes, sizes, and colors, and most of them reflected the suns light. They rippled and flowed across aged pathways.

“You don’t miss anything? Any of it?” His hands pressed against the windows, the oil of his skin marred the pristine glass. “You didn’t love any of it enough to stay. To just wait through it. Grandpa waited through it. He said it could be, that it might be, better…to just wait.”

“What do you love the most?” She said.

“The tastes, the smells, the -feel- of the air on my skin, the way it brings warmth and coolness to me. I’ll miss that. I love that.” His voice cracked, just a bit, and his eyes widened in surprise.

“But for years you’d be uncomfortable. Your voice will crack and yes, the cracking will fade, but you’ll age, like your grandfather. It’s your final day to choose, Jacob. Your voice just proved that to you, even if nothing else has.”

Jacob pushed open a window and let the currents of air dance across his skin, let the warmth of the sun kiss his freckled cheeks. He watched a woman with sunken skin wrapped around hollowed eyes, with arms that hung in gentle folds of flesh, set a slow pace down the pathway. Would she live for another 10 years? His mother would live much longer. Much longer then everything that wasn’t, or hadn’t been, rebuilt. She wouldn’t ever be like that. His arms looked small, bony, and he wondered what it would be like to wake in the morning tall and strong. What would it feel like to move with the fluid motion of the skinless? What would it be like to never feel his bones grow frail and worn by time and to never again feel the sun.

“Make me like you.” He tasted the air again. His mother pulled him into an embrace before she opened the door and they turned to leave.

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