Skin: a spooky story for the Halloween season

Margaret Carl, Staff Writer

“And what suit are you wearing tonight?” 

“Georgia, please, what else but a Sabrina LaBoon original?” A quick moment of collected laughter belched from the socialite’s mouth.

“It feels like silk. Gorgeous, isn’t it?” The woman ran her hands down the flawless peach of her arm, admiring the way she melted in the suit.

“It feels like nothing!” She repeated as she smiled toothily into the camera, brushing her hands past the curves of her hips and onto her lean thighs.

Lies, Belle Norbury begrudgingly thought in response as she flipped the television screen off.  Belle plunged her hand into a cup of cold water as it rest on the table beside her.  She was never deceived – Belle noticed that the woman’s skin pudged around her neck, that her skin wrinkled around her nose, and that her face puffed at odd places like an overblown balloon.  When Belle looked at own her face in the reflection of the water, she couldn’t help herself but to spitefully think, She’s uglier than I will ever be. 

Belle took in a deep breath, wincing at the constricting nature of her own Sabrina LaBoon suit.  The LaBoon line consisted of  suits that were tighter than any other she’d owned.  Belle had to constantly remind herself to breathe in deeply, but she relished in it.

It took a few moments for Belle to tear her unforgiving gaze away from her reflection, wiping her sweating forehead with the back of her wet hand, cooling her face.  A mush of clay sat in front of her, sagging somewhat hopelessly as Belle’s free hand had been absentmindedly kneading it.   

She began lifting it and poking it, crafting the clay into a woman’s shape.  Her hands dipped in and out, using the slickness of the water to allow her to mold it.  It was so easy it was laughable. 

Belle knew she was exponentially more talented than any other sculptor; but when it came to mastering the face she always hesitated.  She only held an empty head in her palm.  Too many times before she had grown frustrated with herself, over this continuously difficult task.

Belle could never truly hope to create such small details in the faces of her works with the suit constantly squeezing her in; her actual fingers were too constricted.  Yet the thought of taking it off never once crossed her mind as plausible.  

“You should let your body breath once in while, honey. It’s not healthy for a growing girl to be constantly melted,” Belle could remember Lucille saying to her once over dinner. 

“I was just reading an article about a young lady who wore her suits in the shower and, oh the poor thing, it’s really awful but a bacteria – oh what was the name? Hm I suppose it’s no matter.  Anyhow, these bacteria fiddled their way into her eyes and now she’s blind.  Can’t even see the difference between light and dark.  I can’t imagine the family.” She paused.  “They must be crushed.”

“Mm yes I did hear about that darling, very interesting story.  Insightful,” Belle’s father spoke lazily with a mouthful of un-chewed lamb.  The morning’s newspaper was propped up as he scanned it, but it only really served as a blinder between him and the rest of the family.

Belle looked at her mother’s arm as she brought the glass back from her lips.  It was perfectly muscular, smooth, and age-less. Even at 24, her skin was just the same as it was when she was 16, just as it was identical to the skin of Lucille’s.

Every freckle, every crease was mirrored on Belle’s skin to Lucille’s skin.  Damn that woman, Belle had told her time and time again not to purchase the same suit as her, of course they’d melt the same.

A nauseous feeling ran its way down into the pit of Belle’s stomach as she recalled the thought now; she’d never let herself look anything at all like Lucille.  Lucille was wrinkled and frail, her eye sockets sunk deep into her fallen face and her hair was sparse and graying.  The golden, youthful glow, and muscle the suits gave her body contrasted so much so with her pink face.

Oh how unfortunate it was that a face and a neck were un-meltable.  The face and neck would never be able to withstand the force and power of a suit.  The windpipe wouldn’t be crushed immediately, but rather slowly. 

Belle imagined.  The nose and mouth would be constrained.  It would be like breathing out of a thin plastic straw at first.  Then, it would slowly squeeze and squeeze trying to add muscle in certain places and flatten in others.  And then the thing would pulsate around the skull, suffocating the person slowly all the while.  

The suit pinched and pulled as she walked out of her sculpting room, making sure Belle’s stomach laid flat and strong, that her shoulders were perfectly straight and narrow, and her shoulder blades defined and able.

“Belle!” She heard Lucille’s voice echo down the hallway as the clip clop of her heels sounded on the wooden floor.  When would she realize that whatever she had to say was never going to be nearly as important as Belle’s sanity? 

Belle then pulled out her cracked upper and bottom lip over her teeth to perfectly mock a seemingly genuine smile as she turned to face the old woman.

“I’m not sure if this suit melts me quite right way,” Lucille blabbed fiddling with her suit, stretching it around her neck and wriggling her fingers.  The suit was like the body of a young sun kissed athlete.  It was the body of a youth in their prime of triumph and champion, not the body of a mother.  

“I was wondering if I could borrow one of yours this evening.”

Belle was barely able to hold back her gags and maintain composure.  What Lucille really needed was what she wouldn’t be able to get from any normal suit.  A face could never be molded, it could never be smoothed or fixed.  

“Of course, mother,” she said blankly, making certain that her voice was an even tempo.  “Anything for you,” Belle added, walking stiffly to her bedroom across the hall.  Her arms never relaxed, they never swung alongside Belle’s movements; they were permanently pressed to her sides like boards.  Her legs would never move naturally.

“Oh, I’m absolutely chuffed! Oh, this is wonderful!” Lucille exclaimed, but the younger woman simply let her mother’s voice fade until it was nothing but a hum in the back of her head.

Belle made a quick left turn into her plain, tidy bedroom.  The four walls were bare except for a single closed window.  Pushed up against the right corner of the room was her twin bed.  If she had to, Belle could leave and no one would ever know a girl had spent her entire adolescence in that room; there wasn’t a single scratch on the perfectly laid white paint.

Belle made her way to the dresser, slowly but surely, and pulled on one of the crystal knobs to reveal her extensive collection.  Belle thumbed through the folded suits, as though they were the pages of a book, looking for the suit Lucille had asked for.

“Oh yes, that is the one!” Lucille cheered, pointing and clapping like a child.

Belle barely dipped her head in response – as though her neck could bend anyhow – as she used two hands to gently take it from its holy place.  Lucille could never do this suit justice, it deserved more than to melt an old woman.  

“Can you zip my dress please? I can’t quite reach with this suit.  Oh, I knew it was too tight when I tried it on in the shops but that saleswoman was too charismatic.” 

As Lucille bloviated she turned, holding her short hair away from the zipper.  Belle held her breath as she reached just enough, her elbows never extended very much either, to grab the zip and tug roughly downwards on the garment.

It fell to the ground to reveal Lucille’s unnatural body.  Again, Belle found herself holding back gags as she rested her hand firm on her dresser.  Lucille’s melted body was so manufactured that even at her old age she didn’t bother with any under things.

Hand the old youth and look at them, Belle thought as she watched her mother. She grabbed her “arm” and slowly peeled back the artificial cover as if it were a package of meat.

The suit slowly stretched further and further until it started to reveal the cold, shriveled, and discolored skin underneath.  It started on her upper arm and eventually it spread to Lucille’s shoulders and her chest and then her stomach, until all she was holding in her hands was a ball of golden, perfect skin.

Belle turned away from disgust, feeling the vile building in the back of her throat like hot acid.

“Honey? Can I have the suit?” Lucille asked from somewhere behind Belle.

Belle’s grasp on the dresser tightened until she could feel splinters protruding past her suit and onto her actual palm.  She held the suit close to her chest clutching it like a baby.


Suddenly, the muscles in Belle’s arms lunged, as though they were independent of her mind, causing the dresser to fall hard between her and Lucille.  Some of her sculptures that Belle had forgot to place in her art room shattered.  Shards of glass and dried clay dusted the wooden floor.  

“HONEY!” Belle heard Lucille shout.  Belle didn’t respond, she only rocked the suit to sleep in her arms.  “Okay, oh it’s alright just don’t step too much on the floor there.  I’ll tell someone to clean -”

“I can give you a suit that really fits, mother.  Fits well even.  Not tight at all.  In fact, you probably won’t feel a thing.” Belle spoke with most conviction she’d ever mustered.

“Darling, what on earth-?” 

Belle whipped her head around, her black hair cascading wildly around her shoulders as her eyes focused in on her mother’s face.

Belle inched closer and closer to Lucille as Lucille inched further and further back.  The young sculptor unfolded the suit as it perfectly resembled the human form, sleek elegant and athletic, showing it to her mother.

She had been wrong before with her assumptions.

The windpipe would go first.