This is one of the two writing projects I’m working on right now. Enjoy 🙂
Ssssh. Don’t say the C word. It starts out as a game, in kindergarten. Sssh. Don’t say the C word. When you’re four, the board of hospitals/education give you a tiny book of diseases. Only ten pages long, each page neatly lined in fine print, listing all the existing diseases and disorders one can have, and how to handle it. Everyone got those in my neighborhood, Fifth Avenue. It was required reading, even though most of the words were incomprehensible. The first line, we had to recite. There is no life-threatening disease in this world, but even so, we have almost died once before from being careless. We are not the careless. That, even before I learnt what scuba diving was or dained to become an astronaut or a lawyer, I knew for a fact. The first day of school, as an icebreaker, we played the C game. C, or cancer, the most cursed of words. It does not exist of course, but somehow, that word, six letters, has the power to make a whole room turn silent and look your way. Us, the five year olds, would sit around a circle, and make up as many words as we could that started with a C, until someone is forced to say the dreaded “cancer.” Then all of us would tackle that person and say, Sssh. Don’t say the C word.
In third grade, everyone is given a tour of the local hospital. In the case of the prestigious Rosehill Elementary school, that meant the Mount Sinai Hospital. It’s the most massive and extravagant building in the world, spanning a mile in all ways. It’s more of a museum than an actual hospital, half of it showcasing in every way possible the history of diseases and how the Worldwide Hospital Organization (WHO) have cured us all of them. The other half is set out to engrave in our brains the precautions for all the other diseases. The hospital board walks back and forth, inspecting all the small third graders trudging in, examining their health and quizzing them. There’s always that one person who shrinks back in the crowd, pretending to be looking at the posters and the holograms on the walls, explaining about the danger of colds. My daddy probably knows half of the board, so does everyone else’s daddy. They shake hands and talk business, in their suits and briefcases and Macbook Pros. They talk about the future, about integrating health and education even further, and of sending me to Harvard, the most prestigious medicine/business school in the country.
I personally don’t get why the education board is valuing health so much. There’s only ten pages of little small diseases. What harm can they do?
All through middle school, you’re taught how to calculate the amount of calories, carbohydrates, phosphate, and other essential nutrition to feed a population for a week, considerating their metabolisms, physical activity, and bodily processes. For science, the newest advances in chemistry and biology in creating the perfect “superman.” The ideal child, fast, strong, doesn’t need much food, fit, and most importantly, immune to diseases. The girls are taught ballet, jazz, and swimming, while the boys focus more on weight training and running. Then in high school, in that awkward phase between child and adult, we are taken to training centers, put to work and use of middle school knowledge training. Working alongside Harvard doctors, my class, Class 1A, had the opportunity of helping inject and test out the super people patients, those who underwent the intensive injections and biological changes. We help them recover, see how long they last. Most of them don’t last very long. You learn to look at the client’s eyes and to see only numbers. 50 grams calcium. 130 pounds. 5′ 8. Subject 12423109A14. Grade 14. You learn to look at them shrieking in pain as their muscles get torn and reassembled and torn again, and keep quiet. You learn to become strong where our forefathers were weak. Fifty years ago, the same doctors looked into the client’s eyes and felt sympathy, stopped medical testing. Fifty years ago, 80% of the human trace disappeared, due to just a small epidemic deemed too small and insignificant to cause concern. Every small cold can turn into a big disease.
Everyone worth mentioning in newspapers and having enough money to make a school graduates equal parts human, equal parts walking medical textbooks.
“In this studio, it is entirely sound proof. The acoustics is extremely good. And mod importantly, the Paorama Virginia film studio is disease-free. Completely. WIthin thsese walls, there is no inch that has been approved by the WHO. It is one of the cleanest places on earth. Even if there was another zombie apocalypse outside, those little bastards wouldn’t be able to scratch past the platinum silver doors, and the mad corn disease wouldn’t be able to sneak past the disease-proof lathered walls!” the tour guide says excitedly, touching the perfectly whitish blue walls.
She almost glows clean and healthy. Her nails, a good indicator of health and hygiene, are perfectly buffed with intricate nail art. Her white skin glows, framing a very delicate and swan-like face. She’s tall, leggy, and blonde; she could’ve been the actress herself if it wasn’t for her unfortunate mismatching eye color. One black as the raven’s wings, the other an almost albino hazel-yellow. That brought her genetic grade down to about a 10.3, still a clear 2 points above average. Still enough insurance to work at one of the most famous film studios. For a moment there, I take a peek at the mirror across from me.
Yep, I’m still more healthy looking, with blonder hair, and no blemishes on my face. Good. “Hm.”
Rule number one in scoring a role. Never look too eager. I narrow my eyes in a well-practiced face. Red lips thinned, a slight change in my pixie face that I know will make it seem like there’s something wrong, something I didn’t like. My high cheekbones and deep set, hawklike gaze would only make the effect better.
3…2….1. “Um…I could also show you the editing room. It’s really high tech, really,” she stutters, tottering off in her sky high heels. Just on cue.
The high tech holographic screens, which she had shown could make extremely realistic backgrounds of everywhere from the temples of Thailand to the White House, were packed beside the assortment of technology. Flying wings, the latest Batman car, as well as impressive machines that made the actor/actress look exactly like the character due to a slight pigmentation change in the skin. Electricity flickers around, zapping dangerously from one wall to the other, almost like an elevator gone out of control. But of course, it was just for the antique effect that was so in in 2340. Very….cliche. But still very cool; I’ve never been in one before.
Seeing that I was eyeing the contraption, and seeing a selling opportunity, the girl chirps in in her extremely nasal voice. “It’s the newest version of the iChange. It’s not even in the market yet. Would you like to try it?””
Oh. My. Gosh. Make her stop. “Why did your father create you if he knew that you won’t go anywhere in life with that nasal allele?” I almost snapped, but that wouldn’t help me with gracing the Oscars in the Dior dress I had already bought.
“Sure.” She makes several gestures in the palm of her hand. Two swipes. The machine explodes a little, sparks flying off like fireworks, silently. “It’s the most recent hand-machine coordinator. It’s very handy for when you’re on the couch and you can actually make the 5D world around you change!” She makes several more quick gestures, and two drinks come from out of nowhere. “You can get these too if you sign the contract.”
Yes, I would like that. I scan the entire machine excruciateingly slowly, a slight frown on my face. This look, I always put on when I’m playing an old-fashioned tough girl cop eyeing another girl who is trying to steal her boyfriend. What was the name of the show again?? Black-something or another. But it works;, chirpy Miss DNA defect looks a bit more fluttered than she had before, her feet pointing inwards subconsciously and her eyes darting around.
“Well, whenever you’re ready.”
The shock doesn’t hurt. instead, it’s a very ethereal sensation, like you’re blown out of your own body. I see myself for a second. Well muscled, but with some fat on the edges of the thighs and arms. 5’7,’ 138 pounds.. 26 inches waist, 33 inches bust, 35 inches hip. The picture of health. Even I would want to date someone like me, and I’m me. People say I’m vain, but I call it confident.
An extremely ugly girl greets me. Her eyes are a very average grey. Her face, an average olive color. Her eyes are puffed and red, and she has premature wrinkles around her mouth and forehead. Very average, painfully average. I almost want to help the poor little girl, clean her up with some plastic surgery.. But, she must be one of my fangirls, so I smile instead. She smiles too, white teeth against brown skin. “Do you want an autograph?”
She’s moving her mouth. What is she doing? Who is she? Is she me? No! Yes? It can’t be? I’m not average!!
She disappears out of sight, the door of the elevator-like contraption swinging open. “So…what do you think about it? Very realistic huh?”
Shoulders back, tough cop face on.
She is the unheard among the song of birds. If people see her, they shadow their eyes and took away. But most don’t; how can they? She’s locked here, a hundred steps away from any entrance or exit, shielded from the normal eye by curtains and walls. People don’t see her. She is the unheard among the song of birds.
“Whatever I do, say, or act, keep filming. Every second of my life. Do you understand?” Angeli Smantha stares deep into my eyes, her own tired and crumbling. Usually radiant (or was it photoshopped), her famous silvery gold eyes are dim, framed by equally dark shadows in her face. For once, I can comprehend what she’s saying. Her famous voice, which has done everything from sing on the main Broadway stage to haunting the gold screen, is raspy and thin. A mere statue of what she was a few weeks again.
“Do you understand?” The camera is heavy in my hands, and even though I had taken university training int he Royal Academy of film, i struggle to find an answer. Nothing from the type of shot lists to the required watching and analyzing flickered to life, something to say. No one had ever trained me how to handle the most famous actress in the world asking me to film her death. Nor has anyone ever asked me how to handle having to release it to the general public , including the Wall Street journalists and multibillionaires. No one.
So all I could muster out was a simple, “oh. okay.”
She finally cracks a smile, her thin, svelte body finally relaxing. Other than the dimmer than usual eyes and weak voice, no one would’ve noticed her…condition. And even with the eyes and voice, those could be easily dismissed as a slight cold. The same Angeli that starred in hit box office after hit box office movie, who gained and had maintained her fame at 17, and have been featured in 10 Vogue and Time magazines, the most ever since Marilyn Monroe.
The same Angeli is here, asking me, begging me, to film the tale of her death. In a world where no one dies in the eyes of the rich and famous, where the word “death” and “sickness” does not even comprehend in the most prestigious school’s curriculum, that just does not happen.
But for the meanwhile, I just stare there like a doe-eyed deer and look dumb. As she closes her eyes, still smiling, I click. REC. The memory card starts filling and the timer starts counting.
I could almost feel the blood rushing in my ears, even after she left and slipped back to bed, pretending as if nothing had happened.