Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » August 2018 » “A Game of Faces” by Carrie A. Brown

“A Game of Faces” by Carrie A. Brown

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, a gruesome glimpse into the future of DIY facelifts.

A Game of Faces
by Carrie A. Brown
Earth, 2098

Skimming the instructions again, I was really just playing for time. I knew exactly what to do. I held the syringe closer to my neck.

Do it, Jen! Just do it.

“Sharp scratch,” I said out loud in the silent echo of the room. The needle stabbed with such force I jolted backwards in my chair. I could have been gentler, but I needed to know that it would definitely work. I was no good with pain, after all.

As the last of the green fluid seeped in, a glorious burning and numbing began in my face. The instructions said ten minutes until the paralysis would kick in. Time enough for the next phase.

I lifted the lid of the tiny plastic tub and the waft of playing putty filled my nostrils, bringing with it a million childhood memories. Saturday afternoons spent constructing little figures with a rolling pin and cutters. My eyes found the scalpel still in its box. In a way this would be the same, molding and reshaping.

The putty squelched into my hand, but weirdly didn’t stick. Its cool, smooth texture felt refreshing against my dry wrinkled hands. I shut my eyes so as not to be faced with the horrifying contrast. 

“Not long now,” I reminded myself. It felt so good to say those words. I was 112 and I looked 112. No one wanted to look their age, and really nobody did anymore. I was a dying breed. The majority of women my age had done this three, maybe four times already. But I’d always held off, claiming to be an advocate of natural aging. In reality it was a financial constraint that always held me back. Even now, I could only afford the facial procedure. My body would just have to wait.

“So,” I said, closing my eyes and trying to regain focus. This was the important part, the part that required my brain to concentrate.

As I pressed and pummeled the putty, I imagined first my new skin. This was the basis for everything, after all. Smooth and tight, obviously. But a different shade this time. I was done with being pasty. I chose the scene I wanted, a beach bathed in sunset hues. I twisted and twirled the putty, fixing on the image in my mind. I peeped down at my hands. The putty had transformed from a pastel blue to a tawny brown color. My new skin, perfect.

Good work, Jen!

The rest should be easy now. I pinched the putty slightly, suggesting a small delicate nose. A barely-there nose. I shaped a ball the size of an orange, suggesting big juicy lips. Engulfing, face-sucking lips. My hands moved frantically. A small pinch for the chin, strong, thick strokes for the eyebrows. 

The scalpel felt strangely light in my hand given the weight of its purpose. I pressed it firmly to my skin, drawing a cut along the jaw line just as instructed. Blood oozed, but mercifully, I felt no pain. It was strangely cathartic watching the red circle form precisely around my face.

“Goodbye old hag,” I sighed, gripping the flaps of skin just below my chin. Concentrating hard in the large mirror, I tugged firmly but slowly. Watching as the skin peeled easily from my skull, like tender meat falling from the bone. Mercifully, the product hadn’t lied; my eyes and teeth weren’t affected, fixed firmly in the sea of pulsing red.

I sat and stared a moment. This. A giggle escaped me, though with no lips it sounded more like a wet rasp. This was what it all came down to. We were all just monsters underneath.

I placed the putty near my face. It sucked on instantly with a whoosh, swirling so much it was dizzying. I looked in horror as it swelled to twice my head size, writhing and wriggling like a creature was trying to escape. Then it shrunk suffocatingly tight against my bones, continuously re-adjusting and aligning. One last puckering noise and everything went still.

I gasped at the image before me. I looked just like everyone else. I wasn’t myself at all.

It was perfect.


CARRIE A. BROWN is a writer based in the north of England. She gained a joint MA in Education and Autism Studies, and currently mentors young writers online. She has a passion for the fantastical and a penchant for the macabre. She is currently working on her second YA novel. For more writing chat and random nonsense, follow her on Twitter at @Carrie_A_Brown.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Aug 10, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , ,