A hand with painted nails caresses the wall in the dark before finding the light switch. Fluorescent lights flicker on, casting the entire room in the whitest of white lights. No shadows tread under their radiance. With swaying hips, her presence fills the sparse room that smells of sweet perfumes and sin. At the far end of the space, antique furniture made by an artisan's loving hand, arranged in a semicircle. There was a trunk of deep mahogany with crushed velvet lining, an ornately carved wardrobe made of solid walnut, a painted vanity splayed with beauty products, and a perfectly polished full-length mirror. The keepers of her treasures awaited their mistress to explore their depths. Always the mirror first for her. A place to search for old memories and to make new ones. Her image in the glass grew larger as she approached it, untying the silk belt of her robe as she went. The robe slid off her body and to the floor: this was a nightly routine, part superstition, part habit, the robe becoming a floor dressing until needed again. In front of the full-length mirror, heavy-lidded eyes traced her features. Someone from the old world would have called her a classic beauty from top to bottom—long blond hair in a severe bun, round eyes, tight lips, too pointy chin, small breasts, taut flesh pressed over showing ribs, narrow hips, and tiny feet. The portrait in the mirror was the girl she recognized. Once more, for memory's sake, she mentally traced her features looking for familiarity. Content, she spun on painted toes to the wardrobe. With the turn of the key, the heavy doors swung open, filling the air with a mixture of the sweet perfumes she had doused herself in on countless nights before. The outfit was the first step to the evening's identity. The wardrobe's contents were accounted for by memory, and there was something, in particular, being sought—the perfect look for tonight. Moving hanger by hanger, she followed the same routine as countless other nights before, flipping one by one through the different outfits—silk teddies, costumes made of leather, supple dresses, and corsets. The corsets were always a favorite. Selecting a red corset with black ribs and ribbons from the hanger, holding it in front of herself, she modeled for the voyeur in the mirror. Satisfied with her choice, she wrapped herself in it. What should have hugged her body tightly hung loosely from her slender frame. The reflection showed that her small chest didn't even begin to fill the cups. If she tried, both arms would fit inside with room to spare. Only by standing with her legs apart did it hold in place and keep from sliding to the floor. She nodded at her reversed twin approvingly. Her search was much shorter in the wardrobe's bottom drawer; with the corset chosen, she removed a pair of red stockings and black high cut silk panties with matching black stilettos. Pulling the nylons on first, she fastened the garters to prevent them from sliding down her slender legs; next, she slipped on the panties, held up by her protruding hip bones. The girl in the mirror looked like a child who had stumbled into her mother's closet. Her apparel chosen, she settled into the chair in front of the vanity. Across the top were a collection of vials, jars, brushes, and all assortment of containers. Sorting through the vials, she was like a witch searching for the correct alchemic compounds to create beauty from nothing. Her fingers lingered on a yellowed bottle with a bee on it—bee venom, an old trick to beauty. Pulling the stopper, the drops from the jar stung her lips as they turned puffy, fuller; a deep purple lipstick traced over their new shape. Another toxin followed the venom—belladonna, deadly nightshade. She placed one drop in each eye to dilate her pupils, the poison giving her a doll-like gaze under flirty eyelashes. Last, a matching purple eye shadow consisting of lead salts. A careful balance of toxic beauty handed down through trial and error by all the women before. She moved from the beauty secrets of old wives' tales to better living through modern pharmaceuticals. From the vanity, she picked up a syringe and filled it with liquid from a modern vial. Flicking the tube to clear the air bubbles, she slid the needle into her thigh. Her nails dug into the vanity as a burning sensation caused by the drug raced through her body. Each place awash in heat where a change occurred beneath the skin, darkening the melanin in her body until her skin was deep ebony. A total transformation from her naturally pale skin. Checking the clock on her phone, it was time for the final transformation. Phone in hand, she opened her body modification app—a single point system for controlling all of your cybernetic body mods in one easy to use app. Using her fingerprint and password, she opened up her body to complete modification based on her surgical implants. Scrolling through the menu options, she searched for a starting point and chose her hips. Adjusting the green slider of the app upwards with a flick of her finger, her hips swelled, growing fuller until the stockings held her skin-tight, pressing gently into her voluptuous thighs. Next, she clicked on an icon depicting breasts. Slowly pushing up the app's slider as her small breasts grew large and round, filling the corset and overflowing them with generous cleavage. She paused over one last modification, her least favorite one and the one that made her feel least like herself. Adjusting the sliders under the picture of the eyes, she winced as the metallic implants contorted beneath her skin, stretching her eyes into an almond shape. Using a silk handkerchief, she dabbed the tears rolling down her cheeks, careful not to smudge her artwork. In the mahogany chest, she retrieved the afro wig that would complete the evening's look. With the change complete, she went looking for herself in the mirror and found herself unrecognizable. A curvaceous African beauty stood across from her; plump lips, shaded eyes, filling her tight-fitting corset, wrapped in silk and nylon. The dark-skinned stranger gave her another approving nod. Picking up the robe, she moved to the door at the back of the room and opened it. The room on the other side of the door was a contrast to her dressing room. Whereas one was decorated in the warmth and comfort of an old-style, the new space was garish and reflected the technological reality of the present. Other than gauche decorations along the periphery, an upholstered leather chair sat as the focal point under a spotlight. Highlighting the centrality of the chair, a computer with a webcam pointed directly at it. The screen displayed a website and expertly framed the chair, the video's main showpiece. Already five hundred and thirty people had joined the session by the tally in the corner of the screen. In her mind's eye, they were eager and sweaty, their thoughts filled with disparate hopes for what would appear before them. They could have their fantasies as long as they had her money. Everybody is looking for something, she thought. Tonight, she wonders, is it me they're looking for?
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