THE BODY SHOP by Keith Moreland
Rayna sat in front of the mirror removing her makeup and wondered who she would discover underneath.
HOW IT STARTED
He had kept her under wraps for so long. It had started at 21. She was walking back to her dormitory room when he had grabbed her from behind with his arms and hands, cupping her mouth as he dragged her back to his awaiting VW bus.
Rayna had put up a valiant fight, but it was after midnight, and no one was awake on campus to see the struggle. The chloroform in the napkin soon took hold of her senses and it wasn’t until she awoke in the dungeon that she realized she was in trouble.
It was dark in the surrounding room, and she could barely see. A small beam of light shone from a crevice in the room's corner, possibly a doorway to the outside.
Suddenly, a voice from the other corner of the room piped up.
“Ah, I see you are awake, my child. Don’t fret, don’t even worry about anything. You are safe here with me.”
“Why am I here?” Rayna replied, her head trying to focus on the direction of the voice.
“I need you to be a study for me.”
“Well, I need to be back in my dorm, where I can study.”
“You will, at the appointed time. For now, you are mine.”
Rayna turned her head as much as she could to take in the surroundings. The rest of her body was strapped to the table, and she could not move.
The sound of wooden chair legs dragged across the cement floor, and she waited to see what would happen next. Suddenly, light flooded the room, and a figure could be seen leaving. Everything got eerily quiet, and Rayna let her head rest back onto the table. A light fog, well, a mist really, filled the room as she tried to still her nerves. Sleep soon fell upon her and she did not awake until the morning.
There was a pasty feeling in her mouth and her face and body when she awoke the next time. She was still strapped to the table, but she could move her head about as much as she wanted. Her body was naked now and there was a strange paint that covered most of her body. Even with only the glimmer of light in the room, her body shone in an iridescent manner. She had always been proud of her body, but now she was literally glowing.
Rayna wondered if her face was covered in the same sort of manner. She let her tongue go out of mouth as far as possible and tried to lick around it. She could tell that there was something covering her face, but she couldn’t detect any known taste.
“There, there, my child. You mustn’t ruin my handiwork.” There was that voice again.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Rayna asked.
“I need to know how well my new product works. You are my test subject.”
“I don’t want to be your test subject. I want to be back at the dorm. What are your plans for me? Do you plan to use my body sexually? You have me unclothed!”
“No, my child, I would not think of harming you. I just need to know the effects on someone’s body from my product.”
Rayna let her head come back to rest on the table again.
“There is a straw to your left that you can reach and take liquid nourishment from. I hope you like it. It is berry flavored and has all the nutrients and vitamins that you need.”
Rayna turned her head and drank from the straw. The cool liquid felt good in her mouth and helped to soothe the cotton coating that had formed all around the inside. She drew several gulps from the straw before letting her head rest once again.
“My child, just let yourself rest. All of this will be over soon enough.”
The fog returned, and Rayna soon fell asleep.
Each day was the same pattern of interaction with the voice. She never really saw what they looked like, just a form that left the room in the doorway, covered by the light.
The only thing that did change was the pattern on her body. Each day when she awoke, the pattern would flow differently.
Rayna heard the chair squeak from the corner again.
“What are you doing to my body? Have you had your hands on me? On my privates?”
“I am still in testing mode. Yes, my hands have been on you. Yes, on your privates, but with gloves and never penetrable. I have not done that, nor will I ever do that. My ambitions include nothing that would lend itself to any form of sex.”
‘At least that is good to know,’ Rayna thought to herself. She could always feel the eyes upon her as she lay on the table. How long had it been now? A week, maybe? Once again, the fog fell upon the room, and she drifted back off to sleep as the figure closed the door.
When Rayna awoke this time, she was face down on the table. There was a long sheet of what felt like Saran Wrap underneath her. Suddenly she felt a pair of hands upon her back. Her face was blindfolded so she could not see them up close as they continued to rub their hands across her body. It was not sensual; it was actually almost a professional massage. She admitted that it actually felt good to her muscles to be rubbed on. The toning had gone from them now, as she had been left on the table for far too long.
Her nasal cavity felt as though she was filled with snot and she could hardly breathe. She tried to gasp for air, but was quickly comforted.
“There, there, my child. You have a feeding tube in your nose. Don’t fight it as you are getting nutrients you need fed to you daily. I want nothing to happen that could harm you, and as promised, I will provide all that your body desires.”
“My body desires to go home!” Rayna retorted.
“My child, you can’t go home yet. The tests are not complete.”
Rayna let her body and head rest for the moment, trying to think of her next move.
Soon the massaging quit, and the light once again flooded the room as the fog moved in.
A loud banging awoke her the next day. Voices shouting and scuffling could be heard just outside of her room.
The light shone more brightly this time throughout the room as over one set of hands came around her body and quickly loosened the straps that held her down.
A blanket was placed over her body, and she could sit up, with several pairs of hands gathered about her to help her keep her balance.
“I’m Sergeant Peeler with the Investigation Unit. You are safe now with us.”
“What happened?” Rayna asked as she tried to adjust her eyes to the new light that was flooding the room.
“You were kidnapped, it seems. Are you Rayna Adams?”
“Yes, yes, I am. How long have I been here?”
“About 2 years from the day you were reported missing Ms. Adams.”
“2 years?” It had not seemed like that long. But with no change of light or seasons, she could not be sure how long she had been held captive.
“We have a bus on the way to take you to the hospital to get checked out. We do not know what is in this paint that is covering you, so we will not remove it in case it could harm your body. Are you comfortable now, at least as much as possible?”
“Yes, I’m fine. How did you find me?”
“It was her. She called the precinct and told us the experiment was through and where we could come and find you. I think she thought she could be gone before we got here, but a car was already on that street, and they responded immediately and surrounded the place until backup could arrive. Funny thing is, we thought we would find her on the premises, but it seems she slipped away.”
“Wow, I’m so grateful for you saving me.”
“No, you should be grateful to yourself. You clearly must have done everything right for her not to harm you.”
Just then, two attendants entered with a stretcher, and Rayna was transferred onto it and wheeled out of the room. There was a congregation of people outside of the residence. It was a large brownstone, nondescript in form from the outside. Just an ordinary residence with a troubled history, it seems.
Nurses cleansed her body at the hospital once it was determined that it was safe to do so. A light coating of salve was also placed on her body to keep any irritation from building where the paint had been applied and sheets and blankets were laid over her to help her with any modesty.
Detectives questioned her at length about some details, but told her they would let her rest until the next day before continuing.
A hospital table was wheeled over to her bed by the one remaining nurse after everyone had left the room. The only part of the paint that remained on her body covered her face. Because of the potential damage caused by the paint, the medical staff had let her decide if she should remove it or see what the resulting damage to the rest of her body would show the next day. Plastic surgery could be performed to give her new skin if needed, even to her facial areas.
Rayna found out for herself what was underneath. Slowly, she sat up in the bed. A facial scrub was provided, along with a warm washcloth. The attending nurse would remain by her side to provide any medical treatment, but also a psychological hand, if she needed someone to talk to.
Rayna reached her hand out and took the washcloth in her palm, dipping it in the warm water in the small plastic tub as her fingers wrapped around the fabric. She brought it up to her face, letting the water flow onto her face, as well as drip back into the tub as she held her face over it. The nurse held the mirror up for her so that she could see what was happening as the new Rayna was revealed.
The darkened skin, the spots, and blemishes that she had always known were now gone. There was a newness about her she didn’t recognize, yet the smile seemed eerily familiar. Could it have been her smile all along that she saw every day? Was that actually her voice that echoed in the corner? Was the woman her? Or just an evil twin? Only the detectives knew.
TIME IN A PAINT BOTTLE
Thomas hadn't expected to be alive when the town's time capsule was opened. Thomas Peeler Sr. had only been 96 when he met Rayna. She was volunteering in a nursing home, as was he. The nurses used to joke about him, saying why is an old man coming to see the old folks? But he loved it. His Thelma had been there many years ago and the place still drew him back to there.
It was Rayna that had suggested the plan after learning that he had been a world-renowned chemist himself. She was in her senior year of college and, like him, was infatuated with the idea of using chemicals to change people's lives. Her life had changed several years ago with the accident, and she had faced the challenges head-on and now look at her.
Thomas had seen what the ravages of war did to the soldiers as they returned. Chemicals had left innumerable scars on their bodies and faces, bringing disfigurement to many that crippled them both physically and emotionally. It was he that had developed a set of makeup kits that could be used anywhere on the body to cover up the skin that had been exposed to the crimes of the enemy. He had won a government contract and the millions that were pocketed made his life so much easier. He had given much as a philanthropist to local organizations, especially those for veterans, since it was them that had made him the money.
When Rayna found out what he had done, she told him about the paint for the body that she wanted to create. Here he was at the age of 96 and he could be a part of something in his last days that would change the world. He quickly jumped at the chance. He wasn’t enthralled with the idea of the fake kidnapping, but she was such a dramatist that there was no changing of her mind going to happen. She needed to have a body to experiment with. She knew it could take several years to get the exact formulation of chemicals that was needed and the paint had to stay on the body undisturbed so that an accurate test of the effects could be made. If she spent most of her day’s unconscious, then she could be a willing test subject. Her plan had worked out well. She had actually enjoyed the role play in the beginning, but the agent that was used for sleeping had kept her quite groggy in the end, so the fun had subsided.
Now he had bigger problems. The town capsule was about to be opened. It had been 100 years since the capsule was buried. Thomas Jr. had already told him he would be expected to be present for the ceremony. Not only because he was the only living resident alive at the time of the burial, but also because his cradle roll certificate was one item of the many that were in the capsule. He was born on the day of the burial, so a certificate was quickly created and buried as a memento of that day. Of course, there would be a lot of fanfare that day with pictures and news crews covering this big event.
What if someone recognized him? What if someone actually saw him on campus that night, cruising in the VW van to “kidnap” Rayna? Would they put two and two together? While Rayna was only 4 foot 11 inches tall and barely over 100 pounds, she would have still been quite a task to kidnap unwillingly.
When he agreed to her plan, he thought he would have been dead soon afterwards, but maybe it was the thrill of what they were doing. Rayna was getting into the role play and after a while he was too. He was always a gentleman and never took advantage of her, even when she was unconscious. Her lovely body lay naked before him, tempting him to please himself, though his impotence had assured him that consummation would not happen.
For reasons unknown, that son of his had been snooping around, even after it was known that she was ok, and he had finally unraveled most of what had happened. Rayna was currently sitting in jail. She had not ratted him out, so it was not currently known that Thomas Sr. was the one who had “kidnapped” her. She was looking at jail time for her actions, but it appeared she didn’t care. She was happy that her work had been a success and, in the future, her paint could be marketed to the masses.
Truthfully, if his son found out about his part in the entire project, he might laugh at first about ‘the old man’ and then put cuffs on him and haul him to jail.
The opening was tomorrow and right now he had to minimize the damage that could be done. He needed to make a small appearance at the gathering, mumble something about needing to go home, maybe to relieve himself and rest while never facing the cameras head-on. Surely that would be enough to keep his identity secret.
Turns out his secret was safe. It was a rainy day and while there were a few that had gathered, most of the proceedings happened back in the main courtroom where it would be a lot drier. He had waved to the small crowd when his name was announced and the certificate was held up in the air. Then he had bid his goodbyes with an announcement of returning to his recliner. Instead, he had visited Rayna at the jail as a guest who wanted to comfort such a troubled girl.
A RIFT AT THE THRIFT SHOP
Lily unlocked the back door of the thrift store, using a key that didn't belong to her. Rayna looked on as the door swung open, the moonlight revealing stacks of boxes and other items piled up to the ceiling in almost every square inch of floor space.
How would she ever find what she was looking for? They had to work quickly before anyone discovered the opened door or saw the two figures moving around inside. Her sister was the devious little brat but this time, her sister’s lesbian lover proved to be good for something. She worked at the thrift store and Lily knew where she kept the keys when she was home. Lily’s lover, Alayna, was sound asleep and would probably remain that way all night. Lily had snuck several doses of NyQuil into one of her drinks. It didn’t take long before Alayna was passed out in the bed, snoring softly as she always did.
“Careful how and where you walk. Remember, we can’t use any lights or we’ll give ourselves away.”
“You and your troubles. Always getting me into something. If we get busted tonight, I’m gonna have your head.”
“No, you want, or I’ll tell Mr. Taylor it was you that busted his shop window out when we were kids.”
“Oh, you don’t dare do that. I have plenty of things that I could squeal to mom and dad about on you.”
“Okay, enough of that for now. We have to find that paint.”
When the paint was discovered in the basement, it had been held in evidence at the courthouse lockers, and then discarded into the trash bin at the back of the courthouse once the trial was over. The owners of the shop had found out about it and, thinking that it might be valuable one day, they had gone dumpster diving and brought it back to the shop. There it was hidden in the storage room. Alayna had come home and squealed about it to Lily, knowing that it was tied to her sister. Of course, Lily told Rayna, how could she not?
“Lily, look for the box on that side of the room and I’ll start on this side.” Rayna’s side had the windows, but the moonbeams shone toward the side that Lily was on. The box that Rayna was referring to was the metal box where they had stored the paint. There were 8-ounce jars with screw-top lids and a lot of small jars that allowed for a tipped brush to be inserted, much as a fingernail polish jar would be. The final size was a small jar, plastic, that could be squeezed to produce a drop at a time of paint for the more delicate areas. This was the container that had been used to keep the amounts limited that were applied to any genital areas. Neither one of them wanted to risk having anything go internally into a body cavity and possibly ruining the entire test.
Rayna tried to move about slowly and carefully. It wasn’t easy, as she was having to use crutches. While the court had her under house arrest, they evidently forgot about her prosthetic leg. That was the one that they had attached the band with the tracker to. She had removed her prosthetic leg and left it at the house so that no alarms would be triggered. But it meant having to deal with crutches, something that she had not needed to use for several years.
“What does the box look like again?” Lily asked.
“It is an old metal box, much like was used by mechanics. It is red, although most of the paint has rusted off by now. There is a silver handle that moves back and forth on the top and the lid opens in two parts to the inside.”
“Oh yeah, I remember now.”
Duh. Sometimes her sister could be dense.
The moonlight moved lower through the windows until suddenly a glare came back to Rayna that she instantly knew.
“Wow, Lily, there it is.” Rayna pointed towards the beams bouncing off of the metal box and started making her way towards it.
Lily found a ladder and climbed up to get it down from the shelf. Rayna’s eyes were glistening as she watched the box come into view before her eyes.
“Is it full? Can you tell?”
“Give me a minute to set it down. It’s heavy as (bleep).”
They both grabbed the handle at the same time and tried to open it.
“Get your hands off of it. This box is mine!” Rayna retorted.
Lily moved her hands and allowed Rayna to open the box. It appeared that all the paint containers were still intact and present. Thomas Sr. had already provided her with all the papers of the tests and the results so that her work could be duplicated when it came time.
“Okay, let’s get out of here before we are discovered.”
The girls quickly got to the door and went outside. Lily locked the door behind her, and they ran as fast as they could. Well, actually, Rayna hobbled, but they were moving at a fast pace.
A figure in the shadows watched as they left. There was a smile on his face, knowing that all would be well once again.
When he died, their father had two requests. Thomas Jr. laid in the casket before them. It had been a gunshot wound to the head while on duty. Serving a warrant, they had taken fire from inside of the residence. Junior was one victim, as well as the gentleman that they were serving the warrants on.
Now it was Thomas Senior standing before the casket, Junior’s two sons flanking him on either side. Tears flowed freely from all three of the faces. There were plenty of other officers that were in the room to pay their respects to the senior detective. They remained at the back of the room to allow the family a bit of privacy and time with the body.
Junior had never given up on the case with Rayna. He had wanted to know who worked with her so that he could bring them to justice. Sadly, he had found out right before his untimely death. Problem was that he could not bring himself to arrest the guilty party. He wanted to at least confront them and find out why. Why did they do it? What did they expect to gain from it? Would he have ever told the truth or taken it to his grave?
Thomas Senior grabbed each of the boys on the shoulders and moved them away from the casket as the officers closed in on where they were standing. Thomas Junior’s wife Sally moved in to gather up the boys and take them back to the waiting cars so that they could be transported home and not around to see what was to happen next.
Two plainclothesmen came up on either side of Thomas Senior. He reached his hands behind him, knowing that this was now the end of the charade that he had kept up for several years. It had been a great ride and Rayna had now made millions herself with the success of her paint products that everyone raved about.
He knew with his age that his time was almost over, so it didn’t really matter anyway, so he gave in with no scuffle or melee.
His son, Thomas Junior’s 2 wishes could finally be carried out without him being here. This way he would neither have to suffer the embarrassment of the arrest and impending trial, or to be around for the end of this story.
His first wish had been granted. His father was arrested after he was dead. Unfortunately, neither Senior nor Junior could have known what would happen next. Senior’s heart stopped as the cuffs were placed upon his wrists, and he joined his son in the afterlife to watch the proceedings around his lifeless body on this earth.
His second request? For the writer of this letter of admittance for all things that were imaginary to destroy this impossible tale that had been set forth on paper.
The author sat and thought for a minute. It might win her acceptance in the end if everyone understood her motives, even at the price of what her friend would have paid with his incarceration.
In the end, she granted Thomas Jr.’s request. She ripped all the paper out of the tablet, took it over to the corner of the room where the trash bin was.
The shredder roared to life, grinding the letter into tiny pieces of confetti.