Short Fiction – sKiN (By Melissa R. Mendelson)
by, Melissa R. Mendelson
Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you cold? Are you warm? Are you awake? Are you aware? These questions ran on a loop. It seemed like with every hour, they greeted me as an old friend would, but no face accompanied these words. I remained alone, locked in solitude.
My black arm rested across my white chest with white fingers curling upon my shoulder. My head was tilted down, and the bright lights overhead burned against my bald head. My knees were drawn up to my chin, and my white feet with their black toes stretched back and forth. My white arm hung to the side, tracing the air with little circles made by delicate, black fingers. My eyes glanced at the black bar that ran against one breast. They then roamed across my porcelain body, and finally, I moved, stepping off this metallic block.
The floor was cold. Shivers ran up from my feet to my spine, but I did not jump back to safety. I stood, understanding the word, cold. I knelt downward, pressing my hand against the floor, and again, I shivered. And I mouthed the word, “Cold,” and I could taste it. I never realized until now the cold air that was flowing softly, silently into this room, and as my hand rested against the floor, I felt something else. Movement. We were moving, but to where? Where was I going?
My eyes darted around the metallic room. There were no windows. There was no sun or moon. There was nothing but a metallic shiver of a mirror on one side of the room, and I stepped gingerly toward it, wondering what would I see? I saw me. My white face. Another black bar ran from under my right eye down toward my chin. One eye was white. The other was black. My lips were pink, and I stuck out my tongue. And that too was pink.
I looked back down at my body. I touched my skin. It was soft. Soft. I knew that word. Maybe, I would even go with velvet, and my hands traced every part of my curves, my limbs, looking for flaws. There was none. At least, I didn’t think so until I felt a small ball beneath my left knee. What was that, and I shivered again. This time, it wasn’t from the cold. Was it from fear?
I sat down on the floor. I examined the foreign object beneath my skin. It was not small like a bug bite. It was not as large as a tennis ball. It reminded me of something. A memory. A little girl asking for a chocolate Easter egg, and yes, that would be the size of it. But what would an Easter egg be doing in my leg, and who put it there?
I blinked, and then I dug my fingers into my skin. I scratched and tore. It hurt. Then, it hurt a lot, but I didn’t stop. And now warm, blue fluid raced across my black and white hands. I was in, pushing past white mesh, and there it was, a metallic ball with blue lights. As I pulled the strange object out from my leg, the hole that I had made closed shut. And the pain was gone, and I was left with this Easter egg that I rolled back and forth between my hands.
What did it do? It was humming. The blue lights were pulsating. Was it there to track me? Was it there to hurt me? Was it meant to kill me? Was that why it was there beneath my skin, and again, who put it there? And now, I went on a mission, re-examining every part of me from head to toe, but there were no more surprises. No more foreign objects. Strange, and I leaned against the metallic wall, playing with my new toy.
An hour passed, and those questions returned. Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you cold? Are you warm? Are you awake? Are you aware? Then, they left, and again, I was alone.
“I’m…” I opened my mouth. Such a strange sensation to talk. I ran my tongue over small, porcelain objects in my mouth. Teeth. “I’m cold,” I said, not expecting anything to happen, but then suddenly, the cold air turned off. “I’m thirsty,” I said, and a bowl of water slid through an opening nearby.
I moved toward the water. I dipped my fingers into it. My fingers became wet, and I liked the droplets from them. I savored the taste of flesh for a moment, and then I drank the water. Then, I took my toy and rolled it around the now empty bowl. Was that it? Did I answer the right questions? Maybe, I should ask my own, so I did. “Where are we,” I said into the empty room. “Where am I?”
“Space,” a voice responded.
“Space,” I responded. “Why?”
“Research,” the voice returned.
“Research,” I repeated. “Am I then your prisoner?”
“No,” was my answer, but if that were true, then why was I naked? Where were my clothes? Why was part of me white while the other part was black? What was I doing here?
“Will you let me go,” I asked the room.
“We can’t,” the voice said. “We need to know.”
“Know,” I asked.
“Will you be our destruction, or will you be our salvation?”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
The metallic room now shivered, and images appeared. The world was covered in snow, and in the snow, there were people fighting. There were people dying. There were people running, trying to escape from those that looked like me, and I inched closer to the images, reaching out to them. “I do not understand,” I said.
“We saved you,” the voice said. “Now, save us.”
“Can I save you,” I asked.
“What do you remember,” the voice asked.
I remembered nothing. I remembered waking up here, curled around my body. I felt my skin. I saw myself. That was it, and why should I care about those people that ran from those like me? I realized that I did. I did care, and watching those people being slaughtered had sickened me. But how do I save them? “How do I save them,” I asked the room. “If I wanted to save them, how would I?”
“How would you,” the voice asked me.
I tried to remember. I looked at my reflection once more on the wall, and my black eye turned red. The mirror melted a moment later. Something was different with me, something that I didn’t realize until now. My body was tough despite its softness, and I moved about the room, moving faster and faster with every step. I could do it, I thought. I could save them, but should I? Will I? “If I don’t,” I asked the room. “Then, what?”
“Then, we leave you here.”
“In space,” was my reply. “Alone. Locked in solitude. Forever.”
I did not want that. I don’t know how I came here. I don’t know why I am here, but as I listened to that voice, I knew that it was not robotic. It was human, and in his words, I felt emotion. Despair. Hope. He was counting on me to accept this fate, and he wasn’t giving me much choice. It was to save the world or to be locked away forever, and as I listened to his voice, I felt. I felt my heart beat against my chest. It had quickened with those images. It had dropped with those that had died. I would let my heart decide. Black or white. It didn’t matter, and I closed my eyes, listening to every breath that I took, every beat that thundered in my ears. My heart slowed down, and I returned to my metallic block. I drew my knees up to my chin and tilted my head down toward my chest. I rested my black arm across my white chest, curling my fingers upon my shoulder, and I closed my eyes.
“Have you decided,” the voice asked me.
“Yes,” I whispered. “I will save your world.”
Melissa R. Mendelson graduated college with both an AA in Liberal Arts and BA in Mass Communication: Critical Analysis. She was a Long Island news reporter from 2002 to 2004 and later went to work for the State of New York. She has written a variety of writing that continuously is published by the Antarctica Journal News, and she recently finished writing her first Horror/Sci-Fi novel, Lizardian, which can temporarily be found as an E-book on Amazon Kindle.