Vanity

written by SJ Callender
edited by Siobhan Mitchell

PROLOGUE

The hardened green chairs shaped all of the women to a straight posture. Silence.

They all stared straight ahead. They remained as still as the statues that festooned the recently renovated building. Before, the badly aligned red-brick screamed ‘accessible town hall’ that pretended to value the voices of its citizens. Now, the bricks are painted a clinical white, with statues of naked women adorning the stairs as they release their empty, marble flesh on entrance to the hall; they mocked angels.

But they seemed to forget that the red-brick still remained underneath.

The contours and curves of these statuettes reflected the sun as clear as they reflected the ideals of society. All with long wisps of hair around their shoulders, draping to the small of their backs resembling Aphrodite. Everyone is given a marble doll, an idol of these women; a symbol of the beauty that all females aspire to. Religiously some prayed to these demi-Gods before they slept, after their allotted times with the mirror, wishing for the boobs, the bum and the body.

Amy James imagined becoming one of these statues, being covered in marble and living as an eternal echo of beauty for others to see, for others to envy and pray to. She could only desire the unnatural power of these empty statues and the beauty they possessed. Now, they reflected the desires of the mute women that awaited their inspection.

Amy shifted her weight on the chair and pressed her legs tightly shut in a silent protest, reminding herself of her soft body as she strained to keep upright.

‘NO!’ A woman screamed from inside the Private Room where the monthly checks and weigh-ins took place.

Several women jumped and the ominous silence followed.

The mahogany door groaned as the surgical man opened the door; the hinges needed a good seeing to.

Escorted by two white-haired women, the screaming lady was taken to the Other Room; none of the waiting women knew what was behind that door. The two elder ladies gripped her arms with their thin, claw-like hands until their knuckles turned a marble white, as she kicked and spat at them. One of the elders stumbled with obvious trouble in search of a steel, tarnished key to open the Other Room, removing it from the inside pocket of her structured, official uniform. Inserting the key, the screaming youth buckled and fell to the ground, her eyes wet with fear.

They hauled her mangled, now useless body to a standing position, as her cries echoed through the hall like a sparrow’s song, tormenting every eardrum. Her grey, terror-filled eyes locked with Amy James’ in an attempt to beseech some comfort from the stone women; a reassurance that there was hope behind the door to the Other Room. She knew she was helpless.

Amy’s brown gaze only gave an empty response back while the other women remained fixed and focused on the air in front of them, afraid of disrupting the peace; there was no solace in the unknown.

Amy turned her head and faced forwards to hear the screams dissipating as the door closed.

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