11/21/14
Skin
By Kristina R. Mosley


Addie had trouble with her skin for as long as she could remember. As a small child, she had too many freckles, for which her classmates teased her mercilessly. Her problems worsened as she hit puberty. Blackheads dotted her nose and chin. Deep cysts formed at her jaw line and on her cheeks. Large pustules erupted from her forehead like budding horns.

She grew her hair long to cover her face, but that didn't keep people from staring and whispering behind their hands. “Poor girl,” they said. “I bet that hurts. Why doesn't she do something about it?”

She tried all of the creams and scrubs and astringents she could find, but nothing worked. A pimple would disappear, but two more would take its place.

After years of pain and embarrassment, she begged her dermatologist for something–anything–that could clear her skin once and for all.

“Well, there's a new drug called Alizatrol. It hasn't been out very long, but I've heard some promising things.”

Her heart leapt. “Really?”

He nodded. “I've only prescribed it to a few other patients, but it really seems to be working for them.”

Addie tried to calm herself, tried to keep from becoming too optimistic. “What are the side effects?”

“So far, it's just itchy, dry skin. You would need to wear sunscreen.”

“Like all the other drugs.”

He nodded again.

“Topical or oral?”

“Oral. We'd have to do periodic blood tests to make sure everything was all right.”

“Of course.” She thought about it for a few moments. She was tired of people staring at her like she was a freak. She was tired of the pain–both physical and emotional–her skin caused her. “I'll do it.”

“Okay,” he said, scribbling on his prescription pad. “I'll start you out with a low dose and go from there. If you have any problems, let me know.” He ripped the prescription off the pad and handed it to her.

“I will. Thank you so much.”

#

Addie had been taking the Alizatrol for two weeks. Her skin was clear for the first time since she was a kid. People told her how great she looked. She dared to wear her hair up. She didn't feel the need to hide anymore.

One evening she noticed a missed call on her phone. It's from the dermatologist, she thought. He couldn't leave her a voicemail because she didn't have the mailbox set up. She shrugged. “Too late to call now. I'll catch them tomorrow.”

#

That night, she stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at the pockmarks that marred her cheeks. Her skin was clear now, but the Alizatrol didn't get rid of the scars. She frowned.

Then, Addie's cheek began to itch. She looked at the small patch of dry red skin. “Huh.” She knew this was a possibility; she just thought it would've happened earlier. She slathered on some medicated lotion, popped an antihistamine pill, and went to bed.

The lotion and medicine didn't help. She tossed and turned, her burning skin preventing her from falling asleep. She placed the underside of her pillow on her face, thinking the cool fabric would help. The cotton fibers just made her skin itch worse. It felt like half her face was on fire.

She got up and went back to the bathroom. The dry patch now covered the right side of her face. The skin was so red it looked like it was about to bleed. She knew she shouldn't scratch, but it was so itchy she had to. She gingerly touched her face. A piece of dead skin roughly the size of her palm sloughed off into the sink.

Addie yelped. She looked in the mirror. Where the dead skin had been was now red and scaly. She leaned in closer. Her skin looked like a lizard's.

She took a few deep breaths to calm herself. “It's just a weird side effect,” she told herself. “I won't take the medicine in the morning, and I'll go to the doctor.” She opened the medicine cabinet to get some gauze and tape to cover the wound. A ridge of dead skin between the scaly and the normal caught her attention.

Addie took a thumbnail and began to brush the skin up. I shouldn't be doing this, she thought. When she had enough to pinch between her thumb and her middle finger, she pulled. The skin didn't rip off like she thought. Instead, it became a long, thin strip that moved across her face, leaving the red, scaly skin behind it.

“What on Earth?” she mumbled.

The strip traveled over her nose. She blinked, and something fell in her sink. She looked at herself in the mirror. Two reptilian slits replaced her nostrils. She peered into the sink. Her nose sat there, nostrils facing her like eyes.

She tried to scream, but it died in her throat, turning into a hiss. Her healthy skin fell off on its own, showing more scaly, red flesh. The whites of her eyes were now turning yellow, and the pupils became vertical slits. She noticed that her teeth were more pointed, and her nails grew into claws.

With everything else that was going on, Addie had the strangest feeling: she was hungry. She opened her bathroom window and climbed out into the night.


- - -
Kristina R. Mosley writes words. Her novelette Strange Days is on Amazon.



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