I’m not really sure how it happened. But in one second, and with one reckless decision, my entire existence changed forever.
I’ve been trying to remember the exact moment when my life stopped being my own but, after more than 300 years, I still cannot recall. What I do remember is who I used to be…. and how different I was from what I am now. Different in every way imaginable. I’ve tried to imagine how I might have lived if I hadn’t been consumed by a need to have the very things I was never meant to have. I had intelligence. I had independence. I had enough wealth to keep me comfortable. I had interests to keep me occupied.
What I didn’t have was beauty. And oh how I craved it. Craved the attention and the devotion that beauty inspires in others. You see, I would have been happier had I even been plain. Plain women can still be honored and respected despite their physical deficiencies. They can be loved out of sympathy for their plainness. ”She’s a good girl, it’s a shame she isn’t prettier.” Adoration arises from pity.The ugly however, haven’t even the advantage of being pitiful. Either simply ignored or actively tormented, their lives are lonely, hard. To spare themselves pain and humiliation they retreat from society, often adding superstition to the whispers which already follow them. It is in this caste of recluses and social misfits that I lived my life. I was the ugliest woman in the colony… and it gnawed at my soul.
I lived alone, a simple and quiet life, never bothering or disturbing my neighbors and yet I was the target of stares and rumors. After 40 years of solitude, the offer seemed too much like the answer to a prayer to be refused. To stay as I was… unbearable. To agree….. unthinkable. And yet, when the moment came, saying yes was as natural to me as drawing breath, despite the heavy price to pay.
I remember the night it happened… a group of local youths had chosen to amuse themselves by setting my barn on fire. It was destroyed. I watched helplessly as it burned, heard their taunts from the shadows, and knew that I could no longer stand to be who I was. I reentered my house, mixed a concoction of deadly herbs and drank it down. My heart was numb and I waited for it stop altogether. It was in the thickening stupor that he appeared before me. He seemed ordinary, middle-aged, unthreatening. He smiled kindly and then spoke. He understood my pain, he said. He too had lived in the shadows, on the fringes of the lives around him, shunned and persecuted. Relegated to solitude by those who believed they were better, worthier, more deserving than he was. I listened, nodding like a fool. He leaned in close and whispered to me, his voice muffled as the buzz of approaching death rang in my ears. “What if that could be changed?” His eyes burned with intensity as he told me he could change everything. Give me life, give me admiration, give me the beauty I longed for. I could be what I’d always wanted to be, and in return I would help him with his work. Be his emissary and draw others into our “family”.
My head was spinning, overcome by longing for what he offered and a sudden fear of the death I was bringing on myself. Could he really make me beautiful? He smiled, knowing my decision was already made. Yes, all I had to do was accept and take his hand. Without another moment’s hesitation, I placed my hand in his and my mind went dark. I dont know how much time passed before I awoke. But when I did, I was rising to my feet still holding his hand. I looked down at myself and I was changed. Changed, and ensnared, forever. I wish I could say that, if I had known then exactly what I was agreeing to, that I would have chosen differently. But I doubt that’s true. In my weakness, I would have given my very soul to be the opposite of what I had been. And that is exactly what I did. I found myself with a new face, new body, and a new job.
My role is to introduce my “employer” to others like me…. people who are desperate to change, people who are unhappy, and people who are easily corruptible. I get into their lives, learn about them, & help him make the most of their weaknesses. And I use what he gave me to do it. My face and body. They are perfectly suited to my purpose. Before long I was helping him into the lives of people who werent so easy to corrupt. I would build them up and then break them down until there was an opening in their lives for his kind of “solution”. Then I would stand by helplessly and watch as he ensnared them, just as he did me. The admiring looks and fascinated smiles I craved in my previous life are now mine, temporarily. Before long, they turn into looks of confusion, hurt, anger, and despair as they realize that I am to blame for their downfall….the bait that lured them into an eternity of torment.
Do you want to hear the punchline? In the end, I am still despised by the people who surround me. I am still alone.
Nothing has changed….except me.