The following is a guest post by author Andreea Daia. If you enjoy Andreea’s story, check out her website: andreeadaia.com.
Dores’s fingers trembled, as she caressed the unopened envelope. She had waited her entire life for this letter, the most important message from any performer’s life. The envelope smelled of lilac oil, the genuine perfume, not a cheap substitute. Dores inhaled deeply, reveling more in the meaning of the scent rather than the actual aroma. Only for occasions like this, a human still hand-sprayed the paper. Hand-sprayed! The audacity of that act made her knees quiver. Rumor was that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts had bribed and murdered to obtain a few vials of the extinct plant.
Dores closed her eyes, savoring the moment. She already knew the content of the letter—the culmination of her efforts as an actress, as an artist of emotion.
“I love you, darling,” her husband whispered, startling her. “I’m so proud of you. All those sleepless nights, all the nanosurgeries, all your sacrifices. Everything paid off.”
She blinked back a few tears. He had been so supportive. “And the kids? Did you tell them?”
“They’re still at school. The good news will have to wait.”
“Do you think they’ll have problems because of… this?” She waved the envelope.
Her husband chuckled. “Because their DNA will be overwritten with that of the most coveted woman in the world? Their colleagues will worship them. Everyone will want to be their friend. You made it, darling!”
Dores sighed. Sometimes she had doubted whether she could reach the top. Splendid, talented, and, most important, popular she might be, yet, one needed something more to justify this letter from the Academy. Yes, she had starred in eleven movies that had climbed in top three. Yes, she still hadn’t crossed the thirties threshold. Yes, she radiated that beauty, which only nanotechnology could create. But until now, she had doubted all this would suffice.
She smiled. “I need to prepare for the Ceremony. There is so much to be done. The dress, the make-up, the hair…”
* * *
The walls of the theater blazed from the light-particles inlaid for the occasion. The Academy never spared any resource for the Ceremonies and neither did the awardees. All worth it, Dores thought, as she caught her reflection in a mirror. No other actress had surpassed her glamor during the past Ceremonies. The nanofibers built in her dress caught the light. Her face seemed to glow from the fresh infusion of nanites.
“Are you ready, dear?” the President asked her. His lips stopped an inch away from Dores’s cheek, kissing in air. Not even he would be allowed to ruin her make-up.
Dores nodded, despite unacceptable emotions warring against ecstasy. Her husband and kids would be already seated. Straightening her back, she slid through the rows of congratulators, praying that her legs wouldn’t betray her. She could not faint during the most important moment of her life.
A corridor of bodies opened, everyone reaching towards her, but never touching. That would be blasphemous. No one could spoil the awardee’s perfection. The world zoomed by, in a blur of cheers, compliments, and confetti. Before she realized, she stepped on stage, cooing her greetings. Behind her, the statues of the previous awardees loomed over the hall. As her kids and husband joined her, tears well up in her eyes.
“No, you can’t cry now!” her husband hushed her. “You’ll ruin your make-up, darling.”
Of course, she knew that she shouldn’t, she just couldn’t help herself. “I’m not sure,” she whispered. “I’m not sure, I can get through with this.”
His disapproval only added to her doubts. “Dores, you can’t make a spectacle of yourself. Everyone is watching you!”
“I’m sorry,” she said in the microphone, as tears splotched her face. “I can’t accept this honor.”
The cheers petered out. A couple of officials rushed to calm her. One of them joked that the assembly sucked all the air out of the theater.
Dores forced herself to smile. She couldn’t refuse the award—no one had ever done it. Clutching one of the officials’ arm, she stepped up the podium.
The cup was waiting for her. She had seen it on TV, but in person it was even more mesmerizing. The officials had placed it such that Dores could read her own name, already inscribed on it.
This was perfect… beyond perfect.
To the amusement of the audience, her kids pranced towards the cup, fighting over it. The boy won, but offered it to his sister. After all, everyone expected that in twenty-something years, it would be the little girl who would step up on the same podium, following in her mother’s footsteps.
A medtech appeared with a DNA kit. Despite his formal attire, she still smelled on him disinfectant. To the public’s delight, while he drew blood, the kids brandished the cup. Their DNA would be altered only after the Ceremony ended. Most of the audience pretended that the ugly side of the process didn’t happen—no kids screamed in pain, while their DNA was overwritten.
As the medtech vanished, the speaker announced the moment everyone expected. Her daughter lifted the cup, with a pirouette that brought more tears into Dores’s eyes. No—she must stop crying! The crowd erupted into ovations.
This was it, the moment every actress dreamed of.
Dores lifted the cup to her lips and swallowed its content. The millions of nanites tasted like the pyrite she had played with in the physics class. It would take a few minutes for them to spread through her body. She adopted the pose in which the world would remember her—flirtatious, chin down, eyes up. Holding the pose, Dores smiled between tears to her daughter—it was kind of the Academy to preserve the awardees’ DNA in their children. She didn’t fool herself that they did it out of kindness though—they wanted to conserve their embodiments of perfection.
As the nanites transformed her cells into inorganic material and turned her into the most stunning statue, Dores brimmed with happiness.
At last, she was inducted into the Academy’s Hall of Fame.
Featured image by Davidlohr Bueso found via Creative Commons.
very clever idea and well written!
Compelling stuff – very scary. I liked the way it began, with the lilac oil from the “extinct” plant, then built up the tension more and more, with the appearance of the medtech, and the children’s screams, so that the reader could tell something awful was about to happen. The end was shock, but a perfect conclusion. Very good!
June Griffin says
A dynamite horror story – thoroughly enjoyable! Cheers, June
Punchy, utterly shocking and unexpected. I found myself racing through it just to reach the ending. Loved it!