Blank Slate

This time, a higher cheekbone, an aquiline nose...

As the shower steamed around her, Mira’s hand hesitated before the bottle of Re-Grow Step 1: Facial Dissolving Solution. She anticipated the pain, like hundreds of bees plunging needle-thin stingers into her face.

The image of Amos’s glazed-over eyes flashed in her mind. How he sat across the table, distant and cold, separated by more than the wilting floral centerpiece. Her goddamn brain wouldn’t stop rewinding tonight’s date, playing it over and over. Such a stupid little argument, yet the hurtful words lingered.

What changed over the last month? She remembered their late-night coffeeshop talks, sipping each other’s words until the place closed, Amos’s gaze bright upon her. She hadn’t told him her face was a Re-Grow construction, but that didn’t matter. He saw her—for one glorious month. 

As they went their separate ways, she couldn’t bring herself to ask the question: Are we breaking up? 

Amos didn’t ask either, but Mira knew.

Their unspoken words festered like bacteria in a Petri dish, a foul green infection erupting in her heart. She thought she had finally found a face for the world, a face someone could love. 

Mira grasped the dissolving solution and doused her face. The sting intensified progressively, feeling more like a flaying. She exhaled through her gritted teeth, balling her hands into tight fists to keep from screaming as the Re-Grow skin sagged and dripped. Teary cheeks, puffy eyebags, nose, ears, hair, eyebrows—all slopped down with the shower’s cleansing purge. Her eyes closed to the sight of the slimy puddle forming at her feet, patterns of reds and browns, the liquefied remains of her sculpted face washing down the drain. 

Erasing the past was always painful.

Mira turned off the shower, wrapped herself in a towel, and avoided the mirror. She didn’t want to see a face that reflected painful memories—the cheeks Trey had stroked after they’d made love, the lips Aiden had lightly licked to conclude a kiss. She relived years of heartache every time she saw that nose, that jawline. 

Mira settled in front of the computer with the container of Re-Grow Step 2: Facial Putty, which looked rather empty. Enough for maybe two more uses, then she’d have to ask Dr. Hawkins for more. She wasn’t looking forward to that. Dr. Hawkins liked to say things like we ask our patients to retain their Re-Grow faces for at least six months and you’re going through putty at an astonishing rate and you do know the dissolving solution can cause long-term nerve damage when used too frequently, don’t you? 

Mira didn’t like when doctors looked at her like that, with their eyebrows raised in worry, hinting that they might stop prescribing her the putty. If only she could buy the stuff over the counter. 

Soon, she’d need to find a new doctor. Again.

Mira connected the port from the Re-Grow container to her computer and pulled up the application. With an experienced touch, she began to style the model on her screen. This time, a wider nose, thinner cheeks, a heart-shaped hairline positioned just a bit lower. 

One last click. She uploaded the facial plan to the Re-Grow container, where the nanos in the putty glowed pale green, absorbing the new information. Mira drummed her fingernails on the desktop. It always seemed to take forever. She hated the feeling of her naked skin tingling, a blank slate awaiting its new art.

As soon as the putty’s glow faded, Mira scooped a handful from the container and rubbed it over her face. She’d done this in front of a mirror once, then never again. Shades of skin and blood vessels mixed together, like a traffic accident in reverse, blood pooling back beneath the skin, her nose and cheeks weaving together from ragged strips. 

Now, she kept her eyes closed, feeling as hair formed at her forehead and grew into thick, Medusa coils. Little insect bites pelted her face again as nerve endings connected to regrown muscles, allowing her to move her new mouth, even spread her new nostrils.

Mira opened her eyes and walked into the bathroom, inspecting her fresh Re-Grow in the mirror. One eyebrow wouldn’t budge, and her new cheeks felt stiff when she smiled. Nerve damage? No, the putty probably needed time to soften up, that’s all. Fingertips brushed new lips, imaging the wet touch of another’s kiss. 

Mira glided back to her desk, ready for the next step. Closing the Re-Grow program, she opened her favorite dating app. She’d make a new name, a new personality. A clean start.

Her phone pinged with a text message.

I’m sorry, Mira. Can we try again? 

Amos.

New lips parted, breaths uneven. Mira raced into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. Her dark brown eyes stared back, the only part of her that never changed.

Mira turned her gaze to the bottle in the shower. She had enough. She could restore the face Amos had known. The one she had been wearing when he had seen her. Maybe, just maybe, the face Amos saw could be the face she could keep. 

Maybe now she could stop.

Her cheeks still didn’t move quite right, but Mira was smiling inside as she reached for the bottle of Re-Grow Step 1: Facial Dissolving Solution. 

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Issue 3.1 Paperback

Pay tribute to your ancestors sleeping between worlds, stay at a time-travel hotel, visit the winter graveyard, face Azathoth, purchase a strange device from a door-to-door salesman, and do your best to keep a puppet child from unraveling. Oh, and your DoorDasher Astrid has accidentally awakened the Crawling Chaos, so don’t expect your Taco Pup order any time soon.
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Issue 3.1 Paperback

Amelia suffers from The Vanishing, a disease caused by unrooted immigrant identity, while Beulah Khware longs to become a Celeronian but faces a daunting citizenship test.

Pay tribute to your ancestors sleeping between worlds, stay at a time-travel hotel, visit the winter graveyard, face Azathoth, purchase a strange device from a door-to-door salesman, and do your best to keep a puppet child from unraveling.

Oh, and your DoorDasher Astrid has accidentally awakened the Crawling Chaos, so don’t expect your Taco Pup order any time soon.

$12.00

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Blank Slate

This time, a higher cheekbone, an aquiline nose...

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