She stood before him giggling, her body turning crimson from the attention he chose to pay to it. The only sound in the room was the shutterbug going off rapid-fire, like that of a semi-automatic gun. Others found her body lacked a care that would have made it worthy of them. Others said this and thought much worse. He thought them all wrong and told her so. He worshipped her body, her silky smooth skin made so because of the lotion she rubbed on it over and over again.
He watched sometimes as she covered her body in it applying layer upon layer until she was thusly satisfied. The day she asked him to do her back he thought he was truly in heaven. His hands glided over her skin, kneading it until he felt his fingers become one with it. Unconscious, he traced patterns over and over until she laughed and told him that sometimes she thought he liked her body more than she did. Sometimes, he thought she was right.
He would touch her body when she stood before him naked, though he never stood before her in similar fashion. His fingers would touch random places on her flash as though with a single moment they could meld into one. He found himself disappointed when they did not. And some nights they would lay curved together and he would drape himself in her sleeping form, her arms laying over his, marveling at how beautiful he looked, but only then.
Sometimes she would ask to take pictures of him as he did of her but he would not allow it. She was the beautiful one, he would tell her, backing away as she moved to touch him. In truth, he did not wish to be seen under her prying eyes, not now, not yet. He was not like her, was not beautiful. His skin did not shine as hers did. He was not like her though more and more he wished he could be.
He obsessed over turning himself into her, buying clothes like hers and wigs the color of her hair. He found that though he did these things, he did not look as she looked. Even in her dresses, he looked as he always did. Ugly. He stood naked in front of his mirror and forced himself to stare at his own body. He considered what he would have to change to make himself as she was and he realized slowly what the answer was. Everything. He would have to change his very being and then he would be like her . . . beautiful.
He poked and prodded at his own skin to make it like hers. He tried lotions and cremes but no product would do to his skin what it did to hers. He tried, at length, to remove his own skin hoping he could grow another. She found him and stopped him, asking him why but he could not tell her. How could she, a creature of beauty, understand his plight. More ands more he wondered how he could change his skin. He longed to be like her but nothing he did made him like her.
In the end, he asked others to make him like her but they would not. Instead they told him to fill out papers, draw trees and answer absurd questions. He did all they asked him to but they still would not make him beautiful. In their eyes, he was not worthy of being that. But he would not accept that. He would find a way to make it so. It was HIS skin he needed to change and so it would be his skin that would be changed.
He found in other women things he wished to have on his own body. All around him were people with things he needed and no one but he seemed to care. The thought was one him to take that which he needed. None of them seemed to have much use for the things he desired. The thought took root in his mind, fed on by anger and disgust. He saw red hair he longed to have, a mouth he would kill to possess. And he asked himself why not? The women he saw did not appreciated their wealth, their bounty given to them by God. They did not understand but he did. And so he decided to take the things he wanted from them.
He did not know which one with which it began. He did not care. He buried bodies in graves close to home, wondering whether he should preserve them in case he needed more from them. Slowly, he built himself his very own skin but had to begin again multiple times. Each time he began he found imperfection and chose to start again. It seemed what he searched for slipped further and further from his grasp. The one who began it all visited him often through this period of frustration.
Her skin grew more beautiful as time went on and his grew more hideous. She had what he wanted; of that he was certain. She had what he wanted yet he could not bring himself to take it. He chose instead to take her one night when alcohol had dulled his mind enough to overlook her pain. He took her in the parking lot when no one else could see. He ripped her dress and tore it, careful to preserve her skin. He hid her from the world and from himself when he realized what he had done. But she would not be ignored.
He gave her paper, pens and much lotion. He watched her rub it over her skin and it became too much for him. He left the room, moving to the safety of his bedroom where he grabbed the gun to end it all. He raced to the doorway but halted at its threshold. The bullet would pierce her skin. Her beautiful skin. He would destroy the very thing he sought to preserve. He slid to the floor; the doorway burning into his back. He needed to feel pain, needed also to crawl out of this skin his body walked in every day.
He found himself burning. His work could not continue, his life could not move on. It was a stalemate, neither he nor her could have what they wanted. Every day he sent the bucket down and every day she sent letters back up. Every day he would wake up thinking this was the moment and every night he would fall asleep thinking tomorrow would be the day. He fell back into scratching his own skin off. No matters how many layers he pulled off, more awaited just underneath and just as ugly as the others.
Days and weeks passed but neither he nor she made progress. The days and nights blurred together-he did not know which it was when finally he tied the noose. Gun in hand, he moved closer to the pit and lowered the ladder, his dull voice informing her she was to climb up it. She did as he told her and he bound her hands and hid her eyes behind a scarf. They walked slowly from level to level neither one speaking to the other. When they reached the second level he placed the noose around her neck.
"What do you want from me?" she spoke softly though he was sure she didnít expect an answer.
"Your skin," his voice lacked the strength that he thought it should have, but he could not take the words back. A silence elapsed between them and he stared past her and the gap in the railing. He could not remember how many he had taken up these stairs before her. He did not know how many more would have to make the trip. He knew without this one he would never achieve what he desired so much.
"Then take it," her voice was choked as she spoke the words he hadnít realized he wished to hear. He took the acceptance from her and then he took her life.
He watched as she writhed for what seemed to be ages before stopping altogether. Even still, he let her hang for several minutes before removing the noose. He took the body into his workroom, lay it down on the floor and stripped it. Taking what he wanted from her, he then put the body in his van. He weighted her down with cinder blocks before driving her out to the river. As his last act, he gently opened her mouth and placed a cocoon inside. He threw her into the river, its raging currents taking her far away.
It was with a sense of calm that he climbed back into his van. His work could continue now and may not even take as long as he had expected. He was silent as he drove home, his eyes taking in the sights around him. He saw beauty everywhere but it did no torment him as before. He knew that soon, he would join the beautiful and take center stage.