The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2012 Results

Skin Deep

Copyright © Phil Tennant 2012

Despite appearing on the cover of just about every glamour magazine in the world by the age of fifteen, Vienna Ritz was not happy with her looks. Her breasts werenít big enough. Her bum was too big. Her legs were short, her thighs were fat, she needed a tummy tuck. Her lips were thin, her cheeks were flat, and her nose was too square. The list seemed never ending. She was heiress to a family fortune, so was not without the means to do something about her looks. However, much to her chagrin, until she was eighteen, she could not access any money apart from an allowance. That was barely enough to keep her in Gucci and skiing holidays for the year. Nor could she legally undergo enhancement surgery (not cosmetic surgery, that was just sooo tacky) without her parentís permission. At least not in this country. She knew this because she had done her research.

However, Viennaís time had soon come. She was booked in for her breast enhancement the day after her eighteenth birthday. She would have had it done on the day of her birthday, but her big party on the yacht had been organised for that evening. Even though she had known the party would be a total wash out, as daddy had set the limit at only 300 people, she (un)graciously deferred her treatment by 24 hours. The limit was some nonsense to do with safety standards, and maximum capacity. Of course she had demanded he buy a bigger yacht, but daddy had only mumbled something about waiting lists, and building times. God he could be selfish, she never got anything she wanted. Still, it went reasonably well, all the right people were there, but her thoughts was always partially focused on the following day.

So it was with great excitement that Vienna climbed behind the wheel of the red Ferrari she had been given for her seventeenth birthday the following moring. (Did daddy realise how embarrassing it was having to drive around in such an ancient car? All her friends had the latest model. This, this heap, was over a year old.) Praying that none of her friends would see her, Vienna screeched away from the curb, and headed for the clinic. Of course she had friends who would have taken her, but she had wanted to surprise them all with her new look.

Sure enough, the next time she hit the scene, she was the focus of all the paparazzo cameras. And her enhanced breasts were on the front page of all the top fashion magazines. Soon, however, interest waned, and Viennaís discontent with her body increased proportionally. Before long, she was on the phone to her surgeon to book in for a nose job, and collagen injections. As soon as was physically possible, Vienna had completed this new round of surgery

She unveiled her new look at the next movie premier, and the red carpet was a wall of flashlights. Once again her visage adorned the covers of glamour magazines worldwide. Some were cruel about her enhancements, but she put those down to jealousy. Some dried up old hag of an editor sitting in a dim, smoky office somewhere wishing she could be just like Vienna.

It was around this time that Mercedes Godsend hit the scene, and Viennaís ego. Mercedes was a blonde bombshell, virtually perfect in most peopleís eyes. Except Viennaís of course. With Mercedes hogging the cover of just about every magazine possible, Vienna had been relegated to the gossip pages, alleged sordid trysts with B-list celebrities, and drunken parties. Vienna was convinced that Mercedes was behind most of these rumours, after all, she had been at the parties where these things happened. Unfortunately Vienna had no proof. The only thing to do was go back under the knife and outdo the bitch.

Three months later Vienna was back on the scene once more. She had been enhanced to within an inch of her life. Tummy tucks, chin shaping, cheek pads, eye bag removal, liposuction, thigh reduction and much, much, more. It had come to a point where none of the reputable cosmetic surgeons in California would treat Vienna anymore. So she had travelled south of the border for her procedures. At the end of her stay in Puerto Rico, Dr Fandango had cautioned her about her surgery.

"Mees Reitz, you Ďave Ďad some very extreme and very experimental surgery. Some of the procedures used Ďave never been carried out before on a human being. It is imperative that you avoid any intense heat. The underpinning has been completed using revolutionary new plastic adhesives and they must be allowed to bond to your body for a minimum of six months. No stress, no physical exercise, no extreme heat. Do you understand?"

Vienna sat on the edge of her bed, nodding in agreement. The swathe of bandages covering her face hid her vacuous, far off look from the doctor. She was imagining her triumphant come back to the catwalk or the red carpet. Mercedes Godsend was a mere dot on the horizon, or even better, one of her supporting staff, answering to Viennaís every whim.

So it was, she had returned to the scene after three months, much against her doctorís advice. But this wasnít just any red carpet event, this was the OSCARs. It was the social event of the year. She couldnít not be seen. Plus, she had been asked to present an award. Okay, it was only a minor award, one that probably wouldnít even be televised, but it was more that Ms Godsend was ever likely to have. There were jealous whispers that the only reason sheíd got the gig in the first place was because of her fatherís share in one of the major film studios. But that didnít matter now, and it was untrue. She got the gig because she had slept with the director, or the producer, one of those sorts of people anyway. Bedecked in an exclusive Versace creation, she erupted from the stretch limo, and made the red carpet hers.

Flashes bloomed all around her the like the biggest 4th of July celebration ever. Vienna pouted, and preened for all she was worth. She was the centre of attention, and loving it. Of course the fact that sheíd managed to score a date with the main contender for best male supporting actor helped. No-one need know the only reason he was with her was because she had incriminating photos of him with one of the other contenders for best male supporting actor.

Once inside, they started making their way towards their table, Vienna acknowledging all of those she knew on the way, and many she didnít. Waving congenially at all those not fortunate enough to be her. She also made a point of ignoring all of those who had slandered, and betrayed her over the years. She spotted Mercedes Godsend at a table in the centre of the room. With an evil glint in her brilliant blue, contact lensed eye, made a beeline towards her, dragging her begrudging date in her wake. This was her chance.

"Hi, honey," she almost shouted into the womanís face as she approached, "shame youíre seated so far back, you might not see me when I go up to present my award."

"Hi, Vienna. Surprised to see you here so soon after all your plastic surgery," Mercedes said, loudly over emphasising the last two words.

Initially flustered, Vienna was suddenly inspired.

"Oh that," she replied nonchalantly. "Blown out of all proportion by the media, as usual. I was in South America helping with a charity appeal, and got involved in some gunfire at an orphanage. I had to have a little touch up to hide the scar. You know how hard all this charity work can be. Oh, no actually, you probably donít."

Both women stared at each other acerbically, and then Vienna spoke. She had won rounds 1 and 2, now she was going in for the kill.

"So, are you going to introduce me to your date? I donít seem to recognise him. But wait, how rude of me, I havenít done mine yet," she said, turning to her companion. "This is, well of course I donít need to tell you, youíll have recognised him already. This is the next winner of the best supporting actor OSCAR, of course."

Mercedesí face was like thunder. Gathering her composure, she finally replied.

"Well, actually, Vienna, this is...Ē Before she could finish, Vienna interrupted.

"Sorry dear, got to fly. I think I see Brad and Angelina waving, byeee."

With this and a little wave over her shoulder, she was gone. Vienna was ecstatic. Everything was going to plan. Once she got up on the stage she would put all these so called starlets to shame with her looks, in front of a world audience. Still glowing from her exchange with Mercedes Godsend, Vienna and her partner for the evening (if truth be told, Vienna had trouble remembering its name, but it had served its purpose) made their way onwards to their table. Due to their involvement in the evening, Vienna and her partner were seated near the front, on a table with several well known faces. Vienna was floating on Cloud Nine. This was it. This was her from now on. A-list celebrity, champagne, and caviar all the way.

The night progressed well. Vienna was sure she had managed to get into several of the television camerasí long range shots of the audience. She had flirted with all the right people, made intelligent small talk with all the top stars, and now her moment was here. An attendant arrived and informed her she needed to come backstage for make-up before her presentation. Trying to make the most noticeable discrete exit in history, Vienna headed back stage ďaccidentallyĒ walking across shot of all the cameras.

The auditorium had been warm, but bearable, the dressing room was warmer still. Vienna did not sweat, most of her sweat glands no longer functioned due to the surgery. Nor did she flush. But she knew she was getting warm. She had little time to ponder this, however, as in a whirl of frock changes, and touch ups, Vienna was standing at the side of the stage awaiting her introduction. She could see very little beyond the blazing stage lights, which was all right by her. At least she wouldnít have to look at all those phony Hollywood faces gawping up at her.

The host made his announcement, and Vienna positively flowed onto the stage, smiling widely into the lights, and waving as she went. Behind her, a six metre high screen mirrored the action in front of it. Vienna could see her giant image from the corner of her eye and, boy, she looked good! She took the podium and gave the cameras her best sexy, smouldering look. Normally, the award presenters did not give a speech. That was regarded as the domain of the award receivers only and most presenters merely muttered a few respectful words then opened the envelope. Vienna Ritz was not most presenters however, ,and this was her time to shine.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for asking me here this evening. I know it is as much an honour for you as it is for me." Vienna broadened her smile for the cameras, taking the silence from the audience as a sign of agreement.

Although she was brimming with energy and positively radiating beauty, Vienna began to feel an itching under her skin in several places. Hoping to disguise her discomfort, she sashayed and wriggled like an exotic dancer, as she tried to relieve the sensation.

"It has taken many years for me to attain this lofty position, which I am sure you will agree, I truly deserve. Many are jealous of my achievements, and natural beauty, and I..." Vienna was stopped for a moment by some muttering, and sniggering from the audience. It was not a complimentary muttering, and she realised she had become very hot under the intense lighting. She also thought she could feel sweat forming on her forehead, which hadnít happened to her since the surgery. In deed, it should have been physically impossible. Mortified by this unfortunate timing, Vienna casually raised a hand to brush away the offending moisture, attempting to disguise it as brushing hair from her face. However, as she wiped her hand across her brow, she felt something shift. On moving her hand away. and back into her line of vision, she was horrified to see it smeared with blood.

Several gasps rose from the audience, and one solitary shriek, as Vienna Ritz began to melt before their eyes. The revolutionary plastic glue that had been utilised in so many of her recent procedures was losing its battle with the temperature, and with gravity. Her face was virtually liquefying as they watched. Her forehead had shifted to one side as she wiped it and was now sliding down her left cheek. This in turn, along with the right cheek, had slipped down under her skin, forming a huge dangling jowl under her chin. The weight of this artificial wattle was gradually pulling the rest of the skin from her face. Her lips had deflated and hung in flaps of skin on her chin, making her speech sound like a rude party favour.

Her breasts were travelling slowly, but steadily, downwards, as if trying to fulfil a lifelong ambition to become knees. Due to the skin in most areas of her body detaching itself from the muscle and bone beneath, it began to collect in large folds in the wider areas of her body. As the disintegration process progressed, what stood before the shocked audience in a puddle of its own body fluids, was barely recognisable as human. Vienna looked somewhat like the wicked witch of the west, post bucket of water, as painted by Pablo Picasso.

Peering out from beneath her dangling eyebrows, at the now shell shocked, silent audience, Vienna Ritz tried to speak. Holding her deflated lips apart to make herself understood, she uttered her final words, before turning to leave the stage.

"No-one can truly be considered beautiful, until they have exposed the very essence of their being, as I have here tonight. By the way, the winner of best cinematography is some loser with a bad toupee, as if anyone gives a toss." With this parting shot, and as much dignity as she could muster, which wasnít very much, Vienna tried to effect a graceful sweeping turn to exit the stage. Unfortunately, her feet became entangled in the skin around her ankles and slipped in the pooled juices at her feet, and she fell flat on what was left of her backside. That was when the laughter really started.

My name is Phil Tennant, Iím 49 (turning 50 this year, and actually quite looking forward to it!) I currently live about 20 kmís south of Perth in W.A., but am originally from South London. I emigrated in 1998 after meeting and marrying my wife, Jo in 1994, who was on a working holiday from Australia. We have two kids, both born in the UK, Milly 17, and Charlie 14. I am now, and have always been, in the telecommunications business. My interests are Soccer (Iím a big Chelsea F.C. supporter, since the seventies.) Rock music, mostly of the heavy variety. Favourite bands:- Van Halen, Blue Oyster Cult, Monster Magnet. Reading (of course), my favourite genre is horror, closely followed by comedy. Was a huge fan of Stephen King, Salemís Lot is still my favourite book, but have found his recent work a little formulaic. I also like Neil Gaiman, James Herbert and Clive Barker. Before I got into books I was a big comic book fan and still have a large collection of marvel comics sitting in my attic. I will always have a big soft spot for all things superhero. Movies, horror and comedy. Big vampire fan, but despise the Twilight series with a passion. I have always written for my own pleasure, this was my first competition entry, and buoyed by success, I will certainly enter more.