The Beauty in the Breaking
“So tell me how to make you happier?”
Dr. Harakal starts each consultation the same: positive and hopeful without mention of imperfection or flaw.
Contemporary jazz gently fills the office from recessed speakers. A redolence of jasmine wafts from the hidden diffuser. It is a safe space. There are no judgements here.
But the consult remains silent. Her neutral look chills him, although he is careful not to allow his smile to falter. Maintaining his professional veneer, he hurries to fill the dead air rattling off accreditations, office capacities, and insurance options. It is the worst part of the job, but selling cosmetic dreams has its administrative vulgarities.
However, it gives him the chance to assess. She is decidedly plain, middle aged with minimal wrinkling or skin discoloration. She doesn’t blink. Her expression doesn’t change.
In his mind, he cuts into her. The flesh is pared, tucked, and reduced. But it is wrong. He starts again imagining features lifted, filled, and enhanced. It is done with an ultimate precision. Beauty is never in exaggeration or overstatement. For the real maestro—the cosmetic artist ascended above the dreck of plastic surgeons—beauty is in the subtleties of symmetry and balance, the face ideally a mirror image. There are no fixed dimensions defining beauty, rather the synchronized alignment of left to right and the precise ratios between features.
But his pretend scalpel again comes back clean. She is perfect, although that is absurd. Of course, a computer analysis would uncover those asymmetric contours and misalignments eluding the naked eye. However, his confidence is damaged. His gift of perception is so honed that no matter the canvas, his practiced eye has always yielded flaws. With a mental loupe, he scans her again desperately, diving down further into the details applying the most sophisticated formulae to her form.
Still there is nothing. Her balance is flawless. He should be delighted, wonderstruck, but instead, there is only dread.
Suddenly, she leans forward as if reading his thoughts. He recoils betraying his revulsion.
I hear you possess certain talents, Dr. Harakal. You are the best—are you not?
As an acclaimed cosmetic surgeon, compliments were common. Yet, he shudders at her icy flattery, put on the defensive. He nods ashamedly. It is true. Indeed, the desk he sits behind is an extension of his self, a baring of his nature—everything in its place. His capped pens stand ramrod straight in their rosewood holder. A pristine blotter is centered and squared to the desk’s edge. Paperclips are lined in military formation, fat ends pointing the same way.
His devotion to order and minutia is without peer.
Yes! This is what I want, Doctor Harakal…
She leans over the desk’s edge, the boundary between patient and doctor broken. Locking eyes, she fills his vision, the background retreating in his fish-eye view. The music has stopped, the only sound the blood thundering in his head. The air is stale, her breath acrid and sickly sweet like the discharge of a mephitic pit.
Her horrible face is his world, each laugh line perfectly matched in the sinister and dexter. Ears, eyes, and cheekbones align with a terrible god-like precision.
…to make me happy, I want you to change me…
Her foul mouth curls up at the corners, a complex ballet of symmetrical movement—a muscular reflection that shouldn’t be possible. His vision tunnels further. Behind those exquisitely balanced lips and teeth, he falls into the endless abyss of her dark palate.
Everything is black. Her voice is the lone stimuli.
…I want you to change me so when I look in the mirror, I don’t see the face of evil staring back.
He isn’t surprised. He knew it as soon as she entered the office, unconsciously planning the job ahead—the saw and the mallet, scars and shattered bones, detaching muscles and tendons. It is the true culmination of his work—the ultimate body aesthetic, a degenerate sculpture of malformed, palsied ecstasy.
S. E. Casey
S.E. Casey grew up near a lighthouse. He always dreamed of smashing the lighthouse and building something grotesque with the rubble. This is the writing method for his broken down and rebuilt stories published in many horror magazines and anthologies that can be found on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter.