I still remember the day “Wow, Sylvie, have you lost weight?” became “Wow, Sylvie, have you been sick?” It was three days after my 17th birthday, and I was ravenous. I hadn’t eaten in three days, apart from a couple of grapes while my mother was watching me. I couldn’t eat a meal. I couldn’t. Even when they said I looked ill I knew the real truth. It made them ill to look at me. I was disgusting. A huge, bloated, monstrous whale of a teenage girl.
Sometimes, the best times, I could convince myself I was normal. Perfect, even, with a heavenly flat stomach. This was only when I was away from mirrors and scales, when I glanced down at my body out of the corner of my eye. But then, inevitably, I’d look longer. That’s when I’d see them. Rolls. Everywhere. There wasn’t a single part of my body that didn’t have an extra bulge or crease or flap of skin. Especially my stomach. With every movement, every time I bent or sat, I was plagued by rolls of flesh. It made me sick just to think about it. And the way people looked at me…pity in their eyes for the poor fat girl. It was awful.
Sometimes, when I was alone, I’d pretend to be Juliette Mosely. Juliette Mosely had a perfect body. Not a single line or curve out of place. Not a single roll. I could watch her movies for hours. Sometimes when she was in a swimsuit or something, I’d just pause it and stare. How could she be so perfect so effortlessly when I had to fight to keep my weight at a level below obscene? I’d imagine running my hand over my stomach and feeling flat, smooth skin…and sometimes I’d almost believe it. But every time I did touch, I found bumps. Ridges. Rolls.
I found other ways to occupy my brain when my body cried out for food. I started by twirling my hair between my fingers, but before long I was tugging it out. The strands came away so easily in my lightest grip, and it was so satisfying when I got them well and truly by the root. It was so good to see the little, white bits of flesh clinging to the tips of each hair, knowing that each one was a few more cells of weight off my body. Someday that could all add up.
“Your hair looks so thin,” my mother said one day. “Your beautiful hair…what happened, Sylvie? You used to have such nice hair.” And I was back to square one. I couldn’t wreck my hair. Black. Like onyx, my English teacher said once. I said it was the only thing that was similar between me and Juliette Mosely. Long, wavy, black hair was the only thing we had in common, unless she dyed hers for a role or I let mine go thin like my mother said I had.
I was nineteen when I moved on to my eyelashes. I’d started college that year, studying creative writing. I wanted to paint pictures with words that were prettier than the one I saw when I looked at myself in photographs. I untagged almost every one on facebook. My profile picture was of Juliette Mosely. Eyelashes came less easily than hair from my head, but they came. I’d tug, look, tug, look…stare at my fingertips in lieu of making eye contact. Then one day, as a means of making conversation, my roommate said to me “if you make a wish and blow it away, it’ll come true.”
I laughed. She’d meant for me to laugh. But from that moment on, every eyelash I plucked I blew away. At first I just wished to be skinny. But that wasn’t specific enough. Anyone could be skinny. I wanted perfection. I wanted what Juliette Mosely had. I was alone, in a one seat women’s restroom, when I pulled out three lashes at once. Two was the most I’d had before that point. Still sitting on the toilet, I inhaled deeply.
“I wish I had Juliette Mosely’s body,” I whispered, and blew all three lashes away in a single breath. I’m not sure who heard me, or what they heard – whether it was my words or the earthquake in my guts – but something heard my wish.
When I got back to my dorm room thirty minutes later, Juliette Mosely’s body was on my bed, splayed over the twin extra-long comforter, naked and tinged with the blue of death. Her hair was spread over my pillow, like mine did when I slept. I’d asked for perfection and someone had seen fit to bring me a corpse.
I stared at it for maybe a minute or maybe ten before I actually managed to make myself move. I remember feeling like I was approaching a high cliff as I stepped closer to the bed. I knew she was dead, but I still felt a need to check. To be more certain than I already was.
“Juliette?” I said. I reached out and touched her arm. The chill of her flesh gave me goosebumps. I’d written perhaps three stories out of a hundred where someone had to dispose of a body, and in all three of those cases it was a body of their own creation. What was I supposed to do, now that she had just turned up?
I couldn’t call the police. They’d think I killed her, that I was some crazed fan. I owned all of her films on DVD and kept them proudly on the shelf above my desk, to the right of my textbooks. Though I was sure they would find no other evidence, that itself was damning enough. These were the thoughts in my head when I noticed that I hadn’t taken my hand off her skin.
It was dead, but it was so soft, so smooth. No bumps, ridges, rolls. Flat, even, perfect arrangement of curves and edges. I hated her. I was glad she was dead. But I couldn’t stop touching her. It was what I had wanted, really, to run my fingertips over and over perfect flesh. I had just wanted it to be mine. I wanted to reach down to my own body and feel the warm, breathing, pulsing version of what I felt when I touched Juliette Mosely. But my wish had been wasted and there was no way I could think of to change what had already been done. I would never be anything like her. Not in a million years.
So now I just had to get her out of my bed. I did not know when my roommate would be home, and I was not about to be locked away for some kind of cosmic joke. I grasped her shoulders and sat her upright. I dropped her back with a gasp. It was impossible. But when I sat her forward once again, staring at her navel all the while, I saw that it was true. I had to move her up and back a dozen or more times before I truly believed it. But after a while, it was undeniable.
Rolls. Juliette Mosely had rolls. Each time I inched her torso upright, her stomach puckered outward in small wrinkles and folds. How was it possible that, in spite of these bodily deformities, Juliette Mosely had attained perfection? How had she done it? What did she have that I did not and, more importantly, how could I get it?
Then I understood. I needed to gain perfection in the same way I had gotten my imperfect body in the first place. It was so simple. Whether whatever had heard me knew it or not, it had granted my wish indirectly. As I dragged her to our little private bathroom I knew…perfection was achievable, I just had to take it.
At first, I tried to just use my teeth. But it was tough, resilient, another quality I was sure I would take from her. We had no kitchen, and therefore no knives. All I had to get me started was the tiny blade of a multitool my uncle had given me for my high school graduation. Once I had her open it was easy. The things beneath her perfect skin were softer, easier chewed. My mother sometimes said to me that the things that taste best to us are the things that our body most needs. I wonder if that was why she was the most perfect thing I had ever eaten.
I didn’t hear my roommate return. I didn’t hear her until she came again, with two police officers. I didn’t fight them when they took me by the arms and removed my from what was left of Juliette Mosely. To be fair, in spite of the vehemence with which I shoved her pieces into my mouth, what was left was most of her. They touched me like they were afraid to break me. They were afraid to touch my new ideal shape.
I was taken to the hospital. My stomach was pumped and I was immediately put in intravenous fluids. I think they wanted to take the pieces of her I had consumed, but they could never put her back together again. They could never make her perfect. Her perfection was gone. I had consumed it, and they could not pump it out of me.
The trial was long, grueling, but I could hardly bring myself to care. Every chance I got I would stare at myself in the mirror, window glass, photographs. I smiled more. I ate whatever I liked. When I looked down and saw my rolls I no longer felt repulsed. Those rolls weren’t me, they were Juliette. They were the last sign of the ideal that I had devoured and made a part of my own body. Even in a shapeless orange jumpsuit, I was flawless. No bars could take that from me. Nothing could.
Lilith Morgan is a horror writer and definitely not a serial killer. Other than working on several novels, she has just released a collection of her short stories, Murderlust, and also has had plays read and performed in Manhattan. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is frequently described by friends and enemies as “adorifying”. You can find her on twitter @morgan_lilith and on tumblr at lilithmorganwriting.tumblr.com