Kate woke up excited to see her new face. She had been looking forward to this procedure for months. According to the flashy brochure with beautiful after pictures that she had devoured, “the facelifts of today” were different and more natural looking than the facelifts of the past. Kate’s need for this enhancement had gone, in the last two years, from want to need. She had all the telltale signs of an aging woman: sagging skin, deep lines, and the dreaded double chin. But recently these once barely perceptible flaws had gotten worse, to the point that Kate could barely stand her own face. Now, when Kate looked in the mirror, she saw a figure that she no longer recognized. A witch. A hag. A crone. A forgettable background character.

She still thought of herself as she had been in her twenties: young, pretty, desirable, the kind of woman that both men and women stopped to gaze at and admire. Things had changed for Kate when she reached middle age. The gray hairs, she could cover up with dye. But there was only so much that modern makeup could do for the skin although that, like everything else, had gotten both more effective and more expensive. She had seven different kinds of anti-aging creams on her nightstand, and none of them had made her look as she had in her twenties: radiant, sultry, youthful.

As for the feeling, her face felt bruised, but this was to be expected, according to what she had read. And she had read so much. Online. In print. Whatever she could get her hands on. New face, new you, the brochures had read. Kate was ready.

Kate waited impatiently for the young peppy nurse to remove her bandage.

“Oh my,” said the nurse, as she lifted the gauze. “This is quite impressive.”

Kate practically grabbed the handheld mirror. When she saw her face, she nearly dropped it.

She knew to expect bruising, but this. Was this some kind of joke?

“Is this?” Kate began.

The nurse pulled out Kate’s chart and read Kate her own damning words. “You said that you wanted to look memorable.”

“But I don’t look memorable. I look terrifying. My face looks monstrous, like something out of a nightmare,” Kate said.

“Aren’t nightmares memorable?” the nurse asked as she handed her a plastic hospital bag containing all her belongings. The nurse no longer seemed nurturing or young. She seemed like an evil villain from a black and white film, the veneer of her sweetness fading. Kate didn’t know what to do.

“You’d best be going now,” the nurse said. Her voice had a terrible edge. Kate quickly changed out of the thin gown into her innocuous middle-aged women casual clothes and walked down the hallway toward the front door. When she entered, everything in this hospital had looked so bright and beautiful. But now everything seemed to be tinted with a terrible green-gray color, as if it was rotting.

Katie felt it best to exit and exit quickly. When she turned back to look back at the entrance, which had only a day ago had seemed so fancy and new, the building looked vacant and crumbling, as if it had long been abandoned. Kate was afraid to pull out the pocket mirror from her purse. Instead, she walked into the diner across the street. “I wouldn’t mind a piece of pie,” she thought as she looked for a server. But, once inside the diner, she saw that here too the welcoming façade was an illusion. This wasn’t a diner but a hall of mirrors. And on every surface, Kate saw her own magnified face: old and scarred and imperfect. Kate took a breath. Then, she let out a long slow scream.

Lori D’Angelo

Lori D’Angelo’s work has appeared in various literary journals including Blood Moon Magazine, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Hawaii Pacific Review, JAKE, Literary Mama, Reed Magazine, Suburban Witchcraft, and Word Riot. She is a fellow at Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, a grant recipient from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. You can find her on Twitter @sclly21.