By Fiona Luo
Swab, swab, swab. The swabbers swarmed her, and everywhere there were test tubes, cotton balls, needles and so many hands, which swabbed the inside of her cheek, which forced the screeching jaws open and tore off handfuls of those glossy red locks, that tore off nails and skin and hair — anything to get at that precious DNA, anything to steal those valuable double helix molecules.
Then, as quickly as they had pounced and ambushed, the swabbers were gone — they had their vials filled with with her genes. There was no reason to remain.
A bleak wind blew by. Lola remained cowering in the corner of the alley, her mouth still fully open from the swabbers’ attack, her hands still on her now disheveled hair.
She had to go home, she knew. She had four children to feed.
The mother sat blank eyed and slack jawed in her makeup sphere, which had insides covered with mirrors. The machine repeatedly replaced her peel-off faces, each branded on the forehead with the logo 46andYou. Below the stamped logo, a disclaimer read ‘made with real DNA.’ Drool trickled down the mother’s chin and neck. The only sign of life from the mother was her hand, which continuously pushed a hologram button that spelled out, ‘Buy now!’; above her hand, images of vibrant clothing flickered by.
Outside the makeup sphere, a young child shouted, “Mommy!”
The mother, completely absorbed with her reflection, hardly registered the sound.
“Mom!” the voice cried out again, desperate now.
There was a silence. Suddenly, the entire makeup sphere shook violently, with crying noises echoing from outside; the hologram wavered, and the machine began applying peel-off faces off-center, yet the mother never blinked.
The shaking stopped as quickly as it had begun. The mother was left in silence again, sitting blank eyed and slack jawed in her makeup sphere.
“I’m sorry, Lola, but we’re going to have to let you go.”
Lola’s heart skipped a beat. She froze, her eyes locked on the administrator — the breathtaking peel-off face of the administrator — and a fever flushed over her face. A wordless minute passed.
“I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to —”
“Why?” Lola gasped. Her mouth jerked back suddenly. She knew why.
The administrator smiled unnaturally, revealing her pearly teeth and gums.
“Well, it has come to our attention that you may not have the — the genetic background our company is looking for.”
Lola’s pressing glare was quenched by helpless tears, and she felt her face contorting.
“The newest data released by 46andYou has revealed that you have a mutation in the SMAD3 gene and a predisposition to early heart disease. We simply cannot tolerate things like this in our company.”
Lola remained silent. She heard the loud throbbing of her heart within her chest.
“Well, now, we hope you understand. If our company hired people with heart diseases all the time, now that simply wouldn’t do. Why buy a toy that will break soon when we can buy functioning toys? But please, don’t trouble yourself over the inconvenience brought to our company. We will surely recover.”
Lola had the sudden urge to stick her tongue out at the administrator.
Instead, she forced out, “I have four children.”
The administrator remembered to put on a sympathetic face.
Lola stood over the city bridge, reminiscing over the day’s events, while her children were still at home, still hungry — and she did not have even a bitcent to spare for groceries! A 46andYou DNA cosmetics billboard, much more massive than Lola’s apartment which stood next to it, displayed a glamorous model showing off her peel-off faces. The model held up the newest design: a delicate face, with a sharp bone structure and large copper eyes.
With a start, Lola realized, “That’s my face!”
That was her face. Her face! Those wicked swabbers had taken her DNA and sold it, sold it to 46andYou. How could they, the monsters! Lola spun around forcibly, unable to look at her face on the billboard, only to see a wealthy lady across the street wearing that very face — her face! And to her right, another, wearing that face that was so like Lola’s but without the sunken pits around her eyes, without the cadaverous shadow beneath the bones, and the haggard lines tracing her face.
Lola clapped her hands to her mouth so violently that she reeled back from the impact.
That was when she saw the bird.
The bird had only one wing. Yet it energetically hopped to and fro, pecking bread crumbs off the streets, and warbling a simple melody — a music which tore at Lola’s heartstrings. Surely, thought Lola, this bird was meant for her. With the music of the bird, she felt transformed. She felt weightless. An ecstasy too great to be described filled her heart.
Abruptly, Lola clutched at her chest. The sudden motion startled the bird and caused it to scuttle away. The poor girl fell to the ground, already gone; the surge of happiness had been too much to bear.
That was when the swabbers came.
Swab, swab, swab. They swarmed her and everywhere there were test tubes, cotton balls, needles, and so many hands, which which forced the jaws open and tore off handfuls of those glossy red locks.
The mother sat blank eyed and slack jawed in her makeup sphere. The newest 46andYou peel-off-face had just been released moments earlier. Despite showing no outward emotion, the mother felt a pang of excitement as she scrutinized the delicate face, with a sharp bone structure and large copper eyes. For a fraction of a moment the mother wondered who the original owner might be, but as the machine drew the peel-off-face closer these thoughts were abandoned in her anticipated enjoyment.
As the peel-off-face melded with her own, a burst of pleasure shook her heart. Then without warning, her heart trembled, and for the first time feelings of panic racked the mother. She looked at her reflection and saw the sunken pits around her eyes, the skeletal shadows beneath her bones, and the haggard lines tracing her face. Then, she was gone.
The mother sat blank eyed and slack jawed in her makeup sphere.