I sit in the booth at the end, eyes wandering over the fast food restaurant. Before the virus, this place was swarming with people. Now it’s almost empty throughout the day. Pretty much most places are empty now – nobody wants to take the risk. Lucky this place is open really. Once a multi-million pound corporation, now most of these places have either been shut down or converted into makeup bars. What the restaurant was to hungry people, the makeup bars are to desperate virus victims. Technically, we all have the virus. There’s no running away from it, the only thing you can do is cover it up. Now the makeup industry is worth millions more than the fast food industry ever was. It’s become a ‘need’, no longer a ‘want’. Concealer, foundation, face powders really are a must have.
I eye the other people in the quiet restaurant. They’re all staring at me. Everyone stares at everyone now. A man is sitting with his wife. She is shaking as he munches on fries. I can see a deep blue hue around one eye, covered in makeup. Her husband is also mottled with bruises. He meets my eyes with a stony glare. I give up my end of the stares.
An old man with a deep mark across his nose sits alone in another booth, sipping gingerly at a cup of tea. He glances back down at his newspaper when I look at him. The headline on the front page shouts; “STILL NO CURE FOR VANITY VIRUS AS FIVE MORE ARE KILLED”. More people seem to be murdered everyday. I know people were killed before by gangs of kids in the area, but the death toll has definitely risen. The ‘Vanity Virus’ that drifted across the country silently with no cause or reason took away the skin’s ability to heal. There was mass hysteria as old wounds began to reappear on the skin’s surface. Many patients in hospitals died from routine surgery simply because their skin wouldn’t heal and the wounds got infected. TV didn’t help the problem – news stations brought on leading scientists to answer the public’s questions, which they couldn’t answer. Panic set in then anger set in. Some people were heavily plagued with bruises and nasty cuts and grazes from childhood, and some people were more fortunate and managed to cover what little marks they had. So gangs formed. Not just youths anymore, but grown adults. Teachers, carers, ‘parents’, heavily scarred and boiling with jealousy, hunting streets like dogs looking for clear-skinned, unharmed individuals to pummel in alleyways. As if everyday life wasn’t dangerous enough, now you have to watch your back for sick individuals like that.
It’s a rarity to find anyone with no imperfections. Of course, most people paint on the concealer, rushing to the makeup bars every week to buy a new tube of the stuff, spending all their money to look ‘normal’ again. It does cover up the marks, but you can definitely tell. I don’t bother with makeup. I think all the lucky ones are gone now. Either found by the gangs and given the same faces or found by the gangs and died as a result.
My mum says I shouldn’t go outside. She says it’s too dangerous for me to go anywhere. “You could trip over the curb and cut your lip. You could walk into a door and bruise your face.” She told me just this morning.
“You could do that in the house.” I teased.
“There are no gangs in the house.”
They’re staring again. I look over at my reflection in the glass, looking over my makeup-free, natural skin. Smooth and clear of any imperfections. Across the car park I can see a huddle of people with their hoods up. I touch my jacket pocket with my fingers, feeling the reassuring steel object tucked in there as I return to my coffee. The wife trembles and looks down, the husband glares at me with menace, and the old man is snatching glances from behind his newspaper. He hasn’t yet turned the page.