GIMME SOME SKIN • by Andrew E. Wheeler

Zella had no idea what Argyle was doing. It looked like there was a spot on the floor he was rubbing on, but from her angle — and with her physical limitations — she just couldn’t see. Her cigarette had burned down nearly to the filter, and the smoke from her last half-draw was creeping out through the vacant left side of her face.

“Little to the left, there,” she said, and pointed for him.

Argyle had never been very bright, not even when he’d been alive, but he could always follow a pointing finger. He shifted his ministrations to the left.

“Nnggh!” he said.

Zella smiled with the half of her face that was still capable. “Do you really think that’s gonna help?” She tapped her cigarette on the side of an old glass sitting on the table. It was almost full of salt-and-pepper ashes.

“Nnggh!” he retorted.

“Never mind.”

Trosti flew through the wall to Zella’s left, his misty face alight with glee. “I’ve got it! I finally got it!”

Zella’s half-smile was replaced with blank disbelief. “You’re kidding.”

Trosti shook his ephemeral head, delight fairly dripping from his streamers. “Halloween costumes. Halloween costumes!”

“I don’t get it,” said Zella.

“Nnggh!” agreed Argyle.

Trosti’s glee faded as he noticed what Argyle was doing for the first time. “Do you really think that’s going to help?” he asked, his voice more hollow than usual.

“Nnggh!” asserted Argyle.

“No need to be rude!” Trosti looked back at Zella, glee back at full power. “I’m going to go try it out!”

And then he was back through the wall again.

Zella turned to watch Argyle continue his work. She began fishing around for another cigarette.

***

Zella was shaking her head. Blank disbelief once again dominating what remained of her face. “So. You microwave flour-paste all over yourself, and you think that’s good for about half an hour.”

Trosti nodded joyfully as he finished adjusting the microwave projector he’d been cobbling together from junked ovens. “Oh yes! Won’t be able to move much, but I’ll have — ”

“You’ll be crusty, won’t you? Like a walking cracker?” she asked.

“ — skin! Oh joy! It’s been so long.” He tittered over his work, nudging things into place with spectral force.

“Nnggh!” asked Argyle.

Zella looked. He was pointing to the pink mass he had been working with on the floor. “Oh, yeah. You can get back to that after we’re done,” she said.

“Nnggh!” moaned Argyle.

“Don’t worry, I think it’s coming along great, really. Trosti, you almost done? We’re hungry.”

“Be just a minute!”

Zella finally noticed what was draped over the arm of the old printing press. “Cast? What’s that for?”

Trosti looked at her as if half her brain had gone with her face. “It’s August.”

“So?”

“You’ll see.” He turned back to his work, nudged his final nudge, and smiled — with glee — at his masterpiece.

***

Chet had been working the graveyard shift at the Pinehurst and Second Go24! for over three years, but he’d never seen anything like this.

The door opened slowly and the trio lurched into the room. One was tall, cloaked in raggedy black, and moved stiffly, making crackling sounds as he went. The next was a woman, a little pale, not bad lookin.’ But then Chet saw that half of her face was gone.

Huh!

The last one was impossible. He was dressed normally enough, though his blue suit could use a good washing, but his face and hands were full of bloodless pits and ragged tears, and most of his throat seemed to be gone.

Nah, there’s gotta be…

Then he saw.

Each of them had one of those blue nylon bands around one arm, with CAST in big white letters.

“Hey… guys. What’s goin’ on?”

The stiff one was facing the drink cooler, but his voice was clear. “Only have half an hour. We’re between shoots. Halloween ReVamped.”

The woman was pouring a Mega-Tank 64 and the pitted guy was going for the hot dogs.

“They’re shooting a movie in Sandy?” asked Chet.

The stiff guy was crackling as he loaded a basket with candy bars and chips. “Yep. Nine hours for a two-minute scene. Believe that?”

“Whoa.” Chet tried to remember about the movie as the trio continued shopping. “Why can’t they just let the series die?”

They brought their food up to the counter. It rang out to quite a pile. “Uh, that’ll be three-hunnerd an’ eighteen ninety-four.” Chet looked a little more closely as half-face dug in her pocket. “Wow, lady, that is some makeup job.”

“Thanks. My real face is three inches under.”

“Whoa,” said Chet, as she passed him a short stack of bills.

“Keep the change, tiger. We’re getting triple overtime for working at this god-awful hour,” said the half-face lady.

“Wow, thanks.”

They were out the door with their loads before Chet had counted it all up. “Cool. Seventeen bucks!” Then he noticed the trails of white chips and chunks on the floor. “Aw, dude! Your makeup is comin’ off!”

Chet went to fetch the broom, tucking his biggest tip in three years into his hip pocket.

***

Zella was leaning to the right so that most of the cola stayed in her mouth as she tipped the huge cup and drank. The visible half of her expression was bliss.

Trosti was nudging candy bars of all kinds through his mouth, his spectral energy humming loudly and his mostly cracked-away face lighted with satisfied glee. “You know that some of this stuff will keep for decades?”

“Nnggh!” agreed Argyle, who was finishing up with the thing on the floor.

They watched as he lifted the tongue-shaped glob of silly-putty and set it into his mouth.

“’Enh eeh!” Argyle said.

“Yes,” agreed Zella, with a full half-smile. “Let’s eat.”


Andrew E. Wheeler is a gamer of the old-school, with thousands of hours of D&D and other games under his belt. He is an inventor pursuing the Holy Grail (perpetual motion: doesn’t it just make you shiver?), a product branding specialist, and an amateur singer. He lives in Provo, Utah with two rascally-cute boys, two beastly-but-mostly-harmless cats, and his small collection of anime mecha figures and models he bought while spending a decade in Japan as an English instructor. He writes as Wordsmith at fantasy-writers.org, where he reviews stories utilizing his editorial expertise and competes in the monthly writing challenges.


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