Mercy (The Skin Stealer, revamped)

She was a girl made of glitter.

She was a diamond, a rainbow, a bright pretty sparkly thing, an ethereal beauty in a world not meant for understandingHer hair was white silk, long down to her back; her eyes were glimmering jewels, a faceted candy-colored kaleidoscope. And her skin was redpurplepinksilverbluegreen glitter. She sparkled like sunlight on water and shimmered like gems. Her teeth were sharp and pointed behind her gleaming lips. She was beautiful and terrifying.

She didn’t have a name, but she was known. She was a coveted treasure, shiny and valuable. She was a thing to have and a thing to own. She was nothing.

She avoided people. They wanted her for her strangeness, for her worth in gold, for her freak-show factor. She was not a circus act. She was not a museum exhibit. They called her Glitter Girl, The World’s Most Beautiful Creature. She was not a creature; she was human, but different. She had a human body and a mostly human face. She walked and talked like one, functioned like one. She had human desires. Once, she wanted things like love and home and family – the things she’d seen in the world around her, the things she observed when she was in public. She was a quiet watcher, and when she was covered up and very careful, they did not notice her looking.

Glitter Girl lived alone in a small isolated house that was not a home but just a place. When she went out, which was not often, she heard the whispers and felt the stares, tasted their obsession with her like poison in the air.

“She’s beautiful,” one would say, reverent as if in prayer.

“But the eyes,” another would say, “and the teeth.”

“But the rest of her is perfect. Her skin is like magic.”

“What does she feel like? Is she soft, or do you think she’s rough and scratchy?”

“I wish I could touch her.”

“I want to see her whole body. Is she like that everywhere?”

“And her hair,” another whispered. “It looks like real silk. I want to run my hands through it.”

“She’s blinding. I can’t look at her outside. The light’s too much.”

“I could look at her all the time. She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I want to keep her on a shelf in my room so I could look at her whenever I want.”

“I wonder if she’s glitter on the inside, too.”

Glitter Girl ignored the things she heard. Some of them tried to touch her, and she flinched away. Some of them spoke to her directly, asking questions she would not answer. She ignored the grotesqueries that made her skin crawl and her hands clench into fists. She was a shield to protect herself. She was not their object to worship. She would be their thing to fear, because it kept them away. She would use her eyes and her teeth to make them leave her alone. There was a power within her that whispered, lurking under the surface, and she would use it if she must. It had always been inside her, but she had never wielded it.

Eventually, she just became a feature of the town she lived in. People came from all over to see Glitter Girl, The World’s Most Beautiful Creature. They wanted her for movies, for exhibits, for money, for lust, for greed. They gave her no peace. She covered herself and hid from them, but as long as they did not harm her physically, she did not use her power. She could keep them away with other means. Her face was scary enough, when she used it properly.

Once upon a time, there had been a sadness within her. She was lonely and empty before she learned to be cold to protect herself from the world. She did not want what they were offering her – to be a pretty thing to have and not a thing to truly understand. She wanted something more, however impossible it seemed for a girl like her. That was the thing she wished they would realize. She was a girl. They called her one, but they did not see her as one, not really.

But she was just not meant to be understood.

After a time, things like love and home and family became merely words with no meaning. They were not real, not for her. So she stayed inside. She built a wall around her heart and became a blade to cut down the ones who wanted her for a prize. She retained her humanity in a small capacity. If they did not harm her, she would not harm them. She knew what fairness was supposed to look like, and she thought that was it.

She avoided leaving her house for as long as she could, but she was mostly human, and she needed human food. She put up her hair and wrapped a scarf around her head. She put on a long dress and tall boots and a long sweater and gloves. She kept her mouth and her eyes uncovered. The most terrifying parts of her would be the only parts they could see.

There was a boy outside her house.

She stopped, frozen in mid-step. The boy was standing near the curb, his eyes wide. He smiled. It was not greedy and gluttonous, not a predatory thing. It was kind. She had learned to know the difference by now. Only small children ever smiled at her with kindness. Their innocence made them trusting. To children, she was a creature out of a storybook, a sparkly fairy in their dreams, a character in costume. To their parents, she was the monster under the bed.

This boy was not a child.

“Hello,” he said. He did not move towards her. He waited, and slowly, she approached him.

“Hello,” she said. “What are you doing here? What do you want?” She was cautious and wary despite his kind smile. She would not trust so easily. The boy shook his head.

“I don’t want to . . . I’m not like them,” he said, his voice growing softer. “I’m just curious about you, I guess. I’ve always wanted to talk to you. What’s your name?”

“I don’t have one,” she said. She realized she recognized him; she had seen him before when she was out getting food. She was surprised that she remembered his face. After a while, they had all become the same to her.

“Why are you all covered up?” he asked. He tugged at the sleeve of her sweater. “Is it because of what they say about you?”

“It’s easier,” she said, looking away. “If they can only see my face, they don’t think about the rest of me.”

“I don’t think your face is scary,” the boy said. He brushed her cheek with his thumb. “I think it’s as beautiful as the rest of you. You’re amazing.”

She looked at him. She wanted to like this stranger.

The boy tugged at her sweater again, and she let it fall from her shoulders, a test to see if he was lying. Maybe, just this once, she did not have to hide. If this boy who was not a child could look at her with kindness, maybe there were others his age who could do the same.

She was staring at his face, measuring her trust, so she did not notice when he reached into his pocket.

Before she could even blink, the boy had a knife out and was carving away at her arm. He had sliced off a piece of skin before she was able to push him away. The boy stared at the piece of skin he had taken in awe. He turned it this way and that so it caught the sun.

“Amazing,” he murmured. Glitter Girl looked down at her arm, frozen in shock. Where the skin had been sliced away, the inside of her arm was soft and pink.

“No,” she whispered. She shook her head, angry now, violated, disgusted. She had been foolish to think this boy was any different, even for a second. Of course he was lying. His child’s smile was a farce. “My skin does not belong to you. I do not belong to you. Give it back.”

Fury rose up in her, sizzling through her blood and making her teeth sharp. The boy was still staring at her piece of skin. Her hands clenched into fists.

Give it back.

She felt her power rising with her fury.

The boy coughed, his eyes suddenly wide. He began to choke. He dropped the piece of sparkly skin and scrabbled at his throat. Glitter foamed at the edges of his mouth. It painted his lips and dripped from his chin. Glitter Girl moved forward and picked up the piece of herself from the ground. She stuck it back on her arm and watched as the boy choked on her. He fell to the ground.

She would not let anyone covet her. Never again.

Piece by piece, she took off all her clothes. She stepped over the boy’s body and dropped her scarf on him.

She was nobody’s thing to have.

But she could be their thing to fear.

*

“Oh my God!”

She heard the screams, and she relished them. She walked through the park near her house, naked and exposed. She refused to hide any longer. Let them try to have her. She would never let them get close enough to admire. She would make them all leave her alone for good.

She watched people run away. She watched others take out their phones. She watched others freeze and stare. She fixed them all with her diamond-cut eyes and showed her sharp teeth. Some tasted glitter in their mouths and spit it out, bewildered and afraid. Others dialed 9-1-1, desperate and confused.

“I’m calling the cops,” someone said. Glitter Girl smiled. It was not a pretty thing.

“Let them come,” she hissed. She would show them what she had always known she was capable of.

“Glitter Girl!” They called her the name they had given her. But no. She would never be theirs again. She would come up with a new name for herself, one that proved her power, one that terrified them just as much as her eyes and teeth. She was stronger than them. She was not their shiny treasure, nor their trophy to have on a shelf. She was the thing in their nightmares. They should be afraid to whisper her name.

And suddenly it came to her. It was a cruel joke, and it made her laugh, cold and unforgiving.

She would call herself Mercy. Because she would never give them any. Not anymore. Before, she had ignored their hungry stares, their lewd comments, their greed and their avarice for her pretty skin. She had held back her powers because the people had not gone so far as to harm her, only because they thought she was too pretty a thing to harm. She had humanity, and that meant she was not needlessly violent. People touched her, but they did not hurt her. Until the boy. And if the boy had done it, there would be more. There were always more.

He would be an example, then. She would bring his body to the center of town and show them all the truth. She would not be merciful any longer. She would be ruthless. Until every last one of them stayed away.

And when they begged for Mercy, she would smile.

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