The Eye of the Beholder
By John C Adams
Cameron MacIntosh looked across the crowded bar at the blonde woman holding court to a group of enraptured men. She met his gaze and the corners of her red mouth twitched into a smile. Cameron gestured to Eddie, the barman, to refill his shot glass. As he did so, Eddie followed Cameron’s line of gaze. He rolled his eyes.
“Mutton dressed as lamb.”
Cameron looked at the woman more closely. He saw lines begin to spread across her face. Her foundation was caked on but, in the heat of the bar, it was beginning to crack. Her whole face turned into a mesh of lines crawling across her skin. Cameron stared at her body. Instead of toned muscle, he began to see scrawny, wrinkled flesh that hung off her bones. He focused on her face again. It was now desiccated with age.
Cameron shuddered and turned back to the bar. A man in his thirties jumped onto the bar stool next to Cameron and gestured for the barman. He lit a cigarette and looked the blonde woman up and down, his pupils dilating.
Cameron whispered the same advice that Eddie had just shared with him. The man looked the woman over, an expression of disgust forming on his round, good-natured face.
“See what you mean. Didn’t spot it at first. Thanks for the heads-up, buddy.”
Cameron clapped the man on the back and waved Eddie back over. The barman poured them each a shot and slid the glasses across the counter.
A brunette walked up to the bar, her high-heels clacking on the tiled floor. Her floor-length red dress had a slit up the side almost to the hip. Cameron smiled at her and raised his glass. She smiled back, clambering onto the bar stool beside him.
The woman dimpled. She was adorable. As Cameron looked at her, her cheekbones became more pronounced and her nose shrunk slightly. Not much. Just enough to look like a top-flight plastic surgeon had taken a pass at it. She stroked Cameron’s upper arm.
“Bet you work out.”
Cameron felt his biceps tingle. His shirt began to feel tighter. His abs felt harder, too. He ran his fingers over his torso, across a six-pack he hadn’t had to go anywhere near the gym to achieve.
Cameron cocked his head towards the door and grinned boyishly. Lauren blushed but she nodded and got up. Cameron rested his hand in the small of her back as he guided her towards the door. They were halfway across the bar when Eddie called out, “You might not get much joy! This one just can’t hold his liquor!”
Cameron stumbled. He grabbed onto Lauren’s arm to stay upright. She took his elbow and guided him to a table. He slumped into the chair and bent over. The sharp, noxious smell of vomit was rising in his throat. His legs felt weak and his head was spinning.
“Tell me I never touch alcohol.”
Lauren frowned. She backed away.
“Do it! C’mon, you know how it works. Just Eddie having a laugh. Believe I’m tee-total and it’ll be all systems go back at your place, I promise.”
Lauren pulled on her coat and strode out. Cameron followed, but by the time he’d stumbled outside she was gone. As he drew in the cool night air he felt his head begin to clear again.
A cute red head came along the street. Cameron opened the door for her.
“Aren’t you sweet?”
Cameron’s heart flipped over.
“I think I might just be,” he murmured.
- - -
John C Adams’ debut novel ‘Souls for the Master’ is out now from Sinister Saints Press. She is a Submissions Reader for the Aeon Award and Albedo One. She has had fiction published in The Horror Zine, Devolution Z magazine, Schlock! Webzine and Honeysuckle magazine.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
The Eye of the Beholder
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