Friday Flash Fiction: A Beautiful Disguise

So, I deleted my Facebook account this week.

Not my Facebook page, where I talk about all things writing related,  but rather my personal account. The news about the social network’s data (mis)management didn’t make me want to trust them with any more of my personal information than I have to.  But, that also means I no longer have access to the Friday Flash Fics group where I was getting all these photo prompts. (To be honest, that group was one of the few reasons I’d remained for as long as I did.) I’ll try to keep up with them all the same, though I might wind up being a week behind.

Details, details.

That being said, here’s the last photo prompt I was privy to:

Photo of very sexy muscular man with handlebar mustache, beard and long hair.

And what a photo it is!

This took my thoughts back to “The Digital Corpse,” the last installment of which was posted here.  At some point, I’ll have to gather the various fragments I’ve written and try to piece them together and see where it might be going.

But that’s a project for another day. Without further ado…

A Beautiful Disguise

“I don’t know about this.”

Andrews and Bradford stood in a white room that wasn’t a room, but rather a compartment in the Upload that Bradford had created where he could get Andrews ready. Andrews couldn’t make out the corners or the walls of the chamber, and he wondered whether it extended indefinitely. That was until an oval mirror popped into existence in front of him, reflecting back his appearance.

And that appearance was… different.

Andrews started to button the shirt that was open halfway down a torso that wasn’t his. At least twice as hairy and three times as broad, the avatar that Bradford had created for him looked as if it had walked out of a romance novel cover.

Bradford brushed Andrews’ hands aside and straightened his collar. If Andrews wasn’t mistaken, he deliberately let his fingers graze his chest, too. “Trust me, this is a very convincing disguise for where we’re going.”

Where they were going was a nightclub in the Upload called Fallout Shelter. Despite a name that conjured images of dank underground bunkers, Bradford assured him it was very high-end. It was also where Gamal had met with Alexa Grayson along with all four of his other private contract sim clients at one time or another. Two of whom had returned to the club a total of five times since Gamal had been murdered, and would hopefully be there tonight.

“You’ve got to be kidding with this.” Andrews resisted the urge to rub his lip. The full, dropping mustache and the bushy beard itches like a thousand gnats. “Can you make this,” he waved at his facial hair,” a little less irritating?”

Bradford smiled. Annoyingly, he wore an avatar almost identical to his real appearance. His hair was a little longer, maybe, his skin a little more tan. And, if Andrews wasn’t mistaken, his eyes were a different color. “You’re really not used to this, are you? You can make that facial hair feel as if it’s not there. Just think it.”

Andrews frowned, which only made Bradford smile wider. He held out a hand and a tablet appeared. As he began tapping the surface, aspects of Andrews’ appearance shifted slightly. The sensation was unnerving: his hair lengthening, his arms swelling and, if he wasn’t mistaken, his pants getting a little tighter.

“You really haven’t spent much time in the Upload, I assume,” Bradford said, not looking up.

“Before this week, no.”

“People can be anything they want in here, including things they can’t be in the analog world.”

“Like being a murderer, for instance.”

Bradford stopped tapping and looked up. “Like being a murderer, yes.” He tossed the tablet into the air and it vanished.

“If anyone can be anything they want in here,” Andrews asked, “why do you still look like yourself?”

Bradford tilted his head, as if he hadn’t even considered that and was trying to figure it out right then. He shrugged. “I guess I just like being me.”

Andrews thumped a hand against the chest that wasn’t his. “Maybe I like being me, too.”

“Yes, but you don’t want to be recognized, right? Hence the disguise.”

Andrews sighed and gestured at his body–or rather, the body that was not his. “So, is this your type of guy?”

“Nah.” A pause. “Although I wouldn’t throw him out of bed for eating crackers.”

Andrews laughed. “I think someone this size would be more likely to throw you around.”

“Want to put that to the test?” Bradford raised an eyebrow and, with clearly practiced slowness, bit the side of his lip.

Damn, he just wasn’t going to stop. “Can we get going, please?” Andrews asked. “I’m still investigating two murders, in case that slipped your mind.”

Bradford feigned a little pout. “If you insist. But don’t think it escaped my notice that you didn’t say you didn’t want to put that to the test.”

“You’re incorrigible.”

“What can I say? Some people get turned on by danger.”

“Not me.”

“Maybe, but I’m sure eventually I can figure out what does turn you on.”