In 2043, beauty had transformed from a concept to a commodity. "Classic" beauty, which had remained "Thin, clear skin, slight muscle definition" for quite a while could actually be siphoned from one woman and transferred to another.
For a price, of course.
That wasn't the limit, either. Other, less specific traits were also bartered. An overly masculine woman could request a dose of femininity, and vice versa. Even the smallest of human traits, such as a preference for chocolate, could be edited
The four people in the waiting room had chosen to change the above. Sandy was a tall girl reeking of model beauty, but she didn't dress like it. Her clothes were plain and non-revealing, and she wore no makeup.
Brad, sitting in the corner, said nothing. Due to self esteem problems, he frequently worked out, hoping to earn the respect of his peers. He was hoping to get extra masculinity pumped into him so he wouldn't have to worry about feeling vulnerable or inadequate when with others.
"It's for my father. He needs an expensive operation or he'll die." Sandy said. Tina, another perfect knockout (and she knew how to show it off) was sitting across from Sandy and nodding.
"I'd never do that. I couldn't stand ever being fat. In fact, I'm here to get my sweet tooth for chocolate eliminated so there's less of a chance of me ever becoming fat and ugly.
"I hear you. Being attractive is very important." Susan said. She was strikingly similar in appearance to Tina; however, Susan didn't have a head full of air. Her head was full of ideas, uncomfortable ideas. When she was little, she did what she was told, but she had to work hard to repress her rebellious side. She liked the attention she got when she was pretty, and she knew if she ever let any of her real self out, her life would be shattered. A dose of femininity would rid her of any tomboyish thoughts forever.
"Who says that this hard to get, easily sellable beauty is what's really attractive to anyone?" Sandy's comment caused Tina to sigh.
"Oh, please. Have YOU ever met anybody who's found fats girl more attractive than thin ones?"
"Uh, yeah. Me." Both Brad and Susan were too engrossed in their own thoughts to be listening. Tina had a reply, though.
"Oh." That was it. Inside, Tina had always questioned her sexuality, but had never wanted to do anything about it. The idea always made her extremely uncomfortable. She hoped the clinic would call her name soon.
"Brad Hall and Susan Thompson?" Damn, Tina thought as she heard it.
"You've filled out the forms?" A slight, unhappy looking doctor asked Susan and Brad.
"If you are dissatisfied, harmed, emotionally injured." the list went on as the disclaimer continued for a full five minutes. ".you cannot take legal action. Enter at your own risk. The effects are irreversible, not even another treatment can reverse it." They nodded and gave them written consent again.
"It's a busy day today, so we have both machines on. You can go in .room A, Brad, and you go B, Susan." They didn't see him nursing on a small container of alcohol as they turned to enter their rooms. They didn't hear him hiccup.
Brad had come from a rich family, so cost was not a concern to him. Susan, on the other hand, had saved for a considerable amount of time. They were both around 22, close the same age as Tina and Sandy, but Susan felt that her life was already going by fast.
For a final conformation, they had to press their hands on the wall-slot in their specially created alteration room. The price was high, but each was willing to pay.
As Brad pressed his hand down, he felt a surge of confidence. He wasn't going to have to worry anymore. The timer said 5 minutes. Five minutes...
After a good 12 seconds, Brad felt the jaws of boredom crush him. He removed his clothes, slightly sexually aroused but more interested in seeing the transformation of all of his body than in stimulating it.
His body was tough, but not tough enough. He could see his face in the mirror, the only object in the blank, white room. Its hard lines and masculine form was one thing to Brad: incomplete success.
A second later, a blast of pink air shot out of the vents. At first, Brad's initial response was not to breathe, but then he realized that it was most likely this gas that was going to change him. He let his air out in a sigh, thankful that he would not have to deal with a needle, and took a deep breath.
Nothing. Nothing at all. He breathed in the gas until it dispersed, and with 3 minutes left, nothing had happened.
Then he saw it. His hand. Was less hairy than before?
Brad hadn't ever been a heavy masturbator. Was it possible he was having the reverse of the "grow hair on your palms" effect?
He forgot his hand when he saw his leg. With the sight of it, he wimpered in horror. His normally quite hairy leg had been substantially reduced in body hair, almost to the point of an overly hairy female leg.
Brad considered screaming, but he had already breathed in the gas. Whether they had given him the wrong vial or somehow he had reacted allergically, the damage was done. He doubted that in this moment of fear he had the strength to cry out, anyway.
His body hair wasn't the only casualty. He saw his broad shoulders shrink, his muscles disappear. His eyelashes grew slightly, and his skin became smoother. Finally, to top it all off, this hocus pocus horror show ended with the room growing three inches taller.
"No", Brad realized. "I've shrunk three inches."
Susan pressed her hand down on the wall, and eagerly waited. The physical femininity wouldn't enhance her looks as much as a direct beauty buy would, but she didn't have enough money for one of those. More importantly, she wanted the mental side effects of the treatment.
As blue gas filled the room, Susan breathed deeply. "It's probably an anesthesia" she said to herself.
But as her eyes rested on the timer over the mirror and the smoke faded, she knew there wasn't time for anything so complicated and painful that she needed a drug. Was it possible the smoke itself was the treatment? She didn't look any different.
Or did she?
Focusing on the mirror, she quickly removed her garments. Yes, she did look different, but she couldn't exactly place it.
There, she saw it on her stomach. A tiny line. She felt it with her hand, and it was surprisingly hard. A tiny little ab muscle. Was she supposed to be getting those?
"Yeah, because women need their abs to do childbirth. So feminine women must have strong stomachs." Susan's rationalization process was cut short when she saw her arm. A strong looking bicep protruded from it, and a small amount of hair was growing on it. Susan, feeling scared, tried to put the arm out of her sight. She put her arms behind her head, so she couldn't see them in the mirror or in her eyes, but that revealed her armpits, which now had a significant amount of fuzz.
"No!" Everything was going wrong. Susan could feel it happening, but she was powerless to stop. Her face changed, her chin more pointed. Her tiny frame grew as her small, girlish shoulders broadened.
She jumped up and down with fury, and the ceiling caved. It was falling in on her! Then, suddenly, it stopped, and the mirror looked a little shorter to Susan.
Brad, now fully clad, felt like a cad (Ok, I'll stop.)
Brad, now fully clad, felt like crying. He struggled to refrain from doing so because he didn't want to give in to the treatment. As the door opened, he yelled "What happened?"
"What do you mean?" Brad stood up.
"Notice anything different?" It would have to take someone of absence of sight or sound mind to not notice, and the doctor certainly fell into the latter category.
"No, nothing." Brad pushed past him, shouting out "You're worthless!" When he found another doctor in another section and explained what happened, Brad was told a repeat of the warning: your own risk, can't take legal action, irreversible.
That was it. Brad started to cry. He got a full 2 seconds of emotional release before he heard the piercing, cruel laughter of Tina from the waiting room.
"Ha-ha. What's the matter, crybaby?" Brad hoped to shut her up by simply showing them himself, but his pretty boy appearance only made Tina laugh harder.
"Stop laughing, that's totally inconsiderate. What happened, Brad? What went wrong?" Sandy's question was answered by Susan's appearance next to Brad. With the change, she was now slightly taller than Brad.
" switched the treatments! You two got each other's instead of your own!" Susan was getting over her shock faster than Brandon was, so when Tina laughed, she wasn't bothered.
"The doctor made a mistake because he was drunk. We're firing him now. You'll have a sober doctor for your treatments, don't worry." The receptionist made a motion for Tina and Sandy to step forward.
"See you later, -ha." Tina's cruel behavior didn't go unfelt by Susan this time. As Brad and Susan looked at each other, they both had the same thought. The stage of grief was gone, now it was time for the stage of anger.
"It sure was easy for those treatments to be reversed, wasn't it?" Susan nodded.
"It would be a shame for such a careless mistake to be repeated on the very next two customers, wouldn't it?" Brad wiped his tears, and smiled.
After receiving the lecture, Tina and Sandy headed into their rooms. Sandy's wall showed not a charge to her account, but a gain. She pressed the wall, and the numbers shot up. Her father would be alright. She didn't care what happened to her now.
But, when a brown gas hit her, all she felt was her mouth going dry. The timer slowly ran out, and Sandy simply stood, unchanged.
Meanwhile, Brad was in an unused room, spilling his life story to Susan. How he had felt so bad about not being man enough to be treated right. How he was ruined now.
Part of Susan had always wanted what she had just received. In fact, with the damage down and the choice made, she felt good about her body.
"Brad, you aren't ruined." She put her strong arm around his small shoulders. Susan felt attracted to Brad, but she knew it was from her, not any treatment. She had always felt like this around guys like him. "I think you look fine."
Brad felt his heart stir with the affection. He didn't mind that it was from a girl who (now) was conventionally unattractive. In fact, she looked.a lot better than he would have expected.
Tina was still giggling from seeing goofy looking Brad and Susan. She pressed the wall and waited for the urge to eat chocolate to vanish.
Instead, she felt a pang in her stomach. She felt hungry. A nice slice of chocolate cake would really hit the spot.
"Oh no!" she thought. "It's not going away!" Suddenly, she saw a bright flash, and felt waves of energy fall over her. It lasted only a moment, but it was startling.
Tina saw a blurry image of herself in the mirror as she slowly got her vision back. She didn't look quite right, but she figured it was the light still partially blinding her. As her eyes finally focused, Tina gaped in shock.
Her thin legs were no longer thin! The had become large and rounded. She pinched the soft fat and let out a cry of disgust. What was happening?
The changes continued. Her narrow hips spread, first becoming average, then growing to become big enough to suit her large legs.
Tina let out a yelp as she guessed what would happen to the rest of her body. Her skin was changing color, going from a shade of tan to pasty white. Tina's bottom grew to be a large sphere of blubber. Small love handles formed near her hips, and her stomach spilled forward, giving her midsection a round, beach ball shape. The curve was smooth, not lumpy with cellulite or bunched with rolls, which would surely cause some to mistake her condition for pregnancy.
Her medium sized breasts grew in size, snapping her bra and pulling her weak, small back down with their weight. Tina struggled to stand, scared and disgusted nearly beyond consciousness. Her arms became round and flabby, and as the weight from her breasts slowly eased, she knew her tiny, feminine back had widened.
Finally, her cheeks became rounded, giving her a heart shaped face. Tina collapsed and cried when she saw her cheeks and forehead grow small zits.
Brad and Susan had accepted who they where and their new bodies before Tina was finished acquiring hers. In fact, later at their wedding, they both said that they prefer their new looks.
Tina wasn't so lucky at first. For months, she swam in the ocean of her depression. No diet, no plastic surgeon, no treatment would change 200 pound body.
Eventually, she went online and discovered that many people, both men and women, don't view beauty the way the companies sell it. Internet advances allowed her to find many dates for herself, both male and female. Tina decided that that she should try to know herself as best as possible, so she went on several dates with people of both genders to evaluate and decided she was bisexual.
Eventually, she was matched with Sandy, who had since successfully sold her "beauty." Tina didn't care, she had learned from herself that what counts isn't any kind of standard, but the heart. They too, got married.
Although the doctors and patients attested that the treatment did indeed alter mental behavior, tests decades later revealed it had not. The courage of these four came from within them.