Compared to everyone else's dyed hair, her's was average. But strip away the chemicals, the surgery, and the special shampoo tested on animals and there is nothing left but the raw human spirit. Alice found herself in the mall with people all around her, but could these creatures even be considered people? She passed a woman with purple hair, and a girl with red colored contacts, and Alice felt herself turning fear into disgust. A shirtless Abercrombie & Fitch male model stood tanned and toned posing in the doorway. Glued to his side was another brunette employee with a braces perfected smile, and as other girls smiled back at the model, other provocatively dressed workers could be seen folding clothes.

As Alice stopped to watch this, she was being sucked in to this world-of potent perfume, and a volume-cranked, mind-numbing atmosphere. But that isn't even what made Alice sick. It was the falseness of the emotions and how artificial everything was; the photographs in the stores all enhanced by computers, and how something as small as a store could make people feel that they must act, think, and dress a certain way.

As she stood a young man emerged before her and don't you go to school with me? he wanted to know. The kid named Matt began a friendly conversation: "I don't see you around much…." Stop yourself. Alice put her hand to her mouth and felt the soft curve of a smile that appeared by habit. She looked down at her clothes that mimicked the ones she detested, and finally Alice wiped her index fingers along the bottom of her eyes revealing a trail of black eyeliner. Her revelation was scary: I am no more unique, no more human and just as fake as the generic plastic doll that has enveloped this world.

Walking home from the mall was a drag. Alice lived a couple of miles away from the mall. Of course she could have called her dad, but last time she had, this had happened:

"Dad?"

A grunt and, "Yeah?"

"Can you come and pick me up?"

Sigh, "Yeah, in a bit."

He never came.

As she walked the streets, she recognized a few of the signs and some of the dying race of green grass tufts from last time. The sky was darkening, and all she could see were the bright lights of cars and some motorcycles, even those blinking plane lights above that people constantly mistook for UFO signals. But what she searched for had vanished. One solitary, shining billion year old beacon of hope. A star.

But just like real people and green grass—the stars had gone. All of these people passing in their cars, rushing to get places, really think about that. do they? Alice thought bitterly.

The sun kindly made room for the moon and as it departed it left a trail of red, pink and orange to remember it by, while Alice stepped on the apartment buildings straw-like lawn.

She tried to shake off the occurrences at the mall. Alice thought of anything besides her artificial life as she walked the grime encrusted hallways of high school. The bell rang sharply with the tone of a nagging mother as she stepped into the 50º classroom. Apparently there was heater trouble again.

Alice pulled her sweater closer. Books slammed on the desk, cold flat chair beneath her, crumpled collar, staticy hair—perfect. A rain cloud made itself comfortable next to the classroom window, and as class was about to begin a boy with electric blonde hair approached her.

"Remember me?" Smiles.

"Of course I do…" Pause. "Matt."

More smiles.

"The mall was really crazy yesterday, but at least the people are pretty nice. I mean I dropped all of my stuff—all of it. Some lady in a hurry, I guess, but when she realized what she had done she came running…"

Alice looked at him and watched his mouth move. Evidently, he thought she was interested. Boys, she thought to herself with and inward sigh. What's wrong with this teacher? Please hurry. . . She pleaded. This boy doesn't know how wrong he is about everything.

As Alice sat quietly at her desk, Matt half sat on it, his hands wildly dancing, trying to make her feel what was happening, but all she felt was irritation. The bell rang again, ushering the late people into the classroom.

Class began and ended, began and ended four times over, and lunch started.

Kids filed in noisily into the cafeteria, voraciously clawing at anything edible—or even non-edible for the boys. It hardly mattered. As this transpired, Alice observed. The same four women passed trays down in an orderly line. And with that line passed a sense of security. That will always be there, and the food on those trays will always sit, ready to be devoured. But out there? Things change in instants, and don't appear back on the lunch line the next day. So why, Alice thought, should a lunch line be the same, if nothing else is? School has this barrier of security, but when you go to examine it and see what it really protects its students from, your fingers go through it.

The days passed in a routine familiar since kindergarten. Three more lunches had passed since Monday, and Alice was ready for a weekend. She sat down by herself on the grass, a notebook in one hand and a grilled cheese sandwich in the other. She wrote:

Big metal machines pass

As light bulbs whisper

'You would be nothing without us'

The truth is illuminated

Yet. . .

I swiftly destroy the mechanical tyrant

But I turn only to see

Thousands more radiate

TV's switch on and

A flying metal contraption

All try to defy nature,

But only succeed in covering it up

She put the notebook down, depressed by her lack of writing ability for a high school student. As she sat she wondered what she would miss is she left school right now. She looked up into the bright blue sky, and glanced briefly at the angry ball of fame that illuminated her idea. The more she thought about it, the more appealing the idea became. She left, and no one watched her go.

Off the school campus, Alice expected to feel more free, but she didn't. She looked ahead and saw only dark, hard pavement. Footsteps sounded behind her and suddenly next to her.

"Matt?!"

"Hi," he grinned "Whatcha' doin'?"

"Not being superficial," She mumbled. The hum of a car was approaching behind and a few dead leaves fell at their feet.

"What are you talking about?"

"Have you ever even looked at our school? At the mall? At. . . at this?!" She pointed at the paved road. "Everything's fake!"

"Oohhh. So this is what this is about. No, no, no, no, no. You're wrong."

Alice's eyes dared him to prove her wrong.

"Come with me."

"Wait what? Where're you going?" She followed.

Cars were now speeding down the highway at deer-killing speeds, but Matt crossed the road skillfully.

"Come on!" He shouted. She could only see glimpses of him, as cars interrupted her line of vision. Matt could be seen in intervals of seconds, cut off like a flipbook. Alice ran.

"What do those crazy kids think they're doing, running into the middle of the road like that?" Onlookers remarked, shaking their heads as the two blonde heads bobbed across the highway.

They made their way to the middle of the highway onto the section of grass that separated the cars that were coming in and going out.

"What're you doing?" She repeated over traffic.

"You mean: What are we doing." He sighed. "I know what you think: 'Everything's fake, blah, blah, blah. ...—'"

Alice cut him off and the noise of the traffic died down. "Just listen," she said. "Look at where we're standing even, for your proof! Fifty, one hundred years ago this was all beautiful landscapes—rolling hills, with wild flowers, and animals that weren't afraid to run from the tress to a clearing. It was like a world without fear!"

Matt shook his head. "But that's just it! There is and always will be fear. It doesn't matter what era—you can always find something wrong with the world. But sometimes you have to find the beauty in what's here, what's now. In the technology, and the people today!"

"And how would I do that?" She was disbelieving.

"Like… look at those metal machines with those so-called obnoxious headlights. But look and watch those bright lights fluoresce with a vigor you wished you had." He took a breath. "It just depends on how you look at things, Alice."

She took his words in, processing slowly. Was she truly just being dramatic? He addressed every issue she could have thought of…

"Sometimes you just have to accept things the way they are, and have fun!" Matt insisted.

"Be dramatic, be silly, get wild, but in the end what are you trying to prove?" Alice asked.

"That you can live without having to prove anything!"

They stood watching the air-polluted sky, and listened to engines and horns, but behind that the stars were there, and the birds were singing, and nature was there if one only cared to look. And at that moment it was okay.

A cop siren was distinguishable in the distance, but it got closer and closer until the colors of the lights were reflected in the ground.

A door slammed.

Footsteps.

"Kids, what are you doing? You're not allowed to be out here," A policeman's voice rang out.

"This is beautiful?"

"It sure is."

Her intent was not to buy anything.

Alice walked to the escalator and the aroma of fresh pizza filled her mind. He had to be there. She ran as fast as the crowd would permit, so naturally she was moving quite slowly behind a mother and a stroller.

"Oh! I'm sorry! Are you trying to get by?" A nod. "These damned strollers take up so much room…"

The woman moved aside.

There was hope.

She sprinted as if it would help. Alice stood breathless her hair windswept. She walked in.

She ignored the music.

And the perfume.

And the people.

"Why do you do this? Why stand half-naked in a doorway trying to sell this?" The question was directed at the Abercrombie & Fitch model.

"Well, to tell you the truth, it isn't exactly my idea of a great weekend," he said with an air of confidence that would make most girls swoon. Not Alice. "But college is expensive, and I'm all out of charcoal for art school, ya'know those things are so expensive… so here I am!"

He smiled.

She smiled.

And there was nothing fake about it.