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Contemporary

If you knew where to look, you could see the curtain slightly move as Cleo jogged by the house. Anxiously sitting by the window with her morning coffee, notepad ready to take down any observations, Madison leaned forward to catch her first glimpse of Cleo that day. Mornings were only a fraction of the daily routine that Madison had built around her neighbor. There was just something about Cleo that had her enthralled.

Two months ago, the movers had just closed the moving van’s door when Cleo had bounded over to greet her new neighbor. What a first impression she made with her vibrant green eyes and jet-black hair with pink tips. She was the person that everyone liked after a few moments in her company. Her smile was honest, holding nothing back. She exuded confidence and gained trust without any effort or guile. With a flash of inspiration, Madison decided she needed to be more like Cleo. She yearned to be a better version of herself, and Cleo would be the guideposts she would follow.

Being shy and withdrawn was all that Madison knew, so watching from afar was how their friendship would have to be for now. The more she watched Cleo, the more she slowly morphed into her, but not around the neighborhood. No one should get the impression that Madison was trying to copy Cleo. She was taking charge and trying to improve her life. Once she was away from the neighborhood, things were different.

Cleo’s walk was now Madison’s walk. Effortlessly she could imitate Cleo’s mannerisms and even had her tinkering giggle down. She couldn’t help but notice the difference when around other people. Finally, people in her office would wave at her, and invitations trickled in for lunch and drinks after work. As a reformed loner, she couldn’t believe how her luck had turned. Madison wished she had met Cleo earlier so her life could have been different.

Madison walked by her hall mirror and admired herself. Her eyes popped with the green contact lenses she had started wearing. Mostly they were worn out to bars or nightclubs where she could sense glances and looks coming her way. Once the contact lenses were in an innate sense of peace and confidence came over her. She liked to think of it as the Cleo effect.

Spending the afternoon going through her recent clothing purchases, Madison tried to decide what to wear for tonight. She matched up the outfits to the photos she had taken of Cleo as she left her house. The clothes were easy to find online, but the accessories were turning out to be a problem. She just had to focus and spend more time on this part of her endeavor if she wanted to be successful. She had zoomed in on the photos and sent some along to the jeweler to see if she could have duplicates made. Daily she checked her inbox to see if an estimate for the work had arrived.  

After half an hour of indecisiveness, Madison went online to see what Cleo wore out last night. There was sure to be a shot of her on social media. Madison had started to follow a large group of Cleo’s friends, so she always had snippets of her life to review ardently. She was amazed at the number of friends Cleo had, but why should she be when Cleo was the perfect woman. Madison was confident that soon she would be in a similar situation, surrounded by admirers and friends.  

The day progressed quickly as she took the final steps of her transformation. Last night she had styled and dyed her hair from mousy brown to stunning jet-black. Her skin wasn’t as pale and flawless as Cleo’s, but she had the foundations and powders to tone down her blotchy skin. Now she just had to add the pink tips. As she started swirling the dye mixture, she heard a high-pitched scream. She ran to the front of the house to look out. Her head swiveled up and down the road, but she didn’t see anything. Across the street the light went out at Cleo’s house. It didn’t appear anything was amiss. It was probably the teenagers a couple of houses down fooling around again.

She called out for her device to start playing her Cleo playlist. It was all the songs she had heard while walking by Cleo’s place over the past few months. Madison hadn’t liked some of the songs at first, but they had grown on her. She turned the music up loud enough to hear in the bathroom, and back to her pink tips she went, practicing her responses to all the compliments she was sure she would be getting soon.  

It didn’t take long before her timer went off, and it was time to wash and blow dry her hair to see how it turned out. Madison gawked at herself in the mirror, knowing her metamorphosis was complete. She excitedly put on her new outfit and stood in front of the full-length mirror with her hand on her hip like she had seen Cleo do so many times.

Madison’s phone rang, and she answered to hear her mother hysterically saying, “Thank God you answered Madison. I was so worried!”

“Calm down, Mama. What were you so worried about?”

With a harsh whisper, her mother responded, “It’s all over the news about the serial killer striking again.”

Madison shook her head in confusion, “What serial killer?”

With exasperation evident in her voice, “The man going around killing the young ladies. Darling, I keep telling you to follow the news, but I swear you never listen. Put on the television. Another innocent girl was murdered right on your street.”

“Ok, Mama. I’ll call you back.”  

Madison hurried over to the TV and put on her local station. Breaking news was coming on, and the anchor started with, “New details have just emerged on the women who have been victims of the recent killings. All victims, including the one found earlier this evening, have been green-eyed women in their early twenties with black hair and pint tips. The killer is being referred to as the “Pink Tip Chopper.” Let’s go to Matthew Greaney on scene at the most recent crime scene. Matthew, what more can you tell us?”

The reporter grimly stared into the camera, “This is a somber day as another woman is brutalized at the hands of the Pink Tip Chopper.”

Madison stood up when she recognized the homes in the background of the broadcast. She slowly walked to the window to push aside the curtain and pull up the shade to see the police cars across the street and crime-scene tape which cordoned off Cleo’s house.

Madison screamed and dropped the curtain before running to the bathroom to vomit. She slowly got up from the floor, and the green contact lenses came out. With shaking hands, she reached for the scissors and hacked off her newly added pint tips. She started the shower and scrubbed her face with boiling water to remove all the traces of her transformative makeup. She washed her jet-black hair over and over again, trying to get the color out and back to her natural brown.  

When she emerged into the steamy bathroom, she wiped the condensation from the mirror and looked at herself. She had never been so happy to see plain, boring Madison staring back.

August 05, 2022 20:54

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2 comments

Michał Przywara
21:08 Aug 09, 2022

That's a pretty cool twist! What an unusually specific kind of serial killer. And now of course I wonder, did the other victims behave like Madison? Did they too witness a successful charming woman with green eyes and pink tips, and then try to emulate her? It's like a contagious disease that ends in murder. Although, I'll admit, when Madison was describing how she was basically stalking Cleo and adopting her identity, I wondered – is Madison the killer? Probably not, considering the ending, but it was a neat possibility.

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Tricia Shulist
14:39 Aug 06, 2022

Interesting take on the prompt. The grass isn’t always greener! Thanks for this.

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