What comes from watching Black Mirror and being worried over your body-image and attempting to lose weight with little results? A terrible nightmare. This short is based off that.
It was an intervention. I knew this by the somber faces seated on the couch across from me, while I waited at the edge of the chair before them. We’d agreed to spend all day together, without one of us looking at our phones. That was the only stipulation they’d had once they agreed to visit me. I’d been so lonely in my empty house the past few months.
I felt pudgy in the dress I wore, I could almost feel the fat rolling around my waist. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how little I ate, I never lost the weight.
I’d been trying for a year, even going so far as the sign up with this organization that guaranteed weight loss. So far, after a bit less than a year, I hadn’t lost a single pound. If anything, I thought I’d gained more.
My friends held a finger to their nose, ever so often, as if they couldn’t stand the smell of the room. I inhaled deeply, and sighed it out, a mock attempt to gauge the scent of the place. It didn’t smell to me.
“You have to stop,” one of my friends said. “You have to stop trying to lose weight. It’s going to kill you.”
“Oh, that’s dramatic,” I muttered, scoffing at their concern.
“I haven’t lost a single pound. Not a single pound!”
They pursed their lips shut and look amongst themselves like I was crazy and they were determining the best course of action to deal with me.
“At least let us clean your house,” another added, leaning forward. “Can’t we at least do that for you?”
I glanced around at my living room, a quaint and well-decorated space with barely a speck of dust on it. What needed cleaning? Even though I’d been immensely weak as late, finding myself impossibly winded even going up the stairs to bed, and even though I didn’t recall cleaning, only knowing that I had, my home remained well-kept.
“I don’t need it, but if it will make you happy and get you off my back…” I muttered, standing up.
“You seriously can’t see it?” the first friend asked, bewildered.
“Nothing to see. I’m fat. My house is clean. Those are the facts.”
“Those are not the facts!”
“They are the way I see it,” I added.
She gaped at me and then turned to my other friend, saying, “We can’t reason with her. What can we do?”
“Smash every window and her phone. Get her out of this house, get her help.”
“I don’t need help. I bought help. I’m paying for help, and it isn’t helping. Nothing is helping.”
I looked down at my phone, one that had been given to me by the weight loss company. It was supposed to increase my chances of losing weight, but it didn’t help. I could see my round face in the reflection of the black glass.
Why couldn’t they support me? Why did they seem to think I was broken? It hurt my heart. Being fat was the worst thing to me. I’d always been afraid of getting fat. One of grandmother’s had been overweight, my mother bounced back and forth, and I knew, by heredity, that I’d inevitably be overweight too. My other grandmother had never failed to remind me, when I was only slightly plumper than usual, that I was heading down that path. Now, I’d finally arrived, and nothing I did fixed the situation. Biology was inescapable.
“I’ll be right back,” I muttered and headed up the stairs. By the time I was at the top, I was winded. I was so out of shape, I couldn’t even get up the stairs… I exercised regularly, sometimes to the point of being unable to breathe, and even still I pushed through the finish the circuit.
Once in my room, I looked at myself in the full-length mirror. Nope, still fat. Why did they think I needed to stop losing weight? I hated the mirror. The mirror told me the truth that I did not want see. I just wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be fit. I wanted to be able to go up the stairs without feeling winded. I wanted to be able to run for longer than a minute at a time.
I smashed my hand flat against the mirror once, and the twice, even as I heard my friends bounding up the stairs behind me. The mirror rattled on the wall and for a second the image changed. For a second, I was not overweight, but frail and pale and bones. Then, in that same instant, the image changed back to the same pudgy face. But, the momentary glimpse of a skeleton had shaken me. When my friends entered the room, I could not form the words to speak.
“Did you see it?” they asked, looking at the mirror. “Look again, can’t you see it? Can’t you see the truth?”
I looked back at the mirror, looking hard at the person in it, staring deep into my own eyes. Eyes that were not surrounded by high plump cheeks, but sunken into deep purple holes. The cheeks themselves were devoid of color, and hollow, with skin pulled tight over the bones. My vision scanned down the skeletal form hidden beneath oversized clothes that hung off me like big curtains.
I shook my head. I blinked my eyes. “That’s…”
“Look. Look at what we see. That’s you. Really, truly, that’s you.”
I shook my head harder and raced down the steps, I snatched up my phone and opened the camera and faced it towards me. I was fat.
My friends followed me. They snatched the phone from my hand and threw it across the room. Then, one of them pulled out their phone and showed me what I looked like. I was thin. Sickly, deathly, thin.
When she lowered the phone, I looked around my house. Everything was disheveled. I wandered into the kitchen, following a rotting smell and found the groceries I’d bought over the last year, all piled on the counters unopened. Packages of rotting meat, molded bread, and the dried husks of vegetables half-hung out of plastic bags.
I thought I’d eaten it all.
I opened the refrigerator to find more molded food. It seemed the only thing I did eat, once I looked in the garbage, was plenty of yogurt.
“How is any of this possible,” I muttered to myself, understanding now that I was not weak because I was overweight. I was weak because I was starving.
No matter how much I blinked or how often I walked back and forth into the room, it never changed. The rot was still there, and the mirror told the truth. I was feeble and sick. “I don’t understand how any of this happened.”
“The phone. The company you paid to get thin. The system works on a form of hypnotism or something. You look at the phone and it programs your brain to see what it wants you to see, to remember what it wants you to remember, to think what it wants you to think. You continue to look at the phone for the updates, which reinforces those… things in your head. So, you never break free. A phone is the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we check at night, and what we seek all the time in between… It gave you exactly what you wanted, until you withered.”