Dixy Reese expertly administrated her make up to her bronzed face whilst she strutted out of a press conference as if walking along a catwalk - Animal Magic introduction. Maria, her personal assistant came up from behind to trail alongside her.
‘Dixy that was fantastic!’ Maria blurted out, orchestrating her burden of documents, forms and articles into slapdashed disarray of paper-clipped bundles.
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‘I mean,’ Maria swallowed with disbelief, ‘the way you handled them – you retained complete control throughout the conference!’
‘Thanks sweetheart, I know, I’m brilliant.’ The subdued noise sounded from Dixy as she rummaged around within her handbag.
‘Even though I did write it, you pulled of that speech superbly!’ Maria pushed her thin rimmed glasses up her nose and shuffled her papers, ‘Saved yourself from a hell of a ballyhoo. Unrivalled. And finally we’ve got those animal rights activists off our backs. They just don’t appreciate what we’re trying to do. You have to make sacrifices if you want to produce fine art. Picasso and his ear. Sting gave up teaching to be come a singer.’
By this time Dixy had lit a cigarette and was consuming deep intoxicating breaths, whilst running her fingers through the fleecy hide of an ocelot draped over her shoulder.
‘So what’s on my timetable tomorrow darling?’ Dixy exhaled fumes of smoke in Maria’s face and smiled.
‘Well,’ Dixy said with tears in her eyes, trying not to cough, ‘there’s a photo shoot tomorrow at two-‘
‘Scrap that hun, I’m exhausted.’
‘- right, we’re shooting the new adverts for President Cigarettes at four then.’
‘Sure dear, if I overlook that I won’t be having any more of these.’ Dixy held up the fag, and let it fall to the floor, waiting knowingly for Maria to stamp it out. Maria, with familiarity, obliged and did so.
Rebecca Hutton strode purposefully to the burnished black limousine, running the ignition key through her clean and scrubbed fingers. Her nails were bitten short, but the jacket and cap were smart and new. She’d planned this almost half a year ago and now everything was falling into place. The fake I.D. The chauffeurs’ job. She’d finally be able to take back what Dixy Reese had taken from the world. Rebecca stopped at the door of the limo and opened it. She double-checked the address given to her. 30 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Rebecca ducked under the roof and with much self-persuasion sat in the leather drivers’ seat. She peered into the wing mirror, bringing the peak of her cap over her plain make-up-free eyes. Taking a deep breath, Rebecca turned the key in the ignition, put the car in gear, stepped on the accelerator and eased the handbrake off.
Dixy Reese glanced out of her apartment window. The black limousine pulled up outside and beeped its horn twice. ‘Maria, Terry’s here. Get my coat,’ Dixy called as she stubbed out a cigarette end on an ivory ashtray. No reply.
‘Maria?’ Dixy called whilst tampering with her make-up. When there was still no reply, she snatched the stripy bundle of fur out of the wardrobe herself and strutted out of the room.
Rebecca, fist clenched but concealed under her long buttoned sleeve, opened the back door of the limo for Dixy.
‘Where’s that darling chap Terry?’ Dixy asked.
‘Oh. Ok then. I hope you know where you’re going.’
Dixy bent down and took a seat. Stone faced, Rebecca slammed the door, but this did not bother Dixy who was slouched down comfortably filing her nails. Rebecca gritted her teeth and sat back down in the driver’s seat.
‘I’m sure we’re going the completely wrong way.’ Dixy exclaimed, tapping her long nails on the door.
Dixy knocked on the pane of glass dividing her from Rebecca.
‘Hello? Can you hear me?’ Dixy was getting agitated.
The doors locked.
‘Excuse me? Hello?’
Franticly Dixy began rapidly tapping on the window. The limo indicated left and pulled over. Dixy gazed through the tinted windows up at a tall barren dilapidated block of flats. The car jolted to a halt, and Dixy surged forwards, letting out an anguished cry. Brushing her hair out of her face, Dixy, dazed and agonized, heard the drivers’ door slam shut.
Suddenly she was confronted by intense vivid light, which streamed through the rapidly opened passenger door. Dixy put her hands up to shield her eyes, and felt a sturdy hand reach in and grab the scruff of her coat.
‘Unhand me you lowlife commoner!’ Dixy shrieked with tears running down her face. A second hand emerged from the blinding light, this time clamping over her face smearing the truckload of streaming mascara. Dixy yelped and howled, stalling to gasp a mouthful of air. Rugged fabric scratched and scathed her face, a halogen lamp fell to the ground and noxious chemical odours entered her nose. Soon she lost consciousness.
‘Wake up you son-of-a-bitch.’
Dixy groaned. She felt rigorous pain coming from her eyes. She tried to open them but without success.
‘They’re sewn shut,’ a husky voice said.
Dixy whimpered. Her hands were tied down by a soft material, and her muscles throbbed. Her skin felt bear. Dixy tried to string some words together,
‘..w…what are you,’ she spluttered, ‘…doing?’
‘Between 25 and 50 billion animals are meaninglessly killed in laboratories each year. Most of these beings are murdered for the use of experiments in cosmetics. Dozens of living, breathing creatures died for the black sludge which is plastered down your eyes.’
Dixy bit into the side of her cheek. She tried to think of something to say.
‘..you..you have to make, er, sacrifices if want to make good art..’
‘That’s not art though is it? That’s a product of the stupidity of humans! You selfish cow, you have no idea what these innocent creatures, creatures that have an equal right to live as much as anything else on this god-forsaken planet, have been through to get the right ‘blemish’ or, or ‘undertone’ on that crap on your face – your eyes, your lips, your teeth, your, your – just everything that you’ve lived for has resulted in the murder of billions of animals!’
‘All those animals are filthy beasts – they’re going to perfectly good use! If most of them weren’t there they’d be spreading disease like wildfire.’
‘Since when have you heard of dogs, rabbits, mice, primates, hamsters, pigs, ferrets, frogs, fish, guinea pigs, sheep, and birds spreading disease? Anyway if this was real you’d be tortured to death by now for making too much noise.’
‘..if what was real?’
‘Why these experiments. We’re going to re-enact some tortures and see if there was any point in them after all. And you’re today’s guinea pig.’
‘You wouldn’t dare.’
‘Well we’ll see about that. This is for all the animals that had to go through hell and back just to make you what you are today. I’m the one who’s gonna give them everything back that you took from them.’
Dixy’s body shook. She remembered seeing in one article a kitten whose scalp had been torn open, revealing its pink bloodstained skull. Hundreds of veins still clung to the skull, and some of them had been ripped off – circuitries of them hung over the dishevelled kitten’s ear. Electrodes had been forced into its cranium.
‘The first investigation is already in process. We’re going to see if sewing your eyes shut then killing you in a year, alters your brain development. Like they do to newborn kittens.’
Dixy said nothing. She tried to focus on another part of her body other than her eyes. It didn’t work. Some of her lashes had forced their way through infinitesimal slits between whatever was holding her eyelids together, and were relentlessly stabbing her raw eyeballs.
‘Maybe you’re gonna have to stay here for a whole year.’
Dixy screamed at her, ‘They’ll come for me! And they’ll lock you up you psycho!’
‘No-one will come. And by tomorrow you’ll be yesterday’s news. In your pointless profession they’ll always be someone to take your place. And they’ll always be someone like me to end it.’
Dixy breathed heavily. She gripped what felt like an edge of a mattress for comfort.
‘You’re all alone.’
Dixy heard something rustling. ‘…what are you doing?’ she murmured.
‘I’m now about to test whether smoking these ‘low tar’ cigarettes will kill me any less than the standard white sticks of death.’
‘You’re…you’re going to smoke them?’
‘No. You are. And you don’t have a choice. I don’t want to pollute my perfectly healthy lungs. I’ll use yours.’
Suddenly the same ominous hand clamped over her face. Dixy squirmed and spat at the air. She heard the distinctive sound of masking tape being unwound, then felt a strip of it being imposed over her mouth. Breathing through her nose, Dixy now quaked and shook whatever she was laid on. The hand, now fixed round her jaw, tightened its grip until she stopped, whilst she heard the other strike a light. The familiar odour of cigarette smoke entered her nose. The scent became stronger, and stronger until she could feel the heat radiating from a fag onto her face. Globules of sweat rolled down her face and fused at the stranger’s hands.
‘Your favourite brand.’
A cigarette was rammed up her nostril, then another up the adjacent one. Dixy blew out through her nose as hard as she could, but this only resulted in her having to gather in thick contaminated air through her nose. Tears began to force their way out of her sewn-shut eyes, stinging her bruised and callused face. She coughed up phlegm, swallowed it, this built up so momentously she had to keep balls of the vile substance in the side of her cheeks. Her chest heaved and her throat rattled. Everything seemed so rhythmic. Even the sound of her elusive torturer dialling the phone. Dixy began to lose concentration. Then consciousness.
Dixy screamed. Or tried to scream. The cigarettes in her nostrils had smouldered to a stub, burning the inside of her nose. The shock of it would have had her open her eyes immediately if she could. But as they were sewn shut, she tore the eyelid of her left ball. She writhed in agony, but knowing that she was helpless, she calmed, moaning at regular intervals. Soon her ears became accustomed to her surroundings. Silence. Dixy moaned but receiving no reply stopped and sighed. She was now alone. Muscles in her eyes started to twitch.
Then she heard footsteps, echoing through a hall. The thuds became louder, they were approaching. And then the steps seemed to multiply. There were two or more people coming back for her. Now she could hear voices. Male voices. Dixy couldn’t make out what they were saying. The patter of footsteps became louder and quickened their pace. The voices became clearer.
‘I better get a good shot at her,’ a cavernous hostile voice said. Dixy scrunched up her eyes. This wasn’t happening. It’s all a dream she thought. Right now I’m in my bed. Please god. Wake me up from this nightmare.
Without warning a camera clicked, and an orange wash covered her closed eyes. ‘Sweet Jesus! The tip off was right! Dixy Reese as you’ve never seen her!’
‘Whaddaya doing you sicko? Can’t you see the girl needs help?’
Dixy felt the tape being ripped of her face. She greedily gulped huge quantities of air, but coughed and spluttered due to downing oral mixtures of phlegm and saliva. She tried to speak, but all that came out was vast orbs of emerald puss.
‘I’ll phone an ambulance, you get her free from those rags of fur!’
A rough hand vigorously untied her hands, which felt as if they would fall off. She reached out and hugged the character, blood hastily gathering back in her palms. He gently pulled free from her embrace and laid her down tenderly. He then proceeded to disentangle her feet. With that done, Dixy wheezed and turned over on her back. More shots were being taken from the camera.
‘Stop that!’ one man said. The other ignored him and continued.
‘Help will be here in a minute love. Just hang in there.’
Dixy turned flipped onto her back and clawed at the stitches in her eyes. She whined, and tried to curse.
‘You make me sick sometimes.’
‘Just doing my job.’
Dixy heard the sirens of an ambulance outside.
‘They’re here. You stay here I’ll go down and bring them up.’
Flashes continued to flicker. Dixy, unable to make use of her hands and feet lay helplessly, trying to think of what she’d do with her life now. She couldn’t think. Sounds of footsteps once again in her ears. Three people entered the room.
‘Dear Lord. Put that thing away you sick git!’ said a new voice. ‘Right, let’s get her on the stretcher then. Pass us that coat. Cheers.’
Dixy felt herself being hauled up by strong arms and placed down on something flat. She felt the remains of her zebra skin coat on top of her. She shook and convulsed as she was carried out the room. The sound of numerous cameras clicking followed her out of the building.
Dixy’s scars were healing well. The treatment was really going miraculously and even the plastic surgery on her nose was coming along. She was sitting up in bed reading a glossy magazine. Maria entered Dixy’s private room.
‘How are things going love?’ Dixy asked, making an effort not to scratch her eyelids.
‘Not too well I’m afraid. Publicity about last year’s attack has died down, so we’re in need of new ways to finance your career.’ Maria took a seat, and gazed down upon her papers.
‘Just think though, darls, one more month and I’ll be able to re-launch my livelihood, I’ll be making press-conferences – it’ll be a tremendous comeback. And this all goes to prove that testing things on animals has great outcomes.’ Dixy said enthusiastically.
‘I’ve been working my socks off to come up with fantastic speech for your first conference. You’ll be a success again in no time.’ Maria smiled at her.
‘Yeah hun. Can’t wait to leave this place. If that psycho had done anything else to me I don’t know where I’d be.’ Dixy started to remember but engulfed herself in her magazine instead. ‘Did you get me those cigs?’ she whispered.
Maria revealed a packet of cigarettes from her coat and passed them to Dixy.
‘Your favourite brand’
‘You sure you don’t want one dear? Dixy said lighting one and moving towards an open window.
‘I don’t want to pollute my perfectly healthy lungs.’
Dixy looked up at her. There was something familiar about what Maria said. Disturbingly familiar. But she thought nothing more of it and went back to happily puffing on her cigs.