Humans confuse me. They are so obsessed with the beauty of their physical attributes that they let their souls rot and stagnate. I have been following the humans I was assigned for millennia, and I have never met one who was truly happy. They miss the opportunity to enjoy life, and then they die. If I was capable of feeling empathy, this would make me depressed. That being said, I don’t care.

My people are not marred by petty emotions and the desire to fit in. We are called Watchers, or at least that is the closest translation that a human could understand. Our only purpose is to watch over the humans we are assigned and make sure the proper order of birth, life, and death are followed. We watch their lives to make sure that the correct order of fate is followed and ensure that every predestined path is followed to the last cobblestone. We are also assigned to make sure that the dead stay dead. We are created to never experience a conflict of emotions that would disrupt our moral integrity and cause us to interfere with the lives of the humans we are assigned. We are the quiet observers in the night, who witness the countless atrocities committed by men. 

The human I am currently assigned is unusual in the fact that they started out obsessed with their appearance, even before they had the ability to think. Their parents loved them, called them beautiful and dotted, and yet it was never enough. The parents were consumed by the gaping hole of want that their child had become. The house they lived in now stands silent, barren, and rundown. The mother doesn’t leave her room and the father doesn’t leave the mental hospital. My charge sits silently in their room and breathes in the sadness and fear. They sit in front of their mirror and smile and smile and smile. 

The child turns eighteen. They move to the city, leaving behind their parents, who are now diagnosed with clinical insanity. The child just smiles and smiles and smiles.

In the city, the child, my charge, thrives. In the night they walk down the streets and alleys and wait for unsuspecting people to come upon them. They blind them with their beauty, and when the hapless human is enthralled, they devour them. In the day, they primp and preen for hours, and then they go out walking; they know that many humans will follow them to stores and ask for their name, their number, their age. Do you want to be a model? Here’s my phone number, please let me know. 

The child smiles and smiles and smiles and goes to buy another moisturizer and eye shadow palette, paid for by someone else’s credit card.

 If I was capable of emotion I would fear for the people they come across. Their dreams are what most would consider nightmares, however to my charge they are merely entertaining. Even out of the thousands of people I have been assigned in my long, long life, my ward is one of a kind, whatever the implications may be. 

The room the child ‒now an adult‒ sleeps in, is too bland and cold for my taste, to the point of being a cell. When I sit in the room to watch over my charge, it is like the walls are breathing down my shoulders. The outside of the house is featureless and dull. It has sharp corners and metal doors that slam shut and click with an echo that is reminiscent of a prison. Everything matches, in the way that a soulless thing with no identity matches to its surroundings to fit in. The car matches the house, it is a great roaring beast with a grate of metal and red, glaring eyes. The car matches the house and the house matches the soul of my ward. 


 My charge’s soul is wrong. I am repulsed by it


They are now obsessed not only with themselves but with their worldly possessions. They buy more and more and more, until there is nothing left to buy. And yet they never spend their own money. 

Then they sit in front of their mirror and think of all the ways that they could change themselves. They preen and primp and buy and buy and buy. When they see themselves in a mirror they smile and smile and smile.

The eyes in the mirror are wrong though. They look too sad. They look desperate and empty and mournful. They look like they hate themselves. Yet despite that my ward never stops buying and taking and getting, getting, getting… 

The first time they see her is in the spring. Flowers are budding and the wind blows sweet and mild. The grass shoots are green and trees are finally starting to grow back their leaves. I can smell the damp soil and grass signaling that it’s about to rain.  The asphalt on the driveway is black and wet, and worms are crawling from the cracks. Even the house looks a little less drab, like a sparrow that sings sweetly in its dull gray and brown feathers. 

My ward is coming back from a run. There is a new neighbor. Her name is Bella. In Italian it means beautiful,, used to describe the gorgeous and lovely creatures of the earth. It suits her. She reminds me of spring. Her laugh is sweet and mild like the wind and her cheeks blossom like the budding flowers. Her eyes look like rich tilled earth ready to receive plants and grow life. Bella loves art and flowers. She is so very different from my charge. When Bella gives life and joy, my charge eats it whole. 

Bella is the love of my charge’s life. They go and see her whenever they can, and their crush grows and grows. I think my charge is enjoying normalcy for the first time in their life.

They follow Bella to work with coffee. They go together on runs, my charge always following ten feet behind. Wherever Bella goes, my ward follows. I’m proud of my charge for making a friend. My ward takes pictures of Bella and hangs them up on their wall. They pin up newspaper clippings and decorate them with red string. 

My charge’s passion is borderline obsessive and consumes them day and night, without respite. 

Their dreams are filled with thoughts of Bella and in their waking hours she is all they think about. Their mirror now has a picture of Bella on it and when they smile at the mirror, the smile meets their eyes. Bella is the best thing that ever happened to them. They stop going on walks in the alleys to lure in stupid humans, and they stop parading in the daytime. They no longer know the hunger to consume, consume, consume. Instead they know a different kind of hunger. 

They cook the food Bella likes and buy the snacks they know she eats. They purchase a dog bowl for her dog and the brand of food that Bella’s dog prefers, the bag that is blue and gold. 

A brand Bella likes is about to go out of business. My charge buys almost all of the stock except for the product Bella likes in order to keep the store in business, as a favor. Bella is delighted when she hears the news. When Bella walks home late at night, my charge walks behind her to make sure she is safe. 

They bake a cake to celebrate Bella’s birthday and take hundreds of pictures. 


 I just wish my charge was brave enough to say hello… 


Bella is watching the news when my charge finally acts on their plan for her birthday surprise. My charge slips in through the window left unlocked, and prowls to the living room, where Bella sits unaware. The first gift they give Bella is a sweetly perfumed cloth that my charge places gently under her nose for her to smell. At first it seems like Bella is disgusted and fearful of the smell, but then she gradually is lulled into sleep by the wafting fumes. 

Then my ward takes Bella back to the monstrous house for the rest of the surprise. They put her on the soft, freshly washed bed that smells like clean linens and detergent. Delicately my ward turns Bella into an art piece, like the ones she so adores to look at in galleries. With ropes made of the reddest silk, they tie her hands and feet to the bed posts, leaving her splayed in a manner similar to the spiders she takes from her house in cups with a newspaper over them. 

My charge stares at Bella for a long time. They admire her beauty while their artist’s tools are being readied. They are preparing themselves for what their ultimate gift is, to give Bella their physical beauty. 


 Bella doesn’t want this, she is happy with who she is now and how she looks… 


Then, my ward begins with the actual birthday surprise itself. They begin to peel the skin off of Bella’s body, until there is a suit of skin, laid delicately on a table, like a balloon without air. The process is akin to a snake shedding its old scales in order to grow. My charge then repeats the procedure for themselves. They peel their skin off like one would peel an orange, and then place it down next to what used to be Bella’s protection from the world. Then they carefully, carefully untie Bella and put the skinsuit on her. Then they take Bella’s skin, that flimsy protection from the outside world and step into it carefully. 

My charge returns Bella to her house, and carefully lays her down on her couch. They turn the news channel on and set out a card next to her. 

Happy Birthday, it reads. 

My ward walks back to their own home and sits in front of their mirror and smiles and smiles and smiles. 

When Bella wakes up in the morning and sees her new appearance, she screams for joy. 


 I’ve heard screams like that on battlefields…


A flock of magpies rise from the trees mocking the sound.

A neighbor calls 911 thinking someone is being murdered. 

Bella never stops screaming, not even when the police and then the FBI arrive at her house.

I am summoned to the council of Watchers, those who assign humans to our care. They tell me that what my charge did was wrong, and disrupted the natural order of predestined fate… I try to explain to them that the exchanging of skin, of beauty, was the greatest gift that my charge could give Bella. 

They don’t believe me. I am to be reassigned and sent away. 

No Watcher who was sent away ever came back. My ward, my responsibility, my sanity, is taken away.