The centers started showing up a few months ago. Vacant lots suddenly filled with shining new structures overnight. Derelict buildings repurposed and refurbished.
Some heavy industry company showing off a new product. Perhaps a way to demonstrate new building materials or processes.
They weren’t wrong, really. Just not quite the way they assumed.
Clad in what appeared to be latex or some kind of pliable metal and black boots that merged seamlessly into their calves, they went about their business like anyone else. Shopping. Working. Riding public transport. Meeting now and then in little groups, just like anyone else.
Never eating, of course. Never drinking.
After all, it would be a huge hassle to take all that stuff off.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ALONE.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE HUNGRY.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE IN PAIN.
YOU CAN BELONG.
Driver’s licenses. Photographs. Unlocking storage units or safety deposit boxes.
They didn’t speak, but they could sign, write, type, or text.
Families and friends began to learn where their loved ones had disappeared to. Some would be asked to come visit. Others informed why they weren’t coming back.
Plenty of people had questions. They began to answer.
Some pundits joked it was the ultimate cosmetic surgery.
Others took them much more seriously.
What did they have to lose, really?
Surrender your flesh and receive a gift.
Lose your pain and gain happiness.
Stop having to hide in your own skin.
You could belong.