|Dear hullabaloo22 ,
Macabre. Congratulations on this "Body Shopping" , as I was riveted wanting to know where this was going. Feminists would hate this story, because men decided the fate of a woman who was not only judged by her looks but allowed men to decide her fate in the end.
I think your depiction of how women feel about themselves as they age and how they are judged by society, not just men, felt accurate and humanizing for this character. I don't think the story fully revealed the motivation to check out this place, The Body Shop (made me think of a local strip club here: Ha! It could double as that! Maybe, be a front.). Anyway, if this story were more fully developed with more dialogue and maybe one or two more characters who make her feel insecure, you could really develop this into something publishable.
What I like about the ending is was it leaves the reader with this nightmarish realization of a cliffhanger. It's surreal and dreamlike in that aspect. It's like something someone would wake up from. It gives me all kinds of ideas, but the science behind this body swapping could make a reader wonder. It is standard, boilerplate science fiction, akin to time travel. A kind of fiction trope.
Though, I like the image of all the previous victims her age still remaining in those cases. Now, unless they get a lot of women in one day, or are especially cruel in leaving them there for her to see, it seems odd that they would just let her see that. I would think this operation would be working more covertly. I like that she feels alone amid this. You could have had the husband surprise her there at the end. But, it feels so cold that it makes sense he's not there to see her off before replaced by the hot hooker like woman. How come she gets to chose and not him? Hmm, wonder if he would have steered her toward a stable of women he preferred before she chose. You could go as far as her connecting to that choice because it reminded her of her young self. This is where you could imply cloned women or cyborgs or robots. Just stuff that pops into my head as I think about this.
I do appreciate that they work in a shady part of town, beneath the law, would be hiding what they do, working with elite and rich men who want Stepford Wives, I guess you can call it. I forgot about the divulgement of her wealth, which didn't really set in for me, except for one statement. You could show or describe in scenes their life. It might reveal she has become shallow and dependent on this lifestyle. Dependent on her husband's validation. In a way, she should have an inkling of what she's in for because she has to make a sacrifice to continue to live a superficial life. Though, to what extent her sacrifice must go becomes that shocking ending. She doesn't know she signed up for that, really. That's key.
I would suggest having the Body Shop technician, or whatever you would call him, excuse himself from the room for some reason, to allow her time get snoopy and to accidently bump something that causes a panel to slide open and she has to view all those other women like her. She hears him come back and closes panel before he sees that she realizes what's really about to happen. Just makes more sense that they would keep it hidden. Or, if he does find out she has seen, a "I really wish you hadn't done that," moment where he has to call in extra people to secure the room before the body swap, to make sure it goes off without a hitch. Wouldn't they sedate her for this?
I can really see this developed with scenes with not only the husband, but a friend who recently had a makeover (or, maybe from the same place and is barely recognizable) and she feels less worth. Judgment about appearance does come from both men and women, who compete. I would spend more time describing their life and impose more dialogue in this story, especially to get to hate him a little more. She excuses him, which makes sense. But, maybe let us judge him through his choice of words, or some described mannerisms or his appearance or what he prizes on his shelves of collections. I would really take time to cultivate this into something that hopefully allows for commentary on today's society.
I do like that this narrative is deeply rooted inside her mind. I would keep that focus deep-rooted as if dreamlike or a person journaling to oneself. It feels like inner dialogue, but I would interrupt it for outside dialogue from time to time like being woken from these dream episodes. It's a good style.
Okay, those are my comments after just one read. After perusing once more, I'm reminded I was surprised by the husband being named Gregor. I wanted to know more about that guy, like how he talks or what he does that acquires wealth. This woman could also feel insecure because she feels like a kept woman by not being a contributor to the household income? Just want more of the psychology of her character that plays on insecurity and valuing looks over most all. I gather they are without children? Don't have to tell, but it could be implied somehow and still keep story on point to its destination.
When I think about this story, its brevity gets us to the point quick, which I like. I think we just need some polished brass door knobs here, a domineering spouse with a Russian accent there, a friend who judges her too and the feeling of having to compete with other women. Just suggestions. You know best who or what these people are. Morality would give the story more flavor. It doesn't have to be overdone.
I think we completely dismiss what happens to those beautiful ladies at the body shop, almost like they are cattle, eh? What did they sign up for? She might have that realization, too. She might be wondering why she is looking at that stock/stable before ushered into a room. Maybe, she was thinking he wanted to know what she would prefer to look more like. The story may have implied too soon, and she should know, that there is a body swap coming. A great story would give a reader all the clues and signs she's overlooking or missing because she is too focused on vanity and insecurity to realize what this all adds up to. I feel like she did see it coming but gathered she submitted earlier than when she got into that room. This was not fully realized, in my assessment, as a man.
Okay, I've gone on long enough. Must look like rambling. It's a short story worth commenting on. It gives me ideas for stories when I read this. I had some thoughts in my own mind where this was leading and have one unique idea in the works that I may take up at a later date, thanks to your cleverness. It was a pleasure.
hope there wasn't too many tpyos ... ha ha, typos!
Men really don't have this worry about looks unless they are fat or bald or get older than sixty?