Nola stood up and opened the rickety, creaking wardrobe. As she hoped a full-length mirror presented its face to her. Dusty and speckled, stripped of silver here and there, but it was enough. Nola took off her clothing and stood there naked before the glass, gleaming, shivering, turning this way and that as she examined her body.
Her stomach offered a talent contest for her viewing pleasure.
Tiny shapes played along her left arm, on the inner side just below the elbow. She looked closer. The shapes were made from numbers: tumbling trade figures.
Faces bloomed and faded, bloomed again on each wrist, each face in conversation across the space between her hands. As she moved her hands apart, the voices raised themselves slightly in volume, to reach across the gap.
A motorway flowed around her right thigh, far into the distance, a car speeding along, vanishing.
Nola twisted her back to the mirror, to see her left shoulder blade alive with bright lush flowers amid tall waving stalks of grass. Insects buzzed the petals, seeking nectar. A gardening show, perhaps.
Each programme had its own sounds, low volume, all merging now into a soft persistent hum.
Her neck received news from foreign lands, the threat of war increasing.
One breast drawled with the burr and bite of Pleasure Dome, Melissa’s dreaming thoughts painted on the curve of flesh. The other breast glowed with a games arcade, a place bright with cascades of coins, warm with music.
Now a cartoon cat chased his yellow-feathered nemesis around and around her midriff, crossing from one side to another in their circling progress.
Nola smiled, she couldn’t help herself.
She was alive with images.
Here was the skin cinema, creating art.
At one moment she watched herself from a distance, a viewer; the next she flipped inside and felt the images burn and tumble and slither across the flesh. Confusion reigned. And yet in the bar she had gained some kind of control. Could she do it again, could she learn the new techniques?
Nola breathed deep.
Proceed carefully. Concentrate.
Now. Begin. The click and buzz of her mind as she changed the channels of herself. Random hits. Shivers. Fuzzy static, patches of interference where the signals clashed and fell away momentarily, the pain of this. Skin burn. Click, click. Channel 9, Channel 24, Channel 57. Moving on, beyond the normal waves. Picking up radio programmes, taxi calls, police transmissions, citizen’s band, satellite pulses. Web-blasts, flexitexts, random input from total strangers, shimmers from Shimmertown, vidi-blips. And beyond that, the ghost voices at the fading edge of the spectrum, clickxk, pictures changing in tune with the sounds.
Nola was skinloading.
She was trying to control the waves of transformation, failing, klxckz, falling, failing, zxttixkt, turning her flesh into a total body-surface chaos pad. Overload of pictures, flash cuts, faces, legs, pistols, car chases, weather reports, crashing seas, bombs exploding, young lovers kissing, hands on flesh, maps, planet Earth from space rotating with the moon in tandem, that kiss again, zkxixkc, all of her bodily screen streaming different signals and downloads, a sonic visual mess, complexity, her skin burning now, sweat covered. Nola was lost in each moment as it flowed along the listings of her flesh, tissue melting with noise and colour and dampness, veins flooded with image, clikxzk, her mind soft like stars, haze filled: static pulse shadow, ache of muscle, mains hum, ignition, fizz, zclick, zzhhmmmxt, xklikc, zlick, ckiclk, cxzcikcz.
Eyes painful with grit and tears.
Her mind clicking on, clicking off.
Clicking on and off.