Second Skin by Drew Powell

Maryanne’s fingers brushed the cold metal handrail as she descended the creaky stairwell into the basement of her local gym. She inhaled its musty smell and wondered how many other women before her had been given permission to meet in this secluded setting for some private fun. Her long chestnut hair, tied in a ponytail, swayed to a stop as she reached the bottom. Her eyes took in her surroundings: simple overhead lighting, bare walls, and mats covering the floor. There was no doubt in her mind anymore. ‘This is really happening’, she thought.

The brown-eyed woman sits down on the mats and confirms the connection on her smartphone with a shorter haired redhead. The app offers matchups between fighters in the same age, weight and height bracket.

Maryanne came in here changed into her red bikini with nothing more but a few bottles of water, towels and 2 bottles of baby oil. The women agreed that they meet here and wrestle oiled up until one can’t anymore, or submits.
The only strange thing she found is that where the redhead was forthcoming with her stats, fighting preferences, attire and location, she never once wanted to tell her name. Even more odd is that Maryanne felt from the first line they talked as if they had always been connected.

Then the redhead entered in a silver bikini with her shorter hair, blue eyes and strutted down the stairs.

  • It’s nice to finally meet you! I’m Maryanne, and your name is…?
  • Don’t keep being so pushy. If you lose to me, and lose you will, you will realize, who I am.
  • Wow, if it isn’t direct and full of confidence! You’ll have to beat me first! – said Maryanne, darting killing intentions into the pair of blue eyes, but that leaves the other unfazed.

They both stretch then kneel down to rub themselves up, and once they finish with that, they meet in the center of the 4 mats. – May the better win!

Maryanne jettisons close for a leg tackle as stable as she could and while she does manage to do that, the redhead mercilessly thanks her by punching her back around her lower lungs. As they say nothing ventured nothing gained, so she soldiers through the pain to keep pinning down the red-haired devil, but she plants the base of her palm under Maryanne’s chin to push the adversary off of herself.
They roll away and regroup, oil up again and this time slither close on all fours for a more advantageous position. 2 or 3 minutes go by with them occasionally getting trapped in an unplanned 69 position, scissors and locks to arms and legs in an effort to immobilize the other.

Maryanne feels that she has reached her limit, and whatever she tries her opponent, despite being the same age and height and almost the same weight, seems to possess superhuman endurance and stamina.

Suddenly the red haired beauty manages to twist Maryanne’s left leg to the point she only wishes to cry uncle and taps on the mat to signalize her defeat. The redhead lets her go and rolls away from her.

  • You still haven’t figured out who I am, right?
  • I’ve never seen you, I’ve never met you, how could I?
  • Your thinking is too shallow. If I could narrow it down, I’m a wrestling partner to many, but you have known me all your life ever since you were a little girl.
  • Okay, I think this app should use some prescreening because you’re obviously not well!
  • Those are some harsh words and this time I get to say that. Didn’t you feel a bit strange when you touched my body? Felt odd the first time we talked? Being so familiar yet not being able to put a face to the name? I think the glorified sensory deprivation chamber did a great number on you.
  • Sensory deprivation chamber? What are you talking about?
  • Maryanne… what year do we have?
  • It’s obviously 2019… such a stupid question!
  • Then at least the parameters work nicely. It’s 2054. The company you work for is in the last testing stages of the suburban home care entertainment and remote health care system designed for the last generations who opted to live alone in their cul de sacs.
  • Why should I believe you?
  • That’s a very good question… coming from oiled up in a skimpy bikini. The purpose of this experience is to take the essence of a life a resident has, and when they opt for self care, the AI system creates a persona from innermost desires and fears. I never needed to tell you my name, because you know me like a second skin. I’m your desire to be the strong warrior who stands up for herself, but I’m also all of your insecurities, your depression. While I’m only a subroutine, the AI did warn corporate they shouldn’t assign you as the tester since there was a 86.7% chance you lose every scenario.

Suddenly the simulation did end and Maryanne did wake up in the sensory deprivation chamber that’s linked to a VR system. She felt a newly reacquired vigor to better herself, so she can win in her life.

The End

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