Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Cosmetic Change By Alicia Griggs

In Trafalgar Square, a small stage is the centre of attention. The crowd hums with anticipation and excitement as it awaits the performance that is due to begin. People jump as a voice suddenly addresses them through the speakers at the side of the stage. The voice is gentle, soft, ethereal- “Have you ever wondered the part I play in your cosmetics? No? Let me show you…” With that, the curtains on the stage draw back and reveal a laboratory set-up. At either side of the stage, television screens turn on and show the crowd their own reactions.

Two actors walk on stage dressed in lab coats, safety goggles and latex gloves. They do not address the crowd and seem oblivious to them being there. The female scientist stands by the steel table that is on set, “Get out ‘test subject 108’, so we can begin”. The screens show the realisation on people’s faces, as they suddenly become aware of the crouched figures that are scrunched up in a cage on one side of the stage. The noise of the crowd heightens in dismay, as a near-naked female is dragged from the cage, towards the steel table. She is restrained on the table, and has heart-monitoring pads attached. Immediately, the square is filled with the unsettling bleeping of the test subject’s heart rate.

For the benefit of the crowd, the scientists confirm to one another what each test they are performing is meant to be for. “Skin sensitivity is first on the list…subject 108 has been pre-shaved in readiness”.

The screens show the raised hands-to-mouth; the looking-away, as the test subject struggles.

Though her skin seems to blister painfully, the scientists remain unmoved and simply write the result down. “Eye sensitivity now”, is announced. This test causes a commotion, as a large number of people are seen wincing, and turning away from seeing the eye drops being forced into the test subject’s eye.

“108’s eye has becomes excessively red, and bleeds. Subject makes noise as though it experiences pain. Now, allergy test.”

The subject is forced to lie down on the table. The view of what is performed is obstructed, but the heart monitor sound increases and fills the square. A needle is produced. The heart beat rises. Cries of pain come from the subject.

The heart beat flatlines.

Silent consumes the crowd. The screen shows people crying. “Test subject 108, deceased. Test remains inconclusive”. There’s uproar as the scientists push the subject off the table, and announce, “Get ‘test subject 109’”. The curtains draw over the performance. The crowd is left stunned.

However, seconds later the curtains open again, and reveal ‘Test subject 108’ standing in a robe, between the two scientists. Though she looks shaky, her voice is strong with passion as she states, “Remember what you have witnessed. Next time you choose a product, think of this performance and the animals represented; remember the horror you felt. You can make change happen; it must happen.”


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