To the eyes of young Julia, age 10, everyone looked beautiful. Julia looked beautiful. Her mother and father looked beautiful. All of the adults Julia had ever seen looked beautiful. All of the teachers and children at Julia's school looked beautiful. Julia could never recall seeing a face that did not look beautiful.
Julia wore glasses, and her mother had given her a very specific warning about wearing glasses. Julia's mother had told her that if she ever took off her glasses while her eyes were open, Julia would instantly go blind. Julia's mother said that this was because of radiation in the air, which the glasses blocked. Julia had heard many times the story of Uncle Dave, who one day took off his glasses with his eyes open, only to find himself instantly blinded for life.
These stories had scared Julia into always closing her eyes whenever she took off her glasses.
One day Julia was at school walking down a hallway. A workman was carrying a steel pole, and accidentally smashed the pole into the side of Julia's glasses. The blow damaged a small electronic unit on the outer part of Julia's glasses.
“I'm sorry, kid,” said the workman. “Are you hurt?”
Julia looked at the workman. She had never seen such a face before. The face looked fiendishly ugly, with the features hideously distorted.
Julia shrieked and ran down the hall. Then she saw another equally ugly face. It was the face of a woman who looked like her face was melting away.
Turning in the other direction, Julia saw two other faces that were equally horrifying. Julia ran out the door. She decided to go home to tell her mother about this terrifying experience.
On the street Julia saw two faces as horrifying as the faces she had seen at the school. Finally the young girl made it back to her house, which was near the school.
“Mommy!” shrieked Julia, running through the door. “There are monsters at my school!”
Julia came into the living room and looked at her mother. There was the same body, the same clothes; but the face was hideously different. Her mother now looked like some monster in a freak show.
Julia screamed. She didn't know what to do. She ran up to her room, and locked the door. She fell on her bed and began weeping. She thought to herself: am I losing my mind?
Julia's mother came to the door, and knocked on it. “Let me in, Julia,” she said.
“What have you done with my mother?” Julia asked.
“I am your mother, Julia,” Mom explained. “I just look different. Why don't you do this. Just unlock the door, go to your bed, and close your eyes. Then I'll explain everything.”
Julia tearfully did as her mother instructed. Then her mother began her explanation.
“In the world you have known, Julia, everyone looks beautiful,” said Mom. “But it didn't use to be that way. Once there was a world where some people were beautiful, some people were average looking, and some people were ugly. But then one day a terrible thing happened. A star near our sun exploded. It was an event called a supernova explosion. That explosion caused lots of gamma ray radiation to hit our planet. And that radiation caused what is known as mutations, which means changes in people's genetic makeup.”
“The next generation that was born after the supernova was a generation of mutants,” explained Mom. “And that generation was very ugly because of the mutations. I am part of that generation. I am a mutant. You are also a mutant, and so is everyone you have ever seen.”
“But if everyone in the world is an ugly mutant,” asked Julia, “how come everyone always looks beautiful, except for today?”
“It's your glasses,” explained Mom. “Your glasses are what they call augmented reality glasses. That's a fancy term meaning there's a little computer on the right edge of your glasses. When you see an ugly face, the computer modifies what you see through your glasses, so that every ugly face you see is covered up by a beautiful face. That way you see only beautiful faces through your glasses."
“Your glasses look damaged, and my guess is that something must have gone wrong with them today,” said Mom. “But don't worry. We have a backup pair.”
Mom fetched the backup pair of glasses, and brought them to the child. She took off the child's damaged glasses, and replaced them with the backup pair of glasses.
“Now open your eyes, and I'll be the same old Mom you know and love,” said Mom.
Julia opened her eyes, and saw her mother looking as beautiful as ever.
The next day Julia had a question for her mother.
“So let me check if I have this right,” said Julia. “We're all mutants, and if you see us without glasses, we look hideously ugly. But everyone wears augmented reality glasses, so everyone looks beautiful to everyone else.”
“That's right,” said Mom.
“So what are we really – ugly or beautiful?” asked Julia.
“Imagine if it was before the supernova, and some hideous aliens came and saw the most beautiful couple in the world,” said Mom. “Those slimy hideous aliens would probably say the couple was really ugly, just because they would have a different standard of beauty. So beauty is really all about being perceived as beautiful. And we are perceived as beautiful, because everyone sees us as beautiful when they wear their augmented reality glasses. So therefore we really are beautiful.”
“Now the most beautiful Mom in the world needs a hug from the most beautiful kid in the world,” said Mom.