The Alchemist moved from town to town to sell his lotions and potions. A few posters and flyers would announce his arrival a exactly a week before he was due. Nobody knew how they got there, but for exactly a week he was the talk of the town. The townsfolk would list every ailment they had to anyone who would listen and they would start to notice ones they hadn’t realised before.
When he arrived they would form lengthy queues and he would give them ointments for sores and boils, rubbing salts for bad skin and a sharp tasting drink for even worse breath. They would go to bed and sleep- happy and optimistic that in the morning all of their woes would have gone.
The Alchemist did not sleep. The Alchemist unzipped his skin and climbed out of it, discarding it on the first fire he could find. He would creep around the town and watch the townsfolk as they slept. Then he would pick one- whichever one he most liked the look of- and skin them while they were dreaming. He kept them alive, kept them feeling, but gave them something so they could not move or cry or scream. Then he would grind up their heart and put it in a sweet elixir- the only potion he carried that truly worked. He would climb inside his new skin and drink it. The drink bonded him with his new skin, but only for a week. When this was done he would cook the rest of the remains in a large pot and then he would leave, taking a new face to a new town.
When the townfolk awoke they would find a delicious stew left behind by the Alchemist, which they would devour before realising that one of their own was missing.