May 12th 2023
The glittery sign in front of the display promised the leggings would provide comfort and “shaping”, whatever that was. Anne liked the dark green color, and the fabric was soft. She took a pair to the register. Maybe they would make her look as good as the model in the promotional photos filling the store.
No, she sighed to herself as she handed her credit card to the cashier. She could never look like that.
“Look, I know I took the tags off…”
As she headed toward the exit, Anne passed another customer gesturing frantically toward an employee.
“…have the receipt, please —” The woman was clutching a pair of the same leggings Anne had just bought.
The employee responded in a low, soothing voice. Just as Anne passed through the door and was besieged by the noise and music of the mall, she heard the customer say something that sounded like “… horrible…”
The next morning Anne put her new leggings on, and paused in front of her mirror to examine herself, surprised. She did look… thinner, maybe? Not really like the model in the stores’ advertisements, but maybe a bit?
She felt awful in most of her clothes. They always seemed to bulge in strange places, or the seams wouldn’t lie the way they were supposed to, and she inevitably ended up trying to fix them just as someone looked at her. But she liked how she looked in these leggings, and they were comfortable too.
Her day at work ended up being the smoothest she’d had in weeks. She had been dreading the presentation she had to give, but it went well and her voice didn’t shake once. It was amazing how much difference a single item of clothing could make. She couldn’t remember ever feeling this confident.
That night, her shower filled with the vanilla scent of her favorite shaving lotion, as she coated her legs in the froth. When she reached her left knee, she instinctively angled the razor, as she was always extra careful around her scar —
Her scar was gone.
It had been there since she was nine years old and had slipped on the steps outside her school. The sharp edge of a step had sliced into her, just below her knee, though it hadn’t hurt much. She hadn’t even realized she was bleeding until ten minutes into the start of the day, when the class spelling test had been interrupted by a classmate shrieking as they pointed at Anne’s dripping leg.
And now it was gone.
Feeling lightheaded from how long she had been in the shower, she tried to think. She had put lotion on her legs the night before, and she was nearly, almost, fairly certain the scar had been there then.
She fell asleep still confused.
Several hours later, she woke to the sense of being squeezed, like something was coiling around her legs. She shoved off the blankets, but the darkness offered no answers. When she tried turning on her lamp, she only managed to push it off her nightstand. With the sense of a horrible softness enveloping her lower body, she staggered to the light switch.
A haze roiled around her legs, her hips, her waist. The same exact shade of green as her new leggings. A choked scream broke out of her as she batted at the haze, but her hands slipped right through the mist.
Under her skin, her muscles writhed. It was as if they had been transmuted into liquid and now bubbled, boiling against the barrier of her skin.
Without meaning to, she found herself slumped on the ground, staring horrified and helpless as her flesh surged and compressed.
She was being shaped.
Devan Barlow is the author of An Uncommon Curse, a novel of fairy tales and musical theatre. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in several anthologies and magazines including Solarpunk Magazine and Diabolical Plots. She can be found at her website devanbarlow.com.
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