“Mmmm, we’ll need to tuck that in, stretch out this odd little bit, squeeze this thing as tight as we can, and trim a bit off there, for sure.” So sayeth Marty, the head stylist for Xeno’s House of Fashion.
The object of his critique was Monique, a trim young little thing with flawless skin and bouncy silken hair. She wasn’t clear about what, exactly, Marty was referring to. She turned to him, and with her cutest pouty lips, asked him what he meant. “My hair? You’re not about to cut these golden locks! It’s taken me years to get this look!”
Marty was taken aback. “No, not your hair, you silly thing. It’s perfect! It’s the one bit that stays! For sure!”
Monique smoothed away imaginary wrinkles from her mini dress. Was he talking about her clothes? This outfit wasn’t a Xeno design, so why would Marty care about that? She cast a puzzled glance at him. “What, then?”
Marty smiled and patted her shoulder. “Not to worry, cuddles. We’ll fix you right up, make you runway ready for Mr. Xeno’s Fabulous Fall Collection: ‘Homesick,’—er, ‘Homecoming’?—uh, that’s not right, it’s—it’s ‘Fashion from the Galaxy’s Edge!’ You want that, yes? I mean, who wouldn’t want to work with such a genius as Mr Xeno? His imagination isn’t just amazing, it’s—it’s truly out of this world!”
“Hell, yeah! More than anything!” Monique said breathlessly, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. Getting chosen for this runway show would put her on the map of the starlets: She’d be photographed at the show, and then thereafter at all the clubs and restaurants and award events and first-run plays and…she’d be a celebrity. That would show all those nay-sayers back home, those jealous little twits who said she’d never amount to anything. Nothing says success like being stalked by paparazzi.
“All righty, then” Marty continued, “you hop-hop-hop on back to the dressing room and my expert crew will join you shortly for your glorious transformation!”
That transformation took hours. The morning slipped into afternoon, which in turn fell into the dark of night. Monique wasn’t clear on what was happening to her body. At the start, Marty gave her a drink, which was likely drugged. How else could she lose track of time, could she agree (in writing) to let the crew ‘redesign’ her? Pain shot through her limbs like a flexible, burning needle. Her head ached, trapped in an icy vice; she worried her eyes would pop out of her skull. And her stomach—What bizarre device where they using? A scalding thing that wiggled through her belly like a mass of fiery earthworms, intent on devouring her soul?
In the end, Marty stood back and clapped his well-manicured hands. “Deeee-lightful!” he giggled. “Best work yet! You, my darling, will be the star of the runway this season! The clothes won’t wear you, like they do on sooo many models—no, you will be the idea of the clothes! You are Xeno’s House of Fashion Fall Collection! Bless my sparkly little soul, I believe you are ‘From the Galaxy’s Edge!’ Hello, promotion!”
Monique wanted to ask what would become of her when the Fall Season passed, when Xeno began assembling his Winter Collection. Would she be included? Or would she be remaindered? Would she end up being copied, mass produced, sold off the rack? Would she be tossed out, thrown to the undiscerning mongrels of the bargain bins? Or worse, mocked for being out of date, and then being worn ironically? Now insecure and panicking, she desperately wanted to ask Marty all this and more, but the chrome brace keeping her jaw shut would not allow the sort of movement necessary for speech.
Shortly thereafter, to much fanfare, Mr. Xeno himself arrived to inspect the results. Even though she was in excruciating pain, Monique was thrilled, as no one–outside of his design team–had ever actually seen the celebrated creator in person. Marty helped Monique rise from the design table. Unstable on her now teensy-tiny feet, she swayed like a frail sapling in a hurricane wind.
An over-large figure stood stooped in the doorway, wearing a finely-tailored black worsted wool suit, with a charcoal gray silk scarf (subtly patterned with his own design logo) wrapped about his face. He moved with jerky motions, like a figure from a crude stop-motion film. His presence filled the room with the heady smell of gardenias and a strong undercurrent of ozone. The hairs on the back of Monique’s neck rose with static electricity. Crackling sparks flew from her eyelashes with every unconscious blink.
Approaching Monique, Mr. Xeno threw back his soft, flowing scarf before extended unnaturally long, wriggling snake-like fingers toward her face. Monique, having difficulty comprehending what she was seeing, forgot to breathe. A translucent visage with ever-changing, writhing features drew uncomfortably close, and what might possibly have been interpreted as a mouth pulled apart in an obscene approximation a smile.
“Yesss,” Mr. Xeno hissed. “Ssso beautiful, ssshiny and cold, like the disssipating edge of your galaxy.” Now Monique whimpered in fear as Mr. Xeno touched what little remained of her human flesh. His smile widened to an impossible degree. “Ssshe remindsss me of mother.”
Hillary Lyon lives in southern Arizona, where she is the founder of and editor for Subsynchronous Press. She has lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the U.S. Her stories have appeared recently in 365 Tomorrows, Night to Dawn, Eternal Haunted Summer and numerous horror anthologies such as Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife, Stories from the Graveyard, Fright Mare, and More Tales from the Blue Gonk Cafe. When she is not writing, she’s hand-painting cigar boxes and furniture in the colorful, dia de los muertos style.