'Strange is the New Black' by Calum Kerr

They stalked the runway like animated cranes. Not one of the models was less than six feet and six inches tall, and most were up around the seven foot mark. Their limbs were stick-like, leaving the audience wondering how they were able to support torsos, never mind clothes, and never mind having to actually walk.

Each step produced a room-wide wince as everyone waited for something to break.

Sometimes, something did.

Their faces were filled with features; over-large and disturbingly sensual. These were visages made to be seen and never forgotten.

And yet, for all their strangeness, the models were human: the very pinnacle of a very specific evolutionary chain. Unnatural selection at its best.

Tania Whitehorse turned at the end of the catwalk, the outfit she was wearing swishing and juddering as she did. It was a monstrous tower of mottled, colour-shifting material which started just below the waist, exposing just enough of her fundamental self to leave the audience in no doubt of her gender, and then snaked up and out, carving patterns in the air.

Wires, some people whispered.

Mesh, murmured others.

Forcefields, hissed the fanciful.

Tania had no idea what supported her garment. She just knew that she had to wear it. And she had to turn like this and twist like this and then walk like this until she reached that spot where she paused – two, three, four – before exiting through the curtains back into the dressing area.

Usually someone was waiting to help her disrobe, but this time there was no-one there.

She looked around. In the corner she could see a gathering, backs to her, heads moving in agitation, so she approached, her hips swinging in a rhythm that often made audiences wonder if her pelvis had been damaged. As she walked, she reached up behind herself, attempting to find a zip or a fastener, attempting for once to remove her own clothes so she could change.

Tania reached the crowd, and heard the muffled screams, and saw the way that Zamina’s dress had locked around her throat and was slowly devouring the skin from her face, while swatches of the ‘fabric’ reached out and grabbed others who had come to the girl’s rescue. Tania stopped, mouth agape, trying to make sense of what she was seeing, and then she realised that her searching hand, yet to find any means of freeing herself from the dress, was now itself trapped – held fast.

The pain started and she felt her dress shift around her, twirling and tightening, and in her last moments before it strangled her she finally realised just how the new season’s garments had seemed to have such life of their own.


Originally published in Strange is the New Black, a 2014 Flash365 Collection. 



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