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Author: Alice Penfold

Unfitting Skin

Kirsty hoped, at first, that her eyes deceived her. She was still buried in night-time’s nightmares, she assured herself, her mind still to stir, to join her body.

But her transformation was real. A change unshaken on awakening, her body was, somehow, not hers; loose layers of unfitting flesh clung like tangled cling film to exposed bones. Pinching herself had no effect, this new frame unresponsive to her frantic touch. Between the yesterday’s ending and today’s beginning, Kirsty, inexplicably, no longer fitted her skin.

Peeling back the rumpled covers, slack layers of self merged with folds of fabric as she forced her altered figure to stand. Time to face her new truth. Like a judge ready to condemn a powerless prisoner, her bedroom mirror waited, centre stage. Disgusted, a stranger stared back. Kirsty had passed many hours before, in this space, layering foundation, adjusting well-embellished outfits, preparing for repeated rotations of failed dates and predictable workday presentations.

This, though, was an unexpected reflection. No material, no makeup could disguise Kirsty’s midnight metamorphosis; a shapeless monster, her undesired Hyde, had swallowed who she knew herself to be. She must escape, she knew. Seek help. Somewhere, someone would still recognise her. There were no warning symptoms; were there multiple victims, perhaps, of this undiagnosed distorting epidemic? Baggy jumper (abandoned by last week’s overweight one-night stand), shapeless joggers (a half-forgotten purchase from her plumpness in earlier years), dusty, cupboard-buried cap (a hand-me-down childhood leftover), all to hide her crumpling curves and obscure her unfastening expression, now the mirror of a scree-strewn mountain face, not her own. Not a seeable sight, but at least her stranger’s skin was undercover. She wrapped unfamiliar fingers around the handle, needing to leave her flat insides; she could not turn it, though. Imagine letting herself out—like this.

Kirsty decided, instead, to wait for herself to return. If she was alone in this unnatural re-shaping, then she could not unleash herself on the outside. Tomorrow, surely, she would be back.

Flash Fiction by Alice Penfold
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