Elee Sutherland looked at the flyer nailed to the leaning telephone. It was crisp and white
against the yellowed papers under it; it had obviously just been put up. Some of the flyers
under it listed where clean water and empty apartments could be found in the remains of
New York City; those flyers had stopped being put up when predators, both human and
other, started using them as bait.
Elee read the flyer again, which bragged "No gimics! Loose weight naturally!" and felt
something stirring in her. It was, incredibly, nostalgia. Remembering how just a few
short months ago, she would have walked past this flyer after a single glance. Now - it
seemed like a window into a world where losing weight was more important that a cure for
cancer, where the car you drove was the symbol of your ethics, and your haircut told more
about you than your school record. The world now was ... different.
Across the street, a pushcart was being wheeled along by a two-legged figure. You might
mistake the pushcart vendor for human, the way it was bundled up in scarf and hat and
overcoat, until you saw the long, whiskered nose and dragging naked tail. On a broiling
rack that once held barbecue or hot dogs, the rat was roasting meat that smelled delectable,
even from where Elee was standing. The rat turned and stared at her, a lone woman
carrying a bag stuffed with cans of food, and whistled sharply through its snout. It
pointed at the meat it was vending, and squeaked to Elee, who was now walking away,
trying not to look back, trying not to hear her stomach growl.
"Baby? Baby?" inquired the rat, pointed at the delicate crisped fingers and sweet plump
legs, the tiny human babies spitted and ready to be eaten, in exchange for a can of peas or
sauerkraut. "Baby?" Elee walked faster, the flyer clutched in one fist.
When Elee walked into the first-floor apartment, she just stood in the doorway and -
relaxed. She could feel kinks in her back and head that she hadn't even known about
unwinding. Here was the well-upholstered chairs and clean carpet of any doctor's office,
complete with receptionist. And here were a group of other women and men, overweight,
who looked at her and smiled as they saw the atmosphere working on her.
Elee tensed up again when she recalled the wide doorways and open windows of the
office; that the place was still standing, unlooted, suggested that whoever was running was
very heavily armed, or they moved around a lot. The neat line of dents in the asphalt
outside, like the trail left by a spinning kitchen stool, suggested that one or more Heads
patrolled this street, and it just took one flicker from their Pipes to turn a building into a
white-hot flare of burning concrete. This place even had electricity and air-conditioning, to
cut the lingering September heat; how had they managed that?
Elee sat down and scanned her fellow weight-loss devotees. The man on the far left clearly
could not be helped; the weight larding his frame was misshapen, shaped in streamers and
globs that clung to his skin like pudding. He was one of the Cursed, those people who
had offended someone who had Gone Up and were paying the price. Elee looked at the
woman next to her, who immediately bared her breasts and touched them, staring at Elee
with a look of desperate lust.
Oh god, it's the Slut! thought Elee, wondering if it would be polite to change seats. She
smiled to herself: imagine caring about where you sat! What a luxury. The Slut, a plump
brunette, was a common sight in the streets of this area: exposing herself to men, coupling
with them wherever and whenever they pleased. Some woman acted like this to find a man
to protect them; it usually didn't work, and other things took them. The Slut was still
staring at Elee, and she hissed under her breath so that only the two of them could hear.
"Do you think I want to do this?" the Slut whispered, with a look under her perfectly
arched brows that Elee now recognized as pain, not desperation. "I have to do this, offer
myself to anyone - or anything - I see! I can't stop myself! Maybe if I starve myself thin
enough they'll ... think I'm ugly, leave me alone ..." The Slut wept, shivering but unable
to cover her breasts. There were bruises on them, in the shape of hands, of claws, of
suckers and of things Elee couldn't even figure out. The Slut silently caressed her raw
nipples, trembling with fear.
Just then the Doctor breezed into the room. Her beaming smile seemed to light the place
up, and her thin figure in the white lab coat glided to them, gesturing them to rise. With an
almost invisible flicker of her fingers, she touch the Slut's sternum and she covered her
breasts, gasping, able to conceal herself now that she had been touched. The Doctor
beckoned them into the next room, her bronze hair gleaming like a helmet of fire in the
The Doctor sat down atop her white marble desk while her patients arranged themselves on
folding chairs in front of it; she passed the time by devouring a can of tuna with fork and
tongue. Elee flinched as she licked the edge of the car, but her tongue came away clean,
not bloody. The Doctor neatly pegged the tuna can into the trash, clasped her hands before
her, and spoke.
"That was the first food I had today - 140 calories. I'll probably have about 250 more by
the end of the day, and that's ALL." The Doctor - JONES read the embroidery above her
left breast - Doctor Jones watched her patients look at one another, wondering.
"Am I hungry? Yes. But not too hungry. Hunting for food in the post-Apocalypse
environment is a very dangerous activity, and with my program, you'll be able to carry
home enough food to last a month in one trip. And besides," Jones tugged at the waistline
of her smooth linen pants, "there's really no excuse for you to EVER not look your best,
now is there?"
The patients nodded, all except the Cursed man, with the fat streamers drooping off his
body. He just stared at Doctor Jones, licking his lips. Elee looked away: the afflictions of
the Cursed were elaborate, exquisitely refined to each individual - and sometimes
"Now, if you'll all just fill out this questionnaire ..." The Slut raised her hand, tentatively,
and Doctor Jones pointed at her. "Yes?"
"W-w-w-w - what sort of payment are you asking for this?" The Slut cringed in her seat
as the men in the room looked at her, sure of what payment they would extract.
Doctor Jones got off the desk and sat down beside it, sliding her fingertips back and forth
across the white marble surface.
"The payment is simple: service. Putting up flyers, helping run the office, finding people
who want to come here. That's all. I believe that a network of healthy people working
together can achieve miracles."
Doctor Jones smiled. "Now - who would like to make an appointment for their first
treatment now?" And she smiled even more broadly as they pressed forward.
Elee lay in the dim room, worried. She wasn't worried about the treatment, although she
was wondering what it would be. She ran over the list of fat nostrums she'd tried in the
past: seashell pills, kelp wraps, weights strapped to your head ... An almost unbearable
wave of loneliness washed over her. Elee was lonely, lonely for herself, for the somewhat
plump housewife who cooked and cleaned every day for her man and her little girl. Her
man was gone, vanished in the chaos of the End Times; her daughter was a green stain on
the living room wall that pulsed and oozed slime. Elee watered her daughter every day,
with water and with tears, and wondered what she could have done to save her little girl.
Nothing, she imagined.
Elee was worried because Doctor Jones had not thrown the Cursed man out on the spot.
Didn't she know that helping one of the Cursed could lead to you being Cursed in turn?
Elee had sometimes cringed while watering her daughter: had once gone a whole week
without doing so, until the dry patches had driven her to tear at her own palms with her
teeth, and sprinkle her daughter with her blood. It seemed the only way to share the pain.
The tooth marks were still on her palms.
Elee was looking at her palms when the other Doctors came in. They were tall and quiet,
in their white robes. There wore goggles over their eyes. Elee could see Doctor Jones
behind them, and then Doctor Jones shut the door. With her on the outside.
Elee felt the Doctor's small, cool hand on her shoulder, leaning her back onto the
comfortable padded examination table. Elee looked at the hand and - it wasn't a hand.
It was long and softly furred, with two tiny stubs that might serve as thumbs. And there
were four of them, now on her arm. The Doctors were all around her now, tugging at her
clothes, and the smell of the dust from them went up Elee's nose and straight into her
brain, numbing her. She felt like she'd just inhaled an ice cream cone, and her head was
freezing from the inside out. Her eyes were wide in the gloom as the Doctors spread their
wings, baring their soft bellies, and bent their heads, owlet eyes flashing in the dimness,
and sank their long proboscises into the bulges of flesh on Elee's hips and thighs and
belly. And started to drink.
There were five of them. Five. Five - Mothhs!
Doctor Jones sat at her desk, her hands rasping back and forth across the stone surface -
not quite loud enough to cover up the sucking sounds coming from the cubicles in back.
The first batch had been processed and sent out to put up more flyers, and the second set of
"patients" would be ready soon as well. Her mind was not concerned with the giant
insects currently feeding themselves on the Pinks in back (the hideous pun "No gimics, No
mimics" floated through her brain and then away); instead she was mulling over a
complicated scheme that had failed.
It has seemed so easy at the time: shuffle the family finances to avoid last-minute
Government confiscation, keep the stockpiles full and most importantly buy the Jones
clones enough spare memberships so that any last-minute birthing would be covered. But
when the day came, and Doctor Jones saw the saucers coming over the horizon, she placed
her membership card in the baby's mouth and stood back as it was Ruptured on high, a
startled stream of baby pee chasing it up into the sky like rain going backwards. She had
wept. The choice had been hers: herself or the baby, her baby, her clone. And she was
tired, so tired these days - and so many days to come. She looked down into the white
stone that made up the top of her desk.
Doctor Jones had only a few seconds warning: the tap - tap - tap of the Head suddenly
becoming tap-tap-tap-taptaptaptap. Her hands cupped the white stone and she was -
Elsewhere. The MWOWM was not activated enough yet to cure Doctor Jones' arthritis or
infrared vision, but its Emergency Yeti Transportation System was just fine.
The light of the Pipe broke in through the walls and windows and doors, washing the
building clean and hot and blank and furious. The stones burned. The air burned. In the
back, insane Mothhs hurled themselves into the light and drowned in it. Their drugged
victims sizzled and charred in their skins.
Elee was dancing, although to most people's eyes she would had been just walking. But
the bounce in her step, and the sparkle in her eyes, as she stapled yet another flyer to
another useless telephone pole, made people keep their distance. Few could be free to be
so happy these days.
Elee wore a short wrap-around dress, and oh! but wasn't it pulled so small, so deliciously
tight, around her tiny waist? She hadn't been this thin since she was a teenager - or before!
The Mothhs' saliva coursed through her veins, swelling her with the spirit of enthusiasm
that made her want to talk! convince! persuade! force! anyone in her path to come with her,
to the Doctor's place, to the Mothhs ...
Elee turned the corner and stopped. The Doctor's office was gone. So was the building it
had been in. And so were the buildings around it. The smell was terrible, the smell of
burning and death - but beneath it was another smell, a live smell ...
Drawn around as though by a bit and rein, Elee looked two blocks north - and saw a clean
apartment house, with a tiny furry face peering around one blind. Something that was not
a hand pulled the blind down, and Elee burst into happy tears! The Mothhs had escaped!
The Masters were safe! She would go to them, lie under the caressing antennae and sharp
sucking touches, and then put on the white coat and start to process a new batch of
patients. All would be well, and all would be well, and all manner of things would be
"Baby?" Elee jumped: she hadn't noticed the vendor coming up behind her. Elee pulled a
can of baked beans from her purse, and traded it for a crisp little arm, handed to her on a
metal skewer. As she crunched the tender crispy fat between her teeth, and strode off to
set up the new Clinic, a part of her mind thought about her daughter, oozing ... and drying
... and dying. But it didn't really matter, now did it?
Cracking a knuckle between her teeth for the marrow, Elee strode towards her destiny.
X-Day by Winston Smith