You’ve seen the adverts for the fish that eat feet; they only gnaw the skin, just a layer or two. Just enough to give a person feet that look as if they’d never been walked on. I’d like feet like that, I would, especially with it being sandal season and my heels having cracks you could wedge a coin in. But the idea of fish consuming me, tasting me, wriggling against my skin… it gives me the shivers.
“They are sterile, madam. No diseases. And all our clients ever feel is the smallest of tickles, nothing more. They have such tiny mouths, just a few flakes is a mouthful. All they would eat is the dead layer on top. One treatment is enough for most clients, but those with more stubborn calluses may benefit from another visit.”
The manager had tried to persuade me of his salon’s safety, but I had to pay attention to the prickles behind my knees and the cool breath of fear on the back of my neck. We agreed on the seaweed soak instead, with him performing the final pedicure afterwards. He’d stay late as a favour to such a long standing client.
It was warm to start with, wonderfully so.
He pottered about the place, checking windows and re-stocking cupboards, closing the blinds to keep out the night. Drowsing in the chair, I thought about my To Do list for the party I was catering this weekend. ‘Veggie Tables’ was providing meat-free cuisine for a wedding reception and although I knew the forty head meal was ready and waiting for me to heat and serve up tomorrow, I liked to run through the logistics in free moments, just to ease my mind. Cheesecakes and jellies were already in the fridge, I used seaweed extract to make them set. Sitting in a soporific slouch, I knew how they felt.
The lights were on low, and the seat was so comfortable I felt almost as though I was drifting away. My body was going to sleep, my mind drowsing, and all I could hear was the boiler gurgling upstairs. The heating must have been on full blast because I was getting hotter and hotter, and starting to feel sticky with sweat. Or something.
I tried to rouse myself, stir out of the chair, open my eyes and my mouth, call to the manager to cool things down.
But I couldn’t.
With enormous effort I managed to stick my tongue just a tiny bit between my lips. Ugh, something tasted salty, foul… and slightly familiar. Something from the kitchen, maybe. Something I’d worked with a lot.
My right eye opened, just a crack, but all I could see was brown. My nose felt funny, and soon every breath I took was filtered through fuzz.
As it moved within, I heard someone at my shoulder, tormenting me as my ears filled with new growth.
“If you’d stuck with the fish, there would be no revenge.”
My chest laboured, lungs filling, solidifying.
“Plants give us the very air we breathe; they like it when we eat the animals.”
My hair shifted as the seaweed spread across my scalp, creeping through my careful curls,
“Better that than eating them…”
setting my poor body, gone to jelly in the chair.
By Gill Hoffs