Monday, February 04, 2008

Pickman's Supermodel

Disturbing and a bit gross. Read at your own risk

You needn’t think I’m crazy, Eliot. I won’t go back to modelling for Pickman no matter how much he pays me. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been in therapy?

No, not for eating disorders. Eating disorders! If you only knew...

My career? Yes, I guess I’ve ruined it. I’m certainly too fat now for him to give me a second look. At least, I hope so. But I’m getting some photo shoots—catalogues, mostly. The pay’s not great, but I get by.

No runway work for me ever again, of course. He made sure word got around when I broke from him. And besides, I—I don’t think I could take it.

Fine, I’ll tell you. You won’t believe me, Eliot. You’re just like I was, a girl on the make, ready to do anything to get to the top. I respect that, really. I’m not jealous, no matter what you think.

I guess it’s been a couple of years. Pickman was up-and-coming then, the new kid on the block. Brash, edgy, all that. His first season got a lot of buzz: linen was in, and everyone was going for a natural look, soft colors and flowing lines. Pickman’s look was... severe. Stark. Stiff, unbleached linens with these weird multi-colored stains, very innovative.

I hired on around then. He looked me over and said, “Good bones. Lose about fifteen pounds and you’ll be perfect. I have a diet product you can use.”

“What is it?”

“It’s proprietary.” And he gave me some to take home. Just a whitish powder in unmarked gel capsules.

Oh, now that’s plain hypocrisy. Come on, Eliot. You don’t get to be a supermodel without trying everything—I mean everything—appetite suppressors, metabolic enhancers, the whole nine yards. Don’t tell me you’ve never tried anything dodgy, or even outright illegal.

Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have done the same.

It’s not that I was so impressed with Pickman. He wasn’t exactly preposessing, even then, before he got so... eccentric. And yes, he’d had a great season, but there was no guaranteeing he wouldn’t just flame out. Designers come and go. But—I don’t have to explain this, do I? Fifteen pounds.

It worked, too. I hardly ate for months. The strange thing was, I didn’t feel weak or tired. If anything, I felt better; stronger, faster—I’d run for a taxi or climb a flight of stairs and I wouldn’t even be out of breath. I felt... healthy. I hadn’t felt that way since I started dieting in sixth grade. You probably don’t remember what it’s like.

I dreamed about running, for hours, usually underground in subway tunnels or sewers. Climbing and digging, the kind of physical stuff I’ve never really done. It was almost always dark where I was, but I could see just fine. I felt... free. I was powerful. I was in control. No-one could see me or look at me. There were secrets in the underground that only I knew—of course, I never remembered them when I woke up, but that feeling stayed with me. Secret knowledge. Secret power.

It made a difference. Losing the weight—I lost the fifteen plus a few ounces, without even trying—and having those dreams. I felt like a queen, and I acted like one. By the time his second season started, the one he titled “Cerements”, I headed up his stable. I was the star.

And I was in trouble.

I was starting to crave food. Well, we all do, but this was different. I’d go to the store and try to buy something, and I’d get sick to my stomach just looking at the labels. I couldn’t drink anything but water. I still felt pretty good, but I was starting to obsess about eating—eating something. I couldn’t figure out what it was.

I got photophobic. I wore sunglasses all the time and I took down most of the light bulbs in my apartment. Pickman said it was a common side-effect of the diet product, and got me some special glasses to go with my outfits. Runway work was hard, even so—you know what the spots are like.

The hunger was the worst. Just wanting, craving... feeling empty all the time. Needing. Not even knowing what I was needing. Starvation, I was used to that, just like you are. This was something else. This was scary.

I ate in my dreams, and when I woke up I couldn’t remember what I’d been feeding on. I found stains on my sheets... no, don’t be silly. You know that doesn’t happen when your weight’s that low.

I told myself it was worth it. I looked great, I looked fantastic. Everyone said so. I figured I could handle the cravings. Eliot, I thought I was in control.

I woke up one morning and—

I flushed all of Pickman’s capsules. The photophobia’s gone now, and the dreams have almost stopped. I can eat normal food. Dr. Armitage says I wasn’t on Pickman’s stuff long enough for the effects to be permanent.

I hope he’s right.

The hunger is the one thing that hasn’t gone away. I still feel empty, even when I’ve just eaten. Especially when I’ve just eaten. But I can’t really blame Pickman for that; I’ve felt that way my whole life. Just like you. Just like all the starving girls out there on the runways and in the studios. The only time I’ve ever, ever not felt that way was the morning I woke up and found—found—

I found a hand in my bed. A human hand.

I’d been eating it.

No... I didn’t scream and I didn’t throw up. I sat there holding it. I—ate—the rest of it. It was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Even now, I remember that. It was so good.

I’m so hungry.


Dale said...

This is really good, Tiel.

Edo said...

Lovecraftian horror sans clichés... wow. I think I'm in love.

Dan Gambiera said...

For those who aren't familiar with the original...

Pickman's Model

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, it's those quiet ones you have to watch. When the cops come, it's always, "Her? No, really? But she was so quiet, never said much. Who would have thought it ... ?"

I'm watching you Tiel.

Carol Kaur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol Kaur said...!

Thanks for writing a gripping Lovecraftian horror tale that doesn't scare the bejeezus out of me by own neighborhoods...LOL!

In all seriousness...this is incredible stuff. Love reading it.

Not a profile said...

Please, please, please, can I record it for my YouTube channel?