Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outlandish (05/19/11)
TITLE: How Not To Dress
By Karen Deikun
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Shelly studied the paper then handed it to Milton.
“You can’t be serious boss. You want us to find a homeless person?” Shelly studied her fingernails intently, looking for a possible chip in the pink passion polish. “What happens to the clothes when the person returns to the street?”
“We’re handling that. Social Services needs some good press. They’re going to find the person a job and a place to live.”
Xulata stood on the busy street corner. Why had nobody come for her? She’d been told to wait by the little shop and it had been a long time. Hunger gnawed at her, but the smells coming from the shop did not appeal to her. She wanted some home cooked food. Still, she could possibly make herself eat the stuff that passed for nutrition to the locals. She watched as people walked inside, ordered something, and put down money, or plastic cards in exchange. She had neither.
Two people, a man and a woman, approached her. She swallowed apprehensively. Their eyes were focused on her and they strode toward her like swooping birds of prey. She stepped back, fearing their intentions.
“Hi, I’m Shelly.” The female grinned while she wrapped her arm around Xulata’s shoulder. She stood too close. Xulata felt an edge of emotion. Agitation, that was it.
“And I’m Milton.” The male looked grim as he surveyed her from top to bottom. A frown creased his face. Xulata stifled an urge to touch his mouth. She had talked about such things with her parents. You should not touch people.
“And we’re from How Not to Dress.” Their voices spoke in perfect unison. The clouds in the sky seemed to thicken and gray during the short recitation. “Come with us.”
After a short ride in a yellow car, Shelly and Milton led Xulata into a room filled with people and small, moving machines with bright lights. The machines seemed to study her. What were they doing?
“This is our studio.” Shelly had a little coiled tape that she put around Xulata’s waist and then her hips. “A perfect six!” Shelly looked pleased.
What, exactly did “Studio” mean? Xulata sought back in her memory for the word. She knew she’d heard it before. Soon people started carrying in bundles of clothes similar to those that Shelly wore.
“Go in that room and take off your clothes.” Milton said this as if he asked the most ordinary thing in the world.
“NO!” Xulata knew this suggestion was bad. Removing your clothes in public places was forbidden.
For the first time, Shelly looked at Xulata’s body.
“Isn’t this outfit strange?” She looked over at Milton. “I’ve never seen material quite like this.” She put her thumb and forefinger around Xulata’s cuff. Of course the fabric glowed and the alarm vibrated. Where Xulata came from this was aggressive behavior.
Suddenly Xulata’s father appeared next to Shelly.
“What do you think you are doing, earthling?” His mechanical voice was a pleasant relief after the strange singing voices of the locals on this planet.
“Father!” Xulata wondered if the extra tinny timbre in her voice gave away her joy at seeing her parent at last. “I thought you would never come.”
“Mechanical problems, daughter.” That could mean anything on spaceship full of robots. But Xulata just wanted to get away from this strange place and it’s oddly dressed people.
“Let’s go home.”
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