She looked thoughtfully at him. “You seem a man of some speed.” She said slowly.
Paul felt a rush of surprise. “Well, yes. I did some track in high school.” He managed to reply. In fact, he had won several medals for his marathon and dash events. But he didn’t want to bring those up. It would sound too much like boasting to him.
“In that case, have you thought about a cheetah costume?” she asked. “I think it will look the best on you, and I just happen to have one in the back. I’ll go get it and let you think about it.”
Paul tried to protest that it was really too much trouble, but she had already put away her knitting and disappeared into the back.
In moments she had returned, bringing a folded parcel with thick, spotted fur. She laid it on the counter and began to lay it out while Paul watched. When the costume lay fully revealed, she stepped back.
Paul could only stare in dumb amazement. The costume had the most realistic fur he’d ever seen before, better than even the ones around the rich ladies that came out to town on a lark. There was a cowl with the shape of a cheetah head, and a small mask that would fit over his mouth and nose, giving him a rather animalistic appearance. There was a long tail that wound up to the back of the costume, and thick padded feet. There were attached gloves for the hands with what
appeared to be claws for the fingers. Not long ones, no more than some people’s fingernails that he had seen, but they were rounded and more animal-like.
“This…appears to be perfect.” Paul stuttered.
“Thank you dear.” Roland smiled. “Now, I’m afraid that there is some bother.”
“There is a funny quirk of the owner. He doesn’t like costumes that are worn. Says that they lose something after they are tried on. So once you buy, you cannot return it.”
“You mean I can’t try it on to see if it fits?” Paul frowned, now unsure of this deal.
“Well, I do happen to have a fitting room.” Roland admitted. “But I can’t let you wear it until you’ve bought it. But I can assure you that it will fit. It’s a unique fabric that is basically one size fits all.”
Paul felt his eyebrow raise up at that. In his experience there was no such thing. However, the likely hood of finding another costume even remotely like that one were slim. He chewed over it for a while, but decided to go ahead and get it. If it didn’t fit, he could complain and at least get his money back. Or at the least resell it to Joe who was a little smaller.
Roland took his money and pointed to the fitting door.
“Enjoy your trip, dear.” She said.
“Thank you.” Paul replied carelessly. “I’m sure I will. It’s the party afterward that’s going to be dull.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Parties can be great fun.” Roland called while he closed the door.
Now inside the tiny cubicle, Roland slid out of his clothes as fast as he could. He picked up the costume, admiring the thick, warm fur it possessed. He wouldn’t go cold in that!
Putting his legs down the pants, he found another oddity; the feet felt very much like wearing a sneaker! Surely an oddly shaped one, but very comfortable. He could surely walk all night and not have to worry about aching feet or cold floors. He slid his arms through and pulled the sleeves up. His finger set neatly into the costumes. Without thinking about it, he closed the zipper and felt it snug up to his body. Turning towards the mask, he placed it on his head. The eye holes were perfectly placed, he didn’t even notice the edges of the mask at all in his vision. And the weight—lighter than air it seemed—didn’t make it bend or pull out.
With the final touches in place, he turned to view himself in the mirror. A handsome cheetah man stood there, looking somehow very real. The fur shivered slightly, as if there was a breath of wind, and the way his eyelids closed and open in a blink made it seem like the creature staring at him was alive.
The muffled sound of metal striking the floor distracted him from further investigation. Turning to look, he spied a zipper gleaming on the carpet. He bent down and picked it up.
How odd. It doesn’t feel like the costume’s opened up. I’ll have to return this though. No Return
policy or not, I won’t pay for something that falls—argh!
Pain blossomed from his abdomen and hunched him over, reaching his extremities in a matter of seconds. Hunched over as he was, he barely heard the sound of someone screaming. Dimly, he knew it was him.
As terrible as the pain had been, it was only an echo of the primary event. Aftershocks of a blindingly fast event.
Paul shakily regained his feet, holding his arms akimbo until he regained his balance. Wondering what had happened, he looked down at himself to check for injury. All he saw was a golden coat splotched with black rippling in the dull light of the fitting room.
Oh, yeah. I still have the costume on. I need to take it off.
He reached behind him to grab the zipper, then remembered it being in his hands. Opening his right fist he found the zipper hanging there.
With the zipper gone, he mused, then the costume must simply be holding itself together. A mere tug would make it fall apart. Perhaps he would keep the costume though, now that he got a closer look at it on him, he had to admit it looked good.
Dropping the useless zipper he again reached behind with both hands intending on getting a grip on the fabric and giving a sharp tug to free himself. When his fingers closed however, he gave a yelp of pain. Instead of grabbing cloth, he had grabbed skin! He’d felt the rake of claws on his back. Something was wrong here. Very wrong. He had to figure out what, and he had to do it soon.
Written by Snore23 on 13 May 2017