by Than Pence
Cramp Winner: Harold has a discussion with Lucy about what makes them so special
“That’s a mannequin, honey. Not a statue. And it didn’t move. They’re not real.”
“No buts. Come on. We’re late. Your grandpa is waiting on us.”
Harold passively watched the exchange, both with embarrassment and curiosity. He was embarrassed because the little girl had noticed him turn his head to a more comfortable position, and curious about why any grandpa was waiting on them. He decided to zone himself out for the rest of the day so as not to accidentally draw attention while also keeping in mind that he’d ask Lucy about it later.
With the department store lights dimmed, Harold zoned back in just as the rattling of the caged entrance tumbled down to lock them in. Stepping from his pedestal with terrible grace, he found his way to the women's section. Lucy was already off her pedestal and talking with one of the more experienced ‘quins, Chuck.
“Hey, guys. What’s up?”
Lucy smiled at Harold. Chuck did not. “Hey, Hare. We’re talking about those two lardos that spent an hour in Petite like they were gonna buy something.”
Harold didn’t know what to say, so he just nodded at Chuck’s comment. He saw Lucy roll her eyes and it made Harold wonder if they were talking about it or if only one of them was.
“Well I had an interesting encounter today, too.”
“Really,” asked Lucy. “How so?”
“A girl saw me turn my head a little and--”
“Someone saw you move?”
“Relax, Chuck. He’s new. Cut him a break.”
Eyes wide, Chuck looked like he might explode. “He could use a break.”
Lucy shooed Chuck away and, with the brute out of earshot, said “You really should be more careful, Harold. Other humans aren’t lucky like us.”
“What do you mean?”
Gracefully taking his arm, Lucy began walking and said, “Well, we’re special. Right now we look like all those poorly dressed people that walk into our store. But when it comes time to display these trendy threads, we become… something else.”
“That’s right, yes. But to be a mannequin is to harness special power. And that’s why we’re here.”
Harold looked around the dimly lit store. “Where?”
“In this store, where we’re protected.”
“Protected from who?”
Lucy smiled tightly but Harold could detect she was growing tired of his questions. “We’re protected from those who would exploit us and our gifts.”
Grimacing, Harold said, “What gifts? I don’t have any gifts.”
“Yes you do, and the other humans want it.” Stopping, she faced him. “Think about it: we live and breathe like all of them, but we are also able to blend into their backgrounds without notice.”
“And we can be… disassembled.”
“Harold, you can’t be this thick. I know you were ‘factured just a few months ago, but it feels like you should’ve picked up on some of this by now. To them,” she said, gesturing toward the roll-down gate at the front of the store, “we’re dummies. We wear their clothes and can we taken apart and put back together with ease.”
“So, they can’t do that. That’s why they have the gall to walk around during the day. They don’t have to hide who they are and what they can do. They don’t have to hide that they’re basically immortal.”
“No, we are!”
“Oh.” Harold paused. “How so?”
With a swift jerk of surprising strength, Lucy grabbed Harold’s arm and tore it clean from his body. There was no blood. Harold felt more annoyed than anything.
“Yeah, so? The girls that put this stuff on me did that just yesterday.”
“But they can’t do it.”
“I just told you that they did do it. They took it clean off.”
“No, no. Shut up and listen,” she said, frustration lacing her tone. “Yes, the workers can take your arms off, but they cannot remove their arms. They are humans of a different caliber. They are fragile, fleshy things.”
“Oh,” he said, still not entirely understanding what Lucy was talking about. “Okay. So… they can’t take themselves apart. So what?”
“So what? Those people that come in here can die. But you and I will never die.”
“Well, eventually, yes. But it will take a lot more than having our arms ripped off. Pretty much the worse that can happen to us is being shoved into the chipper.”
“At the factory,” Harold said, remembering when he woke up for the first time. “There was a sign that directed people toward a chipper.” He paused, his thoughts gaining momentum. “Are you saying that within the same place I was born, I could also die?”
With sadness, Lucy said, “Yeah. I guess that’s true.”
“And the people that walk around here?”
“I don’t know where they’re born, but it’s not like us. But know this: if we were to walk around and visibly become harmed, they would see that we were different from them. Tearing off your arm is nothing like tearing off their limbs. Trust me,” she grimly added.
“So what if they knew that about us?”
“They’d hunt us down, Harold. Perform experiments. They’d want to see why we can’t truly be harmed. And they’d want it for themselves. The regular humans are exploitative and dangerous. Don’t ever let them know that you’re alive, because they will try their hardest to take everything from you.”
Harold nodded and had another thought, but didn’t ask it aloud. What if some people who walk through are like us? How would I know? When we move around, we all look the same!
Smiling, he thanked Lucy. After attaching his arm, he moved back to his section, thinking about what it might be like to try and walk around with other humans, and maybe even find out where they came from.
Word Count: 978