Catwalk

Catwalk
'Mr. Alexander Pablo Adrover' by C.J. Nye (detail)
‘Mr. Alexander Pablo Adrover’ by C.J. Nye (detail)

This was Chiedza’s first catwalk and she was pregnant with anxiety. The roar of the crowd like a thousand bees in her brain pummelled through the skin curtains leading to the great hall and the runway that bisected it.

“Chiedza! You’re on in two!” yelled Bardinko in her ear link; an apoplectic little man who ran the backstage and seemed to always be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

“You’ll be just fine Chiedza, you’re gorgeous,” said Mamewata, with a big smile and hug. [private]

Mamewata, a long time model, had taken Chiedza under her wing when she first arrived. Those months that seemed like aeons of indescribable pain and suffering, her own private hell into which Mamewata had appeared like an occasional angel giving her the strength to hang on. How far she had come. Just eight months ago she was still in her village in the Dande valley of Zimbabwe, now here she was in Paris, on the first day of fashion week.

“In one Chiedza!”

She took her place beside the curtain, and was sure she’d have been sweating like Mosi-oa-Tunya from her armpits if she had been able to sweat there anymore. She thought of her family, knowing they’d all be together in the kitchen hut now watching the live 3D projection of the fashion show, waiting for her to come on. Would they understand, she wondered, or more pertinently would they even be able to recognise her, so great was her transformation.

The usual hunger pangs stabbed — oh how she pined for the special occasion Sadza ne Nyama her family would be eating right now from big bowls in the middle of the table — yet, the thought of eating more of the tasteless goop she’d been eating for weeks made her feel downright nauseous.

“Thirty seconds Chiedza!”

A red warning sign popped up in her vision, and she permitted her body system to administer a cocktail of beta-blockers. She felt a warm wave of calmness wash over her and embraced it fully.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Introducing, the last and greatest creation this season by Designer Gabony of the House of ChanDior!” bellowed the presenter, and the crowd roared to a new bone-trembling high tide.

“Chiedza! Go, go, go!”

And she did, much to her surprise, straight through the curtains and down the catwalk.

The crowd was in darkness, a massive, powerful, silent animal with thousands of eyes all focused on her.

She glided along the catwalk, naked, twelve feet tall with limbs so slender it seemed physically impossible she could be upright or walking. Her skin was a velvet blackness that absorbed all light and reflected none, giving high contrast to an iridescent oil slick rainbow tattoo that flowed over her body. Around her four foot neck floated bands of pure diamond from Neptune. She coasted to a stop at the end of the catwalk and turned around. The pièce de résistance: from her back spread two enormous wings, so thin as to be near transparent yet within them flowed glowing intricate fractal patterns.

Chiedza raised her arms high, lowered them, and went into a deep elegant curtsey, her wings stretched high behind her, she held that position as they had practised so many times, and waited.

The thousand-eyed beast was silent, and Chiedza called on her ancestors for sound, even one clap, one shout, one whistle, something to end the outrageous silence. But, the beast was struck mouthless with Chiedza’s magnificence. Like a gentle rain, the sound of breath held and now, finally, released, and with that came the storm, a tsunami of sound. The lights went up, and the animal dissolved into hundreds of faces, yelling, whistling, clapping, some leaping up and down they were so overcome.

Chiedza stood and opened her arms wide, embracing the crowd’s auditory crowning, and tears of joy ran down her face. She had made it, she had finally made it, and the crowd loved her all the more for her unabashed embrace.

“A hundred orders a second so far Chiedza! Well done girl, you have truly arrived!” shouted Bardinko and cackled manically.

Her adoring public pelted a psychedelic cascade of flowers drenching her and the catwalk. Chiedza lowered her arms and took a victory walk before standing to one side as the other models walked on. Mamewata gave Chiedza a huge wink as she walked past, her breasts so monumental they had their own pairs of legs to support them, along with two spines that connected to Mamewata’s original spine. These were her comrades, and she loved each and every one of them, they had all endured the torments, the agonies, the many failures as their body designers tinkered with their genes to achieve what they saw in their mind’s eye. And here they were, living artworks, the very pinnacle of modern fashion destined to be the blueprints emulated all over the world as people bought the designers’ gene therapies.

The models lined up along the catwalk, Chiedza took her place of honour on the dais. The designers walked on, taking their positions behind their designs. Except for Gabony, Chiedza’s designer, she came last as the most famous designer of House ChanDior and her accolades rang loud in the hall, for she was the first, the one who started body gene fashion so many decades ago, the one who Chiedza had idolised since she was a child, the one who rendered mere clothes anachronistic.

Gabony took her place next to Chiedza, took her hand and raised them aloft. Chiedza beamed, her body and wings responding to her mood and outshining even the strongest spotlights. She blazed bright with her happiness, and lost her herself to an indescribable swirl of feelings. Chiedza felt Gabony let go her hand, and when she looked down Gabony was peering up at her, trying to tell her something, but Chiedza couldn’t hear anything. She looked back at the crowd, the adoring crowd, and she knew her family too was part of that crowd, singing her praises, her mother and sisters ululating she was certain. She closed her eyes and the joy burned deliciously white hot, every nerve pulsing with such pleasure as she had never known possible. Chiedza burned, Chiedza flamed, Chiedza incandesced, and then Chiedza was no more, a pile of ashes and diamonds on a deeply scored catwalk. [/private]

Ivor W. Hartmann

About Ivor W. Hartmann

Ivor W. Hartmann is a Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher, visual artist, and author of Mr. Goop (Vivlia, 2010). He was nominated for the UMA Award (‘Earth Rise’, 2009), awarded The Golden Baobab Prize (‘Mr. Goop’, 2009), finalist for the Yvonne Vera Award (‘A Mouse Amongst Men’, 2011), and selected for The 20 in Twenty: The Best Short Stories of South South Africa’s Democracy (A Mouse Amongst Men, July 2014). His writing has appeared in African Writing Magazine, Wordsetc, Munyori Literary Journal, Something Wicked, The Apex Book of World SF V2, and other publications. He runs the StoryTime micro-press, publisher of the African Roar annual anthologies and AfroSF, and is on the advisory board of Writers International Network Zimbabwe.

Ivor W. Hartmann is a Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher, visual artist, and author of Mr. Goop (Vivlia, 2010). He was nominated for the UMA Award (‘Earth Rise’, 2009), awarded The Golden Baobab Prize (‘Mr. Goop’, 2009), finalist for the Yvonne Vera Award (‘A Mouse Amongst Men’, 2011), and selected for The 20 in Twenty: The Best Short Stories of South South Africa’s Democracy (A Mouse Amongst Men, July 2014). His writing has appeared in African Writing Magazine, Wordsetc, Munyori Literary Journal, Something Wicked, The Apex Book of World SF V2, and other publications. He runs the StoryTime micro-press, publisher of the African Roar annual anthologies and AfroSF, and is on the advisory board of Writers International Network Zimbabwe.

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