Note: Generally, I save fiction over 500 words for paying markets, but every once and a while, I write an odd story like this that just doesn’t fit in most markets.
Lucky Lady Robes
By Sara Codair
In-home sales and independent consultant programs had been around forever, but none took off like Lucky Lady Robes. They hadn’t even been in business a year, and in some parts of the southwest, traditional stores struggled to keep customers. Up here in the northeast, that spark was just hitting the kindling.
“Now is the time to sign up, if I am going,” I told my friend, Lucy. Swaddled in brown scarves and blonde hair, she looked like a calico cat trying to be a human.
“I’ve only heard good things about them.” Lucy lifted a steaming mug to her mouth, breathing the steam until if fogged up her glasses.
“People don’t want to get sued,” I muttered into my Darjeeling tea. Still too hot to drink, I placed it on the table and re-read my contract for the tenth time. Something about the 80% wholesale discount and optimistic market analysis for my area seemed to good to be true, but all that the convoluted, red-inked document really told me was that I couldn’t get a refund, ever, and that if I defaced the company’s sacred brand image, they would burn me in court.
“You can’t keep bad news off the internet.” Lucy’s hands shook as she tilted her latte to her mouth and sipped. “Trust me, if there was something sketchy, someone would’ve said something about.”
“I’ll do more research.”
“If you do become a consultant, I’ll be your first customer.” Lucy grinned, put her mug down, and looked me in the eyes. “This is a golden opportunity. You’d be foolish to waste it.”
My first shipment of Lucky Lady Robes came in super quick. I was giddy, fluttering like magic as I tore open the box and inhaled fresh plastic. I rescued a pair of leggings from their transparent prison and ran my hands over the softest fabric I’d ever felt. My fingers quivered with joy as I traced corn silk swirls through the grass green background. I didn’t realize until I reached the end that I had smeared blood all over that pair.
Cursing my clumsiness, I ran to the sink and rinsed my sliced palm. I guessed I cut myself during my exuberant box opening. I bandaged my hand and liberated the remaining leggings. The colors varied, but they all had strange geometric shapes. Some had cat eyes. One pair had suns so realistic I thought they’d burn me if I touched them. I carefully hung each pair on my display, photographed them, and transferred them to a bright pink rack.
I uploaded my pictures to Facebook and had my first sale that night. Half my inventory was gone in three hours, but true to her word, Lucy bought the first pair.
The next morning, she wore the black and red, geometric beauties to our weekly coffee date.
Lucy gazed at the ceiling, walls, and floor, but she never made eye contact. “They’re as heavenly as pajamas, but it’s socially acceptable to wear them to work. Have you tried them yet?”
“No,” I admitted. “I had to pay for my inventory up front and didn’t have much to invest.”
She laughed at me. Her cheeks creased when her mouth opened, but her eyes stayed absent. “Trust me, you need a pair or ten for yourself. I can’t wait for your next sale.”
Lucy bought three pairs at my second sale, and five at my third. Soon, all of our friends were buying, sharing, and tweeting about how comfortable their new leggings were.
I aw dollar signs left and right.
The dresses came next. The sweaters and shirts rode their tails to my inventory. The colors and styles varied, but they all had equally mesmerizing patterns, which, paired with luxurious fabric, enchanted customers.
I thought my inner circle would stop buying after a while, but they didn’t stop. These clothes were like crack and my friends were viral junkies, spreading their addiction to everyone around them.
After a year, I paid off my student loans, bought a house, and upgraded my car. Lucy was on the verge of losing her house, another friend was working 80 hours a week to pay down her credit card debt while a third was getting calls from collection agencies several times a day.
I told them to stop buying. I had a big enough fan-base now that even if a fraction of my customers bought from me at every sale, I’d be making more than I ever did selling cell phones. They didn’t stop – not even when I blocked them from my group and ignored their phone calls.
It was this strange, desperate behavior that led me to start researching the patterns. After venturing into dark corners of internet I hadn’t known existed, I learned that the symbols were from ancient cultures all around the world: sigils old gods used to keep follows worshipping.
I’ve never been superstitious and didn’t believe that symbols could influence anyone, but I was offended. What Lucky Lady Robes claimed as original artwork was appropriated from old religions that been all but wiped out by historic colonizers and conquerors. I blogged about this, hoping it would make people see through the company’s schemes.
Literally three minutes later, I had an email from corporate headquarters informing me that I violated the contract. Six days passed. I was assigned a court date. I hired a lawyer, thinking the worst that could happen was I’d lose my profits and go back to selling phones.
I lost the case, but I never got to hear how much the fine was. Buttery soft leggings had twined all around my limbs and up to my head. Sound couldn’t get through the thick fabric. No one heard me scream when they caught on fire.