A work of flash fiction originally written for a prompted short story contest at Reedsy.
Sarah rummaged through the costume trailer looking for something comfortable to wear. The costume department had agreed to let her choose clothing she would be cozy enough in to perform uninhibited, even though they would get the final say in which of the outfits she would wear on set from the several she picked.
There had only been two occasions in her life in which she had been fully clothed, both times in ceremonial garb, for her maturation ceremony and naming party. Those outfits were nothing like the remnants of humanity’s past she was now searching through, which were the sorts of things old time human beings had been accustomed to wearing all day long. Sarah found the idea of compulsory clothing to be oppressive and barbaric.
She ran her fingers over a woolen skirt that was pleasant to the touch, but which she could not imagine having to wear for any amount of time over the soft contours of her hips and thighs.
“Itchy,” she spoke softly to herself, without even realizing she had done so.
A tag on the skirt said ‘Catholic school girl – 2003’. Religion and compulsory education were also historical artifacts she regarded as brutish. The costume trailer was like a dark lesson into the folly of generations past. Lost in these thoughts, she did not notice the production assistant standing next to her, and as she absentmindedly turned to look around, a swinging elbow connected with a cup of hot liquid being offered to her, knocking it to the floor.
“Oh, shitsuck. Sorry!” she apologized. “I am such a klutz. I’m so nervous about the shoot that I lost complete track of what is happening around me.”
“Are you okay?” the PA looked dumbstruck with concern for her. “That tea was pretty hot.”
“I didn’t get any on me, and you’re dry, so I think we’re all good,” she spoke softly to calm him. Without even thinking about it she reached out and embraced the young film upstart in a hug. “What was it, anyway?”
“Some concoction that Maryl had craft services brew up to help take the edge off. It has Valerian root, California poppy, honey and some other herbs and nootropics. Sorry, they told me, but I can’t remember it all.”
“You must be new to this. Nervous?” Sarah asked, enjoying the distraction from her own nerves.
“Yes and yes.”
“You’ll be okay. By the time we wrap you’ll feel like you’ve been doing this for a decade.”
The young production assistant, a cute little fella with long, tousled hair, stood before her with an awkward expression. She realized she was wearing something the pre-Switch goons had called ‘overalls’, and the PA was embarrassed at the sight of her clothed body. She excused him with a request for another cup, and he scurried away like a frightened squirrel.
The straps of the torture device she was wearing chafed at her breasts and she removed the garment frantically like it was made of spiders. A costume assistant rushed to her aide and helped untangle her from the obscene apparel. When it was off she let out a sigh of relief and hugged the woman, and wondered why she was so damn huggy today.
“Not this one, for sure,” she smiled at the assistant, then picked the overalls up and handed them to her.
“What were people thinking?” the woman asked rhetorically, and gave her a knowing look that affirmed the superiority of modern humanity. “I guess farmers used to wear these. Can you even imagine working with the earth and not wanting to feel it?”
“Nasty.” Sarah confirmed.
“Seriously,” the assistant reconfirmed, and then walked away to return the grotesque garb to its rightful place in the rarely used costume trailer.
As she poured through the racks and shelves, she tried to keep her focus on the scene she was about to perform. She ran through her lines and practiced summoning the emotional state of her character. At the audition she had played the role a bit too warmly, and the director had instructed her to thin it down with a touch of jaded malaise – “but not full on sociopathy”. She welcomed the challenge, as most of her on screen performances had been portraying characters with contrived congeniality, and hoped the costume would help to keep her feeling stiff.
‘Yoga pants’ – read the tag on the attire she held up to examine. The fabric itself felt soft and comfortable, but judging by the size of the thing, it would have to fit skin tight. She could not fathom why anyone would ever have wanted to do yoga wearing such a constrictive device. As she put the pants back an outfit caught her eye and she rushed over to investigate. The tag said – ‘Dorothy’. Immediately she recognized the dress as the one worn by the star of the classic film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, which she considered to be one of the top ten things the pre-Switchers had ever created. It was why she became an actor to begin with.
“This is the one!” she exclaimed out loud, and the costume assistant rushed over.
“I absolutely love that one. The costume and the movie. It almost makes it worth wearing,” the assistant agreed. “Also, I am almost certain I can get approval for this.”
“Really? It seems kinda outta character.”
“Yeah, but the director is obsessed with early cinema. That and he hasn’t exactly been too loyal to period consistency. It’s sorta a circus of mismatched eras out there already. Put it on and we will send a photo for approval.”
Gently, as if putting on the real thing – which would be a few hundred years old by now, she pulled the duds over her long, curly hair and stepped towards the mirror with the costume assistant following. The assistant climbed on top of a chair and in a loud falsetto began to sing, “If I were the king of the forest!”
The two women broke out in laughter, which increased as they went, until eventually Sarah was practically flailing. Suddenly her arm alerted her to a burning sensation, and as her guffawing ceased she turned to see the cute production assistant, standing before her horrified, as he stared between her and the empty cup with it’s former liquid contents where they now rested upon the ground. Even though there was still a good deal of pain to be dealt with, she started back howling twice as hard as before at the sheer absurdity of it.