Bad Timing

by ObjectifiedBeauty

Frank was busy fixing a small leak in the kitchen when he noticed that the other room had been quiet for several minutes. His live-in girlfriend of five years, Elena, had been involved in her usual evening routine of modeling various clothing and makeup she had recently acquired for articles on her fashion-related blog site. She was quite obsessive about it and as a result was rather successful; her online shop brought in a nice amount of extra income every week. It was finally Sunday evening, so it was time to plan the next week’s agenda. To complicate things, she now had the added wrinkle of trying to figure out all the bells and whistles on a powerful new camera she had bought for her studio. Elena was a self-proclaimed chatterbox anyway, even more so on this evening, but her various mutterings and exclamations had become just background noise to Frank as he was fully absorbed in the task at hand – until he had the sudden realization that the other room had fallen strangely silent.

As he entered Elena’s studio, he expected to find that she had left the room and he just hadn’t noticed because he was too caught up in his tasks. His puzzlement grew as he saw she was still present, apparently standing and posing for the camera. Things became surreal as he approached her from behind and gently placed his hands on her shoulders, in the same manner in which he had surprised her so many times in the past. This time, however, her only reaction was a tiny yet very noticeable stiff wobble that he found deeply unsettling, startling him and causing him to step back in surprise. His reaction only exacerbated the wobble to the point that he was concerned she would tip over so he reached back in and grabbed her just above the waist to steady her. Still holding her, he moved around to view her face and it was in that moment that a thought that had been growing inside him had turned into a revelation – this was not Elena, but rather just a mannequin that bore an uncanny resemblance to her. He stepped back for a moment and then moved back in for a closer look. Whoever had created this mannequin had done their homework; while it looked exactly like Elena right down to the finest details in the eyes and makeup, many other bodily features such as smile lines, fingers, knees and ankles were greatly softened as you would find on a typical store dummy. After rapping his fingers on the figure’s cheeks and quickly lifting it about an inch off the floor, his curiosity was satisfied and he left the room to finish his task. Clearly, he thought, Elena had run out for something and this was just another one of her projects. He found it a little odd that he didn’t remember her talking about buying a mannequin, much less one that resembled her so closely, but it did seem to make sense as something she might do to advance her blog.

For Elena, the whole ordeal was impossible to comprehend. It happened so suddenly. She set the self-timer, posed, the flash went off, and well, now she’s stuck in that pose. Did she not read the instructions carefully? Understandably, it was unlike anything she had ever experienced before. She was still very much aware; still very much herself. But at the same time, it was all very hazy; everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. A sensation, equal parts pleasure, relaxation, uncertainty and panic, flowed through her consciousness. It wasn’t until Frank showed up that she began to understand the gravity of what had happened. She couldn’t see him, but somehow felt his presence, his eyes, like a heightened sixth sense before he finally came into her limited field of view. She struggled to understand it, but this sense filled her with an underlying feeling of purpose and satisfaction. It only grew stronger as he came closer and flew off the charts when he touched her. Yet despite this wave of pleasure, she was able to maintain her presence of mind and became deeply concerned as she began to wobble. That simply wasn’t right; it caused her to feel precariously balanced, unsettlingly light and – how could she describe it – hollow? This sensation of pleasure grew as he inspected her, peaking as he picked her up. It was at that moment that the thought first crept into her mind that she had somehow, some way been turned into a mannequin. The very thought terrified her and questions ran through her mind – How did it happen? Why? How long would she be like this – forever? Even more unsettling was the realization that she had absolutely no control over her body or the situation. But even as all of those thoughts seemed to command her attention simultaneously, she couldn’t ignore that that on another level, it felt oddly enjoyable and even – right? Especially while she was the subject of Frank’s attention. Yet on another level, it was that very sensation that caused her the most distress. She desperately tried to cry out to him to figure out what had happened and do what he could to fix it, but her mouth continued to betray her. As Frank left the room, the sense of pleasure began to fade, leaving her alone with her thoughts; the beaming smile painted on her face belying her true feelings.

Frank racked his brain for the remainder of the evening trying to make sense of what he had seen. As the hours ticked by, so did his concern that his girlfriend was missing. She had never been gone this long; certainly not without telling him prior or texting or calling to say she was going to be out for a while. When she still hadn’t returned by the following morning, he decided he needed to investigate further and started in her studio. He found her cell phone almost immediately, registering his missed calls and texts from the evening before along with some others from her other friends and contacts. Of course, the phone had been silenced, as Elena often kept it while she was busy, which explained why he didn’t hear it last night. A few minutes later he found one of her purses. Initially resisting the urge to violate her privacy and look inside, he ended up discovering that her wallet and keys were both present. In stunned silence he came back to the mannequin and stared at it in disbelief. Could it? Could the mannequin actually be Elena? He then turned his attention to the camera, which was still sitting on its tripod directly in the center of the figure’s gaze. It had long since entered sleep mode and he had no way of knowing which mode it had been in, or any of its settings at the time the incident occurred – assuming, of course, that an incident had occurred. Studying the mannequin more closely, he became convinced that it was indeed his girlfriend. It just had to be – but it couldn’t be. There was no way to prove it. He scoured it for any sign that might indicate for certain that it was Elena, but there was nothing identifiable at all – just perfectly smooth, featureless skin as you would expect to find on a mannequin that came straight from a factory – no stretch lines, no skin folds, not even that little bulge of flesh between the breasts and arm pits. The only part that wasn’t a barren canvas was its painted face, fake lashes and wig. That wig – there was not a doubt in his mind that was her hair. Either he was staring her in her now lifeless eyes that had the same vacant yet confident stare of countless mannequins he had seen before, or she pulled an elaborate ruse on him whereby she had a mannequin made in her image, dressed it up and then vanished without a trace. Finally, he turned his attention back to the camera, noticed the instruction manual among some clutter on the floor, and decided to spend some time studying it to see if it could reveal any clues.

Elena was in much the same mental state this time as she had been the evening before. Still trying in vain to figure out what she did, if anything, let alone how to communicate or do anything about it even if she were to have a revelation. Then, suddenly, that strange feeling of purpose and satisfaction began to return; soon after she noticed that Frank had returned. It was muted at first, but grew stronger as he began to inspect her. It reached a peak has he lifted her clothes; a feeling stronger and more blissful than anything she had ever experienced before, to the point that it blocked out all other sensations and thoughts. Seemingly as quickly as it began, however, it faded away as he left the room, leaving her with again with her thoughts and now another additional question – what was that all about?

The next work week was a particularly busy one for Frank. Still, he spent nearly every possible opportunity researching the camera and its features. He didn’t have to dig very deep to realize that Elena had indeed transformed herself into a mannequin. That particular make and model of camera apparently has the ability not only to take pictures, but also the ability to create “reverse pictures” from human subjects – basically anyone who makes direct eye contact with the flash will instantly be turned into a mannequin for a specified period of time set on the device. Such was what must have happened to Elena. Unfortunately, he had no means to figure what that time period was, and there was little information about the feature in online forums – he was particularly interested to know if she was in any way conscious or coherent and if so, what she was feeling. Moreover, he still had even less of an idea as to what her intent in undergoing this transformation was, if any, as she had never communicated anything about it to him nor could he find any clues that she may have left behind before doing so. Still, it at least eased a measure of uncertainty about the whole incident and he made sure to spend as much time as possible with his now mannequin girlfriend.

Over the intervening week, Elena was finally able to to solve some of her questions as to what happened but only by way of Frank’s help during his visitations with her. She appreciated that even though he would tell her he didn’t know if she could hear or understand him, he would make time to talk to her and tell her what he had found out. Her concentration would fade away into bliss when he would come near and touch her, but she was slowly able to resolve that she was indeed now nothing more than a hollow plastic mannequin. Further, she determined that the strange feeling she observed in Frank’s presence was due to her fulfilling the purpose of something that is meant to be looked at. She was finally able to come to some level of peace with this understanding and tried her best to try and enjoy herself, but her inability to communicate, uncertainty over the duration and complete lack of control over the situation greatly limited her ability to do so.

The following Saturday afternoon, Frank received a call from one of Elena’s best friends, Larissa, who was concerned about Elena since she hadn’t heard from her in over a week. He filled her in on those details that he knew about Elena and her camera, much to Larissa’s disbelief. The next day, Sunday, Larissa surprised him by showing up at the door and asking to see the mannequin, to which he obliged. He led Larissa to it, which she studied intensely much as Frank had done before. After a few minutes she was convinced as well; her initial shock and disbelief being replaced by curiosity. She was about to head off on her way when she stopped and with visible discomfort asked Frank if he would be comfortable discussing a possible business opportunity regarding Elena. He obliged, and Larissa explained that a close friend of her mother worked at a department store that she believed had a need for an extra mannequin at one of its main display positions. She asked him if he would be comfortable considering renting Elena to the store for some period of time. She explained that she and Elena had done some modeling together in the years ago, which he had already known about; this was also further evidenced by her blog and other activities. He said he would consider it, especially seeing as she has spent the whole past week only standing alone in her studio. His only concern was that he didn’t know Elena’s intentions and didn’t want to give her the impression he was giving up on her or trying to get rid of her if in fact she was even conscious. After Larissa finally left, he went back to see Elena and aired his mind.

Larissa’s visit caused Elena the same sensations Frank had caused her on his numerous visits, further confirming in her mind that it was due to her fulfilling her duty as a display figure. In fact, the feeling was compounded when they were both in the room. And again, she would have passed out in bliss while Larissa was inspecting her, despite not ever having any feelings for her beyond friendship, demonstrating that this feeling transcended attraction or sexual desire. She felt mixed feelings about her business proposition, however. On one level the prospect of it excited her, as she had grown to crave the attention of other people; something that surely would happen if she were standing in a store. But she was uneasy as it played directly into her concern about her lack of control. What if something were to go wrong? If she had wanted to be put on display in a store, if she even understood the possibility and its implications, she would have communicated those feelings to Frank and then transformed herself on purpose.

Frank reached back out to Larissa to take her up on the offer to rent out Elena by the middle of the following week. He explained how it was a tough decision and that he was still not completely at ease with it, but that he thought it was the best course of action. After nearly two weeks, Elena was still just a mannequin, and if she was aware of her situation then she’d probably be incredibly bored just standing in her studio without so much as a change of clothing. And if she wasn’t aware at all, then what difference would it make? Larissa was able to make good on her proposed arrangement within the next couple of days. Elena would be displayed prominently on a pedestal in store’s primary display area for an entire week. She arrived Saturday evening to bring the outfit Elena would be displaying. It was a simple but sharp fall ensemble consisting of a tweed skirt, turtleneck sweater and scarf. Larissa offered to change Elena’s outfit from what she was currently wearing, correctly expecting that Frank had no experience in dressing a mannequin; of course neither did she, but she figured at least she had a familiarity with women’s clothing. She was just about to start when she paused and then stepped back, realizing she couldn’t bring herself to take her friend apart. Frank didn’t want to take her apart either, but somebody had to do it. He began by carefully dislocating its left shoulder and before long the mannequin was fully disassembled and lying in pieces on the floor. By this point, Larissa had regained her composure and they both managed to get Elena reassembled and dressed in her new outfit, albeit with considerable awkwardness and missteps along the way. They then carefully carried her out to Larissa’s waiting vehicle for the short trip to the store.

Elena didn’t experience any new sensations from being disassembled; rather it was all rather disorienting, especially when she was on her back on the floor, staring at the ceiling through her mussed hair while seeing her legs still standing upright out of what little peripheral vision she had. The experience of being dressed brought on a whole new level of pleasure, however; as long as her head and torso were connected to the parts being handled. Once she had finally been dressed and cleaned up, the full reality of her predicament hit her again after Larissa and Frank carried her into the hallway to prepare her for transport to the store. Not only did she again experience the unsettling sensation of being as easily carried as the twenty-some odd pound hollow plastic shell she now was, but she also caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror; the first glimpse she was able to catch of herself since being transformed two weeks prior.

Elena spent the remainder of Saturday and most of Sunday in the store’s stock room in the care of the store’s merchandising manager. Finally, Sunday night arrived and she was carted out to the display which would be her home for the next week. An employee then adjusted her clothes, fixed her wig, and did the same to two other mannequins on either side of her before closing up and leaving for the night.

The time in the stock room was difficult for Elena. Almost as much as she missed being able to move, she missed the familiarity of her studio. She also didn’t have any company for most of the day; being a weekend she would have had several visits from Frank. Fortunately, the loneliness subsided Sunday evening when the stock room became a beehive of activity in preparation for the upcoming week. She was now attracting attention from more people than before since becoming a mannequin, causing her some excitement to look forward to what the week would hold when she could catch the attention of hundreds of shoppers.

Frank checked in on Elena several times during her week on display, although understandably being careful not to linger and certainly not to talk to her lest he draw attention to himself for talking to a group of mannequins. By the end of the week, he was eagerly awaiting Elena’s return home, as he had learned from the camera manufacturer that the transformations were indeed only temporary and the default and maximum time period was twenty days. It began to make sense; what Elena must have done was mistakenly believe that she had set a self-timer to twenty seconds, when in fact she ended up getting herself transformed for twenty days. In this case everything would turn out perfect; he updated Larissa on his findings and confirmed that Elena would come home either Friday night or Saturday morning and be back to her normal self by Saturday night.

Larissa brought Elena home early Saturday afternoon and Frank had her placed in her familiar spot in her studio in front of her camera. Larissa then left and asked Frank to provide an update that evening, or better yet, make sure Elena called her. Unfortunately, Saturday evening passed, then Sunday, and Elena was still a mannequin. After several attempts early Monday, Frank was finally able to reach a representative in the camera manufacturer’s support department and enquired why a transformation should last longer than twenty days; in this case well into the twenty-second day. After some time, the representative found that the only circumstance under which a human turned into a mannequin would not revert would be if any modifications were made to the mannequin. Frank instantly worried that the time he and Larissa disassembled her might have caused problems but the representative assured him that was not the case as long as she was reassembled; the twenty day countdown would only be paused for the duration of disassembly. Rather, he explained, a part of the mannequin would have to be broken or missing. Even changes to makeup or hair would not prevent a reversion. He noted she had been rented out but had been returned in the same condition, and that she had only been disassembled for perhaps fifteen minutes. Further, she couldn’t have spent more than a day disassembled before being put on display at the department store. The representative was instantly troubled by hearing that the mannequin had been rented out, especially to a large store, and reiterated that it should be checked for damage or to see if the reversion is being delayed simply because a joint isn’t secure – if the latter was the case, Elena’s reversion might now be paused indefinitely.

After getting off the line with the representative, Frank gave the mannequin a thorough look over, undoing each joint one-by-one and ensuring he was resetting them securely. A satisfying click emanated each time and he was confident they were all secure. He then calculated that she would revert no later than the following Saturday evening, allowing that perhaps a joint hadn’t been properly secured when he and Larissa had changed her outfit.

The week passed uneventfully, with Elena still rigidly holding her pose come Saturday night. When she had failed to revert by Sunday, Frank asked Larissa to come over again and help him with a sanity check to ensure he hadn’t missed anything. She did, and they once again went over each and every one of Elena’s joints to ensure they were all properly set. Larissa then noticed something she did not remember seeing before, a small spot on Elena’s left calf just above the ankle. She asked Frank if he had noticed that before; he said he hadn’t, but couldn’t definitively state that it wasn’t there all along. Closer inspection revealed that it was a fitting which allowed a mannequin to be affixed to a base by means of a calf rod. Given the realism of the transformation; neither of the two were particularly concerned by it, especially since neither could recall whether or not it had been there before. Frank resolved to ask the manufacturer about it during support hours come Monday, assuming Elena had not reverted in the meantime.

Monday arrived and Elena had indeed not reverted; her transformation was now in its twenty-ninth day and well beyond any possible pausing effects due to disassembly. Frank was able to get in contact with the same representative he spoke with the week prior, who recalled the support case and once again asked to confirm that the mannequin had no damage or loose parts. Frank confirmed this, causing the representative to become perplexed. He then remembered to ask about the calf rod fitting. After a pause that felt like a minute, the representative dolefully explained that no such feature would have been created upon transformation. He explained that the transformation doesn’t create any features; it merely creates a simplified plastic representation of the subject in the position they are in at the time. The transformation of the subject’s head is a slightly more involved process, with any eyelashes and hair transformed into prosthetics while lips, teeth, eyes, eyebrows and makeup reduced to paint. He further explained that the transformation lacks the intelligence to take into consideration the subject’s balance or context and assumes that the subject will brace themselves appropriately before transformation as they can not be held responsible for someone who transforms and then tips over and breaks themselves. As such, he expressed sincere regret and somberly stated that Elena could never revert. Frank paused for a minute to absorb this blow before asking what, if anything, she was feeling right now and if what happened would have been painful. The representative explained that Elena would have been fully conscious, as herself, and never feeling any pain whatsoever up until the moment the support fitting was installed. Rather, it should have been quite peaceful and pleasant; even exciting when being interacted with, although perhaps a bit disorienting at first, especially when being moved. Then and since, she would still not feel any pain, nor any feeling whatsoever; while she would still be conscious she would have no recollection of herself, but instead now identify solely as an object used to display clothing. She now has absolutely no memory whatsoever nor any sense of time, and is now no longer distinguishable in any way from a factory-made mannequin in any physical or metaphysical sense. Deeply troubled, Frank offered his thanks to the representative, who once again expressed his regret, before ending the call.

After wallowing in this disappointing news for several hours, Frank was interrupted by a call from Larissa, who had been expecting an update on Elena’s status. He explained to her the information he had been given. Realizing the whole ordeal was essentially her fault, she became noticeably upset. After she regained her composure, she arranged for her and Frank to meet with the store’s merchandising manager that same day. The manager thanked them for the use of the mannequin for that week, remarking that it was of a better quality than most of those owned by the store and that they would gladly rent it again in the future. When Frank quizzed her about the calf rod, she stuttered nervously for a moment before recalling what happened. She remembered she was troubled by how wobbly the mannequin was and recalled being confused about it having no means of being affixed to a base. Being that it was a particularly busy shift, she admitted to having forgotten that the mannequin was a rental and not the property of the store, and had thus instructed an employee to install the rod fitting into its left calf so that it could safely be displayed. She apologized for the mistake and offered to pay for the damages, but Frank declined the offer. Neither he nor Larissa could bring themselves to tell her the consequences of what she had done; that the mannequin wasn’t just any ordinary mannequin – at least it wasn’t up until that time, anyway.

The mannequin remained in its pose in Elena’s former studio for another couple of weeks before Frank finally came to the conclusion that he needed to move on with his life; he wasn’t doing anybody any service by retaining the mannequin, much less himself. It was now nothing more than a reminder of his girlfriend who effectively no longer existed. Perhaps if there was some remnant of Elena’s consciousness still present in the mannequin, it would appreciate a proper home where it could fulfill its purpose of displaying clothing – while this was clearly not what she had intended, she always did envision making some sort of career in the fashion industry. His first instinct was to ask Larissa if she could arrange to have the mannequin sold to the same department store. She was initially very cool to the idea, thinking it was callous for him to want to part with the mannequin so quickly, but eventually came to agree that it was the best course of action and was able to facilitate the transaction. After the mannequin was delivered to the store, they were both able to watch as the mannequin was picked up and gently lowered onto its circular plexiglass base with a satisfying click. It was a bittersweet moment for both of them, watching their mutual best friend being resigned to such her fate but secure in knowing she had found a good home.

The End