The Plastic Prison

by Heather St. Claire

 Melinda looked down at the table in the courtroom and began to sob. Her nightmare didn’t seem to be ending; it was just getting worse.

 At 37 years of age Melinda Whitman was still a striking woman; tall, lean, blonde. A closer look, though, would have revealed the scars of a difficult life. Now, on this gray day in the fall of 2020, it was a life that was truly at a crossroads.

 Six weeks earlier, Melinda had been convicted in the shooting death of her husband. She had tried to claim self-defense; after all, he had beaten her while in an alcoholic rage several times; she had suffered countless bruises, and a couple of broken bones. But the night she had shot him, he had been in an alcohol-induced stupor; her testimony that she had been driven by memories of the past and fear of the future had moved the jury, but not enough to save her from conviction.

 The words of the prosecuting attorney still echoed in her ears. “Am I asking you not to feel pity for Mrs. Whitman? Of course I’m not! Am I telling you that Steve Whitman was a good person? Of course I’m not! What I am telling you, ladies and gentlemen, is that no matter how fearful a person is, that does not give them the right to walk up to a sleeping person and fire a bullet into their brain. And that’s why I’m asking you to convict Mrs. Whitman of first-degree murder.”

 She couldn’t get those words out of her head, but somehow, she had to; she had to focus on what the judge was saying. “....your sentence will be 25 years without the possibility of parole, to be served in the state penitentiary, or in the form of a mannequin, whichever the defendant shall choose.”

 In the form of a mannequin! It had only been five years since this became an option in the United States for certain felonies; there had been a raging debate in most of the states; finally, most had settled on the route Melinda’s state had chosen, making it a voluntary sentence.

 Those who opposed it called it a particularly cruel and unusual form of punishment. Those who supported it pointed out that unlike those who went to prison, those who were mannequinized would emerge at the end of their sentence the same age as when they began, truly able to start anew; and the taxpayer would have no obligation to house and care for them. In fact, it was a small boon to the public treasury, as stores would pay premium prices to lease mannequins that had formerly been human. They had a realism that no manufacturer could match.

 Melinda’s lawyer had prepared her for the likelihood that she would have to face this choice; she had spent most of her waking hours in her jail cell considering her options. Assuming she survived 25 years in prison, she would come out 62 years old. Too old to start life over.

 But to spend 25 years as a piece of plastic? She couldn’t fathom it at first...but slowly, she began to come around to the idea. The process of converting humans to mannequins and back again had only been perfected a few years earlier. Only a few dozen women and men had accepted the sentence, and only a handful had completed their time and been returned to human form.

 The strange thing was, those who had been through it, when they were interviewed on TV or newspapers, said it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, some seemed to suggest that they had enjoyed the experience; even, strangely, that they missed it.

 Melinda considered the fact that as a mannequin, she wouldn’t age; so this would give her an opportunity to pick up her life anew.

 “Will the defendant please rise and tell the court her decision,” the judge said solemnly.

 Melinda grasped the table and pulled herself to her feet. “Your honor, I will become a mannequin,” she said.

 “Let the sentence be carried out,” the judge said, banging her gavel loudly.

 Melinda was led to a car in handcuffs, the back widows were blackened. She wondered why there was such a need for secrecy. Although the trip didn’t take very long, she felt an emptiness taking hold inside of her and shaking her very being.

 Soon, the car stopped, and she was led, trembling, through a dark hall into a large room filled with electronic equipment. A tall, stern-looking woman in a lab coat introduced herself. “I am Dr. McKim,” she said. “I will be carrying out your transformation. I assure you that it will be swift, and painless. I can also tell you that while you are in your mannequin form, you will have the capacity to experience great orgasmic pleasure. And time will have little meaning to you.” She paused. “Do you have any questions?”

 “No, ma’am,” Melinda said weakly. Dr. McKim told her to remove her clothing and step onto a raised platform. She did so; a Plexiglas tube descended from above and enveloped her. Soon, there was a loud hum, and the inside of the tube was bathed with a strange light.

 Immediately, Melinda lost the ability to move her feet. She tried to wiggle her toes, but realized that they were now fused plastic. The strange tingling moved rapidly up her legs. Although she was curious about what was happening to her, she was grateful she couldn’t see what came next; her vagina disappeared, leaving a smooth, shiny expanse of plastic in its place.

 The change moved up her torso; she felt her erect nipples solidify. Next, she realized her neck was frozen.  By this point, she could only open and close her eyelids; then, they froze in the open position. The hum faded, the light dimmed, and the tube raised back to its previous overhead position.

 Dr. McKim approached the platform, smiling. She carefully inspected the transformed Melinda. “Very good, dear, very good,” she said. “You’ll discover that every blemish, every scar, every wrinkle is gone. Although you cannot move, you can still hear and speak, and your plastic skin is sensitive...quite sensitive.” Dr. McKim reached down and began to stroke her sexless crotch. A wave of pleasure shot through Melinda’s plastic body.

 As two men arrived to carry Melinda away, Dr. McKim said, “You’ve been leased to a very nice department store, dear,” she said. “Good-bye...and good luck.”

 Melinda found herself loaded into the back of a truck and driven to one of the city’s largest downtown department stores. She was carefully carried into a storeroom. Apparently, everyone knew she was a frozen human, for they seemed to handle her with a great degree of care. The woman working in the storeroom told Melinda, “Don’t worry dear, someone’s going to be right with you.”

 Soon, Melinda found herself being studied by a striking, exquisitely dressed blonde in her late 20s. She had wavy shoulder length hair, lightly tanned skin, and perfect white teeth. She was wearing an expensive beige silk suit, gold jewelry, and looked absolutely sensational.

 “Hi,” she said. “I’m Helena Peterson, and I understand your name is Melinda. This is your first day here -- well, it’s mine, too! I’ve just been hired as the head of the display department. I  want to let you know, I think what you’ve chosen to do is very brave, and I’m going to do everything I can to make your life with us as bearable -- even as pleasant as it can be.” Helena smiled and reached for Melinda’s crotch. Apparently, Dr. McKim had let her in on the secret of the human mannequins.

 Over the coming months, Melinda found herself the centerpiece of all kinds of displays. Helena made sure to move her frequently, apparently in the hope that a change of costume and scene might help make her life less boring. One week, she was wearing a jogging suit in sportswear; the next week, she was in a bridal gown; after that, she found herself in the front window in an evening dress.

 Melinda found that time didn’t seem to pass in the same way as a mannequin as it did for a human. At night, when the store was closed, her mind seemed to drift into a pseudo-sleep. During the day, she found herself watching the passing customers and feeling a rush of pleasure whenever someone brushed against her.

 Helena either dressed Melinda herself, or supervised her moves. She talked to her, sharing the intimate details of her life. The weeks stretched quickly into months and years. Helena cried on Melinda’s plastic shoulder when a couple of her relationships with men went sour; she hugged Melinda with joy the day after she got engaged.

 Melinda had grown to think of Helena as her one true friend in the world. She couldn’t believe how quickly the years were flying by. She watched Helena take maternity leave, and give birth to one daughter, then a second. Although Helena worked hard at staying young, Melinda realized with a start one day just how much time had passed.

 “Can you believe it, Melinda,” Helena said one morning. “Hilary leaves for college tomorrow. It’s just going to me and Bruce at home.” Melinda thought for a minute...Hilary was Helena’s youngest daughter, born four years after her arrival at the store...good lord, could it really be 22 years already?

 The next year, Helena greeted Melinda, “I’ve come to a decision, Melinda, and I hope you don’t think I’m being too silly and vain, but I’m getting a face-lift soon.” She pointed to her eyes, then her forehead. “Look at these crows-feet, and these wrinkles. They make me feel old! I’m only 51...God, I don’t know, maybe it’s spending 20-plus years watching you not get a day older....but this is my silliness.”

 One afternoon in 2044, Helena told Melinda, “Your countdown to freedom, begins today, girlfriend. One year from today, you get restored to human form.” She paused. “I’m sure you’re smiling inside, and I’m sure happy for you...but God, I’m going to miss you...and as crazy as this sounds, some part of me envies you.” Helena turned, and stumbled. She caught herself, but Melinda’s feminine intuition told her something was up. Melinda had been seeming strangely awkward and listless for months.

 About a month later, Melinda saw Helena coming toward her in tears. “Oh God, Melinda, I can’t believe it. I’ve got Lou Gherig’s Disease. I’ve probably only got a couple of years to live.” She threw her arms around the mannequin and sobbed. Inside, Melinda was crying too.

 When the day arrived for Melinda to be returned to human form, Helena came in to say good-bye. At this point, she was using a cane. “Good-bye, dear, and good luck,” she said. “I’ve got a strange request, but I hope you’ll understand. Please don’t look me up after you become human again. I want you to remember me as I was, and I want to remember my ideal version of you.” She began to cry again. “And if you do come find me, I want you to do something for me......” she choked back the sobs. “I want you to kill me. I can’t stand the thought of wasting away with this disease, and I can’t do it myself. I don’t expect you to do it, but believe me, if you could do it, you’d be doing me a favor.”

 She composed herself once more, and planted a kiss on Melinda’s cheek. “I love you. Good-bye.”

 Before she knew it, Melinda found herself back on the same platform she had stood upon 25 years earlier to the day. The tube settled down around her, there was a high-pitched whine, and the chamber was filled with the blinding light. As the tube lifted, she realized she could move again.

 Melinda spoke her first words in a quarter century. “Change me back,” she said.

 “You’re kidding,” the young scientist at the controls said.

 “No, I’m deadly serious. The only happiness I’ve ever known in this world has been as a mannequin. I’ve been pampered, admired, a way I never was in the outside world.”

 The young man shook his head. “I’m sorry miss,” he said. “This is only a punishment for criminals. You’ve served your time.”

 The parole officer helped Melinda find an apartment and set her up with a job as a window dresser in another of the city’s department stores. She found little joy in her new life; it was hard to rouse herself from sleep every morning, and she was bone-tired every night when she got home. Although she would spend an hour soaking in a bubble bath, she muttered to herself more than once, “Being a mannequin never hurt like this.”

 Although physically, she had the body of a 37-year-old, she found herself out of synch with the world of 2045. A whole generation had grown up without her. She didn’t understand the culture, the relationships, anything. More than once, she asked her parole officer if there was any way she could become a mannequin again.

 “Only if you commit another capital crime,” she said. “And I’m sure that’s the last thing you want to do.”

 Melinda walked the city streets that night, thinking about her future. No, she had never willingly, deliberately, hurt anyone in her life; she had slain her husband in a fit of fear and rage. But now as she stepped into the pawn shop to make a purchase, she knew what she must do.

 The next day, she would pay Helena a visit. And both of their problems would be solved.


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