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The Mannequin Factory
September 15, 2007
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"Are you sure we're allowed to be here?" Caleb gawked at the empty factory. Stacks of fake arms and legs lay in on stainless steel equipment.
"Frank told me business was slow. Past three summers we ran double shifts to supply mannequins. This place is dead." Paul pointed to the worker's locker room, a ceramic block room at the far end of the factory.
"The building's cold. Don't they have heat?" Caleb picked up the head of a mannequin with a marble black and silver finish.
"No silly, the equipment is hot enough when it's working. It's 85 or 90 degrees in the middle of winter." They jogged through the factory.
"I never saw so many body parts. These are all made from molds?"
"This is all I did the last three summers. Sculpt the master statue, cast it in alginate, release it, vacuum form the plastic master mold and then make several thousand mannequins."
"You make it sound so simple." They reached the worker's locker room.
"And boring. Come on, I want to be shaved and showered before Frank shows up. Stow your stuff in my locker" Paul went to a locker next to the shower room and unlocked it. Paul turned on the heater and water. A dozen showerheads sprayed cold water.
"Wait for the water to heat up." Paul took several cans of depilatory foam from his locker and slipped out of his clothing. Caleb did the same.
"This stuff safe?" Caleb asked. He pulled a towel over his naked body as an older man dressed in blue work clothes appeared in the doorway.
"Sure it's safe. We use it all the time." Frank's sudden appearance scared Caleb.
"Hey Frank. How's business?" Paul asked.
"Slow. The owners are talking about laying off everyone for two months unless we sell the get this Olympic statues account."
"Well you got muscles. You're still toned and tight." Paul tossed the empty can to Frank.
"Youth, Paul, they want youth. They rejected me as too old. None of us factory guys are young enough. The owners almost gave up and closed the business. Me and a couple other foremen worked out this plan. That's why I called you two." Frank pulled on protective gloves and spread depilatory cream down the back of Paul's body.
"That's silly, you're in great shape for your age," Caleb struggled to spread the cream on his back.
"Yeah, and we don't swing a pipe like you got. That tool of yours can give farm animals inferiority complexes," Paul winked. Frank blushed.
"Your buddy needs help with cream on his back. I'll leave that to you."
"Yeah, he's shy about touching." Paul teased. Caleb sighed.
"You two wrestle against each other, spot each other in gymnastics, live together and you're not used to being touched?" Frank's face wrinkled in disbelief. Caleb sighed.
"It's just that I'm not used to being touched" Caleb blushed and turned his back to Paul. Warm moist air wafted out of the shower room.
"Whatever. You boys don't leave this stuff on too long. Sometimes two quick applications works better than one." Frank said. Paul looked at Caleb's body covered in creamy white foam except for his head and laughed.
"Do what I do," Paul filled both his hands with cream, closed his eyes and mouth tight and spread the cream all over his head and neck. Frank kept adding cream until Paul resembled a snowman. Without opening his eyes or mouth, he let Frank lead him into the shower so he could wash off the cream.
"Just keep your eyes and mouth closed," Frank said. He guided Caleb through the same routine. Both young men stepped from the hot water without a hair on their bodies. As he dried with a rough towel, Caleb stared at his naked and hairless body in a mirror. He was all buff and cut, golden-brown muscle.
"I've never felt this naked." Caleb's movements tried to hide his body.
"Nothing to it. I did my first mannequin two years ago with half the factory watching me. Frank's done it a couple times. You get used to it." Paul answered. His toned muscles rippled with the ease of his movements. He handed Caleb a pair of loose cloth boots to keep his feet clean.
"You two are a little short and chunky, but we can stretch your mannequins after the molds are completed." Frank rolled out a clean white paper path to two large molding vats for the boys to walk across. Then he started the alginate mixer. The tank held several cubic yards of alginate.
"Hey Frank, where's the cups and the funky pink release stuff?" Paul yelled.
"The new release stuff that works better than the old. It's in the blue spray cans. Three coats work best. And you can use the rings for this client." Frank stirred the molding mixture with a wooden paddle. Caleb picked up a can and shook it.
"It's a wax. We found that we don't have to repair the molds as much if we use a release wax." He sprayed it on his and Caleb's bodies. Each coating pulled their skin taut and outlined their muscles, sealing their skin smooth and giving it an glistening automotive shiny.
"If I looked like this all the time, the girls would be lining up at night," Caleb said.
"I know but you could sweat off the old release agent. Then there's this thing. We're going commando and this keeps you from sporting a hard on. You need to put it on." He handed Caleb a set of rings made from clear silicone.
"I thought we were wearing cups? You said most clients want sexless models. That's what I thought."
"Apparently not today. Athletic firms like anatomical correctness. most likely the Olympic group wants full nudity to celebrate Ancient Greece. The problem with casting isn't shrinkage. The problem is preventing erections or hiding an erection. These rings will keep your dick bent no matter what. People assume a bent dick is flaccid. These rings will make our statues look like real studs." Paul slid the rings around his scrotum and behind the head of his penis. It held his testicles out and away from his body and kept his penis bent over the sack. The pressure made his penis thicken and get hard. Caleb did the same.
"Time to get into the alginate," Frank called. He handed both young men small oxygen tanks to fit inside their mouths. Paul slid his legs into the vat and Caleb followed suit. Then Frank poured the remaining alginate over their bodies and waited for the alginate to harden. It took about five minutes. Frank used the machinery to peel the form off the block of alginate.
Frank freed Caleb first. Then he freed Paul. The machinery cut the block of alginate down the middle, stopping at the human body inside and twisting around to obtain two parts for the mold. Caleb brushed away the few pieces of alginate that stuck to his body. Paul gasped for air when the mold pulled away from his face.
"That was close. I forgot that these little breathing tubes only work for ten minutes." The alginate pulled away from his body having captured every muscle and fold. They examined the almost flawless molds. The new waxy release agent did its job. They set the molds into frames to age. Tomorrow morning the morning shift of workers could create mannequins.
"This calls for a toast and I have some well-aged malt whiskey."
"A real boy scout, always prepared," Caleb laughed as he took the glass. They toasted three times -- to Caleb, Paul and the Factory. The malt whiskey went down smooth.
"That's good stuff. Let's do one more toast to naked athletes and the Olympics." Paul said. Frank eagerly poured another round.
"Would you two be open to another favor?"
"I hope it's not sharing a hot shower," Paul laughed.
"Shame on you. You know I don't do those things. You'll have this poor boy thinking nasty thoughts about me. I want your bodies but not for a hot shower. Would you consent to be models for a vacuum mold?" Frank put his arm around Paul's shoulder and rubbed his bare head.
"Vacuum mold? How Frank. I barely held my breath for the Alginate. A vacuum mold takes twice the time." Paul twisted Frank into an arm-lock.
"An injection of Booster-Ox."
"Booster-Ox? You got them to approve that stuff? Last time I heard, it had experimental side effects." They pushed at each other and broke the hold.
"What are you two talking about?" Caleb rubbed his biceps. His skin felt stiff but his biceps and triceps ached for exercise. Frank broke Paul's hold on his arm.
"A vacuum mold is a thin sheet of hard plastic stretched and fitted to your body by vacuum. Once it hardens, it's nearly indestructible. Booster-Ox is a form of time-release oxygen. You can hold your breath without harm. You stand in a frame, I will vacuum fit the plastic over you and then cut you free. No more work than standing still a few minutes longer." Frank pointed to a diagram on the wall.
"No side effects?"
"New and improved, you can hold your breath for several hours," Frank said.
"Another statue? I'm game if you're game, Paul. What about it? What could go wrong?" Caleb sounded euphoric.
"You're half drunk and so am I. Alginate is easy, plastic is hard," Paul said. He paused to think. Frank spoke up.
"Aw Pauly, this would put us a day closer to having posable mannequins ready for the presentation. How about doing it for the guys you worked with the past three years?" Frank poured another round of shots and passed the glasses around. They toasted the workers. Frank held the empty bottle upside down. He retrieved a second pint from his bag.
"Well, put that way, I can't refuse," Paul said.
"I'll drink to that." Caleb pushed the shot glass into Frank's chest. His eyes twinkled from the whiskey. Frank gave Caleb the second pint and let him pour a round for Paul. He went over to the vacuum workstation where two vacuum mold frames waited prepared for use.
"That was too easy. You planned this," Paul chuckled. He felt the whiskey in his system.
"I took a chance on asking. Didn't know if you'd agree or not. I'm an old boy scout, always prepared. Nothing would be a bigger deal killer than having you two stand around chilling out while I spent an hour getting the frames and plastic ready."
"How do we take the Booster-Ox?" Caleb asked.
"Hypodermic into a vein in your leg."
"It's a big, scary shot, fifty cc's of ugly green fluid in a quarter bank of a hypo," Paul laughed. Caleb's eyes went wide open when Frank showed him the real hypodermic. However, The IV-block barely hurt when Frank shoved it into his leg just above the ankle. The world spun around for a second or two. Immediately, Caleb and Paul had to think about breathing to talk. Booster-Ox caused increased blood flow. Pumped up with blood, each muscle and fiber stood out in stark relief. Their physiques buffed out to bodybuilder proportions. Frank had them leave the IV blocks in their legs. He said they needed a second shot to flush out the first when they finished.
Paul showed Caleb how to hold a mouthguard so it didn't make his lips protrude.
"Ready guys?" Frank asked. They shook their heads in affirmation. They stood on the foot platforms and let the machine wrap the plastic sheet around their bodies. It looked like a supermarket plastic wrap but it was thinner and stronger. Frank turned the infrared lamps on and counted slowly to five. The vacuum pumps sucked the plastic tight against their skin pulling all of the air away from their bodies. The release wax and plastic shrank tight and formed a second skin. The heat fused the plastic with Caleb and Paul's skin. It took five minutes for the plastic to become strong enough for Frank to cut away the edges with a laser knife and smooth the edges.
Frank examined the two plastic-encased young men. They looked all muscle and brawn and masculinity, quintessential athletes posed in their physical and sexual primes. He reconnected the IV tubing and began an infusion of plasticizing agent. The vacuum would pull the plasticizing fluid through their bodies, saturating them and converting their bodies into long-lasting polymers. When the plasticizer reached their new plastic skin, they two young men would be transformed.
"I think you know that this isn't just a mold making process. They said you might feel your bodies turning into mannequins. Jesus, I envy you two. I wanted to be the model but they said I was too old. The fact is, we need the prototype mannequins tomorrow morning and this is the only way to create them. You represent the first models of fully articulated, posable, and anatomically correct mannequins. We discovered how to build the inner framework but we needed real bodies to mold the exterior. You volunteered." Frank looked into their unmoving eyes. He hoped both young men were still alive. He wanted to know what they felt. The scientists speculated that consciousness would never leave a mannequin -- a form of eternal youth, a victory over Death. Frank figured only the two young men would know for certain.
The only problem was that Paul and Caleb's bodies were a couple inches too short. He adjusted the computer that controlled the frames holding their bodies. "I feel almost dental," Frank said. He punched the keyboard and the frames began to stretch the young men to the proper height. Frank wondered if partially converted bodies could feel the stretch, appreciate the movement. The tallness enhanced their musculature, reminding Frank of El Greco paintings; gaunt athletes with long, lean bodies, every muscle perfectly presented, ideal mannequins for the Olympics.
Frank cleaned up the boy's clothes while their bodies continued the transformation into polymeric composites.
The night was cold and quiet and Frank dozed as he watched. He dreamed of being a mannequin just like Paul and Caleb, of standing in front of the new Olympic stadium naked, representing all athletic youth, admired by the crowds, adored by the kids. Caleb and Paul didn't know how lucky they were to become mannequins. Tomorrow, Frank intended to pitch his body to one of the foreign Olympic committees. In a few days with some luck, he would join Paul and Caleb.
2440 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
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*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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