Author : G. Deyke
The girl smacked her gum, fussed with her hair a little, and turned her attention back to her phone. After a few seconds she glanced up again, clearly irritated: “Well?”
“Right. Um.” Thomas suppressed the urge to look at the fingernails she was currently wearing. “Color?”
“Green. Do you have something in a sort of limey chartreuse, maybe?”
“Uh, yeah, the list’s over here –” But his customer had turned her full attention back to the phone, and was clearly ignoring him. Thomas cleared his throat. “Do you want lime, or chartreuse?”
“Uh… yeah, lime. Sure.”
Thomas winced. The long ones were always worst. “I’ll be right back.”
He had 18 mm lime in stock, still in their larval stage, pale and wriggling under the blue light of the stasis chamber. He tried hard not to look at them too closely as he deactivated the security tab and slid them across the counter to his customer. “There you go. Eighteen millimeter lime. That’ll be ten sixty-eight, please.”
The girl raised her eyebrows, put away her phone, paid, and – to Thomas’ unsurprised horror – began to unscrew the container. “You don’t mind if I change them out here, do you?”
“Actually, yes! This isn’t really a hygienic place for the – we ask that you please not – please – just –”
But it was too late. His customer was popping off her old fingernails (Thomas tried to avert his eyes, but couldn’t help recognizing the dead casing of the very popular 18 mm midnight) and applying the pale larvae to her raw nailbeds. They pulsated grotesquely as they fastened themselves to the exposed flesh. By morning they would grow the hard lime-green casing that passed for a fashionable alternative to actual fingernails among Thomas’ customers.
“Best to get it over with, really,” said the girl around a mouthful of gum. “It stings a bit, doesn’t it?”
“Uh, yes, ma’am,” said Thomas, fighting back vomit. “I hear they’re working on fingernails with a sort of weak venom in their spittle. Just enough to sort of numb the nailbed. Faster, I mean. If you subscribe to our mailing list you’ll find out about these sorts of advancements as soon as they happen, as well as being the first to see our new selections in colors, updated every fortnight –”
“Thanks. Already on it.”
And with that she was gone, leaving nothing behind her but ten dead 18 mm midnight fingernails, a mostly-empty glass vial, several large puddles of preservative fluid (already beginning to drip down onto the paperwork behind the counter), and a few streaks of blood.
As he stared at the mess, with nausea bubbling up in his stomach, Thomas reflected that maybe – just maybe – it was time to start looking for another job.