My life is full of the screaming babies and dying old, and everybody else in between. I’ve been hired by those with deep pockets and gray hairs to fold their wrinkles away. Men have paid me for bodies sculpted like the ancient marbles, and women have ordered slender youthful suits that defy their age. My medium is flesh, and I work it like clay, molding it and mending it to the way my client sees fit.
Today a young man came into my shop. Twenty something, early twenties, perhaps twenty three if I were to guess. He appeared to wear a natural born suit, a “birthday suite” if you will. Unaltered from birth, grown al naturale if you will. Thin kid. I could tell just by the look of his body, no one would purchase a suit like that. Or so I thought.
His cheekbones protruded like steep cliffs, his arms no thicker than a golf club. I told him to wait a few minutes, as I had to finish up my work upon a lady who had requested a smoother face. When I applied my last mends to her face, sealing the space between her crimson muscles, and she admired her new face within the mirror, praising my work with so many of the cliches I have heard before about looking twenty years younger and ten pounds lighter (because of course you do, you specifically requested this work from me), did I finally address the scrawny man.
“How man I help you?” I asked. The bell above the door rang as my last client left, leaving me just with the kid.
“You a skin tailor?” He asked. A tension held within his voice.
“The best in the city,” I nodded.
“I need a new suit,” he said pinching at his wrist, pulling what little skin that wrapped it away from his bones.
“Well first we’ll need to schedule a consolation appoint-“
“Now,” he said.
“I don’t do walk-ins,” I shook my head.
“You’re the best right?”
“In the city.”
“Then you’re the best I got. I need an appointment now.”
“Is it even your birthday?” I asked. As is regulation, clients can only receive a tailoring on their birthday. An archaic law I might add, but one I had been legally held to.
“Now.” He produced a sizable handgun from his pockets and pointed it right at my chest. My heart leaped, but I found my resolve quickly. There were protections put in place for such a situation once a threat had been poised against a skin tailor. Whatever harm done to him now I would no longer be legally liable. My mind began scheming of designs that would best suit my would be assailer. I nodded and said, “Very well. Now if you would follow me to the back.”
The young man nudged the pistol towards my chest. I turned around and walked to my studio, the gun digging into my back.
He wanted the impossible. A complete change of age and musculature structure, all to be done before opening tomorrow. I only had so many pieces to work with at my disposal, I hardly ever had any conventional stock flesh, which is why a consolation was always required for my services. What I had to work with was nothing more than the discarded skin and muscles of my past clients. Wrinkled, withered, and wretched parts. From dry aged skin, to atrophied muscles, and cancerous tumors. A pile of rejects. But my pistol wielding client did not need to know that. Hell, my mind raced with the many ideas I could work with. I haven’t had to improvise on a design since I had been a student some twenty years ago.
I asked him to undress, he looked me with skeptical eyes. I told him that one can’t tailor the flesh that they can’t see. Awkwardly undressing with his gun and eyes train upon me he managed to get down to his birthday suit in due time. I did not mind for my mind had more time to think of what sort of creation I could come up with. I pictured a patchwork job of elderly flesh tucked next to the smooth skin of a baby. Or a body full of nothing but tumors. Would the kid know what I had done in either case? He seemed young and naive, and most of all desperate. But this could be a ruse of sorts.
I guided him to the chair in which he laid, giving me that same shiver as the cold leather touched upon his skin that every one of my client gave without fail.
“Do you have a particular faces you want to wear?” I asked. My usual question, because the face held the soul of the flesh, the rest was all set dressing.
“Different.” He said, and that was all.
I searched my discarded pile for a face suited for a man such despair. A face of a man after a divorce? That of a scared woman’s face given to her by an angry ex-lover? Or that of a dying hermit with no legacy of his own? I opted for the hermit’s. Now that I held a prompt within my hands I could now create my art.
I approached the young man and showed him the face. He looked at it with distaste and asked me if that’s the best I got. I gave him a BS story about a skin shortage and that all I had was nothing more than elderly faces. He grumbled but relented and I got to work.
I worked deep into the night, all the way to the first creeping of dawn. The client eventually relaxed after a few interruptions here and there, caused by his own anxiety. Throughout my work I noticed that the man’s skin was not 100% his own. I could see the thin lines of new flesh used to hid scars or remove unwanted tats, and his face did not match the age of his muscles. He had clearly done this before, perhaps in similar situations of desperation. Whoever he had seen was quite impressive. I wondered if it may be the work of Abigail Smithers, a contemporary of mine who had been at the same school as me. She had not done well in class, but of everybody in my graduation she had made the biggest name of herself as she came to prominence by working pro-bono from those in need. In the end, I believe that even she surpassed me in her craft. Anyways I digress.
When the first rays of dawn shown through the glass panes of the storefront my work was complete. The young scrawny man before me was no more, and in his place was that of an old man with the sunken look of regret upon his eyes. His skin was tailored with whatever matching flesh I had found, mostly melanoma ridden skin that would kill my client within the next six months or sooner if he didn’t get it operated it on fast. But that was not my concern.
“Your new face,” I said handing the man a mirror.
He looked at himself with curious eyes, but they drew no offense to my work, even though my legitimate clients would throw a fit if they were to see such a face upon them. (In a way they did, otherwise they wouldn’t have seeked me out, but never once had I tailored an older flesh upon my client.)
“It’ll do,” he nodded. His voice still the same, if he were to have that replaced he’d have to seek out a different kind of tailor. Skin and muscles were all my job.
He inspected his arms before turning to me. “Cancer?” He asked.
“It fit the canvas. I’d recommend seeing another tailor to remove them. Perhaps Ms. Smithers in the next town?”
He looked at me and then back at his arms.
“Thank you,” he nodded.
He got up from his chair and changed, no longer training the pistol upon me. Afterwards he walked to the door. His muscles still that of what he had before (I had no time to replace those, I’d be insane to do all skin and muscles within the same night) which gave his movement an uncannily young look. I had grown accustomed to seeing the faces of the younger people walk with canes, but never the opposite.
I followed him to the front, walking behind my desk. Eyes heavy and tired, as he pushed the door open, ringing the bell, and walked into the sunlight. The amber rays of the sun blinding me as the sun rose over the city streets.
Originally submitted for this prompt: https://old.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/zmxlh6/wp_you_are_a_tailor_and_in_your_world_people_are/