Zero. Yet again, a non-human customer had ignored the notice on his website stating that zebras only came in two sizes: large, or extra large. Xavier stared at the order form and wondered whether it was someone’s idea of a joke. What did size zero even mean?

Vanity was the bane of these newly rich types, he thought, staring glumly at the seven-figure sum on offer. Unless he sold eight regular-sized zebras by the end of the month, his business was going under, and he’d be thrown out onto the street with nowhere to live. This job alone — if he could somehow manage to fulfil it — would fix him up for the rest of his life. Stress-free lazing on the beach of a human-only resort for the rest of his life!

Really, he would have given anything to go back to his old life, to the days when gargoyles stayed fixed to cathedrals and medusas were hardly remembered, to the days when he’d been a simple butcher serving bog-standard cuts of meat to real down-to-earth Spaniards. Quail had been the most exotic meat he’d served, with none of these zebras and crocodiles cluttering up the aisles. Pity that humans no longer had the money to spend on meat, and he was forced to cater to the demands of these ever-hungry monsters.

Only now the monsters were demanding more and more, and expecting to pay less, using threats and blackmail as their preferred currency. Nevermind that Xavier could not pay for rent or food with those threats, and that he was slowly going out of business. Money had no meaning to creatures like these, trapped in the mindset of centuries past when they hadn’t been legal members of society.

Lately the situation had begun spiralling even further out of control with Xavier’s savings all but gone, and now this, this order that could save his shop if only he could fulfill it. Key word being ‘if’ — how he’d locate a size zero zebra was beyond him.

Joder,” he cursed, making his way over to the cold room at the back, order form still clutched tightly in his hand. “Imposible, es imposible.”

Hands on his hips, he surveyed the latest delivery of zebras, chewing his lip as he took in their unsurprisingly large size. Good quality meat, all of it, imported live from Africa and butchered at the slaughterhouse down the road. Fashion now dictated, though, that the gourmet feeders — vampires and the like — consume only dainty portions of meat in public. Eating entire animals, which had been popular only a few months previous, was now outdated.

Dire action was called for. Calculating rapidly in his head, Xavier grabbed a knife and set to work one of of the zebras, cutting out the ribs, the back molars–anything to make the zebra look skinnier than it actually was. By the time he was finished, all that was left was a husk of the once proud zebra, a ghost of itself, bones protruding, skin stretched thin, a ghoulish grin answering Xavier’s smile.

And then he walked out of the room, wiped his blood-streaked hands on the front of his trousers, and decided fashion wasn’t so bad after all.


Continuing my ABC Challenge inspired #fridayflash stories, I decided to shake things up a little this week by doing the alphabet in reverse! (Although I’ll admit, I wrote the ‘A’ sentence first.) But overall it was a lot more fun to tackle the tricky letters first.

23 thoughts on “DOWNSIZING

    • My mind is a little twisted at times I suppose. It was kind of prompted by the articles all about what girls did during the size zero craze — many actually got their bottom rib cut out and back molars removed to look thinner!

      • Wow, I’ve heard about ribs before, but I had no idea people were removing their teeth to look fashionable thin.

        Erk, life has become too twisted for some people!

        • I think it was only their wisdom teeth mainly — teeth that aren’t really necessary. Without them, your cheeks sink in a bit more, hence making your face look thinner!

          Personally I think having your bottom rib sawn out of you is a bit worse!!

          • Ribs are worse, but at least there is a noticeable difference for their insanity.

            Personally, I think their sunken cheeks would just make them look like they’d been taking too many drugs, if a change could be seen at all.

            At softball training on Wed night, one of my team-mates was talking about a program she’d seen where women were altering their genitalia to appear tidier or more youthful.

            The idea that society has reached a point where this sort of thing is acceptable sickens me.

            • Yes I’ve heard about that as well. It is a little depressing to think there are women out there who feel pressured into making these changes.

  1. I love it!

    At first glance, it seems a simple humorous tale with a touch of squeamishness (for some, I’m sure).

    But on another level, it is a comment on humanity and the “wastes” of fashion.

    Or perhaps it is resourcefulness in the face of greed?

    • I was thinking more about the wastes of fashion, and the slight ridiculousness of it all. But Xavier definitely is resourceful… the only issue being, his solution to make the zebra a size zero is what real girls did in answer to the size zero craze. Girls actually had their ribs and teeth removed to look skinnier — it’s crazy!

  2. I am in awe of people who can do these ABC challenges!
    Size zero zebras indeed!!

    On another note, your page 247 prompt from last week’s story will be used as the exercise at my next writers group meeting :-)

    • Let me know how it goes!

      I love the ABC Challenge. I find the less I think about what I’m writing and where the story’s going, the better it works. I let the words guide me. :-)

  3. One of the creepiest stories I’ve read (that’s a compliment!) I can’t get the poor Zebra’s smile out of my head.

  4. Quite a gruesome tale, with a great reimagining of gargoyles and fashion. The Spanish setting is interesting–reminds me of the suckling pigs in the ham museum window, and how the waiter tried to pass off ham as a vegetable to my vegetarian husband. And the Spanish inquisition? Great touch.

    • The Spanish setting happened entirely by chance due to me not being able to think of a word beginning with X other than Xavier. :-)

      Thanks for your comment!

  5. Zero means they get nothing! >:D

    Criticism-you were going in a very good direction, but the whole thing fell apart at G. What I think you should have done is this: given that this a story about fashion and the “monsters” are the rich and the “zebras” are the coats, clothing that the rich desire, you should try and create an either more ambiguous or more concise version of this story. It seems that you were striving to create a story with said elements in a more figurative fashion, but the problem is that the figurative parts and the literal meaning under the surface don’t actually connect in those last seven sentences.

    It is as if you got loazy, bored, uninspired or writer’s block in that last chunk and just went with the first the thing you thought up. Oh, and admitting that you wrote the last sentence first did not help.

    What remains is a story that does not really make sense. It is well-written, but I strongly urge you to reconsider that part of the story.



    • I have to admit I did struggle with the last half precisely because I’d written the last sentence first and didn’t know how to connect the two parts. But I wanted to keep the last sentence, so….

      And I really wrote the whole story with whatever came to mind first. That’s how I tackle these ABC Challenges: I start with the first letter, think of a word, think of a sentence to follow, wash and repeat. So many times they trail off halfway.

      Since I write them more for the fun and challenge than anything else, I’m not as strict with myself when it comes to plot and such.

      But you make some good points. Thanks for your thoughts. :-)

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