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Ghost Story

There was a sound coming out of her. The stenographer was recording it. It was dark in the small room and she could see the sound waves on the screen pulsing. Was it a good pulse? It was hard to say. Was it louder now she was bigger? People called it getting taller but she was getting bigger. She was growing in perfect proportion. It wasn’t like she was stretching. The tallness was coming from a push that seemed to come from her feet. Her feet would get bigger and then her ankles would get bigger and all the way up her body. Unnoticeable to the human eye. But often she would wake up and sit up and she would know she was taller. Maybe it was happening equally over time, maybe it was happening in spurts. She had been to an endocrinologist. She suspected they all had. Hormones made you grow and something had turned on all their hormones. Everyone was trying to find out why. It was a multimillion-dollar business because it was throwing things off in an uncomfortable way. All the people that were getting bigger were normal people. None of the rich or powerful people were getting taller. None of them. So when her boss had to tell her she was making a hash of things. That maybe she needed to get better at her job – her boss found it hard because of her size. Her boss had complained that he felt threatened. She wasn’t sure why her boss would feel that way, at least she didn’t want her boss to feel that way. She wanted her boss to feel comfortable around her. But he was right to be frightened. She was bigger than him by a lot and she was strong. That was a secret she was keeping. She was so much stronger. She’d broken a couple of things. None of the powerful people wanted to feel like this so a lot of the powerful people were putting a lot of money into research – to try and stop it. Just stop it. Because it was messing with the order of things.

 

‘That’s your gallbladder,’ the stenographer said. ‘It looks fine. The walls aren’t thick and there are no stones in there.’

 

She was happy about that. She still had everything she was born with – except her tonsils and she had an idea that she wanted to stay intact for as long as possible. She knew it was very unlikely that she would keep everything until she died but she liked to know it was all still there. Her feet touched the floor. She hoped it was because she had adjusted herself on the couch but maybe she had grown again. Maybe she only grew in her sleep. It was so hard to tell because it was happening from inside. It was incredibly uncomfortable. It gave her vertigo and made her cranky. She’d have to wait until she stood up. The stenographer seemed like the kind of person who was patient and polite.

 

He handed her a paper towel. She wiped her stomach. Everything grew at the same time. At first, she thought she might get tall and her stomach would shrink. She was five foot four inches before. Short. Average. The BMI was bullshit but she used to make a joke, ‘I’m the perfect weight for a six foot man.’ But it wasn’t like that at all. Her stomach grew as well. Everything in concert – grew. She wiped her stomach. Tried to work out if it was bigger. If her navel was further away than it had been when she sat down. Everything she wore was elasticised now. She had no jeans or skirts with gathered waistbands.

 

The stenographer didn’t ask her to get up but he was standing by the door now. He had looked away. To give her privacy as she wiped the jelly off her stomach. Wiping the jelly off was an intimate act. It was lubricant. She knew it. He knew it. It came in a huge tube and was in some kind of machine that warmed it. The warm lubricant was somehow more exposing than if it had been cold. She wiped and spun her legs off the bed – and there it was. She was a lot taller. She looked at the door. The stenographer was standing at the door. He was holding the door. He was looking at his notes maybe because he’d noticed. He had already noticed that she was taller and was trying to avoid the embarrassment. The warm lubricant was more embarrassing she thought, that was it, it wasn’t exposing, it was shameful. She was so much taller, but she thought she could probably get out the door. If she ducked down. She stood up and was dizzy. It took her a few seconds to gain any kind of purchase on the room. She couldn’t stand all the way up without hitting the roof which made it more difficult. The bend in her neck and waist seemed to make it even harder to balance. The stenographer looked up at her finally, ‘So, your doctor will be in touch.’ He wanted her out as soon as possible and she knew that, and she was trying but everything now needed to be recalculated. She put her arm out to steady herself and it hit the wall with the screen on it.

 

‘Sorry,’ she said. Couldn’t he just leave her alone to get out of the room? But he couldn’t, of course he couldn’t.

 

He shook his head and raised his hand to say, no need to apologise. But the screen was off the wall now and she was worried she’d have to pay for it. She took a step forward and then reassessed. Then another and the stenographer was still in the doorway.

 

‘You might need to…’ she tried to just look at the door but her head nodded and she hit the roof and the room rattled. The stenographer got out of her way.

 

There were new people in the waiting room now, people who hadn’t seen her come in. New people who were all looking at her.

 

‘Thank you,’ she said quietly, but it came out loud.

 

The stenographer smiled and nodded. He didn’t look at her.

 

There was a line which you had to stand behind to pay your bill. Anyone
could be contagious. She had no idea where her feet stopped. She looked down. She might still be growing. The whole building was new to her so she had no idea. When she’d come in she hadn’t needed to notice any of the dimensions of the place and now she needed to pay quickly or she wouldn’t be able to leave. Would need a door removed to leave. Or would need to wait until she was smaller. No one was looking at her but she needed to pay. No one was looking at her but everyone noticed her. Everyone knew she was there and the space she was taking up. She would have to leave her car in the parking lot. She’d need to talk to someone about that.

 

‘My car’s in the parking lot,’ she said.

 

The woman looked at her.

 

‘Can I leave my car?’ she said.

 

‘The terms are up on the car park.’

 

‘Will it get towed?’ she said.

 

‘The car park is run by a separate organisation,’ the woman said.

 

She couldn’t get her purse out of her bag or the card out of her purse.

 

‘Could you, maybe,’ she held her bag out to the woman, tiny between her
large thumb and forefinger.

 

The woman took her bag and fished around in it. She was sure she was still
growing, she needed to leave soon. She didn’t want to make anyone frightened but there was a small child in the waiting room crying and she needed to go.

 

‘Savings,’ she said as the woman swiped her card through. ‘5309.’

 

‘Do you need…’

 

‘No,’ she said. Hand out for her bag. The woman put the card back in the
purse and the purse back in the bag and placed it gently in her huge open hand.

 

The door was electric. There was a lot of her to get through.

 

‘Thank you,’ she said behind herself as the door closed on her once, twice,
three times and a fourth as she got her final foot out of the clinic. Now outside, she ducked down and smiled and waved through the glass at the receptionist and made for home. Flying almost. Each stride taking her metres.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is the author of three novels: Nothing to See (2020), The New Animals (2017), which won the Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction, and I’m Working on a Building (2013); and the short story collection Everything We Hoped For (2010), which won the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction in 2011. Pip’s work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies in New Zealand and overseas. She is the current Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence for 2021 at Te Herenga Waka – International Institute of Modern Letters. Pip makes the Better off Read podcast where she talks with authors about writing and reading.

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