Shell by Lucy Maddox

It was cumbersome but she had learnt how to move despite it. Her shell.

She had first noticed her skin thickening some years ago, but off and on had managed to ignore it. A sign of age, she had thought, one of those inevitable things, like grey pubic hairs or fattening thighs. Her bathroom mirror had been pretty small as well, so it was when she stayed over at her friend’s house one weekend that she really noticed it. She had climbed into the bath and wondered a little at the clanking noises, but when she pulled herself out to stand dripping on the bathmat the full length mirror on the wall and the bright overhead lighting showed a shape she couldn’t ignore. Her back had grown a

 

hard external casing, a second spine, and segmented hard leaves of shell curling off it, in and around towards her soft belly.

It had been a shock, and yet at the back of her mind she must have half-known because in a way it was also a relief to finally see it. She had stood there first in mild panic, then in a gradual wonder at the structure she had grown around her. She turned from one side to the other, looking at herself from different angles. Now her shoulders too had a casing, like an eighties shoulder pad but hard instead of soft and yielding. Her elbows were beginning to grow calluses. She suspected it was only a matter of time before the armour plating

 

developed. Still, she could move. She could dance, swim, run for the bus. She got some strange looks, and it made dating harder, but she could still have a night of wild passion as long as she was not on her back. In some ways it had made her more inventive.

Bio: Lucy Maddox likes to write the
occasional short fiction piece when she’s
not working as a psychologist or
writing about science or psychological ideas.

Katy Darby, Cent literary editor, runs Liars League.
The next event is on the 12th of September
and is called WOMEN & GIRLS
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Illustration: Rotimi Olusola