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Attack of the Supermodels

by Max Barry
2002

They came from the catwalks and they came from the billboards: they came from Los Angeles in a steady stream and no-one could stop them. They were six feet tall and when they walked, their hips transcribed perfect arcs in the air. You could see them in darkness, because their lips glistened like precious gems and their eyes shone like the hope of the world. They never spoke. They were models.

They'd always been around: you would see one at your gym, or walking her dog, and tell your friends about it. Then they got on TV a lot, and that's how we got used to them: that's why it took us so long to realize what was happening. And then it was too late: there were cosmetic surgeries and Revlon commercials and California and they were everywhere.


I am walking along Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City. I am thinking about my college grades, which need to be better, and I realize I am staring at a woman's ankles. I am staring at her ankles because they are too small to support her weight. They are the daintiest, most ideal ankles the world has ever seen.

The ankles are connected to feet, which are inside red high heels, ridiculous heels, heels of absurd length. I drag my eyes up her legs and they are miles long; they are sculpted, toned, and tanned; they are made from plastic. They have been manufactured to exacting specifications. Her dress is high and red and her body has been poured into it by industrial funnels. Her arms are thin and smooth, fresh from the moulding cases. She is wearing a designer watch too elegant to tell time. Her hair shimmers like sunlight on water: this is no reflection; there is some kind of internal light source. She is walking a small white dog, and the dog has stopped to sniff a tree. The woman is turning back to look at it, and her green lantern eyes meet mine.

There is no way, I mean no way known, this woman is human.

I recoil, and bump into a girl passing by. She is in the process of tucking her hair behind her ear, and her lips curve into a smile at me. I have just collided with this girl and she is looking at me from beneath long, arranged lashes and as if we are secret lovers or posing together in a jeans commercial.

I stare, unable to stop. She is looking back. The woman with the dog is looking. And now there are four or five others, tall, in high shoes, watching me, too. My head whips around. I am surrounded by models. The whole street is full of them. They have taken over the world and I am only just noticing.

"Are you all right?" the woman with the dog says.

"Fine," I say, but my voice doesn't work properly. I sound like a leaking gas pipe.

"I think he knows," the girl says.

They are watching me carefully. I try to arrange my features into ignorance but my features won't co-operate: they are yanking on the controls for TERROR and won't let go. I open my mouth to say, Know what? and a thin, high squeak comes out.

"Yep," the woman says. "Let's get him."

I turn and run. There is an implausibly attractive girl on rollerblades behind me, her hair like a blonde stormcloud. I shove her aside, sending her stumbling onto the road, but her skin is so hot it blisters my hands. They smoke and sizzle. I tuck them into my armpits and run.

The models don't hurry: they sashay toward me. But they come from everywhere: they're exiting clothes stores, they're stepping out of convertibles. Their faces are full of fallacious smiles. A manicured hand reaches at me from a doorway and I leap away before the painted nails can cut me.

Then, up ahead, I see a bar. Not a café, not a lounge, not a restaurant, not an oxygen bar, not a health center, not a gym, not a hairdressor, not any of the sorts of places you would ever find an attractive woman with self-esteem: a bar. A man's bar. I feel salvation rising in my throat. My sneakers pound the sidewalk.

Two models, one in an arctic furs ensemble and the other in Victoria's Secret lingerie, block my way. I reach into my pocket and pull out a chocolate bar I was saving for after class. "Get back!" I scream. I wave the chocolate bar at them. The models recoil. Their perfect legs wobble; their flawless faces turn away. I run past them. I hit the bar door at a hundred miles an hour.

It's dark inside and after the brilliant sunshine I can hardly see. There's a man sitting at the bar and another man serving him. I slam the door behind me and fumble for the locks with my poor blistered hands. "We have to lock this!" My fingers seize on a bolt and I slam it into place. I back away from the door, panting.

"Take it easy, buddy," says the barman. "What's the matter?"

"Models," I gasp. "They're everywhere."

"Course they are," the man sitting at the bar says. In the gloom, I think he smiles. "This is Los Angeles."

"No, you don't understand! They—" There is a scratching at the door, and I fall silent. The handle turns, one way, then the other. "They're trying to get in."

"Kid, don't lock out my customers," the barman says. "Let the models in."

"I'll get the door," the man says.

"Listen! Listen carefully. Models are taking over. They're tall and beautiful and they're not real! None of them are real! They're going to kill us all!"

Something crashes against the door: a plastic fist. This door is not going to hold them. They are going to punch through and get us.

The man rises from his stool and moves toward me. "Models taking over the world? You know, that sounds okay to me."

I feel terror in my bowels. "Let me see your face."

"What?"

"Your face! Let me see your face!"

There is a pause. Then he steps forward, into the light. His jaw is square and internally reinforced; steel girders, probably. His brow is a rolling field. His hair is dark and spikey, like a cluster of spears. His eyebrows are thick and machine-sculpted. His eyes glow, like neon.

"Yep," he says. "Models taking over the world. That sounds pretty good to me."

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