“I don’t regret losing my arms at all,” explained Cassie. “They were never of any use to me, and the pain was becoming unbearable.” She grasped the handle of the coffee cup in her toes, and brought it gracefully to her lips. “Before the operation, I did seriously think about ending it all. More than once.”
“Where did it hurt?” I asked.
“Right through my chest area. The ribs and arms were growing all twisted and malformed, and my internal organs had already suffered damage. I had no choice about letting them operate, really.”
“It’s quite a radical procedure,” I remarked.
“Yes,” replied Cassie. “But it saved my life.” She put her feet back in her shoes, and stood up to let me get a better look. She turned slowly around, and grinned at me.
Her head came to just about my waist. Her hips were located just below that. Almost all the parts you would expect to find in-between—the whole chest area, including the shoulders and arms and hands—were gone.
“But what about your internal organs?”
“Like I said, there was already a lot of major damage there. So they had to do some rearranging. And some removal. My uterus never properly developed, so they took it out to make space for something else. With all that, I’ve got some artificial assists in there—for my digestion, for example. My lungs are actually in my breasts.” And it was quite remarkable to notice the slight regular swelling and shrinking of her bosom as she drew breath.
“Your breasts are hollow?”
“Parts of them are. They also contain organs for managing my water balance. In lieu of regular kidneys and a bladder.”
I was shocked. “You mean you pee through—”
“Not pee, really. It’s just pure water. All the actual solid wastes are handled through one system now.” She paused after taking another sip of coffee. “Some of the artificial assists can be more efficient than the real thing.”
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I met her again a few days later. We were window-shopping. “Has it affected the way you wear clothes?” I asked.
“My body temperature is higher than normal,” she replied. “They tried explaining it to me, but I’m not sure I understand—something about surface area to volume ratio, something like that. Physics-type stuff. Anyway, it means I have to dress more lightly, otherwise I feel too hot. And when I’m alone at home,” she added demurely, “I often go without clothes at all.”
I glanced away to hide my blush. Oblivious, she followed my glance, to a shop window display of women’s blouses.
“Also, I can’t wear tops any more,” she continued. “No place to put them, see? I can’t even wear brassieres—they make it hard to breathe.”
“So they flop?” I asked mischievously.
“Hey!” She gave me a nudge of mock-indignation. “The doctors told me my tits would stay pretty firm!” She tilted her head and gave me a sideways glance. “Maybe they do jiggle a bit.”
“Is it hard to dress yourself?”
“It’s actually easier now. And not just because I have less to put on. You know how you have to use special hooks and things to get bottoms on, to reach the parts you can’t get to with your feet?”
“Well, I don’t need that any more. I can reach everywhere with my mouth. Thanks to this extra little enhancement they gave me.” And she demonstrated by stretching her neck. And stretching ... and stretching ... raising her head until it was practically at the height of a normal full-bodied person. She bent her neck round momentarily to demonstrate reaching the zipper of her shorts with her mouth, then shrank it down to a more normal length again.
She grinned at my awestruck look. “Handy, don’t you think?”
❦ ❦ ❦
We saw a movie together. Cassie was able to stretch her neck until she could see over the seat in front, but she could only manage this for ten or twenty minutes at a time, until she grew tired. Then she retracted her neck to its more usual length, took off her shoes, and squatted in her bare feet on the seat.
Later, we had dinner together. As the main course arrived, she took a little canister from her purse, and popped out a pill from it, which she swallowed.
“Medicine?” I asked.
“A digestion aid,” she explained. “Contains some special booster enzymes and stuff. Otherwise I have trouble with heavy meals. Snacks and drinks are OK, though.”
“Limitations of your digestive system.”
“I suppose if they could have packed in another little artificial organ to manufacture that, they would. But the technology’s not there yet.”
Somebody was staring at us from another table. I returned their look pointedly. “What’s the matter?” I asked in a voice that could be heard at all the adjacent tables, “Haven’t you seen somebody eat with their feet before?”
Being stared at was nothing new to me, I thought, as I attacked my steak with the fork and knife I held in my own toes.
❦ ❦ ❦
“Short Wheel Base”. “SWB”—the shape you get when you have just a head on a pair of legs. That’s what some used to call it in the old days, back when it was still science fiction. Kind of an obscure, niche fetish thing. Only now it’s real.
Radical brachiothoraxectomy. That’s what the procedure is called. Total removal of the upper torso, between the hips and the neck. That includes loss of the arms as well. And corresponding rationalization of the parts inside to fit inside the smaller space. But when it’s a choice between that and a severely restricted life, shortened and fated to end in a delirious haze of pain, what are you going to do?
❦ ❦ ❦
“Well, Mark, have you decided?” asked Cassie.
“I know I’ve got the same condition as you had,” I replied. “And they’ll give me exactly the same procedure—remove my damaged chest and useless arm parts too, and do the same internal rearrangements you’ve got. The surgery has obviously done wonders for you.”
Now that I’d seen a bit more of what life was like for her, I felt sure that I could cope with most of it, including the digestive changes. Except for one thing.
Where she had to put her lungs—and that extra plumbing. How would I cope, as a man, with having breasts?
❦ ❦ ❦