Author Archives: Jodie Ramodien

Week, Jodie Ramodien

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Monday

This week I took a total of eighty-nine steps. My apartment, the first I ever owned, sat on the outskirts of the city and was surrounded by grungy streets, pubs, and gay bars. After the government ramped up social distancing rules, things took an atypical turn. The bars closed, the lights dimmed, the laughter faded.

Finally June, the chill in the air was a delightful change after so many humid months but had the unfortunate side effect of misting the glass and hindering my view of the outside world. Inside I looked at the landscapes I had painted of native wildflowers, silver scribbly gums, and the lit-up laneways of Barangaroo at night. Many discovered painting as a therapeutic hobby during quarantine. As I looked at my own artwork I thought 76, 81, 84. All Distinctions, no High Distinctions yet. What was missing from my work that other artists had? Gritty realism? Childhood trauma? A muse?

Turning on the shower, I stood under the scalding hot stream hoping it would wash away the failure, idleness, and ineptitude of the past few months. Upon my return I saw something I had never come across before.

It was usual for long strands of auburn hair to cover my apartment. They swirled in spirals on the shower, gathered in tumbleweeds on the floor, and occasionally turned up in my food. Something small, and the very same shade as my hair, sat on the table and watched me with wide innocent eyes. It wasn’t quite cute, but neither was I. It was the shape and size one might expect a pet to be. When I reached for it, it trembled violently, reminding me of a guinea pig I once had which often shook at the perilous thought of aerial predators. The little puff fit the size of my palm. I brought the creature closer to my face.

‘Hello there.’

Its chest beat violently and it let out a little whine. As I used to do with my guinea pigs, I gently pressed my thumb to lower its lip to see its teeth. They were blunt and square, with the exception of two sharply pronounced canines.

Google searching ‘small orange rodent with sabretooth-like teeth’ yielded only phony doctored images. This could be a new species. One that might be named after me. As the daughter of two zoologists unfortunately I wouldn’t be the first in the family for this to happen to. The white-bellied moss mouse Pseudohydromys sandrae had already been named in my mother’s honour.

On the basis of appearance alone my best guess was that the creature was of the class Mammalia like myself. In fact, it resembled me in its tawny colouring. Questions flooded my mind: What is it? What did it eat? Where did it come from? Is it dangerous?

Right now it looked about as dangerous as the Furby toys from my childhood.

I reached for my phone and took a picture of the creature, sending it to my parents knowing they’d take their time getting back to me. They often got sent these kinds of pictures from the general public. Some family or another would discover a baby animal in their garden, house, or on the side of the road. It would be helpless, a juvenile, too young for the average carer to identify its exact genus and species as its distinctive features had not yet formed. More often than not the beloved animal they’d taken into their home was none other than Rattus rattus. Mum and Dad would also be able to identify this weird animal, if it had already been discovered.

Starting with the ‘what does it eat’ conundrum I gave it a little bit of food from various food groups; vegetables, grain, meat, all of which it seemed uninterested in consuming. After determining that it was neither omnivore, carnivore, nor herbivore, I gave up. It currently seemed content, so I placed it in a tissue box as a makeshift bed and decided to wait for my parents’ insight on it later. Locking the door in case it developed a drastic and psychotic personality change overnight, I went to bed.

Tuesday

Mornings were a slow, painful endeavour. After a sip of weak tea, I regained the presence of mind to think about my creature. I shuffled to where the tissue-bed lay. The poor thing had shrunk! It was now barely the size of my thumb. A wail burst from its mouth. It reminded me of a hungry baby crying but the food I’d left next to it lay untouched. It immediately quietened when I focused on it. Content with the attention. In an attempt to calm it, I petted its head with a careful hand. Though it was an almost imperceptible change, with each pat the creature grew larger. It seemed like the thing needed me. Not to feed it, but to nurture it, perhaps even to love it. It grew to the size of my fist.

Yesterday’s discovery had shocked me out of my creativity and productivity. With the new day came a feeling of determination. Out of nowhere this thing had appeared, to me alone, to be my muse. Grabbing my more expensive paints and canvas I lay a protective tarp on the floor and set up a work space.

Within a furious two-hour run of painting in which paint got on just about everything except the tarp, I was done. Yet the creature I had painted was not the one that now stood on four legs before me. The thing had grown to be the size of a puppy. Though it was much hairier than any dog I’d ever seen, a perfect orange sphere. Through the fluff I could see that the creature had two arms and two legs. Two hands emerged from the hair and grasped my own, curling around my fingers and displaying, to my astonishment, two opposable thumbs.

Picking up the creature by the waist I carried it to the bathroom and sat it on the closed lid of the toilet. What lay beneath the hair? With the curiosity of a scientist I grabbed a small pair of scissors and began clipping away slowly at the folds of hair. The cool bathroom became covered in splashes of orange. After cutting the last layer of hair I looked upon what I had found. What once looked like a tumbleweed breezing past, now appeared to be a humanoid creature, one that resembled a baby orangutan.

In the animal world, brain size is commonly proportionate to intelligence. When the creature had been small I hadn’t considered the level of intelligence it could potentially have. It ate and it slept. Now when I took out the paints and canvas, I placed them in front of the creature to see if it had any kind of reaction or intuition. Instead of painting on the canvas it crawled over to the large white wall, arguably in a sense a larger canvas, and painted it with ochre and umber handprints. The effect reminded me of ancient cave paintings, like the parietal prehistoric rock art that dated back millenia.

When I placed paint brushes and sponges beside it, it took these and used them. This indicated a fundamental sign of reasoning, it had the ability to use tools. I painted a waratah on a piece of blank wall space beside it and engrossed by this display, the creature copied with accuracy.

During the hours that past, the creature had grown to be as tall as my waist with the hair on its stomach, forearms, hands and legs, starting to recede.

‘I should give you a name.’

In response the creature let out a garbled sound.

‘You must be a Weasly.’ Or it was at least a very dishevelled and primitive version of this fictional family.

‘Wes then.’

Its head jerked toward me, as though already recognising the sound of its own name. His own name.

Like a toddler learning to walk, he moved in a bipedal motion towards me, for the first time upright, on two legs.

Wednesday

I woke up to the sound of shuffling papers and furious scribbling. Turning the bedroom doorknob I came upon what looked like a 12-year-old boy, with perhaps a slightly more protruding forehead and longer forearms, colouring with my texts in the living room.

‘Wes?’

He turned to me and without preamble replied, ‘Yes.’

‘You can talk?’

‘Yes.’

‘How?’

‘Yes.’

Okay so his vocabulary was limited. Amazing still that his mouth had the ability to form the vowels and consonants of the human tongue.

A text pinged on my phone. It was from Dad.

‘Never seen the thing before in my life! Keep the little guy safe, your mother will love this! We’ll come on the weekend to have a look.’

Whether this was a dream or a nightmare I couldn’t tell. Wes had been growing at an astonishing rate. Some animals were like that, it wasn’t altogether unique. The Mayfly lived out its whole life cycle, birth to death, in one day. How long was the lifespan of an animal like Wes, a week?

Not wanting to put a damper on his mood I began taking out my art supplies, pictures, and books. What would he think of Picasso?

Thursday

Every morning with Wes heralded a new discovery. My ability to be shocked had taken on new heights. Yet he managed to do it once again. Or rather, she managed to. This may prove right the maxim that women are more evolved than men.

The boyhood version of Wes was no longer. Sitting calmly at the kitchen bench and eating a bowl of microwaved noodles was me. Or at least a creature that appeared exactly like me. From my long red hair to my gangly elbows to my impressively small feet. Wes was me.

‘Hey,’ Wes began, ‘now I know this is weird, I don’t completely understand things either.’

I spluttered. ‘Fancy that, my evil twin doesn’t understand things.’

She held up her hands.

‘This isn’t a Phoebe and Ursula type scenario.’

‘How in hell have you watched Friends?’ Remain calm, I told myself. This was the creature I had grown and raised myself.

She pointed to my laptop which contained all the free trials I had to streaming services.

‘I binged all ten seasons last night.’ She gave me a lopsided smile, the apologetic one I gave to people when I’d done something worth reprimanding. Our mouths were the same, as was our taste in television.

‘Favourite character?’ I tested.

‘Monica,’ we said at the same time.

Maybe this wasn’t all bad. We talked long into the night as I told her about art, history, and culture. I fell asleep beside her on the couch.

Friday

‘Wes,’ I called when I couldn’t find her.

What emerged from the study was no longer me. Wes had changed again. She was smaller now, had lost her hair and developed thicker looking skin.

‘Hello keeper,’ she greeted with a short wave.

‘Hello.’ I pointed at the hand she had waved with which had transformed once again, and now only had four fingers. ‘You lost a finger.’

Wes 2.0 glanced at her hands. ‘It was a useless vestigial part.’

‘Humans,’ she continued, ‘have destroyed this world with their unquenchable materialism and destructive self-centred natures, I leave here on a mission as one that has moved past their primitive beginnings and evolved into a creature of pure logic. Goodbye young friend, I leave here knowing there are only a few like myself who have the foresight to fix this world.’

With that she/he/it left. The door to my apartment falling shut and leaving me behind inside.

Jodie Ramodien

Jodie Ramodien is a writer based in Sydney. She is the deputy editor of Grapeshot Magazine, was an editor, designer, digital content manager, and social media coordinator on Issue #12 and Issue #15 of The Quarry Journal, and has various articles published online. She knows all things Romance.

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Nude Lipstick By Q.A.C, Jodie Ramodien

A golden-haired man with glossy wings stared sexily into the distance holding a designer bag. His picture, plastered to the wall of the station, loomed majestically over the morning commuters. Rarely, if ever, would you spot an Avian catching the train. Their presence was made known through the flashy slogans and airbrushed posters covering the carriage ceilings and walls. The man modelling was backlit by a glowing horizon, breathlessly gazing at some unknown wondrous point in the distance. Had he looked forward he would have seen a small figure, about the size of his diamond encrusted ring, gritting her teeth against the morning chill.

Sylvie stepped onto the 6:45am train with the rest of the rabble. A rotund man squeezed into the seat beside her. He displayed no signs of animality save for the two impressive horns that protruded from his forehead and curled back behind him in a semicircular arc. In her experience Bovines tended to be a loud, troublesome group, who personified the male ego. Put two male Bovines into a room together and they were bound to butt heads.

It wasn’t their fault though. Animality wasn’t a choice. A fact she knew better than most. Overnight one might develop feathers, antennae, or hooves. Usually it was in adulthood that one’s trait emerged. Most thought Sylvie hadn’t got hers, but that wasn’t quite true. To her mother the arrival of her animality had been akin to a death in the family. It was treated with somber acceptance and a healthy amount of self denial. Naturally it ended up being her father’s fault.

‘I should have known this would happen, your brother’s a rat. This is your doing, you’ve dirtied the genetic line!’ her mother had started.

‘He’s my brother-in-law, besides there’s nothing to suggest that these things are genetic, and it’s “Rodentia” hon.’

‘This isn’t the time for political-correctness Henry, did you see that thing on her ass, she’s a rat!’

Sylvie readjusted her loose pants with a furtive movement at the memory. Rodentia were a plague on the suburban bliss of her childhood community. Other poorer areas might have been infested by those with Rodentia but she’d been raised with private tutors, yearly ski trips, and branded fashion. There were no rats where she lived.

The buildings grew taller as she crossed the bridge and entered the city. Sitting by the window, one could observe the peak hour air traffic. Men and women in black blazers and sensible shoes beat their wings and soared to work on gusts of wind. Sylvie spotted one of the Swanae, those who had glorious white wings like the heavenly Gabriel of old scripture. The big boss of her company, Gavin, was one of these iridescent beings.

Leaving the train, and arriving at the skyscraper where she worked, she took the elevator to the top floor. The office floor offered a three-sixty view of the cityscape, giving its occupants a bird’s-eye view. A series of giggles was emanating from the production space, where they shot commercials for some of the largest international makeup brands. A herd of long-legged Gloria’s Secret models were traipsing about in lingerie, each wearing a different shade of lipstick, and flaunting a pair of shimmery wings. Since not all the models originally had wings, they’d had to synthetically manufacture some for the purpose of the shoot. Turning away Sylvie plopped down at her desk next to Pearl, one of the design assistants like herself. She opened up Adobe Photoshop, and InDesign, and flicked through the current marketing campaign they were creating for the new lipstick range at Q.A.C.

At the early morning hour Pearl had given up the pretense of work and was flicking through a dating app called RAWR on her phone. Leaning over, Sylvie read the current profile Pearl was scrutinising. The caption read: ‘Sampson, twenty-two, Ursine, gives bear hugs and mates for life.’

Noticing Sylvie’s attention Pearl commented, ‘He’s cute enough but mirror selfies are a red flag,’ she swiped him.

Another guy appeared but it took Pearl only a split-second to decide he was also a no.

‘What was wrong with him?’ Sylvie asked.

‘Rodentia,’ Pearl supplied, as though this was explanation enough.

Returning to her own monitor, Sylvie browsed through the morning list of emails. One in particular caught her eye, its subject line read: ‘What if your animality was a choice?’ Opening up the email she skimmed through: John Camnon, CEO of Camnon Cosmetics, wished to partner with her company, and was offering a ‘mutually beneficial partnership’ and free access to their services for ‘a limited time only.’

She immediately googled the man’s name and found a glowing list of testimonials on his website. He was CEO, cosmetician, and plastic surgeon all it one. The man himself was stunning. Yet none of the images gave any hint of his own animality. She dismissed it, some things were too good to be true.

‘Ladies! How are we today?’ Sylvie and Pearl both gave a start, and Sylvie swiveled to face their boss Gavin as Pearl slipped her phone into her pocket.

Not bothering to stop for an answer, Gavin continued, ‘we’ve got a bit of a crisis with Chantelle, one of the models, she hasn’t showed up! Sylvie could you step in again?’

She nodded, she handled a lot of the photo editing and usually had to remove the ‘unsavoury traits,’ as Gavin put it, of models in post-production. Sylvie had no visible animality making it easy to edit herself.

In preparation for the shoot a makeup artist dabbed, poked, and prodded her face before yelling to one of the assistants, ‘get me some falsies!’

A gorgeous pair of golden prosthetic wings were placed on her back. She looked in the mirror and her reflection shocked her. She had transformed from the extra in a movie into the star of the show. The wings seemingly gave new purpose and potential to her life. They spoke of success, beauty, and excitement.

After the shoot had concluded she looked up John Camnon’s number and gave him a call.

*

Dr John Camnon, for as he’d informed her, he was a doctor, gestured for her to lie face down on an operating table. As requested, she was wearing a papery hospital gown which was tied in a flimsy bow at the back. The sterile white walls gave her no distraction from her thoughts.

Sylvie’s thick flesh-toned tail flicked back and forth, dislodging the gown slightly. Her checks burned as she felt the doctor’s gaze land on her tail.

‘Can you fix me?’

With a critical look in his eye he gave a quick nod.

‘Will it hurt?’

He buckled her wrists and feet into some padded restraints.

‘I’ll put you to sleep before we start, these,’ he gestured to her locked limbs, ‘are just to ensure you don’t move during the process.’

‘How many times have you done this before?’

Dr. Camnon picked up his clipboard and pen and started to write something down, ‘many times,’ he said in answer to her.

She twisted as far as she could in order to see what he wrote. In the place of the name slot he had written ‘Rodentia #162.’

‘I specialise in facial reconstruction, if my attempts at shifting ones animality succeed it will be a monumental step forward in the field of animal research.’

‘If you succeed? This is experimental?’ her voice rose in pitch, the reality of the event beginning to dawn on her. She tested her restraints, the shackles held firm.

He gave a moment’s pause.

‘The scientific progress I could achieve by doing this is immense, do you still wish to go through with this?’

Sylvie could physically feel the pulse of terror in her neck. Closing her eyes, she envisioned the life that lay ahead. No man could love her like this, she’d end up living in a share house no doubt, splitting the rent with a dozen other deadbeats. As one of the Rodentia, rising high enough in the ranks to earn a decent wage was unheard off. Hiding her tail would also inevitably become suspicious.

Her gaze levelled on the doctor.

‘Do it.’

He picked up a syringe and walked toward her. With a sharp pinch he thrust it into her neck and she drifted into unconsciousness.

*

The world dipped and swirled around Sylvie as she blinked about the lab. What looked like a madman’s collection of torture devices lay atop a metal trolley: Scalpel, drill, chisel. Her eyes locked on a butcher’s knife covered in blood and jerking her face to side she expelled the contents of her stomach onto the tiled floor.

My tail, she thought in a moment of clarity as the sleepiness of the drugs began to subside. Arching her back she twisted around to look at her backside. She jolted as she noticed the two white wings sewn onto her shoulder blades. They could be seen but not felt, had she not looked she wouldn’t have known they were there. Lower down bandages covered the wound where her tail had been. Lightly she prodded the area. Nothing. It was a feeling akin to when she had her wisdom teeth removed, everything in that region was numb.

‘Checking out your new appendage I see.’

Dr. Camnon entered the room and gave her a once over.

‘How are we feeling then?’

Sylvie’s tongue lay limp and heavy in her mouth, she couldn’t think of how to answer.

‘It’s a bit of a shock,’ the doctor conceded, ‘do you feel ready to stand?’

She nodded.

He walked her over to a full length mirror at the end of the room. The woman in the mirror wasn’t her. Not as she’d known herself. The wings he’d given her were like Gavin’s. Two fluffy white shards from heaven. They gave a slight twitch when she tried to fan them out.

‘It will take a few days before they have full functionality, your body needs time to adjust.’

‘And when it does, I’ll be able to fly?’

‘Like a bird,’ he chuckled, gesturing for her to follow him.

They walked down a corridor where the doctor opened up a thick metal door. Inside a massive room stretched out before them. The wispy fabric of her hospital gown was useless against the cold that hit her as she entered the room. It had to be at least below freezing. Like a hunter with his trophies, the doctor had scores of removed animal traits filling the room. Horns of all shapes and sizes lined the walls, wings of every kind were stretched out and on display in glass cases, and on a rack holder in the corner lay her discarded tail. The speckled appendage sat atop a mountain of other rat tails which were overflowing on the rack.

‘So many have come to you,’ she murmured, so many had been ashamed, disgusted with themselves, as she was.

‘Why did you keep the tails?’ she asked.

‘Trends,’ he replied, ‘it’s unlikely I know, Rodentia have never been “in,” so to speak. Yet you never know, to a Reptilian or Amphibious the allure of Mammalia, even if it is Rodentia, could appeal. Who knows what the next decade of hipsters will latch on to?’ he snorted softly.

‘And the wings? Which Avian would give up their wings?’

The doctor didn’t reply immediately. When he did answer he spoke slowly and carefully.

‘Difficulty with Avians is that most are too well-off to bother with what I can offer. A few are desperate and do it for a hefty price. I find ways. Speaking of prices let’s head to my office. Money’s not needed from you, of course, a pairing between our companies will bring that in anyway.’

She nodded in agreement, with an even greater outreach he’d make a fortune.

*

Sylvie called in sick for the next week to fully heal. By the weekend she could move and fan wings and had barely been able to drag herself away from the mirror. Briefly she managed to on Sunday as she splurged on an Uber that took her into the city to a high-end shopping district. There was no need to worry about anyone recognising her and spoiling the surprise as she’d never been there before. As she walked down the street, she noticed a change in the demographic. Unlike other parts of the city which were more diverse, only Avians shopped here. She shopped here now, she thought with a flutter of her heart. Sylvie started from the ground up, buying overpriced lingerie and later moving to outerwear with a gorgeous trench coat, slitted of course, to make room for her wings. On the ride home, she rubbed the red marks on her arms, made from the mass of perfumed shopping bags she’d accumulated. Her bank account had taken a blow it couldn’t realistically afford today. Something that seemed inconsequential as the prospect of a promotion loomed on the horizon.

As the elevator doors dinged open on Monday morning, she heard the office give a collective gasp of shock. Gavin, slack jawed, barely managed to string a sentence together. When he found his words, they were, ‘you’ve joined the flock I see.’ She was officially one of them. He went on to invite her to lunch, which she accepted. In a seamless formation each of her coworkers jumped off the skyscraper and into the air. She followed suit, the wind in her wings was glorious right up until the moment she realised she didn’t know how to fly.

Jodie Ramodien

Jodie Ramodien is a writer based in Sydney. She is the deputy editor of Grapeshot Magazine, was an editor, designer, digital content manager, and social media coordinator on Issue #12 and Issue #15 of The Quarry Journal, and has various articles published online. She knows all things Romance.