Feature > Fiction
Chris Hume

Chris Hume

Chris Hume is a writer and animator. He works in the genre of satire as well as science fiction. He is a graduate from Bard College with a BA in cinema. Besides writing and animation, Chris is also a movie trailer editor and a documentary filmmaker.

The Cinderella Project

Stacy wanted to have beautiful legs. She envied all the other girls, sauntering and swaying, showing off their long sinuous limbs. Finally, after years of waiting and wanting, her fantasy was about to come true. At least for a night. It was all part of a radical new technique. Known as the "Cinderella Project", it allowed a person to temporarily "donate" a desirable body part to a willing recipient. After 24 hours, the "borrower" was obligated to return the body part to its original owner. For Stacy, 24 hours was enough. She had been wheelchair bound since childhood from a car accident. She had a razor sharp wit, a sweet smile, a selfless disposition, and tendency towards depression. People didn't see beyond her stringy beige hair, and scrawny, useless legs. The beautiful angel was trapped inside.

Tania zipped up her dress. Her tight contours protested against the sheer fabric. She shot a bewitching smile at her mirror. Putting clothes on and covering up her delicious self was always a little disappointing. Tania was enjoying a rather swift rise in her career. Her aloof style, her natural talent, her dreamy eyes, and her stunning statuesque legs were making her one of the hottest prospects in the industry. She had already adorned three magazine covers. Tania and her legs were the darlings of American pop culture. They were such legs that they alone were a household word.

Tania and Stacy were twin sisters estramged for nearly fifteen years. Today, their lives were about to collide in a way they never dreamed possible.

Tania had insured her gleaming gams for a million each. They were her friends. They were her lovers. They were the wings that had carried her so very high. And now, she had been cast in her first leading role in a major motion picture. Principle photography started in a week, and Tania was ready to devour her new role. She would burn a hole through the silver screen.

It was the last thing she expected: a small article in the lower corner of the Reporter about the scrapping of the production. Something about embezzlement, and a criminal indictment of the producers. Tania's great launch into the stratosphere was scrubbed. She had banked on a house of cards, and now her world was teetering on ruin. Her credit was a mile deep. Her lifestyle was in jeopardy. She could use a million dollars now. Or two. The wind whipped at her tennis skirt as she sat on her porch, exposing her shimmering but nearly bankrupt thighs.

Stacy had been on the "waiting list" for nearly a year. Her dreams of dancing, running, swimming, or even just walking down the sidewalk in a miniskirt always ended up the same: waking up to her shriveled, useless legs, while she gazed through tears at the wheelchair next to the bed. The problem was, there were just no "donors". Yet.

Tania thought of the ways to recoup the insurance money from her legs. A railroad accident. A spider bite. A "vengeful lover". The scenarios were all feasible. But risky. Tania couldn't go through with it. She thought of the insurance check as she ran her fingers along her hipbone, tracing the sensitive skin where her leg and body joined. The small spider tattoo on her upper thigh gazed back at her. No. It would be too big a sacrifice.

Then she read about the Cinderella Project. A small article in a waiting room magazine. Waiting to get her legs waxed, ironically. Her heart quickened as she read: Donate a region of your body to a less fortunate soul, for one day. 24 hours. As of midnight, you will be whole again. And somebody else will have lived their dream. The procedure was virtually guaranteed, and the pay was over 50,000 dollars. For one day of sacrifice.

Tania dug her fingernails into her thigh. Goosebumps radiated from her ankle to her pelvis. Salvation had arrived. Forget the paltry fifty grand. A sweet two million lay just around the corner... After the waxing, Tania took out her violet cell phone and called the Cinderella Project.

Stacy was elated. The Surgery Department called and told her there was a donor. "An exceptional specimen", was all they had said. There was to be no contact between donor and recipient. Stacy didn't care where the legs would come from. She was about to experience her wildest dream: to walk. Alas, it would only be for a day, but she would make the most of it. After all, it wasn't the amount of time allotted, but how that time would be spent. Her family was thrilled at the prospect of Stacy getting her wish. The wheelchair would stay at home, and Stacy would take the town by storm, atop legs of heaven.

Tania had butterflies in her stomach. She watched the ceiling lights roll by overhead as she was wheeled into the surgery theatre. Yes. A theatre. There would be perhaps a hundred spectators... academics, pre-meds, all sorts from the medical establishment. No press was permitted though. There would be absolutely no leaks to the public about the nature of this controversial procedure. The donor and recipient didn't know each other. They didn't even know the address of the facility until the night before the operation. The media was even given false dates. There was a hush as the gurney rolled in. And then a flurry of gasps and murmurs. No one in the prestigious audience was prepared to see the stunning Tania Veltska.

Tania was experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions. Fear. Pride. Hesitation. Sexual arousal. Yes, she was turned on. The notion of her legs being detached from her body temporarily made her feel vulnerable. Helpless. Like a sister to Venus De Milo. She wondered if the doctors, behind their surgical smocks, would notice her excitement. She lay in the center of the theatre. The anesthetic hadn't taken effect yet. It was only a local. Tania opted for an epidural. She wanted to be awake during the procedure. A morbid curiosity, combined with a deep narcissism, made her want to see the whole thing as it happened! The doctors said it was possible, although they had never heard of such a request before.

They wheeled a huge mirror into the room. They pivoted it on two huge stands, so that it aimed directly down over the operating table. Tania saw her reflection, surrounded by state of the art machinery as well as an assortment of chrome surgical tools. The scene looked medieval, yet futuristic. A nurse pulled back Tania's gown, exposing her before the crowd. Her dazzling form gazed adoringly back down at her from the mirror. An intern swabbed Tania's legs down with a fine oil. The slippery touch of the nurse's fingers caused Tania to twitch. It was all she could do not to let out a moan. Her skin shimmered in the harsh lights. Her breathing was fast. She was fully absorbed in her own beauty. Then another nurse took a red marker and started making the cut lines. She drew them with precision... the red dashes traced the iliac crest, where her legs kissed up against her pelvic bone. Now, Tania couldn't feel a thing from her waist down. It was as if the nurse were drawing on someone else.

She capped the marker, and another nurse stepped into position. A shiver ran up Tania's spine as she watched the new nurse start running her hand across the array of surgical tools.

Stacy didn't take as bold an approach to her part of the procedure. She opted for general anesthetic. She just wanted to wake up and have beautiful legs. She lay on her gurney in the next room, her heart racing with excitement. She winced as a nurse inserted the IV drip. Drowsiness closed around Stacy like a soft blanket. And they wheeled her into the theatre. For the first time, these two women, twin sisters, yet virtual strangers, were next to each other, about to share an experience that would alter their lives forever.

The tool could best be described as a light-saber version of a circular saw. The master surgeon, a middle aged woman, flicked the power switch, and it hummed to life. Its "blade" glowed in a laser green circle. Tania's eyes widened as the surgeon calmly brought it down to her hip. The skin parted like butter. She worked the saw along the dotted line. It penetrated deep into her flesh. There was no blood. There was no mess. The organic properties in this "laser saw" provided an almost instant healing process once it made its cut. She moved the saw like an expert carpenter, covering the full circumference of her right leg, just missing her spider tattoo by two inches. A nurse reached out and took Tania's hand. Tania gripped it tightly. Tania felt no pain. Just a warm, deep probing. She liked it. Several surgeons got a good grip on her leg and started pulling. She could feel her body slide on the steel table. Two more surgeons held Tania by the upper arms, for resistance. And like a stubborn wishbone, it came free. The whole perfect leg separated almost willingly. The doctors put the leg on a separate table. Tania squeezed the nurse's hand even tighter. Another team of surgeons started attending to her body with a laser tipped suture device. Tania felt a series of small buzzing pin pricks along her right pelvic crest as they removed any trace of the scar.

She looked up at her reflection. The spectacle was amazing. It was like being undressed... only more extreme. Part of her was gone... for now. The knowledge that she would be whole again in twenty four hours allowed her to revel in this otherwise horrifying transformation. And then the master surgeon brought her glowing saw down to Tania's left hip. She felt the laser penetrate into her muscles. It sent hot vibrations up against her pelvic girdle. A deep erogenous zone she never knew she had. Tania heaved and writhed on the table. The surgeons had to hold her down as she convulsed. As her left leg came free. She arched like a feral cat, gasping and quaking. She finally blacked out, slumping against the table, drenched in sweat.

Stacy was still groggy when the interns helped her out of the bed. They carefully walked her across the room to the big mirror. Her reflection was standing! Stacy smiled like a giddy lottery winner at the vision in front of her. Fifteen years of confinement, and suddenly: freedom. Slowly, the interns let go of her. Stacy wobbled like a colt on her long new legs. She took a few steps. It was like trying on a new pair of shoes, only more extreme. It was awkward at first, like being on stilts. She paced carefully over to the mirror. "I'm getting my sea legs", she thought, smiling to herself.

Then she asked the staffers to leave the room. She needed some time alone. When the door closed, Stacy's heart quickened. Facing the mirror, she let her hospital gown drop to the floor. Her reflection gasped in amazement. Stacy was standing atop two of the most sculpted, perfect legs God had ever created. She entwined one around the other, drawing one ankle slowly along the other calf. She pointed the foot. She watched the calf muscles flex. She watched the perfect knee extend and then flex back. She watched the honey colored skin glide over the long thigh muscles. And most remarkable of all, Stacy saw no scars, no evidence of surgical attachment to her body. The thighs tapered up to her pelvis seamlessly. A slight difference in skin tone, (her body - and Tania's legs) was the only evidence that these limbs didn't belong to her. But they did! Stacy was a complete woman now! The notion of giving these beauties back in twenty four hours annoyed her. But rules are rules... She twirled around in front of the mirror, admiring her new form from all angles. Then she caught a glimpse of the tattoo: a small black spider clutching to (her) upper most right thigh. Stacy fell to her knees in front of the mirror. "Tania!", she thought to herself, nearly breathless, "These aren't just the most beautiful legs in the world, they are my sister's... and they probably are the most famous legs in the world!"

Tania ran her fingers through her short silky black hair. Her neck was especially responsive to her fingertips this morning. It seemed that every part of Tania was sensually heightened since the procedure. The raspberry pancakes for breakfast had tasted impossibly good. The satin sheets felt cold and hot against her back and shoulders. The next day was to be spent luxuriating: The team at Cinderella Project was to treat her like a queen during the next 24 hours. She had wanted a big breakfast and a deep shoulder massage before the big moment: when they pulled the sheets away, revealing her body. She clutched her arms around her waist and sucked in a breath. And then two interns pulled the satin sheet away:

It was almost as if she never had legs. The smooth flat plain of her stomach tapered down to the iliac crests of her pelvis, which flared out like small wings. The contours curved naturally around to the back. She turned her waist back and forth, admiring her strange new self. She reached down to her hip, and gently brushed her fingertips along the creamy skin. And suddenly, a blaze of sensation rocked her body. It was as if a pair of hands were squeezing her absent thighs. And then a tickling sensation hovered around her absent knees and trailed all the way along her calves to her ankles. Tania arched steeply. Her hands clutched into fists. She thrashed her head from side to side. A concerned doctor came running into the room just as Tania was catching her breath. Her cheeks were flushed, her arms covered in goosebumps. She explained what had just happened.

"Phantom pain", explained the doctor. "You may experience it for a few hours."

"No", Tania corrected him. "Phantom pleasure." Just then an invisible hand groped where her inner thigh would be. She gasped.

And in fact, just at that moment, several miles away, Stacy was groping the exact same place on "her" inner thigh. Everything Stacy was doing could still be felt by Tania. As the morning hours passed, Tania lay back on her satin sheets, twisting and heaving.

Eleven thirty A.M. - Stacy went shopping. Fifteen years had passed since she had bought her last skirt. It was like a candy store for her legs. She ran her hands through the merchandise: soft leather, rayon and silk. She grabbed three provocative little outfits and headed for the changing room. Once inside, Stacy quickly wriggled out of her jeans. She just stared in awe. Stacy wanted to make this last. She tried on each little number: a black mini skirt with a zipper up the side; a silver pencil skirt that showed off every muscle, every goosebump; and finally, a floral print that spoke of innocence, giving the legs an unintentional beauty. Stacy was flushed with excitement. She had no idea which skirt she wanted to wear tonight, so she bought them all. No time to waste... midnight was drawing closer with every passing second.

Twelve Forty Five P.M. - Tania was painting. An easel had been set up for her over her bed. She felt like Frida Kahlo as she dabbed a streak of purple onto the canvas. She liked the curve she had just painted. As she applied other shades and tints, a face began to emerge. Hers. With only a few confident lines, Tania was conjuring her own image on the blank canvas. She was tapping into a long lost talent. In college, she was well on her way to becoming a painter, or even a graphic designer. Then a modeling job landed her a couple thousand. She could pay off her student loans quickly. Her legs were making her an income. One photography session led to another, and eventually Tania abandoned her canvas, only to become a canvas... for the camera.

Ice green. Tania was applying the right shade of green to her eyes. As she perfected her self portrait, a bead of red paint from her lips started to trickle down the white surface. Before Tania could stop it with her brush, it dripped off the bottom of the canvas and spattered onto her stomach. It tickled. Tania looked down at the small rivulet of red flowing along her solar plexus. Tania teased it with her brush. She made a line. She made a swirl. She added a streak of violet. The paint felt cold and lovely. Tania forgot her canvas, and started painting herself. Slowly, her stomach transformed into a constellation of moons and spiders and spirals. Her heart was pounding with arousal as she trailed a line of moist cobalt blue along the ribs of her left side. She drew a delicate yellow lightning bolt down between her breasts, which ended just below her navel. Then Tania dipped her brush into some orange, and started painting flames along her hips. She felt like a race car, sleek and dangerous. But without wheels. Tania gazed up at herself in the ceiling mirror. She was a mural of self love. "God babe, I wish I could just hang you in a museum", she moaned to herself. She ran one hand through her hair, while the other cupped her belly like a guitar. The sun was getting lower in the sky.

Four Fifteen P.M. - Stacy was amazed at her stamina. She had been on the stationary cycle at the gym now for almost an hour. Full speed. Her legs just wouldn't quit. And the looks she got—from both men and women—filled her with pride. This was the life she deserved. She was finally having what her sister always had. Tania: the selfish alpha princess who got all the attention. The good twin. This was the life that had been denied to her all these years. Tomorrow she would sign up to run a 26 mile marathon. Take tango lessons. Go wind surfing. But no! It all ended tonight at the stroke of midnight.

"It doesn't have to end at midnight!" Stacy whispered to herself defiantly. She ran her finger along the little black spider tattoo. It was her tattoo now. Thirteen miles away, in a luxury hospital suite, Tania felt Stacy's fingers caressing her phantom spider. She could see where the satin sheets ended at her hips. Someone else was taking her legs on a hot date. Tania felt complete. She was finally giving someone else happiness.

Six Thirty P.M. The black fishnet stockings came up to mid-thigh. Stacy spun around, twirling her miniskirt. A tempting glimpse of flesh. She admired her hundred dollar haircut. She applied her forty dollar lipstick. She sprayed on her seventy dollar perfume. She was the portrait of self indulgence. She groomed herself to look just different enough from Tania. Finally, she was stepping out of her dull, dead-end life. Strangers were going to want her. And she was going to tantalize and torture them.

Seven Twenty P.M. - Tania looked forward to her bath. Becca, the nurse in charge, was a petite redhead with blue bedroom eyes. She was very polite and very professional. Becca was wordless when Tania pulled her sheets away, revealing her painted torso. She stretched her arms behind her head and arched seductively. Becca felt her professional façade slip. "I know", Tania said, "time to wash away the masterpiece." The tub was filled with hot scented water. Tania threw her arms around Becca's neck as she lifted her out of bed. Becca could feel the warmth of her patient's body against her. She tried to restrain her arousal. Tania laughed playfully. Then she lowered Tania into the tub. She sucked in her breath as the warm water enveloped her body.

Nine thirty P.M. - Stacy entered the club with a flourish. The strobe lights danced across her black dress. Her confidence radiated through the room. Conversations halted, heads turned, heartbeats quickened. This was her first stop of her "night on the town". Stacy parted the crowd and took a seat at the bar. She crossed her legs slowly, letting one warm calf glide against the other. She could feel the collective gaze of the room upon her. On the next stool, Alicia was finishing a cosmopolitan. Alicia grinned. "That's a Tania Veltska knockoff. And a good one too." Stacy leaned in so her eyes were two inches from Alicia's. "My dear, this is not "a" Tania Veltska spider... It is "The" Tania Veltska spider." Alicia looked bewildered. "What are you talking about?" Stacy cupped one beautiful knee and traced her fingernails along the cool smooth thigh.



"I mean, this is her spider. And these... are her legs." She re-crossed them. "Well, they're mine now." Alicia sat back. "Girl, you are crazy. Hot, but nuts. Those are some knockout getaway sticks, but what do you mean 'they're Tania's'? They look pretty well attached to you, darling." Stacy gulped the last of her vodka tonic. "I'm borrowing them" She kicked the right leg impossibly high into the air and kissed the inner calf. "And they're a perfect fit!"

By now, a small gathering had formed at the bar as Stacy flashed the amazing legs. "It was more like... a charitable donation." Stacy continued to drunkenly spill the secret. "Tania loaned these beauties to me, and I've left my wheelchair at home. Now I am Queen for a Night. I'm Cinderella!" The crowd of men and women laughed at Stacy's outrageous tale. All, except for one: a small man in a white suit and close cropped black hair. He stood back in the darkness, observing... a concerned look on his pale face. Above the noisy bar, a blue neon clock read Ten Seventeen P.M.

Ten Seventeen P.M. - The clock in Tania's room turned over to Ten Eighteen. Tania was propped up in an overstuffed chair, wearing a silk chemise. She sipped a glass of red wine, looking down at the chessboard between her and Becca. She leaned forward on her hips and took Becca's bishop with her knight. "You don't need legs to be a chess master", joked Becca. Tania looked up at her, a shadow of fear across her face. "Becca, she will come back, won't she..? What if midnight strikes, and she's not here?" "Tania, she signed a contract. She is legally and morally obligated to follow it. Tomorrow those hot legs will be right back where they belong." Becca smiled reassuringly, as she swiped Tania's queen off the board. "I can't help worrying," Tania said, gazing up at the clock.

Eleven-o-seven P.M. The limo sped along the city streets, its darkened windows arousing the curiosity of the passing traffic. In the back, Stacy was living out fifteen years of decadence in one night. Her skirt was hiked up over her waist. And Alicia was pouring icy vodka onto Stacy's thighs, then licking it off. "Girl that is one strange tan line," Alicia said, noticing the boundary between Stacy's body and her borrowed legs. "I told you, but you didn't believe me." Alicia stroked the spider, a haunted look on her face. "It's almost like Tania's with us, in a strange way."

"There's one hitch", said Stacy. "I have to return them at midnight." "Or what?", replied Alicia. "They turn into pumpkins?"

The limo raced into the darkness. And behind it, a small rented car kept pace, holding back a few hundred feet. The concerned man in the white suit made sure not to lose sight of the limo.

Eleven - Twenty Eight P.M. Tania rocked back and forth, clutching her stomach. The phantom sensations were driving her to exhaustion. She tried to turn it off. Becca offered her another glass of wine. "No. There's so much less of me, I'm getting drunk too fast. We have less than a half hour now. Where are my legs?"

Becca ran a finger along Tania's cheekbone and down her neck. Tania noticed the wedding band as Becca drew her hand away. "I told you not to get so worried. We've taken all the precautions. She's being followed. We know where she is at all times, and your legs are perfectly safe. And we have a special backup plan if your recipient deviates from the plan." Becca leaned in closer. "It's a wonderful thing, what you've done. I don't know many people with the courage and trust to give something so valuable away. You have all the qualities I want in a .... Let's just say I wish I wasn't married right now." Becca's trembling fingers traced Tania's collarbone. Tania sucked in her breath. Arousal briefly eclipsed her fear.

Eleven - Fifty Six P.M. The second nightclub was a whirlpool of skin, hair, perfume and sweat. A tight cluster of dancers pulsed on the floor. And in the center, Stacy was the lightning rod. She spun like a top, her arms high above her, her eyes closed. The crowd pulled away from her and then pushed back up against her in a cauldron of moist bodies.

Couples had split apart and were all dancing with her. Stacy had lost all sense of time. She was absorbing the confidence of everyone around her like a black hole. Her years of self loathing snapped like a rubber band across the spectrum to a state of near orgasmic self-love. The crowd pulled back once again, and Stacy dropped to her knees. She clutched herself, rocking her hips to the music. The crowd, in a collective trance, lifted her into the air, groping her writhing body. Off in the throbbing darkness, several men in white suits pushed their way forward.

Eleven - Fifty Eight P.M. Tania lay on her stomach, gripping the bedposts with white knuckles. She was filled with nausea, anger, hopelessness and excitement all at once. "What... is she doing... to my.... legs?" Tania arched violently, staring ahead at the wall. Becca calmly stroked Tania's sweaty forehead. "Shhhhh. Everything is under control. Just relax, sweetie." She looked down at Tania's quaking body. Becca's heart raced. Tania had given so much to help another, and now she was suffering greatly for it. Becca traced her fingers along Tania's spine, down to the dimples at her tailbone. Something between a sob and a moan came from Tania's throat. Becca felt guilt pour over her as she pushed her husband to the far back of her mind. She was falling in love.

Eleven-Fifty Nine P.M.

Stacy was lost in the flash fluttering of strobe lights. Her entire self was possessed by a mirage of confidence. She saw dozens of people worshipping her from every direction. Her legs were kicking, stretching, spinning; obeying her every command effortlessly. Her future stretched out before her in a shimmering arc, filled with happiness and fortune. Then two men in white uniforms seized her by the arms and pulled her out of the euphoric daze. Theirs wasn't a caress of desire, it was a grip of authority. They tugged her away from her pedestal. But she wouldn't have it. Without even thinking, Stacy brought her left leg up to the first man's chest. The blow knocked him to the floor. She pivoted and swung her left leg around high in the air, connecting with the second man's head. He flew off into the screaming crowd. It was simply part of the evening's choreography, Stacy thought to herself. Deflect any and all who would stop her glorious destiny. Her legs were her soldiers now, defending her freedom. By now, the crowd had fallen back, and panic had filled the room. The lights and music still pounded away, and then the clock struck midnight. And the legs were no longer Stacy's....

MIDNIGHT.

Stacy was out the front door in a violent sprint. She had cleared the velvet ropes and vaulted over the ticket desk without even wanting to. Her mind briefly tried to process what was going on. Then the blare of car horns and screeching tires shattered her concentration. She was running full speed through heavy traffic, her tiny outfit barely clinging to her. She missed truck grilles and car fenders by millimeters. She tried to stop, but she couldn't. The legs were dodging, swerving, leaping. Stacy was no longer giving orders. The legs were now operating to a different source. A different conductor. A different brain. The lease on fantasy had expired. The legs were seeking their owner. And Stacy was along for the ride.

TWELVE - O - THREE A.M. Two orderlies were holding Tania down. She twisted and howled like a newly captured tiger. Her hips were tingling with energy. Her body rocked and spasmed, sending an invisible beacon out to the legs that were fast returning to her. Tania's face was a rictus of fear unable to grasp the feelings coursing through her. Her eyes shot back and forth wildly at the two orderlies. Becca calmly laid her hand across Tania's stomach. "I told you everything would be okay. Your body is reacting. Calling out to the rest of it. And it's coming. I can't wait to see you whole my darling."

Meanwhile, in a computer five miles uptown, a chip sensed the change in date. An insurance policy activated, a circuit was tripped, and two million dollars was automatically transferred into Tania Veltska's account.

TWELVE -O- SEVEN A.M. Stacy plowed into a crowd on a rainy street corner. The ten young men and women went down like bowling pins. Without stopping, let alone apologizing, Stacy was up and bounding down the sidewalk, not even looking back. She was choking back a silent scream, as people flew past her. She felt as if she were behind the wheel of a runaway truck on a mountain road, and her seatbelt was jammed. She hipchecked an old lady and jumped over a hedge, losing the other heel. Barefoot, she ran along the exit ramp to the freeway. Cars swerved to avoid her. A police car stopped, the doors flew open, and now two officers were chasing her. Stacy sprinted onto the wet freeway, the legs were moving like pistons.

TWELVE TEN A.M. Tania arched up into a sitting position. A smile crossed her face. She could sense the rest of her. She was regaining control of it again. Her fear melted away, revealing a hidden strength. The orderlies stepped back. Tania propped herself up and looked out the window. Rain pelted the glass. Lightning flashed. Her muscles were taut and her breathing was heavy, as if she were the madwoman sprinting along the freeway. Tania laughed at the storm, and suddenly she was hurled back by something invisible. She was nearly knocked out of her bed. One of the orderlies caught her by the shoulders.

TWELVE - ELEVEN A.M. The approaching headlights blinded her. Stacy glanced off the side of a speeding truck and rolled down the embankment, into the bushes. Up above, tires squealed, horns honked, doors opened, and frantic voices yelled into the night. "Oh my God, are you okay? What the hell are you doing running out here in this rain?" As shadowy figures climbed over the guardrail and into the brambles, Stacy pulled herself up and limped into the muddy woods. She stumbled once, tearing her dress. Barefoot, cut and bruised, Stacy kept up a strong pace, and the flashlights and voices behind her soon fell away. The hospital lay just two miles ahead.

TWELVE - SIXTEEN A.M.: Tania gripped Becca's hand. The wheels of the gurney clacked along the hallway floor. Tania was safely strapped in as they entered the operating theatre. A team of doctors stood waiting. Bright lights invaded her eyes. A pair of hands unstrapped and undressed Tania, and lifted her nude torso onto the operating table. She looked over to her left. Next to her, an empty operating table lay waiting...

Stacy came bounding over a fence and across a backyard. She clipped a barbecue grill and sent a lawn chair flying. The world whipped by, the wind caused her eyes to fill with tears. In the distance, sirens wailed. She was running faster than ever, in spite of the bruise from the truck. Finally, when she vaulted another set of hedges and saw the hospital looming in the distance, she realized her destination. Numerous squad cars were parked near the front door. If this was a secret medical procedure, it was secret no longer. Stacy tried to stop. But her legs picked up speed. The row of police was fast approaching. Their intention was to apprehend her if she tried to escape. Instead, the legs carried Stacy right through the police line, and through the front doors of the hospital. The doors flew open, and a television news crew was knocked off their feet as Stacy bolted down the hall, towards the surgery theatre.

TWELVE - NINETEEN A.M. - Stacy raised her arms to her face instinctively as she crashed through the surgery door. The lock splintered, the glass shattered, and she sailed into the room like a projectile. Tania looked up just in time to see a woman's body come hurtling towards her. For a fleeting instant, the two sisters, Stacy and Tania, saw each other.

And then Stacy crashed, unconscious, on top of Tania. The legs had found their mark, with a vengeance. She slid up against Tania like a spent ragdoll. The bruised and scraped thighs came to a rest only inches from Tania's face. Everyone in the room scrambled to restore order. But in Tania's world, everything slowed down. There, barely an inch from her mouth, lay her beloved black spider tattoo. It had a small scratch just above it, and a small trickle of blood was visible. She opened her mouth, leaned forward, and kissed the spider. It was the most amazing open mouthed kiss she had ever given anyone. Her own flesh yielded to her hungry lips. Her tongue darted out and traced the muscles of her uppermost thigh. The coppery essence of blood filled her mouth. Then Tania felt the needle enter her right buttock. The anesthetic slowly entered her bloodstream. Everything became fuzzy, distant. Her lips separated from her thigh, and her head fell back against the pillow. The spider grew soft and blurry, and eventually was swept up in darkness.

The reattachment procedure didn't go as easily as planned. The left thigh had sustained a severe bruise as a result of the collision with the truck. Stacy's ten mile high speed run had put abnormal strain on the muscles. Tania's legs were like a sports car that had been driven too hard and fast. Nevertheless, Tania was able to walk within a week. She wouldn't be playing tennis for another month. There were almost no scars from the procedure. Just the faintest white line along her hips, and that would be gone with next summer's tanning. Tania was working on a huge five by six foot canvas. Her latest painting was a kaleidoscope of color, a testament to her love of life and the lessons she had learned over the past few months. She was thrilled to be getting back into her original passion. Several canvases already adorned the house that she and Becca now shared. Becca had ended her already deteriorating marriage and followed her heart. Tania and Becca would always blush when they thought about the odd circumstances in which they met. But their love was true.

Stacy awakened from her dark adventure as her old self again. Her body was back in the wheelchair. But her memories were like jewels. Still, she was stung with remorse for her actions that night. The last thing she expected was to receive a not so small fortune from Tania, along with a letter expressing forgiveness and the hope that this money would help Stacy eventually walk... on her own legs. Now, almost a year later, Stacy was on braces. Her legs were rapidly gaining strength from radical new procedures, ironically derived from research gathered during the Cinderella Project. She had been afraid to reunite with Tania all these years, the sister from whom she received so much and to whom she gave nothing in return. Today, she was putting those fears aside. She climbed out of the rent-a-car. She swung her legs out onto the driveway. She slowly put her weight on them, and started walking up the driveway to Tania's house.

Poetry

Esther Morgan

Esther Morgan
Lines of Desire

Poetry

R.T. Smith

R.T. Smith
The Spirit in the Wall

Poetry

Martha Ferguson

Martha Ferguson
Boundaries