......The trouble with Rose was that she was too fat. Much too fat. Enormously so.
......It's not that she hadn't attempted to lose weight; she had. She had tried every diet ever invented. She had been on the F Plan, the Q Plan, the S Plan, the T Plan - the entire alphabet. All she gained was an improvement in her spelling. And more weight. The Cambridge Diet was followed by the Oxford Diet; then came London, closely followed by Bristol, until eventually she had dietetically explored the entire map of Britain. Her slimming regimes then became cosmopolitan and her next port of call was the California Diet, finding no decrease in her girth there she traveled on to Los Angeles, New York and Pennsylvania. America exhausted, and rotund as before, Rose went further abroad and visited the Hong Kong Diet, the Japanese Diet, the Australian and Johannesburg Diets, she even suffered a month of the Moscow Diet (beetroot and red cabbage for every meal, which made her complexion very rosy but did nothing for her size). Rose became an expert in geography, yet still her bathroom scales groaned whenever she approached them.
......Her house was a veritable library of books, guides, magazines and periodicals devoted to the science of slimming, all rooms were stacked high with them and the floorboards creaked and bowed under their weight almost as much as they did under that of Rose. She hungrily scoured the shiny pages of each new publication and devoured the news of every latest wonder cure. She tasted each and every miracle drug, potion, pill and elixir that came onto the market, but still she expanded. She had been a member of every slimmer's club from Slimmers United to Diets 'R' Us and been dishonorably discharged from all of them as a lost cause and a dangerous publicity risk. The slimming industry's coffers grew fatter through Rose; Rose just grew fatter.
......The only avenues Rose refused to go down were the unthinkable surgical ones that led to jaw-wiring, stomach-stitching and other such extreme and painful procedures. She had a fear amounting to phobia of doctors and their sharp implements, and though she was desperate to do something, almost anything, about her burgeoning bulk; she was not so desperate. There had to be another way, an easier way, of shedding her more than excess pounds, and so her quest for the perfect panacea continued.
......The problem was, Rose liked food, lots of it. More than that it was a comfort to her; she found solace in it. When she looked in her mirror and saw her ever-expanding girth reflected back to her, the rippling rolls of flesh, mountainous stomach and pendulous, swollen breasts, when she heard the sniggers and cruel jibes of the people she waddled past in the street, then she became so dispirited, disgusted and depressed that she took refuge in food.
......It was a vicious circle.
......Though she adhered rigidly to each new reduction programme, steadfastly enduring whatever privation it forced upon her, there always came a time when the lure of cream cakes, puddings and chips became too powerful to ignore. Then she would gorge herself.
......It was as if she had to make up for lost time.
......Abandoned was the counting of calorific content as she consumed whole gateaux at one sitting, followed closely by Everests of mashed potatoes flowing with rivers of thick gravy rounded off by large tubs of ice cream. Bacon sandwiches by the dozen, bread by the loaf, chocolates by the pound, sausage by the link, biscuits by the packet and box, family size pizzas and pies, triple cheeseburgers, trays of buns and pastries, oceans of custard and cream ... all were merely snacks to her. When Rose indulged her passion for food she took no half-measures.
......The fatter she got, the more she ate; the more she ate, the fatter she got.
......Her binging and gluttony then continued until Rose became so overwhelmed by guilt she ashamedly embarked once more upon whatever new slimming campaign had caught her eye, promising herself that this time she would follow it religiously and obediently. Until ...
......So the circle turned.
......The crunch came when Rose decided to treat herself to a new dress. Deep down she knew it was a mistake from the beginning, for the window in which the dress was displayed was that of a modern boutique, not that of the outsize shop where she normally clothed herself. But the brightly coloured garment shouted to her, she just had to have it and, besides, she desperately needed to cheer herself up.
......After many minutes spent agonising with herself outside, she timidly stepped into the shop with the air of someone visiting a strange country for the first time. Trying very hard to ignore the smirks of the young assistants, Rose squeezed herself through the racks of trendy attire until she came to one bearing a row of the desired dresses. Almost furtively, she rummaged along the rack until she found the largest one. Optimistically she held it against herself. Maybe, just maybe, she could get into it.
......Casting her eyes around the shop, she spied the changing cubicles and headed in their direction clutching her prize.
......Now, the cubicles were never designed for someone of Rose's proportions and it was only by taking a very deep breath and entering sideways that she was able to get through the door of one. Inside, the space was so confined she barely had room to move. Somehow, with much puffing, panting, and constant prodding in the back by the clothes hooks on one wall, she managed to remove her own, tent-like, dress. It was then that she discovered the hook upon which she had hung the (she was by now beginning to admit to herself) impossibly-small dress she had so foolishly lusted after was empty. In her struggle to disrobe, it had fallen to the floor.
......To the waif-like things for whom the cubicle was intended this would have posed no problem, one had simply to stoop down and pick it up. Rose, however, was many inches from being waif-like; she had little enough freedom to turn about in the cramped compartment. Cautiously avoiding the deadly hooks, she attempted to ease her body downwards while at the same time bending at the waist. It was no good; the dress was just out of her reach. She had to bend further. Pressing her face against one wall and her buttocks against the opposite one, she slowly straightened her legs so that her rear slid up the wall and her upper body inched down. By twisting her shoulder and stretching her arm to its fullest extent she was at last able to grasp the offending dress.
......With a sob of relief and a vow to replace the by now hated dress on its rack, leave the shop and never return, Rose tried to straighten up. She couldn't.
......She was inextricably and immovably wedged.
......Panic swept over her, she had visions of being trapped in the claustrophobic cubicle forever. In desperation, she cried out. Luckily, at that moment an assistant was on her way to see if she needed any help and heard her cry. Tentatively opening the cubicle door, the dumbfounded assistant was confronted by the grotesque sight of an enormously fat undie-clad woman, her body weirdly contorted, crammed into the tiny space like a very large sardine in a very small tin.
......When she recovered from the fit of laughter that overcame her, the assistant tried valiantly to extricate poor Rose. Though she tugged and pulled, the assistant was a mere slip of a thing not designed for such arduous effort and so she had to call for help. More assistants joined the struggle, then the manager and several customers, all heaving, levering, wrenching and straining between bouts of uncontrollable giggling. All to no avail. The by now bitterly weeping and deeply shamed Rose was solidly jammed.
......A conference was called and it was decided professional help was required. The fire brigade was sent for. This redoubtable force of men were unperturbed by the spectacle they encountered when they arrived on the scene, they had seen it all before, though one red-faced raw recruit had to be excused when he became overcome with embarrassment at being given the task of prying Rose's over-generous buttocks from their lodging.
......At last, though only after the entire cubicle had been completely dismantled, Rose was freed. Wrapped in a large blanket, she was driven home in the fire engine, which caused her added embarrassment when she observed the frantic twitching of her neighbour's curtains upon arriving there. Refusing the firefighters' offer of an escort to her front door, she hurried into the house and locked the door behind her.
......Once inside the comparative spaciousness of her own home, she slumped onto a settee and cried sorrowfully, her folds of flab rippling with each heavy sob. Physically, apart from several livid bruises, she was unhurt; it was the mental wounds that bit the deepest. The shame of it, the indignity, the humiliation. It all came rushing back to her: every insult she had ever endured, every joke at her expense, every pointing finger.
......No more! That was it! No longer was she going to be a one-woman freak show. She was going to find a diet that worked and stick to it like glue. She would show them, all the skinny people with their laughing faces; she would show them. But perhaps not today, tomorrow would be better; just at that moment she needed the solace of an extra large plate of chips with perhaps half-a-dozen eggs, and didn't she have a large chocolate cake put by for emergencies?
......Later, with several empty plates congealing around her, she settled down with the latest issue of a slimming magazine. There was nothing much in the glossy pages, nothing she hadn't tried before, no new wonder diet that would wipe out her problems at a stroke. It was as she was dejectedly scanning the classified advertisements at the back of the magazine, a section she did not usually bother with, that she saw it. Tucked away in the corner of the page, the answer to her prayers:
Release the thin person inside yourself!
How often have you heard that in every fat person there is a thin person just waiting to escape? It's true! A revolutionary new dietary process, pioneered by ourselves, will release your thin person! No starving, no exercises, eat all you want. Easily and safely, within one week, we will make a new person of you! Guaranteed!
Phone 2068 419934

......It was what Rose had been searching for, dreaming of, for all those years. She had always maintained to herself that inside all that ugly fat there was a beautiful slim woman struggling, begging, pleading to get out. Now here was someone promising to do it. And none of the starving and tiring exercises that so many other diets advocated. Why it even said you could eat all you want! What bliss! Within one week, though, how was it possible? It was revolutionary indeed. Something told Rose that here at last was the solution. First thing in the morning, she would call the number.
......That night, Rose went to bed a happier woman than she had been for months. She slept soundly, her snores rattling the windows, and got up the next day with a broad smile. After her usual large breakfast, she dialled the number of the advertisement.
......Yes, we can fit you in, said the voice at the other end, in fact we are between clients at the immediate moment, if Rose wished, she could come in straight away, she would not need anything for her stay, as everything was provided.
......The extortionate fee that was humbly mentioned caused Rose to pause a moment, but the voice's silky assurance that she would not be disappointed persuaded her. She was going to do it. Yes, she would be there within the hour.
......The address to which Rose had been directed was not as prepossessing as she had expected when she arrived at its door. She had imagined a swish, modern clinic, all gleaming white tiles and abstract paintings. Instead, she found herself at a rather dingy semi-detached house in a far from select area. However, she had committed herself, she was going to go ahead with this, no matter what, she would show all those grinning shop assistants.
......Having rapped resolutely on the door, she was admitted by the owner of the voice on the telephone, a somewhat gaunt, rather severe, though attractive tall middle-aged woman of imposing bearing. The woman, who introduced herself with a strong handshake as Mrs Henderson, quite overawed Rose and she felt a little child-like and vulnerable as she was escorted into a sparsely furnished office.
......There, on a table was a tray containing a large plateful of very tempting cakes and biscuits, alongside a china teapot. The display of such delights immediately relaxed Rose, who had begun to feel distinctly nervous in the company of this powerful woman who seemed to be the sole member of staff. Having instructed Rose to help herself to anything she liked, an offer she could not resist, Mrs Henderson poured a large cup of tea. The tea, Mrs Henderson explained, was of her own concoction, it was made from rare herbs and she was certain Rose would find it acceptable. Rose looked dubiously at the strangely coloured, oddly smelling liquid, reluctant to drink it, but the other woman was staring at her so intently with her forceful, almost hypnotic, eyes that she somehow lost the will to decline. As it turned out, the tea was surprisingly pleasant and, though it made Rose feel slightly woozy, she sipped greedily; besides, it nicely washed down the gigantic bun oozing with cream she was currently consuming.
......While Rose was thus engaged, Mrs Henderson explained the details of the revolutionary new diet she was there to take part in. The explanation was full of technical jargon such as 'calorific superincumbence', 'physical overbountification' and 'cataclysmic system disburdenment', none of which Rose comprehended - neither did she care. Rose did not care about anything anymore. By this time, she cared only about food. She was ravenous. She could not understand it; despite the enormous breakfast she had put away a short time before, her stomach felt like a vast, yawning cavern that had to be filled at all costs. In addition, her head felt strange, as if it did not belong to her. It was not an unpleasant sensation; in fact, it felt rather nice. It was as if her mind had been emptied of all its worries and concerns, as if it had been washed clean.
......Mrs Henderson's voice, as she continued her explanation, was the most soothing sound Rose had ever heard, it lapped over her like waves on the shore, calming, soothing, sapping her will. All she wanted to do was agree to anything it said; that and voraciously eat from the plate in front of her and drink from the cup of tasty herbal tea that Mrs Henderson kept refilling.
......Rose somehow absorbed that the essence of the diet consisted of a form of aversion therapy, involving the use of the herbal tea, which comprised the chief cost of the treatment. The herbs concerned, she was told, were extremely scarce and highly expensive. This led to the final formality: the signing of the cheque. At this juncture, Rose would have meekly signed away her life's income, so compliant had she become; her only concern in the world was the aching emptiness of her stomach.
......The preliminaries completed, Mrs Henderson then conducted Rose to the treatment room to begin the diet. Like an oversized lamb, Rose, munching furiously on the last cake from the plate, followed the tall woman down a corridor to a spacious room. The room was empty of furniture except for a large chair and an equally large table, both strongly constructed. The walls were tiled from top to bottom, as was the floor, around the sides of which ran a gutter, which led to a drain in one corner. There were no windows and there was a sharp, antiseptic smell, as if the room had recently been thoroughly cleaned.
......It was the contents of the table that most attracted Rose's attention. Its surface was piled high with the most mouth-watering food she had ever seen. Joints of meat, whole hams, fish, bread, cheeses, pies, pastries, puddings, cakes, buns, doughnuts, trifles, blancmanges - everything and more that Rose had ever dreamed of. Without any urging from Mrs Henderson, she went straight to the table and began to feast. She could not help herself; she just had to fill the rumbling, echoing emptiness inside. Seated on the chair, a succulent leg of pork in one hand and a chocolate éclair in the other, she barely noticed Mrs Henderson leave the room and lock the door behind her.
......It was as if the more she ate, the hungrier she became. She attacked the table like a starving animal, stuffing her mouth with whatever she got her hands on first. She could not stop. Hardly pausing to chew, she crammed more and more down herself. Still the hunger pangs assailed her. Still she gorged.
......Some two hours later, the table's contents almost depleted and Rose's appetite still not assuaged, the door opened and Mrs Henderson entered wheeling a large trolley overflowing with yet more food. Alongside the steaming plates of chips, baked potatoes, further joints of meat and cakes was a large urn of the herbal tea, of which she poured a large cup and pressed on Rose. Rose needed no second bidding; she had been craving more of the delectable infusion for some time now. Draining the cup, her hunger suddenly magnified, she pounced on the fresh supply of food almost as quickly as Mrs Henderson could unload it onto the table. The trolley emptied, the tall woman again left the room locking the door behind her.
......Thus, a routine was established. Every few hours Mrs Henderson would enter the room bearing the trolley burdened with further provisions. Each time she would also bring the urn and proffer Rose more herbal tea. After each visit Rose would be as famished as ever. Vaguely, Rose associated her condition with the consumption of the tea but paid little heed; she had greater concerns: that of filling the crater of her stomach.
......Time passed, Rose may have slept, but she did not recall doing so. Her entire being was governed by eating, by the periodic replenishment of the table and the regular doses of herbal tea. She was dully aware that, though she was constantly putting vast quantities inside herself, none of the resultant waste was being evacuated. She was also aware that she was growing bigger. Somewhere in a corner of her mind, a question niggled at her: if this was a diet, why was she getting fatter?
......For fatter she was certainly getting. After what she guessed to be two days, her belly had enlarged so much it now rested on her lap, obscuring her knees. Her dress had long since split at the sides from the strain and hung uselessly from her. Eventually, she threw it to one side along with her modesty as the strips of useless material got in the way when she reached for more food. Her underwear too was now stretched as far as the elastic would allow and she knew that soon she would have to abandon that also.
......Another day went by. Still Rose banqueted. Still she swelled and grew. Now naked, the chair upon which she sat, though large, was dwarfed under her. Great rolls of flab overhung its sides, her legs were so vast she could not close them; her stomach was like a barrage balloon resting upon them. By the next day, her arms were too heavy to lift and Mrs Henderson stayed in the room with Rose and passed the food to her, only leaving her to ferry more provisions in. Come the next day, and Mrs Henderson was shovelling food into Rose's mouth; she had become so engorged she was unable to move at all.
......When the sixth day dawned, any resemblance between Rose and a human being was gone. She was almost entirely an immense, bloated ball of stomach with vestigial limbs. By then, Mrs Henderson had resorted to liquidising her food in a large blender and feeding the resultant puree into Rose through a funnel inserted into her mouth. This could not continue for too much longer; Rose had a lot of flesh and skin, but it could only stretch so far.
......It had now reached its limit.
......As Mrs Henderson poured ever more liquefied mush into her, things started to happen to Rose's swollen bulk. There was a burbling, rumbling sound from deep down inside Rose, which grew louder and louder, like the noise of a geyser about to erupt. Louder the bubbling noise grew, and Mrs Henderson hurriedly removed the funnel from Rose. Pushing the trolley, the tall woman rushed from the room, closing the door behind her as the air was filled with gaseous gurgling, rending and tearing.
......From the safety of the other side of the door, Mrs Henderson stood in the corridor and listened to the mounting cacophony issuing from the room. Counting to herself, she reached five and there then came a massive liquid explosion that shook the door followed by wet slaps like the sound of moist sponges being thrown at the walls.
......After a judicious amount of time, Mrs Henderson, with a satisfied smile on her gaunt face, opened the door and entered the room. The walls, ceiling and floor were splattered with large globules of pink fat; a viscous, red fluid slowly ran down the tiles, into the gutter and glugged down the drain and a thick, rancid odour filled the air. Plenty of material there for the next batch of tea, thought Mrs Henderson happily as she turned to the chair. Seated there, blinking dazedly like a newborn, the same liquid dripping off her, sat a beautiful, sylph-like, perfectly proportioned woman. Slim and trim as a model, she could have graced the cover of any fashion magazine.
......Mrs Henderson smiled benignly at the exquisite figure on the chair. She had fulfilled her promise: she had released the thin woman inside Rose.

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