Fantasy magazine

From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism




Girlfriend Material

The label said, Grow your own girlfriend! Cultivate the perfect partner! Just add water!

Sam pulled the packet off the shelf.

The shop wasn’t busy. Just a few people browsing the ethnicity options, along with a group of giggling teens obviously there on a dare. They rummaged through shelves of liquid girlfriend feed: nutrients to fuel her wit, charm, or sass. Sam swept past them all, head down.

At the register, the owner looked Sam over, a leer playing at his lips. “Don’t get many your age in here.”

Sam shifted her school bag higher up her back and slammed her cash on the counter.

“You girls enjoy yourselves!” he called after her, leaning forward as Sam turned towards the door.

• • • •

The girlfriend grew slowly in the flowerpot where Sam planted her. Her lips emerged first, on the end of a stem; two perfect, plump rosebuds, silky-soft to the touch. Next came the vulva, exquisitely symmetrical, its flower unfurling over the course of a day. The breasts appeared last of all, swelling from the soil like twin fungi. By now, the girlfriend filled much of Sam’s bedroom, but that didn’t matter: her parents had long ago ceased bothering to come in.

It took a while for the girlfriend’s parts to assemble themselves in the correct positions. The stems curled round each other, bringing delicate hand closer to slender wrist, long neck onto narrow shoulders. Sam watered her every day before school, and within a month, a woman of perfect proportions teetered en pointe in the flowerpot. And she was perfect—Sam took time to measure the ratio of eye to face, forehead to chin, hip to waist.

“Hello,” the girlfriend said, turning to Sam with a smile both shy and knowing.

“Hi,” Sam said. She pointed to her bed. “Sit there, please.”

The girlfriend sashayed across Sam’s room, leaving a trail of soil and roots like a strange bridal train. She sat primly, her delicate knees pressed together, the roots still dangling from the soles of her tiny feet.

Sam got down on her knees and scooped. She’d prepared the jar the day the idea of the girlfriend had come to her, and now she was finally getting to use it.

“What are you doing?” the girlfriend asked, dark eyes shining; the eyes of a curious fawn and a vixen in heat.

“Need the soil,” Sam muttered, “plus the roots.”

When she got to the girlfriend’s soles, she paused. Would it hurt the girlfriend to cut these pale tubers off? The packet said any residual foliage would wither away on its own, but Sam needed them fresh, so they had to be cut.

Steeling herself, she grabbed her cuticle scissors and set to work. The tubers were thick and fleshy, and Sam’s thumb soon grew sore. Perhaps shears would have been more appropriate.

“Shall I help?” the girlfriend asked, leaning down, smooth breasts pillowing on her knees.

“No,” Sam said, through gritted teeth. “Almost . . . got it . . . ”

The tubers came away with a final tug. By now, Sam was sweating, shirt plastered unattractively to her back. But if all went to plan, she wouldn’t have to worry about all that. She held the tubers up, feeling a swell of triumph. No blood clung to them, and already the skin of the girlfriend’s feet was smoothing over, forming perfect, soft soles.

• • • •

Sam dropped the girlfriend material into a large pasta pot and cooked it while her parents were out. She made a thick stew, seasoned with sugar and the girlfriend’s nail clippings. The kitchen filled with the aroma of musk and rose as Sam stirred. Intoxicatingly feminine.

When it was done, Sam divided up the girlfriend stew. If a month was enough to grow a whole girlfriend, pretty as a flower, then it’d be enough for her. That meant about half a pint a day. Sam took her first mugful back into her bedroom and sat at the girlfriend’s feet while she sipped. It tasted surprisingly good … sweet and spicy. And though the tubers were still chewy, Sam managed to swallow them down. Afterwards, she felt sleepy, so she crawled past the girlfriend and curled up on her bed.

Next morning, Sam checked herself in the mirror. Her belly felt just as doughy when she prodded it, and her eyes seemed just as small. But it was only day one. Still plenty of time.

“Shall we do something?” the girlfriend said. She had dressed herself in Sam’s clothes, and though they hung off her body, somehow they still managed to look great. “Go somewhere? Hang out?”

“No thanks,” Sam said, shouldering her bag. “I’ve got school.”

The girlfriend’s eyes followed Sam as she left her room, an appealing expression of hurt and confusion crossing her exquisite face.

Within a week, something was happening. Sam’s face felt smoother, her butt perkier, her legs longer. She caught herself in the mirror, and damn but her eyes sparkled! I’m mysterious, they said, but also reassuringly familiar. I might want you . . . but not too much. I’m confident, but still grateful. Oh, how her eyes spoke now.

But when she left the house, a tightness seized her gut, and by the time she reached school she could hardly hold it in. She blundered through the crowds and into the bathrooms, then spilled the contents of her stomach into the toilet. She wiped her mouth with the back of one hand, and looked through the mixture of mangled tubers, phlegm, and blood. Disgusting. But it still smelled divine.

It got worse over the days that followed. Sam kept drinking the broth, but at least twice a day nausea consumed her and she had to find a bathroom or bush. At first, it was just tubers, and occasionally clumps of soil, but once she vomited something spiky and found it was a minuscule hand. More body parts presented themselves then. Fingers, toes, even what looked like a nipple. Sam wiped her mouth and flushed the toilet and put them out of her mind.

Then, four weeks into her great work, she heaved up an entire face—flaccid, eyeless, and mask-like. She began to panic. She’d been sure that if she grew the girlfriend first, she could eat the roots and thereby absorb all that beauty and perfection. But perhaps she’d been wrong. Perhaps a second girlfriend was growing inside her now, clawing to get out. Perhaps it would shed the lesser, damaged skin of Sam herself, and take her place in the world. Or perhaps it would come crawling out of her womb, a perfect newborn that had torn its mother apart.

When she got home from school that afternoon, the girlfriend noticed her gloom at once. She stood and pulled Sam into a hug.

“What’s wrong?” she said “Want to hang out? Do something?”

“No. I just need to . . . need to sleep.”

The girlfriend stroked Sam’s brow as Sam writhed and drifted into an uneasy slumber.

Come morning, something was wrong. Sam could see both her door and the window opposite at the same time. When she gasped, her voice seemed to issue from somewhere near her knees, heard through ears that lay behind her.

Get me to the mirror!” Sam cried, panic crawling over her.

The girlfriend carried Sam to the mirror on her wall. Something multi-stemmed and fernlike blinked back with brown eyes that drooped like leaves. But it smelled beautiful. And every disparate limb was perfectly formed.

“Put me in the pot!” Sam cried. “And bring water!”

She turned one of her leaf eyes to the calendar on her wall. Four days. It would have to be enough.

The girlfriend fed her each morning, and when her parents knocked, the girlfriend called out in an impressive imitation of Sam’s voice that she was sick . . . just women’s troubles.

On the fourth morning, Sam woke to find herself in a puddle on the floor. She pressed upright and hobbled over to the mirror.

A picture of perfection greeted her. Long-limbed and shapely. Eyes that sparkled. Come-hither lips dewy as morning petals. Roots still draped from Sam’s soles, but it wasn’t hard to tear them off, and when she was done, a swell of joy overcame her.

Something tingled on the palm of one hand, and when Sam turned it over, she saw a network of pimples. For a moment, her breath stopped, but then she realised what they were. Buds. It was easy enough to work them off with a pumice. She would probably have to keep them in check for the rest of her life, pruning and trimming. But it was worth it. It was all worth it.

That evening, when the doorbell went, Sam descended the stairs like a queen. Her parents sat at the dining table, both on their laptops. Neither looked up as Sam drifted by.

“Enjoy the party,” her mother mumbled.

“I will,” Sam said, and stepped out into the night.

M. H. Ayinde

M. H. Ayinde. Photo Credit: Avel Shah. A Black woman of mixed heritage with short, black, curly hair, wearing a black top, her chin resting on one hand as she looks out from a housing estate balcony.

M. H. Ayinde was born in London’s East End near the bells of Shoreditch. She is a runner, a chai lover, and a screen time enthusiast. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, FIYAH Literary Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere, and she was the 2021 winner of the Future Worlds Prize. She lives in London with three generations of her family and their assorted feline overlords. Follow her on Twitter @mhayinde.