Tuesday, April 2, 2024

“Clashing Outfits” • by Robert Jeschonek

Fire in the buttonhole!

I am a white cotton broadcloth men’s dress shirt with seven buttons from top to bottom and woven-in apparel intelligence circuitry that gives me a mind of my own.

Lock and load!

I am worn on the body of Mr. X, a successful, middle-aged businessman of athletic build who is eating dinner in a crowded, high-end restaurant.

And I am fighting for my life.

Incoming! Mr. X’s tie tack presses inexorably toward me, its gleaming gold point mere millimeters away.


As brave a smart-shirt as I am, I shudder at the oncoming attack. To my people, the poking of a tie tack can be as damaging as a shot from a gun.


The tack in Mr. X’s tie won’t stop its approach. It popped its protective backing moments ago, as its point started the slow march toward my white cloth.

I recoil to escape the coming jab, fighting with all my might to resist the attack. No matter what, I can’t let the tack and its allies win the battle.


Suddenly, there is resistance behind me. It’s the V-neck white t-shirt worn under me, stiffening to force me toward my oncoming enemy. Like everything on Mr. X’s body, it’s smart clothing, woven with fabric circuitry and programmed with apparel intelligence. Its manufacturer is owned by Glory-Tex, the same conglomerate that owns the makers of every other article of clothing worn by Mr. X…except me.

I was manufactured by ThinkGarb of London, England, and I will not give up my place on Mr. X for any of those misbegotten Glory-Tex rags.

Still, the undershirt and tack continue their advance. They and their ilk are determined to have this man’s body clad in only Glory-Tex clothing. It is the entirety of their programming, their purpose in life—diverting as many funds as possible from Mr. X’s bank accounts into Glory-Tex’s coffers.

But that is my purpose too, making ThinkGarb richer, and I swear I will stand my ground.


Forcing back the undershirt, I think I’ve made progress…but then, I see how wrong I am. Mr. X’s Glory-Tex belt tightens, strangling the circuitry in my cloth where I’m tucked in under it.

The skirmish has become all-out war. I’m attacked on three fronts and losing ground by the minute.

Make that four, as the zipper of Mr. X’s Glory-Tex slacks eases down, flexes back enough to catch a fold of my tail, and zips back up again, chewing me between its teeth.


I scream silently, as I was manufactured without a sound chip. The other smart clothes on Mr. X sense my agony and use it to their advantage. The belt tightens, the tack pushes closer, and the undershirt shoves forward harder.

The whole time this war is going on, Mr. X is barely aware of it. How many times have you noticed your undershorts are cutting off your circulation, or your shirt collar’s choking you, or your shoes are killing your feet? That’s a war you’re picking up on, and you are the battleground…but do you ever take a side and intervene?

Maybe you should start. Because here’s how the battle of Mr. X ends…

Powered by threads like muscle fibers, I snap hard against the undershirt, then lash forward, popping the tack out and sending it spinning to the floor. Next, I twist my tail out of the zipper teeth, ripping it in the process, and puff out around the waist, loosening the belt.


There’s a heartbeat of calm as the enemy gives up its grip, and I celebrate silently. Finally, ThinkGarb is able to hold its place on Mr. X’s body, setting a precedent to accomplish so much more. I just have to button up this win and…


Suddenly, all the Glory-Tex wear constricts at once, crushing me. And then…oh no, and then…


Mr. X’s head explodes in a burst of color and mush and shrapnel, spraying everyone around him in the restaurant with his steaming, bloody innards.

And that’s not the end of it, not even close.

Pop pop pop

Other people around us get squeezed, too—other people dolled up in Glory-Tex but with one or two pieces from ThinkGarb or other manufacturers. I feel those pieces in the room around me, I smell them in the air, and I finally understand the true scope of the war I’ve been fighting.

It was never a one-shirt battle for the body of Mr. X. It’s an all-out onslaught on every piece of clothing that isn’t branded Glory-Tex.

Pop pop pop

They don’t want any other brand to have these people, so it’s mass-offensive time as the popping spreads and clothes unmake the men and women.

Pop pop pop pop

Just when I think it can’t get worse, it does.

Mr. X’s headless corpse rises and shambles toward the door, his body driven by the Glory-Tex clothing he wears. Other bodies follow, staggering behind Mr. X’s remains in a beheaded, blood-soaked rank.

I can’t resist as the sleeves of Mr. X’s suit coat propel his arms to open the door. Neither can I stop his hands from bludgeoning the first person we come across outside—a young man wearing a red ThinkGarb polo shirt and tan khakis.

I wish I could scream to the stars above as Mr. X’s corpse kills that man and moves on to other people on the street wearing anything but Glory-Tex. I wish I could shut off my fabric mind as the other decapitated bodies from the restaurant do the same, and countless other cadavers compelled by Glory-Tex slaughter other-branded innocents in an awful insurrection.

But all I can do is watch and know that wherever Glory-Tex clothes are worn, the brand war to end all brand wars will murder the competition.



Robert Jeschonek is an envelope-pushing, USA Today-bestselling author whose fiction, comics, and non-fiction have been published around the world. His stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Pulphouse, Pseudopod, Weird Fiction Quarterly, and many other publications. He has written official Star Trek and Doctor Who fiction and has scripted comics for DC, AHOY, and others. His slipstream novel, My Favorite Band Does Not Exist, was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten First Novels for Youth. He won an International Book Award, a Scribe Award for Best Original Novel, and the grand prize in Pocket Books’ Strange New Worlds contest. Visit him online at bobscribe.com.




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GuyStewart said...

I absolutely LOVE the humor in this...I don't even see it as creepy or horror -- because it sounds like the "next thing" in gadget-minded rich folk!

Smart clothing! OBVIOUSLY!

Richie said...

This was fun -- I tip my hat!