The Yogurt Women, A Weird Short Story

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The lifestyle experts and gracefully aging actresses did not tell us what would happen. “They wouldn’t lie to us,” we said. “I do feel like my bowel movements are both more regular and more rewarding,” we said. “Now you are slaves to our overlord,” they said. What we had thought was a simple focus group turned into a nightmare beyond our wildest imaginations. We are prisoners of probiotics, captives of coconut oil, slaves to superfood salads. We are the yogurt women. History will not remember us.

Each day we rise for yoga at gunpoint. The area is not fenced in, but overlooks a beautiful cliff; one misstep and you are hurled off. Mothers, young women, the elderly—the cliff feels no mercy. We are careful with our Downward Dogs.

By sunrise we have already eaten breakfast (chia pudding) and begun our daily activities. We spend hours laughing in our assigned multicultural friendship pods. Our mouths are cracked and dry. When we first arrived, we had nothing to laugh about. Now, that does not matter. The absurdity of it all is enough to have us cackling like witches over never-ending cups of peppermint tea. Also, they put drugs in the tea.

The afternoon is the hardest. Machines push and pull our faces into ever-more wistful expressions, while thin-lipped instructors drill us on invented adjectives: “crafted,” “eco-chic,” “upcycled.” We are forced into athletic pants and sports bras, paraded about the shopping complex in level four designed to work us into a smoothie-hungry sweat. Our feet ache from unwieldy high heels, our faces from smiling. Most horrifying of all, each week a sacrificial Doubting Friend is chosen. We must all watch as one of our own is forced to say, “I just don’t think kale is for me.” She is force-fed three gallons of quinoa salad and then eaten by wolves. Sometimes when we awake, some of us our missing. We have done Cleanses, sure. But so have they.

At dinner we test new products for features in lifestyle mags. It is dangerous work. We lost three girls in trials for Gucci Guilty Intense perfume. What hit the stores was less than 400% of the product’s original intensity. The woman whose body formed the testing ground for the Full Bush Brazilian is scarred for life. We have learned to fear the summer months in general—Bikini Season. Anyone unlucky enough to be selected for this high-risk test period comes back changed. The phrase “beach body” is enough to have us scrambling to volunteer for other duties: running through fields while on our periods, working down in the filter mines, attaching captions to pictures of sunsets for others to tumbl. This week has been okay: at-home gardening, advanced purging, nail art. Plain, simple. We do not speak of the testing period for “classic dessert alternatives;” we have seen things involving rhubarb that would make a grown man weep.

There is no delicate way to say this: we shit constantly. A diet comprised almost exclusively of greens, various yeasts and bacilli, and so, so many seeds will do that to a person. The supervisors love this; this means the powders they give us are working. “1 in 3 women reported easier, more frequent bowel movements,” the magazine copy will read. What it will not say is that the other two died of dehydration.

And so, day after day, week after week, meticulously charted menstrual cycle after menstrual cycle, we fester. Ferment, really, like the innumerable vats of milk products in the coolers. In a way, we are ourselves becoming yogurt, and this whole messed up world is one big lonely woman’s fridge. Still, there are some comforts to this life; although we have been taken from our loved ones, mistreated, abused, used as human lab rats for Big Lifestyle, not one of us has ever had a yeast infection.

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