(///plenty.reject.fired – Weight Watchers International HQ, New York, USA)
If Professor Noel McMasters had learned anything, it was that skinny was bad. After all, historical images from Egyptian times onwards had shown rulers happy to carry a bit of weight, a sign of their power and prosperity.
But try as he might, he could never put on an ounce. He wolfed down large slices of cake, plenty of chips, mounds of doughnuts. He spurned all forms of exercise. But he remained scrawny, a man without real influence.
Until the miracle. He and his colleagues were translating the mystery Saqqara Tablet. It revealed the magic devised by the High Priest Amenatho and the incantations used by Pharaohs to quite literally transfer weight from their officials to themselves. That was how they had stayed in such rotund health! And power! Noel could see the path ahead. If he could affect the magic on himself, then surely genuine authority would follow.
Of course, he knew his colleagues would reject any request for help. Nobody would just put him in charge. Instead, he would learn the invocations by heart and recite them at the reception where the findings were to be announced. He could then take over proceedings, showing that he had mastered the magic and should therefore lead all research going forward. He could model his new portlier figure at the same time.
As the assembled sipped champagne and nibbled on crab puffs, he quietly pronounced the words. When he finished, he felt his body stiffen and tighten and then begin to whirl. People gasped and drew away from him as he spun quicker and quicker, and parts of his skin fired off randomly around the room, not stopping until suddenly he crashed to the floor. Skeletal. Dead.
If only Noel had been invited to the final research meeting, when the head of department had unveiled a missing piece of the tablet, Amenatho’s cypher for ensuring the incantations were recited correctly, together with a description of what would happen to those who tried the prayers without it.
At least Noel would always be remembered for his practical enactment of Amenatho’s words. It was a lasting influence of sorts.