In the past I had occasionally considered what kind of tail I might have had, if we hadn’t evolved them out. Something grand, like a proud and bushy fox tail. Or the soft insistent thump of a golden retriever. It would match my personality anyway: hopeless romantic, outgoing and friendly, a good listener. All the traits I’d listed for online dating.
My girlfriend had asked once, when we were lying in bed, would you still love me if I had a little piggy tail? And I’d said, of course darling, I would ping your tiny curl and watch it spring back with glee.
So, when it did begin, and the tails were unfurling faster than you could keep up with, I was horrified to discover that my brother had grown a rat tail. He sent a picture to the family group chat, a slimy rope poking through a hole his wife had cut into his jeans. My mum told me later that my sister-in-law had left a few days after finishing hemming neat tail openings into all of his clothes and underwear. She didn’t like how the rat tail felt against her body as she tried to sleep.
It still hadn’t become clear what was happening. Not everyone had a tail yet, but patterns were emerging and scientists were querying a genetic link as the roll out continued. A colleague developed a long thud of a horse tail and soon after his son woke up to a swishing pony’s tail in the same chestnut shade.
My girlfriend didn’t get the springy pig curl she’d pondered over in the past, instead growing a surprisingly useful primate tail, which she used to hold open doors and to carry her coffee when her hands were full. And she didn’t mind what I ended up with eventually, my tiny hamster stub, the rodent gene seemingly strong in the male side of my family. Size doesn’t matter, she said, it’s cute, she said, can I flick it, she asked. I’d really rather you didn’t, I replied.
Gemma Elliott (she/her) lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and works in local government. She has most recently published short fiction in Neon, Bulb Culture Collective, and Divinations Magazine. Gemma can be found on Twitter @drgemmaelliott.