The Gilet

I must reiterate that it wasn’t even that cold. It was mid September, and there was really no reason why I should have seen one, but I did. I was just walking to the supermarket to get a few things, when I noticed something in my periphery. There was a figure standing across the road of the Tesco Metro, and as much as I was reticent to turn my head and look, I couldn’t help but steal a sideways glance. My first thought was one of bewilderment – a gilet at this time of year? Yet there it was, adorning a middle aged woman with straw like hair. What seemed even more curious to me was the fact that the gilet itself was moving somewhat independently of the person it adorned. The movement was almost imperceptible, a slight vibration that perturbed me despite its subtle presence.

I was quite thankful to have reached the entrance of the shop, so that I could be released from the sight of the dreaded body warmer. 

I headed to the tinned fish aisle in search of anchovies. As I was navigating the various briny coffins, there was something in the corner of my eye – an erratic vibrating form. I tried not to look, and instead focused on acquiring my tin of salty fish, but I couldn’t concentrate. My heart rate increased as I scanned the sardines in sunflower oil, the mackerel in tomato sauce, the jar of cockles – all the while feeling like the vibrating form was edging ever closer as the elusive anchovies seemed further from my grasp. 

I decided to go get the olives and capers instead, so walked along and down to the next aisle. Just before going round the corner, I turned my head slightly to see what had caused me to panic and abandon the key component to my evening meal – it was the gilet. However, it wasn’t the same one from across the road, but a white one that was wrapped around the torso of a well built bald man. The bewilderment from my first encounter had started to ferment into an uneasiness, and as I turned into the next aisle I took a deep breath in order to get hold of my senses.

The tension around my eyes began to subside as I perused the various jars of pickled things. As I reached for the green olives I could sense it once again edging ever closer, and now its movements were accompanied by a faint buzzing sound – an equally insect-like accompaniment to its spongy carapace. Its flustered energy was making me feel anxious, so I stepped away from the olives and pretended to browse condiments on the next shelf down. Where I had just stood was the white gilet, its wearer reaching out for the very same olives that I had abandoned. It was like someone just really didn’t want me to have puttanesca tonight. 

I left the aisle and tried to get back to the anchovies, but nearly walked into another buzzing, flitting gilet. It was almost like it was angry, yet as I glanced at the woman wearing it, her face didn’t convey any emotion of the sort, in fact, it didn’t convey any emotion at all. She didn’t even see me, which was strange as I had nearly walked into her – her heavy lidded eyes continued to stare ahead as she shuffled straight over to the tinned fish. 

Encountering three gilets in the same mid September day was an unseasonable horror. I couldn’t shake the theory that something was going on, so I made my way to the frozen goods section to do a bit of research on my phone, tucked out the way by the fish fingers. 

I was reminded of an image I’d once seen in an encyclopaedia as a child – a body without a head, but a torso with a face. I typed this description into my phone and the word ‘Blemmyae’ came up – a mythical headless being, the name of which translates roughly to ‘without brain.’ I shuffled along to the frozen peas and began to obsessively search for translations of ‘gilet,’ of ‘gi’ and ‘let’ and any other variations I could think of. Perhaps this search was a form of contrivance on my part, much like ouija board participants can influence what words are said by a supposed spirit, but the results before me clearly stated that the word ‘gilet’ translated to ‘absence of style, or self awareness.’ 

I realised that I was quietly chuckling to myself by the frozen food aisle, so I  grabbed a bag of sweetcorn in order to give the impression that it was ‘business as usual,’ careful not to betray my new found knowledge of the potential body warmer occult practice that was currently occurring. 

With all the excitement of my current research, I had neglected the fact that I hadn’t actually encountered any gilets during my time in the frozen food section. This I found curious, as in the past I had heard gilet advocates (in light of newly acquired knowledge, I am tempted to use the term ‘acolytes’ instead) wax lyrical about their ability to protect one’s core body temperature from the elements. This surely begged the question of why they seemed to avoid the frozen aisle. 

I was getting a little carried away, and I knew that if I continued to stay in that infernal store, I would surely lose my mind. I headed to the self scan checkout with my frozen sweetcorn, aware of the synthetically insulated spectres that were loitering in the background. Of course the machine chose this time to malfunction – the robotic voice telling me to ‘remove the item from the bagging area’ as if the very idea of only purchasing a bag of sweetcorn was incomprehensible. I couldn’t help but think that they were interfering with the machines somehow, messing up the electrics with whatever polyester tendrils they held in their arsenal. Luckily my repeatedly picking up the sweetcorn and slamming it onto the bagging area freed me from the checkout and I was able to pay and leave. 

A slight dizziness seized me as I passed through the slowly parting automatic doors out into the car park.  Perhaps it was my senses readjusting after exiting the oppressive atmosphere of the supermarket, but I was feeling strange mild jolts throughout my body. They seemed to get progressively worse as I approached the recycling bins that were by the exit of the car park. 

Amongst the plastic and glass recycling bins was a container for unwanted clothes. I had to go past it in order to exit the car park, but each step I took brought about a wave of nausea. The flustered energy I had sensed from the gileted figures before was nothing compared to this – it reverberated through my entire being. As I passed it and got further away this feeling began to subside, but I didn’t dare look behind me. 

That night I suffered restless dreams, the kind one has when they’re experiencing a bout of food poisoning or a fever. There was that continuous buzzing doing, but beneath that I could detect another sound – it was speech. Varying tones and voices could be heard saying things like, “it protects your core temperature…,” and “I think it’s about time I invest in one.” I was finding it hard to breathe, and as I looked at the walls surrounding me I realised that I was in a padded cell. The buzzing grew louder as I touched the wall, feeling the padding give way slightly before returning to its original form. A disturbing thought crossed my mind – the walls seemed to be made of a now all too familiar synthetic fibre… I was incarcerated in a gilet. I don’t know if it was sweat or tears but the moisture’s journey down my face must have woken me up. The room was silent apart from the sound of my pounding heart. 

I got up and walked over to the freezer, got out the bag and returned to bed. I lay there hugging the frozen sweetcorn to my chest, my heart gradually slowing to its normal rate. As I began to ease into slumber, one thought continued to mull around in my mind: a gilet in mid-September… it wasn’t even that cold. Ridiculous.