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Cyril Figgis

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About Cyril Figgis

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  • Birthday 11/15/1990
  • Location Charlotte, NC, USA

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  1. DAY 4: WEIGHTALITY Depending on who asked Zhen Hu what the mark on their neck was, they would say it was a tattoo, a scar, or a birthmark and then change the subject. After all, how does one explain a boar’s head seared into their flesh like a brand? They could not explain it, and it had been on their body for as long as they remembered. Their parents had no answer for it either, but Father used to joke that his uncle had a set of freckles that looked like a horse when they connected the dots. Cute, but not the answer they were looking for. Thankfully, the mark was something that was easily put out of sight and mind, and Zhen Hu lived a normal life as best they could—well, as normal as life can be when your father is a martial arts master and your mother is a stuntwoman. They were kicking as soon as they could walk, throwing punches that could shatter bones when they were still in grade school, and rolling through trips and falls like a gymnast. Father was a jovial man most times, but he demanded perfection from all his students, and that included his only child. Mother was less strict, but Zhen still learned much from their time on film sets, like how to turn any ordinary object into a weapon and so, so many ways to blow stuff up. It came as no surprise that they grew into a daredevil, taking risks that few others would and facing them all with a big grin. They lived minute to minute, drove like the Devil was after them, and pushed their body to the absolute limit, and that was just how they liked it. That search for the ultimate thrill took them to all the corners of the Earth, from bucket list material like running with the bulls in Pamplona to skinny dipping in arctic waters to the more illegal, like playing Russian roulette in a seedy bar in Saigon and underground fights in only the finest cesspools. A muggy summer night found them in one such place: an aircraft boneyard in the mountains of Tennessee, where the fighters refreshed themselves with a bottle of moonshine between each bout. These sorts of shows attracted all types of brawlers, from the hulking giants that could lift the moon to fleetfooted dancers that could dodge bullets, but all of them paled in comparison to Zhen, who was on a serious winning streak. It was child’s play to deal with such rank amateurs, as the giants could not hope to catch them and the dancers were not fast enough to get away from their blows; even those who came with weapons soon found themselves disarmed and staring down the blade of their own knife. Four fights in, and Zhen had already made a killing. They relaxed against the wheel of a jet and took a few gulps of whiskey as their latest opponent was dragged off to lick his wounds in a nearby hangar, where the bookies worked. The lone wolf cut an intimidating figure as they sized up the competition, eyeballing the other fighters with cold, calculating glances before closing their eyes and returning to their drink. There was an itch to smoke that caused their feet to tap out a jazzy beat, but they held strong to the promise they made to their mother earlier that year—no more cigarettes. That did not stop their cravings though, and quitting had them even more agitated than normal, which explained why they were taking no prisoners that evening. “Hey, champ, how’re you holding up?” asked Carlito, one of the bookkeepers and the one who tipped them off about tonight’s events. “I’m bored, but fine. Couldn’t scrounge up better competition?” asked Zhen as they stretched out on the wheel. “I’ve had harder fights with kids in my dad’s kwoon.” “Telling people that you’ll be in a fight night is good for crowds, not so good for fighters,” Carlito explained while flipping a coin between his fingers—one of his nervous tics. “I had to break out all the stops to get fighters in for tonight, on account of your breaking some of the best around. You know that Southpaw Nash still can’t use his left hand right?” “Serves him right for getting rough with one of the fans,” Zhen replied. “He’s lucky I didn’t break more than I did, because I don’t tolerate that crap. Plus, I got a little action that night for putting on my shining armor, so no skin off my back.” Carlito glanced over at the reigning champion and shook his head. Zhen Hu was one of a kind: the mold was broken when they were made, lest another monster be unleashed on the world. They had the taut, tight body of a fighter, with not a shred of fat to be found; instead, there were only sharp angles and sharper muscles that could cut paper just by flexing. A mastectomy took away their most obvious feminine features, and the crisp boy cut they sported gave them an androgynous look that only Grace Jones could match. A variety of tattoos covered their body, the most distinctive being the boar’s head at the nape of their neck, but Carlito knew better than to ask about it. Everything about Zhen spelled ‘danger’, which only made them more of an attraction at his matches. “Maybe I’ll wear a mask and call myself something like ‘Frostbite’ or ‘Tarantula’,” Zhen teased. “First person to get the mask off gets double the prize money.” Carlito chuckled and retorted, “And risk more of the local talent getting their hands mangled? Thanks, but I like making money a little too much for that.” The two colleagues relaxed in the humid Tennessee night and watched the fireflies flit past them until one of the other bookies ran up to Carlito. He puffed out, “Carlito, we’ve got a problem up front. Some guy’s up here trying to force his way into the matches, and he’s already busted up a couple of our bouncers. Could you give us a hand?” “I’ll be right there,” Carlito sighed. He looked back at Zhen, who poked their head up in curiosity, and asked, “I hate to ask, but you mind giving me a hand? I’ll throw a couple extra hundred on there if you can make this clown scram.” The fighter shrugged their lean shoulders and answered, “Why not? Maybe this punk will actually give me my money’s worth.” The two walked back to the hangar, where they came across a duo that looked like they belonged at Comic-Con, not an underground fight ring. On the left—and hoisting a 350-pound bouncer over his head like it was nothing—was an olive-skinned man with muscles for days and the garb of a Viking. On the right was a dusky woman that barely came up to Zhen’s waist, had a bodybuilder’s physique, and looked like a harem dancer. A few of the bouncers sat off to the side, nursing their wounds, while the petite woman laughed with a canary-like voice. “These are your guardsmen? Pathetic! The guards of Nordia are hulking sentinels that feast on the bones of trespassers, while I’m pretty sure one of these had mustard stains on his shirt,” the woman mocked. “Bring me your mightiest, or I will have Yotun smash his way through you all until he finds what he’s looking for.” Zhen’s foot hammered the ground as their blood boiled just under their skin, but this was not the same twitch as before. Their lips spread into a devilish smirk as they realized that this was the challenge they had been waiting for all night—perhaps even their entire life. “I was wondering when you’d show up!” Zhen announced as they walked towards the intruders. “I’ve been bored off my ass with all the jobbers they’re sending my way, and I’ve been craving a real fight. I just hope your boy there’s the real deal, and that those muscles aren’t just for show.” The woman turned to the approaching Zhen and put her tiny hands on her hips. “So, one of you is bold enough to step forward? Hella admires your bravery: and when this battle is through, we shall craft your bones into a crown worthy of a king.” “Oh, don’t tease me with a good time,” Zhen retorted, licking their lips like a hungry animal. “You’d better bring your A-Game, because I eat guys like your boyfriend for breakfast.” Before Hella could reply, Jotun tossed the bouncer over his shoulder like salt and sniffed the air in front of him. He stomped forward and glowered down at Zhen, who only returned the glare with equal intensity. In a voice as hard and cold as marble, he grunted, “I smell the Mark of Beelzeblud on you; you are part of the Grand Kumite.” “The hell is a ‘Beelzeblud’?” asked Zhen. Yotun responded by pulling away a fur strap from his shoulder, revealing the same boar design that Zhen had carried all their life. The hulking brute snorted, “This mark brands us as children of Beelzeblud, god of conquest. It is fate that we should meet and battle in the Grand Kumite—the war that will decide the fate of all worlds.” Zhen narrowed their eyes as the explanation went over their head. It made no sense, but then again, so did the mark on their neck, which itched like a sunburn the longer they stayed around these two. They kept their cool and hummed, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I want whatever drugs you’re on—this sounds psychedelic.” “You’ll pay for your insolence with your blood, boy,” Yotun grunted before swinging one of his anvil-sized fists down at Zhen, who avoided the fist with ease but not the following shockwave when it hit the ground. They stumbled back from the blow, and had just enough time to weave away from a follow-up where the giant lunged at them. Their eyes went wide when they glanced at the dent Yotun had made in the ground; no normal human could do that with their bare hands, drugs or not. Maybe the story about Beelzeblud had some weight to it, but they could not afford to dwell on it for long. Big and bulky as he was, Yotun proved to be just as fast and charged at Zhen like an angry hippo, who just barely dodged it with a nimble leap. “What the hell are you?” they asked as they spun around to face their snarling opponent. Yotun did not reply, opting instead to throw wild haymakers at Zhen with so much force that the air popped around his fists. Hella spoke up for her combative companion, snickering, “The fool doesn’t know that he is part of the Grand Kumite! Poor you, that you should have to face the champion of Nordra in your first bout; taking this world shall be but child’s play!” The taunt made no sense to the uninitiated, but Zhen could not afford to lose their focus for even a second while dodging Yotun’s punches. They ducked, weaved, and redirected the blows as best they could, but they could not keep it up all night; unlike the other giants they normally fought, Viking Hulk was not tiring from his punches. It was only a matter of time before Zhen was hit, and that time came sooner than they hoped, as Yotun swung low and caught them in the stomach, sending them reeling back into a fence. They clutched at their stomach, expecting to find a gaping hole where their lower intestine used to be, but they remained remarkably unharmed—almost. When their fingers reached down to their abs, they found that the honed muscles they had chiseled for the last two decades were nowhere in reach. Instead, a small paunch took their place, giving Zhen enough fluff to literally pinch an inch and a slight pooch over the waistband of their tights. It was just one more bit of oddness on top of an ever-growing pile that night, and Zhen began to wonder if they were even awake or if this was a bizarre dream. One pinch of the little bulge in their stomach was all they needed to confirm they were conscious, which only served to frustrate the fighter. “Well, shit,” they grunted. “Can’t let that happen again.” From her spot on the sidelines, Hella nearly fell over as she cackled with impish glee. “Not such a hotshot now, are you? By the time Yotun’s through with you, you’ll be fatter than a cow! Maybe we’ll even roast you for a victory feast.” Zhen narrowed their eyes and clenched their hands into iron fists before declaring, “All right, here’s how this is going to go down: I’m going to kick that giant’s ass so hard that he shrinks like a dick in a cold pool, and then I’m going to punt you into the next county after you tell me what the hell this is all about. Sound good? Good.” Before Hella could burst out laughing, Zhen zipped forward and struck Yotun with a series of lightning fast chops to nerve centers across his body. They batted aside his sloppy punches and continued their barrage, their hands going for pinpoint strikes along Yotun’s bulky frame like scalpels. Any attempts to strike the nimble Zhen were in fruitless, returned tenfold as they dislocated bones and numbed nerves until their opponent could barely lift his arms. By the time Zhen stepped back, the formerly domineering giant could barely stand, instead swaying like a tree in the breeze. That was not the only change that had come over Yotun, as the same bizarre effect his punches had carried over into Zhen’s rapid-fire strikes. The ogrish man’s brawny body was encased in a blanket of fat, so much so that he looked less like a roided-up gorilla and more like the winner of a county fair pie-eating contest. Tight pectorals gave way to flabby breasts the size and shape of potato sacks, an already thick middle ballooned into a belly that could fit a basketball player inside, and powerful legs that propelled him across the battlefield became thick as barrels. When he tried to throw another haymaker, it was so sluggish that Zhen saw it coming from a mile away and walked out of its path before tripping him, sending him to the ground like a water balloon. “That’s a first,” Zhen remarked as they studied their hands for anything that might have caused their hulking foe to turn into a mass of blubber. They were the same hands that they used to win four matches earlier that night, and the only difference was that the knuckles were a little more bruised than before. None of their opponents had ever grown into landwhales before, except for the one guy who took a loss quite hard and drowned his sorrows in fried chicken for a year. “I wonder if we’ll get the same effect on you,” they then jeered at a quivering Hella. The impish woman quickly threw up her hands and told Zhen, “Wait, wait, you don’t want to hurt me! I could be of great use to you: a fighting champion needs someone to seek out opponents for them and sing their praises so all know their glory! With me at your side, there is nothing you could not achieve; you could even win the entire Grand Kumite!” Her pleas and promises fell on deaf ears, as Zhen stormed forward and sneered, “Don’t know what your kumite is and really, I don’t care. You made me put on a couple pounds? Fine, I’ll work it off in a couple weeks. But you made one grave mistake—I ain’t no man.” The angered fighter then leaped through the air and battered Hella with a series of kicks, landing a dozen blows on the diminutive hypewoman before landing on their feet with the grace of a cat. When they dusted off their tights and looked over their handiwork, having turned the shortstack of muscles into a shortstack of fluff. Hella’s hard body had been replaced with inches of bulging, pillowy fat that strained her silken garments, from inches of ebony tit pouring over her cups to a sloping belly that folded into two tiers as it ran down over her crotch. And even though Hella’s legs had grown so wide that there was no room left in her billowing harem pants, there was a little voice in Zhen’s head whispering like a devil on their shoulder, ‘Finish her.’ Zhen had no idea how or why they did it, but they reached out and slapped a hand atop Hella’s flabby gut, sending ripples through the woman’s blubbery body. Rather than slow down after a second, the ripples continued and intensified as they spread through her torso to her chest, legs, and even fluffy arms and chin. The quaking in her body brought a scream from the woman’s lips, but Zhen continued; they were not sure they could stop even if they wanted to. A fiery heat coursed down their arm, poured out through their palms and fingers, and seeped into every pore of Hella’s body, spreading a burn through the rotund woman until she felt like she might explode in a ball of flames. And then, she exploded—just not in the way she imagined. The rippling across her body reached a crescendo and gave way to a rapid fattening that would have taken a savage beatdown before. Fat piled up around her neck and shoulders that her head seemed to shrink into her body, her breasts blew past her bra and grew as big as she used to be, and her belly raced outwards until it reached the ground. Luckily for Hella, her massive backside counterweighted her gut as she grew as wide as a pickup truck bed and her legs became so full of flab that her feet vanished inside her cankles. Her arms, if they could even be called that from how much blubber encased them, were held upright by the sheer mass of her body—not that she could use them anyway. When the act was done, Zhen took a step back and glanced between their hand, which still radiated some of that bizarre heat, and the pile of pudge that was Hella. In the span of just a few minutes, their entire world had turned upside down; monster men, superpowers, and the existence of other worlds were dropped on them like a ton of bricks. They now had some idea what the mark on their neck meant, but they still needed more information—and they now had a captive to question. “You know, you’re kind of cute with your mouth shut,” they hummed as they sauntered up to Hella and grabbed a handful of chin. “But I need some answers from you about all this, and you’re going to give them to me, one way or the other.” They then turned their attention back to the stunned crowd and told them, “How about that for a fight night? Now, who wants to make a little money loading these hogs up onto a truck for me?”
  2. DAY 3: BEER BELLY BETTY Howdy, y’all! Sorry I didn’t hear you come in: I was chopping wood out back for the pig pickin’ next Tuesday down at Parson Tucker’s place. You folks are coming, ain’cha? Course y’are! Everybody who’s anybody in Yokum Falls will be there, and even if you’re a nobody, you’re still welcome. We’ll have plenty of fixings, like Mama Maple’s blue ribbon wheatcakes and Cousin Skid’s banana pudding, and even plenty of vegan options for your girl. How’re you taking to Yokum Falls? Sure is a far cry from the big city, I bet. Me, I likes the metropopolies just fine, but you just can’t beat home sweet home if’n you ask me. When you’re in that urban jungle, you get to know maybe a handful of people, but the rest are just faces. Here in Yokum Falls, everybody’s a character: you’ve got our resident know-it-all in E. Edison Einstein; our butcher, Freddy Chopin, who can get you any kind of meat you want so long’s you don’t ask questions; and Gizmorelda, who we’re all pretty sure is a robot but can’t nobody prove it. Shoot, I plum forgot you live just down the street from Beer Belly Betty! Lord, if ever there was a hoot and a half, she’d be it. Funny thing is, she weren’t too different from y’all when she showed up a few years back; she was some big shot up in New Cago or Atlando before she came here. If you’ve got the time, I’ll spin her yarn for you while my wife makes some of her world famous sweet tea… *** It's hard to believe now, but Betty never actually intended to come out here; it was just pure coinkydink that her car broke down when she was passing through. Corky brought her car into his shop, but it was one of them newfangled ‘smart cars’ and he didn’t have but half the things he needed to get it fixed. Now, y’all might not know this yet, but it can take a good while for anything to find its way out to Yokum Falls; we’re like one of them tribes that’s out in the Ameezon, all shut out from the world. So Corky tells her that it’s going to take a few weeks for them parts to get here, but she’s fine with it so long’s she got a place to lay her head. We ain’t got no proper motel—not since them rats took over The Flea Trap—but Hops Barley has got a couple rooms open over his bar and let her stay there. Weren’t long before we found that the poor gal was on the run from the pressures of life: a failing bidness, a failing marriage, and a failing apartment; it was like someone done stamped a big F on her report card. Hops, big softy that he is, gave her the room free of charge, no strings attached, but Betty weren’t having that and pitched in however she could around Barley’s. Now, y’all might not know this, on account of Betty being on the wrong side of four hunnerd pounds, but she wasn’t always Beer Belly Betty. When she rolled into town, folks called her Blue Eye Betty ‘cause she’s got the bluest eyes this side of the Mississippi; that ain’t doing them justice, but I ain’t got the vocabalary that Einstein’s got. But she was a right purty thing by anybody’s definition: chestnut hair all done in curls, waist tighter’n a clamp, and legs for days. ‘Course, she don’t hold a candle to my Ginny, but ain’t a woman alive can do that. Anyway, Betty does what she can to help out around Hop’s place, from cleaning at the end of the night to tending bar to singing whenever Lulu Swann got a sore throat. In exchange, Hop gave her a roof over her head, food and drink on the house, and even a little spending money—though he damn near had to litrully twist her arm to get her to take a paycheck. Don’t take long for someone to make themselves at home in Yokum Falls, and Betty weren’t no exception. Y’ask her what made her stay in town, and she’ll tell you that it’s all the local charm that won her heart; that might be true, but I’d bet my best hog on it being the food. We’re the secret food capital of the world, ‘cause nobody knows we make the best durn anything you want. You want icy cream? We’ve got them fellers at Baskin-Robbins beat with thirty-three flavors. You want pizza? Italy ain’t got nothing on Papa Ricotta’s. Hell, you want sushi? Gary Wasabi can hook you up with the best rolls outside of Tokyo, hands down. What I’m saying is we’ve got food for anybody’s taste, and Betty didn’t want for nothing when she got here. It started with the simple fried stuff that Hops makes, which he likes to gussy up by calling it ‘tempura style’, but everybody knows that a tempura’s a thin, light batter—both things that Hops’ cooking most certainly ain’t. Still, Betty took a liking to it before long, but what really helped it go down was some of Hops’ homebrew. I’ve seen a lot of people that like their booze in this town, but one taste of that beer and Betty was hooked. Any time you bumped into her at the bar, she’d be nursing a bottle; chances are, that weren’t her first bottle neither. You’d think that a city girl like her, raised on them fancy wines and liquors, wouldn’t take too kindly to such heavy, homemade stuff, but she was drinking it like a fish drinks water. Starting to see why we call her Beer Belly Betty yet? *** Oh, thank ya, Ginny. We was just talking about some of the characters ‘round these parts, and got to talking about Betty. No, no, not Broomstick Betty—Beer Belly, the one that bought Coker’s farm when he died back in ’19. Oh, they’re the same? Oh, I see…that’s the name the womenfolk gave her. No, I guess that does make sense, given you could pick your teeth with her when she moved into town, but it’s been an awful long time since she was that thin. Well, everybody’s got their own way of naming people ‘round here, I suppose. No, we’re good, sugar. Y’all heading out to Dotty’s for a spell? Give my regards, and tell her that the upside down cake was delectalicious. I’ll get supper going before you’re back. She’s a peach, I tell you what. I’m about the luckiest man in Capp County to land a woman like Ginny Rumm; what she sees in a bumkin like me, I’ll never know. But where was I? Oh, right… *** It didn’t take long for all that Yokum cooking to start catching up to Betty, ‘specially when she was drinking Hops’ beer like it was going out of style. She got a little softer all over—a little cushion that jiggled like Mammy’s apple jelly—but it was her belly that got the most. Folks started to wonder if she was waiting on a little bundle of joy, but one little poke and you’d know that it weren’t no baby she was waiting on. That girl weren’t but a few months removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, but she was already starting to look like a Yokum girl ought to. Now, we treat folks like family ‘round here whether you’ve been here for a day or lived here your whole life, but Betty really started to open up to people after a few months. Guess she wanted to test the waters after all the heat from the city, because she went from being a hair shy to one of the gals in no time. Ginny’ll tell you that she would go down to market and gossip with the best of them, and she even joined Sister Novella’s book club—which we were all tickled by, since that meant there was more’n two people keeping Sister company. She popped up all over town, and before you knew it, she was talking like she’d lived here since the day she was born. Pretty soon, all the womenfolk were coming ‘round to welcome her to this or that—little social functions where they gossip ‘til the cows come home. And you can’t have a function without good eats, so Betty was getting pecan tarts, Yokum Falls hot turducken, and gator nuggets at these little knitting circles. If’n you’re busting your behind all day like yours truly, then all that cooking goes to muscle, but the most Betty was lifting were trays of glasses and bottles. That Yokum diet caught up to her hard and fast, and before we knew it, the city gal that could’a passed for a hat rack was looking plump like a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you won’t think me crude for saying so, but her womanly curves got plenty healthy and had a nice bounce whenever she walked. She looked like she was smuggling softballs up her shirt and basketballs down her pants, and let me tell you—Barley’s never had so many folks ‘til the day she started filling out her clothes. But it was that belly of hers, brought up on Hops’ home brew, that really took the cake, tell you what. It grew so fast, you could practiculy see it grow day by day; she was growing it like she was a farmer tending to a prize pun’kin. She’d try to hide it at first, but when it kept on peeking out, she just stopped trying to tug her shirts down and let it hang out. Now, y’all might think that a big girl wouldn’t get quite so many suitors chasing after her, but us folks out here appreciate a girl with plenty meat on her bones. Shows that she’s well taken care of, y’know, and a little bit of cushion always helps in the bedroom if’n you know what I mean. Sure, you’ve got your twiggies and your chicken legs running around, but they don’t turn a head like they would up in the city. Out here, you want a girl with udders as big as a cow’s, a belly that walks in the door ‘fore she does, and hips so wide that she’d start rolling if she fell. What’s that? Your girl’s one of them yogi instructors? Well, you just wait—she’ll come around. Tell me you wouldn’t want something nice and soft to cuddle with on a cold winter’s night, or a lap that’s softer than any pillow. Right? A skinny ol’ thing just can’t compete! I don’t know what I’d do if my Ginny ever tried to go on one of them fad diets; there’s nothing better than getting a handful of her plush belly when we’re lying in bed. Sorry, sorry, I’m a rambler. Anyway, Betty plumped up real quick, and lots of the local batch’lors and batch’lorinas tried for her hand the only way they knew how—wine and dine their way into her heart. Some days, she’d bust her buttons eating barbeque with Louie Hoggins; some days, she’d get ** on moonshine and catfish with Fiddler Krabs. Why, I remember she tried to date two fellers in a single night, and when I bumped into her at Barley’s, she looked like a tick ready to pop. I think most of us was just glad she was having a ball, what with her sob story of a life before all this. Now, the missus and I are sitting down and chewing the fat with Hops for a bit when Betty waddles over with our drinks. She’d been here close to a year by then, and damned if she wasn’t show it from how much she jiggled around. Her jeans were fit to burst like boiling sausages, and that belly of hers made any shirt a crop top; I can’t even recollect the last time she tried to cover it up. Anyway, she brought us our drinks and started making cute with Hops ‘fore another table called her over, and that’s when I realized something—Hops Barley was in love with her! Yes, Hops Barley, the unluckiest son of a gun to ever walk the Earth, was in love with the most wanted batch’lorina since Polly Darton stopped here on tour back in ’83. Well, me n’ Ginny weren’t about to let him give up without trying, so we did what any good friends would do and did what we could do to give him a leg up. I tried to teach him how to be a proper gen’leman, but my wife did the lion’s share by teaching him all kinds of food he could make with that beer of his. Malt chocolate and stout layer cake, Swiss beer bread, beer cheese soup, and so, so many glazes for meat, from pork chops to ribs to steak. We could’a filled a whole dang cookbook with all of them beer recipes, I tell you what. Hops was an okay cook before, but with my Ginny giving him lessons, he was like one of them fellas on the Food Network—a regular Almond Brown, y’know. Even with all her lunch and dinners out, Betty still had to come home to her place over the bar, and Hops would give her his latest creation to taste test ‘fore he served it in the bar. You’d never think that girl used to eat like a bird when she got here, ‘cause she would go at his cooking like a starving pig. She didn’t leave but a crumb whenever she ate his cooking, and you might as well call Hops ‘Colonel’, ‘cause she licked her fingers clean every time. This was all well and good, but it turns out Hops had competition from this hoity-toity French chef, Encule Escargot, who was better at wining n’ dining than anyone else in town. That man used more butter in his cooking than the whole Land O’ Lakes, and I once saw a woman gain five pounds just by eating one of his croissants—I kid you not. It was going to take a small miracle to beat that frog at his own game, but if anyone could do it, it was going to be Hops…with a little help, of course. Now, you might call this old-fashioned and out of touch, but Yokum Falls has always settled disputes with a good ol’ fashioned contest. If two farmers were having it out, they had until harvest to see who grew the best crops; if a couple carpenters were in a row, they had until the next moon to build a house. It’s tradition, y’see, and I’ll tell you what—it’s a darn better tradition than that bedeviled lottery down in Jackson Valley. But when two folks love the same person ‘round here, they’re gonna hash it out the only way they know how, and I’m betting you can see where I’m going with this. Yessir, Hops and Encule got themselves a contest to see whose cooking Betty loved more. It makes sense, when you think about it: a man’s got to take care of his gal, and if she stays with him, she’s going to be eating his cooking, right? Right. And hey, Betty weren’t complaining none when she got invited to take center stage at this little contest; she got to eat plenty of free food and wear a purty polka dot dress made for just the occasion. And let me tell you: with how round that girl had gotten, it must’a taken a whole lotta fabric to cover her up. It was near two years to the date since she broke down outside of town, and she would’a had trouble squeezing into that tiny little toy of a car. She was a mighty big gal now, with chubby cheeks that always looked stuffed, a double chin that rippled when she drank, and arms as big around as her legs used to be. Them softballs in her shirts were big as melons now, and they bobbled around like a bowlful of jelly when she so much as took a step. And anywhere she went, she needed two chairs to get comfy; that’s when you know you’re awfully wide. But it all came back to that belly she’d been growing since that first day. It was like our namesake waterfall, sloping down from her body and over her waist to slap against the top of her thighs, even when she was standing. I was stupefied when I saw her waddle between Hops and Encule; there was no cotton-picking way that was the same twig girl that barely ate a carrot when she got into town. And now, she was getting ready to eat a whole mess of food to see whose hand she’d take. Just goes to show you never know how people’ll change. Them boys got off to a strong start, with Hops bringing out a cheesy beer dip and Encule breaking out one of them...what’s he call them? Char-kew-terry boards. Anyway, that was all finger food for Betty, and she finished it off faster’n a jack rabbit on a hot griddle in the middle of August. They kept bringing ‘em out, and she kept wolfing ‘em down like it weren’t nothing at all. Hops brought the ribs, Encule brought his duck confit, and Betty brought her appetite, and even when she ate more than a whole family, she still weren’t satisfied. That’s when the boys brought out their big guns—the booze. Hops and Encule are both kings when it comes to homebrew, only Hops makes beer and Encule makes wine with his own private vine yards, and out they come with these big ol’ kegs. Now, have you met Encule since you got into town? The man’s like Pepe le Pew—he sweeps women off their feet and promises them the world n’ all the finer things in life. Hops Barley though? He’s a simple man of the Earth and takes it one day at a time. He makes enough to get by and lead a simple life, and that’s enough. Well, I don’t know what was going through Betty’s mind up there—belly full of food, good lookin’ men on either side, and drinks aplenty—but Ginny tells me that she was thinking about what she came from and that settled her mind. She didn’t want no fancy pants to promise her weight in gold and all the riches in the world; she wanted someone that embodied Yokum Falls, and damned if that ain’t Hops Barley in a nutshell. She grabbed the hose of the keg and drank that sucker dry, popping out of that dress and guaranteeing Lina Thimble even more bidness. And they lived happily ever after that, as the story goes. Hops bought himself a little land and built a house and still for him and his new wife, and they’ve got a nice little bidness going between the bar and his homebrew. Since Betty’s too big to really move around the bar that easy, she works from the back office and crunches the numbers, which Hops had been needing for a long, long time. She still pokes her head out when she’s free, and she can drink just about anybody in town under the table. Einstein says it’s on account of how big she’s gotten, and I’m fixing to agree—the gal’s a balloon, only she ain’t filled with water. There’s not a damn thing small or sharp on Betty these days. She looks like she got stuck on one of Hops’ taps and never let go, filling up to the brim and blowing up until she’s round as a bubble. Her arms can’t sit down straight, and her fat ass keeps her from sitting in most chairs proper. When she waddles around, she’s got to kick her legs out to the side and swing them to get going. She’s got tits as big as her starter belly, and her belly’s almost touching her knees. And you know something? She wouldn’t have it any other way. *** Anyway, that’s my story—or Betty’s story, I should say. She tells it a heck of a lot better’n I could, so y’all oughta swing by there sometime and pick up a case of beer. Best stuff in the whole state, I tell you what. I best get to making up dinner: Ginny’s an angel until she gets hungry; when that happens, you best run for the hills. But if it means getting a little more of her by the time we’re finished eating, it’s all worth it. Y’all want to invite your gal over? I’m making up some gumbo, and I can prepare some without shrimp or sausage. We’re all about hospitality here, and if I can help a friend put a couple inches on his lady love, you’re welcome any time.
  3. DAY 2: PALMER ACADEMY Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a girl goes away to school, develops a small circle of friends, and turns into a butterball. Maybe she’s got a boyfriend that coerces her into plumping up, or perhaps she has a jealous rival that wants to see her beauty marred with flab. Sometimes her friends experience their own gains, and sometimes they are the source of her weight woes; at worst, everyone in her life plots to fatten her up. It’s a story that’s been told dozens of times before and will continue to be told for ages to come—hell, I’ve written a few of them myself—always repeating the same tired tropes. But this is not your average story. Yes, it has many of the trappings you’re no doubt familiar with: clueless bimbos obliviously gorging themselves into new dress sizes, diabolical feeders who manipulate the aforementioned bimbos, and more lesbian encounters than you can shake a stick at. It may seem lurid, hokey, and cliché, but I can only tell you the truth—no more, no less. This is the very real story of how my friends and I developed into the women we are today, for better or for worse. Much like our minds, there’s so much more to this story than our bodies. We had no idea the darkness we would uncover in the town of Lynchfield and in the halls of Palmer Academy. If we did, we would never have gone to that god-forsaken school—and by the same token, the evils in this town might never have come to light. It all began, to borrow a phrase, on a dark and stormy night… *** If Amy Apple could have, she would have hurled herself from the family car about a hundred miles ago. Driving up to her new school had been the greatest trial of her sixteen years-long life: her father’s junky pickup had stalled out not an hour after leaving home, her mother spent the entire twelve hours talking about every little thing that came to mind, and now, they were stuck in a sudden squall. All this so Amy could abandon her small-town school for a posh academy in a smaller, beachside town that she could not have cared less about. “I’m telling you, I’ve driven through way worse than this,” Finn Apple assured everyone as he leaned as close to the windshield as he could in a vain effort to peer through the sheets of rain. “Remember that blizzard from a few years back? I got us through that just fine!” “Yeah, after nearly driving into five different snowbanks,” contested Marcy Apple, who had little faith in her husband’s driving abilities. “Marcy, do you want to get her there today or not?” “I do, but I also want us to arrive in one piece!” No one bothered to ask what Amy wanted, but that was par the course for her life. Whether it was learning piano, joining the Girl Scouts, or transferring to a brand new school just before her sophomore year, it did not matter what she wanted to do. She was perfectly content with life back on Sugar Mountain, but when her parents heard about this oh so special school, they just had to get her in. They fed her all the typical stuff: it would be a good change of pace, private school students have a better chance of getting into good colleges, she would make important connections, and so on. Garbage, all of it. Amy cared not for getting into Ivy League, nor did she care who she shook hands with. What she wanted to do was hike, play in a makeshift band that would never go anywhere, and read Grand-Stand comics behind the 7-11 with her friends. If she had to hear about how good of an opportunity it was one more time, she swore that she would shave her head out of spite—that would show them that she meant business. Too tired to shut down the constant bickering, Amy put her earbuds in and leaned her head against the window. She cast a brief glance at her reflection and sighed at what she saw: her strawberry hair was frizzing again, her emerald eyes were bleary from poor sleep, and her fair, freckled skin seemed even paler than usual. It was a good thing they were arriving so late in the day; hardly anyone would be around to see the absolute state she was in. As the dulcet tones of Depeche Mode graced her ears and the rhythmic rain pounded against the window, Amy shut her eyes and tried for another round of sleep. No sooner had her eyelids closed than a terrific clap of thunder made her shoot up in her seat. The weary girl groaned at being deprived of slumber and turned her attention outside to the rain-stricken surroundings, watching how the raindrops streaked down the window. It was while tracing one particular drop that she caught a hint of movement coming up on the road—an animal trying to get out of the storm, most likely. She would have put it out of mind and forgotten all about it had a nearby lightning bolt not illuminated the area for an instant. There, at the edge of the woods, was a wildly obese, naked woman running at a breakneck speed, or as close as she could manage. Amy’s eyes went wide and she pressed her face against the glass in an attempt to spot her again, but they were moving too fast and there was no other light to be found. When it became clear that a search would be fruitless, she sat back down and puzzled over the surreal sight, wondering if it had been her tired eyes playing tricks on her. “Something wrong, Amy?” her mother asked as she looked in the rearview mirror. Amy removed her earbuds and shook her head. “No, just thought I saw something out in the woods. No big deal.” “Maybe you saw the Jersey Devil,” her father joked. “They say it stalks highways just like this and is on the lookout for reckless drivers.” “Oh, stop,” Marcy scoffed. “You’re going to give her nightmares.” Her daughter bit back a sharp retort and instead replied, “Mom, I know that there’s no such thing as monsters, especially winged goat demons.” With that, she retreated back to her music and gazed back out on the road. Amy did her best to forget what she assumed was just a delusion, but the sight was ingrained in her mind and refused to leave. When she closed her eyes, she could picture the woman clear as day: dark hair trailing down to the small of her back, breasts the size of her head flopping against a belly big enough to slap against tree trunk thighs, and pasty, sickly skin that made her look like walking dough. Unfortunately, she had not been able to see the Jane Doe’s face; even if it was not pitch black, they were driving too fast and she was too far away to get a good look. All Amy could tell was that the woman, whoever she was, had been running as fast as her fat legs could carry her, like a hippo on the move. A crueler person might have made some quip about her being late for dinner, but that would not explain why she was naked as the day she was born. Maybe a junkie? She had heard enough stories back home about some loony smoking something they should not and doing all manner of bizarre things, and this seemed right up there. It could have even been some sadistic prank by one of the locals, but she chalked that up to her disdain for moving. Whatever the case, she was sure that she would never find out what happened to the mystery woman, if she was even real at all. Amy tried once more for sleep and did her best to forget about the bizarre spectacle, her new school blues, and all her frustrations. There were far more important things to concern herself with than something she dreamed up, but she would deal with those when she got some actual sleep. The rain continued as the Apples drove through the sleepy town of Lynchville, pelting the old truck and filling the streets with water. Once or twice, they hit a deep patch of water that sent a wave up on the sidewalk and jarred Amy awake, but she never saw anything like the mysterious woman in the woods. All she saw when she glanced out the window were dark shops and restaurants, and not a soul in sight; she wondered if it would be as lifeless in the daylight when the storm had passed. Finally, their long journey came to an end as Finn pulled into the parking lot of The Jolly Roger, a motel that looked like it had not been renovated in decades. There were only two other cars in the parking lot, which, combined with the dim lighting and the flickering neon sign, did little to help Amy’s spirits. If anything, it soured her more: her only consolation being that if she were killed by a maniac, it would spare her having to go to Palmer Academy. “I’ll wave when I’ve got the keys,” Finn said as he unbuckled and turned off the car. “Be back in just a few, and then we can get nice and cozy for the rest of the night.” “We’ll be right here,” Marcy replied, as if there was anywhere else for her and Amy to be. After her father ran out into the downpour—minus his umbrella, as her mother grumbled—Amy propped her head in her hand and asked, “So, who do you think is going to kill us here—Norman Bates or Anton Chigurh? Because I’d put good money on Chigurh.” “That’s not funny, Amy,” chided Marcy, who was not one for dark humor even at the best of times. She crossed her arms and scowled as she had for the majority of the drive that day, and Amy knew that she was just itching to get one more rant out for the night. Eventually, the long hours on the road got the better of her and she let out a yawn, allowing her shoulders to relax. “I wish we could have gotten a nicer place too, but this was the closest option to the school—that’s small-town life for you.” Amy wanted to contest that she was trading one small town for another, but she was in no mood to get snippy with her mother. They had already bickered enough about the new school as it was, and after the exhausting road trip they had been on, she did not have any more fight in her. She would swallow her bitterness and trudge into her new school life with a smile plastered on her face and a disdain for her new place. As if sensing her daughter’s sour mood, Marcy turned to look at Amy and gave her a sad, soft smile—the kind that completely failed at being reassuring. “I know that you’re still angry about leaving Sugar Mountain, but this will be a great opportunity for you if you just give it a chance. A change in scenery never hurt anybody, you’ll get to meet all kinds of new people here, and you’ll be getting a college-level education before you even graduate! This is the chance of a lifetime, so all I’m asking is that you keep your mind open about it, okay?” “I’ll do my best,” Amy answered, biting back her intended response of ‘No promises’ for the sake of avoiding an argument. After her father gave them the signal, Amy and Marcy dashed for cover and followed Finn to their room, which sat just a few down from the lobby. The room was modest and cozy, but what stuck out to Amy was how it seemed to be a mishmash of styles: the carpet was 70s, the wallpaper was 60s, the furniture was 80s, and the TV looked brand new. It could have been far worse as far as motels go, but any port in this particular storm would have sufficed for the road-weary Apples. “I think I’m going to sleep well tonight,” Finn remarked as he kicked his shoes off and spread out on one of the beds. “Felt like the highway was never going to end.” “Agreed,” Marcy added, which might have been the first time she said that the entire trip. She went to grab a towel from the bathroom to dry off her hair before asking, “Finn, was there a snack bar or anything in the lobby? I’m famished, and that bag of peanuts we got at the gas station did not help.” “No snack bar, but they did have a couple vending machines. Amy, do you mind grabbing a few things since you’re still standing? There’re some singles in my wallet,” Finn told his daughter, nodding towards the wallet on the nightstand. “You pick whatever looks good, kiddo.” “But no soda,” instructed Marcy. “It’s straight to bed after this, and we won’t be able to get a wink with all that caffeine.” “No problem, Mom. I’ll be right back,” Amy told her parents as she grabbed the bills and made her way out the door. The squall was still hammering down outside, and the tired redhead had to flatten up against the wall to avoid the rain whenever it decided to blow under the walkway. She made it to the lobby little worse for the wear and made a beeline for the vending machines, which beckoned to her like lighthouses on a stormy sea. There were plenty of options, from the starchy to the sweet and plain to the fruity, and they all looked like five-star cuisines to the weary girl. “Personally, I like the honey buns and a bottle of mango juice,” an old voice remarked from Amy’s left. Seated behind the welcome desk was an old lady who was the living embodiment of ‘skin and bones’, looking more like a mummy than anything else. She chuckled raspingly, “It’s just what these old bones need to get through a long night.” “Maybe it’ll help with a little car lag then,” Amy replied with half a smile. She chose the honey buns and mango juice for herself, then perused the racks for snacks for her parents. The old lady behind the desk scribbled away at a crossword puzzle as she asked, “You excited to be going to Palmer? Your dad mentioned it when he was checking in.” Too tired for pleasantries, Amy grunted, “Not especially. The last thing I wanted to do was pack up my whole life and get shipped off to a boarding school three states away because it’s ‘good for me’; I’m not some shoplifter that needs to be sent to military academy to straighten my life out.” Her little outburst was followed by a sigh as a pack of pretzels dropped to the bin at the bottom of the machine. She turned back to the clerk and told her, “Sorry, it’s just been a long day with parents who won’t stop bickering or ignoring me.” “Oh, honey, you’re not the first person to get upset about changing their life so suddenly,” the old woman chuckled, her whole body rattling when she did. “I’ve been running this place for a long, long time, and I’ve seen all kinds of folks come and go in these here rooms. You’ve got your young’uns looking to elope, your couples having affairs, and even your down and outs ending it all; they all find their way here, and I try to lend them an ear if I can.” Amy leaned against the drink machine and glanced over at the old woman, who was looking at her with sunken but warm eyes. The young girl groaned and rubbed the bridge of her nose for the thousandth time that day as she asked, “Do you know anything about Palmer Academy? I’m sure you get plenty of students and families stopping by here.” The woman shrugged and answered, “It’s a school, that’s for sure. Never really gave it much mind, on account I never had kids of my own to send there. But people around here talk about it like it’s the greatest place on Earth, so I guess they’re doing something right. Any students that stop by here aren’t looking to talk about their studies; they’re mostly just here for a little hanky-panky.” Even Amy had to laugh at that, sharing a chuckle with the clerk. She collected her goodies from the machine and told the woman, “Well, if I ever need a place to have some fun, I know where to go.” “And if anyone asks, you were never here,” the old woman added with a wink. “You ever need a room for anything at all, you just ask for Gertrude.” “Will do,” Amy tittered as she backed out of the office. “Have a good night, Miss Gertrude.” “Sleep well, dear,” Gertrude replied with a little wave before glancing down at her crossword puzzle again. “Oh, before you go, do you mind giving me a hand with this one clue? 7 Down: a voracious person; seven letters, and I know the sixth is an ‘o’.” Amy paused in the doorway and wracked her addled brain for an answer, though crosswords were never her forte. She tapped a water bottle against her head and guessed, “I’mma say glutton?” Gertrude mouthed the letters as she filled in the boxes and replied, “Yes, I do believe that’s it! Thank you, deary—I’ve been stuck on that since lunch!” “No problem,” Amy chuckled as she ducked out before the old woman could rope her in with another question. Tired as she was, she could barely put 2 and 2 together; the last thing she needed was a brain teaser. As she walked back to her family’s room for the night, Amy took one last look out into the stormy darkness and wondered what would be there in the morning. Venting helped a little, but the anxiousness and frustration still bubbled away inside her stomach—though it might have been hunger rearing its head. She opened a bag of potato chips and munched on a few as she imagined what tomorrow held for her, like if there was any place nearby that made decent wheatcakes… *** When the storm finally passed, the people of Lynchville got to cleaning up the damage it had brought, but there was one thing that could not be cleaned so easily. The new day brought sun, a cool breeze from the coast, and a ghastly murder that would set in motion a series of events that shook the quiet town to its core…
  4. It's the gift that keeps on giving! For about three weeks, that is. Then it doesn't give no more.
  5. ((Season's greetings, ho-ho-ho, and deck them halls! It's the most wonderful time of the year, and what better way to celebrate than with an advent calendar? There's nothing quite like waking up and opening your advent calendar to find a little treat inside, but Yours Truly can do better than a piece of chocolate or a Lego figure. In taking a page from our Nordic friends, I'm starting a julkalender--a series to run through from today to December 25th. Now, this won't be a traditional series like Five Little Piggies or The Roundest Rugby Player. This will be more of an anthology series, with each installment standing alone and being unrelated to each other. Some may be one-offs, some may be the start of future projects, but all will be entertaining and delightful--at least I hope. Let me know what you think of each installment and if you'd like to see more--I've got a lot of ideas that I'm dying to share with you all. Have a lovely day and may all your dreams come true.)) DAY 1: GOING OFF TRACK For the first time in his life, Marcello Bianchi felt like everything was going his way. He had gotten a full ride to Cape Fear University as part of their track team, a swanky on-campus apartment with his own bedroom, and a new pair of sneakers as a graduation gift. When he took his first steps onto the campus on Move-In Day, he felt like he should pinch himself to check if this was a dream. After all the trouble he had made growing up, no one, least of all he himself, could believe his fortune. “Hey bro, you gonna stand around all day or are you going to give us a hand?” Marcello tore his gaze from his apartment building—his new home away from home—and glanced back at his sister and mother, who worked to unload the car along with some volunteer seniors. A light pink crossed his cheeks at his sister’s chiding and he jogged over to help get his boxes and bags from the family van. The last thing he needed was a twelve year old berating him in front of his new peers; it was not the most embarrassing first impression, but it was up there. “Come on, Lucia, cut me some slack,” Marcello told the younger girl as he hoisted up the box containing a wire rack shelf. “I’m going to be living here for the next four years; I ought to be able to take it in, right?” Lucia rolled her eyes and tossed a pillow at him. “It’s because you’ll be living there for four years that you can afford to help right now.” “Knock it off, you two,” their mother, Nora, snipped, not wanting to attract as much attention as her daughter. “This is the last time you’ll see each other until Thanksgiving, and you’re going to be bickering? When I saw your Aunt Ramona off to college, I cried my eyes out.” “I’m sure Lucia’s just saving the waterworks as soon as you pull off campus,” Marcello teased as he ruffled his sister’s curly hair. “As if,” the pre-teen retorted as she swatted his hand away. Marcello unloaded the shelf into a rolling bin and took a moment to run his hands through his perfectly coifed hair. It was still early in the morning, but sweat was already beading on his brow and staining his shirt—one of the drawbacks of going to school at the beach. Without a second thought, he whipped off his shirt, leaving him in a tank top that was tight enough to cling to his toned abs and left his ropy arms on display. The swarthy young man looked like he stepped out of a cologne ad, and he attracted more than his fair share of favorable looks while he worked. After filling the bin, Marcello pushed it into the apartment building and onto the elevator. The doors were just about to close when he heard a lilting voice call out, “Hold the door!” He quickly hit the open button just as two girls ran in, each with their arms full of bags and boxes. One was a petite brunette that barely came up to Marcello’s shoulders and looked like she was made out of toothpicks, while the other was a voluptuous redhead that was a hair taller than him and was built like a brick house, especially in comparison to her friend. They were dressed for the weather, but just like Marcello, they were sweating bullets; whether that was the humidity or them struggling with their luggage was anyone’s guess. “Thanks a million,” the redhead said to Marcello. “Second floor?” “No problem,” he replied as he hit the call button for the second and third floors. As the elevator doors slowly closed, the brunette nodded to Marcello and asked, “Are you with the track team?” “Yep,” the young man answered. He put a thumb to his chest and introduced himself, “Marcello Bianchi—sprinter. How about you?” “Tori Munyer—distance,” said the brunette, tilting her chin up since her hands were full. “Chita Collins—hurdles,” the redhead added. She glanced over Marcello with an approving look in her eye, or perhaps that was his ego playing tricks on him. “Bianchi…that’s a nice name. Italian?” “As Italian as a cannoli,” joked the sprinter. The elevator came to a stop at the second floor, and the girls slid on out. Marcello gave the two a slight wave and said, “Guess I’ll see you at the orientation tomorrow?” “Oh! You didn’t hear?” asked Chita. “Some of the other people on the team were talking about a welcome party later tonight. It’s going down at the beach around 10—you should come!” Never one to pass up a good party, Marcello replied, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world; just what I need to unwind after moving in. Catch you two later!” “Later, dude,” Tori hummed as she wandered down the hall. Chita lingered for a second longer before winking at Marcello and telling him, “See you around, Marcello. Nice meeting you!” That time, he was sure he had not imagined it—Chita definitely liked what she saw. Marcello could not blame her for window shopping; he knew exactly what he looked like, practicing Patrick Bateman levels of self-care. His skin was free of blemishes save for a faint scar on his upper lip, his hair was smoother than silk, and he had a deep, bronze tan from head to toe. He looked less like a college freshman and more like an actor ten years his senior pretending to be a freshman, which earned him the attention of many a wandering eye. Marcello decided that what was good for the goose was good for the gander, and he watched Chita’s backside rock from side to side in her short shorts before the door closed. His mother had warned him not to chase girls and focus on his studies, but how could anyone study when a perfect 36-24-36 lived just one floor below? If he played his cards right at the party, he might get to kick off his college life with a bang—literally and figuratively. When the elevator arrived on the third floor, Marcello rolled his bin out into the hall and counted down the room numbers until he reached 312—last one on the right. The door was already open, and when he poked his head in to see who might have been inside, his curiosity was rewarded with a foam dart to the head. “Boom! Headshot,” the assailant cheered. Marcello flicked the dart off his forehead and spotted a guy lying in the bedroom directly across from the door. He was the very model of a surf bum: shaggy blonde hair that hung into his eyes, peachy skin that had freckled in the sun, and an open Hawaiian print shirt that revealed a trim stomach. A pair of silver aviators perched atop his nose, and the hazel eyes behind them were half-lidded. His weapon of choice, a dart machine gun, rested on his stomach while he offered a lackadaisical wave to Marcello before picking up a slice of pizza from a box on his nightstand. “Whaddup, roomie?” the slothful boy asked around a mouthful of pepperoni. “Nice shooting,” Marcello remarked as he rolled his bin inside. “Are you Pete or Carson?” “Pete Langley,” was his roommate’s answer. Pete made no effort to get up, content with munching through his pizza while reloading his dart gun. He slid his aviators back up and told Marcello, “My sister works for campus maintenance, so she was able to get me the room last week.” The swarthy sprinter nodded along, focused more on unloading his bin than anything else. He took note of the layout for the apartment: kitchen with bar counter; common room with a sofa and two armchairs; two bathrooms; three bedrooms. A good setup, even if Pete’s early arrival meant his clutter was taking up a good portion of the space. Thankfully, his personal room was spared, with not an empty pizza box or a stack of soda cans in sight. His bedroom was threadbare in terms of décor, but between the desk, dresser, and bed, it had everything Marcello needed. Soon as he put some posters up and threw some knick-knacks around, it would feel right at home. Well, not entirely like home—the small rowhome he had grown up in only had two bedrooms, which meant that he had to share his space for the last twelve years with his sister. Finally, he could spread out whenever he came home from classes and not have to deal with Lucia screaming at him to pick up his stuff from her side of the room. As Marcello unloaded the bin, he heard Pete fire off another dart, which was met with a loud, “The fuck, bro? I’ve got a TV here!” “Gotta think fast around here, dude,” Pete replied with a chuckle. Marcello poked his head out the bedroom door and spotted a brawny guy doing his best to avoid a barrage of foam darts while holding onto a large TV set. His hair was buzzed down to peach fuzz, and he wore a basketball jersey that left his powerful arms bare. He had the appearance of an old school bully from a bad teen movie—bulky all around, imposing chin, and the broad shoulders of someone who spent more time in the gym than at a desk. Put simply, a galoot. The big guy grunted, “We’ll see how fast you think when I shove those sunglasses up your—” “Let me give you a hand with that,” Marcello offered in an effort to keep the peace. No sense in fighting on the first day—they had a whole year to tear each other’s heads off. The sprinter quickly grabbed one end of the widescreen, and the two boys lugged the TV over to the coffee table. Marcello quickly kicked off the accumulated trash on top so they could place the set down, and he wiped a hand across his brow when they were finished. Once this moving was done, he would park his butt in a chair for the rest of the day, easily. “Thanks, man,” the brawny boy said to Marcello after cracking the joints in his back. “You wouldn’t think something that flat would weigh so much, right?” “Tell me about it,” the sprinter chuckled as he mimicked the gesture and stretched his arms behind him. “I’m guessing you’re Carson?” “Yep,” his new roommate replied while reaching out to shake Marcello’s hand. “Carson Trang.” Marcello glanced down at Carson’s arms and remarked, “Damn, dude—you are jacked. You gonna be a thrower for the team?” Carson shook his head and flexed one of his arms, his bicep firming up and his veins popping. “Nah, son—multis. I’ll be taking home the gold when we’ve got decathlons.” “Nice,” Marcello chuckled as he clapped Carson’s bicep. “We’ll do the whole meet and greet later; if I don’t get back downstairs, I’m pretty sure my mom and sister will come hunting for me.” “Same for my folks,” the bigger roommate smirked. Carson glanced back into Pete’s room and asked, “Yo, Deadshot—mind giving us a hand?” As the lazy boy rolled a slice of pizza into a tube, he replied, “I wish I could, but I don’t want to.” Both his roommates glowered at each other before Carson told Marcello, “Why don’t you head back down? I need to have a little chat with John Wayne here about how there’s no ‘lazy jackass’ in ‘team’ before I meet you down there.” “All right, but make sure he stays in one piece,” the sprinter told his teammate. “We’ll need him for meets, maybe.” *** The rest of the move went smoothly, especially after Carson returned with Pete slung over his shoulders and all but forced him at gunpoint to help out. Marcello rubbed shoulders with a few other residents in his building—all student athletes, albeit from different sports—but he kept close to his future roommates. Pete took his sweet time moving along, carrying just enough to not have Carson breathe down his neck, and Marcello wondered how anyone as sluggish as him could be on a track team. Carson, on the other hand, stayed focused on his task up until a pretty girl caught his eye, which, unfortunately, happened to be every few minutes. If nothing else, the next year would certainly be interesting with a couple jokers like them around. He also happened to see Chita and Tori a couple times more, and each time Chita passed by him, he felt more certain that their attraction was mutual. Tori, on the other hand, did not seem interested like her roommate, but Marcello was not about to judge; he was not so full of himself to think that all women should be into him. They made for good company though, and so long as everyone played nice, they would be good neighbors for the year ahead. When he said his goodbyes to family, even getting a hint of tears from Lucia, Marcello sprawled out on his newly made bed and let it finally soak in. It was not so long ago that college would have been a pipe dream for him: between the exorbitant prices and his constant brushes with the law, it seemed like he would never make it; he would be the example parents pointed to when telling their kids why they needed to stay on the straight and narrow. Only when his mother told him how he was turning out just like his deadbeat of a father did Marcello start taking life more seriously and applied himself. And apply himself he did, as the former delinquent pushed himself to perform better and better over his high school career. His grades were never anything to write home about, placed squarely in the middle of his class, but where his academics faltered, he excelled on the track. All the time running around causing trouble had been good for something after all, as few could catch him when he got moving. Marcello rocketed through the ranks, becoming not only one of the fastest in his school’s history, but even setting state records that would stand for years. It was that speed that earned him a scholarship to CFU, which took the burden of paying for school off his mother and ensured him a place at one of the most desirable schools in the state. A knock on the door broke his rumination, and Carter popped his head in to ask, “Hey Marcello, we’re going to check out the dining hall and get something to eat. You want to come with?” “Yeah,” the lanky boy replied as he rolled himself off the bed. “Let me just get a quick shower in and I’ll meet you guys down there.” After bidding goodbye to his new roommates, Marcello sauntered over to the bathroom and peeled his sweaty clothes from his body before taking a look in the mirror. He looked like a god, something that was said not out of bragging, but simply as fact; women wanted him and men wanted to be him, as the old saying goes. His fingers traced along the contours of his muscles, running a circuit along his abdomen before curving around his pecs, circling around his biceps, and then running down to his pert backside. Everywhere he went, he found lean and imposing muscle, all cultivated from years of sticking to hard exercise and a firm diet. And yet, something did not feel right. It was a feeling that had been growing for the last couple years, but whenever Marcello looked at himself in the mirror, he always felt like there was something off about his appearance. If he could put it into words, it was like if he dressed in pastels, golf shirts, and sweater vests—they might have been nice clothes, but they did not look right on him. In that same way, he felt the same way about the hardened body that he had built for himself, wishing that it was on someone else. Of course, such a change was not so simple as throwing on another pair of clothes, nor was he even sure of what it was that he even wanted. “Whatever,” Marcello muttered to himself. “Just getting into my own head.” He shoved those thoughts back down as he had so many times before, but it would not be long before they were dredged up again. The only question was what sort of body he truly desired, which was something he would explore over the next four years… *** As all the student athletes were moving in, there was a meeting among the heads of the athletic program—the last one before the start of the new year. They had been sure that everything was lined up for the school year, but if there was one thing any of them should have known, it was that nothing was truly set in stone. Anything could go wrong, from a top pick getting injured or arrested, but this was something much more brutal than just one or two athletes being dropped. “I thought we had the budget straight. What happened?” the head of communications asked. “We had to move some numbers in order to secure a last-minute pick for the baseball team,” explained the internal operations director. “Besides, the men’s track team hasn’t performed well in years; they’ve been on the chopping block as long as I’ve been here.” “We’ve no choice,” said the Director of Athletics. “Men’s Track and Field is officially cancelled.”
  6. Coming in 2022: FIVE LITTLE PIGGIES 2: THE CURSE OF PIG FACE
  7. Thank you kindly. This was a real experiment for me, and I'm glad to see people respond so positively to it.
  8. CHAPTER 10 Though she had never been privy to the initial injection, Jamie had seen the effects of that drug first hand when Heather gorged herself on all the food available in the mall and turned into a prize-winning hog. She had to imagine the same drug was given to Marilyn and Adrienne, considering they were three times their normal weight when they were discovered. The feast spread out in front of her made sense now: there was not enough for her alone, but with a ravenous Nancy, the McDonalds might not have enough. But then again, Will had said ‘this little piggy gets none’, as if this was some kind of nursery rhyme and not playing with peoples’ lives, so Jamie had no idea what to think. There was a heavy stillness in the air as everyone waited for the drug to take effect, but when it did, Nancy shot upright in her chair and swiveled her head around to get her bearings. Her green eyes were wide and full of anger as she glared at the McDonalds and spat, “You goddamn hick psychopaths! I’m going to make you wished you joined your cow of a daughter in Hell by the time I’m through with you! I’ll rally the whole town and we’re going to tear you limb from limb, you hear me?!” Her attention then centered on Jamie, and the anger gave way to shock before melting into Nancy’s best attempt at fear and begging. “Jamie, oh thank God you’re here. You’ve got to help me get out of here, please—they’ve had me tied up in that room for days, and they killed my parents! You were always the smart one; I’m sure you’ve got some plan for getting us out of here.” Before Jamie could answer her former leader, Will spoke up for her and told Nancy, “She’s not here to save you, even if she could; she’s an audience to your execution, Lilith, Mother of Demons.” “Fuck you, you limp-dicked piece of shit,” Nancy hissed at the boy she used to chase. “Do you know who I am? I’m Nancy Hill, and I run this town! You want to preach hellfire and brimstone? I will bring down so, so much worse on you.” Unfazed, Will gestured to the table of food and said, “Every prisoner is entitled to a last meal, and we make no exception for you. Wouldn’t you like some honey-glazed ham, collared greens, and mac and cheese? You haven’t had a bite to eat since we brought you here.” “No, I don’t want your fucking…uh, your fuck…your food,” Nancy murmured, her anger fading as her attention became solely focused on the feast in front of her. Jamie recognized the glazed look that filtered into her leader’s eyes—it was the same one that overtook Heather at the mall. She could only imagine the intense hunger that was building up inside the demonic girl, and she could hear Nancy’s binds creak as she tried to free herself. “Smells good, doesn’t it?” Will asked as he wafted up some of the delectable aromas. “All that fried goodness, so rich and savory…there’s nothing else like it. Don’t you want some?” Saliva pooled at the corner of her lips as Nancy struggled against the ropes, tugging and straining to get free but only succeeding in drawing them tighter around her hands and feet. She growled, “God, it does smell good. Please, if there’s anything human in you, let me have some. Just a few bites, that’s all I need.” “Would you do anything to eat this? What if I said that the only way you could eat is if we killed your friends—Heather, Marilyn, and Adrienne? Would it still be worth it then?” Will devilishly hummed as he circled around Nancy like a hungry shark. “What if Jamie had to die so you could eat? Would you still eat everything on the table?” “I don’t give a shit about any of them, just let me have something to eat,” Nancy pleaded, veins popping in her throat as she strained every muscle in her body to get free. Jamie knew that Nancy would always sell her out if push came to shove, but it did not make the sting hurt any less. Her eyes dipped down to the chicken ** pie in front of her and she glumly scooped up forkful after forkful of the creamy pie. A pat on the shoulder from Abigail did little to console her, and she sniffled back a tear as she ate her way through another dish. “That’s the Nancy Hill I know—she’d give up her own parents if she’d get anything out of it,” Will chuckled as he walked behind Nancy and yanked her hair back with such force that he nearly ripped it from her scalp. “Unfortunately, none of this food is for you; that’s your punishment. The chemical you’ve been injected with is a very potent and fickle thing, since it instantly turns any calories consumed into fat—but only if the subject actually eats. If they don’t start eating something within a few minutes of injection, the chemical starts to break down and wreak havoc on the body’s fat cells.” “What kind of havoc?” asked Jamie before filling her cheeks with a thick, heavily buttered slice of cornbread and chasing it with a gulp of sweet tea. “You’ll find out in just a minute, I reckon,” Tobias grunted as he checked a pocket watch. “I don’t think this girl’s got much left in her. The longest I ever saw it take was about five minutes on a full grown sow, so she can’t be far behind.” Nancy gritted her teeth but still threw on her best attempt at a smile, which only made Jamie more disconcerted. She begged her former accomplice, “Jamie, come on…we’re old friends, aren’t we? Please, just give me a spoonful—one bite! Don’t let them do this, please!” Jamie paused, a forkful of pulled pork and coleslaw on its way to her mouth, and she set the fork down as she glowered at Nancy from across the table. When this week of terror started with Heather calling her, there was a drive to help to prevent any further tragedy; when she arrived too late to help Heather, that drive grew stronger and she tried to rally the others to stay safe. Yet, when she was confronted with the very real possibility of Nancy dying, she did not feel that same urge to save and protect. The only thing she felt was pure apathy—a void where her heart should be. “You know what, Nancy? If you were anyone else, I wouldn’t hesitate to help you out. When Heather told me someone was stalking her at the mall, I ran right over; when I figured we were in trouble, I got Adrienne and we tried to save Marilyn. But when I look at you there, tied up and begging for help, I think of all the horrible things you did to get what you want and all the things you had us do to anyone that dared cross you. I see you there, and I think that if anyone deserves this, it’s you,” Jamie told her former leader with a frigid glare before finishing her forkful of barbeque and slaw. “When I punched you out, I told you to eat shit and die. I’m glad that at least one of those things will happen tonight, and I can’t wait to see what that juice does to you.” Nancy winced as though she had been slapped in the face, but her shock quickly gave way to an unbridled rage that few had ever seen before. Her face turned purple as the blood rushed to her head, and her shrieking was so sharp that Abigail had to plug her ears. “You worthless cunt! This is what I get for making you who you are?! I should have slit your throat when you punched me! You better give me some goddamn food before I—” The threat remained unfinished as Nancy collapsed in her seat, her teeth clenched so tight that her head felt ready to burst and her nails digging into her hands deep enough to draw blood. When she looked back up, her pupils were so wide that her irises all but vanished and a trickle of blood ran from her nose. There was something else off about her, but it was not until Jamie squinted her eyes that she could identify the cause through the dim light of the cellar. Nancy’s skin was rippling and bubbling as though something underneath was trying to come out. Before Jamie could ask what they were waiting for, Nancy threw her head back and howled like a mad dog as her body exploded with fat. It was like a cartoon where a character was stuck to a helium tank or became engorged on water, except all too real and all too grotesque. Nancy’s cheeks swelled outwards and downwards, giving her the visage of a chubby bulldog, and her neck inflated like a pool ring until it connected with her torso. What little was left of her neck was swallowed up by fat forming on her shoulders, gobbling up space until her round head looked like it was sat atop a bed of frosting. Fat shoulders led to fat arms that grew as wide as her thighs, then her waist, and soon became as wide around as the potato sacks in the corner of the cellar. Perky tits that she loved to flaunt grew like water balloons, filling with flab until they lost the fight with gravity and sagged down on either side of her stomach. That stomach billowed out like a hot air balloon from her waist, flopping onto her lap before rolling out to her thighs, then her knees, and finally drooping down between her legs to touch the floor. Her legs grew thick and wide, cramming up against each other and pooling over the sides of the chair until they could have been used as arm rests themselves. Flab rolled over her knees and onto chunky calves that were as wide as ham hocks, so much so that a single inch of gap remained between her legs. The chair did not last long under the rapid escalation in weight, and the chair legs splintered in another minute, sending the helpless blob to the ground. Even if Nancy had control over her body still, she could not make her escape as she planned; there was far too much mass and far too little muscle to get herself off the floor. As such, all she could do was sink into herself as though she were drifting in a pool of pudding—except she was the pool and there was no way out. Crashing onto the dirt floor might have hurt, were it not for her ass growing so large that each cheek was the size and shape of a beanbag chair. Her torso became so full of fat all over that she looked like a giant beach ball, and her arms were lifted up by the mass building up on her sides. While her clothes did their best to keep her decent, they were no match for the sheer amount of blubber filling her up, and there was a tidal wave of pudge when the designer threads gave away. Rags and scraps were all that remained of an outfit that cost a fortune, and what was left clinging to her body was swallowed up in the many rolls she accumulated. Nancy grew fatter than the other girls combined, swelling up so much that her girth actually lifted her off the ground, but her body did not stop there. It packed on fat wherever it could: her face was consumed with flab from her cheeks nose, and even her forehead; her fingernails and toenails popped free as her digits grew thicker than bratwurst; her ears became so round that they looked like corks and served a similar purpose in blocking out noise. In a matter of minutes, she went from modelesque looks to something that barely resembled a human, and the only way to tell she was still living under that mountain of mass was the raspy breathing that eked through the two plump rolls that used to be her lips. Even that came to a stop soon, as Will held a mirror up to what was left of her face and not a single bit of fog formed on it. “And that is that,” the killer grunted as he prodded Nancy’s body. “She’s easily three times Peggy’s weight; I just wish she could have seen it happen.” Jamie, for her part, was doing her best not to vomit on the spot. A wave of nausea ran through her body as she took in the sight of what had once been Nancy Hill, the most feared girl in Devil’s Peak, now little more than a pile of dough. It was not for sympathy or sorrow for her former leader, but disgust in the most sickening thing she had seen since dissecting frogs in biology class. It was almost enough to stop her from eating, but she still managed to pick up her spoon and tuck into a bowl of banana pudding without much trouble. “So, what happens now?” she asked her captors as Will and the McDonalds returned their attention to her. “If you’re not going to kill me, what are you going to do?” “We’re not doing anything to you, girl,” Abigail replied as she collected more empty plates from the table. “Fact is, you were the only one of them she-devils to not torture our daughter; that counts for something in my book.” “But only so much,” Tobias chimed in as he relit his pipe. “You could’ve warned her about that prank, but you didn’t; you might not have been actively involved, but you sure weren’t helping things.” Jamie swallowed the last of the banana pudding and asked, “Is all this food tainted, and I’m going to leave here a hundred pounds heavier or something?” Will pulled up a crate and rested his elbows on the table as he answered, “No, Jamie, there’s nothing wrong with that food. You’re already doing a good job of eating yourself into obesity, so why bother messing with a good thing?” “If it’s not tainted, then how come I can’t stop eating?” Jamie grunted as she filled her mouth with a forkful of collards. “You must have put something in here!” “There’s nothing in there but hard work,” Abigail explained. “The only one making you eat is you, girl—no one else. If you really wanted to stop, you could, but you won’t; you don’t have the self-control anymore, if you ever did.” Jamie opened her mouth to protest, but she found herself cramming in biscuit soaked in sausage gravy before any words came out. Still, she knew in her heart that she was not some out of control eater; she could wrangle in her appetite and stop whenever she wanted! Now that this nightmare was over, she was going to regain some control of her life and get back on the right track, starting with a good diet and plenty of exercise. “What a joke,” Peggy chuckled as she waddled into view, causing Jamie to almost choke on her biscuit. “You never had any self-control before; you just traded cigarettes and booze for cake and ice cream. Face it, Jamie—you’re a fat girl at heart.” “Totally,” Heather purred as she plodded up to Jamie and guided her hand towards a basket of fried pickles. “She likes to tell herself that Nancy was the one making her do everything, but we all know that she enjoyed every bit of it.” “Can’t believe you thought you were so much better than us,” Marilyn chuckled as she watched Jamie helplessly stuff her face until her cheeks bulged full. “Look at you—disgusting.” “Be nice, girls,” Adrienne cooed, appearing behind Jamie and resting her massive bosom on her former accomplice’s shoulders. “Maybe this time will be different; maybe she’ll prove us all wrong and show us she’s not some craven, addicted loser. But I doubt it.” “Stop it, stop it, stop it,” Jamie whimpered through stuffed cheeks. “I’m not a fat pig…I’m not. I can stop whenever I want to!” Despite her assertions, the bulbous brunette could not keep herself from eating everything down to the last drop and crumb. Where once lay a feast that could have fed a family reunion now lay empty dishes and one very bloated girl who was too stuffed to even think, much less move. Jamie’s arms felt like sandbags at her side, and she slumped over in her chair, her chin resting inches from her bosom and her belly so full that it seemed to glow red. She did not notice when Will and the McDonalds left, only realizing they were gone when she finally woke from her fitful slumber. The cellar was empty, save for herself and the table; everything else, from Nancy’s body to the crates of chemicals, were gone. Jamie rubbed the sleep from her eyes and realized that the table had been cleared of all dishes and utensils, and a card was left in their place. Bleary-eyed, she opened it and found it to be from Will: “Jamie…by the time you read this, we’ll be long gone. We’ve dumped Nancy’s body in the pigsty out back, where she belongs. I left my truck for you to get yourself home. Don’t try and find us…we’re leaving Devil’s Peak and never coming back. You wonder why we didn’t kill you, but you already know the answer…you’re already punishing yourself. You’ll eat yourself as fat as any of your friends, but it’ll be a slow burn, growing over months and years until you’re too fat to walk. Maybe you’ll slow down one day…maybe you’ll even stop…but we both know it won’t last long. You’re a fat girl now, Jamie, and you always will be. Now go, little piggy, and cry wee-wee-wee all the way home.” Jamie tore the note up as hot tears ran down her chubby cheeks until she had none left to cry. She slumped up the stairs, her gait slow and plodding as she managed around a belly that was still achingly full, and she had to stop for air when she got to the top. How long would it be until she was too big for stairs? When would she need a motorized scooter like one of those old women that were wider around than they were tall? Those and dozens of other questions buzzed around her head as she made her way out the door and to the waiting truck, which still had the keys sitting on the front seat. All she wanted to do was sleep when she got home—sleep and never wake up—but Jamie’s mind was too wired as she drove through the countryside. One hand stayed on the steering wheel while the other nursed her tender stomach, rubbing gentle circles on it to try and soothe the pain that shot through every time she hit a bump in the road. She could not believe she managed to eat so much food without being drugged, but she knew deep down that what Will said was true—she was a glutton at heart. There was no one making her eat but herself, and if she wanted to blame anyone for getting fat, it was the girl in the rearview mirror. “Why don’t you stop for breakfast? Gotta start your day off right,” Jamie drawled in a nasally, Southern voice. “You already ruined that by sleeping in that chair all night.” “I’m too full, Peggy,” she groaned to her reflection. “Can’t we just get some sleep?” “Not yet, Jamie,” the girl in the mirror chuckled. “Piggy’s still got some room…” THE END ((All right, people, that's a wrap! Thank you to everyone who's followed this story through to the end. It was a real change of pace for me and the darkest story I've written, but I hope that you enjoyed it all the same. Stay tuned for the next project, because I've got plenty more surprises coming up!)) ((Also, check out this awesome poster done up by CSM-Kynes!))
  9. Every time we learn something new about that night, it only makes it worse. If there's any small silver lining, it's that she gets to live rent-free in Jamie's mind now.
  10. CHAPTER 9 At any other time of day, the McDonalds’ house might have looked rustic, charming, or ‘classic Americana’ as her mother would say to gussy it up for a buyer. It was a modest, handmade building that looked like it came from the hands of Norman Rockwell; it was a far cry from the mansions Jamie was used to, but there was a quaint elegance to it. That was in the light of day, because when she marched up the walk in the dead of night, it was as foreboding as a mausoleum. It did not help that Will held her shoulder so tight that she thought it would break. All the lust and desire that had been bubbling inside her since he saved her at J.C. Penney had melted away, corroded by sickening dread that ate at her insides. There was nothing to swoon over in him as she thought back to what had become of her former friends; her only thought was when she would meet their fate. Visions of Heather, Marilyn, and Adrienne floated through her head, each one too fat to live and left like a beached whale in death; it was enough to make her sick, but she was too scared to breathe, much less vomit. “You’re awfully quiet,” Will remarked as they trudged up to the porch. “The others spent their last few minutes begging for their lives. You’re not going to try and offer me money to spare you?” Jamie glowered at the domineering boy and answered, “What’s the point? You’ve done this three times already; if you wanted to stop, you would have by now.” Will’s eyes gleamed in the dark as he said, “I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. My path is righteous; there can be no straying from the mission given to me.” A shiver ran down Jamie’s spine at that, and she asked, “What happened to you, Will? You sound like a preacher talking about hellfire and brimstone. What happened to the guy that everyone on the team wanted to be and all the cheerleaders wanted to be with?” They paused at the top step on the porch as Will stood in quiet contemplation before answering, “The same reason you decided to stop worshipping at the altar of Nancy Hill: I was tired of being someone I’m not. Get inside and we’ll tell you everything.” Jamie did not have to wait long to find out who was ‘we’, because standing behind the door was Tobias McDonald, patriarch of the family. He was a reedy man with gray stubble growing on his chin, patchwork clothes underneath a pair of overalls, and a corncob pipe stuck between his lips—the very model of a poor yokel. His eyes were dark and beady, and they ran up and down the length of Jamie’s body, studying her like a butcher studies a slab of meat. When he was finished with his appraisal, he let out a long puff of smoke that almost made Jamie gag. “Took y’all long enough,” he said in a barely audible grumble. “Ma’s getting the last fixings on the table now; wash up and meet us downstairs.” Will nodded and guided Jamie back to the kitchen, which was the only lit room in the house as far as she could see. The first thing she noticed was the delectable aroma that filled the room, the air thick and heavy with fried, buttery goodness that made her mouth water despite the severity of her situation. Then came the sight of pots, pans, cups, and all manner of utensils piled up on the counter, all waiting for a chance to be cleaned and giving Jamie a small idea of just how much food waited for her. The last thing to catch her eye was a small table sat across the room, which had four chairs in all—one on the left, one on the right, and two together against the wall. The two chairs sat side by side were covered with a sheet, not unlike the furniture in her grandmother’s house. Will must have caught Jamie staring, because he whispered to her, “Those were Peggy’s chairs: they still save her place at the table, even though she isn’t here anymore.” Jamie forced down the lump in her throat and turned to face the sink to wash her hands, which shook like leaves in a storm. As she went through the routine, she could feel Will’s eyes burning holes through her and squirmed at the thought—and not the bashful wiggling she did before. She grunted, “What? Can’t stop picturing how fat I’ll be when I die?” For the first time since she found out he was Pig Face, Will let go of Jamie’s shoulder and stepped to the side. He answered, “No…just curious. You’re really not that scared, are you? You haven’t put up a fight, let out a scream, or even cried since I showed you my mask. My old man is one of the hardest SOBs I know, and even he gets scared.” The notion was patronizing, condescending, and infuriating for Jamie, who had spent all week terrified of what had happened to the other girls. She seethed as she scrubbed her hands, hissing, “You think I’m not scared of all this? You’re a murderer and a psychopath—how could I not be scared?” “Because you’ve seen worse,” Will replied, unmoved by his captive’s frustrations. “Do you see her when you’re all alone? Does Peggy come and see you too?” Jamie’s hands froze for a moment before she dunked them in the sink again. She mumbled, “I don’t know what you’re talking about; I haven’t seen Peggy since the night she died.” “There’s no shame in admitting it. I see her all the time; she’s the one who told me to come here, after all,” Will admitted matter-of-factly. “It’s been hard work preparing for all this, but she would give me strength whenever I doubted myself. She wanted to see this work done as much as I did, and she couldn’t be happier to see it through.” Oh, good—Will was just as crazy as she was. Jamie mulled over a response, but she had no time to think one up before Abigail McDonald appeared in the threshold. Peggy’s mother was the exact opposite of her daughter in terms of build: small, frail, and wiry hair that she kept in a messy bun, she looked more like a grandmother than the well-kept matriarchs Jamie was familiar with. Abigail rubbed her hands on her apron as she walked into the room, but she stopped in her tracks when she saw Jamie standing by the sink. “Oh, you must be the Myers girl,” she remarked with a raspy voice. “William’s told us all about you, but I didn’t picture you quite so plump. You’ve done half the work for us already; I doubt we even need any of the juice for you.” “Juice?” Jamie asked, though she was not sure she wanted to know the answer. Abigail waved off the question and replied, “That’s not for me to tell; Pa explains it so much better. If y’all are ready, then march on down to the cellar so’s we can get started.” She had no idea what Will and the McDonalds had planned for her, but Jamie had no chance of escaping from their maniacal clutches. Even if she were still in peak shape, Will would have been able to catch her in seconds; trying to outrun him with an extra fifty pounds gave her a snowball’s chance in hell. Her heart hung heavy as she marched back down the hall to the cellar door, where a dim light beckoned to her from the inky blackness of the house. Imagination ran wild as she pictured what sort of fiendish torture they had in store for her and what they would do with her body afterwards, but she dutifully trudged on to what was certain doom. At least her doom would be delicious, if the spread that awaited at the base of the steps was any indication. It was like the Ghost of Christmas Alabama had visited, as a veritable cornucopia of Southern cooking was practically overflowing a table sat in the middle of the room. Jamie’s stomach growled at the sight of the spread, and she could not help licking her lips as the aromas wafted across the room and tickled her nose. She made her way to the lone chair at the table, where Tobias stood waiting to scoot her chair in and fix a napkin in her collar. It was far more etiquette than Jamie had been expecting, as she thought some sort of Rube Goldberg-style feeding device had been waiting for her. “These were all of Peggy’s favorites,” Abigail explained as she descended the stairs. “Shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, and chicken fried steak; fried okra, fried pickles, and fried tomatoes; collared greens, pulled pork, and honey cornbread. I’ve been slaving over this all day, so I better see plenty of clean plates now.” “Like I have a choice,” Jamie muttered as she reached for a glass of sweet tea that sat in front of her. She took a sip of the sugary, lemony beverage and smacked her lips when she pulled the glass away. “Good tea though.” “Steeped to perfection,” Abigail boasted as she took a seat on a crate next to the table. “Honestly, I haven’t made this much food since our Peggy died; I wasn’t sure I was going to have it ready in time for you. Oh, but you don’t want to hear about some old biddy fretting over her cooking, do you? You’re wanting to know how this all happened.” Jamie nodded, unable to answer verbally due to a mouthful of mac and cheese. Tobias spoke next after dumping out the ashes from his pipe and refilling it with a fresh pinch of tobacco. “Folks ‘round here think the McDonalds are nothing but a bunch of backwoods bumpkins, all because they can’t imagine anyone that wants to live a quiet, simple life. Fact is we like it that way: it means we can get away with a lot more than y’all give us credit for.” The patriarch tapped another crate with his boot as he drawled on, “Back in the day, my grandpap ran this farm, and he had a pretty steady business going up ‘til the Depression brought blight to the crops. But Grandpap weren’t some uneducated hick; he was the most learned person in the whole county. He got to work thinking of ways he could save his farm, and he came up with all sorts of chemicals and formulas that breathed life into his crops and gave his livestock strength when plenty of others were down and out. Even after things turned ‘round in the country, Grandpap still kept mixing and making, and he passed that knowledge onto each McDonald after him—to my Pa, to me, and even Peggy knew a thing or two.” “Sherioushly?” asked Jamie, her cheeks stuffed with the butteriest biscuits she had ever eaten. Her question earned her a rap on the wrist from Abigail, who shushed the girl and shook her head for talking with food in her mouth. Jamie meekly swallowed and cleared her throat with a gulp of tea before asking, “You’re telling me that you guys made a bunch of wonder drugs and never sold the formula? You could have made millions! You could have lived like royalty!” “Don’t want to,” Tobias answered simply. “Does all your money make you happy?” Jamie tried to think of a rebuttal, but she thought about her entire life—her philandering father, her distant mother, and her fake friends—and realized the farmer had a point. Humbled, she tucked back into her food, though she still kept her ears perked for the rest of the story. “We had a simple life, but it was a good one; we never gave anybody any trouble, and we kept mostly to ourselves. So, when my little Peggy came home from school and cried herself to sleep because kids were picking on her, you can imagine that made me a mite bit mad,” Tobias grunted, his eyes darkening even more. “Abigail talked me out of having a talk between all your daddies and my shotgun, and we taught Peggy to be the bigger girl when it came to you harpies. She was doing better and didn’t cry so much, but y’all couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?” A lump grew in Jamie’s throat as she thought back to the night of the barn party at the start of the school year, and Tobias furrowed his brow as if he read her mind. “When we found out that our Peggy had been invited to a party, and by the captain of the football team no less, we were over the moon for her. Abigail took her into town to get a new dress, do up her hair, and get one of them many pedis at the salon, and she looked like a right princess. She was the happiest we’d ever seen her, and we couldn’t wait for her to tell us all about it when we got home. ‘Course, you know that we never saw her again after William picked her up—ain’t that right, boy?” Jamie glanced over her shoulder at Will, who watched her like a hawk as he leaned against the cellar wall with his arms crossed like he was James Dean. He cracked the joints in his neck before answering, “Afraid so, Mr. McDonald.” “Pa, why don’t you sit down and let William tell his side of things?” asked Abigail as she cleared away a few of the empty plates from the table—plates that Jamie did not even realize she had finished. Tobias nodded over to Will, who pushed himself off the wall, sauntered across the room, and pulled a crate up to the table so he could look Jamie in the eye with a smoldering gaze. He explained, “I never told a soul about this, but Peggy McDonald was my dream girl. What was there not to love? She had a beautiful smile, was sharp as a tack, and generous as could be, but all you saw was a walking punchline for your jokes. And I admit, I was a coward for not asking her out when I had the chance to; I was too afraid of what my teammates would say. So, when Nancy told me she was done picking on Peggy and extending an olive branch by having me ask her to the party, I jumped at the chance.” “More gravy on that steak, dear?” Abigail whispered to Jamie, who nodded and mouthed a silent thanks before returning her attention to Will. “If I had known what Nancy had planned that night, I’d have never taken her to your damned party, but I was a fool and wanted to pretend we were a couple, even if it was only for a night,” the brooding boy recalled. “When I found out she had killed herself, I drove here to the McDonalds to beg their forgiveness, plead my innocence, and promise them anything to help. I worked my ass off when harvest time came around, and it was while I was working that I found out about their chemistry skills and I came up with a plan for payback.” “Pig Face,” Jamie muttered before she took a big bite out of a corn on the cob. “You went around filling the girls with some kind of mad scientist formula that made them too fat for their bodies to handle, all while dressed up like some kind of movie monster. You’re absolutely demented, you know that? You’re completely sick in the head, every one of you.” Tobias snarled around his pipe. “Watch your mouth, girl. You try losing the most precious thing in your life, and then we’ll see how you react.” Jamie’s face melted at that rebuttal, and she silently shoveled food past her lips for a moment before she worked on a better reply. “You’re right: I can’t even begin to imagine how you must have been hurting. But that doesn’t give you the right to become judge, jury, and executioner for all of us! I am sorry for what happened to Peggy—I truly am—but killing me with fat won’t bring her back.” Will smirked as he told Jamie, “Nobody said we were going to kill you.” “Then what do you call this?” Jamie asked as she gestured to the feast in front of her. Despite eating through Tobias and Will’s stories, she had barely made a dent in the spread. “You put some kind of chemical in the food to make it super-addictive, and now I’m going to eat until I pop out of my clothes and my gut touches the floor or whatever. Just promise me you won’t truss me up like you did with Adrienne, okay? Can you at least leave me with some shred of dignity?” Abigail patted Jamie on the shoulder and calmly instructed her, “Breathe, deary. Tonight’s not for dying; you’d already be gone if we wanted it.” “Fact is you’re the only one in your little gang that didn’t go out of their way to harass Peggy,” Will reminded Jamie. “The other harlots, they fell right in lockstep with Nancy and made her life a living hell simply because they were told to. That’s why you get to live, and that’s why you don’t get what Nancy has coming to her.” Before Jamie could ask what Will meant by that, the boy got up from the table and walked to a closet door across the room. He opened it up to reveal none other than Nancy Hill tied to a chair and looking the worst she ever had. Her blonde hair hung greasy and limp like wet spaghetti, and her designer clothes were torn, dirtied, and stained all over. Tanned skin had grown pale and pasty, ruby lips turned chapped and bruised, and sharp cheeks were smeared with caked makeup. She was in such a state that she did not even react when she saw Jamie, only lolling her head from side to side and mumbling under her breath. “Jesus Christ, what did you people do to her?” asked Jamie, who dropped her fork for the first time since she entered the cellar. “Mind the Lord’s name, child,” Abigail gently chided the girl. “And we’ve done nothing to her as yet, though the temptation is strong. She got a little bruised up when we collected her from her house, but she fared far better than her parents; they’re still waiting to be found.” “I…I thought they were in the Caymans this week,” Jamie murmured, unable to take her eyes off Nancy as Will dragged her out into the room. “I took care of them before they could leave,” Will explained after setting Nancy down. “If anyone asks, it looks like Mr. and Mrs. Hill went to the garage to end it all by running the motor with the door shut. Tragic, really.” “What are you going to do to her?” Jamie asked, breath caught in her throat. “The same thing we did to all the others, only much, much worse,” answered Will as he pulled a syringe out of his pocket and jabbed Nancy in the neck. “Because this little piggy gets none…”
  11. Time will tell just how far Ramona falls, and just how effective Solomon really is...
  12. THE RAVISHING BRUTESS - PART 3 It felt like any other day as Ramona walked into the office: she greeted the clerks at the front desk, got her third coffee of the morning, and did a circuit of the workplace to see how everyone was getting on. Her gait was slow and sluggish, but that was not out of the ordinary for the blue-skinned beauty; she was usually a groggy mess until the last drop of that third coffee. She had done up her hair a little different that morning, opting for a loose ponytail rather than her typical bun, but she looked the same as she always did. Then why was everyone staring at her like she had grown a second head? “Morning, Ramona,” Mabel greeted her boss as the powerhouse passed by her desk. “Got you some donuts to go with that coffee. You really should try this place; they make the best apple fritters.” “If they get high praise from you, I’ll have to check them out,” Ramona hummed, plucking one of the glazed treats from a box on Mabel’s desk. “I swear, you know all the best spots in town.” Ever since that first lunch, the two had grown thick as thieves: they ate together sometimes twice a day, went out for the occasional after-work drink, and even started catching up on the weekend. It was small wonder that Ramona had offered Mabel a full-time position at the firm, much to the chagrin of several other interns and employees, but they were not the ones in charge and were not about to argue with a woman who once KO’d a space god. Ramona argued that there was something special about Mabel—a certain je ne sais quoi—that made her such a valuable asset, but no one else saw it. No one else could make Ramona laugh quite like the intern did, nor could they so easily recommend things to her and have her follow through on them. “You can have the rest of the box if you want. I’ve already had my fill, and I don’t want to be too stuffed for lunch. We’re still good to try out that pizza place this afternoon?” asked Mabel as she slid the box to Ramona. “You know it! I’ve got a couple meetings, but they’re just boring shareholder crap,” Ramona chuckled before biting into another fritter and cooing in delight. “Honestly, I feel like they’ve gotten even drier lately: either they’re so dull that I almost pass out, or they’re so wordy that I can barely understand what they’re saying.” Mabel kept a straight face while smirking on the inside, knowing exactly why Ramona was having so much trouble keeping up at the meetings. She remarked, “Still, it’s not good if you don’t show up for these things. Maybe I could start filling in for you?” It was ludicrous, irresponsible, and ludicrously irresponsible to send a woman that was just an intern a week prior to fill in for the CEO, but it sounded like the greatest idea to Ramona, who happily licked glaze from her fingers. “Not a bad idea, Mabel. Just make sure you take plenty of notes so I can catch up afterwards; I do still need to keep on top of things here, after all.” “Anything for you, chief,” the plucky employee replied with a mock salute. “It’s probably a good thing you didn’t do the meetings today anyway, especially in that outfit.” Ramona cocked an eyebrow in confusion at the remark, since there should have been nothing wrong with her clothes. She had chosen a pencil skirt that hugged her shapely thighs and a blouse that drew attention to her perky, basketball-sized breasts, and heels that cost more than some cars—perfect for a woman in control of the room. Yet when she glanced down, she found herself in less than business appropriate attire: a Grateful Dead shirt from a concert the year prior, pajama pants with hearts all over, and banana slippers; perfect for a lazy Sunday, but not so much for a firm on Wall Street. No wonder everyone gave her such odd looks all morning; she looked like she had just crawled out of bed. “Oh my gawd, it’s like my ‘underwear in front of the school’ dreams,” Ramona squeaked, suddenly feeling as bashful as her human form. “Can’t believe I walked out of the apartment like this!” “Hey, it happens to the best of us,” Mabel assured her boss. “I mean, I spent an entire day with my shirt on backwards once; I only figured it out when I got back home and looked in the mirror.” Ramona sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I get that these things happen, but not for me! I have all my clothes picked out at least a day ahead, and if I had to make any last minute changes, I probably would have been two hours late. I don’t know where my head’s at, but it clearly didn’t show up for work today.” “Well, you’re here now and you wouldn’t want to run back out at this time anyway. Just think of it like a very casual Friday,” Mabel suggested, resisting the urge to laugh at her enemy’s faux-pas. “I’ll order in from that pizza place, and we can pretend it’s like a sleepover!” “All right, but bring your own sleeping bag,” Ramona replied with a smirk, trying to make the best of a lousy situation. She sauntered back to her office and called out, “Holler if you need anything!” Mabel needed a lot of things: a cool billion dollars, a super-yacht, and for those fertility drugs to start working so she and Mr. Osmosis could start that family they had dreamt of. Since she was still barren as a desert, she would have to settle for enjoying the perks of her enemy’s deterioration—yes, perks, because spacing out was going to be the least of the Brutess’s worries. The other reason people had been staring when Ramona walked into the office was because her pajamas were tight on her body, and not because of her muscles. For the first time since she learned how to transform into Brutess, Ramona had put on a few fat pounds—nothing like the muscular bulk she was used to. It was hard to call her out and out ‘fat’—she was nowhere near as bad as Defensor’s sidekicks, after all—but she was soft enough that the curves of her muscle were slowly disappearing under a cushion of pudge. Biceps as big as watermelons lost their definition and were even soft to the touch, and her sharp jawline dulled as her cheeks filled out with plenty of pinching material. Her abs were nowhere near as shredded as other heroines, but at least it was firm compared to the little pooch that peeked out from her t-shirt. Each step she took sent a ripple through her thighs, testing the threads of an already tight pair of pajama pants. But where Ramona had really gained was in her chest, which had once been flat as a pancake and only developed when she transformed into Brutess. This gave her one more reason to stay in her godlike form, as she had a bust that put all others to shame—even Ms. Busty St. Clair herself, Miss Elite. People would pretend to be her by cramming basketballs and the like up their shirts, but they were not far off from the actual size of those massive, gravity-defying melons. She tried not to abuse their power, but the petite girl inside Ramona could not help but show off from time to time, like popping the occasional button with a knowing flex. What was already big was now even bigger, and her breasts had both swollen larger than her head in a few short weeks. They still retained some perkiness despite the weakening muscles behind them, but one look at a bare-chested Ramona would have revealed a hint of sag around the top and indigo stretch marks by her armpits. She might have noticed this growth sooner, but her bra was custom treated with a chemical solution that enabled it to change size with her, should she ever find herself back to being 4’11” Ramona Pierce. As such, it grew with her, leaving Brutess none the wiser as to how much she had really swollen—at least, for the time being… *** Ramona tried to make the best out of her day, acting like there was nothing wrong and avoiding meetings if she could, but she was exhausted by the time she got back to her apartment. The entire day was spent worrying about how she could have left home dressed in such informal attire, especially when she owned an entire closet full of designer suits. When she tried to take her mind off that snafu with some work, she found herself drifting off whenever she had to review a report or look over a contract. Not only was it absolutely tedious and dull, but Ramona found each document to be near illegible, as if it was written in another language. “Okay, this is concerning,” Ramona muttered as she kicked off her slippers and shucked off her t-shirt. “I haven’t been this confused since I contracted that brain parasite back in…what was that, Issue 187? Christ, where’s Smilin’ Stan when you need him to keep tabs on these things?” The sensation that something was wrong was unshakeable, even as she tried to go about her evening and unwind. First on the agenda was a nice, hot shower to ease her mind and soothe her body, though she remained blissfully unaware of how soft she had grown over the last few weeks. There would be a greater description of how she lathered up her developing potbelly or how the water cascaded from her bosom like Niagra Falls, but Ms. Pierce worked out a new contract specifying no shower scenes—see Team Brute #14. Next came a trip to the kitchen for something to eat, despite the fact that she had eaten more than an entire family of four could handle in a single day. It started with a sack full of breakfast sandwiches and an iced coffee that was more like a melted candy bar than coffee, followed by a near dozen apple fritters, a calzone the size of an extra-large pizza, and half a vending machine’s worth of goodies, courtesy of Mabel. Even for someone with a body like hers, that was a ton of calories which had nowhere to go except into her developing curves—and yet, she still craved more. When she opened up the fridge for her next meal though, she was puzzled by just how much takeout and prepackaged food there was inside. Ramona was no stranger to ordering in, given her hectic work schedule, but there was far more than the last time she checked…or was there? She thought back the last few days to recall ordering any kung pao chicken or bacon cheeseburger lasagna, but she was met with a mental fog that stopped her from even recalling what she had that morning. “Guh…thinking sucks,” Ramona grumbled after drawing a blank on a reason for the food. She had to be the one who bought it; no one else could have gotten it for her. “At least I won’t have to worry about shopping for the next week or so.” After heating up a box of General Tso’s, egg rolls, and wontons, the blue bombshell sauntered over to the couch to settle in for the night. She remained blissfully unaware of how she took up even more room on her designer sofa, focusing instead on the rich flavors of food that had been unknowingly tampered with. A hum escaped her lips and she mumbled, “God, I’d eat like this all the time, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint my fans by getting too fat for commissions.” In between bites, she picked up her tablet and tried to open up an e-book she had been reading through earlier that week, only to find that it was missing—not just the e-book, but her entire digital library was gone. Ramona furrowed her brow and began an extensive search through her tablet for any sign of the library, but what she turned up was even more disheartening: somehow, several of her apps had vanished into the ether. Gone were her puzzles and brainteasers, her daily selections of poetry and podcasts, and her news feeds keeping tabs on markets around the world; it was almost as if the tablet had been reset to factory settings, but with even fewer options. “Great, now I have to take this into the store,” the CEO grunted before returning to her food and attacking it as only a frustrated sufferer of First World Problems could. If she could not spend the evening browsing through her tablet, she would have to settle for checking out something on TV—anything to take her mind off her troubles. Unfortunately, her escape into television fared little better, as she found countless channels blocked and her DVR’s recordings scrubbed clean. The only things that seemed to be accessible were shows for children, and not even the kind she could feel nostalgic about watching; they were puerile, juvenile, and meant for toddlers at best. Everything was a menagerie of colors, letters, and puppets, and Ramona could not roll her eyes hard enough. How anyone of any age could stomach this was beyond her, since she could not stomach more than a minute before reaching for the remote. But why bother? There was nothing else on, and with how screwed up her technology was acting, Ramona would have to take what she could get if she wanted something to cut through the silence of an empty apartment. So, with a resounding sigh, she flipped through a magazine on the coffee table with one of those puppet shows running in the background, content to let that run until she was tired enough to go to bed. The longer the show went on for though, the more curious she became about just what was playing on her TV. Every so often, her ears would perk up at the sounds of funny voices and laughter, and she found her foot tapping along to the odd melody when the puppets sang about certain life lessons. She would peek out from behind her magazine cover and find some bizarre, man-sized puppet traipsing along, and she had to admit that there was a lot of care and attention put into the suit; in fact, the whole set radiated charm, combining groovy 60s and 70s colors with a modern design aesthetic. It might not have been highbrow entertainment, but there were certainly far worse things to watch. There was one puppet in particular that she found the most delightful: Bubbleberry, who was little more than a head, hands, and feet stuck on a ball of a body. The little fluff ball would roll onscreen with the other puppets and try to help a kid with their homework or answer questions, but the only thing on her mind was food. When a child asked a math problem about splitting up candy, she would answer, ‘Why split it up? I’d want it all for myself!’ When another child complained about having a tummy ache, she would scoff, ‘You know what you need? A little ice cream to help settle your stomach! It always works wonders for my bubble belly!’ Ramona soon found herself enamored by the misadventures of Bubbleberry and her friends, even humming along to the songs when they played. How anyone of any age could hate such pure, wholesome entertainment was beyond her, as she was hooked like a four year old on a Saturday morning. She shut out the part of her brain that told her how ridiculous it all was and allowed herself to sink into the warm comfort of the show. “All right, boys and girls, let’s play a counting game,” Bubbleberry announced to the unseen audience. “Make sure you’ve got snacks so you can play along at home!” Quick as the Speed Demon, Ramona raced back to her kitchen to grab a package of cookies so she could follow along with the puppets. She got back to the couch and ripped the bag open just in time for Bubbleberry to stick a cookie in her felt mouth, munching it into crumbs that would be cleaned by a stagehand afterwards. Unlike the puppet, Ramona could and did happily munch down on the Milano cookie, cooing at the rich chocolatey taste just like her favorite puppet. “That’s just one, and that’s no fun! Go for two—you know what to do!” Bubbleberry cheered as she was fed two more cookies by other puppets. Ramona matched the rotund puppet bite for bite, cookie for cookie, even as her rhymes climbed higher and higher up the numerical chart. ‘Golly gee, how about three? I need more, so let’s do four!’ On and on she counted, her little rhymes worming their way into Ramona’s ears like that Medullian parasite from so long ago. It got all the way to ‘That was ten, let’s go again,’ and the blue beauty was all too happy to oblige until she ran out of cookies. “Aw, no,” Ramona groaned as she shook the bag out, only scattering crumbs across her lap. A pout spread across her lips as she whined, “That’s no fair! I’m out of cookies!” As if she could hear into the Brutess’s apartment, Bubbleberry chirped, “If you don’t have cookies, you can count along with whatever you’ve got! Candy, popcorn, pretzels, or chips—just so long as it’s not broccoli! Let’s keep playing, okay?” Her pout spread into a dopey grin as Ramona nodded along and gathered up a bunch of snacks from her well-stocked kitchen, all so she could play along with the puppets. Bubbleberry repeated her rhymes, this time accompanied by her friends and the occasional child, and Ramona found herself chanting them along with her. Granted, her rhymes were muffled by constantly being full of food, which only served to spread crumbs in her lap and on her floor. But what did she care? She was having such a fun time eating, singing, eating, clapping, and eating. No one could ask for a better night! *** “Almost too easy,” Liderul smirked from behind his mask as he watched Brutess gorge herself on enough snacks for a Little League team. “Team Brute really does live up to its name, eh? But this is one time their savagery won’t save them.” Dynamo poked his head out of a console beside his current master and asked, “LIDERUL, I REQUIRE A FIVE MINUTE BREAK TO RECHARGE. THE BRUTESS SHOULD BE SUFFICIENTLY MESMORIZED AT THIS POINT.” Liderul creaked his head to the side an inch or two—the most his fragile body could manage—and answered, “Negatory, Dynamo. If our plan is to succeed, we must make sure that she is dumbed down as quickly as possible. Continue.” As the living lightning bolt solemnly returned to its duty, Doc Solomon watched from afar and scratched notes in his journal as the other villains amused themselves with Ramona’s humiliating acts. He hated seeing her like this, but he needed just a little longer before his plan could go into action…
  13. It's always the nice ones in these sorts of stories...
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