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About ShrubberyLogistic

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    On The First Rung
  • Birthday 02/17/1994
  • Location London, United Kingdom

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  1. Maid of Honour, by Berry. A classic. https://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/threads/maid-of-honour-by-berry-bbw-magic-weight-switching-mwg.93896/
    Five stars. This was clever, original and performed to perfection. Kitty - of course - has the classic KFC stuffing honed into an absolute art form - but it's the situation, and the sexy quips of dialogue that add much, much more to the barely inhibited gluttony she lays out on display. Her tone feels so natural, and the pacing is exactly on point. She's really made it difficult for me not to think she's dabbled in something like this before. Magnificent, overall. I'm excited for what she comes up with next!
  2. "So, does your sweetheart have a name?" said Ange, smiling as she took the signed contract in hand, and parting the shimmering curtain. “Daniel Brackwell,” Evelyn said for the first time, dipping under the manager's arm. His lock of hair was wound tightly round her ring finger, her hands clasped together protectively over her soft stomach. The knot deep inside was even tighter. "And you've known him how long?" "Ten months." She was addressing the carpet on the floor, rich and thick. Evelyn felt as if she was walking on clouds. "Although...err...really, we..." "Don't be shy, gorgeous. It's only us girls here," said Ange, offering a comforting smile. Her teeth sparkled, and her long blonde hair tumbled down her shoulder. "Uh huh," Her partner Devi stuck out her forked tongue insouciantly when they reached the end of the changing rooms. Ange threw her a piercing stare, then turned back to her customer with a warm glow. Evelyn returned a nervous smile. “What I'm trying to say is...umm..." she stumbled, her voice faltering. "We haven’t really met…yet.” “Then how do you know he's the one for you?” Ange asked. “I’ve err… I’ve been watching from afar,” said Evelyn, looking to her side. "Oh really? What's he like?" The student paused. A strange warmth tingled through her fingers, and she felt a small but immovable smile slip through her lips. “We take classes together, he sits two rows in front. Sometimes I see him when I'm queuing for lunch,” Evelyn found herself tickled with butterflies and blushed as she put one foot across the other. “He wears leather jackets, he listens to classic rock and he always smells really nice," she went on. "He's super smart but super humble, he says thank you to lecturers and it's so cute. And he plays basketball, like I did before my scholarship started last year. I feel warm when he’s in the room. I really want him to notice me. For him to maybe make the first move...but, I...I'm too embarrassed," She finished with a sigh. “He’s definitely single?” said Ange. “He sure is,” said Devi. “Look at her. She spent half of last night staring at his ex’s new relationship status.” Evelyn blanched white before her cheeks flushed to red again. “Devi, please…” said Ange. “Oooh. She and the ex don’t speak at all, but she added her so she could look at photos of her and Daniel together. She still hasn’t found the courage to friend request him yet. She dreams about it though.” “How…how do you know that?” said Evelyn. She found herself standing ramrod straight, rushing to arrange her defences “I’m good at guessing stuff you don’t like the fact you love. I’m a vice manager.” said Devi. "Hmm. You like leather too, huh?" The student opened her mouth, and forgot to close it. "Whoah, oh gosh." Devi's pupils grew as she gazed into the distance. "This is more recent. I see cakes, cookies, a lot of pizza - your favourite topping is...mushrooms? Weird, but cool I guess. Oooh, ice cream too, not bad for a student meal plan. Wow, your brain is delicious...okay, that came out wrong," said Devi. "I meant, you really enjoy your food. Heh, right?" Evelyn felt herself shrink a little inside. She pulled instinctively at her sweatshirt, turning a couple degrees from the spotlight in the corridor of curtains. "That...also came out wrong," Ange said plainly. "Forgive us. We're trying to help - we really are - and we'll give you all the support we can before, during and after. Oh! I’m getting your hopes and dreams. You're going to see him tomorrow!" Evelyn bit her lip. "First day of sophomore year," she said with a gentle smile. "Figured if this makeover was as big as I hope it is, I could tell people it happened over summer. I packed this morning, said goodbye to my parents; they won't see me until Christmas – that means I could tell them it happened when I was at college." "You're a smart cookie," said Ange. "But I wouldn't bet on anything drastic. Your Daniel sounds nice, and you already look adorable. We often find the greatest change our customers leave with is in their confidence. Would you me to remind you how it works around here?" "I only get one chance," said Evelyn. "Don't I?" "That's correct," said Ange. "One true love, one chance to change everything over. I'll ask you one more time, and don't worry if you have to think about it. In your heart of hearts, do you want to look like the person Daniel Brackwell dreams his soulmate to be?" Evelyn bit her lip. "I do," she said, clutching a smidgeon of confidence. "Then come this way," 'Changing Rooms' was merely what was printed on the sign. The chambers of the store hosted a whole wing of curtains, mirrors, stools, cushions and clothing racks. Watching Ange stroke a finger down the wall and open a secret door, Evelyn felt the deep expanse of the building as she followed the graceful blonde down a spiral staircase and through a second cavernous corridor, further and further through aisles and rows of empty parlours and benches. They came to a long, old and narrow wooden door, bound with aged iron and loosening nails. "This is your room," said Ange. "Once you enter, you can only leave once you have changed. Have you brought the essence of your visionary?" Evelyn gave her the lock of dark, curly hair she had whisked from Daniel's jacket when his backed was turned. Pursing her lithe fingers, Ange tied the hair around the handle of a key she produced from her necklace, and inserted it into the lock. Twisting it clockwise, she laid a hand on the shivering door handle. A golden haze streaked through the edges of the doorframe. "Are you ready?" Evelyn calmly tucked her sweatshirt back in to her jeans. "Yeah," she said, nodding. "I'm ready," Ange closed her pale blue eyes, and opened the door. She motioned for the student to go through. Evelyn walked into a wall of yellow light, brightening and darkening in sequence. Four ornate mirrors beamed in each corner. Her feet took her up one step, then another, before she realised there were no stairs there at all. She was slowly rising into the air. Taking stools on her left and right, Ange and Devi carefully watched her ascend in the central portal. When she was six feet up, bathed in the golden suspense, Ange snapped her fingers. Evelyn felt ethereal. She took a sharp breath, flinging back her hair. Her lungs filled with glowing air, then a thick. honeyed liquid. She gasped and spluttered. The honey danced in her veins, tantalising her, pumping round her heart. Her stomach felt cavernous, then leaden as it soaked up its surrounds. Suddenly, Evelyn began to rotate, her hips leading her in long, lazy circles. She spun faster and faster, until Ange and Devi's faces blurred into a stream of colours and hues, gold and black, white and red, seeping through the mirrors. She felt a pull from above on her shoulders, and an equal pull from her stomach below. Still spinning, her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she reached a terminal velocity, her hair floating in a radiance of brown. Ange snapped her fingers again and the forces switched in a split-second. Evelyn yelped, conscious to the sudden stretching of her skin as her body gained volume and mass. A peel of pure shock echoed as tightness manifested in her underclothes. Her gyration reached new heights as her weight began to rapidly increase. She gave a whimper as the back of her bra burst loose, her breasts floating in the shirt under her sweater until the material pulled tight across her chest. The stitches of her underwear retreated further and further, while her thighs pressed out against her leggings as they grew larger and larger. Her sweater slinked up her stomach, leaving her belly button exposed, the flesh soft and pliable. "Errmm. This....wasn't part of her inner wishlist..." said Devi, nervously twisting her corset’s black lace. "I'm trying!" said Ange, an arm raised to the light. "She's...oh goodness, she's not finished yet..." "What's happening to me?!" Evelyn cried, her pleas reduced to squeals by the speed of her spinning. The student felt her throat grow warm with adipose, while beads of sweat flew from her chubbier cheeks. Layer after layer piled on to her hips, her arms and shoulders growing pudgy and corpulent. She splayed her fingers as they puffed up in the turgid air, while a jiggling, blubbery roll wrapped its way round her waist. The student felt the first seams of her leggings blow open, and gasped as she felt fresh, soft flab pour over the tear in her waistband. Chins wobbling under her face, her voice was deeper, earthier than before. Her tongue was all she could control, tied past her plumpened lips. Ange stood on her tiptoes, marshalling the best of her abilities. Evelyn’s spinning began to decelerate as the towering blonde felt an ancient energy billow through her ivory sleeves. The student came to a lurching halt, her pulse racing while she surged in width. Her jeans tore at the zipper, the pale crack in the strained curves of blue inching up in length as she slowly descended to the ground. Sinking her head, Evelyn felt the golden liquid douse the edges of her heart. Her vision grew fuzzy, morphing to grey, then black as a final rush of thickening pressed another inch onto her stomach. The light flickered out. Hugely fat, Evelyn dropped the final two feet without ceremony. Dizzy and discombobulated, her legs bottomed out and she landed with a squishy thud, rolling flat on her heavy back with a moan. “Oh my goodness!” said Ange. She dashed to her knees to Evelyn’s shoulder and cradled her sweating face. “I’m so sorry!” “Pffft. Seriously?” said Devi, giving their newly colossal customer a gentle nudge with her foot. She knelt down and let her crimson fingernail softly interact with Evelyn's grossly engorged chest. "Wow. Wait until he gets a load of these," she whistled. "Uhhhhh....ooooohh...." Evelyn groaned, her belly wavering softly. “Stop it! Can’t you feel her pain?” Ange snapped. “Nothing we can’t turn into pleasure,” the redhead retorted. “Be quiet and help me pick her up." Devi raised an eyebrow. “Not like that,” Ange rolled her eyes. "She's in shock. I can’t do this alone, she’s too big. Are you going to help me?” Two hands under each of her arms, the twosome heaved her off the floor and dragged her feet to remove her from the room. Pivoting her heaving body through the doorway, they deposited her on a leather chaise-longue. “Ughhuhhh…” groaned Evelyn. “It’s alright beautiful,” said Ange, gracing her hands with a warm cup of chamomile tea she cast from thin air. “I feel so heavy…” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. "Ooofff...urghh...what happened?" Ange and Devi looked at each other. “We think..." Ange began. "...your future boyfriend might be attracted to women who are...a little on the larger side.” “A little?” Her partner turned to her incredulously, a hand on her little hip. “Devi...” she hissed. “No…I get it...” said Evelyn. “I’m massive, aren’t I?” She sighed, then sat up and softly slid a hand around her mountainous belly as it folded over her thighs. Acres of soft flesh were there for her to squeeze and stroke - she did so tentatively, reaching around her form in trepidation. She blinked, breathing in exhaustion, her mind dulled and her heart slowly settling down from the stress. She crossed her legs as best she could, gripping each of her ankles and pulling them to her rolling stomach. Facing the fading glow of the portal, she began to fathom how fat she had grown. "Is this real?" she breathed, finally. "Was this supposed to happen?" “If his name is Daniel Brackwell, then yes.” said Ange. “You are now the object of all his innate and most intimate desires.” “Some princes want a princess,” said Devi. “And some just want a bouncy castle.” Ange stomped her heel and punched her in the arm. Devi squeaked. “But what do I do?” said Evelyn, slapping her hands on her hefty sides. “Am I supposed to try and get it on with him? Even though I look like this?” “Well, you must try something. The days of Daniel not noticing you are over,” said Ange. “Yup. You can’t hide,” said Devi. “I don't think you can’t run much either. Hmmm. If he really admired you and wanted you to be happy I kinda woulda thought you’d have some stronger quads. Get ready to waddle down the aisle.” “What she's trying to say is - I don’t think he wants you to overexert yourself,” said Ange. “Yeah, if something's further away than your fridge or your bathroom, make it his job,” said Devi. "Relax, just chill on the couch." “But I'll just get fatter and fatter!” Evelyn wailed, staring down her barreling cleavage. Her big, sweaty chest laboured with her breaths. “I can't live like this. I'm a whale. How am I meant to go to college? How are we meant to go out together? I'm too fat for everything.” She pushed back her hair and attempted to stand up. It was an embarrassing struggle. She huffed as she rolled onto her side, freeing her legs. She got to one knee and threw a palm on the carpet, forced to steady her bulk. Quickly thrusting upward, Evelyn found her feet and brought her thighs together with a soft slap. She staggered half a step backward, her bottom wobbling, holding out her arms to stay level. Gasping for breath, Evelyn stared down at her body with an open jaw. “You can build up your strength, it'll get easier,” said Ange. “We'll help shape you a new lifestyle now you’ve got a lot more to carry around with you.” “Couldn't you just shrink me?” said Evelyn. “That would involve retracting your heart and giving it to someone else,” said Ange. “It’s a very painful process, hence why we only give out one chance to each person.” “Yeah, it's more painful than splitting your jeans at the supermarket,” said Devi. “More painful than the look the register girl gives you when you redeem your hundredth coupon for a free burger at Bronte-Cavendish.” “It’s not impossible,” said Ange. “But unwarranted jokes aside, I think we both believe you should at least give the new you a try,” said Ange. “Meet Daniel. Introduce yourself. Get to know him properly. Let him see you for who you are.” “You think he wants to see me like this?” said Evelyn, seizing handfuls of her bare belly fat and giving them a shake. "Of course." "But...oh no...oh god, it’s tomorrow! I must've outgrown my whole wardrobe. I have literally nothing to wear!” “There there,” said the manager. “You’re forgetting something, dear.” “Huh?” “You’re in a clothes store,” said Devi. “And ours is probably the greatest in eternity. The right style, the right walk, the right impression. We've got it all.” “There’s nothing we can’t cover.” said Ange. “Nothing we can’t accentuate.” said Devi, with a wink.
  3. "Behold!" the angel announced in my living room. "Your blighted spirit in its true form! Tread carefully on your destined path, and do not succumb to the temptations of the tongue. Lest this..." He swept his arm. "...become your future!" His silvery robes wafted up the empty plastic packets strewn all over the floor. A cold wind made me shiver. A girl with platinum blonde plaits clutched his arm tightly, her face a picture of fear. At first I thought she looked like me - then I realised she was me. Kirsten Dwight. But from like, four or five years ago. Back when I used to work out. "Oh, Angel! Save me from this horrible reality!" she squealed, her fingers pasty white. "Please, don't leave!" The angel left her. He clapped his hands and disappeared in a cloud of dark smoke. I coughed as I swigged my soda. Kirsten clasped the space he'd taken up in front of the TV, tremoring on the verge of tears. Her soft gasps fading to nothingness beneath the blare of the chat show I was trying to watch. “Mmmmppphhh,” I gulped down a mouthful of chips and flicked off the set with the remote. “What the fuck?” Kirsten – my previous self, so it appeared – looked petrified. She backed away into the corner, pointing, her voice reduced to a whisper. “What...happened...to me?” she gasped. “I’m literally right in front of you,” I said, wiping my lips. “Talk to me like a normal person.” “No, this can’t be real!” She put her head in her hands. “Seriously, I'm okay,” I stressed, guzzling another salty handful. I stretched out a hand and tried to sit up a little more straight. The couch creaked beneath me, the cushions flattened from where I'd sat feasting through noon. “But you’re....you’re...” She gestured round herself, arcing her arms side to side across her stomach. “Fat?” I rolled my eyes, chewed and swallowed. “Huge,” she breathed, pale and nervy. I groaned, shooting her an incredulous look. Her eyes were rooted to my softly heaving stomach. With a flicker of perturbance I lifted my tight shirt, baring my thick belly rolls freely. "Wow," I mocked. "Never noticed...oh no...my life is over...what do I do..." I gave my bulging gut a big slap. It gurgled, close to fullness. Past Kirsten winced at the noise, shrinking further into the corner. I glanced queerly at her skinny hips, her tightened thighs. I could hardly remember the last time I looked like she did. Sighing, I tugged down my shirt. The band strained around my belly button, then rode back up over my bloated belly's swell. I sighed some more. "I'm morbidly obese. So?" I mumbled. "Get over it. It's not the end of the world. I still have friends. I still got first class honours in my degree. Remember?" "You got a first in Demonology?" she said, in a low voice. "Hell yeah," I said, grinning. "Valedictorian too. And I scored a career out of it - I'm freelance. Granted the work's a little patchy but still, it pays the bills." I burped and crushed the empty can with my pudgy fingers, tossing it nonchalantly over my shoulder. I cracked open a fresh soda, shook back my hair and took a long glug. "Was it hard?" Skinny Kirsten asked, staring at the floor. I nodded gently, and offered her a smile. "It was tough," I admitted. "A lot of long nights, a lot of lonely days. Don't think you'll have time to make that gym membership worth it. And if you want to eat healthy, you'll need to find yourself a second job. My wage from the campus takeout barely covered my living expenses. Had to sell the bike, the blender, a lot of old clothes...and I could barely close the robe over me when I graduated, but hey - people laughed." Kirsten gulped. She twiddled with her fingernails, still not meeting me in the eye. "I know it's kinda shocking," I said, looking down at myself. "But you sort of get used to waking up a little fatter, every day. It's easy to make adjustments - putting the car seat back, finding a bigger desk, not taking stairs, you know? Fat is heavy, you have to make a couple changes. So you're not exhausted all the time, get what I mean? Phew..." I paused for breath, a case in point. My cheeks had reddened, and I realised I had found my way to the edge of my seat. My legs were straining. Grunting, I shuffled back onto the couch, letting my big breasts jostle a little. Kirsten hung on my every movement, and we were both drawn to gazing at her modest cups. Somehow we caught each other at the same time. Kirsten blushed deep red. "I'm an F, in case you were wondering" I said, grinning. I gave them a heft and a squeeze. "Don't think they're done growing yet, either." "What do you weigh?" Kirsten said suddenly. I shrugged my shoulders. "Dunno," "Can we weigh you?" "Is it that important?" I raised an eyebrow. My past self looked pensive, cogs whirring in her mind. "Yes," she said, simply. "Huh. Fine," I mumbled. I staggered up off the couch. It was a focused process that look anything but focused, as I eased my jiggling weight back onto my feet. My thighs rubbed together, and my hefty stomach flopped on top. I bent forward with a sharp intake of breath and gathered my hair into a tie. My arms throbbed at the sudden onset of activity. Exhaling, I stood up again, palming the slight ache in my back. Kirsten stared wordlessly, and I led her to my bathroom. Mentally, I prepped myself for the stairs, taking a firm grip on the balustrade. I swung my wide, chafing legs, thrusting my hips to counterbalance the weight in my ass. Following gingerly behind me, past Kirsten had the best seat in the house on how encumbered my bottom-heavy body had become. My stretchy pants paled from navy blue to straining teal with every step as fat slapped against fat. Loose crumbs tumbled from my haunches, the remnants of the stack of chocolate cookies I'd messily devoured before lunch. I hadn't had chance to take a shower that day and it showed, though it needn't have mattered. By time I reached the top, sweat was beading on my brow. I stopped for a deep breath. "Yeah, no." I shook my stomach and tried to crack a smile, giving myself a stitch in the process. "Ugghh...I should drink more water...owww...." Bent double, Kirsten crossed a comforting hand over my shoulder. Her touch was icy cold. I flinched, forgetting the pain, and motioned in the direction of the bathroom. She pulled the door to, and I gave her a nod. Recovering a little energy, I waddled after her, my hip brushing the doorframe as we bundled in together. With one final exhale, I retrieved the dusty scale from under the sink. There was the sound of a choirboy's aria. Another puff of smoke. The angel returned, his haloed head mere inches from the stirring ceiling fan. This time, he rose from a radiating hole in the ground. I peered through, glimpsing visions of gold and crimson light. The air filled with the searing smell of sulphur. "We have but little time!" he boomed. "Seek your answers, young one, before our needs necessitate our departure from this plane," I reached past him for the sink, and poured myself a nice cool glass of water. "You need to get on the scale," Kirsten insisted. "Quickly." "Yes!" echoed the angel. "See the weight of your sins! Confess to your gluttony, then you may join us on our righteous journey to heaven through that saintly portal of holy light next to your feet...errr...there." Kirsten bit her lip. I chugged the water, and gave my aching tummy a gentle rub. I set down the scale and adjusted my pants, freeing the soft skin from where my underwear was biting in. I clicked the button and the menu lit up. I dabbed the reset button with my slipper, then stepped on. The numbers racketed up rapidly. "Oooh. Two hundred and eighty-one pounds," I recorded, my eyebrows raised in surprise. "That’s kinda high. Though it's a big t-shirt I'm wearing. And a bra underneath. Call it two seventy-nine." "Oh god, how much will I gain?" Kirsten panicked. I gave her elevator eyes. My previous self was slender, even toned around her arms and shoulders, bare in her black halter top. Her hips were bony, her butt was firm and cute. Her face was striking, angular, her cheekbones high, her waist well placed. Her belly was nondescript, nonexistent, nothing like the bouncing barrel I was strapped to. "Only one way to find out" I said, thrusting my stomach back under my t-shirt with a curse under my breath. "You step on." Kirsten timidly planted her trainers on the scale's smooth glass face. The red numbers buzzed and flashed. I leaned over for a closer look. "666" I read from the screen. "Hmmm." The girl, who couldn't have been any more than a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet, was frozen on the spot. Her lips were unmoving. Slowly she raised her head, catching sight of herself in the mirror. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing would come. "That's...interesting," said the angel. "But without further ado, you must step through the -" I groaned, then snatched and yanked on one of Kirsten's plaits. Her whole hairpiece came away, striking the floor and bursting into ashes. Two black horns emerged beneath. "Nice try," I exclaimed, with a wink. "But I think I would've remembered this if it really happened to me. Also, French plaits? Not my style, never has been." "Good god - an imposter!" yelled the angel. "Saints save me! Heaven is compromised, I will return forthwith! Kirsten - we must flee this house! Before this soul-stealer takes - " "Oh, shut up," the demon spat. In a haze of red his claws raked through the air, taking hold of the angel's face. With a gruesome rip his pale features were torn away, leaving redness and raging eyes. I took stock of his expression with placid glee. The face was not pained. It was angry. "Adipus, you swine!" the second demon bellowed, seizing the first by the scruff of his scraggly beard. "We're finished. You've ruined our plan!" "What plan, Lipidio? You'd never have shared her with me." He kicked himself free. His fellow's costume - wings and halo - slipped off his jagged back and fell forgotten on my bathroom floor. The punch came too quick for me to see. Black blood sprinkled the shower curtain. "There's plenty of her to go around!" said Lipidio."Kirsten, precious. Join me in hell - be my guest!" He beckoned to me in his white dress. "Don't you want to see what the other deadly sins taste like?" "Yeah, starting with wrath!" Adipus yelled. He tore off his halter top and leapt on his brethren's shoulders, plug chain in hand, and wrapped it tight around his neck. The taller of the two scrabbled in crackling air, choking and wheezing. He stretched out a weakening leg and tried to pivot, but lost his balance. The two of them careened into the bathtub with a mighty thwack. "Be right back," I said to no-one, backing away slowly. "Just gonna check the oven...you guys just wait right there..." I slipped through as gracefully as I could and sealed the outward swinging door behind me. Sliding down, I blew the hair away from my face, crossed my legs, and kept my body weight firmly pressed against the woodwork while I fished in my pocket. Gently, I teased my little book of exorcist rites out from the tight material. The door rattled as the twosome locked horns, thundering back and forth, squealing and swearing. Elbows planted on my stomach, I thumbed through the pages until I found the line of the charm I wanted. "W-what?" shouted Lipidio. "Where is it?" "Stop blathering, what are you on about?" said Adipus. "The portal. It's gone!" There was a pregnant pause. Then one of them tried the handle. Then the lock. Then the handle again. He rattled it furiously. "Let us out!" they cried in unison. I giggled as they grew increasingly desperate, pawing through the pages for a curse to bind a feuding pair of hell-dwellers to my will. They pushed back to the toilet, preparing to charge. I leant back a little more against the door, spread my legs, undid my zipper, and puffed out my stomach to its full girth with a sigh of satisfaction, letting it crest on the carpet. The door quaked. Two demons groaned in bruised agony on one side, while my body shook and rippled softly on the other, from my knees to my double chin. I smiled, strangely proud of myself. "I've got maple syrup," I called out behind me, as my belly gurgled. "Who's good at making pancakes?"
  4. First things first, thank you kindly for this comment I'm glad you've enjoyed my stories so far. I've recently returned from a lengthy absence where my focus was forcibly wrought on other projects, but I've been scrivening several new stories which I'd love to publish in short time as soon as get in gear to tackle a WG commission I was given an ashamedly long while ago. You'll soon know when all is done What intrigues me is how you'd define 'a magic element' in this context. In my mind, Massachusetts Pounds involves magic WG, but Bubbunut does not - I intended for the doughnuts to be fattening, but not in any way to be cosmically imbued. In essence, I'd like to hear more from you on what you'd like to see! Thanks again, SL
  5. The race was postponed at last, while another safety car rolled out to take command over the rest of the drivers. Despite their urging Slick Mick refused to leave his busted vehicle. He tore out of the speedway, and when the cops finally hunted him down after he ran out of fuel in Holly Hill, he boiled over. On the way to his cell he told them everything, how the Trafficones had rigged the races, how they’d betrayed him, how they’d let ‘that fat blonde bitch’ take his happily ever after away. He’d get a slightly reduced sentence for informing, though the judge at his trial would say his non-stop ranting was almost worth a sentence in itself. He soon found it was even less appreciated when he settled into his new home, at Tomoka State Prison. Maisy meanwhile found herself back in the Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, in the very same bed she’d occupied when she broke her ankle. She filled up a lot more of it this time, to the surprise of the nurses who remembered her, and even more of it the following morning, much to their alarm. The next day they brought her to the scale, and they established that something was wrong. Maisy couldn’t bear to look at the numbers. But she knew she was still gaining rapid, obscene amounts of weight, day by day. She noticed she was coming close to overflowing her bed’s edges when she flopped back down on it again. She tried to take her mind away through books and television, but even that began to grow harder. She was growing so fat her vision was narrowing, as her cheeks softly pushed on her nose. She knew without wanting to test it when the day had come that she was unable to get out of bed. The cheerleader felt turgid, bloated and immovable. She wanted to spare herself the humiliation by not trying at all; but when her bed became ‘her beds’, it came anyway. Maisy was scared for herself when a doctor told her the extent of the situation. “You’re going to need to be taken to a different ward. It’s a necessity, but we’re confident it’s just a temporary measure. You’ve put on more weight than we thought possible in your current circumstances. It’s merely a reassessment…we’ve underestimated your case…” Maisy sighed and wheezed. She was staring at the ceiling. Her breasts strained her gown as she wiggled them, as she tried to see the man through the canyon of her cleavage. “Fine…”she puffed. “Just…do…whatever...do… something about this…nnghhh. Oh god…” She was wheeled away, and a second bed was pressed against the first for her to lie on. She shut her eyes as a team of orderlies hefted and pushed her body halfway between the two. For half an hour she was poked and prodded, but after more scans and checks, an antidote was sourced to counter the myriad of concentrates in the pills the mob had been feeding her over the last two weeks – a vast amount was traced to her most recent meal of pancakes and syrup. The substance was rushed through the approval stages, and given to her through a teaspoon the next morning. With her stupendous weight gain finally put to a stop, the doctors judiciously worked Maisy’s weight back down to a little below what it was when she’d checked in the week before. As swiftly as the pancake drugs were shifted, so too were the pounds they’d piled onto her figure. Maisy was delighted. She was utterly gigantic, but at least she was now finally shedding some weight. Zack came to visit her the day she made it back to four-hundred and fifty pounds, under police protection. The cop at his left, a man with a flat nose and bullish shoulders, asked Maisy if she knew ‘this gentleman’. She nodded, her chins creasing. Unblinking, they let go of Zack’s shoulders. “Don’t worry, those ones are the good guys,” he said, smiling, as they left them alone to stand guard outside the door. “They’re not forgiving me for what I did on Sunday though. I was wondering if you would…” “Huh?” said Maisy. “If you would forgive me,” He ran a hand through his hair. “For everything. The whole reason you’re here, the reason you’re…like this…it’s all my fault. They were telling me what to do right from the very beginning. Right from when we met. The whole thing that went down at the waterpark – that was all staged and I was a big part of it, even though I really didn’t wanna be. I wouldn’t be surprised if you never wanted to see me again. I just came to say…I’m sorry.” Maisy looked at him. She put her hand in his, then walked her fingers up the zipper of his bomber jacket. Then she grabbed it tight, and pulled him in for another long kiss. “Of course I forgive you, silly,” she said, giving him a gentle shove. He smiled goofily. “You saved me. And you were amazing out there. You told them, didn’t you? You told them you did it to stop the Trafficones?” “Yeah, I did. But it hasn’t cleaned my slate…in fact it might have made it worse. That truck we were in…isn’t actually mine. It was fenced, then the Trafficones gave to me. And I’m not even allowed to drive in the first place, let alone drive a truck at the biggest NASCAR rally of the season…hitting all those cars – somebody’s gotta be responsible, you know…” “But it was awesome, right?” said Maisy. “Hell yes.” Zack grinned. “And they’ll never be able to take it away from you.” “That’s true.” he nodded. “Where’d you learn to drive like that?” He blushed. “Err…I watched a lot of Dukes of Hazzard growing up. Let’s just say I got into re-enacting after I dropped out of high school.” “That’s cute” said Maisy. “Yeah, the officers stopped being charmed not long after I turned twenty-one. I got a lot of fines. The Trafficones were willing to help me out with those…that’s kinda how I got into all this shit. But for once it might be paying off, and not just because it led me to you.” He looked to the door, then leaned in close. “Keep this a secret between you and me, but I got an email from Hendrick Motorsports this morning. They saw me on the track and they want to give me a trial in one of their cars. How cool is that?” “That’s awesome!” They kissed again, then heard the cop tapping on the door. “Time to go,” Zack said, sadly. “We’ll talk soon, right?” “Sure. Goodbye sweetie.” “Goodbye, Maisy.” He winked. She smiled. She noticed that for the first time, he’d used her real name. Zack left and she reached over for a handful of M&Ms from a giant bag Bethany had left her. She stuffed a sizeable handful in her mouth and began chewing when she realised she wasn’t alone. One of the cops had come back into the room. She swallowed, a little embarrassed. “Officer Roscoe Hartley, FBI,” he said. He stood rigid and tall as he flashed his badge, and did not make a move to shake her hand. “We’re sorry to disturb you Miss, but we have to ask that you come with us.” Maisy crinkled her brow. She’d heard that before. “Why?” she asked. Roscoe stiffened. He looked neither used to, nor particularly appreciative of, being questioned. “I have orders from the Chief. He wants a brief word with yourself and Mister Adamson.” he muttered. “Oh,” said Maisy. “Sure. But am I okay to leave now? I was supposed to be going tomorrow.” “We arranged your checkout downstairs. The doctors said you’re fine in our care and that you needn’t come back unless your medical issues return. Do you require any assistance?” “I’m alright,” Maisy said. “I’m fine.” But upon removing her bedcover and easing off the bed she’d occupied for two weeks, Maisy soon discovered that she wasn’t quite in the best condition. She’d ceased her continuous gaining, and had fought back the effects of her drug-induced fattening after her spat with Zack at the pool. But she still had many days to go, and it showed in the hang of her belly over her thighs, and the tight pull of her gown as she wobbled her doughy legs. She’d had little stimulus for her muscles during her fourteen days cooped up in bed – step by step they’d yielded weakly to her weight. No sooner had she reached the foot of the bed than she was red faced and panting. “Ma’am, would you like some help?” he asked again. “No” Maisy said, huffing and puffing. “Not you. Zack. I want Zack…to help.” There was something in his stiffness, the metallic quality in his voice that meant Maisy did not trust Roscoe Hartley at all. He looked like he was trying too hard at his job – for that, though his badge had looked authentic, Maisy still feared he was a fraud. He acquiesced to her demands though. Under the eagled-eyed watch of himself and his equally droid-like partner, Zack took her hand, helped her find her slippers and guided her slowly out of her room. They organised the return of her handbag from the main desk – she’d been booked in under the name of Hannah Selles, and there she realised why her parents hadn’t come to visit her yet. They probably didn’t know she was here. Maisy opened the bag with a view to calling them, but saw the broken plastic parts inside and quickly remembered what had happened. She made a mental note to ask Chief Kint if she could borrow the phone once she got to the station. Quite how she’d tell her parents everything that had happened was something she put to the back of her mind. A second bag registered under the name of Hannah Selles was given to her, much to her puzzlement. This one was plastic, and it bore the name ‘Maisy’ on the front in felt pen. She opened it to find a brand new pair of cropped leggings, some panties, a bra, a blouse and a note from Bethany wishing her well, telling her to put them on and call her soon as possible for their long overdue shopping trip. Maisy made another mental note to call her as soon as she was finished with her parents, and asked the cops if she had time to put them on – Roscoe said quickly no, but his corporal partner gave her leave. She thanked him, found a bathroom, slipped off her hated hospital gown and eased them on. She was delighted to find that for once, she had clothes that fit her perfectly again. Maisy beamed as she left the hospital. She really did have the best, best friend in the world. Hartley drove them the short distance to the police headquarters on Valor Boulevard. “Can we turn the siren on?” Zack asked. “No.” he said, coldly. “They did last time I was in one of these.” Zack said quietly to Maisy. “It’s so weird, hearing it on the inside.” “Last time?” Maisy inquired with a smirk. “Yeah, when they got me out of the pickup truck on the race course and took me to where we’re going.” said Zack. “Oh.” Zack looked at her and grinned. “Were you hoping for something you haven’t heard before? I guess I could tell you about the first time.” “Go on” said Maisy. She liked his stories. Judging by the veins that pulsed on his neck, Hartley clearly didn’t. “Me and my cousin and me hot-wired my uncle’s Dodge once when he was out playing poker, then we took it for a spin on the beach.” Zack began. “We wanted to get home before he knew it was gone, but these assholes caught up with us first and then…” Hartley yanked the handbrake with an agitated jerk, signalling the end of the tale. He switched off the ignition and got out the car. Maisy had hardly noticed the journey. She was led through one door, and Zack the other. They held hands up the steps to the police building, but were soon parted. Zack stayed on the ground floor while Maisy was lead upstairs to the Chief’s office. Kint welcomed her in and offered her a wide, comfy chair adjacent to his untidy desk. He offered a donut too – she declined at first, thinking about her need to lose more weight – but he left the box open by her side. Maisy ultimately failed to fight her temptation as he began to speak. “I apologise for the mess, it’s not usually like this,” Kint began. “But then again, it’s not every day these things happen. The Trafficones are getting out of dodge. Your little escapade left their business completely ruined here. They’ll be back someday though, of that I’m sure - I’ve just been sat here the last couple weeks picking up the pieces.” He pushed a couple of his papers together, then lit up a cigar. “Guess I’ll be doing some of that too.” said Maisy. She knew in the weeks to come she’d have a lot of readjusting to do. She saw her face amongst the papers, peeking out of file marked with her real name. In the photo she was much slimmer; her blonde hair framed just a single chin, and cheeks that were nowhere near as chubby. Maisy sighed. That was the face everyone back home remembered her by. They too, would have a lot of readjusting to do when they saw her now. “Oh, tell me about it. I had to replace forty guys here, just for me to feel safe again.” Kint muttered. “And let me say, I still don’t trust some of these new hires.” “Me neither.” Maisy concurred. Kint smiled. His face was worn, but warm. “I’m not sure what more to say, Miss Pinkerton, other than that I’m sorry. For you, and for your boyfriend. He’s going to go to jail for a very long time.” Maisy’s head sank. “He’s going to rot in there,” Kint continued. “You might not recognise him the next to you meet – if you ever meet again…” Maisy began to tear up. “There, there,” Kint said. “I know how it feels to lose everything.” “But he was only doing it for me!” she cried out. “He wasn’t doing it for himself. It’s not fair!” “Oh…darling…” Kint reached over and pinched her chubby cheek. Maisy flinched. His fingers turned claw-like as he retracted his hand. He took a long puff of his cigar, then twisted it down, and stubbed it out over her smiley face on the file paper. She saw her photo disappear into an ashen hole. “Let me tell you about ‘not fair’…” the cop snarled. “Putting fifty million dollars on a car that shoulda won, but didn’t. That’s not fair. Building a perfect community for my friends and family, just to watch the feds pull it all down? That’s not fair.” Kint’s voice had warped completely. Gone was the dulcet deep southern tone – it had fallen to a fury-stricken staccato Bronx, with scintillating flecks of an Italian accent. She had heard the disturbing voice before. “It’s you,” said Maisy. She remembered the chill she’d felt down her spine on seeing the true Annie. But this time her blood curdled, and the hairs stood straight on the back of her neck. “You’re the Commissioner.” Kint did not smile. There was no mask, no costume for him to peel away. He merely put his left hand over his right on the desk, then cracked his knuckles. Maisy was petrified. She was too frightened to even whimper. “Marco Trafficone,” the commissioner said. “It’s been a pleasure.” He leant over the desk and took Maisy’s shivering hand in his, then shook it. “As evidenced by your presence here, Miss Pinkerton, you fucked up Plan D. Royally.” She drew a breath in as he produced a standard issue pistol from the holster on his waist. He laid it on the desk, the barrel pointing at her. “But we’re not out of options. Not at all. We are moving on to Plan E. That’s E for execution. A talent my associates have been lacking as of late.” He drummed the desk. Then he clenched his fists, kicked back his chair and leapt clean over the top, like an animal. Just as she was about to scream he clamped a hand over her mouth. He tipped her back in her chair. Trafficone was freakishly strong. Maisy shouted curses into his rough fingers. His pale grey eyes settled on her feet. “I see you’re wearing Annie’s slippers,” he said. He twisted his lips. “I bought them for her birthday, five years ago. They’ll be the only thing left once we’re finished dealing with her. And as for what’ll be left of you, well….don’t get your hopes up.” Suddenly someone kicked the office door. It flew open. “Put your hands up right now, Commissioner!” Hartley yelled. He thrust the muzzle of his gun at Trafficone’s ear. The crime lord’s mouth was agape. “Officer Hartley, what has gotten into you?” he hollered. “It’s me. It’s Kevin. Geez, put the gun down!” “Don’t play me. You’re under arrest for assault, bribery, corruption and a truckload more.” “But…but Roscoe…” he mumbled, feigning a smile. “You must be hearing things…” “Too right. We heard everything, you slimeball. We heard everything you just said, all over the radio. It’s something you should have known, using police radio frequencies – usually, the real police are listening.” Marco Trafficone stared blankly for a moment. Then his face turned to fire. He looked upon Maisy with a hideous snarl. “You.” he growled. “You bugged me, you little bitch! How could you…how could you even…I don’t understand!” “You’ll have plenty of time to figure it out in your cell. On your feet.” Roscoe put the gun between his shoulder blades and shunted him out of the office. Maisy was left shell-shocked. The other officer came into the room to make sure she was alright. Zack was allowed upstairs, and he embraced her in a hug. It was finally over. Zack had to stay in the police station for that night, but Maisy was permitted to stay with him. It turned out that the very moment Hartley was locking the key on his cell, he’d heard a voice coming from the evidence room. Upon further investigation, he found it was coming from a radio he’d seized from two mobsters impersonating cops in the Eldora township. It was still tuned to the frequency their employer had been using to listen to a vast network of bugs. One of them had apparently found its way into his office. Maisy wondered, then realised something. She opened her handbag, and found her phone – still smashed up, but still with the bug inside. Two weeks ago it had gotten her fat ass stuck in a rocking chair. Now it had saved her life. “My lucky bug.” Maisy said, smiling. She decided to keep it in her handbag. Zack was released on bail over the phone by his sister, and the two of them left the police station the next day. His sentences were written off, but he was left with some eye-watering fines to pay for all the damage he wrought on the speedway. He went to work on carving out a new life in Daytona, finding an apartment to rent and a part time job in a garage, and testing on the track with Hendrick Motorsports. Maisy meanwhile started working on losing her extra poundage. It was surprisingly easy to begin with – without drugs to keep it artificially high, her weight decreased as much as three or four pounds every day. She was slowly feeling the benefits – walking to the bathroom was no longer so exhausting, and with a little effort she could fit back into clothes she’d abandoned in Eldora. Soon she no longer needed a mirror to be able to see her special larger capacity scale again – it was difficult work sucking in her belly and holding back her boobs, but she could just about read the numbers. Maisy hit her first goal of falling out of the four-hundred pound range, and after a lot of sweat and strain she fought her weight back under her second goal of three-sixty. Overjoyed, Maisy skipped her afternoon jog and treated herself to a cheesy pasta stir-fry. She couldn’t resist another portion the next day, and the next. After a week, pasta became a pizza meal, and a pizza meal came to include a dessert. A little became a lot, and one morning Maisy stepped on the scale and realised red-faced that she’d put thirteen pounds back on. She quickly learned that while her drug-induced weight was easily shifted, there was no antidote for the effects of the southern fried chicken, barbecue steak, or sumptuous muffins, save for a strict diet and regular exercise. Maisy tried to keep up with both, but for a girl of nearly four-hundred pounds, it was a struggle. Her next weigh in saw her go up another five pounds. A week later she had put on three more. Her mom offered to pay for one on one fitness coaching, her dad for hypnotherapy, but she turned them both down. Still lacking a set of workout clothes she was happy to be seen in, she was content to let her dog be her coach in the back yard – though after a year apart she first had to convince the dopey Bichon Frise that it was really her buried under so many layers of fat. They soon became the best of friends again, though even a simple game of fetch was soon leaving Maisy worn out. Back on the dating scene, Zack made a life a warm, wholesome breeze for a girl of her size. When she was with him she never needed to open a door, nor pull out a chair, nor put a jacket (usually his) over her shoulders. Going up the stairs, he would boost her by lifting her jiggling ass, much to her amusement. Going downstairs, he’d wrap his hands around her thick waist, cradle her belly and nuzzle into her chin, much to her pleasure. During their first weekend of their spring vacation, they planned another get together at the Cheer Bowl Nationals in Houston, Texas. Their tickets were free, and they’d get the best seats in the building, all courtesy of Zack’s sister. “She’s wanted to meet you for a while.” he told her, as they got out of the truck. They met her at the door. Maisy’s mouth hung open as she took in the little slim cheerleader with long, raven hair. “Serena?” she said, gasping. She looked at Zack. “You’re…siblings?!” “Yeah…we’ve got the same mom,” Serena said. She was a little tearful. “The Commissioner told me they’d hurt her and him if I didn’t do what they said. All those nasty things I said to you – they had this earpiece in my ear…I didn’t mean any of it – I’m so sorry.” Maisy embraced her in a hug just as the tears started to fall. “I get it,” she said. “Hey…cheer up. You’ve got a comp to win, right?” “Heck yeah, get it together. I put ten dollars on you,” said Zack, smiling then freezing up. “With the good guys, I mean. No pressure.” Serena smirked and led them to the stands. Maisy was still struggling to believe that she was his half-sister. But then again, she thought a lot of what had happened was unbelievable. It turned at that everyone in her marine biology class had been in the same boat that she was – living at the mercy of the mob. And while there were some like Zack who were well aware, there were a few, like her, who didn’t even know it. Some were even being held to ransom without their knowledge – while they stayed in Eldora, the Trafficones were extorting money from their parents, in order for their safe return and their total silence on the matter. Thanks to her, all of that was history. Zack and Maisy saw Bethany limbering up and gave her a wave, then found their seats and waited for the show to begin. Zack bought two hot dogs and handed one to his girlfriend. Maisy pushed up close to his muscly body. Just as he tried to reciprocate Maisy leaned over him, and put a hand on his shoulder to keep him in his seat. “Do you like me big, Zack?” she asked, blinking slowly. “I like you no matter how big you are,” Zack replied. “I love you, Maisy.” He tried to lean in for a kiss, but Maisy kept him pushed back. She had another bite of hot dog. “I said, do you like me big?” She looked into his eyes, then guided them to the flush of cheerleaders on the dance floor, getting some last minute practice. “See those girls? I used to look like that. I used to have a thigh gap like they do,” she said. “I used to be skinny. I was an hourglass, Zack.” She sucked in, arched her back, and pushed the fat on her waist into herself. She shook back her hair and smiled. There was a mischievous glint in her eye. “You don’t have to change for me, Maisy,” Zack said. “I love you just as you are. You’re beautiful.” Maisy smiled brighter. She breathed out with a sultry sigh. Her belly pushed up against her blouse buttons again. She fingered the bulges that pooched through the lower gaps as she drew the hot dog back to her mouth. “But do you want me big?” She put the snack to her lips, opened up, and puffed out her cheeks as she slid it in. But she didn’t bite down. Instead she slid it out again, slowly and sensually. “Like, really big?” She licked the length of the sausage. She smiled as her boyfriend grew hot under the collar. “Mmmm…like, this big?” She popped off her lowest button and fondled the swell of her belly. Zack’s eyes went wide. “You want this…” she whispered. She began to rub. “You want all of this, don’t you…you want a big fat chick...” “Yesss…” he whispered back. Maisy giggled. He wasn’t faking it after all, she thought. “Good,” she said. She took a big bite of the hot dog. “Becau…mmmphh…because I’m not losing weight.” “What do you mean?” said Zack. “You’re literally not losing weight, or you’re just done?” “Both, I guess,” Maisy shrugged. “I gave up dieting last week, because it sucks. I’ve hit a wall shifting the pounds. If I want to lose any more I might actually have to give up movie and chocolate nights with you.” She pushed the rest of the hot dog into her mouth. “Mmmph…and I’m not prepared to do that. At least, not yet. Not till summer. I’ve booked myself at a fat camp the other side of the country. Wellspring La Jolla.” She shifted to fix her button back over her belly. Zack gave her a hand. “But even then I’m not sure. Like, I’ll try and all, but I could drop two hundred pounds and I’ll still be overweight.” Zack pinched her button close. Maisy breathed out. He brought back his hand and as if on cue, the button on her jeans popped open. “It’s so much effort. Part of me thinks I’m destined to be like this.” “But don’t you want to be like them again?” he asked her, gesturing to the cheerleaders as she let him fix her pants. “I don’t mean it for me. I mean it for you. Don’t you miss being slim sometimes?” Maisy pondered as she chewed another bite of hot dog. She wasn’t sure. She certainly missed shopping at Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch at the mall. But if she started slimming down with that goal in mind, she knew she’d miss out on a lot of yummy food with Zack. Keeping slim would expose her to an unforgiving world of temptation once again. “Think about it,” Zack said. “You could go back to college. You could hit the gym. You could go back to the cheer squad, and then this time maybe in a year or two, I bet you could be on top of that pyramid. You could win this competition.” Maisy grinned. “You really think so?” “Yes” “But then I wouldn’t be able to sit here and do this.” She unzipped his jacket, slowly, down to his belly button. Then she pushed her soft, warm, beautifully big breasts into his chest. This time there was no holding him back. Zack put an arm around her waist and kissed her deeply. She closed her eyes. “Don’t you want a fairytale ending?” he asked her. “It’s ok,” Maisy smiled, dreamily. “I think I’ve already got one.”
  6. The drive to the speedway was wild. Maisy felt every bump and bend as they tore down Route 92. Unable to belt up over her huge hips, she wrapped the seatbelt round her wrist and clung on for dear life. Her stomach sloshed, and her wire-thin bikini strips puckered and pinched. Maisy seized a glob of her massive breasts to stop them rolling free. Eventually the truck began to slow. Maisy craned her neck to the window to see they’d reached the speedway. Zack found a spot in one of the parking lots and pulled the key out of the ignition. “Made it!” he said, smiling his dazed and dizzy girlfriend in the back seat. He looked cautiously through the rear window, eyeing the turnstiles at the gateway, and the boxes with the security staff. “Ughh…” groaned Maisy. “Now what?” “We won’t be able to get past those guys without a ticket. Isn’t there someone inside you know who could get us in?” “Umm…yeah. Her name’s Beth.” said Maisy, still dazed. She picked up her bag from the footwell, pawed around inside, and groaned again as the memory returned. “Damn it, have you got a phone?” Zack handed over his Blackberry and Maisy quickly punched in Beth’s number. “Yeah, I’m here. Come quickly.” Beth said she’d be there as soon as and ended the call. Zack left the truck and opened the back door. Maisy blinked in the light. “You ready?” She nodded with a sigh. Zack took hold of Maisy’s arm and tugged while she kicked, bringing her to the door. It was a slow, straining process for both of them. Maisy rolled slowly out of the truck, sticking out a leg, then an arm, then the swell of the reddened side of her massive, heavy body. She blinked again, looking down the parking lot, as a lithe brunette came into view. “Maisy!” Bethany yelled. “Oh my god!” She helped Zack heave her free of the vehicle. Maisy cringed as she felt hands sink into her thighs, love handles, then shoulders. Zack and Beth held her steady as she planted her feet, letting out a deep puff of breath. Beth pulled her into a hug. Maisy nearly teared up in happiness at seeing her again until she felt the press on her chest. Her friend couldn’t get her arms around her back any more, though she was trying hard. “Maisy…wow, you’re so…” “Fat?” Maisy offered, smirking through the embarrassment. “I was gonna say squishy.” Maisy laughed, and Beth laughed with her. “It’s amazing you got out of there, I was so worried!” “Me too – I’m so glad you called when you did. They were gonna keep me forever…” “I’m so glad you finally picked up! I barely believed it was you, your voice has changed.” “It has?” said Maisy. She caressed her fat-coated neck and chin, realising her tones were quite a bit deeper. “Huh. Oh.” “Seriously, me, your parents, your teachers, we’ve been calling all year to check on you. Nobody got through, there must have been some sort of giant signal jammer.” “There was,” said Zack. “That was before I drove into it yesterday. Spent the night dodging the heat while they combed the beach to find me. Then I stole the truck and got her here.” Bethany leapt at Zack, embracing him in another fierce hug. “Thank you sooo much!” “Hey hey, we’re not out of the woods yet,” he chuckled. “The Trafficones are on the hunt. They’ll be sending their hitmen here any minute. We’ve got to hide Maisy. Is there anywhere we can keep her safe?” Beth glanced at Maisy’s body and bit her lip. “I don’t know. The Velocitorium’s full of people, so we won’t get her anywhere in there. There’s store cupboards but…I don’t think she’ll fit…” A few more sizeable spots came to Maisy’s mind, but the battle was getting there. She knew some were too far away for her thunderous, flabby thighs to carry her. Others meant passing security guards, which in her semi-naked state would be an impossibility. And a lethal risk – if Eldora was full of Trafficone goons, why not their money spinner at the Daytona International Speedway? She wasn’t sure where the mob’s script ended, and real life begun. “Think. Is there any other place you could go?” Bethany asked Maisy. “I’ve read what these guys are capable of – and honestly, I’m not saying this to hurt your feelings, but they’ll see you from a mile away.” “But I want to help,” said Maisy. After cold clocking Annie and watching her boyfriend total a cop car she felt pumped. “I don’t want to go. I wanna fight!” She stamped her foot and clenched her little fists. She let out an annoyed grunt when her wobbly left leg clapped into her right, sending a ripple through her thigh. Maisy furiously grabbed her hanging belly to stop it joining in. She felt Zack and Beth’s eyes on her and with them the painful truth. She was facing down a criminal group with untold amounts of money and firepower, and she weighed five hundred pounds – very little of it muscle. Maisy felt her nerve rescind. I can fight…but if I were a Pokémon, I’d be Magikarp… she pondered wistfully. She felt her tummy rumble. No wait – maybe Snorlax. Her tummy groaned some more, and somehow it rekindled her fury. She wasn’t just hungry for more food. She was hungry for revenge on the people who did this to her. They’d taken her cheerleading figure through a hall of mirrors. She’d worked for a set of washboard abs her whole college life, just to have them traded for a belly that felt like a beach ball loaded with vanilla pudding. All those squats, jumps, jogs and spinning sessions gave her a figure that could have basked with the muses of sculptors and artists. The monumental fatass the mob had erupted from within her had crushed more than just chairs. It had crushed her pride, her position, and most of all, her mercy. Maisy wanted payback. “No. I’m not running any more,” she decided. “Running away was what started all this. And I’m not leaving you guys here. No way. We’re stopping the Trafficones together. We’re wrecking their race, starting right now.” “Maisy – it started like two hours ago.” said Beth. “Huh?” “Shit,” said Zack. “Less time than I thought. It’s ok – it doesn’t usually finish for another hour at least. All’s we have to do is stop Slick Mick from finishing first.” “Oh my god, you mean they’re trying to rig it for him again?” Beth said. “Let’s go to the officials. Tell them what’s happening.” “No,” said Zack. “I heard some of them are in on the fix – I just don’t know which. It’ll be too dangerous. We’ve got to stop the race ourselves. We’ve got to get us in there, then find a way.” Beth had her arms crossed. Her eyes were wandering. “Wait…I’ve just thought of something,” she said. “Wait right there!” She pelted off back to the barrier in front of the entrance, flashed her employee badge to the ticket staff, then ran inside. Maisy was flummoxed. She was even more bemused when Beth returned, stumbling back through the barrier again carrying a colossal brown plush toy. As she stumbled nearer Maisy realised it was wearing racing goggles, and a neckerchief in the colors of a race flag. She then realised it wasn’t a toy, but a mascot costume. When Beth dropped it by her feet, catching her breath, she saw whose costume it was. “Is that Digger from FOX?” Maisy asked. “Yeah,” said Beth. She wiped her brow, bent over the suit and unzipped it down the back. “It’s who you’re going to be today.” “You can’t be fucking serious,” said Maisy, flinching. “I’m not wearing that thing. No way. That is worse than Eldora.” “No – it’s great,” said Zack. “You’ll be hidden. It’s the last place any self-respecting mobster would think of looking.” “We’ll just pretend we’re going to a kid’s birthday party. Security won’t ask. Plus it’s the only thing I can find for you to wear,” said Beth. “For now…sorry…” Maisy became aware of her near-total nakedness again. The droops, curves and bulges of her plump flesh were nearly all plain for all to see. “Okay, fine…” she groaned. She slipped her chubby toes into the giant gopher’s fleecy feet. Beth helped pull the costume over her body while Zack zipped it up at the back. Maisy shoved her arms through her cotton twill equivalents. She pulled a face when she saw her costume’s right hand was moulded into a permanent thumbs-up. Bethany helped brush her tumbling blonde hair down into the neck. “And for the finishing touch…” She picked up Digger’s bulbous, grinning head. Maisy shrunk down as she fixed it over her own. Her world grew dark, but then she found the light through a meshy space beneath the gopher’s buck teeth. “Are you ok in there?” Beth asked her. “How are you feeling, Digger?” “Like digging a hole and never coming out again.” Maisy said, bluntly. Her oversized head muffled her voice. “That’s the spirit!” Beth smiled. She turned to Zack. “Come on, let’s get inside.” Maisy was soon left behind as her friends sprinted away. Swinging her legs, she could only manage a hefty, thigh-slapping tumble of a jog, which soon slowed to a thudding plod. The hot and heavy suit wasn’t helping matters, sealing her breaths, itching her curves, and after little more than ten strides, pooling her sweat. “Guys…nghhh…wait up!” shouted Maisy. Beth mumbled a quick apology as she and Zack doubled back, took her arm in arm and rushed her to the gated entranceway. Maisy eyed the barriers nervously, but she got through the security staff easy enough. They opened up the concessions barrier, and Beth gave them thanks. Zack however, was pushed back and asked for a ticket. Maisy bit her lip. With a black eye and bloody knuckles, her boyfriend didn’t look a likely candidate for a guest at a kid’s party. “I’ll find another way in,” he whispered to Maisy as he backed away. “I won’t leave you again, I promise.” Maisy nodded, feeling her nerves creep up again as she passed the doors to the entrance. Looking around, she saw she was almost alone. The lobby was practically deserted – everyone was in the stands, watching the race. “Well, now what?” she said. “They’re nearly on the hundred and fiftieth lap,” said Bethany, watching one of the television screens mounted on the wall. Mick was leading the pack. “There’s still time. He won’t win if he has an accident.” Maisy looked up at the screen. While the other cars were tightly bunched together in the leading pack, Mick had more room to manoeuvre. Him crashing his number 12 didn’t look likely. Maisy soon saw as the camera panned across the front that he was being protected from the back and sides by other drivers. They’re probably in on the scam Maisy decided. “We’ve got to get rid of those guys,” she told Beth. “They’re helping him win. Is there anything we can do to get them off the track?” “I’ve got it,” Beth said. “Get them when they’re off the track. Quick, follow me.” Maisy bumbled after her in the direction of the food court. Beth got her keychain out of her pocket and opened the back door of the hot dog stand. “We give them hot dogs. Free hot dogs from Digger, for everyone in the pits. They’ve been going three hours without a break, they won’t turn them down.” she whispered in a rush. “Except we undercook them. The bad guys get bad stomachs, they lose focus, Mick loses the race.” “How many hot dogs do we have?” Maisy asked. Leaving the keychain in the door, Beth slipped inside and turned on the lights. Maisy stayed behind the door – in her gopher suit she was simply too wide for the doorway. “Enough,” said Beth. “If we’re cooking most of them halfway we can do this in twenty minutes on the big grill. Get down there in five, say they start feeling it after another quarter hour, and then they’ve got ten minutes to spew the race away.” Beth flicked on the ovens. Maisy sniffed a waft of cooked deliciousness as the little kitchen warmed up. She turned back to try and find out which lap the racers were on. Then she saw Jojo. She knew that the bespectacled, suited guard who’d once stood watch outside her hospital door was one of the mobsters, even before she saw him press a finger to his ear, and whisper something to his fellow. She was rooted to the spot as they broke into a run, lumbering in the direction of the hot dog stand. Maisy stretched out an arm and slammed the metal back door shut. Without a word she twisted the key to lock it, and lackadaisically she threw it behind her. Her eyes were glued to the mobsters. Their fists were tight. Their faces were full of malice as they barged through the crowd. “Move it.” one of them hissed as he shunted her shoulder. She careened backwards into the other one, just as he swept past her. Maisy bumped back on the door. She bent forward, her costumed head wobbling, and only just managed to stay on her feet as they rushed past the hot dog stand for the door to the main building. It clattered shut. She heard their footsteps die away. Maisy breathed out a sigh of relief. She wondered what they’d heard that’d made them run so fast. Then she saw it on a television screen. The commentators were going crazy, and for a moment, she thought she was too. A red pickup truck had broken through the barrier having driven full throttle out of Richard Petty Boulevard. Already it had clattered into two cars, and it was wreaking havoc as it worked its way into the leading pack. “Zack!” Maisy gasped. “Oh my god, Beth, it’s Zack. He’s on the speedway!” She pulled the metal door then remembered she’d locked it. “No way. Seriously?” Beth pushed on the handle from the other side. Maisy searched for the key on the ground. She waddled back a little. On the floor, a few feet away, she saw a grid cover. “Oh no!” Maisy shouted. She looked desperately around the spot. She saw nothing more than discarded trash, billowing in the breeze. Beth cranked the handle. “Maisy, are you there?” she yelled. “Yeah…Beth – I locked you in. We were in danger, I’m so sorry.” “You dropped the keys down a drain, didn’t you?” “Uhh…yeah…nice guess…” “I thought I heard something fall. Listen to me Maisy. Just go, ok? I’ll be safe. I’ll be okay in here. Don’t focus on getting me out of here yet – just stop the race. You and Zack. Right?” Maisy tried one last push on the handle. She cursed her luck. “Okay.” she said, her voice pained. She looked back at the television screen. A squad of safety cars sped off to take control of the race, but their authority was being ignored. Drivers all around were taking the opportunity to make a quick trip to the pits. A pack of six broke away from the mayhem, and amongst them Maisy caught a glimpse of Slick Mick Ovett’s green and purple bonnet. “Tell me what the fuck is going on out there.” Mick spat down his microphone headset as he raced for the front stretch. “Keep going, champ. The dream’s still alive!” his crew chief replied. “I jus’saw half the field hit the pits, for crying out loud. N’ half the other half got blown away that last corner – you’re sure they’re not stopping the race?” “Relax Mick. We won’t let them.” “Someone better stop that there pickup truck. What pills is that guy on?” “Don’t think about him, Mick. The safety cars are keeping him busy. Just stay out of his way. His top speed’s what, one hundred thirty tops? You’re one ninety. Keep on cruisin’.” “Fine. But tell Lebowski to box that son of a bitch.” Snatching the space on the inside lane, Mick hit the gas. “Jesus Christ sweet mother of mercy…” he murmured. He looked to the road ahead. The truck was drifting wildly up a corner, the wheels raking the track as it turned one hundred and eighty degrees. Mick could almost hear the engine scream as it tore off in his direction. “What in tarnation!?” he yelled. Amidst the carnage and chaos, and the howl of the pickup truck as it ripped the wrong way down the back stretch, not one person in the crowd saw a giant gopher waddle across the track. Maisy was gasping and cramping, but she was soon back in safe territory. She had reached the Fanzone, in the center of the track. Slick Mick’s number – 12 – was imprinted on her mind. She knew she had to find his garage and do something, anything, to throw a spanner in the works. If he couldn’t finish the race, all was lost for the Trafficones. She looked out for his pit crew, but couldn’t help but stop with the rest of the gawping crowd as Zack sped towards Mick. It was Mick who broke first – his car slid off the track, gouging out a dirty stripe in the grass as he forced it back on. Maisy felt butterflies creep into her stomach watching Zack turn around again and power back into the fray. She soon realised that he couldn’t keep up with Mick’s car. She had to do something to help. The garages were close by, but they were chock full of people, and they wouldn’t be in use while the race was in progress. If Maisy wanted to catch Mick, she’d have to do it at the pit stop. She waddled past the crowds of gawping people, thankful that they weren’t gawping at her but at the pandemonium on the speedway. The track was a ribbon of ruins, and the pits themselves looked like a bomb site – drivers were limping in with cars streaked with destruction. Maisy spied a heavy duty monkey wrench abandoned the floor. She picked it up with her left glove, as she couldn’t tear her fingers free of the wacky thumbs up on her right. It was heavy, but she felt it’d be handy to have. If she could just get one solid hit on Mick’s bonnet or his windshield, he might be out of action long enough to gift someone else the race win. The case of getting to Mick’s car was a different matter. The pits were a hive of danger – sparks flew, and shards of twisted metal peppered the asphalt. Maisy knew this was no place for a five-hundred pound girl in a bulky and potentially flammable all-in-one. There had to be a different way to Mick’s car, when it arrived. Maisy looked at the stand that watched over the pit road. Again it was loaded with people, but it had a prime vantage point over the spot Mick would inevitably have to pass once his pit crew had finished their work. More sweat poured from between her rolls as she ascended the stairs, choking and straining. She pushed past the fans that lined the barrier – her path was impeded by a couple that put their arms around her. “Selfie!” one of them smiled, trying to capture her fluffy head on one side and the chaos on the track in the other. Maisy tried her best to ease her way through, shimmying and squeezing, bumping some of the bigger folks with her belly. She glanced around and saw that Mick was slowing down. Zack had damaged his car enough to warrant an emergency pit stop. She eased her wide legs back into motion, waddling to the end of the stand. If she could throw her spanner at his bonnet as he was leaving, he’d need to go back in to the pits for a damage review. He’d lose precious seconds, and at this late stage, maybe the Harley J. Earl Trophy too. Maisy nudged herself into a free space right at the edge and watched an irksome Slick Mick get a tyre change, a refuel, and some hasty repairs on his bodywork. She knew she only had one shot, and that her chances were slim. The last new tyre was riveted in. Maisy heard the roar of Mick’s engine. Someone hurriedly eased down the jack under the chassis. She leaned on the barrier, eyes on his front tyre, raising her left arm behind her. It was heavy and weak, bowing under the weight of the wrench. She needed to be closer. Mick began to pull away. She pushed up more to the barrier, then heard the metal groan. Maisy lurched forward as it bent, then broke its rusty rivets. She squealed as she fell clean off the stands. She struck the roof of Mick’s car belly first with an ear-splitting thwack. Digger’s head tumbled off her and hit the asphalt. The fans on the platform gasped. She groaned, stirred, then wiggled her fingers and toes. Her body ached, but the only thing she’d broken was Mick’s roof flap. The thick suit and her blubbery fat, it seemed, had cushioned her fall. She saw flashing lights from above, as a hundred people around her grabbed their phones and took a picture of her, limply spread-eagled on the top of the leading vehicle. She turned her head and pushed her chubby cheek into the top of the windscreen. Maisy she opened her eyes wide and looked at Mick, slack-jawed in the driver’s seat. He hissed a ferocious string of expletives through his helmet, then tugged at his window net. It didn’t move. He put both hands on it, tore at it, then kicked it. But Maisy had buckled the roof so far in that the window was unusable as an exit. Without any doors, Slick Mick was stuck in his car. “No!” he screamed. He watched his opponents zoom by on the track ahead. His pit crew stood motionless, disbelieving. “NOOO!” Maisy smiled down through her dishevelled golden mop of hair. “Hehhe. Karma, huh? Guess you shouldn’t have made me so fat.” She pursed her lips and blew him a kiss. Mick snarled, and snatched at the stick shift. The cheerleader yelped as the car juddered back into gear, taking off with her still wobbling on the roof, reaching ten, twenty, thirty miles per hour out of the pit road. He turned wildly onto the tri-oval to re-join the race. Maisy slipped off the roof with a scream, plunging onto the track as Mick sped away to chase the pack. Stunned, Maisy felt herself sliding, rolling in her suit down from the 31-degree angled corner. The Digger suit left her stuck on her back, like a turtle. She kicked and strained, but she could barely lift her shoulders. There was no getting up from this one. Not without help. But Bethany was still trapped in the food court, and Zack was tearing up the track in his truck all the way at the other end of the oval. Maisy’s eyes traced the route, and she caught sight of a lone Chevrolet Camarro one the back stretch. It was speeding right towards her. She fumbled for the suit zipper. She could feel it digging into her ass, but she couldn’t squeeze an arm down to reach it. Maisy tried desperately to roll a little more. She bucked her hips, shook her shoulders, but she couldn’t shift her frame. The car was accelerating as it pulled closer and closer. She squealed, whimpering. A hundred feet away, someone slammed the brakes. The car skidded, pulling sideways, coming to a halt just yards from her position. The door clicked open, and a set of colored lights flashed from the rooftop. Maisy sighed, delirious. It was a safety car. The floodlights over the catching nets beamed above her as she felt someone lift her legs, and she felt the rush of adrenaline evaporate from her mind. The heat and exhaustion returned in rising waves. Maisy felt her back ache, her head throb, and her soft chest get fearsomely tight. Slowly, she slipped out of consciousness.
  7. It was the aroma of more pancakes that woke Maisy in the morning – or almost the morning. She had snoozed till quarter past twelve. Having missed her breakfast, her tummy rumbled softly while she sniffed the air with a slight smile. Annie was downstairs, making caramel coated pancakes. Maisy tried to sit up, and couldn’t. Her smile disappeared, and her brow creased up in concern as she pushed her chins into her chest, twisted, and barely moved. She dug her elbows into the spongy mattress and pushed. Baffled, she nudged her back on the pillows and rustled the duvet off herself. Maisy balked at her body. She reached out with her arms for an invisible ladder to grab on to, wiggling and shuffling. Feeling a sharp pinch of wire in her side, she realised she’d fallen asleep with a bra on – but it lay in her fat rolls, split in half. Whoa. Is it just me or have I gotten fatter? she wondered. Maisy’s pupils widened. She had grown more – much more. Her butt, her belly and her thighs were a turgid blob, pooling together. Layers of underarm flab brushed past her cheeks as she stretched. She threw her arms down and tried to use the momentum to rise. It was useless. Ufff… holy cow… Maisy was red-faced when the door creaked open. Annie, with a spring in her step and a cheery good afternoon placed a platter of pancakes upon Maisy’s doughy belly, leaving with a warm smile. Maisy watched the platter rise and fall on herself as she breathed heavily. You’re dreaming she told herself. This is a dream. Eat up your pancakes and maybe they’ll help you wake up. You need energy, that’s all. She pushed her head against the headboard, took her knife and fork and steadily munched her way through the honey and caramel drizzled stack. When there were just crumbs, crusts and drops of honey left Maisy put the platter to one side and tried to lift herself out of bed again. She did not move. The mattress was too spongy for her to push herself up, and her widened expanses were heavily restricting her movement. Maisy was determined not to leave herself adhered to her bed for the rest of the day. Bucking her huge hips, she managed to edge her heels over the side. She shuffled her legs over, then her belly sloshed to one side, and she yelped as she rolled off the bed. She hit the shag carpet on the floor with a big thump. Her fat rippled and jiggled, more than ever before. Maisy cursed. On a solid surface, she was able to find her feet, slowly. Her stomach jiggled and bound in front of her. She could feel rolls pushing her arms out to the sides. Groaning, she pushed back her tattered blonde mane and waddled around the bed for the phone on the bedside table. She sat back down on the edge of the bed, grimaced as she felt herself sink again, then called Bethany. She took a while to pick up. While she waited, Maisy scooped up the leftover pancake bits and let them fall into her open mouth. “Maisy? Is that you?” “Mmmpphh…hey Beth. You’re coming when the race is finished, right? This is getting insane. I feel like I swallowed a lead balloon.” “Maisy, thank god. Listen to my voice and don’t say a word. Don’t let them hear you.” Bethany’s voice was a rushed whisper. Concerned, Maisy pressed the phone close to her ear. “What’s up?” she whispered back. “I found Eldora on Wikipedia,” Bethany said. “It’s a ghost town. According to this, there’s just two run-down buildings, and no people. It’s been that way since the eighties. You’re living in somewhere off the grid, entirely. The government doesn’t know you exist.” “Umm…that’s ok, right?” said Maisy. “I’m in a witness protection programme. This place is probably kept on the down low on purpose. You know, so the bad guys won’t find me.” “Maisy…I think they already have.” She heard the fear creep into her best friend’s voice. She took a breath. “Listen, the only other stuff I dug up about Eldora was a set of minutes from a consortium meeting used as evidence in a case that got thrown out of a circuit court session. That meeting was about the building work they were doing there; literally the whole community was constructed just two years ago, without the county’s knowledge. I looked up the companies who had guys on site – Windy City Drywall, the Lucchese Construction Group, Celafu’s Trucking and Dumpmaster’s – all of them have links to the Trafficones.” Maisy shivered when she heard the name. The gangsters had long been out of her thoughts. “They know you’re there, Maisy,” said Beth. “And I know this sounds crazy, but I think they’re the ones doing this to you. They’ve trying to fatten you up.” Maisy grasped a love handle and smoothed her fingers out. A bead of sweat appeared on her brow. She clenched her supple stomach fat. They’ve done well… she thought to herself. “Why?” she whispered. “Just…why?” “I don’t know, but the earpiece thing you told me about, the free Bubbunut doughnuts delivered to your door – it all makes sense. And that ‘Anne Gretel’ lady you told me about – I think the mob’s putting serious pressure on her to keep feeding you. They must have given her that name…it’s like the bedtime story, Hansel and Gretel. Anne Gretel, you get it?” Maisy paled. “Hannah Selles. I’m meant to be Hansel…” she realised. “Oh my god.” She felt her thighs, her arms and squeezed her chubby fingers. “Shit. Beth, I’m stuffed to burst,” she said desperately. “What’s gonna happen to me? Are they gonna eat me? What should I do?” “Get out, and don’t call the police.” Bethany said. “The Trafficones might have their own people in the office. Remember you’re living in a paper town, with paper people, cut right from a storybook. Anyone there – and I mean anyone, from the bus drivers to the doctors to the people in the stores, could be on their payroll. Be careful who you talk to – you don’t know who might be in on it…jesus, I’ve really got to go.” She heard her garble something to their boss. “Just get out of there while you still can. Do whatever it takes to get back to Daytona. It’s the only place where we can be sure you’ll be safe. Call me again when you’re somewhere we both recognise. Then I’ll lock up and come find you. Okay?” “Okay,” Maisy breathed. “Okay.” Hearing footsteps, she hit the red phone button and buried the handset under her pillow, just as a whistling Annie shimmied past the bedroom door. It would be easier not to let the big old lady know she was abandoning her to the mob’s mercy. Maisy felt a twinge of guilt as she eased herself from the bed and began slowly packing up her handbag. Her Granny Annie had been so nice to her. But it was long past time to fly the nest. Maisy did not want to know how the story the Trafficones were writing for her was meant to end. Her handbag ready with her phone, keys, purse and a bottle of water, she opened her wardrobe and pawed around for clothes. Maisy quickly realised that her recent spate of rapid gaining would render her stuff useless. Her summery dresses had been too tight two weeks ago. She gave one a try, and found it wouldn’t even come close to slipping over her thighs, or her hips. Feeling around her smooth skin, Maisy realised her snug panties were gone too. They lay on her mattress by her bra, twisted and torn. Improvising, Maisy found her blue bikini from her fateful day at the pool. The giant tear had left her belly fully-bared – taking it in her fingers, she tore it till the suit was in two pieces. She winced as she stretched the topmost over her head and brought it down to her boobs. With a squeeze and a shuffle, she was able to plant some of the shot material over her nipples. She planted a foot on the other half, then pulled up, letting the seams snap till the gap was wide enough. Then she edged her thunderous legs in, inch by inch, till the bikini was strung tight just under her hanging belly. Maisy grabbed her bedsheet and let it fall over her shoulders, cloaking her ass. It was the best she could do. She wanted to wrap it around her legs, to at least give her the semblance from afar of being covered up, but she knew it would only limit her much-beleaguered pace even more. She’d have a lot of walking to do before she could reach the bus stop. Maisy put a hand on her hip and frowned. She was not looking forward to it. Maisy brushed both sides of the doorway as she shuffled through. She slowly waddled down the corridor and reached the top of the stairs. Maisy took a deep breath, then made her way down. Every step turned the cheerleader’s flesh into a jiggling sea. She felt like an inflatable castle. She tried to step short and low in the hope of a quiet exit, but she could not stop the whining and groaning of the wood beneath her feet, nor her own heavy breathing once she reached the bottom. Simply putting one foot in front of the other – a troublesome task when she could barely see them – had gotten taxing, mentally and physically. Undeterred, Maisy smoothed over her bedsheet, pushed back her hair and waddled to the front door. Annie was stood in the doorway, wearing an apron. She turned her hip to face her. “Now where in the world do you think you’re going?” she said in a Southern drawl. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking of missing the big race?” “Oh no, actually, that is where I’m going.” said Maisy. She cursed herself inside for saying that. Remembering what had happened with the mob last year she knew it might trigger her hostess’s fears. Maisy’s face turned stony as Annie looked her in the eyes, but then a nervous blush filled her cheeks as she realised she was giving her a once over. She took a big breath in, but she knew even beneath her billowing sheet there was no hiding her new bulginess. “But sweetie, surely you can’t go dressed like that?” said Annie. “Why those drapes ain’t clean. And besides, I made you some nice warm popcorn. Here, come to the living room. You’ve got the best seat in the house.” Annie led her away from the door. Maisy reluctantly trudged behind her. Her rocking chair was in front of the television, and beside it was a mountain of popcorn peeking out of a wide bowl, smothered in sugar. To her left was a bubbling fresh soda in a bucket-sized cup. “Umm…thanks. Really. But I kinda need to go soon.” said Maisy. “Never mind about that, darling, you look so worn out already.” Annie said as she lifted the handbag out of Maisy’s arms. “Here, take a seat…” She pushed gently on Maisy’s soft shoulders. Maisy felt the slightest kink in her knees before they gave way. She plopped her ass down onto the rocking chair, feeling herself mould into its cosy softness. “Comfy?” Annie asked her. “Yeah…” Maisy said, suddenly drowsy. Ok, just a little more food she told herself. Keep her smiling. Don’t let her in on what you’re about to do. Maisy let a couple minutes pass. Her eyes wandered from the ad break on screen to the door. She had a long sip of soda, a few bites of popcorn, and then had an idea for half-decent excuse. “Do you mind if I just go for a walk round the block?” she called to the kitchen. “I’ve been sitting around here for weeks, I think I need a little exercise.” Annie clankered with some pans. Maisy figured she couldn’t hear her. “I mean, it’s hot out, I don’t need to be fully dressed,” she said a little louder. “I can get some fresh sea air, burn off a few calories, you know? I love your cooking but I’m turning into a blimp.” She patted her stomach for emphasis. Annie shimmied back into the lounge. Please help me out… Maisy stressed inside. Just a little walk outside the house. They won’t hurt you if I run away. You’ve done your job so well already… “I don’t want to be like, five hundred pounds.” Maisy said to her. She pouted, then smiled sadly, giving her belly another pat. “You know?” “Oh, pumpkin…” Annie took Maisy’s hand and gave one of her fingers a squeeze. “You’re already there.” “Huh?” said Maisy. Her plump face was a picture of bemusement. “We had the floor cut out and installed a cattle scale in your bedroom…” “What? Who’s we?” “It’s under the shag carpet,” Annie continued. “We got a reading when you rolled off your bed an hour ago. Five hundred pounds…geez…we were surprised you didn’t keep rolling. You’ve gotten pretty darn fat, Hannah…” Annie’s voice had changed on that last word. The kindly old lady had disappeared. Instead a ragged, husky bark filled the air. Maisy felt a chill go down her spine. “Who are you?” she asked, heart racing. “Are you one of them?” Anne Gretel offered a sickly smile that creased her wrinkles up just a little too far. They stayed hideously crinkled when she straightened her lips. She sighed, pushed a finger under her chin and peeled her face away. The woman beneath was younger, and harsh-looking. She reached a hand behind her head and tore off her silver perm. A shock of spiky, close cropped red hair folded out from beneath. “Heh,” she chuckled. “Bet you wish you could do this, you tubby fuck.” The woman winked. Maisy shuddered. She watched her Granny Annie stretch her arms and took off her flowery gown – underneath, she was wearing a fat suit. She ripped off the Velcro straps at the back and let it fall to the floor, leaving her in a slashed t-shirt and jeans. Her bare arms were covered in tattoos. “So good to be free…” she sighed. She gave the fat suit a kick. “You know, I weighed myself in that thing on your scale, when you were out with Andy – sorry, Zack, whatever we called him. I was two-hundred and fifty pounds. Can you believe that?” Maisy was speechless. “Heh. Yeah, half what you are now. Imagine gaining, like, a hundred and twenty pounds every morning. Oh wait…” Annie jabbed a finger into Maisy’s massive tummy. “I guess you sorta can. You’ve put on a hundred this week alone, you greedy pig. Seven stone and two pounds, courtesy of a doctor friend of ours. We’ve been keeping tabs.” Maisy’s eyes bulged. She barely reacted as Annie grabbed her belly, and gave it a shake. “Better start watching what you eat, huh? You don’t wanna lose your figure…” She let go and smirked as she watched Maisy’s flabby fat make waves. “Or maybe watch what we’ve been putting in your drinks. They sure have been working a charm. I gotta say it was never our intention to use those pills, but your pretty pretend boyfriend screwed up Plan B. That was to fatten you up to the point of humiliation, then humiliate your fat ass so hard you’d never think of showing your face in public. And definitely not at the Daytona International Speedway.” Maisy trembled. They knew she realised. Just like Bethany had said. They knew from the very beginning. “But alas, pretty boy got the wrong ideas in his head,” Annie spat. “He nearly gave the game away. So the Commissioner decided we had to switch to Plan C. Fatten you up even more, to the point of no return. Make you so big and fat you couldn’t even walk through a doorway. So fat, you can’t even get out of a rocking chair.” It took a while for it to dawn on Maisy. At first, she was convinced that it wasn’t true. She planted her feet on the floor and tried to stand up. She blanched as she felt herself rock back. She rolled forward and tried again. Her legs, weak and achy, couldn’t aid her rise. She breathed in and strained, her belly jiggling. She was stuck tight. “How could you…hnnghh…how could you do this to me?” Maisy pushed uselessly against her armrests. She had to feel for the wood between her rolls of fat, too thick for her to look over and see just how tightly she was stuck. Her oppressor pressed in close to her ear. “Believe me Hannah, it could have been so much worse,” Annie cooed. “Plan A was to involve you in an accident. A tragic fall from the stands onto the racecourse, maybe, or a headlong crash – I know Slick Mick would have been happy to oblige.” “You – you’re in league with that loser…” “Yeah. Unfortunately.” she grimaced. “He’s been with us just since before you poked your nose into our little business deal.” The television flashed with a bolt of green and the number 12, and on cue Mick graced the screen. “Heh. He has more DUIs than false teeth, and by that I mean a lot. He has more chicks who dig him than wins in races, and by that I mean none,” said Annie. “But we were going to make him a champion that day at the Daytona 500, against the odds. To the benefit of everybody except the bookies…” Annie leant in close to Maisy’s ear. “But those assholes laughed all the way to the bank,” she hissed. “Mick Ovett didn’t race, and we didn’t get our money back. Your little run-around cost us twenty million dollars. You better be happy. You should be a skid mark on the A1A. Instead, you’re in the lap of luxury, stuffing your fat face.” She seized a handful of popcorn and crammed it into Maisy’s gaping mouth. Maisy wobbled her arms and tried to push her hand off her lips. Annie was too strong. “So that’s how we can do this to you, Hannah.” she said. “A vengeance wish and a few wads of cold, hard, dirty cash.” Her lungs aching, Maisy was forced to gulp down the popcorn. Annie stuck a thumb in her thick double chin and pressed till she opened up. She stuffed another fistful of popcorn in Maisy’s mouth, then let go with a twisted smile. “Though honestly, for the most part you’ve been doing this to yourself. We barely even needed the weight gain stimulants I snuck into your hot chocolate last night – pretty soon you’d have pigged out to five hundred pounds anyway, greedy little pig that you are.” She gave her wide belly a big slap. Maisy desperately wanted to give her one back, to the face. She threw herself forward, struggling to lift an arm. Annie took a slow step to the left, chuckling as the blow drifted way past her, and laughing as Maisy tipped backwards in the rocking chair, jiggling and cursing. Her fat bunched as she rolled back and forth. “Stupid…bitch…” Annie only laughed. Maisy wiped the sweat off her brow then let her arms collapse. Her furious struggle had done little more than make her breathless. She closed her eyes, seething while she continued to rock. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” Annie said, when the rocking had stopped. “I don’t think you’ll have much more use for this.” She whipped Maisy’s phone out of her handbag. “I’m surprised you still do, seeing how fat your fingers have gotten.” She left the room and laid it on the counter in the kitchen. Maisy heard two sharp smacks as she smashed it with a rolling pin. She came back into the living room, smiling at the cracked up screen. She nudged a finger into the exposed circuitry and prised out a strange black widget, no bigger than a nickel. “This is a bug, since you clearly haven’t been aware,” Annie said with a sly smirk. “We heard all of the little conversation you had just then. Your friend’s really smart. She only got one thing wrong. Anne Gretel really is my name. I’ve just been playing the part of the witch.” “No fucking kidding.” Maisy shouted. Annie offered another sickly smile. She dropped the shattered phone pieces back into her handbag, then tossed the bag to the far corner of the room, letting the contents fall across the floor. “Yeah, it’s too bad we’ll have to deal with Bethany. Maybe we could make her Gretel, on pain of death. Somebody else needs to bring you your food, after all. It’s tough work, keeping your fat belly satisfied.” Maisy bared her teeth. The thought of Bethany falling into the Trafficone’s clutches sent a spike of determination coursing through her. She thrust herself against her wicker restraint. Her fat flailed. It was still no use. “Would you like a hot dog, Hannah pumpkin?” Annie chuckled. “Stop…hnggnnhh…calling me that…” Maisy lay back, gasping and rocking. Her belly grumbled. Annie smiled. “Of course you would. I’ll fix some up for you.” She turned the volume up on the television till it was blaringly loud and left the remote on the coffee table, just out of Maisy’s reach. “Enjoy the race, pig.” She walked back to the kitchen. Maisy heard the sound of more clattering pans and the fridge door opening. “Maybe next month, we could watch the Cheer America championships and reminisce,” Annie shouted over the noise of the announcers. “Think about how you should be there competing, except for the teensy-weensy little detail that you’ll be too fucking fat to leave the house!” Maisy watched the silver car logo materialise on the television screen. ‘DAYTONA 500, THE GREAT AMERICAN RACE’ it read. ‘NASCAR ON FOX’. She kicked and swore and swore and kicked, and succeeded only in spilling caramel-slathered popcorn all over herself. She closed her eyes. Her humiliation was complete. She was beaten, trapped, and without a hope. Maisy buried her pudgy face in her hands, just as Slick Mick’s pockmarked mug flashed on the screen again. She felt him sneering at her, chuckling. The whole year that had passed since she’d heard him on the radio had been scripted, and executed almost perfectly without her ever catching on. How had she been so naïve? She had become so massively overweight. She wished she’d done something sooner. Not all of it had simply snuck up on her, like the last hundred pounds. Maisy cursed. How could she have let herself get like this, and do nothing to fight it? She was fit, toned and spritely once. And now I’m too fat to leave the house… Maisy kicked her useless legs and swore again at her bare, fatty flesh. But then, she realised something. She was fat. Yes, she was enormously fat. But the cheerleading competition was still next week. Annie had hinted that she wasn’t too fat yet. She remembered about the tabs on her. They’d probably seen her every tiresome move. Maybe she wasn’t too fat. It meant however miniscule, there was still at least a chance of her escaping by herself. With new belief Maisy thrust herself forward. Once more, her bulging tummy put a stop to her getting free of the tight chair. There has to be another way she told herself. Then she realised there literally was. She waited till the chair had steadied again, and then began to bob side to side. The wood creaked. Maisy stretched out her arms, the fat wobbling. She felt the curved bands at the bottom rise on her left. Then clenching her teeth, she hurled herself leftward. The walls raced up around her as she tipped over. The screaming of tyres on track beamed from the highlight reel on the TV covered up the noise of her fall, and the snap of the armrest as Maisy landed her full weight upon it. She pushed the broken chair off herself slowly and lay low, watching Annie’s shadow in the doorway. With a puff of bated breath she blew her hair out of her eyes. She saw Annie leaning over the grill. The sausages were still cooking – though they wouldn’t be cooking for much longer. Licking her lips, Maisy repeated the feat she’d performed after rolling out of bed – pushing her hands down, easing a knee up into her drooping belly, resting on it, then using a shelf to aid her rise back to two feet again. Her legs quivered as she took gentle steps to the door, gawping at just how exhausted getting up had made her feel. The soft carpet muffled the sound of her heavy footfalls. Soon she was at the kitchen doorframe. She peered across the crack in the door and saw Annie, flipping sausages. Maisy stepped in. Anne Gretel chose that moment to turn around. She stared dumbstruck at the colossal blonde filling up the doorway. Before anyone could say anything, Maisy charged. She couldn’t think of anything else. Her wobbly legs lifted her three booming paces, then her belly collided against Annie with a scintillating thud. The tattooed woman flew backwards. The sausages flew through the air. The plate crashed, and Annie’s head struck the side of the oven. She slumped on the kitchen floor, out cold. Maisy balked, shocked that she was standing over her nemesis. She desperately wanted to say something cool, but knew now wasn’t the time to think. She had to escape Eldora. She grabbed back her handbag and fumbled for a pair of slippers from the shoe rack. She pulled the door open, took a big breath of fresh air, turned to the side and squeezed her massive stomach out of the house. The cheerleader’s journey began with a single step, and it already left her feeling drained. She threw her legs forward into a shaky, waddling run. A body that once had jogged her all the way to Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and back was soon screaming for rest. Maisy’s bouncing boobs began to hurt. Soon she was reduced to a plodding stride, but she powered on out of the street. She gripped her bedsheet tight. The bus stop was in sight. She could only pray that the driver wasn’t a story character too. Suddenly, she heard the rumble of an engine drawing close. A cop car pulled up next to her. A window wound down. “Is there a problem, Ma’am?” the driver asked her. “No.” Maisy gasped, keeping her head forward. “Just out for a morning jog…” The car followed her slowly, no faster than one mile per hour. “Well, we admire your drive to keep fit, but I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us,” the driver said. “This is a residential area, and you’re improperly clothed.” “It’s fine…I’m wearing panties, I swear…ugghhh…” Maisy said, glancing down at herself as she continued her run. She out her sheet with one hand, grabbed her waving belly with the other and lifted it up to show the blue material. “Here, see. Look. Panties….god….” “Ma’am, please stop jogging and get in the car. You don’t want to face an arrest for indecent exposure.” Maisy ignored the cop. She left the kerb and ploughed across the road. The car slipped into second gear and cut in front of her, blocking her path to the sidewalk. “Or for jaywalking,” the driver added. “Though it’s a little too late now.” Maisy glared at his thick black moustache and his sunglasses. His bald partner opened the door on the other side and unclipped some handcuffs from his belt. “But I’m crossing mid-block. That’s not an offence. Not in Florida.” she protested. The last thing she needed after escaping Annie’s house was to be put in a holding cell. “Whatever, Maisy.” the bald cop said, walking up to her. “You don’t write the rules round here.” Maisy took a step back. “How do you know my name’s Maisy?” The bald man blanked her. Behind him, the one in the sunglasses raised his eyebrows. “You’re not real officers.” Maisy realised. “You’re with them.” The sunglasses cop put a walkie talkie receiver to his mouth and whispered something. Maisy caught the word ‘Commissioner.’ She tried desperately to run away. Her belly slapped her legs as she turned, nearly losing her balance. The bald cop reached in his holster and drew a taser. He aimed for her back. Then suddenly, he dropped his weapon and dived onto his partner through the front seat. There was a roaring howl as a four-door pickup truck swallowed up the spot where he’d been standing and smashed straight into the cop car. Maisy hit the deck. The car spun out of control, up the kerb, crunching into a lamppost. A puff of black smoke seeped from the bonnet. Maisy spluttered. A wave of pressure pounded her chest as her fat scraped on the sidewalk. She felt like she was going to vomit. She heard a door click open. “Maisy!” shouted Zack. He grabbed her hand and hauled her to her feet. Maisy was dazed as she felt his course hands brush the grit and gravel off her belly. She looked at him, hugged him, and gave him a long, deep kiss. “You came back,” she mumbled through his lips. “You saved me.” “Almost. Not yet. We have to go,” Zack said as they pulled away. “They’ve got people all over us, and they know what we’re doing. Hurry, get in the truck.” He opened the rear door and helped push her in. Maisy noticed that he was sporting a black eye, and bruises on his knuckles. “You’re hurt…” she said. Her ass spread across the leather seat. “Yeah, I got in a fight,” Zack said, giving her a push. “Me and some ex-friends had a disagreement. But don’t worry,” He winked. “I won.” Maisy flopped to one side as she crammed the rest of her body into the vehicle. She squirmed to right herself. Zack dashed around to the front seat, reversed from the scene of the collision, then powered down the road, hitting a hundred miles per hour. Maisy lay down, trying her best not to roll off the seat into the footwell. “Where are we going?” she yelled over the noise of the accelerator. The truck hit a bump and her body briefly turned to jelly. “To Daytona!” Zack yelled. “We’ve got a party to crash!” He switched gear, then stretched his arm back. Looking ahead, he gave her hand a nervous squeeze as they zoomed over the bridge on River Halifax. Maisy held on tight. Miles away, the moustachioed cop spilled out of his totalled vehicle. His broken sunglasses fell from his face. He thumbed his broken nose and grunted in pain, before fumbling for his radio. Outside his partner had found his feet, but not the better part of his eyesight. Blood continued to pool over his eyes as he treated the gash on his forehead. He swore viciously. “Commissioner,” the cop grumbled when he found the black receiver. “Hansel is out the cage. I repeat, Hansel is out the cage.” There was a pause. “Switch to Plan D.” an icy voice replied. The cop nervously signed off, and changed the radio frequency. “Calling all available associates. Plan D is in force. Plan D is in force. D for Daytona. We’ve got a Daytona 5-0-0” He coughed blood. “I repeat, Daytona 5-0-0.”
  8. The next morning, Zack barely spoke to her. Maisy woke up alone in her bed, a little miffed to find Zack wasn’t still using her breasts as a pillow, but still in bliss from the fond memories of the night before. She found the plate and breakfasted on the remnants of the chocolate cake. Rising to her feet still naked, she got up to find her boyfriend. She saw him in the bathroom, fully dressed, packing his swim shorts and a towel into a zip-up bag. “Aren’t you getting ready?” he asked without facing her. “We’ve gotta leave soon.” “Where are we going?” Maisy asked. “The waterpark, remember?” “Oh yeah,” said Maisy. “I thought we were going to make muffins today, though?” “Later” Zack said. “I already bought our wristbands. We’ve gotta go now.” “Ok.” Maisy frowned as she made her way to the closet. She hadn’t been all that enthusiastic about the idea when Zack set a date a week ago; she’d hope her reluctance had convinced him to change his mind. It hadn’t, and she’d begun to wish she had the strength to just say no. But she couldn’t say that, because she knew Zack would ask why. No matter what excuse she came up with, he’d probably discover the truth. Maisy found her one-piece navy blue bikini, curled in a ball in the corner of the closet. It did not fit her. It hadn’t really fit the last time she’d worn it at their beach date a month ago, and she’d only put on more weight since then. She ruled out asking Zack for help – she didn’t want him to see her struggling with something that was supposed to be so simple. Maisy stepped into the suit and pulled the straps up to her shoulders, grunting as she felt a massive wedgie. She was not comfortable. The suit cut harshly into her fat, especially around her arms, and between her thighs. Around her belly the material was stretched so much the colour had changed from navy blue to sky. It rubbed against her as she walked around the bed for her jeans and the shirt she’d worn last night – she knew it was a little lazy, but she wasn’t in the mood for rooting around for a different ensemble that again, might not fit her. Zack stayed distant on the drive over to Daytona Lagoon. She wanted to ask him what was wrong, but she didn’t want to potentially start a fight, right before they had a date together. She hoped the water park would lift up his spirits. Once they got there, neither of them found joy. No sooner had they stripped to their swimwear and met outside the changing rooms than Zack made an excuse and left her, saying he wanted to do a few lengths of the wave pool. “Just to tone up,” he said. “I’ve not been to the gym in a while.” “If you want to tone up, why not just go to the gym?” said Maisy, a hint of irritation in her voice. “Who works out in a wave pool?” “I’ll be an hour. Have fun.” Maisy scowled at him as he walked away. He’d rather spend an hour getting splashed around swimming the same pool over and over than spend time with me? She dawdled in the opposite direction, procured an inflatable tube, then sat in it as she wound around the lazy river. It helped sooth her mood, but not her concerns. What was on his mind? Her legs soon tired from gently kicking, and so she simply lay back and relaxed. Her eyelids felt heavy, but they soon snapped open when she saw a petite, dark haired girl drift elegantly beneath her under the water. The girl broke the surface and flicked her hair back with a flourish. “Gotta say Hannah, I couldn’t tell you apart from the tube under there,” said Serena. She smiled wickedly. “Is that huge blue thing in the middle really your ass?” Maisy grimaced. She wanted to stick a finger up and leave, but the only way would mean her paddling against the river current. She didn’t want to give Serena the satisfaction of watching her try, and quite possibly fail. “Yeah.” she said, bluntly. She tried to think of an insult to hit back with, but nothing came to mind. She could only pretend the words were bouncing off her. “Do you seriously not notice yourself getting fatter?” Serena asked. “It’s ridiculous. I swear it’s like you’ve gained me on top of you since last year. Back when you were like twice my size anyway.” “Maybe I’m worth three of you,” Maisy said, gritting her teeth. “My boyfriend thinks so.” “You have a boyfriend?” Serena said, raising her eyebrows. “Yeah…” “Really? Where is he?” “He’s working out.” “Oh, I see, just like you’re clearly not,” Serena laughed. She stretched out an arm and swam gracefully to the side of the river. “I’d keep an eye on him if I were you. You’re getting so out of shape. You could forgive him for looking over your shoulder.” “Shut up,” Maisy muttered. “He likes me like this.” She puffed out her chest. Her burgeoning boobs had grown nearly to the size of Serena’s head. Maisy looked down at her mortal enemy’s bosom and smirked. She had nothing to compare in that department. “Well, my boyfriend likes a girl who can touch her toes,” Serena said. “Can you even see yours over those things? Or is it your belly that gets in the way?” “Go fuck yourself.” Maisy cursed. Serena only sniggered. “Fuck myself? Let me meet your boyfriend first, I’m sure he’d love to help,” she called, backstroking away. “Later tubby.” Serena glided over to the steps. Maisy seethed as she sat for one more circuit, then flopped out of her tube and left the lazy river. Feeling stung, she sought out Zack from the edge of the wave pool and called him over. He finished the remainder of his lap, then swam over to her. “What is it?” he asked. “It’s nothing. Can we go get food?” “Yeah.” Zack shrugged. “Alright.” They found seats at the WAVE bar, and she offered to pay for her meal and his in the hope that it might cheer him up. He said nothing. Something was clearly on his mind. He barely touched his fries and pizza while Maisy chowed down hungrily. “Some bitch picked on me while you were away.” she muttered, looking at Zack as if it were his fault. He was still looking past her. “She said I was tubby…” She let the words hang, hoping they’d send him into war mode. But he looked like he was hardly listening. Maisy pouted, then seized a slice of his pizza and stuffed it in her mouth to try and catch his eye. Even then he paid her no mind. She ended up finishing her meal and most of his. She wiped her plump lips with a napkin. “What do you want to do now?” she asked Zack. “Some weights? Got to a sauna, maybe?” Zack shrugged, then looked over her shoulder. “Err…maybe we could go on that one?” he said, pointing to Adventure Mountain. It was a pair of pink and green slides that spiralled from a big blue platform. Maisy left the money on the table and approached the long flights of metal stairs. Conscious of her jiggling ass, she let Zack pass her, then followed up behind him, pulling her way up by the balustrade. There was no queue, and Maisy was quite tired by the time she reached the top. “Ok,” she puffed, a hand on her stomach. “Wanna race? I’ll take the pink one.” “No, take the green.” said Zack. “I…err…I want the pink one.” Maisy threw him a sly glance as he took his seat. “Okay…” She trudged over and took a seat on the green slide. “Three…two…one…go!” she yelled. Maisy scooted her way into the tunnel, crossed her arms over her chest, laid her head back and slid into the darkness. She squealed as she picked up speed, emerald shades rushing around her. She pushed up against the sides as the spirals grew tighter, water splashing into her face. She flung out her arms to try and slow herself down, bobbing and sloshing like crazy until…. Pppprrrrnnnngghhhh…. Her body ground to a halt. Maisy opened her eyes to see green plastic. She bucked her hips to get herself going again, but soon found they were stuck at the sides. Water flowed over her shoulders, parting over her boobs, which were blocking her vision as she tried to sit up and see. She swore as she realised she was stuck in the final turn. Her belly brushed the sides as her breaths became panicked. Suddenly, Maisy heard another squeal. A rush of water flowed over her, then a mass of bones collided with her body from behind. A pair of dainty feet shot over her shoulders “Owww….” moaned Serena. “My coccyx…ughh…oh my god…Oh my god! Hannah, is that you?!” Maisy grit her teeth. This cannot get any worse… she fumed to herself. Serena squealed again. She slipped as she struggled to get her legs off Maisy’s chest. “Oh my god. This is a joke right? Please tell me you’re not stuck.” Maisy grunted as she squirmed. “Nhngghh…no…mmmpphh…ufff….I’m tryna get free…” Her big breasts wobbled as she tried to wiggle herself down. “Hurry up!” Serena screamed. “Before the next person comes down here – oh my god, oh my god. I’m going to die. I’m going to get crushed!” “Seriously, shut up,” said Maisy. She kicked her legs more. “Hnnnghhh…hnnghhh…” she groaned. “Right. That’s it,” said Serena. “You’re too fat to unblock yourself. I’m calling for help.” “Don’t you dare!” Maisy said icily. “No. No way. I am not going to die in here because you just couldn’t stop eating frickin’ Twinkies!” Serena screamed. Her nasal voice echoed down the slide tunnel. “Lifeguard! Lifeguard, help!” Maisy squirmed and shunted herself. She wanted to punch Serena in the nose. But she could do that no more than she could scoot her thick ass out of the tunnel corner. She could no longer deny it. She was stuck fast, and utterly helpless. It took six lifeguards to rescue the two cheerleaders. Two of them shut off the water supply, then crawled through the tunnel to retrieve a hysterical Serena. The others used a hydraulic raising platform to rise to where Maisy was stuck. They then unscrewed the section of the slide from the outside. She was freed from the tube with the help of an industrial lubricant, and slowly taken on the platform back to the ground. The ordeal had taken the better part of an hour, and the whole waterpark population had been staring. Maisy’s intense embarrassment turned to anger on the way down, as she saw Serena buried in the strong arms of her jock boyfriend. Where was Zack? The very least he could do was tell her she’d be alright, and maybe put a towel over her shoulders. It would help cover the growing tear that had appeared in her suit, a little to the left of her belly button. She buried her face in her hair as she stepped off the platform and waddled away to the changing rooms. She pulled her clothes back on in sullen silence, then made for the exit. Zack was standing there, dressed, looking out to the horizon. Maisy nudged him. “Just get me away from here.” she sniffed. She threw herself into his truck, snapped on her seatbelt and folded her arms. They drove away in silence. A few miles down the road, Maisy told Zack to pull into a McDonald’s drive-thru. She said no more. Zack looked at her when they came to order. Her lips stayed sealed. “A double cheeseburger, a large fries and a large cola please.” he told the lady behind the window. “Regular or diet?” “Whatever.” he said. Maisy folded her arms a little tighter. He paid on his card, they got their food from the next window, and Maisy opened her burger wrapper as they hit the road again. She took a succulent bite, then another, then another. Soon she was gorging, stuffing in fries, breaking for sips of cola. She refused to look at her boyfriend. “Ask her why.” “Hannah, why are you eating so much?” Maisy lowered her burger from her mouth. “Because you ordered it for me?” she retorted. “Like thirty minutes ago, remember?” Zack looked at her. His eyes couldn’t quite focus on hers. “But you don’t have to eat all of it.” “I’m fucking upset, you asshole!” She took another angry bite. “Do I look like I’m in the mood for some shitty salad?” “But you eat so much anyway.” said Zack. “I’m sorry...it is starting to show on you.” Maisy flinched. There was something off-putting – not just in what he was telling her, but the way he was saying it. He sounded weird. “Okay, you jerk. I get it,” she said. “I don’t exactly look like Miss Universe. I’m hefty. So what? You certainly seemed happy enough about it last night.” “But you are getting…heavier.” He was cringing. He looked almost in pain. Maisy pushed the wrappers off her lap and turned to him. “Seriously, Zack. Is this all you want?” She cupped her boobs. “Is it just these? Is that all you love about me? I hope it’s not a news flash for you, but girls gain weight in other places too. We can’t all be blessed with F cups and a twenty-four inch waist.” Zack paused. She huffed, letting her belly bulge in her blue swimsuit. He’d called it beautiful. Once…she thought. “You don’t have a twenty-four inch waist,” he said, slowly. “Like, nowhere near.” “I was being sarcastic?” Maisy balked. “Sheesh, don’t rub it in. I’m aware of my size…god…” “Ask her if she’s really fucking sure.” “Are you sure?” Zack said. “You’ve…you’ve put on so much weight since we’ve been together.” “Yeah.” Maisy said, looking down at the meal her boyfriend had bought for her. “I wonder why?” She picked up her burger and took a huge bite of the messily stacked meat and cheese, locking eyes while she chewed and stuffed, spitefully. “Mmmphh…is that all I am, Zack? Am I just a piece of meat to you? You’re happy to feed me and fuck me but my feelings just don’t fall into the equation, do they? Fucking typical…” “What about my feelings?” said Zack. “How do you think I feel…holding your - hand walking down the street? You’re so…no…I’m not saying that…” “Say it.” “Tell me, Zack – huh?” said Maisy. “What was that?” “Tell her she’s out of control. Tell her you’re ashamed of how she’s let herself go.” He scratched his ear. “Remind her what she just did. She broke a water slide. Tell her she belongs in a zoo.” “Zack.” Maisy said. “What’s that noise?” “Nothing.” he stammered. “Break her, Mister Adamson. Break her, or we’ll break you.” “Zack, please. What’s going on?” “Nothing! I said nothing!” She saw him wipe a hand across his brow, and at the same time stick a finger into his ear. A little black widget came out on the tip. He flicked it out the window, into the river just as they were driving over it on the bridge. Zack brought the truck to stop in the middle. “Hannah…just get out of here. While you still can.” he said quietly. Maisy looked out the windscreen at the sugar-cube neighbourhoods in the distance behind the steely sign. “You can’t drop me here, we’re nowhere near my house!” she protested. “We’re not even in Eldora!” “Hannah, for the love of god, please listen to me. You have to go.” “But…you can’t just dump me like this!” she shouted. “I’m sorry,” Zack said, a hand on his head. “Maisy, I’m so sorry.” “Save it, you jerk.” Maisy muttered, tears glistening on her eyelashes. She whipped off her seatbelt and shuffled out of his truck. She slammed the door shut, turned to the river, then began walking back the way they’d driven. She did not want to see him drive away. Once the sound of the rumbling engine had disappeared, Maisy turned back around. Something within her really didn’t want to go back to Annie’s. She wished she’d never come to Eldora. She wished she’d never met Zack. Her fury stopped her short of wishing herself slim again. That was what he wanted. How could he do this to me? Maisy thought, wiping her tears away. She didn’t want to cross the bridge back again, but her bedroom was in that direction, and she had nowhere else to go. The walk home sucked for her. More tears fell from her cheeks. Sad music crept into her thoughts as she tried to take her mind away. She cursed, frustrated as her size continued to bother her. In five strides she realised every facet of her cheerleading figure was long gone. Her thighs were chafing, her back ached and her feet throbbed in her flip-flops. The tear on her swimsuit grew and grew, until soon she was reduced to clasping the tattered pieces together to cover up her bulging body. She returned to Annie’s house tired and grumpy, with her eyes red raw from crying, and her plump arms burned from a long hour in the sun. Blanking her friendly hostess, she brushed past into the living room and fell into the love seat she and Zack had once shared, for some much needed R&R. Every bit as puzzled as she was upset at what had happened between them, Maisy turned to food. For hours on end she drowned her emotions in cake and ice cream, watching cheesy dramas from her love seat. Before she reached the brink of tears again she managed to call Bethany. She promised to come over with chocolates and wine as soon as she was free from work. Against her advice, Maisy texted Zack over what had happened. She checked every minute for a reply, for a whole afternoon, evening and night. But none came. Maisy fell asleep sullenly in her seat, and on discovering no new messages in the morning she tearfully accepted the worst. He hired some guy to coach him through breaking up with me, she decided. Because he was too big a coward to tell me that I’ve gotten too fat. That I’ve gotten too fat for him now. She soothed her anger in syrup lathered on pancakes fresh from the oven. She hadn’t told Annie about her breakup, but she seemed to know something was wrong. She kept her well-fed with freshly baked cookies, muffins, and more cake, all of which Maisy was more than eager to gobble up. It was delicious, after all. Basking amongst mounds of comfort food, Maisy expected a few breakup pounds. It had happened to her before. But even as her mood recovered and she slowly trimmed her eating back down, she noticed something bizarre was happening with her weight. With every twitch of every muscle, Maisy felt a little more gravity. From the tips of her fingers to the dimples on her cheeks, she felt more heft, building upon her each and every day. Every morning the cheerleader found she needed a little extra oomph to get herself out of bed, even after her breakup-induced malaise had passed. The waddle down the stairs was claiming both her energy and her dignity – her sizeable body could barely keep its form, or she her composure as she jiggled and shook more on every descent. The climb back was worse on her lungs – one week the flight of stairs had felt like a mountain, the next she felt the same for every single step. Her surprise at her weight was matched by her surprise at her bulk. She soon noticed that she was beginning to fill up the love seat all by herself. In all directions she was quickly and softly expanding. Her skin was stretching so much she wasn’t even saggy – just balloon-like, with the swell of her stomach cresting almost to her knees. It was soft, yet woefully tight. At the top, it formed a shelf for breasts she was struggling to see over. She remembered her cheerleading days at the basketball games, filling out her uniform with some tactfully placed tissues. Now she was carrying around two basketballs of her very own. Around the back, Maisy was convinced that she had developed stretchmarks on her ass, though having grown so much, she was simply unable to see. Turning around was becoming a hazard as much as an impossibility. Her brain was yet to tune into her widening dimensions – thus her dangerous curves oft knocked into shelves and counters, leaving little bruises on her soft sides. Spaces that her once lithe body had slipped harmlessly in and out of now pressed stubbornly into her hips. When Maisy wasn’t sat down, much grunting, huffing and puffing filled her day. Thus she was sat much more often than not, in an enormous matching purple bra and panties, her body lightly covered in cookie crumbs and sugar sprinkled from donuts. Things came to a head one evening when upon plopping down on her love seat to dodge the effort of lowering herself slowly, Maisy heard a creak. She thought little of it at first, but as she lifted a slice of cake to her lips she heard a crack, and squealed as she sunk down into the pillows. The base of the love seat soon lost the fight to keep her hefty body up, and ripped, dumping her on the floor. Maisy was shocked, but she calmed herself, pushed her hair out of her eyes then struggled to sit up. Annie entered the room just as she flopped back down again, to her intense embarrassment. “Oh Hannah, pumpkin, are you ok? Let me help you!” “It’s fine, Annie…ughh…seriously…” With a surprisingly strong tug Annie got Maisy back to her feet. Soon she was tucked up warm in bed with a hot chocolate and marshmallows. Maisy drank it up as her mind wandered, wondering what on earth had happened. Eventually, she decided to call Bethany again. With a little effort she sat up fully, and leant over for her phone on the bedside table. She pushed back her hair again and tapped out her number. “Maisy? Is that you?” “Beth, where’ve you been? God, you were supposed to be here like, two weeks ago…” “I’m really sorry. I’ve been so busy with race day coming up. I’m still at work. I’ve been trying to call you all day, your phone number’s restricted for some reason. You’re in a really weird area. Are you ok with everything? With Zack?” “With Zack? Yeah…no, it’s just…there’s something else. I don’t know how to tell you this and I know I’ve been eating a lot more, but I swear something’s up with my body. I keep getting fatter. I literally just broke a chair. I’m like, crazy fat, it’s insane.” She slapped her stomach. It was overflowing her thighs, pooching out between them onto the bedsheets. “I need bigger clothes,” Maisy admitted in a low voice. “I can’t go outside any more – nothing fits me, it’s too embarrassing. I need you to come over and help measure me up, then maybe go get a dress for me to go out in, then maybe we can hit Volusia Mall and buy up other stuff. I’m literally down to the bra and panties I’m wearing right now. That’s it. And they’re tight on me.” “…what size are they?” “I don’t know, like…thirty?” “You’re kidding.” “I’m not.” said Maisy. “Beth, we have to do something. I’m a fucking whale.” There was silence down the line. Maisy bit her lip. “You should have called me sooner,” Bethany said. “I promise I’ll help you through this. Call me again tomorrow, I promise I’ll come see you soon. I’ve got to go now, before the boss sees me not marking up. Stay safe, have a little walk, lay off the snacks a bit, okay?” “Ughh. It’s not just me,” Maisy tried to say. “It’s something else, I know it.” But Bethany had already rung off. She sighed, gave her rumbling belly an annoyed squeeze, then denied it supper as she rested her head back on the pillow. The aroma of warm chocolate still in the air, Maisy soon drifted off to sleep.
  9. Maisy never got round to finishing the remainder of the tiresome three miles before she returned to college. UCF had a research facility just half a mile out of Eldora for students of marine biology. It wasn’t what she’d originally majored in, but Maisy had hated the organic chemistry course she’d studied for at the start of her freshman year. She was more than happy to switch. Her return had its ups and downs. Bottom heavy after her break, Maisy found the desks a squeeze to fit back into, but there was space for snacks under the hinged worktop. The teachers were much nicer, but she couldn’t say quite the same all of her new classmates. There was one girl in particular – Serena – who’d rubbed her up the wrong way almost as soon Maisy sat down on her table with a few other girls to eat her lunch. “Hey.” she said, dropping down on her seat with a thud. “You’re name’s Serena, right?” The dark haired girl looked up from her phone and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah.” “Have you ever done cheerleading?” She turned up her nose. “Yes. I do.” “Oh cool. Me too. I cheered for UCF back when I was on main campus. I just wondered if you knew if other there’s people here who used to. I was thinking maybe we could start our own offshoot squad, you know? ‘Cause we’re a little off the radar and all.” Serena gave her a once over. “You’re not serious, are you?” “Yeah” Maisy said. “Totally.” “You? You were a cheerleader? Where – like, ham planet or something?” Maisy’s lips curled. “It was just a suggestion.” she said, tersely. “Well, I’ve got a suggestion,” said Serena. “Get off my table, right now. Your carbs are giving off an aura.” She scrunched her little nose looking at the four slices of pizza Maisy had stacked on her tray, beside the mini-mound of pancakes. Maisy rolled her eyes and stood up to leave. “Even though I can’t believe you let yourself go like that, I can kinda see how it happened,” Serena sneered. “Seriously. Eew.” “I broke my ankle.” Maisy protested. “Tripping over the pizza box?” Serena’s clique of twiglets chuckled at the new swells of Maisy’s ass as she walked away in a huff. From that day forth, she ate her lunches outside the cafeteria, on the stone steps near the beach. She wished she could go back to the regular college. She tried her best to keep in touch with Bethany, but it was tough – Eldora was a new town, built on sand, and it lacked a stable place for a telecommunications tower. The signal on Maisy’s new cellphone was pretty lacking thus. With her effort to merge with the in-crowd left spluttering on the ground, Maisy came to rely on food for company. She knew her indulgence was wrong, but with no comps or trials, and no word from Kint that it was safe to go home, she was in no rush to drop the thirty-five excess pounds keeping her life in the fat lane. If Serena was fronting the cheer squad, she wanted no part of it. And the warmth of a full stomach in the Florida sun felt really good. Maisy’s appetite had increased a lot since her dairy binge and unlike her plodding runs, was showing no signs of slowing. Still searching for a rung to climb back to some form of fitness, Maisy had cut her ‘three-milers’ to one kilometre jogs down the beach, and tried her best to get one in every Saturday and Thursday. She managed to recover some semblance of her former fitness, with a little muscle returning to her thighs. The jelly roll she grabbed when she bent forward on finishing was staying stubbornly put, however. The stopwatch would dangle off her neck, she grab it and push the button with a hand on her fleshy hip, breathing heavily. Her eyes would widen, and her lip would quiver as she took in the reading. Her times were getting slower and slower. She tried to factor in an evening workout to combat the slide. What once left her feeling refreshed and raring however left her feeling sweaty and sparkless. Annie’s cooking would lift her spirits enough after a long shower. She’d take meals up to her room, and eat them as she dried her hair, and got into her big, comfy pyjamas. Sundays were her lazy days, where she’d recover from her run the previous day with her feet up in front of the TV, or curled up with a good book in bed, reading as she snacked to wicked excess. After she finished her classes on a dragging Monday, Maisy found the vending machine at the corridor past the labs. Her snug jeans creaked as she made her way over. She opened her purse, slipped a note inside and punched in the letter and number for a Twinkie. It twisted out its slot, fell, but lodged in a space just above the shutter. Maisy sighed and rapped the glass with her chubby fist. She planted a knee softly into the side. Her snack resisted her efforts. Tired and hungry, Maisy moved on in a huff. She’d make amends at Annie’s, with poundcake and ice cream. “You’re not going to just walk away from that, are you?” a voice called to her. Maisy turned around. There was tall guy leaning by the doorway in a bomber jacket, with his hands in his pocket. “It’s stuck,” Maisy shrugged. “I can’t move it.” “Hmm. Maybe you could use a little help from Sacagawea.” The tall , dark stranger pushed himself up to his feet and inserted a dollar coin into the machine. “Let me see…B…5”. He punched the number for another Twinkie. It clattered down and bumped the first as it landed on top. But neither dropped any further. “Huh.” he said. He put the change back into the machine and added another dollar. Another Twinkie shifted out of the plastic coil, and dropped atop the stacked pair. None of them moved. “Well, this sucks,” Maisy said. “Maybe we could go ask the janitor?” She didn’t want to go alone. Looking like she did, with her belly pooching over her belt buckle, and ever so slightly out of her shirt, the thought of her asking someone to help liberate her precious Twinkies made her cringe. Sure, Maisy was hungry. But she wasn’t quite hungry enough to suffer that. “No need,” he smiled. “I think Doc Marten will be a little more persuasive.” The tall boy stretched his legs, and strode to the end of the corridor. Maisy only cottoned on that he was about to kick the glass the moment before he ran up and flung out a leg. He bounced back on one foot off the machine. The Twinkies stayed put. Maisy shifted over for a closer look. “Well…I think they moved a little…” she said, trying to salvage his ego. The boy smiled at her. “I’ll try with the right this time” he said. He took a bigger run up, charged, then kicked out straight at the spot. His shoe broke clean through into the machine. The glass cracked apart, falling loose off the pane and shattering to the floor in a thousand pieces. “Shit!” he said. He snatched the Twinkies. “Run!” he yelled. He grabbed Maisy’s hand and ran with her out of the corridor. Her wobbly legs were suddenly thrown into gear. They steered away from the building and powered across the square. They ducked behind a gorse of palm trees, then crouched down. No-one had seen them. Maisy lowered herself to sit, and the stranger sat down by her. “You think we’re safe here?” he asked. Maisy brushed her hair out of her face as she caught her breath. “Yeah,” she huffed. “All that…just for a Twinkie?” “I guess they are pretty good.” the stranger shrugged. He stuck his hands in his pockets and brought back the Twinkies. He gave them all to Maisy. “Oh no” Maisy said. “I can’t take all of them. They’re yours.” “Honestly, I insist.” he said. He pressed them into her palms. “Uhh, thanks.” “I’m Zack.” he said. “What’s your name?” “Maisy.” she replied. Maisy suddenly froze. “I mean…Hannah.” “Hannah Maisy?” said Zack, half-smiling. “Err…yeah. Hannah Maisy Pinkerton. Selles!” Oh my god. Why not just give him your bank details too? she said to herself as she tried to avoid his eyes. Yeah…Chief Kint would not be happy right now. She gave him a nervous smile, and pushed back a strand of her hair. Oh whatever. He’s a guy and we’ve only just met. He’ll probably forget all my names later. “Wow. Hannah Maisy Pinkerton Selles.” said Zack. “Would you like a pumpkin-spice latte to go with your Twinkies?” “Shut up!” Maisy laughed. She looked around her. “I’m not…I’m not like that.” “It’s your favourite, right?”” “Shhh!” Maisy put her finger to her lips as she finished her first Twinkie off. “Don’t tell anybody, ok? I’ll never live it down.” “What, really?” Zack laughed. “That’s amazing. But in all seriousness though, would you like one?” “Huh?” said Maisy. “You know. A latte… it doesn’t have to be pumpkin spiced. Heck, it doesn’t have to be a latte – could be any kinda coffee – I was just about to go to Starbucks and I…err…wondered if you’d like to join me?” His hand had found the nook between his back of his head and his shoulders and he smiled nervously. Maisy smiled back. “Yeah,” she said, opening another Twinkie wrapper. “Sure.” Zack drove the two of them there in his pickup truck, crossing the bridge over the Halifax river that linked Eldora to the mainland. Soon Maisy was enjoying her pumpkin spice latte with a pumpkin cream cheese muffin, which he insisted on buying for her. They talked for hours, about college, cars, what they did for fun. Maisy knew she wasn’t supposed to, but she couldn’t help spilling away details about her past. She got a fair share back in turn – she learned that he had a mom in Miami and a sister pretty close by, that he loved cars, that he had a job as a mechanic out of town and that his dream was to race in NASCAR. She told him that she worked in the Daytona International Speedway once for a little extra cash during spring, and that she’d met all the star drivers at her hot dog stand. He was awestruck. Zack offered to drive her home, and before they parted, arranged a date at the pizzeria the next day. Annie made a fuss over her as she’d expected after they’d watched him drive away. She’d missed out on some homemade pizza of her own, but it was no matter – her host had kept some wrapped in aluminum foil for her to enjoy later. They had pizza the next day, ice cream on the beach the following Sunday, watched a film at hers the Sunday after, another the next Saturday. They got into the habit of going shopping together, for more movies, more sweets – and for Maisy, more clothes. The whole wardrobe she’d brought with her from Daytona had soon become useless; her body now warranted plus size styles. Luckily, Eldora had no less than three independent clothing stores that could keep her well supplied with things to wear to college. Maisy was glad for it – each day she set herself the target of outshining Serena, and each day when she felt Zack’s arm around her waist as they walked the corridors she knew she certainly had. He was by far the hottest guy in their class. A few months together later, he offered to take her on a fly fishing trip off the coast. Maisy had to decline – she’d have loved to, as she assured him, and she would have had fun. But the only slot available in the week overlapped her doctor’s appointment, and she knew she couldn’t keep putting it off. She’d postponed it twice already, and she fast ran out of excuses. She could hardly say she couldn’t go because she was sick, after all. “Doctor’s go well?” Zack asked when he came to pick her up. “Ankle okay?” “Oh, my ankle’s great. I’m great. It was wonderful,” Maisy exclaimed. “Never felt better, till I got on the scale and found out I lost minus fifty pounds…” Zack’s face blanked. “Errr…congratulations?” he offered. “Hooray…” Maisy cheered, passionlessly. She lifted up her shirt. “It’s a…belly…” “Oh, that’s great news, honey.” said Zack, playing along with listlessness. “What should we call it?” Maisy linked her fingers under the bulging fat, hoisted it and let it drop on her lap. “I haven’t thought about any belly names.” she mumbled. “I’ll settle for annoying. Most bellies are.” “You have a beautiful belly, Hannah.” said Zack. “I have a big belly, Zack. And speaking of that, would you mind driving me to class tomorrow? I kinda don’t wanna take the bus any time soon.” “I don’t get how those things relate…” said Zack. “Has the driver been giving you the look or something?” “No, he’s lovely as always, it’s just I think he thinks I’m pregnant…” Maisy said, smiling nervously. “Okay, I know he thinks I’m pregnant – I gave him my pass, my shirt rolled up an inch, it got awkward so I told him I was due soon, I don’t know why.” Zack laughed. “Just keep me on the down low for a month or two, ok?” she said. “Zack…” “Alright.” He picked her up and took her to marine biology class early the next morning. They nipped to the plaza to a coffee shop first, for a drink and a snack. This soon became routine. They’d alternate each morning buying each other coffees, but Zack would always pay for the snacks. The only thing that ever changed were the muffins on their order, which grew from half a triple chocolate, to a full triple chocolate, then a triple chocolate with a blueberry, then a blueberry and a cinnamon. Soon she was scarfing down three muffins a time, after a rich fried breakfast every morning with Annie. Maisy’s fitness regimen went moribund. The kilometre jogs dissolved into simple long walks with Zack down the beach – now enough, Maisy noted, to get her out of breath. The cheerleader was getting fatter and fatter. Her form shifted as she grew – gone was her hourglass waist, though she remained bottom heavy, with her ass widening and thickening more. Meal after meal Maisy’s stomach grew bigger, her appetite grew heartier, her breakfasts and lunches longer and longer. Her clothes were getting tighter too – much tighter – forcing her to release a few seams, or leave a few buttons undone. The stores in Eldora that could once cater for her growing size were struggling to cope; Maisy noticed her options were growing increasingly limited. Often she would get up in the morning and throw on a pair of stretchy slacks. She got into a routine of avoiding herself in the mirror. The slim girl she’d always been had slipped away. As her belly started to form a deeper crest, she wondered what was in store for her once the Trafficones were safely off her scent. Would they even recognise her now? Would the rest of her family? Would Beth, her best friend? Her boobs had hit the DD range – they were becoming more than a handful. She wondered why the change was happening so fast. Her doctor was certainly struggling for words on her final check-up visit a couple months later. “Miss Selles, I’m baffled,” he murmured. Maisy tried to put on a serious face, but giggled as the cold callipers seized a glob of her belly fat and gave it a jiggle. “Do you feel constantly hungry?” he asked her. “Do you feel you have an urge to eat beyond fullness?” “No…I just…I enjoy it…” “You enjoy being clinically obese?” Maisy blinked. The ‘o’ word knocked her back a little. “No…err…I just enjoy my food…” She looked over her shoulder, past her curtain of golden hair at her heart-shaped behind. “It’s just…I’m in a relationship,” she said, smiling as she flung her hair back. “This is relationship weight, that’s all...I think…” “It’s three hundred and two pounds, and rising, Hannah.” the doctor said, tutting at the reading she’d given him on the scale. “There’s no medical explanation for it. It seems you’re making a choice to do this to yourself. You’ve been eating more and more, and moving less and less. But it’s not too late to change your mind. You need to diet and exercise.” Maisy ensured that appointment was her last. She didn’t need another source of browbeating about her size – Serena provided more than enough already. “Welcome to Marine Biology Class”, she’d chimed on entering the lecture room early one afternoon. She took a seat at the lecturer’s table. “Today we’ll be studying Hannah.” she announced to everyone else. Maisy sat at the front and fumed, counting Serena’s lucky stars that Zack had skipped the lecture for a meeting with his boss. She opened her desk for her stash of snacks in the corner, twisted and stuck a middle finger up at the cheerleader and her skinny friends as she rammed a Twinkie in her mouth. If her handsome new boyfriend had reservations about her gaining, she thought he was hiding it awfully well. There’d be a little more of herself to cuddle whenever they had movie and chocolate nights in Annie’s house, perched together on a love seat he’d brought from his aunt’s old place as a present. Each time he kissed her cheek Maisy would feel his lips pushing on a little more softness. Everything that was ever tight or toned about her had melted away – the only firmness on her torso she felt these days was on the roof of her belly after a big meal at Zack’s place. She’d often waddle to bed after their dates with a stomach stuffed hard, in need of a good massage before she could fall asleep. Maisy was well aware of the effect the food was having on her figure. Her boyfriend’s meals were too hard to turn down, so she tried to make amends by snacking less, or denying herself supper at night. But the next morning she’d wake with a deep rumble in her stomach, and make herself double the breakfast. Whether she was happy or upset, bored or busy, Maisy would eat. Food was in glorious abundance all around her. Having a full mouth was becoming as natural to her as breathing. Having a fuller body was filling her with a weird wonderment. Sometimes she’d look down at the paunch steadily rolling over her thighs and hate it. It was so massively different to the toned tummy she’d sported before. But other times, most often when she was in Zack’s arms, she’d feel beautiful and sexy. No matter what direction her weight was going in, holding his hand made her feel light as air. She felt warm and carefree in his company as the lay together on the couch, watching a movie. He fed her chocolate buttons, and she opened up to accept every sweet mouthful. They’d already had many chocolate and movie nights at Annie’s house, nestled together on the love seat in the front room. This was their first at his place, an apartment above the stores in the Eldora plaza. She could barely keep up with the plot as she felt the chocolate dissolve on her tongue, and Zack’s hand around her waist, his chest rising softly against her back. She stroked a finger under his chin, hooked him over to her face, and kissed him. They kissed and kissed, for what felt like hours. Maisy felt a hand on her lap, and a finger tease away the tight button of her jeans. She curled the finger in her own and pushed it away. She gave him a nervous smile. “Mmm…you’ve done this before, right?” Zack said. “Yeah,” said Maisy. “Just…not like this…” She let her words hang, unsure what more to say. “Not on the couch? Uhh…okay.” said Zack. Hr helped her sit up and glanced at the white door. Maisy realised they were moving from the couch to the bedroom. It hadn’t been quite what she’d meant. She’d banged before. She’d had a steady stream of boyfriends – jocks, skaters, meatheads – and some had indeed banged her on the couch. But she’d never banged anyone she outweighed. Always it was her partner who’d had the extra pounds on her. The thought of it being the other way around didn’t make her feel comfortable. Her nerves were heightened when Zack cuddled her, then tried to stand up with her cradled in his arms. His attempt at chivalry only left her wobbling, and on his fourth desperate try to stand Maisy groaned and rolled herself off his lap, hitting the floor with a thud. He hurriedly apologised. She batted his hands away when he offered to help her and rose awkwardly, but under her own power. Maisy felt she had to take charge. “Look, Zack,” she said slowly. “I like you. I really like you, but there’s a couple things you should know. I weigh over three hundred pounds, okay? I’m a big girl. I’m not going to be a feather in your arms, and I don’t want you to hurt yourself trying.” He smiled sheepishly. “Two is that yes, I’ve had sex. I’ve had a lot of sex. But I’ve never done like this.” She put her hands of her yielding hips and did a slow turn to emphasise herself. Her chubbiness was engulfing. “I’ve never been so huge.” Her ass was facing him, so she stuck it out a little, just to push the message harder. There was a lot of her for him to handle. What she didn’t expect was for him to stand up and push back against her. Maisy felt a rock hard warmth through the seat of her jeans. Her golden hair fell past her face as she hung there for a delightful moment. Hands that were coarse, but with a touch wonderfully smooth, settled on her love handles. Maisy bit her lip. He slid his arms under hers, straightening her up. Maisy giggled as his solid, stony biceps tensed under her armpits, moulding the swell of her rounded shoulders. His fingers meanwhile were slowly dancing on her belly. “Hehe. Wasn’t always this way, you know,” she said. “Fell out of the game this year, then clinical obesity kinda raced up on me. Unnff.” He squeezed her. She’d brushed the dust off the source of her secret, and she realised it was turning him on. Maisy decided to dip her toe a little further into the water. “I gained these last thirty pounds so quickly.” she groaned. “You must have noticed, huh? You must have seen what I’ve been eating…” “What have you been eating?” Zack mumbled, his eyes closed. “Mmm…too much, I guess.” Maisy said, licking her lips. She parted from him and turned around, slowly raising an eyebrow. “Too much cake. Extra helpings of pudding. More ice cream. Much, much more chocolate.” She took his wrists in her hands. “And it’s been going here…” She edged her jeans down a couple of inches, untucking her belly. She traced his hands in lazy circles around its swell. “And to these…” She picked a button off from her chest and let his hands cup her breasts within her bra. His thumbs stroked their plump softness. She looked deep into his eyes as he gave them a firm squeeze. “And here.” She brought them down again, to the negligible space between her thighs. She let out a murmur as she suddenly felt his fingers slip between them. Their rolling flesh quivered and parted. Maisy felt a rippling buzz. Her fingers tightened on his wrists. “Mmmpphh…yes….” Her nerves tingled more than ever, and she smiled stupidly. Suddenly her expanse was turning her on too – her width, her curves, her depths of softness made her feel much more sensual. There was so much more to be played with. He picked off the lower button on her shirt. In an instant she found herself tearing at his clothes – he lost his jacket and his t-shirt, and she pulled down his jeans. He kicked them off and prised Maisy out of hers. They raced to the bedroom and leapt onto the bed, squishing and tangling together. Zack picked the buttons off her shirt, one by one, making out with her heavily. Just as she coaxed him into accepting her tongue, Maisy felt a twang across the bottom of her shoulder blades. Zack had unhooked her bra. Her cups billowed down to her lap, and she gasped as her huge breasts rolled free, plumply bouncing before her. His eyes grew wide as saucers. Maisy smiled wolfishly, then rolled on top of him. He grinned as she slowly spread herself over his chest, letting him feel her fullness, then hankered up to her hands and knees. She scooted higher up his body then let her bountiful breasts flop on his dumbstruck face. “Thought you’d like a closer look.” she said with a smirk. She rested them over his eyes. She felt his breath, hot and heavy, on the skin below, and felt herself grow hotter and wetter. She lifted herself off his face and sat back on her haunches. She fished his raging manhood out of his boxer shorts, and gave it a squeeze while he reached for the drawer by the bedside. His fingers twitched rhythmically as he found a condom. Maisy took it from him, tore the packet open with her teeth and slipped in on for him. Then she slipped herself over him, sinking down, then rising up again, smiling devilishly at him squirming beneath her. Her blubbery body rippled as she wound into a waving motion. She tested how much of her he could take, dropping down with a little more weight every time, while his groans grew and grew. She gripped her flopping breasts, rose up and twisted around, giving him a perfect view of her bulging ass as she got on with some reverse cowgirl. Maisy twisted back a few moments later, still moistening in the air of his moans, but craving the looks on his face. She rode a little longer before he muscles began to strain under the pressure of making her bulky body perform. A light sheen of sweat crept over her breasts and belly. Her breathing grew ragged. “Whoah…phew…I think you’re gonna have to do the work babe. I’m pooped”. Maisy pushed back strands of her sweat-matted hair. “So tired…I’ve lost a lot of stamina since my cheerleading days…oh…oooh!” She felt him stiffen even harder inside her, and let out a moan of ecstasy. She rocked back, warm and delirious. Zack withdrew himself a little, then eased his legs from under her wide rump. Maisy nearly screamed in delight as they fell back together, her plush body merging once more with the mattress, him on top, thrusting slowly, powerfully. “Hell yeah, I’m a cheerleader. Didn’t I mention?” Maisy whispered into Zack’s ear. She could tell he was loving it. “Or at least, I used to be. I’ve kinda changed a lot since I left my old campus.” His toes curled up as he thrust her again. Maisy’s voice dropped an octave. “You could say I’ve gotten a little…out of shape.” Her words and her rising sweatiness made him gather pace. “Maybe a bit…husky?” she giggled. “More…meaty?” She danced round the truth with a knowing grin, kissed and let her tongue dance round his mouth again. “…stacked?” she whispered in his ear as she pulled away and brought his hand to her breasts. She felt him nudge her spot and moaned. “I can still dance, though,” she said softly, tingling all over. “I can still shake it, can’t I?” Maisy wiggled her wide hips beneath him, slid her arms over her head, locked them and tried to gyrate slowly and sexily. Her tummy brushed along his abs. “Uh…uh…oooh…oh, good lord. This is harder than I thought!” She pictured her routines and tried to groove her ass to the beat of a song she’d heard a long time ago. She saw herself slim again, but as she tried to copy her moves on the bed she saw pounds pile onto that image. Her dance moves shrunk while her body grew in her mind…she felt it all, all around her. Maisy flashed open her eyes. “Hnngghh…hnnghhh…god, I’m so fucking fat!” she screamed. Dropping both the F-words sent Zack into a frenzy. He pumped wildly, penetrating her expanses of flesh further and further. Then he stopped abruptly. He left her for a moment that felt like an age as he reached back for the drawers. Left wanting, Maisy grunted in complaint. But she gasped when she saw he’d come back with a box of cake. He entered her again, and as they shifted as one he removed the packaging. It was a chocolate cake, rich and gooey. Zack didn’t bother with cutting the slices. Instead he seized a thick hunk straight from the middle, and crammed it straight into Maisy’s mouth. Maisy murmured in ecstasy as she chewed and swallowed. Another messy handful was offered to her, and she accepted. Chocolate smeared over her cheeks, crumbs caked her lips as Zack fed her, and pumped her. He snatched up succulent chunk much larger than the last, locked eyes with her and stuffed it into her chubby cheeks. The effect was ecstatic and instantaneous. Maisy screamed through her mouthful of chocolatey goodness. She came with him, long and hard. Her every pound let off a firework inside her, then melted onto the mattress. She felt herself pool and spread – three hundred and fifty pounds of softly purring pleasure. When her breath had returned, she opened her eyes with a sigh. Zack had removed his condom, but was still lying on top of her. His lips were flat, his eyes were shut, and she realised that he’d fallen asleep. Maisy smiled warmly. She stroked his stubbly chin, glided her messy hair away from her face, and relaxed. Soon she too was slumbering.
  10. Maisy Pinkerton was rueing how tough her day would be. It was seven o’clock in the morning, and she took advantage of the lull in custom at the beef hot dog stand to talk to Bethany, who was manning the grill behind her. They wouldn’t get a chance later on. It was the day of the big race, and the place would be packed to the rafters. “See? Look at that. Look at that fat.” Maisy cursed the little roll of pudge that had appeared from her reliance on the meaty stock as her lunch, and sometimes her dinner, as she compared bellies with her best friend. “I don’t want to show up for spring break with a rubber ring.” she lamented. “You won’t,” Bethany assured her, laughing as she let her shirt drift down. “It’s a month away – you’d have to eat so many hot dogs.” “Doubt it – I think my metabolism’s packing up on me. I can’t shift any of this.” Maisy fingered her friendship bracelet and jumped. Her belly button quivered a little. She grit her teeth. “Don’t panic,” Bethany said. “Panic makes you stress. Stress makes you fat.” “And fat makes me panic…ughh…” Maisy pulled down her shirt. “Face it, you’re gonna have to roll me to Panama City.” “Hey, I’m still heavier than you, don’t forget.” “Yeah, but you’re three inches taller.” Maisy was fairly tall herself for a girl, at five foot eight, belied by the rush of wavy blonde hair that flowed half way down her back. But at five foot eleven, Beth towered a head over most of the rest of the girls in their cheer squad at college. “Stop worrying. You’re still going to be the flyer when we get back to practice,” said Beth. She wrapped Maisy in a hug and lifted her off her feet. “See. You’re not heavy. You’re a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet.” “A hundred and thirty-five.” Maisy said lowly as she was squeezed. Those five pounds had crept on to her from three weeks ago. She was fearful of what the future would bring. She did not soon expect to be fearing for her life. “Oooh. Customer!” said Bethany. “Look alive.” Maisy turned with a prizewinning smile to the stocky man on the other side of the counter. She immediately recognised him as one of the drivers. “Two please, m’lady.” he garbled through his helmet. He slapped down a twenty dollar note. Beth went to work at the grill behind her. “Lotta sauce,” he called. “I like ‘em sloppy.” He turned his back, stuck a finger through his visor, scratched his greasy nose, then pushed something up against his ear. “Y’ello? Can’t hear ya, buddy. Speak up.” Maisy ducked beneath the counter for some napkins. “Are you alone?” she heard a voice say. Above her, the driver looked over his shoulder. “Uh-huh. Oh, howdy Marco…yeah, yeah, we’ve got it covered. Framed, fixed, rigged, ready to go.” “Excellent. The room’s clear. The rest is up to you.” “Yee-haw, whatever. When do I get my money?” There was a buzz of static, then a pause on the line. “When you win, Mick.” the Italian-flecked voice said quietly. “When you win.” Maisy paused as her hand found the napkins. She stood up slowly and received the hotdogs from Beth. Mick looked in the eye as he held a hand out for his snack, before she’d even put the sauce on. “Thanks darlin’.’” he mumbled. “You’re welcome.” she said, quietly. He broke his stare first as he turned to walk away. Maisy stared at his purple and green striped racing suit as he strode across the food court, his paces wide and fast. “Could you mind the counter a minute?” Maisy asked Beth. “I’m gonna go check something out.” “What?” “That guy.” “Slick Mick Ovett? Seriously? You’ve just turned twenty. He’s like, forty. And greasy and….eeeww.” “Not like that…” she muttered. “I think he’s up to something. Wait here.” Maisy pushed her hands down on the counter and vaulted over in a flash, landing with barely a tap on her tiptoes. She tailed Mick quietly, out of the food court and around to the garages. He crammed his first hot dog in through the gap in his helmet, then dropped the napkin on the floor. He looked over his shoulder. Maisy froze in her step, then in a move from something she’d seen on TV, she bent down and pretended to retie her shoelace. Mick paid no notice to her. He carried on walking to the garages, approaching the open bonnet of a stock car. Maisy hid behind the corner of a wall. He said something to the voice inside his helmet. Maisy presumed the red and white car with the number 50 was his as he leaned in and tinkered around the engine. Then he reached deep inside, rattled his gloved hand, and ripped out a wire. Maisy heard herself gulp. Something was definitely wrong. Mick looked over his shoulder again, then carried on walking. Maisy fished her phone out of her pocket, unlocked it, and opened the camera. She pointed it at him as he carried on walking. He approached another car – the number 10 – and brushed past it, nipping a back tire with his boot. Maisy heard a hiss as it deflated, capturing the whole moment on video. She guessed there was a metal edge along his shoes. Mick finished off the last of his second hotdog, then threw the waste in a trash can, along with the oily wire. When he was a safe distance away, Maisy pelted over to the trash can and held her phone over the bag. Mick strode over to the number 12. Maisy whipped her phone back around. There was someone working on the car, tinkering on a slider under the chassis. She half expected Mick to throw a cold-clocker when she watched him put a boot on the wooden board and pull the mechanic back, but instead they bumped fists. Mick stroked a greasy hand over the roof as they chatted to each other. It looked like that car was his. Maisy committed the number to memory. The oily driver laughed as he held out a hand and helped his crewmate to their feet. She was a full-figured woman. Her brown hair was tied in a messy bun, with the flyaways held back by her thick-rimmed glasses. Maisy watched her flip a wrench in the air and catch it, then plant a foot on the slider and skate to another stock car. Deftly for a girl of her size, she crouched down, put her back on the board and slid perfectly through the gap between the tires with a wide smile. There was a clang as the wrench made contact with something underneath the chassis. Slick Mick guffawed. Maisy closed her phone. She had all the evidence she needed to prove that Mick and his team were manipulating the Daytona 500. She bit her lip as she saw her phone’s charge was just 2%. She knew if it ran out before she could let the cops see it, she’d have to go home to charge it up. She wouldn’t have enough time to get them to stop Mick racing. On instinct she stepped out from behind the trash can. Maisy didn’t know much about cars, but she knew they were easily broken. She tiptoed on her skinny feet to the number 12 and dipped her hands inside the open bonnet, feeling around for the wire Mick ripped from the 50. She reckoned it’d buy her time, and give him a taste of his own medicine. Maisy found a wire, wrapped her fingers around it and pulled. It came out with surprising ease. But in her haste, her friendship bracelet rattled along the engine coolant reservoir. “What in tarnation?” Slick Mick wrenched off his helmet and stared at her. Maisy looked back, the wire curling in her hand. Her face was a mask. Mick dropped his helmet, reached into his pocket and with an infuriated sneer, he drew a pistol from inside his racing leathers. Maisy screamed. The dirty driver fired straight from the hip. The bullet flew over Maisy’s shoulder, ricocheted off the bonnet and sunk into the engine. Mick swore viciously and fired again. Maisy ducked as the second bullet bounced off the windscreen. She ran, her loose blonde hair flapping out behind her. A third bullet zipped past her feet. The pit crewmate scrabbled to get out from under the other car. Mick snarled and took off running while she screamed for him to stop. He still had four bullets left. He fired again as Maisy escaped the garages, and missed by inches. Maisy sprinted out into the open air, running for the stands of the Daytona International Speedway. It was hours before the 500 would start, so the waves of seats were empty. She didn’t know where to go. She didn’t know what to do. She kept running. She crossed the track, slid through the metal wires of the catch nets, leapt a barrier on the stands and charged up the steps to the thirtieth row. She jumped over another barrier and pumped her sinewy legs past Row 36. She turned to see if he was following her. Suddenly, Maisy lost her footing. Her ankle twisted awkwardly half-way up a step, and she tumbled backwards. Her head reeled as it collided with the concrete, and she screamed in agony as she fell head over heels, her twisted ankle thumping on a step edge once, then twice. She landed on top of it as she came to a halt at the bottom of the section, moaning in pain. A medic heard her cries and dashed out from her station in the stands to collect her. Maisy was crying. The medic administered a painkiller then radioed in for more help. Her ankle was fixed in place with splints, and two guys helped bear her into a stretcher. Maisy was taken to an ambulance waiting in the car park outside. She tried to look up from her reclined position just as she left the stands. Slick Mick was nowhere to be seen. Maisy was driven to the Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center. She recovered from the shock, but the doctors informed her breaks in her ankle would take far longer to fix, since they were in two places. She was given a local anaesthetic and the broken bone fragments were realigned. Her leg was immobilised for the rest of the night, through to the following morning. It ached a lot after she woke up. News of her tumble got around fast. Bethany was her first visitor – she brought a giant bag of M&Ms, and they shared them as she filled her in on what had happened. Mick Ovett did not race – he had been found and arrested for reckless endangerment with a firearm. Maisy wanted him in the dock for attempted murder too, and game-fixing, and damage to property, but Beth said there’d be no need – the local police chief had assured her that from that and his past offences, he’d likely be jailed for a very long time. The chief himself was the next of her visitors. He took off his hat, revealing a balding head and introduced himself as Kevin Kint. He made to light a cigar, until one of the nurses reminded him that he was in a hospital. He smiled and put it away. “Might I request we be left alone together?” he asked them both. “Maisy and I have important matters to discuss.” They murmured their acquiescence and left the room. Kint immediately rekindled his cigar. “Maisy Pinkerton,” he said, shaking her hand through a gentle puff of smoke. “It’s a pleasure. I understand you’ve been through a great deal very recently. There may be things that you might not wish to discuss. But it’s vital at this stage that you let the police know everything that you remember about what happened that day.” “The first thing we need to know is, were there any other witnesses to the event?” Maisy thought back. “There was nobody with me,” she said. Her concussion had hazed her up memory. “Not after I started following him. There was a woman who saw it, a mechanic in his pit crew.” She gave him a physical description, noting the hair, glasses, the shape of her body. Kint took it all in, and nodded. “Did you acquire any evidence from the scene of the incident?” “I had a video on my phone…ughh…I wish I could show it to you. I smashed it when I fell down those stairs.” “I see.” said Kint. “That’s unfortunate. Was there anything else?” “There was this wire he ripped out of somebody’s car. It had these two plasticky parts on the ends.” “A spark plug wire,” Kint nodded. “What happened to it?” “He threw it in a trash can by the garages – I don’t think it’ll be there now. Someone will have taken out all the trash after the race yesterday.” “Yes. A pity. So that’s all there was?” “That’s all I can think of. There’s just what I saw…and what I heard. Mick was getting messages from a guy through the radio in his helmet. I think he was telling him what to do. Who to sabotage.” Kint pursed his lips. He took a long puff on his cigar. Then he took a seat, and sighed. “That’s the main thing I’ve come to talk to you about, Maisy. We’ve reason to believe that Mick Ovett was in contact with a criminal organisation. A crime family, known as the Trafficones, led by a man known as the Commissioner. They have rogue business interests all over Florida, and plenty around Daytona. Because of what’s happened, and because of your involvement…we think you’re now in terrible danger.” Maisy’s face paled. “What are they going to do to me?” she asked. “That’s dependent on whether they find you,” Kint answered. “And I promise, they won’t find you if you enter our witness protection service. It would mean changing your name, changing your address and moving into a safe house, but the benefit’s right there. You’ll be kept safe, Maisy, for as long as it takes until the danger goes away. Then we’ll take you straight home.” He reached down, pulled up a briefcase and opened it up. “We’ve already done a lot of work to establish your new identity. Your name will be Hannah Selles. You’ll live in Eldora – it’s a little town not far from here. There is a lady there who hosts lodgers, and who’ll be happy to have you around as long as you’re happy there. You’ll be able to keep up with your classes at UCF. But you won’t be able to come back here until we’re resolutely sure that the threat to your life is gone. Do you understand?” “Yes.” Maisy said. “And whatever happens, whatever you say or do, you must not talk about what happened to you before the race. You never know who might be listening. Got that?” “Got it.” said Maisy. “Excellent,” said Kint. “I’ll be back to collect you when your ankle’s healed up. If you need me, or you think you’re in trouble, call 911. We’ll do whatever it takes.” The police installed a guard outside Maisy’s room to monitor her visitors. He wore thick black glasses, and he never spoke to her. The only time she saw anything other than the back of his head from the window was the morning of the next day, when he brought over a box of a dozen Bubbunut donuts ‘courtesy of the force’, as the note read on the box. She had those to eat along with her hospital meals, plus sweets from Beth, homemade cake slices from her mom, and a colossal ‘Get Well Soon’ cake moulded in the shape of the tri-oval from NASCAR, with her name and a kind message written in icing on the centre. Maisy was certainly well-fed throughout her week-long stay – an ankle break usually meant one or two days in hospital, but the extent of the damage warranted an extra five on top. The lack of physical activity left her tetchy at first, but food was an ample way to stave off her boredom. And there was certainly plenty of food around. It was of little surprise to Beth to see her friend a little larger on her last day. She gave Maisy’s jelly belly a teasing poke. Her finger sunk almost to an inch. “Well, you might not be able to make it to Panama, but I’m glad to see you’re enjoying yourself.” she said, smirking. “Errr…you did this to me,” said Maisy. She breathed in, briefly finding the flat tummy of her former self, then breathed out, letting her puffy belly roll back. “Can’t you blame yourself?” Beth protested. “You’re the one who sat there and ate it all.” “Heh. I didn’t have much of a choice.” Maisy said, smiling, giving her tummy a pat. “Your fault, leaving me alone with chocolate…I think I heard the nurses say I’ve nearly put on a stone.” “Hey, look on the plus side,” Beth said. “Your boobs are bigger.” Maisy nudged her chin down, looked at her and smirked. “Really? You think?” “Yeah…I think it suits you, having more to play with. Don’t tell me you haven’t had a feel already?” “Err…no. Not with four-eyes outside the door.” Maisy said, shivering. “He gives me the creeps.” “Really? You mean Jojo? He gives me bubblegum.” “Jojo?” Maisy inquired. “It’s Giovanni, or something. He’s cool. You should take your top off and show him, it’ll really brighten up his day.” Before Maisy could grace that comment with a reply, a nurse informed Beth her time was up and escorted her away. Chief Kint returned that afternoon, and Maisy said goodbye to her parents from the bed. They wrapped her in a soft hug together, and told her to be strong like always. Her mom promised she’d keep her supported, since Maisy couldn’t go back to her job, while her dad pledged to keep her pet Bichon Frise company while she was away. Bethany’s goodbye after she walked out of the hospital on crutches left her nearly in tears, but she was sure they’d see each other again soon after spring break. She’d been told UCF had another location in Eldora – she’d be out of the scope of regular campus life, but they’d be able to keep in touch. Maisy’s parents helped pack her stuff into the boot and back seats of Kint’s cop car, and in the early hours of the morning he drove her from the hospital to her new home. Eldora was a pretty place – palm trees lined clean and tidy streets, and the houses were all pearly white. The house Maisy had been offered to stay in was bigger than her old home, with a wide porch and a grove of orange trees in the back yard. A plump old lady with a big grey perm answered the door when Kint knocked, and immediately invited the three of them in for milk and fresh-baked cookies, straight from the oven. Her name, as Kint told Maisy, was Anne Gretel. “Hannah, pumpkin, it’s so lovely to have you here!” she beamed, embracing her in a hug. Maisy was confused for a moment, until she remembered she had a new name now, as well as a new home. “Call me Annie. Grannie Annie, if you like, your Grandma number three. I’ve got a room upstairs right and ready just for you. Let me show you around!” Maisy took a tour of the house, hobbling around on her crutches. Her room was the most spacious in the house; the bed was a double, warm soft and inviting. The living room featured a huge plasma television, which made a strange contrast with the dated but plush-looking furniture. The kitchen was wide and sparkly. Annie opened the cupboards. They were stocked to the top with goodies – potato chips, chocolate bars, cakes and biscuits, box after box of Twinkies… “I wondered what your favourites were and I just couldn’t decide,” Annie told her. “I thought I’d go the whole hog and have fun figurin’ out!” Maisy smiled. She decided she’d like it here. The following morning Maisy got herself acclimatised with the rest of the town. Eldora had a bus service, and the lone driver was a kindly fellow who offered to pick her up from the sidewalk even before she’d hobbled anywhere near the stop. He’d find her whenever she was walking by and give her the ride to the plaza never for any more than fifty cents. Maisy noted that everything was really cheap in Eldora. Especially the food. Maisy put her crutches to one side, and then scrolled through her phone as she waited for her pizza at one of the local pizzerias. She looked out for messages from Bethany, but couldn’t find any. She was a little sad that she’d have to miss out on spring break, but with crutches, a foot in a cast and nascent new love handles, she reasoned that perhaps it was for the best. Bethany assured her that the next year would always be better. Maisy made pains to avoid calling her during the week she was in PCB – not out of any ill will, but because she knew hearing the inevitable tales about the wild partying from a bed in a sleepy little town miles and miles away would only make her feel worse. She kept off Facebook too, to avoid the inevitable flood of photos of towels and sand, cool cocktails and bronzed bodies lying in the sun. She visited just once, biting her lip as she saw a blissful crowd of tanned, toned bellies, and miserably compared them with her own – thicker, paler, rounder, doughier. She gave her flesh a soft, sad pat. She logged out, and had a thought to create an all new Facebook account, under her new name. It’d help her keep in touch with the friends she’d make in Eldora. She entered her details, then flipped her phone to take a profile picture of her on the couch. It took twenty tries before she settled on one she was relatively happy with. She rued the chubbiness of her cheeks, the little pocket of flesh that formed under her chin as she looked at the camera, smiling. Annie’s irresistible southern cooking – her fried chicken, her pork loin steaks, her wicked weekly barbecues – was taking its toll. Maisy Pinkerton had been skinny, slender and fit. Hannah Selles, it seemed, was blooming into a chubby young woman. For however much longer, Maisy was irksomely unsure. In a town with a pizzeria, a burger bar and an ice cream parlour – but no gym – Maisy could only sit, eat and sigh. She knew her body was softening in her slow recovery. Arms that were tense with twine like muscles now wobbled a little when she tried to make her biceps bulge. Legs that once carried a lithe figure now carried weight – fat weight – above them and around them. Maisy was pining for a return to jogging on the beach, to shift the rubbing sensation she was feeling between her thighs when she hobbled from her comfy bed in the mornings. But that required an all-clear from the doctor on her ankle. To measure her progress healing, she had an appointment with him every two weeks. But much to her dissatisfaction, the only progress she seemed to be making was found on the reader above the little white square on the floor. “One hundred and sixty-nine pounds,” the doctor said, writing the number in his notes. Three other numbers were in the margins of a file page that bore her name, each a little higher than the last. “That’s a gain of eight pounds since your last visit.” Maisy grimaced. She fingered the roll of flesh that hung over her underpants, bought a size larger than what she normally wore. She thought most of the weight had gone to her belly, but then looked down at her legs. Fat was beginning to cocoon around her knees. “Err…how soon can I go running again?” she asked, flinching a little. “Judging by your most recent bone scans, not for another month,” the doctor said. “And that’s dependent on you allowing yourself time to rest, Hannah. I can see you’ve been putting excessive stress on fractures that haven’t fully healed yet. You need to stop exercising on your leg.” “But I have stopped exercising,” Maisy said. “It’s my…it’s my weight gain doing this. I’m getting heavier and heavier because I’m moving less, because of my ankle. But it’s hurting my ankle anyway.” “Then you need to stop moving it completely,” said the doctor. “You need to give it some proper rest. No exercising. No long walks. Prop it up in bed, and maybe it’ll have chance to recover from the stress.” Maisy wondered if she’d recover from her stress, of spending the next day cooped up on the couch, feeling her fitness further go to waste. The only distractions from her pointless self-criticism were television and food. She asked Annie for ice cream; her theory was that dairy would help her recovery, as milk was good for the bones. The little old lady put on her apron, and a while later wowed her with a huge triple milk chocolate sundae, smothered in whipped cream. The day after that, Maisy asked for another, and she soon fell into the routine of having one after every dinner, She’d have a chocolate milkshake when she relaxed on the porch through the warmth of noon, a hot chocolate and cream before bed, cookies and milk after breakfast in the morning. However fast her bones were getting stronger from all the extra milk she couldn’t really tell, for the other effects of her excessive dairy consumption were becoming increasingly apparent. Maisy’s shinier smile was becoming ever more laced with concern as she lathered her body in the shower every morning. She realised there was more of herself to soap up and scrub, more flesh to rub and dry, then slide into her clothes. Her jeans were feeling pinchy, so she forewent them on the morning of her thirtieth day of rest in favour of her underwear and an oversized tee. Annie was out, so she made herself a hearty breakfast on the grill, then slaked her thirst with two big glasses of milk. Maisy retrieved a big pack of mini chocolatey brownies from the top of the cupboard and opened them on the couch. Two by two, she popped them in her mouth. The Florida sun was shining through the windows, and her treats were beginning to melt in her hands. Undaunted, Maisy simply sped up her consumption as her eyes remained fixed to the TV. She scowled as the chocolate smeared over her cheeks as she ate – a little dropped on to her shirt, a little more on her thighs. She stuck out her tongue to lick it off her nose, then Annie arrived back and bustled into the living room. Her eyes shone when she saw Maisy. “Gosh, darling, I didn’t recognise you a moment there. My, my, haven’t you blossomed?” Maisy’s thicker cheeks flushed red as she smiled. Is it that noticeable already? she wondered. “Err…hello to you too, Annie.” “My, my, those college boys ain’t gonna know what hit ‘em. C’mere, let me get a look at you.” Maisy’s awkward smile stayed plastered to her face, like the chocolate, which was all over her hands too. Wanting to avoid smearing it on the upholstery she tried to stand up with using the armrests. She immediately flopped back down. Maisy felt her belly jiggle, then jiggle some more as Annie hoisted her up off the couch from her elbows. “Oooh, my gorgeous girl’s gotten so healthy. Heck, it’s like someone rigged you up to a garden hose and turned the pressure on high. Just like the cheaters do to the pumpkins at the state fair. Do you want waffles? I brought you some waffles.” “I’ve err…I’ve just had cookies.” Maisy said sheepishly. “Oh, give them a try. They’re delicious. You don’t want ‘em when they’re cold now, do you?” Maisy reluctantly had her waffles. Caving to the sweet homely tastes she had bacon sandwiches, a milkshake, steak, another sundae and another box of cookies all before she saw the doctor again the next morning. Once more she tripped to her underclothes in his office, though this time she did so slowly. Her pinchy jeans had left marks on her sides, and her shirt was bunching her boobs uncomfortably. The regular scan on her ankle was performed, and the doctor returned with a readout. “Good news,” he chimed. “You’re well on the road to recovery. You’ve no new fractures, your old ones are fixed up, and your breaks are finally unbroken.” “Yes!” Maisy shouted with a joyful bounce. “Does that mean I can run again?” “If you really want to, you’ll have to take it easy. It’s still early days.” the doctor said. “Don’t go too far or too fast. And don’t over-exert yourself. In your present condition, I wouldn’t recommend any more than thirty minutes of physical activity. Per week.” Maisy frowned. “Well…it’s something, I guess.” she said. Her hand massaged her belly softly, then she gave it a slap. It rippled, far more than what she would have allowed. Catching the doctor’s eye, she nervously pulled down the hem of her shirt. “Miss Selles…if you’d mind me asking this question…” he said. “How have you been keeping with your weight?” “Umm…fine, I think,” Maisy said. “I might have put on a few more pounds. Is that bad?” “It’s perfectly normal for patients that have suffered debilitating skeletal damage to gain weight over the course of their treatment.” he said. “But you’re a special case, and from looking at you now after last month…let’s say I feel a few pounds may be an understatement. Would you mind stepping on the scale?” “Oh. Um…not at all.” Maisy said. She bit her lip. These were words that she was not used to hearing. She stood by the scale, then tentatively stepped on, a finger pursed over her concerned pout. “A hundred and ninety nine pounds.” the doctor read. “Okay, Hannah, take a seat.” Maisy stepped off and planted her bottom on the cold steel of a chair. It spread over the smooth surface. She felt rather rotund. “You’ve put on thirty pounds since the last time we saw each other,” the doctor explained. “Like I said, it’s perfectly normal for people in your situation to put on weight.” Maisy nodded. “But this has come on quite rapidly, and unfortunately, it does look like you’ve ventured into overweight territory. You’re two stones above the upper line of what a girl your height and age should ideally be.” “Okay” Maisy said, unblinkingly. “There are steps you can take to help reduce your weight, but you don’t need the whole shebang. You were in great shape before your accident. I’m confident you’ll be able to get your body back to how it was. If you’d like to book another appointment in a month’s time to measure your progress, that’d be fine.” “Sure.” mumbled Maisy. She arranged a date, thanked him without looking him in the eye and left, hastily. With her ankle fixed, Maisy could walk normally again. But the bounce was gone from her step. She walked out the doctors red-faced, painfully aware of her softly shifting paunch, and the rolls that squished over her hips as her legs shifted. I broke my ankle. I’ve been out of training a while. It’s normal. Just like he said. Normal. As she felt her breaths begin to shorten, she began to wonder just how normal suddenly being thirty pounds overweight really was. It felt completely alien to her. A little chubbiness she could tolerate – an extra cup size, a smoother curve around her hips. But this, she knew, was fatness. This was pinchy, jiggly, pot-bellied fatness. Maisy decided there and then that something had to be done. She couldn’t go back home to her parents, to college, to work as a fat girl. Out on the sidewalk she tied up her hair and broke into a run. Her little feet pounded the street in their sneakers, aching from lack of recent use. Her softly swinging belly began to hop and bounce over the waistband of her sweats. I’ll do the circuit the bus does Maisy decided. I think it’s three miles. Just an easy-peasy three miles. Her body felt like it’d gotten to the three mile mark after just three hundred metres. It felt like years since she’d last done some running. Sweat emerged from under her arms, under her neck, and around her wobbly paunch. As she got close to Annie’s house, Maisy felt a stitch throbbing along her side. She clutched herself as she hobbled on, pressing into the fat. Annie was out on the porch, wearing big pink baking gloves. She gave her a wave. “Is that you darling?” she called. “You’re right on time, I’ve got poundcake in the oven!” Maisy groaned as her aches and pains brought her to a plod. The last thing she needed in her condition was more cake. “Whatcha say, you comin’ in?” Annie asked her. “Sure…Annie,” Maisy huffed. She put her hands on her knees and looked out to the road in front of her. “I’ll have some right after…right after I take a shower.” She pushed back the loose strands of her sweaty hair and hobbled inside, feeling breathless and weak. She didn’t want to give up so easily. But the doctor did say take it easy, after all she told herself. You’ve run a mile, almost. That’s worth a slice of cake, right? Maisy’s belly gurgled. She did feel hungry. “I’ve got whipped cream and chocolate sauce too. I’ll leave it in your room” Annie chimed. “Great,” Maisy puffed. “Thanks….ughhh…” She passed the kitchen on the way to her room, stripped off her clothes, showered, then slumped on the bed in a dressing gown. She spooned herself cake, numbly, as she nursed out the cramp in her soft thighs. Maisy decided to finish off her three miles the day after next. She wanted just a little more rest.
  11. Madison woke in the morning to a faceful of her own meaty boobs, like nearly every other morning that week. She pushed back her hair and put her head back on the pillow, then sat up, slowly pressing against the headboard. She felt weak and sluggish. She leant over and checked her phone to see it was 11:00 am. She hadn’t slept in so late since college. She pulled her bedsheets off herself and swung her hefty thighs off the edge of the bed. She pushed her hair back again and felt her stomach flop into her lap. “Ufff…glad I won’t have to put up with you for much longer…” Madison said with a weak smile. She lifted up her belly and let it drop, scowling as she watched it ripple. She put her feet on the ground and felt her ass wobble as she stood up. She’d expected she’d remain fat. She’d put on so much weight after all. But she could still count on having shed twenty pounds since Scott had rotated the hourglass. Madison drowsily waddled into the bathroom and pulled off her pyjamas. She wrested her pants off her fat hips and noticed with some bemusement that she didn’t appear to be wearing panties. Something tickled the back of her knee. She reached into her pyjama pant leg and found the panties, torn along the waistband. Apparently, her body had ripped them off in her sleep. “And I was just starting to get slim again…” she mumbled sadly. Wondering just how much slimmer she was now, she bent under the bathroom sink to get the scale. She laid it flat, pressed the on switch with a chubby toe and stepped on. “Huh?” Madison mumbled, when she saw it read two-hundred and ninety-four pounds. She rubbed her eyes, but the number was still there. She stepped off the scale, then got on back again. Two-hundred ninety-four. Clearly she was still dreaming. She got off then hopped on again. The numbers flickered between two ninety-four and two ninety-five. Her belly jiggled as she jostled off the scale, then jumped back on. There was a sharp splitting noise, and the screen blinked off. Madison glared down at the crack she’d made in the plastic shell. The thought that she’d broken her scale barely registered – she was still in shock at the last number it had shown her. “But that…that mean’s I’ve gained weight…” she said in horror to her reflection. She noticed her cheeks were just a hint more chubby, her arms a little thicker, her waist a little more bulging. She tentatively put one hand on her belly, another on her wide bottom, and pushed on them. Soft fat blossomed between her pudgy fingers. She was at her widest yet. And still she felt the tug of her stretched skin on her fleshy sides where her love handles were quivering…growing… She had no time to waste. Still barely clothed, she ran from the bathroom to get her phone. Her breasts jiggled as she threw one chafing leg in front of another, waddling as fast as she could. Springs squealed as she launched herself onto the bed, stretched for her phone and punched in Isabella’s number. “Isabella…” she gasped. The little run had left her desperate for breath. “It’s me…” “Madison, you ok?” said her campaign manager. “I’m…fine…just give me a moment…” She paused to wipe off the beads of sweat that had formed on her brow. Her breasts pinched against her bra as she breathed deeply, her lungs aching. All this, just from running to the bedroom? She needed more air. Madison rolled onto her back and fumbled with the clasp on her bra. “Hnnghh…nnnghh…” With a deep breath in she unhooked it. The cups practically flew away. Her huge jugs rolled off a little to her sides. She cradled them with her forearm and gave her right one a stressful squeeze. “Did you lose any weight last night?” Isabella asked, her voice tinted with concern. “No…I put more on…I’m fatter than ever…” Madison huffed. Her tummy began to grumble for its breakfast. She grimaced at the noise it made. “…Yeah, she’s still gaining weight. Right, ok.” Madison heard her mumble. “Ok, sorry. I’m just going to hand this over to Scott. He really wants to talk to you. He says he knows what’s going on.” She heard her pass the receiver over. “Madison,” she heard his squeaky voice say. “This is going to sound crazy, but I think I’ve figured it out. We were wrong about the hourglass.” “No shit.” she muttered. Her belly sloshed as she rolled to one side, letting her warm sweat slip off it onto the bed. “No, I mean we’ve been looking at it the wrong way. It’s the key to everything.” “It can’t be,” Madison said. “I’m fatter than when we turned it over yesterday. That hourglass was a dud.” “It’s not,” Scott insisted. “Lillian and I were just talking about it now. It’s hard to explain, it’ll be easier if we help you figure it out for yourself. Ok? Which American politician said that time is money?” “Why’s that important?” said Madison, baffled. “It is,” said Scott. “Trust me, it is.” “Ugh…ok. Benjamin Franklin.” “And whom did that hourglass first belong to?” “Same again.” she said. “Great. It’s his property. And because you’re the one who lost it, you’re the one who’s having to pay for it. Pound by pound. The unit of currency and the unit of weight – the curse is meshing them together. It was never about the sand inside, it was about the whole thing. We were missing the bigger picture.” “I still don’t see it.” said Madison. “It’s stupid. They’re just a couple of words spelt the same way.” “But words have power.” Scott said. “Think about it, they’re all that curses are – just a string of words. And you’ve gotta remember Franklin was an author, a printer, a librarian, a publisher and one heck of a diplomat. He had a way with words.” “Ughh…this is just weird.” “I know, but Lillian agrees with me – she told me nearly all of this stuff. I swear we’ve on the money here.” “Yeah, about the money…” said Madison. “Something doesn’t make sense. This is America. This is Boston. We spend dollars. We don’t use pounds as money.” “But in Franklin’s day, they did.” Scott said slowly. “The currency of colonial Boston was the Massachusetts Pound. And I’m willing to bet however many Massachusetts Pounds there ever were that right now you’re paying the price, literally, of that precious hourglass you dropped in the harbour.” Madison shivered. She ran the numbers through her head again. “What, like, a hundred and sixty-five pounds?” “Probably more. You’re still gaining weight, right?” “Yeah,” Madison rolled over and rested a hand on her flabby belly. “But this is ridiculous. An hourglass couldn’t have cost that much in the eighteenth century. Didn’t money go a lot further back then?” Her belly’s rumble was becoming impossible to ignore. She rolled off the bed again, wrapped herself in a gown and shuffled to the kitchen. She felt her thighs rub, her belly bounce softly onto them, her ass softly push against the fluffy material with every step. “Is he charging me interest?” she asked, as she briefly stared at her vast frame in the hall mirror. “He doesn’t have to.” said Scott. “That hourglass was made in 1789, a few years after the revolution. The currency collapsed during the fighting and never recovered – by the end of the war it had completely bombed. I don’t know how it measured up, I only know it got so low they wound up phasing it out in favour of the dollar in 1793.” Madison’s eyes opened a little wider. It was beginning to make more sense to her now. She found her peanut butter and jelly. She searched in the kitchen’s lower cupboards for bread. “So how much was that hourglass worth?” she asked. “That’s where we hit a snag. We have no idea.” Madison shivered again. “I’m not sure if I want to find out.” she said, picking out four thick slices from the packet in the corner. “I’ve got to get that hourglass back.” “I’ve returned the drone.” said Scott. “They’re going to rewire it, give it some more juice…” “No. It has to be me.” said Madison. “I got myself into this mess, it’s time I took back control. I just need you to sort a few things for me.” “Anything. Go on.” Madison relayed the list of things she needed, the list she’d plotted out jokingly in her head when she learned the drone mission had failed to alleviate the steady increase of fat on her figure. Now she knew it was her only chance. She finished making her sandwiches, knowing she’d need lots of energy. She took a bite out of her first and gulped. Then she told him to tell Isabella, call Lillian, and say the three of them were to meet at 3:00pm in Boston Harbour, by the USS Constitution. On the journey over, Madison swiftly discovered she had a harder time dealing with her newfound weight than other women her size, or even larger. She’d changed so quickly that her body simply wasn’t prepared to carry so much added bulk. Her skinny muscles, fast being sunken deeper and deeper under new layers of jiggling fat, were doing little but ache and throb as she jostled her way off the bus. Her ass, which had taken up two seats much to her chagrin, was embarrassing her some more as it nudged the standing passengers. It brushed the door as she hopped off, and wobbled as she descended the step. It was clear for her to see where the four pounds she had gained since waking up in the morning had gone. Madison pulled her trench coat tight over her body and slowly made her way to the harbour. There was still a gap of an inch where the buttons wouldn’t join up – beneath lay pale, bulging belly flesh, uncovered by her washed, but ripped and painfully tight sweats from the day before. She hung her head low, letting her loose hair blow over her face – to boost her covertness she hadn’t re-dyed it, allowing her dark roots and streaks to show. Even her campaign team stood alone by the ship didn’t recognise her, until she got their attention. “Guys, over here!” She pointed off the harbour to a space in the water. “This is where I think I dropped it. Did you bring everything?” “Sure.” Scott shrugged off a backpack. “Wetsuit, flippers, mask, oxygen tanks – it’s all here.” “I brought the towels.” said Lillian. “And I’ve got the waterproof torch – but Madison, seriously. You really don’t look in the right shape for this.” Isabella cautioned. “It doesn’t matter. I’m the only one who can do this,” Madison repeated herself. “It’s the only way to be sure this curse will be lifted. And I’ve done some diving before.” She did not tell them it had been competitive diving, on a board over a pool, and way back in her high school days. Her new size had no doubt drastically reduced the number of moves she could make, and for that she was glad it was underwater diving she was about to do now. Pulling her tight suit over the jelly belly that flooded over her once chiselled abs, she knew well that her lack of experience would not be her chief concern. Madison took Scott’s bag and found a public restroom to change in. Putting on the wetsuit was a tiresome battle, but they were difficult to put on anyway. She was happy to find that at least it fit her - she’d told Scott to find her the largest size available, and though she was forced to crease up the arms and legs for her short limbs she was pleased to find ample room for her ever more ample chest. She slung the heavy oxygen canisters over her shoulders and fixed up her mask – she didn’t quite know the right way to do it, but she could do anything she put her mind to. Then she slipped on her flippers and waddled out. “Everything ready?” asked Isabella. Madison nodded. She thought it was, at least. She wanted to ask Isabella to check her tanks were all hooked up correctly but she couldn’t talk through the mask. Her campaign manager helped her up to the balustrade, facing backwards so as to keep her dive equipment all in order upon entry to the water. Gingerly, she lowered herself down onto the railing. Her ass settled on the cool metal, sticking out over the water. She looked to Isabella and remembered what she’d said the last time they were here. The Boston Twerking Party…where the patriots threw their asses out into the harbour… Madison smiled to herself. Who knew that six days on she’d be doing the same? Or that my ass would get so big… She braced herself, closed her eyes and tumbled into the water. She hit the surface with a massive splash, then sunk down and down. She rolled around, kicked her flippers, and began her descent. A pang of coldness struck her first. Black water clouded her goggles. She switched on her torch. Her body, as she expected, protested her every move. She started a slow breast stroke but her arms soon grew tired. She switched to a doggy paddle, pressing her boobs together to stop them bobbing in her suit. She felt her legs chafe again as she resumed a slow kick. The tight pull of her suit on dry land was replaced by the push of the depths - the rising pressure was keenly felt by her squishy body. Madison shifted the funnel of light the torch provided her with around, seeing nothing but bubbles, rocks and clumps of seaweed. She kicked herself deeper, gliding over a trove of beer bottles and a disposable barbecue. She let out a yelp as a striped bass swam past her, and tried not to think about the other bigger fish in the sea. A glint of light reflected back at her from where she’d swung the torch in surprise. It came from a little seaweed forest – a dirty, deep green, just like the one in the drone video. She grabbed hold of the seaweed strands and used them to pull herself lower, down to the seabed. Past the waving tendrils the hourglass lay tranquil, softly glowing. “Gotcha!” she mumbled through her mask. She stretched out a hand and pulled the hourglass loose from its silt trap. She peeled off the seaweed that had wrapped around the woodwork. She moved to swim away, but just as it had been above the water, the hourglass was awkward and heavy. She was forced to drop the torch to get a better grip on it. Pressing her flippers against the seabed, she kicked herself up, swimming the direction of the sunlight. For the first time in days she felt light and lithe again. The pressure eased away as she rose up and up. She lifted the hourglass to her chest and hugged it tight, determined not to let it slip away. She saw her tube end float in front of her, and realised to her horror that she’d snagged it on the hourglass. Her gasp quickly took the last of her air away. Knowing she couldn’t twist to slot it back into her oxygen tank, she desperately kicked her way up the last twenty feet. Madison wondered her team expected her to break the surface like a mermaid – graceful, beautiful, poised slimness returned anew. Instead she broke it like a whale, heaving, splashing, and still just as blubbery as before. “Hnnghh…” She pushed her oxygen mask off her mouth, flapping and bobbing. “Help!” Thinking on her feet, Isabella spotted a life ring along the harbour’s edge. She broke it out of the box and tossed it like a Frisbee. It sailed over Madison’s head, landing a few feet to her left. She clumsily paddled over and eased her body inside. Scott and Lillian helped pull the line to bring her back to the pontoon. She held out her arms. It took the four of them to heave her weighty body and the hourglass back out of the water, and the four of them again to squeeze her chubby waist out of the life ring. When it was done Madison shrugged off her oxygen tanks and rolled onto her back, gasping. If a genie said they’d make me mayor – no, President of the United States – if I would do that again, I would tell them exactly where to shove their lamp…she thought to herself. That was terrifying. Still, she knew it was at least half a success. The hourglass, a little mossy but otherwise unscathed by almost a week underwater, lay by her side. Whether her adventure would be any more of a success wasn’t clear to see. For the moment she knew by the pull of the wetsuit of her shoulders and the droplets of water rolling off her cheeks that she was still very fat. Nothing was certain, but the debate on taxes was still tomorrow. Would this be the body the pundits, the press barons and the undecided voters would see? Isabella and Lillian got her back to her feet. “How are you feeling?” her campaign manager asked. “Fine” Madison answered. “Hungry” she added. The dive had drained her energy, and in her haste to get ready for it she’d skipped the rest of her breakfast after the peanut butter jelly sandwiches. She’d had little more than a mini pack of cookies on the way over to the harbour for lunch. “I can drive you to McDonalds?” Lillian offered. “Thanks,” Madison laughed. “But I’m not sure if your Vespa would agree with both of us at the same time.” Riding two up, she could only imagine the rear wheel burning a streak along the tarmac, or buckling under the pressure of her weight. Or if not, her huge ass sliding off the seat when they hit the gas. Or Lillian, fighting to steer while being swamped from behind by her bulging fat. Madison gave her soft tummy a rub. It’d be warm and comfortable, but really awkward, and probably dangerous too. “Maybe I could drive you?” said Scott. “Actually, I was thinking of heading to that place.” She pointed down the sidewalk to The Captain’s Table, a restaurant fronted by a vast blue neon sign proclaiming an all-you-can-eat buffet. “You could drive me home though. Oooh, maybe Lane Bryant first, for some jeans and a tee – I kinda don’t have any clothes any more…” “Wait” said Isabella. “We can’t go to a buffet, surely.” “It’s fine” Madison shrugged. “So long as we don’t talk politics at the table they’re not going to recognise who we are. I’m twice as heavy as I used to be…” “But it’ll only make you heavier. If the curse is broken, surely now’s the time to start cutting back?” Madison shrugged again. “One meal isn’t going to make a difference. Either we’ve broken the curse and I’ll wake up skinny tomorrow, or we still haven’t, and I won’t.” She no longer cared. She only cared for ribs, steaks, burgers, sausages – hot, salty, succulent delicious food. Anything just to take her mind off the debate. The next morning, she called Lillian and arrived at her designer’s studio. She kept her notes to hand as her stylist worked around her body with a measuring tape, devising a pretty outfit for the debate. After a long hour they settled on a cut and shape they both liked, and Lillian got to work making it. Within three more hours, Madison’s new clothes were ready. They met again outside the auditorium, mere moments before the debate was due to begin. Madison clasped her hand tightly as they found their assigned lounge backstage. Her manager and pollster were waiting. “Did it work?” Isabella asked her. “Did you lose any weight?” “I don’t know, I kinda broke my scale yesterday.” Madison said with a nervous smile. She looked down past her generous cleavage, over the swell of her stomach to her feet, wrapped in a stunning pair of black heels. “But you don’t look any bigger since last time we saw you,” Scott said. Isabella nodded in agreement. “You’re looking great, actually…” he added, bashfully. “Thanks Scott,” Madison smiled softly. “I wish I could tell you you’re right. But I think I put on weight anyway from the buffet last night and…urpp…maybe breakfast this morning. Excuse me…I really went overboard…ufff...” She let out another little burp and dabbed her plump lips with a hankie, being careful not to smudge her lipstick. Beyond that she was wearing no more makeup, feeling it best to let her true face shine through. Her dress strategy had proceeded similarly – at the wardrobe with Lillian, Madison had seen little point in making any effort to cover up her figure’s excesses, deciding that she could only embrace them. Thus she wore a strapless boho print dress, with a light blue blazer over the top. Her wavy blonde hair was down by her shoulders rather than in up in a beehive, and her bifocals remained over her eyes so the crowds could at least know it was still her. “We’re on in one.” said Isabella. One year? Madison wished. It would probably take her even longer to shift so much weight. But there was nothing she could do about it now. People would whisper, people would gape, she knew, but eventually people would have to accept the new her. “Time to face the music.” she said to herself. She took a deep breath. “Good luck.” Isabella whispered. Madison smiled, passed the curtain and walked the steps up to the stage, with Moira on the other side. The auditiorium was packed out. There was no giant, collective gasp, no bouts of mocking laughter. But there were plenty of wide eyes, not least from the chairperson. He calmly straightened his tie and maintained his air of professionalism as he swiftly started the proceedings for the debate. He asked the candidates to be seated, then explained the rules. Moira, by virtue of her surname being first in the alphabet, would speak first for thirty minutes. Madison would then be invited to speak for forty-five. Moira would then offer her counterpoints and her closing statement in twenty-five minutes, with Madison to close the debate in the remaining ten. Madison grew hotter. She took another deep breath, closed her eyes, then removed her jacket. This time, she swore she heard whispers. Moira smiled wolfishly at the sight, her thin lips curling up as she watched her opponent wiggle and wobble. She crinkled her notes in her fingers, formulating her plot. “Ms Dixon, you have forty-five minutes, please begin.” the chair said. Moira turned to the audience and planted her grey gloved hands on her podium. “I’d like to start by noting we have an elephant in the room here.” she began. Madison bit her lip. Instantly she felt soft and vulnerable. Was exposing all of herself so soon really such a good idea? She crossed her chubby legs over, and she tried to smile as the plump flesh of her arms quivered for all to see. But her smile quickly faded, and soon she was grinding her teeth as Moira continued to attack with steadily decreasing subtlety. She spoke about her plans to tackle “the bloated public sector”, how she’d re-evaluate the jail network to stop it “bursting at the seams”, how her opponent’s tax proposals were “formless” and “flabby.” She reserved her sharpest barbs for her segment on healthcare. Madison was shaking with impotent rage waiting for Moira’s time to run out. Just before it did, she stuck out a finger, guiding the audience’s eyes back to Madison’s body. “It’s time to decide what you want Boston’s future to look like, and the answer as I’m sure you’ll agree, is neat and tidy. It is plain to see that Miss Greene can offer neither of those things to our city. These past few days have exposed her for what she truly is. There is only one word fit to describe the travesty of her health policy, her campaign and most crucially, herself. Hippo…critical!” She returned to her seat to silence. Madison, meanwhile, had passed her boiling point. “Thank you Ms Dixon,” the chairperson said. He flicked a button on a stopwatch. “Miss Greene, your response. You have thirty minutes, do proceed.” Madison slowly stood up. She knew exactly what to do. She placed her hands on her notes, and looked at the audience. But rather than finding her first page she pushed them all together, and removed them from the lectern. “I don’t feel that tirade is worthy of an answer.” she said, quietly. Then she sat back down. To her immense surprise, the audience erupted in frenzied applause. She’d won them over by barely saying a word. The clapping gripped the hall for close to a minute. Moira, whose colour had drained from her face, soon recognised that she’d shot herself in the foot, badly. Someone nobody noticed took the podium, whispered in her ear, and together they left. The next day, Scott estimated that the polls had swung thirty percent in her favour. She maintained her comfortable lead right up to the day of the election, which she won by a healthy margin of fifteen thousand votes. Madison was flabbergasted. Her father was amongst the first to congratulate her through a text message. Boston has a beautiful new mayor! Well done Maddie, I’m so proud of you. Facing down Moira in that fat suit was genius. You lead her right into your trap! Hugs and kisses, I’ll see you Sunday. Madison was more than a little apprehensive about those hugs and kisses, during which her dad would doubtless discover that her ‘fat suit’ was in fact, real. Her dramatic new look was still a hot topic in the tabloids, though only the most sensationalist of them printed that it was the result of a unprecedented massive blowout rather than a cleverly designed costume, the belief in which most of the audience had clung to after the debate had finished early. Madison Greene plus-size was a sight many struggled to imagine. But Madison Greene twice her size? Madison Greene one hundred and sixty pounds overweight? That was beyond belief. It was certainly beyond the belief of the president of the Boston Nautical Heritage Society, to whom she paid a visit the day after her glorious victory to return the Franklin Hourglass. His surprise was threefold; at the sight of his precious exhibit returned, at the sight of the woman carrying it, and at the sudden genesis of her doughy, jiggly body, which he would have sworn on his great-grandson’s life had been small and slight a week and a day before. He was even more surprised to hear her apologies, which he quickly brushed off. “I dropped it and pretty much said it didn’t matter, right in front of you and all those people…then I just left you there to handle it all – I’m so sorry…” said Madison, handing the hourglass over. “Miss Greene, it’s we are who are in your debt,” the old man insisted. “You’ve saved us a lot of money – we were about to book a frogman from Louisiana to go fetch it back, he was the only man who’d do it for less than five-hundred dollars. Now we don’t have to. And it’s so good to know it came out unscathed. And even for all you said about the past, the museum’s been busier than ever. There’s that picture of you that’s been on the Facebook…I think someone left a thing in the comments that takes people to our website. Thanks to you, all kinds of folk are coming to visit.” He smiled, showing a banner of false and golden teeth, and Madison couldn’t help but smile back. “We’d be delighted to give the new Mayor of Boston another ceremony. We’d like to invite you to return it to the ship again, if your schedule gives you the time. And if it’d make you happy, of course.” “Yes” said Madison. “I’d love that.” She made a mental note to keep a firm hand on it when she was addressing the crowd this time. “Wonderful.” The old president placed the hourglass in a glass case in his office, decorated like a pirate captain’s map room. “Well, so much for lost time never being found again.” he laughed. “Never known Old Ben to be wrong before.” Madison raised an eyebrow. “That’s another one of his quotes, right?” “It most certainly is. Are you familiar with them?” “Well, I’ve certainly become familiar with one…” she smiled, giving her tummy a rub. Madison left with her head filled with wonder. Maybe the hourglass hadn’t been cursed after all. Maybe it had come as a blessing, offering a new perspective on life to those who were in need of one most. Maybe she had been a little too fussy about keeping under one-hundred and thirty pounds. She was the Mayor now – she knew there were more important things in life. Madison could say she was getting used to her new size. She noticed she was still gaining weight – though no longer at a supernatural rate now the curse had been lifted – but now at least her confidence was growing with her. She was gradually getting used to hearing couches sigh when she sat on them, and she was beginning to enjoy soaping herself up in the shower, feeling her every new inch, letting the water run over her cushy, tempting curves. Her strength was growing too, as she learned how to put her best foot forward. Her slow waddle was shifting into a buxom sashay. Once again she could swing her hips this way and that, bat her eyelashes, roll her head back, flip her golden hair away from her generous bosom and make the world her oyster. First she had gotten fat. Now she had gotten voluptuous. A quick hop on her new bathroom scale before she headed out for a celebratory meal told her she weighed three hundred and seven pounds. She could put the vast bulk of it down to the hourglass, but not all of it – she knew that her cake stuffings and her splurges on McDonalds over the last week had added eight pounds of her own. She’d have to start a diet tomorrow, she resolved, as she bought drinks for her team and paid for five all-you-can-eat meals at the Captain’s Buffet. Lillian had invited Gabriella behind Scott’s back, and she’d said yes, much to his surprise when they met up at the door. Madison opened her purse, took out a $100 bill and smiled at the person pictured on the obverse. The president was right – he really was everywhere. And still making me fatter… Madison thought to herself with a grin, as she ordered herself a triple-chocolate fudge cake dessert for later. She skirted around the stands and their dishes of seafood and meat, choosing whatever took her fancy. She returned to her table with a plate piled full and high. She eased herself into her seat, took her cutlery and carved herself a slice of hot steak, dripping with gravy. She bit into it, slowly. Mmmmm…maybe the diet can wait a little longer… The Mayor of Boston eased off the button of her skirt under the table, letting her belly free. She smiled at her team, then her meal, then got stuck in.
  12. Madison did not know what time it was when she heard the knock on her door. She prised herself off the couch. “I’ll be a minute!” she slurred, her mouth still sticky with chocolate. She pawed through her wardrobe to find a suitable replacement for the ruined leggings. Digging deep, she finally found a sweatsuit which she hurriedly wrestled on. She opened the door and greeted her team. They smiled, trying their best not to look shocked at her appearance. It was plainly clear that she’d piled more weight on. “Madison, we’ve been talking.” said Isabella. “You need to see a specialist.” Madison sighed. “I can’t let anyone see me like this. People talk. If it gets around that I’m two-hundred and thirty pounds they’ll stop asking me about social care and taxes. They’ll start asking if I’m fit enough to run for office.” She noticed Scott had flinched when she told him her weight. He tried to offer her a comforting smile, though she could feel him nervously running the numbers through his head. A hundred and one pounds since Sunday? Twenty-five pounds, four ounces of fat put on every single day? Yeah, that was it. Madison listlessly thought of tomorrow, expanding even more to tip the scales at two-fifty plus. When would it end? “Listen to me. It’s not over.” said Isabella. “There have been mayors of Boston who weigh more than you do.” “Yeah, six-foot tall men.” Madison retorted. “Not women who are five foot four, on a good day.” “I’m just saying it’s not impossible.” Madison scoffed. “I will never lose all this weight before the election.” “I mean to win.” “And you can still see a doctor,” added Scott. “They might know what’s wrong with you.” “But what if they don’t? Or what if they refuse to treat me because they’re backing Moira?” “They would never do that.” Isabella insisted. “Doctors have to swear a Hippocratic oath.” “Yeah. It sounds sorta crude, but they didn’t have political correctness in ancient Greece. They’re legally obliged to treat seriously overweight people.” said Scott. “That’s err… that’s not quite what it means.” said Lillian. She coughed to stifle an infectious chuckle. “It’s Hippo as in…Hippocrates.” “Seriously…screw you guys.” Madison huffed. “Sorry” said Scott. “Yeah, we’re sorry.” said Lillian. “But the point still stands. You need to go to a doctor.” “But I can’t go out like this.” said Madison. She gestured to where the seams on her sweatsuit were whining the most – around her engorged boobs, across her upper back. “I’ve outgrown all my clothes. I’ve got a set of pyjamas, literally that’s it. And these sweats aren’t even mine – they’re my dad’s from when he was training to run the Boston Marathon.” She remembered they were the first pair he’d bought in his drive to lose a few pounds chasing a long held dream, five years ago. Who knew that five years on she’d be making them stretch? They couldn’t even cover all of her. “Do you think maybe we could call someone here?” Isabella suggested. “That’d be a good idea.” said Scott, taking out his phone. “There’s got to be someone who travels around somewhere.” He hit search on Google. “Here we go – you can sit back and relax, I’ll give him a call.” Madison groaned and returned to the couch. Her team followed her inside. Lillian switched on the TV while Isabella commandeered her home coffee maker. Madison mumbled her thanks as she was passed a latte, while the screen settled on a repeat episode of Frasier. Don’t I get a say anymore? Madison thought to herself. She took a big gulp of coffee and rubbed her stomach. She felt sucky. She felt fat. She felt like she was losing control of everything. What she didn’t feel like was seeing anybody. Madison just wanted to be left alone like last night, with a bottle of wine, a chick-flick and a half gallon tub of ice cream. Something to take her mind off her body, and the painful pinching of her clothes. Just half an hour later, a white van appeared on the driveway. The faded lettering of a different owner – ‘Shrubbery Logistical Solutions’ – could still be seen beneath the hard-stamped letters of a new name – ‘Pihl’s Walk-in Doctor’s and Drugstore’. “You’re sure that’s the doctor?” Madison asked her team. “Yes, he said he drives a mobile clinic,” said Scott. “You just walk right in” “Umm, okay.” said Madison. She struggled up from the couch, left her house through the front door and waddled into the back of the van. Dr Pihl was sat in an office chair, watching a collection of screens while sipping on a Mountain Dew. “Hello!” he chimed cheerily, whirling around on his seat. He stopped in front of Madison, pausing to take her in. “You’re Miss Greene, right?” “Yeah. Call me Madison, it’s fine. I need you to just do something about this, ok?” She jiggled her belly. Without his prompting she shifted to a tall black chair on a pole driven in to the floor. She lifted her ass and dropped it, feeling the seat sag beneath her. Something beeped, and a number flashed up behind Pihl. Madison realised the chair was connected to a scale. “Two hundred and fifty one pounds,” said Pihl, scanning one of the monitors. He saw Madison flinch. “Err…was that news to you?” he asked her. “I can’t stop getting fatter,” said Madison. “I was under one hundred and thirty a week ago. I’ve doubled my weight out of nowhere. I wondered if it was my water retention, or bloating, or some metabolism upset – it’s not food. I couldn’t possibly have eaten enough food for this to happen.” “No…if you say so, I guess that’s completely impossible.” She took a deep breath. The air in Pihl’s van was musty and thick. It had a taste of something she knew, but couldn’t quite place. “We’ll start simple. If you could take your sweater off, I need to measure you.” Madison reluctantly obliged. Pihl produced a tape from his shirt pocket and started with the widest parts of her first. The sounds of her new measurements – 53-41-47 – were like punches to her gut. But the measuring didn’t stop there. Madison squirmed as she felt the tape wind around other thicker places. She got off her chair and spread her wobbly thighs to let it pass below the bulge of her belly, looking away as Pihl tapped a number into his computer system. It came around her softer arms, her rounder wrists, even her fingers. Madison balked. She hadn’t noticed her lithe pretty fingers were gone, and a bunch of fat digits were in their place. She spread them to see the shrinking gaps, closed them, clenched them tight to try and squeeze them thin again. These weren’t hands for holding political papers. They were hands that were missing a slice of pizza. They were soft and chubby. It ended with a set of callipers seizing her stomach; two metal teeth sunk into a great glob of her rising tummy fat. Pihl was keen to stress that was what it was. Pure fat. Not water weight. He gave her blubbery paunch a squeeze through the metal holds. “Funny how it’s still so tense.” Madison grunted. She put it down to the rate she’d packed it on. Her skin simply hadn’t had time to stretch and accommodate the added pounds. The sheer volume of her squish gave it a deeper firmness. “So, what’s wrong? Any ideas?” she trialled him. “I’ve got a couple theories. One’s a little off the wall, but it might load that magic bullet you’re looking for. Would you mind eating this?” The doctor produced a sprig of celery from his pocket. Madison gave him a strange look. It wasn’t too dry. She chewed and swallowed. “Cool. Now try this.” He took a chocolate brownie out of his desk drawer. Madison might have declined had her gaze not already belied her. She was hungry after all. With a smidge of reluctance, she accepted the chocolatey treat and took a bite. Pihl eyed her softly heaving belly button as he listened to her chest. “Hmmm…this doesn’t look related to what you’re eating. Or eating in general – probably rules out Hav Fives, and it’s a little slow for Prestige. Then again, probably too fast for Axell-Crowne Syndrome…” “Huh?” “Nothing.” said Pihl. “Just hyperventilating about this…or hypothesising, one of the two - I don’t know which is which. Anyway, we’re not done. If you wanna slip your sweater back on, we’re gonna get you ready to start shedding the pounds right now…” “Great.” said Madison, with a smile. “…the old-fashioned way.” Pihl pulled back a sheet to show a treadmill. Madison’s smile vanished. “This is to see how your body handles stress. Take all the time you want to work yourself out. We’ll re-weigh you – naturally you should be a tiny bit lighter – then compare that to the calories the machine says you’ve burned for our result.” Madison grit her teeth and waddled to the treadmill. Pihl raised an eyebrow when she input the time she desired, then rolled in his seat back to his monitors. He fished out a DVD For an hour and a half, the mayoral candidate strained and sweated. She switched her focus after the first kilometre, when her chafing forced her to crank down the speed. Madison’s soft shell of blubber fought her from every angle. But Madison fought back. She was determined that she would not face a repeat of yesterday. She puffed and plodded, and ramped up the speed for the final kilometre. Aching from her feet to her head, her knee gave way as the ninetieth minute ended, and the conveyor slid to a halt. “Can I…Can I take ten before I have to do something else? Please?” Madison wheezed from the floor. “Yeah.” “Hnghh…ughh….thanks.” Madison coughed as she got to her knees. She reached a hand for the weigh-scale chair, heaved herself on and let her tired legs dangle. She sunk down again, and she caught sight of Pihl gawping at the reader. It read two hundred and fifty three pounds. Madison shut her eyes, wincing in defeat, shame, anger and draining fatigue. She raised her arms with a strained effort, and slapped her sweaty, slightly wider sides. “Now…now do you see?” she sighed. “You’ve gained two pounds in two hours,” said Pihl. “Wow. I know maybe the brownie wasn’t the most appropriate thing, but I swear this doesn’t normally happen. Not after that display. You really went for it.” “It’s been…It’s been happening nearly a whole week.” gasped Madison. “Please, just tell me what I have to do.” “Beats me,” Pihl shrugged. “There’s nothing I can prescribe. Clearly whatever’s gotten into you hasn’t finished with you yet. Best I can recommend is a muumuu and a heavy-duty chaise-longue. You’re gonna have to sit this one out.” Madison opened her mouth, but no words would come. “Hey – if it helps, you’re not the first person I’ve seen this happen to,” said Pihl. Maybe not this exact experience, but she was a skinny girl who got pretty fat too. Her name was Beth and everything turned out fine eventually.” “You mean she got skinny again?” “Well, no...not quite. She went from the shape of her life to nearly four hundred pounds and lost her job along the way…” “What?” “Hey, hey, it wasn’t a total disaster. Her boyfriend stuck with her, they got married last year and she even found a job at his place – admittedly she did have to leave because she couldn’t fit in her cube any more, but I later heard a baking company took her on in their IT department. Bubbunut Bakery. She’s really happy there now.” “Look,” said Madison, clenching her fists. “Wonderful as that all might seem to you, I’m not prepared to just sit out my life while I turn into a tub of lard. I’m running for political office for crying out loud! I am not giving up on that to get some office job shipping fricking sugared doughnuts!” She pulled at the thickest of her jelly rolls, then buried her face in her hands as she thought of her future. “Did…did she really get that fat? Four hundred pounds?” “Yeah.” “And you…you couldn’t do anything about it?” “Pfft, I doubt Beth’s beau would’ve given me the chance. It was half my fault anyway.” Madison parted her fingers. She gave him an evil look. “Are you kidding me?” “Nah. He came in looking for a pick-me-up for his bride-to-be, I gave him what I thought he wanted, but when she tripled in size we kinda figured out something got lost in translation…” “That’s it. I’m leaving.” Madison hopped off the chair with a thud. “No, no, wait…wait, wait. I can still help you find a cause. Have you upset a gypsy grandmother recently?” “Seriously? You’ve got to be the worst doctor ever.” Pihl shrugged. “Hey, I’m a pharmacist. Dr Pihl’s just my trail name. I don’t even have a doctorate…heck I never even studied medicine...” Madison rolled her eyes. She bid Pihl a terse goodbye then waddled back out the van to her front door. Scott opened it and shifted to let her through. “Next time you book an appointment for me, please do some digging.” she muttered to him as she squeezed past. “At least enough to prove they’re not a pothead dropout who thinks curses are real.” “Oh.” said Scott. “Sorry…” “If he wants money give him whatever. Just get him out of here. I’m going for a shower…oh no…” Madison mumbled weakly. She lifted an arm and watched a rip widen over her uppermost roll. Hurriedly she peeled the shirt off herself as she shimmied to her bathroom, before the gap could grow any bigger. She kicked her way out of her sweatpants; the underside of her hefty thighs swung as she stepped in the bathtub. Madison gave herself a cold shower on the harshest nozzle setting. She seethed and shivered as the freezing water penetrated the warmth of her fat. Needing to reach beneath her awkward girth, she took the showerhead off the hook. Her stretched skin reddened as she sprayed the sweat off her bulges, wishing she could wish both away. She stumbled out the bathtub, found her glasses and wrapped herself in a deluxe white towel. Swaddled up, she returned to the couch. Physically, mentally, she felt exhausted. “Aren’t you…aren’t you gonna change?” asked Lillian. “Why bother?” Madison screamed. “My glasses are the only thing that fucking fit me!” Madison whipped her glasses off and threw them down to the floor, quaking in pointless, furious anger. Her body quivered with her under the towel – layers of soft flab bounced around her waist, jiggled under her chin, making her seethe even more. She couldn’t even be angry without looking fat. “Careful with those, they’re bifocals,” said Isabella. “Not easy to order.” “Bifocals,” Lillian echoed. “Bifocals…why is that ringing a bell?” Madison wasn’t listening. Who cares? she thought mournfully. What’s the point in even trying anymore? With nothing to hold it back her hair tumbled into her face, and she left it there, letting it mask the tears that had crept into the corners of her eyes. She didn’t want her team to hear her start crying, so she reached over for the cheesecake on the table and crammed a comforting handful into her mouth. Mmmpphh….doesn’t that feel better? She reached for some more and inhaled another mouthful. Her towel rolled off her huge breasts, which she lamely tried to cover up. Mmmm…delicious… Madison licked the bunched crumbs and sticky icing off her fingers. Two big globs of yellow buttercream dropped out of her hands and plopped on her belly. She stuck a finger in one to lick it up, smearing the rest over her jelly roll. She turned back to the cake. She didn’t care how she looked any more. She was a fat mess, the cake was instant satisfaction. She chewed and swallowed, and grabbed another handful. “Oh yeah, I remember,” said Lillian. “Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals.” Madison paused mid-bite. When was the last time I heard that name? “And lightning rods – little useless fact…” said Scott. “And that hourglass we mishandled last Sunday.” said Isabella. Oh yeah…the hourglass. Another reason not to leave the house… She crammed the rest of the delicious slice into her mouth. Her cheeks bulged. Her eyes bulged. Her stomach bulged more. “The hourglass…” Lillian echoed again. She ran a hand through her hair. Scott meanwhile, chewed on his little finger, as he did whenever he was in deep thought. “Madison,” he asked. “When did you last weigh yourself?” Madison rolled her eyes. “I don’t know, like, last night?” “What time?” Madison pondered. She remembered it was after she got off the bike, but before her massive binge and the three glasses of wine she’d drunk miserably before she went to bed early. She remembered getting off the scale, turning on the TV and crashing down on the couch with her mountain of food to watch The Notebook. When was that on? “Err…I think it was about seven or eight o’clock. Maybe eight o’clock…yeah that was it.” Scott took out his pocket notepad and slipped a pen out from the little patch of material under his tie. He wrote down some numbers, then glanced at his watch. “Okay Madison, this is going to sound crazy, but I think that quack doctor was nearly on to something. We need to weigh you.” Madison cocked her head. “Again? Seriously?” “Yes. Please, this is important for all of us – I really think we’re on to something here.” Sighing, she relented. Madison licked the cake off her fingers then struggled to lift herself off the couch. Her rising weight had thrown her fitness level into a tailspin, but even simple acts like getting up and going to the bathroom now required a lot more effort. Her embarrassment was niggling at her more. She felt like a farm animal, fattened up, prepped to be judged for the state fair like the one she’d been to a week ago. Thank goodness that wasn’t this week… she said to herself. The humiliation of the photographs would finish her for sure. Shaking hands with that pig farmer, meeting his blue-ribbon winning produce – a caption by the photo in the Boston Herald, ‘Madison Greene takes selfie with Salty ’. She put it out of her mind. She opened the bathroom door and walked in. She turned to close it and found both Scott and Lillian had followed her down the corridor. “Guys, really…would you mind if I had some privacy?” “Oh, err…sorry. Not at all.” said Scott. She shut the door. “But I do need to know the number.” he said from the other side. Madison groaned. She dropped the towel, then opened the cabinet under the bathroom sink and found her slightly dented digital scale. Her belly creased into rolls as she laid it on the floor. She pressed the switch and stood on top. The machine took time to come up with an answer. “It’s saying two hundred and fifty-four.” said Madison. “You’re sure, right?” asked Scott. “Yes…ughh. One hundred and fourteen kilos, whatever…” Madison mumbled. She heard Scott scribble some more from outside the bathroom. She fumbled for the towel and wrapped it tight around her chubby shoulders. Then she opened the door. Scott stood there, his hands raised in a eureka moment, with a pen in one and his paper in the other. His face was pale. “Madison,” he said, calmly and clearly. “Ever since you knocked that hourglass into the harbour, you’ve been gaining precisely one pound, every hour.” “What?” she almost shouted. “It literally all adds up. You were at that ceremony at three on Sunday afternoon and now it’s nearly eight on Friday evening. That’s one hundred and twenty-three hours. And working off what Lillian told me about you being roughly one hundred and twenty-nine pounds when all this started, that mean you’ve gained eight stone eleven since. One hundred and twenty-three pounds.” “How is that even possible?” said Madison, putting her hands on her hips. “There’s no way I could gain that much. I didn’t even eat anything on Wednesday.” “It’s nothing natural.” said Lillian. “It’s the Franklin Hourglass. That’s what’s doing this to you.” “What?” Madison said again. “You knocked it off the harbour at three on Sunday, and you’ve been gaining ever since. There has to be some sort of curse on it. You were the last person to touch it, so the curse has settled on you.” she explained. “What kind of curse is this?” said Madison, gripping her belly. “Do I just get fatter and fatter until I can’t move? What gripe has Franklin got against me?” “Well, you did drop the last thing he ever invented into the ocean – he’s bound to be a little upset…” “Great. So we believe in ghosts now? Founding father ghosts with stupid fattening super powers, taking vengeance on future mayoral candidates?” “That’s not the full picture. I mean, I’m pretty sure Franklin wasn’t a vengeful sort of guy…” “But he was a still a scientist, a methodical man,” Scott said. “There has to be some sort of critical thinking behind this.” Isabella and Madison looked baffled, but Lillian nodded in agreement. “Yeah. If the curse was to just make you really huge, it would have happened the moment the hourglass hit the water,” she puzzled out. “But it’s not. It’s being drawn out in a slow controlled way, just like –“ “– just like the sand in the hourglass.” Isabella realised. “Of course!” said Scott. “It’s a nautical hourglass. Even though it’s in the ocean, it probably isn’t broke. It’ll still be going as we speak.” Madison pictured the shining sand, glowing at the bottom of the sea. “Then we need to find a way to flip it over.” said Isabella. “Reverse all…this…” She left her words hanging as she gestured over Madison’s rounder figure. “I know a way,” said Scott. “One of my buddies from Yale formed a start-up specialising in underwater drones. If I can get a hold of his prototype, we should be able to use it to find the hourglass.” “Call him.” said Isabella. “It’s a her, actually…” said Scott. “And there’s a slight difficulty – I don’t…have her number…” “You were buddies but you don’t have her number?” “We communicated entirely through our work email. I couldn’t ask her for her number, it’d be like…you know…asking her for her number…” Isabella groaned. “Fine. Then email her.” “Sure, I’ll get on it.” Scott whipped out his phone and brought up Microsoft Outlook. “But it’s Friday night,” said Madison. “You won’t get an answer on Friday night, she’ll be at home. And people don’t normally check their job email on weekends. It could be Monday lunch before she gets the message. I could be like, three hundred pounds by then if this crappy curse bullshit is real.” “Three hundred and eighteen.” “Yeah,” Madison slapped her belly and looked Scott dead in the eyes. “Thanks.” “Madison, it’s not his fault,” said Isabella. “We’re doing all we can.” “I know, I know – it’s just…no matter what happens, I’m going to get fatter. There’s nothing I can do but I really need it to stop…” Her belly had slipped out and was jiggling while she tried to express herself. Madison pouted and pulled her towel tighter. “I’m always in control of everything – I just feel so helpless and…fat. I have never been so fat…” “Look for the silver lining,” Lillian said. “You know you’ll be fatter tomorrow, there’s nothing you can do about that. There’s no point stressing about it, right?” “Right.” “So just relax. I’ll stay with you tomorrow, Scott and Isabella will take care of everything.” Gabriella, the name that Lillian finally coerced out of Scott after a cab ride’s worth of cooing and prodding, turned out to be pretty reliable after all. She offered Scott her pet project no questions asked after she checked her emails the very next morning. She had it shipped on a same-day delivery from her company’s office in Reston VA, and it arrived at the campaign office primed and ready to go at quarter to one. It was three when Scott made it to the little house in Chestnut Hill. He’d picked up Isabella en route in his battered Volvo and parked alongside Madison’s pristine looking blue Chrysler 200. No sooner had they opened the doors when Lillian arrived on her Vespa. “Thought you guys would have made it here sooner.” she said, prising off her helmet and shaking out her hair. “You did say it arrived at lunch, right?” “Sure did, but we had to put in the harbour first.” said Scott. “Oh, you mean it’s there already?” “Yeah. This remote has a range of fifty kilometres.” He produced the white controller from his pocket and showed it to her. “That’s good. I thought we were all going to drive there – she kinda said she doesn’t want to go outside today...” “You’ve been here all day?” said Isabella. “Yeah – I came to check on her this morning. Just thought I’d go out for a quick lunch run.” Lillian opened up her backpack. “Lunch?” said Isabella. She eyed the brown paper bag she took out, with the unmistakeable golden arches. “It’s two minutes past three.” “Yeah, I know…we’ve been having lunch for a while…” Isabella moved to knock on the door but found it was already open. The house was filled with the scent of chips and chocolate. She stiffened when she saw her candidate, lying down on the couch in the living room. Madison looked a completely different person from the woman they had seen the previous night, and not just from the twenty extra pounds that had settled on her hips, thighs and her belly. That belly was fully bared from her dad’s ripped sweater – which had ridden up to run under her heaving boobs – and now hung drum-tight and stuffed between her thighs as she sprawled over her couch, a little higher than she was used to thanks to her swelling bottom. Her fingers, salty and stained by cheesy potato chips, clawed in the direction of Lillian’s bag of McDonald’s, her eyes unflinching from the TV. Isabella coughed, and Madison turned her head. “Oh, hi guys. Heh, didn’t see you there.” She tried to sit up. “Oooff…” Her flabby middle restricted her movement, so she rolled to the side. As she swung her fat thighs she dislodged the mountain of chocolate wrappers that had piled up beside her on the couch. “Looks like you’re feeling cheerier now,” Isabella noted, not without a hint of disapproval. Madison flashed her huge muffin top as she struggled to her feet. “Yeah, well I knew there was no way I’d be getting thinner today…so I thought...what the hell.” She patted her soft, bulging belly. “Might as well eat the bullet before I get my body back. Live large and all.” “It’s bite the bullet,” said Lillian. “And we’re working with a wild theory here. We can’t give you any guarantees.” “But it all makes sense, I’m sure it’ll work.” She looked at Lillian. “Did you bring my McDonalds?” “Yeah, here you go.” said Lillian, putting the bag in Madison’s outstretched hand. She sat back down on the couch again and soon was filling her mouth with beef and cheese, sauces and salty fries. Scott tinkered with a little blue box by her television. He threaded some wires around to the ports on the sides. “If I plug this optical receiver into your TV, we get a live feed,” he told them. He produced a remote from his pocket and extended the antenna. “We’ll be able to guide the drone from your living room.” “Awesome.” said Madison, munching up her burger. The television beamed back a picture of the Boston skyline. The camera twisted to the sun, then around to the waves of the ocean. Then under, to the blackness of the depths. “Looks like we’re live.” said Isabella. “It’s just like the movies.” said Madison. “Like that scene at the end of Titanic.” Lillian sat next to her, finding she had to cosy up close to make more room for Isabella. Scott found a seat on a stool with his feet, his eyes firmly fixed on the picture onscreen. He made the drone submerge and guided it through the water. It skirted around the barnacled hull of the USS Constitution, scanning the seabed. It was equipped with two powerful searchlights, giving the team a crystal clear view of every rock and pebble. It took ten minutes of combing the coastline before Madison saw a faint glow in the dark. “Go back, go back. Did you see that?” “What?” “That light…” Scott spun the drone around, over to a miniature forest of thick seaweed. He steered it through slowly, careful not to let the propellers get tangled up. The picture grew clearer, and they soon saw an object that didn’t belong. Scott shined the torches over the top, and saw a reflection. “Got it” said Scott. It was the hourglass, half buried in silt, but otherwise intact. The team cheered. “It’s almost over.” said Isabella. “Thank god…” Madison groaned, lifting her stomach. “I feel so heavy.” Scott pushed a button for the drone to hover. The seaweed was blown back by the propellers as he increased the intensity. I still don’t get why…fat…” Madison squeezed her love handles. “Why couldn’t it make me taller? That would help. Or cuter?” Lillian smiled. “Then it wouldn’t be a curse, silly.” Madison pondered as her hands gravitated to her belly button. “Older, maybe?” She thought of Moira Dixon. One thing Moira held over her was the years of experience in she had in the political sphere, a point put out every morning by the local political news channels by the polling figures, her aging battle-worn visage would inevitably appear onscreen with Madison’s youthful complexion. “Hourglasses don’t need a curse to make you older.” said Isabella. “That’s how hourglasses work, if you think about it.” “Oh yeah.” The drone straightened up over its quarry. “It won’t be strong enough to raise it to the surface, but I think I can still flip it over,” said Scott. “If the battery lasts, that is.” Past the wavy strands of seaweed the hourglass glimmered in the murky depths. She watched the little grains of sand gradually slide from the top half to the bottom and thought of her waistline, slowly filling up her pants. She could feel it now – the tightness of her skin as fat pumped into her hips and thighs, the soft droopiness of her arms and her belly as it found places to rest in her growing bulges and curves. “Do it,” Madison urged Scott. “Turn it around.” The drone extended its appendage, and a little rubbery mitt gripped the edge of the hourglass. Scott nudged another button. The drone began to rise gently. A swirl of mud shrouded the screen as the hourglass lifted from its silty perch. He spun the drone around one hundred and eighty degrees. The sand began to shift. Madison closed her eyes. “Nearly…nearly” “You’re losing battery.” said Isabella. “I know. I know. Just a little shove…there…” Scott licked his lips as he brought the drone down again, with the hourglass inverted. He tapped in the prompt for it to let go of the hourglass. It did so, and the artefact remained steady on the seabed. “Done.” Everyone looked at Madison. She opened her eyes and looked down her body. No, still fat... The weight had very much not been lifted off her shoulders. “Could you give it a shake?” she asked, watching the sand edge grain by measly grain from bottom to top again. Scott fiddled with the controls. The machine wobbled the hourglass with its arm. The sand moved no less slowly. “Perhaps you’ll lose the weight at the same rate you put it on?” Isabella suggested. It made sense. Madison quickly did the maths. “Even if I start losing weight at a pound every hour, I might not be slim enough in time for the debate.” she said in a low voice. “It’s no biggie,” said Lillian, holding her hand. “If you can drop fifty pounds, maybe, I can fix you up in some black stripes. Just keep talking, try not to bend over and you won’t have mention a thing, I promise. Give me a call any time tomorrow. You’ll be ok tonight, right?” “Sure. Thanks for stopping over.” “See you at the debate, sweetie.” said Isabella. Scott unhooked his box and said goodbye, then the three of them left. Madison threw her packaging in the bin and sighed. It had been her first McDonalds in about four years, and her last for a long time to come. It was time to go back to salads and diet sodas – maybe even the gym, heaven forbid, to speed her weight loss up. She had a discomforting thought. What if the hourglass kept slimming her, past her old weight, past what she’d be comfortable with? What if it left her with just skin and bones? Duhh. Just get Scott to turn it over again. Put the weight back on. Then flip it before you get too fat. Suddenly, Madison realised something. If they were right about the whole thing, she had absolute control over her weight. She could get to one hundred and twenty pounds and stay there, nearabounce. It just meant they’d have to keep flipping that hourglass. I could eat whatever, whenever I wanted to, she realised. I could always stay skinny. She could barely contain her glee as she changed into her pyjamas. The pants were digging into her sides and she was spilling over the top, but she didn’t mind. She wouldn’t be fat forever. Soon, she’d be the master of herself again. Soon, she’d have everything her way.
  13. ‘They are of the People, and return again to mix with the People, having no more durable preeminence than the different Grains of Sand in an Hourglass…’ - Benjamin Franklin, letter to George Whatley, May 23, 1785. Madison fingered her belly, adjusted her glasses and skimmed the front page of the Boston Herald. Her face beamed back, glowing and resplendent, though she scowled at the sight of the tiniest roll that had appeared under her chin in the picture of her shaking a pig farmer’s hand. The headline was ‘THE BIG V’ – BOSTON MAYORAL RACE HEATS UP AT EASTERN STATES EXPOSITION. The rest of the words were unimportant to her. She was keenly aware that in this election, image was everything. It could make or break her victory. Her opponent, Moira Dixon, was the hardened heir of a Boston Brahmin, himself the scion of a longstanding political dynasty, with a string of distinguished ancestors moulding and shaping their power base in New England ever since the end of the Civil War. Madison lacked such a pedigree – though her senator father could offer her a trove of political connections, his home state was California. She grew up on the West Coast, not the East. As such, despite a decade spent first at MIT and then around various local councils she still felt that she was struggling to convince people she belonged. Her bronzed skin, long blonde locks and undeniably sensual hourglass figure were the traits of a pin-up girl, not a politician. Madison knew she had to work not just to promote her vision, but to promote an image that would not be a detriment to her chances. Thus her campaign team made clear she was Madison, rather than Maddie. She was not ‘in her twenties’; she was twenty-eight years old. She was mature, she was driven, and she was the future of the city. But for people to believe in her, sacrifices unfortunately had to be made. She swapped her prescription contact lenses back for her bifocals, which she’d not worn since high school, but which her campaign manager Isabella insisted encapsulated an authoritative look. Before her first rally Madison had relented to having the waves straightened out of her golden hair, an inch (but no more) taken off the ends and the colour itself dyed to a sharp jet black. Changes, again not voluntary ones, were also being forced upon the body she’d honed through years of swimming and diving. Amidst the hustle and bustle of campaigning, Madison was proud, even a little bit surprised, that she’d kept herself under one hundred and thirty pounds. The social gormandizing – drinking in Irish pubs, a barbecue at the NAACP meet, pizza at several Italian-American restaurants – was pushing her closer and closer, she knew, but her campaign manager Isabella was keeping her fighting fit with a string of carefully chosen appointments at Boston’s basketball arenas, ballparks and football stadiums, where she’d inevitably be called upon to get in the game. It had taken time, practice and a select few cuss words, but Madison had surprised her team by sinking a free throw on her first attempt at TD Gardens in front of eighteen thousand people. The cheer she got had been the highlight of a long, dragging start to the year. The late night snacking was a little bothersome. But it was the late nights themselves that were taking their toll. Backstage, Lillian dabbed the little bags under Madison’s eyes with eye cream and concealer. “You’re a lifesaver.” Madison mumbled. She tried to glance one more time at the additions Isabella had made to her stump speech. “Keep looking at me,” said Lillian, pressing a finger on the side of her temple. “There. Just a little more. Perfect, you’re done.” She returned the makeup to her handy carry case. “And no, I don’t save lives. For you I barely have to. You’re beautiful. Remember that when you’re out there.” “Thanks. Urghh…how long do I have?” “You’re on in one.” said Scott, her pollster and math man. “One hour?” said Madison, smiling sweetly. She warmed at the thought of a nap when all of this was over. “Fifty seconds and counting” said Isabella. “Now Madison, focus. Those questions are going to be coming thick and fast this time next week, from all corners. This right here is going to be a breeze, but don’t let your guard down. Who are you?” “Umm…Madison Greene…” “I said who are you?” “Madison Greene!” she said with a little more vigour. “What do you want?” Food…Sleep... “A better future for Boston!” “Fantastic. Now where are you?” Madison blinked. “Umm….err…” She tried to peer out of the window. Isabella put a palm to her face. “The harbor. It’s called the harbor.” “I knew that!” Madison protested. “I just thought it had a special name or something, like…” “Boston Harbor?” offered Scott. “Yeah. I mean…no…” “And what happened in Boston Harbor two hundred and forty two years ago?” asked Lillian. Madison groaned again. Her personal stylist slash makeup artist had majored in History and rarely let her forget it. “Something important?” “Hell yeah, something important. It begins with a B. B…Buh-” Buh…Bubbunut Doughnuts. Oh god yes. “On in twenty.” said Scott. Madison suddenly stopped daydreaming. “- Boston…” Lillian drew out. “Boston…” Madison murmured. “Boston T…T…” “…twerking?” Lillian gave her a puzzled look. The she nearly doubled over laughing. “Are you serious? The Boston Twerking Party?” “Oh…oh right. I get it now.” said Madison. “That thing where the patriots…” “…got together and threw their asses out into the harbour. Okay, get that image out of your head.” said Isabella sharply. “You’re on now. Ready?” “Ready.” Isabella lifted the curtain and Madison strode out into the bracing air of the bay. A healthy crowd had formed around the stage set up next to the USS Constitution, and they applauded warmly as she strode to the veiled object on the table in the centre. The President of the Boston Nautical Heritage Society, a seventy year-old man dressed in full colonial naval regalia, shook her hand and took to the microphone, offered his greetings and thanks to the crowd and to Madison. “And without further ado, I’ll unveil what you’ve all come here to see!” he shouted. He hobbled over to the table and with a flourished whipped away the veil. Beneath it was an hourglass, vast and gleaming. A mound of shining sand, glittering like a mountain of gold, lay at the bottom chamber while the sun’s rays dazzled out of the top. The frame was beautifully carved mahogany - the ocean waves were cut into the grooves, where angels and mermaids linked hands. “After last year’s unfortunate incident, I hope you’re all as glad as I am to see the Franklin Hourglass again.” the president said to more applause. “Over the past nine months, our experts at the society, with help from the Sandwich Glass Museum and the late Folger Meadows, one of Boston’s last traditional whittlers, have painstakingly restored this prized artefact to its former glory.” His wrinkly hands lifted the hourglass up. “It gives me great pleasure to present this masterpiece in Mister Meadow’s memory to Madison Greene, so that she may have the honour of returning to the captain’s quarters of the USS Constitution, the very place Benjamin Franklin intended it to occupy when he created it two hundred and twenty six years ago.” Madison held out her hands and he passed it over. Her foot shot forward in her high-heeled shoes – it was a lot heavier than she’d thought. She gripped it by the side, with a hand on the top and bottom to manage the weight, then smiled at the crowd though inside her lungs were straining. She let the hourglass rest on the table a moment before she spoke. “Thank you Mister President. And thank you the citizens of Boston, for joining me on this lovely day to return this beautiful hourglass to its home aboard the – oh SHIT!” Madison’s mouth hung open as she saw the hourglass teeter on the edge the table. Having laid it on its side, she hadn’t seen it slowly roll away whilst she was speaking. She made a lunging grab for it but it tumbled off the edge, bounced, then fell off the stage. She dashed to the front, just in time to see it roll to the end of the harbour. She cringed as a splosh echoed across an audience that had fallen deathly silent. “Uhhh…” Madison mumbled. The eyes of the crowd were turning back to her once the antique had sunk to the ocean floor. The Boston Nautical Heritage president looked utterly shell-shocked. She snatched a pleading glance at Isabella backstage, behind the curtain. Her campaign manager held out her hands and mouthed ‘Don’t…move…’. She said some other things but Madison couldn’t read her lips. All she knew was that the worst thing she could do at this point was run away. Madison looked at the crowd. She had to say something. “Well, maybe I’m not the best person to handle Boston’s past…” she exclaimed to a slight titter. “But does the past always have to matter? I’m sure we as freedom-loving people don’t want to forever be trapped by the past and the mistakes we might have made. Maybe you put an odd pair of socks on this morning. Maybe you parked your car too close to an intersection when you came here. Maybe you just dropped a priceless hourglass into the ocean…” Some people started laughing. Madison smiled. “But, it doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to. You don’t have to be confined by your past, and neither should this city. It’s time we started looking forward. It’s time we started looking to the future. It’s time we started looking for a better future for Boston!” She raised a triumphant hand, and to her amazement, the audience began to applaud. She left the stage, more than happy to leave the still stunned president to handle the rest of the ceremony. “I don’t know how you pulled that off, but you did.” Isabella whispered as she descended the stairs. “Good job. Now let’s get in the car and get out of here” She eyed the audience. “Before they ask us about paying for salvage.” When they made it back to the downtown campaign office, the team agreed a good rest was in all of their best interests. They took the rest of the afternoon off, scheduling to meet up again the next morning. “Somebody please tell me my chances didn’t sink with that hourglass yesterday…” Madison said the moment she walked in. The memory still made her feel sick to her stomach – her stomach itself had given her no end of trouble in groaning and rumbling. “Nothing’s unsalvageable.” said Isabella, skimming through another edition of the Boston Herald. “How’s the social media?” “Well, the older generation think you’re a clutz, especially the WASPs” said Scott. “But there’s not many of them on Facebook. And on the plus side. the eighteen to twenty five demographic is finding it hilarious.” He showed her a picture on Facebook that had been doing the rounds on the rest of the internet – already it had accrued over 135k of likes. It was Nathaniel Currer’s old-timey painting of the Boston Tea Party, albeit with her image photoshopped in between the men dressed as Native Americans, holding a hand out while the Franklin Hourglass fell beneath her into the water. ‘Oh Shit!’ was the caption. “It isn’t important,” said Isabella. “The papers are having a field day, but you’re still closing the gap on Moira. That’s what matters. We’re going to build on that ahead of the debate, starting at the creamery tomorrow.” Madison licked her lips. Finally, now came the event she’d been looking forward to the most. “You’ve been taking it ok, right?” Lillian asked her. “Yeah” Madison shrugged. “Why?” “You’re looking a little…fed up.” “What?” said Madison, her hand nervously covering her tummy. “Literally or figuratively?” Lillian stared at her again. “Both, I guess. Have you been eating okay?” “Yeah…I’ve just been feeling a little bloated. That’s all.” Madison put her hand to her stomach again. Strangely, it was curving out. She was perplexed to find that even after skipping her usual morning frappuccino, the bloatedness did not subside. She pursued an answer at the office restroom, where she found an old spring scale by the cleaning supplies. She took off her heels and stepped on. Her eyebrows rose. She was one hundred and forty-nine pounds. She stepped on again. The arrow pointed to the same place, a dash just shy of 150. She gave herself a puzzled look in the mirror. She could no longer see her ribs, nor feel them as she smoothed a hand down her side. Her face was a little rounder, her waist a little wider, her breasts a tad bigger than she remembered. Where did all that come from? I weighed myself a month ago. I was one twenty-nine, wasn’t I? She wondered if she had been kidding herself all this time. Had she really been seeing a four as the middle number, rather than a two? Madison wiggled her hips. Clearly she’d lost her youthful metabolism. She made a silent resolution to start watching what she ate. “Stating at the creamery tomorrow,” she told herself in the mirror. “Or maybe later…” She’d allow herself an ice cream. She had to, of course, to make it look like she was enjoying her time there. One ice cream couldn’t do her any harm. It wouldn’t take her to one-hundred and fifty pounds. “Wouldn’t that be a disaster?” Madison grimaced, thinking about the press. She found the paper and checked the latest political reports, casting a keen eye over Moira. She smiled when she remembered where her opponent would be tomorrow – not at the creamery, but at a waste treatment plant. She was glad to have Isabella on her team. No matter what happened, she’d always pick the long straws. The thought made her crave a sundae. So she had one. Just a little one. The creamery ice cream, in fact, did not take her to one-hundred and fifty pounds. She learned she had passed that point, and then some, long before she even arrived at the creamery. “No, I’m not ok,” she said to Lillian before she could ask. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Madison glared at herself in her hand mirror while they stood by her car. She looked chubby. Primped, poised, and chubby. “It’s fine,” her stylist said. She felt a sharp tug down her shoulders as she tried to pull down the hem of her jacket. “Nothing I can’t fix.” Madison got Isabella on the phone and told her she was going to be later than she’d thought. She’d lost fifteen minutes already that morning, taking a lot more time than she was used to squeezing herself into her skirt. She bust a bra trying to secure the button, and her eventual success left her curiously disappointed when she found her jacket wouldn’t cover up a jelly roll of hers that hung over the edge. Lillian worked tirelessly to tie a matching coloured girdle under her shirt and jacket, around the areas of exposed flesh that stuck out at the bottom. “This is ridiculous.” Madison said, to no-one in particular. “You’re just having a fat day. It happens to everybody.” “Not like this. There’s a difference between having a fat day and waking up fat.” “You’re not fat.” “I’m one hundred and seventy pounds. I gained twenty pounds in less than a day. And that’s on top of the twenty pounds I think I gained before the last time I saw you. I literally got huge overnight. I went to bed and woke up with these...” Madison cupped her soft, fleshy, bigger boobs. “And this.” She gripped the nascent thickness on her sides. “Love handles, Lillian. You don’t get love handles from being bloated.” “Just hold your hands up a mo…” Madison grunted as Lillian pulled the strings tight. She felt her boobs mushroom out the top of the girdle. She tied them together at the back then offered Madison her jacket. She grit her teeth in discomfort as she twisted to put it over her shoulders. She brushed her hair over her back then looked at herself again in the hand mirror. Her slim figure had returned – she was her normal self again, save for the slight slither of fat beneath her chin. “Seriously, you’re a lifesaver” Madison told her stylist. “I wouldn’t recommend bending” Lillian said quietly. “And be careful when you sit down. The strings might snap.” “That’s fine. I can still eat, right? This thing won’t burst off?” “Yeah. A small ice cream won’t hurt.” “Great” she sighed. The taste would help take her mind off the painful pressure on her ribs, and her steady, yet sudden and wildly speedy weight gain. At least for a little while. A whiff of rich milk drifted to her nose. Her taste buds titillated. “All done?” Madison asked Lillian. “Oooh!” Lillian tightened the last string. “Yeah, all done.” Madison checked her handbag and the two of them walked together through the creamery car park. The smell of sweet ices grew and grew. Madison widened her strides. Suddenly, she heard a giant scratch. She felt a light breeze, and the gentle easing of pressure. Her hands zipped to her derriere. “We’re leaving” said Madison, mortified. “I’m getting out of here before anyone sees me.” “But they’re expecting you” said Lillian. “I can fix it, I’ve got safety pins…” Madison ignored her as she shimmied back to her car. The tear on the seat of her skirt rippled and grew. “Please!” Lillian shouted “The show has to go on!” Madison bustled in and started the ignition. She reversed out of her spot and wound down the window. “Tell them I’m sick or something. Tell them anything. Tell them I’m sorry. But don’t tell them what just happened.” She wound the window back up and sped away, cringing. Her tummy brushed the bottom of the steering wheel as she reached the freeway. What’s happening to me? she wondered, desperately. The next day at 2:00pm, after a very light lunch, Madison reluctantly turned to the campaign office after receiving Isabella’s thirtieth text message. Her campaign manager was uncharacteristically ruffled. She rattled off her questions as soon as her candidate opened the door. “Why didn’t you show yesterday? We’ve been calling you all morning, where have you been? What have you been doing?” “Growing…” said Madison. Her voice was low, and strained, like the stitches on her shirt. Ovals of pale, soft fat peeked out between each button, from the bottom of her shirt up to her breasts, where she’d had to leave them undone. Her boobs overflowed from the tops of their cups. Her campaign manager was visibly shocked. “Do you wanna hear the latest poll figures?” said Scott, cheerfully trying to break the silence. He forced a smile when Madison looked his way. “Scott, none of that bullshit matters now,” she huffed. “Do you have idea how much I weigh?” “Err…it’s not a big deal…” “Two hundred pounds. It is a big deal.” Madison muttered as she slumped on her chair. She had been unable to cram herself back into her girdle than morning – thus every pound showed. The chair groaned in complaint as she twisted around to face Isabella. “You remember how I made a sugary drinks tax a cornerstone of my health policy?” Isabella numbly nodded. Madison let her fingers trace the creases in the thick rolls of fat that formed around her middle as she sat. Her shirt buttons stretched. “How am I supposed to lecture people on the obesity crisis, looking like this?” Her voice drew quieter as she gripped her pot belly tightly. “I am the obesity crisis. Either we find a way to work around this, or I can’t keep campaigning.” There was more silence. Isabella broke it this time. “Maybe it doesn’t feel good, but it’s a little late to change your platform now. You’ve gotta keep fighting. You’ve got to remember being a mayor is not about what you look like. It’s about what you do, and what you say.” “But I’ll never get to be the mayor looking like this. They’ll say I’m lazy, that I can’t control myself.” Madison insisted. “I’ve got to lose this weight.” She got out of her chair and left the office in a hurry, leaving her team to the rest of the work. She drove back to her house, pinged off the super tight buttons of her shirt and pants then changed into some stretchy leggings and a vest. She found her long forgotten exercise bike in a cupboard, brushed off the dust and cobwebs and set it up in front of her television. Madison worked out forty minutes on, twenty minutes off for the rest of the day, right up till ten pm. Her belly bunched up and slapped her thighs as they rotated. Sweat poured off her chubbier cheeks. To keep her going she drank only water, and ate just some leftover celery from the fridge and the apples and pears in her fruit bowl. When they ran out, she ate nothing at all. By ten her legs felt like jelly. She staggered off the bike to her bathroom and showered. The burst of cool water made her calves seize up. She had to roll off the side of her bathtub to get out, and crawl to her bedroom. She was too weak to even step on a scale. She collapsed into her bed and nursed out the cramping knots in her muscles. Madison’s belly woke her up the next morning with an unsatisfied rumble. She ignored it, changed from her pyjamas into a fresh pair of leggings and a vest and got back on her bike. She found herself tiring more easily, and put it down to her lack of food and her efforts yesterday. She’d noticed her belly had stopped slapping her thighs – by the afternoon it was rubbing along the top, itching her as it sweated even as she leaned back to give her chubby rolls more fresh air. After working herself to the point of crumbling again, Madison eased herself off the bike. She took another long shower, dried herself, then found her scale. She dropped her towel and stepped on. “Five pounds,” she told herself. “At least five pounds…come on…” She tensed up as the reading flickered. She tensed up even more at the figure it came up with. She was two hundred and thirty pounds. “That’s impossible!” she screamed. She kicked her scale back into the cabinet. “I’ve done nothing but work out, all day! How am I bigger?!” Her legs were giving way, and her stomach was roaring for food. Teeth bared, she gave in to what her body was craving. She cleared out her cupboard, fridge and freezer of what she wanted, piled her living room table with cookies, potato chips, chocolate and ice cream, then dropped on the couch, turned on the TV, and stuffed herself relentlessly. When her snacks were gone she pulled her clothes back on and ordered pizza. She ate and ate, till her stomach was as painfully tight as her leggings. “What the hell?” she shouted through a mouthful of food, when they started to split down the outside of her thigh. She swore viciously and ripped the tear open herself, dumbstruck by the vast expanse of doughy fat, wobbling freely. She found herself a giant Hershey bar donated a while ago by a kindly supporter, and ate late into the night.
  14. Lauren pushed her phone past her hair, closer to her ear. “I’m listening,” she said. “Ok,” said Darren. “Just…just make sure you’re alone.” The ticker flicked through the twenties into the thirties. “I am. You’ll have to be quick though.” she whispered. “Ok, bear with me this one moment,” said Darren. “It’s not good news. I searched everywhere, then searched everything again once I’d got it. I went through the files, the emails, the company intranet, the works. I even managed to remotely access the boss’s mobile. I know it’s not kosher, but I had a hunch. And I was right. It’s Tim. Tim Maxim.” Lauren threw a baffled look. “That’s impossible,” she said. “Tim was in Russia when it happened.” “He wasn’t.” said Darren. “Look, I’ve got it in front of me. According to this little dohicky right now he’s on Floor Forty-Four.” “Yeah, that’s right.” said Lauren. “Well I’ve backdated the readings with an algorithm of my own. Lauren, he was on Forty-Four the day the attack happened. He never left for Russia. He never left his office.” “But…but his Eyway account was emptied…” “It wouldn’t have mattered. He was stealing his own money. He did it to preserve his alibi. Just like how he smashed his own window from the inside.” “Darren, I don’t believe this.” said Lauren. She rubbed her eyes. It wasn’t true. It was anyone, anyone but Tim. Her thoughts turned. What if it the real thief had the cops on his tail? What if he was trying at that very moment to save his skin? The ticker was closing on the forties. Lauren lowered her voice. “Don’t you think it’s a little odd that the moment the thief disappeared, you appeared right where he was last seen? In the underground car park?” she whispered down the phone. “No,” said Darren. “…I just drove back from lunch. It was when my next shift started.” “How come nobody else saw that blue Mercedes leave the tower?” “Hey, they hacked the CCTV, remember? It’s the same reason no-one saw what happened to you on Forty-Four. The records were wiped up there.” “I wiped the records.” said Lauren. “Huh?” said Darren. “It was me who wiped the tapes up there. Nobody tampered with them. If they wanted to, they’d have to be a seriously good hacker. Someone who could break into their bosses’ mobile phone from their PC, maybe?” There was a second of silence on the line. “Lauren, you’re getting this all wrong.” The ticker reached forty-two. “I think it’s you who’s got it wrong, Darren.” “No, no, no. Please. Just stop! Don’t go anywhere!” he pleaded. “Whatever.” said Lauren. See you in court.” She ended the call and put her phone back in her handbag. Lauren had her answer. She breathed out, feeling her belly push the seams of her dress a little tighter. She gave it a pat. The elevator doors opened up. The seams eased as Lauren took a sharp intake of breath. Tim Maxim was in the room, adjusting his tie in the reflection on the glass window. Courtney Campbell was sitting at her desk. “Hi Miss Wilson!” she squeaked with a wave. She resumed tapping with her manicured pink nails on Lauren’s laptop. There were acres of space either side of her on her wide, plush chair. “Lauren, my darling, good morning!” said Tim, turning around. “I’d meant to call but there wasn’t the time, so I thought I’d ease you in the easiest way anyhow. We’ve taken Courtney on as our new model, as you might have guessed. But since her resumé had such a blinding barrage of brilliant references from her past secretarial work I thought I’d introduce her as your…understudy, shall we say?” “…Understudy?” said Lauren, the only word she could fathom. “Yes, indeed. Since your modelling work was such a springboard to you keeping the beating heart of the firm going strong up in management, I thought one good turn would deserve another. Courtney shall be shadowing you for the next week in between shoots. She’s agreed to work the weekends thereafter!” “Tim.” said Lauren, her eyes bulging. “She’s…” “Perfect?” the manager said with a cheery grin. “I thought so too! And to think, I found her resumé torn and tattered beside the bin. I can only think the cleaners must surely have mistaken it for waste paper.” “Uhh.” Lauren blushed red. “Yeah, totally.” Courtney looked at her with a wide smirk. Lauren flinched as she glared back, eyeing the dainty, clumsy way she slid the mouse across the desk, the way her eyes whirled as they returned to the screen. It was clear Ursula used her know-how to fill in the references on her resumé. This girl didn’t have a clue. Tim tightened the knot on his double Windsor. “I’ve just been meaning to mention, there won’t be much to do up here before the conference. Just a little meeting and greeting. Since Courtney’s here, I thought you could have the morning off.” “Oh. Right. Is there nothing for me to do up here?” “Nothing at all.” “You’re sure right?” Lauren walked closer to the desk and laid a hand on it. “I thought maybe I could say hello, hand out a few cupcakes, maybe tell them about how well our new ices are selling in Mexico City…” “It’s alright, you can relax. You needn’t strain your smile up here. Everything’s fine as it is.” Lauren made eye contact with Tim as she stood closer. “Are you sure?” she said. “Like, really really sure?” She hoped he’d see it in her eyes. Courtney could not be left alone in her office with a company computer. “Lauren, I mean this in the sincerest sense…” Tim strode till he was toe to toe with her. He bent his head and lowered his voice. “I don’t want you to see them. It’s all a matter of confidence with shareholders, you see. They’re already a little shell-shocked by the hack and robbery, so it’s utterly integral we –” “Tim, about that. I think I know – ” “Yes, exactly. So we have to –” “No.” Lauren stepped on her tiptoes and moved her mouth closer to his ear. She couldn’t let Courtney hear her. Her centre of balance rolled forward and she laid a hand on Tim’s chest. “I know who –” “Please.” said Tim. “As much as I’d love to seek the sanctuary of an old cliché, I do feel it’s not me. It’s you.” “Huh?” said Lauren. “I know we’ve all felt the need for tender care since the attack, you perhaps more so than the others. But…it’s been some time now, and you’ve long crossed the border on the other side of comfort to…indulgence.” Lauren blinked. What was he saying? “I’m saying it’s gotten excessive.” said Tim, reading her eyes. Lauren felt him place his cold hands on her warm, doughy sides and softly push. Only then did Lauren notice how her belly was pressed up against his. Her hand left his chest. The roll of her fat balanced on Tim’s belt buckle dropped back to its proper place with a wobble. “Oooh,” Lauren said, stepping back. Her lips faltered a little. “Oh. Ok.” “Is there something we could get you before you go?” Tim offered. “A drink perhaps? Some tea?” “No, no. I’m fine.” Head stung and heart bruised, Lauren turned and returned to the elevator. “Umm…see you soon.” “Yes. Yes I will. Goodbye.” Lauren felt herself sink inside as she shifted down through the floors. She hadn’t pressed any of the buttons. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her cheeks, she noticed, were particularly puffy. “It’s because I’m fat, isn’t it?” she mumbled to herself. The stock market, shareholding – it was all about external perceptions, right? If the shareholders saw a secretary clearly addicted to baked goods, a secretary who couldn’t keep an eye on her weight, could she be expected to keep an eye on the company’s incomings and outgoings? No. They’d bail in an instant. That’s ridiculous Lauren chided herself. I’m good at my job. Tim says so. But why then, after all she’d done, had he chosen to be so shallow? With nothing else to do but dwell in her thoughts, Lauren stopped the elevator at the cafeteria. She plopped her ass down on a cool plastic seat, alone in the empty room. She looked, and indeed felt, like a date who’d been stood up. She found solace for her annoyance in food, and for half an hour she sat and munched on chocolate fudge and ice cream – the special of the day was the Napoleone Supremo. When asked for a third full portion, one of the catering staff asked if she was feeling alright. “Yeah” she mumbled, not meeting her eyes. Within three minutes Lauren was asking for more. Her head felt fuzzy and cold. The seams on her dress were creaking. “No.” said Lauren, slapping down her spoon halfway through. “What am I doing? I should not be eating this.” More fattening food is the last thing I need. Tim’s stuck that skinny bitch on the road to replacing me. And that was if she didn’t bring Tim and Eyway down before it could happen. Lauren seethed. It wouldn’t take much. With the amount of experience she had working in an office, She reckoned the skinny model would barely have to try. She’d wreck the company just by being in her seat. Lauren had half a mind to just let it happen. She’d take slack from Ursula any day of the week. But from Tim it felt much worse, even if it sounded less critical. She felt her feelings grow with the way he’d held her hips. Indulgence? Excessive? She felt she should have kneed him in the balls for that. But she knew her knees wouldn’t have come high enough. Her weak, flabby thighs would have been buffered by her thick belly. And therein Lauren saw his point. She really had gotten prodigiously overweight. Lauren felt a buzz in her handbag and found her phone. It was someone else she wanted to knee in the balls. She sighed, then pressed the green button. “What do you want Darren?” she snapped. “To iron things over,” Darren hurriedly said. “You’re making a huge mistake.” “Don’t try running.” Lauren said. “I have your file on the company system. We’ll know where you are and where to find you.” “I’m not running anywhere.” said Darren. “Lauren, please. I would never do this. I would never hurt you.” I mean, surely it must have hurt? “Darren.” “I mean it. You’re…you’re…” You’re too kind. Offering the chance of a lifetime to another girl…turning down any reimbursement after what happened to your account…being on the receiving end of that leg sweep from that shady vagabond – I mean, surely it must have hurt? Lauren’s mind jingled. …after what happened to your account…being on the receiving end of that leg sweep from that shady vagabond… …on the receiving end of that leg sweep… …that leg sweep… …that leg sweep… “Hey...hey, you still there?” said Darren. “Oh my god.” said Lauren. “Lauren?” “Darren, forget everything I said. You were right.” We were the only ones in the foyer. Me and the thief. And no-one has seen the CCTV. That leg sweep. How could Tim have known what he did to me? “It was Tim,” whispered Lauren, her palms sweaty. “Holy shit. Tim did it.” “Yes…” said Darren. “Call me back in an hour, okay?” said Lauren. “Wait…what?” “I have to do something,” she decided. “I have to go.” On impulse, Lauren finished her bowl and headed back to the forty-fourth floor. The room was clear – the shareholders and delegates had all had their welcome and had made their way to the forty-third floor conference room. Only Courtney Campbell remained. Lauren locked eyes with the blonde sitting in her seat. Malicious or not, she was still a nuisance. She had to be removed from the equation. “Ughh, I’m hungry.” said Lauren. She rubbed her belly through her dress. Already firm and full of food, it gurgled. The blonde wasn’t looking. Her eyes were still dancing over her laptop. Lauren stamped a heel. “I said I’m hungry.” she said, sweetly yet forcefully. “Umm…what would you like to eat?” said Courtney, perplexed. “A cake.” Lauren said. “I want a slice of the biggest, fullest, most succulent cake you can get from the cafeteria. I want it with sugar and sprinkles – but not the green and yellow ones. Take those out. I want it with three scoops of ice cream. , and blueberry. And I want whipped cream in a swirl on top, but not full-fat whipped cream. Semi-skimmed. I’ve gotta…mmmfff…watch my figure, you know?” Lauren shifted her weight from one leg to another, smoothing her hand down the taut satin on her waist. She leant to her left and stuck out her hip. “Wouldn’t wanna get fat, would I?” she smirked. “Uhhh…alright.” said Courtney. She caught the model rolling her eyes as she sauntered to the elevator. Lauren laid a hand on her bony shoulder as they reached each other. “I’m warning you,” she said in a low growl. “Take all the time you need. But if that cake slice is not utterly, mind-bogglingly delicious I’ll be having words with the boss. It’s company policy that our representatives should know the best tastes we offer, after all.” Courtney whitened as she passed her by. Lauren smiled. Hopefully she’d left the mole with enough to keep her occupied in the time she needed. She wasn’t even sure semi-skimmed whipped cream existed. She certainly hadn’t tried some. Lauren watched the elevator doors close on the skinny model, and then she got to work. She needed something to incriminate Tim. She crossed from her office into his. She stepped over the toadstool, rounded his desk and landed with a squish in his chair. She checked the message history of the phone on his desk to see what calls he’d been getting. Most were from the same numbers she dealt with as his secretary. But there was one from a number she didn’t recognise, sent the day before the Eyway accounts had been hacked. They’d left a message. Lauren pressed the play button. “Hello there, this is Katherine calling from Delacroiss Limited, we understand your company’s policy on unsolicited calls from its fiscal partners, but I’m just calling to inform you that Mister Aneurin Delacroiss will not be able to attend your shareholder’s meeting today as he is currently undertaking some urgent business in Europe. If you could kindly pass this message on to Mister Maxim, that would be lovely. Thank you. We at Delacroiss wish you a wonderful day. Goodbye.” There was the click of a receiver. Delacroiss? Lauren had heard that name before. She couldn’t quite pluck it out from the recesses of her mind. She turned on her laptop and searched it on Google. The first result was an advert for an ice cream parlour run by a Toni Delacroiss in Florida, which she ignored. The second was a Wikipedia page, which she clicked on. Her eyes widened. Delacroiss was a pharmaceutical company. On paper it didn’t have assets in the U.S. – just holdings in American companies, like Eyway. But it did have offices, stores and contracts all over Europe, and most interestingly, it had been the subject of many scandals in the British press. Lauren clicked a link to a tabloid homepage. She read that after an inquest into a case involving illegal artificially developed additives and E-numbers, Delacroiss had been fined into financial ruin. Condemned by one correspondent as the biggest pillar of the obesity epidemic, they were on the verge of bankruptcy until a few months ago. Lauren felt her blood cool. She wondered how the company had managed to lift itself out the deep end. Who could have given them the money? It could easily have been Tim. The timing made sense. I need to root him out and show the world what he is. Ursula’s words echoed in her ears. Where was she now? Her thoughts turned a little more sinister. What could have happened to her? Lauren decided that she had to know the details of that meeting in the conference room. It might give her all the evidence she needed. She thought about descending the staircase and pressing her ear to the doors, but they were made of clouded glass. They’d see her silhouette from the other side. Sussing from her outline Tim might even guess who it was – lately her body had been taking on a very unique shape, chunky at the top, but much wider at the bottom, like a plump teardrop. Whatever she had to do, she needed to get out of Tim’s chair first. Lauren steadied herself, then in one jaunty movement she slowly hauled herself up off her seat. She couldn’t do it spontaneously any more; there was barely enough strength in her thighs to thrust her hefty body up. As her belly lazily rolled forward between her legs, acting as a counterweight to her blubbery ass, Lauren felt weirdly self-aware. Something was up. How had all this weight just crept up on her? Ursula was looking less and less like the crazy naysayer Lauren had written her off as. Maybe there was something up with the produce too. Maybe all this time Lauren been plumping for the wrong side. Maybe Ursula was right all along, about everything. I don’t want you to see them. What if Tim had meant exactly what he’d said? If just one of the guys in that room was from another big pharma like Delacroiss, or maybe an even shadier organisation, her suspicions would be confirmed. Her main problem was that they were shareholders, not staff – she couldn’t simply look them up on the employee database on her intranet account. They didn’t wear name tags like she did, so she couldn’t check them out when they finished their talk and left. The only way to know was to listen in while the meeting was still ongoing. Lauren heard someone laugh. It came from within the boardroom, then it echoed over and over, a little lighter each time, finally settling in the corner of her foyer where the grill to the ventilation shaft lay on the wall. The vents Lauren realised. They’re my only way in. She crouched by the grill, lifted her hair and pressed her ear against the bars. She could hear their voices and more laughter, but they were too faint for her to make out any of the words. She had to get closer. She plucked a retractable pen from her handbag and used it to unscrew the grill. The four screws popped out easily. Lauren took a deep breath. Small, confined spaces weren’t her thing, especially now that she’d gained much and more around her waist. She removed the grill and stared into the vent. It was dark, cramped and stuffy. Lauren found her phone and turned on the flashlight. She slipped off her heels, leaving them by her desk. Then she got on her hands and knees, with her light leading the way, she crawled inside. Immediately she felt her anxiety flurry, but she scrolled through her messages on her phone as she sluggishly crawled, reading them through to try and take her mind off her situation. She shifted slowly in the direction of the voice, careful not to let her knees bang too hard on the metal. Her mind would have been more at ease had her ass not been sliding along the top of the structure, a constant reminder of the tiny dimensions of the space she was in. Lauren spied a light in the darkness. Instinctively she crawled toward it. The voices grew louder and clearer. “…a bulk shipment, delivered in instalments? I smell something of an oxymoron in there, if you don’t mind me saying.” said Tim. “Say what you want Mister Maxim, I don’t care. Just don’t drop me in it. All I know is that Marco wants fresh baked goods delivered every day.” The voice was a woman’s. It had a rough accent Lauren couldn’t place. “For a whole year?” said Tim. “Yeah.” “Anything in particular?” said Tim. “Anything you’ve got. Just be sure it’s the best.” “Of course, of course. He doesn’t have any preference whatsoever?” “Don’t get in over your head. He’s a mob boss, not a Michelin critic. It’s not for him anyway. It’s for some chick he wants me to wait on hand and foot for. But I can’t bake for shit, so that’s why I need your help. I brought the money.” Lauren heard a briefcase open up. “That’s got to be half a million dollars!” Tim gasped. “It’s five-hundred and twenty-five thousand. He said it’ll cover your food, your deliveries and your discretion. Not a word about this, to anybody. And no hints to the movers and shakers next door.” “Yes…err….yes. Understood, absolutely. Remind me, whe-where are we delivering these instalments to?” “Eldora, Florida. You won’t find it on a map. Let me show you…” Lauren realised that Tim and the woman were meeting privately. A buzz of voices further down the shaft told her the conference was going on in a separate room. “Excellent” said Tim. Lauren heard the briefcase close. “We’ll start within the week. Shall we proceed with the rest of the morning?” “Sure. Just remember what I said.” The door opened and swung shut. Lauren heard their footsteps as they made their way back to the main conference room. She crawled further down the shaft. Kkkrrrcchhh She froze. The noise echoed all around her. She shuffled back a little and saw she’d snagged her dress on a corner. The edge had made a tear that ran halfway down her thigh. She swore. “This info better be worth it.” Lauren whispered to herself. She turned as wide as she could around the corner and followed the dull light. She found its source – another grill, this one at the bottom of the vent, suspended over what she presumed was the conference room. Lauren held her breath as she drew closer. The shaft began to narrow. Soon she felt metal on all of her sides. She kept going. Her love handles rubbed the soldered joints. She was getting closer. She found herself having to stretch for the light. She grunted and shuffled some more, before realising that she had reached her limit. The shaft had gotten too narrow for her to go any further. The light was just inches away. If she could get her phone camera there she’d get everything. She curled up her legs and surged forward one more time. She heard the metal groan. Suddenly the shaft seized around her. Her belly, sides and butt were squeezed together. Lauren grit her teeth as she felt the heavy pressure on her stomach. She tried to push herself back. But there was no way back. Her knees pawed uselessly against the metal. Her hands had nothing but the base of the vent to push against. Lauren put down her phone and tried to heave herself further along. It was no use. A wave of panic washed over Lauren when she realised she was stuck. She let out a little whimper. She steadied herself. If she got herself stuck into something, she could get herself out. It was logic. She raised her chest and dropped it, trying to squirm like a worm. Sweat beaded on her forehead. Lauren began to wish she’d made more use of the gym. She wiped the sweat away as she struggled, and soon her hands were slippy. She tried to press herself up. Nothing. Her ass was so tightly packed that she couldn’t even make it wobble, like it did during her every walking moment. “Crap.” Lauren hissed. She mouthed curses at the people below her. This was all their fault, right? They made this company. They were the ones who’d fattened her up. It was because of them that she was stuck. Her hair was dripping. Her breathing was getting hot and heavy, and she was worried that they would hear her from below. She tried one last, desperate wiggle. Then she heard the screech of scraping metal. She felt herself drop half a foot. The vent was giving way. The rivets split between the sections, exposing her to the light. The vent dropped some more. The grill clattered away. Slick with sweat and with her weight pulling her down, Lauren screamed as she slid out from the ceiling. She plunged into the conference and hit the table flat on her back with a massive thud. Her mind spun. Her fat whirled and wobbled all over her. She heard shouts of surprise turn to shocked murmuring. She groaned as she tried to raise an arm to push her hair out of her eyes, her body still jiggling. Her vision clear, she saw the rest of the vent teetering ominously above her. Lauren’s mind was filled with the image of her old chair, snapping to pieces that narrowly missed her head. The last supports suddenly snapped. The vent came crashing down above her. But this time, she was not so lucky. Lauren woozily woke up to find herself on a pillow dotted bed in Harrisburg Hospital. Her college friends and work colleagues had filled most of the rest of the room she was in with flowers, cards and chocolates. Tim Maxim had provided her with a massive hamper, topped with eleven muffins spelling out each letter of ‘Get Well Soon’. Her mom, still working at a bank in Switzerland, had sent her a colossal Toblerone and a note pledging she’d come back to visit as soon as possible. Having not seen her in the flesh since she started at Eyway’s, Lauren grimaced in anticipation. She found an ample antidote to the looming feeling of dread in the chocolate and cakes however, which she happily scoffed as she watched TV and read the rest of her cards. Her most treasurable amongst those had undoubtedly come from Marty, who had declared his everlasting love for her in pretty purple ink. Lauren smiled at his innocence, and the thought that he’d remembered her favourite colour. She turned to the back and gasped as she saw herself in pencil – her face, hair, shoulders, arms and chest shaded and contoured in perfect precision, plump lips arced in a cheeky smile. She looked big, beautiful and ravishing. Lauren met the smile on her portrait and realised she’d have to hook Marty up with one of her college friends. She was sure that they would adore him. A doctor fresh out of Penn Med and the same age as herself told her that she’d been there for four days, three and a half of them softly sleeping. Thankfully, the vent hadn’t left any damage beyond a swelling (which had subsided) and a bruise on the top of her head, shrouded by her chocolate brown hair (which had been mercifully left untampered with during the examination). The doctor kindly helped her find her feet, then some slippers, and then escorted her away. It was of little surprise to Lauren to have to be lectured on the dangers of obesity and excessive eating by a much older doctor on the checkup she had prior to leaving. But it was more than a little embarrassing for her after a step on the scale to see she’d put on another four pounds over the course of her stay, bringing her to three-hundred and fifty-three. Since she’d ripped her dress, the hospital had to search through its lost and found to find something to clothe her with after she returned her gown. They eventually recovered a tent like blouse and some male cargo pants in size XXL. Much to Lauren’s chagrin, they were tight on her. They handed back her mobile phone too – it had been recovered after she lost it falling out the vent – and she busied herself looking through her messages as she made her way out. She’d had three missed calls from her mother, and a host of worried texts. There were a couple more from her service provider. The most intriguing was the most recent, from just before she’d woken up in the morning. It was in much the same vein as that note from Ursula that started it all, all those months ago. Got time? Come see us immediately. We’ve a lot to talk about – Aviary Private Investigation, 1400 2nd Street, Hardscrabble, Harrisburg, PA. Lauren got her bearings outside the hospital and realised the place was just a couple blocks away. She was still feeling a little delicate at the thought of walking, so she opted to get a cab. Soon she was on their doorstep. She knocked the door and a tall man with a grey handlebar moustache let her in. “Lauren Wilson?” he asked. His voice was deep and husky. “Detective Inspector Clyde Sparrow, pleasure to meet you. Glad to see you here too, how’re you feeling?” “Much better.” she smiled. She rustled her hair at the back. The little bruise was no pain to her at all now. “Can I get you a coffee?” the detective offered. “Yes please,” said Lauren. “I’ve err…I’ve got a lot of questions for you guys.” “Yeah, no shit. We’ve got a few for you too – maybe our questions might satisfy some of yours, I don’t know. First things first, we’re hoping to know what drove Tim Maxim to stuff you in the aircon?” Lauren laughed nervously. “Err…is that what people are saying?” “Some people,” said the detective. “Some really important people.” He gave no names. “Yeah…that’s…that’s bullshit.” Lauren smiled uncomfortably as she pushed back her hair from her eyes. “No kidding. I thought as much. Though it does leave one gaping matter unanswered.” He took a swig of his coffee and put down the cup. “What the heck were you doing listening in on a business conference from inside a vent?” Lauren squirmed, then quietly told her story. Sparrow sat and listened, never interrupting. She felt her cheeks grow warmer and warmer. She gave her considerable weight gain only the briefest acknowledgement. She did not say that she’d been slim when she first come to Eyway’s – like I’d get him to believe that – or that they’d given her most of her food for free. She told him most of everything else, save her naked escapade, up to the point where the vent had collapsed underneath her. She did not mention she had gotten stuck there first. “That sure explains a lot,” said Sparrow. “I can fill you in on the rest, if it helps. There’s the motive for that hacking on the company accounts – Tim Maxim owes some monumental debt, and that’s just from the accounts we’ve searched in that name. He gambled a heck of a lot and not just with money – half explains why Ursula was so pissed off with him. We found Ursula too by the way - oh, her real name’s Eryn. Eryn Glover. I think Ursula suits her more though. Don’t you?” “Yeah yeah,” said Lauren. “Is she ok?” “Yeah, physically she’s in check. We tracked her down to a motel on Route 30 in Ohio then called the fuzz. She was trying to hitchhike her way to Canada. She pleaded the fifth. She tried to phone you, but you were still out cold so she begged the cops to let her phone me. We only got a minute together, just enough for me to reassure her everything’s fine. Gotta be careful what I say, you know. We were working with her arch nemesis after all.” “Hang on,” said Lauren. “Tim and Ursula both hired you?” “Yeah, we’ve been playing both sides. Ursula wanted us to bring down Tim. Tim wanted us to bring down the mole. We haven’t told them that, I guess it’s a little cheap on our part. But business is business. And it’s been some sweet business.” Sparrow pushed some papers off his desk to unveil a box of Eyway’s Extravagant Doughnuts. “Compliments from our now somewhat beleaguered client,” he smiled. “Would you like some?” “Heh.” Lauren grinned and eagerly stuffed a hand into the box. Spellbound by a sudden bout of hunger, and still suffering the lingering malaise of having a big metal object make contact with her head, she forgot what she was doing. She scarfed down the first doughnut, asked for another, and bit into it all before she realised. “Oh shit,” Lauren mumbled with half the doughnut still in her mouth. “I forgot, aren’t there drugs in these or something?” “Well, that’s where it gets interesting.” said Sparrow. “The boys in white have been running an analysis of all of Eyway’s products. You’re probably foreign contaminant free, I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear. They found nothing.” “Nothing?” Lauren raised her eyebrows, perplexed. “No additives, no chemicals?” “There’s the usual stuff.” the detective shrugged. “And those doughnuts are certainly very fattening. But there’s not a trace of those Delacroiss drugs you just mentioned – Ursula told us about them too. After you made your crash landing we tested a sample of every batch they shipped the last three working days. Maybe Maxim got wind of us and flushed them all from the production line, but honestly – and please, keep this between us for the time being – we think he was being framed for all that.” “What?” said Lauren. “How?” “We’ve had him on our radar ever since Ursula blew the whistle, not long after she took a job there. It’s a little ironic, I guess – or is it? I never know when to use the word – sorry, I’ll get back, it’s a little ironic that we were in the conference room too during that shareholder’s meeting. We planted bugs underneath the table, we heard everything – your little investigation was…” “Pointless?” said Lauren, her voice flat. She’d ripped a dress, soaked her newly fixed hair through with sweat, gotten herself wedged in a tight metal tube and suffered the most humiliating experience of her life. All for nothing, apparently. “I was going to say shocking.” Sparrow laughed. “I mean, when you broke the vent and slammed onto that table, man my ears were ringing – we thought an earthquake had started, seriously.” Lauren grit her teeth. She clenched up a chubby fist. Suck it up she told herself. Slapping this guy won’t make you feel better. He’s right. You’re huge. So just suck it up, you know, like with those Napoleone Supremo melts…mmm…delicious…and drug free. Drug free? Yeah, like as in, I’m this fat not because they had drugs in, but because I stuffed my face with enough to get that way. The detective registered her mood, apologised and tactfully offered her some Whoppers. Lauren locked eyes with him as she seized a handful and popped three into her mouth. “Sorry again,” Sparrow mumbled. “But we’re on to the sweet part. Like I was saying, we know about the server hack. But regarding the drugs, we think he was being framed. By his secretary. She’s been feeding us ‘evidence’, we’ve been writing monthly reports. He’s a little odd as I’m sure you know, but he’s clean as clean can be. And what’s more, the only drugged doughnuts we ever got were provided by Ursula. I don’t know what gripe she has against that guy, but we’re going to find out. She’s our next target – no doubt she’ll be in the docks for contaminating evidence and maybe perverting the course of justice. That’ll be after infiltrating the company and selling the secrets, of course. Maxim might have got corporate theft on his record, but right now most of the dirt’s on her.” Lauren sighed. “No doubt I’ll be called to give evidence…” “You might even get to be the evidence, if you catch my drift.” said Sparrow. His eyes flickered to her chubby stomach. Lauren batted her eyelashes. She gulped as she understood. How would that play out? She’d have to stand up again – ughh – maybe do a twirl before the judge and jury, let them catch a view of every jiggling bulge – double ughh – listen to Ursula cry out for their support. “Look at this woman!” she could hear her say. “She used to be so slim, so fit, so shapely. Look at her now. Look at how fat she’s gotten. She can barely walk up a flight of stairs, all thanks to my drug-peddling former employer!” “No, no” she imagined Tim protesting. “Lend me your ears. My dear Lauren’s development was her own doing. I deal only in the sweetest confections. It is no fault of mine she simply adores my doughnuts. She wanted the doughnuts! She cannot resist the doughnuts!” She imagined the ground swallowing her up. That was the only part of the fantasy that definitely would never happen. She’d be left there, red-faced and vulnerable, while a panel of strangers debated how she got so round. She’d be humiliated forever. It didn’t matter who won. She would lose. She did not want to do it. In all honesty, she needed a break from anything to do with Eyway. Working there solidly the last month was fostering a burnout; and all the while the curves and rolls of an increasingly fattened body were making her lose her balance in more ways than one. Waddling around was exhausting. Having a belly that slapped her thighs as she walked downstairs was exhausting. She’d spent five days in a hospital bed but all she wanted to do was get in back in and sleep. Oh, and she’d have to buy a new dress in size potato, or whatever it was. After ripping two pairs of slacks and a dress all bought just three weeks before, more clothes shopping really didn’t appeal to her. “You can probably guess who’ll be able to afford the better lawyer. But whatever happens, Ursula’s still going to get the last laugh,” said the detective. He sipped his coffee. “They kept going with the meeting after they rolled you out and called an ambulance. We were still listening - it got awkward real fast. One of the bigshots accused Maxim of keeping women trapped in the bowels of his building – we were more than a little sceptical, but we couldn’t put it past the guy and that’s what why we asked you over here for your side of the story. But there were other issues too, once they recognised you as the woman from the advertisements. When they’d seen how – how shall we put this? – womanly you’d gotten sampling Eyway’s most delicious goods, they all wanted out.” “That was why he didn’t want me there.” said Lauren. It looked like she’d nearly been right after all. Tim, who might have been her knight in shining armour, had let fear, shame and desperation consume him. But then again, when your phenomenally fat secretary crashes into one of your meetings from the ceiling, what are you supposed to say? Lauren thought to herself. Sparrow had another sip of coffee. “They saw it as toxic press, a crisis in waiting - the shares plunged pretty much as fast as you did from the vent. I flicked through the Wall Street Journal this morning, Eyway’s all over it, front and back. Believe me, there’s no hope left. Maxim and his company are finished. He’ll probably leg it back over the pond to dodge his creditors if he hasn’t already.” Lauren blushed deeply, clasping her hands underneath the swell of her bulging middle. She had never felt quite so rotund before that moment. First a vase. Then an office chair. And now my ginormous butt cheeks have just broken a multi-million dollar doughnut empire. Great job, Lauren. Kicking off the Asspocalypse, one wiggle at a time… “On the subject of the news, we found this too. Made for some interesting reading.” said Sparrow. He handed her a copy of the Patriot News. The Eyway tower was the picture on the front. ‘NUMBERS, NOT NAMES’ read the headline. ‘Eyway employees forced to answer the phone with their weight instead of their identities’ ran the tag. Lauren read on. ‘Tim Maxim, embattled CEO of Eyway Patisseries, faces fresh allegations of the mistreatment of his employees after the PN obtained reports of conditions not unlike a prison camp within his Harrisburg headquarters at Eyway Tower. Our exclusive anonymous source, known only as Two-hundred and Sixty Pounds, informed us that her…’ Lauren dropped the paper on the desk. “Tell me,” said Sparrow, grinning. “Is any of that actually true?” “No…it’s all lies, honestly.” She stifled a laugh. “They twisted all of it around.” Sparrow nodded and chuckled in agreement. “Freelance journos, eh?” he said. “Maybe I’ll get a call from Patriot News wanting me to look into whoever sold them this crap.” Lauren thought back to the journalist she’d spoken to over the phone a few months ago. If having her weight splashed all over the tabloid news was bad, worse was the fact she’d put on nearly a hundred pounds more since. She was Three-hundred and Fifty-three Pounds now. Suddenly, she felt even more rotund. “More Whoppers?” Sparrow offered. Lauren declined. The business was done and she thanked the detective. He held the door open for her as he left. “There’s one more thing” he said as she brushed past him. “There’ll be no case for either of them without the real goods. Ursula’s laptop – it’s literally the keys to the company and the accounts, pretty much the holy grail of answers – and it’s gone. We don’t know what she did with it. I was kinda hoping you do.” “I have no idea.” said Lauren. “Well, let us know if it crops up. Better yet, find it yourself and bring it in. There might be a reward in it for you.” He winked. She smiled. But she knew no amount of money would ever convince her to bring that court date forward. She left the Aviary P.I building and visited a diner across the street. She got her fill of burgers and fries there then headed home. Inside, she hastily stripped off the blouse and cargo pants and rubbed the uncomfortable red marks they’d left on her sides in a cold shower. She got out, dried then squeezed herself back into her underclothes and lay on her creaking bed, letting her wet hair crest over her face and boobs. She closed her eyes, and placed her palms on her belly. She thought of Tim and Ursula - the war between the secretary and the confectioner, in which her figure had become the biggest casualty. Lauren lay back and examined the collateral damage. She cupped her big boobs, squeezed her sides, slid her chubby hands down her smooth but thunderous thighs. She thought about getting a gym membership, sighed when she thought she wouldn’t have the time, then half-smiled when she realised she probably wouldn’t have a job to go back to after her sick leave owing to Eyway’s collapse. She could get a personal trainer and train every morning. It’d take some time, but she’d find her waist again someday. Then her smile melted when she realised that no job meant no money. She’d never be able to afford the gym. “Ugghhh…” Lauren groaned, gripping her belly. “I’m going to be stuck like this forever…” Ursula had been right. Maybe it was too late for her. She had lost the willpower to motivate herself to work out. It was just too big an uphill battle. Maybe she was too fat to even exercise – she was certainly too tired to try and find out. Even a brisk walk didn’t appeal to her. More doughnuts certainly did though. The doorbell rang. Lauren rolled off her bed, threw on a dressing gown and answered the door. It was UPS. She signed for a flat, rectangular parcel sealed with sticky tape. She brought it to her bedroom, ripped off the paper and tape and opened the box. Inside was her laptop. There was a note taped to the screen. She peeled it off and read it. Lauren, you’re the only person I feel I can trust Lauren nearly burst out laughing but realised she was deadly serious. She kept reading. That is why I’m leaving my laptop with you for safekeeping. If Maxim and his goons get their hands on it, all the work I’ve done to bring him to justice will be reversed. Stay safe, Ursula It was the last thing she had wanted. She didn’t want any more to do with either of them. And she certainly didn’t want Ursula’s laptop in her house. All the secret files on Tim, the stock reports, the income forecasts, the taxes, the trade secrets… Then Lauren realised what she did want. She grinned wickedly. She let the laptop rest on her thighs, softer and wider than she’d ever imagined they could be. The screen quickly lit up when she pressed the button. Ursula’s laptop was far faster than her own. ‘Enter Name’ the display read. Lauren knew she’d need to get into Ursula’s account. She tapped in ‘ursulanewman’. The screen flashed ‘Invalid Username’. Then she remembered. She hit backspace, then typed in ‘erynglover’. This time there was no flash. So far so good. She needed the password though. Lauren scanned the note she’d been given for clues and found nothing. Clearly Ursula didn’t want her to follow in her footsteps too closely. Lauren tried to think of the things she liked. She tried ‘mushrooms’ and was met with the words ‘Invalid Password’. What else was there? There’s plenty of things she hates, that’s for sure. Lauren tried to picture her being in a relationship with someone, anyone. Then she remembered who Tim said she went to bed with, every night. Lauren typed in the name ‘jezebel’. The screen went from blue to black. A host of shortcuts materialised on the side as a background showing a stretching cat filled the display. Lauren’s eyes widened. She was inside. She didn’t quite know what to do next. But she knew what she wanted. Ursula was in a cell in Ohio. Tim was probably bunged up in some hobbit-hole in the English countryside. The shareholders had all cut their strings. The board had resigned. So, who was left in charge of the company? It would be tough, and it might push the bounds of legality, but it wouldn’t be impossible. Lauren decided that if she was going to take over she’d need to start by finding it a new name. Eyway the brand was damned for eternity. It needed something fresh, something new. Lauren opened Google and tapped in “Baking Company Name Ideas”. The display froze up. She sighed and her belly crept onto the laptop keyboard, filling the search bar with Cs, Vs, Bs and N’s when the page stopped lagging. She scowled and hit the backspace button, but suddenly had an idea. She closed the page, opened up Word, then cradled her belly and let it flop onto the warm keys. It felt funny, letting her rolls of fat make a decision that would shape the future. But why not? It seemed she’d let her belly take charge of her life anyway. Amongst the lines of gibberish her quivering jelly roll formed on the page one word seemed to stand out crystal clear. “Tunubbub?” Lauren said to herself as she leant back. She rolled the word on her tongue. “Tuh…nuh...bub. Too…noo…bub…” She exhaled, her belly pushed out and the laptop slipped off her thighs. She caught it just as slid off the bed. “Phew, that was a close one.” she said as she strained to sit up again. She let the machine rest on her thighs again, then realised she had it upside-down. She placed it on herself the right way round, but not before the inverted word caught her eye. She had an idea. She tapped it out again, this time backwards. “Bubbunut,” she said to herself. She giggled. “Bubbunut. Bubbunut Bakery.” Her belly gurgled. She took that as a good sign. “Bubbunut it is.” Lauren smiled, as she rolled off the bed again to fetch herself a snack. She’d need the energy. She had a lot of work to do.
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