New Thin College chapter just dropped 😏 this one’s a long one! I didn’t want to split it into two because I wanted to get the plot out of the way in preparation for the chaos that happens in the next chapter after this one. This chapter’s a little dark, but I promise I’m not going full edgelord on you. Never go full edgelord… 😒
Chi Beta’s “Plantation” – also known as the “Big House,” was one of the creepiest buildings on campus. Not everyone thoughts so; there was no lack of party girls who flocked there to drink outdoors on a freshly-mown backyard nestled between imported trees and a glittering pond, but more than a few students didn’t hesitate to point out how odd it was to have a Southern style mansion built on a cold Canadian island like Biltmore. Whoever built it a century ago had obviously been homesick. I, for one, detested everything about the house. Those old, forlorn “Big Houses” in the Old South were haunted by history, and the fact that one was erected here, and constantly shrouded in dense fog, made it all the worse.
“Dammit Scoob,” I muttered as I perched out of sight on the house’s tiled roof. “Why do we always split up? Like, doesn’t that sound stupid when we’re sneaking through a faux Civil War plantation?”
I was muttering nonsense to myself, of course, but the point remained: why had I let Brooke go off on her own? Hadn’t I been thinking she would betray me at the first opportunity? I had to remind myself that taking her with me to steal the necklace was an equally bad idea. In any case, perhaps she had found Chi Beta’s magical heirloom without my help.
“Heh,” I snickered. “Fat chance of that.”
Brooke was more likely to be caught trying. She knew this, so she might choose this moment to betray me. Not that it mattered. I had the Necklace, and I could see threads of magic everywhere. Even through fog thick enough to hide most of the ground from my view, I could still see it coursing through the air, arching high overhead and funneling down into focal points below. Wherever a magic thread took root, its subject glowed like a quest-giver in some RPG. I could see half the sorority girls this way, all of them with various amounts of chub stuffed under their clothes. Some looked twenty pounds heavy, others looked two, but none of them were what I was looking for. The heirloom would have several threads leading to it, and glow brighter still.
The treehouse which Emily suspected held the Chi Beta heirloom was built into the lower layers of a towering redwood tall enough to rival even Central Hall’s height. Rooms rested on several branches, with stairways, ladders, and rope causeways connecting them all. There was even a particularly-long ladder leading clear into the upper-reaches of the tree, which led to a small observation deck swaying with the wind near two hundred meters above-ground. It was only big enough for one person to fit inside at a time, but surely its majestic, fear-inducing height meant something? What better place to hide a heirloom?
Yet I sensed nothing. Even as I flew into the tree and clutched against the observation tower’s door, there was no sign of magic. When I opened the side entrance and stepped inside, all I found was an intricately-carved panel with an empty jewellery box placed at its centre. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that the heirloom had been here, only to be removed. Had Brooke taken it for herself or had the staff taken it somewhere safer to thwart my efforts?
“I did tell her it was hers to keep, didn’t I?” I rolled my eyes. “You should be more careful promising things, Jane.”
But as I turned to leave, something caught my eye. A glow emanated from one of the upper rooms of the Big House I had just launched from, faint enough for me to miss it at first glance, but bright enough to unmistakeably be a node of magic.
“What is that?” I squinted in vain to make out its shape. “Could that be…?”
I leapt out of the treehouse shrine and let myself glide closer to the mysterious object, but the closer I got, the more mysterious the object got – or rather, objects. There were multiple nodes of magic, all concentrated on the upper right corner of the Big House. Whatever they were, they were in the same room.
I approached cautiously, slowly leaning down from the roof to peek through a window for signs of life within and then used my claws to balance my weight against both blinds as I tested the window to see if it was locked. It wasn’t. I was slipping through the gap and pushing through drawn curtains into a warm bedroom in no time.
Except it wasn’t so much a bedroom as it was a lair. There was a bed in one corner, a dresser and closet in the other, and various trophies and trinkets that proved someone lived in it, but the room was dominated by a single feature: the desk.
The desk lay beneath a window separate from the one I had climbed through, covered by an impressive spread of computer screens that would’ve covered the view outdoors if the curtains weren’t drawn. Each screen played its own screensaver that cast a ghostly glow of colours all over the room’s walls – all except one, which played a muted mix of seizure-inducing music videos.
“What the hell…?” I crept closer to the setup, inexplicably dreading every step.
The laptop playing music videos looked familiar – the music videos looked familiar. Both were mine. I stared down in disbelief at the sight of anime violence flashing on the screen. It should’ve been impossible for someone to even unlock my password-protected laptop – fuck, it should’ve been impossible for anyone to get their hands on it from my old room! Yet here it was in some sorority girl’s bedroom.
I ran my hand against the keyboard, feeling the loose UP key and noting the scratch marks on the right side made by stuffing it down my backpack for class every day. It was exactly as I remembered, save for one difference: I could see magic radiating out from what looked like a faintly-glowing handprint on the screen…
Suddenly, the music videos stopped, replaced by a live feed of a familiar face leering back at me. It took me awhile to recognize her without the neon-pink eyes. It was the woman who had strip-teased that first fateful day and had told me where to find the first heirloom.
“So you finally figured it out,” she grinned maliciously. The camera shook as if she were filming herself from a smartphone while walking. “How’s the demon-body, love?”
Startled, I staggered back from her as if she were a vicious animal. “You… what’s…”
“Were you expecting to find something? Maybe… this?” she held her hand up to reveal an ornate silver bracelet clasped around her wrist. “Well, I’m sorry babe, but momma can’t give everything away.”
“Sucky?” I asked.
She stared at me with green eyes that seemed all too normal, but I recognized her tone through dozens of bodily proxies and voices. It was her. “Don’t you recognize me? You had a good look at my legs from under that table in the conference room.”
“I…” the pieces snapped into place all at once. Five sorority leaders in that conference room as I hid under the table, one from each sorority, including Chi Beta. I was in the Chi Beta Plantation. “Viceroy? You’re the Viceroy of Chi Beta? All this time you were just a student?”
“A student with a couple magic trinkets, yeah. Took you long enough to figure that out. Actually thought you were finished. I even gave someone else the App. But the fact that you’re still around makes things so much easier for me.”
“Why did you take my laptop?”
The Viceroy lifted her phone high overhead to make the camera angle catch her whole body walking down some hallway and stuck her pierced-tongue out as she flashed a peace-sign. “I see you got that Necklace wrapped around your wrist, so maybe you can see my handprint on it? That’s my mark.” Viceroy stuck her pierced-tongue out again, mocking me. “See this? This lets me alter the shape and nature of anything I’ve ever touched, so long as it’s juiced-up with enough magic… and this,” she held the silver bracelet near the camera lens. “Lets me possess bodies.”
“So that’s how you’ve been doing all this…” I swallowed nervously. “But why?”
“Why?” Viceroy laughed. “We’ve been over this, sugarbun. Do you really expect a different answer? They say the definition of insanity is repeating something expecting different results. You really are a dumb, crazy boy.”
“I’m not crazy,” I snapped. “No, I am not.”
“But that’s just it, isn’t it? You’re the one who got yourself in this mess. You. You stalked and skulked around campus, fattening random girls left and right, and you never paused to wonder if it was the right or smart thing to do. Everything that’s happened is your fault.” Viceroy’s eyes began to glow, flushing pink. “But I should thank you for that. My power has grown with every pound you’ve earned. Soon I’ll be strong enough to control all of Biltmore.”
“I’m not helping you anymore,” I said flatly. “Not after how you betrayed me and left me to rot in that cell.”
Viceroy laughed and stopped walking when she reached a door. “You’re cute. Do you think I’d be monologuing like this if I needed you anymore? Did your horny brain ever suspect that perhaps I was keeping you preoccupied?”
Too late, I realized what she was doing. Even as I sprang for the window, the door slammed open and two sorority girls rushed-in to stop me. They grabbed both my arms, resisting my attempts to flap them off with my wings. I couldn’t help but notice that their eyes were glowing pink. The more I struggled, the tighter they gripped as they slowly turned me around to face the door again. None other than Viceroy stepped inside, eyes ghoulishly aglow as she quietly shut the door behind her.
“You may have noticed I have two girls under my spell this time,” she squinted as she admired the body she had given me. “Threesomes are hard to get, but your help’s made it easier. But still… I can’t give you too much credit. You’re so slow when it comes to fattening these girls up.”
“What, you wanted me to finish fast?” I snapped against my better judgement.
She glared at me and I felt the hands holding my arms grip tighter. “Nice,” she said slowly. “But witty pick-up lines only get you so far with a girl. Now that you’ve come and brought all the heirlooms to me, I can take them all and do this myself.”
“Do what?” I asked as I struggled in vain as the possessed girls pulled the rings from my fingers one by one.
“You’d be a lot handsomer if you shut up and stopped asking stupid questions,” Viceroy cooed as she leaned close and plucked the belly ring from my navel and pressed it into her own. “You knowwhat I’m about to do, but to stroke my own ego, I’ll lay it out for you: I’m going to put these rings on, walk out that door, and start making the students and faculty fatter and fatter. I won’t stop until I’m the only one who can fit through a door, and when that happens, I’ll be so powerful, not even the college president will be able to stop me! I’ll be a goddess! One of the greatest who ever lived!”
“So… everything you said before – everything you led me on about – that was all a lie?”
She laughed a bit to herself and lay a hand on my shoulder. “Look – listen, Jason. You’re a real bookworm, right? I’ve seen how much you read. You might have thought this was like one of those stories you were reading – and I guess you could say it is – but your biggest mistake was you thought that you were the protagonist. This is mystory, Jason. Not yours… but then again…” she slid her hand across my neck and cupped my cheek. “Maybe it can be, in a way.”
Viceroy’s body began to change, with her hair retreating from her shoulders and her chest flattening. Even her clothes began to change, and as I saw an olive-green jacket take form, I began to realize what she was doing. Her tongue-piercing was a heirloom that allowed her to change the form of whatever she touched, and she was changing herself – into Jason Alban!
When she was done, I was in even greater shock. Every last detail, from the mole on his neck to the way his hair parted was exactly the way I remembered looking like once upon a time.
“They’re gonna get a real kick out of this one,” Viceroy’s voice had altered just enough to sound like mine used to, though its tone was off. He stuck his tongue out and wagged it to show that the piercing was still there.
“You goddamned bitch…” I frothed uselessly.
“That would be you,” Viceroy smirked. “But I’m afraid it’s about to get worse…”
Before I could flinch, the possessed girls palmed the back of my head together and smashed my face into the floor. I wish that had knocked me out, but it was several agonizing moments of agony before I finally did.
Pain. Agony. I barely understood what was happening around me. Maybe there were footsteps on either side of me. Maybe I wasn’t awake at all…
A nice, big house.
I frolicked and ran around it every day, digging holes with the dog and playing on the swing with my sister. Mom was cooking in the kitchen while Dad worked at his home office. It was Sunday, so we would have to change into our dress clothes soon and I would get to see my friends after sacrament. I couldn’t wait to meet my best friend and tell him I would be five soon. I’d be able to go to Kindergarten and show everyone how smart I was. Dad always said I was smart.
Dad smiled as he looked at my latest drawing as I balanced on my toes to peer over his office desk to watch him write notes on my masterpiece.
“They’re called ‘Liquidmen,’” I said proudly. “They’re made of liquid and can split in half and make copies of themselves.”
“Very cool,” Dad jotted a small note next to what I had pointed at that I couldn’t read.
“And that’s their Death Star,” I pointed at another part of the paper. “They’re building it in the Crab Nebula so that no one finds out – and they’re making others too. Lots of death stars!”
“Ooh, the Crab Nebula. Where did you learn about that?”
“I learned about it in Kindergarten!” I beamed.
“Ooh, smart!” Dad jotted one last note and filed-away my art with the rest. “You’re really smart, Jason.”
One day, we were watching The Nutty Professor on TV as a family. Mom and Dad had seen it in the theatre already and thought it was pretty funny. I guess it was, but I was distracted by a nagging question in the back of my mind. After the movie cut for a commercial break for a third time, I finally mustered the courage to ask it aloud.
“Dad? When is first grade going to start?”
“Well,” he inhaled before continuing. “We’re not actually sending you to school again.”
“It’s because they’re not teaching you like they should. Kindergarten isn’t as educational as it was when I went through it. Remember when you were four and I taught you how to read?”
“I asked your teachers if you could get tutored so that you could keep learning and they said no. They wanted you to be at the same level as all the other kids. They just wanted every kid to be equally stupid. You’re too smart for that, right?”
“So we’ll teach you and your siblings at home.”
I felt proud for being told I was smart, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I should be asking some other question, though I didn’t know what it was. I was distracted from that thought by the movie starting again. The professor was in the hospital. Suddenly he was gasping for breath. His whole body was expanding. The heartbeat monitor accelerated. Doctors ran. He kept growing. One of the doctors didn’t make it. The enormous belly swallowing the hallway pushed him through a broken window as he screamed to his death.
As my family laughed, I ran away and hid upstairs.
“Dad,” I asked as we huddled by the stairs. “When we move, will we start going back to church? Is that when I’ll get baptized?”
“We can talk about that later. Is everyone listening?”
Me, Mom, my sisters and brother all nodded.
“It’s almost time for us to move into the forest,” Dad smiled. “Mom and I talked about it last night, and even though the house isn’t built yet, we can get a mobile home and live there until its built in about a year. It’s very beautiful, so we decided it’s worth it.”
“We’re moving!” my toddler brother said excitedly. I almost sneered, but mentally reminded myself that I was eight and he was only three. He didn’t have friends yet like I did. I’d miss them.
Dad was packing the living room as he watched That 70’s Show. It was an “adult” show, so I wasn’t allowed to watch it, but I saw some of it while Dad’s back was turned. Some girl was eating something and turned blue. Then her body started swelling.
“Oh no, it’s happening to me!” she screamed.
The blood drained from my face. Dad turned around in time to see me running away. I didn’t eat any food that day.
The wide open wilderness was beautiful, just like Dad said. The small mobile home on cinderblock stilts, not so much. Most of our furniture was still at the old house, so Dad drove off to bring it back while I stayed with Mom and the kids. All we had were sleeping bags and some food.
For a straight week I lay in my sleeping bag staring at the bare, white walls. I missed my friends. I missed going out to town on errands. Before he left, Dad said he wanted to design the new house himself, but he told us not to worry. It wouldn’t take more than a year.
I dreaded sleep, but no matter how long I forced my eyes to stay open, they always shut and the nightmares came. I dreamed of empty hallways and abandoned rooms. Not a soul could be found, but somehow I knew that if I turned the wrong corner, something would find and eat me.
I also dreamed of childhood cartoons, different enough from the real thing to make me feel as if there was something missing. Sometimes their bodies would start to inflate. It was fascinating. When I had these dreams, I would lay in bed thinking about how they expanded for as long as I could, wondering what it would feel like. It was too cold to get up, and I didn’t want to deal with the dirty, little brothers I shared the room with.
Years passed, and most of the furniture was squeezed into the mobile home, but the real house hadn’t even been started on. When he was home, Dad would spend hours designing it, cutting paper squares and labelling them as different rooms and constantly rearranging them on his desk. More often than not, he wasn’t. There was business out of state he had to finish and he was gone weeks at a time, returning to do laundry only to leave the next day.
Mom did the best one parent with five kids could do, but no amount of discipline could stop the screaming. She spent hours watching Home and Garden Channel, adoring the interior designs others were doing on screen. She couldn’t wait for the house to be done. It’s what kept her going as she tried and failed to keep the house clean while her husband was away.
Then something in her snapped. It started with violent twitches and moaning. Over the months, it grew worse and became seizures that had her writhing on the kitchen floor as I begged her to let me call 911.
Dad came back and took her to clinic after clinic. Doctors told her she was lying. They prescribed pill after failed pill. Nothing worked. No one knew how to help her. It took five years to find someone and something that did, and meanwhile the house still hadn’t been built.
I grew up into a skinny, malnourished teenager, studying at home from 8 to 5 because my parents hated when we played in the house. We weren’t allowed to watch cartoons. There was no internet. Staying at home meant fighting my brothers to keep my room clean and being blamed for fighting, so I started hiking into the mountains. In the summer months, I started sleeping in the mountains too.
I didn’t have nightmares anymore. I didn’t dream of inflating cartoon characters either. Instead, I dreamed of women. I didn’t have a chance to talk to many in real life, but we watched enough television for me to know they existed, and they were the most beautiful things in the world. Everything they wore was sexy to me. Bikinis. Tight jeans. Low-cut shirts. Everything my Mother and sisters didn’t wear.
Sometimes, if I was very exceedingly lucky, I would dream that their breasts and asses were expanding. They were the greatest dreams I ever had, and I always woke too soon from them. I would lay in bed hoping to fall asleep and have them again every morning.
“Ready to start high school?”
I was more than ready. Dad hated the public school system as much as he did any other human interaction, but he knew it was my best shot at getting into college. After five years of living in backwoods, I was finally going to meet people and make friends. I’d spent the last month hiking the mile to where the bus stop was to make sure I was ready. I couldn’t wait to leave the cramped, dirty house.
High school was huge. I’d never seen so many people together in one place in my life. Thirty people in one classroom, five hundred in one building, and half of them were hot girls. All of them were hot. The cheerleaders, the basketball players, the gymnasts, the goths, the emos, the hipsters… all of them. I wish they talked to me.
The boys talked to me just fine. It only took them two days to realize there was something off about me. Every lunch period they would circle around, grinning as they asked me endless questions.
“Hey Jason,” one of them smirked, reeking of something I’d never smelled before. “Ever heard AC/DC?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Ever listened to Metallica?” his friend asked.
“I don’t know that either…”
So it went, every day. I had always wondered if I would be bullied in school, but so far I was just fine. No one touched me. Maybe I could call them my friends.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court…”
I’d been called out of class and brought into an empty room with a police officer, but I hadn’t realized how truly screwed I was until that moment. It was just me, him, and a camera stand. I could feel my life hanging in the balance and I didn’t even know why I was there.
“So Jason,” the police officer glanced at a thin stack of papers before looking at me. “Do you know someone named Ms. Lund?”
My knees and elbows shook as I answered. “N-no, w-who’s that?”
“You weren’t drawing these pictures of her in German class?” he removed a paper from his stack and showed me a crude anime doodle of a girl in a military uniform. It was mine.
“O-oh no, that’s not… that’s not a real person…”
“Did you send her a birthday card last week?”
“I don’t k-know Ms. Lund… I-I don’t know who she is… we use nicknames in German class.”
It all started clicking in my head. My “friends” who’d asked me to draw something for them had taken my art and given them to some random girl. Who knew which one? They all thought I was weird anyway.
Even though the police officer let me go back to class after that, the trauma had been done. I couldn’t tell who was actually friendly. Maybe none of them were. I didn’t try to talk to anyone for a long time after that.
I hated coming home; it had only gotten dirtier now that I wasn’t around and my parents couldn’t make me clean everything. They still didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t make any of the messes.
When I could, I would stay at school after the last bell and look up Youtube vids in the computer lab. It was the first time I’d ever had the internet, and I went wild. There were breast expansion vids. There were butt expansion vids! There were things I’d never even seen before! I still had no friends, but finding such things online proved to me that I wasn’t alone. There were others out there like me. Somewhere.
Once, I accidentally stumbled upon a vid called “Cowing Up.” It showed an anime girl turning into a cow. I was so horrified I didn’t have a boner for ten days. It took awhile for me to muster the courage to return to the computer lab again.
My eighteenth birthday finally came. I smiled at the small pile of presents on the table. Mom pushed a button on the CD cassette to get a birthday song playing.
“Turn that shit off,” Dad snapped. He’d grown bitter over the years.
“L-lets open the first one,” I forced my smile even wider to compensate for the silence in the dining room. “Hey, it’s a jacket! Thanks Dad.”
The presents came and went. I had no friends to celebrate with, but I was optimistic. I’d placed high in my class and been offered a scholarship to attend some Canadian college called Biltmore. Mom begged me to consider studying close to home, but I honestly felt the further away I could get from this mobile shack in the mountains, the better. High school had given me a taste of a better world full of people, internet, and women. College would give my social life a fresh start. I could earn a major and get a job. I could get a girlfriend.
All I had to do was graduate and wait until the first semester started.
The new house was never built. Dad always said “next year,” and I believed him less every time he said it. He spent every waking moment trading stocks, and stocks were down this year. The woods loomed all around us, as if poised to swallow the decaying mobile home the moment it was left alone.
Graduation came and went. I tried in vain to find a job, but the house had no internet and newspaper classifieds weren’t what they used to be. Dad suggested picking blueberries on the farm across the river, but they only hired migrants.
Dad never hesitated berating me for playing video games all night, but how was I supposed to tell him night was the only time I was left alone from my toxic family? My freedom was a mere couple months away; all I had to do was wait for college to begin and I’d finally be gone, but now that it was so close, home only seemed more suffocating. Boxes and stacks of books everywhere, food rotting on dirty plates in the sink, diapers stinking in the trash, and an ancient box TV that no one watched anymore because the shows had grown too “explicit.” This place had become hell. I just had to wait it out.
I snapped two weeks early. Younger sister hogged the bathroom for half an hour for the hundredth time. I banged on the door to make her hurry. Younger brother squared-up, aching to show he could win a fight. We punched and threw each other against piles of junk. Mom and Dad stayed in their bedroom with the door locked, like always. I slept outside that night, swearing to myself I’d leave at dawn.
The next day, Dad handed me a printout covered with highlights as I was packing my belongings into my car.
“What the hell is this?” I sneered at the medical jargon.
“I didn’t want to tell this to you, but you have Asperger’s syndrome.”
“What the fuck is that?”
“It’s basically high-functioning autism. You see, there’s a spectrum of autism –”
“I don’t have fucking autism. Why the hell are you trying to tell me I have autism…”
“Yeah, you have autism,” Dad nodded his head fatefully, as if my denial angered him.
“You can’t tell me I have autism! You’re not a fucking doctor!”
“Yes I am. I went to Harvard Medical and took a class in neurology –”
“You’re a dentist, Dad! You haven’t even practiced since we moved to this backwoods mountain home.”
“Listen to me,” he glowered. “I tried to be silent about this, but you kept getting in trouble at school, drawing those Nazi pictures…”
“Oh my fucking god, just because they’re wearing uniforms doesn’t mean… so let me get this straight. You just up and decided I’m ‘on the spectrum’ for how long? How long have you secretly thought I was mentally retarded?”
“You’re not retarded, son, but remember when you were in kindergarten and you kept getting put in detention because you wouldn’t sit still? Your teachers asked us permission to give you medication to make you calm down, but we wouldn’t let them. It’s one of the reasons we pulled you and the kids out of school.”
My whole world was falling apart. All those years I’d idolized my father, glowing as he admired my little drawings and called me smart, it had all been a lie. He didn’t think I was smart. He didn’t even like the drawings. The last person in the world I had left had forsaken me.
I could have argued with him. I could’ve told him he was trying to blame my social awkwardness on some random syndrome he’d found in a book as opposed to admitting his total failure as a parent for isolating me and his kids in the wilderness with no internet or TV for nine years. Instead, I just loaded the last of my possessions into my trunk, got into the car, and drove off.
There was nothing left for me there. To hell with my family! I’d sleep in my car until the semester started. I would never come back.
I would never come back.
“Jane! Wake up! Oh my shit, what happened to your face…”
I moaned as I felt someone roll my body so that my face wasn’t on the floor anymore. I felt my horns snag on my long hair. Faint dreams faded away, and the present day came roaring back to the forefront of my consciousness. I wasn’t Jason Alban anymore. I was Jane Wick.
“Who’s that…?” I groaned. “My nose… it hurts…”
“Your nose is fine; just open your eyes. I need your help.”
When I did open them, I found a chubby, blonde girl in ill-fitting workout clothes crouching over me. “Brooke?” I squinted. “How did you find me? Where did the others go…?”
“We can talk about that later. Where’s the thing you promised me?”
“The thing…? Ugh…” I slowly sat myself up, wincing as my wings snagged under my legs and tugged my shoulders. “Oh, right. The thing…”
“Yes, the thing that will make me thin again. That thing. I really need it.”
“Brooke, things are so much worse than I thought. The Viceroy of Chi Beta’s taken all the trinkets and we have to stop her before she turns the student body into her own cattle herd.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, she’s masquerading as Jason and she’s about to make everyone fat so she can take over our souls and become a goddess! Or something like that…”
“What the fuck…”
Before we could continue our conversation, someone downstairs screamed.