Originally published July 19, 2017.
Contains: accelerated weight gain, forced weight gain, entrapment.

A lot of us have media that we watched or read as kids that appealed to the gaining instinct already within us, even though we didn’t have the words for it just yet. For me, it was often episodes of cartoons where a character gained a lot of weight (only to spend the rest of the episode losing it), like the episode of Hey Arnold called “Weighing Harold”.

But one in particular stands out. It was a short story by R.L. Stine, called “Losers”, which he published in a collection called The Haunting Hour: Chills in the Dead of Night. I was obsessed with that book as a kid, especially “Losers”. As far as weight gain in mainstream media, it’s one of the few examples I can think of that comes close to what we write. It has definitely influenced a lot of my more horror-themed stories, if only in subtle ways. So when the illustration from the story came across my Tumblr feed recently, I got the idea to retell it, based on what I can remember, while putting my own spin on it.

In my story, I attempted to maintain the weight-gain-as-horror element of the R.L. Stine original. The result is a story that’s a shade darker than most of what I’ve written. I realize that my stories in general are on the light-and-fluffy end of the spectrum, and the genuinely dark gaining stories out there make this one look like… well, kids’ stuff. But I do want to bring it up for two reasons: one, as a fair warning for my readers who like that my stories are usually lighter in their tone (and consensual), and two, so those of you who enjoy this darker take on my writing know it’s not a new direction for me.

Don’t get me wrong: this was a lot of fun to write. It was fun to try to capture the way my friends and I talked in college. (There’s a bit more swearing in this story than in the rest of mine.) It was fun draw from my boredom with the small town I grew up and my enthusiasm to leave it. It was fun to write two characters being easily manipulated, as if they’d been hypnotized, due to food coma. But as fun as this was to write, now that it’s done, I feel like I need write some extra light and fluffy stories to restore my internal equilibrium.

Synopsis: Colin and Peter are two obnoxious guys who visit a county fair with their childhood friend, Fran, as one last hurrah before they head off for their final year of college. As the two boys keep making fun of the well-fed fair goers, Fran gets tired of it and splits. The two then end up cornered by a rotund man named Mike, who insists the boys are “winners”. They seem to realize what he means when he enters them in a pie eating contest, and they go along with it. But once they pass out from food coma, they wake up in another tent and find out Mike has even bigger plans for them, plans that will really make them “winners”. And all those fair-goers they made fun of will get the last laugh.

“Can you believe they’re still holding a cabbage contest? Don’t these people have anything better to do?” Colin jeered, an amused smirk on his face as they passed by the row of tables with all the proud farmers displaying their prime crop.

“You know they don’t have much else going for them,” Peter replied, his tone just as derisive. “They probably do it to feel better about themselves.”

“Man, if growing a vegetable was my proudest accomplishment, I’d call it a day and go work in fast food.”

“Oh not just that. Look at them: pale, veiny, wrinkled, opening up and getting wider the older they get. They all look like cabbages themselves. Celebrating the fruits of their labor–vegetables of their labor?–is probably how they feel better about themselves.”

“Who knew you could find cabbagepatch adults, right here at our own county fair?”

“Does it always have to be like this with you two?” Fran finally chimed in. “Every year, we come to this fair and I have to listen to you two make fun of everyone. It might have been cute when we were teenagers, but you just sound immature now.”

“Hey, you don’t have to grow up entirely in college,” Peter insisted, putting on airs of seriousness. “That’s what these years are for: transitioning into adulthood.”

“Well you’re taking your sweet-ass time with it,” Fran told them. “We could have just gone drinking instead, but no, you wanted to spend our last summer break together making fun of the fairgoers again. As if you have anything new to say after making fun of these people for nearly a decade.”

“She has a point,” Colin conceded. “It’s usually the same people who enter these contests every year.”

“It’s because they can’t make it out of this stale-ass town.”

“Maybe they like it here,” Fran suggested in a defensive tone.

“Oh really?” Peter asked. “And what’s there to like, Ms. “I’m getting out of here and going to San Francisco as soon as I graduate”?”

Fran was silent, standing in place with her eyes wide and her nostrils flaring as she looked at the other two. After a long exhalation, she started walking again, prompting Peter and Colin to keep moving. Soon they reached the pig contest area, with all the farmers standing with their prize hogs.

“It’s just contest after contest here,” Colin bemoaned.

“I guess these farmers don’t have anything better to do than celebrate plants and animals that look like them.”

“Okay, fuck this,” Fran blurted out, turning away from the other two.

“Wait, Fran! You can’t go; you’re our ride! And you know Uber has no footprint out here!”

“I’m not abandoning you two,” she called out, before muttering, “maybe I should,” loudly enough for them to hear. “I’m going to see if I can find some of our old classmates to hang out with. Text me when you want to leave.”

At that, she was off, walking fast enough for her long, curly hair to trail behind her.

Colin pulled out his phone, only to see that he had no reception. “Fat lot of good that’ll do us. This place is a dead zone.”

“We’ll run into her again. This place isn’t that big.”

“So what do you wanna do?”

“I dunno. Wanna grab something to eat?”

“Sure. Let’s see if they have more choices this year than last year.”

Like the years before, there wasn’t much in the way of food vendors at the fair. The two counted about a half-dozen stands, many of them selling foods like cotton candy and flavored ice, foods they couldn’t make a meal out of it. In the end, it came down to a choice between the hot dog stand and the fried dough one.

“Which would you rather have?” Peter asked.

“Let’s go with fried dough. Where else can you get that?”

“Oh I’m sure you could find it if you went looking. Not that anyone except these people would do that,” Peter said as he motioned toward the hefty folks waiting in line. “But hey, the hot dogs probably won’t be much better.”

“Or healthier,” Colin added with a chuckle before the two got in line.

The line moved fairly quickly as the two waited in silence. When an especially heavyset woman wearing a floral mumu walked away with a plate in each hand, Peter and Colin merely looked at each other and smirked. Once they got to the front, they both ordered dough with powdered sugar–no chocolate syrup, they agreed; that would just be weird. The vendor frowned at their comment as he passed them their plates over his round belly clad only in a stained tank top.

Once the two were out of earshot of the vendor, Peter asked, “Did you see the way he looked at us when we said we didn’t want chocolate syrup?”

“He probably smothers his dough in syrup when he eats it himself.”

“That would explain how that gut of his got so big.”

“I think that has more to do with the “fried” part,” Colin chuckled.

“Either way he’s looking plenty doughy himself.”

The two wolfed down their fried dough as they talked. Once they finished it, they walked up to a garbage can near the back of a stall to throw away their paper plates. It was there that they saw an alley-like space between one row of tents and a much larger one, barely lit as the mid-afternoon sun cast a shadow inside. They could see grass on the ground, but not much else.

“What do you suppose is down there?” Colin asked?

“Heck if I know. Mom always told me to never go down those.”

“Well, she’s not here now to tell you no now.”

Peter looked at Colin with a smirk before Colin motioned his head toward the dark space. With a smile and a nod, Peter followed Colin into the alley. The space was narrow enough that they couldn’t walk side-by-side, but they could still move through it without needing to walk sideways. As narrow as it was, they weren’t sure whether the space was meant to be walked through at all.

But it seemed to be, as Colin saw a gap in the lengthy structure on their right, one that seemed to be a sort of back entrance. “I see an opening up there. Where do you suppose that goes?”

“Maybe backstage? This looks like it could be a stage of some kind, though I’m not sure what kind of show they’d put on here.”

“Probably something hickish,” Colin muttered, prompting a chuckle from Peter as they kept moving. As he approached the opening, he craned his head to peer inside once they passed it. Indeed, he saw what looked like a backstage area, with some folded tables stacked on top of each other and a few folding chairs leaning against them. There wasn’t much else for him to see, so he kept walking down the alley.

Once the two reached the end, they saw that the gap ended with a chain link fence. Both tents were stood right up against it, making progressing farther impossible. “Nothing here after all, I guess,” Colin observed. “Guess we better head back the way we came.”

“Well that’s disappointing,” Peter lamented as he turned around to lead the two back. They walked a bit faster through the alley, now that there was nothing new for them to see.

So when a heavyset man with a belly as big as that of the prize pigs stepped out from the backstage area, Peter ran into him, feeling his warm belly give way beneath Peter’s lean frame as he sunk into the man’s girth. Colin ran into Peter too, causing both men to push their weight up against the hefty fellow. In spite of that, he didn’t budge, standing steadfast against the collision.

“Whoa! Sorry ‘bout that, boys. Usually there ain’t anyone else back here.”

“Ah, no worries,” Peter grunted as he tried to push himself back with Colin still weighing on him. “Sorry we just… ran into you like that.”

Once the two were standing again, they could get a better look at the behemoth of a man they’d run into. He stood nearly a head higher than either of them, and had a belly as wide as the alley itself. His arms didn’t hang down at his side, but rather behind him, fitting into whatever spare space they could. He wore jeans that were held up by suspenders that ran over a tank top that wasn’t nearly long enough to cover his entire torso. Instead, the lines in the cloth spread out widely as they approached the bottom of his belly, where the hem of the shirt hung barely low enough to cover his belly button. Out of the bottom of his shirt hung the rounded bottom of his massive stomach, which was just as tan as the rest of him.

“Should we… not be back here?” Colin chimed in. “I mean, you said there’s usually no one else back here.”

“Yeah, we should just be on our way,” Peter concurred.

But they couldn’t just be on their way. The man stood steadfast in front of the two, facing them head one so his globular belly blocked their only way out. When Peter leaned in one direction to try to slip past him, as if such a thing were possible, he leaned the same way, turning his mammoth gut to block Peter’s way. Their only way out seemed to be slipping under the tents to their right, though they had no idea where that would take them, making the idea a whole lot less appealing.

As the man stood in the two’s way, he looked them over with a pensive look on his face. He brought his hand up to his chin, stroking his pudgy cheek as his elbow rested where his chest met his belly. His face was smooth, nary a beard or mustache hair in sight, showing off just how rounded his features were. His cheeks stuck out to the side nearly as protuberantly as his gut, before they joined seamlessly with a double chin that hung impressively off of his jaw. It was like his face was encased in a ring of fat as hefty as the one that hung around his waist.

“No…” he finally said, drawing out the word as a smile spread across his face behind his flabby hand. “I think you boys are exactly where you should be.”

“Wha-what do you mean?” Colin asked.

“Name’s Mike,” he said as he extended his hand, which Peter tentatively took to shake. His fingers were just as flabby as the rest of him, though he still managed to squeeze Peter’s hand more tightly in his soft embrace than Peter could squeeze his. “And I think you boys are both winners.”

“What do you mean?” Peter asked.

“Winners of what?” Colin added.

“Oh you’ll see, if you like,” Mike said, though the tone of his voice left the two wondering whether they really had a choice. “But there’s no doubt in my mind. You two are definitely winners.”

“Would you just explain yourself instead of talking in all this cryptic nonsense?” Colin demanded, sounding quite fed up.

Mike let out a low chuckle before he finally explained, “Forgive me, boys. I might’ve gotten a bit carried away there. You see, I run the pie eating contest as this little fair of ours.”

“Wait,” Colin interjected, as Peter held in the urge to say, “Why am I not surprised?” “You think we could win a… pie eating contest?”

“What gave you that idea?” Peter added.

“Well, I just so happened to be standing in line for fried dough as you two bought yours. The way you wolfed it down makes me think you both have real competitive eater potential, if you’d give it a try.”

“Okay, but… look how skinny we are,” Peter said. “How would we stand a chance?”

“Oh ho, boys,” Mike chuckled, “size has very little to do with. You might think the big guys like me would stand the best chance,” he said as he patted his belly. His elbow jutted into the tent as he did, pushing it aside to make room for his arm to go around his massive stomach. “But all this fat is taking up space that could go to the pie. On a frame like yours, there’s more room for growth!”

“I’m not sure I believe that,” Colin claimed.

“Oh come on, haven’t you ever watched an eating contest on TV? It’s always the skinny guy who wins.”

“I… can’t say I have, no.”

“Me neither,” Peter concurred. “I really think we should be–”

“Joining the fun? I agree!” Mike exclaimed. Before either of the two could object, Mike had put his hand around Peter’s shoulder and pushed him into the backstage area, giving him enough room to put his other hand on Colin’s back and push both of them through. Mike moved with so much inertia that neither of the two could push back against him, instead moving forward where he prompted them to go.

Crowd noises murmured from the other side of the tent as Mike pushed the two toward an opening where sunlight was shining through. Mike usher them forward until they could see a stage where eight other people were sitting at a long table, with a pumpkin pie in front of each of them. In front of the stage, a crowd of over a hundred people had gathered in an open-air seating area, more people than either Colin or Peter had seen congregate anywhere at the fair before. Looking more closely at the stage, they could see two empty seats, with a pumpkin pie in front of both of them.

“Here we are, boys. You’re on your way to showing these folks just what winners you really are.”

“Who said we wanted to?” Peter asked incredulously.

“Why, you did, of course!”

Before Peter could object, Colin chimed in to ask, “Why aren’t their hands tied? I thought you weren’t allowed to use your hands in a pie eating contest.”

“Oh, it’s not that kind of contest, boys,” Mike said with an eager glow in his eyes. “No, this isn’t a contest of speed, but of voracity. It’s not about how quickly can you eat one pie; it’s about how many pies you can eat.”

“You expect any of those people, let alone us, to eat a whole pie?” Peter balked.

“And then eat more?” Colin asked.

“Oh I know you can do it, boys,” Mike insisted with unwavering confidence. “As for those poor saps… well, they might as well throw in the towel once you’re out there.”


Before Colin or Peter could object, Mike shoved them onto the stage, where they were forced to walk out into the view of the whole audience before they got their balance again. Mike followed close behind, shouting out, “Ladies and Gentlemen!” His voice boomed so loudly that both of the two jerked their shoulders in surprise. “All of the contestants have taken the stage, meaning we can get this pie eating contest underway!”

The cheers of the audience left the two paralyzed. Now that they had a crowd cheering for them, they couldn’t very well walk off and leave them disappointed. After looking at each other, Colin nodded while Peter shrugged. They both took a seat at the table, while Mike continued his spiel.

“As you know, this contest is about who can eat the most pies before throwing in the towel. As usual, ties will be broken with a scale used to measure who ate the most of their final pie, with the pies already having been weighed to ensure consistent measurement. More pies will be brought out for our contestants as they finish them, and the competition goes on for as long as at least two contestants are still eating. Contestants! On your mark!”

Peter and Colin looked at each other once again. Though Peter still had a nervous look on his face, Colin’s expression was more assured, even a bit confrontational.

“Get set!”

With eyebrows furrowed, Peter kept looking at Colin, trying to figure out where this seemingly competitive streak was coming from.


At the word, Colin, picked the pumpkin pie out of the tin and started wolfing it down. Peter was taken aback, but the last thing he was going to do was let his friend show him up. With a determined inhalation, he picked his own pie out of the tin and split it into a few crude slices, before shoving one into his mouth. All the while, the crowd cheered, whooping and hollering as the contestants filled their mouths. It wasn’t Peter’s idea of a dignified way to spend their time at the fair, but he was already in this deep, he thought; he might as well try to win it too.

To the surprise of both Peter and Colin, they finished their first pies around the same time. They were also surprised to see that only three of the other contestants had thrown in the towel, having moved their chairs away from the table so they could sit back and watch. As a festival worker brought out two apple pies and placed both in front of Peter and Colin, Mike called out, “Alright, we’re already onto round two. But remember, contestants, it’s not about speed; as long as you keep eating, you can catch up!”

With a serious expression, Colin looked Peter dead in the eye as he picked the pastry up and took a hefty bite. At that, the pie fell apart in his hands, landing back in the tin in chunks, chunks that Colin immediately picked up and started wolfing down. Not one to be beat, Peter dug his hand into his apple pie, pulled out a handful of crust and filling, and chomped on his piece. Though the two differed in their methods, they both remained neck-in-neck as they finished their pies.

Once the two had both finished their pies, they looked around and saw that two more contestants had called it quits. Another one, still working on his pumpkin pie, flipped it over and pushed himself back from the table. “Aw, you don’t have to throw in the towel yet,” Mike tried to assure the contestant, but he merely shook his head side to side and backed up farther on the table.

Key lime pies came out next, topped with an impressive amount of meringue. “Remember, contestants,” Mike chimed in, though he was clearly talking primarily to Peter and Colin, as the two remaining contestants were still working on their apple pie. “The whipped topping is part of the pie. You have to eat it to move on to the next round.”

“Easy!” called out Colin, coaxing more cheering out of the crowd.

“Love the attitude!” Mike called out in reply. “Keep it up, all of you!”

Though the contestants were fully allowed to use their hands, Colin stuck his face into the meringue and started sucking it up like a vacuum. Peter, starting to really wonder what had come over his friend, prefered to use his hands instead, scooping the sweet, fluffy mixture into his mouth. It tasted lighter than he expected, though by that point, he was starting to feel every bite he swallowed as it accumulated in his stomach. But he wasn’t going to be beat by Colin, so he doubled down on his attempts to scarf down the pie. The filling was sturdy enough as Peter picked the pie out of its tin, but the crust crumbled beneath it. With a shrug, he shoved the slice in his mouth and kept chewing, intent on finishing the whole thing.

By the time Peter had shoved the last bit of pie in his mouth, he looked over and saw Colin leaning back in his chair with an empty pie tin in front of him and his mouth hanging open. He was breathing heavily, rubbing his dirty hands over stomach to try to provide it some measure of relief. The two remaining contestants had only started their key lime pies, and neither of them looked confident in their ability to catch up.

“Could we have a winner here?” Mike called out. “You two are tied, but if you can eat even one bite of the chocolate pie, you’ll be ahead!’ he concluded as he looked at Peter with a smile.

Of course, the fair worker brought out pies for both Peter and Colin. The next pie had some sort of brown filling that Peter didn’t recognize. He supposed he had no choice but to take Mike’s word that it was some sort of chocolate pie.

As soon as the pies were put down, Colin was revived, lurching forward and taking the pie out of the tin to eat. Like the pumpkin pie, it held its shape when picked up, and Colin started eating it like a giant cookie. Peter, meanwhile, attacked it like the pumpkin pie, breaking it up into crude slices that he worked his way through one by one.

Peter had thought for sure that the chocolate pie would provide a break from the previous heavy items. But he found the filling to be a lot denser than he expected, and each swallow made his stomach feel like it was swelling bigger. The dessert pie seemed to be filling in whatever spare space there might have been in his stomach, but it wasn’t doing so quietly. Just a fourth of the way through the pie, Peter was already breathing as heavily as Colin had been. But he didn’t care how full he was; he intended to win.

That drive carried Peter through the chocolate pie, even as his eyelids started drooping from the fatigue of carrying so much pie in his stomach. He leaned over his pie tin, barely able to keep his eyes open long enough to grab another piece. Once he had the piece in hand, he leaned back in his chair, shoving it between his teeth and forcing himself to swallow it. On sheer determination alone, he kept going, until every piece of his pie was gone. The last thing he remembered before passing out was Mike’s voice shouting, “I don’t believe it!” as the crowd went wild, the last bit of noise before nothing.

The two woke up in a room that looked like the backstage area they’d been pushed through before. But this one was lit only by a lone light bulb hanging from the ceiling, a far cry from the natural lighting that lit the backstage area. They both sat in folding chairs, leaning back as they struggled to digest all the pie they’d wolfed down. Neither seemed inclined to ask the other how much he’d eaten.

Soon they heard a tent door zip open and closed, followed by the sound of hefty footsteps on the grassy ground, accompanied by slow clapping. “I knew you boys had it in you,” a familiar voice said in a low, confident tone. As he got closer, the two could make out Mike approaching them, with a devious expression on his face. “No one could top you, not even each other. You tied for first place, passing out after finishing your chocolate pies.”

What should have been an exciting piece of news was greeted without any reaction from the two, who sat back in their chairs, practically incapacitated with food coma.

“Yes indeed,” Mike continued sounding more self-assured than ever. “You boys are winners. And now? It’s time to prove that.”

After approaching the two to stand between them, Mike slipped what looked like a breath freshener strip into both of their mouths. Colin groaned in protest, but couldn’t do much to stop Mike, while Peter just sat back and let it happen. The strip had a bitter taste, but it dissolved in their mouths without much issue. “You’re gonna need that,” Mike told the two as he used his thumb to keep the strip in Colin’s mouth. “That’s to numb your tongue and throat. Once we’re done here, you’ll be glad I gave you that much.”

Peter felt like he should have been nervous, but he barely had the presence of mind to keep his eyes open and on Mike, let alone feel dread. The mound of pie in his stomach was so large that it commanded all of his energy just to digest. As he lay back in his chair, Peter felt powerless to deny his stomach its wish.

“There you go. Give those some time to take effect,” Mike told the two.

The two didn’t know what was coming next, but they knew it couldn’t be good. With what little energy Colin could spare to divert away from digestion, he tried to push himself forward in his chair, barely inching ahead until he felt a pressure on his stomach. His eyes opened just wide enough to see that it was Mike’s hand, before he started rubbing the two’s stomachs in a circular motion. His grasp was steadfast but gentle, exactly the kind they needed to make their stomachs feel better. The relief was too strong for Colin to resist, and he lay back in his chair yet again, letting Mike do as he pleased.

“Now why would you go and do that?” Mike asked in a soft, quiet voice. “I thought you were winners.” As Mike kept rubbing their overstuffed stomachs, the two felt powerless to prove him wrong. They merely lay back in their chairs and let Mike do as he pleased.

Peter and Colin had no real sense of the passage of time as they waited for the strips to take effect. Eventually, Colin felt his lips wrap around Mike’s hand, though he had no idea what Mike was doing inside his mouth. The strip had worked too effectively for him to be able to tell.

“Looks like you’re ready,” Mike said, his voice halfway between solemn and eager. He was silent as he walked behind the two, lulling them into a sense that everything was okay.

That was, until they felt a rubber tube push through their lips and into their mouths. Neither could feel just how far the tubes had gone, though their inability to call out for help seemed to imply it had gone down their throats. With only faint groans of protest, Colin and Peter could do naught but lie there as they heard Mike turn a metal nozzle.

If the rushing sound hadn’t altered them that some sort of liquid was flowing through the tubes, the sensation of their stomachs being filled certainly would have. With how much space the pie was already taking up, the two were certain their stomachs would rupture if anything more were added. But with food coma having sapped all their energy, all they could do was lie back and resign themselves to their fate. Colin tried to struggle, but being barely able to lift his hands up to his mouth left him unable to do much.

But to the two’s surprise, they didn’t feel much fuller after the tubes started pumping. Though they could hear the liquid rushing in, they didn’t feel painfully stuffed like they had during the pie eating contest. If they felt any sort of pain, it was from how their clothes seemed to be digging into their bodies.

It was around the same time that the two realized what was happening. The liquid wasn’t filling their stomachs on top of the pie; it was making them fatter.

Both looked at each other with eyes wide open in shock, only to see that the other had plumped up noticeably. While they were nowhere near Mike’s size, Peter could see the buttons on Colin’s shirt struggling to hold in the expanding belly beneath, while Colin could see Peter’s shirt rising enough to show the bottom of his burgeoning gut.

“Taking it like champs,” Mike chimed in, his soft voice carrying an air of pride. “I knew you two were winners.”

Mike patted both Peter and Colin on the tops of their bellies, causing both to groan at the sensation. After some pensive silence, Mike asked, “Why don’t I do something about these?” Barely able to look down, the two had no idea what Mike was doing, until they felt some measure of relief when their belts were undone. They the felt him fiddling around near their crotches, making them tense up until he undid the buttons on the flies of their shorts. With more room to stretch out, their soft stomachs billowed forward, as the tubes muffled their sighs of relief.

“There. That should help,” Mike gave the two a few more pats, at which their groans turned into moans of pain again, but only momentarily. As the mixture in the tube kept flowing, they couldn’t make much more noise than that. While Peter let his head fall forward, Colin leaned his back, at least as much as they could with the feeding tubes stuck down their throats.

The two remained reclined in their seats that way, until they heard a ripping noise from Colin’s stomach. It was his shirt, and one of the buttons had popped off. Peter was the first to realize it, looking up to see the opening where Colin’s growing belly was exposed. What it dawned on Colin what had happened, he pitifully tried to raise his hands again. This time, he dug them into the gap in his shirt, and started pulling at the sides. With gravity helping his arms, he managed to get the shirt all the way open, with all the buttons either flying off or coming undone.

Once Colin’s shirt was entirely open, he let his arms fall and his head lean back yet again, moaning with relief the way he had when Mike had undone the button on his shorts. Peter watched enviously, knowing he wouldn’t feel that kind of relief as his tee shirt merely crept higher and higher up his expanding stomach. Looking down again, he caught a glimpse of his newly grown belly, where the bottom of his shirt had receded past his belly button. Now the newly softened and rounded bottom of his stomach was entirely exposed, all pale skin and scraggly body hair that usually never saw the light of day.

Both men still felt weighed down by the exhaustion of their food coma, but neither felt like they were going to pop, a strange sensation when they’d grown as much as they had. But as the liquid pumped into their stomach, all they felt was a gradual softening of their bodies. Their chests felt softer as their arms dug into their sides. They felt their necks squishing beneath their chins more as they groggily rolled their heads around. And when they tried to move from their chairs with what little energy they could muster, they felt their bellies jiggle just a bit more.

Of course, they were all gradual changes, noticeable only in how they compared to the two’s size before they’d entered the tent. As such, they failed to convey to Peter and Colin just how big they were growing as the liquid kept pumping. It was only when they could spare the energy to open their eyes and look down or at each other that it hit home just how big they were growing.

Such was the case when a burp with nowhere to go stirred Peter from his stupor. After getting his bearings, he looked down and saw not the modest pudge that had built up on his stomach previously, but a bona fide belly, with enough volume to jut out past where his sides were previously. His shirt had ridden up well past his belly button and was barely clinging on to the top of his gut, wrapping around it like a cap. With muffled whimpering, he scooched back in his chair, far enough to see his belly jut out over his calves as it spread beyond where his belt had once held it in.

The commotion seemed to wake Colin, whom Peter heard let out a muffled noise of shock. When Peter looked up, he saw that Colin had grown to a similar heft, his hanging button-down shirt framing a belly big enough to dwarf quite a few of the pig farmers they’d made fun of before. It has grown big enough that there was no way they could explain it away as “Enjoying my mom’s cooking a bit too much,” when they got back to campus. Colin looked like he’d put on as much weight as people put on over the course of years, not months, and certainly not one night. Peter’s eyes widened when he realized that meant he was probably also just as big.

Looking a while longer at Colin, he saw that his belly had grown out as a sphere of blubber, with little sag to it. It was as if it was all bloat from the mixture going down their throats, pushing his stomach out into a ball as it fought for more room. But the fact that Colin hadn’t exploded meant it had to be going right onto his frame, and thus right onto Peter’s as well.

“What’s the commotion, boys?” they heard Mike ask from outside the tent. When he entered through a side flap, they could hear his gasp as he laid eyes on the two. “We’ll look at you boys, growing bigger and bigger and bigger. I tell ya, you’ll be real winners in no time.”

The shock of seeing what they looked like had given Peter enough of a jolt to override the food coma, giving him the presence of mind to try to escape. But his new heft weighed him down so heavily that he couldn’t budge very far. At least, not before Mike got to the two and started rubbing their bellies. “Aw, now don’t do that,” he said, his voice soaked with the sarcasm of implying the two had any choice. With a chuckle, he added, “You’ll give yourself a belly ache.”

Peter did not want to fall for the trick again. He knew he had to get himself and Colin out of there before they got any fatter. But his panic could only override the drowsy pull of the pie in his stomach for so long. As Mike kept rubbing, the waves of relief felt too good to resist. Peter’s will was sapped, wilting until he could do naught but slouch in his chair, letting the mixture get piped into his mouth so he could keep growing. From the lack of sound next to him, it seemed Colin had suffered a similar fate.

Once the two were sufficiently incapacitated, Mike bounded excitedly out of the room, giggling with glee. As the sound of his footsteps and his laughter faded into the distance, the two let their eyelids droop down until they closed completely. Though it was hard for them to fall asleep as they were being pumped full of the mixture, they came close, lying back in their chairs with their eyes shut as they were filled. Just expending the energy required to even keep their eyes open was more than they could do.

Peter wasn’t sure how much time passed as he lay back half-asleep, dipping in and out of dreams and wakefulness like he did when he slept in on a Sunday morning. The tube constantly filling his stomach certainly made it a different experience, but his tiredness from being full overrode that once-unpleasant sensation. It was a sensation that was growing increasingly familiar, almost comforting. All he knew was that eventually, he heard the sound of the metal chair beneath him creaking, prompting him to open his eyes in time to watch the walls of the tent rise up around him.

The chair seemed to collapse gradually, the hinges overextending steadily as the chair folded beneath Peter. It made for an impact that didn’t hurt much when he hit the grass, much to his relief. Less comforting was how much he could feel his belly jiggle when he hit the ground, bouncing back and forth from his fall. The up-and-down wobble was sustained for longer after Peter stopped moving than he expected, making him fear that his belly had grown even bigger. In his tired stupor, he closed his eyes tightly, refusing to acknowledge the reality of the situation.

“Well I’ll be!”

Unfortunately, Mike’s exclamation forced Peter from his slumber. He tried to lift his arms to his face to rub his eyes, but they were encased in so much flab that it was a chore just to move them. Even looking down proved to be more effort than it was worth, as he could barely expend the effort to lift his head against gravity and the pressure of his compressed double chin.

“We’ve got ourselves a pair of real winners here, gents. I’m gonna need you to help me get them out of here. And, uh, help me get this one up.”

Several footsteps followed behind Mike as he entered the tent. Looking up, Peter saw Mike turn off the faucet that the hoses were attached to, and let out a slow exhalation through his nose in relief. He followed the faucet with his eyes and saw that it jutted out from the bottom of a large, white, plastic tank, propped up above the ground on cinderblocks.

Soon, two men much skinner than Mike, both wearing overalls and sporting facial hair shaved in questionable styles, walked up to Peter and stood on either side. One leaned down and started pulling the tube out of Peter’s mouth, while the other stood by and watched with eyelids and eyebrows both raised. The standing man eyed Peter up and down, taking in his entire fattened figure. “And you say they were both skinny before your, uh… ‘treatment’, boss?”

“That they were,” Mike said proudly. “But they took it like champs, like the winners I know they are.”

“So how much of that stuff are you drinking, boss,” another man asked, causing the other three to laugh. Mike just smiled as he looked back at them.

“Not a drop, I assure you. I got this the old-fashioned way,” he told them as he gave his massive belly several hearty thumps, which rippled out visibly underneath his tight tank top. “Besides, this stuff’s too dangerous. I would never try it.”

Mike’s comment was enough to make Peter furious, snapping him out of his pie-induced stupor and making his nostrils flair. As the tube left his mouth, he was ready to scream bloody murder and curse Mike out for what he’d done to him and Colin. He was ready to let him hear it for using something so “dangerous” on the two against their wills. But most of all, he was ready to scream for help. When the tube came out, he took as deep of a breath as he could and groaned, “Aaarrrhhh.”

It was no use. The numbing agent had done its job, and he couldn’t move his tongue well enough to enunciate at all. On top of that, his throat was too relaxed to focus his air into a shout, making his attempted scream sound more like an aggressive sigh.

“Ah, I bet that’s a relief,” Mike said in response, making Peter close his eyes in frustration. While he did, Mike walked up and patted Peter on the stomach, not having to bend down very far to do so. The gentle impacts landed farther up from the ground than Peter anticipated. He could feel them rippling down the side of his belly, traveling quite far before they ended at his back.

Peter soon felt three pairs of hands under his arms and back, lifting him up into a sitting position. Peter could feel his gargantuan stomach resisting being compressed as they tried to push him upright. The mound of fat pushed back against him so strongly that Peter didn’t bother trying to help the men move him, as doing so was too strenuous for him. Instead, he let his muscles go slack and let them do the work, wondering if his weight might tire them out as some sort of revenge.

But soon enough, they got Peter into a sitting position, upon which he let out several short burps. It seemed there wasn’t enough room left in his stomach for much bigger ones. In those burps, he could make out a vaguely greasy taste from the mixture, though not much else. Perhaps we was lucky that it had bypassed his tongue. “Now get him standing,” Mike said impatiently. “I’m not wasting this many resources building two winners if we can’t even get them to the show.”

Show? Peter thought, as a renewed sense of panic ran through him. It was bad enough that he felt like he’d grown to the size of a blimp, but the idea of his blown up body being put on display for an audience to see, an audience of people who might recognize him, was so much worse.

That panic prevent Petered from even realizing that he was being lifted once again until one of the men shouted, “Come on, help us out here. Put those tree trunk legs of yours to use.”

Upon being yanked from his dread, Peter became aware that he seemed to be suspended above the ground, with his legs hanging limp beneath him rather than holding him up. Instinct took over and he tried bring them underneath him to hold himself up, a difficult task when his legs were now wider around than his torso used to be. But he got them in place, straddling the broken chair as his unsure legs did their best to hold up all his new weight.

As the men walked Peter forward, he found his legs couldn’t close much more than they had when he’d spread them to not stand on the chair. His meaty thighs pushed each other apart, forcing him to walk and stand with a wider stance. His arms had flabbed out similarly, as he could feel when the men dug their fingers into his soft flesh to keep moving him forward. And even given how slowly the men were moving him, he could still feel his bulbous belly bounce with every step, rippling with all his motions.

Mike stepped ahead to stand in front of the entrance to the tent, where he looked at both Peter and Colin as a smile spread wide across his face. “Gosh, just look at you two,” he beamed with pride. With no one seeming to be in any rush, Colin and Peter looked to the side to behold each other. Once their flabby faces settled down from the turn, they were met by a sight neither was prepared for.

Both men had grown to be even fatter than Mike, by a good hundred pounds at least. What had probably taken Mike a few decades to grow “the old-fashioned way”, they’d both managed to dwarf in a single night. Their bellies were bigger than yoga balls, swollen out as if someone had put the ball in their stomach and blown it up to full size. Every surface had been rounded out, making for a ball of fat of mammoth proportions that they both carried with them now. Even their belly buttons weren’t spared, turning from simple notches to deeper indentations that sloped inward steadily before reaching the bottom.

Their faces had become similarly round. Their necks had disappeared behind massive double chins that joined with their cheeks to make a solid ring of fat hanging from their face. But their cheeks still jutted out like little bellies themselves, as if their mouths were still full of the fattening mixture. Their eyes, even while opened wide in shock, looked smaller, as their pudged out faces were encroaching on their sockets. All told, they could barely recognize each other, their faces only bearing a passing resemblance to their old selves.

Peter’s shirt had bunched up around his chest, the only part of him still narrow enough for it to wrap around, while Colin’s shirt hung pathetically on either side of his mountainous gut, looking like it couldn’t even wrap around the sides of his massive torso. Their shorts were holding onto their thighs for dear life as the flaps on either side of the fly lay flat against their pelvises, stretched to the limits by the rounded bellies pushing them down. Their undone belts hung limply on either side, with no hope of ever wrapping around their widened waists again.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it,” Mike observed, prompting Colin to look back at him with eyes still wide with shock, while Peter glared at him. “But we can’t stand around admiring how you look all night. There’s an audience waiting right now to do just that.”

At that, both men’s eyes went wide, but they couldn’t do much to fight back as they were moved. With their muscle mass not having grown along with their guts, all their strength was required just to keep themselves upright. None could be spared to fight back as Mike’s lackeys pushed them ahead. All they could do was put one foot in front of the other to avoid falling down as they waddled their blobby bodies ahead, aware of every bounce and jiggle their footsteps sent through their flab.

With Mike in the lead, the two were lead out of the tent and into an alley between tents. This one was much wider than the one the two had snuck down earlier, but the fact that it was now darker outside made it feel more sketchy. They could hear the hubbub of crowds around them, making them nervous about being spotted, but the alley seemed the be abandoned save for the group. Several other tents had closed doors into the alley, making the two wonder what other nefarious things were happening under Mike’s watch. But most of the tents that lined the alley had their backsides to the group, seemingly legitimate stands hiding away what had happened to the two.

Soon Peter and Colin were lead to the entrance of a backstage area, much like the one Mike had lead them inside before the pie eating contest. From where they stood, they could tell the tent was much bigger than that first one, implying a covered seating area rather than an outdoor one. Mike’s men pushed the two into another backstage area, where they could hear the murmuring of the crowd seated beyond the divider. “I have just been informed that our next act is backstage and ready to go!” they heard a man shout enthusiastically, drawing cheers from the crowd.

“Alright, boys,” Mike said in a hushed voice as he and his men pushed Peter and Colin toward the gap in the tent where backstage became the stage proper. They tried to resist, but just walking through the alley had left them exhausted. “Now’s your time to shine. Go out there and show them what winners you really are!”

Panic rose up in the two yet again as they heard the announcer exclaim, “Alright! Leeches and germs, boils and ghouls, and all the creepy crawlers in the audience tonight, are you ready… for the next act of our show?” The announcer was met with cheers and whoops as Peter and Colin looked at each other with their eyes open as wide as their bulging faces would allow. “You all know Massive Mike. He’s no stranger to our show, and I hear he has a real treat for us tonight. And who better to introduce it… than Mike himself!”

Extra loud cheers came from behind the divider as Mike gave the boys a wink. He straightened his back, causing his belly to protrude out even farther than usual, though it still didn’t match the size of Peter and Colin’s massive mounds of flab. With a grin, he stepped out onto the stage. The two could hear him snap his suspenders against his torso as the audience cheered even more loudly. “Thank you, thank you!” they could hear his voice boom across the tent, projecting even more loudly than the announcer could.

“Now, I’ve brought a lot of sights and wonders onto this stage over the years,” Mike continued. “But folks, I think I’ve brought you a real winner of an act tonight. In fact, I’ve brought you not just one winner, but two! So let’s not delay any longer. Can we bring these two out?” At that, Colin and Peter felt Mike’s men push them forward, and without the strength to push back, they were brought out on stage.

The spotlights aimed directly at the two made it difficult to see anything as they were pushed to center stage, but they could hear just fine. And what they heard was the entire crowd cheering and laughing loudly, a deafening roar of enthusiasm and amusement at the two’s expense. It made them not want to open their eyes, even once they adjusted to the light, as if not seeing the audience would somehow lessen their embarrassment.

But they couldn’t keep their eyes off the audience forever. Once they finally took a look at everyone who was gawking at them, they saw an audience full of the familiar fair-goers. There were pale, veiny, wrinkled vegetable farmers spreading out wide in their seats. There were pig farmers that made the vegetable farmers look like leeks in comparison. There were doughy-looking folks that looked like they’d come straight out of the line for the fried dough stand. Of course, Peter and Colin dwarfed all of them now.

All the while, the two couldn’t do anything but stand in the middle of the stage, eyes bulging out from their flabby faces like their bellies bulging out of their clothes. And as Peter and Colin stood stiff on the stage, doing nothing but looking fearful, the cheers from the audience subsided and were replaced with more laughing. Jeers punctuated the hubbub, with various comparisons to vegetables and barnyard animals being lobbed at the two. And with their tongues out of commission, they couldn’t throw any retorts back.

“I’m not sure what those two could win other than an eating contest. Certainly not any races,” the announcer joked, prompting more laughs from the audience and a few cheers as well. “Well, it seems like you two can’t do much,” he continued, goading more chuckles, “So let’s get down to the examination.”

At that, Colin and Peter’s eyes grew wide again, and they turned their bulbous heads to look at each other in panic. They could feel their cheeks and chin jiggle as they did so, before settling down until they started looking around again. They tried to turn to see what was behind them, but even moving in place unassisted proved far more difficult than either anticipated. They could barely lift their feet, feeling like their new girth would surely pull them down to the ground if they didn’t keep both of them firmly planted. A newly shifted center of balance didn’t help either, with both of the two having to arch their backs to counteract the forward pull of their bellies’ weight. Of course, their difficulty moving only made the audience laugh even harder.

Once Peter and Colin managed to turn sideways, they saw two men dressed in un-buttoned lab coats with probably-fake glasses walking toward them with various implements hanging from their belts. “Alright, back around, you two,” one of them commanded. “We want the audience to be able to see the show, after all,” he continued, prompting some laughs from the front few rows. But Colin and Peter stood still, too petrified by what was about to happen to move. “Hey, you chucklefucks who brought them here. A little help please?”

At that, Mike’s goons jogged out from backstage and past the dubious medical professionals. Once they reached center stage, they grabbed the two by their arms and lurched them around until they were facing the audience again. They then remained there, holding the two in place so the “doctors” could do their work.

Soon the hack doctors were grabbing, rubbing, pinching, and prodding Peter and Colin all over their bloated bodies, while the two could do little more than stand around and let it happen. One grabbed Peter’s pointer finger and squeezed it, then jerked it side to side right up to the limit where Peter thought it would get dislocated. “Hmm… subpar,” he observed before he continued his examination.

The other doctor pulled a large pair of metal calipers off of his belt and fit them on either side of Colin’s head. With the doctor working from behind, Colin didn’t know what the doc was doing until he felt the cold, pointy ends of the tool pinch his temples. He squinted as the ends tightened up against his skin, until the pressure was relieved and he felt them tighten around his cheeks instead. This time, the man took a gentler touch, or perhaps it simply felt that way because Colin’s cheeks were pudgier. Either way, the doc let out some disapproving tongue clicks before muttering, “Could be better.”

The other doctor took out one of the tools they used to hit knees and test reflexes. But instead of hitting Peter’s knee, he rapped the implement against his belly, hard enough that Peter could feel the shockwaves ripple across his ballooned stomach. The doc brought the tool quite deep into Peter’s flab with each hit, sinking it deeply enough that Peter could feel the metal handle against his skin. After shaking his head side-to-side, the doc merely said, “It’s… lacking.”

The other doctor took a more hands-on approach to evaluating Peter’s belly. With one hand on Peter’s side propping him up, he used the other to lay his fingers and palm on Peter’s gut. There, he ran his hand over Peter’s belly, applying quite a bit of pressure like some sort of targeted massage. Peter’s flabby stomach enveloped the doc’s hand around its sides, allowing his hand to sink in and get a good feeling for Peter’s gut. But the doc still didn’t seem satisfied with what he found, replying to the other, “This one too.”

The examination continued, with the rest of the doctor’s observations being similarly unimpressed. As they continued their work, the laughter from the audience quieted down, before murmurs started spreading over the crowd. Those murmurs grew louder until the doctors put away all their tools and walked over to the announcer, where the three talked in whispered tones.

As the three talked, one old man in the front row lifted his cane to poke Colin in the stomach. Colin tried to swat him away, but his arm didn’t have quite the range of motion needed to reach that low. He ended up flapping it in the general vicinity of the cane, rather than successfully swatting it away. At that, some audience members chuckled, but their laughter was more muted than before.

Soon the announcer walked out in front of the two, with a giant rubber stamper in his hands. At the same time, Mike’s lackeys let go of the two and walked backstage once again. “Well you two, I said I wasn’t sure what you two could win… and I’m afraid that includes this contest right here.” Disappointed “Ooh”s and jeers emanated from the audience as he continued. “Yep, our certified medical professionals,” he said, sarcastically identifying the two doctors, “have looked you over and found you to be inadequate. Thus, I have no choice but to brand you two…” Before continuing, he held the top of the stamp toward the audience, where Peter and Colin could see the letters in reverse that read, “Losers.”

The audience’s “Ooh”s turned to “Boo”s as the announcer approached the two. He stamped Colin first, plastering the word “LOSER” across his chest in pitch-black ink. The force from the impact made Colin fall back with a loud thud, where he groaned as he lay on the ground. Before Peter could do anything to stop himself from suffering the same fate, the announcer quickly brought the stamp to bear on his chest too, just under where his shirt ended. It left just as stark a mark and forced him backwards onto the floor, where he lay as he felt his jiggling flab settle into it’s new position.

Some members of the crowd seemed to cheer at the spectacle of watching the two giants fall. An audible portion were still laughing at the whole thing. But most continued booing loudly as the announcer walked between the two toward the back of the stage and called out, “Better luck next time, Mike.”

That was the last thing the two heard before a cacophony of splats surrounded them, followed by the sensation of soft items making impacts on their bodies. Looking around, they realized it was the sound of fruits and vegetables, and rotten ones at that, being thrown from the crowd. Both men raised their arms to try to block their faces, to try to at least keep seeing and breathing as the deluge continued. But it was no use, as the crowd kept throwing more fetid produce than the two could fend off. Soon their entire field of vision seemed covered in an opaque layer of the junk. All they could do was smell the stench of food no longer fit for eating, as the layer above them seemed to grow so thick that it even blocked out all sound. The stench was the last thing they remembered, before everything went black.

Peter and Colin woke up in another backstage area. They sat in metal folding chairs, slumped over the chairs’ backs as they slept in positions too uncomfortable to have fallen asleep in. Through his barely-open eyelids, Peter could see that the last dregs of natural sunlight were making their way in from the main stage. With a groan, he rubbed his eyes before leaning forward in his chair, only to lean back again when he felt the massive lump of pie in his stomach push back. With a groan, he brought his hands up to his stomach and rubbed its firm surface, trying to provide some measure of relief.

His eyes shot open when he realized his stomach was flat again.

Looking at Colin, he saw that Colin was his usual svelte self too, looking no worse for ware after the feeding or the volley of rotten produce. All that sullied either of them was a layer of sweat that shone on their foreheads, hardly a remarkable occurrence in that heat. Looking around, he recognized the backstage area as the one they’d been lead through before the pie-eating contest.

“About time you woke up.”

Peter looked behind himself to see Fran hunched over in another chair, her phone in one hand and her chin in the other. “Fran? Wha… what are you doing here?”

“They let me backstage when I said I was with you two. Told them I was your adopted sister for extra credibility, so don’t tell them otherwise.”

“But… how did you know to find us here?”

“I was in the crowd; how do you think? I saw you two pigging out from outside and figure I’d better come watch in case you two got yourself in even more trouble. How did you end up in a pie eating contest anyways?”

“It’s… a long story.” With more urgency, Peter asked, “What happened after the contest?”

“Not much,” Fran answered nonchalantly. “You passed out, they brought you back here, and that’s where I found you.”

“Then… then was it all…”

“Was what all?”

Before Peter could say “Never mind,” Colin awoke with a gasp, lurching forward in his chair and startling both of them. “Jesus, dude,” Fran exclaimed. “What was that all about?”

“We gotta get out of here!” Colin yelled, getting to his feet as quickly as he could with his stuffed stomach. “We need to go, while we still can. Before they–”

“Colin!” Peter interjected. He pushed himself out of his seat as best he could with a stomach full of pie weighing him down. After a few grunts, he was upright, and put both of his hands on Colin’s shoulders. “Colin, look at me, okay? Look at me. Calm down, and look at me.”

Though his breath still moved faster than his feet could, Colin looked Peter in the eyes before looking him up and down. His panicked breathing seemed to slow down just a bit, at which Peter continued, “Now look at yourself.” Colin looked down further, until his gaze reached his own feet. Slowly but steadily, his breathing quieted down and reached a more even pace. “We’re okay, okay? We’re alright.”

“What’s going on back–ah, you’re awake!” Mike’s familiar voice exclaimed. “How are you boys feeling?” he asked with genuine concern in his voice. “That was quite the show you put on. I was worried you overdid it.”

Before he even turned around, Colin’s nostrils flared as his eyebrows lowered. “You,” he growled, still facing Peter but with his eyes turned back toward Mike.

“Uh, yeah.”

You’re the one who–”

“Colin, Colin,” Peter repeated, grabbing Colin’s shoulders now that they were both facing Mike. “It’s okay, remember? We’re okay. Sorry,” Peter said as he turned his gaze up to Mike. “I think he had a night terror or something while he was passed out.”

“Oof, that’s rough,” Mike sympathized. “That can definitely happen if you go to sleep after eating too much. No points for guessing how I know that,” he chuckled as he gave his massive belly a few hardy pats.

“Because you got that ‘the old-fashioned way’?” Colin asked angrily.

“Colin, chill,” Peter implored. He tried to keep up his peacekeeper façade, but Colin’s accusation had shaken him. The wording was too familiar, and brought the scene back in vivid detail. The closed tent. The tubes and the tank. Lying on top of the broken chair. The mixture whose greasy taste he only got to experience in burps. The stage where they were watched by everyone they’d made fun of. The volley of vegetables.

“Uh, I guess?” With a sigh, Mike continued, “Anyway, so normally the prize for winning the pie eating contest is $50. But this is the first year we’ve had a tie for first place, so I had to go to the ATM to make sure you both got what you earned. Then I had to find another envelope to make this at least slightly official, and let me tell you, finding an envelope at a country fair takes a lot longer than you would think. So look, I’m sorry I left you alone after you passed out. But you had your sister here with you, and I only did it to make sure you both got your due reward.”

“Sister?” Colin asked incredulously.

With a groaned sigh, Mike shoved the two envelopes toward the two and said, “Just take these and go.”

“Thank you,” Peter said quickly, grabbing his envelope before he tugged on Colin’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

Colin stood still a while longer, before he snatched the envelope and turned to leave through the entrance to the stage. He walked out ahead of the other two, seemingly in a rush to leave. Peter and Fran both stood flabbergasted, before Peter turned back to Mike and said, “Sorry again for that.”

“Whatever,” Mike grumbled. “Next year, he can just watch. You’re alright though, kid,” he assured Peter as he gave him a pat on the shoulder. “If you want to do this again next year, you’ll be welcomed back.”

“Um… I think I’ll pass,” Peter replied meekly.

“Yeah, I don’t blame you,” Mike conceded, before he turned to leave through the back entrance.

Fran and Peter walked onto the stage, finding an empty seating area and a few volunteers cleaning up the mess they contestants had made. They slipped through, avoid conversation as much as they could as they tried to catch up to Colin. It didn’t take long, as he was waiting outside, trying to catch his breath. “You alright, dude?” Fran asked, with a mix of exasperation and genuine concern.

“That… motherfucker,” Colin panted. “Took us captive, then he… he stuffed these… tubes down our throats! Blew us up until we were fat as fucking elephants! Then he dragged us to some kind of freak show.”

“Freak show? What is this, the 1800s? Also, you would have literally exploded if that happened.”

“It did!” Colin insisted. “It was in a giant covered tent. Had to be somewhere near here.”

“Uh, dude, there aren’t any giant covered tents here. Look around.”

Craning his neck, Colin looked over the tents around them, but he couldn’t find one that rose over the others the way the stage tent had. The only one that did was the open air stage, and the freak show definitely hadn’t happened there. “They must have taken it down already.”

With an exacerbated chuckle, Fran asked, “Do you have any idea how long it takes to take these tents down? Let alone a big one like the stage tent? No, because your parents never made you volunteer at this piece-of-shit fair.” Both Peter and Colin were silent at Fran’s outburst, which gave her the time to calm down again. “Look: I’ll run up ahead and start the car to get the AC going and pull up to the fair entrance so you two don’t have to walk farther than necessary. Sound good?”

“Y-yes,” Peter interjected, as Colin stood dumbfounded. “We’ll catch up soon.”

With a frustrated sigh, Fran strode off. Peter followed behind at his own lumbering pace, until he heard Colin call out, “Peter!” Looking back, he saw Colin hobble up to him as fast as he could. “Peter. You remember it, right? The tubes? The freak show? The doctors? The vegetables?”

Peter took a long inhalation before he answered, “Look, I think we just both had the same nightmare due to falling asleep in the same circumstances. If it’d really happened, neither of us would have lost all that weight so quickly.”

Colin’s eyes remained wide and his breathing heavy. He looked down to the side, seeming unwilling to accept Peter’s explanation, but lacking an argument against it.

“Come on. Let’s leave this shit hole behind.”

Side by side, the two ambled out of the fair grounds and toward the entrance. All around them, things were winding down. Quite a few of the tents were empty, and the others were occupied by people either packing up or standing around chatting. Neither of the two had ever had the patience to stay at the fair that late in the years before. In their minds, it was always bustling, as there wasn’t anything else to do in town. Without the fair goers, it seemed abandoned, even with all the vendors and volunteers packing up.

Once they reached the entrance, they found Fran waiting in her car. Peter let Colin get in first. As he waited for Colin to maneuver his stuffed self in the car, he looked around at the fair one last time. When he spotted a dumpster full to nearly overflowing with rotten fruits and vegetables, he decided to keep the observation to himself.

Fran dropped Peter off at his parents’ house first, before she drove off with Colin to drive him home. Once inside, Peter called out, “I’m home!”, and only heard his echo greet him back. With a sigh, he went right for his childhood bedroom, deciding there was nothing he wanted to do more than sleep. After closing the door behind him, he took his phone, wallet, and keys out of his shorts pockets. Looking in the mirror, he could see dark bags under his eyes, making him look forward to sleep even more. He ditched his shorts first, tossing them into his pile of dirty clothes with his foot, before removing his shirt.

Once the short was over his head, Peter froze when he saw himself in the mirror. He dropped his shirt, and his jaw followed suit as his mouth fell open. There on his chest, in jet black ink, was the word “LOSER”. The letters were distorted, wider on the top than they were on the bottom, as if they had been stamped on a surface that had since shrunk.

One thought on “Losers

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