Originally published Aug 10, 2019.
Contains: instant weight gain, forced weight gain.
As you can probably guess from the title, this story is inspired by the 2014 horror movie, It Follows.
I have a complicated relationship with horror. I find it fascinating as a genre, particularly the ones with really clever premises, like It Follows, and Don’t Breath, and Jordan Peele’s work in the genre. But I don’t have the constitution to actually go watch them and willingly scare myself. So I’ve never actually seen any of the above-mentioned movies. The only horror movies I’ve seen are the Saw series, which I keep up with diligently. Yes, I’m just as confused by that fact as most people are when I tell them.
So I’m very thankful for the YouTube channel Dead Meat, and their Kill Count series. Every Friday, James takes a horror movie and does an overview of the whole thing, commenting on it along the way, and highlighting all the kills and deaths. He then tallies up all the kills at the end, and picks the best and worst. For me, it’s a way to experience these horror movies with a layer of detachment, an emotional and psychological safety net, if you will. In other words, it’s perfect for me. And his video on It Follows was the impetus for me to come up with this idea.
Originally, this started out as an idea that I jokingly posted on Grommr: “A gainer-themed pastiche of It Follows called It Fattens. The monster doesn’t kill you, it just makes you really fat. You pass it on by feeding someone, whether it’s an erotic feeding or just something innocent like passing someone a snack.” It was a joke at first, but over the next few days, I found myself more and more intrigued by the possibilities of the idea. And I was struggling to find something I wanted to write after working so hard on my 10-year anniversary stories, The Reunion and The Support Group. This ended up being that story.
A bit of trivia: the character Rain is named after my favorite guesser on the Lineup series by Cut, who also inspired her personality. You can see her in their Guess My Disability video, which is also a pretty good introduction to the series. I also recommend Guess My Kink and Teachers Guess Who’s High.
Synopsis: After a date with a feeder, Jaden finds himself haunted by a monster that can take the appearance of any person, and will slowly follow him, no matter where he goes. If the monster catches up with him, it’ll make him really, really fat. He can delay his fate by feeding someone else, but once the monster fattens them, it’s back on his trail. With the help of some of his friends, he tries everything he can to deter or escape the monster, but nothing gets it off his tail for good. Will he manage to escape it?
Alan burst through his front door, not bothering to close or lock it behind himself as he sprinted to his car. After fumbling with the keys, he unlocked it and jumped in. Shoving the key in the ignition, he hastily put it in reverse and drove out of his driveway.
Alan wasn’t sure where he’d go. He just knew he couldn’t stay at his house. At 2:37 AM, he was the only driver on the street, and sped with the ignition slammed on the floor until he reached 80 miles per hour, still in a panic. He managed to put a decent amount of distance between himself and his house. Until he did hit a downed tree branch that he didn’t see soon enough to avoid, causing his car to swerve as he tried to regain control. But before he could bring his car to a stop, a tree did the job for him, causing his airbags to deploy.
Alan was lucky enough to have slowed down to the point that the crash left him with only a few bruises. But once he came back to his senses, his eyes opened wide and his hands started shaking. Breathing heavily, he undid his seatbelt, pushed open his door, and departed from the car.
But it seemed the crash had done more damage than he expected. After putting his feet on the ground, he tried to stand up, only to fall forward and hit the ground. It seemed he’d injured his legs in a way that would prevent him from running.
Alan considered calling for help. But if someone found him with his injuries, they’d take him to a hospital, where he’d be a sitting duck. After all, who would believe him? And if he was going to go out, he wanted it to be on his own terms. Not confined to a bed by people who thought they were helping him.
In the dim lamp light that illuminated the park where he’d crashed, he crawled toward a nearby bench. Mercifully, it was only a few yards away from him, and his arms were in good enough shape to carry him that far. Once he reached the bench, he pushed himself up to the point where he could sit on it. Once his legs could relax, he breathed a sigh of relief. With his fate decided, Alan laid his arms out on top of the back of the bench, closed his eyes, and waited.
Pete’s Sports Bar wasn’t especially crowded as Daniel and Jaden walked in, which was exactly how Jaden liked it. Jaden hadn’t been to the bar very often, but he’d been there enough times to know that he didn’t like it when the bar got too loud and crowded. That said, Jaden loved their pepperoni flatbread and mac ‘n’ cheese too much to stop coming in. And with their varied menu and surprisingly good quality food, it was a good place to take a guy on a first date.
The two took two adjacent seats at the bar, greeting the bartender as they sat down. Once seated, Daniel reached out to covertly squeeze the bottom of Jaden’s belly. Jaden jumped in surprise at the touch, but after, he looked over at Daniel and returned his smile. “You’re even cuter than you are in your photos, you know?” Daniel said, causing Jaden to smile and look away.
“Stop, you’re gonna make me blush.”
“And why should that stop me?” Daniel asked.
“Hello, gentlemen,” the bartender said as she passed the two some menus. “Anything to drink?”
“Just water,” Jaden said.
“Water for me as well,” Daniel concurred.
“Two waters, coming up,” the bartender said as she ran off.
“So, what’s good here?” Daniel asked. “You sure look like you can put it away,” he continued as he patted Jaden’s belly a few more times. “You must have sampled the whole menu by now.”
Jaden giggled before he said, “Not really, actually. This place can get really loud and crowded. Too loud and crowded for me. So I don’t come here very often. But I am a big fan of the mac ‘n’ cheese.”
“You’re a big fan of anything you like, tubby,” Daniel said before giving Jaden’s belly a good squeeze, causing Jaden to let out a squee. He’d initially been nervous about meeting up with an encourager so soon after they’d started talking. He’d even texted Daniel’s license plate number to a few friends as a precaution. But so far, he was delighted to find out that Daniel was just as charming in person as he was online.
But to Jaden’s surprise, Daniel’s smile disappeared immediately as he looked up at the TV, which was showing a news broadcast. Curious, he looked up too.
“In a bizarre story, an extremely obese man had been found in Periwinkle Park. The man was found with a broken leg, and surrounded by the remnants of clothes that would not have fit him and his current size. The man’s car was found crashed into a nearby tree, which officials say is the source of his leg injuries. However, officials cannot explain why the man, whose identity is being kept anonymous, has gained so much weight.
“Yes, folks, it may sound unbelievable, but authorities believe he put on all that weight last night. The man’s coworkers have confirmed that he had an average figure as recently as yesterday. And his doctor’s office has confirmed that two months ago, he weighed 175 pounds. Authorities say the sizes of the clothes found in scraps around him match that figure. However, they estimate that now, he weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds.
“Authorities say the man was responsive, but would not speak to the police or the EMTs who attended to him. For now, he is in medical care, as the experts try to figure out what happened to him. For Channel 7 News, I’m Julia Esteban. Back to you, Deb.”
“Weird,” Jaden said. “Although, I bet you’d like for something like that to happen to me, huh?” he asked Daniel, trying to match his date’s flirtatious tone.
But Daniel didn’t look back at Jaden. He instead stared blankly down the bar, before slowly turning back to Jaden with a less bouyant expression.
“Yeah, I’m… I’m fine,” he said unconvincingly. “I’m just… shaken by that news report.”
“I mean, it’s pretty bizarre if it’s true.”
“You asked if I’d like it if something like that happened to you,” Daniel said slowly. “For someone like you who wants to get bigger, sure. But that was…” After a moment of silence, Daniel continued. “Just some guy. He probably didn’t want to be that big. And now, he has to deal with that for as long as it takes him to lose that weight.”
Jaden wasn’t sure what to say to try to make Daniel feel better. He looked around the bar, staring vacantly as he tried to come up with any ideas. After looking back to Jaden, Daniel looked around the bar too, before his eyes came to rest in the direction of the door and he smiled. “Hey, check out the guy by the door. He’s pretty hot.”
But when Jaden looked toward the door, he didn’t see anyone by it. There were a few thinner folks at tables nearby, but Daniel had said he wasn’t into guys like that. “What do you mean?” he chuckled awkwardly. “I don’t see anyone.”
“The guy with a light blue polo and a goatee. Looks like he’s at least 400 pounds,” Daniel said, his voice indicating he was clearly quite taken by whoever that was.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about, dude,” Jaden said. “I don’t see anyone like that.”
Daniel kept looking at the door, but the color left his face as quickly as his smile flattened out and his eyes opened. “We need to go.”
“Wha–” Jaden’s wrist was in Daniel’s hand before he could get an answer. In spite of him weighing around 300 pounds, quite a lot for a shorter guy like him, Daniel was able to pull Jaden behind him like a kite. After Daniel looked around a bit, he headed toward the bathrooms, before stepping right past them toward the end of the hallway. “Hey, that’s the emergency–”
Jaden’s words were silenced by the sound of the door being pushed open, followed by an alarm that echoed from behind them. Without a word, Daniel pulled his keys out of his pocket and unlocked his car. “I need you to trust me for right now. I’ll explain once we’re on the road.”
“Uh, what the fuck is this, a kidnapping? You explain right now.”
“I… I saw an ex that I have some bad history with. Really bad. Now come on.”
Rolling his eyes, Jaden walked around to the passenger side door and got in. “Bad enough that we had to leave through the emergency exit?”
“Yes!” Daniel insisted as he started the car. “He… threatened me with violence… if he ever found me.”
“Oh,” Jaden said quietly, immediately regretting his tone. “I’m… sorry I was so–”
“It’s okay,” Daniel insisted as he backed out of the lot. “I know it kinda came out of nowhere. And you’re not psychic. You couldn’t have known.”
“Yeah,” Jaden concurred, unsure what else to say.
Daniel turned in the direction of Jaden’s apartment and started driving. The two drove in silence for a few minutes, with only the sound of Daniel’s nervous breathing to soundtrack the ride. Once Daniel seemed to have calmed down, he spoke up. “So… I’m sorry I had to put you through that. And I’d like to make it up to you with dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant. My treat. But I know after that, you might want to just go home, and I’m happy to drive you there if that’s the case. But… I can’t promise he won’t follow us, and I don’t want anything to happen to you because of me. So I’d like to make sure he loses our trail before we do.”
After Daniel had been quiet for a moment, Jaden said, “Makes sense. How do you propose we lose his trail?”
“I think we should just drive for a while. And this restaurant I have in mind is just across the state border, so it would take us about 45 minutes to drive there.”
“Is it Davinci’s?” Jaden asked excitedly.
“It is,” Daniel conformed, smiling a bit more.
“I love that place!”
“Then let’s go!” Daniel enthused, making a hasty right turn onto a side street, before heading in the other direction.
Once the two had agreed on a new plan, things were less tense in the car, making the ride to Davinci’s pass by quickly. Before Jaden knew it, they were turning into the Davinci’s parking lot. As they walked across the lot, Daniel was all smiles again, and put his hand on Jaden’s back to lead him in.
Dinner was much better at Davinci’s than it had been at Pete’s, with the two both enjoying plenty of the complimentary bread and oil. “Can I feed you a piece?” Daniel asked with his eyelids lowered.
“I’d like that,” Jaden replied, leaning in as Daniel dipped a piece of his bread in the oil. Once he had a good layer of the herbs and garlic on it, he lifted it up and plopped it in Jaden’s waiting mouth. As Jaden chewed, he noticed that Daniel looked truly relaxed for the first time since they’d fled Pete’s. As Daniel picked up another piece of bread, Jaden asked, “What, that’s it?”
“You’re a big boy. You can feed yourself.”
“Harrumph,” Jaden said jokingly, before dipping a nice, big piece of bread in the oil.
The two kept up their conversation until the dinner came. Daniel enjoyed a salad, while Jaden, at Daniel’s encouragement, enjoyed a fried mozzarella appetizer, baked lasagna, and a hefty slice of chocolate cake. By the time the meal was over and Daniel was paying, Jaden could barely get out of the booth.
“Oof. That sure was a lot,” Jaden said as they walked out of the restaurant. He found himself walking with a shortened stride and swaying more as he lugged his stuffed belly back to Daniel’s car. With his arms sticking out away from him, he held on to Daniel’s back and wrapped his hand around Daniel’s side.
“Don’t I know it, tubbo,” Daniel said as he gave the underside of Jaden’s belly a few gentle pats. Jaden grunted as he felt just how much he’d swelled from his dinner. It was a wonderful feeling. “You did so good tonight.”
“You think we could do this again?”
Daniel remained silent for a few moments as they kept walking across the parking lot. “I’d have to check my schedule and get back to you.”
“I didn’t ask when we could do this again,” Jaden chuckled.
“Right,” Daniel said, though he still remained silent until the two got in his car. “Back to your place, I assume?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Jaden grunted as he pushed the passenger seat back. As he leaned back to let his belly stick out into the air in front of him, he reached under his swollen gut to undo his belt. Once he felt it come undone and his belly swelled into its new space, he let out a sigh of contentment.
“Goddamn,” Daniel said, before he started the car and drove out of the parking lot. With his right hand occasionally giving Jaden’s gut some welcome rubs, Daniel drove the two of them back.
The ride mostly passed in silence. Daniel’s music–some kind of indie rock–droned on quietly as the two sat in contented silence. A silence broken only by Daniel making a surprised yelp about 30 minutes into their drive.
“You okay?” Jaden asked.
“Yeah. Just a skunk in the road.”
That was the last bit of excitement until the two reached Jaden’s apartment. After slowing down and parking, Daniel said, “Alright, we’re here.”
Looking out the window to his right, Jaden saw his apartment building. “Yep, that we are.”
“You don’t want to move, do you, tubby?”
“No,” Jaden moaned.
“Well, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. We both have work in the morning.”
“True,” Jaden admitted as he pulled the seat back up and undid his seatbelt. “So… you wanna do this again sometime?”
Daniel was quiet for a moment, before he said, “I’ll message you.”
At that, Jaden smiled and nodded, and got out of the car.
Jaden waddled his way up the apartment steps and into his apartment. After turning the lights on, he lugged himself into his bedroom and collapsed on his bed, letting out a grunt as he did. After pulling his shirt up, he rubbed his exposed mound of flab, letting out a contented, “Mmm,” as he did. He nearly fell asleep before he heard his phone let out a beep. Pulling it out of his pants, he saw that it was Daniel, messaging him on the gaining site they’d met on. With a smile, he opened the app, where he was met with a much longer message than he was expecting.
I wasn’t going to tell you this, but I think it’s better for both of us if I do. For a while now, I’ve been haunted by this… thing. I don’t know what it is. It can take the form of any person, either someone you know or a stranger. But what I do know is that for the past few weeks, it has followed me. It walks slowly, but it doesn’t seem to ever stop or rest. And you can’t kill it, believe me, I’ve tried. I shot it in the head and after it fell over, it got right up and kept walking toward me. It’ll come toward you in a straight line if it can, but it’s not stupid. It’ll break through windows or kick down doors or whatever it has to to get to you. And only you, me, and anyone else it has ever followed can see it. It started following me after I let a guy feed me a bit during a stuffing session. And now that I’ve fed you, it’s going to follow you. And if it reaches you, it’s going to make you fat. Very fat. Way fatter than you probably want to be. The truth is, I didn’t see an ex at that sports bar. I saw the thing, slowly walking toward me. And that news story about the guy they found in the park who weighed a half-ton? He’s the last guy I fed. Here’s the most important part: you can pass it on to someone else if you feed them. It doesn’t even have to be another gainer. Just feeding a guy a single bit of food seems to pass it on. But when the thing catches up with him and fattens them up, it’ll go back to chasing you. And if it catches you, it’ll come back to me. For both of our sakes, don’t let that happen.
Jaden had to read over the message a few times to try to figure out whether Daniel was trolling him or genuinely insane. With a confused expression, he messaged him back, “What are you talking about?” and put the phone down next to himself.
Rolling over on his bed, Jaden was just nervous enough about what Daniel was talking about that he couldn’t fall asleep. The thoughts swirled around in his head about how much of Daniel’s message was true. Was it a metaphor for something? Had he made it all up? Was it possible that it could be true?
Jaden didn’t stay up long enough to get answers. Before he could hear back from Daniel, he fell asleep.
Jaden wasn’t in a great mood at work the next day. Daniel had never gotten back to him to explain what he’d gone on about the previous night. Maybe it was all some kind of drug-fueled rant and he was embarrassed about it. It was the best explanation Jaden could come up with. But it didn’t satisfy him, and he found himself quite pensive at work.
Around 10:00 AM, Jaden looked up and noticed a man he’d never seen in the office before approaching his desk. He looked like the average office work, middle-aged with a small pot belly that pushed out from behind his button-down shirt. But there was one thing he wasn’t wearing that caught Jaden’s attention: a badge.
“Sir,” Jaden said as he got up from his desk. “Sir, you need to be wearing a badge to be in this part of the building.”
The man stared blankly at Jaden, and kept shuffling toward him at a slow pace.
“Sir, I’m talking to you, I said you need a badge to be here.”
“Jaden, who are you talking to?” Emily, one of his coworkers, asked as she passed in the hallway.
“This guy right here,” he said as he pointed toward the stranger, who was still slowly approaching him.
“Who?” she asked.
“I heard the commotion,” Tim, another one of his coworkers, said as he came over. “Where’s this guy not wearing a badge?”
“Right here,” Jaden said as he pointed to the man, who was now about half way down the hallway.
“Who?” he asked.
“Alright, you guys aren’t messing with me right?” Jaden asked. “He’s right there. He’s the only one in the hallway. You can’t miss him.”
“Jaden, there’s no one there,” his coworker insisted.
Jaden was about to accuse his coworkers of lying to him, when he completely froze in place. His mind went blank, before his mouth opened to accommodate his quickened breathing. “No.”
“No… no, no, no,” backing up slowly, his eyes were wide as he kept pace with the man. “Fuck, no, no, fuck, fuck, fuck.”
“Jaden, are you okay?” Tim asked, as he walked toward Jaden. Emily seemed alarmed by the whole thing, and slowly backed away from the scene. However, as she did, she came closer and closer to the man, who raised his arm.
“Emily, watch out!”
But Jaden was too late. The man swung his arm in front of him and swatted her aside. She stumbled into the cubical wall, seemingly not hurt, but definitely disoriented.
“Wha–” Tim said before he turned around and saw Emily slumped over. “Emily, what happened?”
By then, everyone in the vicinity had stood up and was looking over their cubicle walls. Two people rushed out to attend to Emily as she lay down. Unfortunately, the man was between them and her, and swatted them aside just as easily, causing Jaden’s coworkers to all let out alarmed gasps.
Turning around, Tim asked, “Jaden, what’s happening?”
“Th-the man! He’s the one pushing past them.”
“Jaden, there’s no one–” Before Tim could insist that Jaden was seeing things, he himself was pushed aside, revealing that the strange man was standing behind him, and had made considerable progress in walking toward Jaden.
Letting out a scream, Jaden fled in the opposite direction, making his way out of the office in whatever way he could so he wouldn’t cross paths with the man. Once he was outside, he ran to his car, and drove back home. In the late morning, the streets around the industrial park weren’t especially crowded, allowing him to speed as he breathed quickly. Once he reached a more urban area, he slowed down, but was still in a panic the whole drive home.
After parking his car, Jaden got out and pulled out his phone. He was already composing his message to Daniel his mind. “What the hell did you do?” he was going to write. “That thing followed me to work. None of my coworkers could see him. What the fuck did you do?” But once he’d opened the app, he discovered that Daniel was gone. He could still see their messages, but his profile picture had been replaced by a grey silhouette. Upon clicking that silhouette, Jaden was taken back to the site’s home page.
With flaring nostrils, Jaden made a post asking, “Did DannyFeeder delete, or did he just block me?” It didn’t take long for him to get confirmation: Daniel was gone. And he’d left Jaden alone to deal with this… thing.
Jaden was nearly frustrated enough to throw his phone on the ground. But he managed to restrain himself and instead turn around and fall on his car, bringing his fists angrily down on the roof. “Whyyyy?!” he screamed against the window, before leaning back with his eyes closed. “Why me?” he cried out more softly, before he leaned his head forward again to rest between his arms. Letting out tears and sniffles, he eventually stood back up, and pulled up his and Daniel’s messages again.
“You can pass it on to someone else if you feed them.”
Jaden read that part of the message over and over. It was clear what he had to do if he didn’t want to fall victim to that thing. He had to find a way to feed someone else. Pass it on to them, and buy himself some time to figure out what he’d do next.
Pulling out his phone, Jaden looked up events that night, and found a bear bash right in his own city. It wasn’t exactly a gainer event, but it was probably his best bet of being able to feed someone else. Importantly, they were advertising that both food and drink would be available, so it wouldn’t be conspicuous for him to feed someone. It was perfect.
It also wouldn’t start for another eight hours or so. And he had a feeling that by then, the monster would catch up with him. So he got back in his car and set his GPS to take him to a cafe on the other side of the city. On the way, he thought about other places where he could stay for a few hours, until the party started. If he had to make a trip all around the city to keep distance between this monster and himself, he would.
It was around 6:45, and Jaden had ended his trip at a coffeeshop within walking distance of where the party would be. He hadn’t seen any sign of the monster since he left work, but that didn’t help calm his nerves. He’d been forced to leave a few places and find alternate spots to hang out once he realized there was only one route to the door, making it very easy for the monster to corner him. As he sipped whatever beverage he’d bought or nibbled on whatever snack he ordered, he kept his eyes on the door, while also keeping an eye on any emergency exits, in case the monster decided to surprise him.
When the time hit 6:55, he couldn’t wait any longer. He pocketed his phone and left the coffeeshop, starting the short walk to the venue where this event would happen. It was just down the street, so he walked down the sidewalk, keeping a brisk pace while also looking around for anyone walking a little to slowly toward him.
He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a naked man on the other side of the street. No one else seemed to notice him, walking around him without acknowledging him. He was quite fat, like one of the guys he expected to see at this party. He was already staring right at Jaden, shuffling closer as he did. Worst of all, he was between Jaden and the venue. But that didn’t seem close enough for him, as he soon turned into the street and started walking directly toward Jaden.
Jaden barely had the presence of mind to start running as he watched in awe as the man crossed the street. He thought for sure that it would be another case like at the office, where someone would run into him. But against all odds, as he shuffled across the street, not a single car ran into him. He had some close calls, but he always managed to enter a lane just after a car had passed, or exit just before one crossed his path.
By the time he was three lanes across the four lane street, Jaden realized he had to get moving. He ran in the opposite direction, ducking down a side street before pulling out his phone to find an alternate route to the venue.
It was around 7:20 when Jaden arrived. The venue was a pub named O’Donnell’s, and looking through the windows, he could see a crowd of hefty guys already in attendance. It looked like it could have been a lot of fun, if he didn’t have this thing chasing after him.
Upon entering, Jaden was greeted by a guy sitting next to the door. “Hi, are you here for Bear Bash?”
“I am,” Jaden said nervously.
“Alright I’ll need to see an ID then, and a five dollar donation is suggested.”
After pulling out his wallet, Jaden passed the man his driver’s license, and tossed a five-dollar bill into the donation bucket. Given his reason for attending the event, he felt like it was the least he could do.
After looking over the license, the man smiled and passed it back to Jaden. “Alright,” he said as he slipped a green band around Jaden’s wrist and fastened it together. Jaden did his best to smile back at the man, before he stepped in.
Many of the tables, it seemed, had been cleared out to make a dance floor for the event, where about eight guys were already enjoying the tunes. Jaden passed them by and made his way to the snack table, where he saw plenty of appetizers and treats. He also spotted a man standing by the table and chatting with another guy. He was tall, white, had a closely-trimmed beard, a belly that stuck out quite a distance in front of him, and the confidence of someone who almost never got turned down. Jaden didn’t think he’d make a good target, but after the guy he was chatting with walked away, he changed his mind.
Grabbing a piece of chocolate off the table as he passed, Jaden approached the man and asked, “Care for some chocolate, sexy?”
The man looked at him and smirked. “I wouldn’t mind a bit of your sexy chocolate after this,” before he opened his mouth and let Jaden feed him the treat.
Jaden had heard comments like that quite a bit, being a black guy in a predominantly white community, but he still didn’t like them. As he did his best to suppress a scowl, he thought to himself that he didn’t feel quite as bad about what he was doing to the guy. But he knew he had to put some distance between the two of them before the monster showed up. “You sticking around? Come find me after the dance and let’s see what happens.”
“Will do, handsome.”
Jaden smiled and nodded at the guy, before turning around and walking away with a panicked expression. He took one of the chocolates for himself before he walked around the dancing crowd, intent on getting out of them before he’d have to make good on his promise, and before the monster showed up,
But as he neared the door, it seemed he was too late. Shuffling through the doorway was a man who looked almost exactly like the man he’d fed. He walked right past the man by the door, who seemed oblivious to his presence. As he approached the dancers, he looked at Jaden with an emotionless expression, conveying nothing as he soldiered on. Yet Jaden still backed up until he ran into a bar stool and nearly stumbled. There he watched as the man approached the dance floor. In spite of moving in a straight line, he managed to dodge all the dancers, just like he’d dodged the cars before.
Once he emerged on the other side, he caught the attention of the man whom Jaden had fed. After looking at his new curse, the man’s eyes opened wide and he smiled. “Ooh, woof! Aren’t you easy on the eyes?” As he approached the monster, he continued, “I’m Chris. What’s your name?” he said as he extended his hand to shake the monster’s.
But the monster didn’t bother with such pleasantries. Without a word, he slapped Chris’s hand to the side before stepping right up to Chris and wrapping his arms around him. “Woah,” was the only word Chris could get out before he was silenced by the monster’s mouth on his. It looked like a nonconsensual kiss, but Jaden knew it was going to be something much worse. The distress in Chris’s eyes indicated he knew it too.
The monster didn’t move its head like it was kissing Chris. With its eyes still open, it tilted its head forward into Chris’s face before its head started shaking, like it was struggling from the effort of keeping Chris’s mouth on its own. One hand quickly moved up from Chris’s back to the back of his head, pulling him in so he couldn’t go anywhere.
“Hey bud, you okay?”
By then, several men around Chris had noticed him struggling against the invisible assailant. To them, it looked like he was shaking in place, somehow paralyzed and convulsing at the same time. It didn’t take long for the monster to have its effect, meaning they turned around just in time to see him start swelling.
“W-w-what the fuck is happening?”
It started with Chris’s belly, swelling up and out from behind his shirt like it was being inflated like a balloon. It blew up as quickly, dropping out of the bottom of his shirt before his shirt rode up around his chest. It looked like it would surely pop if it grew anymore. But it just kept growing. The monster, meanwhile, was pushed up by Chris’s growing gut, as if it weighed nothing. Soon its feet left the ground, and it was hanging like a cloth apron draping from around Chris’s neck.
“How is he getting so fat like that?”
Watching how the monster latched on to Chris momentarily distracted Jaden from how the rest of Chris’s body was growing too. His arms, jutting out from the side in alarm, grew wider until the fat inside started to droop. His legs ripped his pants, with the seams on the side tearing downward as they expanded. Soon they started growing fat rolls of their own, the tone and build they might have once had buried in blubber. And from behind the monster’s head, Chris’s face was growing rounder too, his plump cheeks and bulging double-chin unable to be hidden.
“Dude, this isn’t funny, what are you doing?”
Chris looked like he weighed about 500 or 600 pounds, but the monster was still going. As fat as Chris was, he startled wobbling back and forth, like he was a few more dozen pounds from not being able to stand on his own feet. Predictably, as he soon leaned a little too far back, he landed on his well-padded rear end. A wave of commotion spread over the pub, with everyone now watching this man grow bigger.
But Jaden stayed still and silent. For he could see what most of them couldn’t see, that a monster was still mouth-to-mouth with Chris, leaning over his belly like it was a beanbag chair. And it was still holding tight to his head, still fattening Chris up, as the monster rose along with Chris’s belly.
Chris was leaning back, his pillowy arms holding him up. This allowed his massive belly to stick out quite a distance in front of him. But he was well past the weight where he could maintain a round shape. Instead, his sack of a gut spilled out over his legs, themselves providing a solid foundation to prop it up as he kept growing. As evidenced by his drooping eyes, it seemed all his growth was taking a lot out of him. What should have been a terrifying experience could barely keep him awake until the end.
When the end came, the monster stood back up without any difficulty. It rose from Chris like it was being pulled up by strings, before straightening its back. This allowed Jaden to see the full extent of what it had done to Chris, and he was just as shocked as everyone else.
Chris’s tired eyes looked even more tired due to all the fat in his cheeks forcing them closed. His face was surrounded by a band of fat that unified his cheeks and chin into one massive fat deposit. His arms were thicker than Jaden’s legs, with bags of fat hanging down on either side of his elbow. The lobes of his chest were so pudgy that they spilled down the sides of his gut, which flooded out in front of him like the monster had dropped an extra-large bean bag chair on his lap. But it was all him, as was made abundantly clear by the view everyone had now that his shirt had ripped off. From what Jaden could see of his legs, his thighs looked thicker than Jaden’s waist. Only his shoes and socks were clinging on to his massively plumped up body, which had ripped its way out of everything else.
Several people in the bar rushed over to try to help Chris, or at least gawk at what happened. But Jaden wasn’t one of them. He watched as everyone rushed past the monster, with no one running into it as they got closer to Chris. He watched as it slowly turned its head to face him. He didn’t stick around to watch any more, as he immediately turned toward the door and ran out, leaving behind a confused and loud scene.
Jaden ran to his car as fast as he could, panting loudly once he finally reached it. He couldn’t remember another time in his life that he’d run faster, and he could feel it. There was a taste like blood in his mouth, a taste he got any time he had to exert himself. He could feel his heart pounding all throughout his chest, and his lungs were in agony. But he couldn’t let that slow him down, not with the monster still somewhere back there, coming ever closer to him. After fumbling with the keys, he unlocked his car, got in, and drove off. He didn’t know where he was going, but he couldn’t stay there.
Jaden tried to think of the farthest place he could drive to that night. It was around 7:30, and he had about five hours before he’d feel too tired to trust himself to drive. As he drove himself to the outskirts of the city and got on a highway, he remembered a trip he and some friends had taken to a beach about three hours away. The route there was mostly highways, meaning that three hours would put a lot of distance between him and the monster. With a resolute nod, he pulled out his phone, set the GPS to Horizon Beach, and drove.
Two and a half hours later, Jaden arrived. It was a brisk night, and the beach parking lot was mercifully empty. After taking the farthest spot from the entrance, Jaden put the car in park and hit the door lock button just to be sure. He wasn’t sure what a locked door would do against the monster, given that Daniel had said it could break windows. But it would at least keep any other humans out. And Jaden needed that kind of security if he was going to get any sleep.
After turning off the ignition and pocketing his keys, Jaden pushed his seat as far back as it would go. With a sigh, he unzipped his sweatshirt and took it off to repurpose as a blanket. After leaning back, he turned on his side as much as he could with his legs still by the pedals. He then closed his eyes and settled in to wait until his tiredness grew stronger than his fear.
Jaden woke up to see the sun shining through his passenger-side window. He immediately sprung up and looked around him, checking for anyone walking toward his car with a slow stride and an empty stare. He panicked when he saw someone in a police uniform approaching him from across the lot. But he calmed down a bit when he realized the officer was strolling with a normal gait and talking into his radio. All things the monster didn’t seem capable of. But Jaden started his car just in case he had to make a hasty retreat. When the officer was about two car-lengths away, he rolled down his window and asked, “Is there a problem, sir?”
“The problem is that you can’t leave your car parked here all day day.” For the first time in his life, Jaden was happy to hear a cop talking to him. “This lot becomes a paid lot at 8:00 AM.” Jaden looked down at his car’s clock and was relieved to see it was 7:59. “Figured I’d let you know rather than just giving you a ticket.”
“Sorry, sir. I’m, uh… I’m being stalked by someone. I needed to get far away so I could sleep in peace, and this beach was the farthest place I knew of that I could drive to.”
To Jaden’s surprise, the officer’s expression softened, and he looked genuinely concerned. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. If you come back to the station and tell us about your stalker, we can help.”
After a pause, Jaden said, “I appreciate that, but I really don’t think you can help here.”
“A lot of people think that until they talk to us. Just give us a chance.”
Jaden put his car in drive before closing the window, saying, “Not today.” It wasn’t worth arguing with the officer; he wouldn’t believe Jaden if he told him the truth. As he drove off, Jaden looked in his rearview mirror to make sure the cop didn’t do anything like pull a gun on him. Once he was safely out of the lot, he looked for a parking spot elsewhere so he could make a few phone calls.
Jaden got back to his apartment around 11:30. After pulling into a street-side space, he turned the corner to the front of his building. He was relieved to see three familiar faces sitting on the stoop. Rain tapped Orion and Zandra on their shoulders before she ran toward Jaden and wrapped him up in a hug. As tall and broad-framed as Rain was, her hugs were some of Jaden’s favorites. Feeling safe for the first time since work the previous day, he started sniffling in her arms.
“Oh, baby, come here. You’ve been through so much.”
After letting out a few more whimpers, Jaden pulled his head up off of Rain’s shoulder and took a deep breath, wiping his eyes in the process. “Yeah,” was all he could get out. Once he disconnected from her hug, he looked up and the other two and said, “Thank you all for coming here. And for… believing me.”
“Jay, it’s been all over the news,” Rain said. “The attack at your workplace.”
“And the two guys who got massively fat,” Orion added as he pushed himself off the stoop.
“If anything, your story made the whole thing a lot less mysterious,” Zandra said
“So what’s the deal, Jay?” Orion asked. “Are we helping you start a new life? Or are we taking this thing down?”
“Were you listening when I talked to you?” Jaden shouted. “This things will follow me wherever I go. And we can’t kill it.”
“I mean, you both have a point,” Zandra said as she pushed herself up off the stoop. “It seems the thing can follow you anywhere if it found you at work.”
After a moment of pondering, Jaden’s eyelids rose up as his mouth fell open. “You’re right. You need to badge in to get to where I sit. So either someone let it in, which is unlikely given that they couldn’t see it, or…”
“Or it finds a way. But, we don’t know for a fact that this thing is invincible.”
“But Daniel said–”
“You mean the fuckboy who sicced this thing on you?” Orion asked. “And you trust him, why?”
“Look,” Rain said, “We should definitely try all our options before we conclude that running away is the only one.”
After letting out a lengthy sigh, shaking with nervousness, Jaden conceded, “Alright. So how do we kill it?”
“How do you think?” Orion said as he pulled out a knife.
“Jesus, Orion,” Zandra exclaimed, “Where did you get that?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“But I’ve never stabbed anyone before,” Jaden exclaimed. “And if the thing gets close enough for me to stab it, it could… you know,” Jaden concluded as he wrapped his arms around his chest and nodded his head down.
“Who said you’d be the one stabbing it?” Orion asked as he demonstrated his proficiency with the weapon.
“How are you gonna stab something you can’t see?”
“We came up with a few ideas for that,” Rain said. “One was for you to throw a sheet over the thing so Orion can see its silhouette.”
Zandra added, “I was thinking spray paint or silly string might be better, since you could use them from more of a distance. And the monster might be smart enough to throw the sheet off.”
“I was thinking you could feed us, so we could see it,” Orion chimed in.
“Whoa whoa whoa, who’s ‘we’?” Zandra asked.
“Look, are you ride-or-die or not?” Orion asked.
“‘Ride or die’ doesn’t also mean ‘ride or get really fat’.”
“Let’s try the silly string and spray paint first,” Rain shouted before looking back to Jaden. “Look, whatever it takes, we’re with you through this.”
With a nod of his head and a bit more sniffling, Jaden whispered, “Thank you.”
The four got into Rain’s SUV to go buy their supplies. “Keep an eye out for this… thing,” Rain told Jaden. “If you see it, I’ll run the motherfucker over.”
“And how are you going to explain that one to the police?” Orion asked.
“Explain what? That I ran over something they can’t see? Worry less about that and more about how I’ll explain it to the insurance company.” With a turn of her keys in the ignition, they were off.
Jaden never saw the monster as they drove to the department store to buy silly string, and the hardware store to buy spraypaint. At least, he didn’t think he ever saw it. With the monster able to look like anyone, it was hard for him to spot it without having enough time to spot its slow, single-minded walk. He could only meaningfully keep watch as the four walked around the stores, as Rain led them around and bought the supplies herself. When Jaden tried to protest, she told him, “You’ve been through enough. I won’t have you paying for this stuff too.”
The four made their way back to Jaden’s apartment building, where they went up to Jaden’s apartment and waited. Given the layout, Jaden decided the living room would be the best place for them to wait. It had plenty of seating, and would allow them to get out through the main entrance or the fire escape if necessary. For in spite of Orion’s optimism that he could take the monster down, Jaden had a feeling they’d need to use one or the other.
Once the four settled in, with Jaden sitting on the couch with the spray paint and silly string beside him, the tension didn’t last long. Though Jaden still watched the doorways without pausing, the other three were all on their phones, waiting for something to happen. “Can we watch TV?” Zandra asked.
“Absolutely not,” Rain chimed in. “We need to be on our guard,” she said before she went back to looking at her phone.
“C’mon,” Orion chimed in while looking at Zandra. “You know we can’t have Jaden being distracted when he’s the only one who can see this thing. Watch Netflix on your phone or something.”
Jaden had to admit, something to take his mind off of the whole ordeal would have been nice. But he knew he wouldn’t be able to enjoy anything they could watch. The knowledge that the monster was coming ever closer made him too nervous to think about anything else. And while Zandra was right that they didn’t know for sure that it was invincible, given what it was capable of, Jaden didn’t have much hope for this plan.
He wouldn’t have to wait much longer to find out whether it would work. The sound of breaking glass made everyone in the room tense up. “Do you think that’s…” Rain said.
Jaden grabbed a can of silly string in one hand and spray paint in the other. Bounding up off the couch, he held the silly-string can facing away from him like pepper spray, but put it down when he only saw Orion in his bedroom. “Orion, do you see anything in there?”
“Who are you talking to?” Jaden heard Orion ask behind him. Turning around, he saw that Orion was sitting in the seat he’d been sitting in before, hand on his knife.
Looking back to his bedroom, Jaden saw Orion walking toward him slowly. “Fuck,” he said as he stumbled back. “It’s here!”
Zandra ran toward the main entrance of the apartment, looking toward the bedroom. Rain took a can of spray paint herself and stood next to Jaden. Orion leapt up from his seat and stood beside the door, knife in hand. “Spray it, Jay!”
Jaden pressed both buttons down and sprayed silly string and paint in the monster’s direction. The paint didn’t do much at the distance between him and the thing. But after steadying his shaking hand, Jaden managed to land some silly string. Continuing to spray, he managed to cover the monster enough to reveal its shuffling silhouette to the other three.
“Holy shit,” Zandra squeaked. “It’s real.”
Jaden moved back toward the apartment entrance as the thing slowly moved closer, with Rain holding her ground. Once it stepped into the living room, Orion shouted, “En garde, bitch!” before shoving his knife into the thing’s side. He seemed a little surprised when he encountered resistance, but was quick to pull the knife out and stab the monster several more times.
The monster stopped when Orion landed his first blow. But Jaden saw no blood coming out where Orion had stabbed it. And since it was wearing the same white tank top as Orion, he would have been able to see it. “It’s not doing anything!” he shouted out.
“Shit,” Orion spurted out as he ran toward the group, just narrowly missing the monster’s arm as it tried to knock him over. Rain stepped forward and spray painted the thing in the face, getting enough of a profile to concentrate the paint on his eyes, before she stepped back to join the group. Jaden could see the monster’s face covered in green, the eyes completely coated. But it merely looked at Rain and trudged forward, seemingly unphased.
“Okay,” Rain said. “Now we run.”
The four rushed out of the entrance of Jaden’s apartment, hastily making their way down the stairs and out the door, before they rushed to Rain’s SUV. “So what do we do now?” Zandra asked.
“We drive,” Rain said as she put the car in reverse and left the lot. “And we think of a plan as we’re driving.”
As Rain pulled out of the lot, Jaden looked back toward the apartment building as they passed the front entrance. He saw the monster step out onto the stoop, its head turning to follow the car in spite of its eyes being covered in paint. He remembered Rain’s orders to tell her if he saw it, but right now, he just wanted to get as far away from it as possible. After looking back toward the oncoming road, he sunk in his seat.
“So, what did you see, Jaden?”
“It… it looked just like Orion. But there was no life in its eyes.”
“Especially after I covered them with paint,” Rain cheered as she gestured toward the car roof.
“It could still see us. It’s eyes followed us as we… as we ran from it.”
“So my stabs didn’t do anything?” Orion asked.
“Nothing. There was no blood on the knife or on the thing’s shirt. And it was white like yours. I would have seen it.”
“Damn. And I thought I just couldn’t see its blood because I couldn’t see it.”
“So what do we try next?” Zandra asked. “If stabbing it didn’t do any good, shooting it probably won’t either.”
Rain was the first to answer. “What you need to do is figure out what you’re going to say to your bosses when you call them tomorrow saying you can’t go in. We’re not leaving Jaden alone to fight this thing by himself.”
“True, true,” Orion admitted.
“So where are we going?” Jaden asked.
“Any ideas?” Rain said extra loudly to the two in back. Jaden sunk into his seat yet again; if Rain wasn’t sure what they were going to do, he truly felt hopeless.
“My mom’s family has a beach house,” Zandra said. “They usually use it for reunions and weddings and shit.”
“Wait, who owns the house,” Orion asked.
“I don’t know! That’s for my white relatives to argue about. I just go when invited.”
“Except now?” Jaden asked.
“Now I’m inviting you all. It’s about two hours from here. There’s plenty of places to sleep there. We can get some rest and then figure out what we do from there.”
“It’s a plan,” Rain said before she pulled her phone out of her pocket and tossed it to Zandra. “Put the address in and let’s go.”
With Rain’s GPS set, the group set off toward Zandra’s family’s beach house, the sun setting to their right as they drove down the highway. Conversation between the four was scant, until Orion said, “So… are we not going to talk about the fact that Jaden made a guy really fucking fat to save his own ass?”
Rather than replying, Rain let out a loud exhalation through her nose, as if not wanting to say anything. Zandra wasn’t so diplomatic. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but yeah, that’s kinda messed up.”
“Look, I panicked, okay?” Jaden said as he kept looking forward at the road. “I didn’t think I had any other option. I did what I had to do.”
“You could have called us,” Zandra said.
“I didn’t think you’d believe me! I was amazed you believed me this time.”
“Of course we did,” Orion said. “And besides, you were clearly freaking out. Like, the whole thing made those weird news stories make a lot of sense, so we figured it was as good an explanation as any. But regardless of that, we’re here for you.”
“I didn’t believe him at first,” Zandra admitted quietly. The car remained silent until she continued. “It was just too… fantastical to be true. But seeing that… that silly string silhouette walking toward us… with the spray paint face… yeah, I believe it now.”
The tension prevented much more conversation from happening until the four reached the shore. It wasn’t a moment too soon, as everyone was feeling exhausted from the encounter with the monster, and from the long drive. Zandra directed Rain to where she could park, and the four got out to look at the house.
The beach house was quite large, just as she had described it, looking like it had three floors and an attic. Large windows decorated every room, though without the light of day, it was impossible to see inside. The motion sensing lights that had turned on as they parked revealed two garage doors, as well as a porch on each floor, and the front door. “Come on,” Zandra said as she pulled out her keys. “Let’s go get some rest.”
After unlocking the door, Zandra led the group inside, where she turned on the lights to reveal a large, open first floor. The kitchen was separated from the rest of the floor by a counter, with a dining table and several nautical-themed living room setups filling the rest of the space. The large windows looked out over the ocean, but without any light outside, it was hard to see much outside. What they could see was a sliding door that led out to the first-floor porch, with a staircase going down to the beach.
“Oh, those couches look so comfortable,” Rain groaned as she stumbled toward one.
“We have beds upstairs that you could–”
“Nope!” Rain retorted, cutting Zandra off before she fell face first on one of the couches, a spot from which she did not move for the rest of the night.
“That looks like a great idea,” Orion said before he followed Rain’s example, picking another couch and lying back on it, pulling the decorative blanket on the back of the couch over himself and snuggling in.
Looking at Zandra, Jaden shrugged and walked toward the oversized recliner. After pushing the back of the chair back and propping out the footrest, he turned on his side and drifted off to sleep.
“Zandra!” an unfamiliar voice yelped, stirring Jaden from his slumber. Opening his eyes in surprise, he saw a white man and woman standing near the door, looking at Zandra as she lay in another recliner, covered by two blankets. “We didn’t expect anyone would get to this party earlier than us. And I see you brought friends!”
“Yeah,” Zandra said groggily as she rubbed her eyes. “We were traveling through the area and I told them we could stop here to take a break. Did we crash something?”
“Oh, no, no, just a family get-together. I don’t think your mother will be attending, but it’s good to see you. Won’t you introduce us to your friends?”
“Yeah,” Zandra sighed. “Let me just… wake up first.” Rubbing her eyes, she took the blankets off and got out of the chair. “This is Rain, Orion, and Jaden,” she said, pointing to the other two, who looked like they were still waking up, and Jaden, who smiled and waved. “Guys, this is my aunt Karen and my uncle John.”
“Lovely to meet you all,” the woman said.
“Likewise,” Jaden replied.
“Thankfully, I brought enough of my potato salad, tuna casserole, and coleslaw to go around for everyone,” she said with a beaming smile. “Well, we better get setting up.”
Zandra walked to the other side of the room to join the other three. “She seems nice,” Jaden said.
“Only because the only thing she hates more than minorities is family drama,” Zandra snarled. “So she sucks it up any time she has to be reminded that her sister married a black man. But if my parents got divorced, I guarantee you she would pop some kind of cheap champagne and share a glass with her ugly-ass husband.”
“That’s a little harsh,” Rain said.
“Look at him and tell me I’m wrong.”
“I didn’t say you were wrong. But that doesn’t mean you should say it,” Rain added, causing Orion to have to stifle his laughter.
“Whatever. We should get out of here.”
“And what?” Orion asked. “Give the racists what they want?”
“Denying racists what they want might be activism, but not spending time with racists is self care,” Zandra insisted. “Now come on.”
It didn’t take long for the group to gather their things, since they hadn’t done much after they entered the house except fall asleep and wake up. After making sure all their belongings were accounted for, they walked through the living room, around a barrier, and toward the door. But not before being stopped by another couple of white people, both dressed in their Sunday finest. The man wore a dark blue suit that showed off his trim figure, while the woman wore a brighter blue dress that hugged her hips and cinched waist. They walked with an arm locked around each other, like he was escorting her. They were younger than Karen and John, and looked to be closer to Zandra’s age. In spite of that, Zandra seemed to lurch back when she saw them.
Once they entered the door, the man’s eyebrows rose when he saw Zandra. “Ah, cousin! What a pleasant surprise to see you here. And I see you brought some of your peers! The more the merrier, they say. Ah, but where are my manners? I’m Tom, and this is my girlfriend, Casandra.”
“Lovely to meet you all,” Casandra said as she waved her free hand. Neither of the two deigned to extend a hand to shake with anyone in the group.
“Likewise,” Zandra said.
“I trust you’ll be staying for the party?” Tom asked.
“Of course,” Zandra said, causing Jaden, Rain, and Orion to exchange glances.
“Oh good,” Tom replied, not entirely able to hide his lack of excitement. “Well… guests of Zandra, I suppose we’ll see you around.” Tom and Casandra unlinked arms and walked past the four, barely giving them any room as they passed by.
Once they were out of earshot, Jaden leaned in close to Zandra and asked, “What happened to us getting out of here?”
“Change of plans,” she said stonily. “The party probably starts in about an hour. Assuming the monster doesn’t catch up with us by then, you’re going to feed Tom.”
“Wha–” Jaden leaned back in surprise as Orion and Rain both raised their eyebrows, and everyone’s mouths dropped open. “You want me to… pass the monster on to him?”
“And let him get really, really fat?
“Zandra, I… I can’t do that.”
“Why not? You did it to that stranger at the bear party, not knowing whether he was the kind of person who deserved it or not. And let me assure you: Tom deserves it.”
Rain interjected, “You’re really going to just throw your family under the bus like that?”
“You three are more family to me than Tom will ever be.”
“I let you crash here, didn’t I?” Zandra asked, interrupting Jaden. “I let all of you crash here, when we had nowhere else to go. Besides, if you feed him, it’ll buy you time, because the monster will have to find him before it can go back to hunting you. And it’ll buy us time to figure out what to do next.”
Jaden stared back at Zandra, not sure how to respond. He looked back at Tom and pondered it for a while. As Tom walked around the room, chatting up Karen and John, Jaden couldn’t help but get the impression that Tom was the kind of person who’d never been told “No” in his life. Or if he had, he did everything necessary to turn it into a “Yes”. He carried himself with the kind of assured arrogance that only people with money could achieve. He wasn’t sure what Tom had done to Zandra, but he concluded he didn’t have to know. Especially since feeding him would get the monster off of his tail for a bit. “Alright.”
“Jaden!” “Jay!” Rain and Orion said in unison.
Meanwhile, Zandra’s stony disposition softened as she looked back at Jaden appreciatively. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
Over the next hour, more of Zandra’s relatives on her mother’s side arrived. She introduced them to the other three and the other three to them, followed by various amounts of vitriol as she shared her true thoughts with the group. Some relatives got away with simply being called pretentious or self-centered. Others were accused of much worse. Sometimes so much worse that Jaden would suggest, “Maybe I should feed them instead. Sounds like they really deserve for something shitty to happen to them.”
“No,” Zandra would always say. “Tom deserves it more.” And yet, no matter how much the group pressed her for an explanation, Zandra would never reveal what exactly Tom had done.
About an hour later, as Zandra had predicted, the party was underway. And just like Karen had alluded to, Zandra was the only person-of-color from her family there. Jaden, Orion, and Rain were the only company she had there, the four banding together against a sea of milk. To the relief of all of them, they wouldn’t have to stay much longer.
When one of Zandra’s relatives took the plastic wrap off of a tray of chocolates and assorted other sweets, Jaden spotted his opportunity. He tried one, before being appalled to discover that it has some kind of jam in the middle and salt on top, and that the chocolate itself was quite bitter. Regardless, after swallowing his ill-advised treat, he picked one up in a napkin and brought it over to Tom.
“Say Tom, have you tried the chocolates that just went out? They’re… delectable.”
“Ah, Zandra’s friend!”
“Jared, lovely to meet you. I haven’t, yet. I try to not spoil my appetite with sweets.”
“Well, this one has a fruit filling inside that’s quite good. It’s practically healthy!”
“Haha, if you say so, old chum,” Tom replied, which Jaden took as his cue to pass the chocolate toward Tom’s mouth. Thankfully, Tom was too polite to turn him down, and bit the chocolate out of the napkin. “Hmm… 70% dark, with raspberry jam, and sea salt on top. Truly scrumptious! Thank you, Jared. I’ll have to try more when I get the chance.”
“You’re welcome,” Jaden said, before turning around rolling his eyes as he rejoined the group. “We’re good to go,” he whispered to them.
“Good,” Zandra said quietly, before she loudly continued, “Why don’t I show you three the porch. There’s a wonderful view of the ocean out there.”
“Oh sure!” Rain replied just as audibly. “Thank you for offering.”
Once the four made their way outside, Zandra shut the door behind them and let out a sigh. “Finally. Let’s get out of here.”
“Wait, does your beach house seriously have a pool in the back?” Orion said as he stepped away from the driveway to take a look. “Yeah, that’s a pool! Why the hell would you build a house right by the beach, and then build a pool? That’s like moving to the north pole and installing air conditioning.”
“I don’t fucking know, Orion. Can we just leave?”
“I’m with Zandra,” Rain said.
“Me too,” agreed Jaden.
“Alright, alright,” Orion said as he jogged back to join the group. “I just can’t believe it.”
“You know there’s nothing rich people love more than unnecessary shit,” Rain said as they walked to her SUV.
“So where do we go now?” Orion asked.
“Back to my place, I guess,” Jaden said. “To clean up the mess and figure out what to do next.”
It was around 3:00 PM, and Casandra was wondering when she and Tom would be able to leave. She’d managed to break away from Tom long enough to chat with some of his family, only to discover that they weren’t all that different from him. His entire family seemed to be filled with people who’d never had a real problem in their life, at least one that couldn’t be solved with generous application of money. As she moved from boring conversation to boring conversation, she wished that Zandra and her friends had stuck around. They seemed like they would have been much more interesting to talk to.
That was all Casandra wanted: for something interesting to happen.
“Well, darling,” Tom said to her. “I’ve had a marvelous time, but I think we should get going.”
“Yes, I think it’s time,” Casandra agreed, holding back her excitement. “Lead the way.”
Tom smiled and walked toward the door. Before he could leave, he said, “Excuse me,” even though there was no one in front of him.
And then things got interesting.
Tom started thrashing about as if he were struggling against some sort of unseen assailant, making Casandra call out, “Tom! Are you okay?” But he could barely grunt in response, let alone give an answer. After a short scuffle, Tom fell backwards onto the floor, landing with a thud that attracted the attention of the entire party.
“Tom!” Casandra yelled again. But as she ran toward him to try to help him up, something pushed her away, causing her to fall back into his relatives’ arms. A few more people tried to help Tom up, but they were even less fortunate, being pushed back into walls or falling onto the floor before they could get close to him. As Casandra watched them fall, she concluded it couldn’t be Tom pushing them back. His arms were at his sides, shaking like he was struggling against someone or something pinning them down on the ground. His eyes and mouth were both open wide, with his eyes moving back and forth between the people surrounding him, and straight above him. “Tom, what’s gotten into you?”
“Is it some kind of ghost?” asked one relative.
“Is he possessed?” asked another.
“Preposterous, there’s no such thing,” another asserted.
“But then what’s pushing everyone back?”
The questions stopped as everyone at the party noticed Tom wasn’t just convulsing on the floor. His stomach was expanding from within his jacket. As the buttons on the jacket popped off, before immediately bouncing onto the floor beside, him everyone stepped back. Looking into his distressed eyes, Casandra noticed that his face was starting to round out too, his cheeks rounding out like his mouth was full, while his double chin was starting to creep out from behind his chin. Tom wasn’t just having some sort of spasm. He was getting fatter.
His other garments weren’t far behind the jacket. His vest buttons popped off soon after, with the shirt buttons not holding on for long after that. As his stomach kept growing, pushing up higher above him at a remarkable pace, his clothes crumpled on the floor on either side of his rising belly. It had grown big enough for them to roll down the sides. Only his tie still lay on top of his expanding gut.
Tom’s upper clothes weren’t the only ones affected by his growth. Not long after his shirt had given way, a loud snap signaled the demise of his belt. A rip sounded from his pants soon after, indicated that the fly had given up on holding him in. But that was only the start of the pants’ destruction. Soon the seams on the side ripped from the beltline down, exposing Tom’s newly gargantuan thighs. And as indicated by the pants continuing to rip slowly, he wasn’t done growing yet.
Tom’s sleeves were next to give way. By then, his belly looked as big as if someone had laid a sack of grain on top of him. His head had rounded out like a melon, leaving him nearly unrecognizable. His chest had grown from flat to protruding enough to make the buttons fly off of his shirt even higher than his belly. And his arms were growing wide enough to burst out of his tailored jacket. As the seams started to give way, they exposed the ripped shirt beneath, showing just how much his clothes were failing to contain him. All that remained was for the tie to fall off of the steepening incline of his belly. When it did, it landed beside his head, which still bore an unmoving expression of horror.
By then, Tom had burst out of all of his clothes, leaving only his underwear mercifully covering him. Although he probably didn’t want everyone at the party to know he was wearing boxers with smiling hot dogs on them. But that was the least of his worries, as whatever was fattening him continued to do so well past any sort of size any of the family had seen in person. His stomach was like bread dough, rising up and expanding outward while looking similarly taut. And the amount of bread that could be made from that dough could have fed a small city.
For Tom was so fat that his family was more amazed by how big he was than by the fact that he was rapidly gaining weight right in front of their eyes. He looked like he was so big that he wouldn’t be able to get off the floor without help. His belly was the same size and shape a pile of clothes left in the corner of a room. The boundary separating his cheeks and chin had vanished, leaving his head encased in a ring of fat. His arms were as wide as his legs once were. And in spite of all of it, he was still growing.
“So… is someone going to do something?” one of the relatives asked.
“What the hell do you propose we do?”
“Call an ambulance, for one.”
Casandra was the only one who pulled out her phone at the suggestion. As she described the situation to the dispatcher, she watched in horrified fascination as her boyfriend kept blowing up. It was like more body fat was being poured into his mouth, before being directly added to his body. And the process, whatever it was, wasn’t stopping.
“What else, though?” asked another relative. “He’s still growing!”
“What else can we do? Does anyone have any idea what would be causing it?”
“Maybe an allergic reaction?”
“Tom, do you have any allergies?”
Tom’s words were all gurgling and muffled, rendering them completely unintelligible. He sounded like he had some kind of gag in his mouth. And yet, his mouth remained wide open. At the very least, if he’d lost use of his vocal cords, Casandra reasoned, he should have still been able to scream. Whatever force had pushed away anyone who tried to help him must have been gagging him too.
“Tom, can you breathe?” Casandra called out. Tom only answered with more muffled shouts.
“He must be able to, or he wouldn’t be able to keep calling out like that.”
“Okay, so it’s probably not anaphylactic shock.”
“I think that’s for the paramedics to decide.”
“They’re on their way,” Casandra said. “No thanks to you all,” she muttered under her breath.
In the meantime, Tom was still getting bigger. The lobes of his chest were now bigger than some of his relatives’ stomachs. His upper arms were wider than his torso used to be. His legs were even wider than that. And with his belly reaching sizes that Casandra hadn’t thought possible, it wasn’t much of a surprise that his underwear finally snapped open. Some of the relatives mumbled in surprise, while those who were in a place to see what his underwear had previously covered quietly moved elsewhere.
Casandra still had some sympathy for her boyfriend. After strolling to the couch, she picked up one of the throw blankets and walked back to Tom. Approaching from the side, and keeping some distance, she tossed it over his hips.
But it didn’t come to land on his hips. Rather, it came to land above him, before settling on either side of something on top of him. Something invisible, and yet still holding the blanket aloft in the middle.
Most of Tom’s relatives stepped back, as they all talked over each other. Casandra stepped back herself, before stepping closer to Tom and slowly leaning over. Once she was able to grab a corner of the blanket, she pulled it away quickly, before grabbing another corner. This time, she threw it vertically over Tom, to cover him like he was sleeping.
When she did, it came to rest over the shape of a human figure. One lying on top of Tom, with its arms out to hold down his, and it’s head right on top of his.
Soon the blanket went flying off of Tom, like someone had grabbed it from one of the corners near his head and tossed it into the crowd of onlookers. As far as anyone could see, this left only Tom on the floor, still getting fatter.
“So… everyone saw that, right?” Casandra asked.
The crowd remained in stunned silence for a few seconds, before a few scattered voices spoke out to agree with her.
“Good,” she said, before gulping nervously.
The guests remained silent until the paramedics arrived. By then, Tom seemed to have stopped growing, and was able to speak again. Although he wasn’t able to say much, as he was breathing heavily like he’d just sprinted a marathon. And with all the weight lying on top of him, it was no wonder.
As he lay down, his belly spilled out to the side such that it was wider than his abdomen was tall. His chest flopped to the side similarly, too flabby to maintain its integrity. His arms were pinned down by layers of fat that made his upper arm look like a pillow, while his legs now had rolls of their own. And his face had expanded from looking like it was encased in a ring of fat to looking like it was attached to a bag of it. Casandra didn’t know where to even begin estimating how much he weighed.
When the paramedics arrived, they were equally stumped. “Looks like it’s moved all the way out here too.”
“‘It’?” one of the guests repeated.
“You haven’t heard about the cases a few cities over where people have ballooned up to sizes like this?”
“Did they have some sort of supernatural presence on top of them too?”
“Supernatural?” the paramedic repeated, confusedly.
“I think you should bring the police in to get everyone’s account,” Casandra said. “You’re going to want it for the records.”
“Got it,” the other paramedic said before reaching for her radio. “This is Jenson reporting from 38 Harborside Way. We’re going to need an officer here to take eyewitness testimony.” Looking down at Tom, she concluded, “And send over an extra reinforced gurney as well.”
Jaden and his friends were hanging out in a park, making sure there was plenty of open space so Jaden could see the monster coming if it caught up with them. As Orion was browsing his phone, he broke the silence by saying, “Hey, looks like the monster caught up with your cousin.”
“Go on,” Zandra urged him.
“‘A man has been taken to the hospital after suddenly gaining approximately 850 pounds during a family party. This is the third in a string of similar occurrences to happen in the surrounding area, with men being found–’”
“Yeah yeah, tell us something we don’t know.”
Orion read in silence for a while before continuing, “‘Police have reported that everyone present at the party described some unusual occurrences as the event took place. Several people tried to help the man, before being pushed back by an unseen force. Though the man lay on the floor with his mouth open, his speech sounded garbled like his mouth was being covered. And perhaps most disturbingly, when a blanket was thrown over him to protect his decency, it seemed to reveal a human figure lying on top of the man. Police are currently explaining the observations as mass hysteria, though they do note that the consistency of the eyewitness reports is troubling.’”
“Sounds like our guy,” Rain sighed.
“‘Police have stated that the three victims so far have all been extremely reluctant to talk about what happened to them. They are encouraging anyone who might know anything about these occurrences to come forward with any information they might have.’”
“Maybe you should go to them,” Zandra said to Jaden. “It would give them more to go on. They might even be able to help you.”
“Let Tom tell them about it,” Jaden grumbled.
“Yeah, they’d probably find a way to pin it on Jay and lock him up,” Orion said. “Up until the monster gets him while he’s in jail. No one benefits from that.”
“But maybe he’d be safer in jail–”
“Have you been paying attention at all?” Jaden shouted. “No matter where I go, this thing will find a way to follow me.” After turning away from Zandra, he muttered, “Fucking Daniel. He’s the one who should be in jail.”
“What if you gave the monster back to him,” Orion asked.
Rain and Zandra both looked at Orion with pensive expressions. “What do you mean?” Jaden asked.
“I mean, what if you fed Daniel? Would that put him on the top of the monster’s list?”
“That would certainly be some fitting justice,” Zandra said.
“That… might work,” Jaden said, his eyes opening wide before his mouth closed and he slumped over again. “But how are we going to find him? I don’t know where he lives. We only communicated on the app, so I don’t have his phone number. We have nothing to go on.”
“Not true,” Rain asserted, before showing her text conversation with Jaden a few days prior. “Remember when you sent us all photos of his license plate before your date?”
“I… okay,” Jaden said with his eyes open wide. “I guess we do have something.”
“My buddy’s mom works at the DMV,” Orion said. “He’s had her look up some addresses before based on license plates.”
“What for?” Zandra asked.
“We had to take care of some business. Street justice. Probably better if you don’t know any more than that. Here I’ll forward him the photo of the plate,” Orion said, before fiddling with his phone.
“Wait, his mom will just… look up the address for him? Is that legal?”
“Probably not. But she knows he’s a good boy, and wouldn’t be asking her to look up someone’s plate if it wasn’t for a good reason.”
“Good boy? You just said it was for street justice!” Zandra exclaimed.
“Yeah, we only went after guys who deserved it.”
“Good thing you’re with us, then,” Rain said. “We’re about to go deliver some of that street justice ourselves. And Zandra, I’m sorry, sweety, but I don’t think you’re strong enough to hold down this fuckboy while Jaden feeds him.”
“I’ll find some way to help.”
“I thought you said you weren’t down for street justice?” Orion asked with a smirk.
“Never said that. Just that it doesn’t make you a ‘good boy’.”
After a pause, Jaden asked, “So… you guys are all really down to do this?”
“Do you want this monster off your tail or not?” Rain asked.
“Well, yeah. That’s why I fed the guy at the bear bash, and Zandra’s cousin.”
“And this boy deserves that more than both of them combined.”
“Got the address,” Orion said. “Rain, I’m forwarding it to you.”
“Already?” Jaden asked.
“His mom is nothing if not a prompt worker.”
“Got it,” Rain said. Let’s roll.”
“Wait,” Jaden said. “We need something to feed him first.”
“Right,” Rain agreed. “Let’s roll somewhere where we can buy food. What did you have in mind?”
“Maybe some kind of small chocolate. Something easy to force in. Like M&Ms.”
“Good thinking. To the drug store, everyone,” Rain said as she lead the group to her SUV.
The group arrived at Daniel’s house around 5:30, having to make quite the drive to get there. It turned out his real address was much farther away than the five miles the app had claimed he lived from Jaden. When they arrived, they found a one-floor dwelling decently far into the woods, with no other houses in sight. They also saw a car in the driveway. “That’s the one,” Rain said. “Same plate and everything. Looks like he’s home.”
“So how are we going to do this?” Jaden asked.
“If he sees you with us, he’ll probably run away. And if he flees into these woods, we don’t stand a good chance of catching him. Let me and Orion go first.”
“So what’s our plan?” Orion asked.
“I knock first. You stand out of view next to the door and follow my lead.”
Jaden and Zandra stayed in the SUV, ready to join the other two once they had Daniel down. Jaden patted the bag of M&Ms in his pocket. Orion jumped out of the back seat and took position by the front wall of the house, while Rain walked up looking much more unassuming. After she knocked on the door, Jaden held his breath as he waited for Daniel to answer.
Sure enough, after the door opened, he stood behind it. From inside the car, he couldn’t tell what sort of conversation transpired between himself Rain. What he did know was that after a few seconds of conversation, which felt agonizingly longer to Jaden, she motioned behind her back for Orion to join her, and they both jumped him.
“Come on!” Zandra yelled. Jaden hopped out and ran around the front of the SUV as fast as he could. He and Zandra both ran for the front door. Once inside, they found Rain and Orion holding down Daniel without much issue, their hands holding down his arms and their calves holding down his legs. All he could do was yell at them to let him go.
“Daniel,” Jaden said as he turned the corner, almost surprised that it was really him.
“J–Jaden?” After staring at Jaden with his eyes open in shock, he frantically looked around at the others. “What the hell is going on?”
“What the hell do you think is going on, Daniel?” Jaden shouted. Rain, Orion, and Zandra were all taken aback by Jaden raising his voice, with Zandra looking at him with her eyes wide open.
The four found themselves in the living room of Daniel’s house. Looking around, Jaden could see that all of the windows had tin cans hanging on strings situated in front of them. They were so dense that that would have made a racket if something came through. “You know, it sure would have been nice if you’d given me some tips on how to outfit my space for when that thing breaks in. Seems you know a lot about it.”
“So that’s what this is about,” Daniel said quietly.
With flaring nostrils, Jaden dove between Rain and Orion and landed on Daniel, causing him to grunt, and grabbed Daniel by the collar of his shirt. “Of course that’s what this is about!”
“Woah, Jay,” Orion said.
“You’ve made my life hell for the last four days. That thing came for me at work, at my own apartment, everywhere I’ve gone! Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve had to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure someone wasn’t walking toward me too slowly. I haven’t known peace since I last saw you.”
“How do you think I felt!” Daniel shouted out. “That thing followed me for weeks before I passed it on to you. You’ve only had to deal with it for a few days.”
With a snarl, Jaden muttered, “How dare you?”
“How dare you pass your fucking curse on to me, and expect my sympathy for what you went through! For the same thing I’ve been going through because of you!” Breathing heavily as he let go of Daniel’s collar, Jaden reached into his pocket before continuing, “But we’re going to make it right tonight. I’m here to give back what you gave me.”
“You don’t mean…”
“I do,” Jaden said as he pulled out the M&Ms.
Daniel quickly pursed his lips and sucked them in, before shaking his head side to side.
“Open up, motherfucker,” Orion said as he took his knife out.
“Or what?” Daniel asked, his lips still wrapped around his teeth so he could clamp them closed at any time. “You’ll kill me? Then it’ll still be after your friend.”
“He’s right, Orion,” Zandra said. “Put it away.”
As Orion put his knife back in its carrier, Daniel’s eyes closed a little bit, as if he were relieved.
“We don’t need it.”
As Daniel’s eyes opened more widely, Zandra jumped down next to his head and held his forehead down with one hand, keeping it in place, while her other hand pinched his nose closed. At that, Daniel struggled even more fiercely than before, but with three people holding him down, he couldn’t do much.
Jaden took his place between Rain and Orion and ripped open the bag of M&Ms. After pouring a bunch in his hand, he clasped his fingers around them and laid his fist next to Daniel’s mouth. Daniel eyed Jaden’s fist and struggled even more, but could barely shake his head underneath Zandra’s grip.
With all of Daniel’s struggling, it wasn’t long before he was forced to open his mouth and take a breath. He tried to keep his lips close together, like when he’d taunted Orion for threatening him with a knife. But Jaden was ready, and shoved the M&Ms into Daniel’s mouth.
The sound of Daniel choking was soon interrupted by the sound of a window breaking and tin cans clanging against each other. Everyone jumped off of Daniel and stared toward the far end of the house, where the sound had come from. Daniel, meanwhile, rolled over and pushed himself onto his hands and knees, before he opened his mouth and coughed. Several M&Ms fell out, before his coughing brought up a few more. “You son of a bitch,” he called out. “Are you trying to kill me.”
“Jaden, do you see it?” Rain asked.
Daniel struggled to catch his breath. Once he did, he got up and turned to look at where the noise had come from. Soon after, an old woman in a hospital gown hobbled into the room, looking at the group with a vacant stare.
“Now you’ll get what’s coming to you,” Daniel shouted out, before grabbing Jaden and throwing him toward the old woman. Before the other three could stop him, Jaden had fallen at the old woman’s feet. By the time he’d gotten his bearings, he was already right in front of her.
Still staring at the group, she stepped over Jaden without breaking her stride, before walking toward Daniel.
“No… no, no, it’s him you want!” Daniel shouted, pointing toward Jaden. “I fed him! He’s the one on the top of your list now! He couldn’t have… no.” Walking backwards until he ran into a wall, Daniel screamed out, “No!” and barged through the other three, before running out the front door.
As Jaden struggled to get up, he could see that the other three were still standing by the door in stunned silence, as the monster approached them. “Guys, move! You’re in its path”
The other three scattered. Still on the floor, Jaden watched as the monster slowly trudged out the door, not once looking back at him.
Jaden collapsed back onto the floor, lying down on his stomach with his cheek on the carpet as he breathed heavily. Zandra was leaning on a table, trying to catch her breath as well. Orion and Rain were both slumped against a wall on either side of the door, with Orion having slid down the wall as he tried to collect himself. The four stayed in their respective spots for several minutes, trying to calm down and taking some time to unwind for the first time since their encounter with the monster in Jaden’s apartment. The sense of tension, which had permeated the group so heavily that it was like the air they breathed, was finally gone.
“So…” Rain chimed in, “it’s over?”
“I think so,” Jaden panted. “I think… it’s over.” Looking at each other, the two exchanged smiles, still breathing heavily through their noses.
“What…” Orion blurted out, having to catch his breath before he could continue. “What if that thing catches that fuckboy? Then you’ll be back on top of its list.”
“Daniel… he’s a smart guy,” Jaden said. After all, he wouldn’t have agreed to their date if Daniel didn’t have some redeeming qualities. “He’ll be able to make sure it doesn’t get to him. And, well… I hate to admit it, but he was charismatic. He’ll find someone else to give it to if he has to.” As the other three all looked at Jaden with flat expressions and raised eyebrows, he admitted, “That sounded better in my head.”
“Alright, enough standing around, everyone,” Rain said. “Let’s all go back to our normal lives.”
“Yeah,” Orion and Zandra said in unison. Jaden, however, said nothing, merely following the other three back to Rain’s SUV.
The drive back passed mostly in silence, with everyone exhausted from their ordeal. The road ahead of them was completely dark, only occasionally lit by the lights of the sparse houses on that street. The woods seemed to only exist in Rain’s headlights, before disappearing behind them once they drove over it. Even once they got out of the woods, the moon barely illuminated the path they were following.
Zandra and Orion both slept in the back seat. Jaden, however, was wide awake, unable to get a moment’s rest, in spite of having the most reason to be tired.
“Hey Jay?” Rain said softly, startling Jaden and causing him to bounce in his seat. “You gonna be okay?”
Jaden stared back at Rain, who looked back at him as much as she could while still keeping her eyes on the road. “As long as the monster doesn’t get Daniel, I will.”
“Not what I meant,” she said gently. “Are you going to be… mentally okay?”
Jaden stared ahead at the road, the rare streetlights illuminating very distant patches as they drove. The flat landscape didn’t give much indication of how far they’d traveled. “I don’t know.”
After letting out a deep breath, Rain put her hand on Jaden’s thigh. “I’m here to talk if you need it, okay.”
“I know,” Jaden said, before looking at Rain with a smile.
It had been a few months since Jaden and Daniel’s last meeting. Jaden had agreed to meet with another feeder, Trevor, who wasn’t quite as smooth talking as Daniel. But Jaden found his awkward demeanor charming. He felt like they were on a more even playing field than he and Daniel were.
The two had agreed to meet at Davinci’s, Jaden’s first time visiting the restaurant since he and Daniel had gone, an attempt to reclaim the place. As Jaden walked in, he couldn’t help but look around the restaurant and check for anyone walking toward him with too much stiffness in their stride. Like usual, no one registered as a potential threat, though he had suffered a few false alarms in the previous months. But that didn’t stop him from flinching when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Oh!, sorry! I-I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Looking around and seeing Trevor looking at him with a remorseful expression. Jaden smiled and said, “It’s okay. Now you know I don’t do well with surprises.”
“Yeah. Uh, you must be Jaden?”
“And you must be Trevor,” Jaden replied. Trevor opened his arms up for a hug, which Jaden gladly took him up on.
After putting in their order, the two enjoyed some stumbling but enjoyable conversation. Once they food came, they were mostly silent. Trevor had ordered the four cheese ravioli, while Jaden had ordered the eggplant parmesan. “Mmm, this is really good,” Trevor said. “You should try it,” he continued as he speared a ravioli on his fork and held it up to Jaden’s mouth.
Jaden froze for a moment as he looked at the ravioli, before he looked back at Trevor and stuttered out, “I-I-I’m not really comfortable with guys feeding me on the first date.”
“Oh. Okay,” Trevor said before eating the Ravioli. “Feel free to take one from the plate, then.”
With a smile of relief, Jaden took his fork and picked up one of the ravioli, and took a bite. Trevor was right: it was good.
The two enjoyed the rest of their entrées without any incident. The massive portion of eggplant parmesan and the big pile of pasta that came with it sparked quite a bit of conversation between the two. “Looks like a lot,” Trevor commented. “You think you can finish all that?”
“I think I can. Maybe with a bit of encouragement.”
“That’s what I’m here for, big guy.”
When Jaden got about halfway through his meal, he leaned back and said, “Oof, I’m starting to feel full.”
“You’re not going to let that stop you, are you?”
“Of course not,” Jaden said with a smile as he took another bite.
“Glad to hear it.”
When Jaden had just a bit of pasta left and let out a sign, Trevor said, “Aw, don’t give up now. You’re almost done. Think about how good it’ll feel to have all that food packed in your growing belly.”
After Jaden managed to finish his whole entrée, the waitress asked them if they’d like dessert menus, to which Trevor said yes as Jaden considered the question hesitantly. But with Trevor’s encouragement, maybe he could get a dessert down. As they were browsing the dessert menus, a “ping” made Trevor pull out his phone. After reading for a bit, he muttered, “Holy shit.”
“You remember when those three guys got really fat out of nowhere in only a few days?”
Jaden paused again, frozen in place as he sat stiffly holding his menu. “Yeah,” he was eventually able to get out.
“Looks like whatever caused it has moved down south. The exact same thing happened down there. Some guy was found pushing 1,100 pounds.”
Jaden could only sit and chew as his mind went blank with panic. “Did they say who it was?”
After scrolling a bit, Trevor said, “Nah, you know how these stories are. Why, do you know someone down there?”
“You could say that,” Jaden said slowly.
“Well, if it’s in the same town as this guy, I guess you better call and check,” Travor said before taking another bite.
“I would if I knew what town he lived in.”
“Ah. Friend you lost touch with?”
“Yeah. Something like that,” Jaden managed to get out. After staring vacantly at his dessert menu for a few more seconds, he put it down on the table. “I don’t think I’m hungry anymore.”
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