The Prize-Winning Pig

Originally published July 12, 2018.
Contains: accelerated weight gain, direct encouraging, supernatural encouraging, pig roleplay.

Pretty simple one here. This was inspired by this piece of art by GarthDude, someone whose art I’m quite a fan of, which got my creative juices (and other juices) flowing. The farm in this story is named after him, as a show of appreciation. This story is also meant as a spiritual sequel to The Prize-Winning Pumpkin, although this story can easily be enjoyed without reading that one first.

Synopsis: John is walking home from the bar when he decides to cut through the abandoned Garths’ farm, in spite of being warned by his coworkers not to. While exploring the barn, he encounters two farm hands, who mistake him for an escaped pig who needs a good fattening. Though confused at first, John plays along when he discovers the “slop” tastes pretty good. But it also does its job of fattening him up, and the longer he stays, the bigger he’s going to get…

John had only been living in Fircrest for a month, but he’d still made a pretty good life for himself. Having moved to the town after getting a job nearby, he’d already made friends with a good number of both his neighbors and coworkers. He’d also found a group at work to join at the bar every Friday evening, where he found himself that night.

As the group’s night was winding down, everyone was enjoying their third of fourth round of drinks, except Rasheed, the designated driver. It was Rasheed who thought to ask, “Hey John…”

“Yeah man?” John replied with a tired smile, just buzzed enough to use the familiar term for his coworker.

“These four have already claimed the seats in my car for a ride home. How are you getting back?”

“Oh, I thought I told you,” John replied, slurring his words ever so slightly. “I live just around the corner from. I’ll just walk.”

“You sure? Walking drunk can be more dangerous than driving drunk.”

“It’s like a five, ten minute walk, my man. And I’m just buzzed, I’ll be fine.”

“Alright, if you say so.”

“I might cut through that abandoned farm and make the trip even shorter.”

Silence overcame the table. At John’s words, everyone in the group froze, eyes open wide, looking at John or each other with worried expressions.

“W-was it something I said?” John asked with a chuckle, trying to break the tension.

“Do you mean the… Garths’ farm?” Camila asked, each of her words coming out slowly, like she didn’t want to hear the answer.

“If that’s the one that’s down the road that way,” John said as he pointed in the direction he would walk, “then yes.”

“Uh, you shouldn’t do that,” Carol interjected at a volume a little louder than an indoor voice.

“Why not?” John asked.

“Um… John,” Rasheed started hesitantly, leaning into the table with one hand cupping the other, which was closed in a nervous fist. “I don’t know how much stock you put in stories of the… supernatural…”

“Not much, but go on,” John said, started to get annoyed at how evasive everyone was being.

“Let me put it this way: pretty much everyone around here believes that Garth farm is haunted. I’ve passed by there during the day, and it’s a… disturbing sight. You couldn’t pay me to go there at night,” he added, prompting murmurs of agreement from everyone at the table. “If I had to drive by it at night, I don’t think I’d even look in its direction.”

“Rumor has it that the farm was shut down because the way they raised their pigs was such a violation of the Animal Cruelty Act of 1966 that they weren’t even given the chance to bring their practices up to date. They were just shut down outright. They say some of the farmhands had worked there so long that their spirits were never able to move on after the farm closed down so suddenly. And now their ghosts enact vengeance on anyone who disturbs them, because they’re still resentful over that decision,” Rico regaled, eyes wide as if he was scaring himself more than anyone else at the table.

Rumor has it, yes,” Camila chimed in. “My mom told me she used to buy pork there up until the early 70’s. They went out of business because they just couldn’t keep up with the bigger farms. That’s it”

“And how do you know they weren’t operating outside of the law?” Rico asked.

“Alright, enough,” Rasheed said, a little louder than everyone else. “The point is, John, you’d probably be better off not cutting through the farm. If only because there might be abandoned equipment there that you could cut yourself on and get tetanus.”

“I’m up to date on my shots,” John insisted. “But alright. I won’t make any of you worry,” he added, causing everyone at the table to become visibly more relaxed. From there, they were able to recover the positive tone of the conversation, and end the night on the kind of the happy note they went out on Friday night to achieve.

Once they’d settled the tab, the other four piled into Rasheed’s car, as John waved them goodbye and started on his walk. Though he wasn’t quite as steady on his feet as he was sober, he had no problem maintaining his balance and a mostly straight trajectory on the sidewalk. Not many people occupied the sidewalk that late at night, and only a few cars drive by as John staggered back home. His lack of company left him feeling little responsibility to respect the local superstitions. After all, if no one knew he’d cut through Garth farm, what harm could it do?

Those thoughts stuck in John’s mind as he passed by the farm’s driveway, which formed a semicircle around which the farmstand probably stood. On the left was a house where the farmers must have lived. It certainly looked like no one had lived there in decades, but had weathered the time since then remarkably well, with no broken winds and barely any chipped paint. On the right stood a large barn where they must have stored tractors and tools used on the farm. It was a bit worse for ware, but still looked like it could have been put back to use tomorrow if the farmers were so inclined. And then, right in front of John, attached to the barn by a ramshackle covered hallway, was a derelict building where it seemed they kept the pigs. It was easily the most poorly maintained of the three buildings, with holes big enough that John could have seen inside if he stepped close enough.

Okay… not going in there, John thought to himself, as even he had his limits to how much creepiness he could take. The barn, however, had him curious. So he looked around to make sure there weren’t any cars or other walkers around–no one to warm him he shouldn’t go inside–and scampered to the front door. Fortunately for him, whoever had last visited the farm had left the door ajar, rather than locking it up. He took one last look around, and before anyone could catch him, he slipped inside.

To John’s disappointment, however, he couldn’t see much inside. What little light from the streetlights seeped in through the windows or the door barely illuminated the interior of the barn. Even if it were brighter inside, however, there didn’t seem to be much to see. In what little light John had, he could see that there were no vehicles left in the barn. It seemed anything of value had been stripped, either when the farm was abandoned or afterward, leaving only rusty tools that had probably been hanging on the wall for decades.

But as John stayed in the barn, his eyes adjusted to the light, and he could make out more details. First the scaffolding and support beams that had helped the building withstand the elements for so many decades. Then the hallway to the run-down building where the pigs were probably kept. Soon John could make out structures that looked like workbenches, and a few leftover refrigerators. Moving carefully, and keeping an eye on the floor for anything he might trip over, he approached the workbench to take a closer look. Across the smooth surface, only one shape stood out to him, one that seemed to be the shape of a cleaver.

“Whoa there! Seems like someone got where they weren’t supposed to be.”

John froze in place. Was he trespassing by being on abandoned property? It was a question he hadn’t considered before cutting through the farm. With an angry exhalation, he told himself he should have just walked through farm and gone home. Why did he explore the barn? What was be going to find there that could make it worth it? Stupid, stupid.

“How’d you get out of the pen, little fella?” a different voice asked in a higher pitch.

At that question, John went from scared to confused, and turned around to face the source of the voices. What he saw made him freeze in place yet again.

The voices, it seemed, hadn’t come from any mundane authority about to arrest John for trespassing, but rather two beefy, translucent men who illuminated with the barn with their blue glow. Both men wore overalls, denim from the looks of it, and were looking at John with an unnerving expression.

The higher-pitched voice seemed to come from the thinner of the two men, though neither were slim by any stretch. He seemed to have more muscle than fat, though he still carried a respectable paunch around his midsection. Though since his stomach was covered by his overalls, with both straps buttoned, John couldn’t tell just how big it was. A baseball cap finished off his look, making him look younger than the other ghost.

The man with the gruffer voice was his partner’s foil in many ways. He wore his overalls with only one strap buttoned, allowing the other side to fold over and give a peek at his sizeable belly. He was still clearly a strong individual, as his arms and chest displayed the definition his belly lacked. But it seemed of the two, he was the one who enjoyed food more, as evidenced by a round belly and a round face, topped off with a cowboy hat.

John looked at the two men approaching him with mouth agape. He’d never seen ghosts before, and had no idea what to do now that he’d encountered his first two. So he merely stood still, which seemed to be what ghosts wanted him to do. “That’s a good boy. No need to run and make this harder for us than it has to be. You just stay there.”

At that, John felt like maybe he should run. But before he could, the farm hands closed the distance between them, and he felt their ethereal hands on his shoulders. At least, he felt his shoulders suddenly get colder, and the cloth above them started to feel damp. And yet, he could feel a force pushing him forward, forcing him to walk ahead… toward the pen.

“There you go, easy does it, back in with the other pigs you go.”

At that, John’s eyes went wide, but the men’s “grip” was too strong for him to resist, as they kept forcing him forward through the barn and closer to the pen. Soon they were close to the ramshackle hallway, where John could see the moonlight coming through the holes in the roof. The floor soon became more uneven too, as it seems they were moving from the concrete foundation of the barn to a dirt floor, one that had seen quite a bit of erosion from barnyard activity. John did his best to stay upright as he was pushed over the pockmarked ground, but with it being too dark to see all the dips and bumps, he was having a hard time staying upright.

And indeed, he couldn’t stay standing forever. As the two ghosts pushed John forward, his foot got caught in one of the dents in the dirt, causing him to trip forward and fall on his hands and knees. Thankfully, he didn’t feel any worse for wear, with the dirt having cushioned his landing. But when he looked in front of himself and saw a trough, he got a lump in his throat.

“Got you back just in time for feeding, pig,” the heftier man said. Soon John felt the cool, misty sensation of their hands on his flat abdomen, exposed now that his shirt had ridden up during the fall. “Pigs ain’t meant to be skinny.”

“No wonder he got away,” the more muscular one mused. “He probably slipped through the pen.”

“We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again,” the fatter ghost said. “You got the slop?”

“Yep, left it right here before we went to look for him.”

“Good, good. Pour it in.”

As the heftier ghost held onto John, preventing him from moving, the more muscular one took a five-gallon bucket and poured the contents into the trough. The slop and the bucket were both blue and translucent too, making John wonder how the ghosts expected him to eat it. And with how chunky the slop looked, he sure hoped he wouldn’t find out.

“Go on, piglette. Dig in.”

John wanted to look back at the ghosts with an indignant and confused expression. But bent over as he was, all he could look at was the bluish glow of the slop, with certainly didn’t make it look any more appetizing. But what the hell?, he thought. Why not just dip his mouth in and prove to the ghosts he couldn’t eat it? Then the whole misunderstanding would be cleared up and they’d let him go.

At least, that’s what he tried to. But soon his lips descend into a cool, thick, chunky liquid, which he could feel against his tongue. He was so shocked that it took him a few seconds to realize the slop actually tasted pretty good. The liquid base had the taste and consistency of melted vanilla ice cream, and the “chunks” were better than John expected too. Some tasted like chunks of birthday cake, some tasted like chocolate chip cookies, and some tasted like brownie bites. It all tasted far better than he could have possibly imagined.

And to his surprise, he kept drinking it. He’d chew down the solid bits as it came to them, but for the most part, he just chugged, slurping down the chunky mix. In the back of his mind, he knew drinking something like that slop couldn’t possible be good for him. But he was being forced to drink it by ghosts, something just five minutes earlier, he knew weren’t real. Everything he thought he knew about the world was now subject to question, except for the fact that the slop was good.

“There’s a good pig. Eat it all up,” John heard the heftier farmer say in a soft, almost reassuring voice, before he felt the cool sensation of the farmer patting his stomach. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear his stomach felt bigger, as the sensation seemed to outline a more rounded midsection. But John reasoned there was no way his belly could have grown that much in one night, even given how much else was coming into question around him. Bodies just didn’t work like that, he told himself. So, knowing he had nothing to worry about, he kept gulping down the slop, getting his face quite messy in the process.

Eating out of the trough become more difficult as it neared being empty, but John lowered his head anyway to keep lapping up the delicious mixture. As he reached the point where he was practically licking the bottom, he could feel his weight piled against him in a way that made it hard to lean back. Had the slop bloated him to the point that he couldn’t sit up?

The chuckles coming from behind John made him even more nervous. “Looks like this one was hungry,” the more muscular farmhand said.

“Of course it was, being that skinny. But we’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we?” the fatter one asked, before patting John’s stomach. From where John could feel the sensation of the ghost’s “touch”, he knew his stomach had to have grown bigger.

“Come on, let’s let this one rest. It’s certainly not going anywhere now.”

“Nope,” the bigger one laughed in agreement. “You just wait right here, pig. We’ve got big plans for you.”

John could hear the ghost’s footsteps pacing farther away from him, until they’d retreated through the hallways and back to the barn. It seemed neither of them were going to help him get out of the trough, forcing him help himself. With what little strength he had left in his arms, after they’d held him up the entire time he’d drunk down the slop, he pushed himself up and away until his head was clear of the trough. He then fell on his side as his left arm gave out, before letting his hips fall down too, allowing him to finally lie down. From how his torso moved, falling with more of a “thud” than he expected, he knew it had to be bigger.

But John barely gave his belly any thought. Once he was on his side, he could finally get a better look at this building he found himself in. There were enough holes in the wall and roof to let the light from the moon and streetlights in, so John could see what was in the room with him. To John’s surprise, the inside of the building didn’t seem as intimidating or threatening as it had from the outside. It looked like a standard, old-fashioned barn building, with wooden barriers inside making pens that the different animals could stay in. The floors had probably been covered in hay at one point, but all that had been removed or rotted away. Not that it was needed, with him being the only “animal” in the barn.

Once John had recovered enough strength, he pushed himself into a sitting position, which finally forced him to contend with how big his belly was. It seemed the slop had done a real number on him, as now he had to drag a beach-ball-sized gut up with him to sit up. “Ooof” John sighed once he was in a sitting position, not sure how else to react when he’d never had a belly of any size in his life. Even though the trough had certainly held a large amount of slop, could it have been enough to bloat him up that big?

Leaning back on the barn floor, with his arms behind him holding him up, John looked down in disbelief at his swollen belly. Once he was sitting steadily, he pulled out his left arm to feel the turgid stomach the slop had left him with. But to his surprise, his hand didn’t land on a tight, rock-solid belly like he expected. Rather, his belly was yielding, supple, doughy. With a furrowed brow, he pushed his fingers into the top of his gut, expecting a painfully-full stomach that would protest at his touch. But his fingers just sunk easily into the flab, not encountering any resistance until they were a good inch or two in.

It didn’t make any sense. The human body didn’t digest things that fast, nor could it grow that fast. But given that he wasn’t feeling the sense of tight, painful fullness he would have expected after slurping down all that slop, John had to come to the conclusion that his engorged belly hadn’t swollen thanks to the volume of food in his stomach. He’d just gotten fat. And even more surprising was that he liked it.

John had been skinny his whole life, and while he certainly considered himself someone who wouldn’t be a jerk to anyone because of their size, he’d never considered that he might want to be fat. And yet, here he was, sitting on the barn floor enjoying just how big his belly had swelled up. Perhaps it was because he could still taste the surprisingly-delicious slop when he burped, which prompted him to give his belly some gentle pats, followed by a loving rub. But just rubbing his belly, feeling the size and heft of it, felt like its own reward. To know just how much mass was stored in that gut, and that it was all him, was satisfying in its own way.

Soon John’s musings were interrupted as he heard the footsteps of the ghosts returning. They seemed a bit louder this time, a bit slower as well, as if the ghosts were weighed down as they walked. Occasionally, he thought he heard the clinking of metal, but a much deeper clink than the bucket could create.

“Just like I said,” the more muscular one observed, strained-sounding voice. “I knew it wouldn’t be going anywhere.”

“You weren’t wrong,” the fatter one chuckled. “But it still has a ways to grow.”

“Ee-yup. Pigs are for growing, not sitting around at the size they’re already at.”

“That’s what this stuff is for,” the fatter one said with a satisfied tone of voice, before John heard him pat what sounded like a giant metal barrel. It was then that the two came into John’s view, and he could see what had been weighing the more muscular one down. Over each shoulder, he carried two silver metal containers, about the size of a large beer keg. But something told him they didn’t have beer in them.

The heftier one was carrying a two-inch-wide rubber tube with a funnel inserted at the end. If this was how they were feeding their livestock, John figured it was no wonder the farm had shut down, whether it was animal cruelty laws or just not being able to compete with bigger businesses. Even if inspectors were fine with this treatment, it had to be a terribly inefficient way to fatten up their pigs.

John’s musings were interrupted when he realized the fatter of the farmhands was looking at him with a giant smile. John was going to be that pig. “Open up, piggy,” he said, before leaning in toward John. Startled by the ghost’s approach, John’s mouth went agape, allowing the ghost to slip the tube right in. To John’s surprise, his lips came down on a tube that he could actually feel and wrap his mouth around. Looking down, he could see that the tube had materialized up to a few inches past his mouth, before it became translucent and blue and started glowing again. It seemed that like the slop, the tube could bridge between the spirit world and John’s. Which meant John had every reason to think to that whatever was in the barrels would as well.

He’d find out soon enough. After the more muscular farmhand put the barrel in his left arm on the ground, the fatter one held the funnel under the remaining barrel’s spout. “Let ‘er rip,” the more muscular one said as the other untwisted the cap, causing the mixture inside to pour out in a constant stream. It wasn’t chunky like the slop, though it did seem to be more viscous, coming out in a slow, even stream, rather than gurgling out like John expected. He supposed he’d find out soon enough, though given how long the tube was, the mixture sure took its sweet time getting to John’s mouth.

Once it did, though, John was once again surprised at just how good it tasted. It had a consistency comparable to oatmeal, but any solids that hadn’t been dissolved in the mixture were much more grainy, more like a sludge. And yet, far more delicious than that comparison implied. This time, chocolate seemed to be the flavor that manifested in John’s mouth, and he was more than happy to slurp down however much chocolate sludge the ghosts wanted to give him. It was rich, like fudge that had been melted to a liquid consistency, and to John, that was only a positive.

So he kept gulping down the mixture, happy to indulge in such a decadent dessert with no judging eyes around. The only “eyes” belonged to the two otherworldly beings, who wanted him to let loose and enjoy himself. As more of the mixture poured through the tube, he wondered: how could he not gulp down every bit of the mixture that was gifted to him? Even as he felt a lump forming in his stomach the approximate size and weight of a large rock, he kept drinking, sure that if he could handle all that slop, he could handle whatever they were pouring into him.

As John kept swallowing, he let his hands wander down to his stomach, which he could feel was getting bigger still. And yet, if the slop had convinced him to not worry too much about his weight, the new mixture had him ready to embrace to his size. Though his belly had definitely grown bigger than its original beach ball size, he merely smiled (as much as he could with a tube in his mouth), and gave that belly a few pats, before rubbing it and enjoying the sensation of the mixture filling his gut. The liquid seeped into every possible free space within his stomach and stretched it tight. It was also remarkably heavy, and John could feel his center of gravity shifting as he started leaning forward more.

John wasn’t sure how long he spent sucking down the mixture in the barrel. But as he felt the pressure in the tube easing up, he knew it was coming to an end. Soon he was sucking down the last drops of it, before the fatter ghost pulled the tube out of his mouth. As John licked the mixture that fell from the tubes end off of his lips, through half-open eyes, he watched the end of the tube return to its translucent, luminescent, blue state. He then felt the cool sensation of the man’s hand on his belly as he heard, “That’s a good pig. There’s a good pig.”

“Should we pour in the other barrel?”

“Let’s give it a break. We’ll fatten this hog up in due time.”

Letting out a sigh of relief, John led his head fall back as he struggled against the food coma his full stomach was pulling him into. Once he could muster the energy, he brought his head forward to take a look at what the mixture had done to him, on top of the damage of the slop.

The change was remarkable. John’s previously beach-ball-sized belly had blown up to proportions that barely looked human. It was as if someone had taken two full garbage bags full of the slop and stuffed them down his shirt. Except his shirt was bunched up around his chest, the only part of his torso it could still fit around. This was no stuffing: this was all his belly, spilling out in front of him and weighing him down so much he could barely lean back.

Feeling the gut in his hands, John found it to be even more pliable than before, allowing his fingers to sink in several inches before it pushed back. The more he rubbed it, the more he found himself enjoying his size, enjoying the sensation of carrying so much mass with him. At least, it seemed tantalizing in theory; he had yet to try actually walking around with that much gut in front of him. And with some time having passed, John wasn’t feeling as tired from food coma as he had before. It seemed the mixture in the barrel digested just quickly as the slop, resulting in the massive gut he carried now. He wanted to try walking around with it.

But as John started to try to get up, it seemed the fatter of the farmhands knew what he was trying to do. He soon felt a force pushing him down by his shoulder, keeping him down with enough pressure that he couldn’t push himself up against it. “Oh no no no no, you’re not going anywhere. We still gotta get you big and fat,” he said, elongating each adjective with a satisfied sound in his voice. Soon John felt his belly jiggling, before he looked up and saw the ghost shaking it with his hand. “You’ve still got more growing to do.”

John wasn’t sure how much more the ghost could possibly expect him to grow, but as the farmhand put the tube back in his mouth, he supposed that he would find out. With a grunt, the more muscular farmhand lifted up the second barrel of mixture, before the fatter one placed the funnel underneath the spout and undid the cap. “Once we get this growth formula into you, then you’ll be a real prized hog.”

Growth formula. That’s what the mixture was. John should have expected as much, given the ghosts’ attitudes and what the first barrel accomplished. He supposed he should have been nervous or something, but all he could feel was anticipation for when the mixture would start slipping down his throat yet again. He was ready to gulp it all down.

Soon enough, the chocolatey mixture hit John’s tongue, and he was back to dutifully lapping it down. The second round was less eventful than the first, as drinking the liquid had become routine for John. He settled in for what was going to be another long round of gulping and growing, eyes glazing over as he swallowed mouthful and mouthful of the formula.

It didn’t take long for John’s stomach to fill up again as the heavy formula accumulated. All that weight inside of him felt comforting, like the feeling of satisfied fullness taken to the extreme. It made him feel grounded, and considering how much he could feel his belly stretching, it probably had him literally pinned to the ground as well. Not that he much cared, as he kept dutifully gulping down the mixture, swallowing more and more until he could feel the pressure lessening in the tube. Soon he was lapping up the last drops of the formula, finishing what was left before the farmhand pulled the tube out of his mouth. “Atta’boy,” he said quietly. “Now you’re really a prize-winning hog.”

After letting out a small sigh–the only kind of sigh that a man as full as John coul manage–he looked down with his eyes half-open. Those eyes shot all the way open when they saw what had become of his body. Underneath the lobes of his chest, themselves now the size of starter bellies and pushing up his shirt to the point that it looked like a scarf, was a belly bigger than any John had seen before. Bigger than any he’d seen in person, or on TV, or even in the record books. It dwarfed any obvious points of size comparison, like a full garbage bag, or a beanbag chair, or even a yoga ball. He thought it looked like it wasn’t even part of him.

And yet, as he felt the warm, soft mass of his gut weighing on his newly widened thighs, he knew it had to be part of him. He tried swaying his torso back and forth, to feel just how much weight he’d put on, only to discover that it weighed him down so much he couldn’t shimmy one way or the other. All he could do was sit down, anchored by a massive gut that was almost was wide from the width of one of his extended elbows to another. He wasn’t going anywhere.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” the fatter farmhand said as the more muscular one put down his empty barrel. “A fat, rounded hog. The pride of the swine.” Soon John felt his belly being pushed back and forth again, as he was just taken along for the ride, his belly too heavy to be resisted. As he swayed back and forth, he found a certain comfort in knowing he was at the mercy of those two farhands, and his massive gut. All he could do was what they had in mind for him.

“Just think. We found this hog as a malnourished little runt, and now it’s the biggest of the bunch!”

“Shows you just what a bit of good ol’-fashioned love and care can do.”

“Oh, he needs a tag,” the thinner one noticed.

“Ah, crud, you’re right. We better put that on him before it tries to escape again,” the fatter one said, coaxing chuckles out of both of them.

“So what do we do now?”

“Leave it be. Let it nap all this off. It’s not going anywhere.”

Indeed, as the farmhands walked off, John just leaned forward, looking at the massive ball of fat that was his belly now. He barely had time to ponder it before he felt his eyelids being pushed together. It seemed that last round of supplement was pulling John closer to the inevitable slumber that awaited him at the end of his night. The more tired he got, the less aware of his surroundings he became, until they all faded out, and he finally went to sleep.

As sunlight started pouring into the room, John reached up and rubbed his eyes, still too tired to open them. He turned away from the window so he wouldn’t have to have the sun on his eyes, before he realized that turning over was remarkably easy. At that, his eyes shot open, and he beheld not a dilapidated farm house, but his own living room. He was wearing the same clothes as the previous night, and though shirt was still wrapped around his shoulders, and though his shorts were still unbuttoned and unzipped, they looked like they should still fit him. Because one particular feature was missing: his massive, space-filling gut.

After looking at his flat midsection, John let out a massive, lengthy sigh, and let his head fall back on the pillow. There he remained, simultaneously trying to make sense of what he remembered from the previous night and put it out of his mind. It seemed like it had all just been a bad nightmare, and there was no point in trying to remember details like they’d actually happened.

When John felt like getting up again, he pushed himself off of his couch and into a standing position. He pulled his shirt down and redid the button and zipper on his shorts, relieved to find they all still fit. He then went into the bathroom to take a shower, and wash away all memory of the previous night. As he walked in, he walked up to the bathroom to look himself in the eye and say, “You’re alright.”

But John merely froze when he looked himself in the mirror. Hanging from the lobe of his right ear was a yellow tag, worn like an earing, even though he’d never pierced his ears in his life. The side of the tag that John could see said “0126”. John didn’t know where it had come from, but he knew he had to get it off.

Unfortunately, pulling at both sides of the tag didn’t seem to loosen it. So he ran to his kitchen to grab a pair of scissors and try to pry it apart. After about ten minutes of fiddling with the mechanism, he finally got it to snap apart, causing the tag to fall from his ear and leaving only the hole in his earlobe. His momentary sense of relief was immediately dashed when he saw that the tag had fallen on the sink upside down, and the other side read, “Property of Garth Farms.”

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