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  1. brstealth13

    m/m The Manly Connection

    Part 1 It was a clear, humid August afternoon on the Dan Jensen’s life changed forever. Soon to be a senior in college, Dan had returned home for a couple weeks before the beginning of his final year in school while he was between leases. Life was good; in only 14 short days, he would hop on a plane back across the country to move into an aweesome 2 bedroom apartment with his friend since freshman year, Alex. In the meantime, he was home, and today, Dan had plans to hang out with his other friend from freshman year, of high school this time, Brendan. Dan, around 150 lbs, 5’10”, was super excited to see Brendan. Though they maintained their close friendship even as they attended different colleges hundreds of miles away, Dan had been coming home less and less often during the summers between semesters. This year, though, Brendan had just moved into a new house he was renting near the local state college he attended, with a friend Dan had heard stories of but had never met, Cedric Martinez. Dan was sitting alone in his parents’ kitchen, fanning himself with a magazine on this blazing August day. Across the counter, his phone quietly buzzed and lit up. He answered it. ”Hey B,” said Dan. ”Yoooo dude what is up! You’re finally back yeah?” replied Brendan. ”Yeah, as of this morning.” ”And you’re only here for what, 2 weeks right? Man we gotta catch up! It’s been so long and you haven’t even seen the new place yet, you gotta come check it out.” ”Yeah man, I do. You free this afternoon?” ”Hell yes my dude. My housemate Cedric‘s gone for the day helping his family garden or some shit. I think he’s gonna come back after dinner. You wanna stay for a while? I’ll have him pick up some brews and we can game or something.” Already bored after only a few hours at home, Dan was stoked. “Sounds awesome. Lemme get some shit together so I can stay the night. I know how much beer you always make me drink.” He put the phone between his shoulder and ear and started up to his bedroom, grabbing a backpack and throwing clean clothes and underwear in it. ”Say dude, I was gonna get a workout in this afternoon, you wanna join? I remember you were saying you’ve been pumpin’ iron lately. I’ll give you a great workout!” Brendan suggested. ”Yeah sounds legit,” Dan answered. The two hammered out their plans and Dan finished getting ready, texted a note to his dad, and left in the car his parents agreed to loan him for his time back home. Dan was always a wiry guy, but he had been trying to bulk up for some time, both to feel better about his own body image, but also to hopefully impress the ladies. He had never had much luck with them - and he figured being a skinny 5’10” 145 lb guy didn’t help. Gaining muscle, or any weight in general, was tough for him. Though he had made a little progress and was up to 155 lb these days, he barely had any definition and had a hard time staying motivated. Maybe Brendan could help, though. Based on the pictures he saw on his Facebook, Dan could tell Brendan had rocketed up in mass over the past few months. He pulled up to the white house on the hill as the GPS computer voice informed he’d reached his destination. The house wasn’t too large, but had a long driveway which turned left behind the house to a garage well hidden in the house’s back yard. There, he saw the garage door open and his friend Brendan standing in it with a dumbbell in each hand. Dan stepped out of the car as Brendan turned to greet his friend. “Broooo! You couldn’t wait for me?” said Dan. ”Dan the man, it’s been way too long!” Brendan set the dumbbells down to give his best bud a hug hello. Although it has been some time since they last saw each other, Brendan had packed on some serious muscle. He was wearing short black athletic shorts and a homemade cutoff shirt. His biceps bulged out of the wide holes on the sides of the shirt, smooth, tanned, and bursting with muscle. Dan’s gaze lingered on his friend’s pecs, which were enormous globes of muscle jugging out into a shelf of pure manliness, pushing the shirt tightly outward and exposing a glimpse at Brendan’s sculpted tan body through the huge armholes of the shirt. He lifted his left arm high above his head, stretching as he led Dan into the garage turned home gym, exposing a bushy mass of tangled armpit fur, and leaking out a fierce musky odor. Brendan was everything Dan had wanted to be. He had the body of Dan’s dreams- but how? After all, only about a year ago, the two guys stood in Brendan’s parents basement, also working out, but looking much more similar to each other. They vowed back then to keep trying to bulk up.... but while Brendan had accomplished his goals and then some, Dan was left in the dust, still a relatively skinny guy. ”Alright dude. Let’s get started. I’ve got a chest and bicep day planned out for us. It’s pretty tough so let me know how you’re feeling and we can take a break,” Brendan said. Though the garage was a little small, it boasted an impressive collection of workout equipment. Over in the corner was a power rack fitted with a barbell, a bench, and several heavy weights. There were more dumbbells and a couple of other benches off to the side where Brendan led them first. Behind all this, up against the wall, were several large blue gym mats. ”You guys really tricked this place out!” Dan smiled, selecting a modest 20 lb dumbbell to start doing bicep curls with. “Yeah man, thanks! The mats are Cedric’s, he’s into wrestling. He’s been showing me a little bit here and there.... thinking I might do some rec league in the fall.” Dan and Brendan continued the small talk as the latter showed Dan each exercise and gave him tips on his form. As they went on, Dan started thinking more and more about Brendan’s massive rise in size. Could Brendan have been juicing? Maybe this Cedric guy was a bad influence on him. Still, his friend didn’t seem any different, personality wise. Maybe a little more confident, but how could he not be with guns like those? About 40 minutes in, the head was starting to get oppressive. The two guys were already sweating profusely and finally made the call to ditch their shirts. As Brendan peeled off his drenched cutoff, a massive wave of his manly stench hit Dan’s senses like a wall. It was disgusting, sure. But weirdly, a part of Dan’s brain kind of likes the smell. He didn’t process it as the sort of funky, stinky BO that you often think of. Instead, it was more of a musk. Like a manly, testosterone laced pheromone. Dan was immediately jealous but increasingly obsessed with this smell- questions about it swirling in his head, like, “how can I enjoy this so much?” but more importantly, “how can I make myself smell this way?” and “how can I get more of this without Brendan knowing?” Finally they wrapped up their last set and Brendan led Dan inside. “That was awesome dude,” said Dan. “Holy hell you put on so much beef!” he jokingly, but deep down, seriously, flirted, grabbing at his friends sweat slick pecs. Brendan smiled. “You’ll get there.” They entered the house through the back screen door, which led into a small laundry room. Dan spied a wrestling singlet hanging up to dry and several pairs of jockstraps next to it, as Brendan led him into a hallway which opened up into the living room and kitchen area. For a house occupied by two college guys, it was surprisingly clean and well decorated. The living room had a large leather sectional and huge flat screen tv accompanied by the latest in video games. Across the room, the kitchen was separated from a small dining area by a low counter stacked with appliances and workout supplements. Brendan put his preworkout from earlier away and started making Dan and himself two protein shakes. As he finished with the blender and poured two tall glasses of thick white protein, Brendan roared, “Damn it’s hot! I’m sorry man, I gotta get cool somehow.” Brendan ungracefully pulled down his black shorts, sticky with sweat, revealing his bare, sculpted calves to Dan. More importantly, and shockingly to Dan, Brendan was wear a skimpy white jockstrap with a gray waistband, his massive package soaked in sweat and barely contained by the fabric. Brendan’s bubble ass jutted out, too, barely contained by thin white straps. Dan’s rational, “this is wrong, my friend shouldn’t been acting this way in front of me” brain was quickly losing the battle to the curious and aroused brain. Panicked he would do something embarrassing and out of character, he stammered, “Hey, maybe we should hit the shower?” He quickly gulped down some cold protein shake and held the bottle awkwardly down in front of his crotch to try to cover his stiffening tent in his own workout shorts. ”For sure,” said Brendan. “Let me show you to the bathroom.” Dan immediately realized his miscalculation as Brendan led the way upstairs to his room, treating Dan to a full view of his jock strapped muscle ass, perfectly sculpted, smoothly shaved with just the right bit of hair sticking out of his cheeks. Dan could swear he could even see Brendan’s heavy package swaying between his and they climbed the stairs and turned to corner into Brendan’s bedroom. Dan struggled to keep his boner in check. He just had to make it a little further. Now in the bedroom, Brendan opened the door to the master bathroom and stepped inside. “I’ll just be a minute,” he said, leaving the door cracked behind him. The shower started and Dan breathed a little relief, sitting down on Brendan’s king sized bed. Only a minute later, Brendan emerged, the shower still running. “Sorry man, where are my manners? I should be letting you get clean first.” He mercifully had a towel wrapped around his waist, allowing Dan to maintain some degree of control over his stiffening cock. Dan quickly slipped by into the bathroom. He shut the door tightly behind him. The bathroom was large, with a longer counter covered with various bathroom toiletries, but one thing in particularly seemingly was calling out to Dan. There, on the counter just next to the sink and left of an electric razor in it’s charging cradle was a wet, sweaty jockstrap. Dan almost screamed at his luck that Brendan left this behind for him. He ripped off his shorts and underwear, springing free his 5” cock. He wanted to do everything to this jockstrap- smell it, wear it, rub it all over himself- he wanted to inhabit the smell entirely. He thrust it into his face, covering it completely with the sweat drenched pouch. He grabbed his cock with his other hand, firmly grasping it and letting go of his control. Lightly moaning now, he grew intoxicated by Brendan’s aroma, rubbing the jock up and down his chest, into his crotch and armpits, and back up to his face. His dick was hard as a steel rod; Dan had never felt anything like this before. He glimpsed at himself in the bathroom mirror briefly, staring into his own blue eyes and he saw his mouth covered by a jock, his short light brown hair matted down with sweat itself. Dan was so into it, now, jerking himself as he continued to inhale, fully immersed in pleasure that he failed to hear the sound of the bathroom door opening. “Well now,” said Brendan. “Looks like you’re having fun!” Dan froze. Busted. His face covered still by the jock, he hid behind it in shame as he turned in the direction of his friend’s voice. Slowly, and with great fear, he lowered it and opened his eyes to see Brendan, a mountain of muscle, standing before him with his hands on his hips and a rock hard, 10” long, nearly 2” wide cock of his own. ”Come here you little stud,” Brendan said. Dan leapt into his arms, now fully encased in a muscly grip. Brendan presses his forehead against Dan and held his face between his massive hands. “So you like what you smell, huh boy?” Dan nodded. Brendan’s cock just barely grazed up against Dan’s. “Well let’s have some fun,” he grunted. Brendan plunged his mouth onto Dan’s, kissing him passionately. For Dan, who had never before done this with a guy, the feeling of Brendan’s tongue in his mouth felt strange. Though he had kissed women before, Brendan was more aggressive, more forceful. Dan felt like he could relax for one, and let the bigger man have his way with him. He closed his eyes and let Brendan begin to take control even more, as Brendan brought the full weight of his muscular body against Dan, pushing him backwards against the tile wall of the bathroom. Brendan slurped his tongue in Dan’s mouth, releasing only to playfully taunt him. “I could tell you were squirming at the sight of me even when we were working out.” Brendan reached down and grabbed Dan’s cock, feeling its modest warm length. “Not terrible,” he said slyly. “But it’s hard to understand why you’d be called ‘Dan the Man’ with a piece like this. “Me on the other hand...” He grabbed his own cock and aligned its shaft with Dan’s, proving it was nearly twice as long. Dan loved feeling the length of his cock pressed fully against his friend’s hot meaty schlong. For Brendan, this was an incredible display of dominance; to so clearly impress his larger endowment against Dan’s made him swell with bestial masculine pride. He wrapped his hand around both cocks and began jerking together. Dan, now feeling the entire weight and body hear of Brendan’s muscled frame, returned his attention to the musky smell that got him into this in the first place. Now, with his face positioned just next to Brendan’s pit, he smelled an even greater concentration of testosterone laced pheromones being emitted from Brendan’s hairy armpit. He meekly pushed Brendan’s bicep upward and tilted his head toward the pit, putting his face right next to the faucet, so to speak. “Oh, you like that, do you? Yeah, you loved my jock, ya little freak,” moaned Brendan. “Why not go right to the source though?” He pulled away from Dan now, grabbing the smaller man’s shoulders and pushing him down to his knees. Now face to face with Brendan’s crotch, Dan nearly whimpered in excitement. “You want to smell my crotch, dude?” grunted Brendan. Dan nodded. “No, I wanna hear you say it, dude. Little straight boy Dan, you want daddy Brendan’s cock?” This evidently was enough goading to get Dan to completely share his thoughts on Brendan. “Fuck yeah dude. The minute I saw you I had to know what my bro from high school had been up to. I’m fuckin’ jealous dude. A year ago we were right there at the same stats as each other and you just exploded. And I don’t know what the hell you awakened in me, but I fucking NEED this. I want to BE you but I want to feel everything you have to give too. Now give me that fucking man meat.” Dan lunged forward as Brendan thrust his cock into Dan’s face, smearing the whole length of his meaty tool all over Dan’s wanting cheek and face. The smell was intoxicating; but Dan was starting to get the taste, too. He wrapped his lips around Brendan, fully feeling dominated in the process. He wondered how Brendan must feel, using him like this. On his end, he loved feeling submissive for once. Feeling like his entire purpose was to serve Brendan’s masculine primal urges. As Brendan thrust his cock further into Dan’s throat, he fell into a rhythm of slobbering and sucking deeply on his friend’s 10 incher. Sweet, but salty precum began to leak into his mouth as Dan gagged deeper and deeper on cock, jerking himself feebly in the process. He felt Brendan’s cock pulsing and throbbing, getting closer and closer to emptying the load from his full balls all over and into Dan. God, what would the load feel like, he thought. He tried to imagine it - it would be like the ultimate domination, being sprayed and coated with Brendan’s essence. Would he ever be big enough or manly enough to return the favor? Brendan had done it, so could he? As he thought about this, Brendan quietly slipped his cock out of Dan’s mouth. Brendan started jerking, pointing his tool right at Dan’s open mouth. “Dan dude,” he said seriously. “I cum a lot. Like.... a freakish amount. Just a warning.” Dan nodded and jerked himself off too, the anticipation of Brendan’s “freakish” load weighing heavy in his mind. Maybe it would be- But the floodgates opened right there. Brendan howled, roared, grunted, all at once, unleashing a torrent of cum straight at the ready and willing Dan. A few shots hit him straight in the mouth, some going down his throat and the rest dribbling down his chin and onto his chest. It felt awesome, of course- hot, thick, and of course, bearing the same musky smell as all the rest of Brandon. Dan felt shot after shot fly off Brendan’s cock, getting everywhere; into his mouth, on his chest, on the floor and even onto Dan’s own cock as he jerked. He lost count by now- what was it, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen?! His mind descended into bliss, his own cock slick with saliva and Brendan’s cum, finally shooting his own load onto the floor as his body crumpled under fatigue and bliss into the puddle of cum on the bathroom floor. “Fuck, Dan,” said Brendan, spent and breathing heavily. “Well, now you’re a part of it too.”
  2. You don’t really answer right away. That thing about promising to do whatever they ask bothers you. But the waitress buys you a little time when she starts bringing plate after plate after plate of food for Mitch. “Those trials you were talking about?” you ask. “Yeah,” says Mitch. You figure you better get your questions in before he starts eating. “How long do they last?” you ask. “That depends entirely on you,” says Mitch. “Some guys get through them in just a few days. I took a few weeks. But I heard of one guy who took over a year! Seriously, I don’t know how anyone could stand that for a year!” “That bad?” “They are not fun,” says Mitch. “You will not enjoy them.” “When do they stop?” you ask. “They stop when you’re ready,” said Mitch. “When’s that?” you ask. “You’ll know,” Mitch says. “Sorry, that’s all I can tell you.” You take another look at Mitch’s amazing physique, his giant sculpted muscles and his bulging veins and you decide to go for it. After all, if Mitch could get through it, so can you. “I’m in,” you say. “You’re sure?” Mitch asks. “Remember, no turning back.” “Where do I sign,” you say. “A hand shake will do,” says Mitch. “It’s a bond of honor that will hold you, whether you want it to or not.” “I want it to,” you say. “Okay,” says Mitch and the two of you shake. “While I’m your mentor, I can’t be your friend,” says Mitch. “Why not?” you say, alarmed. “Because I’m going to have to be tough on you and do things a friend would never do.” “That sounds ominous,” you say. “But don’t worry about that now,” says Mitch. “Let’s go over to your place and have one last night of gaming. Then, tomorrow, meet me in the Downtown Fitness Center locker room at 6:30 am and we’ll get started.” “Sounds good,” you say and you sit there and watch Mitch devour a ridiculously large meal while you nibble on your cheese burger and fries and try to contain your excitement for tomorrow. That evening is awesome! It’s just like last summer all over again, except for Mitch’s humongous physique, which you can’t stop staring at. But Mitch doesn’t seem to mind. The next morning, you get up bright and early, pack your gym bag and head for the Downtown Fitness Center. You get there 10 minutes early. You figure its just enough time to change into your gym gear. Mitch shows up at 6:30 on the dot, but he’s dressed in his jeans, which his massive muscle pylon legs are stretching to their limit. “It’s 6:30 and you’re not ready,” you say, grinning. “We’re not here to work out,” says Mitch. “We’re not?” you say. “I hope you don’t hate me,” said Mitch. “Hate you?” you say. “It’s been bothering me,” says Mitch. “I hated my mentor, right up until my initiation. Now, I’m grateful to the guy. We’re good friends. And the thing is, I think he went easy on me a few times. I think if he hadn’t, I’d have gotten through the trials a lot quicker. “So, I’m not going easy on you, Jared. I’m going to be just as tough as I can be. And, well… I hope you don’t hate me.” “I don’t think I’m gong to hate you,” you say. “That’s what you say now,” says Mitch. “Come over here for a minute.” Mitch leads you to a spot just around the corner from the sinks. There’s one guy in there and he’s pretty big. “You see that guy?” says Mitch. “His name is John Stanton and he’s a total douche. He has a hot girlfriend called Sarah Gibbons who he is insanely possessive of…” Suddenly Mitch starts shouting. “And you wanna fuck her?! You wanna fuck Sarah Gibbons? Dude, she is so hot! And you think she looks like a total slut? You’re shittin me? Dude, I gotta hear all about this. I’ll be right back.” “What are you doing?” you say, genuinely alarmed. That John Stanton dude does not look amused and he is heading right toward you. “This is a joke, right? That guy is a friend of yours, maybe another member of the cult, right?” “Hold that thought,” says Mitch, “and stay here. I’ll be right back.” And Mitch leaves the locker room with amazing speed for someone so big. What the…? Where’s he going and at a time like this? “Hey Asshole!” comes a thundering voice from behind you. You turn around only to be confronted with a pissed off John Stanton, and… he’s even bigger up close. “John, right?” you say, offering your hand, but he does not stop mad dogging you for second. “Jerad,” you introduce yourself. I think there’s been a little misunders—” “You’re taking shit about my girl!” And with the first punch that hits you, you realize that this guy is not Mitch’s friend. And with the second, you start to wonder if you’re Mitch’s friend. And with the third… well, you stop counting with the third. When he’s done, John Stanton grabs his gear and storms out of the room. And then you look up, and, almost like magic, Mitch is back. “Welcome to the trials, Jerad,” he says. “I told you you wouldn’t like them.” “If that isn’t the understatement of the century!” you say. “What the fuck was that in aid of?” Mitch just shrugs and says, “The trials.” “What does that mean?” you say. “It means I can’t give you answers,” says Mitch. “Okay, International Man of Mystery, after due consideration, I don’t think this trial-thing is gonna be for me,” you say. “Too late, bro,” says Mitch. “You’re committed. I’m your mentor and you can walk away from me, but you can’t walk away from the trials. They will find you, now, wherever you are. Trust me, it’s better with a guide.” So, what do you do? Mitch says you can’t walk away from the trials, but you’re willing to give it a try. Do you tell Mitch what he can go do with himself? Or do you accept that what Mitch is telling you is true, that you’re stuck with these trial-things and that you’re better off with him than without him?
  3. Continued from: Not really sure about what you're doing, you reach down and gently nudge the big dude on his huge, hard shoulder . His eyes fly open and before you can blink, he leaps up off the lounger and grabs you by your shoulder with an iron grip. Then, just as if you weighed nothing at all, he lifts you up off the ground by your shoulder and glares up at you. You struggle against him, but are completely powerless against, the incredible strength of that hugely muscled body. "Who the fuck do you think you're poking, little man!" he shouts. Then suddenly recognition breaks out on his face like the sun through a stormy sky. "Jared? Holy shit, dude! How the hell are you?" Suddenly, he pulls you into a bone crushing hug. You can feel his massive iron-hard arms digging into your back, while you're being slammed up against a torso that feels like it's made from rocks piled on top of each other. You're happy to see your friend, but at the same time confused about the changes in him. ...and there's a little pain involved, too. Finally, just when you think you ribs are going to start cracking, he sets you back down on the beach. What do you do now? Do you invite him back to your place to play video games and do your best not to mention that Mitch has somehow metamorphosed into a hugely muscled behemoth, and try to still have the summer you've been looking forward to? Do you suggest the two of you grab something to eat and then pump him for information on how he got so huge during the last 9 months? Or is this all too much for you. Do you need to go home for some alone time so you can process the startling change in your friend and figure out how you're going to deal with it?
  4. You guys wanna try something? I have no idea how this going to turn out, but let's see what happens. Read the story snippet below and they chose what you think Jared, the main character, should do. Or feel free to propose your own option in the comments. Okay, here goes. About a year ago, you graduated from high school with your best friend, Mitch. You then had the best summer of your life, hanging with Mitch, playing video games, eating junk food, and endlessly discussing who was going to die in the next Avengers movie. You voted for Captain America. Mitch was positive it would be Thor. But like all things, last summer eventually came to an end. You both headed off to different schools in different parts of the country. Both of your school schedules proved a lot busier than you expected and you didn't have the time to talk, text, or skype that you thought you would. And a bad snow storm and a couple of missed flights meant you missed each other over the holidays too. But summer is back and you just got home. You realize Mitch must be back too. You try and call him but he doesn't pick up nor does he answer your texts. You decide to stop over and see him, but his brother tells you he's not there. He's gone down to the beach. "The beach?" you think. "That's weird. Mitch never goes to the beach." But you decide to grab your swimming trunks, go down there and find him. "The beach isn't that big," you think. "Should be pretty easy to track him down." But when you get there, you comb the whole place and you don't really see him. But just as you're getting ready to leave, you notice this massive guy asleep on his beach lounger. You do a double take. The face looks a lot like Mitch's, but the body... This dude is huge and yoked beyond belief. It couldn't possibly be Mitch... Or could it? It really did look like his face. What do you do? Do you wake him up to see if he's Mitch? Or do you go home and try calling your friend tomorrow? Vote on the poll page and we'll see where we go. Higher resolution versions of the images can be found here:
  5. Florida20

    Blood Brothers

    I was asked to post some of my older stories recently and am obliging by providing the ones I (a) still have on file and (b) were specifically requested. This was the original Blood Brothers story (Books 1 and 2) I posted many years ago on the old site. There is the beginnings of a Book 3 but I was gearing it up to be a Dark Tower of sorts by drawing together all of my other stories. For those who have patiently read the 100,000+ words I have posted in this genre over the years, you'd notice they all take place in the same universe, often referencing each other in some form. That became much too large an undertaking for the tastes of this site (as I started spending time on character development and plot vice muscle growth). Anyway, I haven't edited the story below since originally posting it so my apologies if it comes across as amateur...I was, after all, in my early twenties when I first jotted it down... CHAPTER 1 The first thing I saw was Casey’s hat fly into his own lunch. Then I heard laughter; not the friendly kind. Casey’s head was completely bald. He didn’t even have eyebrows. Apparently that was funny to the two fifth graders standing behind us in the cafeteria. There was no confrontation; the two abusers just went along their way. When I turned back to Casey, his normally pale face was a deep red and I could see the swelling purple veins at his temple. He said nothing, simply swallowed what he was already chewing before he took his soggy and corn-covered baseball cap out off his tray and began a mostly vain effort to clean if off with a napkin. I didn’t know what went on in his head and years later I would still think back to that moment, wondering why I did nothing about it. There were other moments I saw him tormented, I’m sure, but they have since faded into the glass haze of the past. Those few seconds, however, were somehow chosen by my brain to represent all the bullying and indifference a child went through when he was dying of leukemia. “He’s very sick” my mother told me months earlier when I complained that Casey wasn’t playing mini-mite football with me that season. I put the pads on my shoulder and fastened them while my mom held the practice jersey. “When will he get better,” I had asked. My mother looked at me with an expression I would later register as both adoring and sad. I didn’t know then how close Casey came to dying that fall. I knew what leukemia was but only in those partial truths which populated the world of a nine year old boy. It made you tired, it made you pale, and it made you lose your hair. But, like any cold or flu, I assumed you woke up one morning feeling better. “Hopefully soon,” she said in reply then put my jersey on the bed next to me and walked away. Casey and I had been friends since birth, a result of a close friendship our respective mothers had shared since they were in college. We were both active kids and my memory is speckled with bike rides through clay gorges and romps through tangled woods that our mothers would condemn and our fathers would applaud. I was always a little faster, a little taller. We were always on the same teams when we got old enough to start the annual round-robin of sports a kid is encouraged to play. Flag (then tackle) football in the fall; baseball in the spring; soccer in the summer. Juvenile athletics seemed specifically geared to ensure a snotty-nosed brat was exhausted by nightfall. The fact that their parents had the rare chance to communicate with an adult other than their spouse seemed to be a nice touch as well. Nine year olds base their reality on a limited and narrow history, and that history told me that Casey should be carpooling to practice today. It wasn’t until his hair began to fall out and he started feeling tired all the time that the seriousness of the situation began to register. Another sharp memory from that time put Casey and I in the backyard while our mothers sat on the back porch. I remember Jeannine, Casey’s mom, starting to cry and was quickly mimicked by my mother. Very few things affect a child stronger than seeing their mother cry. It diminishes their invincibility. A flash of anger swept through my body as I tried to listen to why my friend’s mom was making mine upset. “Casey,” I said sternly as I caught a word in their conversation. “What does terminal mean?” Casey stopped what he was doing and looked up at me from beneath a bare brow and scalp. There was a sly twinkle in his eye that later made me wonder what he knew of his future. “It means I’m getting on a train,” he said with a smile. I took it at face value. On the way home my mother told me they were taking Casey to a special clinic in Jacksonville. It didn’t go over well. I don’t remember much about the weeks leading up to his move but I remember him saying “see ya later” as he walked into his parents’ house on the way home from school. There was no cliché wave through the window from the back of the minivan as I chased his car down the street. Just a “see ya later” we weren’t sure was true. I lost contact with Casey but my mom would give me periodic updates she garnered from his mom. He was going through some very experimental chemotherapy on his blood. Neither of us knew much of what that entailed or meant but it didn’t sound like Casey and his family knew either. “But what’s important is that he’s alive,” she said cheerfully a few months after he left, which was the summer after fourth grade. A few months later my mom came in with a huge smile on her face. “He’s cured,” she said excitedly. I felt profound relief but could only ask when he was coming home. Her face dropped slightly before saying, “They’re going to keep him at Mayo for some tests. He didn’t respond to the tests exactly as expected.” “What does that mean?” I asked. She never answered. I’m pretty sure she didn’t know. My life moved on. Fifth grade started and ended. I went through middle school and grew into a young adult. At some point I realized I was athletic and got really into sports. At another point I realized I was good looking and got really into girls. It was the summer before ninth grade that I started lifting weights and was excited how well my body took to them. After a few months of using my dad’s basement equipment I developed a nice little six pack and had a nice bounce to my pecs. Little did I know then that it took more than pushups, and sit-ups, and some curls to go through a full body workout. But when your body comes from nothing, it responds to everything. By the time I started ninth grade, I was a mid-level stud. Nothing too special but I had a good enough mix of looks, athletics, and social stamina to made me popular enough. I played freshman football and learned what real weight training was like. The defensive coordinator, Coach Rodriguez (or Coach Rod) saw my interest in weights and took me under his wing. The team called him Coach Roid behind his back in part because of his sporadic tendency to go ballistic on a player doing something he considered brainless and also because he was 250 pounds of iron-hard muscle. “Just wait until football season is over, boy,” he said with a mischievous grin. “That’s when the real training begins.” I was excited and I looked forward to the beginning of the spring semester like it was Christmas. That didn’t mean I was stagnant through the first half of my freshman year. That first semester of high school I went from 140 to 150 and kept that six pack I was so proud of. One afternoon in mid-December, I came home after school and opened the door to find my mom sitting with Jeanette at the kitchen table. The two of them stopped their conversation and both turned to me. “Oh my, how you’ve grown,” Jeanette said with a wide smile. She got up and went over to hug me; I returned the favor. “Why you’re as tall as me now and it looks like you’ve been getting some exercise in too.” I was suddenly very conscious of the too tight shirt I was wearing. I liked the stares it got in high school hallways but it was kind of embarrassing when family and other adults noticed. “Casey will be going to school with you next semester. You think you could show him around? It’s been so long since he’s been here.” A flood of questions wanted to erupt from my mouth but seemed to be jammed in my throat. “Sure” was all that could escape. “Great,” she said and I suddenly noticed touch of sadness entering her eyes, and something else. The woman was exhausted. “He’ll be so glad to hear that. Maybe he could come by tomorrow?” I nodded, unsure why I was having trouble speaking. She nodded back and looked to my mom. “Well, Debra, we’ll have plenty of time to catch up later. It’s so good to see you again.” My mom said something similar and led her out. Once the two of them were alone, she came to the living room where I was sitting on the couch flipping channels. “Kind of a lot to take in, huh?” she said at my back. I shrugged in the way which infuriates adults trying to get information from their children. “I guess so,” I said back, not turning around. Mom sighed, forever patient, and sat next to me, then took the remote from my hand and turned off the TV. “We need to talk about Casey, sweetheart.” I turned, eyebrows raised. She took it as acquiescence. “He’s still very weak,” she said sadly. “Whatever they did to him cured his cancer but has severely limited his strength and endurance. It sounds like he really needs a friend right now. I’m hoping you could be that friend.” I thought of the hat being knocked off Casey’s head and into his lunch; how I had done nothing while my friend’s emotions boiled. Something inside of me resisted getting to know Casey again; I had a life and was really enjoying it. Did I want a sickly former friend fallowing me around? The shock that cold final thought sent through me forced the words out of my mouth. “Of course.” Our parents wasted no time: the doorbell rang the following afternoon. I was working out in the basement, dressed in a ribbed tank top and gym shorts. Standing on the other side of the door as I opened it was Casey. I recognized his face immediately but that was pretty much it. Although I knew Casey for eight years before he got sick, I remembered him only the way he looked those last six months. His dark blond hair had returned and he wore it like a mop on his head. What I remembered as grey eyes were now blue. He was also tall, taller than me I was surprised to find out. He’d always been the shorter between us, if not by much. He was slim but not sickly as I’d imagined. He actually looked healthy. “Hey, man,” he said with a forced half grin. His voice was deep. I for some reason expected the same nine year old voice.. “Hey,” I said back. We both stood there for a moment, shuffling feet. Then Casey said something that probably set the rest of their lives on the path it did. “Nothing like having our moms set us up like we were going on a date, huh?” I laughed genuinely and suddenly felt like everything was back to a normal too long ago to remember clearly. “I know. My mom acted like she was asking me to take the ugly girl to the prom.” The other side of Casey’s mouth finally completed the smile. “Awe, at least she’d put out,” he said, neither one of them really knowing exactly what that meant. “Come in,” I said, feeling a weight lift from my shoulders that I didn’t even know was there. “You working out?” he asked, his eyes shining. I looked down, realizing the colder air of the first floor had covered me in sweat. “Yeah,” I said. “Football season just ended and I’m trying to pack on some weight for next year.” “Still play football?” he asked, genuinely interested. I nodded as he followed me down the stairs to the basement. “Yeah, they want to send me to varsity next year so Coach Rod says I need to be at least 170 when the season starts.” We made it to my dungeon of a basement. My dad’s “gym” consisted of a weight bench, a bowflex, and an EZ curl bar with some plates…none of which my dad used. My mom was just happy to see the “rusty metal get some dusting.” I started putting some weights away, suddenly very conscious of what my mom told me yesterday. I looked at him standing tall and lanky surrounded by a room full of iron. Sometimes boyish impertinence overcomes social expectations: “You don’t look sick,” I said bluntly. “I don’t feel sick,” he replied just as bluntly. A pause. “I’m not sick.” “Mom says you can’t do any activity,” I retorted. He shrugged. “Not supposed to. My body can’t take it.” “What did they do to you?” I asked softly. He sat down on the bench, brushing hair from his eyes with his hand, eyes looking inward. “I don’t know much,” he said finally. “I remember what they said they were going to do but I don’t remember when they actually did it. They put me in a cold coma and circulated blood from my body into some sort of machine that introduced an enzyme which was supposed to kill the cancerous cells.” “I guess it worked,” I said simply. He looked at me patiently. “They said I had days left to live. That the cancer had metastasized to my organs and bones. There was no hope,” he said calmly. “I was prepared to die.” Not a fan of dark moods, I said what came naturally. “Sorry the docs let you down, buddy,” I chuckled and quickly changed the direction of the conversation. “But why were you gone for so long?” Casey sighed. “I was cured within six months but apparently I was reacting to the treatment strangely. That’s the part I don’t remember very well. I thought I handled all those stress tests fine; I felt better than ever. I was gaining weight back and everything. But the doctors told me that I failed them and that I had to minimize any activity.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a baggie with some pills. “I have to take these three times a day and avoid any physical exertion.” He smiled. “They taste like death.” “What do they do?” I asked. “They supposedly keep my body from falling apart. Exercise in a bottle my doctor said.” I was intrigued. “Do they work?” I asked and Casey surprised me by taking off his shirt, revealing the body of a healthy teenager. He was by no means as built as I was. Although couple of inches taller than my 5’7” I probably still outweighed him by a few pounds. But for someone who apparently never exercised, he looked pretty good. “You been cheating, Casey?” I asked with a grin. My friend shook his head. “No. I haven’t had a chance to. I’ve been on ‘round the clock surveillance for years. In fact, this is the first time I can remember being away from doctors and parents at the same time.” I looked at the pills in his hand. “Um, Casey,” I began nervously. “What would those pills do to someone like me? Someone who works out?” My friend shrugged nervously and looked at the baggy. “I don’t know,” he said simply. “They never told me what they are.” He paused and looked at me seriously. “Not sure if I like where this is going.” Damn, I thought. “Dude, just one. You take them three times a day, every day. What would one do? It’s not like it’ll kill me. I’ll take one, you can help me finish my workout, and we’ll do something else.” Casey looked back at the pills and then proved many parents right when it comes to estimating the decision-making skills of their young teen. “All right,” he said and threw me one from his bag. My heart was fluttering in my chest. If this did what I wanted it to, I thought, Casey might have to tell his mom he lost his bottle. Casey helped me rack my weights and we began what was supposed to be the final thirty minutes of today’s workout. CHAPTER 2 “Dude,” I said breathlessly. “I have to sit down.” We were about a five minute walk from my house, Casey’s suggestion. He wanted to get a feel for the old neighborhood. My old friend acquiesced and sat with me on the concrete drainage ledge on the side of the typical suburban street. “That workout really tapped you, didn’t it,” he said to me as I sat down next to him. I barked a grumpy laugh as I got comfortable. “It was the worst workout of my life,” I said in spite of my intension to merely think it. Casey shifted. “Looked like you started off really into it.” I thought for a moment and realized he was right. I was doing great initially; every rep felt like it was making my muscles larger. But within minutes, the inspiration wore off and a few minutes after that every lift was a chore. He didn’t feel sick, he didn’t even feel weak. It was like his body was depressed in spite of his mind. “My burps taste like a dog’s ass,” I said as a particularly raunchy one erupted up my throat. My friend chuckled. “If I didn’t know what you were talking about, I’d ask how you could be so sure.” “Those pills suck,” I said mirthlessly. Casey blushed. “What did you expect?” he asked, slightly offended. “To blow up like a beast?” “Well,” I began, “yeah.” Then I laughed. We both did. “Sorry to disappoint,” Casey said with a chuckle. “Guess these have a different effect on you.” I was disappointed, but I thought of the personal instruction Coach Rod was going to give me after school next semester and I brightened up. Besides, I was in a better situation than Casey. “You ever think about doubling your dose? You know, to see what happens?” Casey chuckled under his breath. “Yeah, made me feel like shit.” His face grew serious. “Dude, I feel like I’ve been a shadow walking through life these last few years. I don’t even remember what it’s like to just be a normal kid. I’m ready to start over.” “What do you mean?” I asked. Casey looked over at me. “Everything I read about leukemia says that I had something different all those years ago. Nothing adds up and for years I’ve felt the pawn in a scientific game. I can’t even trust my parents anymore.” “You can trust them,” I said confidently. “They did everything they could to make you better. Even moved to another state.” Casey nodded as if he knew that very well. “Well, now that I’m out from under that doctor’s and everyone else’s microscope, I can start being a kid again. Apparently the more experimental a procedure is, the more they own you afterwards.” He took the baggie of pills from his pocket. Tears were streaming down his face. “Fuck that doctor and fuck these pills.” He threw the baggie into my lap. “They are yours for all I care.” Ten minutes later, when Casey’s sobs had softened into short breaths, we got up and started walking to his old house where his parents were still moving in. He actually spit out a sad laugh as he wiped his eyes. “You would have probably had a less emotional day if your mom had forced you to take the ugly girl to the prom.” I laughed as well. “Yeah, well I got you to take your shirt off well before she would have.” I paused. “It’s good to have you back.” And it was. We made it back to Casey’s house. I still felt out of breath and lethargic, as if I’d spent a week straight sitting on a couch. Casey went up to the back of the moving truck and went to pick up a box. “What are you thinking?” a shrill voice moaned from the house. I turned and saw Casey’s mom rush from the house. “You know you’re not able to do that.” Casey let out an exasperated sigh and he put the box back on the truck bed. “Just thought I’d give you a taste of my life’s been like,” he whispered to me under his breath. He walked back into the house. I turned to follow after him, but I didn’t miss the sad and desperate look on Jeanette’s face. “I’m sorry,” I said and ran into the house. “Don’t be,” he heard her say quietly at his back. Three days later, winter break began and it was a countdown to spring and my new workout regimen. I got supplements for Christmas, and lots of it. “That’s all you’ve been talking about for four months,” my mom said. “We didn’t know what else to get you.” She looked nervously at my hoard. “That stuff is safe, right?” Casey and I continued to grow closer and before long we felt like the friends we used to be. On the Saturday before school started, on one particularly chilly day, the two of us were racing our bikes through the paths we did as young children. Casey’s mom didn’t approve but her son was breaking her down little-by-little. Besides, he felt great he said, and he wasn’t even taking the pills anymore. Not that his mother knew that last part, and she thought we were just casually riding through the paved streets of the neighborhood and not these arduous semi-trails in the rolling woods which lay at its border. Deep in the woods behind Casey’s house, we were pushing our bikes to the limit jumping over fallen trees and powering our way up hills. After a particularly daunting hill, he pulled to a stop. We were both out of breath but relishing the exhaustion the way only the young are able. “What’s wrong?” I asked, suddenly worried about Casey’s frail health. I turned towards him. His face was flushed and healthy, and that made me relax a bit. “Nothing,” he said as he stepped off his bike. He looked down at his legs and kicked them around at the knee, testing them. “Nothing,” he said again. Then he looked at me, his eyes sparkling. “You know, I’ve felt better and better ever since I stopped taking those pills.” I’d heard this before from him over the last couple days but was still confused by it. I hadn’t taken one after that first day so had nothing to compare it against. “Why do you think that is?” I asked, unzipping my jacket to let some cold air in. Casey seemed more interested in his legs than answering my question but eventually spoke. “You know my clothes aren’t fitting like they used to.” “Well, stop eating so much food,” I said sarcastically. The guy seemed to be eating whenever we weren’t stealing away from the steady gaze of his mother do to something she didn’t approve of. Casey’s eyebrows shot up and he smiled a knowing smile. “Let me show you something,” he said and started taking off his jacket. “What are you doing,” I asked him but barely finished the sentence before he pulled off his sweater and undershirt. The sight choked any other words from escaping. I couldn’t believe it. My friend was a stud. The overhead sun cast shadows under his pecs and detailed every soft line of his abdominal muscles all the way to the hem of his pants. Although not as striated as they were a few weeks ago, his pecs were easily denser and he bounced them a few times for good measure. Then he flexed his arms and a small bulge bloomed from each. A shadow was easily noticeable between his flexed biceps and relaxed triceps. He was easily as big as me now, and taller. “Holy shit,” I whispered. “That’s nothing,” he said and his smile grew wider as he bent over and unzipped his jeans. Dropping his pants revealed a set of quads that belonged on a track star. They swelled from his knee caps and were covered in deep set lines which only grew deeper when he flexed them. Turning revealed a ripped set of hamstrings and a set of striated glutes that bulged through his boxers. Compared to these oaks, his upper body looked like a sapling. “What the fuck?” I blurted out, unable to comprehend what my friend had become. “Sick, right?” Casey said. “Every day we ride our bikes through here, they start swelling like this. They tingle all day, like a mini-orgasm that lasts for hours. The shrink down after a few hours but, when I wake up the next morning, they’re definitely bigger than the day before.” I was at a loss. “How…what…dude!” Casey laughed as he pulled up his jeans, which for some reason disappointed me a bit. How have I missed it? It wasn’t hard to notice the size of his lower half even through the denim. The pieces were starting to come together in my head. I suddenly asked the right question. “What did they do to you in Jacksonville?” Casey’s smile dropped and his eyes lost their mirth. “I don’t know,” he said seriously, still shirtless in the cold. “But I’m not going to be their guinea pig anymore.” “What do you mean?” I asked, a little fearful of his tone. He smiled again and his eyes flashed with excitement. “I have a favor to ask,” he said. CHAPTER 3 Coach Rodriguez, or Coach Roid as his players called him when he wasn’t looking, looked at the two of us with a stern look. His heavily veined arms were crossed in front of his steel gut, making his forearms look like the size of pig shanks. “Now I know you,” he said to me. “And I know your dedication. I see something in you. But who’s this other kid you think I ought to waste my time to train?” Casey didn’t flinch but he let me answer. “I think you’ll like his work ethic every bit as much as mine.” It was the afternoon of the first day of spring semester. The day I’d been waiting for. And I was here with my best friend. Coach scanned Casey with his eyes. “You bring gym clothes?” he asked casually. Without hesitation, Casey took off his shirt and jeans. While he was wearing a pair of gym shorts beneath the jeans, apparently “gym clothes” meant bare above the waste. At 6’3” and an easy 250, Coach Rod made the two of us look like bean poles but he was surprised to see the definition on Casey. “Where you been all season?” he asked my friend. I was about to answer but Casey appropriately cut me off. “I’m new here, sir,” was all he said. “You play football?” “Used to,” he replied. Even though “used to” meant five years ago, Coach Rod apparently thought that was enough to assume Casey would be in pads next season. “I’ll tell you what, squirt; you give me one hundred pushups right here, right now, I’ll train your ass.” Casey immediately got on the floor and started doing pushups at a quick pace. “Real pushups, squirt,” he screamed loud enough to get a blood filled cable to rise from his neck. “Not those girly shits, elbows at ninety. There you go. That’s one.” About five real pushups later, Casey began to slow. Muscled or not, I wasn’t sure he’d done a push up since PE in third grade. I was suddenly hoping Casey could do twenty, let alone a hundred. Casey got to ten before his arms started to shake. Coach rolled his head and stared dramatically at the ceiling. “Oh, Jesus Christ, what the hell is it with these pussies? All this aesthetics bullshit and they can’t even throw their own weight around.” “Fifteen,” Casey said through gritted teeth. Coach looked back down at my still shaking friend. He kept his arms straight for a moment to catch his breath then dipped back down with shaky arms. “Six…teen,” he gasped as he slowly made his way back up. “Ok, kid,” Coach said. “I’m not sure you’re going to—“ “I’M NOT FINISHED,” Casey roared as the dropped down and pushed another rep. Coach’s eyebrows dropped and his face grew red in anger. He opened his mouth to verbally assault the disrespectful sod but was cutoff again by Casey yelling “Seventeen!” Only now each pushup seemed to be getting easier. By twenty he was only struggling and by thirty he was performing each rep in a clean, fluid motion. Fifty, sixty. The muscle on his back began to flush red and roll beneath the skin. “Well I’ll be damned,” Coach said under his breath. I could only smile. Seventy, eighty. Casey’s breath was now steady and strong. The horseshoes of his triceps, once only vaguely visible, now flared angrily from beneath his skin. Ninety. Then Casey did something I still can’t get over: he took one hand off the ground and started doing one armed pushups. One hundred… one-oh-one, one-oh-two. I started laughing. Coach got serious behind his own sardonic grin. “Get up, you arrogant ass,” he said. “I get it. You’re in. But can it with the sarcasm. You wasted a lot of my time acting like you would collapse at twenty.” Casey stood up, his face red with the effort and his pecs bulging like a pair of watermelons. Coach gasped and had his hand on my friend’s pec before he even knew what he was doing. Casey smiled and flexed them, making each into a striated ball that pushed against Coach’s touch. They were now so out of proportion with Casey’s body, the almost looked like breasts. “Um, ok,” Coach said as he dropped his hand and wiped it on his hip as if cleaning what he’d just done out of history. “This could be interesting.” Casey didn’t seem to notice. His eyes were semi-closed as if stoned. He flexed his pecs a few more times, squeezing them together as if noticing them for the first time. Then coach screamed an inch from his ear, “Wake up Goldilocks!” That did the trick. Five minutes later, the two of us were marching to Coach’s relentless drum. He pushed me a dozen reps past what I used to consider my max effort. He had me falling on the ground before he let up. I puked twice but he was quick to throw me a pre-made protein smoothie or something similar each time. “Nothing worse than working out on an empty stomach,” Coach said with a wry grin. It was the hardest day of my life, without question, but I could say that knowing that well over half the coach’s attention was on Corey. Coach seemed to finally understand that Corey somehow gained strength on each set, so he would start Corey off with light weight and incrementally increase it after five or so reps until he reached some sort of max. “You’re making me break every rule in the book, son,” the man told my friend after a particularly intense set under the bench press. Corey had just finished forty reps, the final ones being at 245 pounds. His entire body now matched the size of his swollen pectorals. It was like he was gaining mass out of nowhere, although coach was handing him every food item he had at hand throughout the workout. Although I knew he was 155 when we started this workout, he now looked over 180 and cut like a mountain. By the end of the hour, Casey had the sum of Coach’s attention. And I was ok with that. Casey lifted like an insane superhero and his body bulged more with every rep. Finally, Coach called it quits. As the energy in the room died down, Coach Rod’s game-time fury dissolved into something akin to confusion. “Young man, I don’t know what is going on with you, but I’ll be goddamned if I’ve ever seen anything like it.” He looked at Corey’s naked torso, now looking like an avid teen bodybuilder’s. “What are you taking, boy?” Corey smiled up at the behemoth man. “Nothing, I swear.” And it was the truth. Coach didn’t seem convinced but let it go. “I’ll see the two of you here at 4 pm on Wednesday. Eat at least four thousand calories a day from here on out.” He looked at Corey’s gorged body again and reached out to squeeze his arm, as it proving he was seeing reality. Corey lifted his arm and flexed what must have been a 16” arm. Not huge, but definitely bigger than the 13” one he walked in here with. Coach mumbled under his breath and continued doing so after he turned to leave. I only caught a few, “freak” was one of them. CHAPTER 4 “One hundred eighty three pounds!” Corey exclaimed through a mouthful of food as he stepped off the scale. That was a gain of over thirty pounds…in three hours. It shouldn’t be possible. It wasn’t possible. I mimicked Coach Rod and put my hand on my friend’s body, if only to make sure it was real. His skin was burning hot and there was a vibration coming from the muscle underneath, so faint that it may have been my imagination. And his body was hard. Too hard. It was like touching a brick wall covered in skin. He was in only his boxers, which now looked more like briefs on his gorged body. He had the vascularrity of a bodybuilder; there was muscle everywhere. I kept expecting the insane pump he attained during the workout to go away but if anything he was bigger than before, and more defined. A pump usually makes you look bigger but not more defined. That ballooned look was now gone, replaced by striated and cut muscle that was every bit as big. “How big do you think I am?” Corey asked while he entertained me checking out his deep cut abs. I pulled my hand away. “Guess we can find out,” I said simply. Five minutes later, I had found a tape measure and had measured every part of him that wasn’t covered in fabric. Neck 15.2”, Arms 16.1”, Forearms 12.6”, Waist 31”, Hips 34.7”, thighs 26”, calves 16”, chest 46.8.” “How is this possible?” I asked, meaning for it to be rhetorical. Casey’s eyes flashed and his mouth narrowed. “Isn’t it obvious? They’ve spent the last three years doing everything they could to keep this from happening. Well, I’m not under their vulturous stare anymore. I own my body,” he said as he threw up a double bicep flex that would be the envy of anyone at the school. “And I’ll fucking do what I want with it.” My brain had enough; it was exhausted. I looked at my watch. “Dude, it’s eleven at night. You staying here tonight or you want my mom to take you home?” Casey was snapped out of his cloud and looked up. “Staying here. If my mom sees this, I don’t know what she’d do. She’s obviously tried to keep it from happening.” I couldn’t exactly disagree with him so I threw him a pillow and blanket and told him to sleep on the floor. Two hours later I was still awake, eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling. Casey, as energetic and excited as he was, had surprised me by falling asleep immediately. The causes of my insomnia were a mix of a racing mind and the frequent moans of my friend as he perpetually shifted under his blanket. I was more than a little jealous of my buddy’s sudden…superpower, but I was happy for him. A week earlier I thought my life was perfect. I figured by sophomore year I’d be 180 or more; after that, who knows? If anything, having my friend back should make my life better, right? I smiled at the ceiling as Casey shifted again under his sheets. As a sense of peace settled over my mind, I finally closed my eyes and fell asleep. Strange sounds fluttered into my dreams throughout the night. However, as often happens when one falls asleep to unwanted background noise, my sleep remained firm if light. I don’t know how long the sounds continued but it wasn’t until the grey light of predawn filtered through my window that I finally opened my eyes. The first thing I saw was the black silhouette rummaging through my closet. The second thing was the mess on my floor. Empty bottles were everywhere and after a few seconds I recognized them to be most of the supplements I got for Christmas…empty. I could feel anger bubbling through the sleepy fog blanketing my mind, but it was soon cooled by a sense of curiosity tinged with fear. “Casey?” I asked the lumbering shape in my room. He didn’t respond and the fear pushed up a couple notches. Although the logical part of my brain said of course its Casey, the rest of it knew that couldn’t be true. The shape was too…different. I got out of bed, quickly losing any groggy remnants of sleep, and made my way to the door. Although I tripped over a few empty jugs of protein on my way to the light switch, the shape didn’t seem to register it. It seemed completely absorbed in eating my damn supplements. I flipped on the switch, my eyes squinted at the harsh new light but quickly registered the site before me none-the-less, and I almost passed out at the site of it. CHAPTER 5 Although the beast in front of me had Casey’s hair, the similarity ended there. He was facing away from me, his back muscles bulging and writhing as large hands sifted through what used to be my supplement store. Traps rose up and disappeared behind the shaggy mane atop his head. They ended at shoulders the size of cantaloupes. The rest of his back was wide a mountain of muscle that tapered into a waste more tight and taught than I thought possible. His boxers were glued to his skin and every striated detail of his glutes showed through the fabric. His oak tree legs were now redwoods and tapered down to calves that could carve granite. “Casey?” I asked again, my voice horse and barely above a whisper as I drew closer. He was obviously taller, perhaps 6’1 and that made him look even wider. I walked around him and glanced at his face from the side. His eyes were only partly open as if in a trance and his mouth hung gaping open whenever he wasn’t chewing on something. “CASEY!” I said louder. Still nothing. I reached up and grabbed his rock of a shoulder, trying to shake him. It wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped, he barely even moved even when I tried moving him with both hands. I ended up bulldozing into him with all my weight behind me before he took a balancing step and snapped out of it. “What?” he asked curiously, as if I’d simply woken him up from a good night’s sleep. He squinted at the light just as I had a moment earlier and wiped sleep from his eyes with his hands. Finally somewhat conscious, he looked at the mess on the floor around him. “What did you do to your room, man?” he asked innocently. I was more than at a loss for words. As Casey turned to me he revealed a body that could grace the cover of any fitness magazine. His pecs bulged from his ribs and looked like they were straining to cover the distance from sternum to shoulder. Eight dense and ripped abdominal muscles were carved between oblique walls that, themselves, bulged as if his ribs themselves were growing. His biceps were veined globes of muscle that looked made of steel even while relaxed at his side. My silence seemed to give Casey pause to figure things out for himself and it didn’t take long for him to notice how much taller he was than me now. Less than an inch over my 5’7 yesterday, he was now at least 4 inches taller…maybe more. He looked down at his hands, his eyebrows rising. Then he saw his body and a quiver went through his ripped form. “Look at me,” he whispered, mostly to himself. He put his hands on his stomach as if testing its reality. He smiled and his eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning. “Look at me!” he said louder. “I am, I am,” I whispered harshly. “And quiet down, will ya? Last thing I want to explain to my parents is why there’s a big, naked bodybuilder in my bedroom at…5 am.” Casey strolled up, heavy footed and obviously not used to his added weight. “Wanna make me?” he asked with a mocking grin. I gulped. I was roughly eye level with his chin, making his powerful chest very visible in my field of view. Each pec looked as big as my head. He caught me staring and gave one a bounce just for good measure. It popped up like there was an animal trying to get out of it. “Go ahead,” he said. “Touch it.” I did. Maybe any overly muscled person felt like my friend Casey did that day but it was a far cry from the body I called my own. His skin was smooth yet barely contained muscle as hard as bone. When, flexed it was a whole different story. It was like touching a block of steel. It’s not like his size was inhuman but I’d never seen a body like this except in pictures and it was a completely different world when there in the flesh so to speak. He was much bigger than me. “It’s incredible,” I said as I moved my hand to his bicep, first poking it goofily with my index finger, then grabbing it with my hand. His skin was still on fire and there was still that faint vibration. It was like the rumble of the earth when a freight train is passing nearby. He curled his arm at the elbow and I felt a powerful bulge rise up and push my hand back. “You should feel it the way I feel it,” he said breathlessly. “It’s like the only thing keeping me from being twice this size is my skin.” I couldn’t necessarily disagree with the idea; his skin felt as tight as a balloon ready to pop. After a few awkward moments of silence where I could only feel a body I had only dreamed of seeing let alone have, we finally got down to business. “I guess your supplements work,” Casey said finally. “I’m sorry about that, man. Would you believe I didn’t know what I was doing?” I nodded, and did. I could hear the sound of movement from elsewhere in the house meaning my parents were up and about. They could not see Casey like this. Luckily, I had some clothes and a jacket to hide his width but not much would hide his height. “You shower up and find some clothes. I’ll go get some breakfast.” Casey nodded and walked to the bathroom, feet pounding like a gorilla’s. “Quietly,” I whispered. “I don’t want them to even know you’re here and that won’t happen if you’re stomping all over the place.” “Sorry, man,” Casey said as he adjusted his stride to tiptoes, forcing his vein-covered calves to flare out like diamonds. “You try being stealthy with a body like this.” He flexed his back for good measure…I didn’t even know you could even do that. I rolled my eyes and went downstairs, only to find the kitchen a small disaster zone. Slight panic welled up in my gut when I realized Casey had not only eaten my supplements but had devoured everything in the kitchen. I pictured him sleepwalking in only his boxers, rummaging through the kitchen, body expanding with every bite of food. Considering the situation, I considered myself lucky it was only as messy as it was. He was surprisingly thorough, leaving only empty cans and boxes scattered everywhere. I spent the next ten minutes gathering the tuna cans, peanut butter jars, egg cartons, milk jugs, deli meat bags, Wheat Thins, cereal boxes, you name it. By the time I was done, the pantry and fridge looked like they belonged to a poor college student…without the ramen noodles. Even after collapsing everything to as compact a pile as possible, it still filled up the garbage can in the garage. With no breakfast save a handful of goldfish crackers he had missed, I went back up to my room, still hearing the rushing water from my shower. Looking at the clock, I saw it was already 5:45, fifteen minutes before my parents ventured downstairs. I started to panic a little but kept my cool. I barged into the bathroom and drew the curtain on my friend, who seemed to be lathering his body for the tenth time. “You fucking ate my kitchen bare,” I said. He looked at me, looking half annoyed I wouldn’t let him enjoy his new body and half amused at the situation. “Oops,” he said. He flexed his arm. “Does a body good. These puppies are over eighteen inches around.” They looked every bit that big. I looked on the counter and saw my tape measure in a pool of water, as if he used it in the shower. The scale was also sitting in a pool of water. He must have thought of that particular stat after he got in. “Two twenty one,” he said smugly, following my eyes. My jaw dropped but I wasn’t all that surprised. It’s not like that body was full of air. It took every shred of effort not to touch his body again. “Look, you gotta dry up and get dressed, Casey,” I said, practically begging him to cooperate. :We got fifteen minutes before my parent notice we were invaded by a mob of hungry drifters.” That seemed to get his attention because he immediately turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. His glutes formed ruggedly carved boulders each time they bounced with each step. He grabbed a towel and dried off, seemingly enjoying the experience as much as he did the shower. Meanwhile, I held up the clothes he wore yesterday to my own body and quickly ruled out his ability to wear them. I rummaged through my closet for the biggest clothes I could find, meaning invading the stash of gifts from my grandmother, who seemingly thought I looked like adult-large material. “You’ll grow into it,” she had said confidently. “Yeah, in five years,” I said to myself. Five minutes later, we were both dressed, sort of. The shirt looked almost painted on his torso and the pants, although only slightly snug at the legs and butt, rose a good inch above the ankle standing up. “Well, I wouldn’t worry about people making fun of your capris,” I said after he made a comment about them. “Who would dare?” he said cockily. His feet were too big for his shoes now, so I gave him a pair of flip flops. The fact his toes and heels extended past the soles was nothing compared to the ridiculous ensemble he was already wearing. I completed it with my oversized ski jacket. If anything it made him look bigger, but at least that size might be blamed on the clothes and not the man underneath. We both crept down the stairs. Well, I crept. He stomped like a one-man marching band. “I can’t help it,” he said, still grinning. “Honey, is that you?” my mom said from her room. “Yeah,” I yelled back, my face red with frustration. “Heading to school early. Have a meeting.” It was the most ridiculous explanation I could have offered but it seemed to suffice to a woman who didn’t know there was anything to worry about. “There’s leftovers in the fridge for lunch,” she said in reply. Casey failed at any attempt to hold back a laugh, most of it escaping through his nose in a sort of snort. In spite of myself, I laughed too. What can I say? It was funny. “Thanks mom,” I said, voice filled with humor. Ten seconds later we were out the door. “Well, its six am,” I said matter-of-factly. “School doesn’t start for another hour-and-a-half.” I looked over and saw Casey thumbing through his wallet. “I’m sure we could fill that time up.” Believe it or not, we did. School was about a half mile from my house, as was a local convenience store. After raiding it of any nutritional value and one extra large “No Fear” t-shirt that I didn’t know people even sold anymore, we found ourselves back in the gym at school. “I wanna test these babies out,” Casey had said, popping a double bicep flex while walking down the road. The jacket stood attention as it rose with his bulging arms. I relaxed somewhat. That jacket was plenty big enough even if the shirt underneath was not. Fourteen hours and sixty pounds after his first gym experience, my friend Casey, cancer survivor, was benching 405 lbs for reps. My body was in tatters from the night before, feeling like it would hurt for days. I wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow’s workout with coach. But Casey’s body was apparently begging to be used. His chest swelled with each rep, his lats flaring like wings as he pushed his arms up. He was beginning to look like a pro-bodybuilder, except his muscles were still long and hard, not puffy and bloated like I’d seen on the cover of magazines. Not for the first time I wondered what the limit of his growth would be. Between each set, Casey would pose in the mirror, and each time a new body would pose back, a little bigger, a little leaner, a little stronger. It was something neither of us got tired of. However, at 7 am, I finally touched his boulder of a shoulder and told him it was time to stop. People might be showing up soon. “So what,” he said, the left side of his mouth curling up in a smile as arrogant as a drunken fratboy. “Let ‘em come. He flexed his biceps and Olympian arms exploded from their cocoon, both heads of each biceps stretching their constraining skin.” I still remember the feeling I had right then, inches away from the herculean body of what must have been the most developed fifteen year old in the world. Little did I know then how many Casey’s there were out there. I finally convinced him to put his clothes back on and walk to the front of school, and it involved letting him know that more people could see him there than here. The jeans were a little tighter and the polo shirt was a joke. It stretched across his torso like a rubber band, every ravine in his back visible and every bulge threatening to tear it apart. He smiled knowingly and lifted his arm. “Corey, no,” I said pleadingly but he had already flexed his bicep and the sleeve ripped lean across the seam and his arm exploded out of it like water bursting from a dam. It was criss-crossed in veins and the striations writhed beneath. “Dude,” I said, internally wincing at how winey I sounded. “That was a nice shirt.” “Was,” he said matter-of-factly as he ripped the rest off as if it were paper. After a pause, he looked up guiltily, “Sorry, bro, got carried away.” I couldn’t feign anger I didn’t feel. Everything that had happened since he awoke that morning was too incredible to focus on the negatives. Looks like it was a No Fear day, which was somewhat appropriate. It fit well, his vascular arms and 60” chest still had some breathing room. Ten minutes later we were both milling around in front of the school with the rest of the early arriving students. Although at school the day before, I never really had the chance to introduce Casey to any of my friends. He made up for that today. People I only rarely spoke to now came up for no reason to introduce themselves. One in ten looked like the name sparked a memory from years back but none said anything. Most had never known Casey anyway. His face was the only thing that made him look the age he said he was. The jacket was somewhat successful hiding the bodybuilder figure he was sporting but the jeans, ridiculously baggy on me and only barely tight on him an hour ago, now showed off his powerful legs that took every inch of its circumference. He was a hit to say the least. We split up for home room but shared first period. At no point did I see him without food in his mouth, most gotten from the convenience store, the rest from the “healthy” vending machines in the hallways. He stood out when we walked from class-to-class, easily mistaken for a senior athlete. In a class laden with other freshman, he looked downright foreign. He did well and kept his jacket on, although he looked increasingly uncomfortable and shifted around in a way that garnered some unwanted (or wanted) attention from the rest of the class. Our schedules split us up until lunchtime, and the couple of hours in between allowed me to hear all the rumors flying around about the “hot new stud” at school. I even heard one of the teachers whispering about him to her aid. “We’re training together,” I often said to any person curious how I knew him. More than once, I garnered the reaction I secretly wanted: the look that pictured me being just as big as him one day. The bell for lunch finally arrived and I finally saw Casey again. He was hard to miss. I still couldn’t get over how big he was and suddenly realized that I was at eye level with his upper chest now. My heart both sank and fluttered at the same time. He was still getting bigger. He had to be 6’5” now. The hem of his pants was well up his calf now and his quads and glutes now pressed violently against the denim and stretched it across his girth. The thick jacket now only served to enhance his frame. Although it still did a good job taking away his definition, his biceps now stretched it when his arms were bent and you could begin to see the outline of his chest under the inches of padding and cotton insulation. He was eating beef jerky out of a Warehouse sized bag and carried a gallon jug of water with his pinky as if it were an empty teacup. “Where did you get that shit?” I asked harshly, knowing quite well how unintimidating I was. I had to very obviously look up to make eye contact with him. “The varsity football players have a food horde in the locker room. They hooked me up,” he said, seemingly unaware or uncaring of my tone. “You have to stop eating like that,” I said, somewhat desperately. He stopped chewing for a moment and raised his eyebrows. “Would you in my situation?” he said as he put another piece of jerky in his mouth and washed it down with a third of the jug, the muscles in his jaw flares with every bite. God, he had muscles everywhere. Ultimately, I couldn’t say I would act any differently so we went to lunch like nothing was wrong. While in line, Casey received second glances from everyone who passed by. He didn’t even act like he noticed, but I saw his eyes briefly make contact with some of the onlookers. He knew, and was loving every minute of it. We sat down at what would be called the “cool kids” table if this were 1987. Casey and all his size sat in the place of honor in the middle. His tray looked like my plate did on Thanksgiving: so loaded up with food that you couldn’t even see the porcelain underneath. Apparently the lunch ladies knew he was a hungry boy and were delighted to help quench his stomach. He was flanked by my friends Jeremy and Amelia while I sat on the opposite site of the table from him. Both friends were making seemingly accidental contact with him too often for it to be as it appeared, and both didn’t seem to fathom what they were touching. Then Casey really set the table off: halfway through lunch, he took off his jacket and lay in on his lap. “Can’t hardly breathe,” he told me when my eyes grew wide. “Jesus Christ,” Chandler Roberts exclaimed with alarm from the end of the table. And that was the least of the comments which erupted from the table, not to mention from other people in the cafeteria. Carla, the girl sitting to my right, reacted by actually spitting her iced tea all over Jeremy’s face. To say Casey was bigger than this morning was an understatement. The No Fear shirt was an errant flex away from tearing apart. How big did one have to be to stretch an XL shirt by that much? His lats bulged and his shoulders looked like pumpkins, ridges and all. His chest was pressing against the shirt comically and bounced involuntarily with every movement of his arm. The veins and striations in his arms bulged through the t-shirt as if the fabric were merely paind. His back must have been equally impressive, for it garnered as much attention from the crowd seated behind him as his front received from us. “How on earth did you get all those muscles?” Colton, a friend of mine sitting next to me, also a bit of a gym rat, asked. “Hard work,” he said simply as he chugged his third carton of milk. His unflexed, but boulder-looking arm looked to be at least 20” around. Carla, who was still emotionally recovering from giving Jeremy’s face a bath, gawked openly. The rest of the lunch period, of course, revolved around Casey. And to be honest, I loved it. A couple of minutes after Jeremy finished drying his face, a particularly huge senior walked by and ducked his head next to Casey’s ear. “I don’t know who you are, or why you’re sitting with the freshman, but I would kill to train with you, bro.” Casey grinned and at that precise moment, the fabric over his right shoulder split down the seam and ran itself all the way up to his neck, allowing the fabric on either side to fall back and reveal a smooth and gargantuan trap. I swear I didn’t see him flex or anything, but the timing was too perfect to not speculate intent. The big senior’s head snapped back and he dropped his lunch tray to the ground while his mouth hung open like a fish out of water. Casey turned around and I heard another stitch pop somewhere but didn’t know where. “I don’t know if you could handle my routine,” he said before turning back around. The senior walked away, leaving his trey on the ground and his gaze on Casey’s bare shoulder. The rest of the table was silent. By the time we were getting up from lunch, Casey sounded like an old ship at sea, every stitch of clothing creaked as they were pulled tighter and tighter or snapping all-together. Each bulge of his abs were clearly visible and protruded from below his shirt like a super-hero from a comic book. His quads bounced and boiled enough to show off their deep cuts even through the thick denim of his jeans. He seemed to realize that it would be a good idea to put the jacket back on but even it was looking comically tight by this point. “I don’t know what to say,” I whispered to him. And it was true. “Say it’s awesome,” he said with a laugh. I turned towards him, not surprised to see that I was eye level with the lower part of his chest now. Looking down, the bottom of his shredded calves could now be seen below the bottom cuff of his…my…jeans. I guessed he was 6’6, and maybe 260 lbs. Hell, maybe 300. Maybe more. It was hard to tell at this point. The lines of his biceps and triceps bulged through the polymer fabric of the jacket. It camouflaged nothing now. He might as well be walking around shirtless. My jeans groaned with each step he took. “I think you should stop eating until we get you out of here,” I said on our way to English, which we happened to both share. As if to answer, he pulled out yet another bag of beef jerky and started eating it one shredded leaf at a time. I sighed, but my stomach was fluttering. He was right. This was awesome. There were two more periods that day and I was counting down every second until that final bell. English was a lesson in patience. Casey sat next to me, concentrating only on what he was putting in his mouth. It seemed like every bite of food Casey swallowed resulted in the sound of another stitch popping somewhere on his body. The jacket now looked painted on him and, by the end of the period, I knew that the popping stitches were now coming from the jacket. The shirt underneath was probably just rags at this point. We split up for the final class and as I watched him go, standing head-and-shoulders above anyone else in the hallway and half again as wide. A trail opened up for him and not an eye was drawn to him as he passed by. I could only guess what he would look like by the final bell; a mere hour away. CHAPTER 6 I was standing in front of school after the final bell, allowing the milling masses of students to walk around me as I waited for Casey to meet me for our walk home. My last period was rife with whispered rumors about what happened with my swelling friend during our lunch period and the claims grew wilder as the minutes rolled by. “He picked Rick Barnes up by the neck and threw him across the lunch room,” I heard one guy say. I supposed Rick Barnes was the football player who asked to work out with him. The general consensus had Casey at well over seven feet tall and having to duck and turn sideways to get through a doorway. I chuckled internally at the exaggeration stated as fact yet had to question how far from the truth it actually was. As I eavesdropped on the conversations in the hallway and outside in the causeway, I realized the rumors were intensifying even further. “Some muscle guy burst clean out of his shirt and pants,” a girl said. “Guess they don’t make clothes big enough for a stud like that.” “They had to usher him out of the class,” I heard another person say. “Apparently he had to hold his backpack in front of his dick because his underwear came off too.” “I saw him in the hallway while I was heading to the bathroom, dude,” I heard from another. “Mr. Robertson was escorting him and had to reach up just to hold on to his arm. Fuck man, his hand didn’t even make it a third way around his bicep. The guy must have weighed…” His voice faded into the din of the passing crowd. No one who heard these tales believed them entirely yet passed them on as truth nonetheless. I didn’t believe completely either until a girl I actually knew hit too close to reality with her rendition. “He was eating like a starving animal and drinking his jug one water as if addicted,” Amber Reynolds said to a friend of hers as she walked by. “It was like he didn’t even hear the stitches on his clothes popping like fireworks.” I grabbed her arm before she could walk by and she pitched an annoyed look before she realized it was me. “Where you actually there?” I asked quickly. “What happened?” Amber’s dreamy smile returned. “I was there,” she said almost breathlessly. “It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.” I thought of Casey’s overstuffed backpack and jug of water. He refilled that gallon jug three times during lunch alone and who knows how much food was in that pack. If muscle is 85% water, then Casey had an infinite supply of growth readily available. “Go on,” I said impatiently. “It was the craziest thing,” Amber Reynolds said, her eyes wide with excitement. “He just kept eating and drinking, eating and drinking until those little pops turned into the sound of paper ripping. I looked back and saw that his jeans had ripped along the thigh and was growing down his leg and up to his waste. His legs just erupted from the tear like they couldn’t wait to escape and…” she swallowed and took a breath. “I can’t tell you what they looked like. It was like…like a tree trunk covered in skin. They were so huge.” She held her slightly curved hands in front of her about two feet apart, as if mimicking how big his thighs actually were. “Then it went really crazy,” she continued. “He just…flinched. Or shrugged, or something.” She paused, her eyes glassy and somewhat…lustful. “And his clothes just fell away.” “Fell away?” I repeated, confused. “Fell away,” she said again. “Like he was shrugging off a blanket. Suddenly he was naked save for the clothes he was sitting on and a few tattered rags sitting on his bare legs. Oh god, what a sight.” “What happened to him, Amber?” I asked loud enough to break her from her stupor. She still looked at me a moment before answering. “I guess they took him to the principal’s office,” she said. Then she turned to the friend she had originally been speaking to. “I’d say I was sorry to see him go but at least I had the chance to see those gigantic legs move. Oh, and Sandy,” she said, returning her attention back to her friend. “His ASS. It was like two pumpkins trying to eat each other.” I raised my eyebrow at her strange description but let it and the two of them go as I raced back into the school to the principal. Making my way down the hall, I bolted right past the “Students must be escorted to enter” sign and into the faculty area. “Hold it right there, young man,” a woman said to my back as I raced by her and into Mr. Stone’s office. The principal, himself, was on the phone when I barged in and he immediately looked none too pleased to see me. “Hold on one moment, ma’am,” he said to the phone under a furrowed brow. “What do you think you are doing?” he asked me with a mix of anger and surprise as he pressed the mute button on the console. “Sorry, sir,” I said truthfully. “My friend Casey apparently had an…incident today.” The principal’s stone gaze softened and was replaced by a sort of dreamy terror. “Casey Valencort?” “Yes,” I said simply. The principal looked like he’d just flashed back to a memory he’d successfully tried to forget. He even started mumbling to himself as his eyes shot to a corner of the room behind me. I followed his eyes and saw the ruined remains of a wooden chair which must have originally rested where I now stood. God, I thought with surprise. How much weight would it take to crush it like that? I looked back at the principal, who was still blank faced and incoherent. “What happened?” I demanded angrily, shaking him out of his own mind. The fact he wasn’t upset with my tone was testament enough to his shock. “Coach Rodriguez took custody of him, took him to find some clothes,” he said blandly. I nodded and started to leave the office. “Wait,” the principal said, the gusto in his voice returning. I turned back, waiting for the rest. His fortitude was short-lived as his eyes had already glazed over a bit and the strength in his voice was gone. “What’s wrong with you kids these days?” I didn’t even answer. I was out the door and racing towards the gym. A minute later I burst through the doors to the school gym. Normally full of jocks pumping iron at this point (Monday was an exception as it was technically closed during the first day of the semester), it now held only two people: Coach Rod and the biggest human I’d ever seen in my life. Coach, all 250 pounds of him, was obviously dwarfed by my friend. Casey was shirtless and I’m not sure a shirt of any standard size would have fit him. However, Coach had found what looked to be XXXL shorts for him and it was so baggy at the waste that it rested on the stone shelf of his glutes yet still looked glued to what must have been 40” thighs. Casey himself was doing barbell curls, with four plates on either side. The kid was curling over four hundred pounds. And easily. His arms were crisscrossed with veins were pumped to nearly thirty inches around. Each different muscle in his arm stood out in bold relief. Coach Rod was sitting there, looking like a dwarf, eyes glistening in amazement. Based on the size difference, I’d put Casey at nearly seven feet tall and easily over 300 pounds, probably closer to 350. Both stopped what they were doing when I ran in. Casey was a site to behold, and for the first time today he didn’t have food in his mouth. His backpack was open and empty. He still had the jug with him, and took gulps often. Even at this size, his muscles were long and lacked that bloated look of a normal person who attained such mass. The entirety of his body was growing (if to a smaller extent than the muscle) and that included his bones, probably his organs, and (thank God) his skin. He was becoming a giant in every sense of the word. A giant made of corrugated steel covered in skin. He was also still growing, I assume, because he was continuously stretching and shifting as if to make room for new mass. I wondered how much “muscle reserves” he still had left in his stomach. He lifted his arms over his head in a just-out-of-bed stretch that made him look like a titan breaking out of a mountain. His lats flared like wings the size of a whole ham and pulled his iron mid-section of deeply etched ab blocks the size of mason bricks tight. He smiled at me between upper arms that dwarfed my head. Even after such an eventful day, I saw no fear in his eyes. There was only determination and an obvious enjoyment. “What up buddy?” he asked. Had his voice always been that deep? “I guess I should ask you that,” I said as I reach the two of them. As always, being this close magnified everything. Coach Rod’s own huge size somewhat compensated for Casey’s unnatural proportions at a distance but up close, there was no denying how big my buddy had become. He was as tall sitting as I was standing. There wasn’t a soft spot on his body, each muscle stood out boldly as if flexed. I could put both my outstretched hands, side-by-side, and not cross a single pec. Each shoulder was as big as my head. In short, he could break me like a twig with no effort if he had such a motive and there was nothing I could do about it. “Your friend has had quite a day,” Coach Rod said surprisingly casually. “An amazing day.” “Yeah,” I replied brilliantly. “He won’t tell me what’s going on but I suppose that’s his business anyway,” Coach continued. “What’s my business is making sure you two boys are okay.” “I’ve never been better,” Casey said as if for the tenth time. Coach Rod nodded impatiently, as if he’d heard it for the tenth time. “Just promise me you won’t end up giving half the high school a peep show again, young man.” Casey responded by bouncing his pecs, forcing those two fifty pound heaps flesh to jump like rabbits. “But it’s so much fun,” he said, every bit the fifteen year old he was. I saw a fistful of fury cross Coach’s eyes but was quickly replaced with a sparkle. To my surprise, he smiled. “How did it feel walking through those halls with a bookbag barely covering your junk for all to see?” “I ruled the world,” Casey said with a grin. “Hah!” Coach barked and slapped Casey on the arm, hard. The boy didn’t even move. Shit, his arm didn’t even dent. “I bet it did.” “CASEY!” a voice called from the door I just entered through. The three of us turned our head to see Casey’s mom standing in the doorway. Her face was a mask of worry and mascara stained streaks ran down her eyes. “Mom,” he said as he got up and walking by me. I was wrong, we was over seven feet. And over 350 pounds. He thundered over to his mom and bent over to embrace her, almost making her disappear in his arms. “Are you okay?” she asked, doing her best to take in the giant in front of her. The top of her head barely reached the bottom of his chest and he was easily twice her width. “Never better,” he said yet again. “But-“ She reached up and covered his mouth with her finger. “Shh. We have a lot to talk about, I know. On the way home.” And it was as simple as that. With a gracious nod to both Coach and me, she ushered the giant out of the room. Both of us exhaled breaths we didn’t know were being held. After an awkward silence, I smiled and did what I do. “Think you can make me that big?” I asked. Coach laughed a nervous laugh. “Can’t say it’s not possible,” he said and looked at the now vacant doorway. “Apparently nothing is these days.” “See you tomorrow afternoon?” I asked. He looked at me and nodded. I got up and left, leaving Coach on the bench staring at the wall. I could only guess what was going through his mind. I ignored the half believed rumors of a giant walking to a Camry and having to bundle himself into a ball to get in. Apparently he’d been so heavy that the passenger side of the car nearly dragged on the asphalt as it drove away. I walked home, expecting a call from my friend that never came. I let him be. My parents must have known something was up; they never asked about the suddenly empty kitchen. I went to bed early, dreaming about what it must be like to be any size you wanted. Casey wasn’t at school the next day but the rumors continued. He went back to the military lab he’d come from. He was playing football for a college team. One guy swore he was in the porn industry now. No one seemed to remember that I was the one who brought him here, and I was ok with that. I pounded another grueling workout with Coach Rod and tried to call Casey on the way home. No answer. After he didn’t show up the next day, I dropped by his house. His mother answered the door. “Hey there,” she said, her smile only semi-believable. “I was just wondering if Casey was home,” I said, sounding like a ten year old. “I’m sorry, hun, Casey won’t be back,” she said, sending a knife through my heart. “But I can tell you it’s for the best. He said so. It was wrong of me to keep him in a bottle I suppose.” She looked like she was only half convinced. “Will I see him again?” I asked. She smiled again, her eyes distant. “I don’t know. But you two have something special I suppose. That may bring you together.” I nodded but my heart was sinking. “Well, thanks,” I said and turned away. “Wait,” I heard at my back. “I almost forgot.” I turned back towards the door and saw her walking down the foyer and into the adjoining living room that was still serving as a receptacle for what remained unpacked from their move. She pulled a taped up box about twice the size of a standard shoe box and came back to the door. “He said you might want this,” she said as she handed the box over. “Said it’s some stuff from when you were kids.” I was somewhat taken aback, wondering if I should feel hurt and if he was closing himself out of my life after reintroducing himself into it so briefly. It tested it in my hands, ready to be gone. I bid her goodbye again, still perplexed by her strange mixture of sadness and…relief? The walk home was short and the box couldn’t have weighed more than ten pounds. It was slightly damp on the bottom and quietly rattled with each step, as if filled with beans. Ten minutes later it was on the desk in my room and I was cutting along the taped seam with my house key. Opening it revealed a sealed envelope sitting on top of some packing peanuts. My name was written on it, the letters large and somewhat unwieldy. It made me wonder how big Casey was when he penned it. How big do you need to be before using standard pens becomes a delicate chore? The letter inside was written in the same oversized and clumsy script. I heard somewhere that Vikings used to slice open their palms and shake hands with their closest friends, forming a bond that enemies could never break. As Blood Brothers, they gained each other’s strength and would meet each other in the afterlife if slain. I’m not sure what’s going to happen to me; maybe an afterlife in its own rite. There’s a lot more to this story than I ever knew and am still digesting it. I could use a Blood Brother along the way. The choice is yours, of course. Your friend, Casey I put down the letter and brushed aside the packing peanuts. Inside was a bunch of those pills he was taking before he came back. I was confused, and pretty sure we determined those to be poison. I took a few of the bottles out and noticed another, smaller box resting underneath. It was sitting on two ice packs that had melted back to mush. The smaller box was metal and looked pretty official. I opened it and my heart skipped a beat. Inside was a sealed hypodermic needle and next to it was a small vial filled with a thick red liquid so dark it was nearly blue. The words in the letter came crashing home, and what Casey wanted me to do. Blood brothers indeed. Blood Brothers 2 (Chapter 7) I rolled the vial of Casey’s blood in my palm, my mind trying to sort out a dozen different scenarios at the same time. From the din which crowded my senses came only one question, travelling only at a whisper yet as powerful as a typhoon. Would it make me like him? I didn’t know how to use a syringe; I’d never done any drug other than smoking a cigarette in eighth grade. And I’d hated it. I mean, it’s not like Casey had AIDS. What’s the worst that could happen? Before I could consider an answer, I involuntarily started focusing the BEST that could happen and doing so made my mind wander as if in a dream. I mentally felt my body, one that had felt so top of its class a few days earlier. I had a six pack, sure, but it was mostly due to me being lean. It’s not like it could take a punch. I told my meathead buddies that I had 14” arms but that required a full pump and a pretty solid rounding up. I suddenly felt like a man dying of thirst staring at a river of water, fresh and clean…and would keep him from ever being thirsty again. I took off my shirt and stared at the mirror on my wall. A weak voice in my head told me I was no slouch and an even quieter one said it was silly to compare my development at fifteen to a model on a magazine cover, a bodybuilder football coach, or a freak teenage boy. A louder one mentioned the dozens of same age guys at my school with better bodies than me. Why couldn’t I be the genetic freak? “Who listens to the quiet voice anyway?” I whispered to myself as I emptied the vial into the syringe and drained it in my butt cheek. It hurt like hell. Deed done, I dropped the empty syringe and looked back at the mirror. I looked the same, of course, only now my mind saw the reflected image as a cocoon from which a specimen rarely seen on this earth would soon break free. Looking back, that was probably the most powerful I’d ever felt. What had the current great muscle gurus of the world seen in the mirror when they were fifteen? Did they know what they would become? I thought I did, and couldn’t wait. On impulse, I dropped down and did as many pushups as I could before my chest gave out, which wasn’t many considering the intense regimen Coach Rod put me through earlier that afternoon. Standing, I was disappointed to see only a moderate pump, if one I’d be otherwise proud of. For the first time I felt doubt that this would work. My mind flashed to a couple days before, when I’d taken the pills, so sure they’d make me buff. I’d felt the same then as I did now; would the pending disappointment feel the same too? Life went on after that night. I ate dinner with my parents, kitchen fully restocked. My parents talked to me about the complete devouring of a family’s foodstuffs; I said Casey and I were on a heavy calorie diet and we feasted that night. They didn’t comment much. For all I knew they heard the truth about Casey already. Parents can be so…willfully blind at times. Regardless, I ate like a horse, hoping it would affect me the same as it did Casey. It didn’t. I went to bed that night stuffed to the point of pain. I woke up the next morning, which happened to be Friday, and ran to the mirror. Same body. I walked to the bathroom, weighing myself and was surprised that I saw 154 on the scale. I normally weighed 150. Then I realized I had to use the restroom. To spare the details, five minutes later I wasn’t 154 anymore…I was 151. The disappointment was the same, it turned out. I went to school as if everything was normal. Any, quite honestly, it was. Casey’s fifteen minutes of fame were still whispered about in corners among the meatheads and muscle-lovers, but that was about it. Although not depressed, I still wandered through the day lethargically. That lasted right up until my appointment with Coach Rod… “What the fuck is wrong with you, boy?” Coach screamed in my ear, the veins in his sweaty neck standing out like electric cabling. I had just finished benching 155 five times. I’d done eight reps four days earlier; not good. We were not alone. The high school gym was filled with perhaps a dozen or so lettered athletes, most juniors and seniors and every one of them bigger than me. They all stared at the two of us but with a gaze that said most had been yelled at by the behemoth coach on many occasions as well. “Give me those ever-effeminate hands of your,” he ordered as he forcefully took them and pulled me to the pull-up bar that stood in front of full-wall mirror. After forcing the person already using the contraption away with a glare, he somehow made a tube of duct tape appear out of nowhere and ordered me to grab the bar. I jumped up and hung from it, watching my tiny lats flair like flattened footballs. My curiosity was replaced with a morbid realization when Coach wrapped my hands in duct tape until they were nothing but grey balls connecting my wrists to the bar. I couldn’t move my fingers a hair’s width. “Now you’re going to hang there until I get one hundred decent pull-ups from you,” Coach said simply, then sat down and stared. I got to work but only got to eight before I gave up. “Fuck you, squint,” he said to my reflection in the mirror. I pulled again, arms, shoulders, and back burning. After hanging for a few seconds, I was able to do another. “Ten,” he said, not even looking. He looked like he was losing his patience. Over the next few minutes, I did five more before calling uncle. “I can’t,” I moaned, hanging from the balls of tape with my toes six inches off the ground. Suddenly Coach’s evil eyes were an inch from mine. The bulges of his traps and thickness of his neck absorbed the periphery of my vision. “If I hear ‘can’t’ one more time from you, ever, I will never train you again. You understand me?” I could only nod and did another rep. “Good,” he said, eyes still on fire. Then Coach surprised me by taking his shirt off and leaping next to me on the bar as if to perform pull-ups himself. I looked at our reflections in the mirror before up. Me, the puny fifteen year old, and my new mentor, all 250 pounds of shredded muscle, hanging next to me with his lats flaring like wings beneath his bulging arms. “You want to look like me one day?” he asked as he performed a perfect pullup. “You gotta work like me.” Then he did another and another. Then he looked at me and said something which changed everything. “You…are…not…Casey.” Something snapped in my brain. I had been looking for the easy way out. I was looking for a body in a day, like Casey. But that didn’t happen except in two-day-long dreams. This was how you built muscle. I performed another pull-up; Coach did the same. His arms and lats were flushed with blood and bulged as they pulled his weight. I want that, I thought. I did another pull-up; he did too. I don’t know how long it took me to get to one hundred but that time was filled with more screams and pain than I knew myself capable of bearing. Coach performed every pull-up with me, and did it with much less strain and noise. Exhausted, sweating, and ragged. I hung nearly lifeless from the bar, head down and body on fire. I felt a solid pat and squeeze on my lats. “Nice pump, boy,” Coach said as he put a foot stool beneath my feet and began unwrapping my hands. I looked at the mirror and was happy to see that my lats actually looked big, as did my arms…even if both felt as useless as a wet sponge. I also noticed that the rest of the eyes on the gym were on me. Coach did too. “If you assholes have nothing to do but gawk, get the fuck out of my gym,” he screamed, all the more intimidating without a shirt on. Some actually did; the rest turned away and didn’t make eye contact the rest of the hour. Coach turned to me, looking as scary as ever but speaking softly. “Ninety-nine percent of everyone who touches a weight will never reach their potential because they let their body tell them when to stop. The second you do that, you fail.” His face was a few inches from my own, and his angry eyes and gorged body filled my vision. He tapped my forehead with his index finger. “This tells you when to stop.” Coach grabbed his shirt from the floor. “Never in your life will you have a body more malleable than the 15 year old sack of skin you now wear. You feel like wasting that time by doing a few pushups then playing video games the rest of the day, you do it on your own time.” He paused, looked at my body hanging in front of him, then a gleam entered his eyes and his lips curled into a smile so small I almost believed it wasn’t there. “See you Monday.” Then he walked out of the room. I got the hint; I spent the next hour working my ass off in that gym. Well, that is, after one of the other guys in the room was kind enough to remove the tape from my hands. When I finally left, I felt completely destroyed but my heart raced with excitement and my mind was on fire. I felt amazing; I practically skipped home. That night, after eating three meals in four hours, I hit the bed at eight that night and barely took a breath before I was out cold. The next morning I weighed myself. 152. Whatever, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The semester progressed and consisted of eating, lifting, school, sleep and an occasional bit of life. I decided not to play baseball that year and focused on Coach Rod’s training. Each session was brutal but seemed easier as the weeks went by. Each day I woke up feeling a little bigger, a little heavier. The feeling was verified by the tape measure and scale. By the end of the second week I was 155. By February, I could claim 14” arms without any guilt. I became more defined, my pretty boy abs grew deeper and harder and my chest started to bulge as my bench presses reach the 200’s. By mid-February, I started to notice lines in my quads and could actually see the muscle moving under the skin. I was at 160 at that point and had forgotten all about my failed experiment with Casey’s blood. I also felt I wouldn’t have a problem making 180 by next football season. People started noticing that my shirts were getting tighter and as the winter chill began to fade, so did the amount of clothes I wore. My abs were becoming famous and being asked to show them became almost a daily event. By March I told Coach Rod something I never thought would come out of my mouth. “You think the workouts are too easy?” he asked, his voice rising by an octave. The rest of the people in the gym came to a screeching halt. That freshman punk said what? was written all over their faces. “I was wondering if we could do this five days a week,” I said sheepishly. “I’m just not hurting the next day anymore.” A devilish smirk grew into an evil grin. “If you’re still saying that by tomorrow, you little prick,” he said coldly, “you’ll get your five days a week.” There was nothing hiding his belief that would not be happening. I puked twice, nearly passed out once, but that next afternoon I stood in front of his office and said I was ready for more. He was shocked. But the sparkle I saw in his eyes said he was also proud. By March, I “tipped” the scales at 165. I’d gained fifteen pounds in eight weeks! My arms were now a solid 15”, my six pack had become and eight pack, I was getting close to 5’9”, and my legs were beginning to look like a sprinter’s. Although the lightest guy in the gym other than me had to be 180, I looked bigger, and I was easily stronger. I was benching 225 for reps and could curl fifty pound dumbbells. By mid-March, I was 170 and had pretty much put any shirt with sleeves into cold storage. Although big for a freshman, 170 isn’t much to brag about in high school. One look at my hard and vascular arms would show just how much muscle 170 could hold. Spring break means nothing more than pools and days off for a freshman but I found a way to lose my virginity to a sophomore named Jenna Staples. That was when life took a little bump… The week after spring break, in the hallway between periods I was suddenly slammed against a locker and before I knew what was happening there was gigantic forearm pressed beneath my chin and pressing my neck against the metal behind me. “You fucked my girlfriend,” a pair of angry eyes said down at me. They belonged to Jesse Strand, a linebacker on the football team and one of the best wrestlers our school had ever seen. He was a junior and was probably the strongest person in the school. He was 6’1, over 210 pounds and, from what I heard, was one of those genetically gifted individuals who was far stronger than their size would imply…and his size was substantial. He wasn’t as ripped as me but at times like these that didn’t matter. “I didn’t…know,” I said with difficulty. I could see the bulbous shoulders and traps bulging under his shirt. His neck was as big around as some people’s thigh. “She didn’t…tell me.” He responded by pressing me harder against the locker. “Don’t speak, pretty boy, just listen. I… reminded Jenna why she chose me and we’re just fine now. You and I?” he said menacingly. “You and I got a problem.” He looked down at my sleeveless arms and sneered. “Those things you have may sway the ladies but these,” he said as he flexed his free 18 inch arm an inch from my face, “are for kicking ass.” A grunt from behind this overgrown asshole diverted both of our attentions from each other and to Mr. Reynolds, a science teacher, standing with a stern face over a pair of crossed arms. A moment later, Jesse turned to me again and whispered “this isn’t close to being over” before releasing me. I collapsed to my knees as he walked away. The whole episode probably took less than ten seconds but I still felt everyone’s eyes on me as they walked by. Although I my mind pooled with legitimate fear, rage and obsession covered it in an oily sheen. The feeling lasted until just after the final bell rang when I walked towards the gym at the back end of the school. I was in the covered walkway among a small trickle of students on their way to various after school activities when I suddenly found myself staring up at the aluminum overhead from the ground. Stars danced before my eyes. A second later, as I was forcefully pulled up by my neck, pain ballooned across the right side of my face and I felt blood pour from my nose. Jesse, now in a white sleeveless shirt that showed just how big his arms were, filled my view. I could hear the hoots and laughter of his friends behind him. “Let’s just say that love pat was the least you deserved.” Then he did something I had no idea would be as humiliating as it was: he spit in my face. My mind boiled in rage and before I could even think about it, I shot a bloody wad of spit right in his eye. My stomach dropped and panic took over while the spittle was still in the air. Blinking the return fire away, Jesse’s face turned a menacing scarlet and a dark vein started to pulse on his forehead. His friends stopped laughing, suddenly afraid of what might happen. He squeezed my neck, causing the tendons in his arm to bulge. My arms flailed in a vain effort to push him away. He grabbed them both by my wrists with his free hand. His grip was like a vice and the combined strength of both my arms couldn’t budge him an inch. Jesse looked around and I took the opening to do the same. Although no one was in our immediate vicinity other than his two lackeys, there were a couple lingerers in distant eye shot. Looking back at me, his bicep and deltoid bulged with power as he actually lifted me off the ground onto my tip toes to get my face right up to his. “That’s your second mistake.” He paused. “And you last. It’s going to take me a long time to do what I’m going to do to you,” he whispered in my ear. “Unfortunately, you look like a screamer. And we can’t be interrupted now can we?” He lowered me to my feet. “If I find you alone, you’re dead.” Dropping me, he walked away and didn’t look back as his buddies congratulated him for kicking the ass of a kid two years his junior. I wiped the blood from my nose, anger and fury boiling whatever fear and embarrassment I should have felt into nothing. I stormed into the gym, threw my backpack across the room, tore my shirt off, and practically demanded that Coach make this a day to remember. He did his best to comply, but within a few minutes couldn’t help but wonder if something was up. “What the hell’s wrong with you boy?” he asked sincerely as I wiped tears from my eyes after a particularly daunting set with the huge tire. I wasn’t crying, I told myself. The tears just came out with the strain of the last set. “Nothing,” I said mechanically. “What’s next?” That night, terrified and exhausted, I came home to find a letter on my bed. It was addressed to me with postage paid but there was no return address. Opening it, I pulled out a large folded sheet of paper that was about the size of a newspaper page when completely opened. On it was a colossal ink handprint, so big that my outstretched hand didn’t even cover the print’s palm. Below the print was a message, written in those familiar, clumsy letters. The message was simple and left me perplexed: Get ready. CHAPTER 8 I read the simple message a dozen times and my eyes kept wandering to that giant handprint. I remembered back to when my parents took me to a sports themed restaurant a couple years earlier. In front were about a dozen iron stands each with a ceramic basketball on its top. The balls each had a recessed imprint in it that replicated exactly the handprint of an NBA star. I remembered putting my hand in Shaquille O’Neal’s impression, amazed that a human could have that large a paw. All I could think at that moment was that this hand could engulf Shaq’s. I put the page down and looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was mid-March and I was now 173…and it was ALL muscle. My arms were over 16” and I was getting closer to 5’10” each day. I’d gained 20 pounds and two inches in height in only one semester. At this rate I’d be 210 and 6” by the beginning of sophomore year! Puberty was easily my favorite thing in the world…besides the feel of lifting heavy iron of course. I had actual pecs, not just bumps above my abs, and could bounce them like a real jock could. My abs were deep and veins were starting to show as they faded into my waist. They were also starting to appear on my arms and shoulders. I wasn’t huge, but I’d seen pictures of famous bodybuilders when they were my age and I could have held my own with any of them…well, most of them. Some of them. Anyway, I was easily the most built freshman in the school even if not the biggest. But there was a shadow over that celebration: Jesse was still bigger, and stronger, and was waiting for my guard to drop. Suddenly glum, I put the giant handprint away and grabbed my shirt to put it on. There were still a couple hours until dinner but I didn’t care. I was hungry. Good to hear from you, Casey, I thought as I shut the door behind me. * * * “Son, for god’s sake, slow down and leave some food for the rest of us.” That was my dad. He didn’t seem to like that I’d taken four steaks from the plate we were passing around. “Sorry,” I said, putting one back on the serving platter. My mom signed, but not in a negative way. “Guess we need to start cooking even more for you,” she said. My parents had grown accustomed to me eating three times what they ate in a given meal and prepared accordingly. My dad wasn’t as nonchalant about it as my mom. “I swear,” he said as he put the steak I just forfeited on his plate. “I remember eating a lot in high school but not this much.” “Oh come on Daryl,” my mom told him with a grin. “He’s exercising a lot. You didn’t touch a weight until college, and even then didn’t take it too seriously. We have a growing boy, so let him grow.” My dad just shrugged and started eating. I allowed myself to smile a little, relishing at how my upper arm was pushing against my sleeves. It was nice being the only child; I got their full attention and they didn’t like trekking into uncomfortable conversations. It wasn’t that I was starving, I just wanted food. Before dinner was over, I was able to convince each of my parents to give me half of their steak. 178, the scale said after dinner. I knew five pounds of that was in my digestive track but it was fun to imagine that I actually gained it in muscle. I took of my clothes, gave myself a quick pose in the mirror (laughing at the gut dinner had given me), then went to bed. It was only eight, but I was tired and there wasn’t anything left to eat. * * * I woke up to my alarm the next morning at 630, feeling as if I’d only slept an hour instead of the more than ten I’d actually clocked. I guess too much sleep isn’t such a good thing. I rolled out of bed and groggily made my way to the shower. I yawned at the mirror instead of giving it a good pose as I was accustomed to doing and turned the water on. The hot stream did a good job waking me up and by the time I started lathering I felt somewhat normal again. The cow I’d eaten the night before had apparently made its way from my stomach, for my abs were flat and hard again. I smiled at how weak they were a mere ten weeks earlier. These bulging discs could have stopped a truck. I toweled off and finished my morning routine which always concluded with a date on the scale. My jaw dropped. 177. Naked, emptied, and hungry, I was 177. Four pounds more than before dinner the night before! My heart thumped in my chest and my stomach jumped. I looked in the mirror, wondering if I’d had the biggest case of water retention in history. But I was just as ripped as always, if not a little more so. A quick measurement proved I was just a little bigger all over. My waist was still 29,” but my arms were now a little over my usual 16” and my chest was now over 41” where it was normally just below that mark. I threw the tape measure down and barked a laugh. What’s normal anyway? I thought. My “normal” hadn’t lasted more than a week lately with the way I’d been growing. Why question a good thing? I put on my standard sleeveless shirt and a pair of shorts that just showed the bulge of my quads before disappearing under the hem. As I did every morning, I cracked six eggs in a skillet and put as many slices of bread in the toaster. Coming back to the eggs, I shrugged and threw the remaining six in as well. “We need more eggs!” I shouted to my parents upstairs, their response unintelligible but probably having something to do with saying they just bought some. While eating my morning feast, I began making lunch…sort of. Instead of my usual two sandwiches, I just threw the two pounds of bagged deli meat right into my cooler along with a few other random treats from the fridge. To my backpack I added an entire half loaf of bread, the whole box of protein bars instead of two, five bananas instead of one, and a pack of MuscleMilk I usually reserved for midnight hunger strikes. “Mom, we’re out of lunch food,” I said, throwing away the milk carton I’d just emptied. “Can I take a few dollars from your purse for lunch?” That wasn’t exactly the truth as I hadn’t really eaten anything yet, but it got the response I needed. After a distant approval from upstairs, I took a ten from my mom’s wallet and headed off to school, already eating one of the protein bars. That day had a familiar feel to it, although I couldn’t quite place why. It started off pretty normally with me joining my friends in front of the school. It wasn’t unusual to get one or two comments about my growing body and today was no different. “Fuck man,” my buddy Graham said as I approached while eating my forth protein bar and washed it down with the last swallow of water from the gallon jug I always walked around with. “You have GOT to get me into those training sessions Coach Roid is giving you.” He paused. “He’s not sharing his stash with you, is he?” he whispered. I was a little confused. Graham was a year older than me and was, if anything, the bigger of the two of us. I made a quick and, hopefully, subtle comparison of both our exposed arms and was pleasantly surprised to find out that mine was actually bigger. I grinned when I realized he’d noticed me looking and was flexing his hanging arm in a vain attempt to win this impromptu contest. I went ahead a flexed mine too, shooting my triceps up into a striated horseshow and making the veins on by bicep bulge. “Fuck,” he said under his breath. “He’s kept me clean,” I said as I walked by. “Maybe we can get you involved in the fall. I’ll be right back, I need to fill up my water bottle.” The day started without much to talk about, other than being scolded by Mrs. Krebs in first period for eating during class. I sighed and put my half eaten back of turkey away. Although I wasn’t necessarily hungry, I craved food. The other teachers, thankfully, weren’t as strict about eating in the class and before long I realized I really would need the ten dollars my mom had given me. As first period became second, I was starting to get a little curious at the increased level of attention I was getting. It was all passive, no one actually talking to me, and I went to the bathroom a couple times to make sure my hair wasn’t stuck up and face was free of food. As second period moved into third, I strangely felt like I’d just finished the most insane workout of my life; my muscles were so pumped. Raising food to my mouth made my forearms squeeze against my biceps in a way they hadn’t before. By lunch, the feeling was even more intense. “Wow, I can actually see your abs through your shirt,” Carla said as she sat down with her tray. I looked down, wondering what she was talking about. She was right, my stomach pressed against my shirt tightly enough to show the ridges of my abdominal muscles. I’d been eating a lot that day so it didn’t really surprise me. What surprised me was that my chest was pressing against the fabric enough to make my cotton shirt look like form-fitting Under Armor. The shirt was hardly oversized to begin with, being a medium, but I knew it took some serious bulk to stretch it like that. All I could do was shrug. “Guess I’m getting a little fat,” I said as I took a bite of the burger I just purchased. Carla snorted, as did the rest of my friends. It was a strangely quiet and awkward lunch. I didn’t think much of it at first, absorbed as I was in eating. However, as I finished my meal, I realized everyone was looking at me. “What?” I asked innocently. They all looked at each other uncomfortably, none speaking until Jeremy Durst finally broke the silence. “Dude, you’re fucking huge,” he said simply. Everyone else rushed to confirm his comment and began asking questions. “So how big are your arms now?” Amanda asked. “About sixteen inches,” I said as I flexed it for the group. Most at the table wouldn’t know a 16 inch arm from a 6, but the few who’d spent any time in the weight room were quick to correct. “If those are sixteen inches, then mind can’t be over twelve,” Chandler said. I looked at my flexed arm, legitimately surprised as I took it in. It looked like a bodybuilder’s arm. A real bodybuilder. It was covered in veins and striations as it bulged from my arm like a softball. Chandler was right; they looked more like 17 inchers, or even 18. I smiled, finally letting the little voice I liked to ignore speak. It happened like this last time, sitting at this very lunch table. My stomach leaped into my chest as a rush of energy cascaded across my body. This is what happened to Casey. My heart fluttered and I suddenly felt invincible. Finally concentrating on something other than food and how to get more, I looked down at myself. It was like I was looking at someone else’s body. I gathered the rest of my burgers and threw them in my backpack before getting up. “I gotta go,” I said simply and left the table. I raced down the walkway, relishing at the feeling of my strong legs pulsing against the ground. I was easily over 180 now. What must I weight now? 185? 190? I laughed as I entered the school gym, rushed past the empty weight room, and went into the locker room. I stared at the scale as if it were a trophy and imagined it wreathed in a golden aura with angels singing. It was absurd but I was in that kind of mood. I stepped on and began sliding the manual adjustors, the course adjust to 150, and the fine adjust past 177…this morning’s weight. I kept sliding the marker past 180 and the bar didn’t move. My stomach leaped again as I pushed it past 190 and still the bar didn’t budge. “Oh shit,” I said, suddenly a little worried. I’m over 190 pounds! I screamed to myself, heart pounding. The bar finally broke to the neutral position at 196 pounds. Shocked, I turned and looked at the mirror. The man staring back at me could have won a collegiate bodybuilding contest. Striated shoulders bulged from my sleeveless shirt like melons, falling into triangles as they morphed into a ripped set of biceps and triceps. My traps pressed against my now humorously tight shirt and my neck looked like an oak trunk, well over 18” around. I tore off my shirt, revealing a pair of gorged pecs and the best set of abs I’d ever seen…on anybody. Ever. They looked carved from granite even though they weren’t flexed. I turned and looked over my shoulder towards the mirror, shocked at the rippling back I now called my own. It was a dream come true. I heard a creak from the door I used to enter and turned towards it. My heart sank. There was Jesse Strand, always reliably there to squash my best moods. That little voice started talking again, though, just as Jesse himself started to speak. “Look like we’re finally alone, fucker,” he said as he closed the door and locked it. “Looks like we can finally settle the score,” he began as he turned to look at me. His eyes widened in shock. “WHAT THE FUCK?” I was on him in an instant. He had put on a little mass this semester and was maybe at 215. I was “only” 196 but there wasn’t an ounce of fat on me. I knew I was a long shot from winning a fight with a star wrestler and had to settle this fast. If he had a moment to think, he’d have me. I punched him in the sternum, taking his breath away, then slammed the back of his head against a locker. He crumpled, gasping for air. I bent over as I grabbed hair on the back of his head and got right in front of his red face and hate-filled eyes. “Don’t you ever even look at me again,” I said before standing back up. I grabbed my shirt and started putting it on as I left locker room. I didn’t worry about him getting back at me; by the time he had a chance for revenge, I would be big enough to fold him into a pretzel. CHAPTER 9 The rest of the day was a blur. I couldn’t wait to show up in front of Coach Rodriguez looking like a teen titan. I barely noticed the stares and compliments from my classmates. My teachers could have gotten on their desk and danced the robot and I wouldn’t have noticed. Now that I knew I was growing, my body was all I could focus on. I felt strong and hard but the real rush came from knowing that I had complete control. I could be as big as I wanted; whenever I wanted. If I so desired, I could be 300 pounds in a few weeks! Who could say that? Who had such power? Even though I stopped my constant eating binge, I continued to swell until my lunch finally digested. The difference in my size between lunch and the end of school that day was visually negligible, but I could feel my skin slowly tightening across my body. It was like the best pump I’d ever had times ten. Hidden under my internal joy, however, was a slowly growing concern. They took Casey away because of this. Of course, at the time he’d been about 7’ and 450 lbs at that point with no signs of slowing down. That hand print alone proved he was bigger now. What would happen to me? I shook my head to clear it. Truth was, I wasn’t 450 pounds, I was will under 200. There were other freshmen as big as me walking around...although a little voice chimed in that most 200 pound fifteen year olds were probably a bit on the chunky side and not a chiseled slab of marble. I smiled at that thought but my thoughts quickly turned again. What would my parents say? I had begun to suspect they knew the events surrounding Casey’s situation in better detail than I did. What would they do when they found out their son grew almost twenty pounds in a day? Twenty pounds. Damn it felt good to know that. I was living in perpetual excitement, like a kid on Christmas morning continuously discovering there were more and more presents under the tree to open. My spirit lifted. If things got out of control, I could take some of the pills Casey left behind. It was obvious to me now those pills were used to reign in his growth, not help it. The doctors didn’t want a muscle mutant running loose but apparently neglected to take into account the habits of a teenager. I put my hand under my shirt on my way to the gym, feeling my new body and amazed at how hard the human form could be. The thought of taking those pills instantly vaporized. I would be giving any of this up, I would just have to keep it slow. Too late for that, squirt, I heard Coach Rod’s voice say. I groaned a little bit. If anyone would question my new size, it would be him. And he would know. I had to think of something. Fast. * * * “Well congratulations, boy,” Coach Rod said as he looked down at me from over the bar. “You just broke your personal best.” He might as well have told me I had brown hair. There was no excitement in his voice. I’d just benched 265 pounds eight times. A day earlier I couldn’t have bench 250 more than once. We’d been working out for 15 minutes and I was breaking personal records left and right even while holding back. I thought Coach would be thrilled, yet he had no energy. In fact, he sounded disappointed. I was at a loss as to why. It couldn’t have been my unusual workout outfit could it? I’d shown up to the session dressed in an extra large PE shirt and basketball shorts. That was my master plan to keep my size gains secret. That, and hiding the full extent of my newfound strength. Normally I wore a more flimsy pair of gym shorts and, like the rest of the guys in the room, was topless more often than not. He had had commented on the fashion choice when we first started but there wasn’t this resentment in his voice when he did. “Pullups,” Coach said, eyes dark under his furrowed brow. No, he mustn’t be feeling well. I smiled. I’ll give him something to feel good about. I jumped up to the bar and started cranking out pull-ups. Although he’d kicked my ass on this bar numerous times over the last couple months, nothing compared to that first day he made me do one hundred of them in one set. Well, I’d show him how easy it was for me now. I finished a hundred pull-ups in less than five minutes before jumping back down. My lats and biceps were on fire and felt ready to burst from my skin. It felt amazing. That said, I was barely winded and felt like I could do a hundred more if pressed. I smiled at him, waiting for praise or at least a scathing remark or two. He only stared at me with those cold bombardier eyes. I couldn’t take it any longer. “What’s wrong, Coach?” I asked, almost whiningly. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “What’s wrong?!” He threw his hands up as if begging the heavens for some lightning bolts to sling. “Where’s the fucking energy? Where’s the drive? You’re treating this session like a walk in the park.” He looked at me, eyes angry. “You’re not even fucking sweating. You…you’re wasting my fucking time.” My jaw dropped. This was not what I expected. Everyone’s eyes were on the two of us, his face red with anger, mine with confusion and shame. He was right, I had intentionally held back so he wouldn’t suspect something was up. It didn’t occur to me my results didn’t matter to him, only my effort. I felt my stomach sink. “Coach, I—“ I began before being cut off. “No excuses,” Coach said. “You come here to be worked and that’s final.” He put his hand on my shoulder in a rare moment of tenderness. “I mean I—“ he cut off sharply as he looked at the hand he just put on me. He squeezed it a moment, moved his hand to my arm, then squeezed that too. His eyebrows shot up and a cascade of wrinkles sprouted up his forehead and halfway around his shaved scalp. He looked around to the other gymrats in the room. “Alright ladies,” he bellowed loud enough to get everyone’s attention. “Gym’s closed for the day. Get out.” The crowd wasn’t happy about that but didn’t dally as they left. All the while coach held my arm tightly, erasing any idea that he meant for me to leave too. Once the door shut behind the last student, coach exhaled and let go of my arm as he turned to me. “Alright, take the fucking shirt off,” he said as he crossed his arms. Although part of me was frightened of the ramifications, a bigger part just wanted to show off. I pulled the oversized tee off and gave the coach an eye full. To call the coach a one-dimensional man would be a crass understatement. The man had two emotions: in-your-face angry and asleep…and I’d never seen him sleep. Apparently he had another state in his repertoire. I think it was shock but I couldn’t be sure. I looked at the mirror to see what Coach Rod saw. The reflection staring back at me was hardly inhuman, but to find my proportions on a fifteen year old was unheard of. “Oh shit,” Coach said. “You too?” I turned to him, trying to think of an excuse that would subdue his horror. However, when I looked at him, horror wasn’t even on the menu. Behind the surprise still so evident on his face was what could only be called excitement. His eyes literally twinkled with it. Any doubt the twinkle was something else was crushed when he smiled and said, “So how big are you going to get?” I was at a loss for words. All I could do was stutter. “Calm down, son,” Coach said as he backed away to get a better look at me. “I mean, hell, I thought you were bigger when you walked in the room. And taller for that matter. I’m just glad I’m not crazy. Your friends little…episode…a couple of months ago shook me up a little.” He turned me towards the mirror and we looked at our side-by-side reflections. Standing next to a 6’2 250 pound man didn’t make me look all that big by comparison but, with the overhead lighting setting a dark shadow over each crevice of my body, I was about as defined as a person could be. “Come on,” he said, genuinely excited. “Let’s see what your new body can really do. No holding back this time.” He walked over to the bench. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, “Afterwards, you can tell me what badass supplement you’re using to get that big.” Coach and I learned exactly what my new body could do. I ended up benching 420 pounds and squatted 500. As could be imagined, every lift resulted in a new personal best. “Fuck yeah!” I roared as I dropped the bar to the floor after a 400 pound deadlift. I threw my arms over my head, relishing the pump that covered my body. My skin was pulled taught over every inch of my body. It was always a shock catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, that body surely belonged to someone else. “Fifteen years old,” coach said, mostly to himself. He shook his head. “I have to check something,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead with the back of my arm. Something he said earlier had me curious. I started for the locker room, wondering at how the cool breeze of the fan felt on my bulging body. I walked over to the scale, removed my shoes, and took the height caliper up from the base. It was time to see how tall I really was. “5’11,” Coach said over my shoulder. He’d apparently found a measuring tape and didn’t give me a choice as he started measuring my body. My waist was an incredibly taught 31” and my swollen arms had ballooned up to 18”…albeit with the pump of a recent workout included. My chest came in at 45.” “How’d ya do it, boy?” Coach asked, eyes burning. I pushed down the panic. Truth was, I had no idea how I did it. The blood experiment had obviously failed. I searched my mind furiously for an answer. He saw something in my eyes and raised both his hands in a surrendering gesture. “All right, all right. It’s none of my business,” he said. I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding. I wasn’t going to be sent to a hospital or something. Still, there was something else in coach’s eyes that wasn’t anger or disappointment. I couldn’t quite place it. “Listen,” he said, giving my shirt back to me. “I haven’t been fifteen since before your parents probably were, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what it’s like. I know what’s going on in your head right now.” He looked at my reflection in the mirror. “I’m not made for long lectures, which is why I teach here instead of a classroom, but you be smart now, ya hear? I don’t want to have to escort another giant on a one way trip to some government hamster cage.” I put the shirt back on, trying to figure out what the coach was saying. Then my eyes widened. “You know where Casey is?” I said more than asked. Coach looked at me from the corner of his eye. “We both have our secrets, kid,” he said simply before turning away. “See you on Monday.” I took the long way home in part to avoid an incensed Jesse but also to get my thoughts straight. Why now? It had been eight weeks since I used Casey’s blood. Was this sudden growth because of something else? My mind wondered and was hit by a truck when it considered the night before. The handprint, I thought to myself. Casey laced the letter with something. The message even alluded to it. “Get Ready,” it had said. I started growing that very night. I smiled and closed my eyes with my face up towards the warm spring sun. Thank you, Casey, I thought. A second later, I had my shirt off and in hand as I walked the rest of the way home. The rays set off my body with shadow and light, showing off my form in extreme detail. This body was completely and wonderfully alien to the one I had less than 24 hour earlier. My arms were pushed out by and constantly brushed upon lats that swelled from my back. There was a noticeable weight to my chest, as if gravity were paying special attention to my pecs. I didn’t even need to touch my abs to know how hard they were; they felt like a sheet of armor even from the inside. They were tight and hard even while relaxed. Every movement of my body made a muscle squeeze, some I didn’t even know I’d had. It felt amazing. A car horn broke my concentration and the sound of screeching tires made me turn towards the street I was walking next to. A few seconds of investigation revealed that someone was trying to get a longer look at me and slowed down. The person behind him wanted to do the same…without slowing down. I smiled even wider. I was quite a distraction. I got home a couple hours before my parents as usual, and tried my best to find clothes that hid my size. It was hard to do, since every glance in the mirror resulted in me stripping down to take a look at myself. All the while I was trying to make a plan. I couldn’t keep eating my way to becoming a giant like Casey… although my mind wasn’t as adamant about that rule as I would have liked. The thought of growing huge exhilarated me but my rational mind said I had a whole life to see how big I could get. I didn’t need to grow all at once…right? One thing all the voices in my head agreed to was that I needed to be a match for Jesse Strand. I couldn’t count on a surprise attack every time he wanted to take me down. If I could put on another fifteen or twenty pounds, I wouldn’t be such easy prey. Truth be told, I thought as I looked as my reflection with clothes on, I’m really not that big. Oh, I was jacked all right. But muscle is denser than fat and I looked perfectly normal with a nice baggy shirt and shorts on. Well, normal if you ignored the fact that my neck looked like it belonged on a horse…and my forearms bulged like a seasoned bodybuilder’s…and my calves looked carved from granite. Other than that, though, perfectly normal. I considered the whole package Casey left me back in January. Aside from the blood, he left his entire supply of what I referred to as Wuss Pills. Putting a few of those in Jesse’s meals on a daily basis would solve my problem: a few weeks of that and he’d probably have lost 30 pounds. I immediately discarded that idea. For one, it’s not like I had access to his food or water on a regular basis. And two…I wanted a fucking reason to put on more size. So it was settled, I would shoot for 215 pounds in six weeks. That was about a half pound a day. If I overshot, I’d take a pill. Simple as that…although the mere thought of one of those pills made me want to gag. My first step was maintaining a normal rapport with my parents through the whole thing. This proved easier than I thought and I finally began to understand how parents of psychos could end up saying “I had no idea he was capable of that.” Both commented about how big I was getting but neither cared to entertain that something might be wrong with their baby boy. My dad looked a little suspicious at times but I didn’t ever give him a reason to say anything. Besides, what father didn’t want their son to become a stud? So my plan worked perfectly…for a while. It turns out I actually didn’t have to eat much to gain weight. It was like my body became a high efficiency engine. 3000 calories a day was enough to gain my half pound. I actually had to consume less than I was used to. It was the best few weeks of my life: every day my clothes were a little tighter, my body a little harder. It was too small for anyone to see day-to-day but I found out people had longer memory spans than the previous 24 hours. “What are those things measuring now?” Chandler said in front of school one day. “A little over eighteen,” I said shooting him a bicep flex that stretched the seam of my shirt. He snickered, jealousy flashing behind the eyes of a friend who once outweighed me by five pounds or so. “Weren’t they a little under eighteen only a week ago?” “What can I say?” I asked with a smile. “I’m a growing boy.” Those admittedly frustrating responses had the desired effect of redirecting their focus to admiration instead of questioning. My workouts with Coach Rodrigues continued as always, only now every day consisted of a personal best in one lift or another. The man acted as if everything was normal, but he still had that distant look in his eyes I couldn’t quite make sense of. Three weeks into “Project Mass” and I was 207 pounds of granite and steel. Life was bliss…then came a Friday morning in late May, almost six weeks after my initial run-in with Jesse strand. The morning started off like usual with me walking up the schools front lawn to hang out with my friends before first bell. I made sure I ignored the stares I got as I learned making eye contact with my fan base only made them uncomfortable. A couple minutes before class started, I noticed my friends suddenly stare worriedly over my shoulder right as a hand violently grabbed my neck from behind and threw me to the ground. I gasped at the jarring pain from my back as my backpack broke my fall. I didn’t have time to gather my bearings before two solid hands grabbed me by the collar and yanked me to my feet. Two familiar eyes burned a few inches from my face. “We meet again, you little fuck,” Jesse said to me, his voice surprisingly baritone. He had avoided me since I sucker punched him in the locker room. I’d only seen glimpses of him since between periods which was ok by me. Now up close, I gasped. Dressed in a skin tight wifebeater, the man in front of me was not the buff but meaty junior he was three weeks earlier. Apparently, he’d been hard at work during that month long hiatus. Jesse has always been big and no one would have ever called him fat. But there had been a beefiness to him common to teens focused on mass. It isn’t common for a high school kid to be both shredded and massive. That kind of combo usually wasn’t possible until college…unless you were me. Jesse apparently found a recipe. Although still about 220, his meaty arms were now ripped boulders covered with flaring veins crawling that exploded from his strained shirt sleeves. His neck was as vascular as mine, only more bulbous and with mountainous traps rising up to the base of his skull. His pecs and abs bulged from beneath the tight cotton shirt. I was no slouch being only fifteen or so pounds lighter, but Jesse was a fighter and had the edge in both size and skill. He pulled me close, as he seemed so keen on doing every time we had these little chit-chats. “We’re doing this old school,” he said with an evil grin loud enough for everyone to hear. “You and me, after the final bell, under the overpass. We’re settling this.” Then he dropped me. That I remained on my feet was only a slight victory. Jesse barely seemed to notice as he sneered before walking away. The lawn was as quiet as a graveyard as I straightened my ruffled shirt. “I’ll be there,” I said to his back. That sent all the mouths in the area ablaze with whispers. I’m sure everyone thought I was terrified, which I most certainly was. Jesse’s absence from my life these last weeks were a gift I didn’t question. I’d just assumed my locker room sucker punch convinced him I shouldn’t be messed with. Now I new better; guys like him didn’t cower, they hunkered down. He’d apparently spent the last weeks completely dedicated to bulking up. Who knows what kind of steroids that kid has to use to look like that? I allowed a smile to stretch my lips as the first bell rang and all the students and their gossip-riddled voices walked into the school. I stayed put for a moment, letting everyone disappear, then immediately walked off campus. * * * A few hours later I stood looking like a fool in a newly bought XXL long sleeve shirt and sweat pants at the door of a Chinese buffet, feeling somewhat guilty about the financial ruin I was about to submit on the proprietor. Eleven am hit, the door was unlocked, and I sauntered inside looking like a nursing home pimp. I was relieved that no one questioned why a kid my age was at a restaurant instead of school. That probably said something about American values but I didn’t dwell on it. I was there for one thing and two minutes later I was at my table with two plates piled high with food. I mentally felt my body, currently dwarfed in my tent of an outfit. A few weeks ago I would have considered myself visual perfect. Anyone of any age would have killed for the body I had. Yet I wanted more. I looked at the food and dove in; beginning what I figured would be the longest lunch of my life. I went through plate after plate after plate. After my second helping, my body started to feel flushed and an anxious feeling started to flow through me. It was as if I were drinking liquid excitement. The feeling intensified and I soon felt as if I could run a marathon in ten minutes. I almost tried; it was hard to contain myself. My energy levels soared and it took an effort not to jump out of my seat. I wanted to laugh in delight. Soon after, my body started to feel funny. It was as if my muscles were tight from sitting still too long. As I continued to eat, I did things like shrug my shoulders and stretch my calf by raising the front of my foot. It seemed to help so I kept at it, ignoring the looks I was getting from the other customers. They must have thought I was on something. In a way, I guess I was. I tensed my abs and arched my back, then pumped my chest and arms. Soon the excited feeling in my body began to feel strangely similar to an orgasm, only prolonged as if continuously on the verge. I flexed my calves; worked my leg up and down to cycle my thighs; twitched my arms and pecs; shrugged my shoulders again. Every time I flexed, it felt like my muscles relax a little before slowly tightening up again. That feeling of excitement didn’t go away though; neither did my desire to eat. I never got full. I got another helping. As I got up to collect my forth helping, I almost stumbled for no apparent reason. It was if I had to rebalance myself. I exaggerated my step, squeezing my glutes and flexing my quads and calves. It felt amazing. I felt something else too. The fabric of my sweats didn’t feel as baggy anymore. Bending my arm as I held my plate seemed to pull at the fabric on my back. I also felt my arm bulge against my inner arm in a way I hadn’t before. I smiled. There was no doubt about it, I was growing. CHAPTER 10 I sat calmly on a natural outcrop of stone under the overpass, waiting for my eventual showdown with Jesse. School was still technically in session but a trickle of students was already making its way from down the road. If I was lucky, this would all be over in time to train with Coach Rod. He might find my new developments…interesting. Although a hundred cars sped across the interstate overhead, the span beneath it was isolated, known only to the homeless, the addicted, and the kids from the local high school…not a place any of our parents would approve of. Everyone congregating at the base of my castle did their best to leave me alone as I sat stoically in my long sleeve hoodie and sweatpants. A dead man didn’t like to be disturbed. I smiled at this but remained at a distance; no need to ruin the surprise. I was still taking it in myself. The me of eight hours ago would have worshiped the person I’d become. I felt heavy; I felt powerful. I half believed I could rip the ten foot high granite mound I was sitting on out of the ground with my bare hands. My new muscles yearned to be used and it was a demand I found extremely hard not to obey. This must be what a tiger felt like waiting to pounce on his prey…only my prey wasn’t here yet. I was accompanied only by my thoughts, which were scattering across my mind like swarming ants. I found myself wondering if this was a dream. I flexed my arm, watching it fill my baggy sleeve like a balloon. I could see every crevice and striation through the fabric, even the cable-like vein which ran down the face of my bicep. But it wasn’t the sight that thrilled me, it was the feel. The feeling of that bulging ball of muscle squeezing against itself was like having sex; it was impossible to describe the chemical rush that it created. This couldn’t be real. But it was. And it was amazing. But those ants that raced through my mind were calling out in terrified little voices. They’d started to scream their warnings while I was at the restaurant and hadn’t died down. Something wasn’t right. I shook my head, what could be wrong? I had to outweigh Jesse by 40 pounds now and I was strangely positive that I was even stronger than I looked. I worked my hand, balling them into fists then opening them and spreading my fingers wide. They wanted to hit something so bad. I’d give them their wish by allowing them to break Jesse like a twig…again. But that worry remained, unfocused yet intensifying. Meanwhile, a small crowd had assembled at the base of the stone, forming an impromptu circle in the middle. Situations like this were probably among the most primitive displays of humanity, right up there with public executions and anyone who’s last name was Kardashian. But just as with those latter examples, people flocked like lemmings to witness this happen. I noticed my friend Chandler walking up the crag towards me, his face lined with worry. He wore a tight green t-shirt, showing off what most would have considered a nice body for a sophomore. It was lean and ripped in the style so popular these days. I could curl him with one arm, I thought with a smile. “Dude,” Chandler said as he reached me and turned to look at the crowd. “Everyone noticed you weren’t at school today. There were rumors you were going to puss out.” I chuckled and remained seated with my arms resting on my kneecaps and hands dangling between them. My friend was barely six feet away; would he notice I was bigger? “I don’t know why you’re laughing,” Chandler said as he looked back at me. “I’d have shit my pants twice already. Anyway, Jesse wasn’t at school today either. He left soon after first period. Maybe he was looking for you to make sure you didn’t try to run away.” I shrugged but something in what he’d said sent mind boiling all the more. What made you grow? my brain suddenly asked me. I began to reply that the letter with the handprint had been laced with something but, suddenly, I wasn’t so sure. Chandler apparently took my silence as a request to keep talking, which he did. “You may have bulked up enough to convince the freshman class you’re some kind of god but but Jesse’s easily the strongest guy in school and that was before he started looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.” He coughed in his hand and wiped whatever came out of his mouth on his pant leg. “Fuck me, I’ve been fighting this cold for weeks now.” I raised my head, heart racing. “What did you say?” I asked, slightly shocked at the new baritone of my voice. I wasn’t the only one caught off guard; Chandler was looking at me like I had two heads. “You all right?” Chandler asked. “You sound like you have a cold too.” I started to say something I hoped would put my friend at ease but the competing and overlapping little voices suddenly found a unified message and the floodgates opened. I did catch a cold, I thought feverishly. It just took a while to show all the symptoms. That’s how colds work. They gestate, then attack. I grunted in frustration and again flexed my arm, allowing it to swell and pull my sleeves tight. How had it not crossed my mind earlier? There was no chemical laced hand print. The mere thought of that seeming logical was absurd. “Holy fuck,” I heard Chandler say but ignored him. I wasn’t doing a good job hiding my size at the moment and didn’t care. It wasn’t the handprint; it was Casey’s blood after all. It just took a few weeks to take effect. Puzzle pieces I’d subconsciously kept separated until now finally locked into place. Casey had a disease and they fixed it with another disease. Now I had that disease…so the disease was contagious. “We gotta go,” Chandler said, his voice shaking. “You have to GO!” I stayed put but looked up. The crowd at the base of the hill was looking up at me and slowly backing up, their faces a sea of surprise. Did they suddenly notice how much bigger I’d gotten too? You have a contagious disease! my mind screamed, pulling my concentration inward again. I had a disease that took weeks to show all of its symptoms. I put my hands on my head, trying to force my brain to just spit it out. So what? I thought. No one injected my blood into their ass cheek. Suddenly a terrible thought came to mind that made my whole body tense. I heard a tearing sound, barely noticing that my bicep had ripped through the sleeve. I looked up at Chandler, who I realized had raced down the hill to join the others in their retreat. Why were they running? It didn’t matter; nothing mattered now. The terrible thought had turned into a terrible memory… Jesse, now in a white sleeveless shirt that showed just how big his arms were, filled my view. I could hear the hoots and laughter of his friends behind him. “Let’s just say that love pat was the least you deserved.” Then he did something I had no idea would be as humiliating as it was: he spit in my face. My mind churned with rage and before I could even think about it, I shot a bloody wad of spit right in his eye. …By body ran cold and I felt myself shake. He didn’t need to inject himself; I’d given it to him for free all those weeks ago. I knew the transfer of some strange disease through a bloody wad of spit was highly unlikely, but in my heart I knew it had happened. It explained how he’d turned into such a jacked teen in only a few weeks. More puzzle pieces fell into place. He knew what he was suddenly capable of, I thought. That’s why he wanted to do this after school. He needed time. Time to do the same thing I had done. Only he took everything to the extreme. I have to get out of here, I thought frantically. Now! I looked up at the crowd, all of whom were either running away or still looking up and slowly backing away. It had only been a couple seconds since Chandler’s innocent cough triggered this rush of enlightenment but many in the crowd were already gone. “What the—“ I started to say out loud before the second dreaded realization slammed home. The dispersing crowd wasn’t looking up at me. Their eyes were too high. They were looking behind me. I stood up cursing, stumbling as I tried to turn at the same time. The effort resulted in me falling back against the rock. I looked up and finally saw what had forced Chandler and everyone else to scatter. Jesse, clad in nothing but skin, had made his way up the back of the stone heap, and he made my last image of Casey look like a wimp. I didn’t know what the giant in front of me weighed? How much does a bus weigh? The new Jesse had to be a head above seven feet tall. His face was void of any youth he once had, the baby fat now replaced by hard muscular lines. His neck, as big around as some people’s waist, was a bundle of writhing snakes of muscle and sat upon traps that started at the base of his skull and bulged like watermelons to striated shoulders the size of pumpkins. His arms, which looked over 30” around, flared to the side to make room for a set of traps that could double as wings. Pecs as thick as my head bulged from his body and sat atop a cascade of abdominals that could have been mistaken for masonry bricks. A dick the size of my forearm swung between a set of thighs I wasn’t sure I could wrap my arms around. They tensed and relaxed as Jesse took his final menacing steps up the crag, each one capable of kicking a hole in a brick wall. “Miss me?” he asked, his deep voice booming across the under pass. He reached down before I could react and grabbed me by the neck. His shoulders and arms bulged with all the more power as he lifted me effortlessly up to his eye level. Just like Casey’s before, Jesse’s body wasn’t grossly asymmetric or bubbly like you’d expect from someone so massive. Instead, he was a giant with normal proportions. Whatever this disease was didn’t discriminate by growing only major muscles. The small muscles people couldn’t isolate in weightlifting grew too. He looked like a superhero. Jesse’s eyes inspected me and he barked a laugh as he tore my shirt off with his free hand, revealing my own Olympian body. “Looks like you tried to come prepared,” he snarled as he flexed an arm that was bigger than my head. “But I always beat the other guy when it comes to conditioning.” He drew me close. “I suppose I should thank you for sleeping with my ex-girlfriend. I seemed to have picked up whatever you got…and took it to a place you could only dream of.” If my windpipe weren’t gasping for air, I would have groaned in frustration for forgetting such an obvious form of infection. Was Jenna, the girl in question, also a muscle goddess now? Now was probably not the time to ask that question. Jesse made sure of it. The two of us were alone, the other students scattered now to the wind, Chandler included. I couldn’t blame him. Jesse radiated with power that could crush me without thought. What would such a mentally unstable person do to a much smaller innocent bystander? I found myself wondering how he’s gained so much mass in only eight hours. I’d eaten pretty much non-stop for four before the owners of the Chinese restaurant ushered me out. It didn’t matter. The only question that matters was whether I’d live through the afternoon. I did what any cornered animal does, I kicked and screamed and punched without thought. Every time I made contact with Jesse’s body, I winced in pain. It was like punching a brick wall covered in skin. Jesse grunted in slight discomfort but that wasn’t much of a victory. He responded by squeezing my neck, choking off what little air I had. He laughed as my vision began to blur and head throb. “I can’t have you catching up to me anytime soon,” he said as he took my arm with his free hand and started to bend it awkwardly as if to break it. Pain flared from my elbow and shoulder but seemed distant and diluted as I slowly lost my grip on consciousness. I distantly wondered if his laugh would be the last thing I heard when a series of alien sounds came pouring from the surroundings. I heard Jesse curse and suddenly I was on the ground, performing a strange combo of deep gulps and throaty coughs. My senses were still dull as the world exploded around me. I could make out people coming from random directions, some monsters themselves. I saw Jesse run naked down the same side of the crag he’d just ascended. Apparently these newcomers were big enough or numerous enough to scare him. I got to my knees, still without a full idea of what was happening around me. My head pounded as I ran in the opposite direction from Jesse, not caring if anyone followed as long as I could get away from the monster that nearly killed me. But I must not have been important enough. The sounds slowly faded behind me but I didn’t look back to make sure I was alone until a couple of miles later, when I fell to the ground gasping for breath. “What the fuck?” I said aloud as I got to my knees. Fear still clouded my thoughts but at least I had control of my senses again. My vision had only just recently returned to normal. I had absolutely no idea what just happened and was still scared out of my mind. I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my parents. I didn’t care that I knew I was acting like a kid. I was a fucking kid. I turned and made my way home; ignoring the stares and honks I received from passersby. Who were those other people? I didn’t get a good look at them but they may have been as big as Jesse, certainly bigger than me. I looked down at my body, surprised something so amazing could still seem small to me. But it was. I was bigger than Coach Rod now, but that seemed like nothing. I stewed the afternoon’s events as I made my way home, growing gradually calmer but no closer to finding answers. Half an hour later, I was walking up my driveway, only slightly surprised to see my parents’ cars in the driveway. It was only a quarter to five. I didn’t care. There was no hiding what I was now. They’d have to see me sooner or later. I opened the door and walked in, still dressed only in shoes and sweatpants. I instantly saw my mom, sitting on the couch and eyes rimmed with red. She’d been crying. She looked up at me, eyes dull and uncaring at first but growing wide as they dawned with recognition. She moaned. “Mom, I—“ I started but suddenly noticed movement in the room. A man in a tie and slacks stood up from where he was seated next to my mom. Another dressed in a plain black suit and tie with white dress shirt stood in the far corner of the room, seemingly trying to take in the whole room with one look. I stepped back, heart suddenly slamming against my ribcage. What was this? “Jordan Baer?” the man getting up from the couch asked sternly as he started to pull something from his pocket. I nodded, confirming my identity. He nodded back. “I’m Dr. Thornton.” I remembered the name from a conversation with Casey; he was one of the doctors responsible for his miracle cure. “Please sit,” the doctor said calmly as he sat next to my blank faced mother. “We have much to discuss.” THE END