The hike

By JayPat  Patreon
6 parts
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Part 1

“Come on, guys!” I shouted. “We want to get there before dark.” I remembered my first hike out to Spencer’s Field. I wasn’t much older than these guys but I was a hell of a lot more enthusiastic. I looked over at my best friend, Eric—he was an Eagle Scout, too—and I could see he was thinking the same thing I was: how did we get stuck with the loser patrol?

“There he goes again,” sighed Eric. I turned my head just in time to see the red headed kid bounding off away from the group and deeper into to the woods.

“Shutz!” I shouted. “Get back here!”

“I just want to see something,” he called back and he ran further away from us.

“I’ll go after him,” said Eric with resignation.

“No, you went last time. I’ll go,” I said. I took off after Shutz and quickly caught up with him. “Shutz, what are you doing? You know you can’t leave the group. This is not like a trail hike. We’re bushwhacking here. If you loose us, you’ll be lost for good. We’ll have to call out the National Guard to find you. Is that what you want?”

“No. But I wasn’t going far.”

“It doesn’t matter. The underbrush is so thick around here we could lose sight of you in a second. Now come on; let’s get back.”

“Okay, but I just want to get this one thing.” Before I could stop him, he jammed his hand into some undergrowth, and pulled out a flat rock. It was encrusted with quartz. Now I got it. He must have seen it sparkle; it was shiny.

“See,” he grinned, “now I’ve got my rock.”

All the kids were supposed to choose a rock from the trail to add to The Tower. In the center of Spencer’s Field was a rock tower—actually it was more like a rock pile, but we called it a tower. All the scouts who made the trip would write their names and the date on a stone and add it to the tower. Some of the rocks had been there fifty years or more.

“That’s a great rock, Shutz, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t make it to the field.”

“I’ll make it,” he said defensively.

“Only if you stick with the group I said. “Now, let’s get back.”

Eric had stopped the rest of the group to wait for us, and when we returned it looked like they had decided to take a rest break. There were nine of us all together: Eric, me and seven fourteen-year-olds. Most of them were either sitting under a tree or milling around aimlessly.

But not all of them. Becker had pulled out his guitar and had started playing a tune. The kid had some talent and I knew some decent campfire entertainment was pretty much guaranteed.

Gezbecky was three yards away, sitting under a tree, nose in a book. This kid was short, with a very slight build. He had very fine bones. I was actually afraid to touch him in case I accidentally broke him. His parents had made him join the scouts because they felt he needed to spend more time outdoors. So, here we were in the middle of a natural wonderland and he was reading. Someone was unclear on the concept.

“What are you reading, Gezbecky?” I asked.

“Chariots of the Gods,” he answered without looking up.

“Is it good?”

“Yeah, it’s great,” he said putting the book down. “It’s all about aliens and ancient Egypt and all kinds of stuff. I found it at my grandparent’s attic. They’ve got a lot of cool old books up there—”

“That’s great,” I said interrupting him. “But camping is all about being outdoors, making friends, and having adventures. If you spend the trip with a book, you’re going to miss all that.”

“Oh,” he said mechanically, putting the book away. “So, what should I do?”

“I don’t know. Try climbing a tree. Or why don’t you get Johnson to show you how to use the compass.”

“I know how to use a compass.”

“You haven’t found your rock yet, why don’t you look for that. Just don’t leave the area.”

“Okay.” Gezbecky got up and, with all the enthusiasm of a condemned man, began searching the ground.

Johnson was our only real scout. He was walking around the area taking different compass bearings and checking the position of the sun. He looked like he was raring to go. Oddly enough, he wasn’t even supposed to be on this trip. He got chicken pocks when his troop went, so now he was stuck going with us.

Josh Hickman was up in a tree and his identical twin brother, Jacob was standing at the base watching him. I only knew it was Josh in the tree because he was the more adventurous of the two. If they were both standing on the ground side-by-side, there’d be no way to tell who was who. And the identical scout uniforms didn’t help either. But since both boys answered to either name, it didn’t matter much. I’d guessed they were probably sick and tired of correcting people. Or maybe they just enjoyed the confusion they caused. “Don’t go too high,” I called up to Josh. He nodded back.

“Hey, give it back! That’s mine!” came Gezbecky’s voice, cutting through the air. I turned around and, surprise, surprise, Sodderberg was tormenting Gezbecky again. Sodderberg was one of those kids who were just naturally big and mean. He was holding a rock up, out of Gezbecky’s reach, and smiling cruelly. The poor little guy was jumping up, trying to get it from him.

“Sodderberg, give Gezbecky back his rock.” Sodderberg gave me a look as though he was sizing me up; trying to figure out if he could take me. I got that look from him a lot and I was beginning to get tired of it.

We had a brief stare down until Sodderberg finally dropped the rock and backed off. “Take your damn rock,” he said.

I looked around and saw Eric lounging under a tree, just watching the show.

“You know I could use a little help with these guys,” I said.

“From me?” he grinned. “You’re the responsible one. I’m the wild one, remember?”

It was true. Eric and I had known each other since grade school and every stupid thing we had ever done had been his idea. But then I usually went along with it, so what did that make me?

But now we were eighteen, and in the fall we going off to colleges in different parts of the country. We knew that after this summer we wouldn’t be seeing much of each other—maybe for the rest of our lives. This hike was kind of our last hurrah. Too bad we had to share it with a bunch of clueless fourteen-year-olds.

“We’d better get going if we’re going to make it to Spencer’s field before dark,” I said. “Do you want to get Moorcroft or should I?”

The final kid in our group was Moorcroft. He didn’t talk much, just kept to the edge of the group, keeping his eyes on the ground. His hair was dyed black and I had a feeling that if he wasn’t in uniform his clothes would be black too. He was sitting on the ground a few yards away, just at the edge of sight.

“I’ll go,” said Eric, and he sauntered off toward the glowering kid. Couldn’t help but wonder how a kid like him wound up in the scouts.

“Okay, guys, rest’s over. Time to get going,” I called.

The rest of the hike went smoothly, with only one slight hiccup. During Shutz’s turn on compass duty he took a wrong reading and we spent about twenty minutes heading in the wrong direction. Fortunately, Eric thought to check on him and caught the mistake. We had to do a little back tracking but eventually we got back on the right heading, loosing less than an hour.

We had wanted to make it to our destination before dark and we stepped into the clearing just as the sun was disappearing behind the trees. Eric and I had our tents up in nothing flat and then started helping the other kids with theirs. We didn’t want to help too much; after all, the point of the exercise was for them to learn to do it themselves. Most of the kids did okay, but as for Gezbecky and Shutz, we pretty much had to do theirs for them.

We had just started gathering firewood when we saw it. Shutz spotted it first streaking through the air leaving a trail of fire behind it.

“Meteor!” he cried. And sure enough that’s exactly what it appeared to be. We watched it shoot through the air and heard a loud whomp as it hit the ground nearby. Like a shot, Shutz was off toward it.

“Come back,” I yelled but it was no use. I took off after him and before I knew it the rest of the guys were right behind me.

“Eric, take these guys back to the camp, I’ll get Shutz.”

“What for?” he replied, “We all want to see it. I mean how often does a meteor hit the ground? Most of them burn up in the atmosphere.”

“It’s getting dark,” I said.

“You worry too much. It’ll be fun.”

I couldn’t really argue with him. The truth was I wanted to see it, too. So, all nine of us plowed through the underbrush in the direction of the impact.

We came upon Shutz standing at the edge of a new clearing. The meteor had obviously blasted every tree and bush in the immediate area as it came crashing to the ground and there was a 20 foot diameter circle of scorched earth all around it. The thing, itself, sat in the middle of a small crater, maybe three feet deep. About the size of a beach ball, it was round and glowing as though it was made from molten rock. But the more I looked at it, the less like rock it seemed. In fact it almost appeared to be a metal sphere partially melted and squashed.

“I think it’s a satellite,” said Eric.

“Cool,” said Shutz, as he walked towards it.

“Get back!” I shouted. “You don’t know—” but that was all I had time to say. That idiot Shutz reached out for it and as soon as he did there was a whump and a flash of blinding light and then everything went dark.

When I woke up, I was lying at the edge of the clearing. I felt awful like I’d spent an entire day sitting in the sun. At first I didn’t want to move but I tried anyway. Everything was kind of fuzzy. I thought I could hear a huge commotion nearby, like something huge moving through the forest. It was like one of those dreams where there’s something horrible coming, but you can’t move. I shook myself fully awake and the feeling passed quickly. The sound disappeared and soon I was pulling myself to my feet.

It was dark; full night had fallen and I couldn’t see a thing. Fortunately, I had my pocket flashlight with me. I looked around. The rest of the kids seemed to have been knocked out, too. Gezbecky and Moorcroft were stirring. I rushed over to them; they seemed okay and were soon rubbing their eyes and looking around just as I had done. I checked on Eric. A couple of light slaps on his cheek and he was awake. The other guys revived just as easily. Thank God, no one appeared to be hurt. A couple of the kids had their flashlights, too, and soon were shining them around.

“Hey, where’d it go?” called Johnson. And suddenly all flashlight beams were trained on the crater. There was no sign of the meteor at all.

“Even if the thing had exploded, there’d be some debris, wouldn’t there?” asked Johnson.

“Where’s Shutz?” asked Eric.

We looked around for Shutz but he was nowhere to be seen.

“Shutz!” we called into the dark. “Shutz!”

But there was no answer.

“Maybe he woke up first and went back to the camp?” Johnson suggested.

“Maybe,” I said but I didn’t really believe it. He had been the closest one to the meteor-thing; somehow I couldn’t see him waking up first.

“Holly Shit!” cried Sodderberg. “Check this out!” The kid was standing over by the crater poking something with his foot. I went to see. It was a uniform, or rather what was left of a uniform. It had to be Shutz’s, but it was shredded, completely torn to pieces. Continuous prodding with my foot, uncovered the poor kids underwear, also shredded. And close by we found his hiking boots; they had been torn apart. But the odd thing was there was no sign of any blood.

The obvious conclusion was so terrifying that I had to keep it to myself. Someone must have come along while we were unconscious, torn the clothes off Shutz and carried him away. That meant somewhere out there in the night was a dangerous raging lunatic. My first instinct was to try and hike out of the forest that night, but that would be stupid. There was no moon and it was pitch black. We’d never make it out without at least one of us getting lost. I had a cell phone with me but there was no signal.

“Let’s get back to camp,” I said.

“But what about Shutz?” asked Gezbecky.

“We can’t go looking for him at night,” I answered. “More of us would just get lost.”

“What do you think happened to him?” asked Jacob or Josh.

“I don’t know. We might be able to see more in the morning. He might have thought we were all dead or something and gone for help.”

“Naked?” asked Jacob/Josh.

I didn’t want to panic anyone so I decided to leave the matter of the dangerous maniac alone for the moment.

I hated the idea that one of the kids was missing and more than a little worried about what might have been his fate. I was supposed to be looking out for them. I knew better then to let Shutz chase that meteor and yet I allowed it anyway. Shutz might even be dead because of me. Part of me wanted to roll up and die. But I still had six kids to watch out for so I didn’t really have that choice. “Let’s get back to camp.”

It didn’t take much more prodding from Eric and me, to get the guys turned around and headed back for the camp. Thanks to the tramping we made on the way to the crater, finding our way back was easy, even with only flashlights to show the route.

As soon as we got back to the camp, we began to gather firewood. I made sure we moved around as a group, to keep us as safe as possible. There’s safety in numbers might be a cliché but it also was pretty much true.

It was about then that Eric began acting kind of weird. He kept stopping and staring at his hands and rubbing his stomach. At one point I think I even saw him flexing his arm and cupping his bicep. I knew he worked out and I just figured he must have pulled something.

Sodderberg was tripping Gezbecky and dropping his branches on him. I had to separate them without sending Sodderberg away which meant I kept the two kids on either side of me.

“I feel weird,” said Gezbecky. “My hands and feet are all tingly.”

Now that he mentioned it, I could feel a little tingling in my fingers and toes as well. But there was no need to panic anyone.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “As soon as we get out of here tomorrow we’ll all go to the doctor and get checked out, okay?”

That seemed to satisfy him and we continued to gather wood. But the other kids complained of similar sensations and I had to believe it was not a coincidence.

Once the wood was gathered, we were supposed to let the kids start the fire using the old two-stick method so they could earn a merit badge. But due to the circumstances, I decided to just use my matches and soon we had a brightly burning blaze. It seemed to cheer everybody up a little. We’d brought along hot dogs to roast on sticks and it wasn’t long before the smell of roasting meat was wafting through the air.

After we ate, Becker pulled out his guitar and started strumming some random cords. No one called for a tune. Most of us were just staring into the fire, lost in our own individual thoughts about what might have happened to Shutz.

Eric put his hand on my shoulder and cocked his head toward the edge of the clearing. “I gotta talk to you, dude. A little Eagle Scout conference.”

I looked at the guys. I didn’t like leaving them alone with a maniac potentially on the loose. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

“Dude, seriously, I have to talk to you.”

“Okay,” I said and stood up. “We’ll be right back, you guys. Don’t kill each other.” Eric led me to the edge of the forest, well outside the glow of the fire.

Eric was acting weird. He kept shifting from foot to foot, rolling his shoulders and wringing his hands.

“Dude, what is up with you?”

“That tingling the guys were talking about?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you feel it?”

“A little. In my fingers and toes.”

“Well, I feel it all over my fuckin’ body.”

“Are you sick?” I asked, suddenly worried.

“Hell no! I feel fucking fantastic!” He started unbuttoning his shirt.

“Dude, what are you doing?”

“You got your flashlight?”

I pulled it out from my pocket, turned it on and stepped back in shock. Eric had his shirt open; his upper torso was ripped! He had a raging six pack and bulging, rock solid pecs. “Whoa,” I cried, “you’ve really been hitting the weights.” Eric looked down at himself and seemed almost as surprised as I was.

“No,” he shook his head. “I haven’t been to the gym in a month.”

“I don’t get it,” I said.

“Neither do I,” he replied “But ever since we came to by the crater I’ve been feeling weird. There was the tingling and then I felt my body just start to change, get thicker and harder. And I’m a helluva lot stronger, too.”

“What does it mean?”

“I don’t know, but dude, it feels fucking fantastic!” Eric did a double bicep pose and his upper arms filled his sleeves almost to bursting. “I’ve been working out for years and never had results even close to this.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He relaxed his arms but they still seemed to be straining his shirt.

“What the fuck happened to you?”

He shook his head grinning. “It’s not what happened but what’s happening ’cause I’m still getting bigger. And the more I change, the faster I seem to grow. It’s coming faster now, much faster.”

I took a step back, gave Eric a second look, and gasped. At first I thought it was a trick of the light, but no. I could actually see him bulking up in front of me. His chest was swelling further out past his shirt front and his stomach muscles seemed to be doubling up in size… and holy shit! He was getting taller, too!

“What do we do?” I asked, my voice cracking like a thirteen-year-old.

“Do?” he asked. His voice was dropping lower. “Why should we do anything? I want to see how far this will go, how big I’ll get.” I heard the sound of tearing fabric as his shoulders grew broader than his shirt could handle. “I am going to be a serious monster when this is done!” I couldn’t argue there. He had to be getting close to seven feet tall.

“You’re freaking me out, dude,” I squawked. He laughed at that and did another double bicep pose. This one disintegrated his sleeves revealing enormous peeked biceps, huge, bulky triceps and massive forearms. “Holy shit!”

“Isn’t it awesome?” he cried, mistaking my fear for enthusiasm. Eric grabbed the remainder of his shirt and tore it from his body. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Every inch of him was solid muscle; the guy was huge. And he was nearing eight feet tall and still growing.

“Dude, there’s something wrong here. This isn’t natural. We have to do something,” I burbled.

But Eric just looked at me, grinning like a kid on Christmas morning, as his shoulders blew up like beach balls—that is beach balls that weighed about eighty pounds each! His biceps started swelling up to match. They quickly caught up with his shoulders and then passed them becoming the dominant feature on his insanely powerful arms. I heard a rapid popping as the seams in his pants gave way to a pair of unbelievably massive thighs and he shed the rest of his pants like sunburned skin. Shit! He had to be almost nine feet tall. And he just kept laughing and flexing his huge muscles and laughing some more as his titanic body grew larger and more muscular by the second. I was frozen with fear but he didn’t seem scared at all, in fact he really seemed to be enjoying the ride. When he reached about ten feet tall he finally stopped growing.

The kids must have heard us shouting because suddenly they were there, their flashlights playing all over Eric’s massive body. Their voices were a chorus of “What the fucks?”, “Holy shits!” and even a scream—I’m guessing Gezbecky.

To say he was intimidating would be the understatement of the decade. I was standing next to him and I was fucking terrified. He was a juggernaut, an unstoppable mass of muscle and I had never seen or even conceived of anything like him.

“I am so fuckin’ strong,” he hollered, flexing his biceps. It was like watching two mountains grow up on his upper arms. “I can do anything.”

Eric ran over to a tree, wrapped his bulging arms around it and proceeded to rip the thing out of the ground, roots and all. Now, I’m not talking about a baby tree here. This thing was at least forty feet tall. And after he pulled it out, he hefted it over his head and threw the tree off into the night. How far it went, I couldn’t say. It was too dark to see. Then Eric spied a boulder. The thing was as tall as he was, and just as wide. He walked over to it and picked it up, raising it up over his head! In a second he had thrown that out into the night as well. He gave an almost animalistic yell of joy and thundered out into the woods, quickly disappearing from sight.

Part 2

For several minutes I could hear the sounds of destruction as Eric apparently continued tearing apart anything that caught his eye. After the sounds faded into the distance, I continued to stand there, not knowing quite what to do.

“Okay, what the hell just happened?” asked Sodderberg.

“Eric turned into a monster,” said Gezbecky.

“Shut up,” said Sodderberg and he punched Gezbecky in the stomach, hard. The poor kid doubled up and then lost his dinner.

“Lay off him, Sodderberg,” I said. “We have enough trouble.”

“He didn’t look like a monster to me,” said Moorcroft, “More like a giant.”

“That’s enough,” I said. “I don’t know what happened to Eric but it’s something we can deal with once we get out of here tomorrow. Let’s get back to the fire.” We all turned and headed back toward our camp fire.

“What if he comes back?” asked Gezbecky. Everyone went silent.

“I think we’ll hear him first,” I said. “And besides, it’s just Eric. No matter how big he is, he’s still just Eric.” I think I was trying to reassure myself even more than the kids. Watching your best friend turn into a two-thousand pound behemoth was a little disturbing and I was still processing it. If I hadn’t had the kids to worry about I think I might have lost it.

“Oh yeah?” said Moorcroft. “Did just-Eric run around tearing trees apart with his bare hands before he changed?”

He had a point.

“I don’t get it,” said Johnson. “What could do that?”

“How about a weird object falling from the sky?” said Becker.

“But why would it effect just him?” asked Johnson.

“Who said it effected just him?” asked Moorcroft. Suddenly everyone was looking around at each other like they might change at any second.

I suddenly remembered Shutz’s shredded uniform and I wanted to sit down. Could the same thing have happened to that hyperactive red head that happened to Eric? Right when I came to, I heard something huge moving in the forest. Could that have been Shutz? I was unsure if I should say anything. I didn’t want to worry the other guys, but Moorcroft saved me the trouble of deciding.

“Remember Shutz?” he said. “It must have happened to him, too.”

“And if Shutz was effected, maybe we all are,” said Becker.

“What do we do?” gasped Gezbecky.

“Why should we do anything?” asked Moorcroft, echoing Eric a little too closely for my comfort. “This is going to be awesome. Did you see the muscles on that guy? We’re all going to get huge.” He flexed his arm. He had pale, pipe cleaner arms.

“The ladies will love it,” said Josh/Jacob as one elbowed the other. The other guys had all started posing for each other, asking their friends if they looked bigger, feeling their biceps, trying to find a sign that they were changing. The only ones not participating were Gezbecky and Becker.

“We should really think about this,” said Gezbecky. “I mean what was that satellite-meteor-thing?”

“Who cares,” grinned Sodderberg. “Soon I’m going to be big enough to rip you in half with my bare hands.” Sodderberg looked down at his hands as though he expected them to start growing immediately. Gezbecky moved away from him.

“Maybe it was some kind of government experiment gone wrong?” said Josh/Jacob.

“Our government can’t do anything like that,” replied Johnson, whose dad was in the military.

“I think it’s an experiment,” said Gezbecky, “but not a government one.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I think it’s an alien invasion.” We all burst out laughing.

“No, seriously,” he said. “Think about it. We’re in an isolated area. We’d be perfect test subjects.”

“Are you saying that thing was aimed at us?”

Gezbecky nodded. “Think about Eric. What was the first thing he did after he changed?”

“He started tearing things apart,” I said after a pause.

“Exactly. Now imagine if that satellite-thing had hit somewhere in a city.”

“You’d have hundreds of giants running around tearing things apart.”

“Right. Chaos. Perfect first move for an invasion.”

“So why didn’t they just launch it at a city?”

“As I said, I think they’re testing it.”

I hated to admit it but the guy made sense, a freakishly strange dorky kind of sense, but sense. And the idea of some alien fucking with my body and turning me into an engine of destruction, really creeped me out. I think the other guys thought so too because they weren’t quite so excited anymore. They’d stopped their posing and become quiet.

“Okay, Genius,” said Becker, “how do we stop it?”

Gezbecky seemed stumped.

“Stop it? Why stop it? You guys are crazy!” cried Moorcroft. “I can’t wait to be huge.”

“You want to run around, busting up everything in your path, becoming a human WOMD?” asked Johnson.

“Fuck yeah!”

“Well, technically, we’d be some kind of mutation,” said Gezbecky. “We wouldn’t really be human anymore,”

“Even better!”

“What happened to make you so sick and twisted?” I had to ask.

“I have my reasons.” He said it with such venom and conviction that I decided I didn’t want to know what was behind it after all.

“There’s got to be a cure, right?” said Johnson. I noticed he was rubbing his stomach as he was talking. It might just be a nervous habit, but maybe not. It was a little too close to what Eric had been doing while we were collecting wood.

“I doubt it,” said Gezbecky. “I mean the aliens might have one, but down here—no way.”

“So, were doomed?” said Johnson. He sounded like he was about to lose it. That was the last thing we needed.

“We’ll break camp now,” I said. I knew it was risky to hike back at night but suddenly staying had its own dangers. “Once we get out of the Forest, we’ll make a beeline for the nearest hospital. They might be able to help.” Relief washed across Johnson’s face. He started rubbing his left pec. Okay, that was it.

“Johnson,” I said, “take off your shirt.”

“What? Why?”

“Just do it.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Come on. I think we all need to know why you keep rubbing yourself.”

“I think it might be poison oak.”

“Then all we’ll see is a rash.”

“Yeah, Johnson, let’s see,” said Moorcroft. The other kids joined in. Slowly Johnson unbuttoned his shirt. I’d seen Johnson’s type before; just out of their growth spurt, on the skinny side. But when Johnson pulled off his shirt we all gasped. Every muscle in that kid’s skinny body was sharply defined under his skin, not that they were unnaturally large but they were toned beyond belief.

“Please tell me your some kind of fitness freak,” said Gezbecky.

Johnson slowly shook his head. “Are you happy now? Can I put it back on?”

I nodded and Johnson pulled his shirt back on and buttoned it up. “How long have I got?” he asked Gezbecky.

“I… I don’t know. I mean, it won’t be the same for everybody. Some of us are obviously changing faster than others.”

“Why are you guys acting like this is some kind of cancer?” cried Moorcroft. “Johnson, you rock. I mean look at that body. And you’re just going to get bigger and stronger. What is your problem?”

“What’s yours?” he asked back.

Moorcroft just threw up his hands and walked away.

“Let’s break camp,” I said, “We need to get Johnson to a hospital as quickly as possible.”

I was certain that if we could get to a hospital they would somehow be able to fix us. I have to admit there was something strangely compelling about becoming that big—in a deviant kind of way. But I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be ten feet tall. After all, most places only had eight foot ceilings. And I’d never be able to fly in an airplane or even take a bus—add the fact that I was pretty used to being human and I really didn’t want to be turned into some kind of alien weapon. “Come on, we need to get going guys!”

Moorcroft shrugged indifferently, but the other guys took to the task with great energy. Using only the campfire light and our flashlights we began to break camp and pack our stuff away.

After I had broken down my tent, I was about to take care of the fire when I stopped by to check on Johnson. Even with his shirt on, you could see the change. His chest had swelled out. The upper buttons of his uniform shirt were just starting to show a slight strain. But this was partially because his shoulders were broader, thicker and rounder, and his back, wider. His pants were also growing tight in the thighs and now seemed to be too short for him. The other guys were nervously steeling glances his way.

“How you doing?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” he said.

“What do you mean?

“Well, before I was pretty freaked, but now… Well, check this out.” He flexed his arm and a baseball sized bicep swelled up in front of me, pulling the shirt tight around it. He had a scary looking arm. “Pretty cool, hunh?”

“Yeah, great,” I said, my mouth going dry.

“And then there’s this,” he said.

The Boy Scout fire pit had a series of logs placed around it. We used them for benches; they must have weighed about five hundred pounds each. Johnson started to lift one.

“Whoa, you’re going to hurt yourself,” I warned him.

“I don’t think so,” he said and proceeded to lift the bench off the ground, hardly straining at all. I was floored. I couldn’t even have budged it. He let it fall again with a crash.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I… I don’t know. Are you saying you want to change?”

He thought about it for a minute before answering. “Let me put it this way: I don’t want to become an alien weapon,” he said. “But if you can’t get me to a doctor on time, the consolation prize ain’t all that bad.” He began flexing again, running his fingers over his bulging arm and I left him like that.

When I was done with the fire, I broke down Eric’s tent and Shutz’s. I don’t know why but I felt we ought to take their stuff with us. I could handle Eric’s pack but I would need someone to take Shutz’s. I instantly thought about Johnson. He was obviously the strongest one.

“Johnson,” I said as I walked up on him. He was knelling over his pack. “Do you think you could carry Shutz’s pack?”

“Sure,” he said loudly. There was something about his voice. “I can take Eric’s too if you want.” Without waiting for a response he stood up and ripped both packs out of my hands. Those packs weren’t light and he was holding them like they were nothing. I noticed his uniform had begun bunching up in some places and pulling tight in others. His muscles were getting larger and he was about six inches taller than he was last time I spoke to him.

“Crap.”

“What’s the matter,” he asked. “You want me to take yours, too?” He reached over and grabbed my pack and lifted it into the air. Of course I happened to be wearing it at the time so I went with it. Johnson laughed and set me back down. “Whoops,” he said. I heard the sound of ripping of fabric as Johnson’s expanding lats split open the back of his shirt. He grunted as if with relief. Through the rip I could see his back was now a wide, solid configuration of bulging muscles.

“These uniforms are so damn uncomfortable,” he said. “There’s so little room in them.” He tore off his sleeves. His arms had become enormous. Thick veined biceps, at least 25 inches around, ran into his cannonball shoulders and his veined forearms were about as thick as my neck. I looked up into his face. He used to be three inches shorter than me. Not any more. Not even close.

In one startling surge, his chest burst out of his shirt front and huge thighs exploded from his pant legs. He looked down at his powerful limbs as his body continued to bulk up and grow taller. “This is so awesome,” he cried, flexing his mammoth arms. “What was so I worried about?” In a moment he had reached ten feet. Like Eric before him, he was a heaving tower of solid muscle. It was scary just looking up at him. So I tried looking straight ahead I was staring at his abs and they looked like a fucking mountain range.

Of course the other guys heard him bellowing and came running. When their flashlights hit him they stopped in their tracks.

“You guys have got nothing to worry about,” he bellowed. “Absolutely nothing.” He flexed for us and then turned and thundered into the forest. Once again I heard the sounds of woodland destruction as Johnson made his way deeper into the woods.

Part 3

I aimed my flashlight at the guys. They were all staring slack jawed after Johnson.

“Another one down. Seven to go,” said Moorcroft. “I wonder who’ll be next.”

“I want to go home,” said Gezbecky.

Sodderberg pounded him again. “Shut up.”

“Jeeze, buddy,” said Becker to Sodderberg. “I hope for your sake, you grow first.”

Sodderberg stopped. He slowly backed off. He had obviously never considered that Gezbecky might become a giant before he did. Well, no one ever said Sodderberg was the sharpest knife in the drawer.

“That was weird,” I said.

“You think?” said Becker sarcastically.

“No, I mean that wasn’t like Johnson at all. I’ve known that kid for a year. He’s not the destructive type. Neither was Eric.”

“Becoming a ten-foot-tall behemoth might change your perspective on the world, don’t you think?” said Moorcroft.

“Or it could be some kind of personality change,” offered Gezbecky, “to go along with the physical change.”

Or it could be like sex. I didn’t share this thought with the others. While I was hardly Mr. Experience at eighteen, these kids were only fourteen, and most of them were probably still virgins. They’d never understand what I was talking about. But I had had a couple of encounters where my brain was telling me to stop, that going forward was a bad idea. But I was caught up in the moment and it felt so good that I kept going anyway.

I wondered if the destruction impulse was like that.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said, still hoping we could get help at a hospital before any of this became an issue.

“What’s the point,” said Moorcroft. “We’ll never get out of the forest—at least not like we are. We’re changing too fast.”

“Well, we’re at least going to try,” I said.

“Suit yourself.”

I shouldered my pack and the others—including Moorcroft—did the same. “Okay, I called. Use your flashlights; no one loose sight of any of the others.” This last command was greeted with silence. I think we had all started to wonder witch one of us would be next. It was little wonder that we all kept at a distance from each other. But I kept count of the flashlight beams. There was no way I was going to loose anyone unless… Well, there was no way I was going to loose anyone.

As the hike progressed, Gezbecky caught up with me.

“I was thinking,” he started.

“Yes?”

“Maybe it would be better if we all hiked with our shirts off. That way we could have some warning if one of us were to start changing.” I saw him cast a furtive glance over at Sodderberg. The kid was getting nervous. I couldn’t blame him. If Sodderberg were to change, none of us could stop him from using Gezbecky as a tooth pick.

“I guess we could do that,” I said. “But then what would we do if one of us started changing?”

“I don’t know. Run? Hide?”

“If anyone of us ran into the woods at night, we’d probably never find them again. They’d get lost, maybe die or… Well, we wouldn’t be able to help them.” I tried not to mention a potential cure for the change but I’m pretty sure Gezbecky got what I was talking about.

Suddenly Moorcroft was standing on my other side. “What are you talking about?”

“Nothing important,” I said. I didn’t like this kid. His whole attitude about the change bugged me. “Tell me,” I asked, unable to help myself, “why are you so anxious to be ten-feet-tall?”

He laughed and looked at me like I was a moron. “Because I’ve got a shit list a mile long and payback is going to be sweet.”

“Are you thinking about killing someone?”

He eyes shifted back and forth a couple of times before he answered, “Maybe.” With a shock I realized he really was thinking about killing someone. Now the kid creeped me out even more.

“Oh come on,” he said. “Don’t tell me you don’t have a few people you’d like to see eat dirt.”

It was true. There were a couple of ass holes in my life, but no one I wanted to see dead.

“What about you?” Moorcroft asked Gezbecky. “I know you’ve got a list.”

Gezbecky kept silent.

“I was thinking about what you said earlier,” I told Gezbecky, trying to change the subject, “about how it affects everyone differently?”

“Yeah?”

“Isn’t it possible that some of us might be immune?”

“That would suck,” said Moorcroft.

Gezbecky pondered this for a moment. “I guess that could be. I mean that might be one of the reasons they’re testing it; to see how effective it is.”

“Right,” I said latching on to his reasoning. “So, it’s even possible that there won’t be anymore changes.”

“I guess.” Suddenly he stopped in his tracks.

“What?” I said, stopping with him.

“No,” he said, “You’re wrong.”

“What makes you say that?”

For an answer Gezbecky pulled up his shirt. On his small frame I could see his muscles undulating, as if they had a life of their own.

“Crap.”

He dropped his shirt and his eyes darted back and forth. He looked like a scared, trapped animal. He inhaled sharply as his body experienced a slight growth surge. He grew a couple of inches taller and a little wider.

“Oh my God, I’m mutating! What do I do? What do I do?” he asked, close to panic. He no longer looked puny, just small.

“Stop squealing, runt,” came Sodderberg’s voice as he strode up and knocked Gezbecky to the ground.

“Dude, I wouldn’t do that,” I said.

“I’m getting a little fucking sick and tired of you telling me what to do,” he said as the rest of the guys crowded around to see what the commotion was.

“No, Sodderberg,” I said, “he’s changing.”

It took a second for what I said to penetrate his thick skull. Then he looked down at Gezbecky and laughed. “I don’t care how big he gets. He’s always going to be a punching bag. It’s in his head. He can’t be anything else. He may get a couple of hours off, but after I have my growth spurt things will go right back to the way they were. Believe it. Once a punching bag, always a punching bag.”

Then Gezbecky yelled with fury. Now, Gezbecky was still mostly Gezbecky, and his yell of fury sounded more like a wounded bird, then anything threatening. But he shed his pack and lunged at Sodderberg. Gezbecky may have grown a couple inches and gained about twenty pounds but he was still no match for the bulky Sodderberg. He was pounding on the guy with everything he had and Sodderberg just stood there shaking his head. “Truly pathetic,” he said.

At this point, Gezbecky shuttered again and we all saw him have another little growth spurt, making about the same gains as last time. But now Jacob and Josh stepped forward and pulled Gezbecky off of Sodderberg. Poor Gezbecky, he was about four inches taller than he had been and maybe forty pounds heavier, but he was still a light weight compared to everyone else.

Josh and Jacob kept telling Gezbecky to calm down and eventually he stopped struggling against them and just stared hard at Sodderberg.

Sodderberg strode up to Gezbecky and at first I thought he was going to start pounding on him while the twins held him, but no. He reached out and ripped open Gezbecky’s shirt. I think we all expected to see the same kind of lithe muscular build Johnson had first displayed but we were completely taken by surprise. The guy was all skin and bones.

Now Gezbecky used to have thin, very fine bones and now the bones protruding out from under his skin were anything but fine. They were thick and heavy, but he still looked like a famine victim.

“You’re all bones,” laughed Sodderberg. “I can’t believe I was actually scared of you.” Sodderberg reached out and shoved Gezbecky. He would have fallen if the twins hadn’t held him up.

The twins released Gezbecky as he shuttered and began another growth spurt. This time he grew six inches taller and his shirt began to split at the shoulders. He pulled it off and tossed it to the ground. His frame looked wide and solid now, inhumanly so; his bones looked like they belonged on a horse. But big bones were pretty much all he had.

Gezbecky and Sodderberg were now pretty much eye-to-eye. But if they were going to go at it, my money would still be on Sodderberg. Not only did the bully still out weigh Gezbecky, he was vicious and cruel and that was almost always an advantage in any fight.

“I’m going to kill you,” said Gezbecky and something in his tone made me take a step back.

“Oh, I’m scared now. Here comes the walking skeleton to kill me. Guess I’d better say my prayers.” He hauled back and hit Gezbecky right in the jaw, sending him stumbling back against a tree, where he slumped to the ground. “Figures you’d become a wimpy giant.”

“Dude, I don’t think he’s done yet,” said Becker.

“Sodderberg!” I shouted. “Touch him again and I will personally put your lights out!”

Sodderberg looked at me and smirked. “When I’m a giant,” he said, “right after I finish with him, I’m coming for you.”

Okay, he’d gone too far. I was about to lay into Sodderberg right then and there when Gezbecky gasped, “Don’t do it.” And, for some reason I stopped.

We all looked down at Gezbecky, still lying against the tree. Suddenly, we saw the sinews begin to thicken under his skin. It was almost like a time lapse movie of vines growing,

Slowly he stood up and faced Sodderberg again. He looked furious. Sodderberg stepped back. Gezbecky had grown about another foot. He was now taller and heavier than the bully.

“Run,” he said hoarsely.

“We’re not leaving you,” I responded.

“Not you,” he said, a new resonance sounding in his voice. “Just him.” He said, indicating Sodderberg.

Sodderberg didn’t move. Again, not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

We could see the vine-like sinews begin to thicken and weave together around Gezbecky’s monstrous bones, forming familiar muscle groups. Biceps, triceps, pectorals, abdominals; all were developing with frightening speed. Gezbecky, now well over six feet tall, was looking down at his thickening body and smiling. He no longer looked just solid; he was starting to look powerful. His back expanded outward, muscles rippling and undulating beneath his skin. His forearms swelled like overfilled inner tubes. There was nothing skinny about this kid now. “Funny,” he said, “I’m not scared anymore.”

He grabbed Sodderberg, whipped him around and got him in a head lock. The bully struggled against him, but it did no good. I saw Gezbecky’s bicep start to swell up, hard and strong. Sodderberg saw it too—how could he miss it—and his eye bugged out as Gezbecky’s arm grew from large to massive. And as it got bigger it began squeezing Sodderberg’s throat, cutting off his air. Sodderberg was gasping clutching at Gezbecky’s mushrooming triceps, in a futile attempt to break free.

“Let him go, Gezbecky,” I hollered. “You’ll kill him.” I could see Gezbecky think about it for a minute before he released him. Sodderberg tumbled to the ground clutching his throat and gasping for air.

There was a tearing sound as Gezbecky’s pant legs gave way to massive hamstrings and enormous calves. A second later his pants went all together. He shot up and quickly hit the ten foot mark but continued to pile on the bulk for at least a full minute after he stopped getting taller. When the change finally stopped, the former runt stood there naked, chest heaving, impossibly large muscles bulging out all over him. I guessed his right arm now weighed three times as much as his entire body had only moments before.

Suddenly, with a speed I wouldn’t have believed possible for someone that large, he reached down with one arm and grabbed Sodderberg again, lifting him up so they were eye to eye.

“So, now you’re going to fuck me? Is that it, gay boy?” asked Sodderberg. I couldn’t believe how stupid that kid was.

“No,” replied Gezbecky in a voice so deep it was hardly human. “Just fuck you up.” Gezbecky curled up his thumb and forefinger and then flicked Sodderberg in the stomach. It knocked the wind out of him same as an ordinary punch would have. Gezbecky let him get his wind back and then did it again.

“Who’s the punching bag now?” yelled Gezbecky. Sodderberg wheezed as the air was once more forced from his lungs. He struggled to catch his breath but as soon as he did Gezbecky let fly again and once more the guy had the wind knocked from him. This time, however, he also lost the contents of his stomach.

I couldn’t help but notice Gezbecky was careful not to let Sodderberg pass out. He obviously wanted to deliver as much punishment to the guy as possible before letting him lose consciousness.

He hit Sodderberg one more time, and then, with a flick of his wrist, tossed him at a tree. Sodderberg hit the trunk and then slid down to the base where he lay still. I rushed to his side but Sodderberg was not dead, just stunned.

“Okay, Gezbecky,” I said. “I think you’ve made your point.”

“I doubt it,” he boomed. “Not with ass holes like him.”

Sodderberg must have heard because he gave a hoarse laugh. “Just you wait,” he said. “When I change, I’m going to be bigger than you, again. Then you’ll see. I’ll fucking kill you.”

Gezbecky’s eye darkened. You didn’t have to be psychic to tell what was going to happen next. “Don’t do it, Gezbecky.”

“And I don’t need any faggy Eagle Scout, sticking up for me either,” hissed Sodderberg.

Gezbecky bent over and grabbed Sodderberg. Gezbecky’s massive right hand went half way around Sodderberg’s waist. Sodderberg struggled, pounding on Gezbecky’s fingers, which were as long as Sodderberg’s forearm and slightly thicker.

Sodderberg didn’t have a snowball’s chance.

“Back at the camp, remember what you said you’d do to me?” asked Gezbecky, who grabbed Sodderberg around the legs with his other hand. “Normally I like to be original, but some ideas are just too good to ignore.”

I suddenly remembered what Sodderberg had said back at the camp. “No! Stop!” I yelled. But it was no good. Gezbecky had started to pull. First we heard snapping and popping. Sodderberg screamed. Then came the sound of flesh tearing. It’s not a sound like any other. But once you hear it, you never forget it. We all watched in horror as Sodderberg’s body tore across the stomach and then was separated into two different pieces. Blood splattered everywhere. Gezbecky took the top half of Sodderberg and threw it way over the treetops to the right. His bottom half went to the left.

“What did you do?” I asked, too stunned to be coherent.

“Nothing he didn’t ask for,” said Gezbecky. Then he turned and thundered away into the forest.

Part 4

There were only five of us left now. I turned my flashlight on the four remaining kids. Becker and the twins looked as sickened as I was, but Moorcroft looked excited, like he had enjoyed the show.

“He killed him,” said Jacob/Josh in shock. “He fucking ripped him in half.”

“If that’s what the change does to you, I think I’ll pass,” said his brother.

I had to figure Gezbecky had been taking shit for a long time. I can only imagine Sodderberg had born the brunt of years of humiliation—not that it was any excuse for murdering him.

“Why do they all do that?” asked Becker.

“Do what?” I asked.

“Just take off into the woods. Where are they going?”

I shook my head.

“We’ll all know soon enough,” said Moorcroft. I was liking this kid less and less.

“Come on, guys,” I said, trying to take our minds off Gezbecky and Sodderberg. “It’s not over yet. There’s still hope.”

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” said Moorcroft, making gagging motion.

I regarded Gezbecky’s pack where it lay on the ground and wondered if there was anything in it we might need. I decided to take his flashlight. It was lying on the ground next to his shredded uniform pants, right where he dropped it. It was still on.

I took a compass reading and led the guys on toward the Forest edge. No one was talking any more, but oddly enough we all stuck pretty close together. After seeing what had happened to Sodderberg, I guess no one wanted to be alone.

It wasn’t long before the sky began to brighten and we heard the birds singing. Dawn was coming. We had entered an area of the forest where the trees were thinner. Not much farther and we would be out.

“Yes!” shouted Moorcroft. “It’s about time!” For a second I thought he had spotted the road, then I realized it was Moorcroft shouting. I felt a stab of dread. There was only one reason why he would be that excited. He started dancing around like a maniac until he noticed us staring at him. Then he turned toward us, grinned, and flexed his arm. His pipe cleaner arms now had respectable biceps that hadn’t been there before.

“Check me out! I’ve got muscles!” he said, laughing with excitement. “Time to get huge!” Suddenly his whole body went rigged. A tremor swept through him; it almost a seemed like a spasm. But he seemed to be loving every second. Under his clothes we could see his arms and legs grow thicker, his biceps swelled up and then bulged, his thighs grew heavier and longer as he put on over a foot of height. His pecs began to balloon out, and his back broadened completely filling up his shirt. And then the fit seemed to pass. His body loosened up and then he stood there checking himself out.

He looked like a completely different guy. He had the neck of a linebacker. Huge traps bulged up leading down to cannon ball sized shoulders, still couched in a shirt that was nearly stretched to its limits. Each button and seam was straining, struggling to contain the bulging muscles that now completely covered Moorcroft’s body. His boots were gone, blown apart by his mammoth feet. He was at least a foot and a half taller and his pant legs had ridden up and torn, exposing his rock hard calves.

“This is so awesome,” he laughed. He did a double bicep pose. His pipe cleaner arms were gone, swallowed up by layer upon layer of powerful sinew, all piling up into small mountains on his upper arms. I could tell he was trying to blow out his sleeves. I could hear some snapping threads, but he wasn’t quite big enough to pull it off.

“How can you not want this?” asked Moorcroft. “I’m so fucking strong!” He picked up a fallen branch, which was about eight inches in diameter, and snapped it in two, just with his hands.

“Dude,” said Becker, “You’re losing your humanity. Look at yourself. You’re already breaking stuff up.”

“And I’ll break up a lot more before I’m done! Humanity?” he snorted. “If you think human beings don’t destroy things, then you haven’t been keeping up with current events. There are really only two kinds of people—”

Moorcroft walked right up to me. He was now over a foot taller than me and many times my match in strength.

“You can get pushed around or you can do the pushing.” Moorcroft shoved me. I flew back about twenty feet and into some bushes. “And I’m going to be the king fuckin’ pusher!

“Look at me,” he shouted flexing his huge biceps for us. “Look at the power in these arms. I could take on all of you at once, kick your asses and not even break a sweat. I’m already huge and I’m just going to get bigger and stronger. I can already feel it starting to happen. Yeah, bigger, I’m gonna get bigger.”

And then Moorcroft started shaking again. As his body began to swell, he began making guttural noises, almost animalistic grunts of pleasure. The look on his face was a savage joy. He flexed his muscles again and this time colossal biceps erupted out of his sleeves. “Yeah!” he shouted. Bowling ball pecs blew out his shirt front turning the buttons into mini projectiles. “That’s what I’m talking about!” His lats grew wider, thick and powerful. He spread them, shredding his shirt back and reducing it to rags. “More!” he cried, “Bigger!” As he grew taller, he continued to flex. Each time he did his muscles seemed to become more massive and he would blow apart different sections of his uniform. I caught sight of his abs, an eight pack with deep ridges and valleys that seemed to be getting even more gargantuan as each second passed.

In a couple of minuets he was ten feet tall, another mass of heaving, bulging muscles, a fully primed engine of destruction, and it looked like he couldn’t have been happier. He let out a roar as he flexed his arms at the heavens.

“So, you guys don’t want this?” he shouted down at us as he admired his new monstrously powerful form. His slightest movement caused huge muscles to twist and bulge beneath his skin.

Silently and simultaneously we all shook our heads.

“Have it your way.” With a rapid lurch he shot out at me with his foot. I jumped to the side just in time and he hit a tree stump instead. The thing was reduced to match sticks.

“What the fuck?” I shouted.

“I’m doing you a favor, dude,” bellowed Moorcroft. “You don’t want to be like this? I’ll make sure you never have to be. Just like Sodderberg.” Suddenly he lunged at Becker who threw himself into some bushes just in time. The twins scattered and I jumped away, leaving the towering Moorcroft without a visible victim. “You can’t hide!” he shouted.

In fact, we could. The sun was only just rising and the dim light and deep shadows of dawn would make us very hard to find.

Moorcroft began busting through the foliage looking for us. But he made so much noise that evading him was easy.

As I lay in my hiding place, keeping as quiet as I could, I began to think about what Moorcroft had said and right now it looked like he might be right. I didn’t want to lose my humanity. What if the only way to preserve what I was, was to die before the change happened? Was it that important? I thought it might be.

But there was a part of me that still held out hope for a cure, that we might somehow get help before it was too late and preserve our humanity that way. As long as the possibility existed I owed it to myself to try. Handing myself over to Moorcroft would just be giving up and every lesson I’d ever learned from my parents, from school, and from the scouts said you never give up.

I could hear Moorcroft approaching. He was getting near. Time to reposition. I quietly circled around some underbrush and shot into the middle of a dense thicket. I was somewhat startled to find myself couching next to one of the twins.

“Which one are you?” I mouthed.

“Jacob,” he mouthed back.

“Where’s your brother?”

He just shrugged.

We each caught our breath as we heard Moorcroft pass right by us.

Suddenly we heard a loud yell. “HEY!” It wasn’t Moorcroft. It had to be either Becker or Josh. From the look on Jacob’s face, I guessed it was Josh. He quickly crawled out of the thicket and I followed right behind him. Keeping low, we looked around for Josh. We spotted him pretty quickly. He was standing right out in the open. We hissed and sputtered until we got his attention then gestured wildly for him to take cover. He just shook his head rapidly and then yelled again. “HEY!” The look on his face was a wild mixture of terror and determination. He was obviously trying to attract Moorcroft, but why? Suddenly I remembered my own suicidal thoughts from earlier. Was he trying to end the nightmare?

Whatever he had in mind, we were about to find out. Moorcroft came crashing out into the open. He looked down at Josh, standing in front of him, oddly defiant. “Ready to die?” asked Moorcroft.

“Not today,” he replied. Josh took a deep breath, and then, without any kind of warning, he exploded out of his clothes. One second he was ordinary Josh and the next he was a ten foot tall muscle-bound behemoth. Scraps of cloth fluttered to the ground like confetti.

“Crap,” I said.

“No,” whispered Jacob.

Josh stood there, gargantuan chest heaving, staring down at his titanic new body. He flexed his mountainous arms a couple of times and grunted with satisfaction. Then he addressed Moorcroft. “Dude, you have to lay off the other guys.”

“Are you going to try and make me?”

Josh paused. Moorcroft was still slightly larger than he was.

“That’s what I thought,” said Moorcroft. “I think I’ll start with your brother. Maybe I’ll stomp on him. After all, having two of you around is really fucking annoying.”

Josh let out a monumental roar and charged Moorcroft. He collided with him midsection and knocked him into a tree. Then the three of them, Josh, Moorcroft, and the tree toppled to the ground with an earth rending crash.

Jacob and I had to stand up to see the rest of the fight, but somehow we weren’t too worried about Moorcroft seeing us. He seemed to have his hands full with Josh.

Josh was straddling Moorcroft, pummeling his head with everything he had. And at Josh’s size that was saying something. But Moorcroft didn’t seem fazed by Josh’s attack. He let him get in ten or twelve good punches and then threw him off, like you might throw off a Chichewa if it had decided to attack you. Josh went flying thirty feet until he hit a tree, exploding the trunk and toppling it over. The impact would have killed me but Josh was already pulling himself to his feet.

Then Moorcroft attacked. He ran over, literally picked up Josh and then threw him to the ground. I swear I felt the earth shake.

Jacob gasped. I had been so involved with watching the fight that I forgot I was standing next to Josh’s brother. I couldn’t even imagine what this must have been like for him. Not only had his brother just become a giant mutant, but he was fighting for his life—and ours.

“You okay?” I asked tentatively.

He flashed me a look that was so fierce I had to take a step back. “I’m going to kill that bastard,” he said and after what I’d already seen today, I had no doubt he meant it.

Moorcroft was looking down at Josh’s prostrate form. He raised his foot preparing to stomp on his opponent but Josh was not finished yet. He rolled over, grabbed Moorcroft’s foot and pushed up with all his might. Moorcroft lost his balance and toppled over backwards. Josh was on him again like a flash. This time, however, he grabbed a huge section of trunk from the tree he knocked over; and using it like a club, began to beat Moorcroft with it. Josh was wailing on him so hard that chucks of wood were flying off the club. But suddenly one of Moorcroft’s massive hands reached up and grabbed the trunk-club. Moorcroft squeezed the trunk and it shattered into splinters. He sat up. I couldn’t believe it. After taking a beating like that, he only had a couple of cuts and bruises. That kind of power was unbelievable. How could you not go mad with it?

Moorcroft didn’t even bother standing up. He wound up and nailed Josh in the stomach. The giant twin went flying up into the air. He crashed into the tree tops, breaking them off like match sticks, and then came tumbling down to the ground.

Jacob let out a yell. At this point, I spotted Becker. He was peering out from behind a tree about fifty feet away from us. After all we’d been through; I couldn’t believe he still had his guitar strapped to his back. I guess it meant a lot to him. And I have to say how relieved I was that he still looked normal.

The ground shook as Josh came charging back at Moorcroft. But the other behemoth was ready for him. Without missing a beat, he swung at Josh and sent him end over end flipping into the trees.

Jacob started toward his brother but I grabbed his arm. “Don’t be stupid,” I said. “What can you do?” My words must have had some effect because he stayed where he was.

Josh did not immediately come charging out and I began to wonder if he was okay. The last hit he took didn’t look too devastating—at least not for him. Moorcroft must have been wondering the same thing. He began striding forward moving toward the clump of trees that Josh had disappeared behind. Moorcroft didn’t simply walk through the trees, he hit them with his wrecking ball fists and sent them crashing to the ground. When he got to the other side we heard him bellowing, “Where are you loser? What’d you do, run away? I was just starting to have fun.” Then suddenly he turned toward us. “At least you left me some playmates.”

I thought about running but he’d have caught us in three strides. Hiding wouldn’t work. He was looking right at us and the sun had risen considerably in the last several minutes, dissolving most of the shadows. We were as good as dead.

Suddenly Jacob let out a primal yell and charged the colossus. Moorcroft saw him coming and laughed. He caught Jacob up in one hand and lifted him up. “Well, well, what do you know? I’ve got the little one.” Then I saw Josh sneaking up behind him. He was carrying one of the trees Moorcroft had knocked over. He had stripped it of most of its branches and was wielding it like a baseball bat.

Jacob was trying to peel Moorcroft’s fingers from around his body but he’d have had just as much luck trying to move the Earth.

“You’re pathetic,” laughed Moorcroft. “You haven’t got a chance. The slightest pressure from my forefinger will crush your tiny chest and you’ll die.” Moorcroft was so intent on terrorizing Jacob, he didn’t notice Josh coming up behind him. “I could crush the life right out of you right now and barely even notice.” Suddenly Josh swung. Moorcroft turned just in time to see the tree impact his face. His head snapped to the side in an unnatural angle and he collapsed to the ground, dropping Jacob as he fell.

Moorcroft lay on the ground twitching. His eyes were open and he was still breathing but he was out for the count. I couldn’t imagine his neck wasn’t broken.

Jacob looked up at his brother. “You took your time.”

“Hey, I had to trim the tree.”

“You and your fucking lame ass excuses,” he laughed.

I started walking over to them and I saw Becker step out at the same moment.

“You guys might want to stand back,” called Josh.

“What? Why?”

“I’m not sure how this will go. It might be dangerous.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but Becker and I stopped in our tracks anyway.

“What’s going on?” asked Jacob.

“I’ve got to go,” replied Josh.

“Where?”

“If you don’t know, I can’t explain.”

Jacob seemed shocked. Then he lowered his head. “I don’t understand you,” said Jacob. “I guess it’s because we’re not twins anymore.”

Josh shrugged his massive shoulders. There was now a pretty big difference between them. There was still a resemblance in their facial features but other than that… Jacob was still a normal kid. Josh was a colossus. It was almost like some mutant before and after picture.

“I want to go with you,” said Jacob.

“You could, but you’d have to change first.”

“What? You want me to—? How?”

“You can do it. It’s inside you. It’s inside all of us,” he said throwing us a side glance. It made shivers go up my spine. “You can make it happen. I figured out how to do it while we were hiding from Moorcroft.”

“What do I do?” asked Jacob.

“First, you have to want it? Do you want it?”

Jacob paused for a minute. “Yeah, I want us to be twins again.”

“Okay, now you need to feel it,” Josh said to his brother, “I know you can. It’s that tingling.”

“I feel it,” said Jacob.

I knew what he was talking about because I could feel it, too, all throughout my hands and feet.

“Let it fill you,” said Josh.

“I don’t understand,” replied Josh.

“Just imagine the sensation filling your entire body, and then use your will to make it happen.”

Jacob closed his eyes. I thought about calling out, begging him to stop, but I knew it would do no good. They were brothers and I didn’t think I had any argument that would turn someone against his brother.

“It’s working,” Jacob cried out.

“Feel it in every muscle, every bone, every fiber.”

“It feels awesome.”

“You’re feeling the power, Jacob. Feel it flood your body with strength, strength it can’t contain so it must expand. Make it force your body to grow.”

“Yes. YES! I FEEL IT!” Suddenly Jacob began getting taller, inch by inch he was stretching upward.

“Good. Do you feel it in your chest? It’s there. Feel it saturate your muscles. They are full of it now, so much power they can’t help but grow. You can feel it, can’t you? Feel your pectorals swell with it; feel them become large and powerful.”

“UHHHH!” blurted Jacob as his shirt front was torn open by his expanding chest, heaving and bulking up with striated muscle. He stood there, breathing hard, looking down at his new mass, a wild, savage look on his face. “I FEEL AMAZING!” he roared.

“It’s just the beginning, Jacob,” said Josh. Now feel your arms, make them pulsate with strength. Feel them grow rock hard.”

“I’m getting stronger!” Jacob raised his arms in front of him and stared at them as they began to rapidly thicken; his biceps and triceps bulged up huge.

“That’s good, Jacob, now make yourself bigger.”

He flexed his arms and shouted, “URRRRRGGGGHHH” as his biceps ripped out of his sleeves, rippling as they swelled to enormous proportions while his forearms blew up and monstrous shoulders exploded out of his shirt. He flexed and admired his massive new upper arms, easily 25 inches with double peaks. “I’M HUGE!” he shouted.

“Good,” said Josh. “But we’re not done yet. Your back is next. Feel that strength fill it, forcing it to expand.

“ARGHHHHH!” he roared as I heard a ripping noise coming from behind Jacob. The back of his shirt was obviously shredding. I could see his lats growing out from behind him, slowly spreading out until they pushed his mammoth arms out away from his steadily growing body.

As Jacob shrugged off the remaining scraps of his shirt, I caught sight of his abs. Apparently they hadn’t needed coaching to form in to a bulging, rock solid eight pack.

“Now your legs, bro, they want to be monstrously powerful pillars of steel. Help them get there. Feel them change, feel them being overwhelmed by muscle.”

“Ghaaaaaaa!” Jacob screamed as monstrous thighs and calves blew up and destroyed his pants.

“That’s it, bro. Now just keep feeding your body with the power. Feed it and feel it get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger—”

Every time Josh would say “Bigger” Jacob would swell up even taller and wider, immense muscles erupting out all over his body. In moments he was standing eye to eye with his bother, a twin once more. The sight of the two of them standing there, gigantic, identical towers of muscle, was both frightening and wondrous. I found myself wondering how it would feel to be that huge and have that much power. The seductive nature of the change began to pull at me.

Josh turned to us. “Now you know how it’s done,” he said. “You can join us anytime you want.” It was like he was reading my mind. I wondered if they now had that power, too. I considered using Josh’s method right then and there to become huge, but then I reminded myself that these two guys were no longer strictly human, and as big as they were, they were going to have a very hard time living out there in the world, and that was enough to dispel my envy.

Josh turned back to his brother. “Do you know where we’re going now?” he asked. Jacob nodded. He turned, looked at Becker and me and shook his head. “I don’t know how you guys can stand to be so small,” he said and then the two of them turned and vanished into the forest.

Part 5

I watched the twins go and when I turned again, Becker was at my side. He nodded over at Moorcroft who was still twitching on the ground.

“Is he dead?” asked Becker.

“No, but he’s seriously fucked up.”

“Good,” he said and I couldn’t disagree. “We’re all that’s left.”

I nodded.

“What do we do?”

“We get the hell out of this forest.”

“Will we make it?

“I don’t know,” I said. “But it’s not far.” I took a compass reading we started out on the last leg of the journey.

About an hour later we emerged into the parking lot. But it was not the triumphant moment I had been hoping for. For one thing: the tingling in my hands and feet was now creeping its way up my forearms and legs, and I knew my time was running out.

The second thing: the two SUVs we had come in had been smashed, crushed and wadded up like giant balls of aluminum foil. Someone had beaten us out. I wondered who and why they would try and stop us. Ultimately, I guess it didn’t matter. There wasn’t much we could do about it now.

Becker took one look at our former transportation and his face fell. He plopped himself down one of the log benches, and after a moment, pulled out his guitar and started playing a tune. I’d heard him play before but he was really going to town now. I had no idea he was so good. Then in the middle of the song, he suddenly broke down and started crying.

“It’s okay, Becker,” I said. “I know it’s the middle of nowhere, but we could still probably hitch a ride. It’s not over yet.”

“Yes, it is,” he said as he put the guitar aside and opened up his shirt. Sure enough, his chest and abs were bulging out under his skin. He looked rock solid.

“Crap.”

“I don’t want this to happen,” he said. “My hands will get too big to play the guitar. How can I live if I can’t play the guitar?”

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s get to the road.”

“You go. I’m finished. Any second now, I’m going to bust out of my clothes and go tromping off on a nonstop mystery tour of the forest.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Yeah, I pretty much do. And the same thing is going to happen to you. You heard Josh. It’s in us all.”

“Josh may not know everything.”

“He knew enough to juice his brother up. What was that, some kind of twin thing?”

“I guess. I don’t know. Look, let’s just get up to the road. We’ve got to try.”

“Why bother? They’re not going to let us go.” He pointed at the destroyed SUVs.

“They’re probably not anywhere near here.”

“Yes they are. They’re watching us. All of them, watching us. And waiting, waiting for us to change, too. Can’t you feel them?”

I looked over into the woods, seeing if I could find any sign of five or six behemoths. I couldn’t. But I did get the odd feeling that they were there.

“Okay, Becker, now you’re seriously starting to creep me out. Let’s just get to the road. If they want to stop us, let them try and stop us.”

“You do what you want. I’m staying here. I‘ve got just a little time left and I’m going to spend it with my guitar.” Becker picked up his guitar and started playing like a man possessed.

“Okay,” I said, “But if I flag down a car, I’m coming back for you.”

“Yeah. Right. Whatever.”

I started up the incline toward the line of trees that separated the road from the parking lot. It was just steep enough that I was a little winded when I reached the top. Just before I passed out of sight, I turned and looked back at Becker who had stopped playing. He was flexing his right bicep and feeling it with his left hand. Even from where I was I could tell it had grown large. And Becker looked like he was enjoying the feel of it. Suddenly, a look of shock and horror flashed across his face, as if he had only just realized what he was doing. He jerked his hand back, quickly picked up his guitar and once again started wailing away. I turned and headed for the road. The line of trees not only blocked my view of Becker, it also blocked the sound. I could no longer hear him playing.

I looked up and down the desolate two lane road. There was no sign of any cars. We were pretty far from the highway and the only people who usually came through here were the serious hikers and campers. Some of the larger trucks used it as an alternate route since a few of the highway overpasses were a little low.

A shiver ran through me. It was still only seven o’clock in the morning and the night chill still lingered in the air. But that wasn’t the only reason I had shivered. The tingling had now engulfed all of my arms and legs and was now seeping into my torso. I hoped a car came by soon.

I stood by the road for about an hour. Only three cars passed and none of them stopped, no matter how frantically I waved. What was the world coming to when no one would stop to help a stranded Boy Scout?

Suddenly I heard a sound that almost made my heart stop. It was deep, barely human bellow full of rage and despair. It seemed to be coming from the parking lot. I decided to go back and check on Becker, but when I stepped through the trees he was gone. All I found was a shredded uniform and a smashed guitar.

I was alone now. One by one all the kids had mutated and I knew it was only a matter of time before the tingling—

Suddenly, I realized the tingling now ran all through my body. I began to feel a strange sensation in my stomach, like something was moving around under my skin. Instinctively my hand sought it out. I couldn’t feel it but I still seemed to sense it under my skin. I was moving my hand over my midsection trying to track it down, when the realization hit. I froze. I was rubbing my stomach! I was rubbing my stomach just like Johnson had done, and Eric before him.

“Crap.”

Panic set in and I began to shuffle and stumble back toward the road. Someone would stop. Someone had to stop! As I scrambled up the incline, somehow, beyond all reason, my pants slipped from my waste and fell down around my ankles tangling up my feet. I tripped and tumbled back to the bottom of the slope. I got to my feet as quickly as possible and pulled my pants back up. But they wouldn’t stay up. I had to tighten my belt two notches.

Truth be told, I had recently discovered a liquor store that would sell me beer, and I had taken more than a little advantage of it. The side effect being, I had developed a small beer gut at eighteen. But now it was gone. My stomach was flat and smooth, the way it had been before Budweiser had become my beverage of choice.

I started up the slope again and this time I just seemed to fly up the incline. It was no effort at all. I began to feel a sensation of power running through me. I’m not going to lie. It felt pretty good. But I wasn’t ready to give into the change, not just yet.

In the distance, a car was approaching. I jumped up and down, waved and shouted for all I was worth. But the car sped by without stopping. As it passed I caught a glimpse of the driver. He was looking at me strangely. Was that fear in his face? Suddenly I realized I was jumping pretty high, unnaturally high, almost five feet into the air. I landed solidly on the ground. No wonder the guy had freaked.

I padded my legs. They didn’t seem any larger than they should have been. A shudder ran through my entire body and every sinew I had began to get hard. I could feel my muscles condensing into something solid. They felt like lumps of hard rubber nested between my skin and my bones. They almost didn’t feel like they belonged to me. They felt more like foreign objects that had been surgically implanted.

I couldn’t stand it anymore; I had to see. I pulled off my shirt and looked down at my arms and chest. I was ripped. My forearms had grown thicker. Veins popped out and ran up them, looking like a dimensional road map, until they went up and over my baseball sized biceps, and disappeared into the large striated orbs that my shoulders had become. My chest had swollen outward causing me to slightly crane my neck in order to see my stomach. It was no longer flat. My abs had grown prominent and were now protruding up under my skin giving me the much ballyhooed six pack. I curled my fist and hit myself in the stomach, it was like a rock.

My own body had become a source of fascination and terror for me. I knew that by all natural laws I shouldn’t have this build and that if I didn’t find a way to stop the change it would probably mean the end of my humanity. But at the same time, flexing my arm and seeing the large bicep bulge up and form a peek was awesome. And the feeling of power in my arms was intoxicating. I wanted it. In fact, I wanted more.

I heard the sound of a truck engine approaching and the inner debate raged. Should I try and stop it on the off chance that it could get me into town before I changed completely? Would they be able to help me? Did I want to be helped?

The decision was taken out of my hands as the truck slowed down and pulled to the side anyway. An overweight, middle aged guy with a big bushy beard and a baseball cap stuck his head out the window. “Need a ride, son?”

It was kind of funny. When I had been desperate, I had jumped and yelled and done everything I could think of to try and get a car to stop. None of them had. And now that I was no longer sure I wanted one, I had a ride with out doing a thing. I decided to take it as a sign and go with him. After all, I was only making the decision to go into town; I could decide what to do—if anything—after I arrived.

“Thanks,” I said, and with my bunched up shirt in my hand, I ran around to the other side of the cab and hopped in, literally. I didn’t use the step. Without thinking I had jumped impossibly high right into the cab. I hoped he hadn’t noticed. I didn’t think he did.

Suddenly I was concerned about what might happen if I were to start growing again while I was in the cab. I hadn’t really grown anymore since I had taken off my shirt, but I wasn’t sure what would happen next. I might grow again in a second or it might not happen for an hour.

“Got lost?” asked the driver.

“No, my car—broke down.”

“I’m going as far as River Falls; you can probably get a tow truck there.”

“Great. Do you know if they have a hospital?”

“Why? Are you sick? ’Cause you sure as hell don’t look it.”

“No, I’m not sick… It would be closer to say I have a condition.”

“A condition?” he laughed. “Can’t be too serious.”

“It’s pretty serious.” All at once, I realized that the driver, although friendly, was not looking me in the face whenever he glanced over and spoke. He was staring at my body. Now it all made sense. That’s why he had stopped. I hadn’t been a jumping, waving, slightly pudgy Eagle Scout dork. I had been a shirtless stud boy standing by the side of the road. Now I knew what it took to stop traffic. This ride wasn’t providence; it was a horny, gay truck driver looking for some eye candy to help him pass the time.

I found my self thinking I was probably strong enough to reach over and rip the truck driver’s head off. But instead I unbunched my shirt and began to put it on. It was a mass of wrinkles but I was beyond caring.

“I wouldn’t do that, son,” the driver said. “Air conditioners broke. You’re better off without it.”

“Actually, I’m a little cold.” An obvious lie, and he had to have known it.

“You can’t blame a feller for wanting a little show, now can you?”

I had just finished buttoning my shirt when a spasm ran through my entire body. There was only one thing that could mean. “Stop the truck,” I said.

“No need to be like that. I didn’t mean nothing.”

I leaned forward and grabbed the dash. My body went rigid and I knew it was too late. “Buddy, you’re about to get a show like you wouldn’t believe,” I gasped.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, “Is it your condition?”

“Yeah,” I grunted, “my condition.”

Energy began to build throughout my body like the pressure before an orgasm. It grew, stronger, more intense and was soon all consuming. It needed release. I squeezed the dash and it shattered in my hands, my hands that were stretching, swelling, thickening.

I think the driver said something but I was incoherent now. All that mattered was the power surging within me, flooding my body with feverish sensations. Those strange hard lumps that my muscles had become were beginning to expand. I could feel them engulfing my bones and stretching out beneath my skin. Almost immediately, they began pressing up against the confines of my shirt, filling out the cloth and then stretching it tighter and tighter, until the deep wrinkles in my shirt were gone and it was as tight as a drum. I was growing stronger, stronger than I ever imagined I could be and the feeling was unreal.

But still there was no relief from the pressure. I flexed both my arms and the biceps bulged up and split the fabric apart, forcing their way out of my shirt. They were large, undulating pinnacles of rock hard flesh, saturated with raw power. And as they expanded further, the rest of my sleeves peeled away around them. New tears formed and seams ripped as my forearms expanded and my shoulders broadened out. My sleeves were now useless shreds of cloth hanging by my sides and the arms they once contained were massive juggernauts with huge, bulbous muscles erupting out all over them. They looked and felt powerful and I liked it.

But the intense pressure I felt was still building. Seeking some relief, any relief, my right arm shot out and connected with the passenger side door. It flew off its hinges and bounced out onto the highway kicking up sparks as it hit the pavement. I think the driver yelled something and I was dimly aware of tires squealing and the cab lurching unnaturally. But all this seemed petty and insignificant next to the sensations of tremendous strength and power I was experiencing. My shirt front was splitting. I pulled at it, tearing it away releasing my now massive, heaving pectorals. My head rose closer to the roof as I grew taller and my entire body seemed to be growing wider as my back expanded. I was beginning to fill the cab. The driver was being squashed between my massive, boulder-like triceps and the driver’s side door. He was pounding on my arm with all his might. It was almost funny how little impression he made; like a puppy licking me.

My mind began to focus again as the cab lurched savagely and then toppled on its side, sliding a good distance before it stopped. I hadn’t been knocked around much because I was now so big I was wedged into the small cab and it had acted like the perfect restraint. But it quickly became too restraining. It began squeezing in on me, so I squeezed back. The windshield shattered and the metal walls began to buckle as I pushed out against the chamber that was now too small to hold me. I reached up and grabbed a handful of the roof, crinkling and tearing it like paper. I quickly pulled it apart but I was still stuck. I began pounding on the walls, on the broken dash, on anything I could reach. Chunks of metal and plastic flew off in all directions as my fists connected with the wrecked cab. What I couldn’t knock away, I would grab and rip out. It wasn’t long before I had knocked out a large enough hole to make my escape.

As I emerged from the wreck and stood up, the full measure of my change was brought home to me. I was huge, at least ten feet tall and there wasn’t an inch of me that wasn’t covered with massively developed muscles. Those hard lumps had grown and expanded until they were more a part of my body than anything else. All traces of doubt about the change were gone. It had been awesome. I was now awesome. But I still felt the pressure and I was dying to know what my muscles could do.

I saw the driver. He was slumped unconscious in the cab. It was a miracle he had survived my onslaught. I pulled the wreck apart around him, and then laid him by the side of the road. Then I could stand it no more; I had to see what I could do. I began tearing into the truck, grabbing handfuls of metal, pulling them apart and throwing them to the side. When I’d had enough of that, I reached under the broken cab and lifted it up over my head. My body screamed with pleasure. It loved using its strength. I had been right before. This was exactly like sex. With a mighty heave I threw the cab towards the woods. I watched it fly up over the tree tops and out of sight before I heard it come crashing down. The power I now had in my massive body was unreal.

The pressure was gone. I was ready to go now. Taking one last look at the road, I turned and entered the forest, crushing and smashing anything I wanted to. Somewhere in the woods was a place I needed to go. I needed to go there almost as much as I needed to use my new muscles. I wasn’t sure exactly what this place was or even where it was but I knew the others would be there and I knew in what direction it lay. I knew as surely as if I had been looking at my compass.

Epilogue

I rampaged through the woods. Nothing could stand up to me. I ripped giant trees out of the ground, roots and all. I smashed boulders into pebbles with my bare hands. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I felt amazing, so much freaky strength and power surging through ever bulging inch of my ten foot frame. I had to stop and flex. Huge boulders of flesh exploded out all over me, so hard, so huge; I was unstoppable.

And suddenly I was there. I thundered into the open by the shore of Lake Abenaki. Everyone was there; Eric, Johnson, Gezbecky, the Hickman twins, Becker, and even Moorcroft, his head angled slightly to the side. And they were all seated cross-legged around a giant figure, way more massive than any of the others, myself included. He had to be a least 15 feet tall, and so impossibly muscular, he looked like he could level a mountain. It was Shutz, or what used to be Shutz. I could tell by the red hair. But it wasn’t Shutz anymore. The expression on his face was nothing like the good natured, air headed kid I knew. This expression meant business, and in a hard and horrible way.

“At last, the final piece has arrived,” the giant said. For an instant I wondered what he meant, but then I understood. Somehow I carried a piece of this thing’s essence within me, just like all the other scouts. It was that piece that had compelled me to come here, so it could reunite with the rest of itself. But how had this happened?

“I see we are confused,” the redheaded colossus said. “The Transference Module did not function as predicted.”

Somehow, I understood what it was saying. I had been… He had been escaping from another dimension, his spirit, his essence encased in the small metal globe we had encountered. The globe, or transference module, was supposed to transfer his essence into the first compatible life form that found it, and then mutate the life form into an awesomely powerful being, so powerful he could conquer the Earth all on his own. But no one had anticipated that there would be more than one compatible life form around when the globe was activated. Shutz, who had been closet, received the biggest charge from the globe, and gotten the majority of the thing’s essence and most of the mutating force. But splinters of this thing had broken off and been transferred into each of us, along with some of the biological altering energy that had caused us to grow so large. He wasn’t whole now and he wasn’t as strong as he was supposed to be.

“It is an interesting sensation,” it said, “feeling myself spread out over so many large and powerful bodies. I am a part of you all. Let’s see how much. The Shutz thing was naked, like the rest of us. It reached down to its giant member and began stroking it. Slowly I watched it grow larger and thicker, longer and harder. Full and erect it was reaching gigantic proportions. And then I felt it, the charge in my own member, now so large soft, it was unrecognizable to me. It, too, was growing large and erect, and it felt awesome. The sensation of pleasure coursing through me was familiar and yet so much more intense, filling me with mind blowing sensations. It was so much, I could barely stand it. I threw my head back and let out a moan. It rumbled through the night air, load and low. Almost instantly it was joined by other moans. I looked around and the other scouts were nursing gigantic hard-ons, too. All of them were stroking, just like him, just like me. We were all connected. I realized I was not only feeling my own arousal but also that of each of the others, and it was overwhelming.

Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder; it was Eric. He pulled me to him and kissed me. His body was hard and strong, and I felt it meet mine, which was equally hard and strong, and suddenly we were fondling, stroking, rubbing each other, enjoying the feel or our massive bodies, each against the other. And then he was inside me. What the fuck was happening? The sensations were so incredible, so intense, if it went on much longer I was sure my brain would fry. And all around me the others were doing the same. They had all coupled up and were going at each other like starving animals with their first meal in a week. And in the center of us all was the Stutz-thing, alone but stroking like mad, obviously caught up in the sensation just as much as the rest of us.

Then BANG, I climaxed, and Eric climaxed and the Stutz-thing and all the rest of us. It was one simultaneous shared orgasmic experience. It was an earth shattering occurrence. I could feel each of my synapses exploding like a mini fireworks display, rocking me to my core.

When it was over, I felt empty, as if the absence of those incredible sensations left me hollow. I slumped to the ground, as did everyone else, everyone not already on the ground, that is.

The Stutz-thing looked barely affected. He looked over us all and smiled. “That was diverting,” he said. “But now, I must be whole again, or as near as I can be.” He looked over at Gezbecky and scowled as he said the last part. I guess when Gezbecky killed Sodderberg, a part of the Stutz-thing must have died with him.

Then Eric stood up and started walking toward the Stutz-thing. I knew where he was going. Part of me wanted to stop him and part of me didn’t. There, sitting on the ground in front of the Stutz-thing, was the small partially melted metal globe that had started it all. Eric walked up to it and placed his hands on the sphere. It stated to glow and he started to scream. Slowly I watched Eric begin to shrink. He got smaller and smaller until he was just plain Eric again. Then he stumbled backwards and slumped to the ground.

I ran over to him. “Are you all right?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I feel small and weak..” Then he leaned back against a tree and stared off into the distance.

One by one all the kids went up to the globe, took hold of it and shrank back down to their normal proportions. They all looked drained by the process. Somehow I knew what was happening. The Stutz-thing was combining all the fractured pieces of itself in the globe.

And, just as I had changed last, I was the last person to touch the globe. I felt in intense pain as part of me was ripped away from my body and sucked into the small metal sphere. And then I felt my self dwindling, getting small and weak and in a couple of minutes I had been reduced to my regular size. I stood there, slightly staggering, determined not to move, to stay where I was and see what happened next.

Then the Stutz-thing leaned over and placed its hands on the sphere. It started to glow and I realized that in order for the Stutz-thing to be whole again, it would have to place all of itself inside the globe. It stopped glowing for a second and I thought I saw Stuz’s eyes clear. I took a chance. I ran up and kicked the sphere away from him. At first he kind of mindlessly grabbed for it but then he stood up, grabbed his head and started stumbling back and forth.

“What happened? What’s going on? Holy fuck, I’m huge!”

Stutz was back. We had a chance. “Stutz,” I yelled. “Kick the sphere!”

“What? What sphere?”

I head the sphere start to whine. It began to glow with a pulsing light. “Kick the sphere, Stutz! Kick it into the lake!”

“You mean this?” he said pointing at the sphere.

“Yes, I mean that. Do you see any other spheres around here, fuck head?”

“Hey, dude, did you know that you’re naked?”

The sphere began whining louder and pulsing faster and faster

“Kick the fucking sphere. Kick it now!”

“Ok. Jesus, keep your pants on.” And Stutz lifted his massive leg and kicked the sphere. Up, up it sailed right out into the middle of the lake. I heard a distant plop as it sank under the waters. “There, are you happy?”

“Yes,” I said, breathing a sigh of relief, “extremely happy.”

Stutz, apparently, didn’t remember a thing about what happened, so the rest of the guys and I had to fill him in. I actually learned a thing or two. Turns out it was the twins, acting under the orders of the Stutz-thing, who had destroyed our vehicles. I guess he didn’t want any parts of himself getting too far away. We told Stutz the whole story—except the orgy—for some reason none of us decided to bring that up. And just as we were finishing, the lake started to boil.

“What’s that?” gasped Gezbecky?

“I don’t know, but maybe we should get out of here,” said Josh/ Jacob.

But no sooner did he say that then this horrible creature burst out from the water. It looked like some kind of mutant catfish. It was about the size of an SUV, its whiskers had become tentacles and it mouth was lined with razor sharp teeth.

Guess who.

Almost before we saw it, one of its tentacles had grabbed Gezbecky, and cracking like a whip, tossed him into its gaping jaws. Gezbecky screamed something awful but two snaps and it was over. The rest of the guys ran screaming into the woods.

“Wait,” I screamed toward Stutz. The huge kid stopped and looked back at me, obviously terrified. “It’s just a fucking fish!” I screamed. “Pull it out of the water!”

“Are you kidding? Did you see those teeth?”

“Yes, I saw its teeth! Have you seen your arms?!” Stutz stopped and looked down at his massive biceps and his gigantic pecs and grinned. “One fucking cat fish filet coming right up!” he turned around and strode back toward the fish. One of its tentacles shot out and entwined itself around Stutz’s leg and yanked. Poor Stutz must not have expected that because it managed to pull his leg out from under him and down he went.

“Help!” he cried as the giant fish slowly dragged the behemoth towards its waiting jaws. I grabbed a big stick, ran forward and started beating on the tentacle that held Stutz, but I wasn’t having much effect. Suddenly another tentacle lashed forward and wrapped itself around me. I was a lot bigger than Gezbecky was so it couldn’t just pop me into its mouth, but I was being pulled there nonetheless. I dug my heels into the earth to slow the progress, but I knew ultimately it was a loosing battle. Of course, it might be a loosing battle for me, but maybe not for Stutz!

“Dig in!” I cried.

“What?” he yelled.

“Dig your heels in!”

Stutz looked over and saw what I was doing and then he started doing the same thing. Only when he did it, he stopped moving forward.

“Pull back!” I cried. “Pull it back out of the water!”

Slowly, mammoth quads bulging, Stutz began pushing himself back from the water’s edge and pulling the creature with him. Suddenly the thing let me go as all of its tentacles leap forward and lashed themselves around Stutz.

“Help!” he screamed.

“It’s ok, Stutz. You can do it. Pull it out of the water!”

Then Stutz gave a mighty heave and pulled the creature almost all the way out of the lake. It let go of him and started flapping around in a frenzy, obviously trying to get back to the water.

“Grab it, Stutz,” I yelled. “Don’t let it escape!”

Stutz grabbed the creature by one of its tentacles and proceeded to try and pull it further away from the lake. The thing thrashed around wildly and Stutz wrestled with it for a good ten minutes, before it finally lay still.

We stood there staring at the giant fish, hardly able to believe it was dead. One by one the other kids emerged from the woods and stood by us staring at our fallen enemy.

“What are we going to do now?” asked Becker.

“How about a big fish fry?” said Johnson.

“Ewwwww,” said just about everyone else. “Well,” I said, “we’d better find a way to get home.”

“But we’re naked,” said Jacob/Josh.

“Leaves and vine, guys,” I said. “Are we boy scouts or what?”

I gave the guys a basic description of the kinds of plants they should look for and they spread out in groups of two or three to find them. Of course I warned them to stay in sight of the lake at all times. It was then I noticed that Eric was missing.

“Eric!” I called. “Hey, Eric!”

Then I heard splashing from the lake. Eric’s head popped up and he started swimming for shore.

“Eric, what are you doing? We’ve got to get out of here.”

“Yeah, ok,” he called back. “I’m coming.” He swam over and as he was wading to the shore, I could see that he was carrying something. It took me a second but then I realized it was the sphere.

“What the fuck are you doing with that thing?” I said, slowly backing away.

“Calm down, dude. I’m not possessed or anything. I was just thinking, you know, since that thing it dead,” he said nodding at the fish, “maybe we could get the rest of this thing working.”

“You want to travel between dimensions?”

“No, dude, not that part of it… The other part,” he said, subtly flexing his arm.

“Are you serious?”

“Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

“That’s an alien machine. You don’t know how to work it.”

“It’s kind of fuzzy, but I pretty sure I remember,” he said, touching the side of the sphere. “All you have to do is press, here, here and here.” And suddenly the sphere whined into life.

Just as the white light exploded and sent me into unconsciousness, I remember thinking, “Oh well, here we go again.”


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