by Leonard Thrope
(What follows is an expanded re-write of Gribble's "Dream Machine," with all due credit for the characters, situations, and turns of phrase. Contains explicit sex, so the usual caveats apply. If you ain't 18, beat it, Jack.)
first quad: a dream come true
It started out simply enough, at least on the surface. He had a machine, a machine that looked like a camcorder, only it didn't seem good for making tapes. When he pointed it at his wife and pressed the record button, a bright, mottled beam shot out from the lens, striking her in the abdomen. Under its prodding, her body began to grow, her shirt and jeans first bulging and then splitting, followed by her bra and panties. Her fleshy, unassuming middle-aged physique steadily hardened and swelled into that of an athlete, then a superwoman, then a goddess, and David's first thought upon waking that this dream must have been borne of exaggerated longing: on that same day Linda had bailed out of the fitness regimen he'd set up for her, claiming she was too tired, but really just depressed and discouraged by her lack of results. As he pointed out, she'd only been at it for two weeks, and couldn't expect to see visible results for a couple months or so; but she didn't want to hear it. The whole reason he'd set up the program was that she was always complaining of how fat and unattractive she felt, and anyway the thought of getting her as in shape as he was had excited him a little. But she didn't want to, and it wasn't like he could handcuff her to their Airdyne.
"It's just so much time, so much effort," Linda complained when he pressed her, her short temper starting to rise to the surface (though it never really went far). She wasn't really obese or anything, just getting plump and saggy with the onset of middle age. And her face, fair skin and blue eyes framed by short red hair, was still perfectly attractive, David thought. "I just wish there was some way to - I don't know - push a button, or something, and get into shape." She'd gone on to talk about getting liposuction, but David only listened with half an ear. He made decent money at Hookey's Appliance Repair, but not enough to blithely throw down several grand on such a tawdry shortcut. And anyway he kept thinking about that phrase: push a button and get into shape. The idea was silly, of course. And even if it hadn't been, well, he was no inventor. He knew how to fix VCRs, washing machines, and even those little laser pointers easily enough, but what she'd implied was thoroughly beyond him. He told himself this as he settled beside her in bed that night, thinking the matter closed. If there's one thing you need to be thinking about right now, he told himself, it's how to persuade her to get back into that gym. He closed his eyes, and then sometime in the wee hours of the morning he'd had his strange little dream.
Had David been the mystical type, he might've been hesitant to pass off what he'd experienced as simply a dream. It'd been extraordinarily vivid, for one thing, more like he'd been awake and watching a movie than lost in the muddled incoherence of sleep. For another, the feelings of exaltation he'd felt while watching his wife grow were so intense that, had he been awake, he surely would have wept.
And for a third, there had been the dream's strange ending. As though Linda's changing body could no longer contain the force which was filling it, there had been an explosion. Afterward, David had seen a circuit, jumping out at him like something in that Captain EO movie he'd seen at Disneyland. He had seen it very clearly, and it seemed to hang before his eyes even when he woke up. He dismissed it, though, as he always dismissed the scant, nonsensical memories he took from his dreams. In the circuit's case, it had such alien contouring that it nearly hurt his mind to consider it, and he was sure that if he actually constructed such a thing it would do nothing.
It could have ended there, but he had a similar dream the next night, then the next, and so on for more than a week. The sequence of Linda's growth changed every night: different clothes, different proportioning, different sizes when the beam finally cut out. In some of the dreams the story continued further. There were some in which she pulled him up and cradled him tenderly in her sinewy arms, pressing her massive breasts into his face. There were others in which she went berserk, throwing furniture through the ceiling and bashing gaping holes into the walls. Sometimes, the next morning, the crotch of his boxer shorts was sticky, like he'd had a wet dream, while other times his cheeks were moist, like he'd been crying. But the
dream always ended with the explosion, and then the circuit rotating against a black background, looking somehow tantalizing, like a carrot dangling on a string. And the image of the circuit would remain lodged in his brain like a piece of corn caught between two teeth. Finally, he did the only thing he could think of to get it out of there: he went into his workshop and he built it.
He hoped that would be the end of it, but the next night he had the same dream over again. Only, this time at the end, there was a new, equally alien component, along with an image of it connecting with the first. David did nothing about it, hoping that this new dream was nothing more than a sort of a subconscious aftershock. But when it recurred two nights in a row, he gave up and built the new component.
By now David had a pretty good idea what he was in for, and he wasn't disappointed. That night Linda burst her way out of a cable-knit sweater and slacks, then began using her bare hands to crush David's high school baseball trophies into paste. After the explosion he saw a third component, no more sensical than the first two. The following afternoon, he built it.
Once David had resigned himself to what was happening'he was being shown how to build the machine that made his wife grow, of course'he became rather cheerful about the whole thing. He was a restless yet patient man by nature, prone to slow, meticulous hobbies like model airplanes, cooking, and gardening. Also, it diverted attention from his increasingly ragged relationship with Linda herself. They'd gotten into a fight about the liposuction, which, money aside, David couldn't help but see as the cheater's way out. Linda had become increasingly moody and despondent since her failure at adhering to his fitness regimen, and she spent most of her time after work and on the weekends watching TV, more often than not with an open package of Oreo cookies at her feet and a globe of cabernet in her hand. They never had sex, but then that wasn't exactly a big change from the last five years or so. That had been part of the reason that David had tried to get her into the gym in the first place, but now his efforts seemed to have killed their passion for good. Worse, even their two children had begun to pick up on the distance between them, and it was making them nervous.
Weeks slipped by, accumulated into months, and the strange machine from David's dream slowly took shape. It was indeed filling out to the size of a camcorder, and when David grabbed an old camcorder shell that'd been kicking around the shelves of his workshop for comparison, he wasn't surprised to find that the budding device would fit inside nicely.
Nearly four months after he'd built that first circuit, the device was, he believed, completed. For the first time since the original dream, there was no recurrence. In fact, as far as he could remember, he hadn't dreamed anything at all that night, just spent it drifting through a sort of dark blankness, as though his subconscious mind had exhausted itself and had nothing more to show him.
The thing was done, he guessed. But, in what seemed perfectly ironic to him, Linda wasn't around to see it. She was visiting her sister in Stanton, in fact; and, thinking about it, David admitted that that was probably in large part his fault. He'd been too preoccupied to even argue with her for the last few months, too obsessed with building the device and wondering how it might work, and what it might actually do. Sitting on the bench in his workshop, a hollow feeling manifesting itself in his belly, David realized that she was probably getting ready to file a separation, if not an outright divorce. He'd been hoping that when their kids went off to camp for a week, he'd have his chance to work things out with her; but Linda had left for the same period, as though she couldn't bear to be in the house alone with him. Several moments of dark panic swept through him, during which he promised himself that when she came back he'd find some way to make it all up to her. But then his pragmatic side reasserted itself, and he realized that he wouldn't see her for another week, and that in the meantime he had this device, just aching to be tested.
David stood up, took the device from his worktable, and screwed it onto a tripod he'd set up in the middle of the room. This room also doubled as his home gym, and his bench and weight plates were pushed to the side. He aimed the lens at a bare cinderblock wall. Even if something came out of the lens, which he couldn't quite bring himself to believe, he supposed the wall would contain it.
Taking a deep breath, David pushed the button. Instantly the device made a chirping, burbling sound, and all the lights dimmed. A moment later some kind of beam shot out from the lens and struck the wall. David gasped in surprise. The beam wasn't nearly as thick as, say, a flashlight beam, but at the same time it was too fat and bright to be a laser. Even stranger, it cycled through all sorts of different colors, gold to magenta to aquamarine, as though it couldn't make up its mind. After perhaps half a minute, the beam shut off of its own accord, and the device was silent again.
Moving slowly, his heart pounding so hard it felt on the verge of bounding up into his throat and choking him, David moved toward the wall, Cautiously, he rubbed his fingertips over the place where the beam had struck. But there was nothing, no heat, no marks. He snorted at the anticlimax and then smiled ruefully at his own tension. Was it nothing more than a glorified lightshow? "No heat, though," he mused aloud. "Guess there's nothing it could do to me that it didn't do to that wall." Not quite sure if he really believed this, but making himself move before any second thoughts could creep in, David stood in front of it, reached over, and hit the record button again. The machine made its high-pitched noise and then emitted the psychedelic beam of light, just as before, this time striking David in the abdomen, just as it had done to Linda in all those dreams. He noticed again that all the other lights got dim, as though the machine were drawing power from them, though that should have been impossible because it wasn't plugged in to anything. Nothing else happened. David twisted around and was relieved to see that, at the very least, the beam wasn't passing through him, like the particle beams he'd read about in Discover. But it did nothing more than cycle through its kaleidoscope of colors. David felt his hands and arms to make sure that nothing was growing, disappointed. Then the beam shut off.
"Well, that's that," David said, frowning at the camcorder shell. After all that, all it did was flash some pretty lights. "So much for my career as an inventor." He could imagine a dance club being interested in such a device, but not anyone else. Then he frowned, and one hand came up to knead his chin. "Unless -" His frown became more pensive as his hand continued to stroke. "Unless it only works on women -"
David had told no one about what he'd been up to the past four months'not Linda, not his coworkers, not even his friends. If he told them he couldn't stop dreaming about changing his wife into an unstoppable titan, well, they'd all think that was pretty funny, wouldn't they? But if he went on to say that he'd been steadily constructing the device that could do such a thing? At that point, his friends might wonder about their friendship with him, and his coworkers might start talking about him behind his back, might even start suggesting that he get some kind of help. Professional help. David believed that psychiatrists were just as big a cop-out as cosmetic surgeons, and so he'd kept the whole thing to himself. Even to Linda, to whom he'd planned to show the finished product, he'd remained vague when she asked what he was up to, and he'd kept the door to his workshop locked while he was away. He didn't know why. Maybe, he told himself now, he secretly believed he was crazy, and was just trying to keep anyone else from catching on.
David shook himself from his reverie. Linda wouldn't be back for another week, but in the meantime there was someone else he could trust with this, someone who might even consent to the next logical test. Moving decisively'he was always quick to act when he'd made up his mind about something'he went out of the workshop, grabbed his coat and keys, and went out.
In truth, the strange device wasn't the only thing that had been occupying David's attention during the past few months and keeping him aloof from Linda. There was something else that kept him busy, something he took even greater pains to conceal from Linda than the device: Susan.
David first met Susan Blake at Linda's office Christmas party two years ago. He saw her again six months later at his gym, where she'd gotten a membership, and they became casual acquaintances, chatting amiably when they ran into each other and spotting each other if one happened to do the bench press while the other one was near. David found her attractive'even more attractive than Linda, though he didn't admit this to himself, not at first'but their relationship remained innocent. Then came the following year's Christmas party at Linda and Susan's office, and the five minutes of drunken kissing and groping in the broom closet. It should have ended there, and afterward David was so sick with guilt that he didn't set foot in the gym for months. Then, the day he went back, Susan was there, almost as though she'd been waiting for him all that time. She mentioned that her divorce from her husband had been finalized, and while she didn't come right out and say it, she made it clear from her body language and her steamy glances that she wanted to continue what they'd started in the broom closet. To David, who hadn't had a decent sexual encounter with Linda in longer than he could remember, this now seemed like a damned good idea.
Susan was only a couple years younger than Linda, and despite the time she put in at the gym only a little bit trimmer. What attracted David was that Susan shared his joie de vivre, while Linda spent her time mainly sitting around and moping about her weight and snapping at David if he so much as looked at her the wrong way. He felt alive around Susan, while being around Linda only made him feel frustrated and confused. And so it had gone.
Now the door to David's house reopened, and Susan stepped inside, wearing a hooded nylon jacket, black lycra shorts and white running shoes'she'd been on her way to the gym when David had pulled up to her house. David followed her into the living room, regarding her bemusedly as she looked around. "Very nice," she said. David stepped up behind her, and then unexpectedly she turned, dropped her hand on his chest, and gave him an affectionate peck on the mouth. David found himself a little angry at the gesture: it was as though she were asserting some sort of claim over him that he hadn't granted, as though she intended this to be not her only visit to this house but just her first. David loved Susan, in a way; but he saw their affair as essentially within the sphere of friendship, only marginally emotional. No matter how distant he had grown from Linda, she was still the one he intended to get old with.
Susan might have read this on his face, except she had already turned and was heading for the kitchen. David shook off his anger and followed her. "It's in here," he said in what he hoped was a businesslike tone, moving ahead of her and flicking on lights as he headed toward the back of the house. Susan caught his hand as she followed him, and in this he didn't hesitate to indulge her; she was, after all, in a sort of hostile territory. Certainly, if Linda should suddenly show up, there would be a great deal of hostility.
They came to the workshop. Even to David, the device didn't look too impressive, sitting there in the center of the room: just a camcorder that had for some reason been left pointed at a wall. "Do you really think it'll work?" Susan asked, looking doubtfully at the little thing on top of the tripod.
David considered the question, then blew out a noisy breath. "No. I mean, it didn't do anything to me. But -"
"But we won't know unless we try," Susan finished, giving him a smile that said she was game, if only for his sake. "I guess I should take this off," she said, and then removed the jacket. Underneath she was wearing a gray cotton sports bra with a small Nike swoosh at one side. Her breasts were small but firm, with randy little nubs where the nipples poked through the cotton, and seeing them made David's cock stir a little in anticipation'whether of sleeping with her later or of what the beam might do to her, he didn't think to ask himself.
"Should'" Susan lowered her eyelids slyly. "Should I take off everything, do you think?"
David's cock swelled still larger as he remembered all the times he'd seen his wife grow over the past months: her tits bursting through T-shirts, through sweatshirts, through one-piece swimsuits. "No," he decided at length. "Clothes didn't seem to affect it in the dream. And it was the dreams that showed me how to make it in the first place, so -"
"Right," Susan said, taking a place before the wall. "Besides, if I hulk out enough, I won't fit in these clothes anyway." She giggled to show that this was a joke. She hadn't laughed when David had explained his dreams to her on the way over in the car'in fact, she'd seemed rather tickled about the notion that she could become a hardbody at the push of a button, probably the same way Linda would've been in her place'but nevertheless it was clear that she was now taking this even less seriously than he was. He'd push the button, the light would shine on her for a while, they'd have a good laugh when nothing happened, and then maybe they'd have sex in David's bed. This thought occurred to David, and he knew that she was thinking it too, and again it made him a little mad. He pushed it away, coming to stand behind the device. "Ready?" he asked.
"Ready when you are, Dr. Frankenstein," she said with a playful lilt, raising one eyebrow and then breaking into a smile again.
David hesitated a moment longer, then pushed the record button. The beam filled the space between the device's lens and Susan's abdomen, seeming to leech the color out of everything else with its brilliance. At once the smile dropped from Susan's face; she closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and sucked in a breath, as though she were in sudden pain - or sudden ecstasy. David reached down, meaning to cut the experiment short by knocking the device aside. He pushed it, but the beam'which had stopped shifting colors and settled on a gold color, similar to an amber traffic light'had become jagged and shifting, like a continuous stream of lightning, and even with the device aimed elsewhere its output arced and remained linked to Susan. David spun the tripod completely around, so that the device was aimed at him, but the golden stream just curved back around and continued pouring into Susan's abdomen.
Susan moaned loudly, making David momentarily forget his struggles with the machine. Then he forgot them entirely when he realized what was happening to her.
Her skin was emitting a neon-yellow glow, the same color as the stream. She wasn't growing, not the way his wife had in the dreams. But her body, not unattractive to begin with, was slowly reshaping itself into something else, something that became more awesome with each passing second. David could do no more than watch, his mouth very dry, his cock very hard, watching her change in the yellow light. It was actually happening, just as it had happened in dreams that sometimes made him ejaculate, and sometimes made him cry, and sometimes made him do both. He was mesmerized.
Just as before, the device shut itself off after a minute, and the workshop's fluorescent lights came back up to their normal illumination. David was still staring at the woman who now lowered her head and blinked her eyes as though not quite sure where she was, or who she was. The woman stood where Susan had been standing, was wearing what Susan had been wearing, but David still couldn't quite think of her as Susan. Susan's grown daughter, maybe. But Susan herself? That woman had been his age, with faint lines of care carved into her face and middle age's first inevitable fat deposits saddling her butt and thighs. This new woman had the callow, vibrant face of a twenty-year-old, and the body of an aerobics instructor, her tawny limbs smooth as porcelain, pliant as rubber. Her tits filled her sports bra nearly to bursting, yet didn't seem to need a bra at all, while her hips and ass did erotic things to her lycra running shorts. And speaking of rubber, that's what David's heart felt like, a solid rubber ball hurled into a small room and left to ricochet crazily from surface to surface. He wondered that he didn't just have a heart attack, so crazy was that beating.
"What'?" Susan continued to blink uncertainly, running her hands over her breasts and her flat, hard stomach but still not actually looking down at herself. Even her voice was different, higher and more delicate, the voice of a girl barely on the cusp on adulthood. "What happened?"
David worked his jaw for a few moments, but his throat produced nothing in the way of sound. Eventually he settled for motioning toward the full-length mirror on one wall. Susan caught the movement and went to look.
"Oh my God!" Susan squealed in her new high-pitched voice, pressing her hands to her mouth, then lowering them to reveal a huge, disbelieving smile. "Look what happened to me! Just look!" Dave hardly needed to be told; he couldn't stop looking at her, as a matter of fact. He watched as she ran her hands eagerly up and down her new body, stroked and poked her new face, and turned to study herself from every side and angle. Eventually she stripped off the sports bra'David had seen her without it before, of course, but by this point Susan was hardly even aware of his presence. As he'd suspected, her tits didn't need support at all. They were big, round, perfectly firm, and just begging to be squeezed and sucked. The nipples were bigger and darker, and the aureoles were swollen outward.
After about ten minutes of this, Susan's shock began to wear off, and David watched her start to get used to herself, striking a series of flirty poses to her reflection. David was still in shock, still couldn't conceive of how sweet Susan had been transformed into a creature that would make even one of those big-time Hollywood hunks like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt turn into a trembling, tongue-tied buffoon. He couldn't believe that such a creature was standing in his house, making kissy-faces into his mirror. He was still trying to process everything when she finally tore herself away from the mirror and came striding toward him with a sultry expression, her tits making a mind-boggling bounce over her ribs with each step she took. She maintained her sly look until she was about two feet away from him, and then it split apart into a silly grin and she jumped against him, putting all of her new strength into a tight hug. "Oh David, thank-you thank-you thank-you," she said into his ear. David couldn't embrace her at first'not such a divine creature as this, that would've been like trying to cop a feel on the Venus de Milo'but eventually he managed to put his hands on her waist and lower back. Her flesh was every bit as smooth and springy as it looked.
Eventually Susan pulled away and stood before him, looking up with her sly, fetching young-adult's eyes. "I wish I could find some way to repay you," she said with exaggerated coquettishness, again feeling her way into the stratospheric level of beauty of which she now found herself in possession. Her bee-stung lips pursed slightly, not quite unconsciously. "I mean, I could never repay you for this, but -" She looked down meaningfully, to where David's cock had swollen like a new limb under his jeans. "There is something I can do, isn't there?" Susan asked, taking his feverish hands into her own. David said nothing, only allowed himself to be led as they went toward his bedroom.
The knowledge that Susan wanted to have sex in the bed he shared with Linda had made David angry earlier; now it only filled him with relief. And, of course, a horniness so profound it was more like a drug. Even if Linda had been right there in the room with them, David knew, he wouldn't have been able to keep himself off of Susan. They both stripped down, he joined her in exploring every contour and cranny of her new body, and then he fucked her, longer and harder than he'd ever fucked anyone in his life. Whether because of his own hypererotic state of arousal, or perhaps some new prowess on Susan's part, thrusting with her gave him mind-bending levels of pleasure yet never seemed push him to the brink. It seemed to take him upward of an hour to come the first time, and almost twice that long the second. And yet each time he came he was almost instantly ready to go again, like a thirteen-year-old with a stack of Hustlers and a bottle of hand lotion. Susan, for her part, did him with her hands, her mouth, her tits, her twat, her butt'she seemed every bit as eager and aroused and insatiable as he did. When he finally drove her home, early the following morning, David wasn't in the least bit tired, and Susan seemed perfectly fresh as well. "Thank you David," she said for what may have been the hundredth time, after treating him to one last lingering kiss on her porch. He was still staring at her'he had, in fact, yet to take his eyes off her since the transformation, and it was nothing less than miracle that he'd managed to drive her home without running them off the road'and he wondered seriously if he would ever see her again. She would, he thought, be a fool not to go straight down to the financial district first thing tomorrow and start collecting sugar daddies. After he returned home, however, he began to relax. Neither of them knew how long the machine's effects would last, and she would surely want access to the machine again should it start to wear off. And besides, it wasn't as if David didn't have leverage of his own. He had the machine, and he had his wife.
At this thought, David blinked in sudden astonishment'he'd quite literally forgotten about Linda. He crossed quickly to the fireplace and took the studio portrait of her from the mantle, studying her smiling image as if for the first time. "I'I don't need Susan at all," he said to the empty room. "She was just -" He trailed off, staring at the photo, imagining what his wife would look like after the machine had had its way with her. "Just a trial run," he finished. He realized how cruel that sounded, but he didn't much care. He was seized with a strong urge to call Linda at her sister's house and tell her to come home right away, that there'd been some kind of emergency - maybe even something involving the kids - but then he shrugged it off. He could wait a week. He set the photo back on the mantle and left the room, turning off the light as he went. His dick was sore as hell, but he thought he might jerk off once before he went to sleep. He thought again of Linda's face with Susan's body beneath it as he veered into the bathroom to get the Jergens and grinned in the darkness. Maybe more than once.
Susan's thoughts paralleled David's as she entered her house that night: that she could do no better than to start collecting a harem of young, handsome men with well-padded bank accounts. She'd always been fairly modest about her looks, but, as for what she'd seen in the mirror, its implications were just as clear to her as they'd been to David. Her level of beauty was something akin to a steamroller: even the most devoted, jaded, or self-possessed men would be bowled over at the sight of her, their backbones crushed to powder, their wits stripped away. They'd become simpering retards around her, willing to do anything'anything, she reiterated to herself with a giddy sense of anticipation'to gain her favor, if only for a few blissful moments. If she'd needed any proof of that, she'd found it in David's behavior. He'd always been attracted to her, of course, but in a rigidly compartmentalized way. After her transformation, however, his compartment had burst, and what he had fed from had turned around and begun feeding from him. He'd become her toy'him, who'd invented the blessed thing, and was the only one in the world who'd know the bizarre mechanics behind the Venusian face and body she now possessed, had still been utterly helpless to resist her, helpless as any hungry infant faced with a swollen teat. Susan experienced sudden panic when she realized that it wouldn't be that way forever, that David would waste little time in turning Linda into a goddess of her own when she returned at the end of the week. For one wild moment she was ready to jump into her car, drive back to David's house, and try to break in and steal the machine. With some difficulty she dismissed the impulse, which seemed silly the more she considered it. So what if there was another Venus in the city? And even if David came to mass-market the machine, populating the planet with curvy fitness goddesses'what then? Would it diminish her own beauty? For now, she decided, she was in possession of something special, and she may as well just be grateful and make the most of it.
She walked down the hall, pausing outside her daughter's bedroom door, which was open a crack. Slow, sibilant breathing could be heard inside. Susan had a new impulse, to go in, flip on the light, and get it over with. Janey, Susan believed, wouldn't think her mom was a stranger'kids were harder to fool that way, more imaginative and less susceptible to the lazy assumptions of the adult world'but it would still require some careful explaining. Further, Susan began to toy with the idea that she would have to quit her job, maybe even abandon all of her friends. How would she explain what had happened to her? Make-up? A new fitness regimen? Even claims of radical plastic surgery wouldn't be able to sate the disbelief she would engender. They'd all think that she had to be a different person entirely, Susan's younger sister maybe. The fact that she would possess all of Susan's knowledge and memories would only strike them as spooky.
Instead of going into Janey's room, Susan turned in the opposite direction and went into the bathroom. She shut the door behind her, flipped on the light, and turned toward the mirror. The image there, and the accompanying disbelief, struck her afresh. Even she hadn't come to terms with what had happened, it seemed. She stripped out of her clothes and again set about accustoming herself to what she saw: the smooth, pliant, clear-eyed face, the tits that she would have taken for implants if she'd seen them on someone else, the tiny waist and the powerful, rounded arch of her ass beneath. She was there for another three hours, posing and flirting, before she could finally bring herself to go to bed.
Actually, at first, there was only one man Susan wanted to seduce. She didn't want him for his own sake; she'd found him exciting once upon a time, with his roguish mustache and chiseled features and burly body, but now he was merely prosaic to her. But she still intended to seduce him. She thought of it as a payment, of sorts. Revenge, really.
This man was Jim Reynolds, owner of the fitness club of which Susan and David were members. Jim had been the one to go over the contracts with Susan when she first joined, and despite the wedding ring on his finger, and despite the fact that Susan herself was still technically married at that point, she'd been quite fetched. She flirted with him at every opportunity her first few weeks at the club, and he flirted back, and everything went nicely until one day while she was chatting with him and making cow eyes at him there was a violent throat-clearing behind her and Susan straightened guiltily as though someone had grabbed her by the scruff of her neck. She saw that Jim was now looking over her shoulder, and he had a worried expression as he did it. She turned around.
There was a woman standing there, as deeply tanned as Jim and nearly as tall. She had long, raven-black hair and dark-blue eyes. She wasn't pretty, not anymore'constant exposure to the sun had turned her face into a brittle, gestaltless mosaic of lines and planes, helped along by the strained expressions she made each time she went for a new maximum on the bench press, clean-and-jerk, or barbell squat'but her body was truly something to behold. Not much in the way of breasts'her black lycra top left little doubt of that'but her upper arms and thighs, even relaxed, seemed immense, and her shoulders had striations like the grooves of a pumpkin.
For a moment Susan fully expected the huge woman to take a swing at her, but of course that didn't happen. Instead, the woman frostily introduced herself as Amy Reynolds, and made some strained small-talk. She didn't need to voice any threats; her eyes did that for her. Stay away from him, slut, the look on Amy's face had said. The next time I catch you two together, you're losing teeth. And when I hit you, I'll do it with a smile.
After that, Susan had never talked with Jim again, had never exchanged anything with him beyond quick, guilty smiles. But she never forgot what happened, and every time she thought about the incident it filled her with a frustrated, helpless anger. It seemed ludicrous to her that, even in her thirties, she could still be faced down like that, like a little kid by the schoolyard bully. When she worked out, it was often with the secret hope that she would get big enough to return the favor, but of course she could never hope to aspire to anything like Amy's awesome physique. (The idea that Amy might have actually been justified in defending her husband's virtue never occurred to Susan.)
Now, as Susan prepped herself to go out that afternoon (which actually took longer than usual, as she had to get used to dealing with what was for all practical purposes a completely new face, to say nothing of her body), she reviewed her plan. She had no plans to strong-arm Amy, at least not consciously, not at that point. Her arms and legs were thicker and nicely contoured with muscle beneath the smooth bronze skin, but she knew she couldn't expect to match up to Amy's brute strength. Instead, she would exact a more emotional sort of retribution: she would seduce Jim to the point where he was broken, where he couldn't think about Amy even if she was standing right in front of him - and then she would leave the two of them to deal with the jagged remains of their broken marriage. Susan grinned dreamily as she considered the playing out of this naughty little game, which never would have occurred to her prior to her transformation. Amy would learn her lesson, Susan's humiliation would be avenged. The end.
Susan stood from her vanity and allowed her robe to slip to the floor, again revealing her miraculous physique to the empty room. None of her old clothes would do for this, but she'd been shopping this morning and had returned with some more appropriate outfits. She settled on a jade-colored stretch-lycra leotard with a thong strap that exposed her waist, her hips, and most of all her gorgeous new ass to maximum effect. She turned around to regard her backside, her ass the shape and texture of fresh-baked buns. The leotard was meant to be worn with shorts, but Susan didn't think anyone would mind if she went without. Yesterday she wouldn't have dreamed of leaving the house in such an outfit, but, well, yesterday had been a long time ago.
Susan started to go out to her car, then decided that maybe she would take her bicycle instead, and not just because it was such a nice sunny day. It was a little uncomfortable to ride with just the thong, but it was worth it when she entered the city and started drawing stares like a magnet draws iron filings. Heads spun, jaws dropped, and chagrined wives glared at husbands to no effect. Susan straightened her sunglasses and smiled happily at the sheer attention she was garnering. She zipped down the street margin, her long, flaxen hair billowing behind her, a woman who was nearing forty but now looked like a girl barely old enough to drink, a woman who'd always had a lackadaisical approach to fitness but now appeared to have spent her whole life in the gym. She must've thanked David over a hundred times last night, but she saw now that it could never be enough. She loved this.
second quad: the sleeper awakens
Susan wasn't loving it so much later that evening, when she ventured out to the grocery store. This morning she couldn't wait to reveal herself to the world; now she just wanted to curl up in bed. But somebody had to get dinner. Even if she'd intended to forgo supper herself, she wouldn't have dreamed of doing the same to Janey.
She had changed into a nylon jogging suit, and that was all right, because it hid the bruises forming on her stomach. Her sunglasses were somewhat less successful in disguising her left eye, which was puffed to a narrow slit and surrounded by a serious shiner. And there wasn't much she could do to hide her split lower lip, unless she wanted to go around with a scarf tied around the lower half of her face like a desperado.
Her seduction of Jim hadn't gone quite as planned.
She was walking down the dairy aisle, not really looking at anything, when her foot kicked a loaded basket that happened to be sitting in her path and she went pitching forward. An attentive young man managed to grab her as she went down, catching her under the elbows. Susan's hands clapped onto his forearms; as she did so, a strange tingle seemed to suffuse her palms, as though she were receiving a low-grade electric shock. She regained her balance and let go of him. The young man, who had been giving her a hopeful smile when he'd caught her, was now blinking as though just then coming awake from a deep sleep. He seemed confused for a moment, then remembered himself and smiled at Susan again. "Thanks," Susan chirped coyly, immediately brushing off what she'd just felt. Maybe it was just chemistry, this time of the romantic sort. He was actually pretty cute, she thought. But the effect she had on men was already starting to seem prosaic, even annoying to her; her beauty hadn't helped her one whit against Amy, had it? The guy scratched the back of his neck and said, "No problem," and continued to smile at the dreamy blonde as she continued on.
When Susan got back into her car, she took a cursory glance at herself in the rearview mirror, then gasped and did a double take. It was after sundown, so she flicked on the dome light and looked again closely.
Her black eye was gone.
Her split lip was gone.
Susan poked her stomach where Amy had slugged her. Nothing. She felt as fine as she had when she'd woken up that morning.
Susan frowned at her flawless reflection. Was this something to do with David's machine? Some unforeseen effect? It didn't occur to her to connect this with what she'd felt when she'd touched the young guy's arms.
When the shriek came, Janey was in her room, playing with her Barbie dolls. Her mom now looked a lot like a Barbie doll herself, but after three days Janey no longer found this very noteworthy. She hadn't even been very fazed when her mom had come home that first day with a black eye and a cut on her lip, then had come back from the grocery store with her injuries vanished as completely as if they had been no more than Halloween make-up. Her mom had said stuff about nutrition and exercise, and on one level Janey had accepted these explanations trustingly. But Janey was a big fan of Harry Potter, and she suspected that sorcery might have been at work.
Then came the shriek. Janey froze, waiting for something to follow, some kind of banging or crashing. But there was nothing. She got up, padded to her door, opened it, and saw immediately what the screaming was about.
"Uh-oh," Janey said. It was all she could think of to say. As easily as she had digested her mother's transformation, she now digested the reversal of that transformation. No more Barbie-doll mommy for her.
Susan had been out late that night, with her third suitor in as many days. She'd risen late, and this was the first time she'd looked in the mirror today. Her first thought was that it was the last time she would look in the mirror, ever again.
She pinched and pulled at her face and body, hoping that what she saw wasn't real. But it was. Sunken eyes, jowly cheeks, sprays of crow's feet and laugh-lines, wattles on her neck, sagging breasts, clumpy fat hanging from her upper arms and padding her butt and thighs'it was back, all of it, as though it had never been gone. No worse than it had been four days ago, maybe, but compared to what she'd had since then - she nearly burst into tears, and only saved herself just in time.
The thought that saved her, of course, was the machine. It was still out there, probably still in David's workshop, waiting for her. Nothing had to be lost, nothing had to be over. Galvanized, Susan turned to get dressed.
She went to David's house first, but there was no answer at the door. She considered just breaking in, but then realized how silly she was being. And anyway, she knew where he'd probably be.
Going back to the gym terrified her. She knew that there was no way that Amy could recognize her as the sex-oozing young girl whom she'd caught seducing her husband on Tuesday. But still, the memory of the violence'Amy pounding her twice in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her, then rearranging that pretty face of hers'made her quail. She thought abstractedly that she would have to ask David to turn up the juice a little this time, to make her even stronger.
She was afraid, but she went to the gym anyway. As it happened, Jim and Amy weren't there. David was. Susan didn't say anything, nor did she need to. She just went up to David and gave him a steady look, her right hand clasping her left wrist behind her back. David, for his part, looked her up and down in surprise.
"I guess you know what I came to ask," Susan said at length. She was willing to do anything, absolutely anything he wanted, if only it meant she could get that body back. If he announced that he wanted to fuck her in the ass on a float in the middle of the Watermelon Parade? No problem at all.
"Yeah," David said, and Susan was relieved when she failed to hear any coldness in his voice, or see it in his eyes. She'd never called him back, but what of it? He could turn any woman he wanted into a copy of what she'd become, starting with his own wife.
"Only the first one's free," David added, and Susan opened her mouth to protest, to say that he'd gotten nearly as much pleasure out of this as she had - but then he smiled to show he was joking.
"Not funny," she said, but she smiled with relief as she said it.
"Come on," David said.
"David? Honey, are you home?" Linda set her suitcase in the foyer, then stepped into the living room, looking around. The house seemed to be empty.
Laura, Linda's younger sister, came in the door behind her, lugging another suitcase, which she set down next to the first. "No Dave?" she asked.
"Guess not," Linda said, resting her hands on her hips and peeking into the dim kitchen, then down the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
"Maybe he's out with his paramour," Laura teased. "You are early, you know."
Linda made a sour face. "Not funny." Her younger sister well knew Linda's short temper, and occasionally she took it in her head to prod her, like a mischievous little kid prodding a dog that may bark but can't bite because it's tied to a stake. "He's probably at the gym," she said. "Or maybe he went to the Watermelon Festival'it starts today."
Laura wanted to say something about a town so hickville that its biggest yearly celebration was devoted to watermelons. Instead she changed the subject, saying, "When do the kids get back from camp?"
"Sunday," Linda said. That was when she herself had planned to return, but, being away from David, she'd had a change of heart, and had decided to try to work things out with him, while the kids were out of their hair. Now it looked like she would have to wait a little longer, at least until he got home. She turned to her sister. "Well. Thanks for everything." They hugged, exchanged a few more pleasantries, and then Laura left.
Linda walked to the other end of the house, thinking of what she would say to David when he got home, when she saw something interesting: the door to David's workshop was standing open. It had been kept scrupulously locked for the past four months or so; when she'd asked, he'd said something vague about a delicate project that needed to be kept from the kids. She'd huffed at it when he wouldn't show it to her, or even explain what it was, thinking it a sign of his growing aloofness. Now, staring at the open door, she was consumed by a burning curiosity. She went in, thinking, I won't touch anything, just look.
She went in, switched on the light, and looked carefully at everything. She was disappointed by what she saw, or, more precisely, by what she didn't see. What was so important that he couldn't show her? All his tools were put away, and the top of the room's worktable was clear. The weights had been pushed aside and a camcorder had been set up on a tripod in the middle of the room, but that was all. She wondered if he'd finished whatever he'd been working on and had taken it out somewhere.
There was a clicking sound from the other side of the house, and then the front door creaked open. Linda turned and began walking out of the room. Then the sound of a voice drifted to her'a female voice'and she froze.
"So have you used it again?" A woman, without a doubt. And a familiar-sounding one at that.
"No. I was waiting for Linda to get home." David. Linda didn't know which was worse: having thieves break in, or having David come home with another woman. She continued to stand stock-still, scarcely breathing, wondering if maybe the reason David had been so aloof lately was not simply that he'd found a new hobby but that he'd taken a mistress.
"You good little boy," the woman said, with a flirtatious tone that Linda didn't care for one bit, and again she was struck by how familiar the voice sounded. She almost thought it was her sister, Laura, but the voice wasn't quite the same. Was it one of their neighbors? "You could have had your own harem by now."
"Don't think the thought hadn't crossed my mind." Laura was so convinced that it was his mistress David was talking to that she expected them to head straight for the bedroom, but then she realized they were headed in her direction instead. She broke her paralysis, hit the light switch, and dove behind an old trunk-style freezer that was among the workshop's clutter. They didn't stop in the kitchen but came right into workshop, switching on the light, and despite the possibility of being discovered cowering in her own house Linda relaxed a little. Maybe the woman was just someone who'd left an appliance with David to fix. He did a lot of work on the side for their friends'VCRs, Cuisinarts, stuff like that. She decided to reserve judgment.
They stopped moving, and there was a pause. Then the woman said, "And there it is." Another pause, one that Linda didn't like. What were they waiting for? Had they started kissing or something? There was an empty hamster cage on top of the freezer, and Linda supposed she could look out from behind it without being noticed.
"Any more of those dreams?" the woman asked.
"No. Not a one, that I can remember." David's words became slow, as though he were thinking very hard. "I guess that's one benefit of finally building the thing," he said in a slightly more cheerful tone. "Well, let's get this over with, shall we?"
"You don't have to tell me twice," the woman said in a giddy tone that made Linda's skin crawl. She raised up slightly, peered through the bars of the hamster cage. What she saw almost made her gasp loudly. That - rat! she mouthed as she lowered herself back down. The woman was wearing only a bra and panties, and Linda had recognized her immediately: it was Susan, from work. Linda craned her neck for another look, and then realized that what she had first taken for underwear was actually a sports bra and running shorts. She peered more closely. The sports bra looked a little loose, like Susan had lost weight recently. Linda lowered herself back down, forcing herself to take deep breaths. She still had no definitive proof that anything at all seamy was going on here, but her famous temper was all but lost, and she knew that if she didn't get herself under control in a hurry she was apt to jump up and start accusing them of any number of things. Instead she made herself count backwards from ten.
Linda looked up a third time. Now Susan was standing in front of the wall at which the camcorder was aimed, and David was standing behind the camcorder itself. Since when is David into making dirty movies? Linda didn't want to wait until Susan started taking off her clothes, but she supposed she would have to before she would be justified in jumping up and shouting at them. She would have to literally catch them with their pants down.
"Let "er rip." Again, that eager, anticipatory tone that put ice in Linda's veins. Linda craned her neck again to see Susan straighten her back and put her hands on her hips. Who does she think she is, fucking Wonder Woman?
David pushed a button on the camcorder. Immediately the lights dimmed, and there was a series of high-pitched sounds. Linda had never seen or heard a camcorder do that before, but she couldn't figure out what else had done it.
She was struck dumb by what happened next, a multicolored beam that shot out from that camcorder like a laser and struck Susan in her soft bare midriff. Susan closed her eyes and tilted back her head, her mouth turned up in a welcoming smile. In the next moment the beam had become solid yellow, and had become less like a laser beam than a stream of electricity. It reminded Linda of the Van de Graaff generator her middle school physical science teacher had demonstrated for the class, when the two metal spheres were placed next to each other and a thin, jagged purple thread buzzed between them. This looked a little like that, only much bigger. And whatever it was doing to Susan, it wasn't shocking her. Then Linda perceived what the stream was doing to Susan, and she very nearly wet her pants. Her whole body began to tremble, and her eyes became very wide. She was no longer worried about being discovered, but she couldn't have stood up even if she'd wanted to. What she was seeing was too incredible to be believed, but she was watching it happen nonetheless, right here in her own house.
For Susan, the second transformation wasn't nearly as delirious as the first one had been. Rather, it was like slipping on an old, well-loved coat, like getting back something that had been her property in the first place. When it was over and the lights resumed their former level of illumination, she went straight to the mirror and smiled at herself. Back, just like before.
She felt more than saw David coming at her as though she were drawing him on a string'it was funny how, even when expecting it this time, he was still struck helpless by the depth of her beauty. She turned as he approached, waiting, and then, just before he embraced her, used her delicate, sibilant cheerleader's voice to say, "Let's do it again."
David stopped just as suddenly as if she'd told him to get away. He looked at her dubiously, trying to figure out whether she were talking about sex or about the device, then trying to decide if she were serious.
"I'm serious," she said, trying to make herself sound it, though her voice and her face seemed made for playfulness. "I wanna see what happens. I wanna be a little stronger this time." Of course, what she really wanted was to get strong enough so that she wouldn't have to be afraid of Amy anymore. But she wasn't going to tell him that.
"I don't know," David said. "I mean, who knows what it'll do to you?"
"Who knows what it's done to me already?" Susan said, some of her fear and her impatience creeping into her voice, making it querulous. "It hasn't hurt me, has it?"
"Well - have you seen a doctor since the first time?"
"A doctor? Why would I see a doctor? You go to the doctor when you feel bad. I feel better than I have in my whole life." Susan made the last step toward David and put her tawny arms around his neck. Neither of them registered the faint, hissing gasp that came from behind the freezer. "Please, David," Susan murmured, putting every ounce of her seductive power into her voice and her glance, which became very seductive indeed. Certainly more seductive than that of any other woman David had personally faced in his life.
"All right, all right," David said, shaking his head. Susan's fingertips were lightly stroking the little hairs behind his neck, but rather than exciting him, her touch was making him feel tired. Almost without realizing it he put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her out to arm's length. "But only once more," he said, a little sternly, feeling like he was talking to his son when he wanted to watch one more show before bedtime.
Susan smiled and kissed him on the mouth. This, too, made him feel tired, almost sleepy, and he was glad when she quickly turned and went to stand in front of the wall. Maybe he was just still burned-out from their epic love-making session. "Here goes," he said.
As amazing as the first transformation had been, this one was even more arresting. More of Susan's fat disappeared, replaced as muscle. Her ass became less rounded, and her outer quads, large to begin with, began to look like submarines breasting the water. Veins popped into life on the tops of her biceps and the outer edges of her forearms, as all the angles of her body became leaner, harder. Her sports bra stretched out even further, partly from the growth of her breasts, but mostly because of the pectorals underneath. She even seemed to grow a few inches taller this time.
After the beam shut off and the glow faded, it took Susan a few seconds to open her eyes. When she did, her expression was one of supreme rapture. She went to the mirror and first could only giggle at what she saw. Then she struck a double-biceps pose, and David was reminded of that Chris Lydon spread in Playboy a couple years back; Susan was now about the same build. Her lats and deltoids bulged when she raised her arms, making a worthy attempt at the fabled V-shape. She struck more poses, showing off her triceps, her shoulders, her butt, the faint striation between her pecs. She wasn't huge, but she still had a physique that would've cost her about five years of hard labor and careful nutrition, if she hadn't had David's machine to give it to her.
"Do you like it?" David asked at length. He himself felt a little nervous, though he couldn't say why. Probably just afraid she was going to go too far and hurt herself, he told himself.
"Yes, yes, oh yes," Susan said, still squeezing herself and flexing. "But -" She turned and looked at him, half-seriously, half-flirtatiously. "It's still not enough." She still intended to stand up to Amy, and she could see that this, while close, wasn't quite up to the task.
"It'll have to be enough," David told her flatly.
"Why are you being so stubborn?" Susan burst out. "What are you afraid of?"
"I'm afraid for you," David said, though he still wasn't sure if this was the real reason. "I'm not going to let you hurt yourself."
"Afraid for me?" Susan echoed disbelievingly. "Or afraid of me?" She looked at him intensely for a moment, then caught sight of the weight bench. Seized with a sudden impulse, she went to it. "How much is on here?"
David studied the plates bolted to the bar. "Two hundred."
He expected her to slide underneath and try a bench press. Instead she stayed where she was and grabbed the bar on either end. Muscles popping into relief on her arms, she lifted. He expected her to get it up a few inches and drop it, but again he was proved wrong. She got it over her head. She stayed that way for a moment, teeth gritted, arms twitching, then lowered it all at once. It landed in the cradles with a loud CLANG! and nearly bounced back out again. Then Susan started for him.
David uncrossed his arms and found himself backing away. "What are you doing, Susan?" he asked tensely.
Susan's face still held that flirtatious smile, but David saw a menacing look behind it that he didn't like'that he didn't like at all. "I could take you, David," she said quietly. "I really think I could. I don't want it to have to be this way - but I need you to do it again." With that, she lunged forward. David wasn't expecting her to be as fast as she was, and she caught his wrist before he could dodge. She squeezed. David wasn't a weak man, and he wasn't hurt, but again there was that sense of draining, and suddenly all he wanted to do was curl up at Susan's feet and take a nap. He fought to keep his eyes open
Susan drew back with her other fist and then nearly hit him. Nearly did to him what Amy had done to her, in fact, punching him twice in the gut and then twice in the face. But then she realized what she was doing and let go. How had it come to this? Wasn't this her friend? Her lover? Sure, she wanted revenge, but was it worth it if it meant leaving a man she loved lying bloody and senseless on the ground? "I - I'm sorry, David," she said, regaining her composure. "I don't mean it, really I don't. But - I want to be stronger. Just a little more. Can't you see that? Can't you give me that? And you know it will wear off again in a few days. You know that. We're just testing this, aren't we? Seeing what it does. And after this - I'll go to my doctor, okay? And I'll let her check me out, top to bottom, and see if this is really safe. Okay?"
David was looking at her warily, his head cocked, his arms out from his waist, his body ready to bolt. He was breathing heavily. "Doctor?" he repeated, as though not quite understanding the term. He scrunched his eyes for a moment, then held up a warning finger. "Once more," he said. "But that is it. After that, I want you out of my house."
His tone was grim, but Susan was grinning and jumping up and down like a little kid that's been told she'll get to go to Disneyland after all. With her muscles unflexed, David thought, she really didn't look that much bigger than before. Surely she couldn't get much more dangerous than she was now. And anyway, there had to be some kind of stopping point. It wasn't like she could put on muscle from out of thin air. Wasn't the limit of his invention something they needed to test out? For the moment, the fact that she had actually gained some height the last time escaped him.
Susan took her place before the wall, again planting her hands on her hips. This time she really did look like Wonder Woman. "I'm ready David."
"I'm not," David muttered, but he hit the button anyway. The lights dimmed, the machine twittered, the rainbow beam became the stream of golden lightning, and Susan's skin began to glow like sunlight.
By the time the machine cut out again, David's assumption that Susan couldn't get mass from thin air had been knocked straight on its ass. She gained height again, about five inches of it, and her hair lengthened more than ever, coming down to the middle of her back. But the most mesmerizing thing was her physique, which looked less and less like Chris Lydon and more and more like Chris Bongiovanni, the topography of her skin becoming complicated with thick, striated muscle. Her sports bra stretched until a vertical eyelet tore open between her breasts, and her distressed shorts looked ready to follow. The tops of her shoes tore away from the soles with popping sounds. Susan moaned in pleasure throughout the process, her voice growing increasingly husky, no longer that of a prissy cheerleader. A trapdoor seemed to open in David's stomach as he watched his mistress grow within the yellow light, allowing all his guts to go spilling right out of him. He'd warned her to leave after this'but would she? Only if she wanted to leave. What David did or didn't want to happen, he saw clearly, had pretty much ceased to matter. Where does an eight-hundred pound gorilla sleep? he thought wearily, and the joke, never funny to begin with, now seemed downright frightening to him.
David watched warily as the disorientation wore off and Susan's eyes opened. She was smiling again, but it was hard smile, without a trace of coquettishness in it. She was now as tall as he was, maybe even taller. Her long, uncombed hair made her look primal and dangerous, like an amazon; all she needed was a leopard-skin bikini, a spear, and a necklace of boar's teeth. She tore off what was left of her shoes and socks and went straight to the mirror again Then she began posing, and David was astounded at the boulder-like formations of muscle that came bulging out of her body, at the veins which branched on her skin like bare trees. The tear in her sports bra grew deeper. Then, with suddenness that sent him recoiling, she spun toward him, growling violently, her hands balled into fists. "Rrrrrngghh - why do you keep shutting it off?" she bellowed, her voice filling the small room and making David's bones ache, deep down in the marrow. "I want more, can't you understand? MORE!"
"It's - I -" David sputtered. Finally he managed, "It turns itself off." His voice was very small.
Susan glared at him dangerously for a moment from beneath the savage fall of her bangs. A part of her felt as though she were caught in a dream, one of the vivid dreams David had described to her. But at the same time a part of her felt awake, more awake than she had ever been in her life. Susan had spent the last decade sadly watching her beauty slip out of her grasp like sand, trying to stop it but helpless to do more than slow down its escape a little. The fear of growing old alone preyed on her constantly. After the divorce, especially, she had been dead set on finding a man who could provide for her and Janey, even if it meant stealing that man from a friend, as she had been trying to steal David from Linda. Now, though, what could she possibly need a man for? She was stronger than a man, any man, and she reveled in the feeling.
David watched as Susan went to the weight bench. "Two hundred pounds?" she asked in her husky yet still very sexy voice. She gripped the barbell with one hand and then lifted it straight up into the air. Smiling maliciously, she actually spun it on the top of her forefinger like a majorette's baton, then threw it up and caught it. David was slack-jawed with amazement.
Then came the moment he had been dreading. "We go again," she said flatly'not a request or even a command but a statement of plain hard fact. "And this time there will be none of your annoying excuses."
For one long moment David could do nothing but stare at her. At the first stage of Susan's transformation, as different as she had looked, she had still been essentially Susan, essentially the woman he had held and kissed and made furtive love to on all those trysts. What stood before him now, however, was something else entirely. He could see a little of Susan, in the face - but the creature as a whole was a stranger to him.
"Thih'" David tried to make his voice sound stern and authoritative, but his throat refused to cooperate and all that came out was voiceless, terrified blather. "Th-this has gone t-too fuh'too far, Susan. Y-you have t'"
"Get behind the machine, insignificant worm," Susan ordered, in that throaty voice that brooked no argument. "Prepare for the next phase." She glared, her eyes as hard as steel. "Now."
third quad: dreams of domination
Linda watched from behind the hamster cage, her throat bobbing with deep swallows, her fingers kneading themselves, her shoulders drawn into knots, her limbs trembling. She had kept from wetting her pants, but it had been a near thing, what with her bladder feeling as fragile and loose as a water balloon each of the three times she'd watched Susan get in front of the machine. She kept thinking of a Warner Bros. cartoon she had seen once, in which Tweety Bird turns the tables on Sylvester by drinking a potion that turns him into a gruesome, hulking monster. The monster's feathers were yellow, its eyes blue, and its feet orange, but in no other way did it resemble that cute, delicate little "I tawt I taw a putty tat" Tweety. For Linda, this perfectly summed up what had happened to Susan. Her friend had gone from minor irritant to huge unstoppable terror.
Linda had tried to jump out and put a stop to things just before the third time, when the situation still seemed at least somewhat in control, but by then her legs had turned to wet noodles, and she was stuck. She couldn't even cry out, because she had no voice. And so she had been forced to watch helplessly as the last vestiges of sweet, smiling Susan from work were erased and that raging muscle-freak was left in her wake. She found herself wishing that it had simply been that Susan and her husband had been having an affair. That would have left her hurt and scared and confused, but it would, she believed, have been nothing compared to this. Nothing at all.
The power-crazed amazon advanced on her husband now, still holding the barbell in one hand. David's legs didn't seem to work much better than Linda's had, and he wasn't quick enough to get away. Linda moaned in despair as Susan snatched her husband up by his neck. "Did you'!" Susan got out, and then she closed her eyes and moaned as well, only at a much higher volume, effectively covering up Linda's. David struggled, but seemed to get tired almost immediately. Linda saw Susan's skin become the color of sunlight again, only now the machine wasn't on at all. And then, in horror, she realized that Susan was getting even bigger, while her husband was now shrinking.
You bitch, Linda mouthed, but she was unable to produce any sound. Susan's hands released, and both David and the barbell went crashing to the cement floor. Susan opened her eyes, looking confused. "I'" She stared at the shelves of half-gutted appliances as though seeing them for the first time. "I have his memories!" she said with a triumphant laugh, and she looked back at the machine, standing small and alone on its tripod. "So, my friend, apparently strength and size aren't the only things you have to offer me. In fact, I almost don't need you at all, now that I can absorb mass from anyone I touch." She looked back at David, and her grin faltered a notch. "Asleep," she observed. "But, no matter. Not now that I know how to operate it myself." Her eyes raised, as though imagining what lay beyond the wall. "And not now that I know that stupid bitch lives right next door." She began chuckling again, and carefully pressed the machine's activation button before going back to the wall. As she grew this time, her sports bra was split in half by her burgeoning tits, and a moment later her gluts and upper adductors finished off her shorts. Linda moaned soundlessly and wedged her hands into her crotch, trying desperately to stop herself from peeing.
When the machine switched off, the result was no longer a mere amazon but a bona-fide giantess, nearly seven feet tall, the top of her head just below the ceiling. Susan went back to the mirror, studied herself a moment, then peeled off what was left of the sports bra and the shorts. Only her white thong underwear was left, stretched nearly to breaking. After a moment's consideration she hooked her thumb under the strap and tore that off as well. Then she posed, and was apparently pleased with what she saw. As for Linda, she had to clutch the freezer to keep from tipping over and passing out'no human should possess the size and power now on display before her, much less a human that had been her size a few minutes ago. Her mind could not process what she was seeing. "Now this is enough," Susan said aloud. She did her double-biceps shot, and the result made Linda's world again go gray and fluttery. "In fact, my dear, this should be enough to pound Amy Reynolds into next week."
The giantess turned and began walking toward Linda's hiding spot, and Linda tried to scream when she realized that what she had taken for thinking aloud had in fact been Susan talking to her. But Susan walked right past her, the concrete floor reverberating with each barefooted tread. She went up to the antique refrigerator that stood against the far wall, the one that had always reminded Linda of the icebox from I Love Lucy. After a moment's consideration, Susan scooped up the immensely heavy object, one hand on the top and one hand on the bottom, then crushed it like an soda can. When it was perhaps an eighth of its original height, she dropped it to the floor, laughing. Linda winced at the noise.
"Pound her into next month," Susan gloated as she strode for the door. Linda breathed a sigh of relief, but Susan, as though she had heard it, abruptly stopped and turned back. Linda hunched down for one terrified moment, then risked a peek through the bars.
Susan was staring at the machine. "I can't leave it," she said. She supposed she could just run it to her house - but who knew what Janey would make of her mommy in mommy's current state? It would take more than stories about vitamins and weight-lifting to explain this, wouldn't it? And, worse, Susan worried about what mischief Janey might get to with the machine while her mommy was out pounding someone into pulp. The notion of dealing with a twelve-foot-tall second-grader did not much appeal to Susan. At the thought of Janey, Susan felt herself regain perspective, almost as though she were physically shrinking again, and she looked at David's sprawled form with renewed compassion. Did I actually do that? For what? For - A picture of Amy flashed into Susan's mind, and Susan's face instantly hardened again. For revenge, of course. I'm going to teach that fucking bitch a lesson. I'm going to show her that she picked the wrong dumb blonde to mess with. So resolved, Susan picked up the barbell with one hand, set it under Dave's neck, and then, with an ease that left Linda even more unsettled than she already was (if that were possible), she curled it into a loop. Then she stood up, nodding to herself. The only one who could get him out of that, without using an arc welder, was Susan herself. It would keep him immobilized until she had finished with Amy, and had decided what to do about him and his machine. Thinking that far ahead was a little frightening'Susan very much wanted the machine all to herself, but that might mean she would have to kill him, and she didn't want to face up to that yet. "Okay," she told herself. "It's play time." Sparing David and the machine one last pensive glance, Susan left.
Linda waited to hear the back door open and slam; instead she heard a loud crash and the splintering of heavy wood, and felt the house shudder around her. Apparently Susan no longer felt the need to use doors. Linda waited, and soon she began to hear more energetic crashing. If she'd understood correctly, that would be the demise of chez Reynolds. Linda had no idea what Amy might have done to incur Susan's wrath, but she was just glad that it was their house that was getting sacrificed and not hers. After a few long minutes, the crashing stopped. Linda waited a few more minutes, until she was positive that Susan was not going to come right back, before she was able to force herself out from behind the freezer.
David was breathing normally, but he was still out, out cold. "Oh David, oh David," Linda said, kneeling over him. She had forgotten that David's affaire d'amour was what had set all this in motion; she just felt the pent-up tension of the last thirty minutes let go all at once and began to cry. She cried until David's face was glistening with her tears, and still he didn't wake up. "Oh David," she moaned. She tried once to unbend the barbell herself, but while Susan had made it look like a movie prop, it was clearly nothing of the sort. She couldn't even remove the weights, as Susan had shrewdly curled up the barbell's ends. And there was no possible way for Linda to move both David and the two hundred pounds around his neck.
Eventually she pulled herself away and went to the phone, but it was dead; apparently Susan's rampage had pulled down the lines at some point. Still sobbing, Linda began to stumble around the house, blinking away her tears, looking for something that could free her husband.
"Fucking watermelon festival," Amy spat as she at last escaped into the exit lane. Traffic, usually light when she went home, had been a nightmare today, and again she cursed the fact that she lived in a town so hicksville that they had a festival to celebrate watermelons. Fucking watermelons.
Amy continued to grumble and curse as she made her way through the quiet suburb toward her house. Beating up that little blonde skank had put her in a good mood for a couple of days'and it had felt indescribably good, to bop her in the eye and mash her too-pretty lips against her teeth, so good that Amy wished she could do it every morning'but the watermelon festival had put her out of temper again. When she got home, she decided, she would cook up one of those T-bones in the freezer, settle in for a hot bath, then get up early and hit the weights tomorrow. And she wouldn't turn the phone's ringer back on, no matter how many times Jim's number showed up in the caller ID window.
Amy was so focused on these thoughts that she had no inkling of the seven-foot-tall nude blonde woman striding in the opposite direction, two streets down, when the two crossed each other's peripheral line of sight. The blonde giantess, for her part, saw the blue Lumina in the corner of her eye and did not register it. If she had seen it, David's memories would have told her whose it was, and things might have proceeded very differently; but she didn't.
Amy was still thinking about sizzling steaks and hot baths when she turned the corner onto her street and caught sight of her house'or rather, caught sight of what had been her house. Amy was the type of woman who tended to react to adversity with aggressive force, but at the moment she could only stare, gape-mouthed, as she allowed the car to drift toward her driveway. "Destroyed" wasn't sufficient to describe what she was seeing'her house had been pulverized, disintegrated, razed right down to the ground. Even the floors had been smashed through, and all the debris had fallen into the basement, leaving a crater-like depression. This was all that was left of her home. Amy parked and got out of the car, still unable to react. Then she noticed a hole in the side of the Carsons' house, and instantly an image formed in her mind: David Carson, would-be inventor, cobbling together some kind of death-ray, something he hopes to sell to the Pentagon. It works, but works so well that it blows the side of his house open and then mows down the neighbors' house as well. "You son of a bitch," Amy breathed in disbelief, and as her aggressive nature began to reassert itself she balled her hands into fists. She marched toward the Carsons' house and stepped in through the hole. The fact that this hole had been blown out of the house, rather than in, confirmed her theory for her.
She found herself in the kitchen. Everything seemed fine, and she saw no evidence of the cannon or whatever that had put such a crimp in her day. The only lights came from the workshop, to her left. She went inside.
Amy stopped short as she entered. She saw David, but her impulse to rail at him for what had happened had vanished. He was lying unconscious on the floor, and, somehow, a barbell appeared to have been looped around his neck. "Is this somebody's idea of a joke?" Amy muttered as she crept closer. Then she could see that he looked somehow wasted'measuring physiques at a glance was part of Amy's business, and David looked to her like he'd gone on a crash diet since the last time she'd seen him. His clothes pooled loosely around him. She no longer had any clear conception of what David had been working on, but it must have been one fucked up project to have resulted in this.
There was a patter of footsteps. Amy was never one to back away from a confrontation, but the sight of David lying there with heavy-gauge steel tied around him like a ribbon made her decide that maybe she would be better off finding out what was going on before getting actively involved in it. She slipped behind a trunk-style freezer that would hide her from most of the room and ducked down.
The footsteps came into the room. Amy peeked up and saw that it was only Linda, her face so puffy and miserable that it appeared she was having at least as bad a day as Amy was. Linda held a crowbar, and she crouched down and began trying to use it to lever the loop in the barbell wide enough to slip David's head out. Amy raised herself a little higher to watch, and almost laughed out loud. Who was Linda trying to fool? It would take the Jaws of Life to untie that knot.
Eventually Linda figured this out for herself. Frustrated, she threw the crowbar away with a prissy, strengthless motion, and then began to cry again, clapping her hands over her face. In her imagination Linda saw the ease with which Susan had twisted the barbell in the first place, and this made her cry harder. "I'm not s-s-strong enough!" she sobbed. Soon, perhaps any moment now, the giantess would return, and who knew what would happen to David then? Linda couldn't leave the house to get help, not when it might mean leaving David at the mercy of that overgrown bitch. Linda knew that she couldn't possibly hope to defend him, but still, she had to try. He was her husband, and despite their deteriorating relationship, she loved him, and she would stand by him.
Linda imagined Susan twisting the bar again, her huge arms barely straining themselves as she did it, and suddenly she stopped crying, her gaze snapping toward the camcorder-like machine. "That machine," she murmured, sniffling, wiping away tears with her fingertips. As though it had been recorded on a tape and was now being played back for her, she heard herself say, If only there was some way to - I don't know - just push a button, or something, and get into shape. Well, there was a way, wasn't there? "That machine could make me stronger," she whispered, making herself stand. She looked down at David, a little guiltily, then back at the machine. "I mean, it worked for her, so -" She frowned suspiciously at the innocuous-looking device, thinking hard. She had no desire for big muscles; her athletic neighbor, Amy, had always struck her as slightly freakish, and the end result of Susan's experiments much moreso. But getting bigger would allow her to free her husband, and might even allow her to defend him if, heaven forbid, Susan should get back before the two of them managed to get away. And it wouldn't be permanent, would it? Susan had gone through a transformation before, and it had worn off'at least, that was what Linda had gleaned from eavesdropping on their conversation. Linda's eyes flicked to David's sprawled form again, and she wished he was awake so she could ask him. But he wasn't, and although he was still breathing, Linda didn't know when he would wake up, if ever. Linda had clearly seen David shrink and Susan grow when she had grabbed him, and Susan claimed to have absorbed his memories as well. Could she have left him a vegetable in the process? The thought that David might be seriously injured, and the thought that Susan might be back at any moment, with who knew what grim mischief in mind, finally made up Linda's mind.
As she stepped toward the machine, however, she began to feel the same weakness that had so immobilized her each time she'd watched Susan transform: shaky limbs, watery knees, bladder on the verge of letting go. What had happened to Susan was completely, utterly irrational. Linda had seen it all with her own eyes, but it was irrational nonetheless, and Linda didn't know if she could expose herself to this sort of irrationality, even if avoiding it meant leaving her husband here to die. Linda looked back at David one more time, and then her disconsolate expression was replaced by something more determined. Irrational or not, she had no choice.
Amy all but sniggered aloud when she saw Linda bend down by the machine. "If she thinks that filming herself is going to make her strong enough to untwist that bar, she's even stupider than I thought," she muttered. Amy had never had any real problem with David'he'd fixed their lawnmower for them when it had broken down, and he hadn't even asked for anything in return'but she'd always found his wife to be a bitch. Worse, in Amy's view, was the fact that Linda was physically weak, that she lacked the strength to back up her bitchiness and stand up for herself, by herself, without relying on laws and social mores and her husband to keep her from getting a shot in the mouth. For Amy, who had spent all of her adult life doggedly accumulating strength, Linda was the type of person who warranted zero respect. The fact that Linda had purchased a membership at Amy's gym and then had stopped going after just a couple of weeks only increased Amy's contempt.
Amy wasn't the only one who saw Linda fiddling with the machine. David saw it too, as he had finally opened his eyes just after the last time Linda turned away from him. He'd tried to come up into a sitting position, but got exactly nowhere: something was holding him in place, something implacable, and it cut off his air supply savagely when he tried to fight it. Instead he looked around, blinking, still groggy, not quite sure where he was or what had happened to him. Then he heard a noise and looked down toward his toes, craning his neck and seeing Linda go stand in front of the cinderblock wall. There were more noises, and they brought everything back with a force that sent David into utter panic. It was the machine, chittering. The lights went down, so low this time that they didn't seem to be on at all, and then the rainbow beam lashed out, blindingly bright. Instead of gold, however, this time the energy stream was cherry-red, a few shades lighter than Linda's hair, and Linda glowed like the nubile, scarlet-skinned succubae from a Lords of Acid album cover; she was just missing the horns and the pointed tail. Despite the ominous effect, David allowed himself to relax, thinking that Linda would simply emerge looking the same way Susan had after her first transformation, gorgeous and pleased with herself but all in all not too much of a threat, and that he could then talk her out of using the damned thing a second time. But then he saw how much she was growing, how fast, and he realized what the darkened room and the stream's greatly increased intensity signified. It was as if, he thought later, the machine somehow knew that it was creating a rival for its first client, and had decided to make Linda a worthy opponent right off the bat, without any of the hemming and hawing that had hindered Susan's ascendance to giantesshood.
Already Linda was growing in height, and her bobbed hair lengthened until it had reached the middle of her back, even as it billowed and swirled around her in the strobing red light. Her white denim shirt stretched, then pulled up out of the waistband of her jeans, even as the cuffs of her jeans rose above her ankles. The front of her shirt stretched, the threads creaking, and then the buttons began shooting off like bullets, the widening gap revealing her enormous red cleavage. Near the end her jeans split up the sides and fell off, revealing black lace panties that were stretched to fraying but still whole. Linda no longer appeared distraught; in fact, she looked like she was enjoying this at least as much as Susan had.
When the stream cut out and the lights came back up, the woman left standing before the wall was one David could only vaguely recognize as his wife. It was hard to judge from where he lay, but she looked to be over six feet tall, and her body appeared almost exactly as Susan's had after her third transformation. With her long, unkempt hair and torn clothing, she looked like exactly what she was, a lab experiment gone horribly wrong. "No, oh no," David moaned, unmanned by how out-of-control things were getting.
Linda's eyes came open slowly, and she blinked as her mind became accustomed to its new home. She crossed to the mirror, and what she saw there made a smile spread across her face. Had she been afraid of what she would look like after the machine had had its way with her? Had she really? It had been less than a minute ago that such a fear had consumed her, but now it seemed silly. All Linda knew was that she felt powerful, incredibly powerful, and if the cost of this power was that some people would regard her as a freak, well, that was their problem, not hers. Again she heard herself wish for something that could get her into shape at the press of a button, and the memory made her laugh out loud. God, this was great! She reached up and pulled off what was left of her shirt and bra. Her nipples and aureoles, formerly quite pale, were now the dark brown-red of dried blood, and she was pleased to see that, for the first time since puberty, her tits needed a bra not in the least. Then she began to pose.
Amy hadn't been quite as wigged out by watching Linda grow as Linda had by watching Susan, but it was a near thing. Watching Linda test out her incredible new body, Amy decided that she wasn't stupid at all. Nor was David, for that matter'Amy had nothing to say against a guy who could invent a machine that did that. If anyone was stupid here, Amy thought, it was Amy herself. But she was feeling smarter now. And she thought that if she could somehow slip past Linda and get a taste of that machine's power for herself, she would be very wise indeed.
David continued to lay there, helpless to do anything but watch. Eventually Linda reached her fill and turned to face him. David was all but driven into total panic by her expression'it was almost exactly what he had seen on Susan's face after she had grown big enough to completely overpower him.
Linda planted her hands on her hips. "So," she said in her new, husky voice. "You had it, all this time. Locked away in your workshop, the thing I asked for, the thing that could get me in shape at the press of a button." Her look, difficult to return already, became uglier. "I wanted it'you knew I wanted it'and yet you hid it from me."
David stared at her, not knowing what to say. He'd known about Linda's temper since they were first dating'it was impossible for her to hide it, even from a guy she was trying to impress'but it had never really bothered him before. He supposed now that this was because he was the man, stronger, and not much threatened by the possibility that she simply throw herself at him. He would never have dreamed of striking his wife, but at the same time the fact that he could, should he choose to, meant that she could never cow him. His masculine strength had protected him the way a circular saw's blade-guard protects the carpenter, allowing him to take something that was otherwise volatile and make it useful. That had been all well and good, but he saw now that the machine had broken his blade-guard clean off, leaving him at the mercy of his circular saw of a wife. What if she flew into a rage? What was he going to do, throw his steely gaze at her? That was very funny, wasn't it? What if she then decided that she didn't like that look, and sent her fist through his face? If he were lucky, he'd end up in traction; more likely, he'd be dead.
"Of course you hid it from me," Linda went on, and he could hear her fury now building to a crescendo. "Why would you have given it to me, when you were planning on getting rid of me? And to think, I thought I was going to leave you." Linda's huge hands became fists, and her eyes shone with a brittle mixture of humiliation and rage. "And isn't that what you wanted me to think? Wanted me to leave, so you could shack up with your mistress'my friend'and use your little invention to turn her into your dream girl? Isn't that how it went? Isn't it?" For a moment, David seemed to see her glow red again, as though signifying her awesome wrath. Then Linda paused, looked down at her hands, and forced them to open. The red aura vanished, and David wondered if it had really been there at all. Maybe he was under so much duress that on top of everything else he was beginning to hallucinate.
"No," David rasped. "No, Linda, no, you've got it all wrong -"
Linda continued as though she hadn't heard. "But things didn't go quite as you planned, did they? I was just a little bit smarter that you thought I'd be, and now helpless little Linda isn't so helpless anymore." Then she came at him. David yelped and nearly wet his pants, but Linda only grabbed the barbell and untwisted it, freeing him. Then she stood above him, hands on her hips. To David she looked as big as a mountain. "This is how it's going to be, sailor. I'm going to have another go in front of the miraculous muscle-maker over there. Then I'm going to go out, and when I come back I'm going to be holding Suzie-Q's head in my hand." She grinned cruelly at this thought. "After that, we'll decide on a suitable punishment for you. I have to admit, I'm feeling pretty good right now'better than I've felt my whole life, as a matter of fact. But adultery is serious, and I can't let you slide, no matter how much I might appreciate your handiwork."
"No, Linda, don't, please," David pleaded as she stomped away. He reached out and clutched at her rock-hard ankle, but she ignored him.
As she stooped down to activate the device, she paused and looked back at him. "And whatever you do while I'm gone, you're not to so much as touch this thing. If I come back and find it's been tampered with, I'm going to be extremely upset with you." She stared at him, and again David was only barely able to return that flat gaze. "I believe I might even be angry enough to kill you." After watching to make sure this had sunk in, Linda pushed the button and went to stand in front of the wall.
"Noooo," David moaned, his eyes streaming.
At first, everything occurred as before, but soon it became clear that something had gone wrong'or, from David's point of view, had gone right. Linda didn't tilt her head back, didn't moan, and most importantly she didn't grow. Instead she only stood there, looking a little bewildered as the stream of red energy poured into her abdomen but failed to affect her. She didn't even glow red this time. When the machine cut out, she immediately went to the mirror, to confirm what she already knew: she had not grown, not so much as an inch. The machine had given to her in a single jolt what it had given to Susan in three, but apparently it had nothing else to offer. "No," Linda hissed between clenched teeth, balling her hands into fists again. "No, it's not enough, I must have more, I must have more'!"
All at once Linda's body glowed like a stoplight, and now David saw what it meant: she was growing again, and now she was doing it on her own, without any help from the machine. "I need more," she grunted, "more," and she was getting more with each passing second. She rose to six-and-a-half feet tall, and then she realized what had happened and relaxed. "Yes," she gloated, "I'm bigger, but'" Then she realized that she had stopped growing again, and it made her furious all over again. "What? It's still not enough! That bitch Susan is still bigger than me, I must have more'!" The glow resumed, and soon she was seven feet tall. Her back was a massive delta of ridged white marble, but for David and Amy it was mostly obscured by her hair. She kept growing even as her panties split and fluffed soundlessly on the floor beneath her. Her bare ass defied description, at least a description that David or Amy could have managed. She kept growing until her head touched the ceiling, and then she relaxed again. "There!" she announced. "Now we'll see what that bitch Susan has to say. She picked the wrong fucking marriage to break up, and it's time she learned it." Linda turned around, smiling at David's stricken expression. "Actually, honey, I've changed my mind'you can do whatever you want to that silly little machine of yours," she said with a sweetness that contrasted weirdly with her deep voice. "I certainly don't have any more use for it. In fact, it might be better if you just took a hammer to it, so this doesn't get any messier than it already is." Then she turned back around and walked straight through the cinderblock wall. The blocks shattered as she passed through them, not slowing her at all.
David started to run after her, then paused and looked at the machine, torn. She was right about the machine, no doubt about that'best to destroy it now, before someone else could get to it and cause trouble. But at the same time he couldn't just let Linda go out on a rampage. What if someone saw her and called the cops? What if the cops then tried to subdue her, going so far as to draw their guns, and that legendary temper of hers drove her to try and take them all on single-handedly? The thought of her being cut down in a hail of gunfire, with that look of twisted rage on her face, made up his mind. He turned and ran outside.
Amy stood up from behind the freezer, very alert from her continuous adrenaline rush but still feeling like a woman caught in a strange dream. In a way, she hoped that she was dreaming; everything she'd seen over the past few minutes had just been too weird. She went to the hole that Linda'or, rather, the perfect being that had been Linda'had made and looked out. The perfect being had crossed her own lawn and was going up to Amy's driveway. As Amy watched, horrified, the perfect being hauled back her perfect leg and then booted Amy's Lumina. Only two years old, with six thousand miles on it, the Lumina now flew through the air with its entire chassis bent and its passenger-side door hanging out like a tongue, the front wheels spinning. It landed upside-down on top of an old Ford Tempo parked across the street, both cars crumpling with a loud bang! that sent safety-glass spitting out in all directions. The perfect being laughed at what she had done, then resumed striding down the street. Amy heard an engine rev, and then she saw David's car pull out of the driveway and begin to follow the perfect being at a cautious distance.
Amy turned away, back toward the workshop. All of this was a dream, surely. Surely the things she had just witnessed could not be real. She began to walk slowly inside, wondering when she would wake up. Probably before she had a chance to use it herself, she thought. As she took another step she felt lumps under her foot, and took a step back. Something shiny was on the ground: buttons. The buttons that had popped off of Linda's shirt. Amy stared at them for nearly a full minute, entranced. Not a dream, then. Dreams didn't have this much detail. And that meant that everything she had seen in the last few minutes, including her wrecked car and razed house, had been real. Linda's shredded clothes were on the ground, along with some other clothes she hadn't noticed before. She wondered what the other clothes meant. As she wondered she went to the machine, the machine that looked exactly like a camcorder, and studied it carefully. She was starting to feel smart again, and as she recalled Linda's accusations she began to put things together. The first thing was the fact that that fat-ass little blonde who'd been flirting with Jim was named Susan. The second thing was the sweet-faced little blonde whore who'd had him eating out of her hand on Tuesday. The sweet-faced little whore had been way younger than Susan, but there had been a resemblance all right'she could have been Susan's younger sister. On its own, not too important. But factor this wonderful little machine into the equation, and what did you get? Amy had been watching Linda's growth very closely, and she realized that during the first stages her body had looked an awful lot like that of the sweet-faced little whore. So she and Susan were the same. It was Susan who'd gotten the first taste of the machine, and apparently David had given her just enough to give her that fit body and that disarming face, which she had used to seduce Jim. After afterward? Amy added the barbell around David's neck, the hole in the kitchen wall, the other torn clothes, and her own demolished house to the equation. What was the answer? Who had Linda announced she was going to kill? Again, Susan. Susan, who had tried to woo Amy's husband away, not once but twice. Susan, who had retaliated by destroying Amy's home. "You crazy little bitch," Amy breathed, but with respect: one-upmanship was a game she knew well. But at the same time she would eagerly play the game herself, and she found herself wishing that she had punched Susan more than four times. A lot more, until Susan's pretty little body had been broken and dying. Revenge would be a lot trickier now, if the state of her house was any indication of Susan's current size and strength. But Amy was confident she could handle it. "I'm going break your pretty little neck," Amy said to the empty workshop, which as it happened was actually empty this time. Linda had been right to suggest that David destroy the machine, Amy thought; but he hadn't, and that had opened the door to her own opportunity.
"Bad luck for you, honey," she breathed, peering at the buttons. Both Susan and Linda had shared an initial distaste for sporting huge muscles, thinking they made a woman look grotesque. Amy, however, had no such notions. Ever since she was a little tomboy, she'd been intent on making herself as big and as strong as she could possibly be, and for her there was nothing more beautiful than the sight a bulky, defined woman. Without any real hesitation, she pushed the button that she had seen Linda use and then stood where the wall had been.
The lights in the room dimmed, the machine chittered, and the rainbow beam shot out. This time the subsequent energy stream was an evil purple-black color, like an ultraviolet light, and then Amy closed her eyes and moaned in pleasure as she felt herself grow. As with Susan, she was doing this to herself in order to get revenge, but she now found that the feelings caused by the machine's energy stream were very much their own reward. When it was over, she opened her eyes and looked down at herself. "Tits!" she cried joyously. Her chest, formerly all but flat, now sported globes the side of basketballs, the lower arcs of which hung nearly to the line of her belly button. Her black cotton running singlet had been destroyed and now hung from her waist. "I have huge tits!" She went to the mirror to admire herself, and it was nearly a full minute before she realized what was wrong: her boobs were big, all right, but the rest of her was completely unchanged. Her musculature was impressive, but that was just because it had always been impressive.
"No!" Amy cried in frustration. "No no no! Why didn't it work? Why didn't it?" She clenched her fists and raged at her reflection, just as she had seen Linda do. But there was no red glow, and she didn't get any bigger. At last she forced herself to stop and stood up straight, studying herself pensively. She looked down at her tits - and looked - and gradually realized how turned-on she was becoming. She had never been a very sexual woman'this was, someone more impartial than Amy might have deduced, why Jim felt so compelled to flirt with other women'but she was feeling extremely sexual now. Put more bluntly, she felt like a bitch in heat, ready to rut with the first mutt that came along. Her breasts tingled maddeningly, and when she put her hands on them as if to quell that tingle, it only made it ten times worse. She rubbed and pulled at them like a girl in a porno movie pretending that she just couldn't get enough, only the horrible thing was Amy really couldn't get enough. She cupped and caressed them, and then without realizing what she was doing she tugged at the nipples, milking herself. Cool liquid dribbled into her palms, but it wasn't milk. Whatever it was, it was as black as crude oil, and nearly as viscous. Amy didn't look at it; she just licked it off her palms. For a brief moment she became that ultraviolet color, not like a woman but like a glass shell made in the shape of a woman and filled with purple neon, and she grew an inch. Again, she failed to notice this, and just went on molesting herself. "Ah - f-f-feels so good - I hafta'hafta'" Then Amy did what she had to do, rolling one enormous breast up and taking its long, fat nipple into her mouth. She began suckling herself, helpless to stop. Immediately the ultraviolet glow returned and Amy's whole body began to grow, her breasts growing as well yet coming a little more into proportion with the rest of her body. Amy still didn't notice this, didn't notice anything but how incredible she felt, until finally something cracked her smartly on the top of her head. She dropped her breast, thinking with terror that she would open her eyes to find Susan or Linda standing there, frowning down at her furiously. She opened her eyes, but there was nothing above her but the ceiling, and that was close enough for her to tilt her head back and touch with her nose. She looked around at the room, which was now like a kiddie version of the room she had been in a few moments ago. Her clothes and shoes had all fallen off, and the copper-toned body which stood under her was even more impressive than the one Linda had left with. "I grow - when I suck my tits!" Amy said, and then laughed wildly at how ridiculous it sounded. Like Linda, she now had her own unique, amazing superpower, like the heroine in a comic book. But somehow Amy doubted that any comic books had been issued which contained plots and characters like this.
Amy looked around the room some more, and then her eyes settled on David's machine, looking small and vulnerable yet very dangerous. "I think you have a point, Linda," Amy murmured in a very deep voice as she went to it, crouching slightly to avoid hitting her head on the hanging fluorescent bars. "I may have to kill you later, but I think you really had a good point. Three is enough; we don't need anyone else joining our club." With that, she reached down, took the tiny camcorder into her palm, and squeezed. The screw holding it to the tripod snapped in half, and when Amy opened her hand what sprinkled on the floor was nothing but little bits. "There," she said.
She went outside and studied the world from her new elevation. The view, she decided, was much improved. She was confident that she was now big enough and strong enough to handle anything that Susan or Linda could throw at her - but all the same she couldn't stop thinking about sucking her tits. "Little more bulk couldn't hurt," she decided, and then rolled both nipples up to her mouth. She stuck one in each corner and went back to work, watching with slitted eyes as the world sank and shrank around her. Her waist was about level with the roofpeak of the Carsons' house when a tiny voice squeaked, "Amy! Good God, is that you?"
Amy reluctantly allowed her nipples to fall out of her mouth and opened her eyes fully. It was Jim standing down there'Jim, who had probably driven over in a last-ditch effort to bury the hatchet with her, and now looked about as big as her Ken doll had looked to her when she was a little girl. He only stood there, gaping, as she reached down, pinched the back of his shirt, and lifted him up to eye level with her.
"Yes, it is me, Jim," Amy said, pleased with how her voice now boomed, like that of a powerful goddess. "And I want you to know that I've forgiven you for what you did'almost. Right now I'm going to kill the little blonde whore you were with, and I'm sure after that's done that I can forgive and forget. After that - well, I suppose I'll conquer the world." Amy hadn't considered this before, but now that she did it made perfect sense to her. She tried to imagine herself going back to the gym she way she was now, making schedules, balancing the books, and talking up the gym to prospective members, and the notion made her laugh. Really, what else was there for her to do now, if not rule the world? Still laughing, she allowed Jim to fall. He seemed to land okay, but rather than get up he just sprawled back on all fours and watched his giantess of a wife go striding off, laughing and massaging her unbelievable tits.
"I'd find somewhere safe to hole up, honey," Amy called back to him. "Things could get dangerous for a while."
fourth quad: damnation and denouement
Susan entered the gym the same way she'd exited David's house, by walking right through a wall. This wall was concrete rather than wood and plaster, but that didn't matter to Susan. Inside, people jerked up in the LifeCycles, dropped dumbbells on their toes, and fell off the treadmills, stunned by the sight of the nude blonde muscle goddess now striding into their midst.
"Where is she?" Susan growled.
No one answered.
"Where is Amy Reynolds?"
Still no response. Among the people assembling nervously before her, Susan recognized a large man who was a friend of Jim'though he wasn't so large to her anymore. Susan had been smitten with this man as well, but he'd treated the middle-aged little blonde like she hadn't existed at all. Now, as everyone stared dumbly at her, mesmerized by her size and by her nudity, she stepped forward and grabbed the man's arm. He tried to twist away, but Susan's grip was like iron, and then the golden glow suffused her and she began to absorb his muscle mass. "Not here," she said faintly. According to the man's memories, Amy had left the gym more than an hour ago. She saw other things too, like the fact that the man had broken his girlfriend's jaw when he was nineteen. Susan took some more of what he had, and then she allowed him to collapse to the ground, feeling greatly refreshed but at the same time soiled. She looked around. Among the crowd were two of the largest men she had ever seen. She recognized them as well; she'd never met them, but they practically lived in the gym. They tried to get away when she came at them, but she caught them by their beefy forearms. The rest of the crowd had had enough'they scattered. The two men began beating at the giantess, trying to get her to let go. In response Susan curled them to her like a pair of misbehaving boys, mashing their faces into the sides of her breasts. "Might as well go with a smile," she told the squirming men, even as she grew and they shrank. This continued for several moments, and then an unpleasant thought which had been trying to occur to Susan all along finally broke through the golden fog of her pleasure. I'm a vampire! she realized, with dawning horror. What had taken these men years of intensive labor to build, she was sucking out of them in a few breezy seconds, and all at once she pushed them away, allowing them to fall to the ground. She looked around the room, which was now empty except for her and the three unconscious men. The ceilings were very tall, but the room seemed cramped to her, and the machines were like toys. Amy wasn't here. Susan went back out through the hole, and when her forehead hit the top and broke it higher as she went, she only blinked. If Amy wasn't here, where was she? Home? Susan had destroyed her home. The police station might be a better guess. A friend's house might be a better guess too. Suppose she had gone to David's house for help? Suppose that she had then found him, and found his invention sitting untended? Suppose further that she had somehow learned what it was and how to use it? Susan wanted very much to go home now'if she kept this up, grabbing men and adding their mass to her own, pretty soon the only way she was going to be able to get into her house was to crawl. And what would she say when she saw Janey? Or would Janey just flee, screaming, from the scary giant? The thought of her own daughter no longer being able to stand the sight of her got Susan moving. She would go by David's house, get the machine, then take it home and cool out for a while. Get her bearings. Getting Amy was maybe still important, maybe not. She would have to see.
Susan was so intent on these thoughts that she didn't see the huge fist which came flying at her, not until it had been planted square in the center of her jaw. She went flying herself, up and over, and landed prone in the middle of the deserted street. She pushed up on her hands, then came to her feet, wondering who in the world was strong enough to knock her off her feet like that. There was a warm trickle running down to her chin, from the inside of her lips by the feel of it. Before her stood a beautiful, fierce-looking redhead, as tall and as naked as Susan herself was.
Susan wiped her mouth with the back of one fist. "Linda, you're home early," she said, speaking as David for a moment. David's affection for Linda filled her as well, and Susan fought it down. If there was one thing that was going to get her hurt now, it was not taking this new competitor seriously enough. "Too bad for you," Susan went on in a harder tone. "If you'd stayed in Stanton until Sunday, like you were supposed to, David would have gone missing, but you'd still be alive." Susan felt like she were reciting lines of dialogue from a movie, but somehow that seemed appropriate, Everything that had happened up to now had been like something from a movie, hadn't it? The kind of movie that had been very popular in Japan right after World War II, the kind in which guys in rubber suits ran amok in scale reproductions of Tokyo. Monster movies. She went on, "Now I'll have to kill you, as well."
"Don't make me laugh, bitch," Linda said. "Or should I say, friend. My friend, who slept with my husband behind my back."
Susan winced. She and David had been very careful, but somehow Linda had found out, and that added a new and very dangerous level to the game. For, at heart, this was how Susan approached this: a game. It was all play-acting. Like flirting, which Susan had reveled in all her adult life: projecting an intimacy that wasn't there, while obscuring the primal needs that were there. Even when she had threatened David after her second and especially after her third incarnations, she hadn't been serious'just play-acting, just seeing how far she could push him. She had, in essence, been pretending to be the schoolyard bully that she'd never had the strength to be. She'd found it fun, and harmless fun at that. What she had done to the three men in the gym, and what she had just said to Linda, well, maybe that wasn't so harmless. But one side effect of her growth were the overwhelming feelings of confidence and narcissism that pushed her to the brink of sociopathy, which in turn led her to take her game too far, as she had just done now.
"My friend, who knocked my beloved husband unconscious," Linda went on with mounting fury. Her fists were clenched and her arms began quaking. "My friend, who tampered with what she had no business tampering with, who used what should have been mine alone!" She took a step forward, her heel fracturing the asphalt, her whole body glowing like red neon, and with sudden horror Susan realized that Linda was somehow growing even larger. Knowing that if she didn't do something right away, she was going to lose control of the situation (and control was what had made the game so much fun in the first place), Susan ran forward, meaning to embrace Linda and begin absorbing her mass. But Linda remembered what Susan had done to David, and she managed to side-step the rushing blonde, moving swiftly for all her size. As Linda turned, her outstretched hand caught the steel shaft of a street lamp, and then she plucked it out of the ground like a corn stalk and swung it. It struck Susan's midsection and curled around her in a U-shape. The pain was immense, but Susan didn't think she was seriously injured, and now she was glad she'd grown as large as she had; any less, and the pole might have simply lopped her in half.
The pain served to wake Susan up to the seriousness of what was really happening here, and before Linda could react Susan snatched the street lamp out of her hand. "You think you can hurt me with steel?" Susan sneered, then pulled the top third from the rest of the lamp as though the metal were taffy and threw it at Linda like a hatchet. Linda brought one arm up to protect her face, and the projectile bounced off from her upper arm and shoulder, leaving red scratches on her milky skin. The red glow returned and she began to get even bigger, the scratches disappearing. Susan ran at her again, but this time Linda looped her arm up and Susan went flying almost straight up into the air. The blonde crashed into the third floor of a building, then fell down to the street. Bricks and glass fell on top of her. Not daring to take the time to see if she was all right, Susan lunged forward out of the cloud of dust, picked up a manhole cover, and threw it like a Frisbee. It traveled with the speed of a bullet, struck Linda above her right breast, then ricocheted away, driving Linda to one knee. Then Susan was on her, toppling the gigantic redhead onto her back and trying desperately to pin her down, hands on her wrists and shins on her legs. The asphalt crumbled and sank everywhere Linda's weight rested on it, and Susan saw that if her former friend grew any bigger, trying to subdue her would become as hopeless as Janey trying to subdue an adult. Then her own golden aura returned, and Linda began to shrink while Susan began to grow. Again, the orgasmic ecstasy of all that power, and Susan had to concentrate hard on keeping Linda pinned.
"NOOOOO!" Linda roared, and then bucked Susan off in one titanic convulsion. Susan landed on her back, bigger, but not nearly big enough. Linda, for her part, had realized her own peril, and was on Susan instantly, punching and kicking the smaller giantess all over the street, making her blows hard while keeping the length of contact at a minimum. Bones broke. Susan'bruised, benumbed, and bloodied'realized that she was going to lose the game after all, and that she was probably even going to die in the process. The knowledge made her angry'angry at Linda, but mostly angry at herself, for blithely getting herself into this pickle in the first place. Linda could tell Susan was angry, because suddenly Susan was the one glowing cherry-neon, and Linda paused in her assault, not sure of what she was seeing. But it was really happening: Susan was growing on her own, her cuts and bruises fading as she did.
Susan stopped when she was the same size as Linda again and began to laugh triumphantly. "Now do you understand?" she taunted, her voice rattling windows in their frames, and then she rushed forward and grabbed Linda's upper arms. Susan's aura returned, gold again. Linda began to shrink as Susan began to grow, and as Susan's strength increased she clamped her hands like titanium shackles, insuring that Linda couldn't twist away.
"No!" Linda shouted. "I won't be weak again! I won't!" Her red glow returned, but she didn't grow any bigger. In fact, she realized with utter horror, now Susan was growing twice as fast, her gold aura filled with flecks of red. Linda's rage was being used against her'Susan was sucking it up like a battery. Her rage vanished, replaced by fear, and the red flecks disappeared from Susan's aura. But Susan went on absorbing her size mercilessly. Soon Linda was clutched to Susan's chest like a child, and then held in her hand like a doll. At last Linda was five-foot three and girlishly slender, and the gold glow disappeared.
Linda cowered in the shadow of Susan's thumb, which was like a twisted column of flesh at one end of the hardpan bowl of her palm. She darted fearful glances around the edges of the hand, saw how far below her the street was, and realized that Susan must be fifty feet tall now. The massive body-imprint, where Linda had lain while Susan had pinned her, now seemed to Linda like somebody's bad idea of a joke.
She made herself look up. Susan was staring down at her like a goddess, impassive, contemplative. Then there was a sudden burst of wind, and Linda put her hands up as she was buffeted and then coated with so much moisture that her hair became lank. But it was no wind, she realized; it was merely Susan exhaling. When she brought herself to look up again, Susan was still staring at her.
"WE WERE FRIENDS ONCE, LINDA," Susan said, in a voice that was calm yet seemed to make Linda's whole skeleton vibrate. "AND DESPITE WHAT HAS HAPPENED TODAY, I WOULD HAVE US REMAIN FRIENDS STILL. I WILL, PERHAPS, SPARE YOUR LIFE. BUT I WILL GRANT YOU THIS MERCY ON ONE CONDITION: YOU MUST NOT ATTEMPT TO CHALLENGE ME AGAIN." She paused to let this sink in. "DO YOU AGREE? OR SHALL I DESTROY YOU HERE AND NOW, AND SAVE MYSELF THE BOTHER OF DOING IT LATER?"
It took Linda's terror-benumbed mind a few moments to process this; when it finally sank in, she began nod. She would agree to anything, anything at all, if it would stop those massive fingers from closing and squashing her like a bug.
Susan's expression softened, but only fractionally; Linda wouldn't have noticed the change at all, had not Susan's head been so massive. "I HAVE MADE YOU NORMAL AGAIN," Susan went on, "AND WHATEVER YOU MAY FEEL NOW, THAT IS A BLESSING. RETURN TO YOU HUSBAND, YOUR CHILDREN, AND CARRY ON WITH YOUR LIFE. I NOW GIVE YOU THIS OPPORTUNITY; I WILL NOT GIVE IT A SECOND TIME."
With that, Susan crouched and carefully set Linda back on the street. Linda nearly puked'the descent had probably seemed gentle to Susan, but to her it had been like the world's fastest express elevator, and one without any walls or roof'but she managed to hold it down. Then she stood up and looked at the awesome sight before her, the backside of a perfect blonde-haired woman as big as a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float. There were some blood stains on her, left over from when Linda had beaten her, but Susan's surface area had grown a great deal since then and the stains were very faint. Linda watched her vanquisher stride away, causing small tremors to race through the ground with each step she took.
Susan began to laugh, a bright, joyful sound that was heard as many as twenty miles away. Had she enjoyed ordering David around and scaring all those people at the gym? Sure, but this, she thought, had been a million times better. A kajillion times better. Never mind that absorbing Linda's considerable size had been like the ultimate orgasm; she had passed judgment, passed judgment, like some kind of fucking goddess'the Goddess, even. She had held Linda's life in her hand, had literally held Linda in her hand. And then she had passed judgment. And Linda had been as helpless to affect her as she would've been to affect any other cataclysmic force of nature. Passed judgment, I passed judgment upon her'Susan couldn't get enough of the phrase. And then Susan began to wonder if this was reducible to play-acting anymore. Was she just pretending to be a goddess? Or was she a goddess? As huge as she was now, it was hard to imagine ever getting to her normal size again, especially now that she had two ways to get bigger, by absorbing size from other people, and by simply getting angry. Maybe it would be better to just stay like this, and let everything else take care of itself. She noticed people staring out windows and gawping at her from the sidewalks, and wondered if she should make some kind of speech to them, about how everyone and everything was now answerable to her. Everyone talked about politics, but Susan thought that she was now lofty enough to do something about it.
But then she thought of Janey, and her notions of goddesshood collapsed. Janey needed her mommy, and Susan wouldn't even consider depriving her of that. Couldn't even consider it. And so she would have to allow herself to shrink. Susan paused for a moment, making herself think things through, then continued on toward David's house. She would get the machine, put it someplace safe, then find somewhere to hide while her size drained away again. She wasn't sure if this would happen at all, but she had to try. For Janey's sake, she had to find a way out of this mess. Now that she thought about it, it seemed ridiculous to her, how big she was, and thus how out of hand everything had gotten. She didn't need to be the size of Godzilla just to put the hurt on one single woman.
"What?" a massive voice boomed from beside her. "You're even bigger than I am!"
At first Susan thought it must be Linda talking, that she had broken her promise not to grow again. But, even amplified, she knew it wasn't Linda's voice. She turned, and had a moment of fear when she saw that it was Amy, somehow nearly as tall as Susan herself. Then Susan relaxed, and even began to appreciate the situation. However it had happened, it seemed right to Susan that Amy should have stumbled on David's machine herself. If she hadn't, if Susan had found a normal-sized Amy that she could have squashed with her pinky, it would've made all this the most ludicrous sort of overkill, like swatting a fly by dropping an A-bomb on it. Then she considered the fact that if she was going to take care of Amy, it could only be by absorbing her size the way she had Susan's. And that meant taking an even bigger step toward goddesshood. Susan made herself calm down and reassume her goddess role, molding her face with the same imperious contempt she'd shown toward Linda before their battle. The important thing now was to win this fight; if she survived, then she could worry about how she was going to get herself back to normal.
"Amy," Susan greeted with a cold smile. "I see you found out my little secret."
"That's right. Found it, used it, smashed it. We don't need anyone else joining our little club, do we?"
Susan nodded; this, at least, was good news. "I'm glad to see you like this," she said honestly. "It will make you death that much more enjoyable for me."
"I don't think so, slut," Amy said, with a confidence that unsettled Susan a little. Proportion-wise, Amy looked pretty much the same as she always had, except for her tits, which, even taking her new size into account, were unbelievable. "Watch this'I'm going to show you my secret, just before I kill you." With that, she rolled her tits up and brought those teat-like nipples into either side of her mouth and began to gulp whatever came out of them. A glow like ultraviolet light consumed her skin, and then she began to grow.
Susan laughed; in spite of this new danger, she couldn't help it. "That's your power?" she jeered. "You grow when you suck your own tits?" She took a step forward. "I have got to try this out for myself."
Susan reached for Amy; Amy, who hadn't seen what Susan had done to David, didn't even try to avoid her. Susan's hands clamped onto Amy's upper arms, which were now even bigger than her own. Amy could have taken Susan at that point, could have beaten her huge rival to death; but she was too fixated on sucking her breasts. Susan's gold glow appeared. Amy stopped growing, and then she began to shrink as Susan grew. Much of the growth came in Susan's breasts, which became as large as Amy's. Susan sighed'the feeling was incredible. Amy, realizing what was happening, allowed her nipples to fall out of her mouth and shoved Susan away.
"What, no more?" Susan said, then chuckled evilly. "Well, no matter. I've got my own super-tits now." To Amy's horror, Susan put her own elongated nipples into her mouth and sucked them as Amy had done. A purple glow suffused her, and she began to grow. She drank until she was a head taller than Amy and then made herself stop. "Oooh, yes, I love this!" Susan said. She lifted her head, shut her eyes, and flung her arms over her head; her glorious tits, now the size of hot-air balloons, bounced everywhere. "I LOVE SUCKING MY OWN TITS!" she bellowed to the world. Then she grinned down at Amy. "Thanks for the gift. In return I'm going to kill you."
In a panic, Amy began reaching for her tits again, but then Susan was on her. Susan pinned Amy's arms to her sides, the gold glow reappearing as she began to absorb Amy's size. Amy struggled wildly, but Susan had a sudden impish idea about how to prevent her from getting away: she lifted the smaller giantess and began suckling. Amy instantly stopped struggling and began to tremble and moan in ecstasy, helpless to do otherwise. When Amy was reduced to half Susan's size, Susan stopped drinking the black liquid and held Amy at arm's length, grinning at her cruelly. She was absorbing Amy's thoughts and memories as well, but they seemed to her like the sorts of small, idiot things an ant or a grasshopper might think about, nothing that could engender her sympathy. This was the payback, Susan told herself. This was her revenge. This was Amy's due for making her feel small and powerless. Amy became the size of a child to Susan, the size of a Barbie doll, the size of a bug. Amy became her normal size again, but as Susan continued to hold her she lost even that, until she was as slender as Linda had been.
Vanquished, Amy stared up at Susan, too stunned to even cry. She had come into Susan's game gambling with massive stakes, and she had lost her shirt. It was the first time in her life she had been beaten in a contest of physical strength, and she was simply unable to process it.
Susan stared down at the black-haired mote of a woman in her palm, feeling more like a goddess than ever. Amy's breasts, she noticed, were still very large in relation to the rest of her, and it seemed likely that she could use them to grow back to Susan's size if she wanted, or even larger. Susan knew that the only way to prevent that possibility (or, really, inevitability) was to kill her.
If she had thought it over, Susan probably would have chickened out, too disturbed by the thought of taking a life to go through with it, whatever the consequences from sparing Amy might have been. But she was flying higher than ever after her latest absorption, and extinguishing the only real danger to herself seemed like a damned good idea to her. She rolled Amy onto the side of her curled index finger and pressed the pad of her thumb up across the curl. There was a small crunch, then warmth, accompanied by a spurt of red mist. Susan opened her hand and looked at the pulpy stain on her fingertips with a strange mixture of satisfaction and incomprehension. Was this what she'd intended all along? To take Amy's life? That could hardly be called a "lesson," now could it? Amy couldn't exactly be expected to change her ways now that she was a cooling smear of protoplasm.
People had assembled downtown to watch the watermelon parade; now they were five blocks over, watching the women. The giant women. Only, now it was down to one giantess, the blonde; somehow she'd made her redheaded rival normal-sized again, and taken herself from a freak to a wonder in the process. People on the sidewalks stared at the redhead wandering absently down the center of the street, not just because she was as naked as a jaybird, and not just because some of them began to realize they recognized her. They stared because five minutes ago she'd been one story tall, and barely a minute ago she'd been two stories tall, and now she was about five-foot-three.
Linda didn't register the other people, much less the fact that they were staring at her. She was lost inside herself, pondering what Susan had said to her. The thought of her life with David and the kids seemed vague to her, like something out of a dream. Yet the memory of her brief time as an giantess, from her lashing out at David to the battle with Susan, also seemed garish and unreal. What seemed especially strange about the latter was the fact that her temper, which had always been a great hindrance to her, had instead become a source of nourishment. Linda considered this shifted dynamic as a simpleton may consider the mechanics of a magic 8-ball. Hindrance - or nourishment. Weakness, or strength. Which would it be?
Someone pushed his way through the crowd and ran toward her. It was David, her husband. Or the man who had been her husband, up until the point when Linda had first discovered that she could grow just by getting pissed off. Linda knew that the meaning of "to husband" was the same as to conserve, and she supposed in that respect he had failed to meet the bar for a while. Not his fault; it was hard to keep a woman in check when she had more power in her little finger than you had in your whole body. But apparently David didn't know he wasn't her husband anymore, because when he reached her he gathered her up in a hug. Linda let herself be hugged. She didn't much care for the feel of strong arms wrapping around her, but she didn't try to resist. David was strong enough to do that or anything else he wanted to her.
David, for his part, was disturbed by the way Linda stood limply in the circle of his arms. He liked even less the blank look in her eyes, as though she'd just walked out of a bomb blast and was still deep in shock. Her body was very cold, and he supposed that she really was in shock. He supposed further that he should take her to the hospital. He stepped back and examined her critically, still holding her by the shoulders. Her nipples and aureoles remained dark red, and her hair was still long and tangled, giving her a savage look. Ironically, now she had the body shape she'd always been pining for, slender yet shapely. So his machine had been a success'just in an extremely roundabout way.
"Linda?" he said, and brushed the hair away from those pale, unfocused eyes with a tender motion. "Linda, honey, are you okay?"
Her eyes came into focus, and she looked up at him. She said nothing.
"I'll tell you what, Linda. Let's just get out of here, get the kids, and drive away." David spoke with increasing conviction as he realized how much better of an idea this was than going to the hospital. Susan could grow as tall as Mount Everest and rule the whole fucking world; for David, the only important thing was to save Linda, to get her free and clear from this madness. "We'll get in the car, drive to Bosco, pick up Billy and Cammie, and then just go on vacation. Okay? Linda?"
The faint booming sounds of Susan's footsteps stopped, and then there was the sound of women conversing, amplified hugely. Linda looked up, and David looked as well. To his horror, there was now a third giantess, facing off with Susan. This one had black hair and deeply bronzed skin, and as David studied her he realized that it was his neighbor, Amy Reynolds. Somehow she, too, had been exposed to his invention. David wondered bleakly if even now curious women were streaming in and out of his workshop, making themselves big and then going after each other, avenging their petty jealousies and acting out their trivial rivalries on a titanic scale. Then he heard Amy say something to the effect that she'd destroyed the machine after using it, and David relaxed a little. Maybe this was the extent of it, then. As bad as it was, maybe it wouldn't get worse. David certainly wasn't going to build another machine, no matter how many fucking dreams he had next time.
He looked back at Linda. The late afternoon sunlight glimmered on her cheek, and he saw that she was crying. She sniffled but didn't wipe away the tears that beaded and then dropped from the edge of her jaw. He used his finger to wipe them away for her. "Okay, honey?" he said in a low voice. "Can we go now?" He put one hand on her soft arm and began to lead her away. He'd lost some of his muscle mass and even a little of his height to Susan, but he was still more than capable of handling his wife.
For a few moments, she allowed herself to be led; then she put both feet down, jerking David to a halt. The asphalt cut painfully into the soles of her bare feet, but she ignored it. "No," she said quietly.
"Linda I think we should go now," David said more firmly. He pulled harder.
"NO!" Linda shrieked, tearing her arm from David's grasp. She clenched her small fists, and as David watched, helpless to stop her, she turned red and began to grow. Her body filled out with the same muscle he had first seen in his workshop, her tits getting big and firm again, and she grew to six feet, then seven. When she was eight feet tall and he could no longer hope to intimidate her, she allowed herself to stop.
Linda glared down at her fragile little whelp of a husband. When she'd allowed herself to get angry and grow, she'd thought it would give her the perspective she needed to think more clearly, get her to a place where neither David nor anyone else could force her to do something she didn't want to do. Now, too late, she realized how foolish that was. Her anger fed her now, but as always it also fed on itself; what had become her tool remained her master. Going with David to get the kids and then getting the hell out of Dodge might have been a really good idea, from an objective point of view. But, while Linda could do a lot of things at her new size, thinking objectively was certainly not one of them. Her family meant little to her. Her promise to that fucking bitch Susan meant even less. All Linda really wanted was to make the fucking bitch pay for what she had done. But she supposed she should give David an explanation first. She supposed he deserved it. And it might be fun, to rag him out one last time before she got down to work.
"Did you really think that would get me, talking about the kids and my life with you? Does the escaped prisoner run back to jail when he hears the sound of handcuffs? You can't imagine what it's like for me, David, to have access to this power. This mastery." She paused, savoring the word. "I still love you, I guess, and I'll take care of you and kids'I'll be real good at that, once I'm as tall as the Empire State Building and have the whole world under my thumb. But in the meantime you better stand back, because I've got one seriously big homewrecker to take care of."
With that, Linda turned. David was moaning for her to stop, but she ignored him, focusing instead on Susan, who was now somehow growing bigger by sucking her own tits. Linda watched, began to get angry, began to grow. Some of the people on the sidelines began to cheer her on; for them, seeing the pretty redhead get back into the game was like seeing Rocky get knocked down, stagger to his feet, and suddenly come back with an unexpected flurry.
Linda watched Susan pick up Amy and began to molest her tits as well, gaining a better vantage point on the battle with each passing moment. Susan absorbed Amy's size, growing again, but Linda grew right along with her. By the time Susan stopped, she was a hundred feet tall, the tallest thing in town. But Linda was still getting bigger. Linda got bigger as she watched Susan shrink Amy into nothingness and then pop her like a grape. Linda was even with Susan at that point, but she kept herself growing by imagining the particulars of Susan's betrayal. Even when she was a head taller than Susan, Linda wouldn't allow herself to calm down. Susan's absorptive power made her dangerous at any size, even if she was no bigger to Linda than a flea, and Linda needed to be big enough to put her down with a single blow. It took a lot of rage to get that big. But getting and staying angry had always been Linda's strong suit.
The fist came at Susan just as it had before, seemingly from out of nowhere. One moment, she was staring at the small smear of red on her fingers; the next, there was a huge pain in her chest, and all the wind was knocked out of her. Ribs broke with a sound like redwoods being snapped in half. She sat down hard, her butt landing on a five-story building as though it were a piano stool. A modern building might have been able to take her weight, but this one was old and brick, and puffed out from underneath her in a cloud of dust. She dropped and landed again, this time on a pile of rubble.
Susan was not very surprised to see Linda standing above her; she was surprised, however, to see that Linda was now half again as tall as herself. Apparently her former friend didn't plan on taking chances this time. Susan was disgusted. Again she had made up her mind to allow herself to shrink down and rejoin Janey, and again she was being thwarted. What do I have to do to catch a break around here'kill every woman in town?
"ROUND TWO, BITCH," Linda said in a voice so powerful that Susan's hair stood on end, delineating for Susan who the new goddess was, and then brought up one huge foot. The foot came down, and if the blow had landed, it would have been all over. Susan was only barely able to roll away in time, flattening an adjacent building with her body in the process.
Linda's foot went into the basement of the demolished brick building, and even further, down into the sewers. She could feel cool water flowing between her toes. She tried to pull her foot up, to advance on Susan and crush her before the smaller giantess could get to her feet, but her foot hooked on the lip of the hole and she stumbled and nearly fell'she had just increased her size by thirty times in the space of a minute, and she wasn't used to the physics involved in maneuvering this massive new body. She started to straighten, but before she could recover fully Susan had scrambled behind her. Susan jumped onto the larger giantess's back, then hooked her arms under Linda's shoulders and laced her fingers behind her head in a desperate full-nelson. It was a move that Susan's husband had playfully shown her, back when they were younger and still somewhat in love, and Susan saw it was the only way she could possibly save herself. Linda stood straight, then spun from side to side, trying to shake Susan off. Susan held on, held her grip even as the larger giantess strained mightily to pull her arms back down to her sides. The pain from Susan's broken ribs was immense. Her feet were still off the ground, but they sank closer as Linda lost mass and Susan gained it in turn, and Susan could feel her bones quickly knit themselves whole again. There was a forty-foot difference in height between them, then a thirty-foot difference. "NOOOOO!" Linda howled, louder than any dinosaur, and, desperate to get free, flung herself backwards. Susan hit a nine-story office building and the combined weight of the two giantesses toppled it. Susan was sandwiched between the fallen building and Linda's still-larger body, but she fared better than the building's occupants, all of whom were instantly killed.
Both giantesses had the wind knocked out of them this time. Susan was unable to resist as Linda, still a good twenty-five feet taller than her, pulled out of her grip and stood up. But Susan had just gained mass while Linda had just lost it, and Susan was the quicker to recover. She ran at Linda and hugged her. The height difference shrank quickly to twenty feet, then fifteen feet, then five. Linda began to try and fight her way loose, but it was too late. They were the same height, and then Susan was the taller.
As she drained the size from her opponent, Susan wondered how she would end it this time. Surely not by letting the normal-sized Linda walk away again; apparently it was useless to reason with her. But at the same time Susan didn't think she could kill her, not after the way killing Amy had freaked her out. She'd hated Amy with a passion, but her death had still caused Susan deep feelings of guilt. She didn't think she could mete out such a fate on Linda, whom, even after all this, she still liked. But she didn't know what else to do.
Susan was ten feet taller than Linda, then twenty. A moment later it would have been too late, and Linda wouldn't have been able to do anything but watch as she was reduced to a helpless little speck in the amphitheater-sized palm of Susan's hand. But there was one thing that she believed might save her, and she did it then: ducking her head to Susan's breast, taking one nipple into her mouth, and sucking it for all she was worth.
Immediately Susan threw her head back and moaned, helpless to stop. Her golden aura faltered, then went out completely; meanwhile Linda's skin went that ultraviolet color and she began to catch up to Susan again. The two giantesses were the same height when Susan finally started to reassert some kind of control over her body and began absorbing Linda's mass again. The gold glow returned. Linda began sucking harder, gulping the sweet black liquid as though her life depended on it (which, as she was perfectly aware, it did). Susan's aura faltered again, and Linda began to gain ground, though only for a few moments.
And so it went: Susan would get her head above water, and start to rob Linda of some of her mass; then she would get lost in her orgasm again, and Linda would drink more mass right out of Susan's own tits. Both giantesses were steadily getting bigger, but in relation to each other they were at a stalemate. For Susan, it was horrible, a never-ending orgasm that had become like a giant stone sphere rolling around in her mind'she could get on top of it, but could only stay balanced there for a few moments before she went spilling back off. But Susan had taken Amy's magical tits, just as blithely as she had used David's invention, and now she was stuck with them. Linda, for her part, found that having to drink out of the tits of her nemesis, however good the stuff that came out of them might make her feel, was rather degrading, and wished there were some way for her to gain the upper hand. Each giantess fully believed that the victory of the other would spell her own death, and so would not give up.
Finally, Susan began to get frightened. Even if they could both keep this up forever, eventually they would get so big that their heads would come above the upper reaches of the atmosphere, or get so heavy that the Earth would suck them into itself like quicksand. "Luh - luh - Linda," Susan gasped. Her pussy was dripping freely now, and without any conscious thought on her part her hips were slamming themselves spastically into Linda's, as though begging her to stick something between them. "We - wuh-we - Jesus! - We have - t-to - s-s-stop -"
Linda said something. With her tongue curled under and drawing rapidly on Susan's nipple, it came out muffled, but Susan made it out: Don't trust you.
"I - d-don't tru-hust - either. B-but - nnnuh - no choice -"
All at once Susan shoved Linda away, and Linda shoved Susan at the same time. Their auras disappeared and their growth stopped. They looked around in wonder at how small everything was. As for Susan, she wasn't sure, but she thought they must be around three hundred feet tall. The day seemed brighter again, though of course now they had a much better vantage point on the horizon. The streets below them were dimmer, and the office buildings looked like toys. And while Susan knew there were people down there, watching them, she could barely make them out any more.
The two giantesses continued to look around in wonder, but eventually their gazes came to rest on each other. For a long moment they just traded glares, each wondering when, and if, the other one would make her play. But neither made any move to attack. Eventually they began to relax a little. For both, the cessation of violence was a relief; they'd both been badly scared by their standoff, though neither would allow herself to show it.
"So this is it," Susan said at length. "A cold war. If one of us attacks, she might get lucky and win; or she might get unlucky and die. Not exactly easy money."
"No," Linda agreed. After having spent all that time fighting desperately for her life, Linda could think more clearly now, and began to believe that she could go on without being compelled to avenge herself on Susan. That she could live with'if not necessarily alongside'an equal. She wondered if Susan felt the same way.
"The army will be here soon," Susan went on. "Armed men, at any rate. They probably can't subdue us, not at this point, but they'll sure as hell try. We should split up."
"Yes," Linda said. She wouldn't have believed it, not after all that had happened, but she was actually beginning to like this woman again. Respect her, at least.
"We could hide, you know," Susan said. "Not around here, no. But the Saharan desert, the middle of the ocean, someplace like that. You could even allow yourself to shrink back down, if you wanted to."
Susan looked Linda in the eye, and saw that the other giantess wanted no such thing. And, Susan supposed, she didn't either. Even if it meant that Janey would never be able to hug her mother again, Susan decided she would remain as she was. If she had been able to shrink down and reenter the world as it had been, a world led by people who were essentially no better or worse than she was, that would have been one thing. But to reenter a world which was under the absolute dominion of as single goddess? A goddess who also happened to be Linda Carson? This prospect, she couldn't bear to consider. She liked Linda, but she didn't trust her, not one bit. Not with the sort of power that came with being three hundred feet tall. At this moment, Susan was a goddess, and a goddess she would remain.
So this is what it had come to. Susan no longer thought that Janey would run screaming from her, however'a girl would know her own mother, no matter how big she was. Kids always thought their parents were big and powerful anyway; so what if Janey's mom was bigger and more powerful than usual? Plus, Susan would be able to provide for Janey in a way she could never have hoped to before.
"So this is goodbye, then," Linda said, as warmly as if they'd been friends all along.
"Good luck," Susan said.
"Same to you," Linda returned. The two giantesses would have shaken hands, maybe even hugged, if they were able. But both knew that Susan's body would begin absorbing Linda's size again, whether Susan wanted it to or not. So they exchanged one last glance, then went their separate ways, Susan to her house, Linda to her kids' camp.
Susan walked carefully between the buildings, most of which weren't even knee-high to her. Her feet sank into the asphalt like soft dirt. She almost couldn't make out individual people at all anymore, just shimmering little blobs where a group of them had gathered together. They scattered out of her way, but slowly; what was normal walking speed to her was as fast as a race car to them. She turned her eyes ahead. She had a very miniscule yet very special little girl to see. Then she had to think about her next move. Even goddesses needed a plan. Susan couldn't hope to rule the whole world, not while Linda was still somewhere on it. But she supposed that one hemisphere would be enough.
This has been my second rewrite of a Gribble tale, and I sincerely hope it will be my last. Not to say that I haven't enjoyed it, not at all. But, as with "Power Juice," when the writing bug came, it came like a sickness, a delirium, to the point that the world of David, Susan, Linda and Amy seemed like reality and the rest of my life a hollow dream. "Power Juice X" ate up about two weeks of my life. This time around, knowing what I was in for, I buckled down and managed to crank out the rough draft in four nights. Four very long, all but sleepless nights, I might add.
The original "Dream Machine" was actually the first story I read on this site, and for me it remains one of the best. As with all of Gribble's yarns, the narrative is stripped down to the bone, all stage direction and characters drawn in big primary-color strokes, almost like a children's fantasy book with not-so-subtle erotic overtones, but the engaging symmetry is there: one way to get big, three women dying to have it. One's got the upper hand, then another; reversals of fate abound.
One key difference is that the device only works on women this time. In "Power Juice" (as in "Super Dense," another one I may, heaven forbid, be compelled to rewrite at some later date), the serum works on men and women equally, so it's interesting to see how the men in the story huff and puff about their bureaucratic business, while the women drop everything and flock to it like kids running after the Popsicle man. Everything else is erased in the mad dash to get power: the scientist forgets her morals, the spy forgets her country, the wife forgets her husband. The implication is obvious: men already have power, so why should they want to become giants? For the women, it's the ultimate way to get up, get over, and break free.
I made alterations to Gribble's original version as I saw appropriate. It didn't seem right to me that David'to say nothing of Susan'should be as innocent as Mary's little lamb in all this, nor did it seem right that he should set everything into motion and then get thrown away like a used hamburger wrapper. At the very least, I wanted to give him that last chance to try and talk Linda out of what she was doing. And I didn't want the battles to be quite so lopsided, so skewed in Susan's favor. I liked her the best out of the three, and I still meant for her to survive, but she was going to have to work for it.
Most importantly, there was the way Gribble's women react to their power, by going instantly mad with it. As I've said before, that dynamic has its own lurid appeal. But I wanted to take it farther, to see what was really underneath. Thus, the fact that Susan goes from unassuming single mom to heavyweight bully in four stages instead of two, more clearly mapping the arc of her madness. Further, giving Susan a daughter to worry about seemed like the perfect way to open up her insanity and give it context, to give her a grounding that forced her to recognize her play-acting for what it was and remain essentially human, however little she may have wanted to. And it seemed more exciting to me if the Bongiovanni-like blonde bearing down on David was more fooling around than seriously intent on doing damage.
I've written before about the essential nature of the female growth genre, about what makes Gribble's stories different from the suffocating BDSM epics of Mark Newman, and I think I now have an answer. To wit, female growth stories have a very potent erotic symbol at their center, one which is actually'gasp!'masculine. They focus on women, yes, but in a very phallic mode. In my version of "Power Juice," Amy Raibe starts out small and soft and silly'like a limp member, nuh? Then, through a process which is scientific yet incomprehensible to the lay person, she all at once becomes big and hard and powerful, not to mention voracious. See the parallel? The bigger the contrast between the normal woman and her muscular alter ego, the bigger the increase in size from flaccid to erect. In Newman's "The Transfer Student," Wendy derides men for being preoccupied with their cocks, yet it is precisely this preoccupation that drives growth stories. Having such delicate creatures grow into indestructible engines of mayhem seems pro-feminine on the surface, yet when viewed in terms of this symbolism, Gribble's stories become quite pro-masculine. Even Newman, with his profound fem-dom bent, seems to offer a backhanded confirmation of this theory in the final image of "The Spell": a man who has shriveled in all respects except his penis, which is massive and engorged.
The great sense of flux that I touted becomes another parallel. At the end of "Power Juice X," Amy is back to her soft, silly self again. Can she transform back? We don't know, any more than any man can be certain he'll be able to make iron at the forge the next time he needs to. But I have the feeling that, for growth fans at least, the tales of Amy and Susan will help.