It was Friday, October the 30th; 3 years, 7 months and 13 days- more or less- since Vlad had given it up. He reflected sourly on this as he dropped the heavy cardboard box he’d been struggling with down in front of the mirror. It had ‘Costumes’ stencilled in basic black across the side. Unfortunately, the lettering was upside down. Grumbling under his breath, he heaved and with unnecessary violence flipped the box through 180º. Then, laboriously, Vlad began to tear off the countless layers of parcel tape that safely sealed the box against any sane or reasonable attempt to open it. There didn’t seem much point, as he’d managed to make a couple of rents in the sides completely by accident.
Halloween was the thing Vlad hated third-most more than anything in the world. Any self-respecting Creature of the Night would lie down on the floor and cry at what a cringe-making farce it had become. The tape, having contrived to weld itself into something slightly tougher than the average tree refused to budge, so he fell back on scissors- an old blunt pair, the only set either he or his housemate owned. It was just the whole thing had become so pointless. Small children and people who should have enough self-respect to feel embarrassed around extorting chocolate bars from one another, all giggling and excited because the costumes they were wearing made them feel as if they were flirting with Dark Occult Forces. Dark Occult Forces? The only things they were flirting with were chocolate manufacturers and terminal tooth decay. Not that he could blame the manufacturers: all credit to them, they’d spotted a market and had managed to hijack proceedings with the kind of ruthless thoroughness generally ascribed to Dark Occult Forces.
Giving up on the scissors, Vlad was forced to resort to teeth, kneeling humiliatingly to the side of the box and gnawing frantically. It tasted like petrol-dipped snail-slime. And the costumes themselves should, in his opinion, be considered crimes against decency. On the night intended for everyone to be cowering under their blankets in mortal fear of gods knows what, they were forced to endure a parade of fairies, angels, false-teeth vampires, cartoon characters and magicians. Magicians! They were the second-most thing Vlad couldn’t stand. An odd aversion, but there you go. After that little lot, what loathsome denizen of darkness stood a chance?
The tape parted unexpectedly, maliciously unsticking itself from the box and transferring its gluey grip onto Vlad’s muzzle. Carefully peeling it off, Vlad sighed and began to pull out bundles of cloth from within the protective packaging inside.
And what made the whole situation even worse was that he was going to participate in it. Again.
“Heya pal! Great, you’ve finally got your costume! And about time too!”
Vlad started violently at the sudden outburst, and scowled resignedly in the mirror at the pale apparition behind him. The thing he hated most in the world was the fact that the person he shared a house with was a magician. A trainee one at that. Vlad liked Daniel on a personal level, but whilst he had an office job so stultifyingly dull it was pointless to even try and explain it, the house was stuffed full of his exuberant friend’s props and professional gadgets. He’d taken to checking in the mornings that the kitchen table wasn’t the miraculous automatic fold-up contraption that Danny was so fond of swapping it with. And it was at times like this, when he was feeling on edge, that the white rabbit’s incessant cheerfulness really got on his whiskers.
Danny’s beaming countenance fell a little as he surveyed the shredded debris littering the floor.
“How can you make such a mess with just one bit of sticky tape?” he asked, his eye adroitly avoiding the stacked, teetering piles elsewhere around the room, including the overlarge sparkly top hat, the magic wand and the miraculous compressed stepladder of many surprises. It had astonished Vlad the first time it had uncompressed on him unexpectedly. “What did you use, your teeth?”
“Yeah.” Vlad growled at the mirror, adding in not so subtle body language for Danny to drop it. “Did you get supper on the way back?”
“Yep!” the rabbit grinned. “Chinese takeaway, heavy on the stir-fried vegetables. You owe me a tenner,” he continued unashamedly.
“Mph.” Vlad grunted in weary assent. Experimentally he hauled up two bits of his costume and looked in the mirror. Danny glanced over in the act of unpacking hot tinfoil packages and promptly burst into hysterical laughter at the sight of his canine housemate in the mirror.
“Y-you… you… you can’t go trick or treating in THAT!” he said between wheezing gasps for breath. Vlad bore up under this stoically, and regarded his costume without bias. It had been the least offensive thing he’d been able to get his paws on, short of going in normal clothes and claiming to be a murderous lunatic (which, after the festivities, he usually felt like anyway). What it mostly consisted of was a black jacket, more a huge cloak with sleeves, designed to trail behind him mysteriously, and swirl as he moved. It went well with the black waistcoat and trousers. Deciding to get it over with, he also held up the studded black collar that completed the ensemble, then waited whilst Danny had to get a glass of water to cure his attack of hiccups. He almost drowned when he caught another glance of Vlad in the glass. “Y-You look like some reject off a Michael Jackson video. You can borrow one of my white gloves if you like.”
Vlad shrugged off this mortal fashion insult.
“I guess it comes from some of us having a sense of shame.”
“Oh, lighten up!” Danny exclaimed in exasperation. He’d explained this carefully to his housemate several times, but the whole concept just didn’t seem to get through. “It’s Halloween! A time for fun and silliness and… and great late night-parties!” The rabbit suddenly snapped his fingers. “And speaking of great, you haven’t seen MY costume for this year yet, have you?”
“Oh no…” It had to happen sooner or later. Vlad felt a familiar feeling of dread as Danny raced from the room before he could stop him. This had to be the worst bit of the whole sordid holiday. Every year, with pathetic optimism Vlad tried to comfort himself that there was no way it could be worse than the costume last time, but every year Danny managed with grim inevitability to outdo himself in ghastliness and lack of taste. There was no point in hiding from the ordeal, or even running for that matter, because Danny would find him eventually. Fortunately, any heartfelt insults or tactful hints on the least dishonourable way to commit suicide bounced off him like sticky toffee pudding off a rubber ring, so Vlad was able to express himself honestly without hurting Danny’s feelings. He suspected that ‘Vlad-annoyance-factor’ was one of the rabbit’s chief criteria when selecting his costume.
His hapless wait began to extend, and Vlad’s foreboding grew. This was not a good sign. Any costume which took Danny more than 5 minutes to zip himself into could not be a simple and elegant affair. He shut his eyes and crossed his fingers, clenching his fists as well in case drastic action was required. Please let it not be another ball-gown, he begged the world silently, please let it not be another ball-gown. Especially not magenta.
“Well, what do you think?”
That was Vlad’s cue. After some internal struggle he risked opening one and peered into the mirror. He tried to shut it again but his eyelid seemed to have glued itself open. He was mildly aware that Danny had managed it once again, but his brain rejected the rest out of self-defence.
The rabbit self-consciously adjusted the little white sailor’s hat between his floppy ears, whilst billowing folds of white hung around him. Unable to contain himself any more, he grinned infectiously and held out his arms wide.
“I’m the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Rabbit™!” Vlad opened his other eye, and his mouth followed suit, but no sound would come out. He didn’t know an expression strong enough to adequately convey his thoughts.
His friend twirled for good measure, making his little scarf flutter, then added the devastating coup de grace.
“And that’s not the best bit! Quick, turn out the lights!”
“Don’t bother.” Vlad’s voice was leaden with horror as the true magnitude of this crime sank in. He put a paw over his eyes. “I sometimes get these premonitions- it glows in the dark, doesn’t it?”
“Hey, no fair!” Danny was not a whit upset by his party thus being pooped. His grin widened. “Scary, huh?”
Yes, but for all the wrong reasons. After a few more credible goldfish impersonations Vlad managed, rather feebly:
“Shouldn’t there be more of you?”
“Ah!” Danny crowed triumphantly, “that’s where padding comes in!” The rabbit then regarded his housemate with the nearest lapines ever got to guile and cunning. He patted his non-existent stomach invitingly. “Unless of course you’d oblige and-”
“No!” Vlad turned it down before the suggestion was even voiced. Danny looked genuinely put out.
“Oh, come on! It doesn’t have to be a full bite! Just a nibble, perhaps.”
“No!” Vlad yelled, with more force than he’d intended. Danny backed away a little.
“Ok, ok, keep your fur on,” he chided without rancour, “It was just an idea. Food’s on the table.”
“Good. Thanks.” Vlad mumbled in a half-apology.
With that suggestion Danny had struck a nerve. It was one of the more immediate reasons that his housemate despised Halloween. Vlad was a Wyrwolf.
No, not a werewolf- that sad and transparent story told to scare credulous animals into good behaviour and boost the silver trade. A Wyrwolf- a solid, flesh and blood piece of myth. No one is sure exactly when they came to exist, but they appear to come from the region around the Wyld Steppes, famed for its dark, terrifying nights and high levels of background thaumaturgy. They look exactly like a common-or-garden wolf, perhaps a little bigger and meaner. But amongst a number of subtle differences Wyrwolves have one thing that strikes fear into the hearts of animal kind- the curse of their Bite. The supposed evolutionary reasoning behind it runs something like this: Wyrwolves hunt in packs to bring down bigger prey between them. But even big game isn’t going to be much when shared between a dozen large and hungry mouths, especially after all that running. And even a well co-ordinated pack can only catch a few animals at a time if they’re lucky, the problem made doubly worse by the vast, howling emptiness that is their home range. So, when a Wyrwolf bites, its victim undergoes sudden and dramatic weight-gain, completely incapacitating the beast and turning a scrawny, famished deer into a hearty meal for five.
Clever, eh? This has often been used as one of the more miraculous demonstrations of the miracle of nature. And, like many miracles of nature, the ‘ordinary’ populace has hunted out and eradicated this species wherever it possibly can.
“I still don’t see why you make such a big thing about it.” Danny said between large mouthfuls of bamboo shoot. Thankfully he was out of costume, back into his casual slacks and sleeveless vest. “I mean, all the guys are absolutely cool about it, believe me. You don’t have to go around hiding it, all the time.”
“Mmph.” Vlad grunted as he morosely attacked a portion of spare ribs, then felt guilty. “Sorry,” he grumbled, “it’s just that I’m really not comfortable talking about it.” He smiled sardonically. “It’s not like having dandruff or something: mobs don’t try to tear you to pieces or burn you at the stake if you’ve got dandruff. At least,” he added conscientiously, “only in the really backwater places.”
“Hey, it’s different in the city.” Danny waved his arms expansively, spraying bits of bamboo and sauce. “You want to do your thing, you can do it, no problem. Hell, once or twice a month people wouldn’t mind.”
That brought another short bark of laughter from Vlad. It wouldn’t stop at once a month, and he knew it. That was why he was on the Wagon, and had been for 3 years, 7 months and 13 and-a-half days. He wanted what was generally referred to as a ‘normal life’. It seemed better than his alternatives, and it was why he’d come to the city as a lone Wyrwolf. And he was getting good at it. But some instincts die hard, even after all this time. The wolf bit at a prawn cracker and felt it shatter satisfyingly. ‘Real food’ he told himself, and tried to ignore the little voice inside him that would much prefer, say, a 500lb squirrel. Rare. At least, he told himself, he had it better than the few vampires that desperately wanted to join ‘civilisation’. He didn’t burn up in sunlight, and could see himself in a mirror.
* * *
“Some people,” Danny continued later after supper, when they were both relaxing in their basement living room, “might see the whole thing as a big advantage.” He avoided the look that Vlad gave him and carried on, ticking things off on his fingers. “Reflexes twice as fast as a normal wolf’s, stronger by half, nose 5 times more sensitive-”
“Which is why I left the chicken chow-mien to you. They’ve started using rat again.”
“WHAT?” Vlad leaned back and smiled quietly. Sometimes it was worth it, just to occasionally wind his friend up and watch him go off bang. He gave in.
“Kidding, Danny, kidding.” The rabbit subsided, and Vlad felt himself reflecting again. All those things might be accurate. The point was he’d been born a Wyrwolf, so he didn’t know any different. But he sometimes felt he’d rather swap it all for a completely normal life, rather than watching people back away a bit when then finally worked out what he was. Danny had a lot more friends than he did, he knew that much.
His friend had started up again.
“And I still say that-” he saw Vlad’s face and decided not to push his luck “-even the other thing could be a neat party trick. I mean, if you’ve got it, flaunt it that’s what I always say.” He grinned encouragingly. “Just imagine it: you go up to the hostess and say ‘Oh dear, your clothes look a little loose, here, let me-’”
“Danny!” Vlad waved his arms in feeble protest, the appalling mental image it conjured up holding a horrible fascination. “No!”
“Ok then, you could help me with a magic show. You stay in the background as my surly and not-too-bright assistant, the audience’ll never look at you twice. I, in my brilliant cape and red waistcoat, get some schmuck up from the crowds, ask them to take their jacket off and you…”
The wolf sank back in his chair and tried to think happy thoughts. There was no stopping Danny when he was in this kind of mood. A glance around the room would confirm that to any stranger. Danny was infatuated by all things Gothick, including magic, witches, curses, vampires, hexes, and Wyrwolves. The basement room extended under the entire one-story house, with several windows currently letting in the moonlight through the curtains. The bright, warm electric lighting had been installed at Vlad’s insistence. The floor was bare concrete, except for a few deep, warm rugs (Vlad had had to threaten wall-to-wall chintz to get those put in). He’d managed to fight for comfy furnishings too, rather than wrought iron chairs and candelabra, although Danny took full advantage of the large cushions and two sofas dotted around. The walls were mostly plastered with clusters of different posters, a lot of them from horror films that Danny raved about. His passion for them had diminished slightly when he’d moved in with Vlad, though, who had spent the first three they’d seen saying things like ‘What kind of make-up is that? Even my sister Muriel wouldn’t be seen in that stuff!’ or ‘A vampire with a parting like that? The others would lock him away to stop him giving them bad names.’ or ‘That’s not right: my 6 year old cousin Sven could jump twice that high if you took away his rubber bone. That guy’s lunch!’ Vlad couldn’t see the point in horror films- for him the real world was trouble enough.
“And everyone should be encouraged to be proud of their roots, right? Fine old traditions, yadda yadda and all that jazz.” Vlad realised that Danny was still talking, despite 5 minutes without his participation. That last comment stung him into a rueful smile.
“Tradition can go too far. I mean, take the old Wyrwolf pack Heavierarchy.” Danny blinked.
“Uh?” Vlad explained.
“It all started centuries ago: the Alpha males were always having to fight off attacks from lower down the pecking order. So some of them solved it by going around and Biting the potential challengers, making them too fat to fight. Then of course they had to keep doing it to prevent revenge, and bite more of them, and in the end they adopted it as a symbol of dominance. The practice spread, and it became known as the ‘Heavierarchy’: the bigger you were, the lower down the pecking order you must be. Great tradition, huh? The whole thing collapsed when it ended up with everyone but the Alpha constantly being too fat to move, let alone hunt.” Vlad grinned and got himself a coke out of the fridge. Danny was staring at him with round eyes.
“Are you kidding?”
“Might be,” Vlad smiled at him and began to slurp. Danny scowled at him, then an evil smile crossed his face. His nose twitched.
“Where does that put you then? Around bottom?” Coke sprayed.
“Hey! Below the belt! Remember our agreement!” Vlad was curiously sensitive about his weight, which had become above average in recent years. He’d even had it written into the ‘house rules’ they’d drawn up as part of an agreement to share a house- Danny wouldn’t make fun of Vlad’s weight, and Vlad wouldn’t cut up the bunny’s conjuring props.
“Well, anyway, it does you good to let your hair down now and then. Go wild. I mean, you’re in control, right? One day at a time n’ all that. You could give yourself a night off sometimes, couldn’t you? It’d be good for you, a bit more fresh air and exercise. It might even help you get your ballooning figure back under control.” Vlad screwed his eyes shut and sighed. That was just the point: he couldn’t have a night off. If he ever stopped being in control he might not be able to get back in control again. And he didn’t want that. It wasn’t like getting over a habit- Wyrwolf instincts had been hardwired into his genetics for centuries, and it threatened to take over whenever he was hungry, angry, tired, frustrated or even just plain bored. He had no illusions as to what he was. Even to think about it invited terrible temptation, especially when beguilingly proposed as ‘cool’. It could almost be made to sound acceptable. Almost, but not quite. No, he had to be kept under control. He had to be. Stop thinking about it!
And so he kept himself occupied and tried not to think about it and how could he do that if Danny kept reminding him the whole time-? Vlad took another deep breath and told himself it wasn’t Danny’s fault. The weight thing in particular was his own. If he found himself with nothing to do, he ate rather than risk the temptation to go out into the city hunting. And he ate big meals to compensate for the massive portions his body craved, and he didn’t get nearly enough exercise. So, like most chair-borne sailors on the sea of life, he was getting fat.
“I’d rather just stick to the diet.” He muttered.
“Aha!” Danny pounced. “If you want to lose weight, I can help, no problem! Just step into that wooden box and let me find my saw…”
“Oh no.” Vlad discovered that he’d fallen for it again. He slapped his paws over his eyes. “No, Danny. No, no, no no no! I’m not helping you with any more of your lousy magic tricks! Not after last time!”
“But that was months ago! Anyway, I’ve given up on that idea. I’ve discovered that it’s physically impossible.”
“I could have told you that after 5 minutes in the thing. Sometimes I still wake up sweating!” Vlad didn’t even want to think about that incident, and this was a Wyrwolf talking. Danny’s voice took on an all too familiar wheedling tone that was usually used to play across Vlad’s conscience like a badly strung banjo.
“Oh, come on, you won’t really be sawn in half. It’s not even a real saw.”
“With you, I wouldn’t trust it even then!”
“I’ve got the instruction booklet right here!”
“You’ll probably saw that in half by accident at the same time!”
“Alright then, I can make most of you disappear instead. Sound better? I’ll get the magic mirror” Vlad backed away. “Ok, pick a card, any card, instead.”
“Why? It’s always the same blasted card! Darkness and demons, Danny, I’ve seen the deck!”
“Ah, but I might have turned it into a different one: the power of the mind, sleight of hand. Where’s my hat? Ok, now cut the deck anywhere you want…”
Vlad decided that maybe vampires had it better after all. At least then they’d be able to fly away at times like this.
* * *
It was 10:34 in the morning, and Vlad had been in the shower for over an hour. One more time Danny, clad in a dressing gown and fluffy purple slippers, hammered futilely on the locked door, legs crossed.
“If you don’t get out of there this minute I’ll brick the door up and get them to build a new bathroom! It’ll be quicker, too!” He knew that Vlad, from nocturnal heritage, wasn’t exactly a morning person, but this was ridiculous. Had he slipped over in the shower and cracked his gloomy and unpredictable head? Was he lying unconscious in the corner, bleeding to death? Worry evaporated into wrath as he heard Vlad yell out petulantly,
“Alright, alright! I’ll be out in 5 minutes.”
“VLAAAAD!!!” Danny screamed in frustration and renal distress.
“Ok, ok…” 10 seconds later the door opened. Without waiting, Danny hurtled in and slammed it again, then sagged in utter bliss as he finally got to relieve himself. Fortunately, Vlad had left the room. Gazing blankly around him, a beatific smile on his face, the rabbit’s eye was caught by an unusual stain in the pan of the still dripping shower. The smile faded. His eyes followed it around- a scum line of dark brown surrounding irregular blotches and spots. Leaning to his right, Danny stamped down on the flipper of the bathroom bin. Aha…
Vlad was dressing in front of the mirror, tugging faded blue jeans up and trying to suck his chubby stomach in when Danny appeared in the reflection, carrying the incriminating evidence. Vlad froze.
“Yeah, I found it.” The rabbit dropped the empty bottle of industrial-strength brown fur dye to the floor. “And it didn’t work, you know.” Glancing once more in the mirror as he buttoned the jeans, Vlad had to concede that he didn’t see a shred of difference. His fur was still black; painfully black, so intense it was almost dark blue. Somehow it eerily complemented his eyes, which were a chilling, arctic blue that bordered on violet, unusual even among a bizarre species like Wyrwolves. At night his fur practically glowed with an eldritch aura of nightmare, showing mere shadows up as the slackers they were. He couldn’t even make it look dirty. Muck just couldn’t compete, even when he’d tried pouring sand into it (mistake- he’d itched for a week). Vlad hated it- it marked him out as something not quite right, something not fitting in.
He sagged, his latest attempt at normalising another dismal failure. His fur was charmed in some way. Even bleach hadn’t done anything, except maybe strip a few of the more natural tones out of it.
Danny broke the uncomfortable silence.
“What’re you doing today, then?”
“Meeting.” Vlad grunted shortly.
“Oh? Anyone I know?”
“Gluttons Anonymous.” That foxed Danny entirely.
“But you’re not a glutton. I mean, you break a diet almost every time, but…” Vlad just looked at him.
“I’m ready to try anything.” A few minutes later, the door clicked shut quietly behind him. Danny breathed a sigh of relief and skittered to the telephone. He’d been worried that Vlad was planning to stay in and mope all day. He idly practised with his magic wand as he waited for someone at the other end to pick up. When they did, he grinned.
“Chaz, hi! Yep, he’s just left. Nah, he’ll be gone for hours. We can start bringing the stuff over whenever you want. By the way, you don’t know any organisation that helps people stop being hooked on support groups, do you? I don’t know, ‘Anonymous Anonymous’, maybe? Never mind, it’s not important. Got your costume? Good, see you in a bit. Abracadabra and sayonara.”
He replaced the phone with a click as he miraculously balanced his wand on one finger- from above. Double-sided sticky tape was a wonderful thing. He grinned again, happily. Vlad always seemed really down when it came to Halloween. Maybe it reminded him of his family. It was probably a much bigger thing in Wyrwolf country. Well, this year things were going to be different. Danny had arranged everything, and he knew exactly what would cheer his dour friend up. It was going to be magical.
One thing that should be noted, here- something in fact that Vlad learned a long time ago: if you need somebody to get something totally, absolutely and irrevocably wrong, call on Danny.
* * *
When the meeting broke up late in the afternoon, Vlad left the little private hall in deep depression. It hadn’t helped, which wasn’t totally unexpected. The minute he’d explained who and what he was, everyone had turned icily hostile on him. It wasn’t his fault they all looked like ambulatory whales, was it? None of them had ever been bitten by a Wyrwolf, what were they complaining about? Apart from the dull pulsing undercurrent of resentment, he’d been distracted by the constant need to prevent himself from drooling. He should have realised that to part of him it would have been like walking into a self-service buffet. Not that they cared he’d been in Cold Turkey for 3 years, 7 months and 14 days and a bit.
With a resigned sigh, Vlad mentally crossed another potential source of strength off his dwindling list. He’d heard about the idea of support organisations quite late after coming to the city, and in 6 months had joined- and left- over 20 of them. 21 now, actually. He remembered being practically giddy with relief when he heard about them. Groups for giving up smoking, groups for giving up alcohol, why not a group for giving up biting people, rocketing their body-fat index to several thousand percent and devouring them? Unfortunately, he’d discovered no such group. By now he’d tried everything that could be even remotely linked to his problem in the vain hope that one of them might help. ‘Vore anonymous’, ‘Eating Disorder Help’, ‘Live-Aid’, ‘Undead Life’- hah! What an evening that had been. There’d been only 3 non-vampires present including himself, so 5 hours had been taken up with methods to avoid the craving to drink fresh blood. It had worked- Vlad was cured of even the slightest inclination to do so. Then they’d sung three rousing choruses of ‘The Children of zer Night Make Vonderful Music’. It didn’t help that Vlad couldn’t howl a tune if his life (if that was what it was called) depended on it.
he supposed, was to start up his own support group: ‘Wyrwolves are
People Too’. Unfortunately, the snag was he seemed to be the only Wyrwolf that would give support. As far as he knew, there were 5 other Wyrwolves in the area, and all but one were living deep undercover, living off the homeless and the unlucky, and had threatened to disembowel him if they saw him again. The fifth worked in a circus, where he was part acrobat, part freakish exhibit. He seemed happy with his lot.
“Is that all that’s left for me?” Vlad wondered desperately, experiencing a pang as a sad, lonely little part of him wondered if it might not be that bad. “A life making myself out to be some kind of monster for people to ‘ooh’ and ‘argh’ at? Making myself into a walking party trick? Side-show assistant to Danny, perhaps?” He regretted involving Danny instantly, and tried to scrub them out. No. He shuddered in revulsion. Great Uncle Boris would turn in all 7 of his graves, he decided. If he hadn’t left his family and renounced the old Feudal System, he’d have been third in line for a barony, now (and there wasn’t much modern Wyrwolves loved more than a good family Feud). It looked like the only thing he could do was to carry on as is, and slowly drive himself mad…
So who was left on the help list? Pretty much only ‘Homicidal Mania Anonymous’ and Samaritans for Suicides. So, the Samaritans it was, that or emergency dentistry…
His peripheral vision screamed at him, and he stopped dead, just in time to stop himself colliding with some kind of jacketed brick wall. Taking a proper look, it turned out to be a rat, 7 feet high and almost as wide across the shoulders. His fur was greasy, his whiskers twitched uncontrollably and his leather jacket strained to contain the hulking musculature beneath it. There were a lot of spikes. A large gold earring gleamed from one of the ragged flags on the sides of his head. The left enormous yellowing incisor was broken, making the ragged edge even sharper.
Next to him stood a far skinnier feral cat, who if you open him up would have ‘Yes-fur’ scrawled through him in yellow. His jacket had far fewer studs, but the rest of him compensated with grease. His mouth seemed fixed into a permanent horrible leer.
There were some days when being Good bit hard.
The Goliath rumbled menacingly at him.
“You almost walked into me.” They were in the middle of a wide, empty street. Vlad gave him a brief, apologetic smile.
“I’m sorry.” He made to step around and past, but an arm like a bus stop barred his way.
“I don’t like people who almost walk into me. Especially you.” The lieutenant’s leer increased.
“Why not me?” Vlad asked, taking a step back. Why me? another part of him despaired. It could tell what was coming. All I want is a quiet life. The rodent followed.
“That’s very black fur you got on, there,” he grinned nastily, “very black. It’s a bit early to be out in Halloween get up, ain’t it Reg? You look like something out of Thriller.”
Michael Jackson had a lot to answer for.
“That’s right Burke,” the cat sniggered. Burke loomed nearer. Everything went unpleasantly quiet.
“You one of those sicko Goths, then? One of those people who think it’s cool to dress up in all that leather n’ studs and whips and kiss the feet of some freakin’ unnatural monster?” The studded, leather bound rat hulked even larger in Vlad’s world-view. “Well, I’m a good church-going boy, see-” probably only to steal the lead off the roof, Vlad thought in what was temporarily the privacy of his own head “-n’ it makes me sick to think of weirdoes like you toadying up to things like that!”
Wyrdos, Vlad said to himself with a touch of hysteria. I’m a wyrdo Wyrwolf.
Burke now blotted out the sun.
“So me n’ Reg are going to teach you a little lesson. A lesson on how to behave.”
Something snapped in Vlad. Fear ganged up with anger and vetoed sanity’s casting vote in proceedings, then passed the whole show down to the dark, blood-red bit of the psyche marked ‘self-preservation’.
With the deceptive speed of a hurricane, Vlad’s right arm sailed lazily up, picked Burke up by the throat and carried on with him. The rat’s eyes bulged in shock as he found both his air-supply rudely interrupted and himself lifted off his feet as easily as if he were a paperweight. He then hit the brick wall behind him, leaving a dent. He dangled there, half a foot off the ground, turning blue and scrabbling pathetically at the vice-like fingers that pinned him there. Reg unfroze and began to reach for his concealed knife.
The thing pivoted with nightmarish grace and a foot lashed out, burying itself in Reg’s solar plexus almost up to his spleen. The cat crumpled around it and fell to the floor, curled up in a private universe of pain. The wolf’s eyes had never left the rat’s. They almost glowed.
“Behave?” Fury snarled quietly, “That’s all I’ve been trying to do, for a long, long time. And I’m sick of it. I’m sick and tired of trying and trying and not getting anywhere, of never quite being comfortable, and most of all I’m sick and tired of having to deal with people like you.”
Burke struggled helplessly, trapped by a deathly grip and that terrible sapphire lance. Reg was making faint bubbling noises and crawling about blindly.
“Wh-wh…?” he gurgled, black spots appearing at the edges of his vision. The grip relaxed just enough to let him breathe, with difficulty. “What are you?” he whispered, pupils like pin-pricks. The world suddenly seemed very dark and cold.
For the first time, that midnight-black face smiled. It had nothing to do with humour. It spoke two dread syllables.
“Oh, noooo…” The rat began to struggle and keen madly with terror. The paw opened, dropping him to the concrete. He scrabbled backwards, trying to dig himself a bolt-hole with his shoulder-blades. His mouth was open, but all sounds were frozen in his throat by that primeval stare.
“What?” asked the wolf, a touch of Vlad’s personality returning from wherever it had been mugged. “Does it look like I’m going to eat you, or something?” The rat took one long look at the small paunch beneath the shirt and, blubbering with terror, took off as fast as he could. Direction didn’t matter. Away did. Reg was already a dot on the horizon, accelerating fast.
“Damn!” He hit himself on the head. “Damnation and bloody darkness!” He’d lost it. For the first time in over three years he’d slipped up. And he’d become exactly what he thought he’d become. He could still smell disgusting reek of the rat’s fear, mingled with the unfortunate side-effect of bowel-loosening terror. The world was spinning gently, and he couldn’t decide whether to laugh and cry. He wandered on, head in his hands. What a day. Sodding Halloween!
* * *
Three chocolate milkshakes later and he felt a little better. When confronted with this kind of crisis, diets didn’t count. On the plus side, he hadn’t really done much damage and, more importantly to his mind, he wasn’t damaged in the slightest. But was it worth it? He felt a headache coming on fast. He gulped at his shake, and added brain-freeze to his problems. Gods, he didn’t want to think about this. What he needed was a distraction…
“Vlad! Hi!” The wolf looked up into the eyes of the perfect distraction.
“Sal!” Curvaceous and bubbly, there was not one of the drop-dead-gorgeous beaver’s male friends who had not fallen in love with her at one time or another. Vlad was no exception. She looked down at the line of empty glasses.
“Go easy on the Slim-Fast, hon: we don’t want you to ruin that lovely figure.” Ok, from some people Vlad could take jokes. “Want another?”
“No thanks.” Sal plonked herself down opposite and ordered herself and aero-latte with marscapone floating on the top, at Vlad’s expense. He didn’t mind.
After it had arrived, she looked at him with wide-eyed concern.
“Are you ok? You look terrible.” Vlad’s muzzle smiled of it’s own accord.
“I’m fine. Just a rough day.”
“Aww…” Sal looked sympathetic, and the wolf couldn’t help but smile again. It was a scientific fact that Sal was one of those rare individuals who apparently could survive without a brain cell in their head. Intense investigation had concluded that there was nothing in there but air. But what a container. However, she was also one of those people that Vlad genuinely liked and, more pertinently, who thought it was pretty cool to hang out with a Wyrwolf, even if he was reformed. There were a surprising number of them, and Vlad privately rated their survival chances as nil- left to fend for themselves in Eden, they probably didn’t have the sense to discover water.
“Never mind, darling.” Sal continued sweetly. “I’m sure you’ll cheer up this evening. I’m looking forward to it, aren’t you?”
“It?” Vlad blinked. “Oh, are you coming trick or treating with us again this year?” Right now Halloween wasn’t something he wanted to dwell on. Sal’s lovely green eyes opened wide in vapid incomprehension, and her tail flapped.
“Oh, no. I mean the party, silly. Hasn’t Danny told you?”
“Told me?” Vlad’s brain raced to try and keep up with his ears.
“Oh, he must have done. He’s been organising it for weeks. Him and Stewart and Charles and Collie and me and everyone. We’re all coming over to your place for a Halloween party. The boys went over to set it up today while you’re out. It’s going to be such fun!” She squeaked in enthusiasm, bubbling over with excitement. “I’m dressing up as Busty Babs the Barmaid out of that film, you know, ‘Pitch Dark Night II’, the one with the psychotic hamster axe-murderess? And Danny said he was going to get you to do some great Wyrwolf stuff for us all to make it extra fun. Oh…” her mouth became a pretty ‘o’ of feminine dismay. “I’ve just remembered: no-one told you because it’s a surprise party…”
Vlad was surprised to find just how smoothly his mouth took over coherent self-control whilst his mind went elsewhere for a bit. He leaned over and lightly pressed Sal’s paws where they lay on the table.
“I won’t let on if you won’t.” Her near-tearful expression sublimed instantly into one of girlish delight.
“Oh, would you? You are a treasure, Vlad, really you are!” Looking at her watch, she squealed as she suddenly realised that she was late for the fitting of her costume. Bolting the last of her drink she fled towards a session of pins, adjustments, red leather and cocktail aprons. And one novel feather.
Once she had left, Vlad sat back, and felt a lot of things sliding into place, most of them concerning his erstwhile housemate. He reflected on an evening of drink, laughter, bad Wyrwolf jokes and interminable shouts of ‘Go on Vlad, bite them!’
On the table, his paws started to twitch.
He felt a pressing need to put a call through to H-M Anonymous.
* * *
It was 8:30, and the party was due to start in half an hour. Vlad’s arrival time was anybody’s guess. Alone, Danny lumbered carefully down the stairs to the basement, balancing a tray of party food. He waddled over to the table at the side and plonked down the bowls of crisps, pretzels, little sausages, cooked prawns dyed green and cheese n’ pineapple stuck into a pumpkin. He twitched straight the sign above the bowl of garlic dip, and with difficulty poured himself a drink. With the padding in his costume he felt like he was wearing a sweaty mattress. He moved around the room making final adjustments, a faintly glowing green blob, before returning to the table.
Sitting on the edge, he finished his drink and beamed at the décor. Perfect. The rugs had been hidden away, leaving the stark grey of the floor. The chalked Circle of Doom copied from one of his favourite films practically shone in the dim light. Balloons and streamers in purple, orange and black were draped over other bits of furniture. Big, dribbly candles on gothic stands and Jack O’ Lanterns illuminated the walls with horrible leering faces cut out of them- based on friends and close relatives, of course. They made shadows dance and flicker in the far corners of the room, and tactical gaps left mysterious pools of darkness. The ceiling lights were on, but covered in dark blue filters so that people could see but were left in the gloom all the same. Shafts of moonlight glowed in through the high little windows.
Strange… he hadn’t noticed it before, but it was a full moon tonight. Some coincidence, eh? Really… creepy.
Danny shivered despite the sweltering heat of his costume, then laughed to himself at the success of the spooky decorations. Nevertheless, the room felt very quiet. It’d lose some of its Atmosphere when it was full of people. A shame really, as this was the effect he’d wanted. And had achieved, better than he’d expected.
Beside him, candle flames flickered crazily in a sudden draft in the dark, still air. Danny glanced at the door, but it was shut. Roughly, he brushed off the ridiculous uneasiness he was beginning to feel. Why, he was even starting to imagine things moving in the shadows over there. And he knew that he was alone. The room was empty apart from him. He could see that it was!
On the back of his neck, senses he didn’t even know he had began to stand the hair up on end. Without changing in any way that was perceptible, the room now felt colder, larger, and a lot less empty. The silence seemed stifling, and he had to fight the urge to hold his breath. Familiar background noises were suddenly loud and alien to his suddenly paranoid ears. He jumped at the cracking sound of some bird moving about in the trees outside. He began to feel ridiculous, but couldn’t shake that terrible, gnawing feeling of invisible eyes watching him. To a sensitive prey species, the sensation was unbearable.
He hauled his costume upright, and glanced nervously around the room.
“Hello? Is anybody there?” He put a laugh into the question, but whom had he put it in for? Himself, or for something that was listening? His voice sounded curiously overloud and flat against the concrete.
Danny looked around again.
“Guys?” he asked tentatively. “Is that you? Stew? Phil? Gaz? Pulling a bit of Halloween fun eh? Ha ha!” The laughter bounced right back, a little too shrill. The silence began to feel like velvet, filling the air with darkness. Then the cloud drifted from in front of the moon, and once more bathed the floor in a pale radiance, like ground fog. But now it only made the shadows look deeper. Cursing his overactive imagination, he made to stride briskly to the door and out.
When the shadows moved for real.
Danny fell back, clutching at the table, heartbeat thumping in his throat. The… the thing moved purposefully and without sound, a shape slowly coalescing out of the inky blackness. A familiar silhouette suddenly emerged, and Danny’s eyes boggled.
“Vlad? When… what…” he got a firmer grip on himself, and his voice returned to something approaching normal. His bladder relaxed. “What the hell are you doing down here? Geez, you nearly frightened the life out of me, sneaking up like that! You know how hard you are to see in the dark.” Vlad’s footsteps were audible now as he stepped into a less dimly lit part of the room, his fur leaving him a black hole in the air. Somehow, there was something minutely wrong with the outline he projected. Some detail amiss, that was eye-wateringly hard to define. Danny squinted uncertainly, nerves still twanging. “Vlad?”
The wolf took another step forward into the guttering candlelight. It sparkled off the spikes around his neck. The rabbit felt unaccountably relieved.
“Oh, you’re in costume!” He looked closer, and nodded in approval. “Actually, I take back what I said before. On you, it looks good. You really make it work. That whole attitude thing makes it pretty darn scary.” He laughed. “I’m glad I know you’re my friend.”
All this time, Vlad hadn’t uttered a sound. Danny felt his laughter wither away, and he felt panic rising. Rabbits were good at panic.
“Uh… Vlad? You ok, buddy? Vlad?”
“I’m fine.” The wolf took another slow step forward into the moonlight, throwing his face into sharp relief. Like his voice, his expression was mild and neutral. His eyes shone frostily. His jacket whispered around him, the tooled leather looking smooth and supple in the silvery glow.
And something glistened dark and wet on his chin.
Danny’s eyes grew wider and wider.
“Uh… mate? I think you must have spilled ketchup or… something on… your…” he touched the corresponding spot on his face, which looked unusually pasty against the glowing green of his luminous suit. Without his expression moving a muscle, Vlad wiped, looked without concern at his stained paw and then ignored it. He lifted his other paw and took a large bite out of the sandwich it contained.
Danny tried to make himself relax again.
“How did the meeting go? Ok?”
“Yeah… ok.” The wolf looked around at the decorations, and asked blandly, “Having a party?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Danny looked guilty. “I thought it’d be fun to do one this year. Everyone’s coming over in a bit. It’ll be great.” And somehow he couldn’t help wishing that they’d hurry up and get here sooner.
Vlad nodded, although he seemed to be staring at the rabbit’s false stomach. His gaze lifted and explored the rest of his friend’s bulky figure.
“The costume looks better padded out, by the way.”
“Wha-? Oh, thanks.” Vlad returned his suddenly unnerving attention to Danny’s costume. He began a circuit of him, and gave it a far more detailed examination.
“It’s still not very realistic,” he concluded eventually, in an even voice. His eyes met Danny’s, and a brief grin flashed across his intense, lupine features. “I’ll give you a hand with that, if you like.”
“Huh?” The rabbit took a step back involuntarily.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said.” Vlad continued blithely in a cheery, conversational tone, “And you were right: if I’ve got a talent, I should use it to help those who need it. Like you.”
“You should? I mean, great!” Relief began to steam off Danny along with the sweat, although he had no idea why. It felt as though he’d just escaped from something with his skin intact. He gave Vlad a great big wobbly grin. “That’s absolutely brilliant, pal! I really appreciate it.” He reached for the hidden zip to his costume. “And it’s great to finally see you feeling better. That meeting must have done you a whole lot more good than you thought.”
“Yeah, one of them did,” Vlad replied vaguely.
It took quite a while to un-stuff Danny’s suit. Vlad helped, tugging out numerous pillows and cushions, and helping the rabbit to unwind the blankets that he’d managed to wrap around himself underneath the faintly glowing fabric. In the end, the pile of upholstery was almost as big as Danny. The rabbit stood panting in the folds of his now much baggier costume.
“Boy, that was hotter than I’d imagined,” he said. “If I’d had to wear all that gear for much longer, I might have spiflicated.”
“We wouldn’t want that,” Vlad commented. Danny looked excitedly.
“The guys are just not going to believe this,” he grinned, “They’ve been on at me to get you to do something like this for ages.” Unfortunately, he missed Vlad’s expression.
Instead, Danny stood in the middle of the floor, looking slightly lost.
“Uhh, so is there any kind of ceremony or preparation you’ve got to go through first?” he asked. Now that he was actually faced by this situation, some perspicacious instinct warned him that he might be making a mistake. Vlad shrugged.
“Well, there is a lot of mystic preamble,” he glanced at the floor, “but you’ve drawn a right-handed circle instead of a left-handed one, and I don’t have any fresh blood-runes handy. It doesn’t matter. All I really need to do is Bite.”
“Oh.” Vlad looked at his housemate with glacial calm. It was damned unnerving.
“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.” the wolf said. “I mean, if you don’t want to go ahead, that’s fine.”
“No, no! I’m fine with it.” Danny grinned, excitement and anticipation beginning to flow again. “After all, it’s just a bit of weight, right?”
“I can lose it again no problem.”
“Yup.” Vlad’s muzzle split into another brief smile. That smile was beginning to alarm Danny- they weren’t usually as toothy as that, were they? He laughed nervously.
“Y’know, this is kind of weird, me actually wanting to be bitten. You’re not planning on rabbit stew this evening or something? Kidding! Kidding! You’re reformed, haha!”
“Haha. Ready?” Danny swallowed and nodded.
“Yeah, I guess so. Only a little bite, mind- I don’t want to get too big.”
“Of course you don’t.”
“Just hold out your arm. Left for preference.” Vlad’s voice had become brisk and businesslike. Danny rolled up his sleeve and obeyed. The wolf took a deep, slow breath as he prepared to go through with it. “Now, hold still-”
Danny chickened out at the last second, turning his head away. Even so, he still caught a glimpse of a dark blur by his side, and suddenly it was over. Wow! He hadn’t realised his plump housemate could move so fast! Vlad had already taken a couple of steps back and was watching expectantly. The rabbit looked down at his arm, but all he could see were rapidly fading tooth-marks in his skin, and a few specks of blood. He didn’t so much feel any pain as a brief, fading memory of having felt some.
And then his arm started tingling. It felt like a rapidly spreading case of pins and needles. In his veins, specially evolved Wyrwolf enzymes thundered through his circulation. Subcutaneous fat cells suddenly received a vast, intoxicating wash of Wyrd stimuli that was impossible to resist. They began multiplying by crazy.
Even before the infected blood had left Danny’s arm, that was beginning to swell. He watched, feeling as though he was in slow motion as it began to bulge beneath the fabric near the wrist, back towards his torso. The wrinkles in his costume sleeve began to shift and lessen, flattening out to cover the increasing thickness of his arm. The wave of gain hit his shoulder and the rabbit gasped as he felt it thicken around the joint, as though he’d slipped on a padded band. He gasped again as those persuasive chemicals hurtled around his suddenly pounding bloodstream, reaching practically the rest of his entire body simultaneously. He felt his underwear tighten as his new belly immediately started to form.
Danny hadn’t known what he’d been expecting to feel whilst it was going on, but it wasn’t anything like this. He could actually feel his body getting heavier by the second. Layers of fat appeared beneath his skin and inflated like life-jackets of lard. This close, his costume was effectively translucent, and he watched the more solid shape within it bow out and expand into a paunch. The speed of it was amazing- his head spun as though he were on an adrenaline-pumping roller-coaster. He hadn’t expected it to go quite this fast. His new found gut continued to expand, the pad of flesh ripening into a ball of flab before his very eyes. He grabbed at it, and felt its soft substance nevertheless push back at his paws as it swelled unabated within its tent, sagging down heavily and dragging his arms with it.
Which began to resist. Danny felt giddy. His right arm had caught up with the left, both becoming beefy appendages that were bulging in time. Between the joints thick rabbit sausages were being stuffed with even more filling, collars of bunny-fat swelling like water wings around his shoulders and elbows. The hanging cotton folds and creases of his sleeves were now down to mere baggy wrinkles, whilst his stomach took up an ever increasing volume out front. It was like the first few puffs of air into a hot-air balloon, a distinct bulge forming in the shapeless material. Danny swayed, and in shock found he had to lean back to balance the increasing anchorage of his gut.
He almost toppled over as he found himself unexpectedly heavy at the rear. His fluffy tail was rising as his growing bottom displaced it, doing the work a pair of cushions had previously. It bulged out and pressed against suddenly thickening thighs and chunky haunches, which grew fatter, and fatter…
Quite quickly, the weight gain faltered and stopped. Danny staggered a little, and then blinked down. Where there had been a skinny bunny in a badly outsized costume there now stood a seriously rounded rabbit. His gut was stupendous, turning his middle into a faintly glowing medicine ball. It was still soft to the touch, but it’s bulk gave it a surprising firmness and self-support. On top of that balanced his chest, puffy and swollen. His arms stuck out from his sides, pushed there by the influx of flab. Both arms and legs now looked quite short and stubby thanks to their width, each part swaddled in inches of blubber. His bottom was embarrassingly large, sandwiching his tail between it and the hefty curve of his back. The suit was now pretty much full, bulging in all the places it ought to be bulging, most of the surface smooth against the rotund figure underneath. His sides bowed out like that of a galleon, the thick creases of love handles mysteriously absent. In fact, anyone looking at him could quite easily be persuaded that he was made of marshmallows squished together.
Slowly, still in disbelief, he reached up. Even his ears felt fatter. They swung sluggishly under the weight. The puffy little cap fitted better now.
“W-wow.” Danny’s voice was an awe-struck whisper. It quickly rose to a delighted babble. Padding wasn’t a patch on this! “I mean… wow!” He tried to take a step, and felt his weight roll to the left as his right leg pressed the underside of his belly. His fat thighs jiggled together through the material. He managed to get up to a slow, lumbering waddle as he went once around the room. He felt like he was in some amazing dream, or someone else’s body.
“This… this is awesome! I always knew that you could do this, but I didn’t really believe it deep down, I guess. I feel huge! I’m massive!” Danny jiggled his ponderous gut and laughed. “Wait till everyone sees this! They won’t know what to say! I look great. I’m YEOW!”
The rabbit’s bloated bulk rippled as he bounced a foot into the air and came down again, rubbing his smarting bottom. It was in agony, as if it had just been pinched by sharp metal tweezers. It stung like-
The change that came over Danny’s face was indescribable. Without seeming to move, he revolved on the spot and faced Vlad, who was now standing behind him.
The Wyrwolf was smiling. It wasn’t a good smile.
“Nu… Ny… Nurr…” Danny gurgled, as his body began to tingle. Vlad’s smile widened, showing more teeth. It had been a big bite.
“Oh, didn’t I say? You were right about having a night off, too. I’m having one. Now.”
The rabbit’s eyes grew as wide as CDs, and he stumbled backwards. He could feel himself getting heavier already.
“Gn… Ng…” Grinning, Vlad followed the expanding bunny. His face looked a lot less amiable under-lit in the pale green light of the costume.
“You know what they say- the secret to a good injection is surprise.”
Danny’s costume started to grow taut around the middle. His belly sagged down against his thighs, out of control. The material tightened around his arms and legs, pulling his arms further out to his sides even as added fat pushed at them. They bulged as if the marshmallows were being puffed up with air. Ballooning thighs forced his legs apart, making him stagger. His rounding sides garnered enough blubber to collapse into thick, rolling love handles inside the stuffed suit, making the material stretch unwillingly. His neck and face bulged, mimicking the round eyes of his terrified expression.
The stricken rabbit bumped back into the snack table, which groaned in protest at the sudden increase of load. Vlad paused and crouched in the darkness, eyes gleaming. Danny was suddenly, appallingly aware of how large he was getting, and how helpless: he wasn’t going to be able to lose all this without problems. His gut was now halfway to his knees, a huge plump mass of flab quivering in front of him. His costume was beginning to pull and tug at his shoulders and groin as the swelling contents fought unceasingly for more room. In the heightened state of awareness that comes with terror, he could feel the smooth cotton slipping grudgingly over his fur as it stretched, trying to hold an XXXL frame in a XL suit.
Panic rising up his throat, his increasingly fat fingers fumbled behind him for some kind of weapon. It was at that moment that the Wyrwolf chose to leap, sailing up into the air directly at him. With a squeal of fear, Danny’s podgy fist grabbed blindly and swung, hurling something round and reasonably heavy at the monster.
The contents splattered.
Vlad reeled backwards, choking and spluttering and trying vainly to scrape something off his face. He screamed:
“Argh! It burns, it burns!” Danny’s eyes widened, then Vlad managed to unplug his nostrils. Eyes watering, he glowered at the rabbit. “Just how much garlic did you put in this dip?” He loomed at Danny menacingly, who cringed back. The table gave a warning creak as a bottom, now a good 3 and a half feet wide, bore down on it.
For a few minutes, the only sound was the faint splatting of dip sliding off Vlad’s head and shoulders. The look on the Wyrwolf’s face was one Danny was familiar with. It bespoke rabid annoyance, usually seen right before he slung something at the rabbit for alleged misdemeanours (well, Danny didn’t think he’d done anything wrong).
“How many times does it have to be drilled into you that garlic is for vampires?” he growled. He shot the rabbit a look that wasn’t Wyrwolf, wasn’t normal, but was all Vlad. It was accompanied by a blast of garlic breath that would take out an ordinary animal at 10 paces, as well as any vampires.
“I am so going to get you for that.”
Danny whimpered helplessly as his enormous weight bent the table beneath him: his gain had taken his suit to its limits, and any marshmallow that size would certainly be value for money. He was a vast suet pudding of lapine lard, sides now pressing underneath his outstretched, swollen arms. They moved as though they were set in jam. The underside of his belly nestled against his upper legs, smothering them to his knees. The top of his belly was pressed up against his chest, a good 4 feet above. At his sides, the organically smooth curve compressed and rolled into a series of fat, flabby love handles. His tail was being swallowed greedily by his behind, each buttock bigger than most paunches exhibited on the street. Fat fingers found it tough to bend. His hat was squint. Within the costume, his underwear creaked under tension.
Vlad grinned and, to Danny’s horror, hefted the sumo-rabbit’s gut in both paws, struggling to lift it. Its bulk sagged in his paws, a dead-weight packed with nutrition. The Wyrwolf licked his lips slowly. Danny was almost crying in panic. Then the wolf let his gut go, stood back and prodded it. He lost his finger up to the final knuckle. The suit quivered. Danny sweated.
Then, catching Vlad’s eye, the rabbit goggled as the horrific truth dawned.
“Y… you wouldn’t!” Vlad smiled maliciously.
“Third time’s the charm.” With great ceremony, the Wyrwolf leaned forward and nipped the huge rabbit on one of his prominent love handles. Unable even to fend off this leisurely assault, Danny could only squeak as fangs punctured the skin, pressed, and withdrew.
“Noooo!” Danny hollered as the tingling returned again, stronger than ever. A seam blew on the side of his costume, and the zip strained futilely to contain a surge of countless calories. Vlad sniggered,
“Amazing- it’s the incredible expanding rabbit!”
In one long, slow, drawn out movement, Danny’s costume burst under the intolerable pressure. Within the ruptured remains, the rabbit’s enormous body hung motionless for a second, before it began to pour out. His belly sagged and swelled, free of its confinement, now so large it was less a humiliating embarrassment and more a force of nature. His gut ballooned. The last of the costume exploded off him. Clad in just his underwear and shorn of the costume’s support, his overwhelming mass lost its roundness and became a huge, shapeless thing. He looked like a fur-clad version of the Blob. And he was still gaining, swelling with a ridiculous amount of fat.
“Mphh!” Vlad’s hapless victim felt the roll of fat around his neck inflate like a tyre, forcing his jaws shut. His cheeks burgeoned at either side. It felt and looked as though his muzzle was shrinking in comparison. His chest and shoulders were expanding too, pressing up against his head. His limbs were now a series of balloons all tied together, inflated to their utmost. They could barely waggle.
Undergoing its own specialised nightmare beneath him, the table he was sitting on cracked loudly. With reflexes he didn’t even know he had, Danny managed to hurl his weight forwards and off it before it collapsed. Inertia clutched at him, and the movement felt tectonic in its speed. Then momentum carried him along and he felt unstoppably fast. Fattened feet made the ground shake as he careered forwards. The swaddling blubber made it impossible to turn his head, but in fact he’d only moved a few feet when he brought himself to a shuddering stop. He gasped for breath, the effort in moving several animals worth of flab making it seem more. His body quivered, his gargantuan belly bounced.
And the underside of it touched the floor.
Danny experienced it as the faintest brush against a cold, flat surface before it was picked up and away. The rabbit froze in numbed horror, hardly daring to breathe and straining every muscle to try and prevent it happening from again. His stomach hung there sluggishly for what felt like eternity, and then made more solid contact. Appallingly, it didn’t rise again. Danny could feel his furry bulk starting to spread out across the floor.
In mounting desperation, the rabbit tried bodily to lift his belly away from the floor. It failed, now too heavy and massive to be manipulated. He struggled to waddle forwards, and then to drag it backwards, but all to no avail. He was pinned to the spot by his insanely outsized belly.
As though pressure on his stomach forced new flab to find a home elsewhere, the rest of Danny began to fill out with renewed zeal. His feet slid unstoppably apart as his widening legs compressed and fought for space. His chest was a huge roll of fat that no clothing would ever be able to contain again. The rabbit bit his lip and then squeaked as his tortured underwear finally bowed to the inevitable and burst. As though grateful for the extra room, his bottom stretched and began to spread out. His sides sagged in numerous huge folds of blubber, each thicker than two paws could grasp.
The rabbit felt himself slowly rise up onto his toes as his stomach got underneath him and began to lift. He swayed as balance was lost, and his bottom fell to earth like the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs. It took a long time to fall, but when it hit it was glad to get there. The blubbery slap echoed around the room like a cannon shot, and he teetered wildly on his bottom or a moment before the immovable mass of his gut dragged him into the sitting position. His body bobbed and wobbled as though it had contracted an ocean swell. It certainly looked big enough for it to suffer from the occasional tide. His behind spread like softening ice cream, and stabilised his position. The cold floor beneath his body was a shock after the warming insulation of so much lard, but it rapidly began to warm up. Danny dared to hope that was the end of it, but with awful inevitability, he felt his legs slowly sliding apart once again.
Vlad watched, grinning so hard it almost hurt.
* * *
It was with a jolt that Danny realised he wasn’t getting any bigger. The pins and needles had finally, finally gone. Blinking blearily, he tried to see how large he was. All his eyes could see was a horizon of a creamy white world. His skin and pelt felt stretched. And well they might. He filled over a third of the room with his titanic proportions. Explorers would have mistaken him for a landmark. The blimp bunny was something that even the most confident of overfed sumo-wrestlers would have quailed at. The Wyrd influence had not only widened him, but in the course of proceeding had stretched him up, all the better to fit yet more fat into him. His body was almost entirely shapeless, a vast butterball of fat folded into uncounted rolls along his sides. His arms now rested on those sides, too heavy to lift. His legs were entirely buried underneath that mountain of blubber. His cheeks had gone from the size of melons to the size of watermelons, his nose a pink button between them. He was pretty much the biggest thing ever seen. He could give some of the smaller baleen whales a run for their money.
And Vlad was still staring at him. The silence in the room was total. Most of the candles had gone out, leaving the scene in shades of blue and purple. The moonlight shone in again, and Danny saw a hungry gleam in his eye. He was doomed. He wondered if he was going to be bitten again. If he did, he’d probably explode. The hapless rabbit began to tremble.
With a terrifying, almost beautiful economy of motion, the Wyrwolf slunk closer… and leapt.
* * *
“So… you’re not going to eat me?” Danny asked for the fifth time. He couldn’t quite believe it. Vlad rolled his eyes and made himself more comfortable. He’d ripped the filters off the lights, and the room looked more or less back to normal.
“For crying out loud, I’ve told you: NO I’m not going to eat you.” He reached back and thumped the bunny’s blubbery bulk. The ripples didn’t settle down for minutes. The chunky wolf grinned in tongue lolling, canine mirth. “I’m on a diet, remember? Think of my cholesterol.” A giggle escaped him as he sank further into Danny’s upper slope. Vlad stretched luxuriantly, and munched pretzels. “Want some?”
“No thanks.” Danny scowled sulkily, and tried without success to fold his arms. “I’m on a diet too.” The wolf snorted in laughter.
“That’s no problem for a master magician, surely? Just make most of yourself disappear!”
“Or maybe I could saw you in half. Or perhaps eighths. I’m only too willing to help.”
“Humph. Don’t worry, I won’t be asking you for help ever again.”
Vlad was half-drunk with power, but to his pleasant surprise he was also more relaxed than he had been in months. The monkey-in-a-banana-plantation feeling had finally dissipated. Even though he was mildly hungry, he hadn’t the slightest inclination to eat Danny, despite the irresistible target he currently made. It was a normal hunger. Vlad had discovered that Biting in anger or hunger was dangerous, but Biting in the cause of unbelievably petty-minded revenge was fun.
Another uncontrollable guffaw got out.
“You… you should have seen your face when I jumped on you! I thought you were going to up and have a heart attack on me!” Danny damn well nearly had!
“This was unnecessarily cruel and vindictive, Vlad. With malice aforethought.” Danny sniffed disapprovingly.
“Oh, come on! Aren’t you the one who’s always saying ‘lighten up’? Oh, sorry, bad choice of words!” He tried to choke off the laughter as Danny settled into a deeper sulk.
Silence reigned for a few minutes more, then Vlad spoke up again.
“And when… when I kissed you and yelled ‘Happy H-Hallohahahaha’!” The wolf dissolved in helpless giggles. Danny glared, his dignity mortally wounded. He’d never have believed his so-called friend capable of such evil treachery.
“I’m going to get you for this. It may take months, it may take years, but I am going to get you!” Vlad chortled and patted the monstrously massive rabbit again.
“Then I guess I’ll just have to keep you topped up, won’t I?”
“Not funny, Vlad! Vlad?”
“Yeah?” Danny’s immense stomach rumbled beneath him.
“You couldn’t get me a diet lettuce or something? I’m starving!”
“Sure thing. I’ve got to get some more snacks anyway. I bought them on the way home.” The meaningful way he said that set alarm bells ringing.
“More snacks? What for?” Vlad slid easily down the rabbit’s rotund side.
“For the party, of course.”
“Party? Pa- oh, NO!”
“Oh, YES.” Vlad had been looking forward to this. It was the icing on the pumpkin. “I phoned and told everyone that the party had been put back by an hour: I had some things to get ready.” He smirked evilly. “They’ll be here in a few minutes, and what a surprise they’ll get.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the festivities. You just be as comfortable as possible- you’re the furniture for the evening.” Vlad’s smile couldn’t have been wider if he’d tried. “We’re running this party my way.”
Danny unleashed a torrent of deeply unflattering abuse at his housemate, who left the room, shoulders shaking helplessly in mirth. Danny would laugh about this eventually. It might take months but he would, eventually. In the meantime, Vlad was going to be a little more equal around here. He’d proved pretty conclusively that Wyrwolves were people too, and were just as capable of vindictiveness and getting their own back as anyone.
He went to get the lettuce. Maybe Halloween didn’t have to be quite so bad, after all.