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Skydiving into Oblivion
Saturday morning dawned bright, crisp, and autumnal. College students walked to the library, gym, and sports fields past the corner of Pearl and Main streets where Jesse waited with his friends at the front door of Shamokin House. A radio blared through an open window.
"Hey guys," Jesse hollered. "I got a jet plane, a pilot, and six tickets for skydiving. Anyone interested in a huge and truly epic skydive?"
"How high?" Kent hollered through the intercom. Jesse pulled a clear oxygen mask from behind his back and held it up to the security camera.
"Extreme. Thirty-five thou'."
"You accuse me of being high?" Kent giggled. The security door buzzed open. Kent stood next to Sally, his girlfriend, wearing her silky thong. She wore his jockstrap, and one arm covered her breasts. Festus lay with her on the couch, both in a compromising state.
"Thirty-five thousand, I'm in," Festus said, standing, waving. Emily shoved Festus' boxers at him and pouted. She didn't even try to get decent.
"One day you guys are going to open the door to a cop," Kent said. No one paid attention because they had to mollify their girlfriends' hurt feelings.
"Darling, we ain't ever going to get a chance to skydive thirty-five ever again. We'll all come back and celebrate with dinner at Ruth's Chris and then dancin'. Why don't you get a fancy new dress, shoes, hairdo, the works? You know, turn heads like a supermodel." Festus pulled a pair of basketball shorts over his hips, fished several hundred dollars and a credit card out of his wallet. He handed it to Emily. Kent gave his girlfriend Sally his wallet.
Mike, Jesse' almost husband to be, sat in his flight suit while Kent and Festus performed a second round of southern-boy soft-talk to placate their leaving. Ten miles later, the four men stepped out of the Jeep dressed in flight suits and helmets with built-in radios.
The pilot, a dumpy man in dirty sweatpants and sweat-stained skivvies with an alcoholic face, thought it cool to decal "Rich Boi's Blue Sky Adventures" on the side of the private jet. He was a peculiar counterpoint to four fit men in flight suits, preparing for a leap into danger.
They waited in the pressurized cabin where a bartender kept offering expensive booze. No one drank. When the pilot reached 35,000 feet, he gave them a weather update and the bartender joined him in the cockpit. The plane nosed up. They sealed their helmets and rolled out of the cabin with the rush of air. They glided under the tail without fear of striking it.
The quest for height. The quest to defy gravity. Four humans sliced through the air suspended on cloud-stuff, flying like birds on gossamer wings of cloth, cord, and stitches. Men flying like the immortals, like gods of the sky, like angels to and from Heaven. It lasted nearly three minutes. Eventually, the apple meets the earth and Newton's Law remains inviolate.
Four parachutes opened and they floated to earth under the cloth canopies. As they fell, they screamed and yelled their joy at the length of the freefall. Jesse warned that they would fly over Lake Ashe. Kent and Festus had a conspiracy theory that Lake Ashe hid a secret landing pad for aliens from the planet Altair. Nobody knew the name of the island in the middle of Lake Ashe but from this height, they could see a cluster of six buildings hidden in the trees. Now that would be a second adventure, finding out what secrets the island held.
"Hey guys, buildings, let's have a look-see," Festus said. Kent angled his parachute toward the island. Mike did the same. Jesse always intended to turn away but at the last minute, followed his friends.
They landed on a gravel road between a large steel yard and a warehouse, congratulating each other as they collapsed their parachutes and removed the harnesses. For a few seconds a few people in the buildings eyeballed them. Bells rang and vans with flashing lights brought soldiers in black camouflage outfits, masks, and assault rifles to surround them. The soldiers herded Jesse, Mike, Kent, and Festus into a building on the edge of the tiny town. Once the door was shut, the floor sank like an elevator and gas spewed from jets in the walls.
Jesse woke in an oversized cell at one corner of a white, sterile room. Mike, Kent and Festus lay in separate cells at opposite corners. His cell had a wall-mounted cot with foil blankets, a sink, a water closet, a wall-mounted table with food and water. He wore only a pair of simple cotton jersey pants like the other men and his body smelled of chemical agents. His friends would soon wake and realize that this was not the island to explore. He knew that when they landed.
Dr Fisette waited in the open archway that divided the cells from the lab tables. The short man could hide in the middle of the scientific equipment.
"We didn't expect you to join your friends. I woke you first to verify your choice and create a cover story," Fisette said.
"Don't worry. I won't go all confessional and weepy. I made my decision in the air. I didn't want to live with all the creepy accusing looks," Jesse said.
"We just wanted to hear you confirm your landing was deliberate. When a contract is breech with such abandon, we worry that you revealed our presence. We must wipe out your memory. You'll be one of our permanent creatures, you understand."
"Time flows like an ocean. It's time for me to take the current. Time serves me well today. Back there, I would wallow in the shallows and miseries of what could have been."
Fisette gave him a sarcastic eye roll and shake of the head.
"Whatever, Dude. We already liquidated your assets. Time for your shots." Fisette grinned. He picked a tray from a lab refrigerator and filled two hypodermic syringes. Jesse offered one shoulders and one hip. He stiffened as the chemicals coursed through his body, they he grabbed the sides of his head as his memories started to fade.
"It hurts to forget," Jesse's voice fell away into mumbles. He sat down on the cot and struggled to retain the memories of his life. Eventually, he lost the battle and fell into a deep sleep. Fisette watched, feeling some pangs of regret but this was necessary. He envied Jesse's new start and the two lifetimes it offered him. The other young men in this experimental lot didn't matter to him. They were merely play-toys for rich men.
"You'll be happier for having slumbered here, dear boy. Happier by far than your friends who will remember and regret," Fisette mused. He was the primum mobile, the driving force, the genius, behind this island country. He was, people paused speechless when they heard, nearly twice ninety years old but chemically enhanced to look thirty.
When Jesse woke, he saw a dimly lit room with men he knew were his friends but no memories of their past exploits. He shook the drugs from his head and tried to call out. His mouth was all cotton. He turned on the water and drank directly from the stream. Kent, Fergus, and Mike watched him from their cells.
"What the hell happened?" Kent asked, rubbing more than stubble on his chin.
"We got gassed. I guess they don't like skydiving," blustered Festus before Jesse could answer. The other men added epithets and complaints, brave sounding jokes, and bragging threats of beating the guards next time. Jesse sighed in silent relief. He remembered their names but recalled nothing of how and why he knew them. He barely remembered the skydiving adventure.
Mike rubbed his shoulders and discovered a scabbed over hypodermic mark. He pushed his shoulder against the space between the bars for the others to see.
"Anyone else got one of these?" The four men examined their bodies. Each discovered puncture marks. Before they could speculate on the marks, Lights flickered on in the rest of the room. A small man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck entered flanked by two, awkward and paranoid guards with rifles. The guards stood behind the man, emphasizing his authority.
"Welcome to our little community, gentlemen." His voice was soft, nerdy, and smarmy. "I'm Doctor Milo Fisette and over the next few days, I'll be explaining your sequestration and participation in Arcadian society."
"What are you talking about?" Festus said.
"Why have you to detained us?" Mike asked. Fisette lifted his glasses and scratched his nose.
"Arcadia Island is a sovereign country and under international law, you trespassed, you crossed the border without permission." Fisette shrugged his shoulders as if they knew the answer and he was lecturing children.
"We're entitled to a lawyer," Festus pushed against the bars. One of the soldiers stepped to the front of his cell, rifle pointed.
"You had a lawyer but you bore no papers of transit nor did any resident of Arcadia claim you as a guest. The evidence showed that you arrived here uninvited and in a deliberate manner guaranteed to create disorder. That's a major crime in Arcadia and thus, you were found guilty and sentenced by the court." Fisette went to the sink and washed his hands. The significance was not wasted on the four men.
"How long?" A question as much as an exclamation.
"This is the jail?" Mike asked.
"It sometimes serves as such when prisoners require medical attention."
"We didn't require medical attention when we landed. You gassed us," Jesse spoke up for the first time. He remembered the answer before Fisette spoke.
"Regardless of who gassed you, Arcadia requires restitution for medical and legal expenses. That's our law. We liquidated your assets to pay your legal bills and the cost of your legal representation and your incarceration are beyond each of your resources."
"You did more than that." Kent grumbled.
"Nothing harmful to you or illegal under Arcadian Law. That's all the time I have. You'll figure it out in a day, two at most," Fisette said, turned to the guard, and ordered food for them. The food arrived and looking at it, and Jesse felt hunger. He ate twice what he normally would eat, unable to satisfy his hunger. He noted Kent was devouring a double portion. Festus and Mike never stopped feeding. They ate into the night, noisily slurping and chewing their food. Jesse suspected that he used hidden cameras and the sleep periods to monitor them.
When they woke the next morning, each noticed changes in their bodies. Profuse hair grew on Jesse's legs. Festus and Mike ate prodigious amounts of food but while Festus gained girth, Mike gained height and muscularity. Lastly, Kent's arms and legs grew longer, and he developed a severe case of black fur sprouting everywhere.
When the lights in the laboratory dimmed, the four slept. When the lights brightened again, they ate, paced, or did exercise to release the energy building in their bodies. Each awakening brought new feelings and changed physiques. They didn't talk about changes in their bodies because admitting the change in their bodies or acknowledging the change in the other's body would make denial impossible.
On the third day, Jesse's ankles twisted, his legs bulked up, and his skin grew leathery. He stepped carefully, learning how to walk on his toes. Festus turned pinkish and round, his fingers became stumps and his feet forming hooves. He didn't seem to notice or care as long as food appeared in front of him. Mike's body grew thicker, broad across the shoulders, muscular, hard, and ripped. His skin tone shifted to that of heavily tanned, leathery. He too ate more and gained weight. Kent's chest barreled out, and his waist narrowed. His hips spread, and he took to leaning forward on elongated arms. His legs shortened to match. He ate mostly fruit and vegetables, turning up his flattening nose at meat.
Dr Fisette returned that evening. Guards, dressed in black hoods, gloves, and uniforms stood in front of each cell. Jesse sensed that the guards were feline like lions or tigers. It was illogical but he recognized their scent and moves.
"Gentlemen, in a week we will release you so you can earn some money to pay for your keep. The peoples of Arcadia will celebrate your successful rehabilitation," Fisette said. Jesse ignored him and locked his eyes on the nearest guard, leaning forward, growling, chest rumbling, and fists at the ready.
"In what distant deeps or skies, burnt the fire of thine eyes?" Jesse said before lashing through the bars. The guard reared and snarled back, revealing fangs, claws pierced its gloves. Fisette yelled at the guard for losing his composure.
"Stand down. Resist those animal impulses or I'll have you neutered and declawed. Didn't I warn you about this man's powers in particular?" The guard pulled back his balaclava to reveal a leonine head and mane underneath. He moved away but never took his gaze from Jesse's eyes. Fisette turned to Jesse. "Very clever. You are perceptive but the knowledge will do you no good."
"How much do we owe for your make-believe, trumped up, kangaroo-court Arcadian justice?" Festus interrupted before Jesse could speak. Fisette punched some numbers into a calculator.
"None of you had assets of more than twenty thousand. The least expensive punishment belongs to Kent and is slightly more than six hundred million dollars. You're what they call a cheap date. Festus owes the most because of your appetite. Your food, medical, lodging, comes to slightly less than seven hundred million and change."
"You're charging for food?" Festus scowled and growled.
"It's part of the contract. All of our food is imported and we only buy from the best sources and finest purveyors."
"But he's a fucking pig. He'll eat any slop you put in front of him," Kent blurted out. Festus' entire body turned even pinker than it already was.
"Not just any pig. He's Zhu Bajie to your Sun Wukong. A most admirable and fortunate pairing, wouldn't you say?"
"I wouldn't say. Who am I?" Festus snorted, his deep voice had an edge of sexiness to it despite his increasingly comical porcine appearance.
"I don't care who he is, I didn't sign a contract," Mike said.
"Same here. I don't remember signing any contract," Kent said. Jesse said nothing but felt guilt. He didn't remember why.
"While you were unconscious, you placed your fingerprints and made your marks on contracts without disagreement. None of you could possibly pay your fines or reimburse your expenses. Each of you had several lucrative offers from benefactors and each of you in your wisdom accepted an offer. Those contracts contain clauses that oblige you to behave like particular mythology characters and spend time with your sponsor." Fisette smiled, pleased with himself. He looked at his four charges and sighed. "You signed your contracts in bloody hand prints. It was a simple blood draw Arcadia requires to record your DNA and we here at the hospital used it to seal your contracts, in blood," Fisette said.
"And your name is Moreau," Mike said.
"No, Fisette. Any other questions?"
"You didn't answer my question, twerp, what are we?" Mike's voice sounded deeper, authoritative, commanding. Jesse could see reasons, the broader shoulders, the broad chest, and thickening neck. The middle of his face just started pulling outward into a snout. Jesse was never attracted to hyper-masculine men, bullish men. He couldn't figure out his attraction to Mike. He turned his eyes to Fisette and the contracts.
"Yeah, who is this Zho person I'm supposed to be to Kent's whatever it was you said, Sun?" Festus said. Fisette folded his arms.
"You are Zhu Bajie or Pigsy as he is called in English-speaking countries. The fighting companion of Kent who will be Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, exalted immortal, brilliant warrior, super intellect memorialized Chinese literature, specifically 'To the West.' A very rich man in China is paying for both of you to grace his private estate. He wants to journey with the heroes of the Buddhist Path." Both Festus and Kent stared at each other in silence.
Jesse laughed under his breath. They were becoming what they deserved in Fissette's mind. He didn't know why he thought that.
"You find this humorous? Your benefactor lives on an island with beautiful grotto dedicated to the Greek god Pan. You have Pan's power of persuasion. Finally, Mike's benefactor is a gentleman of impeccable means. He wishes to reenact, gloriously and heroically, the legend of Theseus in the maze of the Minotaur on the birthdays of his sons, grandsons, and cousins. So that's who you all are. You have the Minotaur's strength." He paused. "But I came here because your adjustments are taking longer than anticipated. Apparently your transformations require booster shots," Fisette nodded to the guards who donned gas masks. The four men started yelling and screaming, but the gas put them to sleep.
When they woke, the bars forming the front of each cell were gone. A pair of very nervous guards stood at the far end of the laboratory nearest the door. When the four men approached the laboratory benches, they received electronic signals from bands screwed tight into their mastoid processes. This was the latest in human confinement. The four stayed in their cells and that night, their bodies ached with changes.
As the days passed, Rams horns grew out of Jesse's head and curled around his ears. His face drew long and gaunt, scruffy fur covering his chin. His manhood enlarged, beast-like and slipped into a sheath. It hid under curly brown fur. The rush of hormones pushed his mind to all things sexual. The proper look of his eyes would make any creature surrender to his carnal desires. He was the demigod of sex on two legs.
Mike's head took bovine shape. His horns spread over a yard from end to end. Every inch of his skin was leathery, tough, and tanned. His feet were hooves and his hands rough, thick and brutal. His torso had grown thick and fleshy with starkly defined muscle, arms as thick as most men's waists, husky, supporting dropped shoulders and a thickened neck. A mane of hair grew down his neck and back to his buttocks. He bellowed, snorted, and stamped the floor. He was a beast of contradictions, alternately ferocious and fearsome one minute and lovingly tender the next minute. His Taurean manhood strained against a makeshift pouch he'd take to wearing for modesty's sake.
Kent became a small, well-appointed chimpanzee, sporting distinguished grayish-black fur over most of his body. His feet resembled hands, and his hands were larger, stronger. His calves and forearms significantly stronger. His waist tucked under his bulk, as he stood on all fours, arms and legs straight. When he stood, he walked with a rolling motion that brought both shoulders up and down alternately with his hips; his body was the epitome of agility and clever moves. He pointed at Pigsy, his companion, and chattered in happy ooks and whoops, before settling into clear, elegant English.
Festus belched too loud and farted too much; his body stout and rotund, pinkish, hairless, and blubbery. His nose had flattened into a piggy snout, and his ears enlarged and pointy. He wore an oriental robe because of his new bulk and a curly tail grew from the base of his spine. He was a quintessential Pigsy, learned of ancient literature, guardian of the Princess of the Moon and the Heavenly Tumbleweed. He squealed joyously at his leader and partner, the Monkey King. Their minds craved the approval of their human benefactors. Demigods come to life.
"Do we have anyone to blame but ourselves?" Festus spoke in a piggly-giggly-silly and warmly southern, risque' voice.
"This might be the beginning of a wonderful journey and it all began with a quest for extreme skydiving and exploration of the unknown." Kent the Monkey King spoke, subtly oriental, wise, and powerful.
Mike as Minotaur sat like Rodin's Thinker, chin on fist and elbow on knee, a figure of might, great power, wise enough to devise an impenetrable maze that could snare all but the most heroic of men.
"This knowledge was forbidden, hidden from mankind. This is the secret that no man can see and relate to his fellows. A medical maze of astounding proportions." The deepness of his voice shook the glassware in the room.
Jesse didn't answer his friends. He thought about making the guards undress with his newfound powers of seduction but decided not to do such a thing. They were after all, tiger-men and worthy of privacy when they did submit.
"We'll never go skydiving again," Jesse said. He repeated the words to extend his authority. "No, not a chance we'll ever dream of skydiving ever again." His former companions nodded their agreement. They waited to get packed into shipping cages and sent to their benefactors or, in reality, owners. Jesse being superior both sexually and mentally might find a way to reunite them, at least for their anniversary of being made into dreams and desires.
1500 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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