More weight gain, and even fatter woman now. Don't like that sort of thing, why are you here?
I woke up the next morning stiff and freezing. The sun was just now rising. I still felt tired, but I wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep. So I drove back to the freeway and headed back for the town where I had gotten the rental car from.
I didn't know what I was going to do. I figured it would be a day or two before Maura was discovered, and I wasn't sure how things would play out then. Whoever went there wouldn't be enslaved, but neither were they likely to do anything to stop what she was already doing.
Thinking it over as I drove, another idea occurred to me. I made a few phone calls to various news agencies, both in Des Moines and nationally, and gave them a tip that the FBI was about to move in on some suspected terrorists today.
Would any reporters be interested enough in following up on the tip? I hoped at least a couple would be, wanting to scoop the competition. And was it possible that one would be bold enough to try to investigate the building themselves? Maybe one would be crazy enough, and that's all I needed. One. One reporter sees Maura, the impossibly-fat woman, and the story breaks. It was unique enough it would make headlines, and in the ensuing storm someone would figure out her "servants" weren't all-together there. Maura's scheme would break. Somehow. I just had to get people to notice, bring her and her slaves into the light.
That's what I told myself as I settled into a booth at a diner and ordered breakfast. I asked the waitress to turn it to CNN, and I ate my breakfast, nursed a bottomless cup of coffee, and ate my lunch with my eyes glued to the set.
Nothing from the anchor, nothing in the news crawl.
Nothing about a raid on a suspected terrorist compound. Nothing about a human blimp.
The waitress was growing sick of me just sitting there, even though the diner was practically empty, so I paid and left.
Walking around aimlessly, I tried to figure out where I had gone wrong. Maura didn't have the device anymore, I had alerted enough agencies and media outlets that *someone* had to have taken the bait.
Had I underestimated her? Had Maura already gotten to the media and/or the government?
I found myself in front of a motel. They accepted cash (I didn't want to use my credit card; it could be tracked), so I got a room and went to lie down. I left CNN on, in the vain hope that some story would break.
The next day I stayed in my room, only venturing out to get some food and rushing back in the increasingly shrinking hope that I would come back to find Maura's massive face filling the screen.
On day three I checked out, paid my bill, and went back to my car. I had come to the decision that I had to risk going back to Des Moines. At the very least I could get some fresh clothes (what I had on now I had washed in the tub of my motel room the night before) and some essentials before I left again. I had some vague plan of going out to the woods. I knew where there were some cabins you could rent by the month; my father had taken me there when I was growing up. They were isolated. Safe.
That was all I really had in mind. Stopping Maura was an absolute now, but I didn't know how to do it, so instead I would just take care of myself. And then meant getting as far away from her as I could.
I drove to a rest stop and sat in the car listening to the radio all day. I wasn't going to go back to the city until well after dark; minimize my chances of being seen. Still nothing in the news.
Night came. Midnight passed. I went back to the city. Parked a couple blocks from my house. Snuck through the backyard of the house behind mine, tiptoed through my house without turning on any lights. I peeked out a window and saw a car I didn't recognize parked a couple houses down. I couldn't tell if anyone was in it. I was growing paranoid. I hadn't been sleeping well.
I packed a suitcase of clothes and my laptop. Back over the fence, through the other backyard, back to my car. Drove straight for the city limits but kept it five miles under the limit. Didn't see any police cars. Started breathing easier as Des Moines receded in my rearview mirror.
Drove all night, made it to the cabins before dawn. Grabbed a quick nap, then got a cabin and crashed. First real sleep in days.
The next couple weeks passed in uniform fashion: I went out to stock up on food only when necessary, and the rest of the time I was glued to my laptop, constantly refreshing CNN and other news sites. I considered trying to tip off the media and government agencies again, but I didn't see it working. Maura had gotten around my first attempt somehow.
I didn't sleep well. I started jumping at every noise outside, peeking out from behind the curtains every time a car drove by. Every day I was stuck in that cabin was another day Maura got fatter. Even if she couldn't expand her influence anymore, she was still controlling the lives of countless people. This wasn't over.
But it was at a stalemate. At least I believed so.
One day I saw a story about a presidential contender coming to Des Moines. The Iowa straw poll. That was coming up, wasn't it? I followed the candidate's actions day by day, hour by hour. Speeches, fundraising parties, photo ops. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Then the candidate announced he was inviting all the other candidates to Des Moines for a debate. A warning in my head went up, but nothing seemed to happen. Then the President came to Iowa for a couple stops. He came through Des Moines and left. No biggie. Then he canceled a trip to Cedar Rapids and stayed in Des Moines a couple more days. Private meetings, closed to the press. No explanation.
I panicked, but I didn't know what to do. Maura didn't have the machine, right? Right. I smashed it. And she couldn't have built another one, because
Because she's a dumb fatty. She can't think ahead. She wouldn't want more machines out there. She said it herself, she didn't like her one machine being out of her sight. She was selfish, greedy.
That kept coming back to me.
But what if
When the thought started to form into something solid I was already in full-blown panic mode. This pushed it up to 11.
But what if she *had* had more built? But what if she had taken over the company that had made it in the first place? Then she'd have people smart enough to build more.
Or maybe improve it.
That couldn't be, because
Because I'm an idiot who underestimated her.
No, I didn't rush out right that instant to go confront Maura, or possibly do something extreme like kill her. The overwhelming thought that prevailed in my mind was "STAY HIDDEN!" I wanted so desperately to go on the offensive. I had the responsibility to at least try. But my body wouldn't listen to me. So I'd convince myself this was for the best. If I exposed myself, I was doomed. I'd be enslaved, me, the only free person who knew what was actually happening.
So I stayed there. I did nothing.
I withdrew all the money I had saved up and tried to figure out how thin I could stretch a budget. I estimated I could last for a few months if I made due with ramen and bologna.
And what would I do in the meantime? Track Maura's progress? That was ultimately impossible when she was operating in secret and many people I guessed that she would want, the millionaires and billionaires and media moguls and titans of industry, aren't celebrities whose movements are the stuff of infotainment news-bites. For all I knew half of the Forbes 500 was under her control by now.
But I did what I could. I tried to reason that it was keeping me sane, giving myself something to keep my mind occupied.
Within a week the walls of my cabin resembled that mass of news-clippings and yarn from A Beautiful Mind. In a moment of lucidity I realized this wasn't helping.
Months passed. My money ran out. My food supplies dwindled. I realized the owner of the cabins had been gone for weeks. I tried to recall the last time someone had driven by and couldn't think of it. Isolation and hunger took their toll. And right when I was on the verge of actually doing something (as in, I was now crazed enough that I was willing to dare to just walk in there and shoot the bitch), everything came apart.
CHINESE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES WIPING OF ALL US DEBT
ISRAEL ANNOUNCES FULL WITHDRAWL FROM GAZA STRIP
NORTH KOREA TO OPEN BORDERS
POPE RENOUNCES TITLE; HUNDREDS OF CLERGY FOLLOW SUIT
SCIENTISTS ANNOUNCE ONE-STEP CURE FOR HUNGER
All of those stories broke in the same week, one right after the other. Other things like Iran announcing the end of their nuclear program went unreported for days because of the mediastorm taking place.
It was incredible. Over the course of a couple weeks almost all institutions government, social, religious, corporate and economic were dismantled, and in their place arose a mysterious consortium of business leaders and scientists handing out a miracle shot that ended a person's thirst and hunger forever. They started in the most impoverished places in the world and the news was full of images of formerly skeletal people growing to trim but healthy weights within a couple days, as if they were pulling nutrients from the very air.
Billions of people in first-world countries demanded this cure as well, the fear of famine and shortages in the face of government dissolution overwhelming. And they got it. Nobody went hungry. Nobody was buying food.
Nobody asked why all the farms and crops were still going about business as usual. Nobody asked why many of the farmers and crop growers were introducing new strains and vitamins to increase yield three- to five-times as much as before.
They were more concerned with the decrease in violence happening worldwide. From war down to carjacking and mugging, violent acts were becoming a mere memory. Peace was breaking out everywhere. People were more passive. Want was becoming a thing of the past. And people treated it like it was a matter of course. Like it was supposed to happen.
I've been watching all this unfold from my cabin, alone in the woods. Soon enough even the news agencies started to fall apart. It's not that they stopped broadcasting or reporting, it's just that
there isn't anything to report. Fires and earthquakes and other natural disasters still have their spot on the front page, but there is no war. There is no celebrity gossip. There are no sporting events to cover. There is no business news because most companies have stopped producing anything and don't seem to be operating at all.
An increasingly common story is one of office buildings and factories and parking lots being pulled up and replaced with farmland. Nobody has questioned why farmland is needed in a post-hunger world, and not a single media-head has explained it. Nobody has questioned why every adult who had just lost their job as an accountant or a computer programmer is perfectly content to go to work raising cattle, pigs, crops and orchards.
Nobody is going online to waste their time. One day YouTube just didn't have any new videos. Nobody's updating on Twitter or Facebook. Websites with daily hit numbers greater than the population of most nations have become ghost towns.
And it isn't just America. North and South Korea announced a reunification, followed by a pledge to double their crops within a year. China decommissioned its entire military and is now training them to plant and harvest rice. Former pirates in Somalia are cleaning up industrial waste sites in the hopes that the native sealife off their coast would return. Why?
I know why, but I don't want to admit it.
She, Maura, has been a black hole in this explosion of news and world changing events. Every new story is another chance for me to avoid doing what I absolutely do not want to do. I do not want to turn my attention towards Des Moines.
I know that if I look at what is happening in Des Moines, I will see what I feared. Maura bigger. More servants feeding her. Maybe she'll have outgrown the shack and will just be lying there, overtaking the freeway and surrounding farmland.
I don't want to know she has won.
I have to know.
So when I finish typing this, I'm going to post it online. I'll post it on as many websites as I can think of until I fall asleep from exhaustion. Hopefully somebody will find this and read it. Hopefully there's someone still out there who hasn't been turned. Because that's what Maura has done. She's turned everyone. I don't know how
Maybe she had her slaves build thousands of the device and they've gone all over the world, using it on everyone.
But I have to hope that there are people who have avoided being converted. People like me who have been off the grid. Maybe a resistance can be organized. The Internet isn't used that much anymore, and I doubt Maura's slaves are monitoring it. If you see this and you're free, find others. Unite. Organize. Fight back. I don't want this to weigh on you, but you're the hope of humanity now.
Tomorrow morning I'm going to leave this cabin, get in my car, and drive to Des Moines. I have to see for myself how bad it is. I need to see with my own eyes. I was there at the beginning, I suppose I should be there at the end.
Ethan ended up posting his story/apology on over 170 websites. He didn't bother to check if anyone read it or commented. In his mind, he was done with everything.
For the first time in months he had a good night's sleep. He woke up with the dawn fully alert and rested, committed to his plan. He left the cabin, not even bothering to shut the door, got in his car, and drove to Des Moines. He had to stop ten miles out of the city because of a hastily constructed shanty town blocking the freeway. He wasn't surprised, because well before this he had seen just how far Maura had taken things.
There were buildings between him and her that he recognized, skyscrapers. Maura didn't overshadow them; she was on another level than them. She was so large that Ethan could only just take her all in, even from this distance. He saw low-lying clouds coming below her nipples. She was bigger than any living creature by far, bigger than any artificial monument (unless you compared her width to that of the Great Wall of China), bigger than many mountains.
"Oh," was all Ethan could think to say.
And then, as improbable as it was, he heard Maura.
"More! MOOOORE! Yes, SLAVES! Feed me! Feed me EVERYTHING! BWAHAHAHAHA!!!"
Ethan wasn't sure he actually heard it coming from Maura herself, miles away, but he was certain he heard it repeated and amplified by the countless speakers posted throughout the shantytown.
Like a perverse reveille, the command had not yet ceased echoing when thousands of people started coming out of the shacks and makeshift huts and marching towards Maura.
Ethan fell in with them, unsure if any would recognize him as an outsider, one of the unconverted. Trusting boldness over meekness, he strode ahead as if his presence was perfectly natural, and when the crowd, now well into the shadow of Maura's belly, began breaking off towards different buildings, he just kept walking forward. No one said anything, no one seemed to notice him. They all had their own job to do, it seemed.
Meanwhile, a different crowd of equal size came from the other direction. The night shift.
Ethan began looking for any kind of path or road towards Maura's face. It wasn't hard; as he got closer he noticed countless tubes and pipes leading out of the buildings everyone else had gone into, all converging up and alongside Maura's belly. He didn't have to guess what they were.
The area around and over Maura wasn't something an OSHA inspector would approve of, if OSHA still existed, but he found the catwalk trailing along her massive gut sturdy enough. There were only a few workers up here, but he maintained his confident pose and gait. He belonged here, he unconsciously told them.
By the time he neared her head the sun was well above them. It had taken hours for him to walk from his car up to where he could talk to her.
Her hair, he noticed, was tied up with a ribbon. She had let it grow out. He wondered why he had noticed that.
Her eyes were closed, her lips around a nozzle almost the size of a soda can, not letting a single drop (morsel?) of food escape. Now that he was here, Ethan wondered how he was going to get her attention. He tried coughing, then speaking up, then shouting. Nothing worked.
Finally he reached over and grabbed the nozzle. It was thin and rubbery, and he managed to pull it from her mouth without too much effort.
It took a minute for Maura to register that she was no longer sucking down anything, a minute longer to realize someone, somehow, had just defied her, as unthinkable as that was. And just as she was about to explode with (in her mind) righteous fury, she realized who it was, and her anger turned to a mix of pleasure, satisfaction, and cruel ecstasy.
"Ethan." Her voice was even heavier now, yet still sounded surprisingly feminine. Almost sultry. "You're back."
"You win, Maura."
"BWAHAHAHA! Of course I won! I won years ago when I first started. No one was ever going to stop me."
"I might have. I thought I did, when I took the machine back and destroyed it. But you had others, didn't you?"
"Of course I did. I always had. One of the first things I did was find out who had actually designed it - I knew it wasn't you; I saw the plans you had, saw your company's logo on them - and brought them into my circle. They improved on it, made me a handheld device. Then they made more of them, and I gave them to all of my servants. You were so eager to underestimate me, weren't you?"
"Yes, I was." He realized he was oddly calm. Part of him was screaming out to reach down and try to suffocate her or something, but he just stood there.
"You didn't think I'd be able to plan ahead, to do anything long term. And you were wrong. That should be obvious.
"I had hundreds made. An entire wing of your company's building was devoted to my slaves making more of the machines, which I had sent out to my followers with the instructions to try to bring in more people. I already told you about that, that I had more and more slaves going about their day-to-day lives, but they weren't just sitting back, waiting.
"I mentioned taking over all the restaurants and fast-food joints. I'm sure you remember that. 'Fatty wants her food,' you probably thought. But I also took over all the hotels in the city, and then in surrounding cities, and then I had slaves going to work in all the major cities in the country, and then the world. Everybody needs to sleep, and it wasn't hard to set up the devices in the room where no one would notice them, hooked up to a second device to monitor activity. It was pretty ingenious, if I do say so. The second device would register when someone had gone to sleep, and then the first one would do its thing. Viola! One more slave in the herd. They would wake up, send all their information to a database we were compiling, and then forget all about it. And the next night or the night after there would be a new person.
"That was the breakthrough, realizing I could make people forget things. I was able, well, my slaves were able to send out thousands of the devices to people we had already converted, right to their homes, and they then used it on their husband or wife or kids or whomever, then they sent the device back. And they didn't remember a thing. For years I've been building an army and no one knew.
"But you really helped me, bringing those FBI agents into my web. I don't know what you thought would happen, but I guess you didn't think their getting a good night's sleep before investigating anything would hurt. This gave me an in I had been hoping for for years. From there my influence spread into the government, and through all the world's political systems.
"Then when I started to outgrow my last house I decided it was time to move onto the next phase. Millions of people were under my control, including everyone with any political or economic power. It wasn't hard to get my new world order underway. And look at how successful it's been! Only a few weeks and already we have world peace, an end to famine and poverty, and the environment is starting to repair itself. I know it's a bit early on that last one, but give it time."
"At the cost of everyone's freedom." Ethan was almost going mad with how calm he was behaving. Why couldn't he reach over and- ?
"A small price to pay, my satisfaction. Speaking of which, could you
?" She made a sucking sound, and Ethan realized he was still holding the nozzle. He put it back in her mouth, and the moan she gave was practically orgasmic.
He stood there and watched her for several minutes, then he reached down and took the nozzle again.
"Why?" He asked.
"Because I was hungry." And she laughed, loud and hard and long. "Why do you think? You think I really cared about stopping Israelis and Palestinians from killing each other? You really think I cared about industrial waste being dumped in third world countries? I never cared about that! All I cared about was filling my belly, and the unbearable anguish of it being empty."
"Then you don't deserve credit for creating world peace. So don't sound so pleased with yourself that something like it has happened."
"Oh, I may not have sought world peace as a goal itself, Ethan, but you can't deny that me getting my way has resulted in it. It's just more proof - as if I needed any -that I deserve all this. Who else would have my vision, so grand and total?
"Because it was my vision, above all, that led to this. When I started I just wanted a couple people to wait on me hand and foot and service all my needs, especially in the "keeping me fed" department. But then I needed a few people to do it, and I saw that this was simply going to spiral bigger and bigger. I'd get fatter, which meant I'd need more food, which meant I'd need more people serving me, which would lead to me getting fatter
"But I was smart enough to realize that there was no reason for me to accept an end to that. I didn't want it to end. I've always loved food, I've always loved my body, and I've always loved getting fatter. And when the chance to devote myself to nothing but eating and getting fatter presented itself, I took it seriously. It was something beyond my wildest fantasies, and it was right there in front of me, begging to be grabbed hold of. I saw what I would need to do, all right then and there, and I set about achieving it.
"What did you think, I had some grander motive? Never! It was always about getting as much food into my belly as I can, as much fat onto my body as I can, and to climb to greater heights of ecstasy as I do so. I'm already at a point where I experience more pleasure in a single orgasm than any human could feel in their entire life. And I'm nowhere near finished. So
" She made the sucking sound again, but Ethan kept the nozzle from her.
"Don't you feel the least bit sorry?"
"Sorry about what? Sorry that pointless wars aren't still going on? Sorry that a few people can cause so much suffering among the many? Not at all. Humanity had its moments, yes, but look at how much bloodshed and misery paved the way between every little bit of good. Now all of humanity is united into one true brother- and sisterhood."
"Except for you."
"I'm no longer human, Ethan. I haven't been for a long time. I told you last time we met I was a goddess of gluttony and appetite, and I meant it. I've been ascending for years now, and I've reached the point where I've achieved true immortality. You heard about those shots that have cured hunger, right? You know what they are? Nanites. Nanotechnology that allows people to derive needed nutrients from the atmosphere. My slaves can work all day without breaks for eating or going to the bathroom, and there's just that much more food available for me.
"But guess what I got. I got a special version. The next generation, so to speak. A version that will keep me healthy and growing until the end of time. Nothing can stop me. I am a goddess. Ageless. Limitless."
Ethan, growing appalled by the second, put the nozzle back into Maura's mouth just to stop her talking. Another orgasmic moan, stronger this time, and Maura's body shook all over. First it was subtle, but then it got wilder and wilder, and Ethan could see big ripples of flab lashing up and hitting the catwalk. He thought this would be the end, but the catwalk held. All the same, it was time to go.
Maura had won, and Ethan was left alone again. Nowhere to go. No one to trust. Forever grappling with the fact that he had been a fool. A fool who had brought about the end of the world.