For All to See
Mike dipped his fingers in the jar of hair gel and ran it quickly through his buckwheat-blonde hair. He spent two full minutes on his mouth with his electric toothbrush before rinsing and checking himself out some more. His smile was fine, and his skin still looked great.
He grabbed his varsity jacket and headed out the door. His ride to school was waiting, as usual. A JV football junior with an old, beat up Camaro sat behind the driver's side window, looking up at him with his usual eagerness. Two other seniors, the team's center and safety sat in the back seat. "C'mon Mike, why do you always take so long?" one of them griped, reaching up front to punch him in the arm as he tried to buckle up.
"Hey, knock it off guys," the driver said. "Don't hit Mike when I'm driving." It was well known that he idolized Mike - they both played tight end, and Mike was pretty much the only reason he was stuck on JV.
"Ah, keep it in your pants, Johnny," the center in the back seat shot. The others laughed.
"Hey, that party on Friday night?" Mike started. "I picked up a couple cases of beer."
"You did?" The safety blinked. "Did you get a fake ID or something?"
"Nah, that old guy... what's his name, Mr. Rivers?" Mike started. "He works Tuesday nights. That guy's crazy about the team, he'd get me anything I wanted."
"You'd get anything you wanted anyway," Johnny replied.
"Yeah, probably," the center muttered in agreement.
"I mean hell, if you wanted something from *that* place..." Johnny leaned to point out the opposite window. The car swerved a little and the guy sitting behind him kicked his seat amid the protests.
Mike looked where he'd been pointing. Looming downtown, he could see the old Wonka Chocolate plant. No one had been inside there for years.
"Very funny," he muttered.
"You probably could," the safety nodded indifferently.
"Yeah right," the center replied, effectively turning a random comment into a full-blown debate.
"He could so!" Johnny insisted.
"Ah, don't start with this..." the safety groaned, leaning his head against the window. "It's too early."
"I'm not saying break into their bank account or something, I just mean get in, get something and leave," Johnny insisted. "He can-"
"50 bucks," the center replied flatly. "50 bucks says he can't."
Still a bit drowsy himself, Mike expected Johnny to immediately accept this meaningless challenge, but Johnny had something else to say. "Yeah. In fact, I'd give him 50 bucks too. What about you, Chase, you in?"
The safety turned, one eye closed in sleepy displeasure. "Wha...? Sure, whatever." he leaned to the side, trying to catch a look at Mike's face. "...What, you actually thinking about doing it, Mike?"
Mike was about to reply with an automatic, "No, you dumbass," when Johnny suddenly began chanting. "Mii-IIKE! Miiii-IKE!"
At first the two in the back looked at Johnny with embarassment, but Chase quickly noticed the irritated look on Mike's face and joined in. The center followed suit.
"Miii-IKE! Miii-IKE! Miii-IKE!"
Mike's look of annoyance slowly turned to a wry grin. He could pretend the guys bugged him for a little while, but the truth was he loved it. He got more attention than anyone else at school, and he wouldn't have it any other way. What was one evening?
"All right, I'll do it," he smiled. The others cheered. Johnny missed a red light up ahead and barely stomped the brakes in time to avoid rear ending a minivan. "Dumbass," the center scoffed, cuffing the back of the junior's head.
"After practice, I'll swing by the place," Mike decided, "I'll show you something I got there later tonight."
"Mike's the man," Johnny grinned. Mike couldn't help but glow a little.
That evening, Mike found himself clinging to the back of a delivery truck as it trundled past the iron gates of the big old factory. He let go as it pulled in to the loading dock and snuck off into the shadows. He didn't see any workers - the place looked dead. Maybe the old coot had died and the factory was just running fully automated.
Still wearing his school-colored blue warm ups from practice, Mike ducked out of the area into a hallway, and the building seemed to light up. Colorful signs pointed to rooms with bizzare names, from "Kneader Room" to "Milking Room" to "Sugar Harvesting." Mike tiptoed awkwardly through the corridor, trying to keep his large frame silent as he snuck about, looking for something to jump out at him, something he could snag that would really make the trip worth it...
Suddenly he froze. He could scarcely believe his eyes - was that a river of chocolate?? Unable to help himself, he crept closer. It was... it was a veritable rapids in fact. What kind of factory was this? He felt his heart beating faster as he began to think maybe there was more than 150 dollars in this for him if he made it out with something. The area around the river was rather open, so Mike decided not to linger for very long. He didn't notice when a distant figure suddenly turned and bolted as Mike slipped away.
He continued exploring for a little while until he stumbled on a room with exactly the label he was looking for. "'Testing Room!' Finally!" he hurried inside, eager to get his hands on some new prototype candy.
Inside it was like a carnival. Lining the room were cartoonish machines, colorful candies, and more going on than Mike could stand and take in. He took a walk and came across a cotton candy spinner that promised the candy wouldn't melt on your tongue, a taffy puller meant to last you hours...
Mike's attention was caught suddenly by one rather massive machine. It looked like it hadn't been touched in a while, and old bits of food were crusted onto parts. He took a look at what appeared to be the final product of the device - a small, unassuming piece of gum. Mike looked down at the tiny candy, sitting naked in the machine. There was no wrapper or label to say what it was -it must have been pretty early in testing. Too bad it wasn't much good to him if he didn't know what it did.
There were a few pieces, though. He could try one out and then take a couple with so he could tell people what they were. What could go wrong? He popped the piece into his mouth and started chewing.
Instantly he could feel the delicious flavor pouring over his taste buds. It was blueberry, but more than that - like a scrumptious blueberry pie. Mike could taste the fruit, the crust, the sugar... it was simply unbelievable.
For a moment, Mike lost himself. As he leaned against a wall, shutting the world out while he enjoyed the treat, another figure entered the room.
"You really should spit that out."
Mike turned. It was him. The man himself, Wonka, decked out in a ridiculous purple suit and top hat.
"Ah, crap," Mike muttered, still chewing. He sighed. "Look, all I took was this piece of gum. Are you going to turn me in to the police?"
Wonka didn't seem to hear him. He raised a finger, a worried look on his face. "I don't think you understand. You really need to spit that out."
Mike laughed. "Why? You still gonna use it? That's pretty disgusting."
"No my boy, see that's a highly experimental three course meal gum I'm working on," he explained, crossing the floor to the football player. "The last experiment didn't go so well, so now I'm trying to isolate what the problem was. What you have in your mouth could be very dangerous."
Mike paused mid-chew. He stared at the man for a moment before dismissing the thought and smiling, starting to chew again. "Dangerous? What, like contaminated?"
"No... you don't unders..." Wonka cut himself off as he spotted a blue spot materializing on Mike's nose. "-oh never mind, it looks like I'm too late again."
Mike grinned obliviously as the blue tint spread across his face. "Too late, huh? So can I just leave with it?"
Wonka shook his head. "I'm afraid that may be impossible. You see, this candy was designed to concentrate an entire meal into a tiny piece of chewing gum. When the dessert portion had a dreadful side effect, I put development on hold while we tried to figure out what went wrong. So what you're currently chewing on with that silly smile is a concentrated version of just the dessert."
Mike stopped chewing once again. The sweet blueberry syrup continued to slide down his throat as his skin turned blue down his arms, creeping across his fingers to the tip. "So... what happened to the first tester?"
"The same thing that's happening to you, my dear thief," Wonka responded with a slight downward nod.
Mike glanced down and shrieked at the sight of his hands. He waved them in front of his face in shock and even tried to wipe the blue covering them off on his pants. "The heck??" he sputtered, a queasy feeling coming over him. "This stuff turns you blue?"
"Oh, it does more than that, son," Wonka said, a sideways, remorseful smile on his face. The doors around the room opened and Mike spun around to look, only to wince and grab his stomach in discomfort.
"Why do I... feel so... bloated?" he heaved, as without warning his stomach began to swell outward with a low burble. "YAH!"
Into the room trooped a dozen tiny figures. They looked ridiculous to Mike with their orange hue and almost neon hair, but at this point he was far too terrified to find their eccentric appearance hard to swallow.
"Is he filling up like the first tester?" one of them asked curiously.
"Indeed he is," Wonka replied, prodding at the swelling intruder with his cane. "Looks like we've found the problem at least, it's the blueberries themselves - they don't seem to react well to the concentration process."
"Oh god," Mike muttered, finally realizing he needed to get rid of the gum. He spat it into his hand but was startled to find Wonka's hand already holding his. "Don't bother," Wonka murmured, shaking his head wistfully. "The damage is done. You may as well enjoy the delicious taste at least."
With that he pushed Mike's palm back to his mouth and Mike, strangely unable to resist, began chewing once more. His form bloated up, beginning with his belly and then spreading to his waist. Mike grabbed his expanding body, feeling new pillowy mounds of himself seem to billow out as though from nowhere. His insides swirled and churned as the juice spread and congested.
Mike's warm ups stretched easily, hugging his swelling hips without binding or biting. His jacket hung on too, but it didn't stretch downward - Mike's blue belly peeked out of his outfit, his deep navel clearly visible as though he were an obese man - which he was quickly becoming.
"You have to help me!" he pleaded Wonka and the funny little men as he ballooned up. "My body... I'm a football player!"
"Not anymore!" one of the workers cheerfully pointed out.
"Noo!" he cried. His belly continued to gurgle and swell, establishing itself as the center of his expansion, but the rest of his body was now fighting to catch up. His upper torso seemed to pile on girth as it spread out, blueberry flesh spreading like flab as his body began to look less like it had swallowed a beach ball and more like a large, overripe pear.
Mike twisted around to look down at his melting physique, his hard ass filling up like a water balloon, his back blowing out like there was a fan under his shirt. But beneath it he knew was not air, but only his own, juice-filled body.
Mike's swelling gut and waist quit fighting each other and merged with a bubbly surge. His pants silently stretched wider as he felt his weight begin to descend, the swelling in his midsection continuing its search for more room and pushing his crotch toward the floor below.
"No," he pleaded, shaking his head as his fingers grabbed at his waist. His arms dug into his own sides as he forced them down, grabbing at the southern edge of the swell and trying to hold himself up. "Don't let me become a blueberry!"
"Don't worry, Mike," Wonka chuckled, stepping closer to pat Mike's bulging side. The former football player looked over as he continued to fight with the juice flooding his body. "The last test subject was all right. He had to be juiced, of course, but afterward he was right as rain. Just... rather blue."
Mike felt his own fingers swell. He lost his grip on his groin area and felt it immediately snap down lower still. His girth was beginning to absorb his legs now as they bloated on their own. "I don't want to be blue either!" he sobbed, but the truth was, he did feel a bit of relief. At least this was mostly reversible, right?
"He's so big!"
"Way bigger than Lenny!"
Mike tried to shut out the workers' amused taunts, but he couldn't. It was listen to them or consider the hopeless sensation of feeling his arms fattening to the point where he could no longer bend them. Mike heard his shirt rip and winced, realizing in a moment it was going to be more than his midriff exposed.
The rest of his clothing had held up remarkably well. He was lucky to have chosen to wear his warm ups for this plan, because the elastic was keeping his waistband in good shape, even if the nylon legs were probably about to come undone. His jacket still covered most of his back too, but now he could feel the sleeves tugging on his dwindling arms, pulling them backward and away from their natural, vestigial position.
Not that Mike had given in to this vestigial position yet. His hands searched for the rip in his shirt, trying to find out how much time he had left. He soon found it had started at the bottom and was working its way up, This was not a good sign. At the rate his stomach was *still* expanding, he only had seconds.
Mike shut his eyes tightly. He couldn't stand it anymore. "Stop... looking at me!" he roared helplessly, just before his shirt ripped in half and his round blue chest poured out, joining his exposed belly. One of the workers laughed. Mike shuffled his feet, turning his globular body to face away from the offender.
"How's the underwear holding up?" another one teased.
"That's enough," Wonka chided, but now that it had been said, Mike could feel his briefs cutting into his skin. They were so tight he could barely stand-
And then suddenly their pain was gone. They had torn beneath his pants and Mike breathed a sigh of relief. His shoes were a bit constricting, but his feet didn't seem so interested in swelling much, at least yet. And still he chewed, and still the juice poured down his throat. As he did though, feeling a bit more relaxed now that the tightest of his clothing had been dealt with, Mike began to feel the juice flooding into his cheeks. It was like a back up of juice, flowing down into his body only to rush back up and swell his face.
"Wonka, plSHHMM! Mmph... MMMPH!" The juice spread from his cheeks to his lips and then even his neck and soon the expansion took on a whole new direction.
He started to inflate in a uniform manner. Every part of him bulged at once, his belly, his back, all of it disappeared in favor of this new roundness that overtook him, swelling him up fat and ripe as it crept toward his hands and feet. The deep, slow churning of thick heavy liquids was heard as Mike turned with difficulty, stepping carefully as he could to face Wonka, to hear some kind of reassurance. Wonka responded with only a knowing nod.
"Hey, Mr. Wonka? Didn't Lenny's hair turn blue?"
Wonka tilted his head. "So it did. Peculiar."
Mike's left eye widened as Wonka stepped closer. The eccentric man poked Mike with his cane a few times, then knocked on his side with his fist. Aside from a slight thump, it made no sound, and Mike didn't feel a thing. Wonka hesitated, then reached into his coat and drew a large safety pin. "HMMMPH? MM, MMPH MMPH!" Mike panicked, waggling his hands up and down and shaking his spherical body. Wonka jabbed the blueberry's side with the pin. Mike felt a distant prick, but nothing more - some blueberry juice oozed from the hole for a moment, but quickly stopped itself. In seconds the mark was almost impossible to spot.
"Very, VERY peculiar," Wonka reiterated.
"MMmmMM? MMHMM, MMMMPHMPHHMM!" Mike urged, desperate to know what was happening now. The expansion was beginning to overtake him now as he grew. His groin finally touched the ground and he fought for balance, teetering on his swollen tiptoes. His sides had grown past his wrists, his jacket stretching to its limits as the sleeves hung on by what little remained of Mike's limbs. His neck had vanished beneath the deluge of blueberry..
"WEEllll," Wonka began, trying to explain the situation to poor Mike. "It seems this new concentrated version may have had some new unexpected consequence. You see, your hair appears to be turning green and your body is, well, ripening. Literally. Now, what this means, I can only guess at, but..."
"...But it seems you may be more than just filling with juice," Wonka concluded. "It seems you may be turning into an actual blueberry."
Mike didn't respond. He was dumbfounded. An actual blueberry? What did that even MEAN?
As he seemed to debate this, Wonka muttered something to one of his workers, "See if you can get that gum back, I'd like to know for how long it's going to produce juice."
The worker obediently marched over and started to climb Mike's broad front. Mike seemed to awaken from his stupor as the little orange man stared him in the face.
"MRRRH!" he yelped. The worker jammed his fingers into Mike's lips, trying to pry his mouth open. His expression grew frustrated and after a moment, he turned back to Wonka. He pried the blueberry's lips apart and pointed, and Wonka saw the problem.
The interior of Mike's mouth was pressing together. Deep in the back, the gum could still be seen, dribbling juice as it was squeezed out by the collapsing cavern of Mike's mouth.
Two more incomprehensible moans escaped Mike's lips. Wonka nodded to the side and the worker hopped off the giant blueberry as still it grew, reaching up past seven feet - both tall and wide. Wonka approached him and took the former athlete by his ragged shirt, pulling to roll the helpless berry forward to look him face to face. Mike stared back out of the tops of his eyes as his body continued growing, pulling his head deeper and deeper into its orbicular form.
"Dreadfully sorry about this," Wonka said. "This is why I don't give tours, you know. Too many dangerous things around here. I daresay it serves you right for sneaking in to pilfer my secrets though, wouldn't you agree?"
Mike let out a pitiful whimper.
"Take him to the field, make him comfortable," Wonka instructed as he turned his back on the giant, still-growing fruit. "Let's get back to work trying to fix this gum."
No! Mike thought desperately, as the little orange workers surrounded him and began to push, rocking him side to side before bowling him over to roll away. Don't turn your back! Don't give up on me! Don't leave meee!
The last words he heard as they rolled him out of the room, were of Wonka brightly stating, "Good thing none of you got stuck with that one... We're rather lucky he came along, really..."
Mike howled in his mind as they rolled him down the corridors. How big would he grow? How much would he change? Was he doomed to spend the rest of his life in this god-forsaken factory?
"Whoops, lost his shoe," one of the workers said after one big push.
"And here's his other one."
"Well no wonder! His feet are barely sticking out anymore!"
Mike tried to kick and thrash his feet. The workers didn't seem to notice. It's not fair! he mentally wailed. This isn't supposed to happen to me! I'm a star! I'm going to play in college!
"How long do you think his clothes will last?"
"I thought they'd have fallen off before we even started rolling him."
Mike's sight began to disappear. All around him was the rising blue flesh of his body, leaving him with a narrow tunnel of vision alone. As this happened, he found sounds becoming slightly muffled as well.
Instead of the whirling hallway, Mike was left staring at his own berry body. He couldn't believe the internal pressure. All around his head, he felt a horrendous itching suddenly begin to break out. What was happening now? Was this it? Was he about to go "full berry?"
His fingers flexed as he maddeningly tried to scratch his body, succeeding in nothing more than a little finger wave. Suddenly, all around the focus of the itching, his skin split. A deep blue could be seen beneath as his skin bent up in a ridge, almost like an elegant collar around his head.
"Look at that!"
"Wow, he does look like a blueberry. Look how dark his head is getting!"
Mike's reaction to this and his emotions were now about as coherent as his sense of up and down. He was aware, however, of a change in the texture of the ground as he rolled across it. It felt softer, more yielding, and almost tickled his exposed body.
"Here we are! The candy field!"
"Where should we take him?"
"Let's see if he likes any spot."
It wasn't clear how the blueberry was going to tell anyone which spot he liked. His hands and feet were now totally gone, and his head was a mere pair of delirious eyes with leaf-like hair strewn about. They looked around dizzily, taking in what they could of the rich, colorful field of children's dreams.
"Let's show him around!"
The workers proceeded to enthusiastically roll the blueberry hither and thither, telling it excitedly about the different candy plants growing and hills where it might enjoy resting. It wasn't until they passed by one tree in particular that Mike seemed to emerge from his state of self-pity and turned to one of active concern.
"Here, we have the Crystal Tree, a plant that likes to produce-"
"Hey hey! Look at that!"
The tree had clearly sensed the massive blueberry being pushed aside it, for it was lowering one branch toward it right then.
Mike looked up and spotted it coming right for him. What the... Immediately he tried to escape, but he had nothing left to move. For all intents and purposes, he was a blueberry with eyes.
Mike tried to scream, but only felt his mouth constrict more, this time feeling the top and bottom press together completely. A final untapped gush of blueberry juice poured down into his body, and promptly exploded outward in all directions.
"Look! The tree likes him!"
"I think they like each other! Look at the berry growing up to meet him!"
Mike's jacket slipped free of the ridge that used to house Mike's hands. It slid down his back, revealing his smooth, firm blueness. The surge pushed him further off the ground, and the pants hugging his waist were given one slight tug downward. They fell right off, revealing nothing but Mike's vast blueberry self.
He was a solid blue ball, filled with delicious blueberry and about to be plucked up by a strange, welcoming crystalline tree. Mike's eyes squinted in helpless fear as a strange bud sprouted from the end of the branch before jabbing him gently in the head.
The workers watched, mesmerized, as the accepting branch thickened and solidified, strengthening the union of the delicate-looking tree and the massive blueberry staring up fearfully at it. Finally it tugged, and Mike felt his massive weight lifting up. He watched helplessly as the field fell away and he rose up into the air, attached to the tree now invested in nurturing him.
Mike's eyes swelled like a boxer and his world began to fade. Not this way, he thought as any lasting imagery of himself as a human was consumed by his juice-laden girth. His leafy green hair flattened and spread, his head joined seamlessly with the branch and his eyes swelled shut and faded away. Not huge this way...
Way up high over the workers' heads, the massive eight foot wide blueberry hung precariously by the attractive red tree. They watched for a few minutes until the growth had stopped and all movement had completely ceased.
"What does the Crystal Tree make again?" one of them asked suddenly.
"Crystallized fruit," another answered. "It grows them so delicious."
"That's one lucky blueberry, he'll get the sweetest and most splendid stuff from that tree!"
They started to troop away, back to rejoin Wonka in trying to fix the gum. "Let's check back on him in a month," one of them suggested brightly. "I can't wait to see how delicious he looks then!"