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The Untouchables

By Ariana Nex


Published by Ariana Nex at Smashwords


Copyright 2018 Ariana Nex



Smashwords Edition, License Notes


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Table of contents


1. Griffin: Growing

2. Blanche: My watch

3. Griffin: Hell

4. Blanche: Responsibility

5. Griffin: Plan

6. Blanche: Rules

7. Griffin: Friends

8. Blanche: Revealed

9. Griffin: Curiosity

10. Blanche: Immune

11. Griffin: Exploring

12. Blanche: Experiment

13. Griffin: Choices

14. Blanche: Ice and fire

15. Griffin: World end

16. Blanche: Opening

17. Blanche: Courage

18. BBB


1. Griffin: Growing

The wind had picked up speed and an arctic rain was pelting down on my thin sweat jacket like a multi-tailed whip. As I bent over the icy metal rail on top of the concrete parapet that came up to my where my waist used to be, the frothy brown water seemed to beckon more and more. With all the seasonal rain typical for the end of January in this part of Germany, the river had probably grown to an at least twenty-five feet deep and ten foot deep torrent of murky water – perfect for swallowing up the disgusting waste of space I had become.


Only a year ago I'd been on top of the world. Granted, an almost 400 lbs. guy being on top of anything inevitably leads to indents, cracks or breaks, but at 6’4” I carried it pretty well. Plus, a lot of it was muscle and the skinnier guys at the garage were happy to let me do the heavy lifting. And there was a lot of that to be done. It seemed with every year more orders were pouring in: checkups, tuning, tire changes, the works, and our small team of four accumulated overtime fast. Good mechanics were hard to come by in general, a fact made even worse by the younger generation being increasingly unwilling to put down their smartphones and get their hands dirty. Still, thanks to our amazing team as well as our boss Oskar, who worked us hard but paid good money and still believed in the concept of work-life balance, I looked forward to almost every day of work.

Over the past months, though, my diet had gotten out of whack. This last Christmas I'd taken overindulgence to a whole new level and I hadn't managed to get off the chocolate and other snacks the way I usually did. My increasing workload contributed to that: I’ve never been the breakfast type and during the day there were increasingly fewer opportunities to take a proper lunch break, leaving me no choice but to raid the fridge in the evenings. I’ve always been a big guy because I love food, and I’d grown even more since I met my girlfriend, Silke. I’ll never forget the day we met five years ago: one day she’d driven her Peugeot 206 into our garage for tuning, and her love for cars, her smile and most of all her curves had caught my eye immediately.

A big girl herself, around 230 pounds on a 5’5” frame, Silke was my first partner that not only accepted but actually appreciated my weight and even encouraged me to eat how much I wanted. She loved to grab and knead my belly or to pat my butt, even in public. Never indecently so but she was unashamedly obvious about the fact that she was into my body. Increasingly less so, though.

“You know I love that you’re a big guy,” she told me when she saw me raid the fridge after work the other day, “but please watch it, OK?”

It was the first time I noticed she was eyeing my body with anything but approval and it did not feel good. It was also the first time she’d ever criticized my weight. She never did so with anyone, not after what she had been through with her mom. After years of trying to please her and fighting her own weight, she’d finally embraced it. She’d been in a dark place and wouldn’t ever go back, she always told me with a grin, patting whatever part of me was closest to her at the time. Lately those parts of me got closer and closer, though, creeping onto and taking over her side of the bed. I was gaining fast, mostly on my gut but also thighs and butt. I was becoming soft and doughy, not a sight a woman who preferred a mix of flab and muscle liked waking up to. That she would address my weight openly now told me the matter was serious.

So far I hadn’t thought so. I guess every big person has to make a decision at some point how much they let other people’s comments and stares get to them. With my dad I’d managed pretty quickly to let both bounce off, and meanwhile I really couldn’t give a damn what anyone else thought either. I’d so far brushed off my colleagues’ ribbing, too. My best friend Lars, who I unfortunately only got to see every few weeks due to his busy job, also seemed a little worried the last time I saw him, but he didn’t get on my case too much either.

“As long as you’re healthy and happy with yourself,” he told me, “it’s your business. Just be careful, OK?”

“Hey,” I grinned back at him, “I’d never let myself get as big as those guys they have to lift out of their places with a crane.”

It seemed I was well on my way, though. I did take Silke’s words to heart but I just couldn’t seem to break out of the pattern I’d fallen into. I kept gaining. I began to waddle. One day I felt a cool breeze on the underside of my belly and discovered with horror that the lowest part was peeking out. No, not just peeking: hanging. I was only 31 and already sagging! Due to my height I already wore extra-long T-shirts and even those couldn’t contain me anymore?

At work it wasn’t that much of a problem since we wore overalls but even the 4XL ones I wore these days were having more and more trouble keeping all of me contained. My gut kept getting in the way, too, causing me to bump into and knock over things I couldn’t see anymore. We had that little niche where we kept some of the tools and it began to be a pretty tight fit in there, as were the chairs whenever I went out for after-work drinks with the guys. I also had to sit down and rest more and my arms were getting heavy during overhead work.

I guess it was only a matter of time before Oskar, my boss, would call me into his cramped office, and one day in late spring he did. When I entered, he unfolded his gaunt body from his creaky chair, pushed some documents on the paper-strewn desk aside and sat on the edge as he usually did when he had something to discuss. He’d never been big on formality and we got along as if we were the same age even though he was close to 60. He motioned for me to have a seat on the old but sturdy round table in the corner and I carefully lowered myself onto it, grateful he hadn’t suggested the chairs with the armrests.

“Griffin,” he began with a frown and a worried look over the reading glasses he had pushed down his long nose, “you’re one of my best men but… your weight is becoming a problem.”

Instantly I felt the heat in my face. I have that skin type that’s prone to blushing and I’ve never been good at hiding what I’m thinking, which is I usually don’t bother, but right now I wished I had one of those poker faces.

“I haven’t had any complaints,” Oskar went on in his gravelly voice I suddenly had trouble concentrating on, “but I’ve observed some things and overheard others from the guys: you tire easily. You keep knocking things over or get stuck because you can’t work in confined spaces anymore.” He took off his glasses, twirling them in his long, cracked fingers. “Griffin, I’m worried.”

I didn’t know when I’d last seen that particular look in his eyes and I wished it would go away. “I know things have been getting out of hand,” I finally managed to answer. I could hardly tell him that was due to stuffing myself at night after not being able to take a proper break during the day. How pathetic would that sound, and it would come across as not being able to handle the work load. If I hoped to get a raise soon, I’d better shut up.

“Do you need some time off?” Oskar asked when I didn’t continue. “I can’t really spare you at the moment but if it would help, I could move some things around—“

Instantly I held up my hand, suddenly noticing how chubby it looked, especially in contrast to Oskar’s. “No, it’s fine. I want to be here.”

“And I’m glad that you do.” Still that worried look. I hated that look. “But if there is anything I can do, let me know, OK? You’ve got to get your weight under control. I would hate to lose you.”

Lose me? I knew it was serious but ‘lose me’? Suddenly not getting a raise sounded like the least thing I should worry about.

“You won’t,” I managed to tell him before I heaved myself to my feet again and Oskar clapped me on the shoulder, the sensation startling me for a moment. When had I developed so much back fat that Oskar’s hand would cause ripples? Was it really that bad? I didn’t feel bad. Sure, I got winded and tired more easily these days and I sweated more. Yeah, some tasks were becoming difficult to do but I could still handle my job.

When I reentered the work area, it felt as everyone was looking at me but nobody except for Olli, our first-year apprentice, came up and asked what our talk had been about, telling me the others had guessed it already. Olli, on the other hand, attended trade school two days a week and hadn’t witnessed all my little incidents and accidents. I managed to make up something believable and went back to work, my mind still snagged on something Oskar had said: he had ‘overheard some things’ from the guys. Had anyone snitched? No, I couldn’t imagine that. We’d always been a great team and nobody had ever seemed to have a problem with my size. Or did they?

It was the first time I felt true panic. I had to get my weight under control. For God’s sake, my job was on the line here and possibly my relationship, too. For a while now, Silke had stopped fondling me when we went out and I saw increasingly less action in bed either. She was on her feet a lot in her job and went speed-walking with friends twice a week, so she managed to keep her weight pretty stable. Watching me balloon in front of her eyes was not what she’d signed up for, nor was my possibly getting fired for being too fat.

I honestly meant to get a healthy dinner that night but somehow I found myself leaning back in my easy chair again, the ruins of a gargantuan dinner on the tray before me. Silke’s work day started and ended later than mine, so she wasn’t home to witness it. I half-wished she would, though, and stop me. Still, no need to panic, I repeated to myself over and over that night and actually managed to pack a big but healthy sandwich and a banana the next day instead of getting a few bratwursts from across the street as usual. Of course the guys gave me crap about it but that was alright. I, for one, felt proud of myself for eating nothing else during the day. Still, once I opened the fridge door that night, it was as if my growling stomach drowned out anything my conscience might have to say. No need to panic, I reminded myself again, one step at a time. First I had to establish the pattern of eating a healthy lunch and then I’d take care of instituting a healthy dinner.

It didn’t seem to be working, though. My pants kept getting tighter, as did my easy chair and even my beloved BMW 3 coupé. Since with all the extras it was worth a lot more than Silke’s, I got to use the garage that came with the apartment while she parked on the curb. That garage was pretty narrow, though, so maneuvering myself inside was always a mean feat because I couldn’t open the door as far as I would have needed to. Also, my belly kept pushing against the steering wheel so I had to move back the seat more and more. Luckily my legs were long enough that I could still reach the pedals. Even so, it felt as if every few days I had to spread my legs more and more to accommodate my bulk.

And then it happened. One morning when I deposited my wide ass in the driver’s seat and reached to pull the door shut, there was no bang. The door had bounced off my fat bulging over the driver’s seat. My face felt as if it was going up in flames even though nobody else was around. I really needed to get my eating under control.

As it turned out, embarrassment wasn’t enough of a motivator. The changes in my body were so gradual that I adjusted quickly and that the extra motion of bending towards the stick shift to keep my fat away from the door came natural. Well, and then came the day when I found myself wedged between the stick shift and the door in a way that I couldn’t move the stick anymore. Even though it had been a tight fit that morning, I had gotten to work OK, but now I was sitting in our company’s parking lot, practically trapped. I had outgrown my car. Nobody who hasn’t been there themselves could ever understand what that feels like. Freaking out would be an understatement. Not being able to walk very far or cycle at all, I depended on a set on wheels.

Somehow I managed to shove some of my hip fat underneath and behind myself. It was anything but comfortable but at least I could drive now. As carefully as I could I took myself home, heaving a sigh of relief once I had yanked myself out of the car and closed the door behind me. Tomorrow I would have to borrow Silke’s truck. Being an automotive enthusiast herself, one of the things I adored most about her, she loved powerful, comfortable cars. These days she drove a used Chevy S-10 pickup, a big-ass vehicle in the truest sense of the word. From the beginning I’d been fascinated by the size of the twin globes that made up her ass but since she’d both put on weight along with me in the five years we’d been together, she’d upgraded. She still fit into my car but only her pickup’s bench seat was able to accommodate that masterpiece comfortably, so we always took her truck when we went out together.

Well, and now I would have to ask her if we could swap for a while and hope she wouldn’t suspect anything. I’d never been able to hide much from her. Even though I really needed to get serious about dropping some weight now, right now I just needed to drop enough to fit back into my car. That shouldn’t be too hard, should it? After all, only the day before I had fit, so it shouldn’t take me more than a couple of days to get there again, right?


Wrong. I really tried this time but it seemed the more I tried, the more I gained. At some point I couldn’t come up with excuses for not driving my own car anymore and I had to come clean to Silke. Her face seemed to freeze over when I spilled the news that night on the couch, and she withdrew her hands when I reached out for them. It was the first time I had seen that face on her, and just like with Oskar, I hoped to never see it again.

“You can drive my pickup until you fit back into your car. Still,” she folded her arms across her beautiful chest, giving me a not-so-beautiful frown, “this is a wakeup call. You need to do something. I’ll help you, you just need to tell me how. You need to want it yourself.” She got up, her eyes piercing mine through her blue nerd frames. “Please, you have to do something. I… can’t deal with this much longer.”

And she shut herself in the bathroom. A moment later I heard water rushing into the tub. Did she actually mean to take a bath or was she trying to drown out the sound of her crying? Suddenly goose bumps broke out all over my arms. Of course I had known Silke was unhappy with my weight but it was the first she hinted at a breakup. No, I just couldn’t lose her. She was the best thing that had ever happened to me.


I tried, I really did this time but I just couldn’t do it, and then the day came when Oskar called me into his office a second time and I knew it was over. The 1500€ angle grinder I had knocked off a workbench with my belly and destroyed the other day had been the final straw. He looked as crushed as I’d never seen him, only it was nothing compared to how I felt.

“I would give you a desk job but I know how hopeless you are with a computer,” he told me with a sad smile that did nothing to cheer me up. “Try to get healthy and take as long as you need. Your job is waiting for you, I can promise you that.”

Normally Oskar would have to observe the legal notice period. In my case, the usual four weeks were extended to three months under German law since I had been a part of this company for eight years. When Oskar suggested instead I leave now and he'd pay me my full salary for one and a half months, I didn't argue, though. I had no more energy left to argue. Combined with my considerable overtime, I would leave now and still get paid for three months before the state’s unemployment benefits would kick in. Still, it wouldn’t even come to that. I might be the worst dieter on this planet but I was great at my job and good mechanics were always in demand. It would be tough at my size but maybe there was a garage that had a spot for me. With my excellent references I should be fine.


I wasn’t. I really tried looking for work and actually got invited to a few interviews. Well, guess how those turned out. With every rejection letter, Netflix seemed like the better alternative to writing applications, as did the fridge, of course. Without a job, I moved less and ate more. As long as I went through ads and kept our place clean, Silke wasn’t on my case too much but the more often she came home to me munching to some movie, with dishes and clothes strewn all over the apartment, the more I ticked her off. She’d always complained about having to clean up after me, but usually with good humor since I took care of everything that needed fixing. Now I wasn’t taking care of anything anymore, though, least of all myself. My belly had surrendered to gravity and flowed over my lap. No T-shirt was large though to cover it, so I had no choice but to tuck it into my ever tightening pants. A salon visit was long overdue, too, but what for? Plus, I wouldn’t fit into their chairs anyway. All in all I couldn’t blame Silke for staying on what remained of her side of the bed. I could see the train wreck ahead but kept my eyes closed as if that could change reality.

Well, reality caught up with me a few days later: when a 4-week business trip came up for Silke, she gave me an ultimatum: clean up after myself and lose weight. If there was no visible progress, it was over and I was out. It was her place and most of the furniture was hers, too. When I’d moved out of my bachelor pad and into her place, I’d sold, given or thrown away most of my stuff since I hadn’t treated it well anyway. I don’t think I ever cleaned my microwave once in the five years I owned it.

The look Silke gave me before she left for her trip that morning finally seemed motivation enough. Again, I was wrong. After a promising start with some yogurt and fruit for breakfast, I felt so ravenous by the time noon rolled around that I polished off two pizzas and a jar of ice-cream. I really tried to eat nothing for the rest of the day but when my growling stomach wouldn’t let me sleep that night, I found myself in front of the fridge again. Now there was no one around to look decent for, I just cranked up the heat and spent all day in my oldest, baggiest briefs that didn’t cut into my belly too much. Another benefit: no T-shirt meant no stains and no laundry.


You’d be surprised at how unaware you can be of yourself becoming a whale. I didn’t notice until the end of week three when I had a craving for Chinese food and decided to hit the buffet and couldn’t even begin to fasten my jeans. Worried now, I tried my trusty sweatpants next. Silke, always perfectly dressed and groomed, would kill me if she knew I planned to go out in sweats, and semi-clean ones at that, but she wasn’t here. We face-timed but I always kept the phone aimed at my face and that hadn’t changed since she left.

Like the jeans, my sweats were way tighter than they should have been. A nasty sense of foreboding hit me as I tried to pull my largest T-shirt down over my torso. No matter how much I kept tugging, it crept back up my sagging belly that hung over the rubber band of my briefs, covering a third of my thighs. I almost didn’t dare breathe. Could somebody put on that much weight in such a short time? I needed to assess the full damage but Silke refused to keep a scale at our place, much less a heavy-duty model for up to 500 lbs. since that was close to what I might be looking at. Measuring it was then. Hastily I went through Silke’s closet for her sewing stuff, throwing things left and right until I finally found the 60” tape measure. I sat down on the bed, not letting my belly sag down between my thighs as usual but balancing the full bulk on top of them. I trapped one end of the tape measure between two fat rolls and struggled to wind the rest around my back and belly. Not a chance. There was no way for me to reach around myself, and judging by the remaining length of the tape, the ends wouldn’t even reach!

This couldn’t be happening. How could I have let things get so out of hand? With no one there to force me out of the apartment for a walk or a trip to the store, I had stayed inside and ordered in, not noticing that I was steadily outgrowing everything. Silke had demanded visible progress, and by God was it visible. I must have gained another twenty pounds in the time she was gone!

Think, I kept repeating to myself. The first step was clothes. With no exact measurements I had no choice but to order a few shirts, T-shirts and pants in 8XL, two of them with those loser elastic waistbands, just in case. Since I’d checked ‘overnight delivery’, everything arrived the next day. The shirts and T-shirts fit OK width-wise but even their extra length couldn’t cover my sagging belly. The only option I had was to stuff it into my pants, meaning that with this extra girth only the two pairs of jeans with the elastic waistband fit. The result looked terrible and there was no doubt Silke would think so, too.

I got rip-roaring drunk that night. In the morning, food was the only thing to battle the hangover from hell, and in this manner one day blurred into the next. It was no wonder I forgot which time Silke was supposed to be back from her trip and it didn’t help that the apartment was a mess either. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone scream as loudly and as long as Silke did. I’d heard all those words before: “lazy”, “pig”, “loser”, “no self-respect”, but never from her, and never within a few seconds at that many decibels. I took the verbal beating until the words “Look at yourself. You’re a waste of space, literally. A lot of space.”

I did look down myself. Actually, wherever I turned I saw myself. It was impossible not to. My gut, competing for space with moobs that probably needed a cup size DD, was always the first thing to enter a room. My arms, flabby and in rolls, stuck out because they rested on the giant fat pads under my upper arms. When I sat, I saw ass cheeks to my left and right that invaded half the couch. I also felt myself all the time. My thighs rubbing together, my upper-arm flab jiggling or my outlying regions wobbling when I walked or turned. There was no movement that didn’t lead to other movements.

How could I have let this happen? It wasn’t as if I’d woken up fat, I’d been there for every bite, watching myself grow. Except I hadn’t watched. Somehow I’d shut out the unshutoutable. I had turned into a disgusting whale, barely capable of wiping his own ass anymore, let alone get a job. I was a freaking waste of space. Mutely I turned and trudged out, Silke’s words ringing in my ears that she would toss in the trash whatever I didn’t pick up by the end of the week.

Only the first gust of frigid air told me I was outside of our apartment building. My own panting all but drowned out the sounds of cars and people as I realized how long it had been since I had walked further than from the couch to the kitchen or to the bedroom. Feeling my gut slap against my thighs with every laborious step, I stumbled forward, people’s disgusted or incredulous looks hitting me left and right. Suddenly a bus stopped and opened its doors with its signature hiss, spewing out more gawking people. Blindly I entered and thrust a few coins at the gaping elderly driver before I turned to the left and discovered I wouldn’t fit through the turnstile. My face in flames, I kept my head down as I lumbered back outside and reentered through the rear door, causing the other passengers to either stare or look away in disgust, the nearest of them wrinkling their noses at my drunk and unshowered presence.

Despite the growing exhaustion in my legs I only dared sit when almost everyone had left the bus. At last it pulled up to the curb at its last stop, a small carpool-and-commute parking lot at the edge of the woods close to the Autobahn. I didn’t know why but I got off and stumbled on, not stopping until I found myself sagging against the sodden parapet of a concrete bridge.


It couldn't have taken more than a few seconds to reflect on my way from fat but happy to homeless, jobless whale. Well, and that's how long it would take to make that whale disappear. They may say alcohol messed with your senses but I had never seen more clear in my entire life. I braced both hands on the wet, mossy concrete of the parapet and tried to push myself up. And again. Not a chance, not with such a monster of a gut in the way. I tried again, already out of breath. Next, I turned and tried to heave myself up ass first. Not working either. Not only was the rail in the way, the parapet was just too high, impossible to tackle for a guy like me. The simple fact was that I was too fat to live but also too fat to die. When I realized that I couldn’t even finish this job, I felt my knees buckle and slumped onto the frozen ground.

2. Blanche: My watch

"Would you like to go in front of me?"

The short, acne-riddled man in his late twenties blushed and dipped his head, only to raise it briefly again in a grateful nod before his slight figure sidled past my overfull cart. Although the few and unhealthy purchases that his small hands placed on the checkout belt at Aldi's bespoke a bachelor, I had learned from extensive people-watching that an ostensibly lonely nerd may leave a grocery store and kiss his awaiting beautiful partner and adorable kid. Or that an old gent bent over his cane would withdraw a smartphone newer than my own, record two fighting sparrows and share the video over WhatsApp. Or that a traditionally dressed Muslim sometimes spoke with the thick regional dialect that still eluded me after three years of living here due to lack of daily exposure. Never assume anything about anyone, I had learned quickly. People assumed things about me, too, and they couldn't be more wrong.

While I transferred the contents of my carefully packed cart onto the belt, my peripheral vision reported that the shy customer in front of me had half-turned to look at me while two youngsters ahead of him were piecing together the amount for their considerable amount of sugar-laden snacks. Textbook munchies. The shy man’s eyes were still on me, probably wondering why anyone would wear only a thin turtleneck instead of a thick jacket in this weather. Well, when gloves and other sartorial means of shielding oneself are a year-round necessity, it gets rather warm, so I always left my padded coat in the car. Offering the man a fleeting but sufficiently distant smile so he wouldn't feel hurt but not get his hopes up either, I proceeded by loading the supplies onto the belt that would last me for the next month.

“Are- are you planning a party?” the man ventured at last, his eyes struggling to stay on mine once I had straightened and faced him.

“No.”

Again I took care to pair my answer with a token smile so as not to wound him. I had learned the hard way that a failed attempt at flirtation can hurt more than the person on the dispensing end of the rebuff may believe. I continued to empty my cart, the man’s eyes still on me but his mouth quiet now. Hopefully he would turn back around soon. Suddenly a lady in her late thirties with a bulging cotton bag in one and a pre-school-aged girl on the other hand stepped behind me, causing me to edge past my shopping cart as quickly as I could. My change in location might trigger more undue hope in the shy man but protective distance to a child was vital. Children were prone to sudden, uncontrolled movements.

Indeed the man turned over his shoulder again, offering an endearing smile but I kept my gaze on my booted feet, listening to his brief greet-pay-and-pack process. I only looked up when it was my turn, catching one last hopeful look from the man as he turned to leave. I did offer one in return but the one of the distant stranger I was and would most likely be for the rest of my life.

3D-puzzling a month’s worth of supplies back into a shopping cart took a while, and by the time I pulled out my debit card, I had worked up a fine sheen of sweat. Thankfully I would be able to remove my thin gloves in the car. It had taken some time to find this pair that were tight, of a pleasant material and that allowed enough tactility. At last the transaction was complete and I smiled at the cashier before I leaned into the cart with my full but inconsequential weight to propel it forward.

“Uh, excuse me?”

I registered the child’s voice only dimly and kept on walking. Only a few more steps to the car, several minutes to transfer my cart’s contents into the trailer and then I was off. No accidents this time. A tap on my elbow caused me to whirl around, the remainder of my thoughts scattering like the dry leaves outside. It was the little girl that had stood behind me, with her fine reddish-blond hair and adorable glasses with butterflies on them. Apparently she had worn a wide smile on those chubby cheeks before I’d startled and scared her.

“I... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you,” the impossibly polite girl mumbled in a sweet voice and sought comfort in her butterfly snow boots for a moment. Then she brightened again. “But this fell out of your cart.”

Her chubby hand held up a pack of cleaning rags that had apparently fallen out of my overstuffed cart. I knew I shouldn’t but that kid looked so open and sweet that I just had to squat and smile at her, my gloved fingers brushing hers as I accepted the rags from her.

“I didn't mean to startle you either, sweetheart,” I told her in a low, gentle voice that seemed to restore her to her former sparkling self. “Thank you very much, that was really nice of you.”

“You're welcome.”

I couldn’t help it, I remained on the ground. Her cute face was simply irresistible. Now her small hand stretched out again, pointing to my head.

“I like your spirals.”

“Thank you.” Most of my hair reached down to the clasp of my bra but the right side of my head was shaven down to a fraction of an inch. From time to time I used a small, special shaver to experiment with new patterns. The girl’s eyes remained riveted to my hair.

“Did you do them yourself?”

“Yes, I did.”

“They are so pretty. May I touch them?” Not waiting for an answer, her chubby fingers zoomed in on their target. Instinctively I pulled back, scrambling back to my feet. I heard a sharp intake of breath and again the little face lowered. “Sorry.”

I might not know if my scalp would be as harmful to people as the rest of my skin but I was not going to make this adorable kid my guinea pig. What would I have given to feel her small fingers on my scalp, to breathe in her child scent and to perhaps graze her silky skin, but it was impossible. I would most likely never touch a child again, much less have one of my own. I would never have what was required to make children either, nor the special someone to make them with. The only thing that remained in my power was to console the hurt child in front of me before I sought refuge in my solitude again.

“It’s not your fault,” I gently told the girl, whose eyes remained downcast, “I just don’t like to be touched. Some people are just not as open as you are.” The little head rose and a pair of green eyes a shade lighter than my own made careful contact. “You'll find out over time with whom it’s OK to touch and with whom it isn’t.” I swallowed reflexively as I felt my throat close up. “I... I have to go now. Thank you for this.”

I lifted the packet of rags and sent one last smile the girl’s way before I bolted, tears already stinging in my eyes. I stored my purchases in the trailer more haphazardly than was my usual fashion and hurriedly secured the tarp, all the while aware of my fellow shoppers’ curious gazes what a single woman in her early thirties might do with this many supplies. As long as they only stared, though, everyone would stay safe. With a grateful sigh I sank into the driver seat at last and pulled the door shut to ward off the icy rain into which the snow had turned a minute ago.

My breath was forming small clouds and I cranked up the AC as soon as I had turned the key. As always I directed all of my concentration on driving and pulled out of the parking lot carefully. I couldn’t afford accidents. The encounter with the little girl had been a close one already. Usually I moved through the masses like a drop of oil through water but minor accidents invariably happened, and only by feigning utter ignorance had I extricated myself from the situation. How long my condition would last or whether I would at least find an “emulsifier” one day was no longer the first thought I woke up to and the last one I took to bed with me but it was always there, sometimes watching from afar or hovering close by.

No, it wouldn’t do to dwell on my gloomy prospects, I had to be grateful for the small blessings: I owned a fully paid small house and enjoyed a steady stream of income, unconventional though the source was. Everything I had to handle in person was in driving distance and for anything else I enjoyed a strong and reliable internet connection, courtesy of a nearby radio mast.

Finding that house had been a stroke of luck. Despite its good condition, a one-story home in a remote location in a sparsely populated area did not attract many buyers and I had snatched it up for a song while my condo in the center of Frankfurt had sold for three times more. Due to the low wage level in this area, the cost for some minor repairs and the replacement of the tub with a walk-in shower had been affordable as well, so all in all I was not only debt-free but had some savings left over. Yes, those were good thoughts. Just a few more of those and perhaps there was a chance the face of that little girl wouldn’t follow me to bed tonight.

The rain was pelting down harder now. Most people believe Germany to be arctic all year round whereas millions of heat-scorched lawns and miniskirts in many parts of the country beg to differ between June and August. However, certain areas are, in fact, afflicted with more protracted periods of hibernal temperatures, such as this one, which made it perfect for my needs as it necessitated protective clothing. I could have done without the considerable amounts of precipitation but after three years in this area I was used to it, and so was my trusty minivan that tackled each mile towards my isolated house with 4WD confidence.

At last I reached the small concrete bridge that ultimately led to an uphill trail from which another narrow, almost invisible path branched off towards my house. Only a few minutes more and I would be home, safe and warm. Unloading the supplies could wait until the rain had abated. Suddenly I caught a movement from corner of eye, something big and gray that seemed to slump, although that was practically impossible to tell when the world was shrouded in liquid gray curtains. Nonetheless I activated my hazard lights and stepped on the brake with caution, grateful for my high-quality tires. What was that big, indistinguishable mass? It didn’t resemble a living creature and yet I had seen it move. Suddenly it shifted again. Oh God, that was definitely a human hand.

My decision was made within a fraction of a second: as big a threat as I may be to that person, the cold posed the bigger one. A mere ten minutes on the cold ground could render them so weak and immobile they would never be able to get up again. Once I had shrugged into my padded rain coat, scarf, hat and gloves, I carefully made my way to the sodden mass on the ground.

Lying on his right side in front of me was the biggest man I had ever laid eyes on in real life. The clingy fabric of his drenched gray sweat jacket and jeans outlined flesh shaped like a haphazardly stuffed cushion. His calves looked larger than my thighs and his thighs wider than my torso. His belly lay as though poured out of him like a viscous mass and the hand that peeked out from one of the sleeves was chubby like a toddler’s. The man’s face was obscured by the hood of his sweatshirt. The unexpected presence of this even more unexpected trembling shape caused me to swallow reflexively and my lower belly to… good question, what was my lower belly doing? No, whatever it was, my priority was the man in front of me. I bent.

“Hello? Hello, can you hear me?”

A startled twitch interrupted the trembling but there was no reply. I squatted and leaned closer.

“Can you hear me?”

Still no verbal reaction. Panic gripped my insides. Since I couldn’t possibly carry a man of his size, I would have to call an ambulance if he didn’t respond. The last thing I needed was to have my contact details in the hands of a medical authority. Now the man’s head slowly lifted, offering visible access to round cheeks, a double chin and what looked too scraggly and haphazard to be an intentional beard. A small mouth in the midst of the scruff opened, his lips trembling like the rest of his massive body, but still no sound emerged.

“You need to get out of the cold. Do you think you can get up?”

Still nothing. Perhaps he didn’t understand German? I repeated my words in English, French and was just about to piece together my meager Spanish when his lips opened again.

“M- maybe I c- can but I w- won’t.”

The rush of relief I felt at hearing German words, lightly tinged with the local dialect, the ones the man had chosen to utter pierced me to the core. I had been there myself, and although on some days I wished I could have gone through with it, there were still people to whom I still meant something. As wrapped up in oneself as a suicidal person might be, their life – and death – affected others. I could not let him die, and that meant getting him out of the cold fast. Every minute was a risk.

“Do you want to die?” I challenged the man whose head had turned back to the ground. Now it turned again and his eyes fixed themselves on mine with determination.

“Yes.”

“Well, too bad because I’m here now and you’re not going to die on my watch.”

“And wh- what are you g- going to do, c- carry me?” he scoffed, his grimaced smile revealing straight teeth that, for some reason, didn’t look quite like teeth were supposed to. I pushed the observation aside. At least his sense of humor hadn’t fallen prey to hypothermia yet.

“No, I was counting on your cooperation.”

“N- not going to happen.” His head turned again.

I straightened, unsheathing my ultimate weapon. “Then you leave me no other choice but to call an ambulance. And the police, just in case.”

Loath though I was to turn this spot into a would-be crime scene and to become involved with the authorities, I was prepared to do so as a last resort. Within the past three years I had compiled an arsenal of evasion and unobtrusiveness techniques and stood a good chance at extricating myself from the situation undetected. The sight of the man in front of me, however, assured me that we would be spared from any third-party involvement after all. With visible reluctance the hood-covered head lifted and its owner laboriously shifted himself into a sitting position, his copious flesh undulating and resettling. I knew I shouldn’t stare but couldn’t help it, nor could I keep my lower anatomy from commenting on the sight in front of me. No, no, no, no! I had felt the sensation before, and as inappropriate as it had been then, it was nothing compared to this. The man was suicidal and suffering from hypothermia! At last I managed to shake myself out of the bewildering trance.

“Atta boy.”

I was treated to another noise of derision before the man began to pull himself to his feet by the aid of the concrete parapet, a spectacle to behold with his bulges shifting and reshifting until finally settling into what must be their accustomed places. I never realized how much flesh the human body could hold, and even with his impressive height of about 6’3” visually balancing out his mass, he had to be at least three times the weight of a normal person. He was panting heavily. With his weight but also his scruff and cheeks caked in dirt he appeared of indeterminable age. A little older than me possibly, late thirties?

“And wh- what are you g- going to d- do with me now, huh?” he panted, most likely intending to glower down at me. With my height of 6’1”, however, the preposition ‘down’ hardly applied, so I stared right back despite my intensifying discomfort in my lower belly. I’m the biggest threat there is, buddy, so save yourself the wrinkles and stop glaring. The thought actually helped to tune out my unbidden bodily reaction and to let reason take over.

“Take you to my place.”

His scowl morphed into a narrow-eyed stare. “Wh- why?”

“Duh, to get you dry?”

His stare continued. “You w- want to take a d- dirty, d- drenched, super f- fat stranger to your p- place?”

“Yes.”

One of the few perks of my condition was that I never had to fear for my safety. Should the man turn out to be an unsavory character and choose to act on his perversions, he would regret his decision the second his thing touched my skin. On the bright side, it would be the last time he’d unzipped his pants for that purpose. Until he was proven guilty, however, I would do my best to get him back on his feet, meaning that we had no time for Q and A.

“Did you drive here?”

He shook his head, a needless waste of energy when hypothermia was taking care of the shaking already. “B- bus.”

Good, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about moving not only him but also his vehicle. “I w- won’t fit in the passenger seat, y- you know,” the man’s snarl punctured my little bubble of optimism.

“Then get in the rear,” I snapped at him, fed up with his lack of cooperation. I had hurt enough people and it was time I helped someone. After some more staring, albeit with his eyes at a less hostile aperture, he shifted his impossibly thick thighs at last and slowly made his lumbering way over to my van. A few long strides took me past him easily and I opened the sliding door, climbing inside and rearranging the purchases inside, transferring some onto the passenger seat, before I spread out a blanket I always kept in the car. Was he really too big to sit in front? Instantly I felt the heat in my cheeks.

Again I shifted my thoughts towards the logistics at hand. My van would be able to handle the extra load, even with the weight of the trailer and supplies. Thank God for strong engines and the lack of rear windows so no one would notice I was transporting a person. There, the space should be sufficient. I climbed back out, only to catch him watching me from where he was holding on to the side panel, trembling and panting.

“Can you get in?”

He only scowled and I stepped aside. His face morphed into a grimace as the van dipped to the right but at last he slumped down on the blanket and the weight distribution was even once more. Certain I had schooled my features into submission and wouldn’t add facially to his discomfiture, I turned to face him again.

“All set?” He only scowled again in response and I slid the door shut.

A moment later we were rolling, the added weight already discernible as I worked the pedals. Now that the wind, which had been blowing away from the man, had been replaced by an enclosed space, my nostrils cringed under the onslaught of the signature smell of an unwashed person. God Lord, what kind of man had I scraped off the road? One that was best dealt with while breathing through my mouth only, that's for sure. Only a minute could have passed but already the silence was bearing down on me – quite ironic since silence was the default sound of my world. The flesh on the man’s broad back quivered not only from the cold but with every pothole, too.

“C- could you c- crank up the heat?”

“Changed your mind about death then?”

I just couldn’t stop myself. I needed to prick and poke him to keep him alert and focused on living. If anyone knew, it was me. I cranked up the heat to the max and the silence wore on. All the way up the small incline that led to the deserted road with the patchy pavement, I willed my vehicle to convey us back to my house, even with the considerable extra cargo. At last I turned into the narrow gravel turnoff shrouded by trees. Only the package-deposit box hinted at a human presence but with my having painted them in a dark green, only the mail carriers were aware of their existence.

My house was a one-story building with a shallow roof and no basement, only 750 square feet, sitting next to a garage of almost two thirds its size. Usually I would unload the trailer, detach it and tuck it safely into the garage along with the car but for now that could wait. Nothing would perish in this cold anyway. After I had opened the door, I hurried through the arctic rain to unlock the front door. By the time I squelched my way back to the car, the man was just transferring his weight to his feet, all the while holding on to the car. The pallor of his face was alarming.

“Do you think you can make it to the door?”

“Wh- what’s the a- alternative?”

He didn’t wait for an answer but started lumbering forward. After closing and locking the car, I easily caught up with him. “The bathroom is the right one of the two doors straight ahead. I’m going to get you some towels,” I threw over my shoulder as I hurried inside, watching him heft his legs up the two concrete steps. In my bedroom where I kept the big towels I hardly used I stacked three of the largest on one arm, already preoccupied in what he would dress himself during the one and a half hours the washing machine and the dryer would require to provide him with dry, clean clothing again.

A trail of muddy, wet prints were glaring at me more than giant fluorescent arrows would, and only by remembering the current state of their author did I stifle the urge to communicate my outrage vociferously to him. Well, should he commit another hygiene offense when he was warmed up, I wouldn’t spare him, I promised myself when I joined him in the bathroom I had always thought spacious enough but that his presence made look positively cramped. If at all possible, he was shaking more than before, sending his massive flesh wobbling. He was eyeing my capacious walk-in shower with a blend of gratefulness and disbelief, and in that moment I felt grateful myself that his size coincided with my preference for showers over baths. When you’re a tall person, one part of you inevitably sticks out of the tub and turns cold.

“You can wash your clothes while you shower,” I told him while I filled in detergent and chose the right program. “Just push this button and if your clothes are dryer-safe, put them in here and turn this knob.” He nodded. “You can take as long as you want. This house is connected to the normal water and sewer system, so there is no need to ration. In the meantime I’m going to look for something you can wear.”

“Y- yeah, g- good luck with that,” I heard over my shoulder before I practically bolted and pushed the door shut behind me, drawing what felt like my first deep breath in the past ten minutes.

Although the saying goes that Karma is a bitch, I had learned the hard way that she only is if you are, and she certainly thought the opportunity had come for more payback: out of all people she had to throw a morbidly obese man my way. I had certainly ridiculed enough of them to deserve to atone for my sins this way, but did it have to be one in such a precarious frame of mind? He wanted to take his own life and I was responsible for him now – me of all people, who shouldn’t be given responsibility for a tortoise. What would make this man want to commit suicide? His weight possibly but not definitely factored in. Why had he come out here of all places? Was anyone looking for him?

An intensifying heat alerted me to the fact that I was still wearing my coat, hat and gloves. Quickly I deposited everything but the gloves in their places, cranked up the heat and began to make tea. I needed to keep the man warm even after his shower, and I could stand a mug as well. Then I tackled the impossible task of procuring clothes in his size. The best substitute for a sweater turned out to be a black fringed poncho interwoven with fine golden threads – not exactly manly but he would have to suck it up. My size-twelve woolen socks should fit him but what would I do for pants? Well, he would have no other chance but to safety-pin two woolen blankets together and wrap them around himself. Just as I emerged from my bedroom with the makeshift clothes, I heard the shower stop, a circumstance on which my lower anatomy chose to comment instantly. Clenching my thighs together and squeezing my eyes shut as if that could ward off the inexplicable sensation, I knocked on the door.

“Uhm,” it suddenly hit me that I didn’t even know his name, “I have a poncho that should fit you but I didn’t have anything for pants beside pinned-together blankets. I’m setting everything outside the bathroom door.”

No answer. I fled back into the open kitchen/dining/living area to take out the tea bags before I turned towards my small, rectangular wooden table and was presented with another obstacle: there was no way my standard-size chairs could accommodate his heft. The couch would but one of my self-enforced rules of living alone was never to mix locations and functions. A couch was for lounging and a table was for food and drink. Eating meals on the couch in front of the TV is often the first step of letting yourself go as a single, which eventually leads to a greasy-haired, stained-bathrobe-clad existence in front of the TV. Well, for now there was no other option, I sighed inwardly and carried the tray to the couch table at the other end of the rectangular room, after which I placed a big pot with water for a broth on the stove. Suddenly I heard the bathroom lock click and the sound of shuffling. There was no more putting off the confrontation. I quickly slipped my gloves back on that I had stuffed into the back pocket of my jeans and turned to face my guest.

I was facing a possibly 500-pound man, his skin crimson red from the shower, at least those parts that weren’t covered in my poncho and the blankets around his waist – let’s call it 'waist' for simplicity. A plump and dimpled hand kept the fabric in place. Chubby wouldn’t begin to describe his Michelin-man-like arms protruding from under the poncho. His eyes, reflecting something between mortification and murder, dared me to laugh. His eye color was indistinguishable from my distance but now I could see that his face was round and that he possessed dark hair with a bit of curl in dire need of a trim. His nose was nothing out of the ordinary and his mouth small and soft-looking with a pronounced double chin underneath. All in all I was staring into a likable face despite his scraggly beard and scowl. I mentally corrected my guess from end to mid- thirties.

Again I squeezed my eyes shut against the onset of tingles and treated myself to another breath before I looked at him again. “Sit. Have some tea. I've prepared a broth, too.”


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