By Britney McMaster
“Out of the way!” was all that I heard before I was pushed up against the lockers. I lost my balance and was bounced around by the crowd for a few minutes. It was the last day of the 2010 school year and everyone was eager to go enjoy the summer. I was eager to get myself away from all the jerks at school for a few months.
I finally made it out of the school and into relative safety. I pulled the comic book I had been reading during last period out of my pack and finished reading it by the time I got to my house. I pushed the door open, yelling, Mom, I’m home!” on the way to my room.
“We’re eating as soon as your father gets home, Max.”
“Okay Mom.” I kicked my bedroom door shut behind me and dropped onto my bed. I closed my eyes and just let the time pass by. After a little while, I sat up and logged onto my computer. Opening, my email I saw I had a new message from my friend Josh. I was glad my door was shut as Mom and Dad would rip me a new one if they knew I was still talking with Josh.
Ever since Josh got MORFS, he had suddenly become someone that I shouldn’t be friends with anymore, or so my parents thought. But I wasn’t about to drop my only friend because something out of his control made him a little different. The whole MORFS issue was still under debate throughout the country. It had been ever since the first pandemic nearly two years ago. Most people didn’t care as long as they weren’t affected. Some people believed that morfed people should be quarantined. Some people, including my parents, believe that MORFS is some sort of curse sent by God. Unfortunately, only a minority of people realize that this is no different than any other human rights issues in the past and MORFS victims are only fighting for equality.
I was shocked at what I read in Josh’s email. Over the last four months, Josh had been slowly changing. It has started with his just getting bigger, his whole body becoming covered in muscles. The last time I was able to see him, he had been starting to grow a thick fur all over his body. Once it was clear that he was becoming a hybrid, Mom and Dad put a stop to my visiting him. Over the last two and a half months we had kept in contact through emails. As I said this one was particularly disturbing.
I read it over and over again. His parents were kicking him out of their house. Apparently their neighborhood was pressuring them to get rid of him now that he was part animal or else. He wrote that his parents were doing it to protect him, but that meant that he would be living in the wild by himself. He told me that he would be in the forest if I wanted to see him one last time. I knew I had to help him somehow.
Dinner was strained. I wasn’t in a talking mood after hearing about Josh. To make it worse, Mom and Dad were talking about MORFS again, about what a curse it was. I ate slowly, trying to ignore their debate on whether the medical field should even bother trying to treat MORFS patients. I excused myself and went to prepare some things for the next day. Eventually, sleep overtook the worrying and I had a night of dreamless sleep.
The next morning, I stayed in bed until I heard both my parents leave for work. Once they were gone, I rushed around the house getting ready. If they found out about this, I was going to be dead. I grabbed the large backpack I had filled, swung it over my shoulder and mounted my bike.
Even though it was a hot day, I peddled as fast as I could until I reached the edge of town. I biked down the community trail until I came to the point that it turned and headed back towards town. At that point I stashed my bike behind a large bush and headed into the forest on foot. It was kind of spooky, like forests sometimes are. It was eerily quiet but full of sound at the same time. I wandered for about ten minutes.
“Josh!” I yelled. “Josh are you out here?” I wandered aimlessly. I wish he had told me where exactly to meet him. “Josh! Can you hear me?”
“Max, over here!” It sounded like Josh, although a lot deeper, but he had called me by name. I spun around to where the voice came from … and didn’t see anything.
“Where are you?” I asked, looking around.
“I’m right here.” I looked in the direction of the voice and saw what I can only describe as a saber tooth tiger stand up from where it had been laying down. Its fur had camouflaged so well with the floor of the forest that I had walked right past this predator. Even though I knew this large cat was my childhood friend Josh, I couldn’t stop my heart from beating faster and from feeling a little frightened.
“Josh, is that really you?”
“Yeah, I know. It’s hard to believe, but it’s me.” He cocked his head to one side and started to walk away. I took the hint and started to follow him. We walked for about fifteen minutes until we came upon a cave. That’s when I realized where we were. Josh and I had often come to this part of the woods while we were growing up. We went in and I was surprised that there was furniture inside, although what there was, was sparse. A large chest with a lock on it stood against the wall of the cave. Near the back was a futon mattress. Laying beside it was a picture of Josh with his parents.
“So they really just kicked you out?”
“It was either that,” he said as he slumped onto the mattress, “or the ‘villagers’ were going to form a mob and come after me with pitchforks and torches or something.”
“Man, that sucks! I brought some stuff that you can use. Hopefully dad won’t notice it missing.” I opened the pack I’d brought with me and started to empty it onto the cave floor. “Okay, first, I brought a camp stove for you. You’ll still have to catch your own food, but at least you can cook it now.”
“Oh man. Thanks so much. I wasn’t looking forward to eating raw meat.”
“I’ll try and bring you new fuel tanks when I can. I’ve got a couple boxes of wooden matches, too. Those should last you for quite a while. I also brought a bunch of canned food and a can opener.” I stacked the cans on top of the chest and then turned back to the pack. “The last thing I’ve got is just some blankets, although you probably won’t need them until the weather gets colder.”
“Max, I don’t know what to say. You’re a true friend. Everyone else I had thought of as friends, well … I can’t call any of them friends anymore.”
“Josh, I’ll always be your friend. I don’t care what you look like. Besides, you’re like my only friend. If I ditched you, I’d be just as alone as you would be. It’s been bad enough at school since you stopped coming.”
“I’m sure you’ll make more friends. Anyone would be lucky to have you as a friend.”
“You must be a pretty lucky guy then Josh,” I grinned at him.
“Hmph! This is the guy living in a cave you’re talking to. Max, do everything you can to stay healthy. If you catch MORFS, it will ruin you. It made me into an outcast, and I saw it do a lot of other things to other kids while I was in the hospital.”
“Like what, Josh?”
“There really seem to be no limits to the mutations it causes. Most kids get off lucky and have only minor changes. Others have their lives destroyed. There was this one guy in the same room as me, he’s in a padded room somewhere now. He became one of those elementals. While he was sedated, his body kept changing into stone and then back to normal. When he woke up though, he just went berserk. He trashed most of the room before they put him out again. Apparently MORFS screwed up his brain chemistry really badly. Last I saw him he was being carted away in a straight jacket.”
“But that’s only one case Josh. A majority aren’t that bad.”
“The girl in the next bed over from me died after MORFS removed a majority of her vital organs. Maybe MORFS is a curse! Maybe all those people are right. MORFS is destroying lives. I’m nothing more than an animal now.”
“No Josh. You’re a person. You should have all the rights and freedom that I do.”
“As I said Max, you’re a good friend. If you get MORFS, promise me you won’t tell anyone. Come here and we’ll fight it together. If others know that you have it, it will just mark you for harassment.”
“But how would we treat it? We’re not doctors.”
“Max, the doctors are barely treating it and after months of being treated for it I know about as much as they do. All they know is that the changes speed up when the patient has enough spare energy and nutrients. If you get it, we’ll just load you up with vitamins, lots of protein and a lot of energy drinks.”
“Josh, I promise I’ll come to you first if I think I have it. But I’ve gotta get back home before Mom gets home and wonders where I am. Is there anything you need me to bring you next time?”
“I’m good for now, Max. I’ll need your help putting some doors on this place before fall, but that can wait for a little while. Take care of yourself.”
“You too, Josh.”
“Max, don’t you plan on doing more with your summer than sit there reading those comic books of yours?” dad asked as he came through the door from work. I was sitting on the living room couch reading my comic books and watching TV.
“What else is there to do, Dad?” I replied without looking up.
“Don’t you have some friends you’d rather spend time with?”
“Well Dad, I had one friend. My one and only friend and thanks to MORFS, I’m not allowed to see him anymore, remember?”
“That was for your own good, Max. If we let you keep spending time with Josh, you would have just ended up with MORFS yourself.”
“They say it’s not contagious, Dad.”
“They? Who’s they? No one knows how this thing works. We can’t be too careful with this plague running rampant.”
“Okay, so you should be happy that I’m staying inside.”
“I guess I should …” Dad mumbled as he left the room.
I wiped the sweat from my face as I continued burying the electrical and Ethernet cables foot by foot. I had guarded the mailbox for two weeks while my few eBay purchases had arrived. Carrying the several hundred foot spools of cable while riding my bike to the woods hadn’t been easy either. I only had about fifty feet to go until I would be back at the cave. Josh’s parents had given him a few things that he had kept in the large chest. One of those things was his laptop. Our goal today was to get him back online.
On one of my bike rides to the forest a few weeks ago I had spotted a van from the local broadband company leaving one of the houses that bordered the forest. The house had a sold sign in the front yard, and after a bit of inquiry from the neighbors, I found that the new home owners were moving in at the end of the month, but that they were getting everything setup for them before they moved in.
So Josh and I put our plan into motion. Having to wait for supplies to come in the mail had made this a bit of a tight squeeze, but the night before I had managed to slip into the empty house through an open window.
With the power off, I fished our cables through the hole in the foundation that the cable company had made and re-caulked it shut. Then I spliced their internet line to our spool of cable as well as hooking up our electrical cable to their fuse box. Burying the two cables underground wasn’t difficult, as the new home was still without sod in the back yard. Once in the woods, I had stashed the spools out of sight and returned home.
Today had been spent digging a deep trench, burying the cables and Josh followed behind, covering the buried lines with the leaves and twigs that covered the forest floor.
I completed the last fifty feet and ran the remaining cable into the cave. We had set up some lights and a few power outlets that needed to be connected to the main power line. We’d even set up a breaker so that Josh wouldn’t trip a breaker back at the empty house. It took us a few more hours to get everything set up right and to hack our way onto the house’s internet connection, but by the time I left late in the afternoon, Josh had power, lights and a means of communication.
“Where have you been?” exclaimed my mother when she saw me. “You look a mess.”
“I rode my bike down to the river. I got a little dirty. I’ll do get changed before dinner.”
“Bring me those dirty clothes right away so I can put them in the wash.”
Being able to message Josh online was great. We could talk like old times, and we could work on our plans to improve his living situation. Our next project was to hide the cave entrance. He wanted to make the doors look like rock, so we both scoured the internet looking for methods to accomplish that.
It was during one of our nightly chats that I mentioned not feeling well. Josh immediately told me not to mention it to my parents because it might be MORFS. I argued that it was just a stomach bug, but he made me promise not to tell.
The next night I wasn’t any better and Josh sent me a link to Japanese medical supply site that was selling what they claimed was an at home MORFS testing kit. I was skeptical, but placed an order with express shipping. My parents were going out of town for the next three weeks to visit family, and having convinced them that I would be fine by myself, I would have all the privacy I needed if this did turn out to be MORFS.
I waved goodbye to Mom and Dad as they drove away on their trip. No more than five minutes after they left for the airport, a delivery truck pulled up outside the house and I was presented with my package after giving my signature.
I rushed up stairs as fast I could which made me a bit nauseous and opened the testing kit. It was a simple device. You just had to put a drop of blood into it and if gave a reading. It was similar to a diabetic device I had seen a classmate use once.
I placed the tip of it to the end of my finger and taking a breath, pushed the button. It pricked my finger and took the blood needed. It hurt more than I thought it would and I quickly put my finger in my mouth to stop the bleeding. A moment later, the sore finger was the least of my concerns as the reading came through positive for MORFS.
“Josh! What am I gonna do?” I pleaded.
My large catlike friend sat silently watching me as I lay staring at the cave ceiling. “I don’t know Max,” he said finally. “We do need to get you some energy drinks and multivitamins. Lots of them.”
“I guess I’ll have to go to the grocery store.” I let out a sigh as I struggled to my feet and walked slowly to my bike.
I broke my budget on all the stuff I bought at the store. My savings were almost gone, but if this stuff worked like Josh said it would, and I was done Morfing before my parents got back, then it would be worth it. Now I just needed to hope for a change that wasn’t too obvious.
I cooked myself a thick steak for dinner, washing it down with as many vitamins, supplements and energy drinks that I could stomach, and then took a sleeping pill around eight thirty.
When I awoke the next morning and dragged myself to the bathroom, I felt as if I was covered in slime, and hopped in the shower. The warm water helped me to relax.
I checked for changes in the mirror as I dried off, but so far I still looked like myself. ‘Good!’
A large breakfast and more energy drinks, and I was ready to go back to bed. I slept most of the day, waking around nine at night and felt as if I was starving. I took that as a sign that my body was using what I was giving it. I had another high protein meal before heading back to bed.
The pattern of gorging myself on the nutrients MORFS needed, and sleeping the days away went on for over two weeks. A few days before my parents arrived home, I woke up feeling nice and refreshed.
I fished the second MORFS tester I had ordered from Japan from its hiding place and pricked my finger once more.
The reading came back a moment later. I was now negative for MORFS.
When I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, I looked pretty much like myself, but I definitely noticed some changes. I was an inch or two taller than I had been before, though I figured I could hide that by slouching a bit, and then just pass it off as a growth spurt.
I was also much more toned than I was before. I wouldn’t say I was muscular, but I had certainly gone from scrawny to athletic. My arms had more muscle to them but remained thin. My waist had narrowed a little as I had shed a bit of weight and I now sported a nice set of abs. Not the typical chiseled abs I would have liked, but still, a nice flat stomach with some muscle to it.
The most dramatic change was my legs and hips. They were well toned like the rest of my body. They were also much wider from my hips to my butt. The wide hips and thighs contrasted with my narrow waist, giving a bit of a girlish look to my torso, but they were solid muscle. I looked as if I had spent years working out my legs by swimming or dancing. I kept wondering to myself how much weight I could bench on a leg press now.
I was lucky over all that I looked like I always had. Most of my clothes still fit me, as I had always preferred to wear my clothes a bit baggy. With my thinner waist, most of my pants sat lower on my hips anyway, which helped cover my added height.
After showering and getting dressed I grabbed my bike from the garage and headed for the woods so I could go visit with Josh.
I was amazed at the speed I was able to go at due to my stronger legs. I reached the cave in record time and found that Josh wasn’t there. ‘He must be out hunting,’ I though as I took a seat on the futon in the corner. I leaned back and decided to wait for him to get back.
As I waited, I closed my eyes and just let myself relax. My eyes shot open in shock as I suddenly fell backwards through the futon. The furniture I had been sitting on seemed to swirl around me as if it was made of smoke. I stood up and the gaseous seeming futon moved around me. When I took a step forward, the smoke swirled behind me and reformed itself into its pervious shape.
I looked around the cave and noticed that everything else also appeared to me made of smoke. Even the walls of the cave seemed to be in a gaseous state. ‘I’ve got to be dreaming!’ I tried to rationalize what was happening. When I looked down at myself it appeared that I was the only solid object in the room. And I was naked. I looked back over at the futon and saw my clothes laying where I had been sitting, but they also seemed to be made of smoke.
I walked back over to my clothes and tried to pick them up. I got them a few inches before they faded around my hands and fell back to the smoky futon. Trying again, I focused all of my will on picking them up and got them back up in my hands. They began to once again swirl around in a smoky way when my hands also took on a gaseous look and held the clothes firmly.
I felt a shift take place in the way my hands felt, and concentrated on returning them back to how they had been. My smoke-like hands began to swirl along with the clothes, and after what felt like an eternity, they started to return to a solid state, bringing the clothing with them.
“Okay, that’s seriously crazy.” Putting on the clothing, I decided to venture out of the cave. When I looked out into the forest, I wasn’t overly surprised that everything outside was also made of the ethereal smoke. Without thinking, I leaned against the opening of the cave wall and fell right through it.
Catching myself before I fell, I ran towards the woods, pushing through the rock wall I had ended up inside of. Once back out of the rock, I wandered aimlessly through the woods for what must have been over an hour. All I wanted to do was get back to my own world, or wake up from this weird dream.
I began running as fast as I could. I soon reached the edge of the woods and jumped over the low fence at the end of the park … but I didn’t come down. I continued to float up in the air above the fence. I tried to move myself forward and I seemed to move where I wanted to with great ease. Pushing up mentally, I rose yet higher off of the ground.
I moved myself around at various speeds as I flew through the air. I was having so much fun that I failed to notice my hands once more turning to smoke. The rest of my body followed, and a moment later I was back in my normal world.
Gravity took over immediately and I quickly fell the ten feet or so and slammed into the ground.
“Josh, I swear, I as in another dimension or something. It was so crazy.”
“And you could fly in this dimension?” he asked skeptically.
“Yes, and I think with some practice I can learn to interact with both dimensions.”
“Okay, so let me ask you this. Let’s say that you do learn to jump between these dimensions, then what?”
“I think that’s pretty obvious. Become a superhero. With great power comes great responsibility and all that.”
“Max, you read too many comic books.”
When my parents returned home, thankfully neither of them noticed anything out of the ordinary with me.
I, on the other hand, spent my days at home trying for the very unordinary. And I was making progress. It took me only a day to be able to jump to the other dimension. The down side was that every time I did, I left my clothes behind.
By the end of the week I had learned how to take other objects, including my clothes with me. I had also pushed further and found that the smoky version of our world was more of a limbo between the two dimensions. Eventually I could go far enough into the other dimension that I couldn’t see our world anymore or I could come close enough that both the smoky objects and myself were semi-solid. I could interact with things in our world at that level while still fading through stuff at will.
Incidentally, every time I returned to normal, I had to reset the time on my watch. That led me to figure out that time passed twice as quickly in the ‘other realm’ as I had starting calling it, than in the normal world.
I had also decided to set up the family camcorder. I hit record and then faded to the other realm, fading completely, I moved to the other side of my room and then faded back to the real world
Rewinding the tape, I played it back. It showed me standing in front of the camera and then I suddenly washed out to a grayish blue smoke. The smoke held my shaped and I looked like a gaseous version of myself. A moment later I faded away, the smoke dissipating into the air and then a moment later I reappeared on the other side of the room.
“I look like a ghost …” I mumbled to myself. “Ghost, my superhero name should be Ghost.”
That night I told Josh about my new powers while we chatted online. He seemed skeptical, and couldn’t see the whole superhero thing quite like I did. I decided that I would have to get a costume together before showing my powers to Josh.
I spent a few hours online looking for stuff I could use as a costume. Superhero tights weren’t exactly easy to find and I ended up looking at something from China called a zentai suit. Some of them were kinda weird, being a lycra catsuit that covered a person from head to toe. They did, however, sell a full body unitard that had an attached hood that would cover all of the head except the front. I sent a quick email to them asking if they did custom designs.
My next task would be locating gloves and boots. Finding durable knee high boots on the internet that didn’t have a heel was pretty hard but I did find someone who sold custom elbow length gloves. I sent them an email as well, then logged off my computer and got into bed.
By the time a few weeks passed, I was able to find most of the stuff I needed on the internet. The zentai suit guy was able to do my custom design, and even made me a mask that I could pull over the hood of the suit. I also had him make me a hooded cloak/cape that matched the unitard. I thought it would give the costume a nice ghostly look.
I watched for the mailman everyday as I tracked my package online. Finally after about two weeks, my stuff arrived. I opened up the box and dumped it out on the bed. The first thing I did was put on the gaff thing the guy had recommended. It had instructions with it that helped me figure out how to tuck my equipment back out of the way. The gaff had a thong back that took a little getting used to, but I shrugged it off and started pulling on the stretchy lycra suit. The pattern was better than I had hoped for. The front of the suit was mostly a light grey, while the back was a dark charcoal grey. Where the two colours met, the darker grey swirled like smoke as it faded into the light grey.
I got it pulled on, and even managed to figure out the back zipper without much trouble. Grabbing the mask, I pulled it on over the hood of the unitard. It was the same dark grey as the back of the unitard, but was made of a rubbery material. It covered the top part of my head completely except for the two large eye holes. It was molded to fit snugly against my cheekbones and then extend out to cover my nose. Just below my ears the mask had a strap that came down and covered the bottom of my jaw and cupped slightly over my chin. This left only my eyes and my mouth exposed. The stretchy rubbery material clung snuggly to my face and stayed in place as I talked.
I grabbed the cloak and put it on. It was also dark grey but faded with the same smoky look into light grey around the hem.
It looked awesome.
I didn’t have gloves or boots yet, so I faded to the other realm, my house fading away around me and flew towards the woods, passing right through the trees as I traveled straight to the cave. As I entered the cave I faded partway back to the real world, causing myself to become visible in a ghostly way.
When I called out, “Josh!” my friend turned towards me and then crouched down and started to growl menacingly at me. “Calm down. It’s just me, Max.”
“Max? So you weren’t making up stuff. You really can go to another dimension.”
Lowering myself to the ground, I faded all the way back. “Yeah, I can.”
“Wow, wish I had a cool power like that. But what’s up with the costume?”
“I told you, I’m going to be a superhero.”
“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?”
“Yes I am Josh. Now what’s wrong with my costume?”
“Okay, now Max, don’t get mad.”
“I won’t, but be honest. Tell me what you think. Keep in mind I still need to get some gloves and boots.”
“Well, to be honest, you kinda look like a girl in that get up.”
“Well, first, you’re wearing tights, which is part of the problem, but your hips and thighs being wider, combined with your small waist, make you look like a flat-chested girl. The rest of your body has that kinda athletic toned look that girls have, not the muscled look most superheroes have. I also never noticed it before, but with that mask covering most of your face, it really shows off that your lips are fuller, like a girl.”
Sitting down hard on the futon, I pulled my mask off and looked down at the cave floor. “I really look like a girl?”
“Only in that getup. You don’t normally look like a girl,” said Josh in what I suppose was to be a reassuring tone.
“So much for the superhero thing then,” I said in a depressed tone.
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” started Josh. “superheroes need a secret identity, and I know you don’t want your parents to find out, so what if your real identity is Max, a boy and your superhero identity is a girl?”
“You’re serious? You think I should dress as a female superhero?”
“Think about it. You already have the suit. All you would need is a bra and some like fake boobs to fill it. Then, get a wig and wear it under the mask. Get your gloves and boots and throw on a bit of makeup, and you’d have a pretty good disguise.”
“That sounds so crazy.”
“So does jumping between dimensions. Besides, if you do the superhero thing, most people will know you’re a Morf, and you don’t want that to be traced back to Max.”
“I guess you’re right. You’re not going to make fun of me for dressing like a girl?”
A few weeks later I had everything I needed. I ordered a sports bra and a set of breast forms with an adhesive back, a silver wig, and a set of matching gloves and boots, both in dark grey.
To make it easier to put on and take off, and to keep it from slipping, I glued the wig into the top of the mask and spent hours practicing walking in the boots. The heels weren’t exactly practical, but they were all I could find. Luckily they had a wide platform heel so that after enough practice I was fairly comfortable in them, especially since I could always levitate to give my feet a break.
Mom almost caught me practicing my makeup one night, but I was able to fade my few makeup items and myself to the other realm just before she opened the door.
My makeup was pretty simple. I used a grayish silver eye shadow on anything that the eyeholes of the mask exposed. Dark black eyeliner and black mascara completed my eyes. I used a pale foundation around my mouth with a frosty grey lipstick on my lips.
With the whole outfit put together, I thought I looked pretty good. Now it was time to stop some crime.
As a bit of a geeky kid, I had the luxury of my parents never checking in on me once I’d gone up to my room. They trusted me to get to bed at a reasonable time. That meant I could fade through the roof of the house and head into town. I had improved my speed of flight in the other realm and also discovered that the more time I spent in other realm, the less tired I was when I returned home. After a night of flying around I only needed one or two hours of sleep to be fully rested.
I dashed at full speed out of the suburb that I grew up in and towards the highway, following it into the heart of the large city and headed towards the seedier parts of town. I figured that would be the best place to start. In typical superhero fashion I found a perch on a rooftop where I could watch over the streets. I didn’t have to wait long. Right below me a group of thugs decided to rob a liquor store.
I faded down through the building and landed in the store. I faded closer to reality and was quickly the center of attention as I floated about the tiled floor in my ghostly appearance. “Put the guns down on the floor and your hands where I can see them!” I demanded in a commanding voice that surprised even myself.
“What the hell are you?” asked the thug who was holding a gun on the store clerk.
Becoming completely invisible for a moment, I surged forward and placed my hand on the gun, pulling it into other realm just before he pulled the trigger. His hand slipped through the gaseous form of the gun, that really seemed to freak him out as I noticed a wet spot growing on the front of his pants. I tried my best not to laugh and while flying around him said, “are you afraid of Ghosts?”
‘That went pretty well.’ I stood invisibly on the sidewalk as the police escorted the crooks from the store in handcuffs. I didn’t even end up having to fight. Just fading in and out had them so scared they were running around the store trying to get away from me. They were still babbling to the cops about the store being haunted. The police just ignored them and loaded them into the back of the police van.
They were all still very freaked out, and I couldn’t help myself. I moved into the van and just as the door was closed, I faded back to being visible. “Boo!”
To Be Continued…
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org