By: Gilli Fishel
Times were changing.
Soon, I would be off to a new school with tougher classes. Middle school. There, I would probably make new friends. I worried my best friend at the time, Lucas, would be assigned to a different school, or at the very least to different classes. Both of our interests would soon change and perhaps we would part ways.
I had had another growth spurt just a week before. My voice had deepened a little, as well. All sorts of things were changing. Why not friendships?
One could feel a change in the air, too. I felt it on the walk over to my friend’s house. Autumn grew near and the smell of dead leaves hung heavy in the air. Only the juniper shrubs maintained a green hue. I ripped a few of the remaining juniper berries off and skipped them down the sidewalk as I walked. It wasn’t my first sleep over, but it was the first time I had been allowed to stay over at my friend Lucas’ house. Though I considered Lucas to be my best friend, I’d never actually seen him anywhere besides the schoolyard and classroom. Not on the weekends, rarely after school, and certainly not after dark. It wasn’t an easy task to get Lucas to agree to the sleepover either. Even after talk of scary movies, popcorn, and sodas Lucas seemed hesitant. It took a lot of pleading over several Fridays at school to get him to agree to the sleepover and that was only because his parents were out of town for the evening. Otherwise they’d have said no and that would be that.
When I arrived at Lucas’ house, I had a gaming system and a six pack of Mortal Energy drinks tucked under my arms. It was not without challenge that I rang the door bell. When bell sounded, the door opened almost immediately. It might have been assumed that Lucas had been eagerly awaiting my arrival if not for the weird bend to his face.
As the door opened, the hinges squealed. This scared me. I dropped an energy drink, which exploded. Lucas did not look pleased but he didn’t say anything about it. Even as the can hissed and thrashed about, spraying sugar water all over the entry steps, he said nothing about it.
“Come in,” Lucas said instead. Then seeing the dirtiness of my shoes he pulled a large plastic bag from the entry closet. “No shoes in the house.”
I nodded. After setting my drinks and the gaming console down, I untied my shoes and slipped them into the bag. Lucas put the shoes on the shoe rack and guided me into the kitchen. Together we put the drinks in the fridge and then hooked up the gaming console to the TV.
“Full moon tonight,” Lucas said after he’d lost for a third time. I didn’t know what that meant. I thought he was suggesting that we go outside. It would still be a couple hours before nightfall.
“Do you want to go outside?” I asked to be sure.
“Oh?” Lucas seemed as if he’d just stirred from a daydream. “No. Sorry. Playing games is fine with me. I was just thinking out loud. I’d rather stay inside, actually.”
“If you say so.”
Seeing that I had finished my glass of iced Mortal Energy, Lucas grabbed both the can and the glass from the coffee table. He wiped the glass down with a towel before putting it in the sink. He then tossed the can in the trash after wiping it down. It was a strange thing to do, but I didn’t bother to ask why. Parents have rules. I left it at that. The rules of the house we’re not of particular interest to me unless I was breaking a serious one.
For the next couple hours the we played more games and snacked on Slender-Tenders Then, when we got tired of playing games, we decided to watch a movie. A classic monster movie played on the SYFY channel, so we decided to watch it. By the end of the movie it had grown dark.
As fun as all the games and movie were, I found myself most excited that night about being able to help start a fire in the fireplace. Lucas had insisted we do so. When he brought out the matches, how could I say no? It took us a few minutes to get the fire going. I had never started a fire before and felt quite proud of myself having now done so, even though it was dangerous.
Together we watched the fire burn the firewood. We listened to the crackle and split of logs. After a few minutes of this, I excused myself to change into my pajamas in the bathroom. When I returned, I sat on the couch with Lucas.
“I’m going to change now,” Lucas declared.
“OK?” I said, a little confused. It didn’t seem to be something that needed to be declared. You just go to the bathroom and you do it. Lucas didn’t go to the bathroom to change, though. He just started right there. Because of how strange it seemed, it took me a minute to look away, embarrassed.
“I thought—” I began to explain how I thought Lucas meant he would change in the bathroom, but decided to just drop it.
The couch creaked and it felt for a moment as if the side that I sat on suddenly rose from the ground. I supposed Lucas was in quite a struggle with his clothes.
“I’m changing now,” Lucas said again. There was a hint of alarm in his voice this time and I realized he must be embarrassed.
“I’m aware…” I said. “Have you got anything to eat?”
While I was a bit hungry, I asked this mostly to change subjects and also have something cover up the sounds of Lucas changing. Lucas must’ve gotten his clothes straight from the washing machine as there were wet sounds coming from his direction; tearing too. How anyone could wear wet clothes was beyond me. Even living in a swamp, I hate wet clothes.
“Yes,” Lucas said. “For once I do have something to eat.”
I heard the crinkle of a plastic bag and then a thud. The thud came from over by the fireplace. This was followed by another thud. Both thuds were followed by the smell of burning rubber. I turned and looked into the fireplace. There I saw my shoes burning atop the firewood.
“What the—” I began.
“I’ve changed!” Lucas interrupted in a voice that sounded much deeper than his normal voice.
I turned to my friend for an explanation of why my shoes were on fire.. My mouth felt dry in an instant and my organs felt as if they all collapsed into the pit of my stomach. My scaly skin became gooseflesh. I tried several times to speak, but my tongue wouldn’t move. I became suddenly aware of how alone I was and how foolish I’d been to stay over without Lucas’ parent’s permission. I knew now why they’d always firmly said “No!”
It wasn’t Lucas sitting at the other end of the couch. At least not the Lucas that I knew. He had instead changed into a very large mass of slimy flesh. His eyes were no longer brown. They were a piercing yellow. They didn’t glow, per se, but they did reflect the light of the fire vibrantly. His fingers were sharp, skin covered claws. His teeth, too, had grown. Lucas always had a bit of a crooked smile, but now it seemed he had the mouth of shark. Several rows of sharp yellowed teeth glinted in the firelight. On top of the smell of the burning shoes, there was another smell. It took all I had not to double over from the scent alone and puke.
“I’m hungry now,” the ogre said. His shark mouth curled up at the edges as if he’d just told a joke. An algae green tongue ran across the teeth. It was a lumpy tongue—lumpy with boils. One of which popped on a tooth. It splattered and some of it got on my hand.
“I’m very hungry,” he said.
There was no mistaking what was for dinner—
—the pizza he’d ordered while I was changing. The delivery boy arrived just then. The scary thing is… Lucas ordered the pizza with anchovies! With anchovies! Yuck! I realized then that I could never be friends with an ogre. Not now that his tastes had changed so much as to enjoy anchovies. Worse still, he pulled my burned shoes from the fireplace and used them as toppings for his pizza.
I walked home barefoot and never hung out with him again.