“Blake, we shouldn’t be here. We’ll be seen!” Arnold protested.
“Shh,” Blake said as he peered through the bushes at the festival preparations.
“Blake!” Arnold urged.
“We’re not doing anything wrong by just looking,” Blake hissed, “Now ssh, or somebody will see us!”
“But I thought we were gonna—” Arnold began to protest again.
Just then, two native women appeared, each carrying a large basket of food.
Blake’s mouth watered as the aroma of exotic spices hit his nostrils.
“Blake, come on,” Arnold pressed. “Let’s go back before they see us and get pissed!”
“Fine, you go back,” Blake whispered. “I’m gonna go get some of that food!”
“Blake, no!” Arnold protested, but just as the women put their baskets down and turned to go back into their tents, Blake emerged from the bushes and quickly crept down the hill that overlooked the festival grounds.
Damn it, Blake! Arnold growled to himself as he hurriedly followed suit, quickly following his friend down the hill, but he lost his footing on the steep slope, and though he managed to avoid crying out, he began to slide noisily down, leaving a dust trail and parallel tracks in the sandy bank where he’d slid.
He came to a stop, and he and Blake both held their breath anxiously and looked around for anyone who might have heard them for almost a minute before Blake finally breathed a sigh of relief and glared at him. Arnold cringed.
“Come on,” Blake mouthed, nodding his head towards the food.
If nobody had come out to investigate, yet, then they were probably safe. They silently ran over to where many baskets had been set out, each containing a different kind of the native tribe’s cuisine. Without a word, Blake quickly began stuffing his pockets with anything he could get his hands on, looking over his shoulder frequently. Arnold was hesitant to take the food, but he reluctantly began to follow suit.
Strong hands suddenly grabbed them both by the shoulder and spun them around. The men gasped to see a dozen warriors with spears pointed at them.
“Shit,” Blake murmured, putting his hands up and dropping the food in them on the ground.
“We’re fucked,” Arnold whispered.
The nearest warrior yelled at them and thrust his spear at them, silencing them and making them both take a step backward. Without a word, the warriors surrounded them and drove them into one of the tents, knocking them onto their knees in front of what they assumed was the village elder, who scowled at them with wild eyes and a weathered face.
“Look, please…” Arnold began to plead, but the elder put his hand up, silencing him once more.
“You…” the elder began slowly in a soft, cracking voice, “You are outsiders. Why are you here?”
The men looked at each other, but with a signal from Blake, neither said anything. One of the warriors behind them shoved them forward while others reached into their pockets and pulled out handfuls of the food, throwing it on the ground in front of their faces.
“You…steal,” the elder said, scowling even harder.
“Please,” Arnold begged, “It–it just tastes good!”
“Hmph,” the elder replied. “Then…eat,” he said, his voice firm.
“Excuse me?” Blake asked incredulously.
“Eat,” the elder said again, gesturing to the food in the sand in front of them.
Arnold was about to protest that the food was mixed with sand now, but the stern look from the elder didn’t seem too accommodating. Arnold looked at Blake, who refused to move; he just sat there defiantly.
“Eat,” the elder repeated, and the warriors behind them pushed their spears into their backs firmly.
“Oh, fine!” Arnold said, reaching forward to pick up the food.
A spear sharply jabbed into the back of his hand, making him recoil in fear.
“Use…your mouth,” the elder said, “Like the animals.”
“Fuck this,” Blake said, rising.
A whack to the backs of his knees dropped him again right where he stood.
“Eat,” the elder said with indefatigable patience, “Or be killed.”
Arnold’s heart raced. Torn between humiliation and fear, he wasn’t sure what to do. But the spear poking into his back was beginning to really hurt, and no matter how much he leaned forward, the spear always followed him.
“Fine, fine!” he said at last, unable to bear it anymore.
He leaned forward, took a bite off the top of the food—the furthest from the sand—chewed, and swallowed. He was so humiliated that he couldn’t even appreciate the taste.
“All of it,” the elder said, a faint smile crossing his wizened face.
The elder made a gesture, and suddenly Blake cried out in pain as a spear jabbed hard into his back.
“You, too,” the elder said, gesturing with his head to the food in front of Blake.
Blake huffed a few times and then leaned forward and took a bite as Arnold took another one. The grit of sand made them grimace, but they dutifully ate all of the food in front of them, sand and all.
The elder nodded satisfaction and made a gesture with his head. The warriors grabbed the men by the shoulders, dragged them to their feet, and marched them out of the tent.
“Where are you taking us?” Arnold asked fearfully.
A shout and a jab from the warrior behind him quickly silenced him as the stink of a pigsty filled his nostrils. He grimaced as they rounded a tent and came face-to-face with the sty itself. A number of large hogs wallowed in the mud in the moonlight while others lay resting in a drier part of the pen.
One of the warriors opened the gate while the rest herded the men into the sty.
“You stay here,” one of them said.
Most of the warriors left, leaving three to guard them. The walls of the sty were about four feet tall—too tall to jump over—and the warriors watched them like hawks.
“What are they gonna do?” Arnold asked.
“I dunno,” Blake replied. “Let’s just—”
A shout from the braves and a lightning-quick jab with a spear made them both jump backward. They slipped and fell, both landing in the mud beside the pigs while the warriors hooted with laughter and the hogs came to check them out.
That was the least of their worries, though. To their shock, the entire tribe began to surround the sty, point at them, and talk amongst themselves in a language the men didn’t understand.
The elder appeared and put up his hand, silencing the others.
“Come,” he said to the men, gesturing.
Arnold and Blake exchanged glances and remained where they were in the mud, but a sharp jab from a particularly long spear behind them quickly got them to their feet. The elder beckoned them closer, some food in his hand. He gestured to it.
“Eat,” he said.
The men hesitated, and then Arnold reached out to take the food from the elder, who promptly dropped it in the mud at their feet. Arnold looked down and then back up at the elder helplessly.
“Sorry, it fell…can we have some more?” he asked.
The elder gestured to the food at their feet. “Eat,” he said.
“No, it’s dirty,” Arnold said. “Do you understand? It’s been in the pig mud.”
But cries of “eat” began ringing around them as the warriors and other tribe members took up the elder’s order. Spears soon began jabbing at them from all directions, driving them to their hands and knees and poking them mercilessly until Arnold finally grimaced and leaned forward to take a bite of the muddy food.
The place was suddenly silent as everybody watched him intently. Arnold looked around, unnerved by how everybody was watching him expectantly.
After several minutes, the elder finally leaned forward and said, “eat” once more.
The entire tribe took up the cry, and Arnold was again poked and jabbed with spears until he took another bite of the muddy food.
There was a collective gasp, followed by silence. Arnold looked around, swallowing nervously.
“Oh, shit…” Blake said.
Arnold whipped his head around to look at his partner in crime. “What?” he asked.
“Your face,” he whispered.
“What about my face?” Arnold asked, feeling of himself with muddy hands.
He stopped abruptly, feeling how his nose had flattened a little bit.
“What—?” he began helplessly.
“Eat,” someone said, and the tribe took up the cry as spears again poked and prodded him.
He reluctantly leaned forward and took another bite, but about half the food he put into his mouth fell back out. Yet this time the cries for him to eat didn’t stop, and as he was about to lean back up, he felt the spears jab at him again to keep him down. He took another bite and another, and then the crowd fell silent as he cautiously sat back up.
Blake screamed on seeing him and recoiled, scrambling away from him.
“Blake, wh-what’s the matter?” Arnold cried, reaching up to feel his face again. His nose had gotten longer, and now that he thought about it, he could see much more of it than he could before. It was wrinkled and upturned at the end, and it made speaking difficult. He felt his lower jaw thrusting out and his lower canine teeth getting bigger.
“What’s happening?!” he cried, leaping to his feet.
Then he felt it: a lump in the small of his back, pressing against his pants. For a moment, it distracted him so much that he forgot where he was, forgot what was happening, and reached back to feel of it with his hand.
His eyes widened: he felt a spiraled appendage protruding from him. He tried pulling on it to get it to let go, but his mind flooded with pain as he realized that it wasn’t only attached to him; it was him! He yanked his hand from his pants in terror and ran to the elder.
“Please!” he begged, “What’s going on? Make it stop!”
But all the elder said was, “eat.”
Arnold shook his head. “N-no!” he cried. “No, it’s the food, isn’t it? It’s doing this to me!”
But then the spears started again, jabbing, poking, hurting him. He fell to his knees, protecting his head with his arms, but the jabbing continued, stabbing him in the shoulders, the sides, the back, driving him to hunch over in front what was left of what the elder had dropped—now more mud than food—and lean forward to take another bite of it. As he leaned back up, he screamed in terror as he saw his arms shrink before his eyes, growing shorter and shorter until they were no more than about six inches long. He tried to get to his feet, but they, too, were shrinking, and he scrambled desperately through he mud to Blake.
“Help, Blake! Don’t let them do this!” Arnold cried, but his words were mumbled, hard to understand, and mixed with grunts and terrified squeals. Blake retreated from him, pressing himself into a corner as warriors laughed on either side of him, jeering at the men.
Again the elder gave his edict, and again the warriors began jabbing at them. Arnold tried to cover his head, but now his arms wouldn’t move that far. He rushed on all fours back to the food and bit off another piece, desperate to stop the sharp spears that tormented him. In his haste, his clothes all fell off and got trampled in the mud, exposing his white skin and genitals. His belly had grown rounder, and his penis was quickly merging with it to form a sheath. He tried to grab his male hood, but now only cloven hooves terminated his arms where fingers once had been. He squealed in terror and raced around the pen as the tribe laughed at his plight. Suddenly he fell face-first as his testicles grew, moved from the front of his legs between and behind them.
He scrambled to his feet and raced in terrified circles around the pen until one of the larger boars got in front of him and he crashed into him and fell in a heap. To his dismay, the boar turned, opened his mouth, and began charging at him. Arnold squealed in fear and turned to run away as the audience cheered and the boar charged after him. He backed himself into a corner, trembling with fear as the boar bit his side, eliciting a squeal. Satisfied that he’d established his dominance, the boar left him alone and went back to where he had been before the interruption.
“It worse…for you…” the elder said to Blake. “You…coward…eat.”