He had changed.
Changed . . .
“What the hell—” I began, backing toward the door, my heart laboring, my lungs momentarily forgetting their function.
“It’s all right, Jacob,” He said. His voice was deeper and just a little difficult to understand. Still, it was parental, soothing, reassuring.
“All right?” I asked, looking Him over. The floor was littered with nearly two hundred empty cans. He must have been eating steadily since I went to bed that morning. Every can seemed to have been licked clean; there was no residue in any of them. He squatted on the floor in the middle of the tin mess, half again as large as when I had left Him. He had gained a good hundred and twenty-five pounds, maybe more. There was virtually no distinction between His head and neck, just one solid mass that connected with His shoulders. He had His shirt and trousers off, quite naked. Of course, He could never have fitted in them now. His chest was ringed with folds of tissue, though it was muscle and not fat. His arms were huge, as big around as gallon jugs at the biceps and a good eleven or twelve inches at the wrists. His manhood was lost in pouches of muscle that made Him sexless, hung between His legs Me some grotesquerie of Nature. His legs were swollen pillars now, shiny like sausages. The bones of His knees were invisible, padded beneath pounds of muscle that must surely hinder the use of the joint. His feet were buckets, the toes like fat cucumbers painted a flesh color, the nails engulfed by flesh, peeking out only here and there.
I had the feeling that I was in some small, tasteless carnival sideshow gawking at the strangest freak to come down the pike in centuries. Come and See Muscle-man! the signs would read outside the tent. So Bound With Muscles He Can Barely Move! Something To Tell Your Grandchildren About! One of the Marvels of the Modern Age!
He laughed. It was a fat, unpleasant chuckling sound far down in the tight mass of His throat. “Jacob, Jacob, Jacob,” He crooned. “Have faith. I told you I was changing.”
“But whatever good is a change like this?” I could not take my eyes from Him, for I did not know if I could pull them back again once I had looked away. It was like the sensation you feel at the scene of a bad accident where parts of bodies are strewn around like old weeds. You do not want to look, but you are transfixed, knowing you must look if only to grasp for a short while the immediacy of Death.
“This is only an intermediate step, Jacob. This form is no good at all. It is what I am heading for that will matter, that will be important. Can you understand that? Or am I making no sense at all?”
“I don’t know,” I said quite honestly. “What is it that you are heading towards?”
“You’ll see,” He said. “You’ll see, Jacob.”
“How did you manage to gain all this—tissue in so few hours? And from just a couple of hundred cans of fruit and vegetables?” Medical curiosity again. It all started with Harry giving me that doctor play kit when I was a toddler.
“My system,” He said. “My system doesn’t waste anything. It employs nearly all of what I consume. Precious little feces. Can you imagine that, Jacob? It works at converting all matter, not just the nutritious elements. Everything is convertible. When I take in a pound of food, I create nearly a pound of tissue.”
“Not so, Jacob. Oh, there is water loss, to be sure. But that is all. And I manage to contain a good deal of the water, for my new systems need it. Still, I’m afraid I had to make a good many trips outside.”
I sat down at the kitchen table, my knees weak and trembling, and I looked at Him. My head seemed ready to pop off my shoulders and balloon around the room. “I don’t know,” I said, still examining Him in detail. “At first I thought you were something good, something that could help mankind. I guess I’m still an idealist even after all these years. But now I am no longer sure of you. You’re grotesque!”