One writing exercise I appreciate for reminding me how much I still have to learn I simply call Word Choice. I find a word with which I am unfamilar and that is the subject and title of a short story. It sometimes takes a little research, but it also stretches you.
My word today, and the title of the below story, is “Boanthropy” which has a long history before coming into English, as old as Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
“Three today, just like this.” My host patted his belly proudly, stroking its enormous girth as he reclined on the reinforced Turkish devan. “I plan to put on another seven stone before year’s end then capping out towards the middle of next year—though if the good doctor’s tincture and injections give my bones some assistance I may go on for some more.” His squashed and swollen face beamed like a ruddy spotlight at me.
“Fascinating!” I excitedly reached for the salt shaker for my plate, dipping my wrinkly glove dangerously close to a jelly dish. “Doktor Weiss, I had read about your prowess but truly the sight is magnificent. From fourteen stone to over sixty… I can hardly believe it!”
“The effect is certainly overwhelming at first.” The German cradled his wine glass. “I plan to beat that arrogant Aussie at his own game. A specially-bred enzyme or two and a third stomach, plus my bone serum which I dare not divulge. An incredible contest, coming from that Frenchman’s archaeological find. To think, the original mutation would be found in an 18th century tomb!” His eyes were crafty, greedy with some soft and far-off gleam of honor and recognition.
“What could you possibly do for his bones? I daresay they are already stretched to the limit.” I put a careful forkful of yam and chicken onto my tongue thoughtfully.
“I dare not say. Too much is at stake, and I should hate to suspect you, friend.”
“And well he should not!” The mass of flesh at the head of the table thundered. “I’ll catch that bastard in Melbourne and trounce him right there on the red carpet!” He rose, his bulk obscuring the historic wall-sconces lighting the exquisite hall. “Bahaha! Fancy the look on his face, Weiss?”
“It will be glorious, mein Herr.” The doctor checked his watch. “Speaking of, you should go to your rest now. I think the garage for tonight–you’ll need the protein later this evening.”
“Aha, excellent. A good suggestion, I do feel a bit voracious this evening and the chicken is not doing for it this evening. Sorry to excuse myself, but such is the life of a celebrity—I trust you two will enjoy the evening.” He looked between us, and the doctor bowed his head.
“Of course. It would be impossible to hold such a generous host from his goals for mere propriety.” I lifted my wine. “To your health!” The doctor joined the toast as the titan downed the pitcher like a shot glass and took his exit, rumbling across the floor and out the expansive doorway.
“My God, Herr Doktor.”
“Overwhelmed!” I tossed back the rest of my wine and shook my head. “How does he sustain such bulk—to still move and breathe easily, to work in the gym as he says!”
“There are some…drawbacks.” He frowned, a brief flicker of discontent crossed his face. “Most of his meals are simply a matter of sustenance proper. He will go up to four dinners soon, atop of breakfast and the large repast at two in the morning. By the end he’ll be eating constantly just to keep the weight on.”
“So how does he gain any then? How do these self-styled megahumans gain against such nutritional and caloric tolls?”
He eyed me over his spectacles, grey mustache still deeply frowning. “Trade secret, I’m afraid. Just like getting started.”
“Ah. No prying intended, I hope I haven’t offended.”
His hand fluttered. “I knew you when you were born, you have been curious your whole life. Though, I must ask a favor of you.”
“To not ask again?” I chortled as I took up the spoon for the custard, but his icy grip on my hand startled me. I met his eyes, startled.
“Stay in your room upstairs tonight. Don’t go out to the show.”
“But it’s one night only, and Michael got the whole crew tickets to celebrate me being in town!” His grip tightened like a vise against my mild wriggle to be free.
“Tell me why not then. What’s going on?” I narrowed my eyes and released the custard spoon with a soggy splop, mirrored a moment later by my heart in my chest when he answered.
“It’s the full moon.”
I like it. It’s good raw material, but I was not sure what the setting was. Was I going for something like Bioshock, a vintage scifi from an alternate 1950’s universe, or was I aiming for 2077 or some nonsense? I didn’t know, so there’s not a strong sense of when the story is to really be immersive. Poor setting, even if the plot is fairly bracing: Mixing clinical lycanthropy with a specific variety and making it a man-playing-God scenario is spicy. I’ll likely revisit it to turn it into something later, it was very enjoyable.