Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Project AX3

I was utterly dazed, in a state of total confusion. Someone was at my door, and they were knocking in a very precise nature. It was a constant string of taps with hardly any pause between them. I figured whoever it was would go away after realizing I wasn’t going to answer, but the knocks were persisting, the tone not increasing in volume. There was no urgency, so I moved slowly, not completely awake. I have to get up, I thought. I reached for my glasses, putting them on my face sleepily. I looked over at my digital clock, noting that it was nearly three. Who in the hell would be at my door at three in the morning? I was suddenly much more alert, kicking off my comforter. I stood up, pulled on a pair of shorts, and ran to answer the door.

“I’m coming!” I called, my mind waking more and more by the second. At the sound of my voice the knocking stopped. They hadn’t been knocking as though they were in distress. It could be the building manager, but in my two years of living here Bonnie had never knocked this late. Someone could be messing with me, or it could be a potential intruder. I was making myself panic, like I always did. Chill out, I thought. It is probably a simple reason why they’re knocking.

Cautiously, I looked through the peephole to get a look at the culprit. There was nobody there. I paused for a moment, almost certain what awaited me on the other side would bring my demise. I opened the door, and I quickly looked both ways down the hallway of my apartment complex. Maybe it was some practical joker. I didn’t think there’d be anyone living in this building with the sense of humor of a ten-year-old.

Looking down, I found a note with a key taped to the back. It read, in small, neat writing:

Hello Mr. Kirby,

This is from your neighbor Jomei Tanaka. I live in 707 and I was hoping you would look after my apartment while I am away. Please keep an eye on things, for it is uncertain when—and if—I shall return.

He hadn’t signed his name, just having written the word goodbye.

Why would he just up and leave? Why would he ask me of all people to look after his place? I took the note into my apartment and sat it on the end table by the front door. It gave me a bad feeling, definitely. The nature of the note felt so final, I worried he’d done something reckless. I hoped he would be all right.

I didn’t even know what Mr. Tanaka looked like. I had never seen him. I was pretty sure he even got his groceries delivered. Could I go to the police with just a hunch? Did I need more vital information? After about thirty minutes of internal debate I was starting to get groggy. I would check things out in the morning.

A few hours later I dressed quickly for class, making sure to leave enough time to check out Mr. Tanaka’s apartment. I was feeling guilty about not going to the cops when I first received the note. Mr. Tanaka could be dead in his apartment, and I could’ve made sure he survived. I was once again thinking the worst.

I ate a bagel with cream cheese as I packed my bag for the day. Moving from the kitchen to the living room I grabbed my computer from on top of the coffee table, as well as a few text books. I had a pack of gum, a couple mechanical pencils, and some other miscellaneous items in the various pockets. Once I finished my breakfast, and was certain I had everything I needed, I headed over to Mr. Tanaka’s. I wondered what he even needed me to look after. His plants? His pet snake? I took in the brass numerals on his door: 707. Unlocking the door caused his alarm system to chime. I worried he might have had it set, but after a few moments of silence I assumed I’d be okay to continue my survey of the scene. I adjusted my glasses and looked around before entering further.

Mr. Tanaka sure left in a rush or the place had been robbed before I showed up. I stepped over a shattered mug, making my way towards the sofa to set down my bag. His apartment was the deluxe. One of the seven apartments on each floor was a deluxe model. That meant there were four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. My place was miniscule in comparison, being a one bedroom, one bathroom. What did one man need so much space for? He was probably some sort of swinger. I could imagine wild sex parties taking place in each of the various bedrooms. Maybe he’d fallen for someone just this morning and they had to elope in Vegas. Love was just that powerful! I laughed out loud at the idea of it all. That was far-fetched, even for my imagination. My theorizing was cut short by the sound of a ringing telephone.

It continued to ring as I looked around, frantically searching for its location. It was going to be an ordeal attempting to locate it in Tanaka’s tornado zone of an apartment. I had given myself plenty of time to handle this, but I started to fear it was going to make me late for class. I was a junior at the university not too far from here, studying English.

“Hello,” I said reservedly. There was no response. I’d found the phone in one of the bedrooms, which was a total mess—the bedspread on the floor, clothes all over the mattress. “Hello?” I called again. I had picked up the phone just as it stopped ringing so maybe I had missed the caller.

“Hello, this is Doe speaking.” Her voice sounded like one of those recordings they used for voicemails. “Jomei Tanaka, state your authorization number.”

“Uh, hello, Doe,” I said. “Mr. Tanaka isn’t home, and I don’t know when he’ll be back. Can I take a message?”

“No, that will not be necessary. Project will be terminated.”

“Project?” What was she talking about? I wanted to question her, but it was really none of my business. “Doe?”

“Goodbye.” The line went dead. I set the phone down, still trying to figure out what she was talking about. I exited the bedroom, ready to get my bag and—oh my God. There was a guy, a naked guy, shoving all of my gum into his mouth.

I froze. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know if I should approach the mentally deranged guy chewing on a twenty-five-piece wad of peach bubble gum or if I should just snatch my bag and get the fuck away from him.

“So sweet,” he said. His voice sounded kind of like slurps, because of all the gum, but underneath that was a deep, raspy tone. I looked at him more closely, and he appeared well-groomed. He wasn’t bad looking either, actually really handsome. He was tall, somewhat lean, but incredibly muscular, and barely had any body hair. That is to say he had eyebrows and thick black hair on his head and around his penis, but he wasn’t a Sasquatch. “More?”

“Uh, I’m going to take my bag,” I said gently, in case he really was crazy. He grabbed the bag and held it in his arms. If it weren’t for my computer and textbooks I would have left empty handed. “That—that’s mine.”

“Your bag,” he said. His whole Tarzan routine was concerning. “Your bag! Your bag has chewy stuff inside!”

“Gum?”

“Your bag has gum! I want more gum!” I had just noticed he wasn’t chewing the gum anymore. He had swallowed it, paper and all. He walked close to me and I got a little nervous. I took a step back, but he kept coming. He extended his arms, holding the strap of my messenger bag. I couldn’t move back any further, my back against a wall. He’d cornered me, though he didn’t seem aggressive. He put my bag on me, his penis brushing against my hip.

“Uh, thank you,” I said, my face hot from discomfort. He didn’t seem to mind being naked. Where did he come from? I had locked the door behind me when I came in; he couldn’t have gotten in that way. He must’ve already been here. Was Mr. Tanaka actually into some sort of weird sex stuff? That’d be outrageous. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“My name is AX3,” he said. That was not a name, at least not in the traditional sense. “That’s what Jomei called me.” He was still in my personal bubble.

“Why did he, uh, leave?” I asked cautiously. My hand found its way to his stomach, which felt as if it had been sculpted from marble. I pushed him back gently, for the sake of my nerves. My brain was trying its hardest to make sense of this. Maybe this guy had done something to Mr. Tanaka. The note could have been a means to throw the authorities off, an absolute forgery. It sure looked like there’d been a struggle in this apartment.

“He left because of me, because I was violent—because I was imperfect.” Once again, I was dumbfounded. Was this his way of admitting to harming Mr. Tanaka? I stood silent, terrified of what this giant could do to me. I glanced towards the front door, determined to escape no matter what. “What’s your name?” he asked me audaciously, even though I would have been majorly embarrassed if I was standing in front of some stranger in my birthday suit. His question didn’t deter me from focusing on my escape route. 

“Casey,” I said, glancing at him and then back to the door. He repeated it back to me, looking me up and down.

“I like you Casey. You look nice.” What did he mean? Nice, like a good person? That I was attractive? Or nice, like the perfect next victim? I walked gingerly towards the door.

“Uh, well I have to get going. See you later, AX3.” I was going to leave the key here, because I sure wasn’t coming back. I’d tell the police everything I found, all my suspicions, and be finished with the whole situation. That was my plan. I hadn’t signed up for this. I could handle houseplants and pet snakes, but this was not something I was qualified for.

“I don’t want to be alone,” he shouted, walking towards me. He grabbed my arm, pulling me into his naked body. I felt his stone body against my own, noting that he was very warm. “Don’t leave! Casey don’t leave!” He was strong, incredibly strong. I was pulling away, but he was grabbing me harder, his penis touching me more and more, pressing against my stomach. It was like he didn’t even notice. Was he getting hard? No, it had to have been my imagination.

“You’re hurting me,” I said, a little alarmed. He let go of me immediately. I looked up at him, and he frowned heavily, like a sad puppy dog. It was actually pretty cute. 

“I—I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said. “I am sorry.” When Mr. Tanaka’s note asked me to take care of things, did he actually mean him? Like seriously. Did Tanaka think this was an okay thing to ask a distant neighbor to do?

“It’s all right. I forgive you.” He smiled, revealing a set of perfect, white teeth. “I wish you came with instructions,” I mumbled. He smiled even wider and hurried off into one of the bedrooms. I got to take a look at his perfect, round butt. He sped back into the room and handed me a pamphlet. It was his—care instructions?

I doubted I was going to make it to my classes today. Why would Mr. Tanaka leave someone alone who didn’t seem capable of taking care of himself? I was going to get this guy some help and then email my professors about my wild morning. I was sure they’d understand my absence. This was not normal. The telephone rang again.

I retreated back to where I’d left the phone, answering it quickly. “Hello?” No response. I swallowed, my throat dry. I didn’t like feeling like I was in danger. “Doe?”

“You should evacuate the premises. Leave everything as you found it. Goodbye.” I hung up the phone and looked at AX3, who had followed me into the bedroom. He stood perfectly still. I could hear a faint hissing sound.

“Uh, AX3—?” He looked at me, and then I started to feel slightly dizzy. He strode over to me quickly and picked me up. “What—what are you doing—?” My words trailed off. AX3 cradled me in arms, walking quickly towards the front door. He opened it forcefully, breaking the lock in the process. He pulled the door closed before he walked all the way down the hall towards the stairwell. He sniffed my hair as he held me in his arms. I kind of liked him, even if he was nuts. I was still kind of dizzy. “Your hair, it smells like—like sweet!” He was so ditzy, though it was kind of charming. He was probably talking about my hair oil. It was coconut scented. He was still holding me, and though I wasn’t heavy, I didn’t think he would be able to carry me for so long.

“Could you set me down?” I asked. He complied. I stumbled slightly, and he supported me, making sure I had my balance. I wasn’t too sure, but I had a feeling that Doe had something to do with what happened in there. Was she trying to kill AX3? He’d made sure I made it out of there okay and now I had to make sure he was taken care of. I’d help him get into contact with his family, his girlfriend—anybody who could make sure he’d be safe. “Follow me.” We walked back down the hall to my door. I fished around for my key in the pocket of my jeans. I unlocked the door, but not before Mrs. Horowitz saw me with a naked man pressing his flaccid dick into my back. All because he seemed to lack the basic instinct of personal space.

We stumbled in and he followed me into my bedroom. He was like a little duck, well—a big duck. I pulled out a pair of briefs and handed them to him. He put them on and they rode up his ass. I couldn’t believe I was getting an erection with all that had happened today. He didn’t even try to pull them out from between his beefy cheeks. It couldn’t be helped; they were really small on his large body.

I handed him a t-shirt and that was too small as well. The sleeves hugged his biceps and if he moved his arms the shirt rode up on his flat stomach. I walked up to him, pulling at the hem of the shirt, trying to make it cover more of his muscled stomach. I laughed when it wouldn’t stay put. He lifted his arms and once again I tried to pull the shirt down.  He gave a husky laugh, smiling at me widely, like it was a game. I was forced to accept I’d just have to look at him semi-nude.

My clothes just weren’t going to fit him. I wasn’t even at his shoulder, meaning he most likely weighed way more than I did too. I couldn’t see him weighing anything close to 145 pounds. I figured he had some clothes back at Tanaka’s, but with what happened earlier I didn’t think it would be a good idea to return there. He’d just have to make do with my too-tight underclothes for now.

I had set the pamphlet he gave me down when I first entered the apartment and went to retrieve it. He followed, of course. I stood by the end table next to my front door and he stood behind me. I could hear him breathing behind me as I read the three lines of text. They were labeled as Vital Information.

1. Do not leave AX3 alone for more than 48 hours.

2. Do not allow AX3 to consume more than 500 calories per day.

3. Do not anger AX3; he has the ability to kill.

That was not very helpful. Hell, that gum he swallowed was most likely over 500 calories. I looked on the back of the pamphlet. It was just a diagram of AX3. He was 6’5” and 230 pounds. I sighed and turned around. There he was, smiling at me dimly.

“Who are you?” I mumbled softly. He blinked at me, looking at me with a confused stare. AX3’s eyes were a very pure, bright blue-grey color that seemed almost electric. God they were pretty eyes.

I had monolid eyes, the pupils brown in color, inherited from my paternal grandmother who was Korean. The rest of my ancestry was African. In high school, my best friend dubbed me the “Miniature Tyson Beckford.” My freshman year of college I dyed my hair blond, and I was currently in my blue period, with a bold cerulean fade.

“AX3.” He smiled again. “You are Casey.”

“I know who you are. I was just thinking out loud.” I didn’t know what to do with him. Should I report him to the police? Should I just let him stay here? “Do you have a way I can contact your family? Your mom or your dad?”

“I only have Jomei,” he said. It nearly broke my heart. I needed to figure something out, because unless I could find Jomei Tanaka it appeared AX3 would be a stray. “Do you know where Mr. Tanaka went?” I asked.

“Away,” he said.

“Yes, but where?” He shook his head no. Whatever the relationship he and Tanaka had, it seemed to be a rocky one. I hated to keep bringing him up to AX3, but he was the only lead I had. “Did he say when he was coming back?”

“He’s not coming back, because he doesn’t want me anymore. Because I was imperfect. I failed too many times.”

“What did you fail?” I asked, trying to figure out who AX3 really was—and I was getting tired of calling him AX3.

“The inspections, the tests. He said I was broken. He said they would kill him if I didn’t pass the tests. I didn’t like those tests.” He looked angry, and it was an emotion that didn’t suit him. He had such a happy-go-lucky attitude that this was almost like a different person. Looking at me, he panted ferociously. I stepped back, unsure of what he would do.  He started punching the wall, over and over again. In a matter of moments, he’d punched three holes in my wall. I could kiss that safety deposit goodbye. I didn’t want to yell at him to stop, afraid that would just make him even more upset. “They hurt! The tests hurt!”

“How—how about a cookie?” I asked, my voice shaky, uncertain if this would calm him down. He stopped, looking confused for a moment, then smiled at me. “C’mon.” He followed me into the kitchen and I took out my cookie jar. They were oatmeal chocolate chip. I handed him one and he put the whole thing in his mouth.

“Can I have another cookie?” he asked, not even done with the first one. How many calories was this? I handed him another and he ate that one just as fast as he ate the first one. I had to tell him no more after the fifth one.

I was sure I broke the 500-calorie rule, but I was trying to satiate him. 500 calories was like nothing at all and he was huge. It baffled me that he would be able to live on only 500 calories a day. He was probably hangry. It was almost understandable he turned my wall into a punching bag. Maybe Mr. Tanaka had been starving him—though if he was, AX3 wouldn’t look to be in such fantastic shape.

I spent the rest of the day talking to him, every so often bringing up little questions about Mr. Tanaka. I found out he was a single, older man. They’d lived in that apartment together for the last four years. He only let AX3 eat chicken breasts, celery, carrots, cottage cheese, and water.

I had hoped to find out more, but at around eleven I decided to call it a night. I made up the couch for myself and told AX3 he could sleep in my bed.

“I want to sleep with you,” he protested. It had been a while since I’d heard that from a guy. I wanted to ask if he and Tanaka shared a bed but decided against it. “Please Casey.” I would never do something this crazy under any other circumstance, but I went with him into my bedroom. He was still wearing the underwear and t-shirt I gave him earlier. I pulled off my jeans and pulled on a pair of athletic shorts. Normally I slept in my underwear, but that didn’t seem appropriate considering the situation. I put my glasses on the nightstand.

We positioned ourselves on my queen-sized mattress and he held onto me. I wanted to push him off, but I didn’t. He wasn’t a bad guy, though I felt like one. He didn’t know what he was doing, and truthfully, I let him in bed with me because I felt lonely.

My ex-boyfriend dumped me out of the blue over a year ago. It was during finals week, and I was completely overwhelmed with essays and projects. I got a text message saying he needed to focus on himself, and that he didn’t have time for a relationship. I was devastated. He was a year ahead of me in school and very popular. The worst part was that I thought everything was fine. We’d gotten dinner the night before, studied in the library together for a few hours afterwards.

I still saw him sometimes in the coffee shop where we had our first date. My freshman year I spent most of my free time there, loving the atmosphere. It was special to me, and that was why I suggested we meet there. Now he was always there, and I was rarely able to avoid him. He always had something to tell me about how amazing his life was going.

Before long, with AX3 cuddling me, I was fast asleep.

I woke up around six and looked to my right. Shouldn’t someone have been next to me, or was yesterday a dream?

No—AX3 was gone. I sat up, reaching for my glasses. Hopping out of bed, I put the aviator frames on my face as I rushed from my bedroom into the kitchen. There he was, drinking milk from the jug.

“You don’t want a glass?” I asked. I looked at my counter. It was littered with food packages. He had finished off all the cookies. He had also finished some leftover pizza, a fruit tart my mother made me, a pound of honey roasted turkey breast. My Cinnamon Toast Crunch was gone, as well as my coffee creamer. I think he’d even eaten a stick of butter. His belly was full-looking, and it was shocking how bloated he appeared to be. I wanted to touch his stomach, like I had yesterday. He brought the jug from his lips. “I am sorry Casey,” he said to me. “Don’t be mad.”

The 500-calorie rule had officially been broken, though nothing bad seemed to have happened.

I hadn’t gone to my classes in three days, and I was determined to go tomorrow. It would be Thursday, and my last day of classes for the week. I’d spent my time getting to know AX3, and to be honest we didn’t do much aside from hang out. We watched TV and listened to music. I taught him how to make grilled cheese sandwiches. That evening, as we watched an old Disney movie, he asked me to give him a regular name. I was sick and tired of calling him AX3, and I guess he was tired of hearing it as well. I told him he could choose one and I would respect whatever name he chose. He insisted that I had to be the one to pick it, and I settled on Axel, considering it kind of looked like AX3. “How about Axel?” I asked. He laughed, smiling wide, and repeated the name. He liked it.

The next morning, I got ready to leave for class. It was my only true commitment, considering I didn’t work. My parents paid for everything I needed. They told me that they wanted me to focus on my education. I was a bit spoiled in that regard and it was only because they had a great deal of money.

They ran a genetics lab and had hoped their only child would study genetics as well. Sadly, I ran from science courses, never having an affinity for them. Maybe I should have taken Axel to them, but they’d look at him and see he was perfectly normal and shoo me out of their office.

I told him I would be back in less than eight hours. He was eating marshmallows and I had given up on his care instructions. I’d need to go grocery shopping soon. We couldn’t live off pizza and Chinese food forever. We also had to get him some more size appropriate clothing items. “You’re leaving?” His eyes got wide.

“I have to go to school. I’m a college student.” I took the marshmallows from his hands and placed them on the counter. “I will be back.”

“No!” He grabbed me into a tight hug, like that day in Mr. Tanaka’s apartment. He was lifting me up, the toes of my shoes scraping against the linoleum of the kitchen floor. It started to hurt. “You’ll leave just like Jomei.” He sounded irate, getting more and more worked up. He grabbed harder. He was so unhinged, and it broke me inside to think of what he’d been through to make him this way. Tanaka had really screwed with his head. I started to wonder if he had been abducted as a child. Again, he squeezed tighter and I started getting that lightheaded feeling from a lack of oxygen.

“Axel you’re hurti—I can’t breathe—” He set me down, looking fearful and apologetic. He reached for the marshmallows, pawing at the neck of his t-shirt. It was probably too tight.

“Please come back soon.”

“I will come back. I promise,” I said. I walked towards the door and he followed. I pushed him back gently and closed the door behind me. I looked down the hallway and at apartment 707 was a man in a black suit. He was balding, and his hair was a snow-white color. This was a white man, so I figured it wasn’t Jomei Tanaka.

We made eye contact and I noticed he was holding an envelope. I couldn’t do anything right this second, but if he was going to leave something there I was so going to take it as soon as I saw him leave. I walked by him and took the elevator down to the lobby. I went outside and sat at a nearby bus stop.

No longer than five minutes later he walked down the street to a sleek black car and drove away. I ran back into the building, key in hand and up the seven flights of stairs. My face felt flushed, but I couldn’t stop the excitement that began to grow inside of me. This could mean more information for Axel.

I tried to use the key, but it didn’t fit in the lock. How had the other man gotten in here? He didn’t look like the type to pick a lock, but I’d recently learned not to judge a book by its cover. I, however, had no locksmith abilities whatsoever. “Shit,” I whispered to myself.

“What are you doing?” I must have jumped a foot in the air. It was Axel, and he was in the hallway in nothing but my too small gym shorts. I guess he got fed up with the shirt. I had to buy him some clothes of his own. He seemed—wider. His chest was broad, his pecs sizable and incredibly plush. His nipples were pert and pink, the areolas a bit larger than a quarter. His abs, that had looked to be chiseled by Michelangelo himself, were nowhere to be seen. His tummy bowed out, as if he’d just eaten a large meal. I really needed to make sure he ate less, but he always seemed so happy when he was eating.

“There was a man who left an envelope in there. I have this key that Jomei left me,” I said, holding it up for him to see. “But now it seems the locks have been changed.”

“You want to go inside?” he asked. I nodded. He pushed me aside, and in one swift kick he knocked the door wide open. It was sexy, not going to lie. I looked around the hall, making sure nobody saw us, especially that busybody Mrs. Horowitz. I ushered him inside the apartment quickly, walking behind him.

When I got to look around my jaw dropped. The apartment was back to normal—well not exactly. It was clean, yes. But this was an entirely different place than four days ago. Someone had completely redecorated. Had Doe done this? Was this her getting rid of all traces of the project? All of the furniture was different and there were new colors on the walls. I saw the envelope the man had been holding, picked it up, and continued to look around.

They’d removed all of Tanaka’s belongings. It was like we were in a hotel penthouse. We had to get out of here. What if they had something worse set up than the stuff they used last time we were here. “Let’s go Axel,” I said, looking at the envelope in my hands. He pulled the door closed and we went back to my apartment. I threw my bag down and sat on the couch.

He sat on the ground in front of me in a pose that reminded me of a little kid. He had his legs tucked into his chest with his arms wrapped around them. His biceps bulged with muscle, and they looked larger than when we first met. Maybe the 500-calorie rule had something to do with why he was getting so big so fast. He’d definitely grown since moving in with me, which was strange as it had been less than a week. I thought he still looked great, which was a thought I tried to ignore. I had to remind myself that we were only friends, if that.

I opened the envelope and pulled out six folded up sheets of paper. It seemed to be a review of Project AX3 and its terminated status. It detailed what the project was and why it was ended.

Axel was named from birth 23 years ago AX3—so he had never had a “real” name. He was 23. There was something odd about knowing his birthday. He was a December baby. I had just turned 20 last month, in July. These documents claimed his mother “donated” him to the study, helmed by Mr. Jomei Tanaka and a Dr. Lionel Lawry. He had been with them his whole life.

They were creating the perfect combatant and had been testing different formulas on him: a growth serum, a muscle developing medication, a brain stimulant which targeted receptors for aggression and rage.

They were being funded by the government. I couldn’t fathom how this was pitched, let alone accepted and financed. Doe was a member of the government inner circle who led this and other experiments for the military. She was the one who decided to cut funding for multiple projects, and to terminate this project in particular.

His brain had been permanently damaged by the drug targeted at his frontal lobe. When he gets angry, he can’t control it. They rewired him—his brain. They’ve been manipulating his emotions, trying to make him ruthless, but it didn’t work out how they would have hoped. From what I read, about the tests, he had never been up to government standards.

He could only have 500 calories a day because when he was going through puberty they tested another formula that would allow him to survive on a diminutive number of calories, in case he was stranded in combat. He’d put on weight more quickly than a normal person because of it; his body didn’t burn the calories properly. I doubted they ever tested long-term what would happen if he did eat more than 500 calories a day, because it seemed to have an effect on the muscle developing medication.

He was a government guinea pig, and they were just going to toss him aside because he didn't fit the mold they wanted. He never got to live a normal life. He would have died if I never went to Mr. Tanaka’s apartment.

Scribbled across back of the final page was a note from Dr. Lawry. The handwriting was messy, the lettering somewhat jarring. It read:

Jomei,

This is a complete farce. Does that bitch really think 25 years’ worth of research can just be tossed aside like this? You’ve got to take the boy and get out of here. I fear that they’ve already gotten you both. If you get my letter, you know where I am hiding. Call my emergency number. Get in contact with me ASAP.

He signed the letter L.L.

I must’ve read the entire thing three times before I looked at Axel. When I did, he was smiling at me sweetly, eyes lively and good-natured. “What?” he asked.

Did I look worried? I was worried. What was I supposed to do with him? I didn’t want him to stay cooped up in my apartment for the rest of his life. Dr. Lawry sounded desperate. He must have been to leave this correspondence after seeing Tanaka’s apartment. He had to have been able to tell that things were amiss in there. Did he really think his colleague was just biding his time before returning to the apartment? I bet Tanaka got out of dodge before anyone could put a bounty on his head. His guilty conscience was why he left me the note, to make sure Axel was taken care of.

Axel stood up and sat next to me on the sofa. He put his arm around my shoulder. This isn’t what you think, I reminded myself. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“I’m fine,” I said. I looked at him in the shorts. He’d stretched out the waistband and I didn’t think the elastic would bounce back. I only had little underwear, so he was going commando. His sizeable penis bulged obscenely, trying to be contained by the thin, purple cotton fabric. “Though I think maybe we should go out and get you some clothes.”

“But, I’m already wearing clothes,” he said, jumping up. His ass was another problem. It was pornographic. Like my briefs that first day, the shorts rode up his butt. Even if he felt comfortable in next to nothing, he needed clothes because I couldn't take looking at him semi-nude any longer. This was a test from fate—having the hottest man I’d ever seen living with me, parading around in the nude, and not being able to suck his dick.

I suddenly realized he didn’t even have anything to wear to go shopping for something to wear.

The next day, my off day from classes, we went to get him some things. He put on one of my biggest t-shirts and a pair of my running shorts. By conventional standards, the fit was terrible, but it was all we had to work with. His feet must’ve been at least a size 15, but I had a pair of flips flops that actually worked. They’d come into my possession one drunken night and I had no clue how. Had I stolen them? Most likely.

We left out around noon and I wished that I had a car so people didn’t have to see him so—sexy? He had a powerful strut that showed off the sheer size he carried around. In four and a half days, he looked to have put on at least 25 pounds. Walking next to him felt good, and I felt lucky to have met him. It felt like a date, and I had to remind myself I was simply helping a friend, like I was all five guys from Queer Eye.

I lived close to many shops and we first stopped at a shoe store. I thought a pair of sneakers would be nice. I measured his feet, size 15 and a half. I told him to pick any gym shoe he wanted. He held up a tiny shoe with a light up cartoon character. I couldn’t help but laugh. I doubted those were made in his size.

I told him to pick again and forlornly he chose a pair of Nikes. I also picked up two ten packs of socks. I paid, and we left the store to try to find some actual clothes. He didn’t get out much with Jomei I assumed. He was amazed by every store we passed and stopped to look in each of the front windows.

After some more shopping, we came to the coffee shop where he-who-shall-not-be-named often hung around. He saw the shelf of cookies and treats and turned to me, face excited and eager. “Can we get something? Please.” As much as I wanted to avoid this place, I just couldn’t say no to him.

“Yeah, let’s get something.” I opened the door and he walked in. I followed. We went up to the counter and I saw his eyes explore the shelf of goodies. “What do you want?” I asked after ordering a large iced coffee.

“I don’t know. What should I get Casey?” he asked me, still staring at all the pastries. They only had twenty different items.

“May we have one of each?” The worker asked me if I was sure, looking towards Axel, then back at me. “Yeah, I’m sure. Thanks.” She pulled out a box and began to place one of each inside of it. I took the box and my coffee, along with three milks for Axel, and sat at a small table near the exit. He placed the bags he had been carrying beside his chair. Along with his shoes and socks, we had bought two pairs of sweatpants, three pairs of athletic shorts, a multipack of t-shirts (he chose purple, because they matched his new underwear), and a pair of blue jeans.

He had eaten three of the cakes and I sat watching him enjoy himself as I sipped on my coffee. He was a behemoth and taking him in outside of my living room was bizarre. In my apartment he dwarfed everything, but even in public he took up space in a way I wasn’t accustomed to. He made everything seem so tiny. The milk cartons in his hands looked surreal. The width of his shoulders was intimidating, and the fact that he was still wearing my shirt that didn’t fit exaggerated the muscularity of his neck and traps. He also had a small gut that peeked out the bottom of the shirt, which was more akin to a crop top. I wanted to rub his belly, to feel his beefiness with my own hands.

“This one is really good,” he said through a mouthful of lemon cake with vanilla frosting. “You have to try it.” He leaned forward, extending the dessert to me. “Bite it,” he directed, smiling. I took a small bite, savoring the tart-sweet combination.

“That is good,” I said. He smiled even wider, pleased with himself. I was really starting to like him. He asked if I wanted any more and I declined. He then shoved the remains of the cake into his mouth, smearing frosting on his lips and nose. We needed napkins. “I’ll be right back,” I informed him. I went up to the napkin dispenser by the service counter and grabbed a couple while he continued to eat his food. The 500-calorie thing was dead and gone.

“Space Case!” I cringed at the pet name. I turned to face my ex-boyfriend. “Blue hair, huh?” He smiled at me, though I could tell he was being facetious. He was a fake, all of him, everything about him. But even knowing he didn’t matter in my life anymore, that he had no control over my self-image, it made me feel small. He was a dick—but I still cared about him. I still thought about him. I still had hope that maybe one day he’d say he made a mistake when he broke up with me through text message. “How’s it going?” he asked, sure that I was doing terribly.

“Hey Jonah,” I said, smiling. I could feel myself being fake too. I hated it. “I’m doing great, how about you?” It had always been so hard being myself with him. It was nothing like this with Axel. I didn’t feel so worthless, so insignificant. I felt my hand squeezing the napkins. They’d be too crumpled to use if I didn’t chill.

“Oh nothing, been dating a lot.” He smiled wide, sure I hadn’t been on a date in forever. He reveled in the fact that I hadn’t gotten over him. “I’m just trying to get through these next twelve weeks. I’m graduating in December, a semester early. I can’t wait for graduation. Can’t wait to move out west.”

“Awesome,” I said, feeling that none of the things he said were awesome. He was a braggart. I knew he just wanted to tell me how awesome things had been going for him.

“Have you been seeing anyone?” he asked. That was all he really wanted to know. I could lie, but then he’d hassle me for details, and that would trip me up.

“Well, I, uh—um,” I stuttered. Just then Axel walked up to us. He still had some stuff on his face. “C’mere,” I said. He leaned down so I could reach his face. I wiped it off for him, taking in his beautiful eyes for the millionth time.

“Is this your boyfriend?” Jonah asked. Wiping food off of Axel’s face did make us look a bit like we were together. I wanted to shove Axel in his face more than anything. Jonah wouldn’t know what to do with himself, honestly. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t use him that way, no matter how much I wanted to.

“No, just a friend,” I said softly. He set his gaze on Axel and started flirting up a storm. I didn’t even get to introduce them. I didn’t get to tell Axel anything about Jonah. I could tell Axel was over it, and I was worried he’d get upset. Funnily enough, I was the one getting angry. I wanted to punch a couple of holes in something and it wasn’t my apartment wall. I counted backwards from ten, and with each number I pictured something that made me smile.

“You must be an athlete,” Jonah said. “With all those muscles.” He deliberately glanced at Axel’s package, which admittedly was somewhat obscene in my shorts, but it was still creepy as fuck of Jonah to do. Axel looked at him blankly, and I was once again afraid he’d get upset.

“Back off Jonah, he’s not interested.”

“He can tell me that,” he replied, sure he’d won Axel over.

“I’m not interested,” Axel said plainly. He grabbed my arm and walked me back over to our table. I glanced back at Jonah, who didn’t look nearly as good as I remembered. He overarched his eyebrows and wore too much cologne. I felt myself smile. Axel had stood up for me.

“Can we go now?” he asked. “That weird man keeps staring at us.” I glanced over at Jonah, his face scrunched up and displeased. His laptop was open, but he was staring daggers at us. Axel still had five or so pastries left, but I was sure he’d eat them at home. We gathered up our belongings and went back to my apartment. I laughed a little bit at the memory of Jonah’s face.

In the hallway I saw the man with the snow-white hair, Dr. Lawry. I hadn’t expected to see him again. He looked at me, and then at Axel. His face registered shock and we walked by quickly. Axel walked close to me, his body pushing mine forward causing me to stumble. He was afraid. I didn’t want that bastard anywhere near Axel. I had to keep him safe. “AX3!” Lawry shouted. “AX3!” Axel glanced back at him, but I told him to keep walking.

“I know that man, he works with—with Jomei,” Axel said to me as I attempted to unlock my door. “He isn’t nice. He is not nice Casey.” My hands were shaking, and I was still balancing the desserts from the coffee shop.

“AX3!” he yelled again. “Perro de Presa Canario!”

Axel dropped his bags and turned towards the older man. His entire posture had changed. He looked ten times more aggressive, his hands in fists. Lawry smiled—before Axel lumbered over to him, lifting him off of the ground like a ragdoll. He threw Dr. Lawry effortlessly, the old man bouncing off the wall and hitting the floor of the carpeted hallway.

Axel turned towards me, looking the most frightening I’d ever seen him. This was different than the other times. He seemed removed from the situation, as if acting on a vicious auto-pilot. All of his muscles looked tensed and his nostrils were flared. I backed up slowly. He exposed his teeth, like some kind of dog. It couldn’t have been the same person—the person who loved the color purple and cookies. I dropped the box, covering my face instinctively.

“Palos Verdes Blue,” Lawry shouted. There was a loud thud, and when I peeked out from behind my arms I saw that Axel had hit the ground. He’d passed out.

“What did you do to him?” I shouted, almost crying. I felt the tears welling up. “What did you do!?” I ran over to Dr. Lawry, tackling him. I sat on top of him, and he smiled up at me. His smug face was infuriating, and before I could stop myself, I punched him. I had never hit anyone before. I didn’t enjoy it, but he stopped smiling.

“Let’s just go inside,” he said, rubbing his jaw. I stood up, heart racing. I looked at him, and then at Axel, who was still unconscious. I grabbed all of the bags and put them inside. I picked up the box from the coffee shop and set it on the end table by the door. Hopefully the desserts were still edible. Dr. Lawry was only a bit larger than I was, so it took the both of us to drag him inside. Axel was so heavy, we couldn’t put him on the sofa, so I just put a pillow under his head.

“It seems you’ve been feeding him well,” Dr. Lawry said condescendingly, taking a seat on my couch after removing his suit jacket. I stood a few feet from Axel, hovering nervously. “You don’t know about the 500-calorie restriction, do you? You’ve single handedly destroyed everything Jomei and I have worked for.” He sighed deeply. “How did you let him get so big, so fast? He’ll have to go down to 400 calories a day and be put on a strict exercise regimen if he’s going to get back down to 230 pounds.”

I was slightly embarrassed, like I had messed up somehow. Axel was such a big man, if he wanted to eat who was I to stop him? I looked over at him on the ground, his belly rising and falling as he breathed deeply. Compared to when we met in Mr. Tanaka’s apartment that first day, he definitely was not his usual 230-pound self. I wondered if Axel even noticed. I think he enjoyed being able to eat whatever he wanted more than getting fat.

“No,” I said angrily. “If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to.”

“If he doesn’t, Doe will never reopen the project. We’re too far in to start on a new specimen.”

“Who gives a fuck? You have destroyed a person’s life. You took his freedom, his sanity.” Lawry was talking about him like he wasn’t a person. Like he was honestly just a project. I looked down at Axel, still asleep. “Why can’t you give him this chance to start fresh?”

“How did you come upon AX3?” he asked me, ignoring my question.

“Mr. Tanaka left me a note asking me to look after his apartment.” I sighed. “So, you’re Dr. Lionel Lawry, I’m assuming.”

“Yes, I am Dr. Lawry,” he confirmed. “And you are?”

“I’m Casey Kirby.”

“AX3 has never been around an African-American for such an extended period. It might be worth getting your testimony about your experience. Was he receptive? Both AX1 and AX2 were also white males. Perhaps that’s where we went wrong.” He was rambling, his mind obviously trying to piece together what factors could improve Axel’s chances of passing the government tests.

“Racism isn’t inherent,” I said. “So, unless you taught him to hate black people he would treat everyone equally.”

“Well,” he said, clearing his throat. “It would still be worth doing some studies.”

“Why did Axel get so worked up? What did you say to him?”

“It was just an activation phrase. We use it to get him to attack. You see, he was a difficult subject, but the only one which survived. AX1 and AX2 both suffered deaths in training.” He narrowed his eyes on me before speaking again. “To activate the attacks, you must say Perro de Presa Canario. To deactivate them say Palos Verdes Blue. But that’s all irrelevant to you, Casey Kirby.”

This was much more intense than I could have imagined. I wanted to ask more questions, to voice my opinions on the whole matter, but I couldn’t vocalize anything. My throat was so dry. I wanted a glass of water, but I didn’t want to leave Axel alone with this man.

Dr. Lawry broke the silence. “When can I take him?” he asked, before laughing obnoxiously. “Disregard that, I’m taking him as soon as he wakes up.”

“You can’t take him! We’re—you can’t.” I felt nauseous. He couldn’t take Axel from me. I felt selfish, but I liked having him around, and I wanted to make sure he was happy. Even if we weren’t a couple. Even if being in each other’s lives was only temporary. I had to help him be independent. Had Mr. Tanaka treated him like nothing? Like some simple weapon who didn’t have his own feelings and thoughts?

“You’ve had intercourse?” he asked. “He’s too unstable for that, he could kill you. What if he snapped your neck after ejaculation? Or couldn’t control his sexual urges and raped you?”

“How would you know?” I retorted, blood rushing to my face. “Have you studied his sexual behavior? Did he fuck someone to death? You didn’t even know he wasn’t racist until a few minutes ago, you sorry ass excuse for a scientist.”

“No need to get hostile. I would not know how he responds to sexual intercourse. From what I know he is a virgin. We had him masturbate a few times, as a test, but I do know he’s done it without our asking—each time he seems different afterwards.” He smiled, and it felt very inauthentic. “Do you want to, uh—sleep with him?”

“I think you should leave,” I said. I didn’t like him, not at all. He was a total ass.

“I will. As soon as AX3 wakes up, I will be on my way.” He really thought he was going to take Axel. Well I wasn’t going to let him. This punk ass dude was getting me more riled up than Jonah ever had.

“His name is Axel, which is what he wants to be called, and he’s not going anywhere with you. And to reiterate, I really think you should leave.”

“I’m not going—,” Dr. Lawry started, but I didn’t let him finish.

“Get out,” I shouted. “You have no right to take him. He’s not some piece of property, he’s a person.”

“AX3 is government property. You have no claim on him,” he said. “How do you know he wants to stay here? You don’t.” I would hope he enjoyed staying with me. I had really grown to care about Axel.

“I want to stay here with Casey.” Axel sat up on the floor. I didn’t know he had woken up. “I don’t want you bothering Casey ever again, or me.” He stood up quickly, as did Dr. Lawry, who put on his suit jacket.

“AX3, really, you don’t know what you’re doing,” Dr. Lawry said in a calm tone.

“Now I really think you should leave.” Axel looked at me, still somewhat composed.

“Now AX3, calm down so we can go and—.”

“My name is not AX3. My name is Axel.” He was getting angry, his eyes narrowed, nostrils flared. “Get out!” He lunged over to Lawry and picked him up again. “You—you and—and Jomei.” He made a growling sound. I took it Dr. Lawry had upset him. It seemed he didn’t know the guidelines either. Axel shook Lionel like it was nothing, throwing him to the ground after a few seconds. He knelt down beside Dr. Lawry and began to punch him in the chest.

“Stop, Axel no!” He’d kill the elderly man, who didn’t compare even a tad to the durability of my apartment wall. I ran over to them, and Axel pushed me back without much effort. I fell backwards onto the coffee table, breaking two of the legs. He had knocked the wind out of me. Axel looked over at me his face contorted in anguish. He looked back at Dr. Lawry, who was panting loudly, and jerked him up from the floor, dragging him out of the room towards the front door. Axel stormed back in, his breathing heavy.

“I hurt you,” he lamented, which wasn’t entirely true. For the most part I was fine. He hadn’t caused me any permanent damage. “I’m broken. I’m stupid.” I was still laying on the broken coffee table. He fell to his knees, and I could feel the floor vibrate from the sudden thud. He leaned forward, crying loudly. “Casey I am sorry. I am sorry.”

I got to my feet and made my way over to him. I placed a hand on his back, rubbing it gently. “I’m okay Axel, really.”

“I should go with him,” he said. “It’s where I belong. I don’t belong here. I don’t deserve this.” I knew he didn’t want to hurt me, and it didn’t seem like he ever really wanted to hurt anyone. I wanted to help. I wanted him to feel better.

“When—when I’m angry,” I started. “I count backwards from ten, and with each number, I think of something that makes me smile. So, for example, uh, let’s say for the number ten I’d think of teaching you to make a grilled cheese. Remember? You put six whole slices in yours.”

“You were right. It was too much for one sandwich.” He started to soften, his breathing becoming regular once more.

“What’s something you’d use for your number ten?” I asked. He sat up, looking at me. His belly rose and fell with each breath.

“Sleeping in bed with you. That always makes me feel calm. Or how you got me all those cakes today. Or when you taught me to dance to BeyoncĂ©.” I felt my face get really warm, and I wished he didn’t make me feel like this. I didn’t want to abuse the situation. I wanted to just be friends.

“That’s ten, nine, and eight. You’re good at this.” He got to his feet, and now he looked down at me.

“Are you all right?” I asked. He nodded, pulling me into his body. We hadn’t ever hugged like this before, the closest we got to one another was in bed. I could feel his penis against my stomach again, but this time he was definitely hard. I didn’t know what to do.

“When Dr. Lawry asked you if you wanted to have sex with me, you never gave him an answer.” I stood in his arms, completely caught off guard. Had he been awake, listening in? Maybe he wasn’t as clueless as I thought.

“If I said yes would it make you uncomfortable?” I asked. He hadn’t initiated anything sexual before. I didn’t know if he was gay. Could he even be gay? Could they have made sure that wouldn’t have happened with some sort of pill?

“No, I do not think it would.” We stood silent, his arms around me. I didn’t want to take advantage of him. He was vulnerable, and he’d been through a lot. If we had met through an app, or on the internet, I wouldn’t have hesitated. I would have made my move as soon as he let me know it was okay. “I am sorry for getting so angry,” he said, releasing me from his grasp. “When that happens, I remember it, but it doesn’t feel like me. Something just takes over.”

“It’s okay,” I reassured him. “How about a snack?” He smiled again and nodded. His leftovers from the coffee shop were a little banged up, but they were still edible. He ate them happily, getting frosting on his nose and lips again. I smiled to myself as I went to get him a paper towel, but the thought of Dr. Lawry’s return weighed heavily on my mind.

I knew Dr. Lawry would be back and I knew he’d be coming for Axel. I had been going to class off and on for over a month. I was still doing my work, making sure to get to campus to turn in papers and other major assignments. Every time I left the house I feared I’d never see Axel again. That I’d return home to my apartment torn apart and my enormous houseguest nowhere to be found.

“Casey,” Axel called out to me from the kitchen. I’d given my friend an assignment for tomorrow’s class and she had gone home. I made my way to where he was. He sat shirtless at the table with his legs spread apart and his belly bulging out in a heavy sphere, relaxing his stomach muscles after indulging on some cookies we baked earlier in the day. His meaty backside filled up the kitchen chair over capacity.

His back was arched and his meaty pecs, which were covered in a substantial layer of flab, jutted out making him look massive. There was no pretending he was the same size or hiding his belly because it bowed out even when he hadn’t eaten, as rare as that was.

His once thin face had begun to fill out and he started to get a double chin. I noted that his cheeks were very red. It was honestly the first time I ever saw him look embarrassed, or nervous. He didn’t seem to ever convey those emotions. “Are you okay?” I asked. “Your face is flushed.”

“I’m all right,” he said, much more confidently than he looked. He lifted his bulk up out of the chair and made his way over to me at the counter. He looked down at me, face serious and determined. His belly pressed my body back, my butt up against the counter. His stomach pressing me back like that was so arousing.

“I am going to kiss you,” he said, cheeks rosy. Before I had the chance to reply he pushed his mouth against mine. He kissed me, and I kissed him back. He tasted like gingersnaps. His breathing became heavier and I thought slightly about what Dr. Lawry said, about rape and the neck snapping. I knew that wouldn’t happen. Axel would never do that—ever.

He was so warm. I hadn’t had sex since Jonah, and I wanted nothing more than to give myself to Axel. It had been on my mind ever since that day Dr. Lawry bombarded his way back into Axel’s life. That whole conversation made me confront the possibility of an intimate relationship with Axel.

I wasn’t thinking clearly, at least not with my brain. My dick pressed against my jeans making my pants feel really tight. I knew Axel was turned on too, as I could feel his dick on my stomach. He bit my neck, sucking on it, then covering it with gentle kisses. I moaned loudly, unable to control myself. I grabbed his butt, working my way up his back. He’d have a large V-shape if his love handles didn’t pour away from his body, thick and fleshy. He kissed me on the mouth again.

We moved towards my bedroom, stopping outside of the bathroom. “Can we do something?” I asked.

“Okay,” he said. “But what’s in the bathroom?” I directed him to the scale and told him to stand on it. I was curious about how much he could put on in five weeks. Up until this point I had never made him weigh in, but I needed this. “Am—am I in trouble?” he asked, his arms covering his middle. He looked at the scale nervously.

“No, of course not,” I said. This was perverted, and I’d made him uncomfortable. What was up with me? I liked a wide range of male body types, but I’d never been with someone as big as Axel was. There was something so erotic about having seen him grow into the biggest, most muscular man that I’d ever seen. I hadn’t considered that he was self-conscious about his body.

“When I don’t do well in the weigh-ins, I don’t get to eat for a while.”

“I won’t be upset with what that scale says,” I told him, about to be completely honest with him. “Axel, I—I kind of like it. How big you’ve gotten.” He moved his arms.

“You like it, really?” he asked. “I did a good job?” I smiled awkwardly, nodding my confirmation. He walked over to the scale and stood on it. I hit the floor, so I could read the results. 347 pounds. My penis surged, and I felt a small drip of pre-cum.

I stood up, and he stepped off the scale, smiling at me. I’d never been more turned on in my entire life. I pulled him towards my bedroom, and looking at my queen-sized bed, I found it to be awfully small. He pulled off his cotton shorts, which we had purchased on our second shopping trip, revealing a small purple pair of striped briefs. His thighs looked gigantic, larger than my waist. He could hold up a house with those legs.

His ass was beefy and round, an enhanced version of the butt I saw a little over a month ago. His penis made a significant bulge in the underwear and I unbuttoned my jeans and pulled them down. He removed his briefs at the same time I pulled mine off. I stood closest to the bed and he pushed me back, a bit forcefully.

He straddled me, kissing me hard. His hands pressed against the bed on the opposing sides of my head. His forearms were huge, and I couldn’t believe how firm they looked. He was even more muscular than when we first met, but he didn’t go to the gym or anything. He stopped kissing me, looking at me intensely. Once again, I was seeing a different side to him. He was so fucking hot, his lips parted in lust, his eyes staring at me with desire.

I pushed him off gently and walked towards my dresser. “We need some things,” I said as I rummaged through a drawer. I pulled out some lube and the largest condom I had. I had to help him put it on. He said it tickled. Leave it to him to say a condom tickled. I lubed up his dick as well as my hole. I told him what to do and he placed his sizeable penis near my ass.

He slid in faster than I would have anticipated, and I gasped loudly. “Are you okay Casey?” he asked.

“Keep going,” I said, face down on the bed. He thrust his ample hips and held onto me with his big, manly hands. He went harder and harder and I thought of what Mr. Lawry said again. Harder. He grunted, his breathing deep. I just hoped I wasn’t too loud, not wanted to alarm him. Harder. Cum shot from my penis in what felt like an eternal stream. I’d never come from just anal before, and definitely not so fast. He was better than—what was his name? Joseph? Johan? Oh, it was Jonah. Axel was still going, and he was getting a little more aggressive. One last grunt and he came.

We laid next to one another. “I love you Casey,” he said with all the feeling in the world I almost started bawling. “I never knew I could feel this happy.”

“I—I love you too Axel.” He grabbed me, spooning me. His belly pressed against my firm body. I was still hard, and he was too.

“I didn't hurt you,” he said, his face conveying a large, proud smile. I didn't have the heart to tell him he was a bit rough. Hell, I kind of liked it.

“You didn't,” I confirmed, returning the smile. He asked me when we could do that again. I laughed and told him soon. I needed at least a couple hours before I’d be able to go again.

It was a night about a week after we’d had sex and it was late. Axel stood up and looked around, wearing a pair of black short-shorts and a white t-shirt. He walked out of the room.

It didn't appear to be his typical late-night snack or something to that nature. Something had worried him. I stood up too, waiting for him to reenter. I heard the front door slam and I ran into the hallway, putting on my glasses.

“Axel, is everything all right? Who was at the door?” He was on the ground, doubled over in pain. I saw Dr. Lawry and a small Asian man—Jomei Tanaka. Dr. Lawry held a very large needle in his hands, and it appeared he’d already injected Axel with something.

“How did you get in here? Get out!” I shouted. Axel groaned, still on the floor. I walked towards him and he stood, straightening up. His shirt was ripping at the arms. He was larger, even more so than usual. “Axel, are—are you okay?”

“AX3,” Dr. Lawry said smirking. “I would like you to fight Casey Kirby.” Axel ripped the shirt open, throwing the tattered remains to the floor. His belly was rounded out, with a slight happy trail. It was large, but perfectly in proportion with his large arms and legs. He walked towards me and I noticed the aggressive stride. I stepped back. He took a swipe at me, but I ducked. I stumbled into the kitchen and fell back. He kicked me in the side, and like that day he pushed me onto the coffee table, it knocked the air out of me. My glasses had fallen off my face.

“What did you do to him?” I shouted at the pair. They had followed the two of us into the kitchen, looking on at us—at Axel trying to kill me.

“AX3, a moment please.” Axel stood up straight, feet planted firmly on the ground. “Well, first off, I would like to thank you Mr. Kirby for looking after my things for me.” This was Mr. Tanaka. He didn’t speak with a thick Japanese intonation like I thought he would, but instead he spoke with a New Jersey accent.

“Fuck you,” I said, shaking. “Just get out of here. Just leave us alone.”

“I’m sorry, but that is not possible.” He smiled sympathetically, and it was much more believable than Dr. Lawry’s fake-ass grins. “However, to answer your first question, I have given AX3 a drug Dr. Lawry and I have been working on for the last month. We have hardly slept trying to hurry and get AX3 out of your hair.”

“He wants to be here, and I have no problem letting him stay,” I said pleadingly. Were they going to have Axel kill me? I stood up, finally better able to breath.

“You see,” Dr. Lawry interjected. “He was lacking the ability to take direction. Not anymore.” He smiled. “He’s perfect—well, almost. He appears to have eaten his old self. Though, some of his growth seems to be the doing of the injection. That was unforeseen.” He chuckled.

“He’s gotten too big. You can just let him stay here.” Both men laughed. “I’m serious. I already know Doe ended the project. She doesn’t want him anymore. Just change him back and leave. Please.” I was standing near the drawers in my kitchen, butt against the counter.

“We’re sorry, but we can’t do that.” Tanaka looked from me to Axel, a slight frown on his face.

“AX3, you need to knock Casey Kirby unconscious,” Dr. Lawry commanded. Axel walked over to me. I pulled out a knife from one of the drawers.

“Axel,” I said, knife shaking. “Don’t do this. This isn’t you. You’re better than this.” My side hurt from the kick. He grabbed my wrist. His breathing was deep, and I saw his substantial belly shaking. He squeezed harder and I dropped the knife. His other hand around my neck, he lifted me off of the ground.

I was starting to cry; the life being choked out of me. He walked me over to a wall and set me down. I think my wrist was broken. He looked down at me, his face cold. With his massive hand, he grabbed the side of my head. Those electric eyes I had looked into a million times were so cold. They were the last thing I remembered seeing before he slammed my head against the wall.

When I woke up my head hurt, and thankfully it wasn’t too severe. It was early, maybe about four in the morning. The room I was in was very bright, florescent bulbs humming above me. I was laying down, on the floor of a large cage. I could hear Tanaka and Lawry talking. “We took the boy from his apartment Lionel, now what? You really think we have to kill him?”

“Of course we have to kill him,” Lawry said. “He knows too much. We could never let him live with all this information. Imagine what AX3 has told him.”

“When will we make contact with Doe?” Tanaka asked.

“We’ll run a few more tests, making sure AX3 is entirely obedient, and then we’ll reach out to her. This has to be perfect Jomei. It’s the only way this will work.”

“AX3,” Lawry called. I sat up, looking out at the three of them across the room. Everything was slightly blurry without my glasses. “You must go over to that cage and kill Casey Kirby. Do you understand what I am asking?”

“I am to kill Casey Kirby.”

“Proceed,” Dr. Lawry said.

“I can’t watch this,” Tanaka said, standing. “It’s too much for me.”

“Sit, Jomei,” Lawry said. “This is a perfect test to see what AX3 is capable of. I will need your evaluation of the situation to get the best possible analysis.” I could hear Axel making his way over to where I was being held. I looked around, no potential weapons in sight. Part of me felt that this was karma. I should’ve never had sex with him. The universe was punishing me for taking advantage of him.

He reached the door of the cage and opened it, stooping down so he could enter. He was still in nothing but the black shorts. His thighs bulged with muscle and their size was intimidating. The shorts looked almost painted on. His biceps were unreal, as was the thickness of his neck. How much did he weigh now? Would he use the strength of his legs to smash my head in? Or maybe he’d simply snap my neck. He grabbed my legs and dragged me to the center of the room. I could see Tanaka and Lawry watching intensely.

I flipped over to my back and looking up at Axel it was almost like taking in a mythical giant. “Axel, please,” I begged. “You’ve got to snap out of it.” He crouched down over me, grabbing me by my shirt, and slammed me into the concrete. I didn’t want to die like this. I didn’t want Axel to lose his freedom. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

“I love you,” I said, finally crying.

“Ten,” he said, still crouching over me. “Sleeping in bed with Casey.”

“What in the hell is he talking about?” Dr. Lawry yelled.

“Nine. Baking cookies with Casey. Eight. When Casey smiles it makes me smile.” I was still crying, completely dumbfounded by what was happening. He had remembered what I told him. He was controlling his anger.

“AX3, kill Casey Kirby. Now!” Axel balled his fist up, punching me in face, though it probably not as hard as he could’ve done it. I felt my mouth fill with blood, and it spilled out over the side of my lips.

“What’s number seven?” I asked, hopeful the Axel I’d grown to love was fighting his way out from the controls of whatever poison Lawry had injected him with.

“Seven. Watching funny movies with Casey. Six. Going shopping with Casey. Five. Accidentally ripping my pants and Casey laughing.” He stood up, helping me to my feet. Dr. Lawry and Mr. Tanaka were absolutely in shock. They’d been so sure they perfected their formula.

“This is a failure, Lionel.” Tanaka stood.

“Attack!” Lawry shouted. “You worthless garbage, attack!”

“Four. Dancing with Casey. Three. Having sex with Casey. Two. Hugging and kissing Casey.” Dr. Lawry ran over to where Axel stood. “One. Casey saying that he loves me.”

“You listen to me, you big idiot. You really think this little faggot is going to care for you for the rest of your miserable life. I have raised you since birth. I have given you everything you’ve needed, and you have yet to yield any results for me.” He turned towards me. He had finally lost it. His years of research had come to a close, and he had basically nothing to show for it. I pitied him, but I also hated him. He wasn’t working with robotics or plants. This was a human being he’d tried to play God with.

“You have ruined everything,” he spat at me, slapping me across the face. There was a moment of silence, and suddenly Axel grabbed Dr. Lawry, and in one swift twist of his arms he’d snapped his neck. I jumped back at the sound, in disbelief. He walked towards Mr. Tanaka, who back peddled, trying to get away from Axel.

“Axel, no!” I screamed. He stopped walking and looked back at me. “I’m fine, you’re fine. Everything is okay. You don’t have to hurt Mr. Tanaka.”

“AX3, come here.” He walked over to Mr. Tanaka. “You too, Mr. Kirby.” I walked around Dr. Lawry’s body, feeling slightly queasy. “I think it is time to admit that this project has come to an end. It was doomed the day AX1 died. Regarding your weight, you’ll likely level out and begin to gain weight more normally. At what size that is I am uncertain. On the mice we ran trials with they often doubled their body weight before they began to process calories normally again.”

“Okay,” Axel said, holding me upright.

“And AX3—Axel, I mean, we have no antidote for what we gave you, and its effects have not been thoroughly tested.”

“Meaning what?” I asked.

“Meaning if you truly want to take him with you, there are some uncertainties that you will have to face.”

“He can stay with me?” I asked, relieved. I wasn’t so sure what Tanaka was saying was true. He could be biding his time, waiting to gather reinforcements to better control Axel. It was so obvious he was just trying to not meet the same fate as Dr. Lawry.

Tanaka went over to his briefcase, returning with an envelope. “Take this. It contains his birth certificate, social security card, and other government papers.”

“You’re serious?” I questioned.

“Yes, I’m sorry for the trouble. I regret to have gotten you involved.” He looked from me to Axel nervously. “And I am sorry for this, amongst everything else, but I have to make sure I leave here in one piece—Palos Verde Blue!” Axel hit the ground. I watched as Jomei Tanaka grabbed his few belongings and rushed from the laboratory.

This chapter in Axel’s life had finally come to a close, at least for now—hopefully forever. I held onto the envelope containing his documentation and smiled. My neck was sore. I sat on the floor next to Axel and rested my head on his chest. His heartbeat was even and steady. I was so happy.

Whenever he came to we’d find our way out of this warehouse and back to my apartment. I’d ace all my finals and we’d celebrated with a large dinner. He’d meet my mom and dad and all of my friends. I’d finish college and help Axel get started in school or a job. We’d be together, and things would be okay. I would never feel inadequate again.

I was glad I found him chewing on all of my peach bubble gum, naked, and as weird as the project he had been a part of.


The End!