“My father once gave me some advice about cheap scotch,” Theresa mused as she gazed off into the dying glow cast on the clouds by the setting sun. “He told me that when it comes to liquor it’s always better to pay the price in money before you drink than to pay the price in pain afterward.”
Alex was speechless. Even if his clothes hadn’t been too tight for him to breathe comfortably, he wouldn’t have had much to say. He was still quite dumbstruck that his entire body was swelling up. Eyes wide as saucers, his lips moved silently at a frantic pace as he sat immobile in his chair.
“You know if you’d been drinking good scotch, you would have been able to tell that there was something wrong with your drink. Maybe you wouldn’t have known I was trying to poison you, but at least you wouldn’t have finished it.” She didn’t even look at him. The angry sea held her attention.
Another gust of gas surged up in his body, and his fattening legs shot out straight, spreading into a V. A terrified squeak left him as he tried to move his arms in vain. His eyes pleaded with her to stop whatever it was she’d done to him.
“Go ahead and scream, I won’t think any less of you. I don’t think that’s possible right now.” She was the only one there to hear him. On a clear day, the nearest house on the beach was just barely visible. But at sundown with storm clouds brewing, nobody would hear anything over the howling wind and crashing waves. During a brief lull between breakers, the groan of straining fabric caught her attention and a thought flashed through her mind. “Damn,” she cursed, chiding herself for her carelessness.
She turned towards him, looking at him for the first time in several minutes, for the first time since he said he was feeling a little ill. “I certainly hope so,” she’d responded.
The man she saw wasn’t the strong, ambitious man she’d married. He wasn’t the powerful deal maker and deal breaker that had earned a towering reputation and vast wealth. Alex was a parody of weakness now. His body had swollen up like a balloon, trapping him in his own clothing. He struggled to rise from the deck chair, failing miserably, unable to even bend his limbs. She approached him and began to unbutton his overtaxed shirt.
It was a difficult task. The buttons were under an extraordinary amount of strain, and the whole time he stared at her silently. “Don’t you look at me like I’m the traitor!” she hissed. She continued her work. It probably didn’t matter, but if he burst out of his clothes she might be asked why her husband’s shirt buttons were found in the sand below. She did the top three buttons first, then the bottom two. She smiled at the flesh bulging out of every gap, showing no hint of the chiseled form it once was. Slowly, deliberately, she undid the final button. The shirt practically exploded open, his belly surging forth with a soft “fwoomp.” Alex gasped, finally able to breathe freely again.
“Theresa…” he breathed. “Why?” He paled again as he felt the quiet, hissing prelude to another surge. Gas bubbled up from deep within his belly, swelling out to his entire body. His pants had already begun to rip open when Theresa unbuckled his belt.
“You know damned well why,” she muttered as she stepped back from him.
“But it’s over between me and Selia, you know that! I thought that’s why we were here, to work things out.”
“That’s what I thought, too.” She smirked at his comically bloated shape. Each surge was bigger than the last, and each one forced him bigger, rounder, fuller. She tried to reach back to her childhood. Somewhere this scene had been rendered in a cartoon, though in a much more lighthearted manner. “But then I got some bad new from the private investigator. I was about to tell him that I’d no longer need his services, that we were trying to reconcile. And he said that he was fine with that, since his work was pretty much done anyway, but he thought I might want to read his report. Oh yes, he found some interesting things. Like that nice little house on the beach in Mexico. I wouldn’t think an aerobics instructor could afford such an extravagance, but apparently she’s been there a few weeks now. And the sudden shuffling around of funds that you’ve been doing. And how you started paying your lawyer in cash. I told him he had to be wrong, that you weren’t seeing that little whore anymore, and that we were going to work through this. And that you’d even arranged a weekend getaway for us to be alone.”
“Yes, Terry! I want this to work, I still do, but you’ve got to stop this! Please!” He couldn’t keep the terror from his voice.
“You know what he said? He said this often happens with his clients. And he said there was nothing more he could do for me, and that I should hire another investigator to confirm his findings if I really wanted to know the truth. ‘Your husband is lying to you,’ he told me. ‘He’s stalling, because he knows that if you file the divorce papers the judge will freeze his assets. If you don’t act quickly, he’ll hide it all, and you’ll be left with nothing.’ And he was right.”
“It’s not true, Terry! I’d never – I’d – I’d – oh no!” She could hear the hissing now, and watched as his body rounded out further. This time it went longer, his body becoming a series of connected globes, his clothes torn to rags by its expansion. “Almost there,” Theresa chirped. She ran her fingers across the smooth, tight skin of his inflated belly. He winced as she poked him with a fingernail. “You know, part of me wants to wait until the next swelling, wait until you’re really huge, and full to the very edge of bursting. Then all it would take is one – quick – stab!” Alex cried out as she gave him a gentle poke. “And with one glorious boom, this would all be over. But that would be too tempting, too easy, and too messy. I want you to think about this for a good long time. And don’t worry, you’ll probably have all night.”
The mention of time seemed to calm him a bit. Until that moment he’d thought her plan was pop him right there on the deck. “Theresa, there must be some way to undo this,” he pleaded. “I can make it all better, I can make it up to you!”
“I don’t really know if there’s an antidote. And I don’t care. I’m tired of your promises. I’m tired of your lies.” A devilish grin crossed her lips as the hissing rose in Alex’s belly again. “And it looks like it’s time for us to say goodbye.”
“What do you mean – oooooaaaaaaahhh!” He blew up quickly his time, his limbs losing distinction, his body becoming one huge sphere. During the day, someone on the beach would have noticed the enormous, flesh tone balloon inflating on the deck, taking up most of the space. But the thunder was rolling in, and there was nobody around to admire Alex’s shape except Theresa. The irony wasn’t lost on her.
“Goodbye.” She turned her back to him and walked towards the sliding glass doors as he began to slowly rise into the sky. She heard his screams for her to help, then for anyone to help, but they faded. The wind would take him out to sea, and sometime in the next few hours the expanding air inside him would exceed his capacity. She’d call the police sometime tonight to tell them that her husband had gone for a walk on the beach and not come back.
Theresa hummed merrily to herself as she fondled the bottle of scotch. Perhaps she would send another like to Selia. But not for a while, She didn’t want to raise suspicions.