The Bear Cap (musc AP)

Keaton Thatcher loved the zoo. He’d been going to it regularly since he was a little kid, and always found something new and interesting to look at. There was a just-born baby snow leopard that was making its public debut. Ridiculously cute, and the girls in Keaton’s class had squealed as they watched it snuggle with its mama. Keaton’s favorite part of the day was the hippopotamus exhibit, which had just been re-opened after a big renovation – now the zoogoers could go below ground and watch the hippos in their tank, which was interesting, because the animals were so big and funny-looking, and moved so slowly when they swam.

The church’s annual zoo trip was a highlight for Keaton. It was fun to get away from his parents for a day, and he got to run around with his buddies while also seeing some pretty cool animals. The zoo didn’t have the same kind of magic it had had when Keaton was a little boy - now that he was a taller, lankier teen, some of the awe was gone, because the animals didn’t seem as big. But now that he was older, he also had a different perspective on the world, and could further appreciate just how rare some of these creatures were, and how lucky he was to be able to see them.

The best part of the day was how they all got a $20 per diem from the church – well, from their parents, but via the church – that was way bigger than needed for food. The zoo hot dogs were huge and only a couple dollars, so Keaton and his buddies had bought three a piece, wolfed them down, and then headed to the gift shop to buy stupid crap they knew they didn’t need.

It had been Colin’s idea to get hats. The sun was hot that day and a couple of the guys hadn’t put on sunscreen, so for them it was a little bit more of a necessity. Plus, the hats were only eight bucks. The hat rack was pretty picked over, but there were four hats left, each with a different animal face on it: an elephant, a koala, a panda (even though the zoo didn’t have pandas), and a tiger.

The problem was, there were five guys, and Keaton was the last to arrive at the rack. “Aw, man,” he shrugged. “I’m the odd man out.”

�Why don�t you ask if they have more in the back?� Keaton�s friend Jalen suggested, putting on the tiger hat.

�Seems kinda pointless. I don�t really need one.�

�Well, okay, sure, but then you won�t match in the picture! It�ll be like we�re not even friends,� Jalen joked, and Keaton rolled his eyes.

�Fine,� he said with a grin, �I�ll ask, just for you.�

Keaton strolled the aisles of the small gift shop, looking for an employee. He remembered coming here when he was really little and thinking the store was as big as a Toys R Us, but really, it was only four tight aisles and some wall space, with a counter tucked in the corner. They probably didn’t even have a back room.

He spotted a girl with freckles and braids, leaning against the counter talking to another employee. “’scuse me,” Keaton said, “do you guys have any more baseball caps in the back? The ones with the animals on ‘em?”

�Which animal are you looking for?� The girl stood up and took a step toward a door behind the register, while she looked back at Keaton. She was probably in college, a few years older than Keaton, but she was several inches taller. Keaton hated when girls were taller than him, because he was scared he�d stopped growing before he�d even hit six feet. He hadn�t grown any since middle school, and a lot of his friends had gone past him, which sucked.

�Not really,� Keaton shrugged. He shrugged a lot when he talked. �But they have a koala, a�uh�a tiger, an elephant and I think a panda, so if it�s something different than that, that�d be cool.�

��kay,� was all the girl said as she went through the door, presumably to the stockroom.

Jalen was paying at the register. “Is she checking for you?”

�Yeah. I bet they don�t have anything,� Keaton said, crossing his skinny arms over his chest as he leaned against a shelf. He was swimming in a gray school t-shirt and baggy corduroys that his mom had bought him from some outlet store. Style wasn�t something that concerned any of the guys.

�Dang,� Jalen said, being careful to never curse. �The other guys are leaving.�

�I can meet you outside, just make �em wait for me �cause I think my phone died,� Keaton said.

�I don�t need a bag,� Jalen said to the cashier, and then he turned to Keaton and said, �okay. I�ll be outside.�


Keaton paced around the store and flipped through a zoo guide, taking stock of what he hadn’t seen yet. The gorilla exhibit was always cool, he’d have to go check that out. Last year one of the gorillas had thrown poop at the glass. That was so-

�Were you the one looking for a hat?�

Keaton looked up at the braided girl. “Yeah,” he said. “You find one?”

�Sort of.� She pulled out a black baseball cap. There was no picture of an animal on it; instead, just the name of one: BEAR, embroidered in capital white letters across the front. �Not quite the same thing,� she continued. �This was the only hat in the back.�

Keaton had to chuckle at it. Who would want a cap that just said BEAR? “How much is it?”

�There�s no tag on it, and I�ve never seen it before, so I have to ring it up as undeterminable merchandise. The other hats were eight bucks, right? So how�s half price sound? Four dollars.�

�I can swing that. It�s kinda funny.� Keaton pulled four singles out of the front of his corduroys and gave them to the girl. �Is there any tax?�

�Don�t worry about it. This�ll do.�

�Hey, thanks.� Keaton took the hat from her and twirled it on his finger, trying to look cool. He failed when the hat spun off and fell at his feet. He picked it up sheepishly, holding it in both hands, and looked at her with his cheeks burning red.

�Glad you found something,� she said, turning away. �Have a nice one.�

�Thanks,� Keaton mumbled, looking down at his prize. Great, a hat that said BEAR on it. Didn�t even have a picture of a bear. His friends were gonna think it was dumb, but he could probably make a joke out of it.

Keaton put on the hat and pulled the bill low over his face.

As soon as he had done so, he felt a wind blowing behind him, fluttering his long hair and jostling his clothes. He batted his bangs out of his eyes and tucked them under the hat, turning around to head out of the shop.

When he got to the door, Keaton had a strange realization: the door was closed. No one had gone in or out of it. And yet, he had felt that breeze. It made Keaton feel really uneasy, for some reason. He looked around the store again to see if there were open windows – nope.

The long hair resting on his neck began to flap again, picking up speed until they were whipping against his skin. Keaton clapped his hand on the back of his neck and rubbed it nervously, feeling the wind twist around him. The breeze had currents he could feel – it seemed to snake up around his legs in opposite directions, and hit him with force from both the front and the behind, wrapping around his arms and even blowing against the underside of his chin. Keaton shut his eyes and swayed in the small cyclone, not realizing his clothes were starting to change. The low-slung corduroys began losing their distinctive texture as they moved up on his body, consuming the tail of his shirt on their way to sitting high on his navel. His simple cloth belt became thick, heavy brown leather, growing a large copper buckle that hung slightly over the lengthening fly of his new high-rise jeans, sitting several inches above where Keaton preferred to wear his pants. The pants’ brown color lightened to a well-worn light wash of blue denim, clearly broken in.

His shirt, meanwhile, stayed short-sleeved, although the sleeves grew an inch or two to hang loosely, and closer to his elbows. But otherwise, as the homecoming logo faded off the front, it was clear Keaton was getting a brand new shirt. His t-shirt grew a large, wide spread collar that bumped against the hand that held the back of his neck. White buttons sprouted like tiny flowers in a row down the front of his shirt, disappearing into the waist of his jeans. Out from them swirled the fabric’s new pattern: plaid. The shirt remained gray in parts, but shifted to multiple hues of a lighter gray, closer to white, while light red stripes ran vertically and horizontally around him as they interlocked into the squares that made up the plaid design. Flap pockets appeared on both sides of his chest and a seam ran up the back, completing the t-shirt’s change into a short-sleeved button-down, composed of a more substantial and heavy fabric than the t-shirt had been.

But the wind was finding its way up the legs of Keaton’s new, yet old-fashioned, jeans too: his white no-show socks grew all the way up to the top of his calves, while his boxers began to dwindle in length, moving up his thighs as their waistband grew longer. The fabric of the boxers changed as the fly disappeared and the seat split open, dwindling into two thin strips under Keaton’s butt, until he was left wearing a stretchy, knit mesh athletic supporter under his jeans.

The wind forced him forward a little, and when he stepped, his sneakers split apart over his feet. Brown leather seemed to spring out of the ground and wrap around Keaton’s white socks, fixing itself in the form of shoes on his feet, held by new brown laces neatly tied. The steel-toed shoes felt heavy, and their thick soles would make Keaton feel a little taller when he walked. He was already propelling himself forward when the wind stopped, and the sudden lack of resistance sent him careening through the shop door and into the sunlight.

Keaton stopped and turned around, still rubbing the back of his neck. “What the hell was that?” he said aloud, before correcting himself. “No hell. No hell, just…what was that?” He looked down at his clothes: short-sleeved plaid shirt, high-waisted light blue jeans, brown belt and shoes. All a size too big. “What the heck am I wearing?” He untucked his shirt, then reached up and opened the button of his collar. When he walked on, the tail of his shirt moved on its own and tucked itself right back in, although his collar stayed unbuttoned, the points resting wide on his collarbone.

Keaton’s brow furrowed as he scanned the walkway in front of him. He walked forward a few more steps and looked up and down the paths leading to and from the gift shop. Jalen, Colin and the rest of his friends were nowhere to be seen. “Guys?” Keaton stepped up on a lamppost so that he could see further, but there were no groupings around him that looked familiar.

�Sir? Excuse me, sir?�

Keaton looked down and saw a guy in a zoo uniform. “Yeah?”

�Please step down, we don�t allow guests to stand up there.�

Keaton got a little annoyed, but obliged and hopped down. “I’m looking for my friends.”

�Oh, I�m sorry, it�s just that someone fell off one of those last year and hurt themselves, so now we�ve been told to not allow it.� The guy was cloying. Keaton didn�t like it.

�That�s unfortunate,� Keaton said. �What am I supposed to do? Stretch?� He stood up on his tiptoes and craned his neck, but a funny thing happened: he actually did stretch. His torso and legs lengthened, clothes shifting in size, to give him three more inches of height in the blink of an eye. He looked down wryly on the now-shorter guide. �Still don�t see �em.�

�What do they look like?�

�Oh, y�know, kids. Teens. There�s a big group of �em, from the church, and I don�t see any of �em, actually. I�m sure if I found one the others would be close by.�

�Well, I can keep a look out, and if I see a big group I�ll ask one of the chaperones if they�re the right ones.�


�You must have their numbers, right?�

Keaton nodded. “Oh, of course, yeah. Service isn’t great in here though.”

�What�s your name, just so I can pass it on?�

�Keawon Thatcher.�

�Keawon? How�s that spelled?�

Keaton corrected himself. “Sorry, Keaton! My name’s Kea-TON.” Keawon? What the f…

�Keaton Thatcher, got it. I�ll look for them.�

�Thanks.� Keaton pulled out his phone. �I�ll try to find �em right now,� he said, walking away. But as he scrolled through his text conversations, he realized he hadn�t exchanged numbers with anyone in his group. He swore he had, but none of them were there. Lots of names he didn�t quite recognize, though. Keaton was already weirded out enough for one day, so he put his phone away and wandered on to look on his own.

The rhythm of his steps on the walkway made his junk bounce within his jock strap, and soon he was starting to get erect from rubbing against the soft knit material. Keaton slowed his steps when he realized his boner was tenting the front of his jeans. He looked urgently for a place to sit, and spotted a little food court area with some chairs a few yards away. The closer he got, the bigger his hard-on became, and the more his stomach growled. By the time he arrived, his mouth was watering with hunger, and he wasn’t even thinking that much about his fully erect dick.

He put his hands on his hips as he read the menu. “This all looks good,” he said with a smile to the young guy at the register, who was actually probably his age. “I’ll take three pulled pork sandwiches, two hot dogs and an, uh…d’you have iced coffee?”

�Yes, sir.�

�An iced coffee, then.� Keaton had hated coffee before today, but he wanted caffeine and had suddenly, strangely lost his taste for soda.

�Alright, that comes to $22.64.�

�Goddamn,� Keaton swore, before blushing with shame at his profanity. �Appetites are expensive, huh?� He opened up a brown leather wallet and pulled out two crisp twenties, fresh from the ATM. �You can keep the coins, I don�t need �em.�

The young man handed back only bills. “Can I get a name for the order?”


�Keawod? Am I saying it right?�

�Yeah, Kea - wait, no, I meant�I meant�Keat�Keatorn. Keatarn.� Keaton�s mind raced furiously. He looked in his wallet at his driver�s license, forgetting that he wasn�t supposed to have one yet. �Last name Thatcher,� he said with frustration meant for himself, but that came across as rude. The kid behind the counter didn�t say another word, and Keaton crumpled down into a chair at a table nearby, red with embarrassment. He rested his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes with the base of his palms. �Shit, I�m all mixed up today.�

He spread his thighs wide, feeling his balls shoving against the insides of his legs, his cock stretching out of its pouch and down the inside of his pant leg. Keaton sighed and looked down through the clear table at the crotch of his jeans that was bulging with meat. He quickly tried to adjust himself without anyone noticing, pawing his balls up to sit higher in his jock so that he could push his thighs together. It made his bulge bigger, but at least it hid the outline of his shaft, and let him feel mostly comfortable.

�Mr. Thatcher. Mr. Thatcher.� The name was read out quickly over the crackling microphone. Keaton had to smile a little at being called �Mr. Thatcher.� That was a first. He stood up in a stretch, his spine popping another inch taller as he walked over to the counter to get his food. The young kid slid a tray with five foil-wrapped shapes, and a big iced coffee, over the counter. Keaton took it in both hands and said, �Thanks, son,� his voice cracking and squeaking in a way it hadn�t done since he was 12 years old.

As he set the tray down at the shaded table and pulled his chair back up to it, Keaton realized he’d ordered an unusual amount of food. But rather than letting that concern him, he ripped the foil off of one of the pulled pork sandwiches and shoved it in his mouth, finishing the whole thing off in three bites.

Truth be told, it wasn’t very good. It was zoo concession food, not a four-star restaurant. But it made him less hungry, and that was all he wanted.

The iced coffee, on the other hand, tasted great. Keaton took a long slurp and savored the flavor in his mouth. The cold drink was much needed on such a hot day, when he could feel the sun beating down on the back of his neck-

Keaton quickly reached back behind his neck again. He felt the collar of his shirt, but no hair. There was supposed to be hair there – he had long hair, he knew it. He ran his fingers around the sides of his head and felt short, barbed bristles where he had once sported a thick, shaggy ‘do. He moved his fingers to his forehead and realized he no longer had bangs hanging down over it. When he poked his fingers up inside his baseball cap, he felt skin. “What is this shi - crap?”

He was about to take the cap off to inspect his hair, when he saw a shadow and realized someone was standing close by. He looked up to see a thin, young man in a tank top staring at him. “Woof!” the young guy, staring at Keaton’s cap, said enthusiastically.


Tank Top looked confused by this response. “Uh…woof?” He said again, pointing to the cap this time.

�Whatever,� Keaton shrugged. �Bear, dog, same thing right?�

Tank Top slinked away without another word. Keaton pulled the bill of his cap low again to shade his eyes, wondering why someone would bark like a dog when they saw the word ‘Bear.’ It made him worry about the educational system. He grabbed a hot dog and ate half of it in one bite, deep-throating it a little as he chewed.

His back was warming from the heat of the sun, and as the light burned down on the plaid shirt, it spotlighted the indisputable fact that Keaton’s back was getting wider while he ate. He was hunched forward with his elbows on the table, curving his lats inward, and had to reposition when he felt his arms get pulled a little further apart. Anyone viewing Keaton from the front would now be able to see a broad back peeking out from under his arms, where before there had only shone sunlight. But the light couldn’t get through now, as Keaton had grown wide enough to block out the sun, covering the whole table in shade. Sweat rolled down the back of his neck and slid inside his collar to cool him down. The droplets traveled down over the large expanse of Keaton’s new back, before reaching his butt, which started to fill in with size. Keaton rose higher on the chair as his rump grew in underneath him, thickening up with size until it was less a butt than it was a full-on booty that strained against the denim and spilled out over the top of his jeans. More flesh flowed down onto Keaton’s ass until it hung off the back of the chair, too big for its seat. The jeans would have burst open long before if they hadn’t grown in size to match the ass they held. Keaton had a huge ass now. Not a perky, high bubble butt, but an absolutely gigantic rear end that stuck out behind him as big and as solid as a boulder. It was big enough to start pushing Keaton’s hips into a wider configuration, his waistline beginning to expand.

Keaton wiped his face with the back of his hands, blasting hot air out of his nostrils. He noticed that his wrists had more hair than they usually did, and when he ran his fingers over the black strands, realized that the hair was coarser too. It was starting to grow on his forearms and the backs of his knuckles, while the hair on his head was changing in color to match. Keaton reached a finger behind him and scratched inside his collar, feeling some hair poking out at the top of his back. He grunted with disapproval at this, and pinched one of the strands to yank it out, but it was rooted too deeply. He didn’t like the idea of having hair – even though it was soft hair - on his back. How could he even shave back there? He’d have to own a razor first.

Keaton would have been even more condemning toward the soft black fuzz that was growing on his butt, a light coating of downy fluff that would keep him warm on even the coldest nights. It journeyed underneath him, between his legs, to his balls, which started sprouting long black curls as a forest took root between his thighs. Big clumps of black hair stuck out from, and through, the knit pouch of his white athletic supporter. Keaton continued chowing down, unaware of what was happening, even as his legs started feeling curiously itchy inside his jeans. He shoved the last pork sandwich into his mouth and slapped his stomach proudly, surprised to feel it curving slightly outward. “Food baby,” he chuckled, standing up to clear his tray.

The Keaton who stood up looked far different from the Keaton who had sat down. He was scraping in at just over six feet tall now, and he was broad, very broad, with a powerful back filling his shirt. The food had done him a world of good. He looked thicker and stronger. And when he spoke, his voice was showing signs of impending dramatic change.

He waited briefly to throw away the trash on his tray, standing behind a typical suburban dad in a polo shirt, who was helping his little daughter reach the trash can. When they turned around, the dad noticed Keaton’s hat and grinned knowingly. “Woof,” he said softly, so only Keaton could hear.

Something came over Keaton, something he didn’t understand. His back straightened and he puffed his chest out, eyebrows furrowing as he assumed an intimidating, aggressive stance. He felt offended – something was telling him that this man was trying to flirt, with a wife and kids just yards away. “Go be with your family,” he snarled at the man, who went white and quickly skulked away. Keaton sneered at him and then tossed the empty foil wrappers into the trashcan. “Fucking asshole,” he said under his breath, feeling increasingly less guilty about swearing.

A light breeze picked up around him, and with a soft “oof,” Keaton leaned against the trash can, feeling the wind shooting up his sides. His eyes shut again as it felt like invisible hands grabbing his shoulders and pulling on them, and in the middle of the food court, Keaton began to widen radically. His back was already broad, but the wind pulled it further out and then took his shoulders and neck, too. There was very little definition on the new measurements – it was just pure size, to make Keaton look as big as his body would possibly allow. His shoulders grew as wide as the table he’d been sitting at, and his waistline swelled out over his belt, destining him for big-and-tall stores.

As the silhouette of his body transformed, alterations began happening to his structure – his neck shortened as it got wider, pulling his shoulders up closer to his chin, while his collarbone extended to allow for further breadth. Keaton’s ribs pulled apart to give him a thicker, squarer torso, and his fingers began popping as his hands grew into powerful instruments of labor. He slapped the thickening hands onto his belly and felt it swell, shoving up against his shirt buttons until they burst open, exposing a round gut that moved upward on his body to sit above his jeans. The belly was jiggly for a moment before hardening like drying cement, and the outline of faint abs popped into view on the front of it before the shirt grew to button back over them. Keaton rubbed his muscled gut and grunted, not understanding what was happening. The wind died down, leaving a six-foot-tall Keaton who now also looked six-feet wide. The kid looked down in shock at his stomach, which his shirt buttons were puckering to contain. It wasn’t that big of a belly, but it was prominent and solid, and would have been even bigger if his waist hadn’t expanded as much as it had.

Keaton walked on, his gait quickly changing to a lumber. His thighs were rubbing together, creating friction in his jeans. The fold of his shirt collar touched his jawline now that he had a stout, thick neck. His back had spread so severely that now his arms didn’t come to a natural rest at his sides, and instead hung out at angles from his body. After a lifetime of being bumped into, Keaton now cleared his own path just by striding forward. People could see him coming from yards away and would move to make room for the guy whose shoulders took up half the walkway.

Keaton saw a group heading into a marina area, and his face lit up. From behind, it certainly looked like his missing buddies. “Hey, guys!” he yelled, his voice booming far louder than he had meant for it to. “Guys!” He crowded underneath the entrance for the zoo show, his giant shoulders looming over the people around him as he looked around for his friends.

�Sir? Sir?�

Mostly surprised at being called ‘sir,’ Keaton looked down at the zoo employee addressing him. “Huh?”

�Can I punch your ticket?�

�My tick�oh, my zoo ticket?� Keaton�s first instinct was to put his hands on his shirt pockets, and his nipples immediately got hard. He patted himself down until finding his wallet in his jean pocket, with the stub tucked safely inside. The employee took the paper and punched a star-shaped hole in it.

�Hey, uh, what�s in this show anyhow?� Keaton put his hands on his hips and rocked on his heavy heels.

�It�s our sea lion show!�

�Oh, that�ll be cute. Wait, are sea lions and otters the same thing?�

�No, sir. They talk about that in the show.�

�Good. I�m not interested in otters, but they sure as shit are interested in me!� Keaton heard himself say with a hearty laugh, but he was already turning red even while he was still saying the words. He didn�t know what his own mouth was talking about, and the zoo employee clearly didn�t either. The most clear thing about the conversation was the fact that Keaton�s voice was in a state of radical change. �Is there a place to get a drink in there?� Keaton croaked. �I�m so thirsty.�

�There�s a vending machine around the corner, next to the bathroom.�

�Thanks.� Keaton tucked his ticket into his shirt pocket and walked to the nearby Coke machine, accidentally blocking it from everyone else�s view now that his shoulders were broader than it was. He fished two dollar bills out and fed them to the machine, hitting the button for a bottle of water. SOLD OUT, the light said. �Son of a bitch.� He angrily pounded his fist into the Diet Coke button instead, and heard the plastic break � a clear shard of the selection button stuck to his hairy fist and he flicked it away, embarrassed and hoping no one had seen.

After he grabbed his drink, he squeezed his way into the amphitheater. He found a seat on the side of the house near the front, sinking unconsciously into a habit of looking for the seat where he would block the fewest people’s view. He put the soda bottle between his legs, ignoring the phallic implications, and squeezed his thighs together to hold it while he unscrewed the cap.

But Keaton’s big, rough palm couldn’t find a good grip on the tiny cap. He gave another twist to the soda bottle and, unsuccessful once again, started to get frustrated.

Someone pulled on his shirt sleeve and he looked to his side. There was no one there. He gave another angry twist to the bottle, and felt the same tug on his sleeve – once again, no one. “Who’s messin’ with me,” he thought, putting the fabric of his shirt in between his palm and the bottle cap in the hopes of getting some more leverage.

All the tension from his attempts was shooting up into his arms, filling in his forearms, biceps and triceps with bulky mass. The tugs on his shirt sleeves weren’t from anyone but himself, as his biceps inflated to fill his baggy sleeves and then some. The sleeves rode up over the mountains, stretching tightly around Keaton’s deltoids as his triceps roared out behind his arms. His forearms grew so large that the elbow joint appeared to get swallowed by two fat wedges of muscle on top and bottom, leaving his arms as one steady taper from wrist to shoulder. What little definition there was on his 23-inch beasts got covered by black hair curling out from under his sleeves and proliferating downward to coat his arms in a soft covering of silky fur. Sweat spread out immediately under his pits, which now had no ventilation thanks to being smashed between the mass of his lats and upper arms. Once the fat crest of his triceps successfully reached out past the sphere of his deltoids, the bottle popped open easily, and Keaton reacted with a triumphant “Gotcha!”

All the exertion had given him one wicked boner. His crotch had already been big, but now the front of his jeans bulged out like a cantaloupe, his balls propped out prominently on display. When he took a long, satisfying swig of cola, it looked like he was stashing a second soda bottle in his right pant leg.

When the show began, Keaton found himself less enthusiastic about it than he would have normally been. He clapped politely along with the crowd, and took intermittent sips of his drink, but the show was pretty much just the usual kiddy stuff. And the young ones in the crowd seemed to love it, so that was good, but Keaton couldn’t shake the feeling that he might be getting a little too old for this sort of thing. He wasn’t thinking about the fact that he was setting the bottle on top of his rock-solid belly in between mouthfuls, although he did give his ball-shaped gut an affectionate rub and a grin when he felt the ab grooves. His sly smile hinted at a bigger and better set of teeth than before, no longer gapped or crooked.

�Alright guys,� one of the trainers, an older woman with a blond pixie cut, announced into her mic. �It�s time for us to bring one of you up onstage-�

This was all Keaton needed to hear to make him want to run for the exit. Somehow he already knew he was going to get called on, even if he didn’t raise his hand. He was hard to miss sitting in the crowd, and sure enough, he saw one of the trainers point at him and wave him over. He stood up sheepishly, giving his muscle belly a motivational slap, his biceps flexing like cannonballs with nervous tension. The only reason he agreed to participate was because that would guarantee his friends in the crowd would notice him.

As Keaton made his way down to the stage, his enormous package bouncing between two thighs like oak tree trunks, he could hear the whispers of awe. He was positioned next to a younger male assistant trainer, which gave the crowd a true scale of just how big Keaton was – he took up as much space as three of the trainers would.

�Look at this guy!� the trainer said into the mic, to the oohs and aahs of the crowd. �He belongs in the gorilla enclosure!�

Keaton smiled wryly, putting his hands on his hips, his waistline swelling again. For the first time in his life, his pant size started with a ‘4’ instead of a ‘2’ or ‘3’. But somehow, his upper body still had taper, even with such a large waist.

The trainer reminded Keaton of Ellen DeGeneres. “What’s your name, big man?”

�Kowntan,� Keaton said into the microphone, his new bass voice blasting through the speakers. He blinked a few times in surprise, and a small wind picked up around him in full view of the audience. The next button down from his open collar magically came undone, as if invisible fingers had pulled it apart.

�Kowntan? Rhymes with Downton?�

�Kea-K-Keaword,� Keaton tried to correct himself, and the wind picked up faster, unbuttoning the next button on his shirt, leaving a plunging neckline gaping open over the length of his chest.

�Alrighty, Keyword,� the host said with a hint of incredulity, trying to keep the show moving. �I bet when you woke up this morning you didn�t think you�d be meeting a sea lion face to face, huh?�

Keaton shook his head, starting to feel awfully strange. “No ma’am,” he said, as the trainer turned to address the sea lion that was flapping its way across the stage. “Keatward…Kea, Kuh, Kotwond…” He was muttering to himself, alarmed at the way his brain felt. The wind was swirling around him, flying inside the open buttons of his shirt, tugging on his nipples, which pressed up against the inside of his shirt like bullets. Keaton’s hands slowly made their way up to his chest, and he felt two small mounds forming underneath his nipples, which pushed out harder into his cupped palms. “Kuh-heat-arnd,” he whispered with a grimace, tongue licking his dried lips nervously. He rubbed the back of his neck, as he’d been doing the whole day, and now felt a trap muscle the size of a cannonball bunch up on top of his collarbone, fixed to the side of his neck. It stood out above the massive range of his shoulders like a beacon, defying any collar that tried to contain it. And the trap was growing a few black coils of hair on top of it, as well. “Kowtearn…shit, no…”

�Alright, Mr. Keyword, as my guest trainer today you�re gonna help me feed Lester! C�mon over here and let�s feed him his fish.�

Keaton lumbered forward, swinging his thighs around one another, his shoulders jolting up and down with each step. He felt the sensation of something falling out of his shirt, and his immediate reflex was to catch it. So he reached up, and felt something hard and heavy as stone – his own pec cupped inside his hand. The muscle was twitching and swelling, growing so far outward so quickly that Keaton had thought it was detaching from his body. As he walked cumbersomely over to the trainer, propelled by the wind, he attempted to button his shirt. But now his chest was getting so big that the upper buttons wouldn’t close anymore, and he was hit with the realization that he would now be showing his chest off at every moment.

�Now, are you a righty or a lefty?�

Keaton looked through the breeze at the trainer, who was smiling vacuously up at him. “Right-handed,” he grunted.

�Well, then, you probably need that hand for sports and stuff, let�s use your left today!� The crowd laughed at this joke, but Keaton didn�t even crack a smile. �I�m just kiddin�,� the trainer continued. �Here, what you�re gonna do is toss a fish into Lester�s mouth, just like this.�

Keaton scratched under his armpit while he watched the trainer demonstrate how to toss a fish - like it was rocket science. He felt the front of his shirt being forced further open, baring more of his enlarging chest. While the audience was fixated on Lester the sea lion, the real show was happening in between the open buttons of Keaton’s shirt. His chest pumped out so far that it started to sag from all the weight – a solid pair of man tits, square like pillows but hard like bowling balls. There were no striations, no veins; just a huge ball of muscle layered with some fat, as the goal was pure size.

�Now let�s get you all squared up, flat like this,� the trainer said, guiding Keaton to stand even with the sea lion by putting one hand on Keaton�s arm and the other on his stomach. The trainer patted Keaton�s belly, clearly surprised at its hardness, but said nothing.

His eight-pack pushed out a little further, as if his belly was in a race with his chest, before it eventually stopped and allowed his pecs to catch up. His belly was so high up that it looked like his chest was resting on top of it, although that wasn’t actually the case; his entire front had simply grown so massive that it all was pressed together. The plaid shirt was now molded over every shape on his torso: bulging muscled belly, huge curving chest, solid round shoulders. The buttons gapped and the fabric puckered.

�Now, put your hand flat like this.� The woman grabbed Keaton�s hand � it was at least twice as big as hers. �I�ll give you a fish and you just toss it into that big mouth of his, keep your hand flat so he knows it�s comin�.�

�Uh-huh.� A fish was slapped into Keaton�s palm and he deftly threw it into the sea lion�s gaping mouth. The big mammal smacked its mouth joyfully as it ate, splashing a few stray droplets onto the bare skin in the center of Keaton�s chest. Keaton�s body absorbed the water drops and converted them into hair, sending black curls popping out through his skin.

The trainer gave him another fish to throw, then another, then another to the cheers of the crowd. More hair sprouted in front of everyone’s eyes, as Keaton’s enormous chest grew a covering of soft, plush man fur. The black silk spread out over his entire chest, covering his big nipples and highlighting the underside and middle of his tits. His collarbone grew a layer, too, so that even when Keaton wore t-shirts, some curls would poke out of the top as a sign of ultimate virility. By the time the trainer ran out of fish, Keaton’s giant chest sported a thick covering of hair that disappeared into his shirt.

�Slap him five, Keyword!�

The sea lion extended its little flipper up out of the water, and Keaton obliged, squatting down and putting his palm against it. “Pretty cute,” he said in a froggy bass.

�Everyone give Keyword a hand!�

The crowd cheered for Keaton, who gave a small wave and wiped his hands on the front of his jeans. Lionel did some swimming tricks and then disappeared under a sliding door hidden in some landscape rocks, and the show was over, much to Keaton’s relief.

The small male trainer escorted Keaton to the stairs so he could exit with the rest of the crowd. “Sir,” the man said to Keaton, “if you don’t mind me saying so…woof!”

Keaton was getting annoyed with all this woofing. It was like some joke that everyone was in on except him. He turned around to ask the trainer why people were barking like a dog at him, but when he opened his mouth, all that came out was a low “rrrrrrrruff!”

The trainer turned red, but not as red as horrified Keaton, who clapped his big mitt over his mouth – urgh, it smelled like fish – and quickly stumbled away, not seeing the trainer’s boner. As he rounded the corner, one shoulder pushing hard into the landscaping stone, he noticed four guys in baseball caps hanging out nearby. Keaton’s face lit up. “Finally!” he yelled over. “I’ve been lookin’ for you guys for an hour!”

The young men turned around, and Keaton noticed that each one was wearing a baseball cap with a different animal on it: an elephant, a panda, a koala, and a tiger. They all stared up at Keaton with shock, and no small amount of admiration. But he couldn’t remember any of their names.

The awkward silence was agonizing. Neither party knew what to say to the other. Keaton looked down at them. There was something so familiar about them, but he couldn’t place it. He finally just apologized. “Sorry, boys. Thought you were someone else,” he said, walking away and heading toward the gorilla exhibit that he’d been meaning to get to the whole time.

The front of the gorilla section had tall plexiglass displays with facts about gorillas, and Keaton stopped to read them. He’d always really liked gorillas. Maybe he identified with them slightly, having such black body hair himself.

Keaton’s face twitched a little with this thought. It didn’t seem right. He looked at his reflection in the plexiglass and saw a very hairy man from the neck down, shirt half open to showcase the abundant chest hair covering his muscled tits. “Aw, jeez,” he said innocently. “I’m showing a lot of skin.” He thought of how his dad would feel if he’d caught sight of his son walking around with his shirt half unbuttoned. Keaton viciously tugged the front of his shirt together – it took a lot of work – and buttoned it up to the collar. But as soon as he went back to reading the placards, his collar opened itself back up, and the invisible fingers methodically undid each button over his chest – pop, pop, pop. Keaton’s style preferences quickly adjusted to match, and he no longer felt self-conscious about having his shirt open over his chest. He liked wearing short-sleeved buttondowns for that very reason: they could be modified easily to show off his size, or to hide it, depending on the situation. He didn’t own a lot of t-shirts anymore, just tanks and button shirts. The name brands he wore started seeping out of his mind until he couldn’t recall any of them – he just bought whatever he could squeeze into.

He looked one way, then the other, to check if the coast was clear before he itched his balls. “Ahhhh,” he groaned with satisfaction, his fingers scratching roughly at the distended crotch of his denim. All this body hair was bound to get itchy sometimes. He picked some pieces of lint out of his luxuriant chest hair, preening it as it shone in the sun. He spent a few moments admiring his size. The powerful chest; the enormous back; the neck that was as thick and strong as a tree stump. And his arms. He’d spent so much time looking at his chest that he’d barely noticed his arms were as big as a man’s thigh.

His two hands wandered up to his neck and cupped around it, admiring the thick bull-like muscles that held up his head. And he felt something strange – there were definitely prickly barbs poking out around his Adam’s apple. He rubbed his fingers against the spot and then ran them up the underside of his chin, feeling the hair that was attempting to grow. He grunted. He couldn’t grow a beard, he was too young. His parents wouldn’t like it.

He pulled his hands away and tilted his chin high up to see what he could of his reflection in the plexiglass. His neck was definitely darkening, and as the stubble spread up to the underside of his jaw, it began to gently push out the angles of the bone there.

That was when Keaton’s expression started to slowly change, too. His eyebrows rotated inward a few degrees. The ends of his mouth tugged downward. He began to look rather stern. Under his closed eyelids, his irises changed color from blue to a rich brown.

His jaw was growing steadily now, the shape of his face and head changing with it. The black hair sprouting on his neck was getting dense and long, with the whiskers’ pattern swirling and changing from Keaton’s original genetic stock to something much more hirsute, squaring off close to his collar. He was starting to look like he was wearing a black scarf.

He pulled his hands away, revealing a full-on neckbeard. But this fashion tragedy quickly began to remedy itself as the whiskers defied gravity and grew up over the curve of his mighty jaw, which was now as big and as hard as an anvil, the angles jutting wide under his ears. Keaton’s chin pushed out assertively, rounding into a hefty, hard ball on the front of his face, before the whiskers started to sprout over it.

The beard traveled like a fuse over his face, with the black hairs acting as the sparks. His giant jaw now had a curtain hanging down below it, as the whiskers spread up his sideburns and fluffed them out, before going underneath his cap and connecting to the hair left on his head. Keaton couldn’t resist reaching up and grabbing handfuls of his growing beard, feeling the hairs prickle into his palm as they continued to fill in with astounding density. The words “the boys at The Cockpit are gonna love this” suddenly emerged from his mouth, and Keaton clapped his hand over his lips to stop them from saying anything else of their own accord.

But as the wind churned wildly around him, he was only feeling more pressure. Not only at the front of his head, which was manufacturing a beard at an incredible rate, but also within it, as a new set of beliefs and behaviors began to map themselves out. And as most behaviors are learned, the circumstances surrounding their development began to change too, to fit the new life Keaton was slipping into. All the testosterone he was producing was changing Keaton’s personality into an aggressive, dominant one.

He was holding the whiskers at bay, but could feel the pressure intensifying under his skin, and the desire was growing stronger to pull his hand away. What was wrong about having a beard? Especially the thick black glory that he was able to create. He wanted to feel it get all fluffy and warm, but another part of him said no, he couldn’t have a beard at school.

But he had grown a beard when he’d been in school, the first boy in his class to do so. Those manly black whiskers had been the envy of all his pals. His social studies teacher had sent a note home to his mom and pop: “Please be sure that Kotword grooms himself properly before school.”

Kotword? What kinda name was Kotword? His name was Ke…Kuh…oh shit…

Keaton’s face scrunched up as he tried to think of his name, but the memories were getting more jumbled and erratic. His name was Key, Keat…shit, something really modern. These kids today had the funkiest names. It had used to be simpler.

Sweat poured down his forehead, pulling Keaton’s hand away from his mouth so that he could wipe his face. But it was just a distraction tactic, and as soon as he removed his fingers, a magnificent black beard burst out through the front of his face, capped by an incredibly manly mustache that covered every inch of his upper lip.

Keaton’s spine straightened with a loud crack. His chest puffed out, absurdly huge, the rounded edge of his beard resting nearly on top of his prominent pecs. The eruption of his beard sent shockwaves through him, pushing the new values and memories that had been secretly growing to the forefront of his mind. Things that Keaton would have never considered or understood were now second nature to him, as the last vestiges of his boyish face hardened into the grizzled visage of a grown man, with a big nose and a prominent brow to match his jaw. And as the wind took one final pass over him, sweeping up from his feet to his forehead, it blew the cap straight up into the air, revealing a bald head surrounded by a horseshoe of black.

His baldness was the final component to his new life as a proud bear. Howard smiled at his reflection, his teeth briefly cracking through the black thicket on his face.

�Woof,� he purred to himself, running a hand through his chest hair and briefly pausing that action to flex his bicep, almost blowing out his sleeve. �Woof! Gonna be gettin� some good action at the Pit tonight.�

A big muscle bear like Howard always attracted attention, and there were definitely plenty of eyes watching him lustfully as he sauntered through the zoo with his muscles on rapturous, pumped-up display. He was a flirtatious bear, smirking and flexing when he noticed someone staring at him, and displaying a masculine confidence that some kid named Keaton would have never touched on in his life. One of Howard’s favorite things to do, period, was to run his palm through his chest hair and feel how far out the sphere of his pec projected. Shit, it made him so horny. Howard knew that most people had never seen a man as big as him before, so he was gonna make sure they didn’t forget it.

Howard enjoyed the zoo, although he wasn’t sure why he’d felt so compelled to go that particular day. That was a benefit of adulthood – he didn’t have to account for why he’d wanted to go to the zoo, he just went. Howard’s only worry that day was that the top of his head might get sunburned. Shit, he shoulda worn a baseball cap or something. It never dawned on him that anything was different, or even new. His huge body, his half-open plaid shirt, his weathered jeans, his big beard, his homosexuality, his gruff bass voice – they were all familiar. There was no trace of the astounding transformation that Keaton had undergone. To the world, to himself, he was Howard, a man who reveled in being noticed and worshipped.

What went unheralded was what had made him into such a huge hulking bear to begin with. The black baseball cap with the simple white lettering fluttered down from the heavens and landed softly on a bench near the big cat exhibit, waiting to be found.