John Bull (mm mc)

Copyright © 2004

A special commissioned story for a GCMCS Group member

Part One

"I feel really, really stupid."

Nigel walked up to his new manservant/houseboy with a stern look on his face. "What are we forgetting?"

The houseboy's eyes went up to the ceiling as he searched his thoughts to find what he had neglected. A second or two later, he squinted his eyes in realization, and hurriedly spat out, "Oh! Right, right! 'Sir', I forgot the 'sir', didn't I?" Straightening his back and shoulders, he tried again. "I feel really stupid like this, sir." His eyebrows raised and eyes widened slightly in a questioning look at his new master. That better?

Nigel strode up to the boy and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Try, "Sir, with respect, might my attire be a bit fanciful, sir?"

The boy looked at Nigel with a you've-got-to-be-kidding expression, but Nigel nodded, indicating that he should proceed. Clearing his throat, he repeated, "Sir, with respect, might my attire be a bit fanciful, sir?"

"That sounds better", Nigel said, taking a step away from his boy and looking him over. "And to answer your question, your livery may seem a bit overstated in the beginning, but you'll get used to it." Describing John's new attire as overstated was understating it, to be sure. John was dressed in an old-fashioned British ensemble, complete with dark waistcoat and tails, snug buttoned vest with multiple shining metal buttons, and a crisp white dress shirt and large bow tie. Below the vest he had on extremely tight white pants tucked into tall black riding boots with fold-over top cuffs. Atop John's head was a black top hat which still held the scent of newness from the milliner's. Nigel added, "This is a proper household and in order for your experience here to be what your father intended, you will be required to dress accordingly, John Bull."

"You gonna call me by my full name all the time?"

Nigel shot him a look. John straightened himself again, looking forward with impassive face and focused eyes. "Sir, begging your pardon, will you be addressing me by my full name from now on, sir?" John was a quick study. Nigel nodded approvingly.

"Yes, John Bull, it adds to the air of formality and reinforces your new station. Besides, we have another John on staff at the stables and it helps to identify each of you specifically." Nigel stared at John, obviously wanted something from him, but leaving poor John uncertain of exactly what. But Nigel was done prompting. He wanted John to be on his guard from here on and conduct himself as such.

John stared. Then, groping for something to say, tried, "Um...okay? Uh, sir?" Nigel cleared his throat menacingly. John stood once again at attention, his mind racing for the proper response, and thought of his own former household. Quickly, he said, "Very good, sir!", with perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm.

Nigel let it pass. "Well done, John Bull. We'll make a proper servant of you, yet."

Being a proper servant was not exactly on the top of John Bull's 'to do' list, but it was something he was forced to endure nonetheless. Two days ago, he was lounging by the poolside of one of his family's summer homes, and today he was forcibly clad in a hot costume and made to bow and scrape before people who were, for all intents and purposes, his peers, if not always, as John tended to think, his equals.

John Bull was a strapping lad of 24. He had completed his studies at college, which took longer than the norm, due to John's tendency to wander from major to major, and how easily he was distracted from his class work. John was being groomed to take his place in the family's long-standing firm, something for which he had less than no interest. And now he was being subjected to the ritual humiliation that both of his older brothers had endured, and his father before them. It was something that John's father swore by as a means of understanding class, societal position, and gaining a respectful dose of humility.

Both of John's brothers Ian and Liam had endured two summer's worth of the torture, dutiful sons that they were. John had dodged the task skillfully by traveling during the summer breaks in college terms under the pretense of advancing his studies. So he hopped from Italy to France to Spain as his interests flitted from Renaissance art history to culinary arts to matador training. But the stalling was over, and it was time for John to suck it up and join the ranks of the underprivileged.

His father's demands were simple. Spend at least one full summer in the role of servant. After years and years of being waited on in his own and others' homes, John was to lower himself to the station of serving class and all that it entails. Last week, John was the wealthy young man about town in the latest Armani fashions. Today, he'd have to help his master dress himself if he was told to. What fun.

And John was more than a little uncomfortable with his new master, anyway. Nigel was certainly no older than John, though he carried himself with greater maturity and presence. John had expected to be cow-towing to an aged crone in his late 60s or 70s, not humbling himself before somebody his own age. It made him even more uncomfortable than his ridiculous servant's costume.

"You're not very good at this, are you, John Bull?", Nigel asked, as if reading John's thought.

John swallowed, shifting on his feet uncomfortably. "With respect, sir, no I dare say I'm not." John mused a moment. 'I dare say.' That was a nice touch.

Nigel picked up on it and smiled. "Well, you seem to be picking things up rather quickly, John Bull." He stepped close to John, who did his best to remain at attention. "I'll let you in on a little secret", Nigel smirked. And in a conspiratorial whisper, added, "You're not the first one to go through this little ritual. I've had to do it, to."

John's composure broke at that. "No shit?!" Nigel tilted his head, frowning. John corrected himself. "Er, Sir, surely you jest, sir." A pause. " you?"

Nigel grinned despite himself. "My father's idea. He had gotten out of it, himself, but somehow thought that I shouldn't be so lucky. Six months as a personal manservant to one of the most odious old toads you've ever encountered." John bit his lip, holding back a laugh.

"So, John Bull", Nigel went on, "how would you care to join me in a spot of tea before you begin your sentence in your own personal servant's hell? I can even give you a few pointers."

John Bull smiled brightly. "Oh, yes sir! Indubitably, sir!"

Nigel winced. "Don't bury yourself in the part."

John gulped. "Sorry."

In the study, John nervously poured the tea and brought the cup and saucer to his young master. "Er, your tea, sir."

Nigel nodded slowly. "Not bad, not bad, John Bull. Remember to always serve from the right. But don't speak unless while serving food or drink unless you've been addressed directly. The average man can see it's his tea, you don't need to announce it."

John bristled a little at the remark, but kept his mouth shut. After setting a small B&B plate of tea biscuits on the table beside Nigel, he stood by awaiting further instructions. Nigel smelled the aroma of the tea and closed his eyes to savor it. He glanced at the selection of biscuits and took one. gesturing with it, he said, "And now, John Bull, for what will be the last time for a long time, I invite you to join me for tea."

John smiled and helped himself to a cup, taking a seat across from the young master.

"Looking forward to your adventure in forced servitude, John?", Nigel asked.

"Not really." John went to sip his tea, then stopped himself. "Not really, SIR."

Nigel waved his correction away. "This one time, we can be less formal. How's the tea?"

John took a sip and was delighted at the richness of the flavor. It actually made him lightheaded for a moment. This was a blend that even his privileged background had not exposed him to. "It's excellent", he said. "I'm a bit of a tea snob and this really is pretty tasty. Where'd you get it?"

Nigel smiled. "Special blend. I have it imported." He took a sip of the tea himself, again closing his eyes to savor it, letting out a small "ahh" as he finished swallowing. John watched him admiringly. Damn, he must really like his tea. Nigel eyed John for a moment, then said, "You keep yourself in rather decent shape, John. Do you work out?"

John shrugged. "Not all that often. But I swim like a fish and I run a lot. Keeps me trim, I guess."

Nigel smirked, letting slip a tiny chortle of laughter. John wondered what that meant, but let it pass. "We do have exercise facilities and a pool to which you can avail yourself when you're not working", Nigel told him.

"Yeah, I saw the big pool out back and the gymnasium when I got the grand tour", John beamed. "Can't wait to get at those."

Nigel peered over the brim of his teacup and said, "Well, in your new station, you won't be allowed to go near those unless in a serving capacity. You can use the small exercise room in the basement and the indoor pool, however."

John thought for a minute. What indoor pool? "Oh, you mean the one downstairs, with all the columns and statuary? That's an impressive bit of work, too. I'd still enjoy--"

"No", Nigel stopped him. "There's another one down the corridor, to the left. Much smaller. Simple concrete floor. It's about half or a third the size. I forget. You get to use that one."

"Oh. I see. Right." John drank his tea in bigger gulps, if only to keep himself from saying something he'd regret. This felt like being busted to private 4th class after having living life as a brigadier general. One with a stupid costume.

"--general.", Nigel said. John started a bit, having only caught the last bit of what Nigel was saying. What, could he read his mind or something? His puzzled expression prompted Nigel to repeat himself. "How about a few pointers about the job in general, then?", Nigel suggested. John nodded, setting aside his empty cup.

"First of all, when in the presence of your master, stay focused. Be attentive to his needs." He stressed the word focused, clarifying that zoning out as John just had was unacceptable. "And a lot of the times, your master will request or demand things that seem to make no sense whatever. Just do it anyway. It'll all make sense in the long run, and employers aren't used to explaining themselves to the help."

"The help?", John repeated, scrunching his nose.

"That's what you are now, John. Just the help. Get used to it." John didn't think he'd ever get used to it, but he nodded all the same. "Now, your master will most likely--"

John interrupted him. "I'm sorry, but do I have to think of you as my master? It makes me feel like I'm your slave or something."

"To some less educated parties, that's precisely what you are. A very well paid (well, in most cases, not yours), well dressed slave, but a slave nonetheless. You may address me as either "Sir" or "Master Nigel", whichever the situation calls for. All other men are "sirs", the ladies are "my lady", but I and I alone am to be considered your master. You with me so far?" Nigel nodded, more slowly this time, the weight of what he was about to be put through finally settling fully on his shoulders. He'd like nothing more than to just get up and leave right now, but to do so would ensure that his father would cut him off. Permanently. So for the foreseeable future, John was stuck with being an overdressed slaveboy.

Nigel ran the ins and outs of serving by John for well over and hour. John was a servant. Unquestioning, obedient. Nigel was the master, Nigel was the sir. The longer John listened, the more relaxed and accepting he became. There was a warmth building within him, most likely from the cozy room, his heavy attire, definitely compounded by the hot tea, that made him feel a bit more subservient and docile. He was still none too happy with the present state of affairs, but his resistance to the idea was not as aggressive as it was earlier. At least not consciously.

John would have few rights or privileges. He got up and went whenever his master did, was at his beck and call at all hours and for any tasks, regardless how trivial. John recalled his fraternity days when a senior frat brother woke him at 3 o'clock in the morning to walk all the way across campus from the dorms to the frat house to fluff the guy's pillow. Any words of complaint or disrespect brought dire consequences. It was gonna be like that.

But this Nigel guy had been through the same thing as John was going to. His old man sent him into servant land for humility's sake or as a rite of passage or whatever the reasoning was. The more John listened, the more he figured that if anyone would go easy on him and be the most tolerant of his ignorance of a servant's life, it would be Nigel. He was lucky he wound up here.

"That just about covers all I can think to tell you, John", Nigel said. He waved his hands in an upward motion. "On your feet."

Sluggishly, John stood up, his head spinning for a second or two, his brow warm. He must have been sitting to long. He straightened his coat and as Nigel indicated the top hat on a nearby footstool, John picked it up and returned it to his head. "Your life as my servant begins now, John Bull", Nigel announced.

John took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He extended a hand to his new master. "Hey, well, thanks a lot for everything. The run- through, the tea and all, I really apprecia--"

"I do not shake hands with the those beneath me!", Nigel snapped, making John jump. "John Bull, I am quite finished here. Clear away these dishes and report to Mrs. Flemming in the kitchen for your appointed afternoon tasks." He produced a pocket watch from his breast pocket and glanced at it. "It would seem you're already more than 90 minutes late in attending to them. I assure you that will not be tolerated again."

John began to splutter. "What the--? But I was talking to you! You were telling me all about the--!" Nigel halted John's protests with a look that would stop a train. John swallowed hard, holding in his outrage. Then, steadily, with forced evenness, John said, "No sir, Master Nigel. I'll see to it that it won't happen again."

"See to it that it doesn't, John Bull." With that, Nigel waved him away.

John quickly gathered the tea servings and exited toward the kitchen. He gave one last glance at his new master who was now gazing out the window at the far end of the cavernous room. "Yeah, I'll make sure it never happens again, asshole", John muttered under his breath.

From more than thirty feet away, face still to the paneled glass, Nigel responded, "I'm fairly certain we covered that you are only to address me as "sir" or "Master Nigel", John Bull."

Thrown by Nigel's feat of rabbit-like hearing, John could only answer, "Yes, sir! Of course sir, Master Nigel!", as he hurried out the door.

The following week and a half were a living hell for John. He was run ragged with tasks ranging from constant servitude to menial chores. Any traces of the friendly benevolence Nigel demonstrated in the study over tea were long gone. He seemed almost to enjoy--no, not almost, completely enjoy--ordering John around and pushing him to the limits of his patience yet forcing him to maintain an air of courtesy. Through it all, John had to remain pleasant and obedient, even when he wanted to knock Nigel's block off.

John brought Nigel meals, laid out his clothes, shined his shoes, washed his cars (plural), vacuumed the rugs, dusted the furniture (all forty-seven rooms of it), and even stood nearby Nigel's easy chair and pushed the buttons on his TV remote. John was fitted with three different livery uniforms. One was always on his back, the other being cleaned, the last on emergency standby. It was hot, stiff, and he always felt ludicrous wearing it. When sent on errands outside, John had to wear the top hat. This definitely made him an object of ridicule to passersby, particularly since Nigel had a penchant to send John out on tasks that were usually within a five or six block radius, and thus "far too close to bother taking the car".

As bad as the day to day work of servant for Master Nigel was, John found that life amongst his "fellow staff members" even worse. John had hoped to find some degree of companionship and support from the other servants; the maids, the cooks, the grooms. He was wrong. In English society, class is everything, and there is no shortage of snobbery at any level of class. The serving staff looked upon John as an intruder, and a presumptuous one at that. He was merely a phony, a poseur, come to play briefly at being part of a lower class before flying off to live a life of luxury. Few spoke to him at all, and those who did made sneering remarks. After the first week, John gave up on trying to be civil to any of them and did his best to ignore them. It was no easy task.

The head of staff was Mrs. Flemming, who openly despised John Bull from the moment she laid eyes on him. Mrs. Flemming had violently red hair, a head the precise shape of a stewpot and was a big as a walk-in closet. She made it clear that behind the staff doors, she was in charge and would brook no defiance.

"You'll get no preferential treatment around 'ere, John Bull", she seethed.

"I wasn't expecting any", John lied, hoping that was just what he'd get.

"And did I ask you to speak just now?", she squealed. "You'll speak when you're spoken to, and even then it best be the likes of "Yes, ma'am, right away, ma'am", do I make myself clear, you?"

John wanted nothing more than to respond by thwacking the old biddy across her gourd with one or her monstrous sauce pans, but knew that would have to wait until after his inheritance was assured. He forced a smile, bowed his head slightly and said, "Yes, ma'am."

"And wipe that idiot grin off'a ya face, you look like a fool. If ya need an expression, I'll tell you what it should be. Now off with you."

Then again, maybe the iron skillet would be a better choice.

By that day's end, John couldn't decide if he was more exhausted or humiliated. He returned to his cell (it was too small to be called a room or a chamber so he used the monastic term for it) and once there flopped down on the feculent cot he used for a bed. He kicked off his boots and contemplated the walk next door to his changing room, where his uniforms had more plush accommodations than he did. He had time enough for about four hours sleep before he had to rise and anticipate his master's every need upon waking.

There was a knock at John's door, jarring him from his daze. He scrambled like a schoolboy trying to extinguish a pilfered cigarette, yanking back on his boots and smoothing out his jacket. He stood at attention and spoke to the door. "Come in, please."

The door opened slowly to reveal an adorable serving girl of perhaps a year or two John's junior. She had beautiful eyes and carried a tea service for one. "Mister Bull? Might I come in, sir?"

John felt his shoulders relax a bit and let out a sigh of relief it wasn't one of his many taskmasters. "Sure, sure, come on in, if you can find room. And you can just call me John when I'm in here and I'm not kissing ass."

The girl giggled. "Oh, sir. You're funny." Her laugh was adorable as she was.

"I'd offer you a chair, but I don't have any", John said. He sat on the bed and scooted over to the end, patting the mattress for her to join him. She did, her practiced hands still holding the tray perfectly straight and still. "Whatever it is I can do for you, honey, you better make it quick before whoever ordered that tea gets pissed if it takes too long or arrives cold."

"Oh no, sir. I mean, John. The tea's for you."

John's eyes lit up, but he was a bit confused. "For me? Who sent it?"

"Oh, nobody sent me with it, John. Nobody knows I'm 'ere. But earlier today during tea time, I saw you eyeing the teapot and I thought maybe you might like a cup before retiring. You ever had some of the master's special blend?"

"Yeah, once. It's great stuff. Here, let me." John took the tray from the girl and stretched his leg over to the wobbly bedside table dragged it over with his foot. John set the now clattering tray (he was less experienced than the girl to put it mildly) on the table and began to pour. "Man, this is just what I need. Thanks, sweetie." Taking up the cup, John drank it gratefully, feeling the warmth and the fine flavor spill down his throat and seep into his tummy. After closing his eyes and taking in the experience, he poured himself a second cup and sipped it more slowly. Then he noticed the girl sitting and watching him intently. "You only brought one cup. Sure you don't want some?"

She shook her head vigorously. "Oh no, thankyew, I was never much for tea."

"Which one are you again?", John asked.


John eyed her suspiciously. "I appreciate the tea, Melanie, but what's in it for you? Why are you doing this? Why be nice to me when everyone else seems to want to treat me like a sack of shit?"

She actually blushed at his crass statement. "I don't want nothing, really, sir. I just--it's just that I--"

"Just what?"

She looked at the floor. "It's just that I know what it's like to be the new servant and to be treated as dirt by the rest of the 'ousehold. I've been the new girl for gon' on five year now. So when you showed up, all the 'ostility moved over and settled down on you. First I was 'appy that it was you and not me anymore--" she paused.

"Go on", John urged her.

"--but then I felt maybe I kind of owed you something, for taking my place and making my lot just a teensy bit easier. 'Sides, you''re kind of cute." John grinned at that. "Drink up now, sir, I best get all this back afore it's missed." John swigged back the last of his tea and handed the cup to the serving girl. their fingers touched briefly and his eyes met hers with nothing more than genuine gratitude.

"Thanks, kid."

Melanie retrieved the tray and blushed, this time with admiration, and made he way tot he door. Slipping out, she whispered, "See you tomorrow night then, John."

John lay back on his cot, warmed by the tea, feeling a bit lightheaded, but no longer feeling as if he were completely alone in this place.

Melanie's nightly visits became part of John's routine. He was worked hard and treated cruelly each day, but would return to his room to be followed shortly thereafter by Melanie and her magnificent tea. He was dying to do something he liked to do, and was particularly eager to swim again. He was going through what he called an aquatic withdrawal. It was especially difficult earlier that week when he was forced to stand out on the hot deck as Master Nigel lounged in the grand pool. Dressed in full livery, John had to remain on hand with a towel over his arm and iced drinks at the ready, sweating profusely under his heavy jacket as Master Nigel splashed about in the sparkling, crystal-blue pool.

One morning as John made his way down the hall with a tray of sandwiches for his master, he caught his reflection in an ornately-framed mirror. He stopped, caught off-guard by his own reflection. John's complexion was always clear and even, but not anymore. His face seemed to be in a constant state of blush. At first, John didn't even recognize the face as his. His cheeks were so ruddy and nose so pink that he almost looked to be someone else. He passed the reddening complexion off as a result of stress, repressed anger, exhaustion, or a combination of the three. "I have so got to get some workout time in", he said.

The next afternoon, he had his chance. Master Nigel was going into the city, and after seeing him to his car, John stood nearby waiting eagerly for his spoiled rotten controller to drive out of sight.

The car began to pull away and begin it's roll down the expansive circle drive, and John's heart jumped for joy to be rid of the demanding bastard if only for an hour or two. Then the car slowed it's descent down the driveway and stopped. The passenger's window rolled down and Nigel called out. "Oh, John Bull?"

"Ah, shit", thought John. "Now he's got some fucking menial tasks for me to perform until he gets back. Never a moment's peace." He hastened tot he car and answered, "Yes, Master Nigel? What can I do for you, sir?"

"John Bull, I intend to be away from the house until well into the evening. Why don't you take the rest of the afternoon off."

John was flabbergasted. It was hard to conceive that a former young man of leisure could be made so happy be the prospect of a few hours of playtime. "Really, sir?"

Nigel stared reproachfully at his servant. "Unless of course you'd prefer I assign you something with which to occupy yourself."

"No, sir! Thank-you, sir! Have a pleasant afternoon, sir!" Before John was even done groveling, Nigel rolled up his window and waved the driver on. The giddy John stood sentinel until they hit the end of the driveway and then bolted into the house. He could swim at last!

John walked the hallway with a spring in his step for the first time since...well, for the first time. His elaborate livery hung up for the day for cleaning, he was dressed only in a loose-fitting gray tanktop, baggy electric blue shorts atop his bikini trunks and flip- flops. With a towel flung jauntily over his shoulder, he made his way toward the servant's gym and pool to get in a much-needed, tension-relieving workout.

He met Mrs. Flemming coming the other way. She was pushing a cart overflowing with silver dishes and candle holders, among other things, all in varying stages of tarnish. Her eyes met John's and lit with an indignant flame.

"What is the meaning of this, John Bull?! You are OUT of uniform! This is wholly inappropriate and highly disrespectful! Disrespectful of your master, disrespectful of this household, and disrespectful of me! I am responsible for your conduct in Master Nigel's absence! How do you think this--this outrageous behavior reflects upon me?? I have brought you this silver to polish. You will get BACK into your livery this INstant and retrieve your gloves from the kitchen immediately or by heaven, you'll face my wrath!" The hold tirade came tumbling out of her carpet bag-sized mouth like a vomitous torrent, in one breath. You'd think she might have rehearsed it. "If you think just because Master Nigel is not present your action will go unobserved, you are SADly mistaken. Why, when the master hears of this, he'll--"

"Master Nigel", John interrupted, "gave me the day off." It was actually just for the afternoon, but the old gasbag didn't need to know that. "I am on my way to the gym and the pool--" Mrs. Flemming's veins bulged from her temple as she raised a condemning finger to forbid it. John anticipated her knee-jerk reaction, adding quickly, "--the servant's gym and pool, to work on keeping myself fit to serve the REAL head of our household."

John stared the toadish woman down, and she seethed at him, searching for the proper comeback to keep John in his place. John didn't let her think of it. "Of course, if you feel that you have the authority to contradict our dear lord and master and put me to work with your own petty little chores, I'm sure he'd be deLIGHTed to hear your explanation of why you elected to undermine his direct orders. Ma'am."

Mrs. Flemming ground her teeth so fiercely that John could hear them sanding down from where he stood, several feet away. After a few moments, she said through those still-gritted teeth, "Be off with yourself, then, John Bull." John started down the hall again, but Mrs. Flemming extended a beefy arm to halt him. Before he could protest, her other arm shot out and struck one of the wooded panels to her left, which depressed under her meaty fist.

A sliding panel opened to reveal a slender doorway into a dingy, poorly-lit hall. "Take the servant's hallway when yer off-hours. Master's orders or no, I'll not have ye walking the halls of this fine home in that state o' dress." She eyed him spitefully. "Or undress, in your case." John peered into the dank hallway and looked down it's dusty length. bare bulbs glowed at intermittent intervals down to a darkened end. "Last doorway on your right", Mrs. Flemming growled. "Down three flights, take another left then an immediate right. The silver will be waiting for your majesty after your day of frolic."

John stepped in and felt the breeze as Mrs. Flemming slammed the panel shut behind him. He was so going to enjoy being rich again in another six weeks so he could make that bitch's life a living hell.

John found the gym easily enough, though it felt like he was making his way through ancient catacombs to get there. The gym was a lot like his room. Small, cramped, dingy. there were a few free weights lying around, cobwebbed from disuse. The only real working equipment was a lat machine that badly needed dusting. Broken weights lay strewn about the corners of the room, along with old and crusty headbands and a pair of tennis shoes from circa 1976. John decided to start with a dip in the pool, instead.

The pool wasn't much better. In an adjoining room, there was a swimming pool no bigger than a suburban backyard pool, with barely two feet of ledge around it of bare concrete. A small patio (if that word applies) a four extra feet of concrete was at the end nearest the doorway. Doorway was the applicable word in that case, as neither the pool nor the weight room had actual doors that could be closed.

John squatted down and stared at the water, which was the color of pine needles. He dipped his fingers in the water and pulled them right back out. The water felt almost viscous, like it was rife with algae. "Perfect", John grumbled. He noticed a hose at one corner of the room. He'd have to clean out his own damn pool, and on his first- -and for all he knew, only--day off. John did some searching around these lower levels and found a janitor's closet and returned with a large bucket, cleanser, a long-poled scrub brush, and a jug of chlorine solution. He looked into the water again, trying to locate the drain plug. After some stirring with the long scrubber, he finally found it near the far left corner.

There was a formidable latch on it that appeared to be locked tight and rusted shut. John had no way to get it open from above water, which was apparent after several jabs with the scrubber. He couldn't get any closer, either. Oversized, rusted screws which stuck from the side of the pool's deep end. John could only assume these were the remnants of what was once the sole ladder in or out. He was going to have to dive in and pull the drain cap off by hand.

John kicked off his flip-flops and dipped his toes in the water. Again, like stepping into a pool of watered-down Kayro syrup. John paused, considering abandoning the whole endeavor and just going back upstairs to lay low from Mrs. Flemming and her tray of silver.

But no, this was his first break from this hellish "character- building" exercise of his father's and he wasn't going to waste it cowering in his cracker box room from the moving land mass that was the head serving wench. John shucked off his tanktop and shorts, crossed himself, and jumped feet first into the pool.

It was like plunging into Jell-o. John felt the water cling to his skin and ooze around him like an otherworldly germ culture. His eyes were frozen open. The water was freezing, on top of everything else. But visibility was so bad that all he could see was a few feet in front of him, and that was a murky green haze. His feet touched bottom and he squatted down, which wasn't easy with the slimy resistance the water offered, and thrust himself upward again. He ascended slowly, and halfway up he actually stopped, the thick waters congealing around him. John flapped his arms wildly and finally broke through the surface. He gasped and spat, and made his way clumsily to the pool's edge. Gasping the slick concrete with one hand, John frantically wiped his face with the other.

He was feeling lightheaded again. He must have been away from swimming for too long and the shock of the cold, filthy water was too much a shock to his system. The pores of John's skin felt as if the thick water was seeping in making a home inside him. His cheeks and nose felt unusually warm. "That's it, everybody out of the pool", he spluttered, spitting out more of the foul liquid.

But John could not gain any handhold on the pools edge. It was too slippery, too slimy. He pulled himself up only to have his palms slide out form underneath him and send him back into the waters, twice he was dunked back in over his head. Now his scalp was tingling. After a final attempt that almost cracked his chin against the concrete, John realized the only way he was getting out of here was to walk out from the deep end to the shallow end and then up over the edge once it dried.

Doing his best to edge his way along, John moved himself to the far end where he knew the drain to be. Bracing himself, he dove down to locate the sealed drain. It took three dives to find it, seven more to get the damn thing off. John floated atop the gelatinous water as the level slowly lowered and circled the drain. By then, his head was spinning as much as the exiting water and his skin felt beyond funky. As he lay on the disgusting bottom of the empty pool, John resolved to clean up the mucky pool rapidly and get in at least one good set of laps. He would not surrender his day off so easily.

And hour and a half later, with arms aching from scrubbing, John used the hose to refill the pool and added the proper formula of chlorine. He also hosed himself off a time or two to get rid of the ooze on his skin. It didn't help much. But the much-anticipated dip in the tiny pool did.

John had found the heating controls (in the next room) and brought the temperature up to a livable level and dove in. The water didn't seem all that much clearer, as some genius had painted the interior pool walls a deep green, but the water felt cleaner. It was still pretty tacky, but nothing like it was when he started. John did several series of laps before finally giving in to fatigue.

John pulled himself out of the pool sometime after dinner hour, feeling oddly refreshed despite the slimy feeling on his skin. He knew he would use the pool as his haven, and steal way here every chance he could get. In the middle of the night, if he had to.

Heading back to his room by way of the dingy servant's hallway, John exited where he had entered and made straight for his room. He once again caught his reflection in the hall mirror. His face was even redder than before, if that were possible, and now his skin seemed to have taken on a pasty appearance. "Damn", John wondered, "what the hell was in that water, anyway?"

"But I want the STRAWberry cupcake! I don't WANT the blueberry ones!! GET it for me, NOWWWW!! MOOOOOMMM!!!"

John didn't think there was a worse female in the world than Mrs. Flemming. He was wrong. The insufferable, shrieking hellion masterfully disguised as a pigtailed little girl was Master Nigel's niece. She, and her entire clan, was visiting along with Nigel's sister. The whole unsavory entourage acted more like white trash than the social elite, and the wailing brat was the worst of the lot. She was a spoiled rich kid who was used to getting everything she wanted and made sure the world knew about it when she didn't. The girl began yanking on the tails of John's jacket, nearly causing him to upend his serving tray on the floor.

"Nigel, what kind of a household are you keeping, boy?", his sister chided, supported by the approving grunts and dismissive head-shakes of her unwieldy husband and eldest son.

Nigel bristled at the implication and turned to John. "What is the problem, John Bull. Can't you even handle the needs of a toddler?" Guffaws from hubby and son.

"Sir, the girl is insisting on strawberry cupcakes. Chef Hobson didn't prepare any! I can't give her what we don't hav--"

"Then find a suitable replacement to mollify her or go bake the damn cupcakes yourself! Must I think of everything?" Husband and son reverted to shaking their heads in disgust. So hard to get good help these days.

The sister scratched the back of her neck and gazed at the ceiling molding. "Honestly, Nigel, if you can't even properly train your insolent butler, I can't imagine how daddy can consider you to take more responsibility with the family fortune, dear."

The brat shrieked again, and through some bizarre loophole in the laws of science, did not shatter every glass in the room. "MUHH- HOOOMMMMM!! He won't SERVE me!! Make him SERVE me!! He's a SERvant! Make the mean, dumb man SERRRRVVEE!!" The girl had shifted to kicking John in the shins.

"You heard the child, Nigel", the sister leered.

"John Bull!", Nigel spat. "Do SOMEthing, for God's sake. I will not be made a fool of in my own home."

John snapped. "I'm not making you a fool, dammit!! All that's being made is a god-FUCKING-awful racket by this bloody freakin' mating call for a car alarm! Will you SHUT THE HELL UP ALREADY, you little SHIT!!!!"

The girl made an "eep"-ing noise as she drew in her lips and bit them hard. She then ran screeching from the room, arms flailing. The husband and son sat mutely and the sister threw her head back with a nasty, "Well!"

Master Nigel's stare bored lasers into John's forehead.

John's body shook from rage and humiliation, his fingers clutching the handle of the teapot nearly hard enough to break it. He knew without question that he was going down for his outburst. He clenched his teeth, forced a smile, and said, "More tea, anyone?"

"It would appear", Master Nigel pronounced, "that our dear John Bull needs a serious lesson in remembering his place around here." He paced back and forth in the tiny room that had been assigned to John. John himself stood at attention while trying to look sufficiently doleful.

The hulking form of Mrs. Flemming filled the doorway, her gargantuan arms crossed over her chest as she stood guard. "Yes, Master Nigel, it would appear so indeed."

"Lookit", John began, "I'm just not used to this is al--"

"SILENCE!", Nigel shouted.

"Speak when spoken to, you!", Mrs. Flemming hissed.

Nigel put his face right up to John's. "You will learn your place, John Bull, I promise you that. Insolence, disobedience will not be tolerated." Nigel's unblinking eyes locked with John's. He whispered menacingly, "Do you understand me, John Bull?"

John took a deep breath. "Yes, sir."

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME??!!!", Nigel raged.

"Yes, Master Nigel sir! I do understand, sir!"

Nigel produced a sheet of paper and handed it to John. "This is your new oath. Your reminder, your daily prayer. You will learn it, you will recite it, you read it--aloud--every morning when you rise, every noon, every evening before you retire. Each time, Mrs. Flemming will be on hand to see to it that you do so. Read."

John looked at the words written on the page in Nigel's own hand. He swallowed. "Sir, if I could just apologize--"


John read. "I am John Bull. I am nothing more than a servant to my master. My only desire is to serve him, my only need is to satisfy him. I am of a lower class and will respect my betters. I must obey those above me and I will obey them with gratitude and without question or hesitation. I am proud to wear my fine livery and nothing else to remind me of my station and my privilege to serve. I am only John Bull, and this is all that I am."

Nigel nodded his approval. "I leave him in your capable hands, Mrs. Flemming." He departed the room without another word to John.

"Alright then, Mr. Bull", Mrs. Flemming said, a wicked smile spreading across her face, "I think a repetition or two of your new oath is in order. To make sure it's getting into that thick head of yours. Go on, then."

John sighed, then began again. "I am John Bull--"

"100 times."

John stopped. "What?"

Mrs. Flemming's smile vanished. "You heard me, boy. Repeat it 100 times. I'll keep count."

"Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me--!", John protested.

"TWO hundred!", Mrs. Flemming said.

John began to argue, but she silenced him with a look. He swallowed, and lifted the paper to his eyes again. He knew he was stuck. "I am John Bull. I am nothing more than a servant to my master. My only desire is--"

Some time later, after what john was sure was closer to 300 repetitions of the oath (Mrs. Fleming had lost count twice and made John back up, just to be on the safe side), the evil giantess exited with a promise that increased chores would await John in the morning. John collapsed on his cot, his head spinning and heart stuck in his throat. He had to get the hell out of here. A soft rap at the door made him start, but the door opened a bit to reveal Melanie with a tea serving.

"Thought you might like a cupper. Rough day, John?"

John fell back on the bed. "You have no idea."

And so it went for weeks. John rose to the glaring face of the odious Mrs. Flemming, recited his degrading oath and was put to work in his hated costume uniform. Break for lunch, report to the kitchen, recite the oath in front of not only Mrs. Flemming but a snickering cooking staff and anyone else who happened to be present. Work some more degrading tasks while sucking up to the boss, then retire to his tiny room where Mrs. Flemming waited to hear the oath, speak any threats she cared to deliver, and then prepare for more of the same the next morning.

If not for Melanie's secret nightly tea visits, John thought he would go insane. His workout schedule had deteriorated to nothing. His skin was pale, flabby, pasty, and his face ruddy. Each time John caught his reflection in the mirror, he saw what he was being molded into and it both angered and frightened him. He was fearful that, even though he was nearing the end of his agonizing two-month sentence, he could very well snap at any moment. He was spot on with that prediction.

It was lunch the following day when John entered the kitchen to find not only Mrs. Flemming, but what looked for all the world to be the entire cooking, housekeeping, and stewarding staff crowding about.

"What the bloody hell...", John muttered at the throng of employees all crammed into the expansive space that seemed smaller for all the occupants.

Mrs. Flemming turned to see John. "I was wondering when the hell you were going to see fit to show up for your reinforcement training." That was the term she applied to John's oath repetition. "Get over here and get on with it." She gestured to the center of the kitchen's cooking islands, and at her barked command, the other servants bustling about exchanged whispers, grins, and crowded around to watch John's humiliation.

"What's with all these people--?", John began.

"Master Nigel is hosting an exclusive dinner this evening, John Bull, and it requires the utmost preparation. Something you would do well to acclimate yourself to. Well, let's get on with it, then. We don't have all day."

John looked at the throng of servants leaning forward, eager faces grinning and eyes staring with unspoken malice at John. This was clearly the anticipated highlight of their day. "Do I have to cite the oath right here? Can't we go out into the hall, or--"

"YOU will do your recitation WHEN I say and WHERE I say, John Bull, you impudent little popinjay! And I say you will say your oath HERE-- !", and she jabbed a finger at the floor in front of her, "--and NOW!! Now MOVE!!" The other servants all laughed and exchanged gleeful looks. A few even applauded, all of which the usually order- obsessive Mrs. Flemming pretended not to notice.

John shuffled forward and stood before her. "Make it quick", she snapped. "Some of us have work to do which we actually take seriously."

John let out a deep breath and gave it his all, keeping his pace brisk. . "I am John Bull. I am nothing more than a servant to my master. My only desire is to serve him, my only need is to satisfy him. I am of a lower class and will respect my betters. I must obey those above me and I will obey them with gratitude and without question or hesitation. I am proud to wear my fine livery and nothing else to remind me of my station and my privilege to serve. I am only John Bull, and this is all that I am."

The servants could scarcely contain themselves, as the room echoed with poorly-muffled snickers and guffaws. One servant banged his palm against the countertop in delight. John Began to back out of the room when Mrs. Flemming stopped him. "Again."

John stood frozen for a moment, processing what she'd just said. "Excuse me--?"

"Say it again. And I will NOT excuse you, John Bull. Say it again and do so with conviction. The way you sped through that was so fast, you might well have been a tobacco auctioneer. God only knows what you spat out. Say it...again."

"But you TOLD me to make it quick!" John turned to the other servants for support, realizing his mistake even as he opened his mouth. "You all heard her! She said to make it quick and I did--!"

Mrs. Flemming put her nose almost up to John's. "I will brook no defiance from the likes of you, John Bull! Repeat your oath again. In fact, you will stand here and do so until such a time as I bid you to stop. Do I make myself clear??"

"B-but Master Nigel wants me to report to his study right after this...I, I should probably be there now--"

"Then you will have yourself a little problem in explaining your dreadful tardiness to your master then, won't you? Should he ask me about the delay, I will simply tell him the truth that you refused to cooperate and were indignantly resistant to reciting your oath as ordered. Something the rest of our trusted staff will no doubt be happy to verify they witnessed." The rest of the room responded with nodding heads and happy agreement. It was Let's Screw Over John Day apparently, and John had never received the announcement.

John tried to hold back his fury, his face reddening worse than it already was, and he began again. . "I am John Bull. I am nothing more than--" Several of the staff began to laugh. John swallowed, trying to continue where he left off. " My only desire is to serve him, my only need is to satisfy--" Several of the maids lost it and snickered and snorted into their aprons, and gripped one another's shoulder's for support. "I am of a lower class and will respect my betters." By this time, most of the stewards had dropped whatever pots, pans, or other paraphernalia they were cleaning and howled with delight. John's was ready to burst. "I must obey those above me--" It was now almost impossible to hear John over the cacophony. "--and I will obey them with gratitude and without question--" Mrs. Flemming stood before him, arms crossed, eyes commanding. She nodded for him to go on. "I am proud to wear my fine livery and nothing else--" The room was a chaotic din of derisive laughter. And John had had enough.

"FUCK YOU!!!" The crush of servants finally shut up. "That is IT! Fuck the whole goddamn bleeding bunch of you! And especially you, you insidious fat COW!" He jabbed an angry finger at Mrs. Flemming, whose eyes widened. "You know what, I have tried my best to suck it up and LOWER myself to the level of you bigoted chattel, but I am through with it! And I'm through with you lot of obnoxious fuckers!!"

The entire staff stood frozen by John's tirade. Their victim had turned on them and each person who had in turn treated him like garbage had the audacity to look surprised.

"This is day fifty-nine of my insufferable internment here! Fifty- NINE!! You know what that means, you lowlife pieces of shit? DO you?? Everyone in my family who's been put through this servant role- playing idiocy did so for no more than two months! So after tomorrow, I am bloody well fucking OUT of here, mates! Gone! Vapor!" He moved up to the blimplike Mrs. Flemming. "And you, you expansive whore, and the rest of your godforsaken herd, will be subjected to me being a class well ABOVE you as I reclaim my station." He turned to address the group. "Isn't that what you've all been pounding into my head all this time that I've been busting my ass? Huh. isn't it?! Classes aren't meant to intermingle. Ohhhhh, no! Well, I get the picture, you sodding bastards." John marched to the door. "And I am SO looking forward to treating every goddamn one of you like the filthy gobs of rat's shit you've proven that you are. Go straight to hell!"

John slammed the door with a force that echoed through much of the house. Two months. He was almost out free, after two ungodly months.

"Two YEARS? You can't possibly be serious, dad! What do you mean I have to be a servant for two years?!"

John was on the phone with his father. This is what Nigel had summoned him to the study for. To be hit with the news that John's stay with Master Nigel was being extended. Considerably.

"Dad, dad listen to me! Liam and Ian only went through this for two months! You and Uncle Lee didn't even go more than a couple months! Why are you doing this to me??"

John's father answered John in jovial, cheerful tones. John's father was almost always jovial and cheerful. It was rather annoying. Nigel stood nearby, listening in to the one-sided conversation, able to piece together what was being said on the other end of the line with ease. He grinned broadly.

"Dad, you never told me about this. I had no way to prepare myself for--I just, I--just now, I said--why are you doing this? I've been here two whole months! I've learned humility, I swear to God!"

"Not from where I'm standing", Nigel mumbled deliberately loud enough for John to hear.

John shot him a look. "Dad, please--what made you think I needed this? I've done everything you asked, why would you--recommended it? Who recommended I stay here for two more years?? Who outside the family even knows I'm going through this?" John was silent then. The only sound that could be heard was the happy muffled voice of John's father explaining his valuable source. John slowly looked over at Nigel, who was wearing the most spiteful smirk john had ever seen. He nodded to John, indicating that he was the guilty party.

So Nigel had talked him into it. That was another of the father's flaws. He was easily persuaded as well as always cheerful. And he cheerfully assured John that two years of daily servitude would do him good and be for the best.

"Dad...c'mon, can't, you just can't..." John considered leveling one of his famous threats of running away, cutting himself off from the family, but by this time his father new the threat was empty and that John could not survive long without his inheritance. John felt his eyes grow moist. He looked down at his uniform and realized that this was all he'd be wearing for the next 24 months.

"Yeah. Yeah, I understand, dad. I stick it out or I'm cut off. Yeah, I'm sure you think it is for the best. I'm glad you think I can do it. Goodbye, dad." John hung up the phone and felt certain that the clunk of the receiver was as loud as a thunderclap. He buried his head in his hands and took very deep breaths. After a moment of two of silence--which to his credit, Nigel allowed him to have--John stood up, straightened his back, and retrieved his hat from the side table.

"Will there be anything else, Master Nigel?", he said with forced calm.

"No, that will be all for now, John Bull."

"Then I shall see to the preparations for this evening's party, if I may, sir."

"Very good, John Bull. You may."

John strode out of the room tall and proud, looking every bit like a man who did not feel he had just been condemned to a slow and painful death.

Master Nigel's soiree was a great success, due in no small part to John's constant vigilance in serving and doing his utmost to anticipate each guest's every need. Glasses were filled before they were a smidge past half empty, plates offering the next courses were slipped covertly in and their predecessors cleared and spirited away. Ashtrays were capped and replaced the second a butt was extinguished. John's diligence could not be credited merely to sucking up to the boss, but to avoiding the kitchen as much as possible, and the jeers and icy stares of the rest of the staff.

By 9pm, the party had retired to the drawing room, where Master Nigel regaled his guests with humorous stories. John stood nearby, out of sight and at the ready to leap to whatever task may be requested of him. He was about to get a most unexpected request.

"Oh, enough of all this", snorted a slender woman with mountainous hair piled high atop her head. "Nigel darling, you must engage us with a display of your mesmeric skills. You really must, you know."

A portly gentlemen with a bushy gray moustache took a smoldering cigar from his mouth. "What's this then? Mesmeric skills? Nigel, you don't mean to tell us you're a hypnotist, do you, lad?"

Nigel pretended to blush with modesty and was thoroughly unconvincing. "Welll...I do dabble a bit with hypnosis."

A redheaded woman wearing pearls squealed with delight. "Don't just tell us about it, Nigel. Give us a demonstration! Show us how you can enthrall a subject and bend him to your will." Her companion, a wispy man with slicked-back hair let out a truncated guffaw of amusement around the stem of his merchamp.

"I do suppose that as your host I am obligated to divert you", Nigel grinned, doing little to conceal the fact that this was precisely what he had been aching to do all evening. "We need a subject, first of all", Nigel announced. The group had varied reactions to this announcement. The men mostly busied themselves with their smoking apparatus, trying to avoid eye contact with Nigel. One older woman all in blue found herself suddenly fascinated by her glass of sherry. Seeing someone hypnotized was apparently far more appealing than being put under yourself.

The woman with the mile-high hairdo sat up tall. "Oh, do me, Nigel dear!" Nigel raised one eyebrow and smiled, but his eyes broadcast that he would prefer to avoid doing this young lady in any sense of the word.

"Actually, I have a better idea", Nigel said. Turning to the corner of the room, he said in an unnecessarily loud voice. "John Bull, would you be good enough to come here, my man?"

John said nothing, but his eyes sharpened their focus on his master and he could feel his heart beating harder in his chest. He did not like where this was going.

Nigel bent his index finger inward and spoke with a slight edge in his voice. "John Bull. Come. Here."

At Nigel's' words, John had instantly gone form invisible servant to object of everyone's attention. All eyes in the room turned expectantly to the man in the livery uniform who had been entirely unnoticed only moments before. Stiffly, John walked over to his master and stood at attention.


"You needn't say 'sir' as if you hadn't every idea what we'd been discussing, John Bull." This garnered a few titters from the ladies. "We have need of a willing subject for my hypnosis demonstration, and you shall be that willing subject." Nigel snapped his fingers and gestured to a high-backed chair, which one of the grinning guests brought over instantly.

"Master Nigel", John whispered, "with all due respect sir, might I suggest that another and better subject be found among your dinner guests--"

Nigel put his lips almost against John's ear. "You are my servant, John Bull, and that is all you are. Need I order that you recite your oath more frequently each day? You will submit your will to me completely and will do so cheerfully. Now get in the goddamn chair, John Bull. I will not be embarrassed by your performance again." Then, stepping back, Nigel indicated the chair and with a bright smile announced to the group, "If you'd be so good as to take this seat, John Bull."

John swallowed. He was stuck. "It would be my pleasure, sir."

Nigel hovered over John, describing to his captivated guests what he was about to put his lowly manservant through. Those in attendance watched with wide-eyed anticipation, feeling as if all bets were off. Rather than one of them, Nigel had chosen one of his own serving staff, which indicated to everyone that he could humiliate the man of lower class with impunity. That's what he was there for after all, wasn't he?

John squirmed a bit in his seat, but tried to make it look as if he were just getting comfortable. he wasn't so concerned about what Nigel would do to him while in a trance state. The truth was, that while at college, John had volunteered eagerly for a hypnosis demonstration in one of his Psych classes by a visiting psychologist. It didn't take. The doctor could relax John, but beyond that, he couldn't get him to go under. He had all the other student volunteers forgetting their own names, recalling childhood experiences from as far back as infancy, and all the other standard tricks, but not so with John. he simply wasn't very receptive to hypnosis. And back then he was more than willing. Here he saw no appeal to this little charade in the least. John knew he couldn't fake a trance state to any convincing degree, and was more concerned about what new punishments Nigel would heap upon him when he didn't respond as hoped.

"Are we all ready then, John Bull?", Nigel purred.

Feeling anything but, John said, "At your command, sir."

Meringue-head of the ladies squealed, "You certainly will be, my boy! Hah!"

Nigel waved her jeering away. "I will need some level of quiet to continue effectively, my lady." Nigel held up a small glass one of the ladies had been using for port. It glinted in the light as it caught John's attention. "Now, John Bull, pay very close attention to this lovely crystal stemware, won' you?"

John tried to watch the stupid little drinking glass, but his heart was pounding and his mind was racing. He was going to screw this up and then face the wrath of this psychotic bastard to whom he'd been indentured for the next two years. John knew he could never follow Nigel's instructions about steady breathing, about counting backward, about relaxing his muscles, about anything other than what terror lay ahead after this newest milestone in his ongoing list of failures.

John realized that he must be getting more used to being made a victim, because he felt his shoulders slump a bit, his body lose some of its tension. This was no doubt due to him becoming resigned to his fate. Nigel kept talking, but John paid very little attention. he needed to put his mind on something less stressful, something that might help him cope--was that tea? Yes, John was quite certain he caught a whiff of that wonderful tea which Melanie had been bringing him every night. The thought of its fine aroma, it's rich flavor, the warmth of it spilling down into him, heating and soothing him from the inside out, seemed to ease his mind considerably. Where had that sudden, intense fragrance of it come from? One of the guests in the room must have been having a cup.

John found thought of the servant's swimming pool come to his mind unbidden. Next to his smuggled evening tea, his stolen moments in the pool ran a close second in the tension-relieving department. Oh, the thought of that. He could use a dip now, that was for certain. John closed his eyes, not even thinking how this obvious display of inattention might anger his master, and envisioned the pool. He was floating in it, its waters warm, calming, but still not entirely free of their funk. The waters lapped against him and clung a bit to his skin, leaving behind the thinnest viscous film. John's breathing became more and more deep, slow, and relaxed. The waters of his pool getaway felt wonderful. And then he began to sink.

It was the oddest sensation. John slowly began to sink into the water, yet there was no sense of panic or concern. He submerged beneath the still waters and yet could breath easily. The waters themselves seemed to support him, at least in part, acting more like a thick mud as he slowly, so very slowly, lowered down to the bottom of the pool. As John sank, he could still see the overhead lights shining above the water's surface. The farther down he sank, the dimmer the lights became, the more looming the dark green sides of the pool appeared.

Soon the lights above were but the dimmest sparkles, and the water seemed to hug John snugly, their warmth both comforting him and seeping into his body through his pores. With a soft thud, John felt himself come to rest on the bottom of the pool. It felt absolutely wonderful. The lights were gone, even the faintest sparkles snuffed out, and John was safe, warm, and alone.

From the darkness, he heard a voice. "John Bull, can you hear me?" It was Nigel.

John nodded. He didn't want to answer him. he wanted to go to sleep or keep sleeping or something. He was so comfortable and didn't want to be disturbed, especially not by Nigel.

"You will answer me, John Bull. A mere nod is not acceptable."

Bitch, bitch, bitch. "Yes", John said. Now go away.

"Yes what, John Bull?"

"Yes, I can hear you, sir." Ya happy now? Now get lost.

"John Bull, open your eyes." John did so. He didn't know why, exactly, it's not as if he wanted to. But upon opening his eyes he saw to his amazement that he was not at the bottom of his pool, but still seated on that high back chair in the study. Yet he still felt as if he were at the bottom of the pool, warm and safe.

"I'd like to make a few changes to you if I may, John Bull. How's that?" He still sounded as if he were talking through several feet of water.

"Certainly, sir", John said thickly. From very far away, one of the lady guests giggled. Nigel politely reminded all the room should be quiet. He then leaned in close to John and spoke low and clear.

"John Bull, I want you to think of someone you dislike a great deal. A great, great deal."

"Dishlike?", John asked, not realizing he was slurring.

Very softly, Nigel reiterated, "Someone whom you hate, John Bull. Who do you hate the most right now?"

This was an emotive question for John. Right now, it was toss-up. But the two people he most wanted to see die in a fire were that motorbus-sized Mrs. Flemming and his dunderheaded father. "There...there're two...", John said.

"Well, then! We shall have to combine them into one, shan't we, John Bull?" The guests murmured to one another with great interest. Nigel silenced them with a quick wave of his hand. "Stand, John Bull."

John didn't think that was going to be possible. Feeling as if he were resting solidly on the bottom of the pool, his body weighing a ton, he was quite certain he was not leaving his chair anytime soon. But to his astonishment, John stood up quite easily at his master's command, and once on his feet, could feel the warmth of the pool ooze in around him once more and hold him in place.

"Tell me, John Bull", Nigel said, "by any chance am I one of these hated individuals?"


Nigel smiled. "I thought not." he strode back in forth in front of the frozen John. "What would you say is the most appalling characteristic of the first person in question?"

John imagined the massive Mrs. Flemming, stomping down the hallways and clomping about the kitchen like a hippopotamus in a millpond. "Size. Terribly fat", John answered.

"Then that is what you shall become, John Bull", Nigel pronounced. "You are growing fatter by the second. Feel your body begin to bulge, to grow more unwieldy and cumbersome. You are growing big and fat, John Bull. FEEL it."

To John's horror, he felt that Nigel was right. He could feel his slim body gaining weight, inflating beyond his control. He felt his belly bulge hideously outward, straining against his waistband. His chest and torso tugged at his shirtfront for release as John continued to bloat. He could even feel his face fattening up, his cheeks spreading outward, his chin doubling, his neck growing thick and flabby.

"You are inflating at a tremendous rate, John Bull", Nigel said with authority. "You are becoming quite, quite obese."

Nigel was right, and there was nothing John could do about it. He looked down and saw his chest and stomach bulge outward, his buttons ready to pop. It was getting difficult to move, to breath easily, as his body took on corpulent proportions. His face, now full and round, began to feel warm, and John knew that his already ruddy complexion was growing redder. To make matters worse, John's arms and legs didn't seem to be growing at all, making him feel like a walking caricature, a Humpty Dumpy with an enormous bulbous body and spindly limbs.

"Take a walk and experience your new body, John Bull. Model it for us."

John attempted to navigate the room, but it was far from easy. His body was now a clumsy thing, his arms pinwheeling as he attempted to turn this way or that less he lose his balance and wind up trapped lying on his back. Each step was like trying to transport a full waterbed with two broomsticks. John found himself sweating from the effort, his face full and puffy, his body like an overstuffed canvas bag filled with gelatin. All around the room, Nigel's guests laughed themselves into hysterics.

Nigel walked up to John and spun him around, then pushed him away, causing John to stumble forward and whirl about in desperate attempt to regain his balance. Eventually, Nigel stopped John's humiliating one-man parade and held him upright as the howling guests tried to compose themselves.

"Now tell us, my fattened friend", Nigel sneered, "what is it about the second person you find so offensive? What trait do you find so annoying there? Hmm?"

John knew that whatever he said would be visited upon him, just as with this hideously obese new frame. But he was unable to restrain himself. He felt compelled to tell the truth. " cheerful...all the time...", he wheezed.

Nigel feigned surprise. "Cheerful, you say, John Bull? Why, however could so amiable a trait be found disagreeable?" He knew full well that John was referring to his father.

"Sir", John gasped, "he's cheerfully clueless. So chipper without realizing the consequences of his actions on others." John attempted to step away from Nigel, but his master held onto his shoulder to prevent his departure. The small, aborted half-step alone caused John to fell his girth jiggle around his waist before settling again.

"So! We have in our second offender the aspect of a dunderhead, do we?"

Quietly, John murmured, "...nooo..."

"But you just said so, John Bull! And now, dear boy, that clueless dunderhead--" and Nigel touched John's forehead, "--is you."

John suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of good cheer and happiness. But it was a feeling in conflict with all he had been feeling moments before. His mouth split wide into such a broad and foolish grin that everyone present laughed boisterously. John began to trundle about the room, his massive frame causing him to tip to the side here and there, to stumble against furnishings and guests alike, all the while spouting the most ridiculous and inane banter.

"Splendiferous of you all to join us hyear this evening, eh wot? Jolly good, jolly good! Spit-spot, tish-tosh, and Bob's your uncle!" John continued his nonsensical tirade to the delight of all and torture of himself. His mind fought valiantly against the actions of his body to no avail. To the casual observer, john was having the time of his life behaving like a perfect idiot. Guffawing, toddling about, bumping into things, he looked to be the very picture of verbose joy. Inside, John was screaming silently for release. He had become an amalgam of the two people he hated most in the world and was helpless to stop it or change himself back.

John plodded over to one of the guests, snatching up his cigar and making conversation. "What's that you do, sir? Run a diamond mine, do you? Say, what you need my good man is to spend a few dozen years shoveling refuse from the bottom of the nation's sewer system! Yas! Builds character, keeps the heart pure! That's the ticket! Let's do humiliate you for my personal amusement, jolly fine idea, eh old boy?"

While the rest of the room continued laughing hysterically, Nigel could tell this could easily get out of hand were John permitted to continue in this Flemming/father persona indefinitely. He approached John and held the small glass before him. "John Bull, do you remember this?" The small glass caught the light and sparkled.

And that was all John saw. Next thing he knew, the room was dark, all was quiet. Then, a sharp, crisp sound, like someone snapping his fingers. John opened his eyes to see Master Nigel standing before him, hand poised in such a way to show that the finger snapping noise was just that. John sat once again in the high-backed chair. He was himself again, his normal size returned to him, with a dim realization that the experience had not been real at all, only imagined vividly. All the guests applauded appreciatively of Nigel, complimenting him on a fine performance and his splendid control of his manservant.

John was lifted roughly from his chair by Nigel, who then claimed the seat for himself. John was then forced to wait upon the guests as they chatted incessantly about John's performance, all the while going back to pretending he wasn't even there.

Finally, mercifully, the party ended. Nigel saw the delighted guests to the door, all of whom assured Nigel of future visits. The lady with the big hair was the last to depart, squealing even as John helped her into her wrap. "And the way he stumbled around like he was big as a house, all the while not seeing how slight he was! So terribly priceless, Nigel! You are a gem!"

"Thanks ever so, darling", Nigel beamed, giving her a peck on the cheek.

John held the door for her and she departed without acknowledging him. John let out a deep sigh and contemplated killing Nigel right then and there. Instead, he said, "Will that be all, sir?"

"Of course not, John Bull. You need to see to cleaning up the rooms following tonight's entertainment. I'll expect to see the house spotlessly clean come morning. Honestly, you'd think that dunderhead suggestion I gave you was still in place. Wake me at the usual time, John Bull." With that, Nigel departed to bed.

John did not feel like a dunderhead, but truth be known that through some lingering phantom sensation, he did still feel as if he were fat. Three times he stopped to look in the mirror just to confirm that he had not somehow magically gained weight. The feeling of obesity lingered for the several hours it took john to clean everything up.

John lay on his cot, his feet pounding within his boots, his mind reeling from the events of the day. There was knock at his door and he jumped slightly. Who the hell could that be? John looked at his bedside alarm clock, saw it was 3:45 in the morning, and couldn't imagine who would try to rouse him at this hour. Then he thought of Mrs. Flemming, and realized he had not yet done his final oath recital of the day. It had to be her, come to oversee his mantra.

With legs of lead, John shuffled to the door, opening it slowly. There stood not the elephantine mistress of the house, but the adorable serving girl, Melanie. "Care for a cupper, John?"

John could have kissed her. Instead, he simply ushered her inside and down on the cot. John began to sip the tea, which tonight was sorely needed that it tasted like the nectar of the gods. "I heard about what 'appened today, John", Melanie said.

"Which part?"

"All of it. Yer dad makin' you stay on, the trouble from the staff, thet terrible ordeal with Master Nigel's hypnotism. What a 'orrible fing, making you make such a right fool of yer'seff."

"I'm beginning to think I do a pretty good job of that on my own." John stared into the cup as he drank, losing himself in the fragrant warmth of the tea. So much so that he almost missed Melanie's hand sliding up his leg. Almost. "Whoa! Melanie, what--?"

"You ought'nt think of yerseff that way, John", she said, her eyes wide with affection. "I think you're pretty special. An' to be honest, I don't half fancy you." Her hand made it's way up John's leg to settle on his crotch, where she showed a surprisingly strong grip for such a small girl.

John leapt off the bed, sending the cup crashing to the floor. "Melanie, no! Stop it!"

Melanie looked at John aghast. "Whatever's the matter, John? Why are you acting like that?" She looked sad, even heartbroken, and said, "It's me, in't it? There's something wrong with me and it turns you away. What is it, John? Am I so ugly that--"

John sat back down next to her and took her hand in his. "No, no, Melanie, you're beautiful. It's not that, it's not you. It's just that--"

"What is it, then? Is there another girl?"

John took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "It's late. I'm exhausted. It's been a truly terribly day and I have to rise early, in just a few hours, in fact. I cannot possibly--"

Melanie rose rapidly. "Oh, of course! I'm so sorry, John. To fink only of me'seff, just because I've been waiting up for you to come to bed. You need your rest. Forgive me for a fool." Melanie bent down to pick up the broken bits of teacup on the floor.

John rested his hand gently on her arm. "I'll get it. You should get some sleep, too. Your job's no easier than mine."

"But 'all the staff ain't out to get me."

John only offered a weak smile. "Goodnight, Melanie. Thank-you for your kindness."

Melanie stepped out the door, and as she closed it, she called back, "Another time perhaps, John?" She closed the door and departed without waiting for his answer.

John buried his head in his hands and felt his temples pound under his fingertips. God, now he had a beautiful young girl coming on to him on top of everything else. That was all he needed.

Part Two

John had slept miserably. Ordinarily, he would sleep on his side. Once he rolled over, he would drop off instantly. But the morning found him groggy and irritable and still lying on his back. he had tried multiple times to roll over, but found his efforts confounded by his girth. Or rather, his imagined girth. Each time he began to drift off, he would instinctively turn to roll over, only to be struck by the unmistakable feeling that he had the belly of a whale and could not navigate past it. The shock would jar him awake and prompt him to clutch at his stomach to verify that it was indeed it's normal size. At one point at 5:15am, he actually leapt from his bed and paced the room in frustration, all the while rubbing his abdomen and back to reassure himself that any transformation he'd undergone the night before was purely imaginary. It didn't help.

At six o'clock on the dot, Mrs. Flemming pounded her way down the hallway toward John's room, ready to hear him recite his oath--twice, as she had missed the recitation the night before. As she approached the door with the intention of pounding her meaty fist against the jam to rouse John, she was sorely disappointed to find the door already ajar and the lights on. She heard John's voice from within.

"--my privilege to serve. I am only John Bull, and this is all that I am." Mrs. Flemming opened the door to find John finish reading his oath from a sheet of paper.

"What is this, then?", she snarled. "I've come to 'ear you do your recitation. You cannot simply start without my being present--"

John, already dressed in his full livery, strode out past the elephantine mistress, slapping the piece of paper against her chest. "Do it yourself. I've got something important to do." Mrs. Flemming was so flustered by John's sudden departure and show of spine that she was unable to bring herself to burst out after her charge to yell upcoming punishments until he was already well down the hall.

John rounded the corner and made his way to the servant's breakfast area. As he approached, some maids from the housekeeping staff giggled as he passed, exchanging whispered comments about the previous night's spectacle. "Ooh, there 'e goes, our very own zombie butler, 'e is!", said one.

"Do him some good to put in a trance of obedience all the time, save us taking up his slack", said the other. Both found this hilariously funny and giggled their way on to their morning chores. John wondered what possible slack there was left for them to pick up, but knew they had only spoken the remarks to provoke a confrontation, so he let it pass. There was someone else of far greater importance he wanted to confront this morning.

John entered the breakfast area and surveyed the room. More than half a dozen servants were still tending to their nourishment, girls from maid service, one of the chefs, some errand boys and Clive, one of Master Nigel's top serving men, formerly a batman to an admiral in the royal navy.

John looked at Clive. "Where's Nigel?", he demanded.

Clive gave John a look of disdain and then returned to his porridge. "MASTER Nigel is presently engaged in his morning exercises, and wishes not to be disturbed." He took a heaping spoonful in his mouth and chewed with retentive precision. Upon swallowing, he added, "I imagine that order is simply enough for even you to understand, despite your not being in a cooperation-inducing trance." This garnered chuckles and titters of agreement from around the room.

John refused to rise to the challenge. He turned to leave, but Clive threw one more comment out. "If I understand correctly, John Bull, last night you experienced a complete transformation in a complete dunderhead. Flopping about like a ridiculous cartoon character, waddling like a stupid pig, making a complete fool of yourself." The other servants did what they could to restrain themselves from bursting out laughing, only a few were successful. Clive added his zinger. "Couldn't have been too much of a change for you, I imagine."

John turned and left quickly, the door closing on the ring of unbridled laughter and merrymaking at his expense. The chef cried out between gasps, "Now 'e knows what 'e's seemed like to all of us since 'e arrived!"

John's blood was beginning to boil. The violation, the humiliation he experienced last night and the backlash of it felt this morning was beyond any lesson in humility his father had intended. This was purely malicious, and John was going to have it out with Nigel once and for all. By the time John approached the main gymnasium, his face was so flushed that it was impossibly to see where his usual ruddy cheeks ended and the manifestation of his sheer rage began.

John rounded the corner to enter the gym with every intent of shouting out Nigel's name (without its "master" prefix). Upon catching his attention with this show of deliberate disrespect, he would give the bastard a piece of his mind at the top of his voice. He'd remind the good master of who John really was, that this little bit of servant-master playtime would eventually end, returning John to his rightful station-- though he need not wait that long to kick ol' Nigel's' scrawny ass.

At least that was the plan.

Until John rounded the corner. John froze there, in the entryway to the gym, just watching. He was watching Nigel, his good master, engaged in a remarkable workout. And Nigel looked absolutely beautiful.

Stripped to the waist, Nigel was wearing only a pair of snug navy blue gym shorts and running shoes. All the usual snooty air and foppish behavior was gone, leaving in their place a poise and confidence that had nothing whatever to do with wealth and privilege. Nigel's body was tanned and toned, his muscles working together like a well-oiled machine. His physique was that of a practiced gymnast, which made sense as Nigel was currently in the midst of a stunning gymnastic routine.

Nigel was standing upside-down on the parallel bars, his arms stiff and straight as his strong hands gripped the bars firmly but without strain. Holding his body perfectly vertical, legs together as if welded that way, toes pointed, Nigel hand-walked the length of the parallel bars. Upon reaching the end, he switched hands easily, spinning his body with one rigid movement and walked back the other way. Reaching the opposite end of the bars, he did a back flip and caught himself easily, flipping himself back up into a series of flips and spins that made his solid body appear suddenly feather- light.

John felt his jaw grow slack as he watched the man he'd been allowing to control him. He stood mesmerized, his body frozen in place, his arms hanging limp at his sides, with a strange feeling of warmth spreading over him. All thoughts of confronting Nigel left John's head in an instant as he watched the incredibly display of strength and skill. Not for fear of physical repercussions, but because Nigel looked so damned beautiful.

Nigel dismounted the parallel bars with ease, but landed running. With two quick steps, Nigel hit the springboard in front of the pama horse and grasped the top handles and began a series of extraordinary spins and rotations, his legs whirling about before him, his eyes focused in concentration. His bare chest and arms glistened with perspiration. His blond hair was damp but still loose enough to occasionally let of a spray of sweat as Nigel spun and twirled.

John felt his heart race increase and his trousers seem to grow tighter around his crotch as he watched Nigel's routine. John could not take his eyes off this blond god, could not blink, could not turn and slip out, could not do anything that might take the sight of Nigel from his eyes, even for an instant. John licked his lips and unintentionally spoke aloud. "...master..."

The words were spoken softly as a whisper, but it was loud enough for Nigel to hear. John had apparently forgotten Nigel's sensitive hearing. Nigel looked over and saw the liveried John standing in the doorway, staring. Nigel adjusted easily to the distraction, changing his rotations just enough to address John without breaking his stride.

"What is it, John Bull? Am I needed for something?" John just stared. Nigel brought himself up to another handstand atop the horse. "John Bull? Is there a problem that requires my attention?" John kept on staring. Nigel shook his head, sun his body into an intricate series of spins and twists, and executed a perfect dismount. Grabbing up a small towel from a nearby bench, Nigel strode confidently over to John.

"John Bull, if you've been struck dumb it's going to seriously hamper the execution of some of your duties, the recitation of your oath not being the least of which." John stared. "You'll find that I left express instructions that my workout not be disturbed, John Bull, if you even bothered to check before tramping in here." Nothing. "John Bull, you have ten seconds to explain yourself before I--"

"You're beautiful."

Nigel didn't think there was much John could do to catch him off guard, but this remark proved him wrong. "How was that again, John Bull?"

John gave his head a tiny shake in attempt to collect himself. It was only moderately effective. "Um, er, what I mean is--", he swallowed hard, tried again. "Master Nigel, that gymnastic routine, your workout, it was incredible. You looked just beautiful over there." Nigel raised an eyebrow. John stumbled to rephrase. "I mean, the execution of the routine, the practiced moves, they were beautiful. Your body." Nigel frowned. "I mean, your body's moves! The movement of your body, not just you. I mean, you too, but not that I was thinking of you that way. Or anything. Sir."

Nigel stuck a tongue in his cheek. "And what way would that be, John Bull?"

John spluttered. " a way that, uh...would be inappropriate for a servant to look at his master while his master was half naked and all sweaty and--" Nigel put his hands on his waist. His trim, tight, glistening, 29-inch waist, with its one trickle of sweat rolling down from his pecs to make its way through the defined indentations of his incredible six-pack abs...

"John Bull!" Nigel snapped his fingers in front of John's eyes. "Are you in there, man? What ever has come over you?"

John blinked. "My apologies, Master Nigel. I--I just had no idea that you were capable of those kinds of gymnastic feats."

Nigel softened a bit at John's show of genuine admiration. Toweling himself off, Nigel turned away. "It has taken quite some time to reach this level, I assure you. So you can understand why I do not wish to be disturbed while exercising. I plan to maintain this level of proficiency for as long as possible." Nigel ran the towel over his head, sprinkling the mats beneath him with a fine spray of his sweat. Then he looked back at John. "But you didn't come down here just to watch me engage in a workout routine you didn't even know I was doing."

John shook his head. "No, sir."

Nigel walked back over to John. "Have you not been sleeping or something, John Bull? You look dreadful."

John was taken aback by the comment. "Sir?"

Nigel reached out and touched John's face. John's first instinct was to flinch or step away, but he found his body unresponsive. Nigel's touch was soft, gentle. He cradled John's cheek in one hand and lightly brushed his thumb at the corner of John's eye. "You have bags under your eyes, John Bull. Have you been getting the required amount of rest a servant requires to fulfill his duties?" Nigel didn't take his hand away. Strangely enough, John found that this close contact very soothing.

John swallowed. He would be getting enough sleep if not for the ringer he'd been put through as Nigel's personal slave, he thought. But he said, "I didn't sleep well last night, sir, no. It was...well, I'm not sure why, but..." He tried to find the words to describe his bizarre sensation of imagined fat around his belly.

"Well, what is it?", Nigel demanded.

"The hypnosis session, Master Nigel", John finally blurted out.

"What about it?"

"I can't be certain, sir, but I think I retained something of the suggestions you gave me for your guests' entertainment. Last night I couldn't sleep because, well, sir--I still felt like I was fat." John let out a quick breath. That was hardly the explosion of rage he had anticipated unloading on Nigel, but at least he let him know that there had definitely been some hypnotic residue and that it was up to his master to clean it up. He looked at Nigel, awaiting his response.

"Is that all?"

John hadn't expected so blasé a remark. "Excuse me, sir?"

"It's not uncommon for a receptive subject to find himself reliving some of his hypnotic experience, John Bull. And you were nothing if not receptive. I suppose you should feel grateful that you didn't awaken feeling like a frightful dunderhead and stumble into the walls." Nigel grinned, finding his observation terribly amusing.

John managed a weak smile, thinking, "Yeah, lucky me. Whoopee."

Nigel stepped up to John and rested a hand on his servant's shoulder. Again, a feeling of warmth and comfort spread through John at his master's touch. John found this simultaneously disturbing and arousing. It was disconcerting to experience such conflicting feelings toward someone he was convinced he hated only moments ago.

"I think what you need, John Bull, is to be put under hypnosis again", Nigel said.

John blanched, his eyes bulging and mouth growing slack at the suggestion. If he went to bed feeling like a bloated pig after one session, what would happen to him after two? "Sir? Is that wise? I mean, if that was the cause of my problem, should we--?"

Nigel stepped away, and John found himself missing his master's hand once it was removed from his shoulder. Nigel spoke with a terse edge in his voice. "Oh, please. I hardly intend to have you perform for an empty room, John Bull. I am talking about helping you ease your obvious concerns that the suggestions you received last night would linger. I suspect that your fears were strong enough that they manifested themselves. That is easily remedied. You've nothing to worry about in that regard." Nigel had walked almost back to his workout equipment when he spun on his heel and looked back at John. "However. Seeing as you are such an excellent hypnosis subject, I would suggest that we pursue that exercise for your personal betterment. We could use it to lessen your stress level, to help you acclimate to your new...if temporary...station, to improve your ability to perform as a proper servant. And let's face it, John Bull, you can hardly get too much help in that regard." Nigel patted his brow with his towel, ran his fingers through his soaked hair and then flung the moistened towel easily over one shoulder. "If nothing else, I could use the practice to keep my own mental skills sharp. When shall we begin, then?"

Looking at the dashing man with the extraordinary build, John was half tempted to surrender himself to anything he asked, but he was still more than a little frightened at the way this man could so easily enthrall him with a technique that had been proven ineffective on John by certified professionals from his past. "I--I really don't know, sir."

"Shall I make it an order then, John Bull?" John said nothing, but held his teeth shut tightly behind closed lips. "So when shall we schedule our first session?"

John watched as Nigel walked closer to him again. His abs still a bit wet as the perspiration dried on his skin. The strong arms with their gentle hands, the defined legs. Nigel tilted his head to the side in anticipation of John's answer, causing one lock of hair of hair to fall lightly upon his forehead. The sight of that alone made John get an erection.

"Could we start right now?"

Nigel smirked. "Excellent, John Bull. We might as well make use of this room as long as we're here. Step this way to the weight bench, won't you?"

John paused for a second before following. He couldn't believe he'd just said that. He closed his eyes, biting his lower lip and shaking his head. Idiot! How could he let this man continue to get the better of him, regardless show gorgeous he was with his shirt off? First he's his slave and now he's submitting to become what--his puppet? But then John recalled Nigel's fingers upon his cheek, the warmth of his hand upon his shoulder. If he put him under, would Nigel touch him again? That wouldn't be so bad then. For his master to touch him.

"John Bull? Are you coming?"

John snapped back to attention. "Yes, of course, sir. Right away, sir." He swallowed again and walked over to be hypnotized again.

John lay back on the weight bench, noting that it was wider than any he'd seen before. He was able to actually rest his arms at his sides upon the bench, something unheard of with most benches. He half sat up, looking down at his feet, seeing that they too were supported by the unusual weight bench's extra length.

"Head down, John Bull." Nigel pushed John's head back down to the bench with two fingers. Nigel walked around the head of the bench to squat down near John's head. As he passed close by John's head, John caught a good whiff of Nigel's scent. The musk, the aroma of his sweat from his workout. Nigel absently tossed his towel over John's chest as he positioned himself in place. The towel was light, soft, but it may as well have been an iron girder as it landed on John. So close to his nose, John caught the full brunt of the smell it carried, so soaked with Nigel's perspiration, the cooling overflow of his remarkable gymnastic feats. John closed his eyes, breathing deep of the scent of his master, feeling himself grow lightheaded as the fragrance filled his head and clouded his mind--

"John Bull, eyes up here, please."

John blinked his eyes open. "Huh? What?" He looked up to see Nigel standing over him snapping his fingers.

"I need you to focus your attention on me", Nigel said. He then grabbed his towel from John's chest and tossed it atop a nearby weight set. John's eyes widened like a child being deprived of his puppy. Nigel didn't seem to notice. He snapped his fingers again. "Not the towel, John Bull. I need you to look at my finger." Nigel held his index finger up before John's eyes.

Briefly, John's fear of repeating last night's hypnotic debacle returned. Did he really want to extend his subconscious mind to this man who had so gleefully imprisoned him in a lower class? John decided to stall. He thought for a moment, looking up at the finger. "Sir, with respect sir, don't you need something shiny, like that crystal glass or a pocket watch or somethi--" Nigel pressed the finger to John's lips, silencing him. John felt another rush of pleasure at the contact of John's skin against his. This time, with a tiny charge of electricity behind it.

"That was merely to help amuse the rabble, John Bull. Such theatrics are hardly necessary for true hypnosis. Now watch my finger and let yourself relax."

John looked at Nigel's index finger, watched it as he moved it slowly back and forth, up and down. John allowed the moving finger to go out of his focus as he shifted his gaze to Nigel's eyes. He had never noticed before how beautiful they were. Nigel began to smile at him. Then John could keep his own eyes open no longer. Nigel was saying something, directing him to do something, but John was only hearing him distantly. John did not want to shut his eyes. He wanted to keep gazing at Nigel's. But a few rapid blinks, then John's lids fell. Then he fell backwards into his body.

The sensation was much like he had experienced the night before at the dinner party, only intensified. John felt as is his consciousness had literally collapsed into his own mind. There was no other way to explain it. From the end of a thick, obsidian wall, Nigel's voice came to John, reciting more instructions. John didn't think the words registered. They were held too securely behind that ebony barrier. But John began to be dimly aware of his body, and could sense his limbs growing heavier, his muscles becoming so free of tension that they may well have been liquefying. The relaxing sensation flowed up his body, all the way to his scalp, where John felt the most euphoric feeling of peace and contentment. That was when he fell backwards out of his body.

John's consciousness tumbled down free form physical restraint and floated in a thick, warm limbo, there to sink, drift, and bob in the darkness. Soon his descent slowed and he seemed to levitate in nothingness, arms and legs rising an falling freely at his sides-- despite the fact he could still feel his limbs weighted down at his sides. His body rotated slowly around, and as it did he could feel his body growing fat once more. There was a twinge of panic at the back of his mind that was almost immediately quelled by a distant muffled voice that ay or may not have sounded like Nigel's.

John felt at peace, floating in the darkness, growing fatter, becoming increasingly aroused. Aroused? Yes, John was finding it increasingly exciting to be kept in this calming, relaxing state of surrender. He welcomed the growing obesity, and as his body seemed to reach its maximum bulging potential, John could feel his face and cheeks growing fatter as well. Once his face seemed to become as rounded as it could, a strange mist settled over his mind. And he began to speak. Or at least that's what it felt like. John wasn't entirely certain what he was saying, but it seemed to be gibberish. From within the confines of his mind, John could hear himself blather on like a village idiot, as if he was hearing a recorded playback of a performance, despite being quite certain his lips were moving and sound was coming out of them. John conceded to this condition, realizing that he had no idea how the inane banter was being produced or how to shut it off. He let his newly-inflated body sink deeper into the inky netherworld and let the ludicrous jabbering continue on. In a way, it was almost comforting. And as John drifted, bulbous, helpless, content, the clueless ramblings grew softer and softer, more quiet and distant.

"Open your eyes, John." The voice was Nigel's, and it was incredibly loud and immediately close.

John opened his eyes to the gymnasium which seemed remarkably bright. He blinked against the intensity of the lights, and realized he was no longer laying upon the weight bench, but standing at attention before his master. "Sir?"

"Your session is complete, John Bull", Nigel said, pulling on a tight- fitting T-shirt. John didn't know which was more alluring, seeing his master shirtless or seeing him in such a form-fitting shirt. "Do you still feel yourself to be, shall we say, bloated?"

John looked down at himself in his livery costume. His laid his hands upon his belly and even though his body seemed terribly out of shape, even a bit flabby to touch, emotionally he felt very slim and svelte. It was odd to have so strong a mental reaction when the physical facts seemed to point the other way. John looked at Nigel. "Wh-what happened? What did we do just now? When did I walk over here? I don't remember anything from when I was under--"

"Answer the question", Nigel pressed. "How do you feel, John Bull?"

"I feel that I'm quite slim, sir, thank-you", John said, which was true. He felt that way, but in the back of his mind he seemed to know different. he was unable to articulate it, however.

"It is my recommendation, John Bull", Nigel went on, "that we continue these hypnosis sessions for the foreseeable future. It will help you focus, improve your work productivity and obedience, and serve as a hedge against any more restless nights. I'll speak with Mrs. Flemming to work out a schedule for you later."

John's stomach lurched at the thought of placing his inner thoughts and mind in Nigel's hands. What had he been told while he was in his trance a moment ago? There was no way to be certain. And to simply surrender himself time and time again without any conscious knowledge of what was being done to him--

"Yes, I agree that is an excellent idea, sir, and should do me a world of good. Thank-you for suggesting it, sir." John's hand flew to his lips, far too late. The words spilled out of his mouth unbidden, and he couldn't believe he had said them. He felt as if he had spoken with no more thought to his words than an automated phone message.

Nigel smiled, seeing the fear in John's eyes. "Not at all." Nigel walked confidently over to a nearby thermos and picked it up. John could not recall seeing it in the room before. Nigel poured its steaming contents into the lid which served as a cup and offered it to John. "A bit of refreshment before you return to your duties, John Bull."

Gingerly, John took the cup and caught a whiff of what was inside. It was the special tea blend he liked so much. "Sir? You drink hot tea after a workout?"

Nigel's face was blank, but he said, "Anytime is a good time for tea, John Bull."

John felt something click inside him. That was so very true. "Anytime is a good time for tea", he repeated, half- consciously. John proceeded to empty the cup down his throat.

"That's the way, John Bull", Nigel grinned. "Drink it all down." John handed the cup back to his master, feeling quite refreshed and renewed, and wondering why he had ever worried about being hypnotized. He felt fine. "You may return to your work", Nigel told him.

John gave a curt bow and turned to leave. "Oh, and one other thing", Nigel said, stopping John's departure. John turned to face him.

"Yes, sir?"

"While I shall see to it that your workload today will be moderate, for the following three days your assignments will be doubled and overseen by Mrs. Flemming." John's eyes widened and he almost opened his mouth to protest. "I did leave express instructions that my exercise regimen was not to be disturbed", Nigel clarified.

John felt his face flush, something that his now-ruddy complexion helped to hide, and replied, "Of course , sir. It won't happen again."

Nigel flung his towel over one shoulder and took a swig from his thermos. "Oh, I've little worry in that regard." John started on his way, feeling that trepidation about being hypnotized rising up inside him again. What exactly had he gotten himself in for? "John Bull?", Nigel called again. "Is there something the matter with the cut of your trousers? Your gait is quite odd."

John did not turn back, but answered over his shoulder, "Not at all, sir. I suspect my leg may have fallen asleep while I was hypnotized, is all."

Nigel gave a small "hmp", and waved John off with a "Carry on."

John hastened down the hallway to put some distance between him and Nigel. Or hastened as best he could, anyway, with the throbbing erection he had between his legs.

The remainder of John's day was uneventful. True to his word, Nigel kept John's work regimen light. Even Mrs. Flemming was given a short leash, he supposed, since she merely stood nearby and glowered each time he recited his oath, keeping her sizeable trap shut. By the end of the day, John was feeling better than he had since he could recall coming to this house and taking up his assigned role of servant.

John neared his room and saw a tea tray and laid out by the door. John knelt down and saw the small tray held a single tea serving and china pot kept warm beneath a tea cozy. A small card was placed within the cup, which John picked up and read:

My Dear John-

Late night tonight steam cleaning the rugs in the library and main dining hall. Sorry I'll miss you. Just leave the tray inside your door and I'll sneak by and pick it up come morning. Hope all is well.

Fondly, -Melanie

John sighed, both from being touched by Melanie's affection and his own distress over being utterly unable to respond, much less reciprocate. He took the tray into his room and after kicking off his boots enjoyed his tea. It may have been the weight of the day's events or simply his imagination, but he could swear the tea tasted even better than usual. Perhaps due to a special additive on Melanie's part. Either way, John found the tea so soothing that it relaxed him completely. He was barely able to shuck off his uniform before falling fast asleep atop his covers.

John opened his eyes to find himself standing in the gymnasium again. He felt as disoriented as he had when Nigel had hypnotized him the morning before, blinking his eyes against the brightness of the overhead lights and trying to get his bearings as he pondered how he had come to stand there, several feet from the weight bench with no recollection of making the journey.

Nigel was working out on the other side of the room. He swung and pivoted around the parallel bars, going into slow motion as his swing arced upward, landing softly in a floating dismount some feet away. He began to stride toward John, his unblinking eyes fixed upon him, boring through to his soul. John felt naked and exposed under that stare, and felt a chill run across his body.

John looked down and found that he was in fact actually naked before his master. John wanted to run from the room, or at least cover himself, but was frozen in place. Nigel came closer, and John could see that Nigel was dressed in the livery uniform which John had been assigned to wear. Nigel strode up to John and stood nearly nose to nose with him, his eyes like flint. Then Nigel held up his index finger and said in a voice that echoed strangely, "Keep your eyes on my finger."

John felt the will drain from his body and he nodded dumbly as Nigel ran his fingers over John's bare shoulders. Then, slowly and deliberately, Nigel began to disrobe. First he carefully unbuttoned his jacket, then his shirt. Nigel eased off his tall boots and very slowly removed his pants. He wore nothing underneath.

John watched Nigel strip off the uniform, his body still standing frozen but his eyes moving wildly up and down Nigel's body. For a moment, the naked Nigel stared at John, looking his body up and down. Nigel shook his head, as if he'd assessed that John's physique was sadly lacking. Nigel then threw the shirt around John's shoulders. He slid John's arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up. John could do nothing to prevent or assist in this endeavor, and could only allow himself to be dressed as if he were some giant doll. Nigel put John's legs into the trousers, one leg at a time, then pulled them up and fastened them securely. He then put on John's boots and completed John's attire with the jacket. Nigel stared at John, his penetrating eyes not breaking contact with John's own, until he suddenly produced a top hat from thin air. John was uncertain where it had come from, but it was without question the hat that went with John's serving uniform. Gingerly, holding the brim with two fingers on either side, Nigel set the hat atop John's head with great ceremony.

Nigel stepped back, completely naked and uncaring, and admired the now fully-uniformed John. He nodded in approval at his handiwork. John felt strangely exposed, despite the fact that he was now fully clothed and Nigel was fully naked. Yet John felt embarrassed and humiliated while Nigel still carried himself with an air of confidence and strength.

Nigel stepped forward then, and gripping John's lapels, kissed him lightly on the lips. John felt a rush of pleasure at the contact and became so lightheaded he feared he would faint. John's head stopped spinning as Nigel led him over to the weight bench.

Nigel laid John down on the weight bench and kissed him again. Once, twice, three times, all very softly and with great affection. Then on the fourth kiss, Nigel lingered, his tongue probing, finding its way into John's willing mouth, sending John's heart rate up considerably. John wanted to struggle, or perhaps wrap his arms around Nigel, or something, but found he could only lie back and accept his master's advances. Nigel did not pull away, and as his kiss lingered on and on, John felt himself swell with intense joy.

Then his body physically mimicked the joy he was experiencing, and he began to swell up like a balloon. His body inflated as if attached to some bizarre magical pump and he became gigantic and round, all under the passionate lips of Master Nigel. John began to panic, desperate to scream for Nigel to pull away, to stop kissing him, to stop inflating him, but he was helpless to do anything.

After John had reached a point where both his belly and torso formed a massive sphere and his head and neck bulged, Nigel calmly pulled away, breaking off his kiss. John then floated up off the weight bench like his balloon likeness. Still clad in his livery uniform, which had somehow stretched to accommodate his increased size, John floated up toward the ceiling of the gymnasium. Horrified, John looked down at Nigel, who stood looking up at him, proud and naked, a smirk of satisfaction on his face. With a light thud, John felt his floating body bump against the ceiling. Upon impact, he knew without question he was trapped. In that house, in that body, in the thrall of his beautiful master.

With a gasp, John sat up in bed, soaking with sweat. Frantically, he pawed at his body, desperate to assure himself that he had not blown up like a balloon, that he was his normal size and that all was well.

But all was not well. John was frightened in the unnerving, desperate way that only comes following nightmares. Even though John knew that logically, the dream was past and he could go back to sleep, he would not close his eyes again for some time for fear or returning to the same dream. John saw the time was 3:34 in the morning. Slipping out of his quarters, John took the hidden passageways to the servants' pool and swam for the better part of an hour before gaining sufficient courage to return to his bed. The rest of the night, thankfully, was dreamless.

The next brought his first officially-scheduled hypnosis session with master Nigel, as well as a new parade of jokes and jibes from the staff that now he was "crackers" as well as incompetent since they viewed his sessions as therapy. The sessions were quick and relaxing and much to John's relief, were held in the upper study where Nigel kept his shirt on. As Nigel prepared to dismiss John, he reviewed their session together.

"You feel fine then, John Bull? No lingering sleepiness, nothing of that sort?"

"No, sir."

Nigel nodded absently, not really listening, then his eyes grew sharp, and he looked back on John. "And nothing unusual has been troubling you otherwise, has it, John Bull?" He paused, as if for effect. "How have you been sleeping?"

John felt his heart skip a beat. How could he know? But this was a legitimate worry. Something was effecting John's psyche to the point that it was coming out in his dreams, and the hypnosis was very likely at the root of it. John began to say as much, even give an expurgated recounting of his dream, when his voice said, "I've been sleeping very well, sir, thank-you for inquiring. I am doing splendidly and I wish to continue these hypnosis sessions for as long as you deem necessary, please."

John's eyes bulged with horror. These were not the words he had intended to speak, by any stretch of the imagination. His tone, inflection, and phrasing did nothing, however, to betray that what he had uttered was anything other than an honest response. His eyes, on the other hand, projected absolute panic. John wanted to shout out that those words were not his own, but his lips had closed tight and he was left with inescapable conclusion that he was done speaking for that session.

Nigel approached John and looked into his eyes. It was evident that Nigel could see the panic reflected there, and grinned in response. Slyly, he whispered, "So very glad to hear it, John Bull. You best return to your duties now before you're too badly missed."

John gave a slight bow and left the room, possibly propelled by his own power, possibly not. He could no longer tell.

That evening there was another tea tray outside his room, another card. Melanie was assigned to assist with cleaning the fourth floor draperies. John was relieved. He still wasn't up to facing her just yet. He enjoyed his tea, retired, and fought sleep for the better part of two hours before finally drifting off. He would slumber for an additional hour before the dreams came again.

Once again, the naked John met with his liveried master in the gymnasium. Their clothing was exchanged, only this time John was left with the oddest feeling that this was somehow the natural order of things. Again, after John was fully dressed, his unclothed master kissed him. But unlike before, this time Nigel led John through a series of corridors that John did not recognize. They eventually led to a back passageway with descending stairs that emptied out before the servants' swimming pool. John was taken aback for a moment. He had never come to the pool by way of the main house before.

Nigel led John by the hand into the pool. The water was grimy and thick as it was when John first discovered it. John thought nothing of following his naked master into the water, despite being fully attired in his uniform, boots, hat, and all. Once submerged up to their waists, Nigel began to kiss John, again assaulting his senses with wave after wave of the most sublime joy.

Nigel gently lowered John into the water until John's face was all that remained above the water. His uniform was heavy with water, his boots had been flooded, he had no idea how his hat was staying on his head. He didn't care about any of it. His master was kissing him, over and over. But then the small kisses stopped. Nigel leaned forward and kissed John intimately, and the overwhelming rush of joy began anew. John felt the pleasure swell within him and he wanted to protest while simultaneously begging for more. His body began to inflate, taking on the aspects of a beach ball. Nigel kept kissing, John's useless hands and feet splashed about at the outer fringes of his huge bloated body, unable to make Nigel break off his contact, unable to free himself.

Soon John floated up atop the water and began to drift, as easily as a living beach toy. Nigel tapped John lightly on the behind, sending him whirling around in circles atop the pool waters. Nigel's laughter pealed louder and as he spun the helpless, floating John balloon about, he cried out, "Recite your oath! Recite your oath!"

Weeping, John called out in hopes it would make Nigel stop. His desperate cries sounded like the voice of a fool, "I am only John Bull! That is all that I am! I am only John Bull! That is all that I am!"

John's floating ball-body thudded against the side of the pool, jarring John awake. John gasped and thrashed, trying to adjust himself to the fact that he was not in the water, but in his bed. Until his arms splashed water around him. The floor was flooded beneath John, and he nearly found himself swept under the standing water. There was at least four feet of it.

Gasping, John stood up rapidly, nearly falling over backwards. John was not in his bed. he was indeed in the servants' swimming pool. All the lights in the room were off, and the room was dimly illuminated by the light streaming from the servant's back passageway nearby. John had never sleepwalked in his life. How had he come to be here? As John began to drag his soaking wet body out of the pool, he saw that he was still dressed. And not in his pajamas.

John was dressed in his livery uniform, which he knew for a fact he had removed and hung up for cleaning before he went to bed. For a full five minutes, John simply stood in the shallow end of the pool, feeling his heart beat against his chest, frightened of what was happening to him, of what he was doing. And truly horrified of what could possibly come next.

He had to get out of Master Nigel's house. It was time for extreme measures.

Part Three

"Dad, you have GOT to get me out of here! Don't give me the damn responsibility and growth through humility lecture, either! You don't understand, he's DOING something to me! I'm not behaving normally--NIGEL!! Who the bloody hell do you THINK I'm talking about?!"

John yelled into the phone, desperate to convince his father he needed to escape Nigel's hold on him. He hoped the increased vocal volume would penetrate the father's thick skull. It was having no effect so far.

"Yes! He's started hypnotizing me! Look, I know it's a trick he does at parties, that's how it all started--yes, Dad, I WAS a good sport about it. But he keeps doing it. We've had multiple sessions already and it's begun to--No, I can't just tell him I'd rather not, Dad. Because I'm a bleeding MANSERVANT, that's why, dammitt all! I have to do whatever he tells me! You saw to that!"

John cradled his head in one hand as his father's gurgling voice flowed out of the receiver. Shaking his head, John tried to collect himself. "Dad, no, that's not...what? You just don't get it, you aren't hearing what I'm saying...STOP laughing!" John stood up, his knuckles going white as he clutched the telephone. "I am NOT being petulant and cute! Oh, spare me the foofaraw about sticking it out, already! I am being manipulated, I am being twisted into somethin--"

John clenched his teeth, pacing back and forth as his father spewed platitudes which he punctuated with what he thought was reassuring chortles. As his old man paused for breath, John hissed into the phone, "I will take off from here, Dad. I could care a pin about the damned inheritance, and I mean it. I don't KNOW where I'd go to-- Corsica, Tahiti, the Cayman Islands, Newark New Jersey, just as long as I'm away from here!" His father's voice dribbled out of the phone. He was now attempting to be soothing. John sighed, realizing how futile this entire ploy was.

"No, I serious--Dad, I really mean it this time. I swear I will leave, I don't care how many times I've threatened before--! What? I do NOT run away from all my problems, how dare you--?! Well, maybe I'll just find some travel agent that doesn't require money up front, and I'll--" John could feel his ruddy complexion going crimson. "I CAN'T stick it out, for the love of heaven! Don't you see that?? I have to get--DON'T you hang up on me!! Dad! DAD!!!"

John heard the click on the other end and stood staring into the receiver long enough for the dial tone to return. He was sorely tempted to just march out the door and keep walking, livery costume or no. In fact, since that was what he had been reduced to, so be it. John slammed down the receiver and whirled about to make his grand exit.

And saw Nigel leaning against the doorway.

"And how is your dear father, John Bull?"

John fumed, but held his tongue. "Same as usual, sir."

"Jolly good", Nigel smirked. "It's time for your next hypnosis session, John Bull. Off we go."

John puffed up his chest and prepared to tell off Nigel once and for all, and then to storm out of his damnable house, slamming the door behind him. But as he opened his mouth, out came the words, "But of course, sir. May we see to it immediately then?" After the sentence had been spoken, John looked stricken. Nigel appeared to enjoy that look.

Striding casually up to John, Nigel said with menacing quiet, "Yes, John Bull, we shall begin immediately. And from now on, your telephone privileges are revoked. You know better than to make calls during your working hours."

John nodded. "Yes, of course, Master Nigel. I thank-you for correcting my misconduct."

Nigel stepped backwards out of the door, bidding John to follow him with a curling index finger. John plodded on after his master like a condemned man going to his final fate. If only John knew what his final fate was...

That night in his room, John sat on his cot trying to ignore the knock at the door. Mrs. Flemming had already come and gone, after hearing John's oath recital and making a few venomous comments about John's mental instability and the burden he brought to both her master and the household in general. It was unlikely she had returned to dish out more torture. She preferred to leave after a strong final word, which she'd had.

John stood up, blowing a heavy breath between his lips, knowing full well who it had to be. He paused with his hand on the doorknob, gathering his courage. He silently counted to three, then opened the door partway. "Melanie."

"John! Sure'n I'd begun to fink I'd never see you again, lad." She stood on her tiptoes and gave John a peck on the cheek. John stood there looking down at her and her now trademark tea tray, a pained smile on his face. Melanie looked back. "So can I come in, then?"

John pushed the door open the rest of the way. "Sure, sure. Sorry. Won't you come in?"

Melanie fairly pranced into the small room. She set the tea tray down upon the bed, taking her place beside it. She then looked up at John and, smiling, patted the bed indicating that she wanted John to sit down next to her. Oh, boy. John sat down slowly and Melanie scooched over close to him.

"Cor, I thought those steam cleaning jobs would never end. It's good to see you, John. Did you enjoy the tea I left for you?" She moved a little closer.

"Um, yeah", John said, gulping. "the tea was great, thanks."

"Sorry I couldn't be waiting here with it." Melanie put her hand on John's leg and gave him a light squeeze. Before John could pull away, she placed her other hand around his back. As John twisted his head around in response to her delicate fingers tracing his spine, Melanie moved her other hand up his leg toward his crotch.

John jerked back around swiftly, alarmed by the feeling of her fingers running over his nether regions. But he was not swift enough to avoid her kiss. Melanie planted a soft and passionate kiss upon John's lips, which he was unprepared to stop. He expected her to break off contact after the initial peck, but she lingered there, her tongue begin to work its way into John's mouth.

"Whoa! Whoa, hold it, there!" John grabbed a hold of Melanie's arms and pulled her away.

"What is it, John? What's the matter?"

"Melanie, sweetie, we can't do this."

"Aww, you called me 'sweetie', that's so nice. You're so nice, John." She leaned in to kiss him again.

"Mel! Stop! I'm serious. We really, really, can't do this! I can't do this!"

The harshness in his voice struck Melanie like a physical blow. "John...don't you fancy me?" Her eyes looked as if they were about to moisten, and she began to rise from the bed. "You don't, do you? But then, how could you? Me, nothing but a dumb serving girl, and you a well-to-do gentleman just playing at our life. I just assumed..." She choked back a sob. "I'll be leaving you then, sir. Please forgive my presumption. I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention this to anyone, especially Mrs. Flemming."

Melanie made her way to the door, but John took her by the hand before she could reach it. "Melanie, please! That's not what I meant at all! Stop jumping to conclusions!"

Melanie turned back to him, a look of confusion and frustration on her face. "Well, then?"

John's mind raced. He had this poor girl's heart in his hands, and among all the tyrants and fiends in this place, she was the one person deserving of consideration and kindness. H thought fast. "Mel, have you ever heard of a workplace romance?"

Melanie stared, her mind searching for that term. "No..."

John led her back to the bed. "It's almost always a recipe for disaster. Two people who work together--"

"But our duties never cross paths--!"

"Two people who work in the same place, then. A romantic relationship is meant to be a release, even an escape, from the demands of work. If we were to begin something, you and I--"

"Oh, I know we'd only get to see each other late at night like this, but looking forward to it could make the day go faster, I know just seeing you now already does that for me!"

John placed a gentle finger under her chin. "Mel, I'm a pariah here. You have it rough enough. Imagine how much worse Flemming or the others would treat you if they found out you and I were together. It'd be hell for both of us. I can't imagine seeing you hurt that way." That last statement, at least, was the truth. Melanie lowered her head, brushing away John's hand. Nicely worded or not, she could tell she was getting dumped. John took a chance. Leaning forward to catch her eye, he added, "But I won't be a servant here forever, you know."

Melanie's eyes danced. "That's right! And once you're free of all this, we can do whatever we want together!" She threw her arms around him and in a joyful embrace. "John, you're so considerate of me! After you've finished answering to Master Nigel, you and I can--"

"Let's just wait and see what we can do when the time comes, okay?"

"Of course, John. No plans are the best plans." She hugged him tighter, but he could tell by the slight edge in her voice that he may as well have told her that she'd have to wait forever rather than for the end of his two-year stint. She was sweet, but hardly stupid.

Relieved that he had won himself a brief reprieve from Melanie's innocent advances, John breathed a bit easier. Breaking off their hug, he looked at her, at her courageous smile that tried to outshine the hurt in her eyes. Gently, John brushed her hair over her ears with two fingers. He gave her a hopeful smile that he hoped promised better days ahead. Melanie reached up and held John's hand to the side of her head, closed her eyes, and sighed.

Poor kid, John thought. She has no idea how much she's barking up the wrong tree, and I haven't the heart to just come out and tell her. He stroked her cheek with his thumb and admired her soft skin, her alluring features. He found his false smile growing more sincere. She had quite a lot to recommend her, if he swung that way. He wondered when was the last time--if ever--anyone had told her that.

"I hope you know, you really are quite beautiful, Nigel."

Melanie's eyes popped open. "Nigel? Whacha'mean, 'Nigel'??" She pulled away from him.

John felt his tongue tie into a knot. "Whuh-but-that is--uhh, did I say Nige--?? Melanie! You know I meant Melanie! You're name's Melanie, not Nigel! I mean, sure, I-I-I know that!"

Melanie gave John a long, questioning look. "Are you alright then, John?"

John fluttered his lips like a horse, and lowered his head, his palms bracing his forehead. "No, to be quite honest, Melanie", and he stressed her name, "I'm not sure that I am."

Melanie patted her imagined intended on the back. With a softness in her voice, she asked, "Had a tough week with the master, 'ave you?"

"You have no idea", John answered, not looking up.

"You rest then, and enjoy your tea, love." She kissed him atop his head. "And take heart. Like you said, you won't have this job forever. And I'll always be here." John nodded meekly, and kept his head down until Melanie had slipped out, gently closing the door behind her.

John flopped backwards onto his bed, letting out an incoherent grunt of frustration. Now his stomach was all in knots as well, as if something inside were fighting to get out. After a few minutes lying on his bed, John sat up and had his tea.

It helped a little.

With his concerns about Melanie put to rest, John did his best to settle into his routine. He tried to volunteer for extra work when he could in order to avoid his hypnosis sessions, but Nigel had Mrs. Flemming on the watch for such schemes. After three such subterfuges circumvented by the blustering giantess, John conceded grudgingly to his fate.

John's days consisted of reciting his oath, his work duties, hypnosis session, and a cup of tea before retiring. Melanie usually left the tray for him and slipped away without announcing herself, but one night their paths crossed, and she simply gave John a mock curtsey, a wink, and departed with one quick look over her shoulder while blowing him a kiss. He hoped she wasn't counting down the days till the end of his two-year tenure.

While carrying serving trays for his master, John did notice that he was getting far too flabby, even more so than he'd noted previously. After his nightly tea, he made his way down the servant's back hallway to the pool area, but elected to try his hand at the archaic weight room in attempt to get himself back into some semblance of shape. He still hadn't gotten over the incident of awakening fully dressed in the swimming pool.

The weight room was in worse shape than he remembered it. Most of the equipment, what little there was, he found to be rusty and dilapidated. The weights for the lat machine were cracked completely in half--no doubt the result of allowing them to slam back down after a set of reps--rendering them useless. The one piece of equipment that was in working order was the chest press barbell. John tried going back to his old weight limit for starters, but couldn't even lift the weights off the bench supports. John decreased the weight to little result. His arms shook, he perspired terribly, and still he could barely budge the weights.

It wasn't until he had dropped the amount down to what he first lifted as a boy that he was able to get the damn thing up and over his chest. Then a whole new problem arose. John lay there on the bench, barely able to keep the barbell aloft, as the bar swung wildly above him, swaying this way and that, until John had to let it drop to one side lest it fall down on top of him.

John sat up, hopelessly winded and lightheaded. He looked at his arms and squeezed what used to be a biceps. His skin was not only flabby, it was actually soft and pliable, almost rubbery. He had never seen himself this bad off before. John sat and sighed. He knew all too well what would firm up his muscles and get his tone back, to say nothing of slowly rebuilding his strength. Dream- inspired anxiety or not, he was going to have to start swimming.

John returned to the pool and stripped own to the buff (he'd deliberately left his trunks behind) and dove into the pool without pausing so he wouldn't change his mind. Once in the pool, he felt invigorated and swam several dozen laps before stepping out, spent, and returning to his room to sleep like a log. It was the first time he'd dropped off to sleep so easily in ages. And he woke up, dry, in his own bed, in his pajamas. Case closed.

John revised his schedule to now consist of reciting his oath, his work duties, his hypnosis session, a cup of tea before swimming laps, and then retiring. With his precious tea and exhilarating swims, John thought perhaps he could almost hack everything else. That is, until the dreams started again.

John returned from the pool exhausted. He had gone 100 laps and every muscle in his body ached. His stomach felt tight too, possibly cramping due to the overexertion in the water.

John stripped off his damp swimming costume and collapsed naked onto his cot. His body throbbed with dull pain and try as he might, he couldn't get comfortable. He lay on his back, he rolled onto his side, he eventually flopped onto his stomach. His arms stretched out in front of him, he tried to adjust himself but his limbs were too stiff. He opted to push himself over again onto his back. Only he couldn't. His arms wouldn't budge from the head of the bed. He tugged at them, but to no avail. Was he caught on something?

John gave it another good try, trying to yank his arms back, but all he did was cause a cutting sensation in his wrists. And a metal clinking. Clinking? John lifted his head up and peered into the dim light of his room. He saw that he was chained to his bed. John blinked against the darkness. "What the deuce?"

The bed began to tilt backwards. John scrambled to get some kind of footing, only to find that his legs were now chained, also. Hit cot now stood vertically upright, and may as well have been cemented down on its one end for all it responded to John's struggling. John pushed forward with all his might to get the bed back down on all four of its legs, but proceeded only in forcing out the meager box spring and the thin mattress.

The spring and mattress thudded against the floor dully, leaving John trussed up, spread-eagle, on the cot's wire frame. Then the cot began to pivot, turning in a slow circle to face John in the opposite direction. It came to a stop after making its 180, and John saw that his room was gone. He was in the house's grand ballroom, and everyone who was a servant or had ever been a guest during John's tenure was there, gawking at him.

There was a tearing sound and John felt his pajamas strip away, leaving him completely exposed to the onlookers. Mrs. Flemming, Clive, and even Melanie pointed and laughed, finding John's humiliation hilarious. Nigel's arrogant sister snorted in derision and her bratty little girl ran up and kicked John in the shins, inspiring even more laughter.

John struggled to break free of his bed frame prison, but made no progress. Then he felt a strong band of steel wrap around his neck like a slave's collar, then lock firmly in place behind him. A large oblong pendant hung from the collar, with the engraved message upon it, "Property of Master Nigel". The room positively shook with laughter. John didn't think it could get any worse. He was wrong.

His stomach began to ache once more, the pressure growing tremendous. He was convinced he was suffering from a terrible ulcer, which given his situation--even prior to this bizarre chain of events- -was hardly surprising. It wasn't an ulcer. There was a strange gurgling inside John's belly, an added weight, and once again, John began to inflate. But this time he was not becoming an air-filled beach ball. John could feel his body growing heavier, his weight increasing as layer upon layer of fat grew upon him.

The crowd whooped and jeered, fingers pointing, doubling over with laughter at the sight of John's predicament. Within moments, John was as large as a cow, his weak arms straining against the chains that were still fastened tight, but were now holding a far more massive weight. John tried to cry out to someone--anyone--for help, but all that poured forth from his mouth was gibberish.

Everyone laughed at him, everyone looked down upon him. He was an idiot, he was a fool. He was an object of scorn and nothing more. Amid the cacophony of ridicule, a quiet voice pierced the din. "Welcome to your new life, John Bull." The voice was Nigel's.

John jolted awake from his nightmare, eyes wild and bathed in sweat. His gaze darted about the room to verify that he was where he was supposed to be, and not in the grand ballroom, the swimming pool, or anywhere else. He was indeed in his own room. Just him, the bed, the nightstand, and that silhouette in the chair. John sat up quickly, certain that the form in the chair was Nigel's. John stumbled out of the bed, thrown momentarily by the realization that he was not, in fact, chained down, and raced to the light switch by the door. There was only the one door, and even in the dark, an intruder would have to push past John in any bid for freedom. John whirled around to confront whomever was in the chair.

And found it empty.

John rubbed his eyes. Clearly, the image of the silhouette must have been some carry-over from his nightmare. While he placed his palms upon his eyes and worked out the sleep, John thought he heard a soft hiss. He looked about the room, but again, saw nothing.

According to the clock he had but four minutes before he would have to rise for his morning duties. Shaking off the disorienting effects of his restless slumber, John reached for his fresh uniform. To find that it wasn't there, either. John rummaged about his room to see if his attire had been mislaid, but considering the tiny size of his abode, it was a short search. It seemed that all John had to wear was missing, even the pajamas that he didn't wear the night before should have been folded up inside the one drawer of the end table. They were not.

There was a knock at John's door and he was curious how he was going to answer it while stark naked. The knock came again, more insistently. "Open up, Bull. You should be up and around already, if you know what's good for you. Layabout." It was the charming Mrs. Flemming, no doubt come to hear John recite his oath. John was sorely tempted to just fling the door open and stand revealed in the altogether just to spite her. He began to take a step towards the door when he was struck with another terrible stomach cramp. This one was the worst yet. It nearly dropped John to his knees.

"I say, are you awake yet in there or what??"

John gritted his teeth as the pain began to subside a bit. "Yesss...yes! I'm up!" He steadied himself against the door frame and opened the door a crack. "But I'm not dressed."

"I should think not, you fool pratt.", Mrs. Flemming sneered. "I've got your uniform right here." She held up a dry cleaning bag with one of John's livery wardrobes inside. She shoved the bag through the door and into John's arms. "Now hurry up an' get dressed. You've got things to do, right now, then."

John started to unwrap the clothing from the garment bag. "I'll get dressed quickly then be ready to recite my oath", he groaned.

"You can save your damn stupid oath for the master", Mrs. Flemming snapped. "He's sent me with express orders that you report to him in the study in your full livery. So get a move on." She stomped off.

John tossed the uniform onto his cot and paced the short length of the room. After the night he'd had, to say nothing of the alarming way in which he awoke, he'd need a moment to collect himself before heading off to face whatever new task Nigel had in store. Especially considering that he'd been convinced that Nigel himself had been lurking in the shadows of his room looming over John while he slept. Upon reflection, the idea seemed ludicrous. Why would a man whose every command John had to obey be watching him through the night? John plopped down on his chair and let out a deep sigh. Very quickly, he sat bolt upright and leapt to his feet. The idea no longer seemed quite so ludicrous.

His chair was still warm.

John had determined, without question, that he would have answers to what was going on. He would get out of Nigel the truth about whatever he had been doing to him, by force, if necessary. John stormed down the hallway indignantly. Or, at least as indignantly as anyone can who has to hold his pants up with both hands.

His stomach was aching again, but he tried to ignore it. Most of his concentration was currently focused on not tripping over his own trousers. Through whatever mishap, John had been delivered the wrong uniform. God only knew how many fanciful livery uniform's went through the dry cleaner's each week, but there was no way in hell that this one was John's. The chest of the shirt and waistline of the trousers were several (maybe even several dozen) sizes too large. In contrast, the arms of the jacket and legs of the pants were far too small, and gripped John's limbs like a vise. He felt like a clown, even more so that usual in his servant's getup. At least the usual uniform fit him properly.

So this was either a mix-up with someone else's uniform or there had been an inexplicable laundry disaster at the cleaner's. John hiked up his pants and put one hand forward to thrust open the doors to the study. He strode in with eyes ablaze to see Master Nigel standing by the mantle, calmly sipping his morning cup of tea. He didn't even turn around to acknowledge John's entrance.

John cleared his throat. Twice. Nigel made a lazy glance John's way and didn't even raise an eyebrow at his ridiculous ensemble. He took another sip of his tea.

"I believe", John said with pronounced agitation, "that you wanted to see me...sir." The word 'sir' was emphasized with venom. Unfortunately, it was also punctuated by John's top hat suddenly sliding down over his eyes to rest on the bridge of his nose. John's hands reflexively shot up to remove the hat from his eyes, releasing the grip in his pants, which fell down around his legs and ankles like a collapsing circus tent.

Nigel behaved as if this were all everyday fare. "Yes, I think it's time to fill you in on the specific reason I requested you as my personal servant, John Bull." His tone was almost lackadaisical.

John hastened to pull his pants back up, and nearly tripped and fell on his face in the process. He braced himself against a high-backed chair as he hiked up his britches.

"The time has come", Nigel announced, "for your final indoctrination into my service."

"Oh, goodie", John grumbled, which Nigel heard, though he only paused a moment and then let the remark go without further comment.

"You've put in a good deal of time under my authority, John Bull.", Nigel said, peering into his tea cup. "All of which has led up to this one moment. The moment I have been preparing you for since you first set foot in this house."

John had lost all patience. "Let me guess. It involves me reciting my stupid bloody oath, doesn't it, great master Nigel?"

"It's funny you should mention that", Nigel mused, setting his cup on the mantle.

John was off an running. "Yeah, it's a bally hoot, isn't it? Well, you can forget that damnable oath, because I am done with it! I know you're just trying to keep me down, to reduce me a little more each day, and it's not going to work!"

Nigel raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips. "Is that right?"

"You bloody well better believe it's right!" John could feel his stomach really burning with pain now. It was as if everything inside him were bursting to get out, physically as well as emotionally. "You are NOT going to shrink me down to nothingness, you presumptuous twat! I KNOW who I am!!"

Nigel almost grinned. Almost. It was not the response that John was expecting from a master whose servant was rebelling. "I'm sure that you think you know who you are, John Bull", Nigel said with maddening aplomb. "But whatever you may think, I know who you truly are. Inflate."

The pain in John's belly peaked. He took in a sharp breath and felt something inside him twinge. The pain stabbed intensely, then vanished. But it left something in its place. John gripped the back of a chair as his entire body began to tingle and, for want of a better word, shift.

"And I can promise you this much", Nigel added, "the last thing in the world I would ever want to do to you is shrink you down."

John clutched his head. His scalp, all of his skin, felt clammy and rubbery. It was as if he were feeling the surface of carnival balloon rather than his own flesh. Something shifted inside his gut again. It felt as if he were gaining weight. Months, years worth of accumulated girth was building inside him and pushing for the space needed to accommodate it.

"What's happening? What the hell are you doing to me??" John clutched at his midsection, which felt bloated and gaseous. And increasingly heavy. He loathed the feel of his rubbery flesh beneath his fingers, but couldn't bring himself to let go. He feared he could well explode if he did.

"Before I give you too many details", Nigel said, using a casual tone one might use to make an offhand comment about the weather, "we need to cover a quick history lesson. You really don't have any idea what the history of your family name entails, do you, John Bull?"

"Huh-huh-how should I know?", John gasped.

"John Bull is a famous British icon of out island people. The ruddy- faced, livery-clad Englander who stands as representative of all things properly British. You might say he's out equivalent of the colonials' Uncle Sam."

"You-you're making me into some John Buh-Bull character, aren't you?", John wheezed. "Is that what this has all been about?"

Nigel smiled. "Yes, I am, John. Or rather, you are, whether or not you can acknowledge it or care to admit it." John continued to struggle both inwardly and outwardly with the fate that was befalling him. His mind scrambled to come to grips with his transformation even as his hands and arms clutched his belly in a futile attempt to contain it in place. Nigel strode forward as the once trim, athletic, and well-conditioned John spluttered, red-faced and sweating profusely, his thinning and increasingly spindly legs quivering to uphold his girth.

"You're out of your bleeding tree!", John gasped. It was getting harder to articulate around his puffy and doughy cheeks. "You put me through all this just because of my family name?"

"Not just the name in general, but yours specifically", Nigel clarified. "The name merely provided the means to vindicate myself against the man who went by it. You."

"Y-you're not making any sense at all--!"

"And you, dear boy", Nigel went on, "are making a confession. It shall be in the form of your new oath. You will repeat after me. And don't try to fight it, John. You really can't, you know. I saw to that." John looked at him with mounting horror and realized that more than ever before, he was completely at this madman's mercy. "Honesty and obedience", Nigel announced, and John felt something click into place inside his brain. He realized without question that he would now follow Nigel's every command and that he could not possibly lie no matter what question was posed to him. Nigel was truly his master.

"You are John Bull", Nigel said firmly.

"I--I am John Bull", came the compelled response.

"You are the embodiment of our British icon, with all his attributes." John wheezed, spat out a tiny speck of drool. "Say, it, John."

"I am the embodiment of our British icon, with all his attributes."

"You have the round face, ruddy complexion, costume livery, thin arms and legs--", Nigel directed.

"I-I-I have the...round face...ruddy complexion", John wheezed. He felt as if he were about to burst. But he swallowed, spoke again, unable to resist, "Th-th-the costume livery...and, and, and...thin arms and legs--",

Nigel put his face right up to John's. "And are most bulbous and rotund of body."

John's expression became wild with fright, his head shaking slightly in protest, but his mouth was already moving, his voice responding. "A-a-and most bulbous and...oh, God help me...and ro-ro-ro-roTUNNNNNNDD-duh!!" That was as far as John got. With that, his body began to swell up like a balloon.

There was a slow, muffled hiss, as a car tire being filled with new air. John's belly expanded outward and grew rounder and wider. His chest inflated at an equal rate, combining with the ever-expanding belly to form such a smooth outward curve that his rib cage disappeared entirely. From crotch to sternum, John was turning spherical. He was a balloon, a globe, a giant egg, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. His slender arms grasped at his sides, now curving arcs, in attempt to hold himself in, to push his expansion back down, but there was nothing to hold onto, no way to push it back.

John felt himself filling up. But it wasn't with air. He was becoming the John Bull of legend, of history, and while both he and his iconic counterpart could be argued to be full of a lot of hot air, John was solidifying into his new form. John felt new fatty tissue form, muscle and sinew grow and stretch to fill his massive new circumference. And as his body took on it's circular new shape, he was struck by the overwhelming and frightening sensation that this was how he was meant to be, what he was destined for. This was John Bull's destiny, whether he liked it or not.

After an agonizing ten minutes or so, the hissing inflation within John Bull slowed and finally stopped. His new body was complete. Ruddy cheeked and red-nosed, John Bull now appeared to be his namesake in every way. His face was round and full, his arms and legs slender and ineffectual, his body a rotund, circular mass of blubber. John's skin had stretched admirably and settled around his new form, still maintaining it's pliable consistency in cheek, belly, and chest. Leaving John with the inescapable conclusion that there could well be more room to grow.

John was held in place, more by his rapidly increasing weight than by Nigel's mental control over him. John was astonished he could even still stand upright with all the tremendous bulk swelling up atop his scrawny legs.

"We're not done yet, John Bull", Nigel sneered. "Your final phrase-- you ready?"

John nodded dully. He was by no means ready, but felt the compulsion to accept the suggestion that he was.

"As my girth reaches it's full size, my mind will fog over and leave me the blathering dunderhead I deserve to be." John's mouth moved a bit, but the words didn't come out. His expression was one of abject terror. He had lost his freedom, his dignity, even his body, and now he was about to lose his mind.

Nigel's face was now nearly as red as John's. "SAY IT!!"

John licked his lips, then said, almost sobbing, "A-as my girth reaches it's full size, my mind w-will f-f-fog over and leave me...oh dear God...leave me the b-blathering dunderhead I deserve to be." John began to cry, his tear rolling down his swollen and rounded new cheeks.

"And last of all, John", Nigel said, smiling wickedly, "with your final words as your old self, beg forgiveness for ever having spurned Nigel Greenslade."

John began to repeat the phrase almost robotically. "W-with my final words as my old self, I beg forgiveness for ever having spurned Nig-- " He blinked, his mind reshuffling what he'd been told to say. "What?"

Nigel stopped in his tracks. "Go on, say it. Say it, damn you!"

John swallowed. "I can't."

Nigel started to lose it. "NO!! You have to! This is your final confession for what you did to me!!"

"What did--", John gasped, he was getting terribly fat and even speech was becoming a chore for him, "--what did I ever do to you??"

For a moment, Nigel's' eyes were wild with outrage and confusion. Then they refocused and he drew close to the bulbous John. "Of course. You don't recognize me, do you, John Bull? How could you be expected to?"

Nigel bent forward and looked John in the eye. "Send your mind back a few years, john Bull", he said, his voice low. "Seven years should do quite nicely."

John swallowed, his lips and face feeling even thicker. "I'd...I'd be...seventeen..."

"And so would I", Nigel said, his eyes growing hard. "We knew each other, we went to the same school back then." John searched his memory for any trace of a beautiful blond boy named Nigel attending Worthington Academy. He came up empty. "Of course", Nigel continued, seeing John's blank expression, "I went by my first name back then, a name I hated. Elliot." John squinted. There was an Elliot he could recall, but he was a far cry from this gymnastic marvel. Nigel took another step, putting himself almost nose to nose with John. John's obesity alone kept them from making contact. Nigel spoke in a low hiss. "Elliot Nigel Greenslade."

John's eyes bulged nearly as wide as his torso. "You--?!", he gasped. "You're Elliot the Ponce??"

"SHUT UP!!", Nigel screamed. Then, quickly composing himself, he said, "I haven't heard that name in a very long time, but yes, that's what the students used to call me."

"I remember that--", John began.

Nigel cut him off. "And I remember, too! My father was your father's butler. It took nearly every penny he had to see to it that I could attend Worthington. He thought he was giving me "a leg up" as he used to say. I doubt he ever realized what a hell it was for me." John tried to say something, but found there were no words coming readily to his mind. And Nigel was off and running, anyway. John would most likely have not gotten a word in edgewise.

"I was the fat kid! The loser, the lower class poseur who was putting on airs and presuming to mingle with his betters! I was the one who suffered constant ridicule and ostracism. I know how you all saw me, the rotund, ruddy-faced wanker with o useful purpose save as a target for a steady barrage of harassment!"

John found his words. "B-but why me? Why do this to me? I remember all that, Ellio--" Nigel shot him a hateful look. "I mean, Nigel. I remember that, but I was never mean to you. I was nice to you! Don't you remember that--"

Nigel fairly jumped at John, clutching the lapels of his livery jacket. "Ohhh, I remember how you treated me perfectly! You'd chat with me between classes, you'd acknowledge me on the playing field, even wave if you saw me in public. And I remember that day on the cricket field." John's eyes darted back and forth as he tried to recall to what Nigel was referring. Then his eyes came into sharp focus as the incident returned to him. "Ahhh", Nigel said, "I see you remember it, too!"

Nigel began to pace back and forth before the helpless John. "You and I had taken lunch together, I remarked about how I was amazed you never had a girlfriend like all the other popular rich boys. You hemmed and hawed about being caught up in academics and athletics, how you didn't have much time for the ladies. But I sensed the real reason behind it." John began to sweat. It wasn't just from his increased weight, either. "I kept inching closer and closer to you on that bench while we lunched, hinting about how much I fancied you, and seeing in your eyes that you could very well reciprocate."

John could see it all too clearly. In his memory, he saw the awkward and timid Elliot leaning forward, poised to kiss him. John's heart raced, and he wondered what it would feel like to kiss another boy. Not just play acting, but to kiss a boy who felt the same way he did about other boys. John was ready to let it happen, to experience this heady thing for the first time, but panic set in. John remembered jerking away, back from his school chum. His movement was so rapid that Elliot was thrown off balance and tumbled forward, face first onto the grass. And before John could do anything to help him up--

"That's when they appeared", Nigel said, his voice dripping venom. "The gang of four who were the worst at ridiculing me. The leader of the group, Michael, made their presence known by shouting out, "You were right, lads. He's a bloody poof!" The beating I got that afternoon was severe." Nigel stared at the carpet, seething. Then he turned to John. "And you were nowhere to be found. It was all a setup on your part. You feigned friendship towards me, led me on, then not only spurned my advances but brought me to where your comrades could pound the stuffing out of me!"

John shook his head furiously. "No, no, wasn't like that, Nigel..."

"I was out of school for three weeks recovering from that assault. And I was too humiliated to return after I had healed. Your carefully arranged banishment worked like a charm, John."

"Nigel, please! You're remembering it wrong! I swear I never meant to--!"

Nigel rushed over and clutched John's plump face between thumb and forefinger. "QUIET. I am in charge here now, and you will speak only when I permit it or I promise you that growing the size of a hippopotamus will be the least of your worries. Do we understand each other, John Bull?" Terrified, John only nodded.

Nigel let go of John, patted his cheek lightly and returned to pacing the floor of the study. "What you didn't know about poor, stupid, fat Elliot--what no one knew--was that I was an economics wizard. I played the stock market and amassed a small fortune, one which I groomed into a large fortune. Instead of leaving for university, I used my finances to fund travels around the world." Nigel ran his palm up and down his washboard abs, enjoying the feel of the taut musculature. "You see, as it turns out, my chubby physique was due to a glandular disorder. Diet and exercise were irrelevant to me since nothing was effective in reducing my weight. So I sought the answers elsewhere." Nigel turned to John, a glint in his eye. "And I found it in New Guinea."

Nigel walked over to the far side of the room, speaking over his shoulder. "My salvation came in the form of an herb. A rare, exotic herb with astounding properties that could mold and reshape one's physical attributes." Nigel picked his cup up off the mantle. "One that mixed remarkably well with tea. And unlike so many medicinal herbs, this one had a most pleasing flavor and fragrance. You like it quite a bit, didn't you, John?" Nigel raised the cup to John in mock toast. John closed his eyes, distressed at the though that every night he was unwittingly playing his own part in helping Nigel's plan along.

Nigel traced the brim of his cup with his index finger. "Once ingested, the herb can just sit there, it can pass through your system, it can come and go entirely unnoticed. But", Nigel held up the finger in emphasis, "if its ingestion is combined with highly focused concentration and mental visualization, say through--"

"...hypnosis...", John muttered under his breath.

"Precisely, John Bull. As through hypnosis. You can then reshape your body to fit whatever images you have held in your mind. The herb goes to work as you have directed it. Did you know that the reason hypnosis is so effective is that the subconscious mind cannot discern between what is real and what is vividly and repeatedly imagined? Neither can this herb. And if your self image is contrary to your actual physique, the herb sets to work to make sure the two images match." Nigel set down his cup and spun around in a slow circle, his arms outstretched. "Pretty effective, wouldn't you say?"

"It took me a while to get my mental concentration honed to where my focus demanded the herb help me achieve my ideal." Nigel grabbed the tea cup again and tossed it lightly in the air. "In the meantime, I'd perfected the ultimate cup of herbal tea." He walked back over to John. "But if a subject were to be hypnotized, his mental focus guided for him, the herb could do its work subversively, with no chance of the mental image to strive for being lost." Nigel smiled a humorless smile. "And you were a very receptive subject, John Bull."

John still couldn't process all this. He had swelled up like a balloon, a blimp, and his weight more than tripled almost instantaneously. This simply wasn't possible, magic herbs or otherwise. John peered down at his massive bulk, shaking his head in disbelief. "But, but my stomach, my whole body, how could a simple herb allow it to stretch so much? It's impossible, it--"

"You enjoy your time using the servant's swimming pool, by any chance?", Nigel asked. "There's another extract that can be used with the herb which is ground into a paste. It's a deep, dark green, not unlike algae. Mixed with water, it becomes viscous, slimy. If it penetrates the skin, it allows for a certain pliability in the epidermis. It lets you swell up like a bloody great dirigible, John." John flashed back to his first time cleaning out the pool. He had gotten quite a coating of the gunk, having no idea what it was. Feeling no ill effects at the time, he dismissed it as a poorly- maintained pool.

"I didn't need the paste mixture myself", Nigel said. "As I was losing weight, rather than gaining it. The herb does wonders to help you tighten up, if that's what you're going for." Nigel crossed his arms in triumph. "Thus I remade myself into my ideal, and recreated you as the gross caricature you deserve to be." John shook his head again, prompting Nigel to speak faster, to finish his story. "With the herb in your system just waiting for its activation, you proved an exceptional subject for my dinner party hypnosis display. Then the forced sessions to improve your serving abilities--pfah! I even found a way to invade your dreams by sneaking into your room to coax them along through whispered suggestions."

John raised his eyebrows, about to ask how Nigel even got into his room unnoticed in the first place. Anticipating his question, Nigel said, "Your servant's hallway isn't the only secret passage in this house, you know. I assigned you those quarters for a reason."

John began to speak, but suddenly felt a wave of dizziness. He tried to shake it off, but it was as if a cloud was settling over his mind. He could still think clearly, but it was as if his body and mind were becoming disconnected. Nigel saw what was happening.

"You're reaching your dunderhead status, John Bull. But before you disappear forever into your persona of a complete buffoon, I want you to admit to me one thing. Admit that I wasn't wrong about you all those years ago at Worthington. I had you pegged all along, and it wasn't simply a schoolboy's adolescent crush. Admit that you're truly gay!"

John looked at Nigel with tired eyes. "Well, duh. Of course I'm gay, you bleeding Machiavellian twit."

Nigel was taken aback. "What?"

"Of course I'm gay! What made you think I'd deny it??"

"But--but you set me up. Back in school, so that the other lads could queer bash me, and you stalked off--"

John had become so frustrated and frightened that he no longer feared reprisals. He snapped, "I didn't set you up and I never STALKED anywhere! The tough lads came out of nowhere shouting about 'he's a bloody poof' and all that! I RAN, Nigel! I ran like a crazed madman because I thought they were talking about me! Sure, it was hardly my finest moment, but I never expected any of them to beat you. I didn't know until I heard about it after it had happened."

Nigel took a step backwards. "No. You-you're lying!" But even as he said it, Nigel knew that with John's repeatedly-enforced hypnotic conditioning he could no more lie to Nigel at this point than he could dance in Swan Lake. "That can't be right! It was all a setup, just to torture the bloody poof fat kid--"

"Nigel, you were never fat."

Nigel blinked. "What?"

John's voice softened. "You were never fat. You were maybe a little bit pudgy around the midsection, but lots of kids were at that age. You just obsessed over it all the time 'cause of the other kids' taunts. Talk about letting others control your self image--!"

Nigel stepped back towards John, reaching for his lapels again to threaten him should this be an untruth, or some type of manipulation to escape his punishment. Once Nigel was up close, John said, "In fact, I always thought Elliot--you--were kind of cute. I often wondered what it might've been like to kiss you. That's why I let you get so close that day at the cricket field. Before I chickened out, anyway."

Nigel did shake John by the lapels, but his indignant cries were not what he expected them to be. "Why the hell didn't you ever say something??"

John rolled his eyes. "Hello!! Closeted rich kid to whose dad appearances are everything!" Nigel stood there, arms limp at his sides, his mouth moving with no sound coming out. John looked his master up and down. "I always knew you'd get even better looking as you grew up, but damn." John winked, making a clicking sound with his tongue.

Nigel noticed that after John had looked him over, his gaze drifted over to John's teacup. "It's odd", John mused. "Even after everything you told me, I still have a craving for a cupper of that brew."

"It-it can have addictive properties", Nigel confessed. "I gave it to you right off in hopes of getting you hooked on it. I was incredibly pleased when I discovered Melanie's crush on you. I told Mrs. Flemming to ignore her repeated trips to your room with more tea. It saved me the trouble of figuring out how to get it into you myself or hoping you'd sneak into kitchen to pilfer it on your own." Nigel looked at John, really looked at him, and saw how he had mutated the young swimmer into a great whale. "Cor blimey, John, what have I done to you?"

John began to giggle. "You've buggered me up but good, Nigel." His giggle turned into a good long guffaw. As he caught his breath, a tear streaming from one eye due to the laughter, John asked, "So if I'm in such a fine state, why do I feel so giddy about it?"

Nigel rubbed his chin anxiously. "The last portion of your transformation is starting to take effect. It's making you a jolly, fat clod. Pretty soon you'll only be able to speak in the gibberish of an imbecile."

"Then before I start gibbering and drooling", John said, "tell me this much." Nigel nodded, ready to answer whatever question would come next. "You say you sneaked into my room to provoke that whole disturbing slavery dream I had, right?" Nigel nodded again, taking credit for the nightmare. "I can understand those, what with all the humiliation and entrapment. But why the romantic dreams? Why cause me to have those?"

Nigel looked at him askance. "Romantic dreams? What romantic dreams?"

John wheezed a bit, catching his breath, trying to make his words penetrate the fog settling upon his brain. "The dreams where I was naked, and then you were naked, where we kissed and all that. Was that to keep me off balance or just frustrate me?"

Nigel paused, astounded. "John...I never programmed you to have any kind of romantic dreams about me. I only sneaked into your room the once."

"So, that means--", John said, working the words out of his bloated lips, the thoughts past his fogged mind, "--that any dreams of a sexual nature I had involving the two of us together--"

Nigel finished the thought. "Had to have come solely from inside you."

Nigel gazed dreamily at John. Even in his distorted, grotesque state, Nigel could see in his eyes all the traces of the slim beautiful young man he once yearned to have as his teenage boyfriend. His heart panged to think that after all the time he'd wasted on intricate revenge schemes, he could very well have had John all along. Nigel leaned forward tenderly, seeing only the former John through all that added fat, and parted his lips to kiss him. John did his best, bloated as he was, to lean in for his lips to meet Nigel's. They should have moved faster.

John jerked back suddenly, his eyes bright and mouth moving a mile a minute. "Pish-tosh, toodle-bit! Up the apple and pears with a cup of Rosie Lee! Eh, wot?"

Nigel's jaw dropped and his heart sank. "Oh, bollocks."

Part Four

Nigel dashed down the main stairs to the foyer, head darting about frantically. He was nowhere to be seen. Practically sliding across the floor, Nigel raced into the dining hall, where he saw a puzzled- looking Clive polishing some silverware before setting it upon the table. Nigel gasped out, "Where did he go? Did he come through here?"

Clive blinked once, then answered, "If you mean, sir, that elephantine ball of fat dressed rather like a breakfast cereal icon, he trundled through there." Clive pointed toward the large double doors leading out toward one of the sitting rooms overlooking the garden.

Nigel sprinted out without another word. He burst into the sitting room and stopped at the tall glass windows looking out onto the garden. He saw the stretching pathways, the sloping hillside, the maze topiary beyond. If he had gotten that far, there'd be no catching him. But as Nigel grasped the handle of the door to the garden, he heard the blathering voice off to his right.

"Great leaping crabs, my good woman! What do you mean you don't understand? Pip pip! Cheerio and all that rot, eh wot?"

The tremendous John Bull was spluttering into the telephone at the far end of the sitting room. Nigel raced over and attempted to pry the received from his meaty hands. John Bull was less than willing to relinquish it. Still shouting into the phone as Nigel pulled it to arm's length, John Bull barked, "See here! If I called the wrong number then why did you answer the phone?!"

Nigel finally yanked away the phone and held it to his ear. "Hello? To whom am I speaking, please?"

The angry female voice came back, "Look you, we don't sell Crispy Crème donuts by the crate, and I don't care if Bob IS your uncle--!"

Nigel hung up with a quick, "So sorry!" By the time he turned around, John Bull was waddling off in another direction, blithering like an idiot. Nigel called after him. "John! John, wait! Stop!" As John Bull tromped off toward the upper floors, Nigel was filled with deep regret and guilt over what he'd done to the man he'd mistakenly convinced himself was his sworn enemy. He had made him a gigantic rubber toy, a laughable caricature. As Nigel ran after John, he was also struck by the sudden realization that John had been put through extensive training and mental conditioning to bring him to this point. Conditioning that could be put to use immediately.

"John Bull! Cease your meandering this instant!"

With that, John Bull stopped in his tracks, in mid stride, and turned on the steps to face his master. He looked on with an obedient, if lobotomized, expression.

Nigel let out a sigh of relief and approached his thrall. It was hard to believe that this bulbous moron was once a trim, strapping lad with a swimmer's build. "I know you can't answer me, John, but I really am sorry about this. I mean, I am now, anyway."

"Never mind there!", John Bull blurted out. "Plough the sands for the good fubsy chap, I say, I say!"

Nigel stuck his tongue in his cheek. "Okay, well, you can't answer me coherently, at least." Running a hand through his hair, Nigel continued. "But I want you to know that you aren't the person I thought you were. That this revenge wasn't meant for you, not really. It was for who you were, who believed you were." Nigel began to pace back and forth on the steps. "And I had all these evil plans so meticulously worked out. I was going to humiliate you, transform you, make you my own personal rubber...toy..."

Nigel looked at John Bull. John returned only a vacant stare. Nigel waved a hand before John's eyes. Not even a blink. Nigel rubbed his chin. " long as you're here and everything...shame to waste it..."

Less than fifteen minutes later, Clive reported to Master Nigel that "The Room" was ready. Altered to Nigel's' specifications by an outside contractor, no one in the house knew precisely, or even vaguely, what The Room contained. It was, in fact, a personal pleasure room for the sole purpose of utilizing the transformed John Bull.

Nigel had John Bull lie down and rolled him down the long hallway and into The Room. Nigel locked the double doors behind them and left orders that he was not to be disturbed. The Room was formerly a small banquet hall that had been emptied out and refurbished with wall-to-wall overstuffed rubber mats. Extra squishy, extra springy. With a quick kick, Nigel sent John Bull skidding easily across the matted floor to the center of the room, where he spun in lazy circles before coming to a halt. "I say there! I've become the athletic missile for West Hamm United! Well, I'm dashed!"

Kicking off his shoes, the athletic Nigel bound across the mats, leaping great lengths like a child at a carnival moon bounce. He landed beside John Bull and proceeded to pull down his trousers. "Oy! Them's me knickers there, mate!" John Bull's arms and legs pumped and flopped about uselessly, but he was stuck where he was due to his own bulk and the spongy surface on which he rested.

"Raise the Union Jack, lad", Nigel ordered, and John Bull got an instant and sizeable erection. Nigel grabbed hold of the beefy member and began to rapidly beat the inflated human toy off.

"Great galloping crabs!", John Bull cried. "This is most undignified I must say! It is most--I really must protest, I--do not fancy this, you--I say, pull harder there, my good man." Nigel did. He pulled and pumped at an ever-increasing rate, causing the bloated John Bull to waggle his tiny limbs and moan an ongoing stream of mindless gibberish. Finally, John Bull fired a tremendous stream of semen that fountained at least twelve feet into the air. As it erupted forth, he sang out loudly, "Ruuuuuullllle, Britannnnnia! Britannnnia ruuuuulllles the waaaavves!!"

Nigel laughed. "John Bull, you are officially a human jizz ball." John Bull tossed off a weak salute, his lifeless arms flopping at his sides. Nigel wasn't giving the stuffed servant a chance to recoup, however. With a good shove, Nigel rolled John over onto his considerable belly. Dropping his pants, Nigel bounced once, then twice, upon the mats and launched himself on top of John Bull. He then began to lube up John's backside with a bottle he'd kept in his hand.

After a thorough coating and the addition of a condom, Nigel searched and eventually found John's hole. The lube was either extremely effective, or the new John Bull was just naturally accommodating, because Nigel was able to slip his erection inside easily. The feeling was incredible. It truly was as if he were astride a giant inflatable rubber ball, except that this one was warm, breathing, and when Nigel was still enough, he could feel the heartbeat.

But John was going to be anything but still. He began to pump, in and out. John Bull's hole gripped and hugged Nigel's' member but was still so soft and pliable that it was almost surreal. Nigel went faster, harder, and John began to spew forth more incoherent gibberish, muffled by being spoken directly into the mats.

Nigel was in heaven. The feeling was so incredible, like an inflatable latex bubble suit, but one that was worn beneath instead of all over. As Nigel reached his climax, John sang out in a high baritone, "There will al-waayys be an Engl-annnd, and En-gland shall be freeee--!!"

After about three more rounds, Nigel fell off of John and sank into the cushioned mats. Breathing hard, saturated in sweat, he looked at the upended fat man beside him and remembered that inside of him was trapped an innocent man undeserving of this treatment. "You have to follow all of my orders and commands. You know that, don't you?", Nigel asked, panting.

"Indubitably, sir! Aye, verily, and you need not be a fart in a colander!"

Nigel frowned. "Then I'm ordering you that you won't remember any of this little encounter. Got it?"

John Bull stared down at the mat and then twisted his bloated head as best he could toward Nigel. "Remember what?"

Nigel flopped back down onto the mat. "Good."

Later, the two were back in the study, once again fully clothed. Nigel walked over to the jabbering John Bull with a pained look, bearing a china cup. Handing the cup to the hulking figure, he said, "Here. Drink this."

"Ah, tea time! Cheerio, and a buttered scone would--"

"Just drink the goddamn bleeding tea, already!"

John Bull hastened to gulp down the brew as Nigel watched and waited. He had been working on some way to reverse the effects of John's transformation and had had little effect thus far. Nigel wasn't much of a pharmacologist or even a chemist. When he had transformed himself and John, he had more or less simply followed a simple recipe. He wasn't entirely sure how to effect an anti-recipe, for lack of a better term. It wasn't until he had gotten a brief moment of clarity from John Bull, when his speech seemed more normal, at least more lucid, before quickly snapping back to inane banter, that Nigel realized he was finally on the right track.

Now was going to be the proof. John Bull set down his empty cup and smacked his lips. "I say, gov'nur, a most glorious cuppa! None of the cat-lap sponge, eh?" Nigel lowered his head in frustration. Still no luck. The bags under his eyes were due to become knapsacks. John Bull went on. "Needle noddle gnu! Sure'n a steaming pot of curry--good GOD! If I spout another fucking British cliché I swear I'm going to kill myself!!"

Both Nigel and John froze.

Nigel's eyes brightened. "John? You can speak again??"

John was likewise delighted. "You can understand me??"

Nigel fell backwards into his chair. "Praise the Lord! I was beginning to think I'd never get it right!" Then, sitting up, he asked, "John? Are you--are you alright in there?"

John walked around the room a bit, looking at his tremendous body. "Yeah, I'm me again. At least on the inside, anyway. It was so bizarre...I knew what I wanted to say, kept trying to say it, but it all came out as gibberish. I felt like an idiot. I even tried calling someone for help on the telephone. Have no clue who I was trying to reach or what they could've done..."

"You got as far as ordering a crate of Crispy Crèmes and that's it, I'm afraid." John snickered at the idea. Nigel got up. "John, I am so very, very sorry. I had no idea that you weren't--I always believed that you had set me up when we were kids--I plotted revenge for so long." He took a breath. "John, I had such a crush on you."

John was still trying to take in his new body, to move while accommodating his new increased weight. "Well, if you wanted to dabble with unworldly transformations, you could've just made me your love slave or something. It probably would've been a lot more fun for me."

Nigel got up and placed his hands on John's shoulders. "I'm going to find a way to change you back, I swear it. I'll make you your old self again. Better, even!"

"No rush."

Nigel blinked. "What was that?"

John smiled. "I may look like a living blimp, I may feel like I'm carrying around twenty tons of excess flab, but that jolly old British attitude you programmed in is still with me. I feel great."

Nigel took a step back. "Euphoria. It was one of the side effects of my transformation, too. I thought it was just because of the improvements to my physique. Then you--?"

"Fell pretty darn giddy, actually. I hate to admit it, Nigel, but while I think I should be threatening your life and throttling your neck, I feel more like skipping about the room. Provided I could still skip." John looked down at himself. "And get this." With both index fingers, John poked his massive belly, which compressed like a big rubber ball and sprang back out with tremendous elasticity.

"That-that wasn't supposed to be part of the deal--", Nigel gawked.

John could feel himself starting to giggle. He looked over at the long rug that ran the length of the study to the couch. With a glint in his eye, John trotted at his best speed toward the rug, and launching himself the few inches he could into the air, hollered, "Tally HO!" He pulled his legs up under himself and hit the rug with his backside. Instantly, he was catapulted into the air like a giant dodge ball. He arced up more than three feet in the air and bounced again, a bit higher, than a third time, almost twice as high, and came down hard upon the couch cushions, there to bounce twice more before settling in place.

Nigel was dumbfounded. "How the hell did you do that?"

"You're asking me?"

"Well, it doesn't look as if you're going to suffer for being the gigantic John Bull while we figure things out, at least."

John nodded agreement. "So what do we do with me in the meantime?"

Nigel rubbed his chin. "It's not as though we can give you your old job back. It'd be impossible to just put you back as if nothing had happ--" He stopped.

John titled his head. "What?"

Nigel grinned, his eyes squinting as the wheels in his head turned. "But who says we have to give you back your old job? When a new one would do so much better? Mister John Bull, how would you like a promotion, my good man?" John sat up tall as he could and straightened his jacket, again nodding his agreement. The deal was sealed, and punctuated by the crash as the couch collapsed beneath John's massive ass.

"I swear as God is my witness I shall give that hoick a thorough thrashing!" Mrs. Flemming railed around the kitchen in a fit of outrage. Her current punching bag, John Bull, had been missing in action for two days now, and she was suffering from an overload of withheld vitriol.

"You there! Get this counter cleaned up immediately!" Mrs. Flemming stabbed a finger at a horrified maid.

"B-b-but Mrs. Flemming, I've already polished the counter, as well as the sinks--!"

Mrs. Flemming knocked over a tin of flour, covering the counter, the sinks, and the floor with white powder and dust. "Well, now you can do it again, you STUPid little girl! And do it RIGHT this time!" She spun on her heel and looked for a new victim to harass, but was interrupted by the sound of the kitchen door slamming open.

"And WHAT pray tell, is going on in here?!" All eyes turned to behold a ruddy-faced rotund giant filling the doorway. Even the verbose Mrs. Flemming paused her tirade at the sight of the new and inflated--if not improved--John Bull filling the doorway. "This manner of border house ruckus is totally unsuitable for this residence. Who exactly is responsible for this mess?"

All heads turned to glare at Mrs. Flemming. John Bull strode forward to meet the servant matron eye to eye. John was at least half a head taller than Mrs. Flemming, and his girth was more than greater than hers. She was unimpressed. "And just who do you think YOU are, and what are you doing in my kitchen?" Her eyes squinted and her mouth formed a hard cruel line.

"He would be the new head of the serving household", came the reply from the doorway.

Mrs. Flemming's fierce expression crumbled. "Master Nigel! Wh-wha-- then this--he's--?"

"Your new superior. I've decided to make a few changes around here." Worried looks appeared all around the kitchen. Nigel picked up on it, saying quickly, "Oh, I assure you, all your positions are quite safe." Then turning to Mrs. Flemming, added, "As long as you follow the directions of your new captain, you'll be fine. Carry on, John." John Bull nodded. As he departed, Nigel paused in the doorway and said over his shoulder, "By the way, Mrs. Flemming, I think you'll find that it's actually my kitchen."

Mrs. Flemming could feel herself shrink. "Yessir."

As the kitchen door closed, John Bull turned back to the staff. "Now, don't you all have tasks to perform?" He clapped his hands together twice. "Off you go! Get to it, then." The room cleared in the blink of an eye. John took another step toward Mrs. Flemming.

"If you are to be in charge now", she said quickly, "then I think you should be apprised of the absence of the singularly worst servant it's ever been my displeasure to have on staff. An aristocratic upstart and troublemaker whose father sent here to work as one of the- -"

"Yes, yes, yes", John said dismissively. "I know all about that unfortunate lad. He's no longer any concern of yours."

"But he's gone missing! None of his tasks have been preformed--!"

John looked at the mess of flour scattered everywhere. "I suggest instead that you turn your attention to this godawful mess you've made here."

"Bu this absence is a sign of insubordination and a mockery of my authority! I shall not suffer such--"

"Let it go, Mrs. Flemming. Let it go or suffer my wrath." John's voice was even and flat. There was no doubt whatever that he was not to be challenged on this issue. Mrs. Flemming shut up, though her face darkened by two shades of red. John walked about the kitchen, taking in the mess and disarray left by the woman's tantrum.

"My, my, my. The floor is as big a mess as the counter and the sinks. Oh, and you've got it all over the appliances, the windows. Tsk-tsk."

"I shall summon some of the cleaning staff to see to it immediately, Master John", she said through gritted teeth.

"Oh, that won't be necessary", John said soothingly. "I think that a job as important as scrubbing grout and polishing windows should be left entirely to someone of your many, many years of experience. Mrs. Flemming."

Her face reddened by another shade, looking positively crimson. "Very good, sir." She turned to the cupboards under the sink to retrieve the cleaning buckets, sponges, and mops.

"Oh, and Mrs. Flemming?" She turned back around to face him. "You'll need this." Between two fingers John Bull held up a small toothbrush. A low rumble started in the back of Mrs. Flemming's throat. John half expected to see steam clouding from under her collar.

John spent most of the day making his way through the house, nodding approvingly at the work of those servants he decided he liked, generally ignoring those to whom he was indifferent, giving shit to those who had mistreated him while he was still in his former identity. About mid-afternoon he returned tot he kitchen to "check on Mrs. Flemming's progress" and deliberately knocked over her rinse bucket, flooding the floor with filthy water. He then tracked the water back out into the carpeted hallway, hollering at Mrs. Flemming to see to that as well. "For the love of heaven, woman! See to that tidal pool you're kneeling in! Someone could track moist filth all 'round the house! Chop-chop!"

By late evening, John was growing to like his new bulbous personality indeed. On reflex, John sauntered back to his tiny room where he had been staying for months. As he approached, he realized the folly of this as now he'd be too huge to even fit through the door. He rounded the corner to see a petite serving girl with a tray in hand, gently rapping at John's old door. For a moment, John stopped, unable to place her. Then he realized who it was. Who it had to be.

"Melanie?", he said softly. But it was loud enough to jar her out of her attentive knocking. She started, almost spilling the contents of her tea tray.

"Oh! I'm so sorry! You--you must be the new 'ead of the 'ousehold, Master John." She looked so small. John had never seen her from his new...perspective. She had always appeared somewhat short, but now she looked so very tiny, so fragile with John's massive bulk looming over her. "Sir?", she prompted.

John collected himself. "Yes, my dear. That is indeed who I am. You will be answering to me, now."

Melanie fidgeted, acting like she'd been caught in the act of some mischief. "Oh, well, I was merely--I'm 'ere because, you see--"

"It would appear that you were in the act of bringing a refreshing bit of tea to a fellow servant. One I trust you think has put in an exhausting day's work, yes?"

Melanie blushed. "Why, yes, sir."

"You're very kind, my girl. But I fear you will not find any servants beyond this door." Melanie's face went ashen. "Fear not, my dear", John said quickly. "Your friend is just fine, but he has been reassigned to other duties that have taken him away from the immediate vicinity. Perhaps you should partake of that tea yourself."

Melanie gave a small curtsey. "Yessir."

Her departure was stopped by another comment from John. "Oh, and Melanie?" She turned back. "I have heard many fine things about you, miss. I compliment you on your thoughtfulness both in pursuing your duties and caring for your fellow servants. I assure you it has not gone unnoticed."

Again, Melanie's cheeks blushed slightly. Thank-you, Master John."

"Goodnight, my dear."

"G'night to you too, sir."

As Melanie disappeared at the end of the hallway, Nigel appeared behind John. "She wanted to fuck you in the worst way."

John cocked an eyebrow. "The worst way I can think of would be standing up in a hammock." He looked down at his feet. Well, his belly, anyway, since he could no longer see his feet. "Besides, that was the old me. Or the previous me, whichever."

Nigel touched John's shoulder. "Come with me. It wouldn't suit the head of the serving staff to stay in this shithole of a room." John followed Nigel to a wing in the opposite end of the mansion. There he presented him with a new room. "Make yourself at home here. I'll see you tomorrow. We've got guests. I'll need to show off my incredible new servant. Then I can get to work on finding a way to undo look."

"No hurry."

Nigel gave him a peck on the cheek, then paused. "How'd things go with Mrs. Flemming?"

John smiled his new caricature-sized smile. "Wonderfully. I'll give her about two hours sleep tonight before she finds that half the house's toilets have inexplicably backed up. It'll call for her remarkable expertise." Nigel grinned, shaking his head, and departed.

John opened the door and turned on the lights, gasping at what he saw. "By Jove!" His expletive was obviously a carryover from his prior jabbering state. But it was not unfounded. The room was palatial. It had dressers, bureaus, a wet bar, an attached private bath with Jacuzzi, and a separate room for sleeping quarters with a four poster canopy bed.

The decor was nothing short of decadent. John bounded inside, giddy, and actually had to steady himself to prevent literally bouncing off the walls. He sampled the bar, rolled around in the gigantic Jacuzzi (which otherwise would not have accommodated him), and prepared for bed in his circus tent-sized pajamas. The delighted new John Bull thudded across the room and threw himself into the oversized bed.

Which promptly let out a creaking noise like falling timbers and collapsed on top of him. From under the fallen canopy, John mumbled to himself. "Oh, well. Just one more thing for Mrs. Flemming to tend to tomorrow."

John Bull strode about the kitchen like a general inspecting his troops. "Important visitors today, all! On your toes, spit-spot!" The kitchen was humming with anticipation of the day's event. Those who had grown to like their new head of the household stuck close to John, those who didn't lurked in the background and did their jobs with quiet efficiency so as not to draw attention to themselves.

A cute serving girl was heading out with a tray in hand, which John snatched easily form her grasp. "Allow me, my dear", he said graciously. "Such august guests deserve to be waited on by no less than the highest ranking of the help, wouldn't you agree?"

The girl smiled brightly. "Yes, sir."

John marched out in to the next room shouting cheerful greetings and announcing the tasty wonders he'd brought which awaited the guests' consumption. His jovial greeting fell on deaf ears. For the sordid company of Nigel's sister, her oafish husband and son, and her shrieking brat of a daughter were already in fine form for the day.

"MMOOOOOOMMMMM!!!", the little girl shrieked, "I SAID I wanted a STRAWberry milkshake and ice CREEEEEEEAAAMMMMM!!! Where IS it?! Why hasn't the big stupid FAT man gotten it for me??! WWHHHHHYYYYYYYYY??!!!"

"Well, I'm sure I don't know, precious", the sister sneered, looking at John. "Perhaps the big fat man is so heavy he just moves too damn slow to properly serve anyone around here." The silent husband and son shook their heads in a way they were certain indicated grave disapproval.

John swept over to the two imbecilic men and offered some sampling from his tray. "GENtlemen. A thousand apologies for the delay. Pray, partake of these sumptuous miniature black forest tortes. A delectable treat if ever there was one." The two men paused in their head shaking to help themselves to several tortes, nodding to one another that mass consumption was the best approach.

The little girl let out another banshee-like wail. "MMOOOOOOOMMMMM! He's igNORing MEEEE!!! Make him give me what I WAAAANNNNNTTTT!!"

The obnoxious sister was about to chastise John for not seeing to the screeching needs of her offspring when John glided over to the girl's side before her mother could speak. "Oh, my darling child! What a terrible state I've put you in, I am ashamed of myself! I shall fetch your blueberry--"


"--of course, forgive me, your STRAWberry treats with all speed. In the meantime, here is a delicious lollipop for a delicious little angel." John held up a candied sucker which the petulant guttersnipe yanked from his hands and shoved in her mouth without a word of thanks. She did, however, fire an angry look at John.

John next offered the tray to Nigel's sister. "Madam, some tea for you, perhaps? Or may I be so privileged as to fetch you a cocktail?"

The sister looked upon John with great disdain. To Nigel, she said, "Good God, Nigel, don't you have some sort of fitness program for your serving staff? At the very least there should be a weight requirement."

"Ah-ha ha ha!", John laughed. "Most droll, madam. How very witty!"

The sister began to return a snide remark when she was interrupted by muffled howls from her daughter. "MMMMRRRRGGGGGLLLLMMMFFFFF!!!!" All heads turned to see the little shit thrashing about the room, tugging with all her might on the stick of her lollipop, which was not freeing itself from her mouth. In fact, the girl's lips were puckered tightly around the stem of the sucker so forcefully as to be glued there.

The sister began to rise from her chair. "What the hell did you give her??"

John looked aghast. "Why, madam! 'Twas only a tasty glazed solid alum lolly! They're all the rage in East Finchley."

The sister's face went beet red. "You idiot!"

John struck a dramatic pose. "Fear not, my good woman! I shall see to the welfare of this adorable child!" The adorable child in question was at this point bounding up and down making guttural sounds like a rabid mandrill with painful rectal itch. "Here, hold this, milady." John shoved his tray into the sister's hands with just enough thrust and flick of his wrist to upend its contents-- including a steaming hot pot of tea--into her lap.

Even as the sister shrieked in a blood-curdling fashion that indicated where the little girl got it from, John heroically grasped hold of the lollipop stick. "Brace yourself, my child! This shan't hurt me a bit!" With a savage yank, John whirled the thrashing hellion about the room and sent her tumbling through the air to land unceremoniously on a divan.

"You bloated, swaggering, inCOMpetent, brainless NINcompoop!", the sister yelled.

John puffed himself up. "See here, madam. I'll have you know that I am in no way incompetent!" Before the scalded woman could offer a retort, the hideous daughter launched herself off the divan and came at John with arms flailing, a high-pitched whine emitting from her head, the stuck lollipop stick still protruding from her lips like a lance. The girl impacted full steam into John, sank a good foot into his rubbery flab, and then shot herself back out at twice the velocity to knock herself senseless against the bar.

The mother let out a deafening roar and whirled to smack John in the side of the face. While her small fist impacting with John's rubber- like features would no doubt have caused no damage to him, we'll never know as she never did make contact. As she swung, the sister slipped on the parquet floor, now slick with spilt tea, and spun almost completely around once before plummeting face-forward to impact against the silver tray that had landed upon her chair.

The mother tumbled senseless beside the dazed daughter, and the two silent men of the family stood up as one man to confront John. It was not the smartest move they could have made. As soon as their butts left their seats, there was a strange and unnaturally loud gurgling coming from their stomachs. Both men looked down at their bellies and then lurched forward a bit as they felt an intense cramp, almost in perfect unison.

"Ah, yes", John said. "Not only do the black forest tortes make magnificent sweets, thanks to my own special culinary enhancements, they also serve as supremely powerful laxatives, don'tchyew know." The two men looked at one another in horror as a second, louder, gurgle surged forth from their stomachs, and the two scampered clumsily out of the room, clutching at their sides.

Their footsteps could be heard scurrying down the hall at a frantic pace, interrupted abruptly by the most godawful gastrointestinal sound effect and two pained groans. John leaned slightly out the door. "Never mind, gentlemen, never mind! I'll get Mrs. Flemming to clean it up!"

John straightened the lapels of his jacket, then turned to face Nigel, who had been sitting straight-faced during the unfolding escapade, watching with silent amusement. "Will that be all, sir?"

Nigel eyed the scene of disarray around him and raised an approving eyebrow. "And they say you can't find good help nowadays." Applauding could be heard coming from the kitchen.

John made his way down the halls that night, inspecting everything to ensure that all was in order. It was. He paused at the door to his old room and waited. He did not have to wait long, for Melanie soon came by. Even though she did not have a tea tray in hand, John suspected that she would make the trip past the room regardless if only for the sake of nostalgia. He was right.

"Good evening, Melanie, my dear."

Melanie looked up, somehow not surprised to see John standing there. "Evening, Master John. D'you need anything?"

"No, no, not at all, dear girl. But it appears you need something, or rather someone. You miss your friend, don't you?" She nodded. "Then perhaps this will bring you some small measure of comfort. I was instructed to pass it along to you." John handed her an envelope. Melanie took it, a quizzical look on her face. She opened the envelope and withdrew a letter which read:

My Darling Melanie,

It is with great sorrow that I write you this letter. My father has decided that his "character building" exercises would do the most good if I were rotated to various places, demanding various different menial tasks.

I do not know where I will be sent next, nor how soon I'll get back to see you, if ever. I am so sorry I had to leave without saying goodbye, but my father sent for me so suddenly and gave me no time to consider anything else besides his orders.

I would like you to know this, Melanie. That you were the best thing about the house of Master Nigel. Amid all the hard work and harsh criticisms, you were a shining beacon in an otherwise weary world. Your nightly visits of kindness and consideration were far more soothing than the most exotic blend of tea.

Please stay as wonderful and giving as you are now. I shall remember you always.

Love, John

Melanie lowered the lettered and looked up at the obese Master John with eyes growing moist with tears. The funny fat man offered a sympathetic smile and a surprisingly gentle hand upon her shoulder. "If it is of any solace, my dear, your kindness was not noticed solely by your absent friend. You've shown just the kind of attentiveness and extra care that we like to see in the Assistant to the Head Servant at Master Nigel's summer house."

It took a moment to process what she had heard, but then Melanie's eyes grew wide. She was getting a promotion, and a considerable one, with an unimaginable leap in salary and benefits. To say nothing of working at a very exotic and lavish location. She rushed forward and hugged John, which felt to her like hugging a giant plush teddy bear. He patted her on the head and said to her, "You may take as much time as you need tomorrow to pack and prepare for your departure. You leave the day following."

Melanie hugged him again and raced off to her quarters. With her mind racing with excited anticipation, it would be some time before sleep would come.

John headed off to bed himself, but not before stopping by the room of Mrs. Flemming. Her door was open, and she stood at attention only a few feet inside. She looked as if she had fallen down a well. Her hair was askew, her face was drawn, there were black rings under her eyes. She was reciting something.

"I am Mrs. Flemming and I am a substandard servant and an overbearing pompous ass bitch queen. It is my sworn duty to take on the most despicable jobs and undesirable assignments that I may better myself through humiliation and self-inflicted grief so that I may move a little closer to being a decent human being and not the miserable pond scum that I am. It is for my own good that--"

John cleared his throat. Mrs. Flemming looked up at him with dead eyes. "I'm not hearing a whole lot of conviction in your voice, Mrs. Flemming. No, not nearly as much as I'd like. Better give that oath a good run through say, 500 more times before bed? There's a good girl."

Mrs. Flemming looked as though she were about to throw up. "Yessir, Master John." Her voice had dropped a few octaves, as well.

John trod off to his suite. He hollered over his shoulder, "Sleep well, Mrs. Flemming! Plenty of rest, now! You're cleaning out the stables tomorrow morning at dawn! Ta!"

The enormous John Bull floated naked in the waters of the servant's swimming pool, which his bulk almost seemed to fill. "Nigel, I feel like a beach ball."

Nigel stood on the edge of the pool, clad only in swim trunks, feverishly stirring the contents of a tea pot. "Just bear with me, John. I think I may have it down now."

"You said that last week", John said in a tired voice, drifting slowly across the dark waters. "All it did was make my bleeding cheeks ruddier. Big change."

Nigel ignored him. "You've been drinking your tea?"


"You've been doing your evening meditations in you Jacuzzi? Been listening to the hypnosis tapes we recorded?"

"Yes and yes", John sighed. He bumped against one side of the pool and began to drift back in the other direction.

"And how do you see yourself now? I mean, what's your self image and all that?"

"I know what you mean. I'm a damn stud muffin now, aren't I?"

Nigel picked up one of the extended pool cleaning brushes from the corner and used it to drag John over to within reach. John muttered that now he felt like a dinghy gone adrift. Nigel leaned over with the teapot, lowering a drinking straw from its spout down to John's mouth. "Drink." John slurped a good amount of the tea down into his mouth and swallowed it all. Nigel pulled the straw back. "That's good, that's enough." He then stepped back and retrieved a piece of paper which was tucked into the side of his trunks. "Can you right yourself?"

John tried, which was by no means easy due to his rounded body. His arms and legs flapped ineffectually and he almost was able to get himself into a position of treading water, but kept rotating onto his back. "Not really."

Nigel unfolded the paper. "Just repeat after me, then. My name is John Bull."

John rolled his eyes, expecting nothing to come of this. "My name is John Bull..."

"Say it like you mean it, or it's not going to work!"

John cleared his throat, repeated himself with conviction. "My name is John Bull." That part, at least, was no challenge to believe.

"I am a handsome young man whose father sent me here to work as a character building exercise. Say it."

John floated along. "I am a handsome young man whose father sent me here to work as a character building exercise."

Nigel continued. "I have a beautiful swimmer's build and fine, trim body."

John licked his lips. This is the part would never work, he thought. "I have a beautiful swimmer's build--" And at that moment, John's huge body bobbed upright. Startled, John looked around in search of what caused his change of position.

Nigel was equally startled, but was certain he knew the source of the change. "Say it again! Repeat it!"

Slowly, John spoke, "I have a beautiful swimmer's build--", he swallowed. "--and a fine, trim body." His large, bulbous body bobbed down in the water by nearly two feet. John looked anxiously to Nigel. "What comes next??"

Nigel kept his eyes on John, but recited what was written on the paper from memory. "I am someone in charge of his own destiny. An empowered gay man who is proud and confident with who he is and where he is going. I am beautiful both inside and out."

Quickly, John said it back. "I am someone in charge of my own destiny." There was the sound of escaping gas and the water John's bobbing form bubbled. "What the hell--?"

"Keep GOING!"

John resumed. "I'm an empowered man--wait, an empowered GAY man who is proud and confident with who he is and where he is going!" The bubbling increased and John's body appeared to deflate slightly. "Hey, I think it's worki--" John sank like a stone amid the coursing foam and disappeared under the roiling water.

Nigel threw away the paper and hunched down, clutching the side of the pool. "John!!" After an eternity of fifteen seconds, John's thrashing form splashed up from the waters, spitting out the amounts he'd swallowed going down. He spat and shook his head violently, trying to speak. "Next! Next!"

Nigel began to reach for him, to pull him to safety, but John's flabby arms batted him away. "Next line! What comes next??!"

Nigel realized his mind had gone blank. Frantically, he raced over to retrieve the fallen paper, seeing it floating atop the waters of the pool, tossed about amid John's splashing.

"OmiGod, omiGod, omiGod..."

"Hurry up!"

"Stop splashing around!!"

"I'm trying to stay bloody well afloat! What do I bleeding SAY???"

Nigel snatched the paper, trying to decipher the smudged and running ink as it congealed together. He caught only a word or two and it refreshed his memory. He shouted to John, "You're beautiful inside and out! Say you're beauti--!"

John stopped thrashing and shouted in proclamation, "I am beautiful inside and ou--!!" That was as far as he got. He sank back down beneath the waters, which looked to be boiling like a hot spring.

Nigel screamed down at the water. "John! JOHN!!"

The waters continued to churn for another minute, at least. Then they slowly settled, becoming calm once more. It was too dark to see what lay beneath. Nigel panicked. He decided to dive in, no longer caring what the transforming waters might do to him. He thrust his hands forward and began to lunge, but was stopped by a spray of water as John broke the surface.

The world went into slow motion as John Bull burst upward gloriously from the dark waters, his head shaking side to side, sending a spray of water this way and that from his drenched hair. He bobbed below the surface and immediately returned, arms flailing joyfully, legs kicking and scissoring beneath him. He was beautiful. His body was just as it had been before; trim, sender, lovely. Delirious with glee, John did a couple back flips in the water, spinning about and splashing like a little kid. Nigel was equally ecstatic.

On one of his leaps upward, Nigel reached out and grabbed John by the arms, pulling him toward him and out of the pool. He was as light as a feather. Nigel embraced his friend--and that's what they were now, friends. John pulled away and grabbed Nigel by the face and kissed him. They stayed that way for a while.

Finally they broke contact and Nigel took a look at him. "You're pretty pale, hon."

"I don't get out much."

Nigel ran a finger along John's abs. "Not as toned as you once were, either."

John rested his arms on Nigel's shoulders. "Well, we can fix that."

They kissed again, long an fully. In between contact, Nigel whispered, "Welcome back." John smiled, kept kissing Nigel, and muttered, "It's good to be back."

Nigel whispered in John's ear, "Speaking of backs..."

Within minutes the two were upstairs in Nigel's private swimming pool, which seemed like a small ocean to John. The two stood on the end of the diving board, which actually supported them both just fine. The two were naked, save for the condoms, and they kissed and embraced for several minutes before holding tight to one another, and locking eyes. Nigel nodded. John counted down, "One...two...three!" The two then hurled themselves into the water and proceeded to make love beneath the surface of the sparkling, clear pool.

It was the most enjoyable pool time experience John had had since he came to Master Nigel's house. It was the greatest pool time experience Nigel had had, ever. And they did have a wonderful time in the pool. And on the bottom of the pool. And in the shallow end of the pool. And beside the pool, and one of those inflatable rafts atop the deep end of the pool, and along the diving board above the pool.

John had been right all along. Taking a break to visit the pool was great stress reliever.

John and Nigel lay on the beach in the Seychelles, soaking up the sunshine and each other. Master Nigel had informed his household that he was taking a much-needed vacation and that he was bringing his head servant with him as personal attendant. John was very attentive indeed.

Nigel ran his fingers along John's bare shoulder. "Y'know, all that time I had a crush on you back in school, I always secretly referred to you as Johnny."

John wrinkled his nose. "Grandma Adeline always called me that. Hated it." Nigel kissed him, slowly running his palm down John's chest, over his abs, and down the front of his swimming costume. John let out a satisfied groan. As their lips separated, he said, "Of course, coming from you, it wouldn't be half bad."

Nigel grinned. "Johnny it is, then." He rubbed Johnny's arm, looking at his smooth skin. "You're still awfully pale. Have you noticed?"

Johnny rolled over onto his back. "What can I say? I'm English." In truth, Johnny was not only pale, he was a bit underweight. But given his prior condition, he wasn't complaining. They lay beside each other in silence for a while, listening to the crashing of the waves, feeling the warmth beading down from above. Nigel stretched his hand over and felt for Johnny's. Gently, their fingers interlaced and they remained that way, hand in hand, side by side. After several moments of contented silence, Johnny asked, "Do you ever miss it?"

"What's that?"

"Me. As John Bull. The big, gargantuan fatass caricature. Do you ever miss having me as some living rubber toy?"

"What kind of a question is that?"

"Just curious." They lay in silence again. Then, "I mean, if I've got to be honest, it felt fucking incredible. Even all that weight, the heft, was a fucking incredible rush."

Nigel propped himself up on one elbow. "You're serious."

Johnny opened his eyes, glancing over toward him. "Yeah. The euphoria, the unbelievable sensation of having my body transform into something entirely different. Once I got past the initial terror of it, it really was fun. A lot of fun."

"It was fun?!"

"A blast. You should try it sometime."

Nigel rolled back over. "No thank-you. And in case you hadn't noticed, I did try it. The reverse, anyway. I got to spend my childhood as a lard ass, thank-you very much, I've had my fill of it if it's all the same to you." He meant his words to be light, but there was an edge of resentment to them.

Johnny rolled back over to press his body to Nigel's. "You were never a lard ass. You were moderately pudgy." He tickled Nigel's ribs, making the man giggle and fidget. The two wrestled for a moment, Johnny ending up atop Nigel. They kissed again, Nigel caressing Johnny's back, Johnny running his fingers through Nigel's hair.

When they paused, Nigel looked up at Johnny. "You really weren't kidding, were you?"

Johnny beamed. "Could you do it? Could you change me back? make me John Bull--big John Bull again?"

Nigel looked worried. He ran his hands over Johnny's arms. "But baby, you're beautiful again. I wouldn't, I mean, I couldn't take that away. I don't want to--"

Johnny laid a gentle finger to Nigel's lips. "Who says it has to be permanent?"

Nigel lay there, thinking. Johnny could see by the expression of his eyes that his mind was racing, rapidly searching through unconsidered possibilities, unexplored options. He licked his lips, thought again. Finally, he spoke.

"When are we due back?"

They had arrived back home under cover of darkness, and holed themselves up Nigel's private bed chambers. Word buzzing through the house was that Master Nigel had come upon a tremendous business opportunity while he was away and was working through countless negotiations by phone and online and was not to be disturbed under any circumstances. Master John was to remain by his side to tend to the master's needs personally. Neither men saw any need to share with the staff the real reason for the extreme privacy, namely the work on a secret blend of magic tea to change the handsome young Johnny back into the blustering oversized John Bull.

The duo had been hard at work for more than twenty days. This was day 21.

"Hope to God that all the training from those chemical experts I hired to coach me stuck", Nigel said, carefully measuring water in a graduate and comparing it to selected tea leaves.

Johnny rested an encouraging hand on his shoulder. "You'll do fine. You got me this far, didn't you?"

Nigel twisted his head around and gave Johnny a quick peck. Then he froze, a new thought entering his mind. "How many times did you say you visited the servant's swimming pool?"

Johnny shrugged, scratched his head. "Gee, I dunno. Lots. Twenty, thirty, more? What does it matter? I thought the main ingredients were the tea leaves and the hypnotic conditioning."

Nigel looked back at his beakers and formulas. "True enough, but the pool waters were treated to grant your body a certain...elasticity. If you don't have enough of that soaked into your system, your body could be seriously damaged by the change, especially since yours will be enlarging so much."

"Well, we should be fine then, right? I mean, I should be like Stretch Armstrong once we get me all formulated with your tea mixture, right?"

Nigel frowned. To himself, he mumbled, "Unless your body is now so elasticized that you'll flop all over like you're made of Silly Putty. Or a deflated balloon."

"How's that?"

"Nothing. I think I've got our first test." Nigel brewed the pot of tea. The duo watched it with great anticipation. While it steeped, Nigel barraged Johnny with the same repeated questions as Johnny stripped off his clothes in preparation for the change. "You've been doing your meditations?"


"You've been listening to the hypnosis tapes?"


"You're ready to picture yourself as the big John Bull again?"


"Are you sure? You have to be sure. Because we can't have nay conflicting self-images bouncing around your brain if this is going to wor--"

"Just gimme the goddamn tea already, Nigel!"

Johnny drank down the tea, muttering his verbal recipe to activate the change. "I am John Bull...I am the embodiment of our British icon, with all his attributes...I have the round face, ruddy complexion, costume livery, thin arms and legs.." After pacing for a bit, he looked over to Nigel. "I don't think it worked." Then he doubled over, dropping his tea cup to shatter upon the floor.

Nigel was horrified. "Johnny?! Are you okay?"

Johnny held up a hand to keep Nigel back. "More startled than hurt...felt like I just gained about twenty pounds." Johnny began to straighten up, and lo and behold, he now had a little pot belly. "Huh. Well, that's not exactly what we were looking for, was it?"

Nigel grimaced. "Maybe you can work it off with exercise while I try to perfect this thing."

Johnny laughed. "Maybe we could tell the rest of the serving staff that Master John's been working out. I could get back into my livery and just romp around the house dressed like thi--Hoooouhhff!" Johnny's face suddenly went bright red and inflated like a balloon. Johnny groaned again as his belly flared up like a beach ball just as quickly, then immediately fell back down to its thin size. Thinner, really, as the skin hugged against Johnny as if all the air had been sucked out of him.


Johnny stumbled backward and his body underwent several unbelievable metamorphoses. His now-tightened skin inflated all at once, his stomach rumbling as it gained an enormous amount of weight. His legs and arms puffed up with taut muscles, then collapsed into twig-like thinness. Nigel panicked. "My God, Johnny, are you okay?! What's happening to you? Say something!!"

Johnny, or John Bull, then Johnny Bull, staggered back, waving Nigel away. It was a wise decision. As his body grew and shrank, he bounced about the room, first as a giant ball of rubber, then as an accordioned anorexic, then as a combination of the two. Head inflated and rotund, body thin. Body outrageously fat, head drawn and shrunken.

Johnny bounded about the room, expanding and contracting, floating upward, crashing down to the floor, rolling about and ricocheting against the wall, trying to regain his footing only to bounce like a super ball and then roll off his feet once more.

Johnny's expression was strained, his eyes squinted, his mouth held open wide, teeth bared. Nigel clutched his hand over his mouth, gasping, "What have I done? What have I done?" Finally, Johnny stopped rolling, and gasped. He was lying face up, and with a wheeze and an internal rumble, his body retracted back down almost to its proper size. Almost. Johnny convulsed, his body bending nearly in half from the spasm, and his penis gorged to five times its original size. Johnny grunted loudly, and shot his load all over the room.

His erection was like a fire hose. Semen shot like a geyser to hose down the wall, the floor, the bedding, the lab table, and the front of Nigel. The orgasm lasted for the better part of three minutes. Finally, the outpouring stopped, the erection went soft--rapidly--and Johnny rolled over onto his stomach. Nigel, now coated and sticky, stepped cautiously over to the prone form of his new (late?) boyfriend. "J-johnny? Honey, are you okay?"

Johnny moaned. Then he said, "Ohhhhhhh, wowwwwww. Ruuuuule Britannia. I'll take some more of that, if you don't mind, guv."

Nigel couldn't believe it. "Thank God! You're okay?"

"Are you fucking kidding me? I feel fanTAStic. That was the best experience of my whole life! Um, next to fucking you, of course, sweetie."

Nigel hunched over him. "But--but to go through all that pain, just to experience that orgasm. I mean, it was pretty incredible, I admit, but--"

Johnny tried to get up, failed, went back down onto his stomach. "You don't understand, hon. The entire thing felt great. The inflating, the deflating, fat to thin, thin to fat, every last bit of it was incredible. It all felt soooo good. The final blast was just the icing on the cake. GodDAMN, I want to do it again."

"Oh, no you don't", Nigel said. "One heart attack a day is more than enough for me! I'm not letting you--"

Johnny grabbed Nigel's arm. "Wait", he said with sudden urgency.

"What? What is it? What's wrong now?"

"Stand back." And instantly, Johnny reenlisted into the bulbous John Bull. It happened only once, and it happened easily, steadily, with the span of thirty seconds. Nigel leaned over and looked at John, hoping he'd be okay. The ruddy, rounded face of John Bull smiled back at him. "I say my good chap, it would appear that you're going to have to help me stand up now. Off you go, then."

Nigel grabbed hold of John Bull's ruddy cheeks and gave him a big kiss. It was like kissing a parade balloon.

As John Bull got back into his oversized livery uniform, he was already feeling the effects of the growing euphoria. "I hear old Mrs. Flemming has been up to her usual tricks whilst I was away. Have to do something about that, lest she get an ego again. Can't let Clive get too pompous either, can we?"

Nigel still looked worried. "I could've killed you, you know."

"But you didn't."

"But I could have. Jesus, Johnny. What kind of chances are we taking here? If I had been off by just a fraction more in my calculations, we'd be fitting you for your funeral instead of your serving uniform."

John Bull strode over to Nigel and looked him in the eye. "Then the fault would have been equal between us. I asked for this, you know." He smacked Nigel hard on the behind and said, "Now we need to get your big brained professors for hire back in here to perfect that tea recipe."

"There's no guarantee that we'll be able to. This was always only intended as a one-way trip. One transformation, that's all. And this is what for you, three?"

He doffed his hat before leaving the room. "Three time's the charm, my dear boy."

Nigel could hear him marching through the house, seeing to it that everything was ship-shape. "Good heavens! With what exactly are you shampooing that carpet, a rotary sander? My lady, that will never do! Here, allow me to demonstrate--!"

Nigel grinned despite himself. The house really did run better with jolly John Bull at the helm. But he was also very much in love with Johnny. Nigel looked back at his scattered collection of beakers, burners, and teapots. He ran a finger up the front of his shirt, collecting the still-moist jism and then slowly licking it off. His course was clear. He had to find some way for the love of his life (and head of his household) to have his tea and drink it too.

It was some time later when the two stood back before the lab table in Nigel's private chambers. Nigel had spent endless hours working with the chemical engineers and tutors, conferring by phone with those overseas from whom he'd acquired the tea. he had practiced, he had experimented. He had, he hoped, perfected. It was time.

Nigel stared at his watch. John stood there, rocking on his heels, feeling his balloon like body roll around above his now considerably- lowered waistline. John raised his eyebrows as if to say, "Well?"

Nigel caught the glance and looked back at his watch. "Wait for it, wait for it..." Nigel raised an index finger, counting down. "Five, four,!"

There was a sudden sound of rushing air, as of a deflated balloon flying about the room, and John shrank back down to his original size in record time. His gargantuan pants fell to the ground and his jacket hung about his shoulders like a circus tent. His face lit up and his smile practically lit the room.

Nigel beamed. "I think we've got it." John tried to walk over to Nigel, but found his legs tangled in his giant trousers. His underpants then plopped down atop them and he scrambled to retrieve them. In an instant, Nigel was before him. "No, no, no, leave them. I think I prefer you this way." Nigel kissed John passionately and John kissed him back. They remained that way for several minutes before breaking contact.

They stood with their arms around each other, looking into each others eyes. Both men liked what he saw. "So", John said, "when I head back to the gym, I can actually get my physique back now? Defined, toned, the whole thing? No more rosy cheeks? I can even tan?"

Nigel nuzzled his nose against John's. "Promise."

"And I can go back to being John Bull--big ol' fat John Bull--anytime we want, for any length of time we calculate?"

"Looks like it." The two embraced, and after a moment or two, Nigel pulled back to look at his boyfriend. "Why? You wanna go back to being a blimp already?"

John gently ran his fingers along Nigel's arms. "Not yet. Maybe in twelve weeks or so. There's something I want to do first." Nigel paused, wondering why John specified twelve weeks. Then a light came on behind his eyes as he gleaned what John was planning. Nigel smiled. John smiled back. The two kissed deeply, and this time, it was Nigel whose pants dropped to the floor.


It was two years to the day of John's internment that his father arrived at Nigel's mansion. he had done nothing to keep in touch with his son, even on holidays and his birthday, more due to a natural forgetfulness than anything else. He was amiable and complimentary to everyone, shaking hands with servants left and right. It was soon apparent that he was not so much appreciative of the staff as he was too clueless to recognize who was a person of importance to the household and who was a hired hand.

Upon entering the mansion, it took John's father three redirections by the staff as he tended to wander down the wrong hallway and enter the wrong door, even when led to the correct one by a servant.

He finally got it right and waited in the study for the arrival of his son. He wasn't certain if John would appear in his full livery uniform of his lower station of the past two years (he was curious to see how his son looked in it) or if he had returned to his street clothes. His father was a bit excited, for he had news for John that the firm was making increased profits and an elevated position with a handsome salary awaited John upon his return. To say nothing of the guarantee of his inheritance now that he'd fulfilled his "coming of age" duties.

Master Nigel entered the study from a bookcase door, which allowed him to proceed into the room without being seen by John's father, who was watching the other entrance. Nigel got a good look at the man and saw that John's interpretation of him as massively overweight was a bit exaggerated. The man was portly, but carried it well. In dim enough light, he could conceivably pass for Robbie Coltraine.

"Welcome to my home, sir", Nigel said, making John's father jump as he turned around.

"Oh! Oh, oh, back door. Yes of course, you must've come in through a back--hadn't considered that, looking the other way. Bookcase entryway, eh? Deucedly clever, those things. Yes, well! Thank-you, I'm pleased to be here! So where is my dear son John?"

"Right to business", Nigel observed.

"Only way to do business. None of this fussing about over sherry and whatnot. Right to the point, that's the way. He is here this time, is he?"

Nigel smiled. "Oh, I assure you he is here. He's just in the next room."

"Well then, let's have the lad come greet me, by all means!"

Nigel stepped back toward the door to summon John. Before opening the door again, he paused, saying, "I should warn you, sir, that he is by no means the same young man whom you sent here two years ago. He is very different indeed."

"Yes, well, that was the whole idea, wasn't it? Character building, growth through denial, all that rot. Get on with it, now, good sir."

Nigel bit back a snide retort and said, "Of course, sir. As you wish." Nigel leaned in the doorway and called out, "John Bull, come greet your father if you would, please." And with a grand gesture, Nigel swung open the door to have the new and improved John Bull step into the room and into the light in his full glory.

John strode forward with a confidence he had never exhibited before in his father's presence. His shoulders back, striding tall, eyes focused and penetrating. And of course, his physique was absolutely nothing like his father remembered it. He filled out his outfit rather nicely, though.

John's father stared with gaping eyes and slack jaw. "Wha-what-what- what what is the meaning of this?? This cannot be my son?!"

John grinned in a way that can only come from self-assurance after having found your place in the world. "Hi. dad."

John's father began to splutter. "What have you done to him??"

Nigel smiled broadly. "Why, whatever do you mean, sir?"

"What do I mean?! Just look at him!"

Nigel kept on smiling. "Oh, trust me, I am."

In fact, it was hard not to look at John. He was gorgeous. His body was sleek and tanned, his muscles toned and defined so exceptionally that they might well have been sculpted. His physique was still slim, but with arms and torso of such obvious strength that he was no less imposing for his smaller size. John's chest and arms were well- displayed by the brilliant white wife beater tanktop he wore, his taut neck framed by a fine silver chain that ended in a small triangular pendant. John wore shiny nylon workout pants of canary yellow, with triple stripes of white that ran down the outer legs to droop over his blazing white tennis shoes. Waist 74cm, 81cm inside leg. Even through the baggy pants, it was apparent that John's legs were now as powerful as those of an Olympic runner. John crossed his arms over his chest, bringing attention to the twin wristbands he wore of white with yellow center strips. His hair was loose and wild on top but neatly trimmed short on the back and sides. The windswept look suited him. Nigel licked his lips and let out a low whistle.

"What's the matter, dad?", John asked. "Something about me you don't like?"

"What's not to like?", Nigel said.

"What's not--?!" John's father looked ready to burst. He was red in the face and nearly apoplectic. "John, you are coming with me this instant! We are leaving this hole of depravity and you are going to straighten yourself around and you are going to take your rightful place in the family business and you will--"

"No I'm not."

John's father fell silent. Then after a heartbeat, "You're not what?"

"Any of it. Pick one."

"John, it is time for you to come home!"

"I am home", John said calmly. He turned back to Nigel. "Ain't that right, babe?" Nigel gave a curt nod of agreement.

John's father almost suffered an aneurysm. "What in heaven's name?? You cannot think to address this man in that manner, no matter what he's done to you! For two years he was your master--you were but his servant!"

Nigel stepped beside John as John said, "I'm not his servant, dad. I'm his boyfriend."

Nigel took John's hand, interlacing their fingers. "Not boyfriend. Partner."

John's father shook his head violently. "No, no. This cannot be happening. I forbid it! My son simply cannot be--he is not--not--!"

"Gay?" John stared his father down. "Go on, say it, dad. Your son is gay. I'm gay. And I've been repressing it for years. But it's true. So deal with it."

John's father continued to make gestures of denial, as if he could push this information away by waving his hands emphatically. "This is preposterous! We cannot have a gay man in such a high position at the firm! The board would never allow it!"

"Like I give a shit what the board will allow", John said curtly. His father just stared at him, flabbergasted. "Dad, this is one of the most important accomplishments of my entire life. I've come into my own. I know who I am. You should be happy for me! You should be congratulating me, not worrying about some stupid board of directors." His father continued to stare. "Aren't you even going to congratulate me??"

"I sent you a growth experience..."

"And it worked! I've grown into who I was always meant to be!"

His father's face grew cold. "A bloody fag."

John returned his stare. "That's only part of it."

His father took a deep breath, chewed his lower lip, and collected himself. "John, you will either come home with me immediately, take your place in the firm and forget all these nonsensical notions, or you will never be allowed to come back. Do I make myself clear."

"Perfectly", John said flatly.

"Very well, then", his father said, satisfied. He looked around a few times to get his bearings and then made his way to the door. Realizing he had arrived at the threshold alone, his father turned to direct his son out. He saw him still standing beside Nigel, the boys' arms around each other's shoulders.

"Have a nice life, dad."

His father hesitated only a moment more at the doorway before shuffling out alone. After another minute or so, the two young partners in life heard the door of the main lobby close. Soon after, the father's car could be heard as it drove away.

Nigel gave John's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. "I'm proud of you, John Bull. How do you feel?"

John let out a long, heavy sigh. "Like the final monkey is off my back." He looked lovingly into Nigel's eyes. "I couldn't have done it without you."

Nigel's gaze became soft. "If you want to take some time alone, get out--get away for a while, I understand."

John smiled. "Are you kidding? After everything we worked on to get this thing right? I am so up for it. Let's do it."

With that, the smiling Nigel shot across the room to open a sliding panel in the far wall. Inside it was a hanging livery uniform and a series of shelves with various tiny glass vials, a large decanter, and a small electric hot pot. Nigel turned back to indicate that all was ready. His jaw dropped as he saw that john had stripped off all his clothes already. His firm, hard, totally hairless body strode over to his lover.

"Oh, we may have to postpone our plans after all", Nigel hummed. He reached down and cradled John's balls in his hands, stroking them. He drew John to him and kissed him fully on the lips. John ran his fingers through Nigel's hair. They stayed that way for a few minutes until John pulled away.

"We'd better put the brakes on before we can't ever stop."

Nigel sighed, still taking in his smooth lover's fine body. He ran his fingertips over his pecs and nodded. Reaching into the wall compartment, he brought out the livery uniform and handed it to John. John lithely stepped into it. It was far too big for him in the waist and chest, too tight in the arms and legs. Not for long.

Nigel handed him a small vial filled with a viscous, glittering liquid, which John held up to the light, watching it sparkle. Nigel then handed him a cup of tea he poured from the steaming hot pot. John downed it with a few quick gulps. He then held up the vial as if preparing to make a toast.

"Down the hatch", Nigel said. John swigged down the contents of the vial, shuddering slightly as the foul taste entered his system. Nigel kissed John on the forehead, then asked, "Ready?" John nodded, then stiffened his shoulders, clenched his fists, and prepared himself. He let out a quick breath and spoke with conviction.

"I am John Bull. I am the embodiment of our British icon, with all his attributes. I have the round face, ruddy complexion, costume livery, thin arms and legs. And am most bulbous and rotund of body."

Suddenly there was a hissing sound, as a balloon filling with helium released from a compressed container. John's midsection swelled like such a balloon, his beautifully-toned and muscular body rapidly taking on the shape of a giant beach ball. John's magnificent arms and legs dwindled, muscle groups collapsing in on themselves and shrinking to the size of twigs. His handsome face lost it's chiseled edge and John's cheeks bulged out like a chipmunk's, his complexion growing ruddy. His nose and cheeks darkened to a clownish red and his smile became an exaggerate caricature.

John Bull the stunning young gay man was once again John Bull, the oversized British icon. it had taken only 17 seconds. "How do I look, my good man?", John barked. Even his voice was different.

Nigel plopped the top hat on John's head. "Simply stunning, my lad."

"Jolly good, jolly good", John grinned. "Say, my dear boy, how much time do we have here in this splendid state of affairs?"

Nigel referred to the empty vial. "Ahh...22 milliliters, so I'd say about 4 or 5 hours, give or take 15 minutes."

John Bull grinned again. "SPLENdid! More than enough time to make the darling Mrs. Flemming's life a living hell for another day, wot?"

Nigel gave the bulbous John Bull a quick peck on the cheek. "Meet me in my chambers after you've had your fun, love."

John Bull tipped his hat. "Indubitably." With that, he marched out the door with more swagger than his father could ever hope to accomplish.

Nigel slid the panel closed, watching it disappear into beyond detection amongst the rest of the wood paneling. He made his way over to his favorite chair, and took a seat, kicking off his shoes. Resting his feet upon the hassock, he poured himself a small snifter of brandy. Things could not have gone better, he decided. Even after the years of orchestrating his misguided revenge scheme, Nigel had gotten the boyfriend he thought certain he could only have through humiliation and imprisonment. Now it was Nigel who was imprisoned, but it was a confinement he accepted gladly, as its manacles stemmed from the heart.

From the hallway, the rumblings of chaos ensued. Even through the thick walls, Nigel could hear John Bull braking commands and imprecations. "Mrs. Flemming! Have you no common sense whatever? This setting is totally unacceptable--I should die of disgrace before I allow it to touch our master's table! Off with you, get rid of it!"

"Yessir, so sorry, sir!"

"Where the devil is that fine girl Iris? The one who reminds me so much of Melanie. She should be in charge of this, she who at least take some measure of pride in her work, you know! You did see to it that her wages were increased, I trust. I shan't remind you again, Mrs. Flemming--!"

"No sir--I mean, yes, sir--I mean, yes to the first and no to the--"

"Enough of this inane palaver! Do your job, you dreadful woman! Hep to! Get those legs moving--you could stand to lose a few pounds, anyway!"

Nigel settled into his chair, a grin plastered from ear to ear. There was a sudden sound of shattering china plates, which caused Nigel not to budge at all. The muffled voice of John Bull cried out, "How clumsy can you be, Mrs. Flemming? I trust that was not the master's favorite pattern you just sent to its doom??"

The new and improved, interchangeable John did keep the staff on its toes, if nothing else. Another crash, another admonition. Though he was like a bull in a china shop. "True", thought Nigel, taking a good swig from his drink. "He is a bull, he's a John Bull. And he's all mine."

If you enjoyed this story, please write the author and let him know so he'll write more, at [email protected]