❯ Iron Nightmare – Chapter 1

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Akira, and stuff. The actual guy that does is Katsuhiro Otomo. I just write about it in my spare time.

 

Iron Nightmare

« So…how’d it go? »

Tetsuo and Kaori were sitting at the counter of a small restaurant. They had already ordered, and were now waiting for their meal. Kaori was attempting to make small talk during the wait.

Tetsuo just shrugged. « False alarm, actually, » he replied. « We got over there, and there were no Clowns in sight. They either knew we were comin’ and cleared out, or the guy who warned us needs glasses. Kinda disappointin’, but at least it gave us something to do. »

« Well, that’s good, » Kaori said. « At least no one got hurt, right? »

« Nah, don’t worry about me, » Tetsuo scoffed. « I can handle ’em. I can take on a dozen of those assholes! »

He was exaggerating, of course; he was just trying to impress her. Unfortunately, she looked like she saw right through it. Maybe he had used that line too much? He would have to think about it later, because right then, the waitress placed a basket of buffalo-style chicken wings in front of them.

« Here’s your appetizer, » she said, smiling. « The rest of your order will be up shortly. »

The young biker was definitely ready to dig in. He had such a craving for these things as of late, but unfortunately, they had become quite rare. Western-style appetizers had been losing popularity in recent years, and many restaurants weren’t serving them anymore. He was glad this one still did.

But before he could even grab his first wing, a loud, angry voice stopped him.

« Hey, ya little punk! That’s my seat you’re sittin’ in! »

Tetsuo turned around to find a tall musclehead standing behind him. A tall, angry musclehead.

« What are ya, deaf or something? » the man barked in his face. « I said that’s my seat, jackass! Move it or lose it! »

« Oh, I’m sorry! » he heard Kaori say. « We’ll just get out of your way… »

Tetsuo quickly whirled around. « Uh no, Kaori, » he said to her flatly. « Let’s not. »

« No, it’s alright, Tetsuo, » she replied. « There’s plenty of other places we can sit… »

« Sounds like your girlfriend’s smarter than you, pipsqueak! » the angry man snarled. « You better do what she says before somebody winds up gettin’ hurt! »

At this point, Kaori had already stood up and was about to turn and walk away. Not budging from his seat, Tetsuo quickly took her hand. He made his grip gentle enough not to hurt her, but firm enough so that her hand just wouldn’t slide out of his. She stopped and gave him a surprised look.

« Kaori? You just go ahead and start eatin’, » he told her. « I’ll take care of this guy. »

He then turned back around to the muscle-bound heckler and stood up defiantly. As he did, he somehow became several heads taller than the man. The musclehead’s enraged sneer quickly disappeared and became a shocked stare.

Tetsuo grabbed the heckler by the collar with one hand – his left hand no less – and lifted him clear off the floor. The man grabbed him by the wrist with both hands, but was somehow unable to break Tetsuo’s grip. Where the young biker suddenly got the growth spurt as well as the strength to pick up a man twice his weight with his non-dominant hand, he didn’t know. But he wasn’t going to question it. Meanwhile, everyone else in the restaurant – the other patrons, the waiters and waitresses, and even the cooks – stopped what they were doing and silently watched the scene unfold. Some looked excited, while others looked worried.

« Who were you callin’ a pipsqueak? » Tetsuo asked the heckler mockingly, smirking.

« N-nobody, sir…, » the man stammered, frightened.

« Good! » the teen hissed. « Now about ‘your’ seat. Unless you own the restaurant, the seat doesn’t belong to you. So we get to sit wherever we want. » The was a long pause before he finally shouted « Got it?! » into the heckler’s face.

« Y-yes, sir! » the man cried.

Tetsuo had half a mind to say, « You were right about someone gettin’ hurt! » and throw this guy across the room. He sure felt strong enough to do it. But a quick glance over his shoulder revealed that Kaori was looking rather frightened. Instead, he held the guy at arm’s length and unceremoniously dropped him on the ground.

« Now beat it! » he roared.

The man wasted no time in scrambling to his feet and running out the door. The patrons began to murmur amongst themselves, while the employees nervously went back to work. Some guy in the corner started clapping. One of the cooks in the back was trying not to laugh. Tetsuo just turned back to Kaori, who was still looking rather scared.

« Te-Tetsuo? » she cried. « Wasn’t that a bit…much? »

« Nah, » he replied. « You can’t let guys like that get their way. Otherwise, they’ll walk all over you. » He took her by the hand. « Now how about we get back to eatin’ lunch, huh? »

Kaori responded by suddenly falling into his arms. Since he was still much taller than he was supposed to be, he got down on one knee and kissed her on the lips. The next thing he knew, she had thrown her arms around his neck, and they began sharing a deep, passionate French kiss. Even better, no one was trying to stop them; the waiters and waitresses kept walking around them like they weren’t even there. Some of the other customers, however, were shouting « Ooooh! » as if they were watching some steamy scene on a TV sitcom.

But just as things were getting juicy (his hands were up her shirt, and he was attempting to unfasten her bra), the scene faded to black, then white. It had all been a dream. He should have known; things were going way too great for it to be real.

He yawned and opened his eyes. He was somewhere warm and humid. Somewhere nice and cozy. It was also very dark; the first dim rays of dawn were peeking through the trees, casting shadows everywhere.

Well, no sense in getting up at the crack of dawn right? But just as Tetsuo was about to doze off again, he stopped himself. Trees? As he peered through the gloom, he could see that he was indeed surrounded by trees. Leaves rustled around him as he moved. Where was he?

He tried to recall what he was doing last night. He remembered having the dramatic battle with the army, some possessed chick, a laser-toting Kaneda, and finally a SOL satellite. After that, he telekinetically fashioned a cybernetic arm out of some scrap metal to replace the arm that had gotten blown off by the aforementioned armed satellite. Finally, he went and curled up in the Olympic stadium, taking the canisters with Akira’s various preserved body parts with him. He wasn’t quite sure why he felt the need to drag them along; something just told him that he should. Besides, he figured that after all that hard work to dig them up, he might as well just keep them. Maybe he could use them for something later, though he wasn’t sure what.

He couldn’t remember anything after that. He must have fallen asleep or fainted afterward. After all, he did remember being in a lot of pain then.

But this was definitely not the stadium. Did he wander into a park and pass out? No, he couldn’t have; there were no parks or forested areas nearby. Besides, these trees looked…different. They were huge, vine-covered trees that were taller than most buildings. They looked like they belonged in a rainforest, not a park in Neo Tokyo. So, what? Did he accidentally teleport himself into the Amazon in his sleep?

As he paused a moment to think, he noticed something else – it was awful quiet around here. There were no birds chirping, no insects buzzing, nothing. All he could hear were leaves rustling in the wind, and what sounded like the babbling of a brook somewhere in the distance. It was as if he was the only one here. Wherever this little sylvan glenn was, it couldn’t be natural.

Wait a minute…maybe those government creeps captured him while he was unconscious or something? He remembered they had kept those vicious little wrinkled twerps in a huge room with trees in it; maybe they were doing the same with him? But why would they do that? Nothing made sense.

Tetsuo tried to remember anything else that may have happened last night that could give him any sort of a clue as to where he was now. Unfortunately, he came up with nothing. The only things he could just vaguely recall were fragments of dreams he had besides that last one. They were just so strange and unrelated, they had to be dreams.

First was a dream that could have passed for real if it hadn’t been for the ending. It started out with him sitting around inside the stadium. The pain in both his head and his new prosthesis was so overwhelming, he could really do nothing but sit around and groan. Suddenly, Kaori showed up out of nowhere. She had helped him stand up and walked him over to that concrete throne just outside. He had wondered why she hadn’t left the city like everyone else had, but he knew that she had always been a little too brave for her own good. And besides, this was just a dream.

Right after that was when things started to get weird. His cybernetic arm starting aching again just as wires of every shape and size burst from it. They started lacing themselves into the throne’s arm. To make matters worse, that army leader guy popped out of nowhere, trying to convince Tetsuo to come back to the lab. Tetsuo never did catch his name; the only times he heard anybody refer to him, it was either just « the colonel » or « sir. » Whatever his name was, Tetsuo told him – in his own rather colorful way – that he would much rather stay put. He then tried to walk away, reaching out to Kaori for support. He didn’t get far, however, for then the colonel took out a pistol and shot him right in the mechanical arm. The shot hit him hard enough to not only knock him over, but send him skidding across the pavement.

One would think Tetsuo would be in excruciating pain at that point, but he wasn’t. He remember feeling a wave of intense pain when the bullet struck him, and then…nothing. His arm felt very strange, however. It felt swollen and…heavy?

He tried to stand up. As he did, his arm spilled onto the concrete. Yes, spilled. It wasn’t so much an arm anymore, as it was a biomechanical mess that somewhat resembled an arm. It was as if his real arm tried to grow back underneath his prosthesis just as said prosthesis was trying to repair itself.

Tetsuo’s first reaction to the horrible sight was disgust. It was followed quickly by rage. Almost instinctively, he turned his telekinetic power inward, forcing its flow through the offending arm. It burst forth in a horrifying geyser of flesh, muscle, wires, and circuitry. It wrapped itself tightly around the unfortunate army leader who was standing meters away. The surprised colonel fired a few rounds at Tetsuo again, but all of them missed completely. Meanwhile, Tetsuo poured more of his power into the mutated arm, causing it to grow. It tightened around the colonel, squeezing the air out of him.

Tetsuo wanted to strangle the man to death with it; after all, he was the root of all Tetsuo’s problems. He was the one who was in charge of all those weird experiments done on him. He was the reason Tetsuo was in so much pain. He was the reason Tetsuo’s arm got blown off. Well, he wasn’t going to get away with that! But whether the colonel got his just desserts or not, he didn’t know. The dream faded out after that.

The next couple of dreams were just a series of flashbacks. They were at different times, in different places, and featured different people. But what they all had in common was that none of them were in his point of view – even if he was in it. They almost felt like out-of-body experiences rather than dreams.

The first one started out on a familiar highway behind the high-tech dashboard of an all-too familiar red bike. It was a flashback of him and Kaneda riding down a highway on motorcycles. The point of view was unfortunately Kaneda’s. He was driving out in front of Tetsuo, seemingly showing off. He was also watching Tetsuo like a hawk in his rear-view mirrors. The younger biker figured that Kaneda was watching just to see him screw up. However, that wasn’t true.

It was very strange, but somehow Tetsuo could « hear » what Kaneda was thinking. Surpringly, he wasn’t watching him in a condescending manner at all. He didn’t think Tetsuo was too incompetent or too weak to handle the bike, as Tetsuo expected him to. He wasn’t waiting for Tetsuo to screw up so he could mock him for it. Instead, he was concerned. He wanted to see if Tetsuo would follow his lead on the « curbing » technique. It almost made Tetsuo feel guilty for fighting with him – almost. He might have if this wasn’t just a dream.

But the next one did make him feel guilty. It started out in complete darkness. A moment later, a blurry image slowly faded into view. It was the image of him beating on that Clown member just after he had been attacked, but just before he was recaptured by government agents. It was a flashback from Kaori’s perspective.

He watched himself through her eyes as he continued pounding on the rival gang member while cursing out his friends when they urged him to stop. He watched as she staggered forward and called his name, wanting to calm him down in some way. He then watched himself blowing her off in his rage. Just like in the last dream, he could somehow feel emotions that were not his. He could feel her pain and sadness as she realized she could do nothing for him. The scene faded out from there.

He hadn’t thought anything of it then, but now he really wanted to slap himself for saying that. She was only trying to help! He rembered saying it out of shame. He had failed her. He had failed her and himself. Once again, somebody had to come to his rescue because he couldn’t hold his own. If the other Capsules hadn’t come when they did, those Clowns might have…no. He didn’t want to think about that. He quickly reminded himself that it was only a dream. And besides, Kaori was probably over it by now, right? She usually didn’t let things get to her.

The final flashback was very confusing because he didn’t recognize anybody right away. It was about four little kids at a hospital: a girl, a skinny boy, some fat kid, and a preteen with sinister-looking squinty eyes. They all were there for some sort of surgery. It wasn’t until he saw them go through some bizarre « tests » afterward – moving objects or distorting pictures on a TV screen with only their minds and drawing what they « saw » inside sealed boxes – that he finally figured out who they were. Three of them were those wrinkled kids he had so much trouble with. That fourth one must have been their over-powered buddy, Akira. Yes, somehow Tetsuo knew that was him.

But why would he be having a dream about them? He had no idea. Then again, a lot of his dreams weren’t making any sense lately. It was probably this whole « psychic » thing causing it.

He had one last dream that was much more bizarre than the rest. He remembered waking up from a deep sleep in some very dark place. And by « dark, » it was pitch black; he couldn’t see anything around him. He also felt extremely tired. How he could feel tired while actually being asleep, he had no idea. He just was. His body felt so incredibly heavy, too.

Then, all of a sudden, a dim red light above him pierced the dark. The light was in the shape of two concentric circles. It sort of resembled an eye. It gradually started glowing brighter until it became almost blinding.

As Tetsuo shielded his eyes, he thought he heard somebody talking. He couldn’t understand the language at all. A moment later, he heard a deep, hissing voice ask him something in words he could understand:

« Your name? »

Tetsuo opened his eyes. In the glow of the red light, he saw a familiar figure standing right in front of his face. It was a figure from that last flashback – a smiling young boy with overly slanted eyes. Menacing, overly slanted eyes that seemed to gaze right into his soul and threaten to tear it to shreds. Akira.

Tetsuo immediately wanted to run away. Somehow, he could sense this kid’s energy; it seemed to be radiating out of his body, just like it does in video games. It felt like it was endless – and oppressive. It gave him the chills. No wonder the little guy just up and destroyed an entire city like it was nothing decades ago. Even with his new powers, Tetsuo was pretty sure there was no way he’d stand a chance against this little hellspawn. There was something else, too. There was some other reason this kid frightened him, but he couldn’t remember what it was.

Regardless, Tetsuo found himself unable to escape. He was just too tired, and his body felt like lead. He could only lie there and stare at the eerie child, horrified. Besides, even if he could run, where could he go? There was nothing here besides them and that red light. He didn’t even know what he was lying on. Was there ground underneath him, or was he just floating?

« I want to know what your name is, » the creepy boy spoke again, as if he thought Tetsuo didn’t understand him the first time. The young biker found it very strange that such a young child spoke with such a deep voice. He sounded like an old man with a long history of chain smoking.

Tetsuo just continued to gape at Akira in terror. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything. What was he going to do to him if he answered? What was he going to do if he didn’t answer?

But he needn’t worry about it for long, for his lips suddenly began to move on their own. He heard himself say, « I…am Tetsuo. » It had felt like something – or someone – had forced him to say it.

At that moment, the red circles began to glow white. From its center came two spirals of rocks and a multitude of glowing white spherical objects. As they floated past him, he could see what they were. They were planets. Stars. Galaxies even. He could only lie there in shock and confusion.

Meanwhile, Akira had disappeared. Though he could not be seen, he was definitely still there.

« Thank you, » his raspy voice echoed from nowhere. « I wanted to know the name of the one who helped me create this place. I had no reason to create matter here until now, and your excess energy was perfect for the task. »

« Helped create »? « Excess energy »? What was this kid talking about?

« You have a long journey ahead of you, » the disembodied voice continued. « You have only just begun to realize your powers, and your previous misuse of it has set you back greatly. But I am confident you will overcome your past mistakes and eventually succeed in Awakening like the rest of us. »

Again, Tetsuo had absolutely no idea what he was babbling about. However, he was in no position to ask questions. And even if he was, he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know.

« Worry not about your living arrangements, » Akira’s voice said. « I already have a place set aside for you. I know you will find it to be satisfactory; after all, you did help design it. »

Right after that, Tetsuo began to feel even more exhausted. His body felt even heavier. It was like something was draining what little energy he had left right out of him. Everything went dark. The dream then bled into the one he just had about him and Kaori at the restaurant.

Well, that sure got him nowhere. He still had no clue as to where he was. That last one almost gave him an answer – that is, it would have if it had been even remotely realistic. Not only did it make little sense, but Akira was supposed to be dead. Dead and cut up into little pieces that were stuck in jars. He couldn’t do much of anything let alone talk to him and give him a place to stay.

He yawned. Maybe he should worry about this later. He was just too tired to figure it all out right now. The warmth of this place made him feel quite comfortable. His body began to feel a little heavy, kind of like in his dream. He was so sleepy, he didn’t even care that he was lying around on a forest floor (besides, he had slept in much stranger places anyway). He closed his eyes and snuggled in, ready for a nice nap.

But Tetsuo didn’t fall asleep. Instead, his eyes snapped back open when he felt something soft and squishy underneath his chin. The first thought that came to mind was that he was stuck in quicksand. However, he was pretty sure he would have sunk all the way in and drowned by now if it was. Maybe it was just mud? No, couldn’t be mud; it was warm.

Something told him he didn’t want to find out, but he snuck a peek anyway. In the dim lighting, he could see something white and puffy under his chin. A pillow? No…it was pulsing. Pillows don’t pulsate.

It then came crashing back to him. He had another dream, and a real horrible one too – an absolute nightmare.

It picked up where the first one left off, with him smothering the colonel with his dreadfully deformed right arm. It turns out that he didn’t get his wish of strangling him to death, for he was suddenly interrupted by laser fire directed right at him. As his concentration broke, his cybernetic arm let go of the colonel and went back to its original shape. He quickly turned and looked in the direction from which the shot had been fired. He found none other than his former good friend sitting on the coveted red bike pointing a laser at him – Kaneda.

Immediately, the two of them began to fight. Tetsuo unleashed volley after volley of psychic fury, while Kaneda rode around and shot at him. Their battle was eventually interrupted when those wrinkled kids suddenly showed up. Tetsuo was pretty sure the only reason they were at the stadium was to take another swing at him. But as he went to confront them, he made one fatal mistake: he took his eyes off Kaneda. He instantly paid for it by getting shot in the arm – the mechanical one that had just been mutating. The blast knocked him backward, causing him to belly flop onto the concrete. He remembered the pain being so intense, he could barely scream.

That’s when it happened. His arm began to swell up and deform again, but this time he couldn’t control it. It didn’t stop, either; the rest of his body followed suit. His upper body tore through his shirt and swallowed up his neck. His legs buckled underneath his new weight, feeling like they would break underneath it. But they quickly found support when they began to mutate too.

He rapidly grew to an enormous size and lost his human shape. He became so ponderous, he thought he was going to crush himself under his own weight. His body then began consume everything around him by itself, hungry for materials to keep it growing. Tetsuo tried to stop it, but couldn’t. The more he fought, the faster his body seemed to grow and feed. He could only watch helplessly as it swallowed up both Kaori and Kaneda. Kaneda managed to escape using that laser rifle to blast his way out, but Kaori wasn’t so lucky. Tetsuo’s body squeezed her to death, then devoured her corpse. It absorbed her so quickly, he could feel her agony.

But just as his body went for dessert in the form of the colonel and all three of those kids, the glass jars containing Akira’s remains suddenly shattered. The various preserved organs began to glow blindingly. For a split second, Tetsuo swore he saw the figure of the child destroyer appear right in front of that concrete throne. The air became very cold and an immense feeling of dread swept over him. It was enough to make his body stop in its tracks and instantly shrink away from the light as fast as it could. In the process, his head and left hand returned to their normal size, and he regained some control over his body. However, that light had been expanding faster than his body could squirm away from it, and he soon found himself caught by his right arm – the same arm that had been the source of so much trouble.

As he struggled to free himself from that dreadful, cold light, he remembered calling to Kaneda for help one last time. Tetsuo tried reaching out to him, only to have his horribly mutated body accidentally engulf his unwitting old friend once again. After that, the light took him over, and every last ounce of energy he had was sucked out of him. The world went black. A moment later, those flashbacks started up.

But that was just a dream! he thought. There’s no way that could happen. It’s just too damn weird!

As unrealistic as it sounded, the fact remained that he was lying around in some strange forest with his head resting against something squishy and white. His body feeling like a load of bricks certainly wasn’t quelling his suspicions. There was only one way to find out, and that was to take a look at himself. Gingerly, he raised his hands up to his face, hoping to see them as he last remembered them – the left one normal, the right one mechanical.

His hopes were immediately dashed when found that his right arm was so big and heavy he could not pick it up. Peering through the early morning gloom, he could see it lying there on the ground like a fallen log. An ugly, pulsating fallen log. It was white and pink and billowy with random mechanical parts poking out of it. Bulging veins and wires snaked through it. Red organic tendrils hung from it and spilled onto the ground. And it was utterly massive. It was a couple meters long, and about as big around as the trunks of those giant trees.

His left arm, which was light enough to move, wasn’t much better. His hand was normal size, but that was the only thing normal about it. It had wires sticking out of it, and his fingers had fingers. His left arm was grossly swollen, as well as interesting shades of pink and white.

He turned his horrified gaze to the soft white thing under his chin. He cautiously touched it with his deformed left hand, and instantly pulled the hand away when he felt how warm and slimy it was. Just as he thought, it was his chest. It had become so distended, it had covered up his neck and was propped up against his chin. He could feel his bloated shoulders touching his ears in a similar fashion.

What about his head? Tetsuo reached up and carefully touched his face, wincing when he felt the tiny, mutated fingers on his cheek. His face didn’t feel swollen like the rest of him, but there were wires lacing through it. Right by his hairline, a piece of metal protruded from his forehead.

And the rest of his body? He didn’t want to look. His gut instinct told him not to look. But the temptation was too great, and he looked anyway. He immediately wished he listened to his gut and didn’t. His body was nothing but one gigantic amorphous mass of viscera and machine bits. It was all a manner of shades of red and white, and even some purple. It was so huge, he couldn’t even see all of it. All he could see that it was about half as tall as some of these trees, and was thickly spread out over the forest floor.

« Noooo! » he screamed, terrified by the sight of his overgrown body, as well as disgusted with himself for finding it comfortable earlier. He then found himself reeling at the sound of his voice. It sounded less like a human scream and more like the distorted howl of some injured monster.

This can’t be happening! he thought, staring at his grotesque arms. There’s no way my power can do this! Those were just dreams, dammit! A thought dawned on him. Wait…I get it! This is a dream too! Yeah, I only look this way ’cause I was thinkin’ about it. All I gotta do is pinch myself, and I’ll wake up!

He tried to pinch his right arm, but his chest was so fat he could hardly reach around it. Instead, he settled for pinching his cheek. Nothing happened.

That didn’t work? Tetsuo thought. Maybe it’s not enough. Maybe I need to slap myself! Yeah, that’s it.

And with that, he slapped himself across the face. Still nothing happened.

Uh…maybe I’m just in a really deep sleep and I need to hit myself harder? he thought anxiously.

He slapped himself in the face as hard as he could, leaving a red mark. His heart sank when once again he saw nothing happen. He was still in a strange forest, all mutated and hideous.

No! he screamed internally. This can’t be real! It can’t!

But as much as he tried to tell himself that, it was real. All of it was. And that meant two of his dreams were real. The one in which he met Akira might have also been real, too. Getting dragged into that light and having his energy drained sure explained the « other » reason why that kid creeped him out. It also explained what this place was and how he got here. This was some new planet Akira created, and he dropped Tetsuo down on here so he wouldn’t cause any more trouble or eat up the city.

But what happened to Kaneda? He clearly remembered that his body grabbed him just before he passed out, but he didn’t remember seeing him in that dark place where Akira was talking to him. He also didn’t seem to be wandering around here; if he was, Tetsuo couldn’t see him. A knot formed in the pit of his stomach when he realized that the most likely answer was that his body ate Kaneda. The thought made Tetsuo cringe. Sure they had fought, and sure he had tried to kill his old buddy – but he didn’t want to eat him!

Speaking of eating people, the worst realization suddenly came crashing down on him. Whether or not Kaneda had been ingested was still up in the air, but she was definitely gone. Kaori, the only one he felt didn’t talk down to him or treat him like a kid, was dead. And it was all his fault. In his panic he had reached out for her, only to wind up crushing her like a grape.

« Nooo! Kaori…forgive me! » he shouted to the sky, not caring about how his voice sounded this time. He closed his eyes, trying to hold back tears. Unfortunately, they came out anyway. They were purple and viscous, slowly leaking out of his eyes and crawling down his cheeks.

« I didn’t mean to…, » he mumbled. « I-I tried to control it, but I just couldn’t! I should’ve just made you go home. I should’ve taken you outta the city myself. Then you’d still be alive! »

Control? Wait a minute! He quickly wiped the gooey tears off his face. As much as he didn’t want to, he looked himself over again. He had been so preoccupied with figuring out what was real and distressing over his looks that he hadn’t realized he was in control of his body and psychic powers again. His migraines were miraculously gone, and he obviously wasn’t growing anymore.

Akira must’ve stabilized me, he thought. But why didn’t he turn me back to normal?

« As punishment » was the first thing to came to mind. He snarled.

But his little friends were tryin’ to kill me! he thought, angrily. So were all them army guys. Hell, even Kaneda was after me! What was I supposed to do? Just lay down and die?!

His mental rant was interrupted by a dull ache in his head. His growing rage seemed to be giving him a headache.

Easy there, Tetsuo. Don’t get pissed, he told himself, while rubbing his left temple. That’s how this whole thing got started. Look, if I got control over my powers again, then I can just shrink myself down, right? Shouldn’t be a problem. I mean, I did it before with my arm…

He took a look at his arms, trying to decide on which one to start with. His left hand looked like it would be easier to do. Besides, he really wanted to get rid of those ugly little extra fingers. But then again, if he messed up somehow, he’d have two freakishly huge arms. It was best to start with the right one; it needed it much more than his left arm, anyway.

Tetsuo focused on his right hand first, trying to force the flesh and metal back to its original shape. Fortunately for him, it actually seemed to be working. His huge hand slowly began to shrink. Its tendrils retreated back into the main structure and were smoothed over. The mechanical bits began to arrange themselves in an orderly fashion on the surface.

See? he thought, happily. This isn’t so hard. I’ll be back to normal in no time!

But just as Tetsuo was finished with that thought, the hand suddenly exploded into thousands of biomechanical hands and tendrils – all of which were swelling up at alarming rates.

« N-No! » he shouted. Quickly, he tried to stop it. But just like last time, the more he fought it the faster it grew. He could hear leaves crunching and twigs snapping as his burgeoning hand began to feast upon all the vegetation in its path.

To his horror, he saw that his right arm began to swell up too, starting at the wrist. As big as it was, it wouldn’t be long before the uncontrollable growth would finish travelling up the limb and reach the rest of his body. He couldn’t let that happen, but what could he do? Fighting it didn’t seem to work, and even if it did, he was getting too tired to keep fighting anyway.

« Stop…stop! » he roared at the offending hand.

Oddly enough, his body seemed to obey him this time. First, his wrist stopped bloating, meaning that the spreading had stopped. Then, the mutated mass that used to be his right hand stopped consuming the plants around it. Finally, the swelling began to slow down and eventually stopped a few minutes later. His arm then felt weak and went numb. It was as if it had simply used up all of its energy.

For a moment, he could only sit there and stare, aghast at his much more hideous-looking hand. Or hands, anyway. He was so glad he didn’t try it with his left hand now. But did this mean he couldn’t go back to normal? Was every attempt to shrink back down to size going to end like this? Was he stuck like this – or was he doomed to keep growing uncontrollably until he exploded?

All this thought about size reminded of something. It wasn’t a dream, but it had been featured in one of those flashbacks. It was something he yelled at his friends after Kaneda told him to quit roughing up that Clown member. Something he regretted now.

« …It’s not my fault I was born small! There will come a day when I’ll show all of you! »

« No! » he cried. « I-I mean, yes, I wanted to be big and strong…but not like this. » He stared at his hands. « This isn’t what I wanted! »

The thick, purple tears oozed out of his eyes again as Tetsuo buried his face in his soft, puffy arms. He lay there wishing that his nightmarish reality and his previous realistic sweet dream could switch places.

End.