Frankie sat in his corner of the locker room hurriedly changing back into his regular clothes. He tried not to notice the other boys as they filed past in their towels and boxer briefs.
Boys? More like men. They were all thirteen years old, just like Frankie, and yet it seemed that he was the only one among them who had yet to experience... the change. The cracks in his classmates' voices and the fuzz on their chins filled him with a kind of envy he'd never known before.
Frankie had just slid into his jeans when Tyler and his crew of moron jocks shuffled into his area. They wore their towels around their waists and shouted to one another about some sport or other. To Frankie's relief, they didn't seem to notice him. The last thing he wanted was to interact with such meatheads. He delighted briefly in the knowledge that he was probably more intelligent than all of them combined, and yet even at his young age, he knew his judgement was hollow. What did it matter how smart he was if they were clearly superior in every way that counted? They were strong where Frankie was weak. They had girls fawning all over them, where Frankie counted himself lucky if a girl accidentally stepped on his foot. He sighed. It just didn't seem fair.
"Hey, fellahs," Frankie heard Tyler say. "I got something to show you." He stood with his back to Frankie and, without a moment's hesitation, opened his towel before the other boys. A chorus of amazement rang out among those present. Frankie, despite his best efforts, was curious.
"Dude," said one of the boys excitedly. "You've got---"
"Pubes," Tyler finished the sentence. "Yup. And my balls should be dropping pretty soon." More oohs and ahhs echoed through the locker room. Tyler added, "That's what happens when you're a grown man."
The words stabbed at Frankie's heart. He wanted so badly for his manhood to begin. No longer could he help himself. He had to see what it was like. He had to know for sure what he could look forward to, and not just some stupid cartoon drawing in health class. Gingerly, he stepped around to try and get a look at what Tyler was sporting.
"Hey!" Frankie jumped. His eyes came up to meet Tyler's, who quickly closed his towel around himself. "What are you looking at?"
"I... I just...."
"What? Were you trying to look at my junk?" Tyler lurched toward Frankie who stood frozen with fear. "What are you? Some kind of faggot?"
Frankie searched in vain for the right words to say. He stuttered, "But... but I... but...."
"Gross!" said one of the other boys. "I think he wants to have gay sex with our butts!"
"That's nasty!" cried another through his laughter.
"Come on," said Tyler. "Let's teach him a lesson!"
Frankie cried out in protest as Tyler grabbed him by the shoulders. The boy's grip was strong and Frankie's attempts to free himself were fruitless. One of Tyler's crew pulled open a locker, the screech of its hinges mixing with the boys' delighted hoots. Frankie was obliged to fold in on himself as he was shoved face first into the musky dark. The metal door slammed shut, sending his ears ringing. As the sense returned, he heard the jocks' triumphant whoops echoing off into the distance. Finally, the only sound that remained was the panting of his breath.
"Fuckers," said a voice right next to Frankie's ear.
Frankie jumped and instinctively swatted at the source of the voice, but nothing solid met his hand. He clawed at where the locker door should have been, screaming all the while. Nothing was there. No latch to open. Nothing to grab hold of. Even the slats which had let in some small amount of light were gone. All around him, there was only darkness.
"Quiet!" the voice insisted. Frankie silenced himself, shaking at the thought of what might be in there with him. The voice continued. "That's better. Christ, I hate the loud ones!"
"What's going on?" Frankie managed to ask through his terror. "Who are you?"
"Relax, kid," said the voice. It seemed to come from no particular place, but floated all around Frankie. "You're safe here... for now. Welcome."
"Where am I?" Frankie asked, dreading the answer.
"Hm." The voice hesitated. "It's sort of hard to explain. You might call it a kind of... pocket dimension, I suppose."
"Pocket...?" Frankie's voice trailed off. Whatever was happening, he wanted no part of it.
"Look," the voice said with audible annoyance, "the long and short of it is, you were caught off guard, caught in a vulnerable moment when those kids grabbed you and shoved you in that locker. I was watching and I took the opportunity to snatch you up and pull you in here."
A wave of sickness rose up in Frankie's throat. Whomever or whatever this thing was, it had touched him. "Why?" he demanded, now more angry and desperate than afraid.
"Ah," said the voice in the darkness. "Now, that's the important question. Why? Because I see in you a lot of potential."
These words caught Frankie off guard. He had expected something that sounded far more sinister. In spite of himself, he urged the voice to go on.
"Well," the voice said, "there's something you want, isn't there?"
"I... I guess...." Frankie drew a blank. There were lots of things he wanted.
"Something particularly relevant," the voice said, attempting to draw it out of the boy. A moment passed without an answer from Frankie and the voice sighed. "Clearly I need to spell it out for you. You're sitting in the locker room and you're watching how everyone around you is growing and changing. But you? Nope. Kiddie muscles and a baby dick. Am I right?"
Embarrassment burned in Frankie's cheeks. "You're right," he said. "But so what?"
"So what?" the voice asked with a laugh. "I know exactly how to fix that for you."
Frankie did not speak right away. He felt his fear returning, this time mixed with excitement. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"I can change you," the voice said. "Turn you into something amazing. Your classmates will be astonished."
Frankie thought for a moment. "This sounds too good to be true," he said at last. "How do I know this isn't some kind of trick?"
"Trick?" the voice asked. "Why would it be a trick?"
"Well, you could turn me into some hideous beast," Frankie offered. "Or something. I don't know."
"Frankie, Frankie, Frankie," the voice said. "I'm not playing games like that. You want to be a man, I can make you a man. You want to grow up, I can help you do that. Simple as that."
Frankie took a moment to ponder these words. They sounded simple enough, but still something nagged at his brain. "What would I owe you?"
The voice chuckled. "Damn it, kid," it said. "You're too smart for your own good. So young and you already know there's a catch to everything. Fine, I'll be straight with you. I feed off of youthful energy. By allowing me to suck out some of yours---for lack of any better terminology---you'll be helping us both out a great deal. I get fed, you become a man. What do you say?"
Frankie paused again. What could he stand to gain by letting this creature feed on him? It seemed that the answer was everything. He would be stronger. He would have the same girls that Tyler and his goons had. The whole world, it seemed would be open to him. But why should he trust this strange, disembodied voice? Well, why not? The voice could have told him any one of a million things that would have sounded better than the idea of feeding on youthful energy.
A smile crept across Frankie's face. "I say we have a deal."
"Good!" said the voice. Frankie shivered slightly under the knowledge of the deal he'd just made. Suddenly, what felt like a hand shot out of the darkness and rested on his shoulder. "Now just relax," said the voice. "This might hurt a little."
The next day, in the locker room before gym class, Tyler and his friends were quieter than usual. A few of the usual jokes and quips had been traded back and forth, but it was clear to any onlooker that something weighed heavily on each of them.
"Where do you think he went?" one of the boys finally asked Tyler.
"Who cares?" Tyler did not meet the boy's eyes as he spoke, for fear that the guilt would be seen in his own. "So what if some nerd goes missing. It's not like it's our fault if he did. Right?"
"Right," said the boy, but both knew that neither he nor any of the others believed this.
They strode into that same section of the locker room where they'd last seen the missing Frankie the day before. Unthinking, Tyler headed straight for the same locker into which he'd stuffed the smaller boy.
"Wait!" said one of his comrades.
"What?" Tyler demanded, narrowing his eyes at his friend.
"What if... what if he's... in there?"
All were silent. This possibility crossed Tyler's mind for the first time. He looked from his friend to the locker and back again. At last, he shook his head. "He's not in here," Tyler said. "That would be stupid." Having satisfied himself, he threw open the locker door and prepared to store his backpack.
The screams that ripped through the air attracted the attention of all within the locker room. Teachers and students alike came running. All found the same horrible sight when they arrived. Tyler sat on the floor, curled up tightly into a ball and sobbing. Inside the open locker, slumped to one side was the body of a withered old man. No one seemed to know who he was, and he had clearly been dead for hours.
Written by Jdeschene