Brush, The

Date Written: 

Bad luck was one thing. Being an artist, Beverly knew that the random whims of fate often had serious consequences on those upon whom they fell. Just as a lucky break might send her soaring into fame, bad luck could condemn her to die poor and obscure. She took those chances willingly. But what had happened to Beverly was more than just bad luck.

The ugly fact of reality was that the art community, artists, buyers, and gallery owners, were predominantly male. This meant that a woman's chances for success were often inappropriately affected by how attractive she was. Beverly was no showstopper by any means, but she'd thought of herself as being reasonably attractive. Beverly had been on her way to a reasonably prosperous career. Then things started happening.

First she put on weight. She didn't change her diet, and she still exercised regularly, but it seemed like she put on forty pounds almost overnight. She'd actually had to miss a show because she could no longer zip up any of the dresses that would have fit just fine the night before. Then streaks of gray began to appear in her jet black hair. Then wrinkles. It was like she was being accelerated towards middle age.

"You're bound to start losing your youthful looks as you age," the doctor had told her.

"But I'm only twenty-eight!" she'd wailed.

It all came together last year when she saw Kathy at one of many gallery events. Beverly's jaw dropped, and the first thing that popped into her head was, "Those have got to be implants!" Beverly and Kathy had gone to the same art school, and had been fiercely competitive. Kathy had been quite pretty then, but now she was a knockout. She grown out her blonde hair, and her provocative curves were doing an admirable job filling the tight black dress she'd worn. Somehow, she'd transformed herself into a goddess, drawing far more attention to herself, and thus her artwork. She tossed Beverly a condescending smile, then proceeded to ignore her.

Though she knew it was completely irrational, Beverly was convinced there was a connection. She felt like Kathy had somehow sucked the beauty from her and absorbed it into herself. It took many long months of sneaking and snooping, and she'd scarcely believed the truth when she finally discovered it. And she was even more shocked to discover that Kathy hadn't even finished with her yet...

Kathy strode around her studio, humming merrily to herself. She was dressed quite casually, as she usually was when she painted, in black stretch pants with an oversized blue sweater. She often painted wearing much less, but later that day some workmen were coming to install a new security system. There had been a break-in last night, but luckily it appeared that the thief hadn't had time to take anything.

Kathy was quite proud of herself. In just over a year, she'd gone from being Kathy, Just Another Starving Artist, to Katherine Hayes, Up and Coming Art Visionary. When she'd acquired the brush, the first thing she did was paint a picture of her ideal self. She'd been skeptical about its mythical powers, but became a believer when just a few seconds after the last strokes had dried, her body changed; her clothes were suddenly looser around the waist, and tighter around the bust. She was worried about where she'd get the money for new clothes, but then she painted a picture of a rather expensively dressed man bidding on one of her paintings. Now she had her own house on a hill, complete with her own private studio.

But she wouldn't be selling today's painting. She'd finally grown tired of toying with Beverly, and was going to put the finishing touches on a scene of her falling into the path of an oncoming truck. She'd just picked up the brush when there was a knock on the door. Who on earth could that be? She set the brush down and went to answer it.

It was Beverly! She was wearing of those frumpy dresses that she frequented now, and was carrying very unstylishly oversized purse. "How the hell did you get in here?"

"Please, Kathy --"

"Katherine," she said, icily.

"I'm sorry. Katherine. It's just I remember you from school, and you're so successful, I thought I might get your opinion on a painting I've done." She had a pleading, pathetic look in her eyes. Poor girl, Kathy thought with a smile. She'll be out of her misery soon, I'll humor her.

"Okay, come in."

Beverly shuffled in and set her purse down on the ground. A puzzled look came over Kathy's face as she saw her reach into the bag and pull out a balloon. "What the heck is that?"

Beverly looked up innocently and held out the balloon for her to see. "Why, it's you."

Indeed, painted on the balloon in intricate detail was Kathy's image. "It's-- different," she said, raising an eyebrow.

Beverly reached one hand back into her purse and ever so carefully turned the knob on the tiny tank she'd smuggled in, then pinched the end of the hose that was attached to it. "Well, I was trying to capture your own extraordinary style in a new medium. But I couldn't quite get it right, something was missing. I wanted to really get into your frame of mind, so last night I sneaked in here and borrowed your brush."

Kathy's face paled at Beverly's grin, her lips forming into an astonished 'o'. She spoke slowly. "Beverly, what are you going to do with that?"

"This." She quickly put the mouth of the balloon to the hose and let the gas rush in. The limp balloon quickly perked up and began to swell, stretching Kathy's image across its surface.

"No!" Kathy gasped. Suddenly, she felt a massive surge of pressure fill her entire body as she began to slowly balloon out. At first, just her curves plumped up. Her bosom expanded, straining against her sweater, as her hips tested the strength of her pants. For the first few seconds of inflation, Kathy resembled an overly buxom doll inflated far past what its designers intended. "Beverly stop this now!" she snapped sternly.

Beverly ignored her, a bemused grin coming over her face as Kathy's arms and legs fattened up. Then her beautifully firm and flat stomach began to bulge out resembling pregnancy then obesity, and then further until there could be no mistaking that Kathy was now just a balloon being inflated.

Her huge thighs pushed her legs apart as her sweater rode up exposing her navel. And still Beverly filled her, and Kathy grew larger and larger. Her clothes stretched with her, staying wrapped around her form despite being pulled far past what was possible.

"What the hell!?" She began to rise up off the ground up towards the high vaulted studio ceiling. She was just an enormous blue and black beach ball with comically dainty hands and feet. Her pale distended flesh peeked out between the gaps of her tortured sweater. She struggled against her inflation only making her wobble a bit in the air. Finally, Beverly turned off the gas.

"I think you should stay up there a bit" she said as she tied off the balloon. It was only a bit larger than her head, but Kathy had expanded to over ten feet across. "And I think I'll take this brush, too."

Beverly left, humming merrily to herself. Just before stepping into her car she let the balloon go, watching for a moment as it took off into the sky. Then she drove off, pondering what she would paint first...

Kathy was stuck in the air, fuming with rage. How dare she! Well the workmen will arrive this evening, I'll find a way to get down I'll get that brush back and then that sneaky little bitch will just wish I'd made that truck run over her -- what?!

For Kathy felt pressure building up inside the massive orb of her body once again. Slowly steadily, she swelled more and more. Soon she touched the floor and ceiling, knocking over canvases and paints as she grew, filling up the space in the studio. Her drum-taut skin began to quiver from the strain, shuddering as her clothes began to give, buttons shooting off of the sweater as she burst from it, pants splitting at every seam, then finally --

One of her neighbors immediately called the fire department, worried that Miss Katherine Hayes might have been hurt in the explosion that had destroyed her studio.

Author's Note: 

This was my second bursting story, and looking back on it now it appears I was getting a bit more comfortable with the ideas. The Stargazer has very little warning that something is amiss and ends with an offscreen pop. In this one, the seeds get planted early on, and there's a fairly clear lead up to the catastrophic end as well as a brief reference to the aftermath.

In The Stargazer, I was a bit squeamish about putting in any detail of the actual bursting. In The Brush I cut away at boom because I wanted to do something beside put in a boom in all caps with multiple exclamation points.

This story was the result of a request from Champagne Moon. Being a fan of self-popping, she wanted a story about an artist who inflates and explodes. I had a distant memory of seeing a piece of an old horror show where an artist got revenge on his enemies using a magic brush that made paintings become reality. It went quite differently from this story, but that's where the brush idea came from.

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