Johnny stood alone, with nothing but the sound of eerie whispers echoing around him. He was alone, but somehow Johnny felt as though he was being watched - as if many eyes were judging his existence. These stares made his skin crawl, and as they intensified he cringed with a forming paranoia and uncertainty. He fidgeted in an attempt to shake off his discontent, but his limbs refused to budge.
His paranoia increased.
Voices that began as whispers amplified and filled his ears - harsh words of discrimination and spite. In a fit, Johnny forced his eyes open.
The voices stopped, and for a moment silence reigned supreme. But soon they returned.
And then he saw them.
Johnny's friends stood before him, still and waiting. But for what? He didn't know. A thick fog swirled around them, including himself, and it ghosted over their feet as if ready to devour everyone whole. Meanwhile, the whispers continued, hushed and secretive like before. It came from the group, but no mouth moved. How could that be?
He was definitely going crazy.
Perhaps it was their eyes that he felt. Testing the void, Johnny moved his legs, and was relieved to find out he had regained mobility. But even as he moved forward and pushed past each person, no one threw even a passing glance - not even Tank, who usually went out of his way to sneer at him. Everyone's gaze was fixed forward, like mannequins in a life-sized doll house.
Unsurprisingly, it was Ophelia who was the first to speak. Johnny startled, causing her to giggle. She was smiling as always, a beautiful, mystical smile that Johnny loved and woke up to every morning. "Why so scared? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I may as well have. This place gives me the creeps, especially with no one moving."
"No one? Johnny, you must be seeing things... It's just me."
Ophelia was right. Johnny looked around, and realized that everyone had, indeed, disappeared. The voices were gone as well. Breathing a sigh of relief, Johnny gathered Ophelia into his arms and kissed her.
She was always there for Johnny, especially through rough times. From the beginning of high school to now, Ophelia had helped soothe his struggles, including being green. So Johnny knew it must had been Ophelia's presence who chased the eyes and whispers away. Ophelia was the one who gave Johnny peace of mind. She had that kind of effect on those whom she met.
What started off as a shy, hesitant young teen had eventually become the town Don Lothario. To say that Ophelia caused this was an overstatement. But she did aid in helping the middle Grunt emerge from his shell. And that was all it took for Ripp to evolve into an outgoing, somewhat charming college kid.
Johnny lost himself in his thoughts. He didn't notice the way Ophelia's waist began to enlarge and become firmer to the touch. The silky texture of her blouse transformed into soft, smooth cotton, and the hands around Johnny's shoulders felt more masculine than what he was used to. Suddenly, a deeper voice brought Johnny back to his senses.
Johnny's eyes widened in surprise, and he pulled away.
"Thinking about me, Johnny?" asked Ripp.
He smiled at Johnny just as Ophelia did, but Ripp's grin was different. Much more different. Ripp's smile was playful, mischievous, and - oh, so dangerous to the hearts of unsuspecting ladies. Practically every girl in Strangetown had a taste of those lips. Despite how charming they looked, Johnny knew better.
He motioned to speak, but Ripp gave Johnny no time, and pulled him into a tight embrace. Pressing their foreheads together, Ripp inhaled deeply.
"Of course you were. You always do."
Johnny chewed his lip in search of the right words as his best friend hugged him close. It was another good deed Ophelia had done, introducing him to Ripp. Their meeting was a rocky start, but the boys became fast friends. However, what neither Johnny nor Ophelia counted on was Ripp pursuing the alien.
It had begun with subtle hints - glances, expressions - before evolving to more obvious hints - gestures like attempts at hand-holding. "Sorry, Ripp. I'm not interested," Johnny had told him flatly. But Ripp persisted. Interestingly enough, Ripp never pushed further than hand grabs and extra long hugs; words of seduction were never spoken and kisses were never given while Ripp romanticized Johnny. But one day Ripp, as usual, laced his fingers with Johnny's.
And Johnny didn't pull away.
He squeezed Ripp's hand.
After that, it was all one big mess. For Johnny, anyway.
Johnny finally allowed himself to relax, and he leaned into Ripp much to his friend's delight. It was what Ripp wanted, Johnny knew. He also knew that these feelings for Ripp were on a whole different spectrum than his feelings for Ophelia - how his body reacted, how his heartbeat quickened, how his mind warped.
He embraced Ripp, savoring the warmth and the way their bodies fit almost perfectly. But suddenly, Johnny felt the tug of being pulled away. The whispers returned full force, loud and howling like the wind. And as he was wrenched from Ripp's arms, his surroundings dissolved into the ever-increasing fog. Ripp, too, was fading away. Before his world darkened, Johnny caught one last glimpse of Ripp smiling.
"Don't fall in love so easily, John."