“Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them.” – Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

Matt awoke with the phone ringing. He felt as if he had run a marathon. His eyes barely opened, and he could barely move. He was in his living room somehow, and the phone was ringing. Grunting as he got up he searched for the phone, noticing the broken piece of equipment on the floor. Picking up the phone, his voice weak he answered.

“Hello?” His mouth was dry and hoarse.

“Matt? Where the hell are you?” It was Rick. Matt looked at the clock. It was almost noon.

“Damn, sorry Rick, I don’t know why but I slept in super late. I feel like I was in a marathon, all my body is stiff. I’ll get a shower and drive straight over.

“Matt your not gonna believe the stuff Suzanne and I have for you.” Rick clicked the phone off as Matt hung up his end. Stretching he felt like a tube of toothpaste, all squeezed out. His brain felt fuzzy as if he was still in a dream state. Matt remembered last night, barely. He had come home, and was happy. Then he turned on his answering machine for messages, and got upset.

It clicked in his head, the message from Veronica. It had caused his body to convulse with emotion. He remembered crawling as the pain became intense, as if something was trying to come out. A flash of memory showed him looking int he mirror, sweat matting down his hair and wetting his face. His eyes bright cherry red, his skin a dark rusty color.

Matt slowly sat down, remembering the exhilaration he had felt. The enormous amount of energy just flowing in his body, something he wish he had now, he thought to himself rubbing the muscles of his body. He saw the tattered remains of his shirt on the floor next to what was left of the answering machine.

What the hell had caused it? Matt pondered the question while he showered. The warm water eased the ache in his body and muscles, while also clearing his mind. Getting dressed Matt raced to the research lab. Enrique chided him for being late and Matt brushed him off, confusion still ruling his thoughts. he approached his office where Rick and Suzanne stood, waiting.

“All right, what is the big deal you wanted to show me?” Matt began to feel somewhat impatient. Trying to snap out of it he saw Rick brandish a cage, with a massive hole in it.

“What the hell happened?” Matt said examining the cage.

“Mickey.” Rick said simply causing Matt to rise. The mouse that he had tested on.

“Were you there when it happened?” Matt asked intrigued.

“Yeah Matt. Rick was doing the chime/fear test to see how Mickey reacted. When the chime rang, Mickey underwent a transformation. Almost into a completely new breed. Its strength was enormous, its body color changed as did its eyes. From black to…” Suzanne was cut off.

“Red.” Matt said quietly. His body braced against the wall. Rick and Suzanne looked at him in shock.

“How did you know?” Rick asked. Matt met his questioning glance with a nervous look. Matt quickly ushered them both into his office.

“Because, I tried the experiment on myself.” Matt said as they sat down. Rick shook his head and Suzanne just had a questioning look.

“Why would you do it?” she asked, Rick also leaning forward.

“I was upset after encountering Veronica and Jason at the restaurant, coupled with frustration of knowing they had only pretended to care for me. The turmoil made me think of my experiment and I rushed here and did the treatment. It worked….” Matt was cut off.

“…for 24 hours. The same thing with Mickey. Remember the cage and the cheese incident? Suzanne and I think the cheese outside his reach had frustrated him. Frustration, fear and anger seems to cause the transformation for Mickey.”

Matt thought back to the night before. The answering machine at first made him feel simply anguish, it was when the anger flowed through him the pain swept in as well. Coupled with frustration…That had caused his own metamorphosis.

“Matt?” Suzanne asked. “Are…are you all right”

“No. How can I be all right? Not only is my personal life a failure, my life’s work meaningless but now whenever I grow angry or upset I turn into a monster. Yeah I’m just perfect Suzanne.” Matt slammed his hand on the table. Rick quickly stood up.

“Hey man, we can do little worse then to piss you off.” Rick smiled, breaking the frown on Matt’s face. Suzanne gave a worried grin as well. She took Matt’s hand in his and looked into his eyes.

“Your not alone, Rick and I will help you. Right Rick?” Suzanne looked to Rick. Rick nodded and grasped Matt and Suzanne’s hands.

“Together till the end.” Matt smiled at both of them, feeling better. Suddenly Suzanne’s pager went off. Excusing herself, Rick turned to Matt.

“Ok, the transformations occur only on negative emotional response. The mouse seemed to change back though after his goal was accomplished. How did you turn back?”

“I remember while transformed…I came back into my house feeling proud of what I had done. Then as the clock ticked I felt images enter my head, then a great pain. My body shook as the images kept hitting my head along with voices, the voice of the kid…and then…it was morning.” Matt shook his head.

“Wait, you remember being transformed? What is it like?”

“Transforming…felt like I was being ripped into two. The emotions seemed to rip into my very soul. My muscles stretched and even broke through my shirt and broke the seams of my pants. I grew to 7 feet tall and I would guess around 300 pounds. The feelings…release…freedom. Full of energy…a feeling that I could do anything I wanted with no thought to the repercussions.”

Rick tapped the desk as his eyes lit up. “Of course, the mouse transformed by necessity and emotion…just like you. When the goal was accomplished the mouse reverted back. Yet, you only change back after committing an act…or goal that your normal self would find reprehensible, after the euphoria of doing it had passed.”

Matt shook his head. “All right, so I transform in correlation to extreme negative emotional commitment. I transform back after I have time to reflect on the acts I have done as my other self. So its conceivable, as long as I didn’t do anything that I normally would find reprehensible or deserved…that I would never change back.”

“Yeah…I think that is how it works.” Rick said his head hanging low. Suzanne soon rushed in her face somewhat pale.

“Suzanne, is everything all right?” Matt asked. She nodded her head and smiled.

“Ok Matt, we are going to do everything in our power to help you get through this.”

Weeks passed as Rick, Matt and Suzanne searched for a cure. They found that the hormone and radiation therapy had mutated the adrenal glad and emotional response area of both Matt and Mickey’s brain.

Matt, with a knowing fear avoided his friends. he figured since Veronica’s call had caused the transformation, actually seeing them could trigger another episode. Matt often sat in the office, his face looking at the blank wall envisioning the outside world.

While Rick and Matt often joked around, Suzanne was often the sympathetic ear to Matt more emotional issues. One day they were going over the notes of the Hormone Creation Process.

“Even though the experiment was a failure Matt the idea seems sound, perhaps we can find a way to reverse the process with the hormone therapy.” Matt noticed Suzannes face was white as a sheet.

“Suzanne, whats up? Lets talk about you some, talking about me is starting to make my skin crawl.” Matt smiled and Suzanne took a breath.

“Matt…I don’t think I will be able to work here.” She finished then went back to her notes. Matt looked at her and gently stopped her writing.

“What?” he asked as if knowing already what was wrong.

“Its Jake, my boyfriend. He has seen you and I hanging around more often and is getting jealous, so he told me to quit the internship here and go back to a regular training program at the school.” She looked at him with tears in her eyes.

“Look, I don’t care what this Jake says…what do you say? Do you want to leave, because that I would understand…but if you want to do this then he should be supportive. You know what…I will talk to him.” Matt said sitting himself up.

“No, Matt, he can be quite emotional…and you certainly don’t need the stress.”

“Suzanne, I am a trained psychologist long before I became this centuries equivalent of Dr.Jekyll. I can handle him. Doesn’t he usually pick you up around now anyway?”

“Yes, he is waiting outside…but let me talk to him first.” Matt nodded and followed Suzanne outside. He saw Jake smile and then frown when he saw Matt close behind.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Jake said almost snarling.

“He just wanted to clear the air with you, so you wont be jealous by him.” Matt calmly stepped forward.

“Listen Jake, I have no intention of going after Suzanne, I am happy that she is with you and I hope you both continue to be happy. I personally want Suzanne to stay because she is an invaluable asset to my research and because SHE wants this.” Jake walked closer to Matt looking him in the eye.

“You don’t think I know what she wants? I am her boyfriend and damnit I know what is good for her, and you aren’t it. Ever since she has started working for you she has gotten sassy and had a chip on her shoulder. Also, I don’t like troublemakers like you calling me by my first name, its Mr. Wilson to the likes of you.”

“Mr. Wilson, I simply want to point out that Suzanne is gifted in this field and perhaps you could learn to understand and appreciate her talents.”

“Appreciate? No one appreciate her more then I do…” Suzanne quickly stood next to Jake.

“Jake, Dr. Smith simply likes my aptitude, how about we go home and talk about this. Matt has to go back inside the lab, right Matt?” Matt caught her signal. Tensions were escalating, but Matt felt unsure of this person taking Suzanne home.

“Yeah I do, if you will be all right?”

“Damn right she will be fine…” Jake was cut off as Suzanne lightly touched his arm

“I’ll be fine Matt, come on Jake lets go home.” Suzanne and Jake walked to their car, as Suzanne got in she gave a look to Matt. A look that seemed to have genuine concern. Then they drove away leaving Matt alone in the parking alley.

Walking back into the research center, Matt saw how much Rick and Suzanne had genuinely helped him. They had kept his secret and were supportive of him despite his recounting of the tale of Tony Stearns birth. Matt walked slowly down the hall absorbed in thought. He often wondered how his other friends would react. He had been avoiding them for a couple weeks, some said that they were hurt by his absence, especially Jason. Matt opened his office door and sighed…better for them to hurt a little before his cure then to be dead.

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” – Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

The Monster Within Us All – Chapter 8

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