By daviek

Police and federal authorities continue to struggle as they work to uncover the mystery behind the enigmatic Parásitos gang. If nothing else, it appears they are recruiting members at an alarming rate. But the question facing officials is: who are these new recruits, and what is drawing so many of them in so quickly?

Nathan was frozen. His lifelong friend Heath had just become a black gang banger named DeAngelo, right in front of his eyes. And as if that weren't traumatic enough, Nathan knew it was only a matter of time before his turn came up.

The mysterious leader of the Parásitos released DeAngelo from his restraints and locked in an embrace, one that involved a complex set of interlocking hand movements and a verbal refrain uttered in unison and, most unnervingly to Nathan, in Spanish.

DeAngelo was whisked away to the shadows encircling the large room. "Before you join us," the leader said to the four remaining white boys, "we want you to see fully what awaits you." The house descended into silence for what seemed like hours before DeAngelo stepped back into the light. When Nathan saw him, he couldn't help but gasp audibly.

What now stood before him, arrogant and powerful, was the man who had been Heath Mitchell. But Heath Mitchell was nowhere to be found. The figure Nathan beheld was tall, black and muscular enough to give any normal human being pause. He was dressed now, and looked to be the poster child for the Parásitos. An army green wife beater clung to DeAngelo's inflated chest and highlighted the carved ridges of his abs, and was covered with a green camouflage jacket that looked to be three sizes too big, even for someone as massive as DeAngelo was. A deep green bandana covered DeAngelo's face from just under his eyelids to below his chin, and a green do rag was tied tightly on top of his head, atop a bed of intricately braided African hair and beneath a kelly green Dodgers fitted cap cocked menacingly at almost a 45 degree angle. Crisp white boxers were exposed almost to the middle of his powerful thighs, where they met a belted pair of obscenely baggy jeans and covered almost all of a pair of wheat-colored Timberland boots, the only two items of clothing DeAngelo wore that weren't green. He also wore a platinum chain that hung around his massive trap muscles and down his navel. Nathan gulped when he noticed a tattoo on DeAngelo, not because of what it was so much as where it was: on his face, just below his left eye, a script letter "P" with a stylized tail that looked to have...legs. Parásitos, Nathan reminded himself, parasites. It's an insect's tail. Good Lord, who are these people?

"Yo," DeAngelo thundered, addressing his former friends. "Dis ain't no game. Dis a gift. Be thankful, mothafuckas, you about to be a part of da family."

And without another word, four Parásitos converged on the group, ceremonial knives drawn. It appeared the rest of the boys wouldn't have to wait patiently in line. It was time for all of them to join the gang.

The men held the knives to their skin, piercing the boys ever so slightly, enough to draw blood. Red blood, Nathan made sure to note, because it seemed this would be the last time crimson blood would course through his veins. The gangsters cleaned their knives on the green pieces of fabric and then held the blades to their own faces, forcing droplets of green blood out. They then cleaned the blades again, intermingling the blood of the boys' past and their future. Then, at once, they touched the boys' wounds with the cloths and applied pressure. At that moment, Nathan, Caleb, Jamie and Blake ceased to exist, their minds going blank as the conversion ritual took over.

Caleb had always been overweight, but not grossly so. Those days were over. Layers of baby fat melted away as bulging, freakish muscle grew rapidly throughout his body. He very quickly had biceps the size of softballs and pecs that would make most amateur bodybuilders envious. Striated traps formed a bridge between bowling ball-like shoulders and Caleb's face, which itself was in the throes of transformation. Nondescript caucasian features gave way to clearly Hispanic ones. His nose widened at the nostrils but also flattened out, not so much flaring to the side as they would on a black person but taking a position parallel to the ground. His brow became more pronounced, dark black eyebrows framing eyes that looked about two steps away from Asian. Meanwhile, all of the hair on his head fell out as very short black hair grew out, nothing more than stubble. The skin all over his body took on a warmer, more caramel tone. Caleb Matheson, the chubby white kid, had been replaced with a hulking Puerto Rican thug.

Blake, on the other hand, had always been big, having spent many years as a lacrosse player. But he was still only barely a teenager, so he looked more like an overgrown kid than a muscle machine. That was about to change. Muscle swelled all over his body, thunderous legs giving way to feet no less than size 17. He also picked up about a foot in height, taking him up very nearly to seven feet. For someone as tall as he was with the hulked out musculature he now possessed, he couldn't have weighed less than 350 pounds. He, too, was destined to no longer be white, as his tanned caucasian skin got darker and darker until it was a warm chocolate brown. His jaw and mouth became significantly more pronounced, gigantic pink lips framed by an ever thickening but precisely groomed goatee of wiry black hair. All of his hair fell out as well, but unlike Caleb, none grew back. He was now the proud owner of a shiny black skull, with immaculate bone structure.

As Blake became a black gangsta, Jamie took on a more Mexican flair, alabaster skin darkening slightly to a light mocha, with slightly kinky hair growing out of his head and resting on his mammoth shoulders. He didn't become quite as muscled as his friends, but by convential standards he was still huge. Jamie's face looked a lot more rugged and eroded, like he had been through many a fight and lived to tell about it, as deep scars outlined his body in an almost artistic way. He also lost several of his teeth, no doubt to be replaced by gold implants at a later time.

And then there was Nathan. He was average in every sense of the word--medium height, slight build that treaded water between skinny and toned, generic brown hair and eyes. Well, not for long. He exploded with new muscle, surpassing each of the boys he had grown up with and then some. His skin became almost midnight black, but his face took on the features of a Dominican or Haitian, almost African but with distinct Caribbean aspects. His jawline strengthened and conveyed raw, untempered masculinity, a kinky black chinstap leading from his sideburns down to his pronounced chin. His longish hair shortened a bit and became stubby black dreadlocks, not long enough to flop around like a rastafarian but distinctily ethnic.

The boys' benefactors moved in when the physical changes were complete, completing the ritual with a peck on the cheek, and all four of the new Parásitos received a lifetime's worth of knowledge, experience, attitude and ethos.

"Awake, papis," the leader said. All four boys--no, definitely men--opened their eyes, as the assembled Parásitos took in the sight of their four newest brothers.

"Welcome to the game." •

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