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a series of tickle fiction by

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chapter 8

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Soundtrack: Kyle attacks Jake and the fire escape and Andrew tries to save him."Leaning Tower of Scorch" by John Paesano
00:00 / 00:39

JULY 2009
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

        Colors.

        Lights.

        Bodies moving to the pulsing beats of techno and synth. Brian crossed the threshold between hot, visceral nightclub and hot desert air. He stepped into the smoky streets of Vegas, his companion in toe. She giggled drunkenly and slung herself against him.

        "Chloe, off!" he said, his command breaking away into a laugh.

        "No, no, no," she slurred, her normally pale face flushed. She ran her fingers through her long, silky hair. "Carry me back to the hotel."

        "Are you kidding?"

        "Nooooo," she whined. The sound of her heels clicked loudly against the cement. All around them, scantily dressed pedestrians, most of whom were under some sort of influence, flowed up and down The Strip. Brian did his best to weave his way around the ones he passed. Chloe struggled to keep up. "Slow down!" she said.

        "Why don't you keep up?" he asked. 

 

  

 

 

        Brian stepped out into the street, his companion in toe. 

PRESENT
november 2009

        "Andrew?" 

        A sharp tapping at the door of my apartment snatched me from my memory. I opened my eyes, finding myself in the here-and-now...

        "Andrew, You there?" I heard my girlfriend's voice. 

        "Shay?" I hopped up off of the old sofa and jogged over to the front entrance of the little apartment we currently called home. "Hey. Welcome back," I said with a soft smile as I opened the door. "I thought you had your key."

        "Forgot it," she said with a laugh. She stepped into our apartment and gave me a quick kiss. Her smile, as pretty as it was, only lasted a moment. "What's wrong?" she asked. 

        "Nothing. Why?"

        "You look... worried about something."

        "I always worry when you go back to your parents' house. It's so close to L.A." I shrugged. She'd been making more and more trips lately, and each one seemed to take longer and longer. 

        "Aw," she said and she gave me another kiss. "I'm fine, babe. And they're fine too."

        "Good," I said.

        "You sure you're all right?"

        "Yeah," I said with a chuckle. "You look really nice, by the way." I closed the door behind her and then took a few seconds to appreciate the sapphire dress that she'd gone to collect a few hours before. It accentuated the slender curves of her body and the allure of her symmetrical face.

        "You told me you wanted a fancy dinner night, right?" she said with a little shake of her hips.

        I laughed. "Yes, I did."

        "So, voila." She did a little spin and gestured to her outfit. "Speaking of dinner...how's it coming along?" 

        "Almost ready." I gestured for her to follow me to the kitchen.

        "Smells amazing."

        Of course it did, I thought. Tickling, of course, wasn't my only interest; I loved cooking too, and unlike the former, this one I was very open about. Before the world went crazy, I often found myself cooking for friends, or for family at events or parties. I'd even considered going to culinary school once.

        "Anything I can help you with?" Shay asked. She placed her bag on the table next to the sofa.

        "Not really. Just relax. I've gotta go finish getting ready."

        "Finish? You look fine, Drew."

        "I feel like I've gotta step up my game now, especially with you wearing that." I gestured towards her dress.

        She giggled and rolled her eyes, but she didn't fight me. I headed down the hall and took a moment to inspect myself in the restroom mirror. My mess of dark hair was tousled; my deep, brown eyes were tired; I  grimaced at my bony physique, my slouching posture. "She's delusional," I muttered, adjusting the collar of my crimson shirt and patting the hem of it around the waist of my jeans. "I look fine?" With another exhale of air, I dragged myself onward to my bedroom. I opened the drawer of my nightstand and pulled from it a small black box. Tonight was the night. I was going to do this, no matter how unsure I felt, no matter how little sense the timing made, considering everything unfolding around us...

        I was going to ask Shay to marry me. 

        I opened the small box and took a second to admire the simple, but classy, band within. I had purchased it only a few weeks before from a jeweler who'd decided to remain open, despite recommendations from local government. After all, the suburbs were still relatively calm. Mostly unaffected. It was really just the cities you had to worry about. And the rest of the world--the one beyond The Line--was still stubbornly trying to function in the midst of everything going down here on the West Coast. Keep some semblance of normalcy. Well, this was my way of doing just that; my reason for getting the ring--normalcyIt would give me--er, us--something tangible, a normal future more easy to envision. Besides, after all this time, and after everything we'd been through together, I'd decided that Shay was the one. She had to be.

        "Andrew, the oven timer's going off! Want me to get it?" Shay called from the other room.

        "Uh, coming!" I snapped the ring box shut and slid it into my pocket. I ran over to the sink, wet my hair, rummaged through the medicine cabinet, and pulled out my favorite cologne. I sprayed my wrists and neck a couple of times. The sandalwood scent boosted my confidence a bit. I shook out my arms, cleared my throat, and headed back towards the kitchen.

        "You didn't change," Shay said when she saw me again.

        "Oh. Uh."

        "You can't tell me you're not distracted." She walked over to me. "Look, I'm sorry if my dress is too formal. I didn't mean to stress you out."

        "No, no." I shook my head. "You look amazing. I just-- I'm--" I sighed. "After the last broadcast--"

        "Oh, none of that," she said. "Stop worrying yourself. GUARD's got things under control. My parents said that they haven't heard of any new cases in days."

        "Really? The news was saying that it's a Class Three in L.A. now."

        "Well, we're not that close to L.A.," she said. "Not really." She walked over to me. "Look, Drew, let's try to forget about what's going on out there for a little while, okay? This is why you shouldn't obsess over the news."

        I managed a smile. "I'll try."

        "I know things haven't been easy. At all." She wrapped her arms around me and rested her head against my chest. "Your parents. Your sister. James."

        "Let's not talk about that," I said, fighting the immediate urge to snap at her. "Please."

        "Sorry," she said, hugging me tighter. The physical contact was nice. She inhaled, then looked up at me. "Did you put on cologne?"

        "Yeah."

        She leaned up and kissed me again, and I felt the storm inside me calm a bit.

        I twisted my right foot ferociously, attempting to slide it away from my sister's explorative fingers. I was unsuccessful. Her nails were sliding gracefully along the wrinkles of my bare sole.

        "Oh gahahawd!" I screamed. It was a feeling that I could only describe as a clashing of torment and thrill. It rocketed up from the pit of my stomach, crackling across my nerve endings before it flowed from my mouth in the form of crazed, ecstatic laughter. "I'm sorreeheehee!" I managed to say as she continued to spider my bare heel, keeping a firm lock on my ankle with her free arm. 

        "I don't know, Andrew," Haley said. "This is your third offense in the last two weeks. I don't think you're learning your lesson."

        It was the usual: I'd read her diary. It was one of the worst crimes a little brother could commit. While other siblings might have resorted to physical violence, my sister opted for another type of punishment; Haley liked to tickle me silly. Every. Single. Time. And she was ruthless. 

        The catch? I secretly loved it. I can't say I understood why. But it didn't matter. I'd always try to get myself into situations that would somehow lead to a good tickling, either my dishing it out or my receiving it, just as I was now.

        "Nohohoho! Reeheeheeally! I am!" The volume of my laughter skyrocketed as my sister increased the swift movement of her fingers. My voice cracked--normal for my age--as another jagged bolt of laughter burst from my vocal chords. It was mind versus body at this point, and though I was cherishing the moment, I hated to admit that even I had a limit.

        I kicked my sister's side with my left foot, which was still socked and free.

        "Ow!" she said. "Hey!"

        This, unfortunately, just made my punishment worse. In a matter of seconds, I felt my left sole bared and lined up alongside its right counterpart. Haley's slender fingers crawled into the crevices beneath my toes. I immediately thrashed and yelped with delight.

        At least another thirty seconds passed before I felt her ten devilish tormentors retreat from my sensitive flesh. My heart pounded from the excitement, while my lungs heaved and grasped for bursts of air. Sweat heavy on my brow, I pulled my feet from my sister's lap and crawled over to the nearby wall, exhausted and satisfied.

        "You know, it's just gonna get worse for you every time," said Haley with a shrug. "You don't learn."

        I swallowed after another deep heave of air, then I grinned.

        "You know, Andrew." She smirked. "I'm beginning to think you do it on purpose."

        "Yeah, right."

        "You like it, don't you?"

        "I like reading about your crush on Abel more," I said. It wasn't a denial. In fact, it was the perfect way to provoke her.

        And she fell for it.

        "Oh, c'mere, you little--" Haley dove at my legs again. I screamed with glee and--

Soundtrack: Andrew and Shay share a dinner together."Art Gallery" by Mychael Danna, Rob Simonsen
00:00 / 01:24

        "The oven's still going off," I said.

        She smirked. "It is." And then she let me go, letting her hand linger on my shoulder as I stepped away from her. I was feeling so many things.

        "You want to eat out on the balcony?"

        "Let's do the dining room," I answered. "It's a little cold outside. And a little... exposed."

        "Sure," she said.

        Within the half hour, we were sitting down to a nice dinner of couscous, vegetables, and skirt steak quesadillas. It was one of my favorite meals to prepare--the smells always reminded me of the days I used to cook in the kitchen with my mom.

        "Andrew, this is amazing," said Shay after her first bite.

        Dinner lasted a good hour. Our conversation was splashed with random, awkward spurts of silence. Shay, of course, pried several times to figure out what was going on with me, but I kept trying to assure her that I was fine. Every once in awhile, I would reach down and touch my fingers to the box in my pocket, trying to decipher when the best opportunity would be for me to bring up the topic.

        "Oh, I brought over a movie for us to watch. If you want," Shay said as she began rinsing off her plate in the sink.

        "Oh, yeah? Which one?" I started on my last few bites of couscous.

        "It's called The Proposal."

        I started to choke.

        Shay frowned. "Are you that opposed to a rom-com?" Then, she laughed. "You okay?"

        "Yeah," I managed to say, still fighting for fits of air. 

        She brought over a glass of water. "Swallow wrong?"

        I nodded.

        "Well, what do you think?" she asked, once I'd managed to stop coughing. "You down to watch it?"

        I nodded again, wondering at the strange timing and coincidence of it all.

        "Great!" Shay's expression brightened. After a few minutes, I joined her at the sink. We finished

washing the dishes together and, once the extra food had been put away, we found ourselves on the sofa, lights off, TV flickering with the movie's opening scene.

        Despite my nerves, I found comfort and excitement in our sudden closeness on the couch. It not only meant physical intimacy, but it also meant the perfect opportunity for some potential tickling. Shay knew I was very ticklish and, fortunately, ever since I'd disclosed to her my love for the subject, she'd indulge on occasion. I'd usually have to signal to her that I was in 'the mood,' as she put it, and I would usually have to do something that she liked in return, but I often found the trade-off worth it. What happened next, however, was...unexpected. Almost as if she were reading my mind, I felt Shay's fingers inch their way into my side. I jolted away from her, a surprised smile exploding on my face.

        "What was that?" I asked.

        "What was what?" She did it again.

        I snickered. "That."

        "Oh, nothing," she said. She repeated her action a second time, and I couldn't help but laugh some

more. What was going on? First the movie with its coincidental title, and now...this? It was as if our wavelengths were completely synced; that or the universe was sending me some sort of sign.

        "Sh-Shay," I giggled her name.

        "You don't want me to stop, do you?" Shay turned to face me, now ignoring the movie.

        "Well, no." I felt myself blush.

        "Good." She raised a brow. "Because we both know that tickling you usually leads to...some other things."

        "Y-yeah, I guess." I recalled the very first night I'd confessed to her my secret--what had happened

afterward.

        "So, win-win!" Shay began to spider her ruby-red nails across my chest. I snickered as the familiar feeling of excitement rushed over me. My heartbeat picked up. As she continued to explore my upper body, I slowly raised my arms above my head and rested my palms on my scalp. Shay accepted the invitation willingly. She plunged her fingers into the sensitive craters beneath my arms. My laughter elevated, my heaving accelerated, and I let myself swirl into a heaven of ever-flowing euphoria. Within seconds, my whole body was shaking and writhing, and bliss overtook me.

        "You like this, Andrew? You like it?" Shay laughed as she increased the swiftness of her fingers. I howled and nodded, already feeling sweat accumulating on my forehead and blood rushing southward. After a minute or so, she decided that my shirt was an inconvenience, and she started to unbutton it. The second she had access to my bare chest, she dragged her fingers down my ribs, then dug into my navel.

        "Oh my gawhawhawd!!!" I bucked upward with a squeal, but Shay became more forceful and used her torso to pin me down against the couch. She kneaded my sides with her hands and then abruptly jumped down to do the same thing to my thighs.

        This was a whole new level for me, practically driving me insane. "Shayhayhayhayhahaha! Pleeeease! Stahahahap!!" I howled. My excitement and my torment were colliding violently, as they usually did when I was undergoing a tickle attack. 

        "What's wrong, Andrew? Don't you love this?" Shay raised her voice over my laughter.

        "I doohoohahaha! But give meheehee a breahayhayeak!"

        "Break? We haven't even gotten to your favorite spot yet," Shay said. It was obvious from her tone that she was relishing in her dominance over me. She wasn't normally this aggressive, but I didn't mind. I found it kind of invigorating. Definitely arousing.

        "Let's take these socks off, shall we?" Shay teased as she turned and climbed on top of my legs. I felt my socks ripped from my shaking feet. Soon, my smooth soles became the stage for Shay's ten terpsichorean tormentors. When they found their way to the flesh beneath my toes, my laughter escalated to a near-inaudible pitch.

        I kicked upward, but she was too strong. A sudden urge to escape ignited within me. This was a little

too much. In a perfect world, I'd be able to take the tickling forever, but I was quickly approaching my physical limit.

        "Shay," I gasped. I was now completely pinned. "Please. Give me, like, two seconds."

        "No. I'm not stopping," she said, so matter-of-factly that it scared me a little.

        "I've gotta breathe!"

        "Don't be dramatic." Shay snickered as she applied more pressure to her tickle technique, scribbling her slender fingers down to my heels.

        "But...Shay!"

        "Shut up. Keep laughing," she ordered. She took a deep breath almost as if the sound were her oxygen, and she started to shake her head in strange, twitching movements. Her eyelids fluttered.

        "B-but...Shayhayhay!" I moaned as I tried to fight it.

        "Laugh!" Shay hissed as she threaded her fingers between my toes.

        It hit me right then and there.

        Shay was infected.

        My enjoyment dissipated entirely. My heart made room for newfound feelings of horror and sadness, but there was no time to try and reason with her or argue. My survival instinct kicked in--I needed to focus now on doing one thing and one thing only: stop laughing.

        "God, Shay. No-noho. Please no. Snap out of it," I managed to say, doing my best to dam up the great guffawing that had been flowing from my mouth only moments ago. Unfortunately, Shay knew my most ticklish spots, so this was almost impossible.

        "I said laugh." Shay growled now, her voice deepening to a hoarse, monstrous drone.

        I shook my head, trying with all of my might to swallow the insane chortles churning within the chasm of my stomach. Despite my efforts and my fear, I was still involuntarily grinning, which only urged her on.

        "No!" I shouted before biting my lip. My lungs were preparing to purge another storm of laughter.  Because she had started focusing on scaring me into laughing as opposed to tickling me, I was able to regain some slight strength over her. I made my move. It was my only chance. I pushed upward with my back and kicked sideways, throwing Shay off of me. She turned and growled with frustration.

        Clambering from the sofa, I bolted for the front door. Shay screeched and plunged forward, grabbing for my bare feet. With a ravenous hiss, she toppled to the ground only inches away from where I'd been. I frantically threw open the door and swung it shut behind me. I grabbed onto the handle and pulled the door forward. Using my dwindling strength, I kept it shut for as long as I could. A violent scream emanated from beyond it.

        "Oh, god." I was whimpering softly. "Oh, Shay. Shit. Shay." My eyes stung. The tears came. I was shaking. The door trembled as my would-be-fiancée threw herself against it. "No, no," I said, and I kept pulling on the handle to keep the door closed. She pounded and cried out, but she never tried to open it herself. After what seemed like a lifetime, the struggle ended. An unnatural silence consumed the world. The pounding stopped, both from behind the door and from within my chest. I didn't know what to do.

        The telecasts had given very prompt and specific instructions. Call GUARD. 'Laughter is a cry for help.' I just wasn't sure if I could really turn Shay in. She was the only person I had left. The last one. It was the reason we'd her away together in the first place, the reason I'd just been about to propose. My fingers found the engagement box in my pocket again.

        "Shay," I whispered.

        It was then that I remembered I'd left my phone inside the apartment--my only means of calling for help if I'd decided to.

        Shit.

        I knew I had no choice. I would be stranded otherwise. I placed my trembling fingers back on the doorknob and turned. The door, wobbly on its hinges now, creaked open. I needed to face Shay once more, and I was afraid of what she was becoming.

        It had only been a matter of time. She'd fallen prey to whatever plague was currently ravaging the

West Coast, the plague responsible for the death of my parents, the disappearance of my sister, and the loss of my best friend. It was a plague directly out of my wildest dreams and my worst nightmares. A plague that--as insane as it sounds--turns those it infects into...

...tickle monsters.

Author's notes: 

I first started writing Pteronophobia back in 2009, where I published the first few chapters on a tickling-focused forum called TTA. This chapter (previously called an "entry") was posted on May 5, 2009 and has since been edited and revised multiple times. At one point, I had a website entirely dedicated to Pteronophobia, which has now been reworked and structured into the site you're currently seeing. Little did I know at the time how massive this project would become, and how many amazing individuals I'd meet and influence along the way. It's good to be back, and thank you to everyone who has shown their support in getting the site (and the new version of this story) up and running!

Last updated October 31, 2023.

WHAT READERS HAVE SAID ABOUT chapter 1: 

"I just read the first chapter of Pteronophobia and I absolutely loved it! The concept and idea is so unique and original. Tickle monsters! But, the main character is a tickle fetishist - my god, so, so, so, sooooo much to work with! So expansive, I cannot wait for the second part!...I really love how you write, it's really inspiring...I also love the character bios and the overall aesthetic...for me this feels like a weekly series I can enjoy on Netflix or something...a regular binge that I cannot wait to devour!...Petition to make this into a HBO Special RIGHT NOW!"

famous&ticklish

"Now here's a person who knows how to make a damned good series. Never stop being you, ya lovely fella."

Ozymandi4s

"I absolutely loved it! you, sir, have a wonderful writing style. The tickling situations were hot, but this is an awesome story too. I'm looking forward for more. :)

luckybeagle

"Dude, holy cow, that has got to be one of the best things that I have ever read. It's like you are in my head."

tcklshboy

"[This] promises to be a great story from what I saw!!!...I wanted to add my appreciation for your efforts! I think most will agree that we encourage you to continue writing!"

howard

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