Liam knew there was something off with the village as soon as he arrived. He’d been studying the tribal region for his Master’s in Anthropology for years now, spending the last three months in the field. He’d seen a number of remote tribes, spent hours trekking through the dense rain forests. But this one was different.
For the most part only the old men still walked around in loin cloths with painted skin and all the other stereotypical effects. Most adult men still went shirtless as a concession to the relentless heat and humidity, but they wore Western style shorts and flip-flops. Sure it was common to see most of the little kids running around the villages completely unclothed, but no one over the age of five. Except here. Except in this village.
Liam noticed it right away, it would have been hard not to. Fully grown, adult men were walking and running about the narrow jungle paths, darting between thatched huts, chasing each other around the fire pit all completely nude, their bare penises just swinging free, their bare feet dirty and hardened on the soles so they could climb trees with the same nimbleness as the small children who usually partook in such games.
It also became very quickly apparent that these men were little more than oversized children themselves. They played the same games because intellectually they were all about two to four years old. Bare breasted women cared for them the same as they would normal children, like this was all perfectly normal.
It really intrigued Liam. He tried to get them to explain how this had come to happen. Were the men always like this? Did they raise youngest boys to remain children? Was it part of a ritual?
He didn’t really get any satisfying answers.
“They are happy boys,” one tribal woman explained to him while a thirty-something man lay across her lap, feeding from her bare boobs, milk dribbling down his chin while he tugged idly at his small, soft penis.
“But they’re clearly not boys,” Liam pointed out.
“Boys come in all sizes,” she told him with a smile, running her hand through the nursing man’s wild hair. He murmured pleasantly, his glassy eyes totally lacking in any comprehension of the conversation.
Talking to the men themselves was also useless. They giggled at him and tried to steal his pen and paper pad, growing bored of his questions and wrestling each other in the dirt at his feet.
Finally, after a week in the village, he was granted an audience with the chief, a wrinkled old man with no hair left on his head, wearing only a loin cloth. The ancient chief sat propped up in a simple chair, right beside the fire, somehow cold even on this hot day.
“You are wondering about our boys. You ask many questions,” the chief noted.
Liam nodded. “Yes, I’m sorry to intrude. I only seek to gain knowledge about your people, to understand you better.”
The chief nodded. “We are a simple people and we prefer to keep to ourselves. The outside world is cruel. I keep my people happy here.”
“But you must need some contact with the outside, for medicine and technology?”
The chief shook his head, frowning. “That is what some of the men thought. They left the village, went to the cities. They brought back dangerous ideas. They had been corrupted. So we cleansed them. We made them innocent again.”
Liam’s eyes widened. The chief was admitting that this had been done to these men. They’d been rendered mentally incompetent somehow, stripped of their abilities.
“You made them innocent?”
“Yes. They are but boys again. That is why they do not wear clothes. Clothing is the first step to manhood. Little boys have no need of clothing, no need for privacy. Everyone who sees their nudity knows they are not men, even from far away, there can be no mistake,” he explained.
“But… how?” Liam asked, truly amazed.
The chief smiled. “It is ancient magic. Few alive today know how to use it.”
Liam jotted down his notes, feeling ecstatic. This would really make his thesis. He could head back to civilisation, to his university, right now and have his degree in a couple months.
As Liam began to pack away his notebook the chief leaned forward, his hand flat under his chin. As Liam looked up the man blew a strange powder right into the young man’s face.
Liam coughed and shuddered in surprise.
“What the hell?!” he snapped.
“We prefer to keep to ourselves. I did tell you that,” the chief explained.
Liam felt woozy already. His vision blurred, his whole body got tingly. “Wah.. What is this?” he slurred, finding he couldn’t even stand up.
A woman sat down beside him, put her hand on his shoulder. He looked over at her, finding the topless young woman very attractive. But to her right was one of the naked men, squatting in the dirt, nibbling his thumb and picking at his toes.
“It’s going to be okay dear. Your brother is here to watch your transition,” she explained to Liam.
His brother? Liam looked again at the drooling, empty-eyed man squatting to their side. No, he couldn’t be like that! He had an education! He was smart, he was civilised. He couldn’t stay here with some backwards tribe, never mind as a dumb little kid.
“I… I need to write about this. I have to go…” he pleaded.
“Shh. Shh. Your days of writing are over little one. It’s time for you to be happy. Time for you to play. We’ll get you out of these awful clothes, you’ll feel so much cooler, so much more comfortable.”
He wanted to keep pleading, but whatever he’d breathed in was getting stronger. His head was swimming. Her words didn’t make sense anymore. He couldn’t focus at all. He looked around frantically and couldn’t recognise anything. He couldn’t remember where he was, or what any of these things were. It was terrifying for a moment, and then even fear slipped away, his anxiety calming. He focused on the warm hand on his arm, yes, the pretty lady. Such a big, pretty lady. He liked her. He knew that. And he didn’t know much at all.
A month later Liam was happily climbing a tree when he saw the strange White man walking into the village. The man looked concerned, looked confused. Liam found his clothes interesting to look at. Should he go over there?
No, he was having too much fun climbing. He giggled and used his tough bare feet to grip the tree bark, scooting forward, his penis brushing across the tree. It actually felt kind of nice. He liked climbing trees. He was so good at it now his feet were tough like the other boys, like his brother’s.
“Liam! Is that you?!”
The White man was there by the bottom of the tree now. He was calling up to Liam, but he wasn’t sure what the man was saying. He didn’t know many grown-up words, he was too little. Liam leaped down out of the tree, landing nimbly on his bare feet. His pee-pee flopped around, so silly. He didn’t even consider his nudity before the fully clothed man. He didn’t have any clothes. He was much too little for man clothes. So there was no shame, no flicker of modesty, his penis always hung free this way, it always had as far as he was concerned.
“Liam, I came to find you when you didn’t come back,” the man explained. “Everyone was so worried. I can’t believe it’s actually you! What happened to your clothes buddy?”
Liam picked at his nose as the strange man talked. Then he leant very close before grabbing onto the black thing hanging from the man’s neck. It was strange, Liam wanted to have it.
“Liam, ow! Don’t pull the binoculars like that!” the man shouted, pulling away.
Liam smiled and giggled at the man’s ouchy expression. He hopped up and down in delight. The man looked very worried. Liam wasn’t. He hopped back onto the tree. He could show the man how good he climbed. He scooted back up the bark, looking down just in time to see the wrinkled old chief tap the strange man’s shoulder then blow some powder in his face when he looked. He felt happy. Somehow he knew he was getting a new playmate.