Papa Smurf was surprised to see Hefty looking the way he now did as well. He couldn't imagine how someone so vital like Hefty could suddenly become this sickly. Smurfette was also present, feeling her heart going out to Hefty.
"What's happened to me, Empath?" Hefty asked, sounding very weak as Empath did a thorough examination, scanning every part of him with his minds-eye.
"You have undergone rapid aging, Hefty," Empath answered when he had finished his examination. "Your bones have become very brittle, your musculature has deteriorated, some of your internals are barely functioning, and your eyesight is nearly gone."
"That I can smurf already," Hefty jested, trying to lighten up the mood despite his current condition. "Otherwise, my mind feels completely active, so if you don't mind, I would like to get back to smurfing something on the bridge."
"That would not be advisable, Hefty," Polaris warned Hefty, stopping him from moving himself off the table just yet. "This one would suggest that you should return to your house and take it easy for the rest of the day while we find out what caused your aging."
"I can smurf Hefty some company in the meantime," Smurfette offered. Polaris stepped aside as she helped Hefty off the table and walked him out of Papa Smurf's house.
"Empath, I would like to smurf with you alone," Papa Smurf ordered.
Empath looked toward Polaris, who knew that this conversation was to be private. "This one will continue to supervise the work on the bridge while you continue your search for what caused Hefty's premature aging," he stated.
After Polaris had left, Papa Smurf went straight to the subject at hand. "I don't know exactly what's smurfing on between you and Smurfette, but I have heard from enough Smurfs to know that you two are engaging in some very unsmurfy behavior. This sneaking around the village, doing Smurf-knows-what with each other isn't something that I expect you to be smurfing. You as my assistant counselor are to smurf an example for the other Smurfs to follow. But this…it makes me wonder about my trust in your ability to lead the village in my absence."
"You're asking this smurf to stop seeing Smurfette, Papa Smurf?" Empath asked.
"What you and Smurfette do with each other and how you both wish to smurf a relationship is none of my smurfness, Empath," Papa Smurf answered, rubbing his temples. "But you both are under orders to smurf better judgment in the future. Do you undersmurf?"
"This smurf acknowledges, Papa Smurf," Empath replied. He noticed Papa Smurf rubbing his temples, looking and feeling worn down. "Is there something this smurf can do to help you relax or something?"
"No, Empath, I am fine," Papa Smurf answered hastily, sounding like he didn't want Empath's help with his own problem.
Empath understood and decided to leave Papa Smurf's house.
Around lunchtime, Empath was talking with Jokey, Grouchy, Duncan McSmurf, and Brainy about Papa Smurf's recent behavior over sarsaparilla soup and peanut butter sandwiches being served by Greedy.
"'You both are under orders to smurf better judgment in the future'?!?" Jokey repeated, amused by what Empath had told him. "Boy, Papa Smurf is really getting testy in his older age!" He laughed at his own comment, thinking how funny it was.
Empath ignored Jokey's laughter. "Well, this smurf can only hope that this smurf and Smurfette would be able to do that!" he responded, feeling embarrassed.
"I hate really testy Smurfs!" Grouchy muttered. "Even if it's Papa Smurf!"
"You know, Empath, maybe Papa Smurf is right," Brainy pointed out. "You and Smurfette have been busy smurfing with each other what should be smurfed in private away from smurfing eyes, and besides it's better to save yoursmurf for marriage because, as a famous Smurf once said, if you smurf the milk away for free…"
"We smurf the point, Brainy," Grouchy snapped, trying to rein in his temper before Brainy found himself on another one-way flight to the village limits.
"So…how was it with you and Smurfette smurfing…you know…?" Jokey asked slyly, trying to get some information out of Empath.
Empath began to feel more embarrassed by Jokey's prying question. "Please, Jokey, you should know that a gentlesmurf never talks about a lady like that!"
"You, a gentlesmurf?" Jokey exclaimed. "Oh, that's a real laugh!"
"Just what this village needs...one of the resident perverts snooping into the private affairs of Empath and Smurfette," Duncan said.
"Don't tell me you're not the least bit curious of what Empath and Smurfette were really smurfing together, Duncan," Jokey said.
"What Empath and Smurfette smurf together on their own time is not anyone's business to know, Jokey Smurf," Duncan said. "I may not be a prude like Tapper, but even someone like you can understand the need for privacy when it comes to smurfing things about you alone that you wouldn't want every Smurf to know about."
"If it really was me and Smurfette, I would want the whole village to know about it, even if it upsets Smurfs like you and Tapper," Jokey said laughing.
Greedy came over to their table with Clockwork Smurf. "Would any of you like some more of that smurfy sarsaparilla soup?" he asked. "Clockwork sure smurfs it nice and hot!"
"Absosmurfly, Greedy," Brainy answered, eagerly passing his bowl over. Grouchy, Duncan, and Jokey did the same while Empath refused, noting that he hadn't finished his bowl.
Jokey watched in amusement as Clockwork Smurf tilted his head downward toward the bowls and poured out the thick steaming broth from the top of his hat into each of the bowls. "Hey, smurf at this…'I'm a little teapot, smurf and stout…here is my handle, here is my spout,…'!" he sang, imitating Clockwork's movements.
"I didn't know that Clockwork could even smurf up anything like soup before, Greedy," Brainy commented as he took his refilled bowl. "I only hope he can smurf here a bit longer!"
"So do I, Brainy, though he does make me jealous that he can smurf up a better bowl of sarsaparilla soup than I can," Greedy remarked. He then turned to Clockwork. "You can smurf back to Handy and whatever else he would need to smurf you for. Thank you for smurfing out lunch, Clockwork!"
"You're welcome, Master Greedy," Clockwork answered before he left.
"Well, if you Smurfs need anything else, including Mr. Entertainment here, I'll be in my kitchen," Greedy told the five lunching Smurfs before he too left the table.
"That's amazing," Brainy commented, still impressed by the improvements Handy made with the new Clockwork Smurf. "Already he's helped smurfed that big branch away from the river, and now he's smurfing lunch for all of us. I wonder if Handy could create another Clockwork Smurf just to smurf with us instead of always having to smurf back to King Gerard."
"This smurf feels uncertain about that, Brainy," Empath replied. "Somehow having one Clockwork Smurf and one Clockwork Smurfette is pretty unique and special, and that it would take away from those qualities if Handy should ever make another one of either."
"I still think Clockwork smurfing out soup like that is real funny," Jokey snickered.
"So how is Hefty now?" Grouchy managed to ask.
Empath sighed. "Still not his own smurfy self yet, Grouchy. The only thing this smurf could find is a little red dot floating around inside him. This smurf doesn't know how it got inside him, or if it has anything to do with why he aged like that so quickly."
"I feel sorry for what happened to the laddie myself, Empath," Duncan said. "He shouldn't worry, though, because me and Tuffy can smurf up the slack for him while he's..."
Suddenly the five of them could hear the clatter of pots and pans in Greedy's kitchen. Empath had a feeling that something similar to what happened to Hefty is now also affecting Greedy.
"Great Ancestors!" Empath exclaimed as he jumped from his table and rushed into the kitchen. He saw that Greedy was on the floor, with his body bloating up like an inflatable raft and his skin turning orange. Somehow he was unable to pick himself up because of his increasing weight.
Empath helped Greedy up on his feet and walked him over to Papa Smurf's house.
This was perhaps the most absurd transformation Papa Smurf had ever seen of any Smurf -- for that day, at the very least. He had Empath examine Greedy on the floor because his weight had caused Papa Smurf's worktable to collapse, and he feared that his chairs and stools would meet the same fate.
"How are you feeling, Greedy?" Papa Smurf asked, feeling a wave of concern that was slowly overtaking his own feeling of restlessness.
"I'm feeling rather heavy, Papa Smurf," Greedy answered, his speech slurred for he could barely move his jaws.
Empath finished his examination. "Greedy has undergone a different kind of transformation, Papa Smurf. His body mass has increased itself to three times his own body weight, most of that mass consisting of fat, his tail has grown thirteen times its normal size and width, and the strangest thing of all is that his skin color has changed."
"What could possibly cause Greedy to smurf into this?" Papa Smurf asked, already sounding annoyed that Empath had described the obvious.
"This smurf is still uncertain about that," Empath answered. "This smurf also found the same thing inside Greedy that was inside Hefty as well -- a small red dot floating around through the bloodstream. This smurf tried to remove it from Hefty earlier to examine it, but it somehow sensed what this smurf was trying to do and evaded my efforts."
"This simply just can't be a smurfincidence," Papa Smurf mused, though the constant throbbing in his head was making it harder for him to think logically. "It looks like we would need to start smurfing everywhere to try finding how this thing smurfed into them as well as smurfing if there's any red dots inside ourselves."
The three of them could hear shrieks from outside Papa Smurf's house. "Sounds like more transmurfations are happening, Empath," Papa Smurf said. "We might as well smurf for ourselves. Greedy, stay right here until we smurf back!"
"I'm not in a hurry to smurf anywhere," Greedy moaned as he watched Papa Smurf and Empath rush out the door.
Papa Smurf and Empath were surprised to run into Vanity, Grouchy, and Jokey, who apparently were the next Smurfs who had undergone a transformation. Vanity had turned all green and scaly, like a lizard. Jokey had turned red with crooked teeth, ragged facial and body hair, and warts all over. Grouchy had turned yellow with horns on his head like a bull and hair coming out of his nose. Beside them was Brainy, looking like he hadn't changed at all but was nevertheless frightened by what he saw happened.
"We were just on our way back to the bridge, Papa Smurf," Brainy explained, "and suddenly those three ended up smurfing like this!"
Vanity was looking into his mirror, fearful of what he saw. "Oh my smurfness, I look terrible! It's not just that I'm smurfing the wrong shade of green, I also look like I could use a good skin smurfenizer!"
"You think that's weird, smurf out Grouchy over here!" Jokey cackled, unfazed by his own mutated condition. "All he smurfs now is a brass ring through his nose!"
"I hate smurfing like this!" Grouchy grumbled, trying to control his temper.
"This case of mutating Smurfs is really starting to smurf like wildfire," Papa Smurf commented, feeling like he was ready to fly off the handle. "We really need to start examining these Smurfs for the cause and soon or else we could all smurf up like this."
"Well, at least I haven't changed yet, Papa Smurf," Brainy confidently stated, "and I don't think you or Empath has changed yet, either."
Just then, the Smurflings came strolling by with Puppy. "Hey, Brainy, did you know that you have a long pink tail smurfing out from behind you?" Slouchy asked casually while the other three were busy trying to stifle their laughing.
Brainy thought the Smurflings were making a bad joke at a very inappropriate time. "Oh, please, my little Smurflings," he scolded them. "Can't you smurf that we don't have the time for your childish smurfy games here?"
As he turned around to scold them, Jokey laughed while Empath, Vanity, and Papa Smurf stared in shock at Brainy's tail, which had turned pink and long like a rat's tail.
"Maybe Brainy will grow some rat ears so we can smurf him a piece of cheese!" Jokey quipped, laughing all the while. Nobody else did.
Empath looked at Papa Smurf, apparently reading what he was thinking. "This smurf believes repairs on the bridge can be delayed. This smurf will get Polaris to help us with this crisis situation!" he said.