The price

by Mikeytron

 Anthony’s husband, Tom, has just turned 40, and is in despair that his body will never become what he wants it to be. Anthony feels powerless to help, until a mysterious entity gives him the opportunity to rewrite Tom’s past– but there is always a price. A dark but hopefully redemptive story about desperation, time travel, and love.

Added: May 2022 Updated: 18 Jun 2022 19,044 words 9,478 views 5.0 stars (24 votes)

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“Take what you want and pay for it, says God”—Unknown

Anthony da Silva found his husband Tom crying in the backyard as the party dwindled to a close. It was Tom’s birthday party, so his absence had certainly been noted. Anthony volunteered to find him, worrying that something wasn’t right. They were husbands, after all. He had a responsibility. Anthony had noticed that Tom was increasingly off all night. What started as a tinge of sullenness during the corny presentation of a cake had snowballed as hours passed. Most of their friends were gone, now, and Anthony thought it likely the few who remained might do a graceful Irish goodbye while he hunted for the missing birthday boy.

He found him in the backyard, crying, as I’ve said. Anthony paused, then, not knowing how to proceed. What should he do?

Tom was athletic, good-looking, and freshly 40. His 16” arms filled the sleeves of his tailored button-up shirt, and his trim pecs, tapered lats, and round shoulders gave the garment a pleasing structure. The shirt was tucked into his jeans, showing a trim waist, nice thighs, and a hard, round muscle butt. In short, he was a stud. Even after all these years, he took Anthony’s breath away.

Anthony stood back, watching Tom’s thick shoulders shaking, lit by the harsh floodlight over the backdoor of the house. He could just barely hear the sound of him crying– they weren’t big, demonstrative sobs. Just sniffles and shaky breaths. Clearly Tom didn’t want anyone to know. He wasn’t doing this for attention. He was holding back as much as he was able. Anthony debated if he should try to sneak back into the house, let Tom come to him in his own time. Tom could be touchy about this sort of thing. He didn’t always want comfort. Sometimes he wanted space.

But it was too late. Tom must have heard him, or sensed his husband’s loving, anxious gaze on his back. He sniffed loudly, dragging the back of his hand across his nose, then turned his face. His blue eyes rose to meet Anthony’s dark ones. His face was puffy, eyes red. He’d clearly been out here a little while before his absence was noted. Anthony felt a pang. How awful, to drop out of your own birthday party and for it to take that long for anyone to even notice you were gone.

But what had been dragging down Tom’s mood all night? What had finally caused him to break and bolt? “What’s wrong, babe?” Anthony asked, trying to figure out if he should be moving in or backing off.

“Everything,” Tom said, his voice thick. “You wouldn’t understand.” He turned away, then. But Anthony wasn’t ready to admit defeat.

“Try me,” Anthony answered. No answer from Tom. “Is it… turning 40?”

Tom sighed shakily. “That’s the tip of the iceberg, yeah.” Anthony kept silent. “You just don’t get it, do you? I’ve tried to explain a hundred times, but…”

Anthony bit his tongue, kept in his own sigh. This again. “I get it, babe, but what can I do about it? You know I’d fix it if I could.”

“Yeah, well, you can’t. You’d need a fucking time machine, wouldn’t you? And a degree in genetic engineering. And a science fiction miracle drug. Whatever. Some dreams don’t come true, do they? No matter how hard you work for them.” Anthony heard Tom’s voice thicken and crack, the tears coming back.

Anthony moved in, ready to fold him into his arms. Tom, though, pulled away. “I’m sorry,” he said, dodging the embrace. “I know you mean well. But… I just can’t see you right now. It makes it worse. Just… just go on to bed. I’ll sleep on the couch, I don’t mind. I’ll be fine tomorrow. I promise I’ll be fine tomorrow. Just… just leave me alone tonight, please.”

Anthony felt like he might cry, himself. It hurt to see the man he loved suffer like this, and to know there wasn’t anything he could do for him– not even comfort him. “Honey, it’s your birthday, you should have the bed, I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Tom took another shaking breath. “No,” he said. “No, your show is in five weeks, you can’t afford a bad night’s sleep. It’s the Olympia qualifier, it’s really important you win. I don’t mind. The couch isn’t so bad. Only one of us fits on it properly anyway.” He gave a shaky, bitter laugh. “At least one of us can be a mass monster, right?” He seemed to hear his own tone. “Ignore me. I don’t mean to be bitter. Please, just… go. I love you, I love you so much, but… go.”

Anthony let his arms fall to his side. Or, he tried to. His enormous lats prevented that, had prevented it for years now, so even at rest his arms were elevated in that permanent gorilla posture only true superheavyweight bodybuilders get without it being a macho act. “I’m sorry, babe. I love you too. I wish…. I wish a lot of things. Please don’t stay out here too long.” Tom said nothing, still facing away. Anthony turned and climbed back into the house, the steps creaking and groaning under the mass of his 280 pounds, each thigh swinging wide around the other, forced to by the sheer overgrown size of its neighbour.

Anthony was a professional bodybuilder, and one of the reigning mass monsters at that. His husband Tom wanted nothing more than to have a body like that, to be a true muscle freak. Since they’d met a decade ago, it was the thing he wanted most. The thing he worked hardest for. And he’d made amazing progress. Tom was muscular, fit, sexy as hell. In any typical crowd, he’d be the standout stud. But he wanted so much more, and more continued to elude him. He wanted to get freaky, and it just wasn’t happening for him.

Anthony watched him work. Helped him in every way he could. When they’d met, Tom had been reedy, thin, reminiscent of a librarian, full of dreams he’d never dared put into action. After a decade of gruelling work, he was a hunk. Anthony was so proud of him. He’d come so far.

But Tom wasn’t a freak, and that’s all he cared about being.

And now, at 40, it felt like he never would be. No wonder he was depressed. No wonder he was hiding from his pro bodybuilder husband in the backyard. Anthony was four years younger, three inches shorter, 80 pounds heavier, and his abs were sharper, his veins more prominent. Despite Tom’s best efforts to come to terms with it, to make peace with it, Anthony knew his freaky huge body hurt Tom as much as it fulfilled his muscle fetish. Therapy sessions, long talks, just the simple passage of time… none of them seemed to really do the trick. Tom was deeply turned on by Anthony’s size, urged him to keep getting bigger and bigger with each year. Yet it also hurt him. Anthony’s massive muscles were a constant reminder that Tom would never reach those same sizes himself, no matter what he did.

The facts were simple. Anthony had what Tom wanted, and, despite working his heart out for a decade, freakdom simply wasn’t in the cards for Tom. It was a pill so bitter that Tom was choking on it, unable to swallow it down. Tonight wasn’t the first time like this, but Anthony felt like it was getting worse, not better, as years passed. As time ran out. As Tom felt the dream slip further and further away from him.

What would it be like in five years? In ten? Anthony felt a tear trickle down his cheek as he prepared for bed. It was all so bitterly unfair. He worried. Would a day come when Tom just couldn’t cope with it? Would he divorce Anthony, for the sake of his sanity? Would he… do something drastic and stupid? Another tear joined the first one, slowly tracing its way down. Funny how he wants me to sleep so my contest prep doesn’t take a hit… as if I could sleep right now!

The last thing Anthony did before bed was swallow the fistful of pills he took every night. Magnesium, melatonin, other things designed to help push his already overdeveloped body just that tiny bit further, or to hopefully safeguard his health from the effects of going so far beyond what nature intended.

There was one other pill. Something new. His university roommate, Ihsan, a muscle fetishist like Anthony and Tom, had turned his chemistry degree into running his own supplement and sports research company. Anthony supposed in another life he himself had finished university and become Ihsan’s partner. Instead, he’d dropped out a year before graduating to pursue bodybuilding full time. Not that Anthony thought he’d made a mistake– I mean, look at me, I’m going to finish top six in this year’s Olympia. He was glad he’d remained friends with Ihan. The scientist visited for a week every summer, and he was always in the crowd cheering if Anthony had an important show. He was a faithful friend.

The pill Ihsan had Anthony taking wasn’t anything revolutionary. Anthony had agreed to trial it for him. It was just some overnight thing to help burn fat and retain muscle. This prep had been his best ever, but not outlandishly good, and he wasn’t sure he could credit Ihsan’s little pill for the tiny improvement. He was doing dozens of things to optimize his performance, who knew how well this new supplement worked, how much of his success was due to it, if any?

Ihsan was always threatening to revolutize bodybuilding. He claimed to be working on some formula that would pile on muscle way faster than any steroid. But it was always a couple of years away from being ready– for more than a decade now. It was a shame. If only he had come through on that promise, maybe Tom wouldn’t be in the dilemma he was in now– 40 years old, breaking his heart and his body trying and failing to attain something like what Anthony had.

Poor Tom. Anthony glanced out the window as he crawled into bed. His husband was still sitting in the backyard, facing away from the house.

And he expects me to sleep…!

Anthony’s thoughts were turning, turning, turning over his husband’s heartbreaking dilemma, over the sheer unfairness that seemed baked into existence. If only there was something he could do…! He didn’t remember drifting off, but clearly it happened at some point, because he began to dream, and, improbably, that’s when both of their lives changed.


The backyard was the same, yet not the same at all. Anthony remembered a full moon before he tripped the motion detectors, harsh floodlights cutting angular yellow and black shapes across the space. But now, as he moved away from the house, everything was illuminated by a pale blue light that seemed to come from nowhere. There was no moon in the sky. His movement provoked no response from the vigilant lights above the back door.

Tom was still there. Still seated as he had been, back to Anthony. But it was not the same. There was no motion. No sound. Eerie. It was as if Anthony was gliding through a photograph. Tom was like some strange statue, still as death.

He grew anxious. This wasn’t a nightmare, not quite. But it didn’t feel right. “Tom!” he called out.

“You would help this one,” a voice came. Not Tom’s voice. Anthony tried to spin around. It was only then he realized he had no body in this space. He had no form. He was merely… a presence. An essence. Instead of spinning quickly, as he would normally do, his view rotated gradually, like a slow camera pan.

There was something standing behind him, watching him. Watching him watch Tom. It was huge. Anthony’s vision kept gliding past it, like he couldn’t force himself to look directly at it. He only could grasp snippets of detail. It had form, definitely. It was not a human form, definitely not. But it had human attributes. Veins. Musculature. Hair. Anthony could not say if it had a face.

“You would help this one,” it said again. There was no mouth from which the voice might have come. There was no air through which sound might travel. Anthony just received the words, somehow.

“I love him,” he replied, as if that was answer enough.

The being seemed to assess him. “You do,” it concluded. “I will help you help him.”

“Why?”

The being paused, as if the question was so simple it may not have warranted an answer. “The hurt in him is great,” it finally said.

“It is,” Anthony answered. He found himself alongside the being, both of them watching Tom’s motionless, frozen form.

“This is a single point in time,” the being explained. “You are asleep in the room upstairs. He has been sitting here alone for some time. He will give into his despair shortly after this moment. He has almost given in. There is very little strength left in him.”

Anthony felt a wild stabbing inside of him. “You don’t mean…?”

The being paused again, once more assessing. “No. Not yet. But if he loses his fight tonight, and he will, he will be permanently… lesser. The blow will not kill him, yet. But eventually. Slowly. It will.”

“I have to help him! Let me wake up! Let me go to him!”

The being gave the impression of shaking its head without moving. “No. You can do nothing. My observations indicate, if anything, your presence will worsen the outcome. He loves you, but you open the wound as you stitch it closed. If you understand my metaphor.”

Anthony gazed at the frozen form of his husband, drowning in misery, minutes from slipping away. If he had a throat, it would have spasmed with a wretched sob. As it was, he felt his soul contract as if squeezed by a cruel fist, tightening. He felt so helpless. “Please. There must be something I can do.”

“There is, or I would not have brought you here. He is consumed by… regret. Mortals cannot change their past, that is one of the precepts. But there is nothing to say one mortal may not change the past of another. I have come to offer you the chance to change his.”

“I… but… who are you?”

The being did not answer. The endless frozen moment stretched like an empty tundra. Anthony accepted his question would not be given a reply.

“So. I can change Tom’s past, is what you’re saying,” Anthony continued, eventually.

“Correct. But I must warn you. It will take something from you. Your lives are twined together, like strands in a rope, to alter one will alter another. I cannot predict the changes you will affect, and I cannot tell you what the outcome will be. I can only provide you the opportunity to act.”

“So, I can give Tom something, but something will be taken from me.”

“That is imprecise but not incorrect,” the being replied.

“The law of equivalent exchange,” Anthony muttered to himself. He felt a quizzical emotion in the being next to him, but he decided not to explain himself. Two can play at the being enigmatic game. “So I can change Tom’s past. How?”

“I will give you a talisman. It will be in your hand when you wake. It will allow you, and only you, to travel back to a day in Tom’s past. You will have that day– just that day– to effect what changes you would. You must wear a face not your own, but in the space between now and then you will have an opportunity to determine how you will appear.”

Anthony was silent, considering. “So I can go back to some day in Tom’s past, and I can do something for him. But because Tom’s life will be different, my life will be different, and I can’t know how until after it’s done.”

The being did not move, but Anthony felt it nod. “Yes.”

“And if I do nothing, Tom will be lost by morning.”

Once again the being nodded without nodding. “Yes.”

Anthony looked at the frozen form of his husband. He had to try. There was nothing else he could do. Certain doom on one hand, a chance at something better on the other… the choice was clear.

“Okay. I’ll do it. I have to do it.” He felt a warmth and relief from the being, and then he realized it had been nervous up until this point. Maybe it really does just want to help.

“Then wake,” the being said, and Anthony felt himself receding like a wave pulling away from a beach, the frozen form of his despairing husband growing dim, then winking out of view.

Hi. My name’s Tom. You ever think about how your life can change in a single day? How maybe one conversation you have with someone might put them on a totally different path? I’ll tell you an example from my own past.

Growing up, I was afraid of the gym. I’ve had a major fetish for muscular men and muscle growth as far back as I can remember– I’m talking Saturday morning cartoons and comic books. Stealing guilty glimpses of bodybuilding magazines on the rack at the drugstore. The rare good luck of seeing a real bodybuilder just in line at the supermarket or whatever. I couldn’t get enough. And as far as I was concerned, the bigger the better.

I was so scared that anyone would ever find out. If I’m being honest, I was more scared of that than I was of people learning I was gay. Gay was getting to be kind of normal, in some people’s minds. Just like, oh, you like boys instead of girls, that’s simple enough. But jacking off by imagining a 600 pounds muscle freak desperately pumping iron on a quest to get even more massive? If anyone learned about that, they’d think I was a freak. And maybe they’d be right.

All through high school, I stayed far away from the jocks and the weight room. I was skinny, out of shape. Even if I was brave enough to go there– and I wasn’t– I would have had no idea what to do, how to do the exercises. And the guys there terrified me. What if they caught me checking out their bulging arms, their big squatter’s butts? The whole place was a boner-minefield. They’d probably cave my skull in with a dumbbell and claim the gay panic defense. Look, it was the 90s, okay?

But when I started at University, some weird surge of courage made me check out the campus gym during my first week. I’m so glad I did, even though it was almost a disaster. Like I said, it changed my life.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was milling around the machines, far too intimidated to go anywhere near the free weight section, casting furtive guilty glances at the studs strutting around, sweaty muscles on display, guys who clearly knew what they were doing. I probably did some machine bicep curls or something random, and I bet even then my form and execution were garbage. I was truly clueless. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I could feel the little courage that had got me this far wilting. I was seconds away from getting the hell out of there and never coming back.

But then he appeared. This super friendly guy on staff. He clearly saw that I needed help. He made a bee-line for me, big friendly smile on his face. God, he was hot. Looked kind of like a rugby player, real strong and powerful body. Prominent roman nose, ice-blue eyes, dark hair in a bedhead. He just said “I see you’re in need of a little help, I’d love to teach you the basics.” But the way he said it– it was so warm and enthusiastic. It didn’t seem judgemental at all. In fact, it made me think of how I’d be if someone asked me to give a plot summary of one of my favourite anime (yes, that should tell you all you need to know about my teen years). He was just so happy and eager to show me the ropes. Despite his imposing body and powerful facial features, something about him was almost puppy-like.

We must have spent three hours in the gym. Maybe more. In fact we even took a break for a protein shake halfway. He showed me everything. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, the works. We kept at every movement until I had the form nailed down. The weights I was moving were about what you’d expect– pretty pathetic. I had zero athletic background, after all. But he promised me that this thing called “newbie gains” would happen to me, and that if I kept coming in I’d get strong, fast.

Then he sat down and made a workout plan for me. Made a nutritional plan for me. Explained to me concepts like progressive overload. He was so warm and friendly, I never felt like he was lecturing me, or judging me for how ignorant and weak I was.

I’m kind of embarrassed to say, but toward the end of it I almost started crying. I remember feeling my eyes get hot and my chest get tight. No one had ever been so kind to me before. No one had ever believed in me like this. And here was this guy who didn’t know me, didn’t owe me anything, spending so much time and energy to help me do this thing I’d always wanted to do, was always too scared to do. It sounds corny, but he was treating me with this loving care that I’d never felt from anyone ever before.

My life wasn’t easy. I wasn’t just a gay nerd. My parents split up when I was pretty young. My mom was critical, judgemental, seemed to feel the need to put me down. My dad would rather pretend I didn’t exist. I didn’t have any older brothers or cousins who cared about me, no one to mentor me, guide me. I learned to expect nothing from others, and, sadly, most times those expectations were met.

This guy… he was doing all this, going so far out of his way to help me. No one had ever been so nice to me before. No one had ever believed in me like this before.

“Will you… will you be here next time I come in to work out? In case I forget some of the form stuff you taught me, or…?”

He looked so sad then. “No, ah… I start a study abroad program in a couple of days. I actually fly out tomorrow. I’ll be gone for two semesters. But hey, when I get back, you can surprise me with just how strong you’ve gotten, right?”

My heart fell. I worried about fucking it up. Sure, I did okay with him here to guide me, but coming in alone, to bench press this puny weight while the big guys around me are pushing three times that? What if I get scared? What if I fuck it up, forget the form he taught me? What if they make fun of me, or catch me staring at them? I didn’t belong here, and a few hours of intense tutorial and a pep talk didn’t change that.

I remember. He must have been able to tell I was getting emotional. He looked me straight in the eye, he put his big warm hand on my skinny little shoulder, and he said “I believe in you” with so much conviction it almost felt like he was casting a spell on me. “You can do this. I know you can. Your whole life has been trying to teach you that you can’t, but listen to me. You can! I know you can!”

That was almost 22 years ago, but you know what? He was right. I started going to the gym religiously after that, and I’ve never stopped. Lifting has been my rock, my religion. I sometimes wonder what happened to him. I can’t even remember his name, to my eternal shame. But he absolutely changed my life, and I owe the person I am today to him. Isn’t it funny how just one day can change everything?


Anthony released his grip on the talisman with a gasp like he’d just been dunked in ice water. It was deeply disorienting to feel his consciousness return to his super heavyweight body, so much bigger than the college stud persona he’d inhabited. The past was slow to fade, like afterimages from a bright light, while the present swirled around him like an explosion of glass, flickering, darting, cutting, insisting on itself. There was this sickening lurch as well, like a car taking a turn too fast, threatening to flip. Reality was changing around him. He could feel it. It wasn’t happening all at once. Whatever he’d done, it had ripped threads from the pattern of what was, and what is rushed in to knit up the damage, but it wasn’t an instant process.

He tossed the talisman on the bed– it was just a round stone, it wouldn’t break– and rushed downstairs, his heart hammering. I can give Tom something, but something will be taken from me. His mind raced. What would it be? Would they even still be married? It would be so bitterly ironic if the price Anthony paid for saving Tom’s dreams, ultimately saving his life, was losing the love that motivated him to do it in the first place.

Tom was sleeping on the couch. Anthony’s heart sank. His body looked the same. I failed, he thought miserably. It had gone so well, he thought. He’d spent hours teaching Tom everything he needed to know, making sure he’d lift right and eat right from age 18, instead of age 30. An extra 12 years of growing. But he looked the same!

The feeling of reality lurching came again, and Anthony felt a kind of vertigo flip his stomach. As this happened, Tom… began to change.

His muscles visibly throbbed. His legs and ass were practically quaking as meat piled onto his frame. His shorts rode up, then ripped, as each thigh surpassed thirty inches in circumference. Fuck, how big were his legs going to get?? The quad separation was insane. His ass surged outwards, a real squatter’s butt, tearing the shorts again, on another axis. His shoulders broadened, his pecs squashed together– he was lying on his side– the cleavage between them deepening. His arms bloated up, sixteen inches becoming an easy eighteen– but they weren’t as impressive as his lower body.

The couch audibly groaned under his weight. If he had gone to bed at about 200 pounds, he was now an easy 260, with the lion’s share of the growth going to his lower body. His quads and ass were frankly eye-popping. A modest belly poked out of his middle– nothing close to a six-pack.

Anthony watched, his cock hardening uncontrollably. Tom was still asleep, the massive man’s chest rising and falling slowly with each breath. He scanned the room, feeling it rearrange. His bodybuilding trophies and stage photos were now joined by powerlifting trophies, pictures of Tom in a singlet, deadlifting a crazy weight, winning his tournament.

Tom was a natural powerlifter, and a good one. A competitive one. His mysterious one-day mentor at the start of University had taught him the compound lifts, and he had never strayed far from that path. Squats, bench presses, deadlifts. His body was built for power, and it looked like it.

Anthony felt his mind race. He couldn’t remember how they’d met. Oh fuck. How did they meet? Panic spiking. He couldn’t remember how they’d met!

What was he freaking out about? Of course he remembered how they met. Tom asked him to give him a spot the first time he benched four plates, a weight Anthony had never shifted in his whole bodybuilding career, and then they teased each other about little differences between bodybuilding and powerlifting. Anything more than five reps is cardio, Tom would snipe. At least I don’t take ten minute rests between sets, Anthony would scoff in return. That kind of thing. They became gym pals, then lifting partners, then fuck buddies, then boyfriends, then husbands. They came to each other’s contests, cheered for each other, had each other’s backs no matter what.

The feeling of reality lurching and reknitting itself faded. Anthony stood there, amazed. It actually fucking worked. Wow. Tom gave a dreadful choking snore. He’s going to suffocate on his own meat without his cpap machine! Anthony thought reflexively. Woah, Tom has a cpap machine now, came a following thought, one part of his mind somehow amazed at something the other part of his mind took as simple mundane knowledge.

“Hey, Tom, wake up,” Anthony said, unable to hold back his glee. His big powerlifter husband snorted like a bear coming out of hibernation.

“Uh. What. Why the fuck am I sleeping on the couch?”

“I dunno, big guy, you tell me? You sounded like you were choking to death.”

Tom groaned, his mile-wide shoulders lifting in a giant shrugging yawn. “I must have fallen asleep by accident. Boy, I feel like shit without that cpap. Like I didn’t get any sleep at all.”

“Take a nap later? Let’s celebrate, I want to make waffles.”

Tom’s eyebrows drew down. “Don’t be stupid, Ant. You’ve got your show coming up in five weeks. This is probably one of your last chances to win a pro card, you know. You’re not a young man anymore.”

Win a pro card…? But Anthony had been a pro for years, he’d competed at the Olympia, he was gonna do it again this year, he was favoured to make top six, he… he felt his mouth open and shut like a fish. Tom obviously noticed this. “Sorry, babe, I know age is a touchy subject. Didn’t I just turn 40? You’re 36, it’s not too late, but it’s gonna be too late before you know it. This show is really important for you and I won’t have you blowing your prep with waffles. Now c’mere, there’s one kind of sugar that’s still on your menu.” Tom reached out to pull Anthony on top of him, enveloping him in a huge, hard embrace. “My little muscle boy toy,” Tom grunted fondly as he kissed Anthony’s neck and squeezed his lats.

Something will be taken from me…. one part of Anthony’s mind raced. Well, I’m still a top ranked amateur with a realistic shot at a pro card… that’s… not that bad… I’ll deal with it later, Tom’s gonna notice something is off. He closed his eyes, losing himself in the kiss, feeling his cock harden to meet Tom’s, two swords crossing. Breakfast would have to wait.

“Two strings speak in sympathy: what would we do without you?”—Kate Bush

Tom found the talisman on the bed later that same day. “Hey, babe, what’s this?” he said, waddling into the kitchen where Anthony was busy prepping meals for the rest of the week.

Anthony felt his mouth go dry. What if Tom used the talisman without knowing? No, he didn’t know the phrase that activated it, and it wasn’t the sort of thing you’d say by accident. He should throw the thing away, still. It was too dangerous. Say something, idiot, Tom’s getting suspicious. “Oh, it’s just, uh, this little meditation stone I got, it’s supposed to help with my prep anxiety.”

Tom looked at it, grunted. “Sounds fake, but whatever, if it helps. What’s this symbol on it?” He held it up for Anthony to see. Two sinuous lines, tightly curving around each other.

“I… don’t know. It’s just a worry-stone, babe, I didn’t think too deeply about it.” Anthony was telling the truth, he’d never noticed the sigil on the stone before, and he had no idea what it was. The entity’s trademark, as it were? Something else?

As days and weeks passed, it became harder and harder for Anthony to remember the way things had been before. He knew Tom had been a frustrated amateur bodybuilder, far smaller than he wanted to be, yet every day he woke up next to a big powerlifter, enormous legs and ass, bowed-out musclegut. That was Tom, he’d already been pretty large when they first met. Had he ever been frustrated, small? Yes, obviously. As a scrawny anxious teenager, when I went back in time in disguise and taught him how to lift. But had that really happened? Anthony kept telling himself it had. He kept trying to remember Tom as the fit conventional stud he had been, on the day of his 40th birthday party. But the more time passed, the more outlandish it seemed. Did Anthony really have a weird dream? Where he met some mysterious entity he couldn’t describe? And the entity sent him back in time to change Tom’s life? And Tom had grown into this… burly bear of a man, as a result? It seemed like a psychosis, a hallucination, a delusion.

The bitter part was the nagging knowledge that he, himself, Anthony, he had been more. He had been an IFBB pro, and a prominent one at that. A world-famous bodybuilding mass monster. Now he was a prominent amateur, vying for his pro card, a strong contender but by no means a shoe-in. He probably would never make it to the Olympia stage, being realistic. Why should the change in Tom have caused this corresponding change in him? Did having a powerlifting husband somehow dull his ambition, his drive? Was it something else?

Wasn’t this all a delusion, too? The idea that he not only deserved more, but he actually had more, before… all these crazy cosmic life changes?

It had to be fake. He should let go of it. Accept reality as it was, not how some crazy voice inside him told him it used to be. It was the tren, it made people crazy. The tren and the low carb diet and the anxiety. But usually it just, like, made people jealous, or short tempered. It did not make people invent grand cosmic conspiracy theories about alternate timelines.

But the little stone talisman kept some small part of Anthony believing. And so he kept it around, in the little box where he stored his gear. Next to the unopened vials of tren and test, by the blister packs of anavar. This small round stone that fit easily in the palm, with the inscrutable sigil in its centre. Two lines, curving around each other.

Part the veil of what is, so that I might touch what was. That was the phrase to say while you held it. Anthony repeated it to himself every day. Don’t forget it! You might need it again!


Anthony didn’t win his pro card.

It was probably his best stage look ever. Well, his best stage look in this timeline, he mentally corrected himself, then felt crazy for doing so. He was a ripped 245 pounds, his posing was fantastic, he came in diced and dry. But there was just one guy there who was a little bigger, a little better, and that’s all it takes. The other guy was younger, too, by a full decade. 26 versus Anthony’s 36. Anthony knew he should be proud of himself. He knew he still had his sponsorships, his clients. He was still a major bodybuilder who turned heads everywhere he went, got stared at in the supermarket and the mall. He had sixty thousand followers on instagram and was a minor celebrity in gay muscle circles. But he’d really wanted to get that pro card, and well, this did feel like his last realistic chance at it.

And he couldn’t silence that little voice in the back of his head. You’re meant to be bigger than this. Better than this. You’re supposed to be a top tier pro. You’ve been diminished. Made smaller. The thoughts throbbing like an infected wound.

He kept a brave face during the celebration after. He was gracious and sportsmanlike to the winner and the other competitors. A lot of them were respectful of him, too. The young ones even fanboyed, a couple of them, said Anthony was an inspiration to them when they were teenagers getting started. They meant well, but boy did that make him feel old.

Back at the house, he couldn’t sleep. He’d given it all and it hadn’t been enough. What had changed? The memories of standing on the Olympia stage, a ripped-to-the-bone 285 pounds, were fading, like memories of a dream. He should let them go. They were a weird delusion. There’s no way they were real. He had to accept this. He was a very good amateur bodybuilder. It’s not like that’s an awful fate. Many people longed for what he had, and would break themselves trying to acquire half of it.

Yet it wasn’t enough. The feeling of wrongness persisted.

He got out of bed. Tom’s CPAP machine gently whispered as it pushed air into the hulking powerlifter. He was out like a light. He slept like the dead, always. Anthony looked at him, fondly, his short-cropped messy blond hair. He was handsome enough to be a model, which made his desire to grow into an ugly mountain of mass all the hotter.

He always wanted to be bigger, too, he thought. Like me. That had united them, the desire to become monstrously huge, impractically enormous, frenzied shared sex fantasies of being 400 pounds, 500 pounds, 700 pounds, more, more, more. Ugly, useless, excessive, impractical muscle size. It turned both of them on, it fueled both of them in the gym, in the kitchen, in the bedroom.

Yet Tom stuck doggedly to powerlifting. A sport where size matters only inasmuch as it helps you lift more weight. How you look doesn’t matter, only what you can do. I guess there’s something respectable in that, Anthony thought, watching Tom, but I know him, I know he wants to be a real muscle freak. Like how I used to be. If I’m not crazy. No, not like that. Bigger than that. Tom wants to be the freakiest muscle mutant imaginable. No, beyond imagining.

Tom never made the switch to bodybuilding, mass for mass’s sake. Maybe he’d gotten stuck in his ways. Maybe he was still a little scared of it. He’d only done a couple of modest cycles, after all, years ago now. The powerlifting federations he competed in were tested, so he stayed off the juice, but… was that really the reason why? Anthony knew if Tom could snap his fingers, he’d look like Dorian Yates or Jean Pierre Fux in their prime, those brutally huge 90’s mass monsters, bodybuilding legends. Honestly, the thought made his dick jump, his mind’s eye morphing Tom’s muscular-but-chubby body into a warped freak of nature, 300 pounds of raw veiny skin-splitting muscle.

Why hadn’t he pursued a goal like that? Maybe he was scared. Maybe he wanted to stick with what he knew. Anthony studied the hulking man, his face peaceful in slumber. Fuck, it would be hot, him as a super heavyweight bodybuilder.

And maybe if he was a bodybuilder, I wouldn’t have missed my chances and squandered my potential… maybe. Maybe I’d be huge again, like I was. We would be a bodybuilding power couple, driving each other to get bigger and bigger… Anthony’s cock was throbbing as he quietly opened the lockbox where he kept his gear.

He felt foolish. This wasn’t going to work. But why not try it? Why not indulge the fantasy?

He carefully grasped the smooth round stone, which fit so perfectly into the palm of his hand. He spoke quietly, careful not to wake Tom– he’d never be able to explain what he was doing, indulging these foolish delusions, if Tom woke up and saw him hunched over his steroids, muttering at a rock.

“Part the veil of what is, so that I might touch what was.”

The room blurred and faded, like a polaroid developing in reverse, and if Anthony had lungs to breathe he would have gasped.


Hey, Tom again. So, I told you all about that trainer at the university gym who changed my life, back when I was 18. Taught me how to lift, how to eat, and gave me the confidence to keep doing it until the results got me addicted. I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about the other random thing that happened four years later, but you can’t really understand how I got like this without hearing about it, so, buckle up.

Once I got strong I got a lot more confident. I started going out. I guess every gay guy has a bit of a slut phase when he first comes out of his shell, and honestly, it’s probably just part of maturing, sexually. You want to have fun, explore, try new things, meet new people, figure out what you like. It’s natural, right?

I was a hit at the gay clubs. We didn’t have apps back then, but if we did I’m sure it would have been the same. All those heavy squats and deadlifts had given me an ass that wouldn’t quit. Just a massive meaty bubble butt. And my thighs were insane. Even though I’d never had a six pack, I still had trouble buying pants. I’d have to get a waist size way too big just to fit my monster glutes and thunder thighs.

I dated a few guys casually but nothing lasted more than a couple months, and that was fine. I wasn’t looking for romance.

But then this one guy… fuck. He changed my life. Hottest guy I’ve ever seen.

I was 22. He took my breath away when I first glimpsed him across the club. He was probably five or six years older than me. Darkly handsome, beguiling really. And everything below the face… holy hell. Every eye in the club was on him. He had to be a good 270 pounds, six feet tall, almost all of it muscle, just the slightest touch of fat here and there, to fill out his ass, to make his muscles look fuller, to make his facial features defined but not gaunt. He must be a tourist, I’d never seen him before. And from the way everyone stared, some blatant, some trying to hide it, no one else recognized him either. He spotted me on the floor, a pink light flashing across his features at just the right moment. He looked determined, decisive. He came my way. He moved like a dancer. He moved like a hunter. He moved like a dream.

We didn’t talk, not using words. He seemed to know my body, how it moved where I like to be touched. I felt every hard curve of him fit into me like two puzzle pieces. All eyes on us, a mix of envy and lust. Me, the cornfed blond muscle bottom with the big ass, somehow chosen by this dark sexy muscle god, the attention every man in the room hungered for, all of it poured into me.

I’ve always been into bodybuilders. The bigger, the better. Muscle magazines were my porno when I was young. Even now, I’ve got to think about the biggest of the big to get off, men who have left normalcy and nature so far behind they barely look real.

Bigger men came to this bar, yes. That was its reputation. But bears, muscle cubs, gym gays… all of them were okay, but none of them truly excited me, they had muscle but not enough of it. I had to use my imagination to get off every time I went home with one of them. And my imagination ignored all limits, all sanity. I’d shoot my load thinking about how each thrust into my ass was adding fifty pounds of muscle to me, and as he jackhammered I’d swell and swell and crush the walls of the room, and that’s what would get me off.

But this guy… he wouldn’t require a fantasy. He looked like a super heavyweight who’d had a contest a month ago, still ripped, but filled out, muscles fit to pop, skin struggling to hold it all in.

You never saw guys like this at a gay bar. You almost never saw them anywhere. He was an actual, proper bodybuilder. A handsome one. And he was into me. And only me. It was too good to be true. It felt like a fantasy.

“Let’s go back to my room,” he whispered when the beat fell away during a transition between songs. His breath hot in my ear, sending shivers down my body. My knees were weak.

“I’d like that,” I managed to say, pleased I hadn’t babbled or embarrassed myself.

I tried to get him chatting on the couple of blocks’ walk to his hotel. “Shhhh,” he said, smiling at me to show he wasn’t angry or annoyed. Holy fuck, seen on a well-lit street, without the disorienting flashing lights and pounding sound, he was… he was otherworldly. Demonic. Testosterone personified. Every cell in my body felt magnetised to him. His club t-shirt could barely hold him in, the sleeves trying and failing to cover even his volleyball-sized delts, the round curve of his pecs perfect, like pillows carved of stone. His forearms almost like turkey legs, except veiny, hairy, fibres of muscle shifting and readjusting with every small movement of his hands and fingers.

Somehow we got to the hotel without me fainting or jizzing in my pants.

And it was even better than I could have dreamed. He knew just how to drive me wild, like he’d studied a manual on my body. We fucked energetically, falling onto opposite ends of the bed to cool off, then coming together to cuddle, then he’d start slowly humping his hips against my big ass, subtly at first, but then insistently, then we’d be off on another round.

It was after the last fuck, as we flopped apart, steam all but rising from us, that I breathed in wonder, “your body is incredible.”

He grinned at me, flashing his perfect teeth. “Your’s is pretty awesome, too.”

“Yeah but… your muscles. You’re huge. I wish I looked like you.”

He studied me for a minute, as if deciding something. Then he hopped up from the bed. He was naked. His ass shifted and flexed with each step as he walked over to his luggage, semi-soft cock dangling and still drooling a little, a tiny diamond filament connecting its drooping head to his bulging thigh.

He was doing something. Rustling, like opening a plastic package. I heard a sound like someone flicking their finger against hard plastic. He was holding something up to the window, as if to see it backlit. All I could see were his massive lats, shifting and bulging as he worked, a cobra hood of secrecy. His back was turned to me for more than a minute, and he was silent the entire time.

Then he turned to me. His cock was fully hard again, now, bobbing and pulsing. He was wearing a devilish grin. In one hand, he held a syringe and needle. In the other, an alcohol swab. “Give me that ass one more time,” he said, his voice so deep, so sexy.

I knew what he was going to do. I’d considered it, but like… where do you even find steroids? How do you know who to trust? None of my friends lifted, and the guys at the powerlifting gym I went to were all pretty negative about them, and about bodybuilders in general. Vain drug-abusers, that was the orthodoxy. So I just followed their culture.

But I wanted a roided-up body. Desperately. It’s all I thought about. It’s the only thing that got my dick hard.

And here was this muscle god, this muscle demon, walking toward me in a dark hotel room, a pillar of moonlight casting shadows across his outrageous bulging body, the tip of the needle all but glinting as he waited for me to present, to submit, to be initiated.

He owned me in that moment. I would have done anything he asked, but it helped that this was something I’d wanted, I’d dreamed about, a gift I’d never been able to give to myself.

It didn’t hurt at all, that’s the surprising part.

After, sitting together on the bed, a massive dose of testosterone slowly diffusing through my body, he talked me through it, told me what I needed to know. He gave me the vial, and a couple others, enough to last a couple of months. He told me how to get more, wrote it down for me. He gave me the needles and syringes. He explained the technique. He explained how to do it safely, the importance of being sanitary, being diligent with the alcohol swabs, never reusing equipment. Explained to me about AI and PCT and esters and quizzed me on it.

By then it was almost morning. I wanted to get breakfast together, but he explained he had to go to the airport. He was flying home. Where did he live? Far away. I wanted to ask for his contact info. But I didn’t want to seem desperate. He’d just given me this enormous gift, if he wanted to end it here, well…

I didn’t even know his name. It was morning now, the sunrise catching the eastern horizon on fire, and we were still in his hotel room. He was all packed up, ready to go. I got dressed glumly, the excitement of my first ever steroid shot now dulled by this… unparalleled muscle god leaving me, now that he’d taken what he wanted from me. He had given in return, true, but… Random hookups never got me catching feelings, yet this one was different.

“I don’t even know your name,” I said, trying to be casual, hearing how desperately sad my voice sounded.

He paused then, his coat half on, his suitcase by the door. “My name…” he hesitated then, like he didn’t even want to give it. “My name’s Tony,” he said. “I…” He was struggling with something. “Look, kid, there’s something really special about you. Thank you so much for tonight. You’re going to be a monster on that juice, I just know it. Keep lifting, keep growing, never stop, never give up. You’re going to make the right man… so, so happy, some day. I know it. It… it can’t be me. I really do have to go. I….” he stopped himself. What had he been about to say?

Without warning, he flew over to me, his big muscular arms wrapped around me, and he squeezed me so hard my ribs creaked. “Take care of yourself, Tom.” His voice was thick, strange sounding, almost strangled.

Then he was out the door before I could even come back to my senses. I sat back down on the edge of the bed, dazed, staring at the innocent-looking CVS bag that had the vials of test and the needles and the syringes and everything in it, ready for me to take home and start a whole new phase of my life.

Take care of yourself, Tom.

To this day, I swear, I never told that man my name.

Anthony had a minute or two in the hotel lobby as ‘Tony’ before the magic began to pull him back to the future. The present. He was hyperventilating. He had been so focused on what his intervention would do to Tom’s body. Get him off powerlifting and onto bodybuilding at 22, get him roiding, and after 18 years of that he’d be monstrous in their shared present time. He hadn’t thought about what effect his intervention might have on the young man’s emotions. The poor kid. He was really wounded at ‘Tony’ pulling a fuck-and-run.

I tried to fix it, fuck I tried, but maybe it made it worse. ‘Tony’ gave a raw sudden sob. ‘You can give Tom something, but something will be taken from you.’ Last time it was thirty pounds of muscle and his status as a major IFBB pro that Anthony lost. What would it be this time? Would it be their life together? Their marriage? Their love? What had he done?

He could feel himself being pulled forward in time, could feel ‘Tony,’ the body and face he’d designed to be irresistible to young Tom, dissolve into the nothing it had come from. “No, please, I—!” he called out in fear before he de-corporealized.

Eighteen years later, Anthony’s heart hammered as he thudded back into his true body with a sickening lurch. Reality was really out of joint now, it was much worse than the first time. Nauseating. Or was he sick with fear?

Head still spinning, he turned toward the bed where Tom had been sleeping, catching his hand on the wall to stop himself from falling over. He was dizzy.

Tom was still there. Still sleeping. Still hooked up to a CPAP. Still a giant fuzzy blond bear of a powerlifter. Anthony frowned. Nothing had changed. Yet reality itself felt so… wrong. Unresolved. A discordant tone without resolution. A dam on the verge of bursting. Anthony looked down, pawed at himself. His body was the same, too. The same not-quite-good-enough amateur bodybuilder physique he’d had before this… misadventure.

Anthony felt himself begin to be sick. He swallowed it down, tasting bile.

Then, reality began to shift and change.

It was… so much more than the first time. Their house was flying apart as if a tornado had just materialised right on top of it. Anthony threw himself at the bed, grabbing at Tom, only for the bed to rip itself apart into nothingness as he grasped his big beefy husband. They were falling through nothingness, Anthony quickly lost any sense of which way was up, yet the intense vertigo made him certain they were moving, moving at a terrible velocity.

Tom’s body began to shift and change as Anthony held it. Anthony was terrified, now, clutching at Tom with all his might. Yet somehow, Tom was still asleep, his handsome features relaxed, unconcerned.

He was changing.

His fat power-gut was melting, receding. Abs emerged, faint at first, then crisper, sharper, then razor-defined, then bulging bigger, fat-free, each muscle itself so huge, making Tom’s abdomen segmented, cobbled, iron-hard yet curvaceous.

His small-for-his-size arms—powerlifters don’t do bicep curls!—ballooned, going from 18 inches to 19, to 20, to 21, to… fuck, when would they stop? The double-lobed bicep hanging a little under its own weight, the tricep too big for any horseshoe Anthony had ever seen.

His pecs bloated, surged, meat piling up on meat, red stretch marks radiating from his armpit. You could lose a hand in his cleavage. Fuck. His delts popped, bigger and bigger, his neck thickened, his traps rose like loaves of bread dough under a time lapse, plumping up toward his ears. Blood vessels etched themselves all over his body, thickening, growing more prominent, the vast surplus of muscle tissue he had crammed onto his frame demanding insane quantities of oxygen and nutrients, his superhuman workouts producing outrageous amounts of waste metabolites in his muscles for his veins to shuttle away.

Despite Anthony’s terror at what was happening, at the unknown ways their life together was reshaping itself, he found himself rock hard, his arms literally pulling apart as Tom’s lats swelled and swelled, his hands no longer able to meet, the gap growing as the meat on his back just piled up more and more. Six inch gap, ten inch gap, fifteen inch gap… Tom’s chest had to measure bigger around than he was tall, at this point.

Anthony grunted. It felt like his own muscles had all been punched simultaneously. One of those knuckle-punches your asshole cousin might give your thigh, to try and make it cramp up. Then, to his giddy delight, he felt his muscles begin to swell, not contract. Fuck. He had been right. Being married to another bodybuilder had pushed him to get even bigger, himself.

But the quality of his muscles was somehow subtly changing. They weren’t quite as dense. They were rounder, fuller. If anything, sexier. But they didn’t quite look like a competitive bodybuilder’s muscles, to the trained and discerning eye.

No time to think about that. Anthony’s cock surged and bucked against the hard cobbles of Tom’s abs. Fuck, it felt good. He was getting bigger. Bigger. Bigger. Fuck, he was bigger now than he had been as an IFBB pro. Holy shit. How huge was he going to get? He humped his hips against Tom’s massive transformed physique as the two of them blew past 300 pounds. Fuck. Fuck! This was… fuck!

With a wordless howl, Anthony felt his load travel down his lengthening penis. Wait, what? His heavy balls pulled up as best they could, the minor muscles dedicated to the job just not up to the task of hoisting his jumbo orbs. Tom had been a little skeptical of Anthony getting so deeply into pumping his junk, but Anthony’s prediction had been right—it had been a huge hit with their audience. It did mean any posing strap he could squeeze into would be far too obscene for him to ever compete again. But who cares about winning bodybuilding competitions, anyway? He’d done one or two just after college, and that was enough of that. That wasn’t his scene.

The nothingness the two muscle freaks had been falling through began to settle into a new room. It was big, airy. Not the suburban home they’d bought and slowly worked on for the last seven years. No. This was a lot trendier. It looked more expensive. It wasn’t a house. It was… fuck, Anthony’s head hurt. It was a penthouse in Miami. Right. They’d been here for a couple of years. The important parties were here, and it was easier to find people to film with here.

And they made more than enough money to afford it, so why not enjoy it?

The two freaks settled into their California King bed as the transformation slowed, nearing completion, the sturdy bed frame easily handling their combined weight of more than 650 pounds. Anthony felt drowsy. He always fell asleep after an orgasm, and his cum was still collecting in the deep gutters between Tom’s bulging abs. Rare for him to shoot a load without it being captured on camera, nowadays. He should enjoy it. Tom was still fast asleep, his pretty face, preserved with botox and subtly improved here and there by the finest surgeons, nestled between his traps, his chin appearing to fit perfectly between his fat oversized pecs from this angle.

Muscle Kings of OnlyFans. Reigning royalty on the circuit. Anthony nuzzled into Tom’s shaved, tanned torso, breathing deep his faintly artificial scent.

Then, without warning, a thud made him wake fully, turn his head.

A flat palm-sized rock had fallen out of nothingness onto the middle of the penthouse bedroom’s floor.


Anthony da Silva, half of the most envied power couple in muscle porn, was having a rough month. He’d always been cheerful, easy-going, unlike his partner, Tom, who was a bit more brooding in his demeanour, more prone to melancholy.

But everyone on the Miami scene noticed a shift in Anthony. He was becoming erratic, unpredictable. For example: Tom and Anthony had agreed to make an appearance at a club night, do a couple of shifts dancing on the stage, but when it was Anthony’s turn to get up he couldn’t be found. The staff eventually discovered him in a bathroom stall, huddled, staring at nothing, muttering to himself. He snapped at them when they tried to hustle him on stage, but then, almost as if remembering himself, his mood seemed to turn on a dime and he was suddenly eager to please, apologetic. He got up there, belatedly, and danced an energetic set, the crowd going wild, stuffing his thong with bills, groping at his bulbous body. He grinned at them as they felt him up, stroking and teasing the crowd’s collective metaphorical cock.

But when one of his regulars approached him after, Anthony was strangely cold, turned down his generous offer, was back to staring at nothing and acting jumpy.

Too many drugs, people figured. A shame. But it almost seemed inevitable to people who went too far into the lifestyle, lingered too long.

Anthony knew his intrusive thoughts, memories that he knew weren’t true, were slowly beginning to ruin his life. His friends, his clients, the gossip circles, even his long-term boyfriend… all of them were looking at him strangely. But these fragments, like vivid dreams, kept pushing in on his mind, and when they had him in their grip he had real trouble turning them off, focusing on what was real.

He was an IFBB pro prepping for a run at the Olympia. No, he was a high level amateur gunning for his pro card. No, the last time he competed he was 26, shortly before he met Tom.

Tom was a nervous, shy guy who spent the last decade going from a skinny-fat wannabe to a fitness model type of build. No, Tom got into powerlifter when he was 18 and he was a big burly musclebear with a round fuzzy powergut. No, Tom was one half of the world’s premiere roidslut muscle-freak porn duo, with Anthony.

Tom had met Anthony through a mutual friend who knew both of their secrets—skinny Tom had the most extreme muscle kink imaginable, meathead Anthony was actually sweet, nerdy, and gentle. No, they met when Tom asked Anthony to spot him the first time he attempted (and got) a four plate bench. No, they met when they’d both been cast for a studio porn scene, back in the days before OnlyFans, and found their chemistry on and off camera too good to ignore.

Their life was routine. Food took a lot of time and effort to prep and eat, but Tom was on top of that. Gym was a bedrock of both their lives. They pinned each other every second day, big doses, lips locking after the shots, moaning, grabbing at each other’s muscles. “Get bigger for me,” one of them would breathe to the other. Almost like a ritual.

Anthony stood on the scale one morning, naked, his unnaturally enlarged cock dangling soft a good seven or eight inches. 322.4 pounds. At 5’10”. Jesus. Fuck. He surveyed himself in the mirror. The fragments of his mind that remembered his professional bodybuilding career screamed out, there was no flow to his physique, no refinement. But the rest of his brain throbbed like an erection, the only word he could think: bigger.

Tom lumbered in, smirked, kicked off his designer briefs, then held up his phone. Recording. Always important to generate content, and slice of life stuff was a reliable hit. “Weighing in, big guy?”

Anthony had developed a performer’s instincts. He flexed for the camera and smiled cockily. Then he stepped back on the scale. It flashed the same digits. 322.4. Tom leaned in, making sure the camera got a good shot of the scale. Then he raised it back up to take in Anthony’s freakishly overdeveloped body, his soft hose of a cock and tennis-ball-sized nuts.

“Your turn,” Anthony murmured, taking the phone from Tom and awkwardly maneuvering around so his boyfriend could step on the scale.

Tom’s back was intense. His lats so overdeveloped they sagged a little under their own weight. His arms propped up in a way that would be comical if it wasn’t so blatantly obvious that he couldn’t lower them no matter how hard he tried. His traps lurching up uneasily almost to his ears; he had no neck, when viewed from behind.

“Check it out,” Tom said in his sexy, low, gravelly voice. Anthony moved the phone around to get a shot of the scale’s digital readout. 338.2 pounds. Anthony felt a moan rise in his throat and he did not suppress it, it would be good for the video for viewers to hear how turned on he was.

“Gonna hit 340 for me, freakshow?” he asked, raising the phone so the video now showed them both in the mirror, two human frames overburdened by muscle. His free hand reached around to grope Tom’s beachball glute.

“That’s just the start,” Tom purred, his cock hardening.

Without warning, Anthony felt a memory from another time, like a splinter in your finger as you’re trying to work with your hands. His bodybuilding career. Tom’s humble body, the result of a decade of gruelling hard work and desperate hope. Anthony’s grip on Tom’s enormous ass tightened as vertigo washed over him. He put the phone down on the counter and hurried out of the room as best as his muscle-fattened legs could carry him, scraping his delts on the doorframe as he neglected to angle himself through. He could feel himself beginning to tremble.

“You ruined the take, asshole!” Tom yelled after him as he left.


There was some new muscle growth supplement quietly spreading through the underground. Nothing FDA approved. Nothing legal. But more and more guys were showing gains that exceeded anything possible with steroids or growth hormone. Bigger, faster. Anthony and Tom’s status as undisputed kings of muscle porn seemed in threat. Being over 300 pounds with abs wasn’t the novelty it had been, and the way some of these guys were growing, it was clear it would be only a matter of months before Anthony and Tom were sized out.

Anthony was looking into it. He was the one with the connections, the more outgoing of the two. But his erratic behaviour of late was coming back to bite him. People didn’t trust him like they used to. And those who thought the sudden changes in his personality, his lapses in cognition, were due to drug abuse—they weren’t likely to hook him up with the newest designer compound.

Finally, though, Anthony was able to get a name and some contact info. Dr. Ihsan Demirci. His jaw dropped when he heard the name. Ihsan. It was his old college friend. The guy had only gone and done it, the thing he’d been threatening to do ever since they were horny students staying late at the lab.

Anthony hadn’t spoken to Ihsan in years. Almost a decade, he was shocked to realize, when he counted up the years. Anthony’s life had really gone down a different path once he shacked up with Tom. There was a time he’d considered applying to grad school, becoming a researcher like Ihsan had done. They could have become partners, co-authored papers, tinkered in the lab making muscle mutant mice and hoping the results would hold when applied to humans in vivo. But instead, his life was… this. Anthony shook his head, trying to dispel the false memories of other selves that crowded his mind every time he began to reflect like this.

I’ve got to contact him, maybe he can hook me and Tom up, Anthony thought. He wouldn’t trust that the old email address from a dozen years ago still worked. And Ihsan wasn’t on any social media, as far as Anthony could tell. He ended up finding his faculty profile on the website of the university where he worked as an associate professor.

Hey San,

Long time no see! I hope you’re doing well. I see your academic career has been going great. Congratulations on the professorship.

I heard through the grapevine about some new research you were doing that might be relevant to my special interests. I wondered if maybe you’d like to chat with me about it. You can give me a call if you’d prefer.

And then Anthony wrote his phone number, signed the email, and clicked send.

Ihsan’s reply came in less than fifteen minutes.

Mr. da Silva,

Our connection lies deep in the past, and I confess I regard it with some bitterness. Perhaps you have forgotten how we parted; I have not forgotten. I will not be able to assist you in this matter and I ask that you not contact me again.

Dr Ihsan Demirci

Anthony sat there, stunned. Had he wronged Ihsan somehow? He couldn’t… he couldn’t remember. Jumbles of memories from three versions of his life squabbled in his head, each one vying for dominance. Ihsan explaining his brilliant idea for a myostatin inhibitor that actually worked, paired with some mechanism that would prevent androgen receptors from being upregulated… asking Anthony to work with him on it… I turned him down to… to pursue bodybuilding full time? Or I just got so caught up in circuit parties and porn…? Anthony knew there were versions of his life where he and Ihsan remained friends. It felt like they were supposed to be friends.

But clearly they were not.

He shut his laptop and stared at the wall. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t even feel the tear trickle down his face, first one, then another, then a third.

Tom waddled in, massive as ever. Anthony gave a start and tried to collect himself as quickly as he could. He sensed Tom being mildly fed up with him and his spacing out, his mood swings. But he just couldn’t stop. He didn’t feel like a coherent person. He felt like the crisp edges of his being were blurred, smudged. “Hey babe,” he forced himself to say, as chirpily as he could manage.

“Any luck with Dr. Demirci?”

Anthony sighed. “No. I think I offended him. He seems like he has a grudge against me. I couldn’t even guess why. I’m sorry, but I think it’s a dead end.”

Tom sighed, clearly disappointed. He fished out his phone. “Look at this,” he said. It was an instagram post from Hunter Labrada. The kid clearly had the hookup that Anthony and Tom lacked. He had piled on fifty pounds of muscle in the last few months. He was posing in a bodybuilding gym’s posing room, the downlighting immaculate, and he looked freaky as fuck.

“Well, at least he’s straight, and he doesn’t do porn,” Anthony said. “So he’s not direct competition.”

“Not the point, Ant. Don’t you want this? Don’t you want us to be the biggest, freakiest, most muscular men in human history? All that bedroom talk—I’m not acting. I’m not joking. I’ve got to get my hands on this stuff, man. Imagine it. I bet I could top 400 pounds, easy. Fucking huge.” Anthony could tell Tom was both turned on at the idea, and frustrated that he couldn’t yet make it a reality.

“I’ll… I’ll do my best,” Anthony said. “You know I’d do anything for you.”

Tom grunted.


It had been another three months, and Anthony still hadn’t been able to find himself and Tom a connection for his former friend Ihsan’s miracle supplement. Meanwhile, more and more guys were blowing up around them, and the guys who’d already been on it just continued to grow. Anthony took care of the business side of their OnlyFans, and he was starting to see a drop off in their subscribers. Their size wasn’t the extreme outlier it used to be, as more and more new guys were cropping up who were just as big as they were, and they had the novelty factor on their side as well. Everyone likes fresh meat. Anthony knew it was only a matter of weeks before some of them would be visibly bigger than himself and Tom. They’d been pushing harder in the gym, had upped their steroid doses, were force-feeding each other every day, but they just couldn’t keep up.

Anthony could feel Tom pulling away from him, getting frustrated and impatient with him. He knew his long-term boyfriend wanted this miracle growth serum more than anything, but that wasn’t the only part of it. Anthony was unable to pull himself together. The sense of wrongness continued to dog him. He would be brought up short by memories from another life at the most inconvenient moments. He’d forget himself, forget what he was doing.

I need help, he admitted to himself as he drove home, making eye contact with his reflection in the rearview mirror as he waited at a red light. The honking of the cars behind him startling him—the light had turned green some moments ago and he was still sitting there. I need help, he thought again, embarrassed, stepping on the gas. A therapist? A psychiatrist? Was this a brain tumour or a midlife crisis? He didn’t even know where to begin.

He parked in the usual spot in the condo garage, walked into the building, hopped in the elevator, admired his freaky musculature in the mirror. Flexed. Yeah. He was still big. But the thought nagged. Others were getting bigger. He frowned, dropped the flex. Shouldn’t this be enough? Of course not. There’s no such thing as enough. No such thing as too big.

His floor. Top of the building. He stepped out, opened the door.

Tom was bent over the sofa, getting railed by some enormous guy Anthony didn’t recognize. The stranger looked shorter, but he was absolutely stacked. Darkly handsome face. Traps up around his ears. Giant jutting pecs that overflowed his ribcage. Arms so thick with muscle they looked short. Every outrageous bulge barely contained by stretched-thin skin, wrapped in a hectic network of veins.

This shouldn’t have been a problem. Their relationship was always open. They usually played together but also went their separate ways often enough. Tom wasn’t doing anything wrong.

But the guy fucking him was so unbelievably huge. It had finally happened. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Anthony accepted that the stranger was much bigger than either himself or Tom. He had to be on the new stuff. He looked to be close to 400 pounds, shorter than either of them, and ripped to shreds. Tom raised his head, made eye contact with Anthony. Anthony couldn’t read his expression. Feeling a sense of defeat, Anthony just hung his keys on the rack by the door and went into the bedroom without a word.

The dude didn’t even break his rhythm.

Anthony pulled a locked box out from under the bed. His naughty box where he kept his gear, lube, poppers, ghb, molly, all the dubiously-legal accoutrements of his lifestyle. In it, alongside everything else, there was a stone that fit in the palm of his hand easily. Rubbed smooth.

He picked it up, his hands shaking. He could feel his mind juddering, like a machine being pushed past its limit. Some part of him screamed not to do it. Another part of him scoffed that this was giving into his delusions, letting the psychosis that had been nipping his heels these past few months take control. Neither of these parts of him were powerful enough to stop him.

If I could just go back to that point in college when Ihsan explained his theories to me, and tell him I wanted to help him develop his growth serum… Anthony’s mind was racing. Last time things turned out okay, didn’t they? Nothing awful happened, right? We stayed together. We got bigger. We’re famous! All good things. Last time was worth it. If I could just… One more time. One more time. Just fix this last thing. Then it’ll be perfect. Then I can give Tom what he needs. Just once more.

Anthony heard his voice like someone else was speaking. Why was it shaking? “Part the veil of what is, so that I might touch what was,” he said, and the present ebbed from him like a receding wave.

Anthony da Silva is 22 years old. He’s in the final year of his undergraduate degree. He’s an amateur college bodybuilder and he’s been considering doing his first contest after he graduates. The guys at the gym keep telling him he’s got what it takes to go pro, and maybe they’re right. But he’s also considering applying to PhD programs. He’s smart, and there’s a lot of good he could do in the world by pursuing a career in biomedical research.

Maybe he could find a way to do both? It feels like a juncture, though. Like he has to pick one or the other.

He’s not out to that many people. His close friends. The guys at the gym don’t know. They don’t know that he got into lifting simply because muscles turned him on. Ever since he began noticing bodies, what turned him on were superhero physiques, gymnasts at the Olympics, underwear models with six pack abs… muscular male bodies were the only thing he was interested in. Bodybuilding magazines, bodybuilders randomly popping up in sitcoms and commercials, the rare chance encounter of a bodybuilder in real life… they all reliably induced teenage hardons so intense they almost hurt.

But he knew gay bodybuilders didn’t go that far, faced a lot of homophobic opposition within the sport, and, well, if he did decide to take that path… maybe he’d better stay in the closet.

But how would he meet someone, then? Someone to share his life with? Was he destined to be alone forever?

His friend Ihsan was on his way over. Said he had something to talk about. They worked at the same lab, took a lot of the same classes. More importantly, Ihsan knew Anthony’s secret.

It felt weird. Liberating. Like he could be his true self around Ihsan. They’d just been having lunch in the Engineering Building food court one day, and another musclehead Anthony knew from the campus gym walked by, gave him a quick “hey bro” as he passed.

“Fuck, your buddy’s hot,” Ihsan had breathed, then his eyes popped in that did I just say that out loud?? kind of way.

Anthony quickly looked left and right to make sure the dude had moved out of earshot, then, feeling a flash of courage, trusting that good ol’ Ihsan would never bait him or trick him like that, he leaned in and said in a quiet voice “I know right? You should see him in the squat rack.” His pulse raced, he’d never been this blatant before.

The look of gratitude Ihsan gave Anthony erased any lingering regrets he might have had about making such a daring confession.

It turned out they had plenty in common. They were both obsessed with muscled men. They were both somewhat closeted. Ihsan came from a Turkish family that had immigrated just twenty years ago, and he felt like he had to hide his true identity from them. Anthony’s parents had come from a conservative region of Portugal, and he had a similar feeling.

Ihsan was due to knock on Anthony’s door any second. Anthony fidgeted, not wanting to start any task that would likely be interrupted by his expected visitor.

At this moment, his vision blurred and doubled, and he grasped the arm of his chair as a blinding headache crashed into his skull. Fuck. Was he having an aneurysm? A stroke? He felt his pulse race, his breath become rapid.

Then Anthony from the future’s consciousness took over.

Oh god, this is wrong. It felt awful. He had to fight to stay in this body. And every second he did, it felt nauseating. Maybe if I loosen my grip just a bit… Future Anthony stopped trying to fully beat down Past Anthony, and the two reached an uneasy equilibrium. He still felt kind of sick, and his head still hurt. Just power through it. Say the things you’ve got to say to Ihsan to change the future. As soon as that’s done I’ll go, I promise. I don’t like this any more than you do. Than I do. I don’t like this. Fuck, I don’t like this.

The knock came at the door. Anthony stood, still a little unsteady, and walked over to open it.

Ihsan smiled, clearly excited. If he noticed that Anthony seemed a little peakish, he didn’t say anything. Future Anthony remembered bits of this conversation. Ihsan was so enthusiastic. He was so sure he had hit upon a principle that would allow unprecedented muscle growth, something other researchers had just neglected to consider.

He’s pouring his heart out to me, Anthony realized. That’s why he was so hurt when I turned him down.

I’m the first person he ever came out to, the first friend he had who’s like him. No wonder he’s bitter that I ghosted him once I got big.

What am I talking about?

Ihsan was looking at Anthony expectantly, and he realized his friend had finished his spiel and was hoping for a response. “I think this is fantastic, San,” Anthony said as warmly as he could manage. “I think this is gonna work. So what are you going to do to make it happen?”

“Well,” Ihsan said, gathering his courage, “I… I don’t expect anyone else in the lab is like you and me. You know, really into…” he mimed flexing his arm and his bicep exploding. “So I was kind of hoping… I know it’s a big ask, you probably already have plans for next year, but… would you want to work with me on this project? Working together I bet we could get it off the ground in no time at all.”

This was it. The big moment. The moment when he’d let Ihsan down. Now to make the change. “Absolutely,” Anthony said eagerly. “I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do more. If this works, and I think it will, we’ll be looking at guys twice the size of the biggest bodybuilder.”

Ihsan looked like a kid on Christmas. “Maybe even bigger than that, Ant! Who knows what the true limit for muscular development is once we administer this compound?”

Okay, that hurdle cleared. Just one more to go. Anthony felt his head pound, his stomach churn. The longer he hijacked his past self, the worse it felt. “I know we’re a while out from human trials, but I also know of this guy who’d be dying to give this a shot as our first guinea pig, and he’d do it under the table too, once we’re sure it’s safe. Tom Caulfield. He’s 25, he’s just like us when it comes to muscle, and we should definitely track him down and offer him the chance to be our first test subject. He lifts at the Golds downtown.”

Ihsan frowned a little. “To be honest, I was kind of hoping you’d be the first test subject, Anthony. But how do you know this Tom guy? You trust him? This would have to be very secret, if it got out it could ruin any chance we have of a career. So I—woah, uh. Anthony. Anthony.” Ihsan’s flow of anxious words stopped dead in his tracks and he stared at his friend’s face. “You’ve got, uh…” he mimed wiping his nose.

Anthony raised his hand to his face and felt something hot and wet. He pulled it away. Scarlet on his fingers. His nose was bleeding.

The pounding in his head escalated even more. He felt like he was going to puke. “I don’t… I don’t feel….” Then a faint pop, and Future Anthony lost his grip, hurtled into the nothingness, as the room spun and went black for Past Anthony. The last thing he heard as he hit the floor was Ihsan’s panicked voice calling his name.


Anthony spent a terrifying timeless moment wondering if he had died.

His return to his present self’s body was slower, felt a lot more sickly, than all the previous times. He ached. He tasted copper in his mouth. With a lurch, his consciousness finally… snapped into place, as it were. And then the contents of his stomach decided they needed to rapidly exit his body via his throat. Anthony stumbled, his 325 pounds muscle freak body clumsy and uncoordinated, but he made it to the ensuite in time to puke into the toilet bowl.

He stared at it, kneeling, the acrid smell stabbing his nose. Just normal puke. He reached to flush and realized he was still clutching the talisman. He opened his hand, then, and what he saw made his blood freeze.

The smooth round stone was cloven into two halves. The talisman was broken.

“No,” he said, still on the floor, scrambling backwards into the walk-in shower. He huddled with his back against the tile. “No,” he said again, staring at the two pieces of stone in his hand. “No, no, no, no, no,” he began repeating, slowly rocking back and forth. He wasn’t sure what this meant. But it couldn’t be good.

Mortals cannot change their own past, that is one of the precepts.

The echo of the entity’s eerie disembodied voice, a memory from many lives ago, chimed in his head. He let his hand fall, the broken stone clattering to the tile. He clutched his head. He was hyperventilating. His pulse was racing.

Reality began to unravel around him.

Please, I didn’t mean to, I just wanted to help, I didn’t know, I don’t… He was crying with a ragged open mouth. He felt the unravelling, faster now, the ceramic tile he sat on dissolving. I can’t…! I can’t leave him…!

Anthony was fuzzily aware that Tom had come into the washroom. But it was like he was watching the scene through smeared glass. Or as if it were an ancient internet video, re-uploaded and re-uploaded until half of it was pixelated artefacts.

But he could tell one thing. Tom was swelling. Alarmingly. Legs shoved apart. He fall back on his ass. His feet not hitting the ground from the sheer size of his calves and hams. A strangled sound as his pecs grew so heavy he found it harder and harder to breathe. His arms doubling, tripling in size, as the room around him flew apart.

Everything was changing.


Dr. da Silva parked in his reserved spot, two from the door. The only place closer was for Dr. Demirci, his long-term partner in the science of muscle growth. Ihsan was on holiday with his family this month, though, which meant Anthony was on his own for a bit in terms of overseeing Subject 001.

Although he’d been a junior bodybuilder during his college years, the demands of running his lab had relegated workouts to just an hour here and there, and Dr. da Silva looked like any other scientist in his late thirties. Trim, fit, but nothing more than that. Physically unremarkable.

In the lobby, he met the night crew as they came off shift. “Did he pass a good evening?”

“Sure did, boss. The new feeding protocol seems to agree with him plenty. I think he appreciates the two hours off the tube before bed. He got downright chatty last night.”

Anthony nodded. “Good. I hope you indulged him. Mental stimulation is very important, he spends the majority of his time unable to communicate verbally, you know, so we need to encourage that as much as we can when it’s possible. It’ll benefit his cognitive longevity.”

“Gotcha, boss.”

“Morning weight?”

“He’s up to 1107.2,” one said, forgetting Dr. da Silva’s preference for metric. “Oh uh, sorry, that’s 502.2 kilo.”

Anthony smiled. “Don’t worry, I know you just like pounds because the higher number sounds more exciting.” The employees laughed in that polite way you laugh at your boss when he makes a quip. “That’s fantastic, no sign of slowing down. Well, I bet you’re all eager to get home to bed, so I won’t keep you any longer.”

The crew left. It would be an hour before the next shift arrived—Subject 001 didn’t yet require around the clock care, although he was close enough, and that probably would change within the year, at the rate he was adding muscle mass.

Anthony still felt a surge of sexual excitement when he walked into the vast chamber where Subject 001 was housed. Tom. He must remember to call him Tom, even in his thoughts. He was just so used to the official designation they used in all documentation.

The man’s blond head was barely visible over the mountainous rise of his pecs. They kept his hair neatly trimmed at his request. Despite their best efforts, his overtaxed skin was striped with thick, angry-looking stretch marks. There had been a small number of humans who were heavier than what Tom currently weighed, but they had all been mega-obese. Tom was all muscle. His bodily architecture was unlike any human’s before. And his skin, well. It had been tasked with covering far more rippling swelling meat than any human had ever previously possessed.

Anthony leaned over a work console and began opening reports to review when it hit him.

This isn’t how things are supposed to be.

The thought was so strong, so overpowering, he repeated it out loud, muttering, brow furrowed.

“What’s that, doc?” Tom asked in his thick, muscle-clotted voice. Even the muscles of his face had hypertrophied, giving him a somewhat lumpen, strange look, so that talking was just a bit difficult. He wouldn’t be strapped back to the feeding system until the top of the hour, after which time he’d be pumped full of a high calorie, high protein feed for the next ten hours.

“Oh, nothing, nothing,” Anthony said, still frowning. “Did you, ah, did you sleep well?”

Tom clearly tried to shrug, but he could barely manage to shift in place by now. Most movement had become impossible after he hit the half ton mark, and he was still growing. “Eh. Decent, I’ve had better, I’ve had worse. Weird dreams.”

Ah, yes, dreams. Perhaps it had been a dream. He’s your husband. You’re supposed to be married to him. The thought, again, like a bullet through his brain. What nonsense. He had only ever known Tom as a test subject. Yet his heart panged when he looked at the mutated mountain of meat before him. It’s normal to feel affection when you’ve been caring for someone for a decade! That doesn’t mean we are supposed to be married! he chastised himself.

“You… you okay, doc?” Tom asked, clearly worried, suddenly very aware of his utter helplessness. Dr. da Silva had always been warm and kind to him, but he seemed very off this morning. If he took it in his mind to do something crazy, there wasn’t anything Tom could do to stop him.

Anthony didn’t seem to hear Tom’s question. You’re supposed to be a bodybuilder. Ridiculous intrusive thought. He once had dreams, sure, but he put them aside to focus on his research, and look at what he’d achieved. Wasn’t this better? Sure, he had skinny little stick arms and a little pot belly, but… This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

Stop it! Shut up!

“Okay, well, I can be quiet if you want me to, I guess,” Tom said, sounding puzzled and a little hurt. Had Anthony said that last part out loud? No. He had only thought it. But then what was Tom responding to?

Anthony sat in the chair in front of the terminal and tried to focus on the reports. Tom’s routine bloodwork, his oxygen and heart rate monitors, the specific nutrient blend of his current feed… He was unaware that he was muttering to himself. “It’s not right. It’s not how it’s supposed to be. It’s wrong. This is wrong.”

“Is there something wrong with my lab results, Dr. da Silva?” Tom couldn’t keep himself quiet. As far as he could tell, Anthony was reviewing the daily and weekly reports and finding their contents very distressing.

Anthony looked up, startled, like he had forgotten Tom was there. “I’m going to initiate your daily feed cycle a little early,” he said, punching in some commands to the computer. Unable to resist, Tom opened his mouth and let the feeding machine inside. It was a practised motion now, and he never gagged. It was nice to not have to worry about chewing and swallowing, but it was tough to not be able to speak for ten hours at a stretch.

It was almost like Anthony forgot that the feeding tube didn’t stop up Tom’s ears, though. He seemed to be giving free range to the increasing swarm of disturbing thoughts that were tormenting him. He sat in the computer chair, rocking back and forth, muttering to himself. He’d been his usual cheerful self when he strolled in. What had come over him?

Tom felt drowsy. He decided not to fight it. Being asleep would be better than being awake to witness the man who held his life in his hand have some kind of emotional breakdown in front of him, when he could do nothing but waggle his fat fingers or grunt against the feeding tube shoved down his throat.

What’s his problem, Tom thought drowsily as he drifted off.

“He has damaged himself. Look.” A new voice. One Tom didn’t recognize.

He opened his eyes. Everything was perfectly still. The bright LED lights of the converted warehouse were replaced with an even blue light that seemed to come from nowhere, to cast no shadows. Everything was perfectly still. A frozen moment in time.

Tom looked, his pecs no longer taking up the bottom third of his field of vision, as they had done for a little while now. In shock he realized he was no longer in his body.

Sitting behind the work terminal was the rough shape of a man. Instead of Dr. da Silva’s familiar slender form, though, it was… full of static. Bits flashing in and out of reality. It looked like he was glitching.

“That is a good metaphor for it. Glitching. He has damaged the fabric of his soul, and now it is fraying, struggling to hold itself together. Moments from previous lives show through, like sentences that have been written and erased, written and erased, over and over.” A sound of frustration. “Metaphors are so imperfect but they are the only way your kind can understand such things.”

Tom tried to turn to look at where the voice came from, but he had no body. It was more like a camera panning. The voice came from some form of physical presence, but he could not look directly at it. There were limbs. Hair. Muscles. He could not tell if it had a face, or where its voice came from.

“This is one trippy dream. I expected that I’d start to lose it from isolation and boredom, after a while. Thought I had a couple years left, though.”

There was a feeling of grim amusement from the entity. “Your assessment is correct. I estimate you would retain the bulk of your sanity for another 32 months from this moment. Would you like to know how large your corpus would become by the time you lost the last scraps of your mind?”

Might as well play along. “Yes please.”

The entity paused, as if calculating. “Somewhere between two and three tons, it is difficult to be more precise than that. I can sense your arousal. Such curious creatures.”

Tom was silent, not sure what else to say. “What about the mad doctor?”

“You are correct to remind me of my purpose. He did all of this for you, you know. Your life was far, far different when he began.”

“I could have told you that. I didn’t become the first thousand pound bodybuilder just by eating my spinach.”

The being made a frustrated sound. “You do not understand. I will have to show you. I cannot tell you. Do not resist.”

“What are you…?” Tom tried to pull away, but found his… non-body locked in place. The entity extended a tendril, hard, hairy, muscular, slick, almost like the tongue of some vast beast. It gently touched Tom, touched him where his forehead would be if he had such a thing, and his mind was overwhelmed with a rush of images, thoughts, feelings, sensations. Tom understood, in a moment, what had happened. Everything that had happened. Every step Anthony had made to change the past, to make things better for Tom, to find some way to make his dreams come true. To protect Tom from the darkness inside himself, that would rise up and eat him if it wasn’t actively beaten down. Because he loved him.

All of this. He did all of this for me.

The entity nodded sadly, withdrawing its tendril. “You are loved so much more deeply than you know, Tom Caulfield. Anthony da Silva has brought himself to the brink of annihilation for your sake. He thinks the talisman was broken because he violated a precept. He was told mortals may not change their own past. I did indeed tell him this, but in truth it is more complex than that. But that is not why the talisman broke. I broke the talisman, myself, because if he used it even once more he very likely would cease to be, and he would be beyond my help. He has unravelled his being, strand by strand, for you, and he is now held together by flimsy bits of rotting string. Your life together had been as a rope, your strands woven together. He has managed to unravel this until you are barely held together at all.”

Tom felt sorrow, regarding Anthony’s staticky, glitching form, so frail and small compared to what he had just seen, the selves they had both been, his memories of the warm, thoughtful researcher now overlaid with other memories, from other times. The big jolly bodybuilder who always raised him up and supported him, who believed in him when he couldn’t believe in himself. His partner. His boyfriend. His husband. Their lives together. All of that, scattering to the cosmic winds.

I wish he hadn’t done it, Tom thought. This body is all I wanted, but the price. It’s too high. He should not have done it. He looked at Anthony’s diminished, broken form and he wanted to cry. “Oh my darling. Why did you do it?” he asked out loud, despairing.

“He believed he had no choice”, the entity replied. “You were slipping away. As I believe you mortals say, he would take a bullet for you. In a sense, he has.”

“There has to be some way out of it. Some better way. Can’t I do something? He’s done so much for me. Can’t I do something for him? I’m so helpless in this form, in this body. I can’t move and I can only speak for a couple of hours a day. But there has to be something. Some way. Send me back, the way he went back. Let me do for him what he did for me.”

The entity gave the impression of shaking its head without moving. “No. I have seen what comes of that. I gave Anthony that talisman to save you, because he loved you so much, and the hurt in you was so great. But as you say, the cost was too high. I will not do it again.”

“Then why show me all this? Why reveal the truth to me? Why not let me be a blissful selfish idiot, slowly swelling up with muscle til my mind bursts three years down the line?”

“I said I would not let you do for Anthony what Anthony did for you. I did not say I would not help you.” The entity seemed to be thinking. A silence stretched. Tom waited, miserable.

“I can bring you back to the point of divergence,” the entity finally said. “But you must be warned.” Another flicker of one of the being’s tendrils, and Tom could sense, somewhere between seeing and feeling, a great tangled mess of string, tracing backwards to a point where it was a single rope. “Here,” the entity said. “Here is where it began. The night of your 40th birthday. Do you feel it?”

The moment hurt to perceive. It radiated hopelessness and sorrow. “Yes,” Tom said.

“There is much pain here. That is what spurred him to act. If I bring you back to that moment, you will be in that pain again. I do not know if you will be strong enough to withstand it, and to do what you would do.”

“I have to be strong enough,” Tom thought, simply.

“You will remember all of this, for a brief period. Within minutes the memory will fade. Whatever you would do, you must do it quickly. Reality always asserts itself. You will remember this future, you will remember this conversation, for but a brief time, and it will fade more and more. You will forget it. Ghosts and whispers may remain but almost all of it will go. This is for the best. Look at him again. He did not forget, fully, and it has frayed him to the point of being undone.”

“I have to be strong enough,” Tom thought again, directing his gaze to the mess that Anthony had become. “I have to endure the pain and act despite it.”

The entity gave the impression of nodding. “Then it will be so.”

The strange blue light began to dim, and Tom fell into a deep sleep.


Tom opened his eyes. He was in the backyard. The backyard of the house he owned with Anthony. It was his birthday. They’d had a party. All his friends were there. There’d been a cake with some corny candles, everyone singing.

“Holy shit,” he gasped, other memories flooding in. His life as an 1100 pounds blob of muscle in a scientific facility, overseen by a skinny version of his husband—except in that life they hadn’t even been friends. That strange dream. The entity showing him—fuck. Anthony.

He scrambled to his feet and was running for the door before he could think anything else. The neighbourhood was dark and quiet, it must be two or three in the morning. No one had cleaned up from the party, there were paper plates of half eaten food, balloons. It all felt so desperate, now. He had to save this.

He was running. It had been years since he ran. He couldn’t even walk, he was so huge. Now he was—fuck, he was so small now. The pain of it, of a frustrated life—No! Focus!

He charged up the stairs, past the photos on the walls of himself and Anthony. Kissing at their wedding as their friends cheered. Smiling on the streets of a European city. Backstage at Anthony’s first Olympia. Keep going!

Into the bedroom.

Anthony lay on the bed. His husband. He was huge, one of the dozen biggest pro bodybuilders in the world. Tom felt a pang as he couldn’t help but clock his own relative smallness. Already the memories of the weird alternate realities were starting to dim. The pain that had wracked him all night was getting stronger. Remember! Just a few minutes more! Remember!

Anthony was crying in his sleep. Despite all his haste, this stopped Tom dead in his tracks. The moonlight from the window traced two glistening paths as tears ran down his face, and he was whimpering.

“Oh, Ant,” Tom murmured, crawling into bed, gathering as much of the massive man up into his arms as he could. “Wake up, darling, you’re having a bad dream.”

Anthony gave a start as he woke, surprised to find Tom holding him. “You’re here,” he said, voice thickened by sleep and by tears. “Oh, I was having the worst dream, I dreamed…” he stopped. “No, that wasn’t a dream, I…” he stopped again. Furrowed his brow. “Babe, I was so worried about you. Are you feeling any better?”

“No,” Tom answered truthfully. “I still feel rotten about that. But something reminded me of what’s truly important. I… I can’t quite remember what, now. But I came in and you were crying in your sleep, and I just… I love you, Anthony.”

“I love you too, Tom. So much. You know I’d do anything for you. It’s just so unfair that you can’t get what you want. I’d give you the world if I could.”

“I know.”

“I dreamed…” Anthony stopped himself. He laughed unsteadily, then continued. “I dreamed I had changed your past, and each time you were closer to what you truly want to be, but each time, I… I…” he choked.

“I dreamed too. Same dream. You did so much for me. And I never knew. You were such a mess by the end of it, my love. I couldn’t see you like that.”

They held each other, then, like two unlikely survivors of a shipwreck safe on the shore. No more words. Both of them feeling the other shake, two men breathing unsteadily as they clutched the love they had almost lost. Memory continued to fade, more and more details being lost with each moment. Yet somehow they both knew they had narrowly avoided some terrible catastrophe. Neither was willing to break the embrace.

“It’s really not fair, though,” Anthony said again after some time, when it felt safe to begin talking once more.

“I know. Life isn’t fair. I try so hard, and my progress is so small. I’ll never look like a real bodybuilder, especially when I’m standing next to you. It… it really hurts.”

Anthony knew there was nothing he could say, so he said nothing, he merely continued to hold Tom.

Some ghost of memory persisted, like the entity told Tom it would, and that wisp lead him further down the path, beyond his despair. “But I can’t change the past. Who knows what would happen if I could. It could be the worst thing in the world. When people get everything they want it often doesn’t work out so well for them. I can only change the future. And all I can do is keep trying, and try to make my peace with whatever I can get. I have to try to be strong. I have to keep doing my best. For both of us.”

Anthony held him tighter. “I’ll always be here for you, you know that, right? I will always, always, always be here.”

Tom smiled. “I know. Now, you’ve got an Olympia qualification to lock down in a few weeks, don’t you? Back to sleep, big fella.” Tom stood and began peeling off his clothes.

“Stay with me?” Anthony asked, his big brown eyes shining. “Please?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to go back out into the yard, if that’s what you’re asking!” Tom laughed, throwing his underwear at Anthony’s head.


The next few months seemed of greater importance to Anthony and Tom. The ghostly vestiges of their encounters with the entity, the dim faded particles of memories from the other lives they had lived, kept them grounded, more deeply in love, more willing to work with the here and now, despite its pains and frustrations.

Anthony won his Olympia qualification. No one seriously expected him to be a challenger for top spot at the big night itself, but he did go on to finish in the top six, like he had hoped, and he still insisted on pulling Tom up on stage and kissing him passionately in front of the auditorium. “I’m so proud that I can share this moment with the strongest man I know,” he said, and he meant it.

Strangely, as if his inner turmoil had been a minor roadblock, or as if some mysterious entity had given him a parting gift to reward his selfless choice, Tom made more progress in the gym in those months than he had in years. He still was no mass monster, but an extra dozen pounds of muscle on his frame was a hard-earned prize indeed, and he allowed himself to feel some satisfaction with it. He was doing his best, striving as hard as he could, and that felt good. He tried to focus on that, the good feeling. Maybe the gains would keep coming. Who could say? Stranger things have happened.

So when an email from Amthony’s old pal Ihsan popped up in Anthony’s inbox, letting him know that he was finally ready to begin human trials on his long-promised muscle growth miracle serum, and would Anthony perhaps like to be part of that trial…? Anthony smiled fit to split his face in half and replied right away.

“Well, old friend, I’ve got a better idea. I know someone who really and truly deserves what your new drug might give him. He’s the perfect first human trial…”

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