I pulled up to the gate in my rusted-out Mazda and pushed the buzzer for the intercom. When I didn’t get an immediate answer, I double-checked the address, never having been to this part of Beverly Hills before. Finally, a deep voice crackled through the speaker. “Barry?”
“Uh, no, I’m Cameron. Barry couldn’t make it today.” My boss Barry usually did this kind of customer service appointment for our elite clients himself, so I was stunned when he asked if I could go instead this time.
I could hear the guy at the other end mutter “Shit” to himself before saying, “Okay, Cameron, come on in.”
I heard a buzz and the wide gate swung open, revealing a lush rolling lawn sloping upward to a stunning modernist mansion. Whoever lived here must be flabbergastingly rich. I parked in the driveway and walked to the front door, feeling extremely underdressed in my hoodie, board shorts and Vans slip-ons, until I saw the man of the house straddling the front doorway wearing nothing but a pair of orange briefs.
I had lived in L.A. long enough to become pretty blase about seeing famous people, but this was a major exception. Shane London had been my first major celebrity crush. He was only a couple of years older than me, but by the age of seventeen, he had already become a huge star playing Trace McCoy, the teenage sleuth who could turn invisible on the hit show Untraceable. As a short, scrawny geek in rural Idaho, deathly afraid that my peers would discover that I was gay, I would watch that show alone in my bedroom and nurse two impossible fantasies: that I could be Shane London or that I could be invisible.
Shane could scarcely have been more visible as he waited for me at the door. He stood over six feet tall, his well-defined muscles offering a thorough anatomy lesson on his lanky, no-body-fat frame. His shaggy brown hair was slicked back from a face that had only grown more handsome as he hit his mid-twenties. He stared at me with the slight smile of someone who was a bit less than bright or a bit more than stoned.
Outwardly, I made every effort to project a professional demeanor, but under the surface, my fifteen-year-old self was screaming with giddy delight. I tried to stare into those famously dark eyes, but my attention was sucked downward to his impossibly symmetrical six-pack and the substantial bulge sagging in his underpants. I was relieved that my own clothes were baggy enough that my own raging hard-on was safely concealed. If he noticed my reaction, Shane gave no indication. I figured he must be so used to being gawked at that he would barely register a lewd glance or two from some dorky tech guy.
“The thing’s out in the courtyard,” he informed me in the gruff baritone familiar to fans of the “Ticking Time Bomb” movies which had earned him enough to buy a place like this. He turned and gestured for me to follow him. The way his firm glutes shifted inside his undies as he walked, I would have followed him anywhere for any length of time. I peripherally noticed Picassos and Monets on the walls, but the only work of art grabbing my attention was Shane himself.
When we arrived in the open-air center of the house, which was dominated by an Olympic-size swimming pool and a hot tub that seemingly could seat eighty, Shane pointed toward the product I was here to fix, his Ultra-One VR-SDT (virtual-reality sensory-deprivation tank). We had only been installing these suckers for a few months but, despite their astronomical price tag, they had become phenomenally popular. The entire setup was encased in matte-black aluminum and looked like the “2001” monolith had toppled over, rising five feet high with a six-by-ten foot footprint on the ground, giving rise to its nickname, the Black Box.
“So what seems to be the trouble?”, I asked, finding that I could focus better if I kept my eyes locked on the Box and away from Shane.
“I dunno. It runs fine for about an hour, then it starts to get all glitchy.”
“Glitchy. Hmm,” I said, as if “glitchy” was going to be any help. “Glitchy how?”
“Oh, ya know, just kinda…” He waved his hands before him in a wobbly motion that was of no additional help.
“Well, let me get inside your box and see what I can see.” It’s fair to say I’ve never been more self-conscious of my less than impressive physique than I was at that moment as I removed my horn-rimmed glasses and yanked my hoodie over my head, unveiling my bony and blindingly pale torso in the presence of last year’s Sexiest Man Alive. I kicked off my slip-ons, relieved that I could keep on my board shorts and not provide Shane further evidence of my inferiority.
I climbed a step ladder and opened the retractable cover of the Black Box. The tank contained a pair of “hammocks” suspended in our patented colorless and odorless liquid, which has the buoyancy of salt water and is kept precisely at 98.6 degrees to create a feeling of weightlessness. The hammocks were designed like sleeping bags, made from two sheets of micro-thin but super-strong carbon fiber and threaded with millions of electronic sensors. When you climbed between the two layers, they clung to your skin and the sensors produced impulses in sync with the virtual reality experience. All senses other than touch were handled via the airtight, waterproof helmet which enclosed your head, providing visuals, audio, smells and even tastes. The final feature, and the one which forced us to operate stealthily on the black market, was the air supply, which filled the helmet with a steady flow that mixed nitrous oxide with the active ingredient from psilocybin mushrooms to put the user in a relaxed and receptive mood. All these elements combined to provide a totally immersive experience in which the customer became completely unaware of their own physical body and could become fully absorbed in the system’s computer-generated “reality”.
The Box came pre-loaded with over a hundred different programs and scenarios, and thousands more were being developed by designers around the world. Not surprisingly, most people used the Black Box to play out sexual fantasies, and the bulk of our maintenance visits simply required us to clean out build-ups of jizz that were clogging the Black Box’s filtration system. Back at the shop, we called these service calls “cum runs”. I knew Barry had already been to Shane’s on three prior occasions, so either this unit was extremely glitchy or Shane’s “unit” pumped out a lot more cum than the filters could handle. It was hard to imagine why someone like Shane would need a device like this. Wouldn’t life as Shane London be stimulating enough?
I wondered if Barry had dispatched me to Shane’s as a reward for all of my hard work over the past year. If so, I would definitely have to thank him profusely. Maybe send him one of those Edible Arrangement baskets or something. I didn’t think I had ever told Barry about my yearnings for Shane London, although perhaps he had perused the history from my after-hours adventures in the floor-model Black Box back at the shop. Whenever I used the machine, I inevitably found myself running the “Felix Awards” program, which placed you in the body of the star of your choice backstage at an awards show which inevitably turned into a raging fuckfest. I always chose to be Shane London – or, more accurately, his non-copyright-infringing doppelganger, “Shame Longdong” – whom the designer had equipped with an appropriately long dong of nearly twelve inches. Perhaps the theory was that no star was going to sue for defamation if you depicted him as having an oversized cock. Using the “Felix” simulation, I had enjoyed some memorable encounters with stars like “Dom Cruiser” and “Broad Pits”, as well as a very hot three-way with the Australian “Head-worth Brothers”. It was addictive to disappear into that other world, although you still had to use your imagination, as the hammock’s sensors were not sophisticated enough at this state of the technology to deliver the tactile sensations you’d get from a real hand or real lips or real ass cheeks or (I’m told) a real vagina. Still, as Barry liked to say when closing the sale of a new Black Box, “It makes Second Life look like fucking Pong.”
I slid into my hammock and pulled on the helmet, effectively sealing myself off from the outside world. As I initiated the diagnostic program, I switched on my mic and informed Shane through the external speakers that the tests would probably take half an hour. I heard him say “Cool” and assumed he would wander off and do some movie-star shit and leave me to my work. So I was totally stunned a few minutes later when I heard Shane’s voice reverberating inside my helmet. “So, Cameron, you been doing this long?”
To hear him piped through my helmet’s speakers like that, he must be using the tank’s second helmet, which must mean he had climbed into the other hammock beside me. There I was, in total darkness with no physical sensation that my body even existed, yet I was acutely aware that I was floating mere inches from the man of my fantasies. I took a deep breath of the hallucinogenic nitrous mixture, which helped me calm down enough to answer him. “Barry hired me about a year ago.”
“That Barry’s a cool guy. I like him,” Shane informed me. His voice came at me from all thirty-six surround-sound speakers in the helmet, creating the illusion that his voice was emanating from inside my own head. It was one of the trippiest features of the Ultra-One, and one I had never experienced before, having only used the store unit for solo voyages.
The readouts in my helmet were showing no problems when the plasma screens inside my helmet flashed to life in rich detail. “Uh, Shane? I don’t think you should be using the VR while I’m running the diagnostics.”
“Don’t worry, man, it’ll be cool. I just wanted to show you what I mean by the glitch.” At that moment, I wished I could call Barry to double check on the safety of what Shane was doing, but the euphoria-inducing air supply was already clouding my judgment.
It took a good thirty seconds to acclimate once the virtual world had been launched, but when it snapped into focus, I found myself in familiar surroundings, once again backstage at the mythical “Felix” awards. Furthermore, a quick glance at my virtual tuxedo told me in an instant that I was inhabiting the “Shame Longdong” avatar. “Shane? I think I’m in the body you want.” The software had already kicked in, electronically lowering the tone of my voice until it sounded nearly indistinguishable from the real Shane.
“No, I know what I’m doing. I’m already the real ‘Shame Longdong’ twenty-four seven,” he chuckled. “This is my chance to escape.” The familiar slacker swagger in his voice gradually vanished as the program elevated his pitch into a feminine range. I looked around the virtual landscape and saw a figure slinking toward me, backlit by a glaring bank of spotlights but eventually resolving into the shapely form of a beautiful actress with flowing red hair and a clinging red gown. “Hi, Shame,” I heard breathily as her lips moved in sync with Shane’s words, “I’m Vagina Oh-Really.”
“Vagina Oh-Really” was the game’s version of Virginia O’Riley, Shane’s love interest in the third “Ticking Time Bomb” movie (subtitle: “Boom Boom Boom”) and, if you believed the tabloids, Shane’s current girlfriend. So this is what Shane liked to do in the privacy of his Black Box: roleplay as his own girlfriend – and pretend to get fucked by himself? I knew that actors could be narcissistic, but this took the cake.
I can’t deny that part of me was turned on, the way I always got when inhabiting “Shame”. But undeniably beautiful as Virginia/”Vagina” was, I had zero interest in making out with a chick, real or virtual, even if I knew that chick was really being controlled by Shane London. With these distinctions, I realized I was drawing an absurdly complicated line in the already vague ethical sand of virtual reality, but the whole thing was making me uneasy. “I really don’t think I should be doing this, Shane,” I said, still freaked out by hearing my own words instantly converted into Shane’s voice.
“Don’t be silly,” said “Vagina”, tugging seductively on my/”Shame’s” bow tie, the hammock’s sensors generating an accompanying yanking sensation around my neck. “It’ll be fun. Barry never complained about it.”
Holy fuck, Barry had done this? Middle-aged, beer-gutted, miserably straight Barry? Somehow I had never considered the obvious idea that my boss would also be a user of his product, or that he might have demonstrated its features to his high-profile clientele. I would have to reassess my assumptions about Barry. Then again, maybe Shane’s sex games had freaked Barry out too, prompting Barry to send me in his place. It was all more than I could sort out in my current hazy condition. Right now I just needed to battle against my growing giddiness and place my focus back on the reason I was here.
An unobtrusive meter showing the progress of the diagnostic test was hovering discreetly at the periphery of my vision, and everything seemed to be checking out fine so far. Meanwhile, “Vagina” had slipped one strap of her gown down her smooth shoulder and was preparing to do the same with the other strap. In response, I felt my cock growing. My own real cock. I had only played out gay scenarios before and was unprepared for the weirdness of sudden heterosexuality. It felt kinda twisted, but I was definitely getting into it.
It didn’t take long for “Shame” and “Vagina” to tear off each other’s clothes and tumble bare-assed onto the stage where we proceeded to fuck hot and heavy in front of a packed theater and a worldwide television audience of a billion. My inhibitions vanished as I slipped completely into character, shoving my cock deep into her and pinning her arms to the stage, its highly polished surface reflecting the gloriously handsome “Shame” smiling back at me. The hammock’s fibers were bunching up around my erect cock and the system did its best to replicate the feel of fucking, although in truth it basically felt like being given a handjob by someone wearing a scratchy mitten. Even so, a handjob’s a handjob and I was edging ever closer to shooting my load.
If I hadn’t been in the rarefied heights at the tippy top of the long escalator to Orgasm-land, I might have noticed the alarm bells more quickly or seen the flashing red indicator light sooner. As it was, Shane/”Vagina” had to shake me out of my delirium, shouting in a shrill voice, “What’s that sound, Cameron?” It was jarring to hear myself being called Cameron again and it brought me somewhat back to reality.
“You see that?” said Shane, the software now failing to cloak his voice in female tones, while the visual representation of “Vagina” intermittently vanished from sight. “That’s the glitch I was telling you about. Can you fix that?”
“I don’t know,” I said, my voice slipping back and forth between Shane’s macho baritone and my own squeaky tenor. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” My concerns mounted when a readout blinking “CRITICAL FAILURE” appeared dead-center in front of me.
“Critical failure?”, Shane asked, meaning the words must be flashing in his helmet as well. “What do we do, Cameron?” His voice indicated a fear and vulnerability that his acting roles rarely called for.
All pretense of professionalism disappeared from my voice as I yelled, “We get the fuck out of here!” But extracting yourself from the hammock and removing the helmet was a cumbersome, tedious process under normal conditions. As I struggled to pull myself free from the cocoon wrapped around me, I only became more entangled. I could feel the temperature of the liquid in the tank rising dramatically. I briefly felt an electrical surge flowing around me before first the helmet, and then I, blacked out.
I have no idea how long I was unconscious. The durable material of the hammock was totally shredded, giving me freedom to move my arms and legs, and the liquid I was floating in had cooled to the temperature of ice water. I lunged desperately toward the lid of the container and bashed my fist against the metal until it popped open. I hung one leg over the edge, feeling around with my bare foot until it hit the stepladder. I carefully climbed down to the ground before unlatching the helmet. When I lifted it, I filled my lungs with desperately needed fresh air and collapsed to the cement of the courtyard, the harsh sunlight preventing me from opening my eyes.
In the distance, I faintly heard someone calling, “Shane? Shane, are you home?” It was unmistakably Virginia. Or was it “Vagina”? As I pondered how Shane could still be speaking in her voice if the Black Box had stopped working, I cracked open one eye and saw a blurry figure in the distance of what I now knew was actual reality, not the virtual kind. The real Virginia O’Riley was walking in my direction.
My first thought was thank god I’m wearing my board shorts, but when my fingertips brushed against bare skin on my thigh, I moved my hand quickly upward, but could feel no fabric anywhere on my body. Could the malfunction have disintegrated my clothes? I crawled across the cement on my hands and knees, still squinting, desperately in search of clothes. I found a pair of jeans that seemed way too big for me lying on a chaise lounge. I started to wriggle into them and, surprisingly, they felt snug against my thighs.
“Shane, what the fuck is going on?” Virginia asked. Cringing, I waited to hear his reply, but none was forthcoming. The click of high heels on cement drew closer to me. “Sha-ane,” she repeated, now from directly above me. “Have you been playing with your goddamn jerk-off machine again?” I waited again to hear his answer, figuring it would be a doozy. Finally, I felt hot breath against my ear as Virginia shouted, “Are you fucking deaf, Shane?”
I toppled onto my side and said, “Shit, I am now!” It came out in Shane’s voice, and I wondered whether I was still somehow stuck in the simulator. But no, all of the sensations I was experiencing were far more authentic than the Black Box technology could currently replicate. I was definitely out of the Box. I rubbed my eyelids with my fists and opened them to see a very pissed-off-looking Virginia O’Riley hovering over me with her hands on her hips, clutching shopping bags that suggested her recent arrival at the house. The smell of smoke lingered in the air and I saw a dark mist rising from the Black Box, its usually rigid dimensions now bent out proportion by an extraordinary internal force.
“I must’ve had an accident,” I said, still sounding uncannily like Shane. As I brushed a stray lock of wet hair from my eyes, it occurred to me that my own hair didn’t hang that far down. My stomach sank, and I felt like Wile E. Coyote after he runs off a cliff, hoping that I would just stay safely suspended in mid-air as long as I didn’t look down. My fingers slid across my face, encountering unfamiliar landmarks like sharp cheekbones, supple lips and a firm jaw. My hand continued its journey, grasping a plump pec before it hit the ripples of hard-earned abs.
When my hand finally reached my lap, I knew I wasn’t in Cameron any more. The flaccid cock flopping against my thigh was wider and longer than my own cock had ever been at its most aroused. I could no longer resist glancing down and beheld the monster cock that had been lurking in Shane’s briefs. If anything, “Shame Longdong” was underequipped compared to the genuine article. My fingers were irresistibly drawn to the fleshy beauty, wrapping lovingly around its shaft.
“My god, Shane, can’t you keep your hands off your pecker for five minutes?” I looked up and saw that Virginia had turned away in a huff, refusing to look in my direction.
Panicked, I fumbled my way to my feet, stuffing the cock inside the jeans and zipping them up cautiously. It was startling to rise to Shane’s full height and feel the weight and power of his body. How different your perceptions of the world – and the way the world treated you – would be from this perspective. I stepped over to Virginia and tentatively placed my hands on her shoulders, unsure what to say or do in this very unusual situation. I eventually eked out, “I’m… sorry?”
She spun around and looked up at me with dazzling green eyes that had even more impact in real life than on any screen. “You’re sorry? With a question mark? Christ, Shane, do you even experience human emotions, or do you just pretend to? No wonder you love your… machine… so much!”
I knew I had to say something fast. “I’ll get rid of it. Today. It’s gone.”
She looked skeptical. “You mean it?”
“Absolutely,” I said with determination, before conceding, “The piece of shit blew up on me anyway.”
Virginia smiled, but her eyes drifted away from me and her expression grew serious again. “Who’s the guy?”
I turned to follow her glance and saw myself, Cameron, emerging dazed from the damaged hull of the Black Box, clutching a shattered helmet. I had been so lost in my own confusion, I hadn’t even thought about what had happened to the second body in the tank. Needless to say, I was relieved to see that I wasn’t dead, although Shane might soon be wishing he was.
“That is… the repair guy, Cameron,” I told Virginia. “He was here trying to fix it.”
“He must not be very good at his job,” said Virginia. I should have felt insulted, but she was pretty dead on.
“Virginia?” Shane croaked weakly in my pathetic voice as he stared across at us, looking utterly baffled.
Virginia began to walk in his direction, exuding compassion. “Oh, you poor man. Are you all right?”
I realized I needed to disrupt this interaction before things became even more complicated. I bounded toward the Black Box and told Virginia, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him. You just go ahead with…whatever you were doing.”
Virginia continued to stare at the tank with concern and whispered to me, “You should get him to a doctor. He looks shell-shocked.”
“Good idea, babe,” I said, planting a kiss on her lips without a moment’s deliberation, as if it came completely naturally to me. At the touch of her lips, good old “Longdong” stiffened up inside my jeans. Shit, maybe I could get used to this whole concept of women after all. I impulsively gave Virginia’s butt a squeeze, which her scowl told me may have been taking things a step too far at this particular moment.
Once Virginia had returned inside, I climbed to the top of the stepladder and hoisted out the scrawny body that I used to call home. It felt impossibly light in my musclebound arms. My board shorts were tattered but still attached around his narrow waist, which seemed to give me an answer to my most urgent question. It was now pretty clear that the blast had somehow short-circuited my consciousness into his body and vice versa, rather than reshaping our bodies in the image of our VR avatars. Had the latter been the case, Cameron would have vanished forever and Shane would now look like “Vagina O’Really”, a circumstance Virginia would likely have found even more disconcerting than the one she had wandered in on.
“What the hell happened?” Shane asked wide-eyed as I lowered him onto a chaise lounge. I offered my theory about consciousness transfer as best I could while simultaneously studying my own face objectively for the first time. I never would have imagined I looked so cute, endearing and, well, lovable. I just wanted to take care of the little guy and protect him from harm.
“Well, we gotta undo it!” he shrieked in too loud a voice. He lowered into a whisper but was no less desperate as he said, “I’m starting a new movie in two weeks. I can’t show up on the set like… this!” He was nearly sobbing as he poked at his minimal muscle tone. Shane London probably hadn’t been that scrawny since he was ten years old.
I grasped his narrow shoulders in my big strong hands and assured him, “We’ll figure it out, I promise. I’ll call Barry. Maybe he’ll know what to do.”
Shane slumped over, looking miserable. “Why’s everything so blurry?”
“Oh, you probably need your glasses,” I said, grabbing my glasses, hoodie and shoes from where I had set them before entering the tank. He put on the horn-rimmed glasses, amping up his geekiness quotient considerably. Why had I never gotten contacts? Or Lasik? Somehow, I could pinpoint Cameron’s strengths and weaknesses, his foibles and absurdities, much more clearly from the safe distance of Shane’s body. I vowed that things would be different when I got back into my real body… if I ever got back into my real body. Then again, did I ever want to get back into my real body?
Now that he could see clearly, Shane looked up at me, as if absorbing the reality of the situation for the first time. As he stared at the face and body which I had idolized for so many years, a confused smile spread across his face and he glanced down at the bulge expanding the front of his board shorts. “Uh, dude… are you… gay?”
“Yyyyyeah,” I said, almost apologetically. Apparently sexual orientation was a quality inherent to the body, not a personality trait that could be transferred by…whatever process had just happened to us. I stared at him fondly and became just as confused, because the woody I was still sporting from my interaction with Virginia was only intensifying in her absence. Was I actually finding my gangly old body…hot? “Are you…bi?” I asked.
Before he could answer, I heard Virginia’s heels approaching in the foyer. She leaned back into the courtyard and waved. “I’m off for a costume fitting.” She waved in the direction of the sad waif on the chaise. “You take care of yourself, handsome,” she told him with a smile before shooting me a serious “Handle this shit” glare.
We both listened as her footsteps retreated down the hallway and waited for the front door to slam. Then Shane looked up at me hopefully, biting his lip. “Ya know, before we figure out how to undo all this… do ya think you could maybe… fuck me… once?”
I was surprised to hear my squeaky voice making such a bold request, but clearly Shane’s self-confidence had made the journey safely into my old body. “Yeah, I think I could get behind that,” I told him with a grin, feeling cocky.
“Cool!” He stood up and smiled, the top of his head barely reaching my shoulders. “I’ve been told by quite a few people that… that…”, he pointed toward the sizeable lump in my jeans, “…feels pretty goddamn awesome.” I eagerly swept him up in my arms and carried him inside the house, while he gave me frantic instructions on the location of the nearest bed.
In the distance, I could hear my old cell phone ringing in the pocket of my hoodie back in the courtyard. Probably Barry, calling to ask how everything was going.
Oh, yeah, I definitely owed Barry big time for sending me on this cum run.