Staring out the front window of the art gallery, Simon Blake noticed the two studs as soon as they emerged from the surf. It was hard not to notice them, with their nearly identical gym-rat physiques and their swimwear color-coordinated with their hair. The one with slicked-back black hair was perhaps an inch taller than his companion and wore square-cut black trunks, while his pal with abundant red curls sported a red Speedo. Both had now slipped on their flip-flops and were toweling themselves dry as they walked across the sand.
When he had his job interview, Simon had found the location of this fine-art gallery peculiar. Although the beach certainly attracted its share of upscale visitors, Simon thought the shop would be far more successful if it were located slightly inland, among the other prestige boutiques which were frequented by the moneyed classes, rather than along the boardwalk with its t-shirt stores, hot-dog carts and Sno-Kone stands. Even so, Simon didn’t think it was his place to question the gallery owner’s business sense, and it certainly seemed unlikely that such second-guessing of his prospective boss’s wisdom would be helpful in getting him hired.
Once he started working at the gallery, Simon discovered just how right his instincts were. The place got almost no foot traffic. Tourists in tank tops and baggy shorts occasionally peeked through the windows or, on rare occasions, swung open the front door and glanced around before quickly realizing that this wasn’t their kind of place. Simon could go hours or even days between serious customers. Frankly, Simon had come to appreciate the peace and solitude of the job. Inside the store’s undisturbed cocoon, he could munch on his packed lunch of fruits and veggies and listen to Mozart all day, drowning out the moronic hip-hop which was as ubiquitous in the air outside as the salt in the ocean’s breezes.
As a former art history major, Simon was relieved that the less sophisticated passersby didn’t bother coming inside, as it meant fewer times he would have to educate the yokels on why some of the artwork on the walls merited a five-figure price tag. Since Simon was paid a salary and didn’t work on commission, he really didn’t care that the gallery might go a week without a sale. How to keep the doors open on such little income was the owner’s problem. If the owner hadn’t found some sucker with no life like Simon to waste his days here, the place would likely have gone belly-up months ago. But having so few customers sure made the time drag.
Simon spent most of his days gazing out the floor-to-ceiling front windows at the passing parade of humanity. It was like watching a never-ending episode of “Baywatch” on the world’s largest hi-def TV screen. He once tried to estimate how many square feet of exposed skin he saw on the average day. Unfortunately, the most out-of-shape tourists often chose to conceal their bodies the least. A decent share of those walking past were attractive young women in bikinis, but their assets were wasted on Simon. The two buddies strolling off the beach were much more Simon’s type…aesthetically, if not intellectually.
Simon operated under the assumption that anyone who spent that much time perfecting their body was not spending it developing their mind. On the few times he had dared to try chatting up a particularly well-built hunk, they proved to be dumb and/or straight, seemingly dooming Simon to a life of being attracted only to men he didn’t want and/or men he couldn’t have. Simon just wanted to find one hot guy with whom he shared one crucial common interest – that being an interest in getting Simon laid.
If he was trying to figure out the reasons for his near-constant celibacy, a quick look in any mirror should have given Simon a hint. His work uniform of a blue dress shirt, khakis and brown shoes didn’t differ much from his usual wardrobe. On the job, he was required to wear a necktie, but he seemed incapable of making the skinny end shorter than the fat end. He typically rolled the sleeves of his shirt above his elbows, exposed thin, bone-pale forearms which could scarcely be termed an asset. He completed his nerd/preppy look with a pair of gold-framed glasses and a haircut so tidy and unmoving, it resembled the plastic hair you might stick on a Mr. Potato-Head.
As Simon’s eyes lingered on the two studs’ muscles shifting and bulging as they walked across the sand, he assumed they would eventually veer off to buy smoothies or something, but they continued on their course straight for the gallery’s front door. When Simon finally realized that the one with the red curls was gripping the door handle, he rushed toward the entrance with the sad realization that he would need to turn them away.
As the door swung open, Simon’s nasal voice informed the men, “Sorry, guys. Can’t let you in without shirts.” He pointed to a small sign posted in the window, reading “All customers must wear proper attire.” The gallery owner didn’t want nearly-naked riff-raff wandering around the shop, undercutting his efforts to create a high-class environment, even if no other customers were present. And based on what little these two guys were wearing, Simon didn’t think they could accurately be considered customers, as they clearly had no place in those swimsuits to carry any money…unless those were actually rolls of silver dollars those guys were packing down there.
The black-haired one smiled winningly at Simon, creating swoon-worthy dimples in his smooth, tan cheeks. “How do you know we’re not allergic to shirts? ‘Cause then keeping us out would qualify as discrimination.”
“Nice try, but no,” Simon replied.
The red-haired dude chimed in, “Come on, buddy. We just want to look around.”
“Sorry,” Simon shrugged. “Store policy. If it was up to me…”
Mr. Red-hair locked his bright green eyes on Simon’s undistinguished brown eyes. “But it is up to you, isn’t it?”
Simon felt a strange wave of serenity pass through his body, as his anxiety about letting these men into his store vanished. What harm could it do? He certainly wouldn’t mind watching these two strut around the gallery for a while, and the odds were highly unlikely that his boss would choose this precise time to arrive for one of his rare visits.
Simon whispered conspiratorially. “Okay. But if my boss shows up, you’ll have to run out the back door fast.”
The black-haired guy nudged his companion’s shoulder. “Hear that, Red? We might be getting some back-door action.”
Red shook his head and rolled his eyes. “You are so mature, Evan. Sooo mature.”
The young men eased their way past Simon, whose head involuntarily swiveled to follow them. Until now, he had only seen them from the front, but their rear views were equally impressive, with broad lats, ripe glutes and elegantly sculpted calves. Simon realized they were easily the two finest works of art currently in the gallery. His thin voice broke a little as he spoke.
“Wha-A-at are you fellows looking for today?”
Red shrugged his bulging, freckle-spotted shoulders. “Not sure. But I usually know what I want when I see it.” He glanced back at Simon inscrutably.
Suddenly, Simon’s thoughts were scattered. Ever since these two entered, he felt dazed, as if they had cast a spell over him. “Get back in the game, Blake,” Simon thought to himself. “These guys are messing with your head.”
Red strode over and placed his large hands upon Simon’s anemic shoulders, crouched slightly to look straight into Simon’s eyes and spoke in a relaxed tone. “Are we making you uncomfortable?”
Simon felt another soothing rush of energy, even stronger than the first one. He felt like he could tell Red anything, and that Red could sense things about him without anything being said. It was like that thing…what was that thing his old nerdy friends used to talk about? The Jedi Mind Meld? Yeah, like that, but very pleasant.
“No, I feel very comfortable,” said Simon, a rare smile coming to his thin lips.
“That’s good,” cooed Red. “What’s your name?”
“Simon Blake,” he said without hesitation.
Evan, who was leaning against the wall behind Red and watching with fascination, chimed in. “Blake. That might be a hot name for him.”
Red shushed Evan without breaking his eye contact with Simon. “I want to help you, Simon Blake. When I was way out on the beach, even when I was in the water, I could feel that there was a troubled soul nearby. That sensation only got stronger the closer I got to you, and right now it’s overwhelming.”
Simon looked confused. “What do you mean, troubled? I’m fine.”
“Are you? Are you really?”, Red asked as his fingers began to massage Simon’s shoulders. “Because I feel a lot of tension in you. A lot of unhappiness. Are you unhappy?”
Simon hesitated, but had to be honest. He nodded solemnly. Simply acknowledging his unhappiness seemed to lift a weight from his shoulders, although Red’s caressing fingertips may have had something to do with it too.
“You may not believe it, but I have a gift, Simon Blake. I’m able to make people happy. Happier than they have ever felt. Would you like to feel happy?”
From his growing stupor, Simon wondered curiously. “What do you mean, exactly? You want to fuck me?”
Evan slapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a guffaw. Red’s tone and demeanor remained unflapped as his lip curled slightly. “Possibly later. But you’re skipping ahead a few steps.”
Another relaxing surge spread through Simon’s body. His eyes closed and his body began to tingle as he surrendered himself to the power radiating from Red’s fingertips. Suddenly, he wobbled on his feet as if the floor had gone out from under him. “Was that an earthquake?”
“No,” Red reassured him, “although this will definitely shake up your world. You’ll feel a few more jolts like that as things progress, but I’m sure you’ll be happy with the end result.”
Simon leaned his head back, his Adam’s apple jutting dramatically from his scrawny neck. “I’m still not sure what you mean.”
“As I said, it’s a gift. I’m giving my gift to you. Not so long ago, I gave the same gift to my friend Evan here. Now, doesn’t he look happy to you?”
Simon lowered his head and peered over at the dark-haired muscleman standing behind Red with his powerful arms crossed. Inhibitions lowered to nonexistence, Simon purred, “He looks yummy.”
When Evan held back another laugh, Red muttered to him out the side of his mouth, “You’re breaking his concentration. You’re never going to learn how to do this yourself if you don’t treat the process with dignity and respect.”
“Sorry, Red,” whispered Evan, sincerely. “I just never been called ‘yummy’ before.”
Red focused his energy on Simon. “Just trust me, Simon Blake, and you’ll be even yummier than Evan.”
That brought an elated smile to Simon’s face, while Evan grumbled. “How come he gets to be yummier than me?”
Red spoke curtly. “Maybe because he doesn’t keep interrupting me.”
Evan backed off, realizing that pissing off someone with Red’s powers was probably a foolish idea.
Red moved his hands gently down Simon’s bony arms. “I think we should go outside in the fresh air. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Despite his contentment, a flicker of anxiety struck Simon. “But I gotta watch the store.”
“Evan can watch the store for you. I get the feeling that you don’t get many customers.”
Simon’s instinct was to oppose that idea, but his body was telling him everything would be fine. “Okay, let’s go.”
As Red led Simon outside, he glanced back, tilting his head to indicate that Evan should take a position behind the counter. Evan shuffled his he-man body across the room like a petulant teenager.
Stepping outside, Simon was assaulted by the sights, sounds and smells of the boardwalk that he usually made such a point to avoid. But now, Red had him in such a state of bliss that they commingled in a symphony that was delighting all of his senses.
“There, isn’t that better than being trapped in an air-conditioned box all day? Feeling the sun on your skin and the breeze in your hair?”
“Mmmm. Yessss.” Simon closed his eyes and raised his face to the sun.
Red led Simon down a side street where pedestrians wouldn’t notice them. “Okay, like I said, you’ll probably feel a few tremors, but they’re nothing to worry about. It’s just the world adjusting to the new you.”
“The new me…” Simon’s voice trickled off pleasantly.
Red gathered his strength, then pressed both of his hands onto Simon’s shoulders. A shudder rocked Simon violently, but the more his body shook, the less agitated his mind felt.
Red had never lost his excitement for watching a transformation occur, partly because it still remained mysterious to him. He knew that it was guided in part by his supernatural gift and in part by the secret desires of the one being altered. He was always curious to see how people would reshape themselves when given the chance.
A seismic wallop flowed through Red’s body into Simon’s and the changes began in earnest. Simon’s glasses skittered down the bridge of his nose as his facial features rearranged themselves. His pinched and narrow nose broadened, his lips grew plumper and his eyebrows thickened. His neatly groomed hair began to sprout ragged offshoots, growing wild in mere seconds, like time-lapse photography. His pallor was also disappearing rapidly, the skin on his face and arms taking on a surfer’s hue.
Another spasm ricocheted through Red and into Simon, who could feel something churning under his skin, as if his body were simultaneously becoming softer and harder. Red watched approvingly as sizable lumps began to grow under Simon’s slim-cut shirt and narrow khakis. The fabric of Simon’s shirt was strained to its limit as his expanding shoulders and chest tugged in opposite directions against the buttons and buttonholes. Simon’s rolled-up sleeves inched upward as his biceps gained heft. His neck thickened impressively, reducing the prominence of his Adam’s apple and popping the top button from his shirt. As testosterone surged through him, Simon’s breathing became labored, his pulse accelerated, and he felt a pleasant new heaviness in both his brain and his balls. His cock was hanging lower, as if it were growing in length without even getting hard.
As the body alterations were winding down, Red braced for the final blast of energy which he knew would complete the process. This final surge was the whopper, as it would make over not only Simon’s wardrobe but his very personality, reshaping not only who he is but, retroactively, who he had always been. Red found this last step the most intriguing and revealing psychologically, as the traits which the person had most disliked in himself were eradicated and replaced.
“Hang on, here it comes,” Red warned Simon, as if they were nearing the last and longest dip of a roller coaster. He gripped Simon’s now meaty deltoids, and Simon clenched his fists with a dim awareness of how much more powerful they felt. This was just one of the many incredible sensations currently swamping his body.
Red and Simon shook as one, then were flung apart as an invisible pulse radiated from them and spread outward, sending a shockwave rippling throughout existence as the Simon Blake who had existed until that moment vanished from history.
Red had been knocked on his ass, his head smacking into the outer wall of the art gallery. He rubbed his hand through his red curls and felt a sizeable bump from the collision. Evan rushed toward him and knelt down, asking if Red was alright.
“I told you to stay in the art gallery,” Red said, perturbed.
“Art gallery? Oh, you mean this place? It’s out of business. Why, was that where he worked?”
Red nodded and Evan felt a chill. He’d witnessed plenty of these transformations, but he still hadn’t gotten used to witnessing the unexpected changes that always resulted from them. As Red’s partner, he was the only other person on earth aware of how their actions had altered the world around them.
Red looked around, wondering where Simon had gone. He noticed some movement in a brushy area and saw a tall figure rising from behind a grassy knoll. Evan’s jaw dropped as the new Simon revealed himself, standing uncertainly and clutching his head. The nerdy salesperson who couldn’t have been more than five-foot-seven was now easily six-two. His shirt had been blasted off his body in a flurry of individual strings, fully revealing the tanned and toned flesh of his smooth torso and jacked arm muscles. His necktie had shriveled and reformed itself into a leather necklace, his wristwatch morphed into a leather bracelet. His neatly pressed Dockers were now cut off raggedly at the knee, showing off his athletic and hairy legs as well as an inch of his baby-blue boxers. Even his choice in footwear had been altered in the reality-quake, with his sleek brown dress shoes swapped in favor of navy Converse All-Stars. When he lowered his hand to reveal his boyish refashioned face, all Evan could think was “yummy.”
Red and Evan walked over to help Simon climb over the grassy hump, but Simon leapt it gracefully with no assistance.
“Yo guys, what’s up?”, he asked in a rich masculine timbre which sounded deeper to Red and Evan but perfectly normal to Simon.
“Nothing much,” Red replied. “How are you?”
“Never better.” Simon grinned goofily while he ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “I feel like grabbing a slice. Wanna come?”
Red and Evan followed slightly behind as the new Simon loped casually toward the boardwalk, full of youth and vitality. Simon was delighted by the swirl of activity around him. Red noted a slight flicker of confusion on Simon’s face as he passed the art gallery, its windows now whitewashed and bearing “For Lease” signs, but clearly nothing major registered in Simon’s mind about his former workplace.
Simon ducked into a pizza joint and asked the man behind the counter if it was okay for them to come in dressed like this. “Or undressed like this.” The proprietor gestured to the rest of the establishment where shirtless guys and bikini-clad girls predominated, so Simon relaxed. He ordered two slices of sausage and pepperoni and a beer. The guy behind the counter asked to see Simon’s ID, which he pulled out of the wallet in the pocket of his cut-offs.
The proprietor checked over the driver’s license and handed it back, saying, “Thank you, Blake. Anything for your friends?”
Red and Evan shook their heads. Evan said, “We don’t have any money.”
“Fuck that. My treat. C’mon, whattaya want?”
Evan ordered a slice with everything, while Red still passed. He did, however, ask if he could take a look at Simon’s driver’s license. The former Simon handed it over and Red smiled as he inspected it. Evan’s casual suggestion that Blake would be a hot name had wormed its way into Simon Blake’s subconscious. The transformed driver’s license now bore the name Blake Simon, as well as a photo of the handsome stud now waiting for his order.
The threesome took an outside table where they had a good view of a beach volleyball game in progress. A stray ball flew toward them, rolling toward Blake who stopped it with his sneaker. He picked up the ball and bopped it back to the game effortlessly, with an athleticism that seemed inborn. As he sat back down and took a swig of beer, he heard a song by Kanye West begin on the pizza parlor’s sound system. He shouted behind the counter, “Whoooo! Turn it up, yo!” He chewed in rhythm and bobbed his head frenetically. Red and Evan just smiled and shook their heads. Seeing such changes never got old.
Another volleyball whizzed past one of the players and bounced toward Blake, who nabbed it one-handed before it could slam into his face. A cute blond guy with a short but muscular body ran over apologetically. “I’m sorry about that, man. I suck. You wanna take my spot?”
In some dim recess deep inside his mind, Blake knew he was having a strange day. But the way this kid was smiling at him, Blake knew it was a good kind of strange. He turned to Red and Evan and asked, “You mind if I…?”
They both gestured for him to go ahead. Red said, “Enjoy your life. We’ll check back with you soon.”
Blake hopped to his feet, palming the volleyball in his left hand while extending his right to the blond. “I’m Blake.”
“Chip,” the blond grinned, trying to keep up with Blake’s longer strides.
“So what do you mean you suck? You look like you’re in awesome shape, bro.”
“Gymnastics,” Chip said proudly. “But volleyball, football, baseball, basketball…anything with balls, I suck.”
Chip winced, embarrassed at how that came out, but Blake, exuding cool, simply smiled and said, “I dunno, I kinda like the sound of that.”
Blake joined the game, amiably greeting the other players before putting his fierce new body into action. With Blake as their new weapon, his team quickly creamed the opposition. He was a natural, even if he hadn’t come by that naturalness naturally.
Red and Evan watched from their table, satisfied with the transformation.
“Another successful day’s work,” proclaimed Red. “Now the world has one less tight-ass.”
“I thought you liked a tight ass,” said Evan, smirking.
“Only yours, Evan. Only yours,” Red said as he let his body relax. He tried to zone out the distractions of the boardwalk in hopes of honing in on someone else who could benefit from his gift.