The Photo Booth: A Tale of Transformation (ap musc mc)

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“I’m starting to think that we bit off more than we could chew,” Tate groaned to his friend as they wandered around the mall, notebooks in hand. It had been a long day for the two intrepid young reporters. Having entered the world of high school journalism a year late, as sophomores instead of freshmen, Tate and Justin felt like they had something to prove.

So, at the pitch meeting, they’d bypassed all the stories about the upcoming choir concert, about the football game and about the Student Council’s used clothing drive. Instead, they’d pitched a feature story, an expose of the vanity of their generation. Well, to be more precise, Tate had pitched it, and then the teacher had stuck Justin on it too, which was fine with both boys. Their teacher had been right, it’d be a lot of writing and if it got published at all – “it has to be good, and I’m not joking” – it’d be nice to see both of their names on the byline. The goal was to point out how ridiculously self-centered their peers were, always desperate for any kind of attention: posting pictures of themselves online so that people could comment “OMg your so HOTT babe <3!” Even if the girl had three chins, she could just stick the camera two feet above her head, angle it right, turn out the lights, and the praise would flow in. And the guys at their school, always lifting their shirts up in the mirror and taking blurry cell phone pictures so that the shadow would make it look like they had abs. And everyone, everyone, did that stupid ducky-lips shit, usually flashing a peace sign if they had a free hand. As if any of them actually cared about peace.

But their point wasn’t to condemn all their peers, it was more to point out that, despite the world being more connected than ever, it was getting harder to connect on a real personal level. The pictures weren’t meant to be real reflections of their subjects, and the compliments to them were not genuine. With all the information overloading everyone’s brains, social interaction was getting squeezed out. And so, teenagers – who often feel ignored anyway, even when being the center of attention – were screaming “NOTICE ME,” doing anything they could for someone, anyone, to pay them some mind.

They watched three tween girls squeeze into an old photo booth. All Tate and Justin could hear were giggles and squeals as flash after flash popped, and soon the girls were walking out with their photo strip in hand.

“You look so CUTE in that one!” “Oh ugh, look at my nose, it’s huge.” “That picture’s okay.” “That’s a good one of you, Nat!” “I wish I was as pretty as you.” “I wish I was as pretty as YOU, babe!”

Tate interrupted the endless chatter. “’scuse me?”

They all stopped talking to look at him. “Yeah?”

“Why did you all use that photo booth just then?”

The girls looked back and forth at each other, their big smiles fading a little. Tate wasn’t exactly impressive looking; he wore a faded mud-green t-shirt, size extra-large because he was so chunky. His long brown hair was washed every morning but he was a sweaty kid, so by midday it was always sticking to the sides of his head. He had clear skin and white, slightly crooked, teeth, with about two-dozen whiskers poking out of his chin in a feeble attempt at scruff. Tate never really cared about personal style, he really didn’t even care that he was fat. But Justin could tell that the girls obviously did, the way they were staring at him, barely hiding their giggles. Justin observed that the girls thought Tate was hitting on them. Which would be gross if he actually was, because they had to be twelve years old at the most.

“Uh, I dunno,” one of the girls said vacantly, doing her best Hannah Montana. “’cause it’s fun, I guess?”

“Why is it fun? I’m writing an article about photo booths and why people use them,” Tate lied.

“It’s a fun, uhhhh, memory I guess? Like, we’re gonna cut this up, and each of us’ll get two pictures and we’ll put them up on our walls and remember how good this day was. Y’know?”

“Oh,” Tate said, slightly disappointed at the genuine answer. “Thanks, that’s a good quote,” he muttered as he scribbled it in his notebook.

The girls went back to giggling, both about the pictures and about the weird nerd who was talking to them, as they walked away. Tate and Justin watched the girls disappear around the corner, a graphic-teed army in denim skirts and leggings.

“Hey, Tate,” Justin whispered as he elbowed Tate in the ribs. Well, in the rib area – Justin’s elbow just pushed into padded, soft flesh. Tate looked over at where Justin was indicating. The photo booth, again, but this time a sort of nerdy guy was checking it out. They assumed he was in college, but he had a sort of softness to him that could’ve pegged him as even younger than Tate and Justin, like he’d somehow dropped out of puberty halfway through and hadn’t ever finished. His fully-freckled face was a perfect circle, as were each of the lenses of his glasses and the tip of his nose. The only reason they assumed he was in college was because of the Robotics Club t-shirt he wore from the local university, underneath an ill-fitting open Oxford and tucked into old, badly worn blue jeans. Even though Tate and Justin had barely an ounce of fashion sense between them, they still knew that tucking in your t-shirt was a social tragedy. No wonder this guy was alone.

The nerd was obviously interested in the machinery of the booth: the handprint scanner, which the girls hadn’t had to use for some reason, and the high-quality monitor. Tate and Justin weren’t at all surprised when Nerd dropped a quarter into the machine. A smile even formed on his fat, freckled face as he heard the camera begin to hum with life. Nerd was still grinning as he pulled the curtains shut, unknowingly hiding himself from the two observers.

“Should we ask him why he’s taking pictures?”

Justin shrugged. “The way he touched that screen, you’d think it was a chick. I think he just wanted to see how it all worked.”

“Maybe. But he sorta seems like he might have an opinion on our story. I bet he’s met a bunch of attention whores in college.”

“I bet he met ‘em in high school, too.”

“Yeah. Hey,” Tate said, changing the subject, “I think I need some new clothes, can we shop around while we’re here? Do you mind?”

They weren’t best friends, but they were friends nonetheless, and Justin shook his head. “Don’t mind. What’re you looking for?”

“T-shirts I guess. I thought we might go out to the outlets across the street, a t-shirt’s a t-shirt, y’know? And the outlets make bigger sizes, which I usually need.” Justin was impressed at how unconcerned Tate was with his outward appearance. Tate never really seemed to be concerned with anything, in fact. Justin had never seen the guy freak out over anything. Tate was probably the most laid-back kid in school, always calm, never intense or rocking the boat. Slow and steady.

After more idle conversation, Justin checked his cell phone. “Did the robot guy leave? He’s been in there for like five minutes.”

“Nah, he didn’t, I can see both sides from here and I was watching,” Tate said, standing up and walking over to the booth, positioning himself about two feet away so he could see either set of curtains. Justin walked up next to him. “What do you-“

“Shh,” Tate scolded, indicating their close proximity to the booth. He was hoping the nerdy guy would think they had just walked up and were happening upon him exiting by chance, and can we ask you a couple questions, man? Cool shirt by the way, I love robotics…

Justin and Tate shot back as the man emerged from the booth. Their mouths dropped open.

His shirt was still tucked in, that was about all that connected this man to the previous one. Instead of ratty old clothes, this man – this incredible specimen of a man – was wearing a black vintage western cowboy shirt with all the details: diamond-shaped pearlized snap buttons and a metal-tipped collar lined with cream piping, six-snap cuffs with embroidered arrows on the sleeve. The yokes were detailed with fancy cream-colored swirls, embellishments and studs. The gleaming black fabric was tucked into ultra-tight dark blue Wranglers and held by an embossed leather belt that had a buckle the size of a man’s fist – and pressed inside the buckle was a real scorpion. The shirt was only buttoned halfway before being pushed dramatically open by a hugely muscular chest, with the cleft in between the man’s pecs dipping perfectly into the buttoned part of the shirt. The jaw-dropping width of the man’s shoulders was further enhanced by the studded, embroidered details on the front of his shirt, serving only to make him look even wider up top. The incredible mass of his upper body balanced out his height; he was a long-legged man, probably about six-three, but with a chest and shoulders as huge as his, he might as well have been a seven-footer the way people treated him. His sleeves were crisply taut on what had to be implausibly buff arms. The cowboy’s thighs were straining at the tight denim of his Wranglers, the fabric so stressed that the fine detail of his quads and hamstrings were visible to all. And in between his thighs, as obvious as a hammock tied between two oak trees, was a bulge that had to be seen to be believed. It was a wonder his fly wasn’t exploding open from the pressure.

The man noticed the dumbstruck teens before they even realized they’d been staring. When Tate and Justin got a look at the cowboy’s face, they almost fainted. His short, messy blond hair and straight blond eyebrows radiated against his deeply tanned skin, brown as a nut and freckle-free. His lips were a tight line underneath a straight, perfect nose, and his dark blue eyes – the same color as his Wranglers – glowed intently out of their tiny slits. All these features were set off by a jawline that would’ve made Captain America jealous, and a boxy cleft chin that would turn Superman green from envy. He looked to be about twenty-seven, and he definitely was the most handsome man that either boy had ever seen, be it in real life, at the movies, or anywhere.

The cowboy took a step forward, his handcrafted leather cowboy boots booming across the mall’s floor. “Can I help you fellas?” His voice was a sultry, slow baritone, like a riverboat chugging along, purposeful but deliberate. The way he said “I” – “ahh” – left no doubt that he was Texan.

“I…I uh…” Tate’s tongue felt glued inside his mouth. Justin was able to collect his thoughts a little faster. “Sorry, sir, we were waiting for a guy who was in there before you. He was wearing a t-shirt with a Roomba on the front of it.”

“A Roomba?” The cowboy chuckled, his stubbled superheroic features cracking into a big pearly grin. “What’s that?”

“It’s, uh, a vacuum for your house, listen, sorry we bothered you, we were just going to ask the guy why he was taking pictures of himself. But I’m sure you’re very busy-”

“I don’t have no camera,” the cowboy drawled. Justin was pretty sure he was talking to the Marlboro Man. “I thought takin’ a picture of myself would be fun ‘cause I like lookin’ at myself,” the blond hunk continued, grinning once more and puffing out his chest a little. Justin could see the button nestled below the cowboy’s lower pecs struggling to stay fastened, and one thread burst from it. “I don’t think I’m a bad-lookin’ guy, do you?”

“N-no, no, not at all.”

The cowboy laughed. “You didn’t have to answer that, but thanks. I gotta meet my crew, they’re eatin’, you boys have any other questions?”

Justin and Tate both shook their heads no, and the cowboy reached up and pressed his fingers together in front of his forehead as he nodded his head downward – like he was tipping an invisible cowboy hat. “See you boys ‘round then. Oh and, uh, there was no guy in there before me. Least not that I saw. Just some little girls. Sorry.” And with that, he strutted away, giving Justin and Tate a view of his high ass filling out his Wranglers obscenely.

“W-wow.” Tate finally exhaled as they watched the Texan depart. “I’ve never liked Western shirts, but that was one cool shirt. Did you see how it fit on his chest-“

“That’s the first thing you noticed?! Did you see his face? And his muscles! It’s like Texas had a wet dream and-”

“Are you queer?”


“Okay me either,” Tate sighed, “so I can admit that he was kinda perfect.”

“He was freakin’ perfect. I wanna be a cowboy now. I’m moving to Texas and buying a black Western shirt and cowboy boots and becoming a cowboy.”

“Good luck with that.”

There was a big long pause.

Tate finally asked what was on both of their minds. “Where’d the nerd go?”

“Did we make him up?”

“He didn’t leave, I swear he didn’t, I never looked away. Like, unless there’s some hole in the floor, or somethin’…I never saw the cowboy go in either. We were just a few feet away the entire time, how could we miss that?”

“The only thing that makes sense is that the nerd is the cowboy.”

Tate started to laugh as he looked at Justin. “That doesn’t make sense at ALL, man!”

“You’re right, you’re right, I just mean…I dunno. I can’t figure it out.”

“Yeah, sure, the nerd’s the cowboy. He just grew like six inches and gained a hundred pounds of muscle and put on some Western clothes that were left in there and happened to fit perfectly, and then his hair turned blond and his face turned into Brad Pitt. And he got an accent. That makes perfect sense.”

“Don’t forget that he grew whiskers too.”

“Oh right, he grew a five-o’clock shadow in five minutes. Did I leave anything else out?”

“Hey, we never heard the nerd talk. Maybe he already was a Texan. They have nerds in Texas.”

“Explain the rest of it.”

Justin was beginning to get annoyed. “I wasn’t serious, a-hole, I was just kidding. The nerd isn’t the cowboy, that’s stupid. I just can’t figure out how they switched out without us seeing.”

Tate put his hands on the booth and looked around inside. Well, there was no hole in the floor. Simple wooden décor on the wall, kinda cool carvings in the wood. It was amazing that the thing didn’t have a scratch of graffiti on it, not even a phone number or a drawing of a penis. Since it was wood, those things would be really hard to clean out, but the interior was immaculate. No wonder the nerd was interested in the handprint scanner, and the TV…they were cool-looking and starkly contemporary against the old-school décor.

Tate dropped in a quarter and climbed in, his fat rolls shoved up between his back and the wooden seat.

Justin looked curiously at his friend. “What’re you doing?”

“I’m trying it out.”

“It’s a photo booth, what’s there to try? It takes your picture. Whoo-hoo.”

“I dunno, we had two people who said it was fun, I wanna see,” Tate answered. Justin opened his mouth to point out that the muscular cowboy was the most gorgeous man they’d ever seen – of COURSE he would think taking pictures of himself was fun – but Tate wasn’t the cowboy. Not by a long shot. In fact, they may as well have been from different planets. However, that would basically require calling Tate ugly, and Justin didn’t want to do that.

“You don’t wanna try it? There’s room,” Tate said, scooting over about an inch. Justin looked at the space next to Tate, barely measuring half a foot. Tate’s fat ass took up too much space. “Uh, no, there isn’t room,” Justin chuckled, not trying to be mean, but honest. “I’m fine.”

“Suit yourself,” Tate said as he pulled the curtain shut, just in time to shield Justin from a powerful swell of light. The curtain did its work admirably – Justin didn’t see even a sliver of white. Not a speck. Not a sliver. Nothing.

The curtains opened immediately and Tate looked dazed. “Fuck, shit’s fuckin’ bright,” he mumbled, clearly annoyed. “Let’s go, I need clothes. I don’t have time for this.”

Justin’s eyes narrowed as he followed Tate. It was funny, he’d never seen Tate annoyed…it always had seemed that the only thing that would really shake Tate would be something big and dramatic, like a car accident, but of all the things, it was a light that was a little bright. And Tate was always going on and on about how cursing was the way that inarticulate people expressed themselves, yet there he was, dropping two f-bombs in one sentence, a word apart from each other.

“Slow down, man,” Justin said, speeding up his steps a little to keep up with Tate. Tate was the chubbier and shorter of the two, two inches shorter than Justin’s 5’9”, but he was just rocketing along like he was being timed. “Sorry,” Tate said, slowing his pace a little.

“What’s the rush?”

“Rush?” Tate shrugged. “Nothin’, just walking.”

Justin looked around the well-lit department store they had entered, heading for the escalators in the middle of the tiered store. Nordstrom. “What happened to shopping at the outlets?”

“Uh…” Tate shook his head. Justin didn’t feel like he was asking tough questions, but everything he said seemed to confuse Tate a little. “I dunno. I want something nicer, I guess. Outlet stuff falls apart really fast. The make and fit are both kinda shitty.”

Again with the cursing. “T-shirts are that way,” Justin said, pointing to a neatly folded table of graphic tees, but Tate was headed in the other direction, toward a big Ralph Lauren sign that hovered over a large men’s section. Tate would normally be making fun of all the thick-haired, blue-blooded male models whose pictures were hanging all over the area, but he seemed to be staring at them in almost reverent awe. He grabbed handfuls of different color polo shirts – at least a dozen, all different sizes – and headed to the fitting room, almost forgetting that Justin was even there. Once again, Justin had to jog a little to keep up. He got to the dressing room right as Tate was shutting the door.

“Since when do you wear polos, man?”

“I like polos,” Tate said through the door with a rather defensive edge to his voice. Justin rolled his eyes. Didn’t really answer the question, but okay. The door opened and Tate stood there, in a navy blue polo shirt, one of the new Big Pony styles that had the large white polo player embroidered on the front of it, standing about six inches high. “What do you think?”

The shirt was tight around Tate’s tubby midsection – his spare tire, he called it – but loose in the chest and shoulders, like almost all of his shirts. He hadn’t buttoned any of the buttons so the collar hung open and saggy, exposing a slight cleavage of manboobs. Not an attractive look. The shirt was too wide for Tate’s narrow, sloped shoulders, although his big arms were tight in the sleeves.

“Uh, what size is that?”

“XL,” Tate said as he turned his back to Justin and looked in the mirror.

“I think maybe you should go down a size, try a large, see if it fits up top more. Want me to go get you one?”

“Nah, I have one,” Tate said, rummaging through his pile and pulling out an electric blue shirt with a yellow polo player on its breast. He was yanking off the first polo as he shut the door.

Right as the latch clicked, the fitting room’s light bulbs seemed to blast with light for a brief moment, like a power surge. Tate fell against the door with a cry, dropping both shirts as his hands flew up and gripped the top of the door. The ceiling dropped toward him and he yelled again in panic, breathing hurriedly through gasping lungs. His body trembled uncontrollably for a few seconds, like spasms, before he was able to stand on his own two wobbly legs. He teetered for a few moments before leaning down to brace himself on the dressing room’s bench.

Justin could hear Tate’s rapid-fire “huh, huh, huh, huh” breathing pattern. “Uh, you okay in there?”

“Fine,” Tate gasped in between breaths. “Just got dizzy for a second.” He managed to stand and pull the polo on, though when he opened the door he leaned his right side against the doorframe for support.

Going down a size had made all the difference in the world. Tate looked good, not great, but good. Somehow the smaller size was looser around the waist, the fabric hanging around it like a curtain and hiding the ring of fat mushrooming out of the waist of his old jeans. It made more sense that the shirt was tighter in the chest and shoulders, but the design of the polo made Tate’s body look quite passable. The fit of the polo gave a nice lift to Tate’s saggy chest, and could almost deceive an onlooker into thinking that Tate had pecs. The shoulder seams were right in line with Tate’s collarbone and underarms, a perfect fit. The sleeves were still as tight as ever, but the band of the sleeve puckered right above the bicep area and pressed into Tate’s skin, making Justin swear that Tate’s arms looked more defined than usual.

But what was really strange was that Tate had the drop on Justin when it came to height. Tate stared down at his friend, cocking his head like a confused puppy. “Why’re you so short?”

“Why are YOU so TALL?”

“Don’t be stupid,” Tate leered, getting suddenly annoyed again and intimidating Justin. “I didn’t do shit.”

Justin pointed with a trembling finger at Tate’s legs. “Your pants don’t fit at all…”

Tate looked down to see several inches of bare leg sticking out above his socks. High-waters. Not a good look. And as both boys watched, Tate’s pants suddenly collapsed around his bare ankles, leaving him standing in a polo and boxer shorts. “Oh shit,” he cursed, reaching down in horror to pull up the comically ill-fitting jeans. The loose denim was balled in his fists, but even with Tate pulling the waistline in by several inches, the jeans didn’t fit. They looked made for a completely different person. A much, much fatter person.

“Tighten your belt,” Justin finally managed to say, and Tate shook his head. “I don’t have one! These are elastic, I didn’t need a belt this morning.”

Justin chuckled. “You were wearing elastic jeans? Are you 80?”

Tate’s eyes narrowed and his mouth curled into a frightening sneer. “Are you gonna stand there yammering like a fucking dumbass, or are you gonna help me out and get me some pants that fuckin’ fit?”

Without answering, Justin backed away, staring wide-eyed at Tate for a few seconds before disappearing around the corner. Tate shut the door of the fitting room and tossed his jeans into the corner, standing in his boxer shorts and polo, which he soon also stripped off. For some reason, he was horny as a motherfucker. Tate needed to masturbate four or five times a day, but he couldn’t even think of the last time he’d jacked it. He looked down at his dick, sticking outward like a flagpole from in between his legs. Long. Hard. He slapped it back and forth between his palms, grinning stupidly, giggling a little. Obviously, he wasn’t going to jack off in here, but it was so tempting. So, ignoring the want to pleasure himself, he moved his hands upward to his curiously flat stomach. Sometimes when he didn’t eat for a few hours his stomach got flatter, but never like this. This wasn’t even the torso of a chubby kid. His waist was straight up-and-down like a man’s waist is supposed to be. Tate had never even given a thought to his abs before, he didn’t know if he had them, but somewhere in his brain he made a muscle-mind connection and tried to flex them. It hurt for a moment, such a strange, foreign feeling, trying to flex a muscle that had never been contracted before. But Tate really concentrated and soon he felt the slightest little compression in his midsection, and when he looked in the mirror he could see a little ridge molded into the soft, doughy flesh. That ridge – barely visible – made Tate grin as big as the Joker. He flexed again, more this time, and he swore the shadows in the fitting room gave him abs. When he released, he could still see them! “Oh shit yeah,” he said, running his finger along the soft bumps. He flexed more, curving his spine to really push down on the abs, and soon they were popping outward more dramatically, the grooves now deep enough to fit a finger in between. Tate was obsessed, he couldn’t stop. He flexed harder and harder, gritting his teeth and growling, as he gave himself a tightly chiseled eight-pack. Soon, veins were shooting upward from his pubic area, his obliques were flaring out so far that he could hook his fingers underneath the sexy curves. His abs were knotted up like a loaf of braided bread, as hard as bricks with the skin hugging the muscles as tightly as it could. Tate wrapped a hand around his still-erect cock, running the other up and down his perfect, ripped abs. Then, without thinking about what he was doing, he yanked the polo back on, rolled up the hem to his chest so that his abs were totally exposed, and took a picture with his cell, making sure that his naked dick wasn’t visible in the lens.

Two pairs of jeans flopped over the top of the door. “Here,” Justin said curtly, annoyed with how rude Tate had been. With a quick “thanks,” Tate slid the pair of dark-washed denim on, and his body exploded with pleasure. These were THE jeans. Loose enough in the crotch for his huge dick, tight in the ass to show off its great curve, cut just right to leave room for his thick thighs. Tate couldn’t remember if his thighs were thick because of muscle or fat, but regardless, they were strong.

He forsook the large polo and put on the XL again, the navy one, and rummaged through his pile of clothes to get the three other XLs, all different colors. Right as he opened the door, a light surprised him and he sort of fell into Justin, momentarily stunned.

“Sorry bro,” he said vacantly as he stood back up, his 6’3” height putting Justin at eye-level with his shoulders. “My b.”

“Your b, huh?” Justin walked with Tate to the sales counter. “Is that the XL again? Why’d you put that one back on?”

“Liked it more, I’ll grow into it,” Tate said with supreme confidence. “It’s cut smaller in the waist so I felt alright with it. Tear the tag out so they can scan it, will you bro?”

Bro? Angling himself so that he could reach, Justin put his hand up into the back of Tate’s collar and ripped out the tag. His hands brushed against Tate’s skin, and Justin was surprised at how hard Tate’s back was. Why did Tate look so fit?

As they got to the counter, Tate plopped down the three polos on it while Justin slid the fourth polo’s tag next to them. The sales lady scanned all four polos and began taking off the security sensors. “Oh,” Tate said, sticking one hand down the back of his new jeans, “I’m wearin’ the jeans out, let me get the tag…”

“Actually,” the lady behind the counter replied, “I need both the shirt and the jeans so I can take the sensors off. It’s a magnet under the counter so I can’t do it when they’re on your-”

She suddenly stopped talking because, at that moment, Tate peeled off both his polo and his jeans, leaving himself standing in only his boxers – actually, now they were square-cut boxer briefs, stretched tight over bulging glutes and struggling to contain all of Tate’s meat. His willingness to strip nearly naked stunned both the lady and Justin, who stared open-mouthed, both at Tate’s bizarre personality shift and the body that he was sporting. Tightly chiseled abs, full pecs, broad shoulders, carved arms and a bubble-butt.

The lady couldn’t take her eyes off of the young man’s stomach – its youthful perfection was like an Axe deodorant ad brought into the real world. Tate noticed their stares and his mouth curled into the cockiest of smirks. “Sorry, I’m just not very shy,” he said as he stared Justin down with a gaze that seemed to brag, I’m twice the man you are.

The sales lady was fumbling with all the clothes, distracted and thrown off her game, but finally she got them all deactivated and Tate was re-dressing.

“$412.86.” Justin’s eyes bugged out of his head at the total, but Tate didn’t give it a thought as he passed a debit card over the counter. “Where did you get that kind of money?”

Tate chuckled as he took the card back and tucked it into his wallet. “My dad reimbuys, uh, reinbu…re…uh…my dad pays me back.”

“Reimburses? Since when?” Justin’s tone was a little challenging, and Tate didn’t like it. “Since he worships the ground I fuckin’ walk on.”

Justin was getting more fed up with all of Tate’s nonsensical answers. “And why does he do that?”

Tate’s still-chubby face – now looking odder than before, like it was stuck on the wrong body – clouded over. “I really dunno. Fuck, like, I can’t remember. But he does.”

“Sign, please,” the lady at the counter said, pointing to the receipt. Tate took the pen and looked at the blank signature line. For a long time he stared at it, his mouth dropped slightly open, his eyebrows pushed down. “Tuh,” he said to himself, “Tuh. T?”

Justin looked at his friend. “T,” he finally prodded, giving the tall man next to him a hint. “T.”

“Shut the fuck up, I know my name,” came the deflective response, but the utter confusion on his face said otherwise. He made a very hesitant, crooked “T” on the paper, before jotting a big scribble as the rest of his name, hiding the fact that he didn’t know it.

The saleslady handed over the bag and soon they were headed out of the store. “Hold up,” Justin was told, so Justin stopped walking and watched his friend pull out his wallet and look at his driver’s license and bank card.

“Tucker!” the tall kid said with a slap to his forehead. “Fuckin’…duhhhh. That was so weird, I just spaced for a moment.”

Justin looked over at the well-dressed figure. “Huh?”

“My name’s Tucker. Why couldn’t I remember it? That’s creepy.”

Justin was collapsing under the weight of his confusion. “Your name’s not Tucker.”

“Oh yeah, then what is it?”

“It’s uh…it starts with T. Tate, I think.”

“Tate?” Tucker laughed, a sort of vacant chuckle that gave Justin the creeps. “Sounds like ‘teat,’ heheheheheh…”

Justin could remember that Tate hated being called Teat, and it happened far too often. “Yeah, well, Teat, but Tucker sounds like Fucke-”

Justin didn’t even get the word out before he was ripped off the ground, Tucker’s hands holding onto his collar. The voice was low with fury. “Don’t you ever fucking call me that, you little shit.”


Tucker shook Justin, whose feet desperately reached for the ground but couldn’t touch. “The only time I get called Fucker is when I’m screwing, got it? Unnhhhh,” he said, suddenly making desperate sex noises, his mocking tone imitating an oversexed girl. “Uhhh, fuck me harder Tucker, fuck, fuck me fucking harder, fuck her, Tucker, Fucker, fuck her.” He recited it like a nursery rhyme, and Justin stared in horror at the angry sneer on Tucker’s fat face. Except suddenly, with an almost audible sucking noise, the ring of fat around Tucker’s head just evaporated, leaving considerably more definition than before.

Tucker was still holding Justin above the ground, the muscles on his neck standing out – enlarging - with anger. “’course they never ask me to fuck ‘em harder, if anything, I’m fuckin’ ‘em TOO hard and they tell me to cool off, slow down, Fucker Tucker, it hurts…oh God it hurts…it hurts so gooood, my Tucker Fucker, heh, heheheh,” but suddenly Tucker’s head snapped up and he grimaced, and with a sickening crunch his nose appeared to collapse in on itself in a two-second rhinoplasty. The ledge of his brow suddenly jutted outward – and downward too - and connected to the bridge of his nose in a perfect curve, as the round tip of his nose chiseled itself into a square, turning upward slightly as the nostrils shrank in size. There was a slight difference in the nostril sizes, as if Tucker had been hit in the face at some point. But it was a beautiful nose and a gorgeous brow, his eyebrows straight and low over his menacing eyes.

“T-Tucker, your face…”

“Fuckin’ right, that’s what they say next, unnnnnnnhhh Fucker, your face is so fuckin’-”

“No your face is CHANGING-”

Tucker’s thin lips swelled at the bottom and re-shaped at the top into a nice Cupid’s bow, his mouth stretching wider, sexier. Justin could see Tucker’s eyes actually pushing farther away from each other, and Tucker’s round face was soon more of a box, a wide face with sharp cheekbones and a heavy, angular, square jaw.

“Excuse me!” A voice yelled from behind Justin. “Is everything okay here?”

Justin’s feet touched the ground again and he furiously pulled at his clothes, trying to even out the rumpled neck of his shirt. Justin could see a huge security guard, his white uniform shirt wrapped tightly around his gigantic muscles, scolding Tucker, who looked like a chastised child.

“Sorry, man, we were just havin’ a disagreement,” Tucker muttered.

“None of that rough stuff here, ‘k kid? Leave it on the field.”

“Yes sir. I’m sorry sir.”

Justin had never seen such a big mall cop before. The man in the white shirt and navy pants was just a colossus, clearly a professional bodybuilder of some sort who needed a little extra cash. The guard walked away, shooting one last warning glance at Tucker, who bowed his head apologetically.

“Hey Justin?” Tucker looked at his friend and Justin stared back at Tucker’s new face. The features just didn’t mesh. A bizarre combination of old and new, clearly in transition and getting hotter with each second. Tucker’s anger had segued into fear. “Is something happening to me?”

“It feels like you’re changing into a different person, but I don’t…think that’s possible.”

Tucker’s face brightened. He didn’t have the mental capacity to figure it out, so he just let it slide. “Oh, right! It’s impossible.” He looked at himself in the plexiglass covering the mall’s directory. “Shit, I look good,” he said with a smirk, flipping up the back of his collar but leaving the front folded down. He pulled out his cell phone once more and aimed the lens at his face, pursing his lips out while exposing as much of his upper pecs as possible.

Justin watched as Tucker fiddled on his phone. “Look, man, these girls on FB wanna bone me.” Justin looked at the screen: it was the dressing room picture of Tucker’s abs and lower pecs, followed by breathless declarations of his obvious hotness by female admirers. A notification displayed and Tucker touched his finger on it, showing a comment on the new picture of his face. “Such a HOTTIIEEEE,” the girl had written, followed by “XOxOxo call me baby.”

Tucker chortled to himself as he put the phone in his back jean pocket before suddenly hunching. “Oh fuck,” he breathed, burying his head in his hands with a shudder. “Oh fuuuuckkk ow ow ow ow…”

In the past hour, Justin’s eyes had already seen too much to understand. But now, they were seeing more. First, they saw color spread from Tucker’s fingers and across his hair, a pure blond as yellow as corn overtaking the monotonous brown locks, which rapidly shortened into a short cut, ruffled on top with a dab of forming cream. But Justin couldn’t watch that for long, he had to look at Tucker’s chest, which was puffing out so fast that Justin figured Tucker was just arching his back or breathing in…but he was doing neither. His waist was getting smaller, his chest bigger, the polo now perfectly fitted to his muscles. Giant arms bulged from the tight sleeves, and the collar sat perfectly around a thick neck.

“This feels so…” Tucker’s voice cracked and dropped like a stone. “So…soooo…” He couldn’t squeeze out the word, but his orgasmic tremors did all the talking for him.

The small of his back pushed further in, or maybe it was just his ass swelling out. Justin couldn’t tell, but the change was dramatic, as dramatic as the heavy bulge that had bloomed in between Tucker’s thighs.

And just like that, Tucker popped his head up and wiped his impossibly blue eyes, grinning like a fucking idiot. His face was further changed – one eyebrow had a slight arch while the other was perfectly straight, which combined with the natural pout of his lips to give Tucker the look of a permanent smoldering gaze. His ears had folded against the sides of his head, not sticking out anymore, while his forehead was flatter and a heavier ledge over his eyes. Most dramatically, his angular jawline was now capped by a wide square chin, scruff-free.

Somehow, Tucker now looked like a jock straight of central casting.

“What did you say your name was again?”

“It’s…it’s Justin, man...don’t you know me?”

Tucker didn’t detect how distressed Justin was. “Aw sweet bro, sorry I forgot that. You wanna come get some gear with me?” His voice was foreign to Justin, a baritone with a careless lilt to it. Tucker didn’t wait for Justin to answer, instead breezing right by and leaving Justin to walk behind. The shorter kid had a full view of the curve of Tucker’s lats squeezed into his polo shirt. The jock walked with his arms out at an angle, because his lats and triceps shoved into each otherwise. Same with his pecs and biceps.

Justin piped up. “Hey Tate?”

Tucker kept walking, leering at the men and women who were ogling him.


Tucker’s walk was modifying itself further, his shoulders rolling more, his ass bouncing up and down. Soon, his manly swagger was serving as a further enhancement of his explosive virility.

Fine, I’ll bite. “Tucker?”

“Yeah man,” came the immediate response as Tucker tugged on the open neck of his polo, still trying to adjust to the muscles coming in. The visible divide between his solid pecs was deepening all the while, and his nipples were developing an intense sensitivity.

“We really need to finish our article,” Justin said feebly. “Can I look at your notes?”

“The fuck are you talking about?” As Tucker talked, his words were momentarily garbled by his jaw continuing to change shape. It shifted forward on his face, a dominant presence.

“Notes, for the vanity article.”

“Vanity article?” Tucker stopped dead in his tracks. “Wait, are you fucking calling me vain?”


“You’re profiling me for the school paper, is this some kind of set-up to make me look like a tool? I mean sure, I know I’m fuckin’ hot, but I don’t wanna say shit to you if you’re gonna make-”

“I’m profiling you? Why?”

“Are you fuckin’ high?” Tucker laughed, a sort of cruel dismissal of his short, scrubby companion. “Here, I gotta buy some tanks.” The jock couldn’t handle his nipples going crazy inside his shirt anymore. He felt like he was going to cum in his jeans, like he was sex embodied, like his muscles were stuffed with jizz.

“’ey bro,” Tucker said to the salesguy as he walked into another store. “Y’got some sport tanks that’ll fit a guy with a 47” chest and a 32” waist?” The man was too busy going gaga over Tucker’s insane body to answer, so the jock continued as an all-too-aware grin grew across his face. “I want ‘em tight and I like ‘em square cut at the top, makes the pecs look really good.”

Tucker disappeared into the back with the merchant and Justin took a seat, waiting. His forehead broke out in a sweat and he began to tremble. What had happened to Tate? Where did Tate go? Who was Tucker, why was he hanging out with Tucker…Tucker didn’t look like Tate at all, there was no facial resemblance whatsoever, and he was just a big hunk of muscle, versus Tate being a big chunk of fat. Tucker wasn’t nice, he was a cocky asshole, all jaw and cheeks and chin and brawn. Dumb as the dirt and hot as the hell beneath it.

Justin looked in the back and saw Tucker putting on a show for the salesman. He wore a white tank top that clung to his built body, showing every vein, every nipple, every muscle. He’d taken his pants off and changed into a small slip of a white bikini brief, his package explicitly prominent. Justin was pretty sure a grapefruit was inside the underwear, there was no way a man could be hung like that. For a second, Tucker lost his balance and stumbled back, as if something had surprised him. His pecs seemed to shift into a higher position, soaring straight out of his clavicle and floating above his washboard stomach. Justin swore that he saw Tucker’s muscles get just a little bigger, and his face define itself just a little more, until the 6’3” 240-pound muscle jock was so hot he could melt ice.

Justin saw Tucker take a bottle from the salesman and begin to pour the contents onto himself. Oil, Justin realized. Tucker was oiling up and getting a boner because of it. The jock’s lusciously tanned skin, hairless to boost his muscle definition, was now all greased-up and glowing. Tucker’s Colgate smile grinned smugly down at the salesman. He curled his arms upward in a classic pose, the biceps and triceps each the size of a grapefruit, pushing out of his skin in classically veined glory. This was a man specifically bred for athletic glory…and endorsements. Whatever they were talking about was getting Tucker off. Justin assumed they were talking sports, and muscle, the only two things Tucker card about, since he counted sex as a sport. He was varsity in it, along with football, basketball, track and wrestling.

Justin watched Tucker get dressed. Nothing but a pretty face and a pair of pecs pushed inside a polo. But what a pretty face, and what a pair of pecs…

Tucker went to the counter to pay. The man comped the several pairs of underwear and only charged for the tanks, and Tucker signed his name without hesitation as he chatted about the upcoming season. Justin watched Tucker in jealous, confused wonder. The best athlete in school was also the hottest teen in the state. Tucker was such a fuckin’ douche but he was so damned gorgeous, it didn’t matter, he could score ten different kinds of pussy in a day if he wanted to. And it didn’t matter that he was dumb as shit, sports would make him millions and he could hire people to manage the money he was too stupid to handle himself.

Justin began to stand as Tucker walked toward him, but he realized that Tucker didn’t even know he was there. The tall, buff jock put on a pair of aviators and strutted out the door, blowing right past Justin without a thought and disappearing into the crowd of the mall.

In a daze, Justin walked out of the store and through the mall, trying to make sense of the day’s events. Maybe Tate was still at the photo booth…maybe that had just been a dream, he hadn’t seen Tate grow muscles, hadn’t seen Tate’s face transform into a hotter man’s, like it was a Halloween mask falling off. It was all just a dream, he’d wake up and he and Tate would hand in their story.

Justin came upon the booth and looked at it curiously, with great fear and trepidation. It seemed so innocuous, just a little wooden structure taking up a couple square feet in this bigass mall. It was obviously nothing. Justin was just dreaming, he knew. Maybe the photo booth didn’t even exist in real life.

He touched the wood details, half-expecting them to give him a static shock or surprise him in some way. But nothing happened.

“This thing’s a cupcake,” he said out loud as he crawled in, going against his better judgment. “There’s nothing to be scared of. It just takes your stupid picture.”

Justin dropped a quarter into the slot and scanned his hand in the same manner he’d seen Tate do. He was expecting Tate, at any moment, to pop out and make fun of him for using the booth. Justin was sure this whole bizarre day was a planned trap from the start: they’d gotten Tucker from school to switch out with Tate, with the purpose of getting Justin into the booth so that they could laugh at him being vain himself. Tate and Tucker, the chubby dork and the buff super-stud, would appear together and laugh at Justin’s idiocy.

But Justin was hellbent on proving to himself that nothing weird was happening. He’d just been blinking when the robot nerd got out of the booth and the Texas fantasy stepped in, and then Tate and Tucker had pulled a fast one on him. That was the obvious explanation.

But he just had to convince himself. It’d only take a second.

The first picture looked just like him. “See, stupid?” As average as could be, dull brown hair and eyes, a rather narrow face with an inward-sloping chin. On the average side of cute or the cute side of homely, depending on how you looked at it. Nice teeth from braces, and clear skin, which he was lucky to have. Justin gave a tug on the crewneck collar of his t-shirt, it was still a little rumpled from where that dickhead Tucker had twisted it.

Justin heard the camera whirring back to life and shut his eyes in preparation, opening them at the perfect moment so that he looked completely alert in the second picture. “Yup, still the same,” he said assuredly to himself. Same dull brown hair and emerald-green eyes, a rather narrow face with a square cleft chin stuck onto the end of it. His Adam’s apple felt compressed, so Justin reached up to unbutton the collar of his shirt. He liked wearing his collars open, it felt good, let his burly neck and shoulders breathe. Breathe, he thought to himself, exhaling a big puff of air and smiling from the relief.

The third flash was warm and inviting. It felt like a kiss on the lips, and Jus wondered why he’d ever been freaked out by the booth at all. “Nothing different about me at all,” a booming baritone said confidently, followed by a hearty slap on his thick thigh. The hit made his dick jump in his pants, and Jus pawed his crotch area and adjusted it a bit so that it sat right. It was hard to find a good resting place for such a big cock, but that was an okay problem to have.

In the picture was the twentysomething face he was familiar with, very attractive, a wide-jawed rectangle with big cheekbones under deep-set green eyes. The usual white collar sitting open around his thick neck. His shaggy black hair was starting to hang in front of his face and obscure his vision, so Jus neatly parted it down the middle with his large hands and tucked it all behind his ears.

By flash #4, the man who knew himself as Rus was starting to look extremely built. Broad shoulders and a powerful chest filled his white shirt, and his short sleeves were tight around bulging biceps. The toes of his heavy black shoes pressed against the front of the booth and made Rus spread his legs a little farther apart to get more room. He’d always been a big kid, and big kids grow into big men. And that’s what Rus was – big. Very, very big.

“Looking good as always,” he said in his familiar bass. He hadn’t shaved this morning before work, so of course his sheet of dense black stubble was just a few whiskers away from a full beard. Rus had to shave every day, usually twice, and even then he’d have a perfect shadow by the time he was falling into bed. His glossy black hair had grown down past his chin, thick and wavy with a natural flip in the back.

It was flash #5 that took Russ from big to Massive with a capital M. Far bigger than a girl’s DDDs, his pecs hung from his enormous shoulders like heavy sandbags. On a normal man, the pleated pockets of Russ’s white shirt would sit right on top of the chest. On Russ, half of the pocket was impossible to see, wedged underneath his pectorals. Russ obligingly opened the next button down on his shirt, letting the top of his chest pelt curl into view. His monstrous traps had all but consumed his neck, and the collar sat wide on top of shoulders that looked five feet wide. The arms looked largest of all, their proportions more suited for a man’s legs. Every muscle in them was in business for itself, absurdly full within his sleeves. Russ popped his knuckles, and with each crack, his biceps twitched and made him grin.

“Why were people worried about this thing?” Russ wondered aloud as he looked at his picture. It was working just fine, showed his big square face with the huge clefted jaw, the even texture of his black daily stubble broken only by his straight white teeth. His cheekbones were like granite countertops with the green emeralds resting on top. The hair-tie wrapped around his bulky wrist could be used to hold his hair in a ponytail, but Russ decided to just push it all back from his face and let it rest like a mane around his face. Russ folded both sides of his shirt and tucked it into his blue trousers neatly, avoiding bunching. Then, noticing that his nipples were clearly on view, he opened another button on his crisp white shirt to loosen it up a little, exposing the entire divide between his pectorals along with a great deal of hair.


Yup, if an NFL linebacker and a Marine could have a baby and raise it on nothing but beef, chicken and oats, it would grow up to look something like Ross. The giant, hirsute bodybuilder brushed some dust off his tight blue uniform pants and straightened the hair under his lip, rubbing a rough hand over the silky smooth stubble that grew daily on his manly face. Competitions were coming up so he’d be shaving that off soon, along with his body hair. Get the hair on his head cut short enough to just slick it back and boom, he’d be taken from caveman to Clark Kent, a square-jawed muscle fantasy. Not that he wasn’t already, but it was funny how a few minutes with a razor could transform him from one variety of stud – the rough-and-tumble muscled-up man’s man - into another, the suave superhero, the beefy romance novel coverboy.

Another deep bass came from outside the curtains. “Hey fool, get your big ass out of there, you’re supposed to be testing it, not checking yourself out.”

Ross laughed as he squeezed out of the booth, his 6’4” frame forcing its way through the small opening. He had an impressively small waist for a man of his size, and it made him look that much broader. “Here, have a present,” Ross said, handing his photo strip to his buddy. “Damn thing works fine, dunno why people keep saying it doesn’t.”

Ross’s buddy Joe - his white uniform shirt wrapped tightly around his gigantic muscles - stuck a finger in between Ross’s pecs. “Boss’ll flip when he sees you undone.”

“Oh, shit, right.” With some maneuvering, Ross pulled his shirt together over his lower pecs and buttoned it, leaving only the collar and next button open.

The white uniform shirts of the two security guards were fighting valiantly to stay put over their behemoth bodies. Buttons strained to contain their chests and shoulders, and their sleeves crinkled threateningly as they moved their arms. When Ross would breathe in, his pecs would stretch his shirt just enough to reveal some skin in between the buttons. The men had grown bigger since they’d been assigned their uniforms, but there was little motivation to get new ones. Just needed some extra money to buy supplements, so a by-the-hour mall security gig was perfect, and they could go to the gym before or after work.

Plus, it was really fun to boss people around. These were two mall cops that no one made fun of.

The alarm on Ross’s thick utility watch began to blare. “Damn, two hours already? Time to eat,” he said. “Man, let’s get pasta at the food court, I ate the rest of my chicken earlier.”

“Fine with me,” Joe said with a shrug, his shoulder movements making his shirt tremble. The two behemoths began their swagger over to the restaurant, their big asses and massive thighs propelling them forward. People gawked. People always gawked.

Out of a random selection of ten male shoppers in the mall, at least one was guaranteed to be either hot like a model, buff like a bodybuilder, or both. As Joe and Ross walked, they observed at least a dozen men who would be able to make a good living on their looks alone.

“Does it seem like there’s a lot of really jacked guys around here lately?”

“I was just thinking that,” Ross answered, looking across the way at an unfeasibly hunky jock in a tight blue polo shirt. The kid’s gorgeous muscles were only matched by his flawless face. “I don’t remember there being so many really good-looking dudes when we first started working here.”

“The gym ran that special a while back, maybe that brought in all the muscle guys.”

That made sense. Ross nodded. “I bet that was it. Yeah, the special.”

Ross and Joe were still close enough to the booth that they could hear the curtains being pulled shut, as a new customer entered.

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