MLB Player Rex Chastain is dragooned into the service of a wizard but a magical transformation goes somewhat awry.
At 26, I’d been playing for the Atlanta Braves since graduating from Georgia Tech in 1992. I had plenty of money, an expensive condo in Midtown, and more celebrity than I knew what to do with. Some of that probably had to do with my being one of the best players on a World Series championship team. Part of it had to do with the fact that most people considered me drop dead gorgeous. At 6’1” tall, I weighed 230 pounds of solid muscle (my body fat was well under 10 percent), with close cropped dark brown hair, soulful dark brown eyes, a sexy goatee, and gorgeous thick dark curls on my broad thick chest, rippling abs, powerful legs and brawny forearms.
Occasionally it would get too much and I would head down to my Aunt Jen’s place in rural south Georgia. She and her partner, Sally, had a horse farm, with a big old house and well-kept modern stables surrounded by some fine grazing land and big stands of pine. When I got tired of horseback riding, there was an Olympic sized pool, and if I felt daring I’d let Sally challenge me to a tennis match. She won two out of three times but I gave her a good game, which she appreciated.
It was from one such visit I was returning home when I ran into Throckmorton—almost literally!
For whatever reason I’d been restless my last night there and before dawn I got up and on the road, casually tossing the gym bag I used for a suitcase on such visits into the back seat of my new Dodge Sebring convertible. From Aunt Jen’s to I-75 stretched nearly 50 miles of two-lane blacktop, dark and deserted at this time of morning. I hadn’t gone 10 miles before it started pouring down rain, not too surprising for that time of year but a pain in the butt even so.
Still, I decided to keep on; I was ready to be back in Atlanta.
A couple of miles short of the freeway the rain was beginning to clear and the sun was just beginning to peep up over the fringe of the never-ending pines—that’s when I spied Throckmorton.
He was a big man, so I could see him from a long way off, and he was standing smack dab in the middle of the road. I began slowing down, figuring he’d get out of the way, and then I realized he wasn’t going to move. I came to a stop a few yards in front of him, rolled my eyes, and got out of the car.
“Uh, is there a problem?” I asked.
“Well, yes, there is,” Throckmorton replied, in a rich, deep voice. “And you’re just the man to fix it for me.”
I cocked my head sideways, at that, and gave him another look. I realized then that he was about my height but much larger, easily 300 pounds. And even though he appeared to be in his mid-50s or so, with longish silvery hair and a full, thick silver-tinted beard, it was obvious that he had done some heavy duty lifting at some point in his life—he was very solid.
“Is this some kinda come on?” Seemed like a damned odd one to me.
“A proposition, you mean?” His resonant chuckle answered his own question. “Yes, it is, actually,” he continued, “but not the kind you might expect. The fact is, young Mr. Rex Chastain, international baseball superstar, I have a job for you, one that you and only you can fill.”
I wasn’t surprised that he knew my name. Hell, just about everybody in Georgia knew my face and most of them knew my name.
“And just what the hell would that be?” I inquired, a bit tersely. I was ready to get home and chatting with some beefy old nutcase on a dark back road in Georgia wasn’t getting me there any faster.
“Saving my world from certain destruction,” he replied.
“My world,” Throckmorton replied. “It needs saving.”
“And just what world would that be?”
He explained it to me and he did so in such a way that I had no doubts he was telling the truth. Throckmorton, it seemed, was from a parallel world, one very similar to the Earth in which I lived but in many ways fundamentally different.
“The laws of physics, for example, don’t necessarily apply in my world,” Throckmorton said. “The laws of magic do.”
He showed me. In fact, what he showed me was incredibly convincing. Before me arose a shining city of many-turreted castles, low-slung buildings, tiny cottages, all in a wild array of colors and textures. It looked a lot like Wizard of Oz meets Hansel & Gretel, only prettier.
And there were dragons. And other things. And they all looked perfectly real.
Having a degree in computer animation from Ga. Tech (it annoyed some people that I was really just a geek in hunk’s clothing…) I knew that the scene Throckmorton was drawing for me out of thin air was technologically possible, just not feasible. Also, having him levitate me into the air three of four feet kinda drove the point home.
“Okay, then,” I said, finally, “I’m willing to feature the idea. But why me?”
Throckmorton sighed. “Partly because you’re available,” Throckmorton said. “Ideally I would be looking for a warrior, not a professional athlete, but I need someone with heroic qualities and you’re it. Also…”
“Now, wait a minute,” I interrupted. “Whoever said I was a hero…?”
“Oh, my,” Throckmorton continued, “surely you haven’t bought that line that sports figures can’t be heroes? You haven’t saved anyone’s life, no, but you’ve given yourself freely and fully to your sport, your team, your fans. It’s not insignificant. And then there’s this…”
Throckmorton’s world dissolved in front of me, replaced by a scene I found quite disturbing—a dark green Sebring convertible racing along the road, almost to the highway. And then a gas tanker abruptly lurching into the road from a minimart, at the last-minute stalling and completely straddling the darkened road. The Sebring’s antilock brakes fail on the rain-slickened blacktop and the convertible rams the tanker at its most vulnerable point.
The flames reach a hundred feet into the sky.
I turned from the scene and faced Throckmorton.
“Not really?” I asked, quietly.
“I’m afraid so,” he answered. “It’s time for you to leave this place.”
And so I did.
I mean “goons” literally, of course. Albion, which for all practical purposes coincided with exactly the same spot on the globe as South Georgia, has a helluva lot more hominids than Earth does.
Remember those flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz? Cross one of those guys with a 300-pound NFL tackle and you’ve got a goon, guys who just love manual labor.
“Creatine,” Throckmorton said as he noticed me eyeing them—not a one had biceps less than 21 inches and I was feeling a tad petite.
“Huh??” I felt my jaw drop open.
“You know,” Throckmorton continued, “the stuff McGwire takes. I get it by the caseload on Earth Prime and give it to these guys. They eat it up!”
I caught the chief goon looking at me. Their faces have permanent grins but I couldn’t help noticing something slightly lascivious about his—or the way he flexed his bulging pecs just a second or two longer than really necessary.
“I’m being cruised by a monkey,” I muttered to myself.
“You’re not in Kansas anymore, Rex,” Throckmorton boomed cheerfully.
I snapped my jaw shut.
Surely he knows, I thought to myself.
An eternity later (it seemed) we arrived at Throckmorton’s castle, an airy stone confection worthy of a Wittelsbach. That it appeared to be next door to the Okefenokee was not in the least bit jarring somehow.
We took leave of the goons, who leered and chattered among themselves, pointing at me in ways suggesting I didn’t remotely measure up, and headed to Throckmorton’s sanctum sanctorum, a stone and wood lined study with a huge fireplace, heavy oaken tables and all the paraphernalia you would expect of a wizard in a Disney animated movie.
The fireplace was blazing and even so it was noticeably cool in the castle—apparently the weather didn’t coincide with the geography, the heat and the humidity having evaporated along with South Georgia.
Throckmorton poured a ruddy red wine into a vast flagon, handed it to me, pointed to a giant elaborately carved chair, and motioned me to sit down.
“This is a long story,” he sighed.
An hour later I had the gist of it. Not too different from something you’d hear on Earth Prime except that leaders were wizards (male and female) and their weapons were the occult and all which pertained thereto both good and bad. It turned out that one particularly nasty wizard, Slobodan, had made a pact with an even nastier demon, Hadar, for world dominion. A good deal for Slobodan, not so hot for the rest of Albion, requiring payment in blood, lots of blood, namely every third infant born for the next thousand years.
“So where do I come in?” I asked when he finally wound down.
“Slobodan can be defeated,” Throckmorton intoned, “but only a hero can do it. What’s more, only a hero who has never been tested in combat previously. All our other heroes are veterans. And when Slobodan showed up all the rookies jumped their contracts!”
“Been there, done that. Still, I get to be the patsy, right? The odds don’t so great, to say the least.”
Throckmorton shook his head vigorously.
“You underestimate the laws of magic, lad. The deck is always stacked in favor of a hero. Things are often uncomfortable and if you’re stupid you’ll get your neck broken. But common sense and a pure heart generally prevail,” he explained.
“Pure heart?” I asked.
“Not one I can explain,” he answered. “You either have it or you don’t. My intuition says you do.”
I frowned, sighed, shrugged my shoulders, stood up.
“Well, it’s not like I have much choice,” I said. “Let’s get on with it.”
“Good lad! Now hang on a tick while I make a few necessary preparations. A few modifications are in order.”
Throckmorton glanced up and down at me.
“You’re a fine specimen, Young Mr. Chastain, but do you think you could hold your own against a squad of goons, for example? Once I’ve enhanced your, uh, ‘dimensions’ to heroic proportions you’ll have nothing to worry about.”
Now that piqued my interest.
I’d seriously considered taking up bodybuilding in a serious way on more than one occasion. I hadn’t done so mostly because of pressure from my dad, my uncles and my older brothers, all of whom were rabid baseball fanatics. I’d often wondered what the results might be.
“What do I have to do?”
“Wanting helps,” he replied. “Wanting to be the biggest. Wanting to be the strongest. Wanting the outside to be just as fabulous as the inside. Do you know what I mean?”
Fantasies about what it would be like to be really big, the size of Throckmorton or the goons, had always been with me. I knew, moreover, that such size was in my grasp in my everyday life—if I really wanted it. How much more might this bring?
“Huxtable will do,” Throckmorton said, “and he’s always available!”
Huxtable, it turned out, was a very cheerful, dark-skinned fellow, just about exactly the same proportions as Throckmorton—i.e., built like a brick shithouse—only about half as tall. He had a very jovial disposition which was somewhat offset by the fact that he cursed a blue streak.
And he had fangs.
Huxtable hopped on Throckmorton’s huge oak table—I happened to notice a tiny brass plate which read “Pty. of Albion University Library, Inc., Remove at Your Own Risk!”—and pulled out a measuring tape, the kind a tailor would use only this one was covered in runes.
“Heh, heh, oh, yessir, this is gonna be a lot of fun, yes indeed you motherfucking sonofabitch.”
Huxtable tended to chortle no matter what he was saying.
He took my measurements—all of them, including that one—calling them off to Throckmorton in some runish language, punctuated regularly with Anglo-Saxon monosyllables. From Throckmorton’s expression I gathered the monosyllable were for my benefit.
Whatever, it DID help me keep my mind off of Huxtable’s endowment, which was prodigious, easily 15 inches and bigger around than my wrist—quite a tool for a being no more than three feet tall!
Eventually, Huxtable paused.
He pulled my face down to his, peering deeply into my eyes. I saw more in those eyes than I’d seen in any George Lucas trilogy—demons and monsters and armies and oceans and lots and lots of sex.
When he was done—how long did it take? An hour? Two? From Throckmorton’s expression, no more than five seconds—I was hard as a rock.
Huxtable laughed. Long and loud and hard.
“What is it?” Throckmorton demanded.
“Oh, nothing,” Huxtable replied. “Absofuckinglutely nothing.”
“Is there anything wrong with this candidate? I demand to know if there is a problem,” Throckmorton thundered.
(Literally, of course, he was a wizard after all. The little lightning bolts made for a nice show and the rumbles made the windows rattle…)
“Whadda fuck is your problem, man? I done told you, there’s no problem. This man’ll do just fine, godfuckshitdammit.”
Throckmorton subsided and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Okay, buddy boy,” Huxtable continued. “Take off those goofy clothes. They ain’t gonna fit.”
I glanced at Throckmorton, who nodded, and I stripped.
Then it began.
Think of the worst migraine of your life. The chills, the sweats, the pain behind your eyes, the flashes of light in your vision, the nausea.
Think of the best pump you’ve ever managed, pushing the weights, drenched in sweat, gasping for breath, churning out one rep and another and another to failure, and then feeling the blood rushing into your muscles, like an all over full body hard on.
It was like that, only a thousand times more intense. It seemed to go on forever and it can’t have lasted more than a minute. (Notebook—were the laws of magic written by a drama queen or what?)
I was growing, Growing, growing, upwards and outwards. I could feel he weight pouring into my body like molten metal into a forge, filling me up, then overflowing, then filling up again and again and again.
When it finished, I literally roared, a sound of anguish and fear and pure animal lust, as loud as one of Throckmorton’s thunderclaps.
I raised my head and looked into the full-length burnished bronze mirror opposite the chair in which I’d been sitting.
I beheld a god.
Dorian Yates was a wimp next to what I saw. Paul Dillet? Anorexic. Ronnie Coleman underfed and ill-proportioned.
I was impossibly wide, impossibly thick, impossibly dense, impossibly sculpted. A living, breathing statue, one that neither Michelangelo nor Joe Weider ever dared imagine.
I looked around the room and spied Throckmorton—now a very short and shriveled looking Throckmorton—cursing so prodigiously and fluently that even Huxtable’s eyes were popping.
“Goddamit to hell,” he said finally, returning to a language I could understand.
“You didn’t tell me you were gay!”
“You got a problem with that, buddy?” I growled.
Throckmorton blanched, then squirmed.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous!” he squeaked. “This is Albion, not Earth Prime. We don’t have stupid sexuality taboos. Now would you mind putting me down please?”
I dropped him, then folded my arms across my herculean chest, realizing as I did that my arms were now bigger than Throckmorton’s 30-inch thighs and that “Herculean” was really quite a puny word.
“No, Rex, the fact that you are gay is not at all a problem,” Throckmorton continued, straightening his luxurious purple cravat. “Why I didn’t noticed it is what’s confusing, probably because of all those gender blinds you silly Earth Prime folks construct.”
I glared at him.
“Not that you have any control over the idiocies of the society into which you were born,” he added hastily. “It’s just that…”
“It’s just what?” I bellowed.
As I did I noticed that my pleasant baritone had been transformed into a basso profundo that put James Earl Jones to shame.
“Take a look in the mirror, Rex. Tell me what else you notice, besides all the muscles.”
I looked. And I looked. And I looked some more. Then I looked down at my rippling arms.
My mouth gaped open.
“Well, I’ll be goddamned,” I exclaimed.
A nice baby blue, I might add, perfect shading, perfect consistency, perfectly natural looking. Even though the bronze mirror distorted the color now that I knew I could see that my hair and eyes and fur, all of which had been various shades of brown, were now corresponding shades of blue.
I grinned at my reflection.
Then I saw my fangs.
My huge hand and thick powerful fingers flew to my mouth—they were real, alright, and they were—ouch!—sharp.
And for some reason I felt like there was something I really wanted and needed to do with them.
“It’s quite simple, Rex,” Throckmorton continued.
“You know Albion has a hundred varieties of hominids. This is one of them. You’re an ogre now. Fully human, fully capable of breeding with all other hominids.”
He explained further that the transformation spell worked with fundamentals.
“If you’re gay on the inside, you’ll be gay on the outside by the time the transformation spell is completed.”
I gazed at him in disbelief.
“An ogre? You mean the huge hulking ugly guys who carry clubs and steal princesses and get routed by heroes? Why would I turn into an ogre?”
Huxtable coughed and looked away.
Throckmorton glanced at the ceiling, the mirror, the table, the bookcase full of a thousand moldering leather-bound texts, everywhere but at me.
“Throckmorton?” I lowered the volume of my query, making it no more ponderous than the deep-throated roar of an idling Dodge Viper.
“You know those sexual taboos I said we don’t have?” he said finally. “Well, that wasn’t altogether true. You see…”
Throckmorton explained to me that in Albion ogres were exclusively male and exclusively gay—they were the product of two other hominid types and didn’t normally breed themselves, inasmuch as they were too busy having sex with each other.
“They’re also the envy of almost all heterosexual hominid males,” Throckmorton added. “You see, they’re big, they’re built, they’re gorgeous, they’re hairy, they’re hung. All of them!
“They are, in Albion, the literal embodiment of masculine physical perfection. Even the biggest and best heterosexual hominid males tend to pale in comparison.”
Huxtable chortled once again.
“You got that right, boss. Pale is as pale does, y’know!”
He danced a little jig.
“And you,” Throckmorton bellowed, grabbing Huxtable by his mighty tool. “You knew all along, didn’t you, you little monster!”
“Eeyow!” Huxtable shrieked, vanishing in a puff of saffron smoke and reappearing at the other end of the library table.
“Yes, of course I knew, you dumbshit mofo, and you shoulda known, too. How could you not know? The boy’s aura is so lavender I could smell the lilacs in the next county. And I ain’t no damned monster, I’m a demon, and you know it.”
“And don’t give me no grief about not doing my job,” Huxtable continued. “I know that look on your face, you durnfuckingfool coot. Ain’t nothing in all the laws of magic says an ogre can’t be a hero.”
Throckmorton stood stock still.
“That’s right, Mr. Smartyfuck, you just look it up. Book one hunnerd and twelve, chapter forty-eleven. Three pages of what a hero has to be and not one line about what he can’t be. This ogre boy will do just fine!”
“But, but, but!”
“Don’t you ‘but’ me, Wiz. Just cuz no ogre’s ever been a hero doesn’t mean no ogre can never ever be one. Ain’t nobody ever asked, if you ask me, and you know what the prophecy says!”
Throckmorton’s shoulders slumped.
“I’ll send you the bill,” Huxtable concluded, then vanished.
“Now what?” I asked.
Throckmorton sat heavily in the carved chair, staring into the fire.
“Off to bed with you, laddie,” he muttered. “It’s been a long day.”