Aaron shuddered against the cool touch of the antibacterial wipe on the back of his neck. 

            “Sorry. I should’ve warned you it’d be cold,” the nurse said. Her voice was light and airy in a way that reminded Aaron of his mom. It made him a little sad. 

            “It’s fine.” Aaron tensed in anticipation because he knew the needle would penetrate his skin at any moment.

            The nurse rested her hand on his shoulder. “Hey. You know you can still back out. You’d still get a full refund.” 

            For the briefest of seconds, Aaron considered this. He could save the money, maybe buy a new car instead or pay off some of his student loans. It would probably be a better use of the money his mom had left for him in her will. Would she even approve of this decision? She’d nearly had a heart attack over the tattoo he’d gotten on his left forearm two years ago. What he was doing now was insane—a literal body modification lifted from the pages of one of the science-fiction novels Aaron spent most of his time reading. 

            It’s probably why he was in this room. He was always sitting around. Reading. Gaming. Snacking. Chugging copious amounts of Mountain Dew and alcohol to escape from his feelings. It was no wonder he weighed over three-hundred pounds. But this? This would change everything. Helix Industries, Bay Rock’s high-tech corporation, would be seeing to that with a small needle in the back of his neck. 

            Well, he hoped it was small. He refused to look back at the nurse in the off chance he’d see the needle. Instead, he nodded his head. “I’m ready.” 

            “Okay. You’ll feel a little pinch…” Her voice trailed off and the needle bit into the back of his neck.

            A cool sensation rippled through his chest, almost instantly replaced by a blanket of warmth. Aaron swore he could feel the FitChip grate into his neckbone. He almost screamed but then all the sensations ended. 

            “There. Not so bad, right?” the nurse said. 

            “Not really, no.” Aaron eyed the machine that rested next to his right arm. An arm-sized maw filtered out an array of blue lights. “But I’m worried about that.” 

            The nurse walked around the chair Aaron was in and began fidgeting with the machine. “It’s not as bad as you’d think. It’ll be a little more painful, but what is it they say at the gym? No pain, no gain!” 

            “Right.” Aaron was certain people at the gym would be very insulted at what he was about to do. 

            The nurse rolled the machine toward him, the glowing blue hole encompassing his arm. She spent a few minutes checking an LCD screen hanging above the device, typing in a few things here and there, and then flicked a button on the side of the machine. It whirred to life with a loud thrum

            Aaron’s anxiety seeped out of his body, heart pounding against his chest like machine gun bullets. He braced himself against the pain he knew was coming. No pain, no gain and all that, right? 

            Searing heat burned around his wrist and it felt like thousands of needles tore in this his flesh, shredding and flaying. He gritted his teeth against the pain, his muscles tensing. The nurse’s voices was distant as she reassured him he was doing great and that it was almost over. He was about to scream when the blue light of the machine turned green. All the pain ceased, leaving a dull throb in his right wrist. 

            “Congratulations, Aaron.” The nurse pulled the machine away from him. “It appears the FitChip integration was successful.” 

            Aaron brought his arm before his face. A ring of black wrapped around his wrist, seamlessly fused with his flesh. He gingerly ran a finger along the grafted bracelet. It was smooth to the touch, almost spongy. But there was a gentle thrum emanating from it.

            The nurse handed Aaron a folder and pulled out a pamphlet. “You need to let the FitChip fully acclimate to your body for the next 24 hours. This means you should not, under any circumstances, program your body until then. It could cause irreversible damage to you. I will remind you that you did acknowledge this on the consent from you signed upon arriving today. Helix Industries cannot be held viable if you disregard this.” 

            “How often does that happen?”

            The nurse snorted. “Oh, more than I’d care to admit. People are so impatient these days.” 

            Aaron was silent. He knew the FitChip app he’d downloaded on his phone would connect to the chips in his body within seconds if he pulled his phone out. And he really wanted to. He was tired of his weight and chubby form being a deal ender for the guys he talked to on the gay-hookup app, Talon. Nobody wanted anything to do with him once they saw how fat he was. If you didn’t have a six-pack or look like the latest Hollywood actor, you were cut off from a chance of something more. Frankly, Aaron didn’t want anything to do with himself either. 

            A day later, after hours of apprehension and agonizing that the procedure wouldn’t work, Aaron stood naked in front of his body-length bedroom mirror. His chubby, scruffy face stared back, taking in the heavy rolls and thick legs. If it weren’t for the mirror, he wouldn’t even be able to see his average-sized dick between his legs. The fat made sure to hide that. 

            But that was all about to change, wasn’t it?

He held up his phone, opening the FitChip app, and programmed the job for the nanites to carry out in his body. With a sigh to reassure himself, Aaron hit the button. There was no going back.

            Fire raged through his body, extending through every fiber. Both his neck and right wrist tingled—no doubt the nanites doing their job. He stumbled forward, bracing himself against the wall. Muscles spasmed and tensed and chills raced down his spine. What felt like an eternity was only mere minutes. The flash of sensation and pain ceased and Aaron felt… different. 

            He stepped away from the wall to study himself in the mirror. There was a stranger staring back at him. Lean, chiseled, and somewhat gangly. Abs had been carved into his abdomen like he was some sort of Greek deity. He had a perfect V-line that seemed to highlight the appendage between his legs. His high cheekbones were more prominent. He ran a hand through his sweaty blonde hair—a surreal feeling considering he barely recognized the person staring back at him. 

            Of course, it was Aaron without all the fat and rolls. This is what he would probably look like without the throes of depression and anxiety that had taken over him the past few years. This would’ve been him if his brother hadn’t been killed in a drunk driving accident three years ago. It would’ve been him before his boyfriend had cheated on him with his best friend. This would’ve been Aaron before life it hard.

            But it wouldn’t have been him when his mom died of cancer six months ago. No, that was Fat Aaron. His mom had died knowing Fat Aaron.

            And now? Fat Aaron was gone. Replaced with a gay man’s fantasy. 

            But why didn’t he feel happy?  

            Why did he hate himself even more?

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