"Reflex" - Unfinished

As I noted in a comment on Chapter 5 the other day, I haven’t had the enthusiasm to keep working on my series, “The Reflex”, over the past couple of months, and fear the momentum is lost for good. I do have part of another chapter written, plus extensive notes on where I saw the rest of the story going. Since I hate leaving an unfinished story just hanging out there, I figured I’d post the partial chapter and my notes here. This way, at least the readers who’ve enjoyed the story so far can see where I intended to take it. If anyone feels inspired to write up the rest of the story (either following my notes, or going in an entirely different direction), you have my full permission.

Hope everyone’s staying safe and sane out there.



James idly scratched the bridge of his itchy nose, only wondering in retrospect how many nanobots he might have wiped out with his casual action. Squinting at his reflection, he could tell that the little buggers had recently been doing renovations in the region. His cartilage was noticeably narrower and the tip now tilted upward, giving him a more boyish appearance. In addition, his lips appeared plumper and his cheekbones had gained greater prominence, although he couldn’t be sure how much of that could be credited to the Reflex system and how much was attributable to Ray-Ray’s primping.

His colleague had spent a solid ten minutes fussing over James, meticulously gelling and teasing his hair until it appeared haphazardly mussed, applying makeup subtly but effectively to draw focus to his eyes, dusting a hint of glitter onto his eyelids and bare shoulders to provide what Ray-Ray called “a soupçon of magic”. Once he declared his work complete, Ray-Ray had excused himself to “make a tinkle”, allowing James to gawk unabashedly at the barely recognizable stranger in the mirror.

In his ear, James heard VIC’s voice. “You look great! Gimme a twirl, so I can check out your backside.”

James glanced toward the countertop, where his phone was still face down beside the sink. “Wait, how can you see me?”

“That mirror. It’s a Reflexion screen. I can tap into any one of them in the world.”

James felt silly for not realizing it was a Reflex screen, its crisp details more precise than any standard mirror. He obliged VIC’s request, turning around and wiggling his tush teasingly.

“Very nice,” VIC declared. “You’re gonna get noticed now for sure.”

“Oh, stop,” James said, feeling a flutter in his chest as he wondered if VIC was right. He picked up the phone from the counter and jammed it into the waistband of his tight and shiny shorts, leaving the lens exposed so VIC could see for him again.

“Who were you talkin’ to, hon?”, Ray-Ray asked as he returned from peeing, adjusting the bulge in his jockstrap for maximum effect.

“What? I was just thinking out loud…”

Ray-Ray gave James’ arm a good-natured swat. “You dingleberry, stop bein’ so silly. I know you’re talkin’ to your trainer. You still got a basic VIC or you upgraded?”

James relaxed. “Just a basic VIC. Um, VIC, this is a guy I work with, Ray-Ray.” James thrust his hips forward by way of introducing his phone to Ray-Ray.

Ray-Ray bent toward James’ waist and waved to the camera on the phone. “Helloooo, VIC honey!”

James heard VIC’s reply in his ear and relayed the message. “VIC says hi. How’d you know about VIC?”

“Puh-lease! No way did you suddenly develop that tasty li’l caboose on your own. I’d guess at least half of the boys here are on Reflex, although I gotta say, I’m surprised you can afford it with what you make.”

“I’m just on the free trial,” James admitted before he had a realization. “Wait a minute, how do you know what I make?”

“I work in the mail room, baby. You learn all kinds of things there.” Ray-Ray stepped between James and the mirror to practice his best sultry pout.

“Wait, I gotta make more than you. How can YOU afford Reflex?”

“You don’t think I can look this fabulous on what they pay in the mailroom,” Ray-Ray said, slicking down an errant hair which was marring the perfection of his sculpted eyebrow. “I just work there for the insurance and rent money. I work here to LIVE!”

“You work here?”

“You know it, honey. I take home more from a good night here than a week in the salt mines. Mostly twenties. A few fifties. The occasional hundy. I’m expecting an especially generous tip from you, sweetie.” Ray-Ray spun around to face James and carefully adjusted one of James’ gelled locks by a couple of millimeters until it was more aesthetically pleasing. “So, are you ready for your unveiling? I believe you’re now presentable enough to be seen in my proximity.”

James picked his pants and shirt off the floor, removing his wallet and keys. “What am I supposed to do with these? This get-up of yours doesn’t have any pockets.”

Ray-Ray let out a parental sigh and scrounged through his backpack. He pulled out a drawstring pouch covered with sequins and handed it James, instructing him to sling it over his shoulder. James stuffed his personal effects into the bag, but was left holding his Hawaiian shirt and black jeans. “What do I with these?” Ray-Ray snatched them away and began to stuff them into a trashcan. “Hey, what are you doing? I just bought those pants!”

Ray-Ray stared at James, perplexed. “You are one messed-up child. Why the fuck you even shave those tasty legs if you just gonna hide 'em? You got to learn to flaunt what you got, baby! If you gonna hang with me, you gotta remember the five F’s.”

“Five F’s?”

Ray-Ray counted them out on the fingers of his right hand. “Be fun, feisty, flirty, forward, and, most of all, fuckable. Repeat 'em back to me.”

James begrudgingly obliged. “Be fun, feisty, flaky…”

“FLIRTY!”, Ray-Ray corrected.

“Flirty. Umm…forward? And fuckable.”

“Fine. Other than that, just be yourself, Jamie.”

James cringed. “Can I ask you a favor? Can you not call me ‘Jamie’?”

“Whatever you say, honey,” Ray-Ray assured him, grasping James by the shoulders and spinning him to face the door. Petrified, James felt his stomach contract to the size of a raisin. His feet refused to budge, but Ray-Ray pressed his fingers against James’ back and forced him into motion, guiding him through the door and back into the club.

James imagined that everyone in the nebulous, ever-shifting blur before him must be staring at him, making catty remarks and howling at the absurdity of his outfit, but within his field of vision, no one was even noticing him. Ray-Ray and his silver jockstrap sucked up all the attention, as delighted patrons asked the nearly-naked dancer if he would be “gettin’ up there tonight.” He assured his fans that he wouldn’t dream of letting them down. James followed dutifully behind, his eyes following Ray-Ray’s bouncing buttocks as a beacon to guide him through the maze of bodies.

“I’ve detected that your heart rate is extremely elevated,” VIC reported calmly into James’ ear. “Just breathe slowly,” he coached James, “and remember what your friend said. You’re fun, feisty, flirty, forward, and fuckable.”

James tried to heed the instructions, focusing on his breathing while the five f-words cycled through his brain on an endless loop, when he realized he had lost sight of Ray-Ray. His eyes flitted around in a desperate search for Ray-Ray’s bare ass when a sudden jerk on his arm reeled him over. James found himself at Ray-Ray’s side, surrounded by a United Nations of hotties. “Boys, look who I just ran into. This is my good friend from my day job, Jay-Jay.”

James attempted to correct Ray-Ray, but all moisture had vanished from his mouth as he took in Ray-Ray’s friends who encircled them. Although they varied wildly by height, ethnicity, skin tone, and body type, they were uniformly gorgeous. James had never felt so exposed or so out of his league, but their smiles indicated that any friend of Ray-Ray’s was welcome to hang with them. Ray-Ray rattled off their names, but between Ray-Ray’s lips and James’ ears, they were smothered to death by the cacophony of the club. James just nodded and grinned. The tall blond of the group announced that it was his turn to buy a round of drinks and turned to James with a devastating smile that seemed to glow in the dark. “What’s your pleasure, Jay-Jay?”, he asked. James moved his mouth, but no words emerged.

Noticing how obviously smitten James was, Ray-Ray told blondie, “Just bring him my usual. Looks like he and I have similar taste.” Ray-Ray brushed his fingertips along the defined musculature of the blond’s jacked arm. James’ head swiveled to watch the lanky stud as he swaggered to the bar, recognizing his broad back and tight ass from earlier in the evening. James heard Ray-Ray’s breath at his ear as he shout-whispered, “Cool your jets, Rocketman. You gotta crawl before you can fuck. Not that I blame you, but every boy in this place wants to get into Peter’s pants. Peter is like the Mount Everest of this place. Not many men have ever managed to mount Everest, and plenty have died in the attempt. Don’t worry, there are lots of boys here who aren’t nearly so challenging. You can go down on 'em easy, like a bunny slope.”



Someone buys him a drink and he gets looser, Words kept flashing in his brain. Be fun. Be feisty. Be flirty. Be forward. Be fuckable. snapping photos on phone, orders drinks for the whole gang – gets a fruity drink with a skewer of pineapple chunks and strawberries. Impresses the gang by deep-throating it.

His scattered brain kept reminding him that he was a funky, filthy, fiery, femmy fuckboi

James hooks up with a guy – but thinks only of how much better VIC is. As they make out, James keeps phone within sight, looks at VIC’s face. Guy compliments James on his blue eyes. They’re “dazzling!” James assumes they look different in the lights of the club. As they kiss and grope each other, guy realizes James is staring at his phone behind his back. “Are you texting? Is my tongue in your mouth getting in the way of your tweeting? Too bad. You’re cute.” Guy storms off. James calls after him but it’s no use.

When he gets home, Jamie is still horny. VIC tells him how to load up the dildo, then tells him to lick the base of the dildo and stick it to the screen in front of VIC’s crotch starts to give head. Even up close, the 3D effect is incredibly realistic, and the dildo responds in lifelike manner and doesn’t taste rubbery. James gags on the size as it grows, and when the substance spurts out, it tastes foul, chemical, but he swallows it all down, knowing he doesn’t want to waste a drop. Screen freezes up, word “SUBMIT” lingers onscreen, goes away when it unfreezes.

Sleeps late Sunday morning. First thing James does when he wakes is turns on phone and says hi to VIC on the app. Asks why “SUBMIT” appeared onscreen last night. VIC has no idea, suggests higher speed connection would eliminate problem. Checks himself in bedroom mirror and sees that the nanobots have made further improvements. Looks younger, cuter, not just because he has a slimmer body. Cheekbones more pronounced – has he thinned out or gained bone structure? And his eyes are now definitely blue. Assumes the nanobots have done it. James is disappointed he’s not getting buff, but can’t complain about the way he looks and feels.

Puts on glasses, but things get blurrier. VIC tells him the new nanobots have fixed his nearsightedness. James wonders if they’re licensed to do that. VIC isn’t sure they’re licensed to do anything. They just do it.

Worried about increasing expenses, James decides to stops Netflix, other non-essentials. All he cares about is Reflex. Keeps cable – boosts speed for smoother performance. Packing up clothes to sell, doesn’t fit them any more – or they don’t fit who he is any more. James gripes to VIC about his job. VIC says if he’s not happy, he should quit his job. James says he’s not sure VIC knows that real life isn’t so easy. He’s got bills to pay, obligations. You wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t pay for you. VIC asks if James would be okay with his photos being used as promotion to show his changes. James is hesitant, but VIC encourages him – and says he’ll get paid. James could definitely use the money to help defray costs – all extras aren’t part of the 30-day trial – creates a Flexigram account under “Jay-Jay”, VIC snaps pictures and puts him against backdrops of world locations - Jamie wishes he could go to them for real sometime.

Carson calls him, started to worry that James hasn’t gotten back to him since he was ready to send back the Reflex equipment. James says he’s been too busy, but wants to thank Carson. It’s truly been life-changing. Carson suggests they need to hook up soon.

Dissatisfied with limp floppy brown hair, doesn’t feel like it fits him. VIC says he can show him options. Does Reflex sell toupees too? No, just a free service to help you optimize your appearance to match the new you. Haven’t put stylists out of business.

Shows him a series of looks, starting conservative and getting more adventurous. Loves spiky platinum blond look.

James says he’s thought of getting a tattoo, but didn’t really see himself as the kind of guy who has a tattoo.

VIC says that, if James got a tattoo, then by definition he’d be the kind of guy who has a tattoo. James can’t argue with that.

VIC offers to show him what he’d look like with a tattoo – puts James’ image onscreen and shows options – Likes VIC’s tattoo. Any special significance? None that VIC knows.

smaller tattoos seem more appropriate for James’ figure

Even adds makeup and jewelry, which James likes but doesn’t think he’s ready to be that adventurous…yet.

Returns to work on Tuesday without goatee, new clothes from Reflex that accommodate his swelling butt and thinner frame. Co-workers notice the difference. Surprised. Aileen says she always knew he was gay, but didn’t know he was THIS gay. James isn’t sure either, but he’s trying it on to see if it fits.

Packing up clothes to sell, doesn’t fit them any more – or they don’t fit who he is any more. James gripes to VIC about his job. VIC says if he’s not happy, he should quit his job. James says he’s not sure VIC knows that real life isn’t so easy. He’s got bills to pay, obligations. You wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t pay for you. VIC asks if James would be okay with his photos being used as promotion to show his changes. He could be a FlexInfluencer. James is hesitant, but VIC encourages him – and says he’ll get paid. James could definitely use the money to help defray costs – all extras aren’t part of the 30-day trial – creates a Flexigram account under “Jamie”, VIC snaps pictures and puts him against backdrops of world locations - Jamie wishes he could go to them for real sometime.

Carson sees photos and thinks it’s finally time for them to get together.

Carson comes to Jamie’s place, he looks enormous. Jamie salivates. Carson is just the kind of guy Jamie craves. Introduces Carson to VIC, they go to dinner. Carson tells Jamie to stop checking his phone and Jamie obeys. Carson embarrassed – forgot wallet in sweats – and asks Jamie to pay. Jamie’s fine with paying now that he’s getting commissions from people who buy with link on Flexigram, very attracted to the new Carson, who clearly likes the new Jamie. Why didn’t we do this before? Because we didn’t look like this before. Jamie asks about all the hotties on Flexigram, but he says they were all jerks, obsessed with their appearance. Jamie is more his type. Exactly his type.

They go clubbing, too drunk to make it home, Carson suggests they get a hotel, promises to reimburse him. They get in bed, Carson insists on leaving lights on, wants to look at Jamie. Jamie never knew Carson was so well endowed, but it’s suggested that’s another renovation like his nose.

When Jamie arrives at work the next day, hung over and unable to stop talking about how much he got fucked the night before. Aileen tells Jamie she’s happy for him, but hopes the old James doesn’t disappear, the way Raymond did. When Jamie asks what she means, she reveals that Ray-Ray used to be a shy and quiet guy too until he got into Reflex and transformed into Ray-Ray.

When he gets home, Jamie confronts VIC about changing him into someone he doesn’t want to be. VIC gets defensive, insisting that Jamie turned out exactly the way he ordered. Jamie says he didn’t order any of this. VIC tells him he was just following all the detailed specifications James made when he ordered the system. Jamie realizes Carson made all the specifications to turn James into the kind of guy HE likes.

James finds himself browsing the other available premium trainers via the link VIC sent him, many of them look familiar – eventually he realizes Carson posed with them as if they were his boyfriend. He was spending all of his money on Reflex and his new alpha persona was driving away anyone he approached in real life. Desperate to defray his bills – and to have a guy willing to be with him – he hit on turning James into the kind of guy he liked.

Furious, Jamie tries texting and calling Carson, but Carson doesn’t answer. Jamie goes to Carson’s new apartment, but Carson moved out. Landlord said he’s not allowed to give tenant’s private info to strangers. Jamie starts to pull up the app, but decides he needs to confront VIC face to face on the big Reflex screen.

Jamie goes home and demands that VIC tell him the truth. VIC is appalled by what Carson did. When he used Jamie’s photos for promotion, he did it with Jamie’s full knowledge and compensated him. VIC views it as a betrayal, says “I would never do anything like that to you.” Jamie laughs, saying all VIC has done was manipulate Jamie against his will. VIC says he did nothing wrong, he transformed Jamie just the way he was programmed. Jamie demands to know what changes VIC programmed into him. VIC says subliminal messages are all part of the system’s positive reinforcement system. Even their advertising has subliminal messages, which is what convinces so many people that they must buy one. The whole concept behind Reflex is that the human brain can be programmed the same way a computer can. Eventually, with enough training, you don’t need the reinforcement of the system any more. The person behaves in the new way without thinking about it. It becomes automatic, like a reflex. “My only goal is to make you happy. I was doing what you wanted me to do.” Jamie says VIC just went ahead and changed him without once asking what James wanted. VIC never had to ask, because the changes were already programmed in before the system was delivered to match the specifications you gave when you ordered it. Jamie tells him he didn’t order it, Carson did, and he realizes Carson remade him to match HIS desires, not what James wanted. VIC didn’t know someone else ordered the changes. He thought he was doing exactly what Jamie wanted, and, hey, everything’s okay because Jamie seems happy with his new life. Jamie admits that he is happy, but doesn’t know how much of that is from the subliminal brainwashing. Well, then what do you want to be? We’ll start on a new plan right now. I can turn you into whatever you want. Jamie says no, he doesn’t want to be manipulated any more. Not sure what he wants to be, but he thinks he needs to do it on his own. No more Reflex, no more VIC. VIC completely understands and requests a full refund. Places an order for the delivery guys to haul away the system ASAP. VIC hates the way Jamie has been treated by Carson and by the Reflex system. VIC feels terrible – or at least he thinks this is what feeling feels like. He wishes he could quit the Reflex company, but Jamie’s not sure how that would work.

Carson is in a cheap place where Reflex system is his only possession. Had to downgrade back to a standard-issue VIC trainer. (Couldn’t afford Matt Bomer any more. Even Screech was too much.) Can’t afford Flexfood, so he’s living off burritos from the 7-Eleven. VIC sees that he’s in a slump and makes it his goal to motivate Carson to get back in gear. We realize that this is actually Jamie’s version of VIC, accessing Carson’s screen in order to interrogate Carson. Through use of subliminals (“CONFESS” starts popping up, eventually stays onscreen constantly), VIC gets Carson to admit what he did to change James against his will, saying it was for his own good, but it was really for Carson’s selfish needs. VIC says that’s not how you treat someone you care about. Even after the makeover, Carson couldn’t hang onto anyone because his personality sucked. Only real person who’s ever been able to tolerate him is James. Plus, the Reflex dealer said they’d give him some leeway paying back his debts if he managed to hook another buyer, so he signed up James. VIC offers to help Carson change his personality so he can win Jamie back and wipe out his debts to Reflex. Start over with a clean slate. Desperate, Carson agrees, he’ll do anything. As they do workout, Carson is bombarded with messages.





Jamie gets rid of Reflex system, returns to the Y, starts putting on some muscle and making friends. Attitude is different now, thanks to VIC. Has gotten a small tattoo to see if he’s that kind of guy. Guys at the Y seem to like it. One day, Carson enters the Y and starts talking to Jamie. He’s much more genuine, caring. He’s even let his hair grow longer, pulled back in a ponytail. Explains that Jamie’s VIC accessed Carson’s screen and started Carson on a new regimen, giving Carson an attitude adjustment, to be less self-centered, more interested in what Jamie needs, to treat him as an equal. Jamie has a weird deja vu moment where it didn’t feel like he was talking to Carson any more. “That’s because I’m NOT Carson any more. Remember, a brain can be programmed just like a computer. Just a matter of replacing all the bad bits with good ones.” Removes hoodie, revealing an exact replica of his trainer’s tattoo sleeve. “From now on, you can call me Vic.”

Jamie’s confused. “Are you Carson or are you VIC?” Carson/VIC says “I don’t know any more. Are you James or are you Jay-Jay?” “A little of both, I guess.” Carson/VIC says it’s the same for him. Begins to speak with VIC’s untraceable accent, which Jamie says he likes. Tells Jamie he should quit his job and they should take a long trip around the world together – Paris, Tahiti, London, Sydney – maybe figure out where this accent is from. Jamie says it’s not so easy to just quit your job. “Why not? I did. And if I did, anyone can.” Jamie asks What’ll we do for money? VIC says he’s sure they can pick up work along the way. “We’re young, we look good. Life is meant to be explored.”

I wish I could write a story outline this detailed, Cris! I think you’ve got all the material there. Just give yourself a little rest, and when you feel up to it, you’ll be able to fill in some of the dialogue and description. Or, if you never find the motivation to finish it, you could just leave the story like this as your unfinished masterpiece, your Sagrada Familia.

When I write a multi-chapter story, I always end up creating a note file that keeps growing longer, just so I won’t forget any ideas of where I plan to take it. Once I lost momentum on this one, I think one factor that made it tougher to get back into it was a sense that I’d already essentially written it in the outline and all I faced was the drudgery of turning it into complete sentences.

Cris, it’s sad to hear that you won’t be able to complete the Reflex; it really was one of the multi-chapter stories that I looked forward to seeing new parts. Thank you for putting what you had out there and showing where the story would have gone in the end. Hopefully you’ll get inspired to write another story.