Tomas looked over at his friend. “Hey, buddy! Look at that look on your face! Good time, huh?”
Allen grinned back. “I don’t wanna talk about it… but, yeah. Fucking amazing.”
“Who was it this time? Kori, Carlotta? No, hold on, I know.” Tomas closed his eyes and placed two fingers to his temples. “It was your girl Brigitte. Am I right?” Allen only laughed in response. “Fucking Brigitte, man! I gotta try her out sometime! You mind? How you feel about sharing?” They laughed and grunted, punched each other’s arms. They toweled off, got dressed, and hung out in the lobby, chatting as another man came in.
“Aw, Ray-Ray!” crowed Tomas. “Sweet Baby Ray! How’s it going, there, buddy?” Allen snorted and checked his phone.
Unsure how best to respond, Raymond nodded at the two men, then grabbed a club towel and went into the changing room.
Tomas cackled at him behind his back and called him a fag. “You think that’s what he’s into, Allen? You think maybe he, like, gets all small and licks the shit outta some dude’s toes? Maybe he cuddles up to some huge-ass ballsack? Gets all pinned under a big fucking cock, I bet.”
Allen scowled at his friend. “For someone who’s scared of gays, you sure fantasize about that shit a lot.”
Tomas took a swing at him, then straightened up immediately. “Good afternoon, Brigitte! You’re looking beautiful and powerful this afternoon!”
Allen did a double-take over his shoulder, then smiled and took a step back, averting his gaze.
The tall, muscular blonde snorted. “Easy, guys, we’re not on the clock. Good work today, Allen. You keep it up and you’ll make it to my knee in under ten minutes, easy.” The cardio-dom nodded at him and he blushed and stammered. Frowning, she shouldered Tomas out of her way and coughed “worm” at him on her way out of the facility.
“I think she wants me,” Tomas said dreamily. “Holy fuck, I’m already hard as volcanic rock. You better watch yourself, buddy, or some sweet guy’s gonna win her away from you when you’re not looking!” He smoothed back his hair and nodded at a small, domed transport van scooting across the carpeting. “Check these guys out: how much are we paying to get shrunk? And they’re just born like that. Ain’t that some shit?”
Allen shrugged at him and slung his gym bag over one shoulder, taking the steps out of the building, careful to step around the Tiny shuttle.
* * *
“There you go, little man,” Brigitte said. “Grip, grip around the shin, hold your body close to my tibia. The more of you that sticks out, the harder your wrists and ankles have to work.”
“Thank you, my goddess.”
A long sigh issued beyond the giantess’s huge knee. Allen couldn’t see her face but she sounded tense or impatient. Concerned though he was, he couldn’t do much else besides grip the curve of her toned calf, plant his feet into her skin, and sweep around for the next handhold. His fingertips fumbled at her ligament, but Brigitte’s knee was bent as she sat and the connection was loose; her smooth skin had plenty of give over the area, too, and there was nothing for him to anchor onto. He tried to bunch up her flesh in one tiny fist, but it was too tough and rubbery. He swore quietly and looked around.
Her voice came rumbling from above: “Five more minutes, worm. Today you have to clear my patella or…” There was a long pause. “I dunno. I’ll fart on you, I guess. Whatever.”
Allen’s heart sank at the disinterest in his trainer’s voice. He tried a heel-hook behind her knee’s ligament and dug his nails into the tough, wrinkled skin below her kneecap and pulled himself up enough to free his other leg, now swinging freely in the humid gymnasium air. He glanced down at her bare foot, red nails standing out boldly against her peach skin. Her foot was still: she used to tap her foot, singing to herself. When did she stop singing?
Taking a deep breath, Allen stretched up to grasp Brigitte’s large, round knee like a polished boulder. To hoist himself, he had to let go of her ligament, and now both his legs were dangling over the top of her shin. His arms complained and his chest trembled as he slowly hauled himself over the giantess’s kneecap. He was pouring all of his energy into a disadvantaged grip, banking on one last thrust to hit this goal. He was nearly ready to balance his chest on her knee and start scrabbling at her thigh when he glanced at her face.
Brigitte was slumped in her throne of quarried basalt. Her large head rested upon her palm, a smooshed cheek shoving her mouth awry. She stared dully ahead of her, half-lidded, consummately tired. It was almost like she wasn’t there at all, or worse, like she’d rather be anywhere else.
“My goddess,” Allen gasped. All the strength left his arms and his fingers turned to wet noodles. The free-fall down her leg seemed to take forever. He watched her shaved, shiny shin extend upward, retreating with all of his progress. His back thudded against the bridge of her foot, then his head snapped and struck a tarsal the wrong way. The wind blasted out of Allen’s lungs and stars exploded in his vision. Nude but for a miniature Speedo, the tiny man slid down the giant foot, resting upon her bright red toenails.
“Time’s up.” Her voice echoed in the workout chamber. Brigitte lifted her foot and dumped the limp little man unceremoniously onto the dense German foam mats.
Allen’s ribs ached, and his abs wouldn’t obey. He strained to swallow enough air to say, “Pun… punish…”
The giantess’s head slowly emerged over her knees, as she peered down at him. “Oh, right, that whole thing. You don’t look too hot.” Thick locks of honey-gold hair cast her face in shadow. “Think you’re up to it?”
“Pl−… please… godd−”
“Don’t call me that, you sad fuck.” Brigitte’s expression darkened. Her lips pulled back as if she had more to say, but she only raised her foot on her heel, turned it, and slowly lowered the ball of her sole upon Allen where he sprawled. He gasped in anticipation, watching the broad, callused hills of flesh swing over him, blotting out the lights and the ceiling. Little flecks of dust and lint clung to the deep ridges in her skin’s print, dirt spread over her sole like a vast impressionist painting. But she simply laid her foot upon him, without force or vengeance or anything. It was less like being stepped on than having a payload of meat and bone piled atop him, he felt.
Later, in the shower, he reflected on what went wrong. Was his progress too slow? Weeks ago, he had taken his time and dragged it out, sure, because he wanted to rub himself all over her leg, but Brigitte called him out on that and he straightened himself out. He scowled, lathering up and rinsing the resizing gel off—now inert, after the difference engine did its work—dwelling on her dark expression at the end, when she rested her foot on him.
He didn’t think she knew what she’d done, so incidental was this gesture, until he heard her mutter “disgusting,” and not in the good way.
* * *
Allen was packing up and shutting down in his office, after the weekend, when Tomas’s text came through: “not feeling it today buddy.” He tugged his blazer on, locked his door, and called Tomas immediately.
“I’m just not getting a good workout lately,” he mewled unconvincingly. When Allen pressed, Tomas admitted it was “the bitches” that were getting him down. “I was working with Dionna for a long time, you know, that sweet black piece. Ass-climbing, ass-presses, full-body resisted clenching, all that good shit. She could always get me going, and she was always up for it, until, like, a month ago. She postponed me twice, and then she just canceled all her sessions for the summer.”
Allen cradled his phone against his shoulder, fishing for his keys as he neared his car. “Dionne disappeared? Is she okay?”
“Man, who the fuck knows! She’s still working at Assise, somewhere. I saw her name at the check-in desk. She’s just not leading any more classes.”
“What’s she doing there?”
“I don’t know, didn’t see. So they set me up with this other bitch, Nova, and she’s hot and all. Not much of an ass, but nice tits. I could still get a workout. But then she’s only there for, like, Monday, Thursday, and the next Monday and then she quits, too.”
Allen sat in the silence of his car, staring through the windshield. Pedestrians flowed past, looking for their cars as though someone had hidden them.
“Hey, buddy, what’s up? You still there?”
“I got, uh,” he started. “Hold on.” Keeping his friend on the line, he scrolled through the text message that came in over lunch. Assise had notified him that Brigitte was taking a brief hiatus and would return in two weeks. When he read this to Tomas, his friend exploded in obscenities.
“What the fuck is this, man? Where’re these bitches going, huh? My money’s not good enough anymore?”
Allen’s tongue was pasty. “I have no idea. I’m still going in, though, if you want to meet up. I guess I’ll see what new trainer they set me up with. It might not be so bad.” Tomas was absolutely the wrongest person for him to explain how heavy his heart felt in this moment.
The new trainer at Assise wasn’t bad, a middle-aged woman named Frieda. Thick, luscious graying hair, deep smile-wrinkles, very strong, carved legs and a proud butt from her career as a cyclist. When Allen stepped out of recalibration and met her, he was struck by how strong her toes looked. Her mere toes! They lay confidently in an attractive row, sinking into the mats, as sculpted as any classical Greek statue.
She laughed, far overhead. “You’re one of those, huh?”
Allen blushed and apologized, explained he’s actually into climbing and rappeling. The giantess nodded and retrieved some nylon ropes, affixing them to a belt and a shoulder harness. Allen felt he did pretty well this session, making it up to Frieda’s hips and bouncing down her rock-hard thighs, though it made him a little sad to scale up her chest and go back down, as her low body fat had somewhat robbed her in this area. He looked up at her, grinning down at him, as he plodded up her front. His heels thudded against her sternum, and her nipples jutted out from a sheer wall, under her stretchy top, full of expectation and with no promise behind them. His heart twinged for Brigitte and he wondered what he’d done wrong.
He found himself wondering what he’d done wrong with Frieda, too, when she canceled after their second session. Tomas was outraged on his behalf.
* * *
The roar of the Bronze Lion shielded Allen from his thoughts as he bellied up to the bar and glanced at the beer menu, under the glare of seven wide-screen TVs featuring two baseball games. It wasn’t his style to drink alone, but Tomas was in the hospital.
Assise revoked Tomas’s membership when he became increasingly belligerent to the substitute trainers, through which he seemed to cycle like tissues. But matters came to a head when he started seeking prostitutes. Bereft of Assise’s difference engine, he was forced to awkwardly roleplay his giantess scenarios, which broke down rapidly. In a pique of frustrated arousal, as well as the mounting outrage at being deprived for no apparent reason, he took a swing at a sex worker, surprising her. It was a glancing blow off her shoulder, as she knew how to defend herself, but she retaliated by driving a ballpoint pen between his fourth and fifth ribs, puncturing his lung and rendering him unable to speak. If the prostitute hadn’t run screaming out of his house, alerting his neighbors, he might have bled out in his bedroom, but EMTs reached him in time. He had a long recovery ahead of him, to say nothing of subsequent jail time, and Allen hoped he might use this period to question his life choices.
He ordered a lager from the cute bartender, speaking up with a shy smile, but it was a busy night and she had other things on her mind. She slid it over to him without even looking at him. Pouting, he studied the dancing lights refracted through his beer for a long while before even taking a sip. A woman’s voice excused herself, and a small cage of thin wood strips tapped upon the bar top beside him. Allen glanced at it, then looked up at the woman opening its door.
His jaw dropped. “Holy shit! Brigitte?”
The former cardio-dom blinked rapidly at him, her bushy, golden ponytail dancing in surprise. “Oh, my Goddess. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you. I’ll, um, find somewhere else.” She looked around the crowded bar. In the doorway of the cage, a tiny man paused in mid-step.
“No, no, you don’t have to go. Why would you?” He gestured at her stool.
“Client confidentiality, fraternizing. I could lose my license.”
“But I’m not your client.” He grinned. “Do you even work at Assise anymore?”
Her bold eyebrows raised, then lowered, and she perched onto the stool. “I suppose that’s right. Old habits.” Her muscular lips released a long, pent-up breath and she nodded at the cage. The tiny man glanced up at Allen, then trotted over the glossy bar to stand beside Brigitte’s left hand. He appeared to be wearing a little wool suit with a little white shirt and no tie. Nice haircut, too. He stared up at the beer menu as Brigitte held it. The TVs and the neon signs really made the veins and tendons pop on the back of her hand, Allen noted.
Her head snapped up to his and, caught staring, he blushed. “If this is going to be weird, we’re just going to go.” Her voice was clear and bold over the ambient barroom grumble.
Allen gulped. “No, I’ll go, god−” He choked on the word but caught himself. “Brigitte. I’ll leave you two here, but I just… I’m sorry, I really need to understand something.”
She arched a sculpted eyebrow at him. “I don’t owe you anything, mister. I’m just here for a nice night with my…” Her eyes slid down to the dapper little man at her wrist. Allen was stunned to see her simper at him, an almost childish expression that came out of somewhere inconceivable.
“What happened?” he blurted. “I mean, all the cardio-doms are leaving Assise. Postponing, hiatus, canceling, quitting. I’m really sorry if I let you down or offended you somehow, but what’s with the mass exodus?”
Brigitte’s face hardened for a moment, but the bartender showed up before she could respond. She ordered a tart Belgian saison, and Allen wondered why they’d never bonded over beer. “It’s nothing you did,” she said at length, “or not just one thing. Things just became intolerable over a long period of time. You know how that goes? That dumb frog or lobster in the pot analogy. Something happens, and you sit back and look at where you are, and it’s unacceptable. It sneaks up on you, but once you see it, you can’t go back.”
Allen felt as though someone were pouring ice water down his neck and spine. “So, what happened?”
She glanced at her little man, then looked up at Allen. “First of all, this. This right here. Do you see what’s happening?” He didn’t, of course. “You’ve asked me more questions about myself tonight than in the last four months of training. I never felt I had a rapport with you, Allen.”
“But I−” In the nick of time, Allen decided that loved was not the best word to use. “I miss you, Brigitte! I miss you so much! It’s not the same with anyone else!”
To his surprise, she laughed. “You miss my calves. You miss getting crushed between my inner thighs. Sorry, sweetie,” she told her date, taking a long pull of beer before hailing for a shot glass and pouring some for the little man. She leaned in close to lock Allen’s gaze. “You miss crawling all over my amazing body, and I get that. You miss me sitting on you, clamping you under my armpit, smacking you against my face while you hang from my hair. That’s what you miss, and I don’t see why you can’t find that with someone else.”
“But they’re not you!”
“Who am I?” She shrugged. “Tell me, Allen. Where did I go to high school? What music do I listen to? What’s my favorite food?” She covered the top half of her face with one strong, broad hand. “What color are my eyes?”
Despite barely touching his beer, Allen felt as though he might vomit.
She straightened up and pulled her little man between her palms and stroked his suit lightly with surprisingly delicate fingers. “But it’s not just the dehumanization, the objectification I couldn’t take anymore. I mean, I’ve been doing this work for six years. I know what it’s like.”
Her voice dropped, and Allen wished they were somewhere other than a noisy goddamn sports bar. “Dionne—you know her?”
“My asshole friend used to work out with her. Former friend.”
Brigitte’s eyes smiled at him, briefly. “She told me about this new option at Assise, it’s just like what you guys are doing, but different. You know, like, our workouts? I’d get grown to 25′ tall, and you’d shrink down to a foot tall? We started doing that.”
“What, with each other?”
“At first.” She looked at her little man, then at the beer. “I tried it with her. I shrunk down to a few inches, with her. She’d hold me in her hands, bring me up to her face, and we’d talk.” She looked back up at Allen, and he was struck by how he could ever not notice such luminous emerald eyes. “I don’t know if this is what it’s like for you, and I don’t want to know. Seeing her face up close like that, her big mouth with all the big teeth, that was fucking scary. But she was so gentle and careful with me. Her eyes were big and soft, she’d only grin so she didn’t scare me with her teeth, and I love her hair.”
Allen agreed Dionne had the best hair, and Brigitte let him.
“She’d rest me on her head, and I’d just lie there and feel her heat.” Her eyes flashed at him. “But then I really wanted to do this with a guy. I wanted to feel this closeness, this level of threat, while feeling secure, with a man.”
Allen swayed on his bar stool, dizzy at the thought. “I would have done that for you. Why didn’t you ever mention that?”
All the lightness and dreaminess drained from her face. “No. Not with any of you assholes from the gym. Even if you’d agreed to it, I don’t know how it could have been any good with you. When did we ever, ever talk about anything that wasn’t your needs, what you wanted to do to me? You didn’t give a shit who I was as a person. And there’s no fucking way I could trust you.” Her lips pulled into a forbidding scowl. “There’s no way in hell I could have let myself get so vulnerable around you and trust you not to try something fucked up or hurt me, by accident or whatever. Not around you selfish jackoffs.”
Her words struck the side of his head like fists. Yet he didn’t feel he could defend himself against such accurate shots. He only pursed his lips and nodded.
Brigitte eyed him fiercely, almost disappointed he failed to fight back. “So we brought in these guys.” She upturned her palm, and the tiny man in the suit stepped into her hand. His little arms stuck out slightly as he maintained his balance. “We contacted a couple local Tiny colonies, explained ourselves, and interviewed volunteers. Assise is developing a women-only program, probably gonna roll it out this winter. You know, seasonal affective depression. The women shrink down to a few inches, and we grow these guys up to normal height.” She gasped and apologized to her date. “I mean, our height. Obviously they’re normal.” The tiny man waved and gave her a half-bow, what Allen interpreted was a gesture of grace.
He stared at the little man, his own hands opening and closing slowly. “I don’t get it. Okay, you don’t have to like me, I’m sure I haven’t given you any reason to. But why not interview other men our size and find someone from that?” He strained at finding words, then shook his head and exhaled with stress. “It just seems overly complicated, shrinking you down and growing him up. That can’t be cheap.”
“Assise has reason to believe women will pay for this service,” she said, watching her date climb out of her hand and head for the beer. “There’s a real demand for it. Once you try it, once you get over your fear and expose yourself to someone you trust? That is priceless, priceless and rare.”
Allen thought of all the women trainers abandoning their roles, practically flooding out of the workout rooms to get away from men like him and Tomas. “But why Tinies?”
“It’s a matter of perspective, I think. Tiny men just make the best giants.” A crooked, silly grin appeared on Brigitte’s face. “They’re not mean, they’re not capricious, and they’re definitely not selfish. They’re empathetic. It’s how they grow up: dodging our feet, getting grabbed at, pinched, knocked around and yelled at by us. They know better than anyone how scary it is to live around us, so they’re extremely sensitive to us when we’re… when I’m tiny.” She ran one lacquered fingernail gently down the back of her date’s blazer. He looked up and grinned at her. “Pertti holds me so carefully, so delicately in his hands. He announces everything he’s going to do, he keeps himself in my range of vision. He moves slowly and gently, he keeps his voice down, and”—Brigitte stared at Allen meaningfully—”he asks me lots of questions.”
Desiring to break her narrative for him, Allen asked her, “What does he really do for you? What do you get out of this?”
Her answers were prompt. “He holds me against his chest, cupping his hands over me. They’re so big and thick, it’s like nothing could get through them, but he doesn’t even touch me. He just shelters me, and I lie there on his warm skin, listening to his heartbeat and his breathing.” Her eyes unfocused, or focused on something far away from the Bronze Lion. “The first two times we tried this, I was struggling to get over my fear of him, but he was so tender. I was looking forward to it the third time. I was having a shitty week, I had to get my tires realigned, my bank called me about some purchases on my card I didn’t make. And you!” Brigitte looked at him so hard, Allen felt his nose sting. “You were not doing push-ups on my toes, you fucking perv. You were dry-humping my foot. I know you guys at the gym think you’re so fucking clever, getting away with grinding your hips here or mashing your face into there, but we know what’s up. You’re not half as clever as you think you are. We talk, we compare notes.” She sat up and pushed her shoulders back. “You’re into giant women, I get it, that’s fine. But why can’t you be honest about it? Why do you creeps have this need to always get away with something? Why does it always have to be sneaking around and stealing things with you?” Her hands parked against her cheeks, and her fingers made little clawing, grabbing motions.
“But Pertti doesn’t try to get away with anything. He just holds me, asks how my day was, or leaves me alone on his pec. I love that. Once in a while he’ll check in, ask me what I want…” Brigitte’s laughter barked sharply. A few people nearby looked up to see what was wrong. “Did I lose you there, Allen? Did it never occur to you that I might want things, too?”
Allen felt an intense pang of envy for what these two shared. He wanted to cry, he wanted to throw his stool at a TV. Instead, he cleared his throat and had a quick swallow of warm lager. “So, now you’re dating.”
“I…” Her voice faltered, her gaze drifted, and then she giggled. “I share Pertti with two other women. But I’ll be around for as long as he wants to keep me.” The strong, tough-as-nails cardio-dom blushed cutely and blew a kiss to the tiny, well-dressed man struggling to sip from a shot glass. And that is how Allen left them, sliding off his stool like so much slime. He slipped them a $20 to cover their evening’s drinks and disappeared out the door, into the night.