“No offense Kelly, but your idea kinda sucks,” Devin Booker said.
Kelly Oubre rolled his eyes, which was a pointless reaction given that their conversation was taking place over the phone. “Last time I checked, only one of us has track record which demonstrates their success in monetizing online video content. And it’s me, not you.”
“What are you talking about? Donations to my Twitch are through the roof,” Devin retorted. “Just because all that money is going to charity and not some harebrained vanity project doesn’t mean I’ve failed to ‘monetize my online video content’. Combining my gaming exploits with your…makeup tutorials is just going to be embarrassing for both of us. Mostly you.”
“Don’t misrepresent my content,” Kelly warned. “Wave Papi’s Man-Overs is not just about makeup tutorials. It’s about defining a new lifestyle for a demographic of young urbanites. And that demographic could also include 12-year-old Mountain Dew guzzlers whose whole closet is graphic tees and cargo shorts, if you would only stop being so short-sighted and agree to participate.” His anger was close to boiling over, but he kept in in check. A daring synthesis of male fashion advice and gamer-focused content could unlock untold riches for the both of them, but only if both parties bought in fully to the concept.
“I’ll stop misrepresenting my content when you stop misrepresenting my viewers. My demographics skew upwards age-wise because of my status as a professional athlete. Twelve-year-olds in Call of Duty shirts don’t care about the NBA. But it’s pointless anyway because the answer is no.”
Kelly pulled the ace out of his sleeve. “Ten percent of my next contract. Yours.”
Devin sighed. “Fine.”
With pupils metaphorically transformed into dollar signs, Kelly smiled. “Glad we could come to an agreement.”
Kelly answered his ringing doorbell. “You ready for your man-over?”
Devin looked distrustfully around at the arty decor of his teammate’s apartment. “No. I’m not. And if I come out of it looking like a hobo crossed with a streetwear model, I’m calling this off.”
There was a secret voice deep in the back of Kelly’s brain that was murmuring darkly unintelligible things. Kelly ignored it. “I don’t know why you’re complaining, I’m the one who has to go to your place later to get his ass kicked playing some dumb FPS on livestream while twelve-year-olds call me names in the chat.”
The two of them walked to Kelly’s home office, which had been transformed into a video production studio. Against one wall was a high-end PC with a multitude of monitors attached to it. In the other corner, there was a professional-looking setup with cameras and lights. There were even fancy cabinets and mirrors installed to make it seem like Kelly’s makeovers was taking place in a luxurious bathroom.
“You’re really serious about this,” Devin said, his awe at the expensive equipment clearly causing his stance against the project to soften. “I’ve got, like, a cheap webcam pointed at my face.”
The voice in Kelly’s mind was active again. “You’re the best player on the Suns,” it told him in a whispered but intelligible voice that dripped with scathing malice. Again, Kelly ignored it. It was just a voice in his head. It couldn’t do anything without his consent. Right?
“I figure all this stuff will pay for itself when my channel really takes off,” Kelly said. “If chicks were as thirsty as dudes, I would just start a mildly erotic Patreon, but instead I’m counting on people watching a video where I turn my fashion-ignorant teammate into a stylish and attractive slab of man meat.”
Devin’s makeover was going well and it was making for great footage. He was being good-natured about being forced to model a seemingly endless stream of “stylish” outfits, and he consented without complaint to having subtle makeup applied to his facet. As they bantered about which teammates were the smelliest and which arenas had the best nachos, Kelly again felt that feeling of impending wealth rising inside his chest. This was the collaboration that would establish Wave Papi as an influencer in the genre. He could feel it.
“You could end him now. The team would be yours,” said the voice in his head, louder now. Kelly furrowed his eyebrows and kept applying foundation to Devin’s cheeks, but he paused when he saw an unexpected object leaning against the countertop behind Devin.
A sledgehammer. Spattered with blood and bits of flesh, as if it had been used before.
Kelly knew he didn’t own such a thing, and he knew that Devin hadn’t brought it with him. Where, then, had it come from? There was insane laughter echoing loudly in his head.
In terror, Kelly slammed his eyes shut, and when he opened them again, the sledgehammer was gone.
“You okay, man?” Devin asked.
“Yeah,” Kelly answered. “Just hold still.” The inner voice was silent again. But for how long?