No pain, no gain
I joined a gym after making a resolution to lose weight this year. I keep odd hours because of my job so I usually don't get there until around 3am each night. There's no staff on hand that late, but my key fob allows me 24/7 access to the club.
Most nights I'm the only person there. I prefer it, actually; I never have to wait for equipment or deal with narcissistic frat bros hogging the squat rack so they can do curls in front of the big mirror. Being alone at that time of night sometimes gave me an uneasy feeling of isolation and vulnerability, but I never felt scared to be alone. At least, not until the night she showed up.
It was a cardio night, so I had just got on the elliptical machine for a 45 minute workout. As I was finishing the warmup, I felt a cold chill come over me, like an icy blast of winter air. I thought maybe someone had came in, so I checked the front door to see if it had opened. As I looked away, the machine beside me creaked as if someone stepped on, working the pedals.
That’s when I realized I wasn’t alone.
She was rail thin, barely more than a skeleton with pale skin stretched tight over her protruding bones. She wore a tattered, bloodstained leotard with pink leg warmers dusted with loam. Her lips were deep blue, and her matted black hair was pulled back so tight that her scalp ripped, revealing bits of skull underneath.
As she pumped the handlebars of the elliptical, the paper-like skin on her wrists curled back and pulled apart where they had been slit, exposing the tendons and muscles underneath.
She looked at me with milky white eyes that were once blue as she smiled, revealing a mouth of mildew stained teeth.
“You look amazing,” she said with a wink. “I hope one day I’m as thin as you.”
Her elliptical machine coasted to a stop and she vanished, her body dissipating in front of my eyes like a wisp of smoke.
That was two weeks ago. I've gone back to the gym every night since she appeared in hopes that she will return. I show up at the same time, even use the same elliptical, trying to repeat what happened.
I don't want to help her; I want her to help me. That scare was the best cardio workout I’ve ever had.