I’m not fat. Not even a little. Actually, I’m pretty underweight for my height, which is a constant battle with my primary physician who worries about eating disorders, despite the fact that I most certainly do not have one.
No, not fat. But there is a word for what I am. They call it “skinny fat.”
Okay, so what’s skinny fat Well, it’s when someone is skinny like me, and doesn’t gain weight no matter how terribly they eat, but in return they are wildly unhealthy because they eat so poorly. That’s where I was sitting at the beginning of the year.
I’m not stupid; I KNOW that my lifestyles and habits are unhealthy. I don’t exercise. I eat like shit. And, in turn, I’m always sick. I’m always having stomach problems and feeling faint and dizzy. Physically, my life is kind of a nightmare, and I have no one to blame but myself.
So, this year, like many other people, I decided things would be different. I was going to get healthy, goddamn it. I was going to work out. I was going to eat right. And hopefully I’d see an improvement in my health.
So, I did what any other poor sucker does when their life is a mess that they have no idea how to fix it. I made it my New Year’s resolution.
I was in luck, because a new gym had just opened up in my neighborhood and they were giving out discounted memberships for the first hundred or so members. Of course, I signed up immediately. “This is perfect!” I said to myself. “If I’m spending money on a gym membership, it means that I’ll definitely go!” As if that’s ever worked for anyone.
I went to their website to sign up, and as I was perusing their options, I saw something interesting. Personal trainers.
You know, I’d never given much thought to a personal trainer before. I just assumed I wouldn’t need one. It’s not like I was going to be training for the Olympics or anything. I didn’t need to get super buff. I just wanted to feel better.
But it was an ad for their trainers that caught my eye. It read:
“Not sure where to start? Get tips and tools for beginners from our specially-trained personal trainers!”
Well, that definitely applied to me. Now that I was thinking about it, I really didn’t know where to start. What was I going to be doing, anyway? Cardio? Weightlifting? I didn’t know how much I should be doing or how fast or anything like that. As for healthy eating, I had no idea how I was going to tackle that colossal problem. Hey, maybe a trainer could help.
And the best part was that the gym website guaranteed the first month would be free.
Well, in that case, there’s nothing to lose, I thought as I signed myself up for a trainer named George.
I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into when I walked into the gym on January 1st. To be honest, I was already feeling kind of defeated. After all, most people never keep their New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I myself rarely keep them. Wasn’t this all just an exercise in futility? Maybe I should just go home and give up before I embarrassed myself.
But no, I decided. I was going to try. At least for this first day. I had to.
First, I had to sign in at the front desk. The receptionist was a woman who was skinny like I was but had some definite musculature, and she looked… wow, she looked so happy. And my heart ached because I wanted to be like that.
“First time in a gym?” She asked as she was rummaging through her drawer looking for a card for me.
“Um… yeah,” I admitted, feeling a little foolish.
“Don’t worry,” she beamed at me, handing me my gym membership card. “I used to be just like you, actually. But then I started working out with this gym company and, believe me, everything got SO much better for me. You’re working with a trainer, right? Which one?”
“Someone named George.”
“Oh, I worked with George! You’re in for a real treat; he’s amazing and he won’t let you quit!” She smiled even wider, if that were possible, and waved me on through the doors.
That made me feel a lot better and I walked into the gym with a little more confidence, feeling as though, yes, I could actually do this.
That feeling flew out the window when I saw George.
The man was huge – I mean, really fucking huge. His muscles bulged out like balloons, but they looked about as hard as steel. He was bald and had hard eyes, despite their light blue color. Overall, he looked incredibly severe and intimidating. I was fairly certain that he could crush me with just two of his fingers.
Great, I thought to myself in misery. He’s gonna take one look at me and laugh at how pathetic I am.
Instead, he smiled at me, and it transformed him from a murderous-looking muscle monster to a friendly, almost sweet hulk of a man.
“You must be Monica!” He beamed at me. “I’ve been waiting for you. You seem pretty nervous, first time, right? Here, let me walk you through what we’ll be doing together!”
And he did. We spent an hour together just going through a game plan to get me started towards my goal. By the time that hour was up, we’d become friends. At least, I felt like we had. He was easygoing and fun to talk to. We joked together. Best of all, he didn’t make me feel like a failure for my state of total physical disrepair.
“It happens,” he shrugged when I mentioned how ashamed I was. “Physical fitness doesn’t come as easy to some as it does to others. That’s why there are people like me. To help people like you out.” He winked at me and I laughed.
Here’s the plan we came up with, as he described it to me.
“Basically, you need to focus on your weight and your heart health,” he said. “So we’re going to start on cardio with a touch of weightlifting to get you some muscle mass. In order for this to work, however, you need to start paying attention to what you’re eating.”
He must have seen my face when he said that, because he laughed and was quick to reassure me. “It’s not that bad. Your problem is you start out with goals that you can’t possibly reach. Let’s face it, you’re not going to switch over to an all-vegetarian, super-healthy diet overnight. Let’s take it one step at a time. For now, I want you to cut out the soda and fast food. In addition, I want you to drink this.”
He handed me a bottle and I read the label.
Weight-On: The One-Stop Weight-Gain Formula. A Solman Company Product.
I recognized Solman. It was the name of the gym. “You guys have your own protein shakes?”
“Actually, we have a variety of formulas to suit a variety of needs,” he explained. “This one has a high caloric content that should help you gain a little weight. We have other products for people who are overweight, or are managing medical problems like diabetes. They’re very important to our programs. I promise you, if you drink this twice a day, you’ll start seeing results and it’ll be worth it. Give it a week and you’ll be very, very pleased.”
“Alright… how much will it cost?” I asked. Because, let’s face it, I wasn’t made of money, and this sounded a hell of a lot like a scam to take more money.
“Absolutely free, comes with the trainer program,” he answered.
Well, that settled it.
The rest of that day’s session was spent with George introducing me to all the equipment and facilities in the gym. When the session came to an end, he handed me a box of the formula – fourteen bottles, enough to last me a week. I promised him I’d give it a try and come in every day at three to start working out.
I left feeling lighter than I had in weeks, and as I walked out, the woman at the desk smiled at me and said, “Gee, you look as though you’re walking on the moon!”
I grinned. “Maybe I am!”
I was wary about the formulas at first. It seemed almost like cheating, you know? Or like a scam. I know that results only come from hard work, so anything that makes it easier is wrong, somehow.
But, I promised I’d try it, so I did.
I drank my first shake that day. I was ready to hold my nose and down it at once, struggling to keep it down, because I know how those things usually taste (hint: like sweaty ass).
It was DELICIOUS. It was chocolate, my favorite, and it kind of tasted like an ice-cream shake. I drank it all in one go.
I noticed a change immediately.
Suddenly, I was RAVENOUSLY hungry. After my stop at the gym, I had bought a bunch of health foods – fruits, vegetables, the whole nine yards. I sat down and ate almost everything I’d bought that day. It was like I couldn’t get enough, I was hungrier than I’d ever been in my life. I was almost worried that I would get sick from the eating – my stomach has always been sensitive – but I didn’t. In fact, my stomach felt better than it had in years. In my whole life, actually.
I was thrilled.
By the time I went in to work out the next day, I was already LOOKING better. My skin wasn’t so deathly pale and my hair wasn’t shedding as much as it usually does. I didn’t feel faint or queasy. I felt great.
And George noticed.
“See, what did I tell you?” he said. “Those shakes are like miracles. They give your body what they’ve been missing.”
That day, the 2nd of January, was my first real day of working out. Before the shakes, I’d been dreading it, but seeing how great I felt, I couldn’t wait to get started.
It definitely wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I usually don’t feel anything from exercise other than pain and exhaustion, but this time it was exhilarating. I found it extremely rewarding to push myself to see how far I could go, my endorphins climbing higher and higher as George cheered me on. I was able to run for a full half-hour, when I’d only been able to do about fifteen minutes in the past. I did squats and cleans, and worked for a good half-hour with the dumbbells. The more I worked, the stronger I felt.
I loved it.
The working out went great over the rest of the week. I was feeling healthier, I was eating healthier, I was gaining muscle mass and I was no longer underweight. I was improving so quickly it made my head spin. I was overjoyed.
It was the other stuff that wasn’t so good.
It started with dreams. They weren’t that bad, I guess, just… strange. In them, I was a warrior. I was strong and tall and powerful. It was the power that was so intoxicating, at least as the beginning of the dreams. But then, I’d start to feel as though I was losing control. My muscles would grow and grow and grow until they were too big. Eventually, they would burst and I would explode in a hailstorm of viscera.
If it were just the dreams, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. But it didn’t stop there.
The next thing I noticed had to do with my fingernails. They grew. I mean, okay, fingernails are supposed to do that. But they aren’t supposed to grow so FAST. I’d clip them in the morning, and by that afternoon I’d have a full inch extending beyond the flesh of my fingers. My hair followed suit. It went from my shoulders to the middle of my back in one afternoon.
Weird. But I wasn’t ready to admit that something was wrong. My life was better than it had ever been, oddities or not.
I was beginning to rethink my convictions by the time the 7th of January, the end of the first week, rolled around. Everything was growing. My teeth were the most troublesome – I couldn’t even shut my mouth all the way because they were so long. And pointy. I was starting to feel like a vampire or werewolf or something. My eyelashes had grown out and I actually had to trim them. Weird, I know. My fingers and toes were growing longer. I was sure that I was taller. Muscle mass wasn’t the only thing I was gaining from these formulas.
I decided to ask George at that day’s session. I got to the gym early, hoping that he’d have a little time to talk before we started our session.
They must not have been expecting me because no one was at the front desk to check my gym membership. With a shrug, I signed my name on the sign-in sheet and headed for the girl’s locker room.
No one was around at all. Maybe they weren’t even open yet? But everything was unlocked… well, whatever, it didn’t really bother me. Until, that is, I saw the hole in the floor.
I got closer and realized that there was a door in the floor, with a ladder leading down underneath the locker rooms. I tried to shrug it off, thinking that it probably just led to some electrical shit. But this weird feeling was nagging at me. It nagged and nagged and nagged until it got the better of me and I decided to check it out.
I set my bag on the floor next to the door and climbed down the ladder, relishing how easy it was for me since I’d been working out. I almost forgot the whole reason I was going down until I reached the floor.
This next part is going to be… hard. Hard for me to write and hard for you to understand. But, please try. I need someone to understand for me, because, fuck, I can’t do it.
The things inside them…
I think, at one point, they were human. Actually, I’m certain of it. But they couldn’t be said to resemble humans anymore, at least not as we know them.
I’ll start with the first one.
The first I saw was to my right. Judging by the amount of hair, I’d say it had once been a girl, but who knows? Now, she was… skin. It looked as though her skin had just… grown. And grown and grown. It was piled on the floor now, a massive pile at least ten feet across and six feet high. And from the inside I heard a low groaning, as though someone was being crushed under the weight.
I looked to my left. This one had definitely been a man at one point. He was stretched out, his neck and limbs and torso too long to function. The worst was his head, however. It, too, had been stretched, so that his eyes swam around in sockets that were now too wide, and his jaw hung open, dislocated from the elongation of his skull.
After those two, the creatures became a blur. I ran down the tunnel, my eyes scanning all the horrors underneath that gym. Some had huge internal organs that had burst through the torso and were no longer so internal. Some had giant eyes pooling out of their head, twitching on the ground, staring up at me.
I was probably only down there for two minutes, but that was enough. I scrambled out the tunnel and ran out of the gym, grabbing my bag on the way out so they wouldn’t know that I’d been there. I got into my car and sped home, without so much as a thought as to what I was supposed to do. Later, I thought about going back and trying to save them, but looking at them had already told me the truth.
They were beyond saving.
I half expected the gym to have disappeared by the next day, as though it had all been a bad dream or something. But it’s still there. The website is still up and George has been calling me, asking where I am. I never answer my phone anymore.
Another week’s worth of formula arrived at my doorstep yesterday. I drained them all down the sink and threw them away. I was almost disappointed, but thinking back to those things down in that tunnel… well, I’d rather work out the old-fashioned way than end up like them. Getting rid of them wasn’t easy, but I consoled myself by deciding that they almost certainly weren’t FDA-approved.
I’ve been waiting for someone to come after me. I thought I’d gotten out of there without anyone seeing me, only to remember once I got home that I’d signed in. They knew I’d been there. They probably knew what I’d seen.
I’m still too afraid to leave my room.
So, anyway. If you want the reader’s digest version: I missed going to the gym these last few days and have broken my resolution. But I would like to point out that it’s not entirely my fault.
So… does anyone know a good gym that won’t try to kill me?