For the first round I was placed in heat number 5 and given
Setting: An indoor swimming pool
Object: A chocolate egg
For those of you who know me, you know I haven't seen a horror film since probably 2003 and I've NEVER read or written a horror story. I am all about fairies, pixie dust, and all things light & love. It was a challenge to work with these requirements to say the least. That being said, I feel I was able to meet the requirements of my heat while remaining true to myself.
I will not find out how I did in the first round of the competition until September but everyone who participates will compete in the second round as well. So consider this the first of atleast two stories that I will be writing for NYCMidnight.
One of the main reasons I participated in this challenge is because I have had few opportunities to receive meaningful feedback on my writing and I saw this competition as an opportunity to connect with many talented and creative folks who have valuable and seasoned wisdom to share. If you found your way to this page via the forum and you are reading my piece with the intention of giving me constructive criticism THANK YOU.
And now for the story! Happy Reading.
Tony had no idea what he was signing up for when he accepted a free gym membership. His drive to achieve the ultimate physique ended in less than desirable results.
Tony changed into his swim trunks behind the curtain in the locker room. He didn’t intend to go in the pool, he knew he wasn’t allowed to until the staff gave him explicit permission – a particular level of health was required. With no clean workout pants, he grabbed his swim trunks. While slipping into his shorts, there was a breath on his neck. Hairs stood on end, he felt a presence in the room. He pulled back the curtain quickly to startle whatever was there. Attempting to exit the locker room he failed. Chad, the desk attendant, forced the door closed to a crack. “It looks like you’re going for a swim,” he said “and you haven’t met the requirements. Do you really feel you deserve to be received by the water?” Chad’s breath was hot and smelled metallic. Tony pushed against the door but pulled away instantly, the metal was flaming hot. Chad ended the conversation by saying “I admire your health, Tony, but you’re not ready.” Tony was forced to collect his things so he could be escorted out of the gym for the day.
Tony loved this gym because it was never packed, he could always get on an elliptical. He appreciated that the staff tracked his workout stats so closely, tallying his reps and weighing him before and after each session. This special attention allowed him to brag more easily on social media. Sure the staff was a little crazy but the gym was free! The staff had recruited him at Costco. They’d approached him in the protein supplement isle and offered him a free membership saying, “We need people of suitable body types to satiate our manager”.
After the swim trunk incident Tony became more inquisitive about the pool. He wanted badly to earn the right to swim. He’d seen one person escorted in and never saw the guy again, he must have felt like he achieved his fitness goals. Tony wanted to feel that way.
Tony began carrying swim trunks to the gym every time incase he finally reached his goal. When he arrived on Friday, Chad and his coworker Todd immediately demanded that he throw the chocolate egg he had hidden in his duffle bag into the trash can. How they could always sniff out treats was beyond him. Next, they checked Tony’s body mass index and said he was fit to swim. “Today is the day for the water to get a taste of Tony,” they announced in unison. Chad gave Tony air dap. None of the gym staff made physical contact with guests, Tony attributed this to intense germaphobia. The staff here looked good but something was off.
Chad paced outside the curtain as Tony changed into his trunks. Keeping close he escorted Tony to a door labeled “swimmers only”. The corridor that led to the pool was fogged with a putrefying mist. Tony gagged as Chad locked the door behind them. A chill ran up Tony’s spine. Choking down the apprehension that followed the locked door he asked, “What’s this fog?”
“The water is maintained at health standard temperature” Todd firmly stated from in front of him.
“What the hell? Where did you come from?!” Tony half screamed.
“It takes two to get this job done.” Chad smiled. In an attempt to avoid whatever lay ahead,
Tony blurted, “I left my goggles in the car!”.
“You won’t need goggles for this type of swimming.” the men replied. Tony didn’t want to wimp out, he earned this privilege and he wanted bragging rights, he kept moving. As they continued down the hallway the space became tighter. The encroaching walls condensed the palatable haze.Tony could taste decay, moisture, and body fluids. Finally he saw the pool.
The cement floor was covered in sticky brick red stains. The air hung heavy with the same metallic scent of Chad’s breath. Steam slithered snake-like off the top of the water. “A few laps are required before entry,” Chad said. His fists were clenched, and he looked like he was on the offensive. “We never want to dishonor the water.”
Tony began to jog around the perimeter of the pool. “This place is a lot less maintained than the rest of the gym.” he said, hoping conversation would settle his nerves. “What’s that about?”
“I wouldn’t recommend talking in here.” Todd snapped back.
“Don’t be so uptight man, I’m just shooting the shit.” Tony said playfully.
“That’s it!” screamed Chad. Tony’s bones rattled. “You’re pissing it off.” The pool began to overflow, Tony’s ankles were quickly submerged.
“Fuck this!”, Tony yelled as he lurched for the pool key in Chad’s hand. Instantly both men had him in their grip. He smelled his flesh burning. Their touch seared his skin and exposed the bone. Screams of agony left his body. “It doesn’t like loud noises.” they said. Infant-like hands grabbed Tony’s ankles and pulled his feet out from under him. Tentacles dug deep into his burn wounds and ate at his flesh. The water sucked back into the pool and took Tony with it. Thrashing and kicking Tony tried to keep his head above water. The pool dwelling monsters tentacles coiled tightly around his extremities and bones cracked. Feelers pulled the hair on the back of his head breaking his neck and ending the fight. “Another healthy meal for our master.” Chad said closing the video app on his smartphone.
“And superb footage to share with the family.”, Todd said in a celebratory fashion as he walked toward the exit, “Now for our lunch. I call dibs on that chocolate egg!”