Short fiction: ‘Fitness Freak’

I started working out three months ago. That was May. On the first day I did three sets of 6 push ups, three sets of crunches (12 Reps), and four sets of squats (no weight, 5 reps). I had a light chicken dinner with some steamed vegetables and that was it. I had a glass of water and brushed my teeth, then I went to bed. I’d read online that you want to work out every other day to give your body time to recover. The next day at work, where I move boxes in a warehouse all day, was a little harder than usual at the start, and by the time the day was over I basically had to drag myself inch by inch just to get to my car. As soon as I got home I had a big dinner and went to bed. I could feel the food filling my stomach like a stone. I ate too much because I was hungry and I ate fast, and I didn’t stop until I’d completely cleared my plate.

The next day I woke up and immediately did my workout, and tried not to eat again until lunch. I was looking around online and saw that it’s considered ‘healthy’ to skip some meals, because the body doesn’t really need those calories, and that it’s good for your metabolism to fast for some periods, up to 24 hours or more. But you have to fast in a consistent and purposeful way, like once every week or so, maybe less, and you can’t just pig out again at the end of the fast.

The work was even harder the next day, and I wasn’t sure I could keep working out when I had work the next day, but I decided that working out just fridays and saturdays would probably never get the results I wanted to see from just working out friday and saturday. So I kept working out like this, going to lift boxes all day, which got lighter and lighter, until I started carrying more and more boxes. But I started to get paid more because they paid based on productivity, and there were some people there who just went nuts as soon as they got hired, but they usually didn’t last long. This was different: people could tell.

One day I looked down at my arm and saw all these veins sticking out of it. I guess my diet and exercise had started to work. I wasn’t really bigger than when I started, or at least nothing I could notice, but I felt stronger, I mean I didn’t really feel like I was stronger so much as everything else was lighter. I know that sounds obvious, but here’s a very subtle difference that’s hard to notice unless you stop and think about it.

I was working out more and more. By then I had a gym membership and I started running. I started to feel more and more energetic, and I reached a certain point where I was on top of the world. I started to get really into meditation. That was sort of like a whole new set of muscles to discover, the more I did it. You’re supposed to just sit there and listen to your breath with your eyes closed listening to your breath to start with, then you open yourself up to all the sounds around you (keeping your eyes closed). Then, after about 8 minutes, opening up to 10 minutes, 15, 20, and after I got to 30 minutes in a row I hit a new plateau. But it all started with 8 minutes, and I worked my way up from there. I liked it because it reminded me of my transformation in working out. I started to notice changes in my and I liked them. I started to become more like the image of what I’d always idolized in my head as a perfect self: Quiet, but not stupid or extraneous in thought, weighed: Perfectly measured. Capable of excellent judgement, but not constantly exercising such judgement on everything in some feeble attempt to control everything. I realized I was starting to look better and better, and I was finally starting to become ‘cool’, which was completely alien to me, but not alarming or unsettling. I simply allowed that difference to become me in an effort to approach it ‘mindfully’. But through all of this I kept working out. I knew my fitness was the cause of all these great changes, and that mindfulness and the yogic poses where the cause of it. I stopped doing yoga when I began to feel like flexibility was getting in the way of size and strength.

The new way I started to see myself, not just physically, but the way I would think about myself on an internal level had gone up, but gradually, and not just because I was fitter, but because I was more self actualized. I knew the only reason I had all these things was because of my hard work at the gym. So I kept working out. I got a promotion at work, they made me the supervisor, and things were starting to look really good. I even got a girlfriend! We’re going to see Our Town next week.

The next day I was all set to start my training for the new supervisory position at work, but when I went to the gym I felt something strange on my lats. On the underside of the shoulder blade, almost in the center of my back, there were these two just to the center on my shoulder blades there were these deep grooves in my back. They felt almost rough! They weren’t grooves, so much as long half cylinders, like someone had dug a trench in my back. Of course I was shocked, and I looked immediately in the mirror to find out what was happening. Each of the grooves in my shoulder blades were cylindrical, but not a perfect cylinder, and not even perfectly rounded. It was like two hollowed out soda cans, only longer and skinnier, so like an energy drink can, each the same exact size and shape, and mirrored in each others placement on my back were forming under my skin. I decided that it was only new muscles on my back: a reward for all my sweat! I drank a protein shake, and went to bed.

The next day I went to work and everything was feeling as light as a feather. I lifted all my boxes for the day without even thinking about it in under 2 hours. They gave me a raise immediately, and then I got to go home for the day!

When I got home I was so excited I felt like I wanted to work out, but first I wanted to look at myself in the mirror. My body was feeling shredded. Like I’d recently put on weight or something. Sure enough when I got into the mirror I could see deeper grooves in my back. I looked at my lats and sure enough, I was shredded! I gripped my bicep between my thumb and my index finger, and it felt way bigger than it had ever felt before. I flexed in the mirror and my whole body had transformed! Areas where I used to be fat where muscular, and areas that were already muscular and thin where scary big, like they were angry. It was awesome! I flexed my back and I heard something tear. It didn’t sound like it was me, it sounded sort of like velcro being ripped off whatever cloth it’s designed to cling to. I felt something tear. I was horrified. Did I hurt my back? Please don’t let me have hurt my back! I turned in the mirror and could see I was shredded! I was so much bigger, so much stronger looking. I started to feel my weight under my heels. I squatted down just a little bit and started to move myself up and down on my legs, and I could tell my whole body was definitely heavier than it ever had been before. My abs were shredded, compared to what they used to be anyway. But after a while I decided I needed to put my shirt back on and get dinner started.

The thing about cooking chicken in a pan with no seasoning of any kind is that it’s an act of flagellation. Even as I’m watching the chicken cook in the pan it’s taking everything I’ve got not to just grab the pan by the handle, pick it up, and flip the whole thing right into the dumpster. But I didn’t. I stood there and cooked my stupid fucking chicken, and looked down at my pants, and saw the waist was even looser than before, and that all of this incredibly BORING fucking food was starting to really pay off. I went to bed and got up the next day to lift boxes and was out by 12! A new record!

Several months went by like this. I got bigger and bigger until I saw the veins under my skin get more visible as fat kept melting away. One day I was checking out my physique in the mirror when I noticed that my shoulder blades had these weird grooves underneath them which were really pronounced now, more than ever before! I pulled on them and started to notice my muscles get even bigger. I pulled at them again and I could hear a ripping sound all around me, and I realized the sound was coming from my body. Instantly I noticed I was visibly bigger! I was so pleased with my shoulder pull that I figured it must have had some connection with my muscles, that was obvious. So I reached my left arm all the way across my right shoulder, and then I raised my right arm over my left shoulder and tried to grip that gritty spot on the inside my right shoulder blade with the opposite hand, but my fingers weren’t long enough.

I tried to slap my hands down around me, hugging myself as hard and fast as I could, so that I could reach the best grip of my shoulder, but the biceps and triceps I’d grown so diligently sort of got in the way when I tried to do this method, and they made my arms too rubbery. They just bounced off my body when I tried to slap them down. So I decided to hug myself with each finger landing on a shoulder blade. I crept my fingers across my back until each hand reached into the other arm’s shoulder blade, my fingers tight around the deep recessed grooves in my shoulders and began to pull.
Once I felt a good grip I pulled slowly and with power, concentrating my effort on a sustained and consistent force. I felt my body enveloped by a carpet of bright white pain. It was so powerful I didn’t feel it at first, and then it washed over me in brilliant waves. It felt like ice when it’s too cold, or heat when it’s too hot: you barely notice the feeling and it feels the opposite of how it really is, the too hot-hot is just a slight chill, the insane cold feels really hot, and then it overtakes you. What was once the light and refreshing is now the last insignificant sign that you’re truly doomed.

I felt this slight feeling, and looked up too soon afterwards to feel any real pain. I was three times bigger than I was a second ago: I must have weighed at least 500 pounds. But there was a problem. My skin was gone. I was holding it in my hands. It had somehow- in all my flexing-  been ripped completely off.

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