Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
It all started when I got fat.
I had been wanting to lose weight for a while, but being a not-exactly-starving-starving artist, I didn’t have the money to join a gym or buy equipment of my own. Yeah I could have gone running, but who want’s to do that? Not me! Never could run as a kid so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to as an adult.
That was when I decided to check out Craigslist to see if there was any free equipment that wasn’t too ancient. I didn’t want to end up with one of those “shake the fat away” machines. You know, the one with the belt? Yeah. No thanks.
Anyway, I was lucky enough to find an elliptical that someone was giving away for free! What luck! Right? From what I saw in the pictures it looked to be a few years old. One of the speakers on it was busted but I didn’t have an MP3 player to hook into it anyway. I decided to give the “seller” a call.
After talking on the phone to a woman named Jeanette, a time was set for me to go to her home and pick up the elliptical. She sounded strangely relieved to be getting rid of the equipment but I was too excited to be getting it for free that it really didn’t phase me at the time.
So, that Friday, I borrowed my dad’s truck and some rope and headed out to get my new treasure. On the way I thought of how in a few short weeks I would be on my way to a swimsuit season bod. I already had my mind set that I would buy a cute bikini.
After driving for around a half hour, flipping a couple u-ees and stopping at stop signs long enough to be honked at, I made it to Jeanette’s. Surprisingly, she was waiting outside. I thought it was a little odd, but again, I didn’t pay much attention.
Jeanette looked to be in her mid fifties and about 5ft 6in. Her skin was a bit pale and she had dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was a little unkempt and it sort of looked as if she had just then thrown on whatever clothes she could find.
“Hi! Jeanette?” I held out my hand to shake hers.
“Yes, hello.” She said quietly.
Her handshake was soft and reserved, and she had a bit of a worried look in her eye. “Please come in.”
I followed her into the house and then into the living room. There it stood in all it’s free glory.
“Niiice.” I said, eying up the elliptical.
“Okay then. Would you like me to help you out with it?” She asked quickly and nervously.
“Oh, uh, yeah sure thanks.” I was a little surprised that she hadn’t offered any kind of reason why she would be getting rid of the machine for free, so I asked.
“Oh.” She said nervously. “It just takes up too much space and I don’t really need the money. I can’t see getting much for it anyway.”
She kind of half smiled and began to try and lift the back end of the machine. I rushed over to assist.
After a few minutes and a lot of heave hoeing we eventually got the elliptical into the bed of the truck. I thanked her once again and headed home.
The machine sat in the bed of the truck until my boyfriend made it over to my apartment. It took a few tries and some remembering of high school geometry but we successfully got it through the door and into the living room. I looked it over and, like I saw in the pictures online, the only thing wrong with it was the one broken speaker. Other than that it was absolutely perfect! Here I come beach body!
I jumped on and started pressing buttons. “Oh ok! This one tracks your heartbeat, this one shows how many calories you burn…”
My boyfriend laughed at me and told me I looked like a kid at Christmas. After a little while, he left for work and I was left to play with my new toy. I had apparently worked out a little too hard because by 9:00 pm I was pooped and collapsed on my bed. The next thing I remember was waking up to a strange noise.
In a daze, my brain tried it’s damnedest to figure out what the sound was. Was the faucet on? Was it raining outside? I opened one eye and looked at my window. I could see the moon. No clouds.
The more I came out of my slumber, the clearer the whooshing sound got, and I realized what it was. The elliptical.
“Uhhgggg! John what the hell!? I am trying to sleep!” I said, assuming my boyfriend had come back over and decided to fool around on the machine.
The whirring didn’t stop. “JOHN!” I yelled.
It still didn’t stop.
I decided, groggily, to get up and throw something at him. JOH…” I stopped mid name as I turned the corner into the living room.
No one was there. The machine wasn’t moving at all and the whirring had stopped.
“John?” I said quietly and confused.
No one answered.
I decided it must have been some kind of goofy dream. I went to my front door to make sure the lock was still on, it was, and then went back into my room. The rest of the night was quiet.
The next morning I woke up with the sun on my face. I instantly remembered the night before but decided to shrug it off. I stood up and moaned. I was so sore but I needed to keep a tight exercise schedule if I wanted buns of steel by May.
I changed out of my pajamas and into my workout clothes, blasted some music and hopped on the machine.
As I went to press the button to turn on the machine, I noticed that there were steps logged in the system. I knew I had cleared it out the night before and shut it down. I figured it was probably a glitch; one of the reasons it was free. But in the back of my mind I still held onto what had happened the night before.
After my workout I once again cleared the screen and turned off the machine. I went into the bathroom and was about to step into the shower when I, again, heard the familiar whooshing sound.
In a towel, I ran into the living room and came around the corner just in time to see the machine moving. I froze. “What the hell did I just see!?” I thought to myself.
I gathered my courage and walked toward the machine. It was still.
I looked at the screen and it was lit up with a log of 10 steps. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Was there some kind of speed setting or something? I checked the screen, still in my towel, and tried to find anything that would be an auto setting. As I figured, there was no setting other than resistance. No speed. It was all manually powered.
I turned the machine off, and a bit shaken, went back into the bathroom and took my shower.
Later that evening, my boyfriend, John, came over after work. We had a nice meal and decided to sit down in the living room and watch a movie. I believe it was called “The Shrine”. As I recall it was a pretty freaky movie, but that could be because I was on edge all evening from my mishap with the machine earlier that day.
As we sat, cuddled up on the couch, I started to smell something. I kept sniffing to the point my boyfriend asked if I needed a tissue. I said no, of course, and told him I smelled something. He sniffed to and made a face.
“Jeeze! I know you have been working out and that is great but you really need to take showers afterword.” John laughed.
“It isn’t me!” I paused the movie.
“Well it isn’t me either!” John said.
I sniffed around the couch. It didn’t seem to be coming from that area so I got up and as Toucan Sam would say, I followed my nose. The stench brought me to the elliptical.
“What the hell?” I said softly.
“What is it?” John said from across the room.
“It is coming from the elliptical!” I said.
Just as fast as the smell came on, it was gone. I sniffed and sniffed and couldn’t find a trace. The incident from earlier and this phantom smell got me to thinking of Jeanette. She seemed so shifty. Maybe there was another reason she wanted to get this cursed gym equipment out of her house.
The next day I decided to pay an unexpected visit to Jeanette. She answered the door with a smile. She looked well rested and much less frazzled than before. As soon as she saw me, however, the happy, rested look turned into a look of worry. “Oh, hi. Can I help you?”
“Hello again,” I said smiling politely, “I was just wondering if you had a moment. I just have a couple of questions about the machine that I picked up the other day. May I come in?”
She hesitated, then reluctantly welcomed me in. “Is the machine not working? If not just take it to the junkyard. I don’t want it back.” She said quickly.
“Oh no no no.” I said, still trying to be as polite as possible, “It isn’t that at all.”
The worried look on her face turned to dread and a knot began to form in my stomach. Something wasn’t right. “Would you mind if we sit for just a moment. I really don’t mean to intrude.”
Jeanette seemed to partially snap out of her funk and said, “Of course! Let’s sit in the dining room. I’ll put on a pot of tea.”
She showed me into the dining room and told me to have a seat while she put the tea on. I sat for a few moments and then my attention was grabbed by a photo on the wall. It was Jeanette and a man about the same age. I assumed it was her husband.
A few minutes later, Jeanette shuffled into the dining room with two cups of hot tea. “Good to have on a cold day like this.” She said, trying to hide her nervousness.
I smiled and took a sip. “Is that your husband?”
It almost seemed like she jumped at the question. “I’m sorry?”
I pointed to the photo on the wall. “Oh! Oh Yes. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago.” She began to look even more nervous.
“Oh, I am so sorry to hear that.” I said, trying my best to look sympathetic. “How did he pass, if you don’t mind me asking.”
She closed her eyes, I thought she was going to start crying. I was about to say never mind when she let out a sigh. “Well,” she said. “He had gained some weight and the doctor said it would be a good idea to start getting some exercise into his schedule. You see his weight was effecting his blood pressure.” She sighed again and paused for a moment.
“He actually had a heart attack and died while on that elliptical.”
I dropped my tea.
Credit To – J.L. Kempen