By Joey Knee
Let me start off by saying this a 100% true story. Let’s get one thing straight. I’m a morning person. Early to bed, early to rise has always been my motto. I’m a square, what can I say. But then again, I guess that’s just the discipline Navy SEAL training teaches you. In fact the only thing I hate more than staying up late and sleeping in, is missing a workout. Barring the time I overdosed on the night of my senior prom in 73’ and was in a coma for 24 hours, I haven’t gone a day without working out since I was 15. So you can imagine how upset I was when I nearly missed training last Tuesday. I usually go to the gym right after I get out of work at 5pm, but last Tuesday I was in a pretty bad accident. I was heading to LA Fitness in Hollywood on my moped when a couple of spoiled-rich, punk kids ran a red light doing about 215 mph in a McLaren F1 and plowed into me, sending me sailing approximately 3/4 of a mile. I was pretty messed up but luckily some lawn work was going on around me and a pile of freshly raked leaves broke my fall. I couldn’t believe I was OK. I reached in my smoking shirt collar, pulled out my dog tags and kissed them, looking up at the sky. How many times have these things kept me safe? I decided to go to the ER anyway just to be safe. After waiting around for 6 hours without being seen I just got up and left. It was then I realized what time it was...11:05pm! LA Fitness Hollywood is closed! No problem, I’ll just head to the Fort Lauderdale location, they’re open until midnight.
I got there at about 11:15pm and had my workout. I usually like to train for about 4-5 hours but obviously this wasn’t going to happen today. I went at it with incredible intensity for forty-five minutes and then was asked to leave by the manager as they closed up. Myself and the remaining staff in the gym all walked out to the parking lot together and started home. I began walking home because my moped was out of commission. I got half way through the parking lot as the last staff member’s car pulled away. Just then I realized something. My dog tags were missing! The accident probably weakened the chain and they must have fallen off in the gym, but it was closed now and everyone was gone. I had to get back in though. I wasn’t about to leave here without them.
I wandered around to the back alley behind the gym. The street lights were all off and there was an eerie calm in the air. I was a security expert in the Navy so disabling the alarm and breaking in the back of the gym was no problem. I was opening the back alley door in about 5 minutes. I cracked the door and peered in the dark gym. It was weird there at night. No treadmill noise, no weights clanking and no music. I stepped carefully in the door and quietly started to close i behind me. Just then I heard a loud crash right behind me in the alley. My heart almost thumped out of my chest, but i was embarrassed to see it was just a cat knocking over a metal garbage can full of empty lean body drink mix packets. How ridiculous. Nobody was here. I clearly saw with my own eyes that everyone had left and the gym was empty. So I entered the gym and closed the back door. I started scanning the floor in the dark for my tags. I went from machine to machine all around the gym retracing my steps, all the while feeling like someone was watching me. For twenty minutes I couldn’t find them and I definitely couldn’t shake the feeling that there were eyes somewhere in the darkness of the gym watching my every move. My eyes were killing me from earlier. I guess I had got something in them during the accident and my blurry vision wasn’t helping the situation. I decided to make my way to the men’s locker room.
It was dark and I was tripping over mats and ab rollers but I made it to the locker room. I walked in and heard what could only be described as creaking pipes. But its the funniest thing, when your paranoid everything sounds like something. And these pipes sounded almost like a mans voice whispering. I went to the back of the locker room and found the sinks. It was dark but I got right up next to the mirror and peeled my lower eyelid down trying to see anything caught in it. It was too hard to make out so I just bent over and turned on the water, flushing my eyes out repeatedly. With my head still lowered I wiped my face with my sleeve. I picked my head up and went to reexamine my eye in the mirror. I got right up next to the mirror, opened my eyes and...AAHHHHHHHHHH! As I dove out of the way, everything was going in slow motion. Through my blurred vision and the darkness I couldn’t tell exactly who or what just ran up behind me. If I had to recall it for sketch artist with a gun to my head, I would say it was a naked, 6’8” muscular man, with what can only be described as bright orange fake tanner all over his body. He was swinging a handheld blender around by its chord, like it was a medieval mace. I could see an orange extension chord coming from the blender and going to a nearby outlet where a hairdryer was plugged in. He swung it around his head a few more times then slung the screaming blender in my direction. I dove out of the way again. The blender missed me and went into the sink, which was still running and now full of water. The beast immediately thrust his hand in the sink to retrieve it and was startled by a burst of electric shock. I took that opportunity to run out of there as fast as I could.
As I was exiting the gym I saw a gleam in the corner by the Hammer Strength bench press. MY DOG TAGS! They were just a few feet away. I could grab them! I ran back toward the machine passing the smoothie stand. I bent over and picked them up and felt a warm calm wash over me with them in my possession again. But that feeling was quickly replaced by an icy chill. I reached over my shoulder and felt a sticky ice cold goo on my neck, as the smell of bananas and peanut butter filled the air. Just then the beast reappeared. “YOU WANT A SMOOTHIE” it screamed. It swung at me again with the blender as I ducked out of the way. The blender gave off a loud shriek as it got stuck in the wall behind me. He tried to pull it out but couldn’t. I thought fast and dove over the smoothie counter. I looked up at the ceiling and saw a huge light fixture. I quickly started stacking up all the bananas directly under the light fixture.
I heard a loud thump as he jumped up and landed on the top of the smoothie counter. He was massive but jumped so effortlessly, almost like the raptors in the kitchen scene of Jurassic Park. He stayed there, perched looking at me, as if he was trying to figure out what I was. I looked him right in the eye and screamed “HEY! SEE THAT. LOOK AT ALL THOSE BANANAS!” His eyes darted over towards them. He dashed over to the pile of bananas. Just as he got over there, I grabbed a 25 pound plate and chucked it up at the ceiling light fixture and held my breath. The weight clipped the wire holding up the light and it came crashing down on him. He must have been knocked unconscious but I wasn’t taking any chances. I ran out of the front door of the gym, never looking back. This has to be one of the most bizarre nights of my life. I still can’t wrap my head around what exactly happened in there. But you know something? When I think about it, that night was the best workout I’ve had in a long time.
Originally published in print, Art Hive Magazine /// #19 /// Fall 2016