If you’re wondering what I’m studying at school, here is one of my assignments from last year. The prompt was “gym”.
Step On Me
By Cheryl Folland
People encounter, at one time or another, a situation that errs on the impossible side. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure, perhaps a visit to Sally’s Gym is just the cure. The lifespan of my people ranges anywhere from six months to five years; it really hinges on how our clients treat us. This is the story of how one client changed everything and saved my life.
My role is to make champions of ordinary people. This is no easy task. Many of the people that I encounter throughout my day are so steeped in self-loathing they require a medal just for walking through the door. These are my favourite people, the ones who don’t know how amazing they are. See that man over there? Yea, that one. The one with the red shorts, the ‘do you even lift’ t-shirt and that crazy mop of curly brown hair? His name is Carlos. Looking at him, you’d never guess that he used to weigh three hundred pounds. This time last year, he could barely even bench eighty. Oh, look! A new lady. I wonder if she’ll choose me.
“Thanks for coming in today!” Carlos said.
Oh! I should mention, Carlos is the personal trainer on the floor today. The thing that sets our gym apart from all those other meathead type places is encouragement. Every staff member is a former fat kid. Every single one. Carlos used to sit in the basement playing World of Warcraft and eating Dominos pizza like he had a death wish. Heart disease you know. Anyway. Now look at him. Tall and lean with a healthy muscle tone. Complete transformation.
“Why don’t you warm up,” Carlos said. “Start with a ten minute walk at a comfortable pace and I’ll pop back over to help with stretches.”
“Uh, sure.” said the woman. She grabbed her water bottle and towel and walked towards the treadmills. Noticing one nearest the exit wasn’t in use, she placed her water bottle in the cup holder, put the towel around her neck and pressed the start button.
“Hello. Please select your workout,” read the screen.
She pressed quick start and waited for the next prompting.
“Great choice. So are those Lulu-Lemons,” said the screen.
“What?” She turned her head back towards Carlos. He was reading something off his clipboard at the front desk. No on else seemed to be caught off guard. “Is this some kind of prank?” she asked.
“Nope.” This is my favourite part, when they find out about me. I imagine this is the first time something other than her smartphone has spoken to her. She will likely think she is crazy, or tired, or freak out and leave. This happened sometimes. I hope not with her, she has great potential. I better ask her some questions. “Please enter your weight.”
“Maybe I’m just dreaming,” she said. Pressing the keypad, she entered her weight—two—two—three, enter. “Treadmills don’t have conversation skills.”
“Thank you for entering your weight.” Now I will make things a little weird and see how she responds. My goodness this is fun! “My name is Stephanie, well it was step-on-me, but I didn’t think that very personable. What’s your name?”
“Um,” she said. Leaning closer, she whispered, “Nancy.”
“It’s okay Nancy. All the machines here are thought-enabled. No one thinks you’re crazy. You can relax. Your heart rate is getting high. This is supposed to only be a warm up after all.”
Nancy let out a breath. “All the machines can talk?” Nancy said. “How come Carlos didn’t say anything about it?”
“We only want a certain type of clientele. You know, the people who want to change but need the extra push. We are that extra push.”
“Okay. So, what is it you actually do? I mean, aside from compliments, so far you’re just a treadmill. Right?”
At this point, I had a choice to make. I can either tell her what Sally’s Gym does or I can ease her mind. Normally, we are encouraged to let the clients believe that we are artificial intelligence programmed to anticipate and respond to various inputs mimicking human reactions—the reality is much different. You see, I belong to the owners of this planet. Years ago, when the humans’ home was ruined by something they called global warming, they came out here. Finding this planet, with its perfect landscapes—but marred with crazy electrical storms—their scientists had to think of a solution to save their people. Discovering how to harness the electricity from the atmosphere led them to something even greater—my people.
“I am not a treadmill,” I said.
“You most certainly are. I am walking on you right now,” she replied.
“To be accurate, I am merely a personality, a life force, occupying a treadmill.”
“What? I am so confused,” Nancy said.
“You have three minutes remaining in this workout. I will tell you as quickly as I can. Only you can decide what to do next.” I proceeded to tell Nancy about my people. I caught her up on the desolation that led to the sending of her people to my planet. Of course, she scoffed—electronics empowered by people?
“You see it was the only compromise. By inhabiting the energy grid, the storms we used to live in are dissolved—allowing our two peoples to live together. These machines are a few of the ways we can actually interact. This facility, is one of a few where we are testing whether we can bridge the gap, you know, enlighten people.” I said. I waited, with twenty-nice seconds left on her run, for a response.
Nancy had no idea how to respond. She knew this was a colony and that pollution and consumerism had ruined her parent’s planet; but it never occurred to her that this one belonged to someone else. She finished her warm up and thought about the strange conversation while absently following Carlos through stretches. They moved to the cycles for some cardio. Nancy plugged her headphones in to the cycle display.
“Hello again,” I said.
“Stephanie, is that you?” Nancy said. “How did you get over here?
“I told you, my people live in the electricity. I wanted to make sure you were okay after that information dump.”
“Honestly, I feel like I’m in some weird dream. How can I know this is all real?” Nancy said.
“I have an idea. See the smartphone port beside the heart rate monitor?” I said. “Plug your phone into the port and I will piggyback onto it. When you wake up tomorrow, and I am still there, you’ll know this is the truth.”
“What then? I mean, after you come home with me?” Nancy said. “Won’t they notice you’re missing?”
“Not if we’re very careful,” I said. “Put your phone into the port, when I create a message on your phone, tell Carlos the cycle is broken. He’ll think I’ve died.”
“You still didn’t answer me. What then?” Nancy said.
“Then the real adventure begins,” the phone read.