She awoke with a start of terror, totally unlike her usual reluctantly gradual awakening. Her flight or fight mechanism was working overtime even though, as she found herself jolted from the nightmare she discovered herself cozily ensconced in her own bed, inside her own house, within the confines of the gated compound, presumably safe.
As she consciously tried to slow her breathing and heart rate, she realized what had triggered this latest episode. Her mind relentlessly threw itself back to the previous day when she had been exercising at Curves.
Her thighs screamed as she leveraged the weighted ankle stirrups up, time after time from her seated position, totally unable to keep up with the rapid beat of the fast-paced disco music.
Only thirty seconds per machine, only thirty seconds per machine, her inner dialogue reminded her. It’ll end any second now, just before I totally run out of gas .Thank god the calm woman’s recorded voice finally broke through the music to direct them all to “move to the next station.”
She groaned as she realized the next machine was the worst one—surely Satan’s construction. She positioned her shoulders under the large padded weights and resigned herself to doing way too many squats in the next thirty seconds, pushing against a resistance that seemed maniacally sadistic rather than inert uncaring steel and leather. She concentrated on using the proper form so she wouldn’t strain something and publicly collapse in ignominy.
As she leveled her shoulders and raised her head to look straight ahead, she was staring without thought through the big plate glass windows in the front of the business. Her eyes caught a glimpse of the man in the parking lot as he walked to a car. All her breath left her and it felt as if her heart totally stopped in her chest.
No, no—it’s not him. Something about his appearance just reminds me of him.
Suddenly she was in front of the house where she used to live, struggling to get away from this man who had grabbed her arm and wouldn’t let go. The knife at her throat. Being dragged to his car and pushed into the floorboard on the passenger side. The terror stopping her brain from functioning with any kind of reliability. Being pulled into the woods, still not sure what he was going to do to her. Him brandishing the knife, carving marks into a nearby tree as if to demonstrate his intentions for her body, full of his own power, then slicing through her bra and panties with obvious relish, creating a picture in her mind of that knife going through her living flesh instead of inanimate objects. His body forcing itself on her, stripping her of every shred of control over her own life. The sure knowledge that he was speaking the truth when he said he’d have to kill her and hide her body. The numbed relief when she was dumped by the side of a deserted road. Not physically harmed.
“Did you hear the voice saying it was time to move to the next station?”
She snapped out of the flashback and realized it was the dumpy little blonde to her right, impatiently waiting to change machines. I must have been standing here in a daze. For how long? Only thirty seconds or so? Seems like hours.
Barely realizing what she was doing, she moved automatically to the next machine. Just a hint of resemblance and it’s as if it’s happening right now, even twenty-five years later. Evidently it would never totally leave her in peace.
By the time she’d relived the experience yet again that next morning, her body finally began to unclench as she put the memories back in the compartment where they lived. Not that they’ll stay there, she thought with a shuddering sigh.
She threw back the covers and began another day.