Tales From the Gym: The Case of the Sinister Steam-Bath…

December 6th, 2006

Today I decided to hang out in the steam bath. It’s a lovely little room, glass-walled of course (the gym is designed to facilitate peer-surveillance on a massive scale) with tiled, graduated benches built into opposite walls. What makes the steam-bath so delicious, however, is also what makes it sinister: the same steam that cleanses and purifies also temporarily removes all visual data. The little steam-producing factory in the corner works on a kind of cycle, you see; the temperature in the room gradually drops, and when it reaches a certain critical point, the factory chugs to life, issuing steam forth in rectangular blocks that quickly flower into tendrils and blossoms and waves and finally banks of steam. The more steam, the less visibility, until finally it’s insanely, nose-burningly, one hundred percent humidity-hot, and you can’t even see your own toes wiggling in front of you. You can hear, but you can’t see. You can breathe, but you can’t move – pinned down, as you are, by a thousand pounds of clouds.

It was at this precise moment that someone chose to enter the steam-bath. I heard the door swing open, and vaguely sensed the swirling of vapor that marked the passage of a human-sized body. The form settled itself into the corner with a strange sound, as though the benches were made of a thousand empty, crunchy, plastic grocery store bags instead of tile.

Time is marked by hydration-level and sweat beads in the steam-room. Halfway through my water bottle, the figure began to move, and the slow, rhythmic crunching of a thousand plastic bags shot unimpeded through the room and echoed off of the tiled walls. Crunch-rustle-rustle, crunch-rustle-rustle, crunch-rustle-rustle. I finished the water bottle and time promptly stood still. Vapor entered my nose and left my mouth. My toes wiggled unseen somewhere on the other side of the world. Water dripped from the ceiling, from my fingertips. It might have been several days later when the vapor began to thin, or it might have only been minutes. I was suddenly aware that I could almost discern the outline of the mysterious figure with the gentle, rhythmic, perpetual crunch-rustle-rustle, crunch-rustle-rustle. But just as I focused my eyes on the wisp of an outline, the figure billowed through the door, and disappeared. For now, the sinister plastic rustling remains a mystery.

Entry Filed under: Tales From the Gym

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