I couldn’t believe my luck! The advert read:
Night Manager Wanted
The Fitness Factory in Eddingwood is looking for a night manager.
Reliable, fit, night owl needed to run the gym from 9pm to 5am.
Free use of the gym and good hourly rate offered.
I could study all night and get paid to do so! I jumped at the opportunity.
“Chris Turlington?” standing quickly, I shook hands with the interviewer and walked into the boardroom. It went very well and I had a verbal offer before I left. My shift started the following evening and I was keen.
‘Hi Chris?” a fit looking young man greeted me at the desk. I nodded and he offered his hand.
“I’m Joe the outgoing night manager. Let me show you around.” He took his time going through safety procedures, the key cupboard, what was expected with regards to behavior of the patrons – he really was helpful. Joe explained that he had been offered an opportunity to run a gym at a corporate office park. The hours were better and the pay, so he couldn’t turn it down.
Soon I was on my own, apart from 6 people training. I was pleased with myself for making this work and knew I would make a success of it. Wandering through the gym I got to know the patrons, introducing myself and memorizing where the different machines were. I decided to work out later, once it was quiet and if I felt sleepy.
Setting up my books behind the counter, I looked forward to a long and productive study session. People were in and out until midnight, then it got quiet. Standing up, I stretched enjoying hearing my spine crack back into place. I checked the cameras. I was alone. A strong cup of coffee and a bathroom break later – I was back at the books. 3am I had a tough workout enjoying the sweat tickling my back. After a quick shower, I packed up my books, checked all bathroom and water bottle supplies and waited for the day manager, Dana. Day one, successfully done, I mentally ticked the air.
That’s how it went for the next 5 nights, no surprises, lots of studying and great workouts with the gym to myself. This was turning out to be a win-win I thought.
Sunday evening was unusually busy, patrons probably working off those weekend pizza and beers. I chatted with the regulars who I had gotten to know and hit the books at 11pm. People were in and out and the last patron left about 12h30, leaving the gym quiet. I turned the music up to liven the place and tackled my Economics, not my favorite subject.
The first time heard the sound was about 1h15am. Looking up from my books, I strained my ears sure I was alone. I turned down the music and checked the cameras. Nothing. Shrugging it off I turned back to my books. There it was again. Someone was working out in the side room of the gym, where all the weights were. I could hear them. Again I checked the cameras which slowly scanned the gym – nothing and no-one.
I got up and walked to the dividers, looking around, fully expecting to see someone working out that I had not noticed come in. There was no-one there.
“Hello?” I called out. “Anyone here?” Silence was the only response. I went back to the front desk, a little apprehensive and sat watching the cameras. Just as I started to believe it was my imagination, I heard the weights again. I got up and ran around the dividers ready to tackle someone if I needed to. Not a soul was there. I stood there quietly just watching, the hair on the back of my neck prickled and I felt uneasy.
“Am I imagining things?” I whispered to myself, too concerned to say it out loud. I moved away as if going back to the desk but stayed with my back against the dividers. There it was again! I jumped out behind the dividers and saw the shadow of a young man heading into the showers, I ran to catch up.
“Hey, hey!” I shouted, he never stopped moving. I ran into the showers a second behind him and he had disappeared. I opened every door, checked all the showers and every dark corner. Nothing. There was no way he could have gotten past me. It was impossible. Now feeling really creeped out, I returned to the desk and rewound the camera footage. In the few seconds where I was hiding behind the dividers and then ran into the bathrooms, the camera blacked out. It was spooky and I was sure that he would have been caught on camera.
“No more studying tonight” I muttered under my breath, packing up. Watching the camera I looked up over the top of the desk, unable to relax. Twirling the keys in my hand, I welcomed the jingle and hoped that it hid any other noises. I didn’t even feel like working out, my heart was beating hard and I was struggling to understand what I had seen.
Suddenly a shadow appeared on the camera, leaning in close I watched to see if it reappeared. Staring for a minute, two, three I waited. Nothing further happened, and I was about to stand up when I felt ice on the back of my neck. I froze. He had sneaked up behind me while I was bent over the laptop. I waited, knowing that the camera on the far side of the room would show the front desk in about 6 seconds. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Screaming I jumped up and over the desk, my foot hitting the keyboard as I jumped, without turning around. I was petrified. Hearing footsteps behind me, gave me wings and all sense of reason left my mind. Shaking badly, I was amazed that I got the key into the lock, the door open, dived in and closed it before he grabbed me. I turned and stared right into his face. Or where he face should have been. All I could see was a black hoodie with pale, icy eyes floating towards the top. Screaming now, I turned the key, slammed it into gear and pulled out of the parking lot, leaving most of my rubber behind.
I point blank refused to go back alone or in the dark and proceeded to wake up the day manager, babbling hysterically. I could tell she didn’t believe me but she did agree to meet me there at daybreak. Waiting down the road, I pulled in behind her as she drove past and stopped next to her. She eyed me skeptically but didn’t say anything.
“I’ll go in first, you hang back but don’t lose sight of me ok Dana?” I pleaded, knowing I was wearing my fear on my face. I went in slowly, stopped and listened. No weights. Just silence. I walked quietly through the gym still terrified but glad that she was walking behind me. There was nothing. I checked every stall, every corner only to come up empty handed. I felt like a fool.
“I’m sorry Dana, there was someone here or something…” I started to explain but stopped when she smiled and turned away. She gave a little snort obviously enjoying my discomfort.
“Sometimes the late hour and quiet can play with your mind” she said trying to be kind, but just embarrassing me more. She took off her jacket and hung it over the back of the chair. I started to clear my books so I wouldn’t have to look at her, when she suddenly gasped, her hand flew to her mouth and her face paled. I followed her eyes and would have fallen if I hadn’t grabbed the desk.
When I jumped over the desk, I stepped onto the keyboard and froze the picture. In the foreground you could see my feet blurred, I was running so fast. Standing behind me was a figure in black. You couldn’t see his face, just 2 pale eyes staring at me with hatred. In his left hand, there was a large butchers knife, the kind with a sharp pointy end. He was lifting it towards me, to do …. who knows what!
Dana sank to the chair shaking. She put out her icy fingers and grabbed my arm, scaring me. We phoned the owner to come and take a look, which he did.
I left as night manager and study at home surrounded by lights and people.
The gym now closes at 9pm. No-one will work there later than that.