The room is vast and empty despite the abundance of equipment. There are treadmills, ellipticals, standing and incline bikes, weight machines for every muscle group and an entire corner devoted to free weights. There is an oversized heavy punching bag anchored to the ceiling by thick chains. The floor is covered with thick mats and the walls with solid mirrors. It’s a gym that would be adequate for an entire professional football team’s use and judging by the lack of windows it is in the basement of a large structure.
A mirrored door opens and a lone figure steps into the deep quiet. The flourescent lights are flicked on and the figure crosses the room with confidence that belies intimate familiarity with the gym. The person is smallish in stature, just over five feet tall, and thin but graceful, wearing a white unitard made of unusually thick material. Bare feet make barely a sound on the matting as they cross to the far wall where there is a display of sorts. It looks like protective clothing; vests, gloves, knee and elbow pads, boots and helmets are positioned to look like ghostly white scarecrows. There are four such ghosts pinioned there, still and expectant, each varying in size and level of protection. To the right of them is a long, thin cabinet with a simple white belt laying across the top. The cabinet is beset with drawers ranging from a few inches square to a bottom drawer spanning its entire one foot width. They are all neatly labelled with small, precise lettering.
The figure, pale and sickly in the flourescent bulbs, stares up at the suits of modern armor for a few moments in contemplation. Then it is time to begin the workout. Stretches get the blood flowing to young, wiry muscles. It is clear that no single discipline is sufficient. Yoga, katas and various other adaptations of meditative stretching form a well-rehearsed ritual for the person to focus the mind and awaken the body. Then it’s to the free weights where each muscle group is stressed with high repetitions and surprisingly high weights. It seems unnatural that someone so thin and young in appearance should be able to lift that much.
The cardio machines are skipped in favor of shadow boxing. The silence is eerie while combinations of Muay Thai, Judo, Karate, Kung Fu and Krav Maga build in speed and intensity without the aid of beat-heavy work out music. Again, the fighter’s ability is unexpected for a person of that stature. The lack of windows now speaks to the need to keep the abilities of this individual secret from outsiders.
Lastly, the over large, heavy punching bag is attacked with a speed and ferocity that might induce an observer to wonder what exactly the punching bag did to the fighter’s mother to deserve such a beating. Its unusual size is understandable now as well as the need for heavy chains. There is evidence around the mounting in the ceiling that previous, insufficient punching bags had been ripped from their moorings by the slight figure. The speed, accuracy and strength are breath-taking without being unbelievable. A final, devastating round house kick shakes the chains and makes the mounting plates creak, but the bag remains upright.
Now, the silence returns. The loud smacks of flesh to padded vinyl that had filled the room with percussive noise have now ceased. There is a distinct absence of heavy breathing to indicate that the work out had not been intended as anything more than a means to pass time. The figure runs a thin hand through short, white-blonde hair leaving little pink streaks from bloody knuckles. By the time that hand drops, the broken skin is sealed again, the flesh raw and pink but healed. There is a towel hanging on a nearby wall which is used to dry the light sheen of sweat and further muss the sweat-spiked hair. Again, the figure stands before the armor, large blue-green eyes staring emotionless at the heavy Kevlar plates, the Kevlar weave materials, the padded gloves and heavy boots. A thin face is distorted in the opaque face plate of the helmet.
The door to the gym opens again, disrupting the solemnity of the character, who spins about in an almost guilty manner. The newcomer is a middle-aged woman with plain features and an air of authority. Her dress is simple, rather like a school teacher. Her dark eyes sweep over the fighter, taking in the unitard and the messy hair with distinct disapproval.
“Ms. Susan, you are supposed to be getting ready for your birthday party,” she exclaims with a lilting British accent. “Your mother is having a fit.” Susan drops her gaze to the floor and mutters unintelligibly. “Speak up, please, Ms. Susan.”
“I’m not interested in attending a birthday party,” she replies with eyes still lowered and hands clasping the towel behind her back.
“Nonsense! It’s not everyday your young lady turns twelve, is it?” she asks rhetorically, marching up to the girl and begining to ushering her out of the room. “Enough dawdling. There’s time enough for you to shower and get polished but only if you hurry,” the woman exclaims briskly and drags the girl to the door, muttering the whole way about kids these days and how things were different when she was a girl. The fierce, aggressive and deadly warrior from moments before is reduced to a tall-for-her-age little girl with hunched shoulders. She spares one last glance at the ghosts of her future before being dragged completely away.