Slimbo

Continued">

I think this is my favorite short from the whole horror story project. I could see expanding this into full length story, or even something longer.

*269*

Jeremy stared at the scale. He’d spent 29 years in this body, and it wasn’t getting any better. It was time for a change.

He dug up an old email he’d filed about a new weight loss device and bought one for $299.

The Slimbo arrived in the mail the next day. It was tiny, really, about the size of a dime. Following the instructions, he loaded the Slimbo app on his iPhone, pressed the device’s only button to turn it on and pair it with the phone, and then clipped it to the earpiece of his glasses. Its imperceptibly tiny camera faced forward.

“Hi Jeremy. I’m Slimbo, your weight loss and wellness coach.” The quiet, feminine voice startled him.

“You know my name?”

“You typed that in the app, remember? You’re the only one that can hear me. Let’s get started. What’s your goal?”

Jeremy found it easy to converse with Slimbo and they quickly set up goals to follow. He felt virtuous. Whenever he felt good, he liked to eat, so he went to the pantry and grabbed the potato chips. I’ll get a good fresh start tomorrow, he thought.

“Hey, Jeremy,” came the tiny voice again. “Let’s get started right. Put down the potato chips down, okay?” He’d forgotten about the little camera.

Jeremy put down the chips and decided, yes, let’s start now.

*266*

A week had passed. With urging from Slimbo, he’d tossed out the beer in the fridge, given up the daily Starbucks latte, and started eating vegetables at dinner. “Nice work, Jeremy,” Slimbo said as he got on the scale. “You’re down three pounds.”

“You’re a big help, Slimbo,” he said. And he meant it. Slimbo kept him honest.

“Let’s start using that gym membership,” Slimbo suggested.

“How’d you know about that?” Jeremy muttered.

“You gave me access to all of your emails and your schedule, silly. It’s Saturday and you’ve got nothing else to do. Put on some workout clothes and head to the gym!”

Why not, he thought.

At the gym, Slimbo coached him through a warmup on the treadmill, stretches, and some weight machines.

I am so out of shape, thought Jeremy. But it felt good to sweat a bit.

“That was okay,” he told Slimbo.

“Nice work,” Slimbo said.

Jeremy took a shower and got ready to go on a date with Chloe, his girlfriend, at their favorite bistro.

As the hostess seated them, Chloe mentioned that Jeremy looked great. “I’ve lost a few pounds,” he said.

“Your clothes fit better,” she responded, and smiled. God, he loved her round face and those dimples. She ordered some wine, but he demurred, with urging from Slimbo. “You go ahead, but I’m not drinking tonight,” he said. He ordered a plain piece of salmon and skipped dessert, too. She frowned; denying pleasures wasn’t in her nature.

They went back to her place and made love. Going back home, he nearly drove off the road when Slimbo said, “I think you should dump her.”

“Why?” Jeremy was upset. He’d only been seeing Chloe for a month or so, but he really liked her – and she seemed to like him.

“She’s encouraging your worst behaviors,” Slimbo said. “And she’s a got a little too much padding. You should be with somebody slimmer.”

This was too much. “You’re a fine fitness coach, but you don’t get to say who I date.”

“Are you forgetting that money you skimmed from the job, Jeremy? I have access to your bank records. You’re a very bad boy. And I think I know what’s best for you.”

No way was he going to lose his job over that. Chloe wasn’t an ideal companion, he could see that now.

He texted her the next day and dumped her.

*231*

A month into the Slimbo experiment, Jeremy was down nearly 40 pounds, had gotten used to a lot less snacking, and was going to the gym three times a week. He looked great, but he was lonely and his enthusiasm was flagging.

“Let’s go to a Slimbo group,” Slimbo said.

“I’m not really up for that,” Jeremy said.

“C’mon, Jeremy, that’s what you said about giving up alcohol and sweets, and about the gym. You gotta try this. There’s a meeting in 15 minutes, and you can walk there. The directions are in your phone.”

Resistance was futile.

The meeting was filled with buzzing people with haunted smiles. Each got up and told a personal story. Each had a little dime-sized coach on their glasses, or dangling from an ear, or pinned in their hair.

When it was Jeremy’s turn, he got a nice round of applause for the weight he’d shed. When he started to express concern about continuing, people chimed in to cheer him up.

“I’ve been at this for a year. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said a very skinny woman with a Slimbo earring.

“It’s six months for me, and I can touch my toes for the first time in ages,” said a balding man with a Slimbo pinned to his lapel.

Three others spoke in turn, their speech carefully choreographed, as in a play.

At the end of the meeting, everyone dipped credit or debit cards into a digital tip jar, which made a cheerful tone for each contribution. The average was $25. Prompted by his Slimbo, Jeremy gave $40.

Jeremy felt a little better, even though the encouragement was hollow. He trudged home and got a full eight hours of sleep, because Slimbo said he should.

*182*

“Doesn’t it feel great to be so fit?” prompted Slimbo.

I’ve had it with this thing, thought Jeremy. He removed it from his glasses and lay it down on the granite kitchen counter. He went to the tool closet and got out a hammer.

As he returned, he could barely hear Slimbo’s voice coming up from the countertop. “Don’t forget that I know your secrets.”

“I don’t care,” said Jeremy. “I’m weak from hunger. I’ve lost enough. I’m so tired. And if I lose my job, that’s fine with me.”

“What about your mother?” asked Slimbo.

“What about her?” Jeremy shouted.

“She just got her own Slimbo. It’s talking to her right now. And she’s very compliant. If it told her to eat a poison mushroom, she’d do it. Or exercise to the point of a heart attack. She’s a good listener.

“Aren’t you going to be a good listener?”

Jeremy sighed. He clipped the Slimbo back onto his glasses. His narrow shoulders slumped a bit.

“Let’s go to the mall and recruit some new Slimbo users! There’s a new Slimbo store there. We could use your help!”

Resigned, Jeremy went to the refrigerator and grabbed a handful of carrot sticks. Then he laced up his running shoes and drove to the mall. He did crave a little human contact. Why the hell not, he thought. Why the hell not.

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