Training Camp (Part 1)

A couple of years ago my friend Troy Moss (a.k.a. Mossy) and I travelled Europe on a working holiday, making a small fortune in prize money on the women’s athletic circuit. It was easy. It hadn’t always been that way; we tried it just after graduating high school, but back then they were pretty strict about the gender criterion. We got busted at our second track meet when Mossy (donning a Marilyn Monroe style wig), took his starting position for the four hundred metres heat. Evidently his lycra running shorts were a little small and had not entirely concealed his scrotum. One of the officials standing behind the blocks nearly had a heart attack, and we were kicked off the tour. These days it’s much easier. You don’t have to dress as a woman or even pretend to be one. You just say you identify as female and they let you compete. So on our most recent trip we had a great time. Mossy was picking up some decent cash on the running track, while I was fairly handy with a javelin, usually placing in the top five.

Working our way around the continent, we decided to get in some high altitude training to help me improve my long distance times. We had heard that the Romanian Olympic team had been seeing great results in their training camps, so we looked for a nice, out of the way spot up in the Carpathian Mountains. On Airbnb we found a place to stay for a week. Though it had no reviews on the website, it looked cosy, with plenty of surrounding hill country ideal for running. Actually getting to the place turned out to be inexplicably difficult. The locals were friendly enough, but when it came to giving directions they would get all weird and offended—frightened almost. We couldn’t even mention the name of the place without people gasping and making the sign of the cross. It took us all afternoon to find someone willing to give us a ride. He took us about two thirds of the way and then without warning stopped, kicked us out of his car and told us to walk the rest of the way. He said he wouldn’t travel another inch up the mountain. With no other option, we hiked to our accommodation.

It was almost nightfall by the time we reached our evening’s abode: a beautiful, gothic style building so huge it might as well have been a castle. A pale, petite young woman met us at the door. Her voice was cold and soft; her face was beautiful and haunting. She seemed both helpless and dangerous. The fair waif led us to our room, gliding along a narrow, poorly lit hall that felt more like a tunnel, and then up a stone-walled flight of stairs. She unbolted the hefty wooden door and flung it open with a graceful flick of her hand. We stepped in, the door thundered shut behind us, and our host was gone.

Inside the room, we began unpacking. “This place is great,” said Mossy.

“Yeah, it’s perfect,” I said. “What a bargain. I bet they get heaps of people staying here.”

“It’s quiet though. I can’t hear another soul.”

“Well, you know these country folks,” I said. “They work hard all day, and then as soon as the sun goes down they’re dead to the world.”

“That’s true,” he said. “Hey… that girl that brought us in—did you notice anything strange about her?”

I stopped unpacking.

“You mean her eyes?” I said.

“Yeah. You saw it too?”

“How could I not?” I said. “I’ve never witnessed a gaze like it: completely empty of thought or feeling, yet burning with intensity. One moment her look was as silent as a tomb, the next it screamed bloody murder. Those eyes barely acknowledged my existence, yet deep, deep down they begged me to run—run, for the sake of my very soul!”

“I meant one was blue and the other was green,” said Mossy.

“Oh, really?” I said. “That’s probably what it was.”



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