A Prologue with an Electric Hum

By Ian Cooke-Tapia as outlined by Slap Hop

Industrial heaters could no more banish the
damp chill that hung in the heavy air than they could set water aflame. The
place was a dark drum, filled by the echo of rain pelting the ceiling, distant,
heavy – a memory. With a flick, a click and a tap, and slowly light bulbs began
to blink into wakefulness; like a lazy teen a Saturday morning, they moaned an
electrical hum as they came alive, stretching their neon and halogen limbs.
Nervousness, fear, a trembling lip and the images of monsters in the dark; they
went away with the receding dankness, scared away by the song of a hundred
industrial lights. In one breath, the electrical humming faded and the open
warehouse space came alive with the neutrality of white tube bulbs.

Where the light switches were, a pool of
water grew; drops dripping from her trainers, her hair, and her hands. She
leaned against the wall, pressed close, feeling the chill of her own mental
machinations crawl down her coat. It wasn’t until the room came alive with
light that she allowed her fingers to come off the switches, redness quickly
fading as the pressure was relieved. She breathed in, deeply, not realising she
had been holding her breath. She knew this place, but at night it was so
very… without the regulars it… it just wasn’t quite the same. Oppressive,
maybe? She shook her head. No, no point in thinking of the space – this
wonderful space – like that. Such thoughts only interrupted the music, the
beautiful flow of what must be done. Utterly counterproductive – wrong, even.

The woman found herself smiling at the
familiar sights and scents of the red mats, the spring floor, the bars, the
rings, the vaults, the boxes, the trampolines, the trampettes… She smiled and
hummed what had only been a whisper outside this room, and now was a live
orchestra echoing darkly in her own head. The excitement rises in her chest, a
slow burning fuel ready to move every part of the machine of her body. She
began to bounce in her head before she bounced on the balls of her feet, before
the spring floor could even begin to transfer all momentum efficiently. After a
lifetime’s wait, she took a step forward, and felt the wetness under her soles.
She blinks and looks down at her legs, a considerable pool of water.

“Shit,” She whispers, hands coming
to her face in surprise, a little jump away from the water.

Quickly she leaves the sacred space. It was a
difficult. She wanted to be there, ready to train. But damaging the space?
Unthinkable. She would do better now. Yes, she would. No damages to the space.
Not at all. So she left her coat in the changing rooms, so she left her bag and
for a second inspected herself in the mirror. Yes, she looked right. Not
perfect, not yet, just right. The space would accept. She knew it accepted. Had
this feeling… She shook her wet ponytail as she shook her head. Yes, it was
right. The place accepted. She could hear its melodious agreement at her bright
and snug outfit. The space was like that: it accepted you, if you accepted it.
It helped you become stronger and faster and happier, but for that you had to
do things right and that started by dressing appropriately. Maybe one day she
could wear the black and white… maybe. But she had to begin with something,
and wanting to have fun. Her coat hanging, drying, and her body ready, she
nodded to herself, mustering strength, and returned to the gym. She breathed in
the scent of industrial warehouse, and sweat, and self-improvement. Here, the
hum she had been hearing was melodious; here, where she could hear the song in
its entirety, no muffling from miles and miles of air to stop the song. The
song guided her through a story that became a slow dance across the padded
floor. The song told her how to move, how to think and when. And so she did,
and so she prepared.

As the song in her head changed, she walked
across the smooth, padded floor towards the bars. In reverence she wrapped her
hand on the cold stiffness, feeling a chill, a powerful jolt, go up her arm. It
was comforting, familiar… right. She smiled an inedible smile. With one deep
breath, she pulled herself up onto the bars, her hips and hands close together
and tight. She breathed in once and then flew.

Original Cover Design

Muscles tensing, contracting, relaxing. She
dished, swung her legs and hovered in the air. Her feet touched the wood, the
chalk on the bar turned into a white dust cloud and after the fraction of an
existing moment, she jumped. Again in the air, flying, hands grasping for the
wooden bar; bodyweight claimed by gravity and stopped by the trained, knowing
power of her shoulder muscles. Once she fell off doing this, landed on her
face. Once she fell off, doing this, landed on her back. Once she couldn’t do
it for a week. Now she did it with barely a thought. Now, it was one with her.
She swung her legs back, hands lifting off the bar for a fraction of an
eternity. Legs swung forwards, she breathed in, out, in time with her own body,
her own rhythm, which was one with the rhythms in her head. The siren’s song
that brought here every week, that grew louder and more powerful the longer she
stayed away, helped her reach this very moment: rewarding months and months of
training. It told her to move, how to move, and when to think. And so she
moved, so she flew. Upside down on the bar, pirouette, coming down, swinging
around once, twice, flying off, spinning twice, and landing. Heart pounding to
the song of this space, to the song of her own existence

Her body tense, tight, remaining in position
like a statue waiting to be immortalized. She knew it had been good, nearly
perfect, and that was all that mattered. That she had accomplished it for
herself, but wouldn’t it had been nice for it to be recorded for all to see?
She breathed in, relaxing finally. Her smile was inedible; joy could not be
banished. She sang the song with her body. She followed the orders. It was
perfect. The woman allows herself a shout of joy, and a giggle. And then she
hears the clap. She stops, eyes wide. Shit! Shit!

“That was amazing, Rachael.” The
voice was clear, enunciating everything with intent. Praising, critical,
supportive. It was the voice of a solid foundation, it was.

Rachael tried to hide her head between her
shoulders. Tried to find a space where she wasn’t seen. But here she was. She
answered the call but did she break the rules? Maybe. Did she? Oh, no….

“How…. how did you know I was here,
coach?” She asks in a small voice. Dumb question. Who wouldn’t see the

The coach smiled in her own passive way. A
smile you had to learn to understand. “I saw your coat in the changing rooms. I
could recognize that colour anywhere, making our floors wet.”

 “I… I couldn’t sleep…” Rachael answered, crawling to all floors. She tried to move forward, calmed, nonchalantly. “I… I kept thinkin’ — imagining! — that I was here and I just needed to come back and, and… It has been too long, coach. Too many days and, and–” She stops, the coach’s finger on her lips. When had Rachael walked there? She was still standing under the bars, the same spot where she did her perfect dismount. Her perfect display of training. Her willingness to get better. Her decision to listen to the song of the space. The words tumbled in her brain. She couldn’t stop them. She should be thinking about the trouble she was in but that routine had been so… perfect! “Shsss. No need to explain. This Trainedform understands.” The coach said, a hand stroking Rachael’s hair. “And soon you will understand.”

Continued in A Warm-Up with Coral Walls

If you enjoyed this, consider supporting me on Patreon. For as little as 1USD a month, you can get earlier access to all content like this, as well as being able to decide what kind of themes I cover.