Lynda Dunwell
 
Historical Romantic Novelist
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Besides writing novels, Lynda Dunwell is also a prize winning short story writer. Several of her short stories have been published by women's magazines. The following story won Writing Magazine's Nightmares competition in October 2008

The Fat Pound

 

Footsteps pound after me.  I try to run.  My legs don’t work.  A strong hand grabs my shoulder, the other twists my arm painfully up my back.  It’s a man, a uniformed officer.  He slaps restraints around my wrists.  They hurt.   His lips always curl into a wry smile when he steps around to face me.  Always the same face, in my dreams, never in life.    ‘I’ve done nothing wrong!’ But my protests are in vain.

            ‘If I’d a quid for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be a rich bloke, instead of pounding the beat banging up slobs.’

            My nostrils twitch as his foul breath nears my face. I don’t want to breathe but know I must.  ‘Honestly, I’ve done nothing,’ I plead, knowing my words are falling on deaf ears.

            ‘Then why were you trying to leg it?’

            ‘I was…’ My body stiffens, my throat dries, words won’t form but I know what’s coming.  He scans me with his handheld body monitor and it bleeps back the information, making the same calculations it always does.

            ‘Central Control says you’re 50 pounds above legal weight for your height and age. I’m arresting you for gross obesity.  Anything you say will be recorded and read out at your hearing and failure to comply with the state law will result in further punishment. Understood?’

            ‘Er…’  No words. No defence. Nothing.  I wriggle, squirm, struggle but the automatic stinger attached to the hand restraints zaps me and I go limp.

            His powerful hand grabs my upper arm and hauls me up.   ‘Use your head love, this isn’t the first time you’ve been pulled in.  You know the form.’ 

            I take his advice and come quietly.  He keys my code into central terminal notifying the Fat Pound that they’ve got another inmate tonight.  He escorts me to the fat van and deposits me inside.  I’m the only occupant, there’s plenty of room for more but there’s never anyone else. 

Soon we’re moving along the highway, or it feels like a road, but I can’t see out.  I’m trapped.  My hands are still cuffed, but this time in front of me.  I look down at them.  Familiar, they are always my hands. How did they get from behind my back to my lap? Did he remove the restraints?  I can’t remember.  It’s not important.  I know we are close to the Fat Pound.  It won’t be long.

            ‘All right in there?’ he asks over the intercom.  I make no reply.  I know the form.  He repeats the question.  I do nothing.  He stops the engine.  I sink to the floor. I play dead.  He yanks open the door. ‘And you can stop playing stupid games,’ he snarls, ‘or would you like me to add wasting police time to your charge sheet?’

            I take no notice.  It makes no difference.  The outcome is always the same.

I hear the click as he arms his stun gun.  I know what he is going to do.  He climbs into the vehicle.  He prods me with his foot.  I feel it around my left calf but still I don’t budge.  He shouts, ‘Get up or I’ll fire.’

            His warning goes unheeded, it has to be.  I have to convince him that the round podgy figure lying on the floor of the van can’t possibly hurt him. I wait for the sound of his knees clicking as he squats alongside me.  He should have learnt by now to restrain my feet.  I spring to life, kicking the gun from his hand, then a double kick blow to his ribs.  He’s winded and staggers backwards, striking his head on the bench.

            No time to think.  No time to plan.  I’ve done this before.  I know the form. I take control, seize his monitor, punch a few buttons, tell it to ERASE my code and details.  The stun gun lies abandoned.  I grab it and aim at the officer letting him have a full dose.  ‘That’ll teach you,’ I cry triumphantly, ‘if you think you’re taking me to the Fat Pound you’ve another think coming.’   Jumping down from the van, I don’t look back, I don’t care about the officer. I’m free.

            I wander around the streets.  Streets I don’t know, I’m lost…  I’m alone but I don’t feel scared.  There’s nobody about, nobody to harm me, nobody to see me.  I come to a row of shops, all closed.  Pass windows of stick models wearing straight skimpy dresses, short skirts, long thin legs, impossibly narrow jeans.  The models stare back at me, I expect them to move and I wait… Nothing happens.

            The next store is a gym.  Suddenly it’s full of people.  I go inside. I’m wearing a track suit, it must be enormous, it’s far too big for me.

 A six pack Adonis greets me with a broad tooth-whitened smile, ‘We’re ready now for your work out.’

My mouth drops open, I’ve not been here before, this shouldn’t happen. I’m supposed to wake up once I get out of the Fat Patrol officer’s clutches.  But this guy is new, he’s physically toned, he’s gorgeous.  Why is such a beautiful man bothering to talk to me?  I let him lead me to the exercise machines.  I go willingly.

‘We’ve worked out a programme for you,’ he flashes me a smile.  I’m taken in, speechless I ogle him, I’d agree to anything.  ‘I’ll just set the machine going,’ he fiddles with the touch screen panel, ‘just gentle exercise to start.’

I want to reach out to him, touch his smooth glistening skin, run my fingers along his taut muscles, wrap my legs around…

I’m walking, slow pace at first.  My legs are moving. Joy.  They never work when I confront the officer.  Here in the gym, things are different, I feel welcome.  The pace quickens and my whole body starts to wobble.  Faster.  It’s taking me all my concentration to keep up, to stay on the treadmill.  Anxiety bites, I gasp for air, I can’t keep up.  I reach for the off switch.  Nothing happens.

Where’s the Adonis now? Gone along with everyone else.  I’m alone, attached to an out-of-control treadmill.  I can’t stop it.  It’s getting faster and faster… Blood pressure soaring, body heat climbing, it takes all I’ve got to fight the exercise machine. I scream aloud and wake myself up.

Exhausted, I lean back onto soft pillows, slowly letting my body rest, until I’ve regained control.  Inwardly I curse myself for being taken in by handsome broad shoulders, tapered waist and narrow masculine hips.  Where is he now? Gone.

I struggle downstairs to the kitchen, open the fridge and bathe in the cooling air.  Then I see it, a huge chocolate cake, covered with whipped cream and cherries.  I want a piece so much, I want to reach out and dip my finger into the soft, cool swirls of cream.  But I daren’t.  I know the dream.  I know the form.  I’ve heard about the Fat Pound.  I satisfy my cravings with a glass of milk and sit at the kitchen table wondering how many more times must I dream the dream.

Yesterday’s newspaper is lying idly on the table, a tabloid.  Fat Pounds for UK screams the headline. It’s all coming true.  My nightmare… but will I escape the officer when he arrests me for real? I shudder at the thought.

Reluctantly I return to bed.  I’m very tired but part of me doesn’t want to sleep, doesn’t want to get arrested again, doesn’t want to go to the Fat Pound.  I’ve never been there, not yet, even in my dreams, I’ve never been through the doors.  They don’t exist, not yet.  But I drift off to sleep, I must have because it’s light when I wake, another day, a new start.

I take out my eating plan, I weigh out my breakfast.  I make up my packed lunch, all within the permitted allowances.  In the bathroom, I ignore the scales, I daren’t get on.  I clip my pace counter onto my belt.  I set off for the bus stop, no not the nearest one.  At the office I take the stairs, greet my fellow colleagues before wiring myself up to my terminal.  I’ve several calls waiting, I deal with them quickly. Call centre work is quick-fire, no time to break, no time to waste, no time to think about the next meal.  I smile at the clients I never see, I tap their details into my computer and update their records.  I’m glad I’m busy, no time to think about the dreams.

Lunch outside, it’s warm. I walk, noting how many paces I’ve managed to clock up on my counter.  I’m on target, I should make ten thousand by the end of the day.  On the way back to the office, I think about the Adonis, I’d like to meet him again, but there’s no way I’m going on one of his machines. 

 

It’s Wednesday, Slimming Club after work.  I turn up at the library meeting room, it’s busy, there’s a queue.  Must be the new legislation, people don’t want to be fined or sent to the new Fat Pounds, when they’re opened.  I wait patiently for my turn, chat to the woman in front, pick up a magazine. It’s full of slimming success stories.  I want to be one of them, I want to stop the nightmares.

‘Hello,’ says the consultant cheerfully, ‘have you had a good week?’

‘Not too bad,’ I answer, I never tell her about the nightmares.  I strip off as much clothing as is decent, including my shoes and step onto her scales.  We have to wait for the bleep, the same bleep as the officer’s body monitor.

‘You’ve lost three pounds,’ she tells me, ‘well done, only a few more pounds to your target.’

For the first time today I feel really happy, I’m only a few weeks away from my ideal weight.  Ideal for me because I know once I’m there, the nightmares will stop.  The Adonis?  I’ll keep looking for him.
This story
started me on the path to my writing career. It's not historical but set in the near future.