MSRP: $14.98
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 60 mins each
• Inspiring music.
• Tips for Healthy Lifestyles
• Bonus commercial

The Pitch

“Bound in human flesh… They speak only of horrors…”

The Humans

Her most revered priestess of the dark burn, Jillian Michaels.

The Nutshell

A pair of sinister rites for summoning ancient evils, which possess your body and force you to perform outrageous contortions, bending and breaking your sinews and tendons and bones until you cry out for mercy.

The Lowdown

June 1, 2009 - A package from my benefactors arrived in the mail today. Fat with promise. Georgia postmark. I knew it was coming, but I’m scared to handle it just the same. If the contents should get into the wrong hands, there’s no telling what might happen. I’m not sure I trust myself to keep it safe. I still haven’t been able to forget that thing with the cat. Can I do this? Can I pull it off?

I opened the package carefully in the car, alone. Nothing unexpected, which only meant that my fears were confirmed. Amid several benign boxes sat the two which have haunted my sleepless nights ever since I faked the bravery I needed to claim responsibility for them.

Arriving home, I resealed the package as well as I could. I felt the first tremor in my heart the moment my key entered the lock on the front door. “Hey,” she said. She knew I was home, was waiting for me in the front room. There was no use pausing, or delaying. It would only make her more suspicious. I pushed into the air-conditioned room. The cold chilled my lungs, entered my blood.

“Hi,” I replied.

“What’d you get?” She was sitting at the table, nothing there to distract her. Watching me, as if expecting a lie.

I gave it to her, smoothly. “Nothing much.”

She bought it. Dear lord, I hope she bought it.

Even now, recalled in tranquility, the priestess’s dark sardonic features bring me to an impotent rage.

June 4, 2009 - It’s no good. It’s as if she knows it’s here, in the house. She keeps coming into my office. It’s buried, deeply, right now. One glimpse of the garish packaging, designed so paradoxically to entice, and I will be sunk.

“Was that it?” she said, looking at the small stack of what remained from the parcel after the danger had been secreted away.

“Yep. No worries.” She knows.

June 7, 2009 - She found it. I can barely write, now. My arms feel like bags filled with ice water, from fear and from what she has put me through already. It’s as if they are in league, my precious wife and the devil in the shape of a woman who appears on the screen.

No! I don’t want to revisit it. If I don’t commit it to paper, maybe it will disappear into the past.

Of course, the priestess of fire would not retreat into memory without a fight.

June 9, 2009 - The Ian of two days ago was an idiot. A blind, hopeful idiot. It will never vanish. She won’t let it. Every morning, now, she brings them out, the discs with their sharp edges, bright like a blade’s edge in the morning sun.

“Which one will it be today?” she taunts. Maybe it would have been better if I had showed her right off the bat, if I hadn’t hidden anything. “Shall we banish your fat? Shall we remove your… trouble zones?” The words are slippery, pregnant with a thousand signifieds. Not one option holds cheer for me.

She watches as I dance for her. I don’t know how much further I can be degraded. Sometimes she joins in, a lithe mockery of my stumbling moves. And when I can barely summon the breath the beg, she teases me. “Where’s your adrenaline? You haven’t even hit your high.” I feel so low. My heart trembles, then collapses.

June 15, 2009 - I feel like a toothache. When she’s not looking, I fill my gut with sugar. It’s the only thing I can control. Sometimes I puke it all back up. My benefactors had no idea they were condemning me to this. I must believe that, or else there’s no one out there in the world with even the smallest, most precious spark of sympathy. I already know there’s nobody who can help me.

The only one who could have sympathized with me is already within the priestess’s grasp.

I can hear her waking up. If I run, she’ll catch up to me, and crow as I run all the harder. Playing right into her plan. There is no escape.

June 18, 2009 - Is it finally over? I woke this morning with no pain in my limbs, nor in the loose and failing bond of muscles around them. Where there used to be stabs of nerves complaining I feel only numbness. My heart beats regularly, strongly.

It’s beautiful. The sun shines, and, even though it lights up the cutting edge of the disc, I’m not scared. She can tell, but she is unreadable. I dance, and can’t even feel my heart beating up to the impossible target she has tortured me with before. Maybe my heart isn’t beating at all.

I’m grinning, and she’s grinning, and she says: “Now aren’t you glad I made you do this?” I nod; it’s what she wants to see.

She can see whatever she wants. I am bloodless, unbowed. Once again, my benefactors have dealt me no more than I can handle. Your dark magics have failed, Jillian Michaels, and your partnership with my darling wife has ended. I remain… sturdy.

In a manner of speaking.

Though the discs weren’t too bad.

I shall not become as her!

The Package

Oh god, there’s more? I wasn’t prepared for this. Please, Holy Masters of the Sewer, spare my life.

Oh. Oh, it’s just a commercial for more exercise programming, some tips for healthy living (“Don’t subvert your life into dark parodies” not appearing, strangely) and a bit of extra inspiration, if you happen to need to feel an even greater degree of shame for failing to complete the full fifty-minute workout.

5 out of 10