For What You Dream Of

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A new health fad was sweeping the country. NewYou promised almost instant results. It wasn't so much a weight loss system as a way of life. But Jennifer isn't convinced. What if it was all too good to be true?

Submitted: April 28, 2016

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Submitted: April 28, 2016

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Jennifer Welsh felt better than she had done in days. The bug she’d had had really wiped her out. After resting up and hibernating a home for a few days she felt ready to join the human race again. Unfortunately that also meant returning to work. To be fair though, the office wasn’t too bad. She got on well with all her colleagues. She counted a couple of the women she worked with as some of her closest friends.

She climbed in her car and joined the rush hour crawl to work. As she wound her way along the main road she noticed a new sign on a billboard. The poster was promoting some new weight loss product. She shook her head. Each week there seemed to be some new diet product, some new wonder product, some new health fad.

Once at the office she headed straight for the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Like offices across the world the working day started with brewing up. The kitchen was busy. As she made herself a brew and made polite talk with her colleagues she overheard others discussing the weight loss product she’d seen advertised. By the sounds of it they all knew someone who had started the programme.

When she reached her desk she booted up her computer while the colleagues who had been slating her for being off sick now told her they hoped she was feeling better. It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the weight loss product.

Jennifer asked the woman sitting facing her what it was all about. Her colleague Kate always seemed to know everything about everything. Kate leaned forward excitedly.

‘You know Trish, used to work at Turners? She is on it. This NewYou thing. It’s a complete weight loss and healthy lifestyle regime. There are strict eating and drinking rules and precise recipes you have to follow. You take pills four times a day. There are meetings you have to attend three times a week. And the subscription includes membership to the NewYou gyms that have sprung up across the city.’

‘It sounds very intense.’

‘It’s supposed to be amazing. The results speak for themselves apparently.’

Jennifer wasn’t too sure about the NewYou thing. But everyone else sounded so interested.

Each day that passed she knew another person that had signed up for the programme. Her sister Christine and her husband had both started on it. Christine had phoned Jennifer the next evening enthusing about the wonders of the regime. To Jennifer it all seemed too good to be true. Mind you, she had always had a cynical side to her.

By the end of the following week almost everyone she knew was on the programme. Christine called round to see her one evening. She bounced into the living room wide eyed.

‘Jen, the NewYou regime is amazing. I’ve lost over half a stone in a week. It is a complete programme. It’s a way of life. There’s the gym and the meetings. I feel fantastic.’

‘You sound like the advert on the telly.’

‘Honestly, sis, I feel like a different person.’

‘Do you want a brew?’

‘Goodness, no. I can’t drink anything like that any more.’

She pulled a bottle of water from her handbag. She took a sip. The bottle had the NewYou gold logo emblazoned on the label.

‘Well, I’m having a brew and a digestive biscuit. Want a biscuit?’

‘On the programme-’

Jennifer rolled her eyes and headed for the kitchen.

Her sister spent the next forty minutes talking about the diets, the exercise plans and how wonderful it all was and about how marvellous she felt. Jennifer nodded politely and made what she hoped was the right noises.

As her sister left Jennifer said she would ring her soon.

‘If you can’t reach me I’ll probably be at the gym or at my meeting.’

Jennifer was sick of hearing about the NewYou thing. Not only did ever advert break on television and radio feature ads promoting the new wonder lifestyle, but it was all everyone seemed to talk about these days.

It felt like she was the only one at the office not doing the programme. When she pulled a Twix bar out of her bag there were audible gasps from her colleagues. She wanted a bit of chocolate and a cup of tea but you would have thought she’d pulled out a joint from the reaction of everyone. Jennifer waved the chocolate around.

‘Anyone want some? No? You sure?’

The weeks went by. She had to admit that those on the regime did look well. They were fitter and more in shape than they had been in years. The eating better and regular exercise was clearly working. But something niggled her about the whole thing. It just seemed to be all consuming. What was wrong with moderation?

Her workmate Kate grinned as Jennifer sat at the desk facing her.

‘Morning Kate. You okay?’

‘Wonderful.’ she beamed.

‘Really? Did you meet a feller last night?’

‘I’ve joined up. I’m on the programme.’

‘That slimming thing? Not you too?’

‘It’s a healthy lifestyle regime.’

Jennifer said nothing.

Over the next few days Jennifer listened as her friend Kate sounded more and more like the rest of the people on the programme. Kate would insist that she felt so fantastic and ‘like a different person’. Jennifer fought back the urge to reply that she sounded not so much like a different person but like everyone else.

And so it went on. More and more people joined the programme. Jennifer was almost the only person she knew not on the regime. The pills, the meetings, the gym. Those on the regime looked great. They had a healthy glow about that that the pale, out of shape Jennifer couldn’t help but envy. Yet something stopped her from signing up. It was just a fad, she told herself. If something was too good to be true then it usually was.

One lunchtime Jennifer went to the office kitchen to eat her sandwiches. As usual the room was busy. Her colleagues filled the tables all enjoying the break from work. She made a cup of tea and found a seat. She glanced around. She was the only person eating anything that wasn’t a plastic box of salad. She was the only one not drinking water from a NewYou sports bottle.

The room was full of chatter as everyone talked amongst themselves. From the snippets she overheard they all seemed to be discussing NewYou related topics. Some discussed a new workout they had been shown at the gym. Others enthused about the latest NewYou recipes, and others still discussed the amount of weight they had lost this week.

Jennifer was struck by how much alike everyone sounded. They were speaking in the same tone and expressions. In identical simultaneous movements they all popped pills into their mouths and washed them down with the water. A shiver went through her. This couldn’t be okay, could it?

The chatter continued. Jennifer munched on her sandwich. She turned to the people on her table.

‘Did anyone see that thing about a serial killer on BBC last night? It was really good.’

‘No, I was at my meeting.’ one said.

‘I was at the gym.’ said another.

‘I don’t watch much television these days. I just don’t have time what with the programme.’

The conversation returned to the subject of the new health fad.

It went on this way. Those on the programme seemed to be interested in little else. And more and more people signed up for it. Every now and then Jennifer would catch the end of a report on television or radio which criticised the NewYou operation. There was mention of terms like brain washing and discussions of how the following was like that of a cult. But the negative publicity was almost completely drowned out by the advertising campaigns and the chatter of those already on the programme.

One Saturday morning Jennifer bumped into her cousin in the supermarket. His basket was full of NewYou products.

‘Are you on this diet now?’ she asked.

‘Healthy lifestyle programme.’ he corrected.

‘Yeah, right.’ she said. ‘Where are you watching United tonight?’

‘I’m not watching it. I’ve got my meeting.’

‘You’re missing the match?’

‘To be honest I don’t follow United that much any more. I don’t have the time and I’ve just kind of lost interest.’

‘You used to be really into football.’

‘I’ve lost nine pounds this week.’ he replied.

‘You’re looking well.’

‘I feel like a different person.’ he said.

Jennifer said nothing.

A couple of days later she was speaking to an old friend. Jennifer asked what she had been upto. The friend enthused about the wonders of NewYou.

‘Not you too? You used to love nothing more than lager and donner kebabs.’

‘Not any more. I’m like a new woman. I’ve lost almost a stone already.’

‘What gigs have you got coming up? I’m assuming you’ve got tickets for the Stone Roses. There’s also Shed Seven at the Academy.’

‘I’m not going to see the Stone Roses. I don’t listen to much music these days.’

‘But it’s the Roses. I’d cut off a limb to see them live. And you were always more into them than I am.’

‘I’ve moved on, I suppose. The only music I hear these days is at the gym.’

The next weekend she noticed one of her friends on the road. She called out. He friend looked at her in confusion.

‘Do I know you?’

‘It’s me, Jennifer. We went to school together. I saw you in the Boat House pub the other week. We had a drink together.’

‘Are you on NewYou?’

‘No, I am not.’

‘I didn’t think so.’

She turned and walked away leaving Jennifer standing. Jennifer was stunned. Her old friend had no recollection of her and when she found out Jennifer wasn’t on the regime she had walked off.

Over the next few weeks there were more and more reports in the press of the ‘dark side’ of the new wonder health treatment. Some reports said that the government was also considering looking into their activities.

She was the only person she knew who wasn’t on the regime. She couldn’t decide if she was the only sane person or if she was the crazy one. One thing she noticed was that those on the programme struggled to recall events from before they started the regime.

Her sister phoned her one evening. She had lost over two stone so far and rang to share this wonderful news. Jennifer made the right noises. Her sister mentioned a NewYou recipe for Stifado. The Cypriot dish reminded Jennifer of a holiday several years ago.

‘Remember that waiter in Cyprus? He was always flirting with us. We did get a few free pints of Keo lager though.’

‘I don’t remember that.’

‘We always talk about it. We even do the voice.’

‘I will let you know what the recipe is like.’

One morning her workmate Kate did not seem her usual chirpy, NewYou self.

‘Are you okay, Kate?’

She shrugged.

‘What’s up?’

‘I’m thinking of stopping the programme.’

‘Why?’ Jennifer tried to keep the delight out of her voice. ‘What’s up?’

‘I don’t know. There’s something not right about it all. I can’t quite put my finger on it though. I just know that I want to stop it. There’s a meeting tonight but I’m not going.’

‘I have to say,’ Jennifer said. ‘I think you’re doing the right thing.’

Kate nodded. She grabbed the packet of pills that had become a regular fixture on her desk.

‘I wont be taking any more of these.’

She tossed the pills in the bin.

‘Good for you.’ said Jennifer.

She hoped that Kate would be the first of many to see sense about the programme.

The following morning Jennifer arrived at the office. She made a brew and went to her desk. She said ‘morning’ to her colleagues. She sat down at her work station. Then she noticed the packet of pills on Kate’s desk. Kate smiled at her.

‘I thought you packed all that in.’

‘When I missed the meeting last night one of the Leaders called round to my house. They explained everything. So, I’m still on the programme.’

‘You were so sure you were quitting. What did they explain exactly?’

‘I can’t quite remember what they said. It all made sense though. And, there’s even a chance I will be made a Leader. Then I’ll be able to hold meetings of my own. Once I’ve completed the training of course. How good is that?’

Jennifer simply shook her head. She felt sick.

One day a short while later Kate found Jennifer at the water cooler. She had known Kate long enough to know when she wanted something.

‘Go on. What are you after?’

‘It’s about the programme.’

‘It would have to be. Do you need a lift to your meeting?’

‘They’ve made me a Leader. There is a course I’ve got to attend but I now have my own group.’

‘Okay.’

‘Part of being a Leader is recruitment.’

‘No way.’

‘I will pick you up and drop you home.’

‘I don’t want to go.’

‘You will love it. When you’re on the programme it’s like you are someone else.’

‘I don’t want to be anyone else.’

‘It’s you, but the best you that you could possibly be.’

‘Kate, it changes you. You have changed. You are not the same person as you were before. None of you are.’

‘I’m much better. I’m so happy. We all are. Give me a chance to show you what you are missing.’

‘This thing does stuff to you. I bet you can’t remember the name of the high school you went to.’

‘I will pick you up at seven.’

‘I am not going.’

‘What have you got to lose?’

‘I don’t want to be like the rest of you. Do you know what I did last night while you lot were at the gym and at your meetings? I had a glass of wine and played my ukulele. When was the last time you did anything that did not involve the programme?’

‘Jennifer, tell you what, come along tonight and if you don’t like it then you don’t have to go back. Give it a chance. Do it for me. Please.’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘See you at seven.’

Kate picked Jennifer up. She kept telling herself that she was going along to help her newly promoted friend. She reassured herself that she would sit through the one meeting and not go again. Kate chattered excitedly about the amazing experience Jennifer was going to have. I’d rather be playing my uke, she thought.

Kate led her towards a large building. It must have been a social club or something before becoming the latest NewYou premises. Signs for local breweries had been quickly but thinly painted over around the entrance.

‘Come on.’ beamed Kate.

Jennifer followed.

 

She went from her bedroom through to her bathroom. She took two pills from a small tub marked NewYou. She washed them down with tap water. She glanced at her watch. Ten o’clock at night. She couldn’t recall anything about the meeting but she had to admit that she felt amazing. She felt like she could do anything she put her mind to. She couldn’t wait to start losing weight and getting into the best shape of her life. It was true what they said, she did feel like a different person. 

The next day she advertised her ukulele for sale on the internet.

The weeks that followed rolled by. Jennifer became fully immersed in the programme. She took her pills, followed the strict recipes, attended the meetings and worked out in the gym. She discovered a wide community of friends. She had never been so popular. She felt amazing. The only thing was that she found she had trouble concentrating and her memory was extremely patchy. But, what was that compared to how fabulous she looked and felt?

One morning Jennifer noticed Kate seemed distant and distracted. She wasn’t her usual NewYou self.

‘Are you okay, Kate?’

‘I’m not sure. Have you heard about the thing on television last night?’

‘No. I don’t watch much television these days.’

‘Apparently there was a BBC documentary about NewYou. It was a so-called exposé looking into how things at the organisation are not as they seem.’

‘That’s ridiculous.’ Jennifer snapped.

‘Those higher up are outraged. They say it could be the final straw.’

 

Jennifer had almost forgotten about the incident one the morning the week after that she found Kate and several others in the office kitchen. They were huddled round a newspaper with grave expressions.

‘What’s up? What’s happened?’ she asked.

‘It’s over.’ someone said.

‘What is?’

‘NewYou. Look.’

Jennifer took the paper and read. The statement that the reclusive owner of the company, a person known only as Mother, had issued to the press simply declared in large bold letters that ‘Due to media and Government hounding the NewYou company will cease operating to the general public Mother and all at NewYou wishes its members good luck for the future.’

She shook her head and read it again.

‘But surely that can’t be it.’

‘It’s finished.’

‘It can’t just-’ 

‘The gyms and meeting rooms have all been boarded up. You won’t be able to get any more pills.’

Kate wiped away a tear.

The next few days were hard. Jennifer struggled as much as everyone else. She just felt empty, lost. She wasn’t sure what to do with herself. Would things ever be the same again? People coped in different ways. Some joined other gyms or pale imitations of weight loss groups. Others went off the deep end and gorged themselves on the take away food and confectionary they had been denying themselves while on the programme.

Three weeks later the world was back to normal. Things had returned to the way they had been before. Jennifer went back to enjoying a glass of wine and strumming her ukulele.

Then Kate phoned her at home.

‘Jen, I have amazing news.’

‘Oh yeah? Is it a feller or have you won a holiday?’

‘I’ve heard from NewYou.’

‘Go on.’

‘They’re opening a brand new health village. Only a select few of the Leaders may be granted a place. They rang me and told me I’ve been chosen. It’s just outside York and it’s supposed to be fantastic.’

‘I thought we’d finished with all this.’

‘It’s a wonderful opportunity.’

‘You’re not thinking of going.’

‘Yes, I am.’

‘How long for?’

‘It’s residential and it’s- well it’s permanent.’

‘How will you live?’

‘Everything is provided.’

‘Kate, please don’t do this.’

‘Jen, you were not a Leader. You don’t understand.’

‘You’ll be living in this compound for good? This is crazy.’

‘It’s a full time, live in programme. It will be like it was before but much more intense. It will be more dedicated and away from prying eyes. The media and politicians will not be able to get to us.’

‘I have a really bad feeling about this.’

‘It’s understandable to be jealous but please try and be happy for me.’

‘I am not jealous. I’m worried.’

‘There’s really no need.’

‘When do you go?’

‘Tomorrow.’

‘So soon? What about work?’

‘I’ve called Dennis to tell him I wont be coming back.’

‘Don’t do this.’

‘I have to go. I’ve got to pack.’

‘Kate-’

The line went dead.

There was a little buzz of interest at the office the next day. Jennifer’s colleagues nudged each other as they spoke in hushed voices about Kate going to live on what they called the hippy commune. She pointed out that until recently they had all been happily subscribing to the programme.

The media reported on the opening of the compound with aerial photographs and interviews with ‘sources’ from inside.

Jennifer was still worried. She felt sick at the idea of Kate being tied up in it all. Unable to take it any more that Saturday morning she jumped in her car and headed to the compound.

The large gates bore signs declaring that the compound was private property and that trespassers would be prosecuted. The tall fences had barbed wire running along the top. A shiver went through Jennifer. Was the fence to keep the public out or its members in? She shook her head. She reminded herself that Kate was there of her own free will.

She pulled up at the gates. She climbed out of her car. There was an intercom on the gate post. She pushed the buzzer. After a second a voice came across the speaker.

‘Yes? Can we help?’

‘My friend is with you. I want to check she’s okay.’

‘I can assure you that everyone here is well. I am sure your friend appreciates your concern. Perhaps I could pass on a message.’

‘Are you going to let me in?’

‘Please apply for an appointment.’

‘I want to see my friend. Her name is Kate Connolly.’

‘It is not a convenient time.’

‘Let me in.’

A few minutes later another voice came on the intercom.

‘Give us a moment and we’ll send we’ll send someone to fetch you.’

‘Thank you.’

The intercom clicked as the speaker went off. Then the gates slid slowly open. A woman wearing a tracksuit and running shoes came out to see her. She was in her thirties and wore a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

‘Greetings.’ she  beamed. ‘Thank you for stopping by. I believe you know one of us.’

‘Yes. I am here to see Kate Connolly.’

‘Of course. Please come with me.’

Jennifer followed the woman through the gates.

The compound was made up of a collection of low wooden buildings. Jennifer was reminded of holiday camps she had visited as a child. The woman showed her to one of the huts. The woman knocked and waited. The door opened. A man with greying hair smiled at them.

‘I’ve brought the visitor.’ The woman said.

The man nodded. He stepped aside and waved for Jennifer to enter.

‘Greetings.’ he said. ‘Bear with me a moment.’

Just when Jennifer was convinced she was being messed around she was sent through to an office. A woman was sitting behind the large desk. She was tanned and toned and wore a tracksuit. She came over to Jennifer smiling.

‘Thank you for visiting us today. I am the founder of NewYou. They call me Mother.’

Jennifer couldn’t place her accent. American? Australian?’

‘Can I give you a tour of the ground?’

‘I would really like to see my friend. Her name-’

‘All in good time. Let me show you around our facility.’

Mother gave Jennifer the full guided tour. She was shown the gymnasiums, swimming pools, meeting and dining rooms and the dormitories. Each member they passed grinned and bid her ‘Greetings’. The residents did seem quite content to be there. They didn’t seem to be being held hostage or being forced to do anything against their will.

As they walked Mother explained the philosophy behind the centre. She discussed the healthy lifestyle and the strict regime they followed. All the equipment, the training and the procedures were all based on the latest technologies and nutrition.

Jennifer tried to take it all in. They passed gyms packed with people working out on exercise bikes, cross trainers and a variety of other machines. In one of the studios a class was under way. Jennifer couldn’t tell if it was yoga, Zumba or Pilates. In the large dining room the residents dined on salads and drank water.

After an hour the tour was over.

‘Is there anything else I can help you with today?’

‘My friend.’ Jennifer snapped. ‘I want to see her.’

‘Of course.’ She turned to a member of staff. ‘Would you tell Kate Connolly I want to see her in my office?’

The member nodded and hurried to find Kate. Jennifer’s heart pounded. Finally she would be seeing her friend.

Jennifer sat across the desk from Mother. The health guru asked Jennifer all about her lifestyle. Jennifer shifted in her seat. She told her she lead a happy, full active life, thank you very much.

There was a knock at the door. Mother called ‘enter’. Kate entered.

‘Ah, Kate.’ said Mother. ‘Your friend has come to see you.’

Kate looked fit and healthy but there was something, a look in her eyes, that worried Jennifer.

‘Greeting, Jennifer.’ Kate said.

Jennifer hugged her.

‘Kate, how are you? Are you doing okay here?’

‘I’m fine. I am doing really well. I’m making good progress.’

‘I believe your friend was worried about you.’

Mother laughed. Kate laughed along.

‘And you’re happy? You want to stay here?’

‘Yes, I am. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of.’

‘You see?’ Mother said. ‘We are a happy camp. We’re a tight knit community. Very close. If outsiders could just understand that and leave us to get on with the lives we have chosen to leave.’

Mother shook her head as if to try and clear it. She turned to Kate.

‘I believe you had a question you wanted to ask your friend.’

Kate nodded. She took a deep breath.

‘We want you to join us, Jennifer. Please.’

Her words pleaded but Jennifer spotted a slight shake of the head. She understood. She had obviously been instructed to invite her friend to stay but Kate didn’t want her to take her up on the offer.

‘How about it? Please join us. I am sure you’d be a vital member of our community. And you would be so happy.’

‘I really appreciate the offer but I can’t. I’m not cut out for this life. I’m sure you’ll do well though.’

‘If you’re sure?’

Jennifer nodded. Then she spoke.

‘Would I be able to come back and see you next week?’

‘Absolutely. We’d like that, wouldn’t we, Kate?’

Kate smiled. Jennifer could tell her friend was relieved she had turned their offer down.

Mother’s mobile phone rang. She reached into her pocket and answered. She listened for a moment then hung up. She forced a smile.

‘It appears that the world is still fascinated by our activities. Another newspaper article will be going in tomorrow’s paper. Journalists are constantly trying to enter the compound. And I’ve been informed that the Government are still investigating. Why can’t they just leave us alone?’

The smile slipped for a second. Then it returned.

‘Thank you for visiting us.’ said Mother. ‘I will show you out. Kate, you have a class starting shortly, don’t you?’

Kate nodded. She hugged Jennifer tight. She had tears in her eyes as she left the room.

The next morning Jennifer’s sister phoned.

‘Jen? Have you heard?’

‘What’s that?’

‘Put the news on.’

Jennifer flicked on the television. On screen was footage of the compound. Urgent red lettering scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

Breaking news. Hundreds feared dead in mass suicide at so-called health compound. Initial reports say there are no survivors.


© Copyright 2017 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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