An old guy took her place, his hair was salt-and-pepper, the foot long mustache gray. He took a deep breath and wiped invisible sweat off his forehead, although he hadn’t even started yet.
«Arth, did you see?», Rob nodded to the back, «Four rows down… empty.»
I let one hand go as I turned around, and I needed a few seconds to catch a proper glance at the empty treadmill, since I had to peer through the moving gaps between the exercising women behind us. «Since when?»
«Didn’t show up at all today.»
«And nobody else instead? An abandoned treadmill?»
«Wasn’t that the fella with the round glasses?»
«Yeah», Rob blew his mustache to the side, «I bet he walked the plank.»
«How would you know? Maybe he’s just sick.»
«That’s what they say.»
«Pfh, ‘they’ said that with Kevin, too, and he just twisted his ankle, remember?»
«My source is solid.»
«Listen to you: my source!» I looked up to the big screen, where yesterday’s watts number flickered in a white stroboscopic light: 103,007,381 Watts Congratulation! Only the gym motto at the bottom of every screen never changed: Live healthy, Die healthy!
«Our boss», Rob said.
«As if! Sure he is like: Hey buddy, come on over, can I pour you a coffee, like a cookie? I wanna share a secret with my best friend…»
«No, no, no, the boss did this, when I asked him», Rob took one hand off the handle and let his index finger and middle finger march across armatures, «On his desk.»
The common gesture for walking the plank.
«Okay then, respect. You met the boss?!»
«He wanted to talk to me about my Watts.»
«I guess my production dropped slightly under average last month.»
Rob was stronger built than me, however at the end of this shift—whenever our changing rotating shifts ended at the same time—his face was red, and he wheezed like an asthma patient in an asbestos mine.
«So what’s the solution?», I asked.
«He told me I should do a little better, or a little longer, and of course he offered me a Cloud Hotel brochure.»
«Hey look!», he motioned toward the projection on the big screen, «They did it again, man, second time traveler!»
My neighbor Thorsten was breaking news. Next to a picture of him waving a goodbye into the camera it read: Another time traveler successfully launched. He signaled his safe arrival. Turn on your notifications for his Time Traveller Reports!
«Dude’s my neighbor.»
«You know a celebrity, man.»
The picture changed to Thorsten standing in a metal box slightly bigger than him, supposedly the time machine, or a steam punk tin coffin.
Rob continued, «Why didn’t you say anything? You must have known…»
«I didn’t think of it.»
«Well, if I were you I would have told everybody about my neighbor hero.»
«He sounded full of it.»
«For a reason! Now he is out of here.»
«Lucky guy, in the past!»
«They don’t say what year yet, and where.»
«So? The sun, no matter where he is, he will the sun!»
«Maybe he just made it a few weeks back», the thought let me snicker.
Rob looked straight up at the ceiling to give his fantasy the room of a video free surface, so his imagination could unfold with no distraction, «Maybe he is surrounded by rhinosaurs.»
«I think they are called … differently.»
«Then rhinosaurs they are», he smiled, «Rhinosaurs roaming the earth.»