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  • Writer's pictureHenry Cavanaugh

Desperate To Win

Updated: Mar 23, 2019

Luck hadn’t always been on the side of American gymnast Sam Mikulak as he had all too often found himself just missing out on medals in major tournaments. He had been so proud to represent his country in the Olympics in both 2012 and 2016 but both times had come home empty handed and more irritated than before. He was talented and he knew it, as did his coaches and his competition, but he was continually passed over in favor of others.

The fact he wasn’t getting any younger either certainly didn’t help because the older he got, the more his body would begin breaking down and he’d lose the agility that made him such a good gymnast. Sam knew that he still had a few more years in him before he’d have to call it a day and make room for younger athletes but he was determined to get up on that podium at a major tournament before he hung up his singlet and settled down for a comfortable life with his beautiful wife, hopefully to raise a family and maybe even coach the young gymnasts of the future.

With the North American Gymnastic Championships fast approaching, Sam had ramped up the intensity of his workouts and made sure his diet was stricter than ever, only consuming the exact calories he would need to keep his body fit and trim. Still he couldn’t hold back the unease that began to eat away at the edges of his mind, whispering about further failures that were certain to come. At his limit, Sam knew he had to do something to ensure that he returned home with a medal and as performance enhancers were certainly out of the question, it meant more drastic measures would have to be taken.

Carl Goston was not an unfamiliar name to those in the gymnastics game but very few were open about their associations with him. Over thirty years he had helped athletes secure victories using his occult influence but those victories came at a price, sometimes as lewd as having the winning athlete then act as a man-servant to him for a period of time or even draining years of their youth in exchange for a major victory. He had approached Sam once before, years ago, but back then the gymnast had been determined to succeed on his own merit and refused the offer in disgust. Now though, Goston’s ability to influence the judges and the other performers through the use of his mystical connections was what Sam desperately needed.

As expected the old man was particularly gleeful when Sam made contact and explained his predicament. There was something uncanny about the way his lips twisted into a thin smile and there was a dangerous glimmer in Goston’s eye that provoked a shiver to rush down Sam’s spine. “Oh I was wondering when you’d finally come to your senses,” Goston exclaimed, his voice as smooth as silk, “All those losses… I thought it might even be sooner. You couldn’t hold out forever though, could you?”

“Can we skip all your gloating and get to the part where you tell me what a bronze will cost?” Sam fired back, trying to limit how much the irritation he felt was on display. While there was a part of him that was desperate to get that gold model every athlete desired, he was also aware that the consequence from Goston would be far greater and perhaps even put his plans of settling down with his wife at risk. Bronze was playing it safe and with a man like Goston it was always better to be safe than sorry.

There was something intrinsically dirty about the way Goston regarded Sam after that remark and he couldn’t help but feel unsettled. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he waited for a response with baited breath, anticipating some horrid twist that would leave him regretting ever making contact with such a character. “A vacation,” Goston suddenly declared after a pregnant pause. “In your body. Two months.”

Sam felt momentarily winded by the thought of giving up his body to an individual who certainly wouldn’t be using it respectfully. Goston’s interest in fit young men had certainly not gone unnoticed and Sam could already imagine that some of his closest friends would fall victim to the old man’s animalistic desires. “And where will I be? In your body?” he asked hesitantly, his stomach twisting at the thought of occupying the body of an overweight and unmanicured old man. It would be most extreme a change and most certainly not one he desired.

“Oh no, that won’t do. You’ll remain in your body, just… in the passenger seat, shall we say,” Goston assured him, “I’d like to keep you close by so you can see exactly what I’m doing with your property.” His words were laced with dark intentions and caused Sam serious hesitation. Remaining a passive spectator to everything the man did in his body was somehow even worse a concept than the thought occupying that unsightly body. Was a bronze medal really worth what Goston was suggesting?

Weeks later Sam stood upon the winner’s podium, a bronze medal around his neck and a sea of stars and stripes around him. For the first time he was receiving recognition for his hard work and it felt good. There were tears on his wife’s cheeks and his whole extended family had come out to cheer him on. Somehow through the roar in the crowd he could just hear them and his heart swelled at their display of love and pride.

As his gaze traveled further back through the crowd and made contact with the beady eyes of Carl Goston though, Sam’s smile began to falter. He’d have mere minutes to celebrate his first major medal and then he was in store for the longest two months of his life, and who knew how things would be left once those long days were over…

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