Gertrude had tried everything to lose weight – exercise, stringent diets, special shakes, hypnotism, prescription weight-loss drugs. Pounds shed always came back with a vengeance, and Gertrude fingered clothes she fit ten years ago in longing and despair.
She was meditating on the flab that gapped over her sweatpants, pale and streaked with angry stretch marks, when a late-night commercial blared over the television:
“Revolutionary weight loss method – eat as much as you want, lose as much as you want. 100% guaranteed!”
She had nothing to lose but the weight. The next day she headed into the building marked “Diet for the Soul – become a medium for a smaller size!”
“What does the sign out front mean?” Gertrude asked the clinician who attended her, a svelte thirtysomething with a model’s body and a tic in her eye.
“We’ve developed a very special, spiritual way of losing weight,” said the clinician. “Our top-of-the-line clairvoyant mediums have recruited a number of disembodied entities who, when corded to a physical host, will feed off of your toxic wastes. The pounds will simply melt off.”
“Does being corded hurt?”
“It’s completely painless. Done by psychic surgery.”
Gertrude was convinced by the money-back guarantee. This time she would not regain the weight, the clinician assured her. During the surgery, Gertrude felt nothing except a slight tightening around her solar plexus, as if someone was turning a screw in her midsection.
In the following days, Gertrude found her weight rapidly dropping. She was ravenous for the worst kinds of foods – soda, French fries, powdered donuts. Anything with trans-fats, MSG, pesticides, and high fructose corn syrup – she wanted it. She kept a knife and fork and a bowl full of junk food next to her bed when she slept, as hunger pangs often woke her during the night.
One night, she awoke to discover a gorgeous dark-haired man lying next to her. His body shimmered transparently when he moved and opened his eyes.
“Are you a ghost?” asked Gertrude.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the man replied. “I’m the entity hooked up to your third chakra, feeding off all the garbage in your body.”
It was only then that Gertrude saw the transparent silver cord that stretched out between their solar plexi, connecting them. It was kind of romantic, she thought, feeling a shiver of sexual tension. “How solid are you going to get during this diet?” she asked coyly.
“I’ll have completely built my physical body within a few more days,” the man said. “But now that I’ve appeared, we can just attach the cord a few hours every night - such a bore, but I guess it needs to be done.”
He was certainly rude, but it made him even more attractive to Gertrude, who liked bad boys. She named him Heathcliff, and in the next few days she binged to the bursting point on junk food to give him lots to feed on. Soon Heathcliff was fully physical, a solid hunk of man-flesh who appeared at her door each night to lie in bed with her.
Gertrude became obsessed with Heathcliff, and she schemed seduction. She wore her sexiest negligees from her stash of old clothes, which all fit her now. She took aphrodisiac herbs, hoping they would affect him as he fed. She even tried stroking him while he slept – but nothing piqued his interest.
“Maybe he’s gay,” mused Gertrude. “Maybe entities are asexual.”
Then one night when Heathcliff came over, she saw lipstick on his face. “You’ve been with a woman!” she accused.
“Who are you – my mother?” asked Heathcliff. He thrust his psychic feeding cord into her solar plexus with casual violence. “Lay down, let’s get this over with.”
Gertrude lay on her back as Heathcliff snored next to her, tears trickling down her cheeks. He didn’t love her! He was just using her! She was going to stop loving him too…because she hated him!
She grabbed a knife out of the bowl next to her bed and thrust it into Heathcliff’s heart. His eyes flew open; he howled as his body shimmered, and all his matter was sucked into the cord like a vacuum cleaner. Gertrude howled in turn as her body ballooned, her clothing splitting as all her weight returned. The cord got so clogged that it exploded.
The only thing left of Heathcliff was a splotch of black slime where he’d lain.
Gertrude scowled. She should have taken the cord out before killing him, she thought. At least she had a money-back guarantee.
She pulled on her old plus-size sweats. Switching on the television, her attention was immediately caught by a late-night commercial:
“Lose the pounds or your money back! Come to the Center for Weight Loss by Alien Experimentation and get a free consultation…”
Gertrude jotted down the number.