Write a short scene in which a woman becomes invisible, briefly, for no explained reason. I leave it up to you what she will observe in her state of lucidity and transparency: her boyfriend's or husband's or male friend's life, a short scene of men without women, or a scene of another woman and her man (innocent or not). No one can see or hear her. She is not a ghost, and at the end of your narrative return her to her fully fleshed out self, again with no explanations. In other words, don't worry too much about the problems of imperceptibility. Just jump into the story and follow its political, rather than science fiction, consequences.
(from prompt #42 in The 3AM Epiphany)
Read my response:
"The Gym" by combust
When she looked sideways at the mirror, she saw an empty seat where she should have seen herself sitting. The handle she held dropped and the weight swung down from the pivot point; in the middle of arm extensions, she glanced to her left to examine her tricep and saw nothing but suspended equipment. The gym remained the same, there were rows of women running in place above her, and men spotting each other in bench presses among the free weights. But in the mirror, the seat she occupied looked available. Testing this, she again extended herself, felt the dull strain in her upper arm, saw the weight lift and the handle rise and then drop with a clang that no one else seemed to hear.
She stood up, looked down, saw her own shoes tied tightly, felt up and confirmed a swinging ponytail on her head. The mirror reflected nothing. She walked up to a man laying on his back and lifted her shirt, jumped up and down, and waited. No reaction, just a grunt while he hefted up a bar stacked with more weight than she contained. She did a little shimmy and almost cried that he didn’t stop, gaping in wonderment at her naked breasts. He just kept lifting weight for the sake of it, completely ignoring her.
“I am invisible.” She didn’t say it out loud, she kept her thoughts in her head, and she sat, dazed, at the foot of the man in front of her.
She felt free and a little ecstatic; like someone had given her a superpower in the middle of the night and while part of her felt irritated at being disturbed, every other part of her delighted in the possibilities of what to do when no one can see.
She explored the idea of pranks; she considered mischief like a foreign language. She stepped on the scale behind a woman weighing herself, gave her a fright. She pulled the pin on a man bracing himself for a shoulder press and watched his face display surprise, then embarrassment, then cool recovery in a moment. The treadmills tempted her but she resisted ruining anyone’s stride, and instead she turned all the televisions to Spanish cartoons and laughed by herself at the few people this confused.
She wandered to the gym’s front desk and put herself up for free membership for the next year. Then thinking further she gave herself back credit for all the years she’d been a member, in addition to free membership going forward. It felt very bad and she surprised herself by doing it anyway.
In the locker room, she looked in the mirror out of habit. Realizing this habit sobered her up, she felt lonely without a reflection and lost, though she could still feel her hair pulled back and see her shoes laced. Things tied to her, around her, proved her existence but it scared her to not recognize herself among the images of women changing in the room. She watched women in the mirror, glancing at themselves or pausing and staring and pulling and prodding themselves, but her philosophizing was interrupted by her name.
Instead of herself she saw friend Emily balancing a cell phone on her shoulder while using both her hands to tie her shoes. With a thrill she realized she could hear Emily talk about her, she could hear what someone thought of her. But the words coming out of Emily sounded like they were describing someone else, someone awful. So she left Emily to frown at her reflection, she left the locker room and rushed towards the door of the gym, rushing towards somewhere without strangers or mirrors.
At the door she stopped, holding the handle, bracing herself for the rest of the world and the people in it who couldn’t see her. She gathered her strength and reached out and nearly fell forward through the open door, being held open for her by a man staring down at her chest.