Authors: Jack Worr
The Very Last Days of Mr Grey
by Jack Worr
To John Sarno
and to Johnny, Sean, and Dave, you beautiful, inventive bastards
“Why do you want to talk to me?” Mason looked at the spread on the table, and wondered how he had missed it. How he had missed her.
You’re not as observant as you think
The woman set a cup in front of him, poured tea into it. “I think you know.”
“What do I know?”
“It’s not what, Mason, it’s whom.”
“Isla? But you said—”
“What I said was what needed to be said to get you to sit with me here, now.” She inclined her head toward the cup of tea in front of him. “The purpose to which it served has been fulfilled, and now, here we are, and we must come to new terms for the next stage.”
Mason glanced wildly around All American Independent Coffee, taking in its ordinariness, its oblivious customers. He couldn’t believe that none of them saw the two of them, so out of place and odd sitting at this normal table, drinking odd beverages from odd cups that were not made of the familiar paper they were used to, that they expected and loved.
He looked at the mysterious woman again.
She wore a slight smile as she gazed at him.
“I’m not thirsty,” he said.
“Sure you are.”
Mason wasn’t, but took a sip anyway just to get her to go on.
“There is someone. This someone, this man, he knows of Isla. And you, you can help her.”
“Look,” he set his cup down, scooted his chair back, stood. “I’m leaving. Thanks for the tea. But this is—” He shook his head. Hollywood was full of spiritual woo-woo, but he didn’t want any part of it. This was just tasteless. He’d have to figure out how she knew so much about him, but that could come later.
“I wouldn’t do that,” the woman warned.
“I don’t even know your name,” he slurred. He wobbled, almost fell, stood straight again, then fell back into his chair. Her name floated in front of him, past his face, the letters white and glowing. He turned to watch it go.
“Mason, just stay calm. It’s all all right.”
“All of what?” Mason said. Where was he? It was getting so dark. “
” disappeared through the window—and outside it was dark and full of fog.
He looked at the tea. It seemed sinister. There was something about that tea, something he wanted absolutely no part of. Something… But his mind was refusing to process any more thoughts, and soon it shut down for the day, hung up a sign that said be back at twelve.
But that was nine hours away.
Mason Grey couldn’t sleep.
He had been trying. Trying hard.
Really, really hard.
Hard enough to sweat.
He lay there, sweating, sheets dampening under him, awake.
He wanted to scream, but feared that would get his blood pumping too much and just keep him awake longer.
He thought about punching the bed, but that would get his blood pumping too. Or getting up to open the window, but that thought made him worried about someone coming in through the window while he was sleeping and—
Well, no need to think of that.
He thought about his latest screenplay, and how an actor he had a crush on had been cast as the main character, and how it would play out were he to meet her at some party, and how the last time one of those parties had been in someone’s backyard, in a pool, and how the girls had been in bikinis that were small, and how someone told him about a death, congratulating—
Mason realized he was falling asleep, and jolted.
That was close, he thought. Then he thought, Goddammit, as his mind became more rational and realized what it had done.
Mason Grey tossed his pillow across the bed and kicked his blanket down until it was at his feet. He didn’t notice it fall to the floor. All he could focus on was the fact that he was still not asleep. That he had been asleep, so very briefly.
He had been there, reached his goal. And now where was he? What did he have?
He was awake in bed, and all he had was the meaningless fragment of a dream: A bikini floating away as someone congratulated him on a death.
Mr Blunderbuss congratulates your loss.
He looked at the clock.
Five hours now.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
For five hours, he’d been trying to sleep.
Oh, he’d thought about getting up, doing some work, writing that screenplay that was due Sunday, but each time he’d sat up in bed, he’d felt the draw of sleep before he could even toss the covers back and, with a sigh of frustration and resignation—a feat to have multiple times in one night—lay back down.
And each time, sleep hadn’t come.
As long as he didn’t think of that, didn’t think of anything, sleep would come, and all would be well.
It wasn’t long before he felt that feeling, that sensation of both floating up and falling down, of being drawn. Then his heart skipped and beat faster as he realized he was falling asleep.
No, he had to ignore it. Couldn’t focus on it, just let it happen. But now he was aware of it, and focused on it, like a rabid dog on a squirrel.
And with that thought, Mason was awake once more, and watched as sleep slipped through his grasp and sloughed away.
He whimpered, and opened his eyes. Five hours and eleven minutes.
He rolled over and looked at the ceiling.
This was ridiculous. He had to see someone about this. Tomorrow—today now since it was well after midnight—he would go in. He’d schedule an appointment, and if they tried to tell him none were available today, he’d just go in anyway. He would, hell or high water, see a doctor about this today, and tomorrow night—tonight—he would finally sleep, a full and deep sleep.
And Mason Grey drifted off ever so slowly, never quite noticing this fact, as his mind played out scenarios involving being proscribed drugs which transmuted into visions of glorious multicolored pills falling from the sky, and then to a tight, art-film-like shot of them spinning in space, a rainbow in front of a blue sky the blurry backdrop to his now dream.
It is a beach where he and Isla first meet. He sees her first, or at least he thinks this is what happens. The first thing he notices is that she, like him, is fully clothed on this warm summer day. He and his friends pass by a group of freshmen—college freshmen—lying in the sand in their bikinis. His friends whistle; Mason only has eyes for her.
The next thing he notices is her shoes. Doc Martins, like his. But hers are purple.
What stands out most though, is that she’s wearing a dress. Boots and a dress. Now that is punk, he thinks.
He wishes he wasn’t wearing a stupid skater shirt. If only he was dressed more like his friend Conor, with his huge spiked hair like Sid Vicious, his leather jacket with GBH stenciled on the sleeve, a big DK on the back—though that might be too obvious.
Oh well, Mason thinks. She’ll probably like Conor rather than him.
She too is with her friends, and when the two groups pass, no words or greetings are exchanged. Nothing but for the glance she casts at him, and the smile.
At him. Not at Conor.
That smile will change the course of Mason Grey’s life.
Then the groups have crossed, and are both continuing to their opposite destinations.
He looks back, hoping she will too.
I’ll wave at her
, he thinks.
If she is looking at me, I’ll wave, then ask for her number. It’s not too late.
But what he sees is not what he expected. Instead of the bright sunny beach of a summer afternoon, the sky is dark, and the waves that crash on the shore are black as midnight. And inside those waves, inside that great mass of churning water, is something that glows darkly, something that is nothing but nightmare. Something that is nothing, but evil.
Mason woke sweating.
He was dreaming. He had been dreaming. But now in the dim electric light cast by the clock and various LEDs, it faded, and all that remained was the imprint of something dark. Of light that swallowed light, of an ocean that drowned and smothered its inhabitants.
He exhaled forcefully and rolled over onto his side. He kept his eyes shut. He wouldn’t look at the clock.
His pulse was audible in the early morning quiet. He wondered what time it was.
His eyes opened, found the clock. He groaned, rolled onto his back. The ceiling, normally invisible in the pitch of night, was faintly visible. He looked at his curtains. Minute light seeped in through them. He realized the light was from the unborn sun, not LEDs, and sighed.
He lay there for another minute, then, giving up, got up and went to the living room. He grabbed the remote, pointed.
The light of the TV joined the light of the nascent day and Mason collapsed onto the couch in a wash of photons.
A man was selling something. Mason hardly noticed.
The words washed over him, preventing his mind from coming up with its own thoughts, and slowly Mason’s mind, quite without his knowledge, began, finally, to turn off for the night.
The man was saying how unbelievable this deal was, and Mason’s mind conjured an image of a Walmart sign. The man was saying how unbelievably sharp these knives, and then, Mason was asleep.
“I don’t know,” the doctor said looking at something on Mason’s chart. Mason hadn’t been to the doctor’s in years, and had been surprised to find out he had a chart.
Despite Mason’s efforts, he had been unable to see Dr Eva Rose (known to him as “the attractive one”) whose picture was prominently featured on their website, and who was the entire reason he chose this particular place. Instead, he’d ended up with a man of indeterminate age, though certainly older than himself.
He consoled himself by reminding himself that with age came wisdom, and that at least it hadn’t been the type of visit where the doctor asked him to cough.
The doctor scribbled something down, then nodded at Mason. “I don’t usually like intervention therapy so early on, but you say you’ve been having this for a while.”
Mason stared. When he realized the man had meant it as a question, he nodded.
The doctor nodded in kind and continued, “Right. Well, there are a few things I believe would help. I’d like to try a multipronged approach, to limit any possible side effects of a single treatment. When one has a condition as persistent and long-lasting as your own, the doses and measures can become quite extreme quite quickly if the patient isn’t careful.”
Mason nodded again.
The doctor looked through Mason’s information.
“You say you haven’t been having dreams?”
Mason shrugged and shifted slightly on the table. The plastic paper crinkled. “Well, not exactly what I said. I mean, I’ve never been a dream person.” He shrugged again. “But now it’s just weird nightmares. No dreams. Is that common?”
The doctor nodded slightly. “No dreams, right.” He wasn’t looking at Mason, but down at the file, and so Mason was unsure whether it was in answer to his question or at something he was reading. “You know,” he said finally, “there’s this new treatment.”
Mason waited for him to go on.
The doctor looked up at Mason, nodded slightly. “We at Rose and Associates are among the first to get the chance to try it out. I’m thinking it might help you.”
Mason swallowed to clear his mouth of saliva before speaking. “How new?”
The doctor laughed, put a hand on Mason’s shoulder—the first affectionate gesture since Mason had met the man, all of ten minutes ago. “Don’t worry, it’s gone through all the proper animal and human clinical trials. It’s apparently quite safe.”
The doctor shrugged. “A meteor could wipe us all out in the next few seconds,” a pause, to confirm this wouldn’t happen. “That’s the thing with statistics, nothing is one hundred percent.” He walked to the door. “I’ll be right back with the waiver form.”
“It’s just standard. No liability if something crazy happens.” He swiped his hand at Mason, as if to show how crazy this was. “Nothing to worry about. Be right back.”
Seconds later, he was back, shaking his head. “Old age. I’ll need your driver license.”
“For the trial. They need your information. I need to scan it and email it over.”
“You’d make a great bird,” he commented, then said, “As for the email, we’re living in the future, what can you do?”
The doctor laughed. “Exactly.”
Mason waited alone in the examination room. Minutes later, the doctor came back in with a stack of papers and a pill bottle. He handed Mason’s license back to him.
“Why’s it metal?” Mason asked, pointing at the bottle.
The doctor laughed. “Those pharmaceutical companies—” He shook his head. “Presentation is everything.” He handed Mason the stack, then a pen, notably holding back the drugs. “Even the pen is from them.”