Authors: Jack Worr
“This will help you relax,” a voice said.
Mason turned to address this voice, and as he did he got the suspicion that the cause of this relaxation had already been committed to his bloodstream. Before his gaze had the chance to transfer from the opened-mouthed woman to the paramedic, his eyelids interrupted his view and his mind took him away.
“Really high blood levels of…”
“…shouldn’t be with that dose.”
“Interesting reaction still…”
“…and in any case…”
Mason felt like he should be in pain. His bed was more comfortable than he was used to.
“Nothing major, mind you. Trails, lights, elementary auditory, tinnitus—things like that.”
“So nothing like thinking someone was coming at you then?”
Mason let his head roll in the direction of the voices.
Outside the door to his room, three people were talking. One looked like a cop.
One of the ones in the white coats shook his head. “I suppose lights might be mistaken for that…” Mason recognized the man. It was the doctor who had given him that drug. Asshole! Mason tried to call out to him, but the only thing that happened was his right arm fell off the bed.
“Who makes it?”
“I can’t recall. Why?”
The other person in a white coat, a woman, shook her head. “Whoever it is, they’re gonna have a hell of a lawsuit on their hands.”
There was laughing. The cop looked at the woman as he laughed.
The laughter faded to nothing, and once more Mason Grey was pulled into dreams.
It is summer. The summer before college, the summer of missed opportunities. The summer of almost hads and could have beens.
Mason packs his room, leaving his childhood behind. The sky is dark outside, and waves fill the sky.
It begins to rain, and Mason is a red figure crawling upside down on a net made of electricity.
He sees himself in a suit, in a town square that is a movie set, because Mason never lived in what looks to be 18th century New York.
They drive along the road, Mason’s mom and dad talking as Mason and his sister sit in the back, engrossed in their own things. His sister draws something which will only later interest him.
He listens to the Strokes ask
Is This It
through too loud headphones as a very tall man in a costume perches on the hood of their car. His purple fur blows about, and Mason laughs.
The thing’s flat face creases into something. Its eyes are lines. Mason screams.
At the airport, his mom cries openly. His dad uses his hands to prevent any leakage of his own. They hug, and then Mason boards the plane. The flight attendant smiles. “Just in time.”
Mason smiles too. His life is good. He’s young, has five hundred dollars—cash—and is on his own.
He takes his seat, the pilot announces they are finally leaving, and Mason doesn’t have the self-awareness to feel embarrassed until much later.
He looks out the plane’s window, at the terminal’s window. His parents are waving at him.
He waves too. They probably can’t see him.
Then the plane is moving, and that’s when Mason sees her. She’s in a different terminal, looking out onto the runway. She stands there, shining in the sun. A girl who looks familiar. A girl he knows he’s seen before.
She’s gone, the plane is speeding up. Someone pokes him. It’s a girl his age. A girl who will introduce herself as Lily.
She is the only one not wearing her seatbelt, and she leans across the aisle to poke him. He smiles at this small rebellion—he can’t help it, he’s a teenager.
She stands. A flight attendant shouts at her to sit down. She does, taking the seat next to him. It must be close enough that the flight attendant can’t tell that the girl changes seats, because they aren’t bothered the whole flight.
This is how he meets Lily, this is how he becomes a screenwriter. This is why he is poor.
Mason awoke. Disoriented by the fact he had been sleeping.
He tried to sit up, but felt very weak. He was in a hospital room. The plane had crashed.
No, the car accident, he remembered. Then he remembered that this wasn’t the first time he’d woken up, that he was fine and awake when he was brought in by ambulance.
, a voice whispered,
you weren’t. I was
Mason looked around.
A nurse smiled at him. “Hello.”
“Water,” Mason mumbled.
“Oh, sorry sweetie, no water.”
“Before surgery. I can get you a popsicle stick or some—”
Mason strained to sit up. “No!”
“Calm down, Mason. It’s okay.” She turned and called, “Help here.”
Two other nurses came in. Mason saw one of them inject something in his IV drip.
“No, I’m fine.” He breathed in. He guessed it really wasn’t that big of a deal to get cut open. They knew what they were doing. If he needed to cut the time would be okay for the world and the truck…
“Dammit Steve. You gave him too much.”
The nurse shrugged.
“The anesthesiologist is going to kill us.”
There are monsters. This was the first thing he saw.
But as he watched, somehow they change, become men. There was a car. It was nondescript, except in that it was a Ford. The once monsters enter this vehicle.
There was a skip, a jitter away from periodicity. They arrive at a large building and with no hesitation whatever they are outside the car. It was left idling.
They walk in. There was a lobby. One shows something to the woman behind the desk.
She wore a funny hat. She pointed, saying something.
The men turn. There’s an elevator. They nod, enter. They are going up the floors, up to—
Mason woke up. He was sweating.
He looked at the door and was not surprised when it opened revealing…
But his expectations were misleading, it was just a nurse who came in. A woman. “Are you all right?”
Mason didn’t respond. It was the same nurse, he remembered. He glared at her. He thought he glared at her.
“You did great.” She put her hand on his arm. He would have shaken it off, but he was too tired. “You’re going to be just fine.” She smiled wide. “You didn’t even vomit.”
She pointed at the table. “Are you thirsty?”
Mason shook his head. “I’m fine.”
“You should drink something when you can.”
Mason shook the arm with his IV. “I’ll be fine.”
She smiled tightly. “I just wanted to warn you, you have visitors. Mary called up. She said they were rude.” She looked past him, out the fifth floor window into a day that looked very blue. “No, ‘odd’, that’s what she said.” The nurse smiled, a real smile again. “Just wanted to give you a heads up. Do you need to use the bathroom first? It’s been a while. You’ve really been out. Actually, I was surprised you were up. Was gonna tell them you were sleeping.” She tilted her head, like a curious dog, an— “I can have them wait if you need to go.”
Mason shook his head. He had to get out of here. Then he stopped. Yes, he thought. He squeezed his eyes shut. “Yes. Yeah.”
She began toward him.
“No, no. I can do it.”
“I want to do it.” Mason realized his eyes were closed, opened them.
She smiled with her mouth. It wasn’t unkind. “Okay sweetie. Just don’t pop your stitches.”
Mason froze. Stitches? But then the door was shut and Mason was alone.
He hadn’t been sure what to do, but as soon as his feet slapped the cold floor his body seemed to move without his help.
He opened the wardrobe, grabbed the plastic bag hanging there with his stuff. Then he sat on the edge of the bed and considered the needle in his arm, the clip on his finger. He wondered how the nurse had expected him to go to the bathroom like this, the IV wasn’t on wheels. He looked around for a bedpan—he had no plans of using it, but was just checking—but didn’t see one.
He considered the machine again.
He clenched his teeth tight together, peeled the tape off, wrapped his hand around the part of the IV that was sticking out, and pulled. It didn’t hurt, not at all. It was still painful, though.
He squeezed the clip on his finger, almost removed it, stopped.
He grabbed the bag, peered in, shook it, grunted, then dug through it.
They weren’t there. He looked frantically around the room.
Where were they? Had they fallen off? Mason was a frequent enough purveyor of YouTube to know that that kind of thing happened when someone was hit by a car. But Mason hadn’t been hit by a car.
His car had.
His darting gaze fell on the open wardrobe next to him. There, at the bottom, sat his shoes, stained with blood.
They hadn’t fallen off then. That was good. Very good.
Socks, he needed socks. He found none in the bag, though it had so much junk in it—apparently from his car—that it was possible he was just not seeing them.
He wrinkled his nose, then sighed in resignation as he slid his bare feet in.
Shoes on, he removed the clip from his finger. Beeping began. He slammed the clip back on his finger forcefully enough to hurt. The alarm stopped.
Walking to the window, he reached out with his left hand as he held out his right behind him, anchored by the too-short cord of the infernal beeping device.
He could reach. His fingers wrapped the edge of the window. How high was he?
“Mr Grey?” a tinny voice squawked from the squawk box used to summon help.
Mason fell to the floor. The clip flew off and snapped back out of reach.
Beep! beep! beep!
He looked at his bag of possessions on the bed longingly. His cellphone and wallet were probably in there.
Then he sprang for the window and yanked upward.
No, that wasn’t true. A lot happened. The window, however, did not open.
What opened, was the door. He heard the handle, the latch disengage.
Mason was frozen between giving up and refusing to give up.
What are you so afraid of?
He turned. Maybe he could take them.
The tearing sensation in his side told him this might be hubris.
But the door was closed.
He jumped, head swiveling toward the sound. The bathroom door was open.
There was a knock at the hospital-room door.
Mason stepped forward, his bag of possessions forgotten. He was two steps from the bathroom door now. It was angled such that he couldn’t see inside.
he thought. He opened his mouth to repeat this, but screaming stopped him.
“Move!” someone shouted from outside.
The wild beeping from the machine that Mason was no longer connected to might have something to do with that.
He ignored both. He was at the bathroom door. He was in the doorway. He was inside, pulling the door shut behind him. It latched, and he engaged the lock.
The door opened. Screaming came from the room: “Mr Grey—”
Mason saw without seeing the nurse put a hand to her chest. She was relieved, the patient wasn’t dead, she’d just forgotten to unhook him in the confusion of the government agents coming to visit.
Agents, Mason thought. From the Ministry of…
A knock at the door. “Mason? Are you okay in there?”
Mason didn’t respond. He was staring at the dwarf in front of him. No, the gnome. The gnome, its face ugly with patchy hair and scars, smoking a finger-bone pipe.
“Want out of here?” asked the gnome.
“Are you real?”
“That,” said the gnome, “is a matter of opinion.”
Here was where things shifted for Mason Grey. He had till this moment believed he was hallucinating; some side effect of drugs mixed with brain damage. But now, as a door materialized in front of him—a door that imparted to him a sense of fondness, of coming home—he wondered if it wasn’t something else. Reason said there was the chance they’d given him something, something that potentiated whatever remained of that experimental black powder, something that reacted with him.
But he doubted it.
Crazy people always doubt
, a voice murmured.
Mason stared at the floating door, ignoring the voice. It opened into blackness so deep that no light that came near was reflected back. “I don’t want out that badly.”
The bathroom door handle jiggled. Then someone was banging. Perhaps Mason should have responded, he realized now. “Mr Grey!” The voice was stern, commanding, yet not wild. It was in control. In command. “We need to speak with you.”
When Mason looked back, the gnome was gone. All that was left of his hallucination was the door, floating in space, pressed up against the wall. Like a window. A window into the void.
The door rattled in its frame. A woman screamed something. Mason knew it was the nurse, knew she was thinking this was unnecessary, was wondering if she had the authority to stop them, deciding she wouldn’t even try, she’d let them get in trouble. It wasn’t like they were going to hurt the patient—they were police, after all. Or something like them.
The door burst open. It was the fact that there were two that saved him: These were large men, both tall and wide, and so eager were they that they perfectly synchronized their entrance. And so, as these two unstoppable objects collided with one another and then the door frame, their shoulders caught, and they were briefly held in place.
And though Mason on some level had expected this, he’d never seen it in real life, and was surprised it could actually happen.
But he didn’t ponder. Mason, so lately Mr Grey, simply leaped, one forceful thrust of his foot and he was in the air, heading toward the door open before him—and then was gone into the darkness.
To any observer, looking in disbelief at the broken fifth-floor window, it would look like he had just jumped to his death.
The two agents knew better.
Mason didn’t so much land, as he ceased to fall.
It was complete darkness here. There was no sound, not even the familiar ringing in his ears that always accompanied external silence.