The Grey Edge: Chapter Ten

There was a hole, he could feel it.
Taylor stared at his bloody hands, swung at the punching bag again, and tried to breathe
Dead. He was dead. There was no way that he was walking. The hunk of table had hit him. Had gone right through him, had killed him.
There was a hole, and he could feel it.
He collapsed to his knees as he knocked the punching bag from its chain again.
Jones couldn’t see the hole. Jones was useless. The mirror couldn’t see the hole. The mirror was useless.
He could feel it, and his senses were beyond reproach.
Dead. He was dead. It was just the matter of convincing everyone else to acknowledge what he knew to be true.
This was…some sort of…something, a hallucination, his mind creating a fantasy before everything went back again. Dead. Again. Run through, again. Skewered, again. Pinned to a wall, again.
He reached out and touched the punching bag – it felt real enough, but it was no more real than a glitch. He was still pinned to the wall. Still dead. Still awaiting nothingness.
He’d failed. He’d-
He’d put a hand on her. Touched her. Felt her skin. He’d-
She’d been there. She’d been hurt. Hurt, trying to-
No, that was part of the hallucination, that had happened after. After he’d died. It wasn’t real.
He was dead, and she was-
He let himself collapse to the floor, his breathing irregular and hitching – imperfect breathing, just another symptom of the hallucination.
There was a hole. He could feel it. He was dead. He was dead. He was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. He’d failed, and everyone had died. He deserved to be dead. He deserved to be dead. He-
Strong hands grabbed him, pulled him up, lifted him from the floor, and carried him. There was something soft beneath him now.
Soft. Another part of the hallucination dropping away. There was nothing soft in his world. Soft was weak. Weak was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. He was dead.
‘Hey,’ a voice said.
He let himself focus, and saw Grigori.
A bottle was pushed in his hands. ‘Drink this.’
He lifted the water to his lips, guzzled half of the bottle, then simply lost his grip on it, the bottle falling on his chest, cold water spilling over his sweaty body.
‘I have at three-month-old son who doesn’t spill that much,’ Grigori said gently. He pressed another bottle into his hand. ‘Here, try again.’
‘No,’ he said. ‘I don’t need it.’
‘Stop being stubborn,’ Grigori said, forcing the bottle to his lips, ‘you shouldn’t even be here, you should be recovering, not pushing yourself.’
Dead. You can’t recover from death. You don’t get better. Resting won’t help.
Water was poured down his throat. ‘You might not look hurt, you might not feel it, but Jonesy says you need to take it easy, that it’s going to take a little while to adjust. He also said you put him through a wall.’
Scholar. Scholar couldn’t see the hole. Scholar couldn’t see that he was dead. Couldn’t see that he was-
‘Why did you put him through a wall? I know you don’t like people helping you, but that’s a bit much, even for you.’
He pushed himself out of the chair, and back towards the punching bag. It was familiar. It was a good way to ride out the hallucination. A good wait to wait out until his death caught up with him. Until everyone else realised he was dead.
No use in talking. No use in entertaining the fake-Grigori. No use in anything.
‘The Parkers said you haven’t even called in to see how Magnolia’s doing. Three hours, you don’t usually leave it this long, but they didn’t want to push you in case you weren’t up to hearing anything.’
There was a hand on his shoulder, and he felt himself shaking.
He reached down and grabbed his punching bag. Staring at all the blood from his fists. All the blood he’d spilled. All the blood that wasn’t really there, that he was only hallucinating.
The dead don’t bleed.
The dead don’t shake.
The dead don’t feel fear.
‘Don’t you want to know how she is?’ Grigori asked, the hands on his shoulders slowly turning him to look at the taller agent. ‘She saved your life.’
‘No she didn’t!’
Grigori took a step back. ‘Oh, so you are in there.’ He smiled. ‘You ok?’
‘She didn’t!’ he screamed again, tossing the punching bag halfway across the gym.
Grigori steadied him. ‘I know you don’t like-’
He pulled away from the Russian. ‘Stop it, you aren’t even here! Leave me alone. Just leave me. I’m…Just leave!’
‘Not when you’re like this,’ Grigori said gently. ‘Talk to me.’
‘The dead don’t talk.’
‘Leave me alone!’
With one swift movement, the Russian kicked his legs out from under him, bore him to the ground, and straddled him. ‘Talk to me, Taylor.’
He raged incoherently at the Russian, reaching for his throat, trying to tear him apart, trying to get him off, trying to make the fake-Grigori disappear, to leave him alone in his hallucination. To leave him alone so that he could die.
Grigori simply batted his hands away, and kept him pinned to the ground. ‘Do you really…think that you’re dead?’
‘There’s a hole!’ he screamed, hoping that he could get one of the hallucinatory figures to accept him as dead. ‘In me. I’m dead, I’m just-’
‘Where?’ Grigori asked gently. ‘Show me.’
‘I can’t,’ he said, dropping his hands down, acknowledging his defeat at the hands of the fake-Grigori. ‘You’re on me.’
Grigori nodded, and moved a little down his body, still keeping him pinned with one hand. Still asserting his strength, still showing off. Still…acting so much like the real Grigori, rather than one made of scraps of memory.
He grabbed the bottom of his bloody shirt and pulled it up, exposing the hole to the world.
‘Don’t say you can’t see it. Not you too,’ he said, his breath uneven again. ‘It’s right there!’ he screamed, pressing one of his bloody hands to it. It was so cold, so-
‘Of course I can see it, dead man,’ Grigori said. ‘Do you think I’m an idiot?’
He shoved the copy of his friend off, and sat up. ‘Good. Tell me this is over soon.’
‘As soon as you deal with your unfinished business,’ Grigori said, jumping to his feet. ‘Come on, and take your shirt all the way off.’
‘I don’t-’
‘Glitches have to run their course, right?’ Grigori said as he helped him remove his shirt. ‘This is no different. Tie up one last loose end, and this, whatever this is, will be done.’
‘Why do you-?’
Grigori grinned. ‘You trust me, so who else would you mind construct to help you out now? Come on, dead man, I know where you have to go.’
‘And then it’s over?’
Grigori grinned at him. ‘I promise, just trust me.’
The Russian put a hand on his shoulder, and his gym disappeared, replaced by an empty infirmary. Grigori turned and pushed open a new door – a private room, and held up a finger. ‘Just wait for a second.’
Grigori returned a minute later. ‘Come on, dead man, come end this.’
He’d gladly end it.
Go back to being dead.
Go back to-
He stepped into the small private room, past the equipment, and was pulled to the foot of the bed by the impatient copy of his friend.
Magnolia, covered in bandages, attached to three sets of monitoring equipment, with tubes running into her arm and neck, stared back at him with half-open eyes. A small cap covered her nearly-bald head, and a large patch sat on her right cheek.
She lifted a bandage-covered arm, and pulled her breathing mask away. ‘Are you all right, sir?’
‘Of course he isn’t,’ Grigori said, ‘can’t you see the hole?’
‘…what?’ she asked, her voice slurred with painkillers, pain, and- Well, the copy of his recruit’s voice appeared to be impeded. But she was just- ‘I don’t-’ She tried to sit up, her eyes fighting against the bright light of the room.
He felt Grigori grab him, pull him around the side of the bed, and push him closer to the copy of his recruit. ‘Show her, it’s the only way you’re going to finish this.’
His recruit- The copy of his recruit- The…copy of his… The fake-Magnolia pulled herself up, and stared at him. ‘Sir?’ she asked, leaning heavily on the side of the bed. ‘I don’t understand, I-’
‘A big hole,’ Grigori said from behind him. ‘Right where he was killed. Right where he was run through.’
She rocked back and forth for a moment, shaking as she sat up more. ‘Sir..’ she lifted a hand, and he felt Grigori shove him again, so that her hand could make contact with his chest.
His breathing became uneven again.
There was a hole, he could feel it.
Soft fingers ran across his chest, up and down, pressing into his flesh, coming to a rest, splayed over where the piece of metal had killed him.
‘There’s no hole, sir,’ she said, hanging her head forward. ‘There’s no hole. You…sir, you…’
He grabbed her hand and pressed it to the hole. ‘Right there,’ he said, ‘right there, Magnolia.’
She shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. She pressed her hand harder against his chest, and shook her head. ‘No,’ she whispered. ‘There’s no hole.’
There was a hole, he could feel it.
There was a hand, he could feel it.
He left his hand on hers for a moment. He wanted to tell her to rest. He wanted to thank her again. He wanted to- He wanted to-
He shifted away.