I’m afraid to open them. My body is an ache as dull as the backs of my eyelids. All grey, empty, tripped beyond pain into a numb, deep nothing. I’m afraid to open them in case I find I can’t. Find the grey is forever, that they are already open. Wide and without edge. I’m afraid it’s constant. That the pain will never get lighter or heavier, never be anything but this. A numb eternity. A stopped clock with no memory. I try to focus on a body part, anything to claw back some independence, an idea of a thing, a taste, a smell. Any temporary feeling but nothing. Whatever is left of me grows smaller, held in by a force pushing and crushing to the centre. The emptiness is winning. Its only edge is mine and I shrink with every inch it gains. I’m tense, impatient, on edge waiting for the end or start. Seconds to death. Five seconds to death. Five, four, three, two… I push back and force flood the grey to an imaginary red in a kick, shake, sparkle and screaming buzz.
My eyes open and my chest thrusts forward as I awake to a torturous pain that covers all of me with different, brilliantly terrible sensations. A granted wish never felt so real or so dreadful. Life is a dozen unique agonies taking turns to distract me from the others before switching channels. Join the dots. Constellations.
Dull, dusty and grey, the outside world is nonetheless real, better than the everlasting grey of the other. My eyes scream “I’m actually alive, here, feeling.” Still the first point of focus isn’t visual. It’s my ears and head and a sharp throbbing whine passing straight through them, impaling me in a line of giant, explosive and constant pitch. I try to move my arms and hands to cover my head from it but can’t. Focusing on them only brings their pain to the centre. I try to ignore it and return to my eyes.
When the first recognisable shape comes into view it’s like a bore-hole pierced in dam. Memories come flooding back. The window giving way suddenly, the screams, panic and sudden roll of the building. The floor tilting and the outdoors rushing in with the wind in a blur. Then more screams, crashing, grabbing onto the inside of a desk as the whole world turns upside down. Silence.
“Fragile – handle with care”.
A red, frayed label on a package lying un-open inches from my forehead. Above it the side of the desk, torn to pieces and covered in paperwork, woodchip and dust. The rest of it is lying flat on top of me surrounded by grey, undecorated rubble.
I’m suddenly back at the office, at the event. I’m not breathing. I’ve got to get out, escape, save myself and others. I shake furiously before I’m jolted into hyperventilation as I realise I can’t move. I’m stuck here. Limbs useless. My eyes roll around and a drop of blood hazes my vision. I see the rest of the room in an awful shape. Disjointed, turned inside out and merged with the concrete scenery of the street below. A broken up car blends with a body bloodied from the waist down, knees inverted, strips of flesh. Green skirt reflecting in the chrome. Ruby. No face. No movement. She’s here with others. Some faces turned inside out, some frozen in a yell, some sad. The worst are eerily peaceful. Contorted limbs merge with objects as if uniting the two in bleak, grey inanimation.
The horror knocks back any triumph at survival. A practical thought pulls back any remaining sanity in me. There must be someone else. Some survivors. Police, ambulances, rescue crews. I try moving again but can’t. I notice words on paper, scraps of lunch. Biscuits, birthday cards and stationery. More bodies. All dead. Unmoving like me but really dead. Grey and empty. I try to look over myself and my shaking skin nudges in a brief reassurance.
I try kicking but I’ve no energy left. I don’t want to close my eyes. I’m pushing out, staring as wide as I can at the brutality and chaos trying to persuade myself it’s better than the grey. Even this horror is better than death. I give in and collapse into sleep.


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