WHAT'S DYING LIKE?

Is Mason dead or is he simply in a state of suspended animation?
Involuntary functions like heartbeat, breathing, some electrical brain activity and sometimes a discernable pulse still seem to be working, but why are these life processes so slow?
If he tries really hard he can remember his relationship with the wonderful Sophie. But what happened to her? Did she double cross him? Has he gone mad?
Or is he just dead?


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2. What's Dying Like (Continued)

Mason remembered Starkey. 

    And Starkey was the problem. Because someone had taken one of Jack Starkey's bags. Stolen it, in fact. And it was full of stuff. Jack Starkey's stuff.

*

They'd killed the man at the next table in the smart, five star restaurant. Right in front of Mason. Who was there with Sophie. They were celebrating being together. For a month.     The sound of the shots filled the room. The man slumped to the ground with two small black holes in his forehead. 

    Most of the other patrons concentrated on the fancy, gourmet food on their plates in front of them.

    But they didn't take the bag. Because Mason did something that surprised even himself. So when they were bending over the body, the last thing they expected happened. Mason got up from the table. He had his gun in his hand. He had never used it before. ‘Just pull the trigger, you prick,’ he said to himself.

    One of the men shouted, ‘Stay out of this mister, if you know what’s good for you.’ They hadn’t seen the gun. The last thing they expected was for one of the other patrons in a smart dining room to be armed. 

    Mason shot him in the face. Twice. He shot the other man in the chest. Four times.

    Mason grabbed Sophie's arm. He picked up the bag. He didn't know why. And he didn't know what he was getting into. Or what trouble it would bring. When he left the restaurant he had the smart airline bag over his shoulder. And Sophie was trotting alongside him.

    A waiter came cautiously out of the kitchen and watched them leave. He went over to the window. He saw them cross the street to Mason's car.

*

Mason tried hard. He was confused. Was he awake or asleep? Concentrating was a huge effort. But perhaps, he thought, if he could remember this sensual encounter he would be able to remember other things. He raked through his mind hoping to expand the faint and gratifying image into other memories. But it took large chunks of effort. The darkness was persistent. It kept rushing back in and enveloping everything. And it stopped him visualising the bag.

*

Mason heard someone breathing. Or was he shouting? From, it seemed, a long way off. He could hear the sound made by the rise and fall of his ribcage. and the inhaling and exhaling of his own lungs. He was disconcerted by what he thought seemed to be an irregularity in the rhythm. There was no symmetry. Sometimes a part inhalation followed by a strenuous sound of bubbling.

    But he was not sure of  any of this.

*

After what Mason felt must have been a long time, he thought he could see some people looking at him. They seemed to be whispering, and, although he focussed his full attention on them, he couldn't get anything into sharper focus or hear things better. With a huge effort he went on trying, but they appeared to have gone.

    Then he saw himself walking.  It was down a long, dark corridor. or even a street, or an alley. Just like a concrete canyon. With very little light from above. In fact, not much light at all. Just a drab, depressing, all pervading gloom. He was moving away from something. Whatever it was, he was afraid of it. He had a two tone bag over his shoulder. He kept going. 

*

Starkey was shouting. 

    ‘Just get it back. I don’t like being  the laughing stock. So make him talk. Cut off his fucking hands if necessary. But make sure you’ve got my bag before you kill him.’

*

Someone was standing at his feet. They were talking. About him, he thought. He strained hard, but could not make out what was being said. Then the light got fainter and their forms lost their shape.

    But then the image started to turn colour. The light was fading. The forms were losing their shape. He felt weaker. A roaring noise filled his mind. Then it grew softer. The grey turned to black. Fear made an unwelcome intrusion. 

    At last Mason realised what was happening. The picture in his mind turned a sickly yellow. It got weaker and weaker. 

    He felt a powerful force serge through his body. It flowed over every nerve. Someone was applying pressure to his hands. Then they stopped what they were doing. Mason felt himself falling. The light got dimmer and dimmer. 

    A dull, dark nothingness took over and his vision was gone. His other senses followed. Then the light went out completely.

*

Please go to the last part of this story: 3.

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