The Short Tale of Mr. Grey

He got up and had a shower. It was late morning and even now the sun was burning through the thin shutters. Once he was dressed he went down for breakfast.

The hotel was small, five rooms at most guessed Mr. Grey. But there was an unearthly silence as he walked down the hall to the restaurant. At reception he was greeted by the concierge saying, “good morning, Señor Grey.” It was about the only English the concierge knew besides “good night” and “thank you”. Though it was much better than any of the other staff that were left.

He didn’t seem to notice that there was only one place set out in the restaurant and that the chief, who also acted as waiter, was waiting patiently for him to arrive. “Any news?” Mr. Grey asked but his tone implied he didn’t really care. And anyway before the waiter replied he knew what the answer would be. They had gone through the same ritual three days in a row. “No, Señor Grey. No Señor Grey,” would be all that Mr. Grey got. “Well then I’ll have the usual,” Mr. Grey replied and passed back the menu.

The concierge and the cleaner stood in the hall watching as Mr. Grey ate. He seemed so unconcerned, unworried even. Mr. Grey ate methodologically. First he cut up his sausages and then he pierce the yellow of his egg and dipped each piece of sausage in the yellow. Finally he cleared up the whole mess with pieces of his bacon rashers.

After that, Mr. Grey retired to the poolside (it was more like a big pond than a pool) where there was a small bar. The regular barman had left with his family who had headed for higher ground in the hopes they might survive, so the concierge had to step in as barman. But that was okay because Mr. Grey was the only guest.

He didn’t go for a swim. He sipped tea in the morning while reading some of the worn paperbacks left by other guests. After lunch he would vary his routine and have a light beer. In the evening, he had a small dinner in the restaurant (the only patron) before retiring to bed around ten in the evening.

This had been the routine for three days.

It came as little surprise that he was found dead on the fourth.

It doesn’t matter what happens on the fifth.

The small town, what was left of it anyway, was somewhat disappointed that Mr. Grey was dead. It had meant that the only reason they were still going was gone. Yet it didn’t distress them as much as one would expect. The peace he had given them was something to be treasured and they idly faced their fate as if it didn’t matter. Life would go on somewhere, that, they felt, was certain. Mr. Grey might have told them otherwise had they but asked him.

The town was just a little tourist trap. There was nothing, or at least little else, to it. Mr. Grey had arrived the day after they had received that terrible news. The place was in a panic with people overloading their cars trying to leave even though it probably wouldn’t make a difference and there was chaos on the small streets as people simply lost it. Two killed themselves.

But when Mr. Grey arrived in the hotel reception and asked for a room, something clicked. The concierge lifted himself from his gloom and served the man. The hotel manager rallied the town and the few remaining staff, with the cry that as long as there was a guest in his hotel there was work to be done.

And so for three days the town ticked over, nearly as normal.

Mr. Grey wasn’t his real name. He had forgotten it and neither did he care. Because, it was his fault the world ended.

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