Gary has strange dreams.
That Friday night, or Saturday morning really, he gets out of his taxi and goes up to his flat, stumbles into bed; he closes his eyes and then something shifts abruptly and he is dreaming, almost immediately, with no interim period.
He dreams of a dark man with an arrogant smile, and a girl with eyes like jewels; a circle of men in robes as completely, unequivocally black as night skies in winter, and a madman holding court on an Underground train. He dreams of rats running almost too fast to see but filling claustrophobic spaces with their high-pitched chattering, and a cavernous room filled to the ceiling with candles.
He dreams of pale girls in velvet dresses, and wakes up shivering.
When he goes into work on Monday morning, he goes to find Richard and thus stave off the prospect of actually getting anything done for another few hours.
He spends twenty minutes looking for Richard's office on autopilot before it occurs to him that he has no idea where Richard's office is, and did he even have an office anyway? Perhaps he just worked out of a cubicle?
But no, he remembers now, Richard got made Junior Partner a couple of weeks ago, of course he'd have an office. All the partners have their own offices. Gary doesn't have an office, but then he's about as likely to get a door saying Junior Partner as he is to get one that leads straight up to Heaven -
What? Gary thinks suddenly, interrupting himself, which is not something he does often. Who thinks like that? What kind of a simile is that? God, Richard's rubbing off on me.
He goes down to find Sylvia, who should know where Richard is if anyone does, and asks her which floor Richard's office is on.
'Richard Aynsley?' she asks.
'No, Richard Mayhew.'
'Do we have a Mayhew working here?' Sylvia says, and taps a few keys on her computer.
''Course we do,' Gary says, grinning uncertainly. 'He…came out with us on Friday night? No?'
Sylvia laughs in a self-deprecating, forget-my-own-head-next kind of way. 'Oh, yes! Sorry. Honestly, I don't know what's wrong with me sometimes…' She tails off and returns to her computer.
Gary waits for a few seconds, then clears his throat; she looks up expectantly. 'Richard Mayhew's office?' he prompts.
'Didn't he leave?' Sylvia says vaguely.
'No, we went out with him on Friday night.'
'Oh, we did, didn't we…Was that because he was leaving?'
Gary gives up and agrees that, yes, it might have been, he probably forgot, honestly, he doesn't know what's wrong with him sometimes, then goes up to his office and resigns himself to the unavoidable presence of work.
He goes home that night with a vague, nagging feeling that something weird happened, but he can't quite remember what.
He dreams after that of a beautiful woman covered in blood, quietly dying on the muddy ground, with two men standing over her, one holding a spear. He can hear a deep, resonant humming, and underneath it the sound of footfalls too heavy to be human.
He goes out for a few after-work drinks with the guys on Thursday night and someone mentions a girlfriend who had loads of those little plastic trolls, and Gary says automatically, 'Oh, yeah, like Richard's.'
He is rewarded with a tableful of blank stares.
'You know, that guy from work with the messy hair,' he says.
There is a muttered consensus that no, they don't know actually, and then Paul from accounts says, 'No, I remember him, wasn't he the guy who went to Majorca and never came back?'
'No, he did come back, they made him partner,' Gary says uncertainly. 'Or was it junior partner? Some promotion, you know.'
'Yeah, no, of course, I forgot,' says Paul, and then someone says something about taxis and the conversation moves on.
A few days later Gary wakes up at three o'clock in the morning having dreamt of a beautiful androgynous face with kind grey eyes, and can't bring himself to close his eyes again for the rest of the night.
The next time he goes for a night out in Soho he sees some greasy all-night café while he's waiting for a taxi and is overcome with a wave of nausea so powerful that before he quite knows what he's doing he's already finished throwing up in the gutter, and elicits quite a few contemptuous looks from people walking past. He wipes his mouth on his sleeve thinking Must have drunk more than I realised and walks shakily on down the street.
He passes a brick wall with an old homeless woman sitting against it, and then sees a wide doorway in the wall, with some guy from work standing in it and watching him with sad eyes. He doesn't really register it until he's gone past a couple of steps, and when he turns back to say hello to the guy and ask why he's standing in a doorway in Soho, there's nothing there except an old homeless woman and a perfectly solid brick wall.
The next day Gary phones his sister, who lives in Surrey and is a psychiatrist, and tells her a slightly incoherent story, made only more so by the fact that he keeps forgetting bits of it.
'Of course you're not going crazy,' Jennifer says. 'You were drunk, everyone forgets things when they're drunk.'
Gary agrees that, yes, people do, and points out that unless he's been continuously drunk for the past several weeks it's a little weird that he keeps forgetting that the guy who used to work a couple of desks down from him decided to move out to Majorca.
'No it's not, don't be silly,' Jennifer says briskly. 'It's not like you really knew the guy. It's a little silly to be worried that you can't remember every single little thing everyone in your company does.'
'When you put it like that,' Gary concedes, and then Jennifer asks him whether he's going to their cousin Pamela's wedding, and then Gary has a brief happy-birthday conversation with Jennifer's five-year-old son Harry and reminds himself to send the kid some money, and he forgets what he and Jen were talking about but he feels sort of reassured for some reason, he can't remember why.
That night he dreams that he tries to go to work and gets the wrong train and ends up in Aberdeen, and when he wakes up the next morning he feels the most relaxed he has in weeks.
When he's on the Piccadilly Line one day Gary thinks he sees the reflection of someone who looks familiar in the dark windows of the train, but when he turns around the man is gone.
Later that day he stops dead walking down the street and gets the oddest feeling that somebody is apologising to him, even though there's nobody there. I must be going crazy, Gary thinks wryly, with the supreme, humorous confidence of those who know they're one of the ever-decreasing number of people who aren't, and then proceeds to forget about the whole thing and go on his way.