'The Grey Man' by Emma De Vito
It was a typical morning. Office workers strolled in lazily from the weekend which had left them feeling sorry for themselves. Daniel hobbled to his seat, switching on his computer which moaned about working almost as much as he did.
"Nice weekend?" Gerry, the IT technician, wandered into the office and directed his predictable question to its occupants. No response.
"Kettle's boiled. Do you want a top up?"
A young graduate looked briefly in the direction this question had drifted in from before returning to her work.
This was Gerry Portly's life: dull, boring and depressing. The optimist in him made him believe someday, one of the many people he fixed IT related problems for would acknowledge his hard work and commitment; his dedication; his power and mastery of being able to solve most problems with 'try turning it off and on again'.
Walking to his desk, Gerry froze. Over the weekend, photographs of his nephews had disappeared. His laptop gone. His collection of pointless and ever growing hard drives absent. Had someone fired him without him knowing?
"Excuse me Mr Greaves. I..." The sentence hung there, expectant but unfinished as Gerry shuffled into his manager's office.
"Ah, Mr Hughes, thank you. Come on in. We're so glad you could start at such short notice. Our old IT technician, Gerry, just disappeared. Went home one day and didn't come back. Poof!”
Mr Hughes coughed uncomfortably, taking his seat.
Gerry's ears were ringing. 'Disappeared'? 'Didn't come back'? 'Poof'? He was standing right there.
"Er, Mr Greaves. I'm sorry. I think there's been some terrible misunderstanding."
His words trickled from him in rapid succession, falling on deaf ears as Mr Greaves and Mr Hughes were in deep conversation; it was like he didn't even exist.
Didn't exist? The idea was absurd. But it did ring true. For weeks now, he had felt almost certain but not quite sure.
He ran to the toilets, recalling how he had been repeatedly ignored. Trodden on. Pushed past. Disregarded. Gripping the sink, he looked in the mirror.
But he wasn't there. Staring back at him was vacant air.
He pressed the palms of his hands into his eyes and pushed hard, rubbing them repeatedly to try and make them work properly. But it didn't matter. When he took them away he still saw nothing.
The door to the toilets opened, his colleagues voices’ drifting into the room. He dashed into a cubicle, locking the door quietly.
"So, what do you think happened to him? A guy doesn't just disappear."
"I suppose so, but then, to be fair, he was never really here anyway. I mean, he was here, but not here if you know what I mean. He was like a ghost. Things got broken. Things got fixed. But you never saw who was doing it."
The toilet cubicle door swung open.
Turning sharply, the two men looked to see who had been listening.
But no-one was there.