Darkness. Tais was huddled on the floor, knees to chin, shivering with fear. He had never been blind before. Never been alone in the darkness. Someone had always been with him.
Sallas had always been with me, his mind moaned. But now she isn't. Now she's gone; taken away from me, torn from my life.
They can't take everything away from you, she had said to him. They have taken away your possessions, are taking away your childhood. They can take away your senses, Tais, and they can even take away me.
No, thought Tais, they could never take you away. You might be gone, but you are still here.He brought a hand weakly to his temple, imitating the gesture Sallas had shown him so long ago. And as long as I have this, I have everything.
Tais remained huddled there, pathetically, limbs quivering, breath shaking. The darkness seemed an infinite, yet physical, thing; a weight that dampened, drenched, and drowned.
Yet suddenly he perked up. His neck jolted, bringing his head up with it. He scanned the darkness in vain, panic painted thick across his invisible face.
Not this room, Tais.
A frantic thought: Who was that voice? What was that voice?
Get out, you cannot hope to pass this test!
"Who's there?" whispered Tais, his voice a thin reed in the wind. Silence answered. The young man stood up, unfolding himself from the ground, still wary of the darkness.
"I said, who is there?" A little confidence crept into his voice, an emphasis on each word. They have taken everything already, my life, my sight, Sallas. But I still have my voice, my courage.
The soft echo of foot falls came to Tais' ears, that sense heightened by the dark silence. He turned his body towards the noise, subconsciously softening his own footfalls as not to be identified, though he knew already he had been found.
His voice rang, louder now, almost a bellow, "I want to know who you are! Now!" The last word rang out like a klaxon, and the footsteps stopped. Tais was left seemingly alone in the darkness again, breath coming loud and heavy after the shouts.
He panted like this for mere moments, eventually remembering to exercise control over his breath.
Just as Sallas would have you do. Just as Sallas would do herself. It became his mantra, his coping mechanism in the gloom. It defined his decisions, and affirmed his actions.
Now to get out of here.
In a room full of screens, projectors, and glowing holograms, a man had collapsed across a table, hands gripping ears in mental anguish.