Dark DaysMature

Tobias was left in peace for the remainder of the night, and as heavy as his eyelids were, he was unable to close them for longer than it took to blink. He no longer felt safe in his bedroom, and even his parents’ presence could not protect him from the stream of Voices. He had learnt that the hard way.

As the sun rose over the jungle of terraced houses that surrounded Tobias’ own, the street was illuminated with the first light of an easy Saturday. For that’s what Saturday’s had once meant to Tobias. An unproductive day in front of the TV, with a book in hand and all the time in the world to enjoy it. But now the Voices had changed his perception on what the day ahead would be. Almost as soon as the first beams of sunlight struck his face, Tobias’s father was on the phone to his son’s doctor, demanding that he drop everything and do something about the state his son was in.

Tobias was listening to the conversation. He had accepted that there was something wrong with him at the moment, and his parents knew that he had accepted that. Tobias waited patiently on the sofa in his sitting room, with the large window behind him casting bold shadows on the wooden floor in front of him. He looked at the silhouette of himself, and the words of the Voices echoed back to him

The Dark is coming.

What did that mean? The Dark is coming. Tobias was certain that he had nothing to do with the Dark, let alone know what it was or how to stop it. Because that’s evidently what the Voices wanted from him. Tobias seemed to be the only person the Voices believed could prevent the Dark from doing something bad, and as much as Tobias wanted to help them stop bad things from happening, he knew that as a nine-year-old, it would provide several challenges which would be difficult to overcome.

But the Voices obviously perceived the Dark as a serious threat – why else would they contact a small child two nights in a row, scaring him out of his wits? This must be a serious problem, and as much as Tobias wanted to help, he knew he couldn’t.

The doorbell interrupted Tobias’ trail of thought, and as the clock struck eleven o’clock, Dr Andy strolled into the living room, instantly spotting Tobias and giving him a smile.

Don’t tell him anything.

Tobias’ return smile was suddenly frozen as the Voices returned into his head. Dr Andy didn’t seem to pick up on this, as he turned around and looked to Tobias’ mother, who had just walked through the other door from the kitchen to the lounge. She carried a tray, bearing coffee and cake for all. Tobias never drank coffee of tea. He liked hot chocolate. But he was partial to a slice of chocolate cake, which was what was being provided now. Without having to ask, Tobias’ mother served him a large piece, and then indicated for Dr Andy to sit down. He kindly declined cake, but took a mug of coffee, and mixed it with sugar and a little milk. Tobias’ parents also helped themselves to coffee, father taking sugar but no milk, and mother taking milk but no sugar. All the while, the three adults were unable to notice the glint of fear in Tobias’ eyes.

‘Right then, Toby,’ Dr Andy said, as Tobias tried to hold back from demanding him use his full name. Only a select few did use his real name, Tobias being one, his parents, and a few of his closest friends from school. Most other people just assumed that a nine-year-old boy would be disgusted by such an uncommon name as Tobias. Tobias himself actually quite liked it, but of course, adults know best. ‘What seems to be the issue?’ Dr Andy finished his first question.

Don’t tell him anything.

The Voices spoke up again, all in unison, obviously desperate for Tobias to obey.

Do not speak of us, the Dark, nothing. Don’t tell him anything.

Tobias was silent as he listened to the Voices’ orders. He looked to Dr Andy, and, unable to provide a plausible but dishonest answer, he looked to the floor.

Tobias genuinely did not want to tell Dr Andy nor his parents anything about the Voices, but not simply because he had been told not to. He decided against the truth for two reasons: because if he told anybody about hearing Voices, they’d instantly think he was crazy and lock him up in a mental asylum, and he was sure that if he simply listened to the Voices and did as they said, he could get them to go away because they wouldn’t need him any more.

As the floor gazed back up at Tobias, he desperately tried to think of any good lie about why he had been having nightmares. He could not think of anything, and the Voices were not putting forth any ideas either. Unfortunately, before Tobias could create a good white lie, his mother spoke up, obviously thinking that Tobias was not willing to talk about it, which was, incidentally, exactly the problem.

‘He’s had some really awful nightmares for the last two nights, and the first night he came to get us because he was scared. But last night, we heard him screaming, and found him in a corner in his room, flailing with his arms and screaming at the top of his voice. We just want to know, is it something we should be worried about? Is it the same as the dreams from a while ago?’

Dr Andy had been the one who had helped Tobias and his family three years ago when he was having bad dreams, but this was not on the same scale; this was much bigger. Dr Andy had been unable to do anything, and was about to refer Tobias to a child psychologist when the family realised how they could combat the bad dreams. Now, Tobias was worried that Dr Andy would have no choice but to send him to a psychiatrist again, and this time everything would come out.

‘They’re just the same dreams.’ Tobias spoke up, lying about the content of the dreams, which had actually not been dreams at all, but real occurrences.

‘But why aren’t we able to keep them under control, like we did with the singing?’ Tobias’ father asked.

Dr Andy didn’t seem interested in what his patient’s parents had to say. He had not once looked away from Tobias, and this was making Tobias nervous.

‘Can you remember what they’re about?’ Dr Andy asked, with a hint of a patronising tone to his voice, like he would have done when Tobias was six. But he was older now, and in no way willing to be talked to like a little child.

Don’t tell him anything.

‘I can’t remember now,’ Tobias said, obeying the voices. ‘But when I have the dreams, I can know what’s going to happen next, because it’s always the same.’

Don’t tell him anything. He won’t understand. You can’t give us up. Don’t mention the Dark.

The sudden crescendo of Voices took Tobias by surprise, and his expression quickly changed from one of thought to one of fear, which was definitely noticed by the adults around him, as they shared the look of concern between them.

‘What’s wrong?’ Dr Andy asked.

Don’t tell him anything. He won’t understand. You can’t give us up. Don’t mention the Dark.

Tobias stared into Dr Andy’s eyes, clearly making him uncomfortable. Almost to himself, inaudible over the screaming Voices, which were growing louder and louder, he moaned, ‘I can’t tell you.’

Don’t tell him anything. He won’t understand. You can’t give us up. Don’t mention the Dark.

‘Tobias, what’s wrong?’ He could barely hear his mother’s concerned tones over the growing volume of screams and shouts in his head.

‘What did you just say, Toby?’ Dr Andy asked, visibly concerned, but still relatively calm, compared to his parents. They were feeling almost as much pain as Tobias himself. This was their son, and they had watched him, terrified, crying, screaming last night and the night before. Dr Andy was yet to experience such horrors.

Tobias was still staring at Dr Andy, his face twisted in absolute agony, coupled with fear and terrible sadness. Dr Andy, in an attempt to both find an answer to his question, and cut the tension in the room, repeated himself.

‘Toby, what’s wrong?’

Don’t tell him anything. He won’t understand. You can’t give us up. Don’t mention the Dark. We need you!

‘I can’t tell you!’ Tobias shouted, over the Voices, which cut to silence, leaving the room deadly quiet, as it had been for the last several minutes to everybody apart from Tobias himself. The haunted child.

The End

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