Tobias examined the sleeping body from where he was sat: the single chair next to the window. The bandage led Tobias to believe that the young woman lying in the bed opposite him had been victim to some kind of terrible accident, or an attack. Due to the Voices’ eagerness for Tobias to meet this woman, he guessed that it was the latter, and it was probably something to do with the Dark.
The bed that Danielle was laid upon was a very typical hospital bed, to Tobias. He had only ever been in hospital once, when he had broken his wrist playing basketball, but even then he hadn’t stayed over. He had just passed the countless rooms with patients in their uncomfortable beds. It had put him off hospitals for life – part of the reason why he had been reluctant to come here.
Danielle obviously shared Tobias’ opinion of hospital beds, as the blanket which was supposed to be keeping her warm was now messily thrown on the floor. She had only a typical hospital gown to cover her now, and out of the side, where it covered nothing, Tobias could see the wound from whatever had attacked her.
This gave Tobias a moment to think. The Dark had obviously done this. Without the Voices telling him, even that much was clear, or else they would have no interest in this girl, surely.
But for the Dark to have wounded Danielle, it or he or she must actually be a physical being. Not some kind of smoky entity like Tobias had as of yet been imagining. Maybe the Dark was not only a threat to the Voices, then, but a threat to all people. If it had attacked Danielle – for what appeared to be no reason at all – then it could be just picking on people at random, killing them off, and only the Voices were aware of what was happening. Despite them having not yet shown any knowledge of exterior occurrences to Tobias’ own life, they did seem to have a kind of omniscience about them, indicating that they really were in the know about everything.
Tobias’ train of thought was derailed by the patient before him stirring, knocking him out of his daydream and deep thought, and sending him back to the hospital room he found himself in.
The sudden speech surprised Tobias, who jumped a little in his chair. The room had been so silent, but was now disturbed by the talking and movement of the woman in the bed before Tobias.
‘I am.’ Danielle spoke again, apparently to nobody. Tobias had not said anything to evoke any response from her, and yet she was talking, as if back to somebody. The level of frustration in her voice rose a little, and it was obvious that she was the argumentative type.
Danielle moved a little more, but remained silent. No particular part of her body, but just all of it seemed to stir, as if she was waking up. Tobias got to his feet and edged closer to the bed until his knees were touching the cold metal frame.
Tobias slowly leaned over the bed to see Danielle’s face, at which point her eyes fluttered a little, she frowned, and they opened.
Tobias received more of a shock simply from her eyes opening slowly than Danielle seemed to from seeing the mysterious stranger lurking over her bed.
Tobias leaned back slightly, so as not to alarm her, but also to take a breath and relieve himself of the shock. He wasn’t sure why he had jumped a little, but he had, and he now wanted the chance to calm down a little.
Danielle’s eyes fixed on Tobias – still just a mysterious young boy waiting at the side of her bed. She did not look confused, however, more intrigued, as if she thought there was some grand reason behind him being here. Granted, there was – the Voices – but she did not know that, as far as Tobias was concerned.
A small smile emerged on the girl’s face, and Tobias could not help but return the smile. There was something strangely familiar about it, as if the two of them had met before, in some other life. The smile was as an acquaintance may give to another; polite, but not entirely sure why the smile was being shared.
However, as soon as Danielle spoke again, Tobias’ thoughts of them being strangers were banished.
At the mention of his own name, Tobias couldn’t help but shiver slightly. Any person would be unnerved by somebody knowing their name without having being told, but Tobias was especially surprised, as any nine-year-old should be.
On the other hand, with all the strange happenings that were occurring in his life at the moment, with regards to the Voices, the Gifted, and the Dark, it wasn’t all that surprising that the person who the Voices wanted Tobias to meet should know his name.
It was also a pleasant surprise to hear a stranger not try to shorten it to Toby, which he hated.
Getting back to the issue at hand, Tobias responded to Danielle’s statement.
‘Yes, I’m Tobias. And you’re Danielle.
She nodded, not at all surprised about him knowing her name, compared to the expression of confusion on Tobias’ face when he had been put in the same situation.
Tobias continued to talk.
‘What happened?’ he asked, indicating her wound.
‘Stabbed,’ she answered bluntly. Tobias was unsure of how to respond, and so remained silent. However, the kind look in her eyes did not ask for sympathy, and this removed the uncomfortable element from the silence that now filled the room.
Tobias wasn’t sure of what to do now. He knew that he needed to see Danielle, and that Danielle needed to see him, but he wasn’t sure why, or whether or not she knew about the Dark. She may have been a victim, but she may not have known all the facts.
She is Gifted.
The Voices spoke, relieving the tension from the moment. This woman, Gifted? She looked like any normal person. Similar to the way Tobias’ overactive imagination had built up the smoky demonic image of the Dark as some ethereal being, he had also imagined the Gifted to be somewhat angelic, impervious to damage from physical objects. If a knife could penetrate the flesh of a Gifted woman, surely that didn’t make her very special.
Tobias contemplated on the status of being Gifted. He was still unsure of what made people Gifted, and what the label entailed. Stabbings and hospital trips obviously seemed to be high on the list.
‘You’re Gifted…’ Tobias whispered. He didn’t look at her, couldn’t bear to. Now that he knew of her true status, Tobias felt suddenly unworthy, like Danielle was untouchable. Maybe he should bow. Should his head always be lower than hers, like in that film with the king? Tobias was becoming nervous. She was important to the Voices, so did that mean he had to pay her respect as well?
Danielle hadn’t responded, simply looked out of the window, beyond Tobias, as if she was deep in thought.
After what seemed like a long time, she finally drew her gaze back to Tobias. Looking him in the eyes, she said one word which crushed Tobias’ spirits. Made him almost reluctant to help the Voices. Unwilling to believe that the Gifted really earned their name, despite not knowing exactly what made them that way.
In a lower voice than that of her own, Danielle tore her vision deep into Tobias’ eyes, and said: ‘Unfortunately.’