‘It’s just called the Dark because it is,’ Danielle said for what seemed like the hundredth time. She was more than willing to explain about everything to the boy who could apparently stop it, but she was getting a little fed up with going round and round in circles. ‘It’s the name it’s been given.’
‘Okay, but I still don’t understand what it does.’
‘I know it’s annoying not to know all about this, but it’s all I can tell you.’
‘But it attacked you! You have to know more about it than I do.’
Danielle paused for a little while, and pulled a face of complete frustration. ‘I don’t know anything else about it, besides what I’ve told you.’
‘But I already knew everything you told me.’
‘I know. But that’s all I know. That’s all anybody knows.’
Tobias slumped back into his chair, exhausted, despite not being the one that was being interrogated. It annoyed him that nobody could give him a simple straight answer to his questions, because although he had accepted that the Voices were not going to divulge any information unless it was absolutely necessary, he had been hoping that there was somebody – somebody human – that could. Apparently not.
Tobias was angry. Angry with the Voices, for not telling him the truth, angry with Danielle, for not telling him the truth, and angry with his parents, for not telling him the truth. Nobody seemed to think of a nine-year-old as a real person. Just another kid that will sooner or later get in the way.
Tobias suddenly remembered his parents. No doubt they’d be looking for him at the moment. It had probably been about half an hour since he had snuck away from them, following the Voices to find potentially the most unhelpful living person on the planet. Of all the Gifted people he could run into, what would be the odds that Tobias would be stuck with the one that knew as little about the whole thing as he did? It didn’t seem very likely, and yet it had happened.
‘I’m scared.’ Tobias dared to speak an utterance that wasn’t a question without an answer, much to Danielle’s relief. However, this now put them in an uncomfortable position. Danielle was confined to a bed, now stuck with a scared nine-year-old with twenty-one questions and then some.
‘I know,’ she replied.
‘I just ask so many questions because I need to know things. I’m curious. I want to know what the Dark is, why it wants to hurt the Gifted, and why the Voices won’t go…’
Tobias stopped. His heart skipped what seemed like several beats, and he felt his face and ears redden. Tobias, since meeting Danielle, had not once mentioned the Voices. Obviously they were all connected – the Voices, the Gifted, the Dark – but Danielle might not be clued in. There might be one piece missing in her version of this puzzle, much like there were about a million pieces missing from Tobias’ box.
The silence in the room seemed to go on forever, as most of the silences between the two of them were apparently going. But it was only Tobias who seemed unnerved by what he had just said.
Danielle’s expression remained absolutely calm.
‘The Voices…’ Tobias repeated, almost as if he wanted to be sure he could still say the words. ‘They won’t stop talking to me.’
Danielle’s face still looked completely unscathed. Her expression was neutral.
‘They got me into this, and now I can’t get myself out of it…’
There was a long pause, and Danielle’s expression seemed to soften even more.
‘I know,’ she said again.
Tobias had been staring at the floor, but at Danielle’s words, looked up to see her soft expression.
He paused, then asked, ‘You know?’
‘I am Gifted. Of course I know.’
‘Gifted?’ The words somehow seemed alien to Tobias, who despite saying them repeatedly and hearing them non-stop for several days, now couldn’t quite recall the meanings of the words.
‘I am Gifted. I hear them too.’
‘The Gifted. They all hear the Voices?’ Tobias found it hard to believe that he was not alone in his curse, which was being masked as a gift.
‘Not the same Voices at the same time, but yes. We all hear our own versions of them. Like a conscience.’
A conscience. Tobias liked that thought. They Voices weren’t something to be scared of. They were something to keep him safe.
‘But the Voices don’t tell me to do things because they’re right or wrong. They tell me to do them because the Dark is bad.’ This was the one major flaw in Tobias’ conscience theory.
‘Well, maybe you need to give them time. These are difficult times, Tobias. The Voices chose you because they needed you. You are Gifted, and, despite what you do or don’t want, they will stay with you forever. You can learn to block them out – countless people have. Everybody has these Voices, but it’s whether or not they can break through the mental barriers that everybody puts up. We are the weak minded, Tobias. But in turn, the Voices are able to make our minds stronger. That’s a pleasant thought, isn’t it?’
Something to make his mind stronger. Although he couldn’t escape them, Tobias hoped that he could learn to co-exist with the Voices. And that was a pleasant thought, for Tobias.