Tobias let his nose lead the way, as he had seen happen in one too many cartoons. He felt as if the attractive smell that was wafting through the house was an actual living thing, and the visible smell was creating a finger with which to beckon him.
Floating on nothing at all, simply following the smell, Tobias was led down the stairs without having to use his feet.
In reality, it was Tobias’ mother’s call that had alerted him to breakfast on this bright and beautiful Sunday morning. He had been in his room reading, stopping every so often to listen to whatever the Voices had to say, but afterwards simply forgetting it and going back to his book.
Now he limped down the stairs, his joints aching from a perfectly undisturbed sleep. It was completely unexplained. Tobias had no idea why the Voices were no longer tormenting him through the night, but he had a feeling that it was something to do with his participation. He was acceptant of his role as a Gifted child, and now that he had somebody he could share his thoughts with without being accused of insanity, everything was looking up.
Maybe that’s what the Voices had been looking for all along. That’s obviously why they had sent him to Danielle’s room, and that’s how the Voices figured that they’d get Tobias to co-operate with them.
It could have been something to do with her being a victim of the Dark, however. The Voices didn’t seem to be very supportive when it came to sympathy or compassion, and it was probably the latter of Tobias’ two explanations. However, despite the Voices’ intentions, Tobias came out of the hospital with a new friend that could understand him, and a pair of parents that were going to try.
The kitchen had never looked more beautiful as Tobias approached. His mother was busy cooking away, trying her best to make the perfect meal for her son, and his father was sitting at the table, reading the paper and dipping toast into his rapidly cooling egg.
However, as Tobias entered the room, despite not being able to see him – mother with her back to the door and father with his head in the paper – they seemed to perk up, setting aside what they were doing and turning to give their son a smile.
It seemed almost like a dream, and Tobias couldn’t help but pick out on everything and magnify its good points a thousand times to make it even better. But it made him feel better.
His parents were smiling, however. That much was not his imagination. As Tobias took a seat opposite his father, he realised that perhaps the kitchen was not the radiant blue that he had originally seen, but more the faded shade of blue-grey that the family had hated since moving in, but never gotten round to painting over. However, the people in the room were radiant enough to abolish all flaws that were visible to Tobias. The smiles bloomed from their mouths, sucking him in and making his insides warm.
‘Bacon, darling?’ His mother finally broke the in no way awkward silence.
‘Erm, if there’s enough.’ Tobias wanted this moment to last forever, and did not want to ruin it by becoming greedy, although bacon was his favourite part of a Sunday breakfast. It seemed things were back to normal. Save the Voices still being present. But the family dynamics were back, like they should be.
A plate overloaded with the ingredients for a premature heart attack was placed gently in front of Tobias, and he licked his lips, as much savouring the food in front of him as the situation he found himself in.
It seemed that before his mother had even turned her back on him, Tobias had devoured most of what was present on his plate, abandoning the toast, which was wholegrain, and not Tobias’ favourite.
‘Was there no white bread, mum?’ Tobias didn’t want to seem greedy, but he couldn’t feel content with his breakfast until he had had his toast. The answer, however, was negative, and Tobias realised he’d have to make do without. He was full anyway. The toast would have just been an unnecessary extra.
His mother took a seat next to Tobias’ father before she had taken Tobias’ plate away from him, as she always did on Sunday mornings. Tobias’ father put down the paper, and Tobias suddenly felt nervous. Was he in trouble? The morning seemed to perfect, he couldn’t have been.
Obviously this was in regard to the sudden change of tone in his parents’ attitude towards their son’s situation.
‘Tobias,’ his father began. ‘As you probably realised, we’ve been acting a bit strange in regards to what you said the other night…’
Neither of them wanted to repeat the words, it seemed, and Tobias was eager to follow suit, to prevent opening any old wounds. Well, fourty-eight hour old wounds.
‘But we wanted to make sure everything was okay. That’s why we went to see Dr Andy again, and he sent us over to the hospital, remember? He wanted to send us to a psychologist.’
The tone in his father’s voice was almost embarrassment, maybe even guilt. Tobias didn’t want his parents to feel guilty for acting so oddly towards their son, but he knew that had he been in their place, he probably would have felt the same way.
Now, it seemed that Tobias’ father could not continue with what he had been saying, and so his wife jumped in and continued the explanation.
‘We were talking to the psychologist for some time, and he was eager to see you. But whilst we were talking to him, he continuously stressed that the ‘voices’ that you had been hearing were just your overactive imagination. This is a time in your life where a lot of things are changing. Your body, your mind, and your imagination will take its toll on you. He told us that that’s what happened. He then proceeded to tell us that we needed to be more understanding towards you, rather than fearing your imagination, we needed to nurture it.’
This brought a smile to Tobias’ face. He was happy that his parents were more supportive now, and he always approved of compliments, even if that one was a bit loosely so. Tobias did have a brilliant imagination, he had always been proud of that, and he had always been brilliant at keeping himself occupied alone. This partly was the cause of his love for literature. Tobias had always enjoyed finding out about other people’s imaginative stories, and liked comparing them to his own, allowing what he read to broaden his ideas and his mind.
Now it seemed that this psychologist – whom Tobias had originally feared – was doing him a huge favour. Tobias had dug himself into a hole by revealing the Voices to his parents, and he had been worried that his words would form a black hole of doom, condemning him to spend the rest of his life in a mental asylum. It seemed that the psychologist who had originally been an omen of madness was now the white angel descending to help Tobias.
‘He didn’t want to see me?’ Tobias asked.
‘The psychologist? No. Well, he had wanted to, but he had another appointment, and we couldn’t find you. Searching for you took up most of our fourty-five minutes with him,’ Tobias’ mother answered.
Tobias’ smile widened, revealing his teeth, which he suddenly became very conscious of. He shut hi mouth, but remained smiling.
‘I’m sorry if I scared you.’ Tobias felt that he needed to apologise too.
‘No, son,’ his father interjected. ‘We’re sorry, for not understanding. Your brilliant imagination gives you bad dreams, and you think the things in them are real. That’s right, isn’t it? That’s what the psychologist assumed when we told him about it. Is that what happens?’
Tobias had the entire path laid out for him. Everything was slotting into place. It was the perfect cover story. His nightmares – which were not real – were the reason for his fear of the Voices being real – which was a lie. They were real, but his parents needn’t know that.
‘Yeah. I thought I could hear people whispering to me, but it’s just what’s left of my dream.’ Tobias found it hard to lie, like the words were automatic, almost robotic, but it seemed to work. His parents smiled and apologised once more. Tobias forgave them.
His mother reached over a hand as his father went back to the paper. She rubbed his hand slowly, affectionately, but in no way uncomfortably, and then went back to cooking, but not before she took Tobias’ plate, helped herself to the toast that was left over, and put the plate in the sink with the other washing up that needed to be done.
Tobias didn’t want to leave this perfect room he found himself in. He feared that if he did anything, he’d ruin the perfect family dynamics and everything would return to the way it had been for the last few days. Maybe this was just a temporary happiness within his parents that would wear thin within seconds of him leaving the room. Almost out of fear for the family, Tobias stayed, and the room was silent, but the love remained flowing through the room.
You must know about the latest one.
The Voices interrupted the silence, but his parents couldn’t tell. Tobias no longer feared the Voices, for they could do little to hurt Tobias, and he was in complete control of himself, not them. His facial expression barely wavered from the beautiful smile that graced it, but Tobias was intent to listen. He knew that the Voices were important now, and as much trouble as they had caused him, they had eventually replaced the vortex of horror with a warm feeling inside their host.
You must know about the latest one.
The latest one? What did that mean? No doubt it was something to do with the Dark, but Tobias couldn’t guess what the latest one was.
It wasn’t until his mother spoke that Tobias realised what it all meant.
‘David,’ she said to her husband. ‘It’s ten o’clock.’
Tobias’ father rushed to his feet, dropping the newspaper onto the table in front of Tobias, and heading into the living room, where the TV and his favourite program – something about mechanics, which was not his job, but his dream – awaited.
Tobias looked after him, watched him take a seat on the sofa and turn on the TV. The familiar theme music that was as much a part of Sunday as the breakfast blasted through the house, and the sound was suddenly and abruptly turned down before Tobias mother could shout through the house.
Tobias smiled, looked to his mother, who was still cooking her own breakfast, and then looked down to the table, where the newspaper was placed carelessly along with salt and pepper grinders and ketchup. No barbeque sauce. Tobias would insist that his mother went shopping for both barbeque sauce and white bread.
The newspaper caught his attention next. Trying to read upside down letters was difficult, and Tobias could make out the word ‘attack’ amongst others. It seemed to always be the violent words that stood out.
Slowly turning the paper around so as not to lose eye contact with the passage he was reading, Tobias was able to make out the words ‘early morning attack’ and ‘unexplained’ and ‘innocent’ and ‘no witnesses’ and ‘killer still on the run’.
The latest one. We have lost another.
The Voices spoke up. Obviously this had been what they had been talking about. Tobias read the short article quickly.
It described the brutal and unexplained murder of a man named Roger, last name undisclosed, who had been cycling to work as he was attacked by an unidentified male, who was seen but cannot be described by the only witness. A slash across the throat was what killed Roger, but not before he was thrown from his bicycle.
The latest one. We have lost another.
The Voices spoke just as Tobias was coming to the end of the passage.
‘He was Gifted,’ Tobias said quietly, so quiet that he could barely hear himself. He didn’t want his mother to hear or see what he was reading, so he thanked her for breakfast and then headed up to his room with the newspaper.
Tobias was now scared. A man, a Gifted man had actually died. Killed by the Dark. The Voices had been right. The Dark was a real threat now.
Could he have been saved? If Tobias had listened to the Voices, would Roger somebody still be alive today? Tobias was uncertain over whether or not it was his fault.