Although Tobias could not ignore the overwhelming fear that was passing through him, he was unable to bring himself to move his feet from their position on the ground.

The Voices were screaming at him, and although he knew he was in great danger, probably the most danger he’d ever been in in his life, Tobias was unable to run away, let alone take his eyes of the man who was now on his feet and slowly advancing towards his next victim, albeit slowly and somewhat shakily.

The Dark. Run!

The Voices’ emotions were obvious. Total terror was shared by both the Voices and their host. The Voices just seemed better at expressing and acting on the peril they were in than Tobias was. Still glued to the spot, he was only just able to tear his eyes from the Dark man before him to look back quickly, ensuring that there was nobody else nearby that would see what was about to happen, or would be endangered by the Dark man.

In the split second it took for Tobias to see that the other children and teachers of the school were safe from this mass murderer in front of him, the Dark man had edged forward significantly before Tobias was able to train his gaze on him once more.

Now, only a few feet and a fence stood between Tobias and total destruction.

The Dark. Run!

The Voices were eager to escape, but Tobias himself was reluctant, and he had the final say. As Danielle had explained, the Voices were more of a conscience, telling Tobias what he should or shouldn’t do. Maybe they were right, or maybe they were wrong.

We are right.

Maybe they were right. Surely, by running, Tobias would be able to temporarily at least escape the Dark man, enabling life to continue a little longer. Maybe the Dark man would find somebody else, and as painful as that would be to know that Tobias could have died to save somebody else, it would be a whole lot easier than being slaughtered for no apparent reason other than an unexplained ‘gift’ at the young and innocent age of nine.

We are wrong.

Even the Voices themselves seemed to be far from a decision on what their host should do. Maybe the Voices were wrong. Maybe if Tobias stayed here, let the Dark man capture or kill him, maybe in some odd way he could save another life. If he was captured, maybe he’d be reunited with Danielle, resulting in them working together to stop the Dark man from finding any more Gifted people. One of them may die in the process, but surely it would be worth it to know of all the people they would be saving. People that wouldn’t even understand the danger they were in, unless their Voices were as loose with information as Danielle’s were, and Tobias’ were becoming.

We are wrong.

That decided it. The Voices were wrong. Tobias was not going to run from this. Not today. All this time, it seemed that the Voices were intent on having Tobias prevent the Dark man from hurting any more people. As far as he knew, Danielle’s Voices were not demanding that she save the Gifted people, but his own conscience was asking him, pleading with him to help them. And he wanted to.

The Voices were making more and more obvious changes to their way of thought every day. This was clearly to incorporate things like Tobias’ age, and the way he himself thought about things. The Voices wanted him to approve of their presence, and he hoped that that meant that he stood a chance in outliving this whole ordeal.

The girl needs you. The Dark needs you. Be strong.

That was enough for Tobias to be able to put aside the Voices’ previous advice. Run. He wasn’t planning to at first, and their pleas were not going to change that. They understood how important Danielle was to him. Not romantically, but mentally. She was keeping him strong, and she was helping him understand the Voices in his head. Although it had only been four days since Tobias had been here last, sat against a tree, engrossed in his book, suddenly interrupted by unexplained Voices in his mind, a lot had changed. Tobias realised that if he had not met Danielle, those four days would have been a lot harder for him.

The girl needs you. The Dark needs you. Be strong.

The Dark man needed Tobias… He thought about what use he may be to the Dark man before him, his eyes as black as his name, the slight sway of his stance, as if he was so skinny and weak that he could not hold himself up in the slight breeze that trickled through the trees around him.

A weaker mind, a younger mind. Was that what the Dark man had been looking for? Somebody to use for his own evil gain. Somebody that the Dark man could use to find the rest of the Gifted people. Was Danielle being too strong-minded. She certainly didn’t seem like the type to give up easily, and her attitude towards the man who had tried to kill her was probably not a positive one. She must be putting up a hell of a fight.

But if the Dark man took Tobias, what use would Danielle be to him any longer? If Tobias did not flee right here, right now, he would not only be risking his own life, but also the life of his best friend, the only other Gifted individual he had ever made contact with.

The girl needs you. The Dark needs you. Be strong.

Danielle needed Tobias for her own sake. For her own sanity.

The Dark man needed Tobias for his own sake. To aid him in the search for the Gifted.

Whichever choice Tobias decided upon now, he would have to see it through to the end, no matter the repercussions. No matter whose life was in jeopardy – his own, his friend’s – there was no turning back once he had made his decision, and he was painfully aware of this fact.

Tobias summoned all of his strength, as the Voices requested. Physically, he was certainly not ready to fight a fully grown man, as tired and weak and generally tormented as he appeared. Mentally, he was certainly not ready to be put up against some of the decisions he knew he would have to make. Not just now, not just whether or not he accompanied the Dark man to wherever they would go, but in the days or maybe just hours to come before he may well meet his death. Emotionally, Tobias was definitely unprepared. As a nine-year-old, the worst thing that can happen to you is that your pet goldfish can die, or you won’t be having pizza for dinner. But Tobias had to accept that he may not see the other side of this decision he was about to make. He may have to watch his friend die. He may have to kill a man in order to save himself or anybody else.

These three criteria, all of which Tobias needed to possess in order to feel even slightly prepared for the challenges ahead, he could not tick off his list.

Be strong.

He’d see this through to the end. Tobias knew it wouldn’t be long.

The End

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