‘I’m sorry, Danielle.’ Tobias felt awkward. As he thought back to Saturday, only two days ago, when he had first met Danielle, he could not once remember using her name out loud. It was a peculiar feeling. Obviously he had thought of her as Danielle, and used her name and associated it with her, but to actually say something to her, and to call her Danielle, it somehow made him feel closer to her. Granted they were already pretty close. Their situations were painfully similar – both were kidnapped by the same madman intent on murdering people similar to them, and probably them as well – and their fates also shared a shocking similarity of painful death and torture, but the simple use of a name made Tobias giddy with confusion. After all this time, the two days they had known each other, how had Tobias not used, or at least not been able to recall using her name. They now seemed closer, and obviously Danielle felt it too.
However, the lack of name was not what Tobias was apologising for. When he thought about it, he was not quite sure what he was apologising for. For their argument, for getting kidnapped and being the cause of her death… There seemed to be a lot of things that Tobias needed to apologise for, and Danielle was just one of the many people who needed to receive an apology, and possessed only a small fraction of the reasons for which Tobias felt he needed to apologise.
His parents would be worrying about him right now. Nobody had seen the Dark man take Tobias, not at school, and so nobody would know where he was. Surely it was the end of school by now. Tobias felt as if he had been unconscious for several hours, and it had been lunchtime when he was taken. It could be six o’clock by now. It was certainly not easy to track time in this dark room.
His parents wouldn’t know where their son was. Nobody would know where he was. Disappeared. People had maybe seen him heading for the back fence, but nobody had seen or would know where he had gone after that. The small boy who disappeared off the face of the planet. No doubt they would have the police looking. Maybe they’d find Tobias. But he’d be either dead or dying, helpless and alone. Or maybe the Dark man had anticipated a search. Obviously he had expected nobody to come for Danielle, as nobody had come for her in hospital. He had been crafty to select a hospital patient with no immediate family to care where she went. By the time anybody missed her, she’d be dead. But to kidnap a school child with a family would surely be a mistake without a plan ahead. The Dark man seemed like the planning type. He had also seemed like the monologue type. Maybe the two were entwined somehow.
They would be moving on soon, Tobias was sure about it. Once Danielle was dead – Tobias hated himself for being so blunt, but he knew that’s what would happen – the Dark man would take Tobias and run away with him, use him for whatever he wanted to use him for, and then kill him when he was no longer of any use. Tobias knew exactly what was in store for him, but his blunt knowledge could not buffer the shock of acceptance. Within weeks he would be dead. So would countless other Gifted people.
The Dark man is a good person doing bad things. He’s right, but what he’s doing is wrong.
The Voices echoed Tobias’ thoughts.
The Dark man is a good person doing bad things.
‘Just because he’s fighting for the right reasons, it doesn’t mean that the fight is just.’ Danielle seemed very emotionally tortured, but what she was saying was right.
He’s right, but what he’s doing is wrong.
‘We can’t allow another Gifted person to die because of him. I already made a mistake when I gave you up… It was stupid…’
Danielle spluttered out her words, obviously letting go of her emotions and allowing them to roam free. She was crying now, and as the candle light flickered on to her face, Tobias saw an echo of the emotions he had witnessed in the Dark man’s heart.
‘You gave me up?’ Tobias wasn’t angry. If anything, he was relieved to know that Danielle had resisted a brutal beating by giving up the information. The Dark most probably would have found Tobias sooner or later. He would have preferred later, but he was relieved that few people had to be hurt in the process.
‘I’m so sorry, Tobias… I’m so, so sorry…’
‘Don’t worry. Really, I’d end up here one way or another.’
Danielle’s sobs filled the room, echoing and bouncing off every corner. Her deep breaths and choked exhales were thrown across the room, blowing the candle and causing it to flicker uncontrollably. Tobias, even from the other side of the small room, could feel the hot air from Danielle’s lungs beating against his face. He didn’t mind it.
‘He told me he needed you, wanted you for the same reason he had wanted me.’
‘What was the reason, Danielle? Please, tell me. What was it?’ Tobias ignored the peculiar feeling from before as he used Danielle’s name again, and he looked at her with a high level of intensity, holding his breath as if it would make everything easier.
‘He wants you to find the others.’
Tobias had assumed that much, but to know it for certain made him even more nervous. To know that a killer wanted a nine-year-old hostage made Tobias want to throw up. He held it back, however, and allowed Danielle to continue, although he hoped she had little worse to say.
‘It gets worse. He knew you couldn’t do it. He knew even before I told him. He knew that you couldn’t find them. You were too young for it. You couldn’t find the other Gifted people for him. He knew it. I can barely do it. I only found you by accident. I was thinking of you, hoping you were okay, and the Voices built a picture in my mind. Before I could stop the Dark man had forced it out of me.’
‘That’s okay.’ Tobias wanted to assure Danielle that he didn’t mind her giving him up. He didn’t want her to feel guilty or ashamed, for he knew he would have done the exact same thing in her situation. ‘But if he knew I couldn’t do it, why does he want me?’
‘You’re the newest…’
‘You’re the newest Gifted person. The Voices don’t find new people very often, but when they do, their minds break down, they become weaker as the Voices slowly rebuild them in a better way.’
Tobias grunted. He wasn’t sure if better was the right word, but he banished the thoughts that the Dark man was right, despite knowing it to be the truth.
‘What does that mean? So what, I’m the newest Gifted person. Surely I’m useless to him. Weak minded, I don’t know anything about the Voices, I don’t know how to find the other Gifted people. Why does he still want me?’
‘He wants to change you.’
‘What?’ Danielle had choked the words out too stuttered for Tobias to catch let alone make any sense of. Tobias realised how similar she was at speaking in riddles, much like the Voices.
‘He wants to change you. Teach you how to find them, how to find the Gifted people! He wants to teach you how to kill. He thinks you’re young enough to change. He wants you to follow after him.’
Tobias didn’t speak. The Voices didn’t speak. Danielle didn’t speak.
They couldn’t speak.