The room around Tobias was quivering, similar to the way it had been when he had fallen unconscious. But there was a clear difference between this room and the room in which Tobias had left. The new version of the same room was not spinning because of Tobias’ dizziness, it was moving and jerking around because Tobias himself was moving.
Training his focus off the room and to whatever stood over him, Tobias made out Danielle, a small crust of blood just beneath her mouth and a larger cut just next to her left eye, obviously from where the Dark man had hit her several times.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. Tobias could not make out the words that Danielle was saying, but was able to watch her lips move. They were going so slowly that Tobias didn’t really have to try to lip read what she was miming. The situation also presented Tobias with such obvious phrases that he could have guessed what she was saying anyway.
As things slowly started to speed up, and sound began to accompany the words, Tobias’ guess was confirmed to be correct: ‘We have to go!’
The loud cries of desperation from Danielle suddenly were amplified to their full volume, and Tobias squinted as he was slightly deafened.
‘We have to go, Tobias! Now!’ Danielle seemed very concerned, but Tobias could not understand why. Why did they suddenly need to escape so much more than they had needed to before? Surely their lives could not be in any more danger.
Tobias slowly got to his feet without any help from Danielle, but as he got up and tried to take a deep and cleansing breath, his eyes watered and his lungs filled with a horrible kind of dirty air. Danielle instantly pulled Tobias back down to the ground, so they were both on their hands and knees.
Tobias took the chance to look around. At the level he was currently at, everything was just about visible through the haze that must have been lingering from his unconscious state – a state which he had visited twice in less than twelve hours. However, as Tobias looked up to the ceiling, he realised it was blocked out completely by what he realised was not simply concussion. Something was filling the room, and as Tobias tried to take another breath, he instantly recognised the smell of smoke.
Tobias could barely see the door, even thought it was only a few feet away, but Danielle directed his eyesight towards it with a simply pointing motion, and Tobias began to crawl towards the door.
Looking back, Danielle was close behind him, and as Tobias crossed the threshold into a thin hallway obstructed by smoke, he was hit by a wave of uncomfortable heat, at which point something else hit him. Not anything physical, but more of a realisation.
The room they had just escaped from had been full of smoke, but there had been no fire. Tobias knew – as he hoped did everyone who was destined to be part of a fire escape – that smoke rose, and that if one wanted to avoid choking on it, then it was best to stay close to the ground.
There was no fire in the room, only lots of smoke, indicating that the fire was below the room. The fire was downstairs, which from Tobias’ guess, was exactly how Danielle and he meant to escape.
Only a few paces away, Tobias encountered a small and very thin winding staircase. It was the only other thing in the entire hallway, and probably the entire floor, apart from the door into the room they had just escaped from. It was the only way down, it seemed, and yet as Tobias and Danielle looked down upon their destination, they both felt suddenly safer up where they were.
Across some of the stairs were burning beams which had apparently fallen from the roof overhead. They were not exactly on fire, but they looked like gigantic burning cinders, and no doubt that a single wrong move would have Tobias and Danielle suffering severe burns.
‘What is going on? Where’s the Dark man?’ Tobias asked, hoping that the fire had been an accident and that the Dark man had perished. Tobias had promised that he would be unable to kill anybody, but it would be a nice thought to know that the Dark man’s evil had been his own demise.
‘He’s gone, obviously!’ Danielle managed to get out the words despite spluttering on the smoke that was slowly drifting through the hallway. ‘He set the place on fire and left!’
‘He wanted to kill us?’ Tobias couldn’t believe that the Dark man would give up on his persuasion of Tobias to join his side so easily.
‘No, he wanted to kill you! He doesn’t care about whether or not I live or die, but as long as you die, he’s happy!’
‘Why doesn’t he want to kill you?’
‘He does want to kill me, but he cares most about you being dead for now. He can deal with me later, but you… You turned him down, and now he’s pissed!’
Letting the matter rest for a moment, Danielle set about navigating the stairs as far as she could, before the overwhelming heat of the burning staircase made it hard to continue.
Tobias didn’t follow her. He was suddenly terrified that the Dark man really wanted him dead. He appreciated honesty, but it would have also been nice to think that the Dark man wanted Danielle and him dead, rather than just focussing on him.
He snapped out of it as Danielle called to him, motioning for him to follow her.
‘How are we going to get down?’ Tobias yelled over the crackle of burning wood.
‘Climb over the side!’
‘Of the burning wood?!’ Tobias was anxious not to get singed.
‘No, over the banister! We can just skip out a few steps!’Tobias warily followed Danielle down the stairs.