-37.814, 144.910

The smell of your own death is sour and sickly sweet, and it tastes of copper.

You die alone. The affluent build shrines to themselves. People celebrate you when you’re gone. But you die alone. If you’re lucky, you get to stare into the void with someone holding your hand. Those were the only words he could remember actually hearing in the academy. Her eyes hadn't moved from staring at the ceiling in the minute or so since he'd said them.

"Some people have that taken away from them. There's no one to hold their hand. For those people you have to become the darkness and go into the abyss. And stay there. That’s the only way to do it. Think like them. Act like them. Be them. Become what they fear most. And maybe I'll stop them."

“Tom darling, you’re an idealist,” She said. Her voice was weak. She held his hand, and he held her gaze for the last time. The velvet of her eyelids vivid red against the milky white of her eyes. It wouldn't be long now. They both knew it.

“No. I’m not. Rules are rules, mum. It’s that simple.” He tried to smile.

“You’ll never be satisfied. Deep down, you know it, and it’s rotting you inside. When I'm gone who will keep you safe?”

At that same moment, hundreds of miles away a man fought to regain consciousness. He was in the dark again, but this was a different dark. He couldn’t tell if he had opened his eyes or not. He thought he had, but he couldn’t be sure. Everything looked the same. He was sitting on the floor, his back against a wooden crate. He knew that because he could feel the hard square edges of the crate’s frame against his spine. His wrists were no longer bound, but the lacerations left from the zip ties were raw and deep. He could feel the torn skin loose on his wrists. There were voices that he recognised. When he tried to call out, he heard nothing. His voice wouldn’t sound. All that came was a rasping wind from his throat. Pain seared through his chest.

Then he heard Bianca's voice again. She smiled at him. Poppy said I love you, Dad. His body gave way. He was losing the fight and he knew it. His mouth tasted of metal. His nose filled with a sweet aroma of flowers in springtime. for a moment he savoured them. Even though something inside knew what it meant, he couldn't solidify the reality in his mind. He tried to stand up. When his hands touched the floor electric pain shot up his arms, and he collapsed onto his side, unable to pull himself upright. The floor was a rough wooden board, and the air was thick and hard to breathe. The floor moved. It brushed his face and absorbed him as it crawled over his legs and up to his chest. He couldn’t feel his fingers. He knew they were broken. His jaw ached, and there was ringing in his ears.

He heard himself crying.

Each breath brought more pain. The crying stopped. Laying alone in a pool of his own blood and urine on the plywood floor, he stared at Bianca and Poppy. Then darkness took him.

Read the next chapter here.