>THE GONE, PART FIVE

>He stared back at the car, a nothing colour, like everything else. It had to be a dream. That was all he could think of. This was like dreams he had—places of no definition, edges of objects ghosting, like a sketch drawing, two or three versions of everything, nothing right. The air scratched at his throat, raking its sides, leaving a thick, metallic taste. He heard his own breathing, becoming overly aware of it, lungs moving too consciously, body becoming a feedback loop. This was panic. His cheeks were hot. His parents were not there, not in his vision, not even in his head. They had vanished, and he was nowhere.

He began to walk forwards, where he thought the path should be, the place he had seen his mother and father last, arm in arm. He wanted some clue they had really been here. But everything was empty. No sights, no sounds, no tastes, no smells—no feelings he knew. He shouted out, his small voice nothing inside the cauldron sky. His mouth hurt—with the cold, with words he never used:

“MUM!” “DAD!”

It came out so painfully, it was like a bandage, ripped away from old wounds, letting the air in. He screamed their names again, but nothing came back, no familiar voices rippling out from the darkness. It was fear now. Fear that rattled his skull as he crouched down in the wet grass. Nine-year-old boys weren’t supposed to be lost like this. That was all he could think of. The raging wolves of all his nightmares snapped at his heels, ill-defined, snarling. The world was ragged and diagonal, spinning and splintering, as he stumbled back to the car, fumbling open the driver’s side door, falling with full force into the seat, crashing the heel of his palm straight at the middle of the steering wheel.

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