“Dax!”

Dax could not answer her. He was struck dumb with terror, transfixed, with the pain in his head becoming unbearable.

Before him on the dance floor, there was a circular space where no one was dancing, opening out. In the middle of that space was the man Dax had seen outside, but horribly changed. He was paler, with deep hollows under his eyes. His face was bruised and bloody, as if he had been savagely beaten; blood was trickling from his nose. The black T-shirt he was now wearing was ripped, with dark bruises on the skin underneath, and his hands were bound tightly with a belt.

However shocking everything else might be, Dax could not look away from the expression on the man’s face. Dark brown eyes stared at him with mute anguish, as if the soul behind them was in terrible pain, and fighting a losing battle against it. But the most horrible thing was that the people around the man just kept on dancing, laughing, that the music kept playing –

The man’s body jerked, almost spasmodically, as if someone had struck him from behind. Dax gasped as the pain in his head pulsed; for a second, behind the man, he glimpsed a long, ruined road and an old, battered signpost behind him that read ‘ – ENUS ST.’ . Then it was gone, leaving Dax staring only at the dance floor and Rita’s shocked expression. “Dax, come on, you’re scaring me!”

Dax grabbed at the bar – if he didn’t, he was certain he would just stumble and fall off the edge of the world. Another hallucination, he tried to tell himself, it’s another hallucination – you’re just seeing things, you’re dreaming awake, you’re – you’re –

Rita clutched at his sleeve. “Dax! Talk to me! What’s wrong?”

He pulled away from her. The music and the lights and the constant move and flow of people was too much, too much. He thought his brain was just going to collapse under the pressure. “Just – just stay away from me,” he managed to stammer before pushing away from the bar and bolting for the exit.

Shoving through the crowd, he emerged into the cold night air and couldn’t inhale any of it. For a long second his chest closed and he saw spots in front of his eyes, but then he managed to gasp in and breathe out again, enough to keep himself from collapsing.

Away from the crowd, Dax’s foot suddenly lashed out and kicked the wall of the club. The impact did something to defuse his anger and frustration, but he regretted it a second later when the pain kicked in. “Damn!”

Cradling his foot, he rained down curses on every cell of the tumour in his brain, on every stray chemical that was making him see such horrible visions both day and night.

Finally he ran out of swear words and sighed, rubbing a hand over his eyes. He had a feeling that Rita or Cal was going to follow him outside, and he had no way of explaining his behaviour, or any wish to. He was drunk and tired, and he wanted to go home.

Glancing up at the sky, he turned up his collar. It was cold and getting foggy. Not wanting to wait for a cab, he headed for the closest Tube station. But he was tired and distracted, and he caught the first train he saw, not realising it was travelling in the wrong direction.

 

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