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“Over there” shouted Daniel. The building was on fire and there seemed to be no escape from the heat of the flames. They were trapped in a corridor, one end consumed by fire and the other end blocked by, ironically, a locked and padlocked fire door

“How do I break this fucking lock?!” cried Daniel with exasperation and desperation. There was nothing available in the corridor. It was grey breeze block, completely bare. It would be cold usually if it weren’t for the waves of intense heat generated by the raging fire that was rapidly approaching them.

There were three, Daniel, his wife Amy and their young son Robby. They had been upstairs in the library room of this compound when they had heard the crackling flames and smelt the smoke from the burning. They had ran down the stairs and been forced by the fire down one corridor and another until now they had reached this final place, trapped with nowhere else to go

Daniel smashed at the door with his foot, having nothing else to work with. The door shook but remained solid. He tried again and then again with the same result. He slammed his body into the door but it simply seemed to bend with him slightly and then bounce him off. He was out of ideas. He, his wife and their young son were going to burn to death in this corridor and there was nothing he could do about it. He looked at them with despair as they looked back at him hopefully. He had nothing to offer them and his heart broke at that moment . They still believed he would save them. He couldn’t bear it as he crumpled to the floor with the pain of the weight of their hopes. It was as if his mind transcended dimensions of space and time. He saw the universe at that moment and the universe looked back at him. Something clicked, a door opened in his mind and someone stepped out. A figure clad all in black.

“GET UP” it told him inside his head. The voice was like cold steel. Daniel visibly jumped at the sound of the voice. He couldn’t help but pull himself to his feet. He looked through the reinforced glass window of the fire door. It was getting blurry and steamed up from the heat and smoke but he could see a black figure outside carrying a large solid black cylindrical object. A battering ram

“STAND BACK” the voice said in his mind and Daniel leapt out of the way as the figure rammed the door from the outside. It splintered but didn’t give way. The figure hit it again with the heavy black battering ram. On the fifth hit the door exploded inwards. The figure stood in the doorway, beckoning

“Come on!” shouted Daniel, grabbing his wife and dragging her out through the door. She in turn pulled their son’s hand and he nearly tripped as he was yanked outside onto the grass of the compound grounds. “Let’s get out of here” shouted Daniel and they all ran to the gate which thankfully was not locked and let themselves out into the road beyond. When they looked back they saw the compound almost completely engulfed in flames. Only the section they had just escaped from was, as yet, not totally destroyed

Daniel turned to the figure. “Thank you, you saved our lives”

The figure turned and spoke. Daniel watched in horror as he realised the words came out of nowhere. There was simply a black hood and a black space where a face should have been

“I SAVED THEIR LIVES” the figure intoned in that cold steel voice

Daniel felt a sense of doom wrap around his mind. What had he summoned? Something in his mind had failed to accept their deaths and thus found an alternative. He had saved the life of his wife and of his son but what of his own? He should have felt glad and proud. He had sacrificed himself for those he loved but truthfully, he felt nothing

“Who was that man, daddy?” asked Robby, hugging his mum tightly “He was scary”. Daniel looked up to see the figure had already moved a long way off. Daniel instinctively knew he wouldn’t be able to reach him and anyway, the figure would have nothing else to say to him. The bargain had been made, whatever it was

“I don’t know, maybe someone from the compound” answered Daniel weakly

“Shouldn’t we call him back?” asked Amy nervously ” we owe him our lives” but Daniel could see she didn’t want to call the figure back either. Although she hadn’t witnessed his lack of face she was just as scared of him as Robby had been

“No, I think we should just leave” said Daniel. Amy came over to hug him and Daniel returned the hug but quickly said “Come on, no time for that now. We need to get going”

They walked to their car which was where they had left it in the compound car park. There were plenty of people milling around looking shocked as they watched the buildings burning. Amy and Robby stopped to watch too but Daniel egged them on “Let’s go, keep moving” he said impatiently as he herded them into the car. They all got in and Daniel drove off far too quickly through the gates and across the city towards where they lived

“Danny , you’re driving too fast” said Amy but Daniel ignored her. He hated when she called him Danny but still she insisted on doing it, probably thought it was funny. Maybe he would be Danny if she liked it so much

Daniel turned into their driveway and let them out of the car but didn’t move himself

“Why aren’t you getting out too?” asked Amy worriedly “don’t you want to come inside and comfort us?”

“Sure, I will” said Danny absent-mindedly “I have something to do first though” and he reversed out of the driveway and onto the main road, narrowly avoiding a collision with a car speeding down it. “Fucking idiot!” though Danny as he revved the engine and raced alongside the car sticking his middle finger up and speeding past it dangerously. He turned left at the end of the street and made for the bar area on the west side of town

He found himself in a dingy bar named Jake’s and ordered a whisky as he lit up a cigarette

The barmaid instantly came over “You can’t smoke inside sir!”

“Whatever. Get me my whisky and I’ll go outside” he remarked, as he continued to puff on it. The barmaid huffed but handed him his drink and he sauntered to the few metal tables set out on the pavement. He sat at one and smoked and drank, looking around himself. There were a couple of thirty something women sitting over at a corner table so he shouted over to them “Hey, come join me” . They looked up and then looked at each other but didn’t move so instead he stood up and sauntered over to their table

“Hey, I’m Danny. Mind if I join you ladies?” without waiting for a reply he plonked himself down on one of the spare chairs at the small metal table. The women looked at him but still didn’t say anything

“Smoke?” he offered them, pulling one from the packet . One of the women, a tall slim red-head, took the proffered cigarette and bowed her head slightly as Daniel lit it for her. Daniel leaned back in his seat and asked them what their names were. Linda and Rachel, came the reply

“Lovely names. Can I get you ladies a drink?” and he summoned a passing waiter “Whisky for me and.?.” he looked questioningly at the two women. “Red wine” said the red head “white for me” said the other woman who was blonde and petite . The waiter went off to fetch their drinks and Daniel asked them if they were on a night out. They said they had met up after work for a couple of drinks, that’s all

A couple of hours passed by and Danny was having a great time. He had forgotten all about his wife and son at home . He and the two women were getting sloshed, Danny kept buying the drinks, and they decided to move onto a nightclub. Later on that evening, on the dance floor, Danny made his move on the tall redhead and she responded, kissing him deeply. The blonde had disappeared, she had found a guy of her own, Daniel assumed, so he suggested to the redhead that they go somewhere more private and she agreed. They ended back at her place, Danny had made sure to remove his wedding ring earlier, and after a few more drinks they went to bed together

Danny woke early in the morning, still too drunk to feel hungover, and crept out of the woman’s flat. He didn’t think he’d bother seeing her again, it was just a one-night thing, after all. He walked back to the bar area where he had left his car, he had a ticket, of course, so he pulled it off the window, crumpled it into a ball and tossed it on the floor and drove off

He arrived back at his house a little while later and as soon as he opened the door he saw his wife running down the stairs crying “Oh my god , where have you been? I’ve been so worried” she cried, tears streaming down her face

“Worried about what?” asked Daniel looking nonchalant and confused “I’ve been out, that’s all” as he went to the fridge to look for a quick snack, he was starving.

Amy stared at him in disbelief “OUT? You’ve been gone all night!”

“Oh yes, I met a woman” explained Danny “I went back to her place” and he shut the fridge door. “Is there anything to eat round here?”

“What the fuck!! You met a woman? What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Oh, this redhead I found at a bar. Don’t think I’ll bother with her again. She wasn’t much cop in bed to be honest but at least I got some action. What did you get up to?”

Amy stood dumbstruck. Was she hearing this correctly? She slumped to the floor, struggling to understand what he was saying. “You met a woman in a bar and you went to her house and you had sex with her?” asked Amy slowly and uncomprehendingly

“Yes that’s right. Except it was a flat not a house. I’m going out to get some breakfast, see you in a bit”and he walked towards the door as Amy jumped up and leapt in front of him

“Is this some kind of fucking joke?” she screamed “What the fuck are you saying?” . She smashed at him with her fists and he grabbed them and held her back pinned to the wall

“Hey calm down. What’s the matter?” he asked, confused. “I’m back now so don’t worry, nothing happened to me. I’m just a bit hungry, that’s all”

She kicked at him and caught him in the balls and he made a whoof sound as he fell to his knees “Ow, what was that for?”

“What was that for?! I’m your fucking wife! and you’re here telling me you spent the night with some floozy?! You deserve more than a kick in the balls” and she grabbed a kitchen knife from the table

“I don’t get why you’re upset” said Danny, shaking a little from the pain in his testicles “I said she wasn’t that great in bed. Maybe I should have sex with you after breakfast and I can tell you if you’re better or not?”

Amy screamed and ran at him with the knife, jamming it into his body. Daniel looked down in shock as blood poured from a wound in his abdomen. He felt instantly sick and doubled over, forcing the knife in harder. His face went pale as the pain intensified and he felt the life draining from his body

Amy stood back in shock. “Oh my god!” she whimpered as she turned and ran for the telephone “Hello , yes it’s an emergency, it’s my husband, he’s been stabbed” and she gave her address as she fell to the floor also

The paramedics arrived quickly but it was too late for Daniel. He had lost too much blood. They cordoned off the area and the forensics team moved in. Eventually, they removed the body for a post-mortem examination, although the cause of death was pretty obvious to everyone. Amy was wrapped in a blanket and taken away in a police vehicle. Robby was roused from his bed and taken to child protective services temporarily

At the morgue, the chief medical examiner called in his assistant

“I don’t understand it. You say this stabbing happened this morning?”

“Yes, they brought the body straight here , just a couple of hours ago”

“It makes no sense. His body temperature is cold, his blood is cold . Everything about him is cold. I’d say this man has been dead for days, not hours”

The figure in black watched on and crossed a name off his list. “THE DEBT HAS BEEN PAID” he intoned to the universe in his cold, steely tone.

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