Even with my eyes closed tight, I knew they hadn’t gone.

I sat on a chair in my basement. My hands were tied behind my back, my ankles wrapped with silver electrical tape. Blood dripped from my nose, because five men thought it fitting to hammer fists into my face. Three minutes had passed since they last asked me where I’d hid my money.

Should I tell them?

It was the coward inside talking now. The coward who’d always been there. I was never a boisterous man, nor a specimen of physical grandeur. Tall, I was, with limbs stretched thin, lacking the coordination necessary to fight back. It was how I’d always been. Exactly what my son was to inherit.

A single sob issued from my throat. I failed my son from an early age, lacked the fire to berate a lad who behaved poorly. I thought he would grow out of his temper, his frustrations. Yet there was always something wicked lying beneath the surface. I knew it, yet I did nothing to confront it. I wonder if his troubled life is the result of my lack of courage.

For I am the coward who released a son into a world of sin, and then did nothing to rescue him when he called for help.

He was a beautiful boy; blonde hair draping blue eyes, sparkling with laughter. All I ever wished for him was a world of wonder. Only the wonder he sought came at a price. A price he inevitably couldn’t afford.

The last I saw he’d dyed his hair black, lank and lifeless, still draping blue eyes only they no longer cared. A gaunt face sat above bony shoulders, red splotches peppered his arms where the needles sunk to inject their venom.

He was lost. I’d lost him. Now all he wanted was my money to fix his habits, to pay his debts. In his madness he’d betrayed me and revealed the secret he and I once shared.

Now his dealers had come to take the money I’d hidden in the basement.

I forced one eye open, for the other was swollen shut. The light revealed hooded men standing in a semi-circle, vulture-like. Tears of pain slid down my cheeks

I often thought the world a reflection of who I am. Yet I am lost, like my son, and all is bleak. Shadows surround me and the dystopian world I envisage is dark and savage, bereft of joy. They have taken my son from me. I fear I will not tell them where the money is kept, for I no longer feel inspired. Instead, in an unlikely act of courage, I suggest they do their worst . . . and take me from my son.