Chapter 33

Three Eyes Open

The gondola drifted through Avalon’s sky, its predetermined flight path offering an unrivalled view of the resort below. From its vantage point, Dante could see how the streets of Avalon formed a symmetrical pattern around the island, exact in its measurements, a complex web of intelligent design without a single structure out of place. Even the synthetic forests contributed to the overall balance.

“It’s all too perfect, isn’t it?” said Emily. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was a simulation.”

Dante rubbed the back of his neck and felt the soft itch of the Fortunate Isle’s implant. Through it, the resort’s overseers could convince a person they walked a blissful, sun-kissed Paradise, just as a computer simulation could convince a person they walked the halls of a monster-infested mansion. The only way to tell the difference was to accept what Dante had long forced himself to deny: that, beyond the material world, there was another, aethereal realm, a world of shadows and souls, its shallows a mirror of fleeting observations, its depths a repository of ideals as old as civilisation itself.

“No poverty, no disease, no suffering,” Emily continued. “It’s no wonder it draws people in. Imagine a life where you never had to see Theia again.”

“But it’s still out there,” Dante reminded her. According to his cell, it was waning somewhere beneath the horizon, reminding another country, another people of the doom that hung over their heads. Later that week it would devour the sun in full, and yet Avalon would continue on unabated, skies as blue as ever.

“In the meantime,” Emily reached over and took his hands in hers, “are you ready for some practise?”

Dante tried not to grimace at the thought. Now he was free of the Saptamatrikas, Emily thought he should learn to utilise what she considered latent talents in astral projection. What she called latent talents, however, he considered accidental incidents, brought about by misused drugs and his desperate attempts to escape bad dreams. Not that such reasoning convinced Emily.

“You’re an artist,” she had told him the night before. “My mother always told me that artists made the best magicians.”

He looked down at the island below. “If you think it will help…”

“It’s a start,” she said.

Welcome to Episode Five! I hope you enjoy the ride.