33: Three Eyes Open
She had already made it clear that her own knowledge of astral projection was limited at best. Seers were trained to see flashes of memories and thoughts, she explained, and to cast their consciousness into the hearts and dreams of others, but moving around the physical world outside of their own body was not considered a required skill. Even so, she insisted that the basics were the same and that, since Dante could project subconsciously, he only needed a guiding hand.
“We’ll start with something simple,” she said. “You remember Ms Espinosa’s meditation classes, right?”
Dante nodded. They were a required part of the Initiate Program. At least once a week, whenever Ms Espinosa’s schedule allowed, they would gather in an empty room to sit in an uncomfortable position and practise breathing exercises. It was important they learn to clear their thoughts, the Seelie Captain told them, to focus their minds on a moment of tranquillity. In hindsight, it was obvious she was preparing them for something more, or at least as much as she could with the threat of Sophist sanctions looming over her shoulder.
“Okay.” Emily rubbed the backs of his hands with her thumbs. “I’ll count you in.”
Dante closed his eyes. It was a simple enough pattern: breathe in for a count of four, hold for two, then exhale for four and hold for two more before repeating. Emily eased him into it with a gentle whisper. Once he was set, she continued with Ms Espinosa’s familiar narration.
“Focus only on the darkness in front of you. Forget the outside world. Exist in the moment.”
Dante purged his mind of thoughts and let his consciousness drift into a world of shifting colours and kaleidoscope patterns, faint illusions of light that warped and twisted in perfect synchronisation. His body started to tense, his muscles tighten, and his limbs felt heavy, like slabs of meat devoid of the will that gave them life. A will that existed beyond the body, a power invisible, a form immaterial, impossible.
His eyes snapped open, and he gasped for breath.
He was back in the gondola. Nothing had changed.
“Well,” said Emily, “we can’t expect results straight away.”
But the second time was no different, nor was the third nor the fifth nor the tenth. Whenever Dante found himself on the cusp of another world, logic defied it. Six years of Malkuthian indoctrination, six years of hard science, six years of numbers and physics and known possibilities conspired to drag him back into the waking world. Without some form of drug to keep his disbelief at bay, there was no hope of success.
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The more you understand one world, the harder it is for you to conceive the other. Which is probably for the best, to be honest.