Orphic Phantasia

30: The House of the Soulless

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And opened them a second later as the beast made its move. Without so much as a thought, Dante reached for a nearby table and upended it in the monster’s path. It was just enough to distract it. Before it could recover, Dante bound across the room and flung himself through the nearest door.

He had barely rounded the corner of the hallway beyond when he heard the beast crash through the door. Noticing a door to his right, Dante turned the handle and slipped into the darkness. In immediate hindsight, it was the worst decision he could have made.

From somewhere in the shadows came the sound of hurried breathing, a shuffling of cloth, the scraping of metal along wood. Then a light burst to life, blinding him.

Blinking back the pain, Dante peered over his raised arm. A pair of frightened eyes watched him from the corner of the room, wrapped inside a bundle of discarded sheets. A trembling hand lowered a gun to the floorboards.

Shelley Eoghan turned her flashlight away from Dante and over to the corner of the room, where bottles of brightly coloured chemicals sat amongst shelves of dust-covered crates and boxes.

Dante put his ear to the door, but he couldn’t hear any sign of the beast.

“They won’t come in here,” said Shelley, her voice almost a whisper. “It’s a safe room.” She gestured towards a typewriter sitting by her side. An antiquated device from the depths of the Old World, it was a popular tool with writers, like Shelley, who found cellular technology lacking in ‘soul’. Dante thought it cumbersome and pointless. What was the difference between a word typed on a screen and one typed in ink? They were still words, no matter their form.

He moved over to the bottled chemicals and poked around for signs of the missing puzzle piece.

“It’s fuel,” said Shelley. “For the flamethrower. A—Allie send me after it.”

Dante picked up the green bottle. It was unmarked, save for a bold icon indicating its flammable properties. If he could somehow combine it with the matches in his pocket, it was possible he could save Joel.

His thoughts suddenly turned to that last image of his friend in the courtyard, injured and firing off his last few rounds of ammunition. It must have been five, maybe ten minutes ago by now. If Joel hadn’t managed to escape, he was probably dead by now.

Dead.

The canister slipped from his fingers and hit the floor. The green fluid began to seep into the floorboards. Dante stumbled back and fell into the storeroom shelves. Tears welled in the corner of his eyes.

He had left his friend to die.

Shelley waved her flashlight in his face. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“I—I let him die,” he replied. “I left Joel to die.”

“It’s only a game,” said Shelley, maybe adding an “unfortunately” under her breath — Dante couldn’t be sure over his own panicked panting. “Allie’s probably a goner too. I’m just waiting for the time out.”

Alonie was clearly planning to take on the giant mutant plant.