30: The House of the Soulless
“How do you know it’s just a game?” asked Dante, words coming before he had chance to think them through. “I—I can feel everything. It’s real. All of it’s real.”
Shelley gave him a pitying look, as if he were once again that helpless child crying before Arided as she told him the truth about all the things he once believed in. “And I thought Allie was bad,” she said, more to herself than to Dante.
Dante found her eyes in the nest of sheets. How pathetic he must have looked, crying over something that wasn’t even real. Shelley looked away. And of all the people to see him like this, it had to be her, had to be the girl he once considered a close friend, who he pushed aside in his pursuit of Truth. The writer, the dreamer, the girl blinded by her own fantasies, yet seemingly immune to the fantasy around her.
“How do you—” he started, before cutting the thought short. He didn’t want to know the answer.
“Tell the difference?” finished Shelley. “Isn’t it obvious? None of this has a soul.”
None of this has a soul.
Shelley Eoghan’s whisper had become a deafening cry, a rallying call against all the lies and the delusions of Paradise. Either Dante accepted what was in front of him as real, from Avalon’s calm seas and clear skies to its vacuous hedonism and sexual freedom, or he saw through the lie and discarded this vision of Paradise as the result of misappropriated technology. But to label it a lie would give weight to Shelley’s talk of souls, to the idea that a person could close their eyes and sense the truth through instinct, see the world through a third eye that could pierce the deceptions of matter.
Either way, the road led to the same, inevitable conclusion: that night, when she appeared to save his mother, Arided lied. Either she lied to him about Paradise, or she lied to him about magic and faeries and the Erebus. All Dante could do now was find out which.
If Avalon’s deceptions bothered Joel, he did not show it. The raven swaggered down the gold-and-ivory pathway with his hands clasped behind his head, his silk shirt blowing in the light summer breeze. “Mate, if I’d known about that flamethrower, we would’ve proper aced that bloody thing,” he said. “Kent got lucky.”
Dante mumbled an agreement to keep his friend content, but figured the end result would have been the same either way. Had Joel a flamethrower, he would have likely burned the mansion down to a cinder, laughing all the way to his fiery death.
“Still, we’ve got all week, right?” Joel slapped Dante on the shoulder. “Plenty of time to get a bit of practise in and set some high scores. Gotta make the most of what we’ve got, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Dante replied. Not three hours into their holiday, and already Avalon was working its charms on people. By the end of the week, they might never want to leave.
He had to save them. Just as he studied Theia’s orbit to prove its fall a millennium away, Dante had to scour every corner of Avalon to find the unquestionable, scientifically sound evidence he needed to prove what was real, and what was not.
To prove which was the lie, and which was the truth.
Chapter 30 End
I hope you enjoyed that brief foray into Seelie’s recreational habits. Next week, Dante gets his shit together?!