Orphic Phantasia

43: Changing Perspective

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Theseus stood his ground as the waves of Katrina’s anger washed over him. “d’Arcadie’s a friggin’ drug pusher, and Algar served in the militia, same as I did. As for you?” He turned to face her. “You might not have the same training as we do, but you’ve at least got a good head on your shoulders. Orpheus, on the other hand? Truth is a kid like him shouldn’t even be here. He ain’t Seelie material, and he never will be.”

And there it was, the truth Dante had always known but never dared to admit. After six years of struggle, six years of trying to improve himself, trying to build mind and muscle alike so that he might earn Seelie’s respect — the City’s respect — he could finally see how futile his efforts really were. All this time, and he was still there on that rooftop, a crying child watching as Arided stole his mother away from him. As Jonas Mireille stole Emily away from him.

A pang of shame crept across his insides, weighing them down, pulling at him like heavy chains, and for a fraction of a moment Katrina’s eyes seemed to meet his. But, before she could call out to him, before she could acknowledge his presence, he pulled his cloak around himself and tumbled back into the dark. Back into ignorance and into dreams.

After all, it was just like Theseus had said: there was no such thing as astral projection, no proof that he could see things without being physically present. It was all just his own overactive imagination.

All of it, just a dream…

~*~

“Dante?”

With a sharp gasp, he broke the surface.

“Another nightmare?” asked Katrina, reaching out to dab his forehead with a cold flannel.

Dante groaned. The light hurt his eyes.

“Here,” said Kat, offering him a glass of silvery water. “The doctor said it would help.”

Dante tried to pull himself up, but fell back into his pillows as a dull ache raced across his chest and images of underground lakes and cackling octopuses crawled up from the recesses of memory. More carefully this time, he propped himself up and accepted the glass. The liquid had a soft tang that tickled his throat. Elixium, he thought.

“How are you feeling?” asked Kat, taking the glass and placing it down on the bedside cabinet.

He twitched his toes. “Better,” he said. If his sparse surroundings and cotton frock were any indication, he was in some kind of medical ward. His clothes sat in a neat pile across from him, above them a window looking out over a panorama of rolling hills. After wiping the sleep from his eyes, he realised the view was actually an illusion, a sort of three-dimensional built from layers of liquid colour, like oils drifting on water. “What happened?” he asked. Then, a sudden panic gripping his throat, added, “Where’s Emily?”

Elixium is pretty much just a catch-all term for medicinal nanomachines.