Orphic Phantasia

43: Changing Perspective

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Kat pulled a bar of chocolate out of her jacket pocket and, after Dante refused a square, said, “We think she fled the island. Well, mountain, if you can call it that. Mr al-Hakim is trying to find her before the Sultan does, though the latter has his hands full with an uprising at present.” She bit off another chunk of chocolate and took a swig from the glass of Elixium. “Okay, that doesn’t work,” she said with a wince.

Dante fell back against the headboard with a groan. At the back of his mind, an image of three giants waivered in memory, then vanished. Just a dream, he told himself.

“So much for a holiday,” he said.

“Don’t remind me,” said Kat. “I don’t think Phoenie has slept since everything kicked off.”

It was almost — almost — enough to bring a flicker of a smile to Dante’s lips. “Let me guess, she thinks this whole thing is some grand conspiracy?”

“Actually…” Kat’s voice trailed off as her eyes fell on the bedside cabinet. She opened the drawer.

Dante spied a cellular and, beneath it, the unblemished white surface of the Saptamatrikas’ tablet. Next to it, hiding in the shadows, was the figurine Emily had bought him from Bolventor’s market.

Kat picked out the cellular “It’s yours,” she said, handing it over. “Ms Espinosa recovered it after the Sultan scarpered. We copied over the message Emily left us. You ought to listen to it.”

Dante gestured the cell to life and watched as Seelie’s iridescent butterfly logo fluttered to life, then scattered across the screen to reveal the usual collection of icons and applications. Navigating to his files, he discovered an audio recording not half a day old. His thumb hovered over it, trembling.

In the back of his mind, there was an image of two tangled bodies, reaching towards one another, locked together in a moment of gasping, groaning joy.

He shook the vision from his head. It was just his imagination. His paranoid, envious imagination. Emily wasn’t like that. Aliza wasn’t like that. And this message — this message would be the proof.

Jaw clenched, he jammed his thumb onto the file.

“Hey.” It was Emily’s voice all right, though somewhat strained with exhaustion. “I don’t have much time,” she continued, “so I’m going to make this quick. To cut a long story short, I’ve been digging in places I shouldn’t have been, and I’ve found out some things about Avalon I really think you should all know.”

A pause, as if for contemplation, then she continued, “As I’m sure most of you have realised by now, Avalon isn’t the utopia it pretends to be. In fact, that whole image is just a sham to lure people in so the ones running this place can…” Another, slightly longer pause — Dante pictured Emily twisting her lips in search of the right word. “I’ll just have to be up front with it,” she said. “The Fortunate Isles use Avalon to harvest souls for use in synthetic experiments. Some of you might have already seen the results. Those monsters they use in the coliseum? They used to be people.”

Very mystopian.