45: The Hardest Word
Lance swiped a hand of cards from the table. “I found Blake passed out by the fountain,” he said. “Told him to drink a glass of water and go catch some zees. It’s not fun when you realise you’re pretty much useless once shiz hits the fan. You gonna pick up, Christof?”
Dante was about to clamber over the pizza boxes and make for his room when Chris called his name. There was something about his expression, thin-lipped and stern, that made him look twice his age. Dante dug his hands into his pockets and waited for him to cross the lounge. Then, for an awkward moment, the two initiates stood looking at everything but each other. Even Lance had fallen silent.
“I—I wanted to apologise,” Chris said at last. “I knew that Mireille character was bad news, but I let him pull one over on me. I should never have left you guys alone. It almost got you killed.”
“Dude,” chirped Lance, “what have I told you already? Seelie had our backs the whole way. Mr Hakim was just waiting for right moment to play his best card. Speaking of which,” he waved his hand of cards, “I am so gonna thrash you in one turn.”
Chris gave Dante an apologetic look, then admitted his defeat with a sigh. “Actually, before you go,” he said, just as Dante turned to leave. “I heard you’re struggling with, what did Emily call it, astral projection?”
Dante didn’t want to admit it was a struggle, but he listened regardless.
“If you want, I can find you some research papers on the subject. Aetheologists have been studying it for centuries, contrary to what some people might have you believe.”
Dante crossed his arms, suddenly aware of the Tablet lodged in his back pocket, and all its denials and dismissals of anything and everything connected to the aether. “Research papers?” he asked.
Chris nodded. “There’s stuff on autoscopic experiences that dates back as far as the Old World. You ever heard of the Furahya Society? They were a weird bunch, but plenty of respectable scientists have built on the foundations they laid. And not-so-respectable scientists too, of course, but I think astral projection was the least of their concerns.”
Not sure how best to respond — and certainly lacking the time to read through several fifty-thousand word dissertations on the scientific applications of lucid dreaming — Dante mumbled an “I’ll be fine” and slinked out of the room.
Autoscopy is an actual thing.