Chapter 47

The Impossible Artist

Dante Orpheus was impossible. He was defeatist, irrational, evasive, and in complete denial of anything and everything that might question his presumptions. Shelley had barely spent an hour with him and she was just about ready to sling her grimoire at his head and oust him from her room. Shuck could ask all he liked but, so long as the son of Ophelia Orpheus had the attitude he did, there was little chance of the two crossing paths. Rude! Arrogant! Condescending! The stream of words that could sum him never seemed to end. It had, after all, six long years of momentum behind it.

He stared at the figurine that sat between them, dark eyes locked on the carved sculpture of Sidhe royalty — a gift from Emily, allegedly. “I—I just can’t,” he said, for what must have been the twentieth time.

With a frustrated sigh, Shelley slammed her grimoire shut (no, she thought, his head would probably damage it). Her notes were useless. They assumed the dual nature of reality common knowledge. To assume otherwise was a level of ignorance worthy of the Sophists.

“What about last night?” she asked. “Phoenix thinks you eavesdropped on a meeting while you were still in the hospital.”

“It wasn’t out of choice,” he replied. “It was more like a dream.”

Subconscious projection, thought Shelley. Dante must have wanted to be there (of all places!) without realising it. “But what was different about then and now?” she asked. “Was it because you didn’t realise what you were doing?”

“I was on drugs,” he offered. “If I had some more sedatives, I might—”

“No drugs!” The words shot from her mouth, bullets from a gun loaded with memories of Joel’s attempts to invoke spiritual journeys using hallicinogenics. “They’re too dangerous,” she continued. “The aether is too dangerous. Ye need tae be in control at all times or else ye’ll end up stumbling intae some pocket o’hell full of lingering beasties or—”

The incredulous look in his eyes alerted Shelley to her slip-up and she shied away from his gaze, lips pursed tight with embarrassment. She had let her imagination run away with her and twist the truth into some silly little story. “It’s just bad,” she muttered. “W—we need tae—to find another way.”

In the silence that followed, she wondered what thoughts might be running through his head. Was he was considering her words or laughing at them? Calculating possibilities or conceiving plans? Like her, he had always been a thinker, but while Shelley lost herself in an endless stream of possibilities, Dante would focus his attention on one and one alone. He was the order to her chaos, the Earth to her Water.

And, like the spirits of Earth, he did not speak his mind unless called for.

“You said you snap back the moment you realise where you are, right?” she said, hoping to goad something out of him.

Dante nodded. “It’s too surreal,” he said. “How do I even know I’m not just imagining things?”

I’m sure Shelley isn’t the only one who wants to throw something at Dante’s head…