Orphic Phantasia

47: The Impossible Artist

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Nice one, Shell, said the other Shelley, the Shelley she wanted to be, the Shelley that Emily saw in her. An older, wiser, stronger Shelley. Get’em all riled up why don’t ye? As if today cannae get any worse!

As if she needed reminding! I thought he’d changed, she said, not that her reflection believed her. After everything Shuck told me, I thought we could help him.

The other Shelley crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. Oh aye, that turned out grand, she said. As if he were gonna change his tune after all these years! Ye should’ve known better than that. He’s a lost cause, Shell. Ye shouldnae waste ye time on guys like him.

I can’t help it. I—I want the old Dante back. I know he’s in there somewhere. I won’t give up on him! Dante just needs to realise that the Erebus isn’t all bad. It’s just…

Misunderstood, they finished, together.

Shelley looked over her shoulder and saw Dante standing there, watching her with hands in his cloak pockets and a shamed look on his face. “I—I don’t understand anything anymore,” he said.

“Shuck just wanted tae help you,” said Shelley. “You dinnae have to attack him like that.”

“I thought he was some kind of demon.”

Demon! Shelley shivered at the memories, felt the bruises blossoming back to life. “Because he’s different?” she asked. “Because he came from the Erebus?”

Dante paled at mention of the name. “It’s cursed,” he said.

“Oh, ye can bet it’s cursed, all right,” Shelley crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “Cursed by people like you! Have ye ever stopped for just one wee second tae ask what it’s really all about?”

“Theia,” he replied. “It wants Theia to fall.”

“Oh, right, of course! It wants tae destroy the bloody world, like all good supervillains! Or maybe, ye know, there’s just a whole load of souls out there who’re sick and tired of the way the world is and will latch on tae anyone who’ll promise them something better? Ye ever think of that? Ye ever think that maybe they’re not the ones ye oughta be blaming?”

“Then what about the wars?” he asked.

“The clue’s in the bloody name: they’re not called the Erebus Wars, or the Theia Wars or anything like that, are they? They’re called the Apostle Wars. They’re the bloody pricks ye should be blaming for all this, not the ones who followed them out of desperation. If ye actually bothered tae sit down and talk tae people outside ye wee little comfort zone, ye might’ve realised that by now. Instead, ye think it’s better tae build these bloody walls and shut people off from one another, ‘cause it’s easier than trying tae get along with those who’re different tae you.”

Shelley had a much longer rant in previous drafts. And no, recent political upheavals didn’t inspire it; in fact, the synchronicity freaked me out a wee bit!