Orphic Phantasia

19: Distraction

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“I’d—I’d sneak into his organisation,” he replied. “I wouldn’t tell him that, though. It would be a secret. I’d get close to him and then I’d become his friend. That’s what people do in the real world.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier just to, you know, turn invisible and stab him when he’s not looking?”

“Yeah, but then you wouldn’t learn his secrets.” Dante dropped his empty bottle over the back of the sofa, where it clinked with its discarded siblings. “You’ve got to learn their secrets. That’s why … that’s why…”

His words faded to a mumble and his brain seized up with a sudden fear. He started to shake.

“You okay, mate?” asked Joel.

All he could see was that photograph of his parents and their friends, and Arided among them with crescent-moon smile and bright-eyed beauty to rival even his mother.

Joel put an understanding hand on his shoulder. “It’s that fookin’ Scar, ain’t it, mate? You don’t have to tell me.”

He didn’t.

“I don’t tell a lot of people this, and I know you’re a mate, so you won’t go blabbing to anyone, but, well…” Joel looked at the bottle in his hand, took a quick swig. “When I were, like, three years old, Mum went in there. She didn’t come back out.”

Dante tried to reason that revelation with his image of Joel, but it hurt to think.

“I ain’t lettin’ that happen to a mate, you hear? So, wherever you are, right, you snap outta it? This ain’t no time for that sort of crap. We’re celebrating, remember?” He flashed that face-splitting grin and Dante’s lips managed a slight curl in response. “I’ll get you another beer, ‘kay? It does the trick.”

Whilst he was away, Dante fell back into the sofa and stared at the ceiling. The world was spinning. He accepted another bottle and drank to forgetfulness.

“Mate, you know what you need?”

“More beer?”

“Nah, mate, you need something stronger than beer, like, something even stronger than Tiferetian elixir. What you need, right, what will really take your mind off everything, is a bloody good shag.”

Dante thought of Emily, her bashful smile, cheeks flushed with shyness as she unbuttoned her shirt to reveal the treasures hidden below. Joel was right; if he had Emily, he wouldn’t need anything else. Every day would be perfect.

Joel leaned in close. “And I’ve got just the plan,” he said with a wink. “We’ve gotta be proper sneaky about it, though.”

As his friend reached for his cellular, Dante wondered what the plan could be. Was he going to entice Emily over and ply her with alcohol too? Dante couldn’t imagine her drunk, like Joel clearly was. Maybe, underneath that conservative appearance, there was a devil waiting to come out. Byron would hate him. It was the perfect plan.

Joel is an expert at finding distractions.