Orphic Phantasia

10: Projection

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“Eh?” It was the sound of his three housemates, looking to one another in expectation of an answer, an explanation, perhaps, for Dante’s sudden show of confidence. He was about to think of a second, equally sharp barb, when he realised what had really caught their attention.

“Certainly,” said the poet, raising an eyebrow, “when I assumed you incompetent.”

His attention was focused on a splash of water on the floor behind Dante — a mouthful, nothing more. Emily and Katrina had turned their attentions elsewhere.

To his bedroom door.

Katrina was typing in the all-access code her mother gave her.

Byron stroked his chin. “Really, I must apologise, Orpheus. I had no idea you could astrally pro—”

~*~

The door slid open the same instant Dante’s projection vanished and his mug of unboiled water clattered to the floor as if it had suddenly understood the laws of gravity. Emily was a step behind Katrina as she barrelled into their housemate’s room, just as the real Dante jerked awake from his trance. Emily hurried to his side; sudden snapbacks from the aethereal realm were never a pleasant experience, but she had the skills to soothe them. Her mother had taught her well.

Kat hovered over her shoulder, a worried look on her face. “Is he okay?”

“He should be. It’s like when you suddenly wake up from a crazy dream, you know? Takes a minute or so to readjust to reality.” She brushed Dante’s sweat-soaked hair from out of his face. “Are you okay, Dante?”

His dark eyes trembled, still caught into the midst of a dream. “I—” He struggled to form words. “I’ve got … got to save—”

Emily frowned; he should have emerged by now, and his words sounded just the wrong side of tipsy. She looked to Katrina, but she already was rummaging through Dante’s kitchen for the culprit. A moment later, Byron stepped into the room and fished out a small box from one of the cabinets. He looked inside and grimaced.

“I only gave you these last week, Orpheus. How many have you—”

Before he could finish, Katrina snatched the drugs and glared at them with a menace that filled the room with unseen flames — a glare she quickly turned on Byron. “You gave him these? You?”

He raised his hands in futile defence. “They’re for his anxiety issues. They’re harmless, really. Well, when taken in modera—”

Katrina slammed the packet — and her fist — into Byron’s stomach. “You’d better have a detox,” she said, “or I’ll ask my mother for one.”

He didn’t need a second warning and returned to the room with the palm-sized device. After fiddling with the controls, he offered it to Kat, who snatched it away and placed it against Dante’s neck. With a short hiss, the modern day medical miracle injected a stream of Elixium into his blood stream. Emily had witnessed the procedure a hundred times before. When the Cities offered you an easy escape from the teetering edge of drug abuse, it was only a matter of time before the solution became an addiction in itself.

“It’ll take about half an hour before he’s clean,” said Byron, dropping his pompous facade for a change. “I don’t know his exact dosage. It could have been ten milligrammes, it could have been fifty.”

Katrina returned the detox. “You’d better hope it’s not bad,” she said, “and that I never find drugs in his possession again. He’s enough of a problem with the caffeine.”

With that, Byron shuffled from the room, an impotent shadow of his usual self. Emily and Katrina turned their attentions back to Dante, whose groggy complexion showed some early signs of awareness. Katrina took Emily’s place at his side and grasped his hand.

“Just relax, okay?” she said. “Let the detox do its work.”

Back in the lounge, the dark clouds of her sour mood returned in force, and Emily was glad Byron saw the sense to hide in his room. “I should have seen it coming,” she said as she stomped around the room. “This whole day, it’s just—what are they thinking? We’re not ready for the Scar. Dante isn’t ready for the Scar.”

Protip: don’t mess with Kat, she’s built like a freaking Valkyrie.