Orphic Phantasia

35: A Bold Venture

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Dante, cloak active but hood open, creating the somewhat unnerving illusion of a floating face, stepped past her. “There,” he said, gesturing left, away from the central tower and towards the cavern walls. “There’s a signpost down the end of the street pointing to a”—he furrowed his brow—“witty rahbit?”

Emily didn’t have the time or patience to activate her own visor and check. “That’s close enough for me,” she said. “You think you can—”

Before she could finish, Dante’s hand slipped out of an invisible sleeve to trace a symbol in the air. A moment later, he was standing there, black shirt and trousers, cloak fallen at his feet. Then, without a word, he reached down and clasped the colour-shifting fabric in a white-knuckled fist.

His mother’s memento. The cloak that had saved her from the Sophist attack on Torhout Forest. The cloak Dante had worn every day for as long as Emily had known him.

And now he was offering it to her.


The White Rabbit sat on the edge of town, nestled between a ramshackle barber’s hut and a gaudy shop front drenched in the light of neon red letters reading ‘SEX VIDS’. Nearby, an old man, his spine bent like an archway, conducted a rubbish-collecting drone with sharp mutters and shaking hands. A pair of women stood on the street corner, watching him with half-amused smiles. One caught Dante’s eye and beckoned him with a long, crimson-tipped finger. Her outfit would have made even Joel Gibson blush, and that she looked old enough to be somebody’s grandmother did little to help. Dante ignored her.

At the other end of the street, a man in a khaki uniform watched his every movement with a scowl on his face. Dante tried to ignore him, too.

It was all Emily’s idea. Dante had only gone along with it because he didn’t have a better one. While he made for their destination, she would head off in the opposite direction to draw her pursuers away. Then she would cloak herself and catch up with him.

Dante scratched the back of his neck. The slight bump was still there, Avalon’s bite, the incision that allowed the Fortunate Isles to track their every movement. He only hoped that his mother’s cloak could block its signal as well as it did others, or he might never see Emily again.

He glanced behind him and wondered where she might be. In the blink of an eye, he saw her hiding in an alleyway as a trio of khaki uniforms marched past. Intuition, he assumed; a hope at what might be.

Had he the choice, he would have been with her. It was easier to hide away than stride into the unknown, especially when that unknown took the shape the White Rabbit did. Two storeys of grey stone and wooden window frames, it was a run-down hovel of a building, with vines creeping up its walls, rotting benches in the courtyard, and a fog of blue haze drifting from its front door. Dante dug his hands into his trouser pockets and marched forward. He couldn’t let Emily find him loitering around outside, too afraid to confront the raft of noise coming from inside.

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I figured their language has dropped the silent ‘e’, hence why Dante reads ‘white’ as ‘whitty’.