Orphic Phantasia

19: Distraction

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With the screen cutting to some congratulatory message or another, Joel pulled himself out of the illusion to say, “It ain’t real, mate!” as if Dante had honestly believed it was. “It’s not like one of those fookin’ fancy-pants cyber-fantasies Shawty uses to get his end away.” The action resumed and Joel’s attention dived back into the other world. “I know what a real blade does to a bloke,” he said, chancing the slightest glance over at his guitar-sword, hanging on the wall between images of warrior-musicians, including one of his girlfriend’s father.

Dante was halfway through his second bottle of beer when Joel handed him the clunky control mechanism. His attempts to explain the over-complicated puppetry fell on uncertain ears and Dante spent the next five minutes running his avatar around in circles.

“So, eh,” Joel gulped back a mouthful of beer, “what were the Scar like?”

Dante hammered down the ‘attack button’, but failed to prevent his inevitable demise.

“Heard from Doyle that it all went a bit mental,” continued Joel. “Said those Sophist twats got involved, like, even the Director and everything.”

Dante used a lull in the action to throw back the rest of his bottle; he was starting to get the hang of it now.

“Kinda glad Kao kept me busy. Would’ve proper railed on those twats if I were there, you know?” Joel tried to laugh. “Kao were worried about you, you know?”

Dante cut down a swarm of enemies and drove his avatar into an approaching throng. Blood gushed with every swing of his sword.

“You fancy another beer?” asked Joel.


They continued to swap the controls whenever the avatar lost to a virtual villain, and each time Dante found his turns lasting longer than before. After one particularly gruelling battle led into an extended sequence of dialogue, acted out with authentic Old World accents, Joel tried to explain the game’s overarching narrative—surprisingly, it wasn’t just about indiscriminate slaughter.

“He’s an assassin,” said the raven, his words starting to slur after his fifth bottle.

“Well he’s not a very subtle assassin,” said Dante.

“He wears black, right? And he’s got a sword, and he kills people? Sounds like a proper assassin to me! I mean, what would you do”—he prodded Dante with his bottle—”if you had to stop some corrupt old geezer from summoning an evil god?”

Dante scoured his memories. What would he do? What would his mother do? She was a soldier. She fought bad things. Maybe she’d fought an evil god or two in her lifetime? No, no-no-no, his mother would never have done that sort of thing. Azhara’d al-Hakim, however, he would have killed everything. And Captain Espinosa. Dante bet she did this sort of thing all the time. It was in her eyes. Cold eyes. Very cold eyes. Dark, yes, but cold.

He stumbled off a cliff. Joel swiped the controller from his hands. “Well, come on, man? What would you do?”

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So there was this time once where someone tried to explain the over-elaborate plot to House of the Dead to my mate…