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Narcissus fiddled absently with a large coin-operated telescope that pointed futilely into the brick wall opposite. Or perhaps everyone simply forgot about it. Surprisingly, some of the shops were still manned, although none of them could explain the singular appeal of this insulated street within a street, or why they sold the eccentric foods they did. In a bout of uncharacteristic voraciousness, Narcissus purchased two toffee apples, a stick of candy floss, a comedically large ice cream and a Chelsea bun.

He devoured everything with great relish, then was promptly violently sick in a nearby bin. After this surprising occurrence, he settled himself upon a deck chair on top of one of the mounds of yellow dust that lay between the boardwalk and the wall.

Orpheus, as a poet, had the ability to drape himself languidly over even the most uncomfortable of surfaces. And so he lounged in the deckchair beside him, nibbling the single Eccles cake that he had more judiciously accepted. After a while he, too, felt his eyelids grow heavy. He knew this dream was going to be important before it had even started. It had that same lysergic, colour-saturated quality as all the other ones that had mattered, although he hoped with all his heart that this one would not come true.

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He was walking down a grey concrete corridor that echoed with ringing footsteps and keening cries. Two nurses in white coats were wrestling a struggling woman to the floor. Her teeth were bared in a ferocious snarl and her dark eyes stared from a gaunt and haunted face. A doctor strode round the corner, speaking in soothing tones and brandishing a gleaming syringe. Dream- Orpheus drifted past, unseen by anyone except the struggling woman.

Orpheus knew exactly where he was now. Medea Asylum, an institution full of troubled minds kept perpetually alive lest they should unbalance the Acheron: the intricate computer network that ran the City, powered by the minds of the dead, and to which all human brains were ultimately destined. The topic had been an insurmountable legal minefield ever since the formation of the Acheron.

Any exceptions from the blanket rule that all dead brains must enter and toil within the vast supercomputer would be a sign of weakness, and open to exploitation by fakers wishing for a true death. But any intact brains that did not work as the government dictated they should would create innumerable bugs in a network that was buggy enough already. And so their deaths were simply delayed forever, like a letter one dreads having to write. Some incurable cases had been there for hundreds of years now, trapped in aged bodies maintained in a constant living state until some unknown future date, when the government would finally decide what to do with them.

No, this was life only in its most technical definition. Orpheus also knew exactly who he would see around the next corner, and, although he prayed against it with every atom of his body, what he saw in the next cell confirmed his fears for his friend.

Free of its usual insolent scorn, his face at rest looked calm and innocent, oblivious of the fate that awaited him. Orpheus wished that they could stay frozen in time like this forever. After a few minutes, Narcissus stirred and languidly extracted a bottle of champagne from the hamper beside him. He shook it until the cork ricocheted off the wall beside them and swigged it indecorously straight from the bottle.

Orpheus suspected this was the only way his friend knew how to open and drink champagne.

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Orpheus sighed, irritated. His friend may be decadent but he was never usually this rude. He responded by grabbing the bottle anyway and taking a swig.


I only drink it to appear sophisticated. Orpheus raised a bemused eyebrow. It was unlike his friend to admit to any emotion at all, let alone this. A very sad thing happened to me a while ago, old thing. Nearly seven years ago, in fact — so a change should be coming soon.

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Just another one of your society beauties, as far as I can remember. She was most terribly keen on me, of course — that is, until she started accusing me of loving my own reflection more that I loved her. Never thought to get it repaired. Well, she stormed out and that was that. I never saw her again. After a while, I found that the thought of her was lingering in my mind. Probably moved to Lydia or Phrygia or one of those other districts right on the other side of the City. She was special, all right — she had something more than all the others.

Orpheus sighed impatiently. Narcissus shot him an icy look, so he tried to make amends. As part of a bizarre tax dodge, Dionysus dismissed and re-hired his employees every week in order to give them a day off.

Narcissus Blinked : John Michael DeMarco :

Well done. Where does that fit into staying the same? Things are due to change any minute now. I just have the feeling that something good will happen soon. Orpheus regretted the comment almost immediately as he recalled with a sinking heart his recent dream. In fact, it occurred to him now that seven years ago was about the time all this superstition nonsense had started.

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And the most painful thing about all this was that Orpheus knew it could become so again. If he really put his mind to it, he knew he could divert the course of that terrible premonition. With his support, he could help Narcissus overcome the trauma of his kidnapping and tackle headlong the anxieties and delusions that plagued him. He could even help his friend to get clean — provided he cleaned himself up first.

But that was never going to happen. In another world, perhaps — in a life where he was healthier, happier, and free of the caustic pangs of bereavement. But as it was, it was enough effort keeping himself from falling apart. No, Narcissus could be cured, all right, but this lachrymose musician was not the one to do it. Maybe one of his friends could help. He had friends apart from Orpheus, surely?

He must do. He had hundreds of acquaintances. The dastardly fiend has only gone and spiked our champagne with his beastly truth serum. It was a worrying thought. And ram his bally society article down his throat to boot. Or with anyone else for that matter. Our deepest secrets would be splashed across the front of the crudest broadsheets in no time. You know how you get. Narcissus clapped his hands together in triumphant glee.

It IS real — that awful hack! He must have stuck a syringe straight through the cork. Orpheus stood up and started packing away their things. Orpheus seethed. He might as well get something back. He turned towards his friend. Apart from you, of course. I always remember your name, my dear Orestes. Narcissus waggled his eyebrows ambiguously in reply. The stuff must be wearing off.

But as they were walking down the pier, his friend surprised him again by practically reading his mind.

Racism and the Nigger of the "Narcissus"

I really am frightfully fond of you. And it would be a truly awful waste of talent. If you must do something monumentally stupid, why not try to get your darling Eurydice back? At least you know where she is. If you succeed, you have to stop moping around and being such a dreadful bore all the time. But at least try to do something about it first. Emerging from the long alleyway and into the real world, the two nymphs were instantly swallowed up by The City and became, once again, nothing more than a pair of half-starved dilettantes with weak ankles and foppish haircuts.


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