Here’s Cassie once more, having survived another Christmas alone. It was a day filled with lots of napping, walking a mile down to the local art house to see The Danish Girl, then taking a slow, peaceful stroll back home in a light rain, enjoying the experience. I capped the night off by watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special, getting a good cry in at the end before heading off to bed.
Notice there’s little mention of writing. That’s because there wasn’t any: after getting in my five hundred plus in the morning, I decided naps and visual entertainment were more important, and that’s what I did.
But this morning, I’m eight hundred and seventy-five words into the scene, and I’m certain I’ll do more this afternoon and tonight because I’m getting into the groove on what’s happening. Helena’s opening up on what happened to her after everyone died during The Foundation meeting at the WTC. We now know that she was also among the dead, but obviously Helena’s also some kind of Marvel superhero, because she didn’t stay dead, otherwise she’s never be able to tell Kerry about all these different things.
And while she’s getting into the whole “This is what happened to me the second time I died”, she gives Kerry a little lesson on what she knows of the structure of the universe.
All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)
Helena cleared her throat. “Our universe consists of two parts: there’s the Physical Realm, which is where everything we see and feel exists, and there’s the Astral Realm, which is like an onion skin over everything within the Physical Realm. It’s from there that we draw out energies to do magic, so needless to say without it we wouldn’t have witches in this world.
“Naturally these realms don’t overlap, and the membrane that separates them is called the Curtain. When we talk about ‘Pulling back the Curtain’, we’re talking about looking into the Astral Realm. When you use Aura Sensing or Aura Reading, you’re seeing the part of us that sits on the Curtain, and therefore exists in both realms. When you use Astral Sight or Astral Protection, you’re seeing beyond the Curtain into that realm, though—” She gave a slight smirk. “It’s only once you start using Astral Walking, where you leave this realm and move physically into the other that you see the Astral Realm the way it really appears.”
Kerry was astonished by all that Helena was saying. Annie and he had yet to delve into everything pertaining to astral magic. “Deanna teaches all the astral stuff, doesn’t she?”
“Adric and I teach some as well, but Deanna’s really the Queen of the Realm. She’s the only one here who’s able to walk into the Astral Realm—that’s something neither Adric or I know.” She slightly shook her head. “Nor is it something that I want. There are things in the Astral Realm that react badly to people from the Physical Realm.”
We know Annie and Kerry are learning Aura Reading, because that was mentioned a long while back. Once they get that down they’ll know if people are telling them the truth or if they’re BSing them, and can even work that little bit of magic on their parents. While Annie’s folks can hide the true nature of their auras from their Darling Little Sorceress, Kerry’s parents won’t be as lucky, and there’ll come a time where Mama and Papa Malibey ain’t gonna be able to bullshit their son any longer, which probably won’t go well for them.
While some may have suspected that Deanna was good when it came to things like seeing auras, Helena conforms, for the first time, that she’s really the one who knows her way around the Astral Realm. And while I usually don’t do this, here’s a big River Song-sized spoiler: it won’t be long before we see Deanna take a stroll through the Curtain. Since Helena just Chekhov’s gunned the whole “Deanna’s the only one here who can walk into the Astral Realm”, it wouldn’t do not to show her doing just that. I’m sure you’ll see it coming when it does come.
Kerry decides to drag the convo back onto the original track, which was . . .
Kerry was able to quickly infer various points from this conversation. “But you’ve seen what the Astral Realm really looks like.”
There was a half-smile on her face as she kept her gaze locked on Kerry’s. “Yeah.”
“Because you were there after you died.”
“Your aura is really nothing more than a byproduct of the electrochemical activity within your physical form—with magical energy from the Astral Realm making the auras of the Aware more brilliant than those of Normals. Your aura stays anchored to your physical form, constantly renewing because of the activity in your brain and body. If you know what you’re doing you can make your aura invisible to others, or make it look like your a Normal, but while you’re alive it stays with you at all times, save when you’re doing Astral Projection.
“But when it comes to dying . . . You can’t destroy energy, and that included the energy found in your aura. When you die your aura no longer remains connected to your physical form, so it falls completely into the Astral Realm. It still looks like you because it’s an aspect of your physical form, but there’s more.” Helena leaned forward and lowered her voice slightly. “Since your brain is little more than a big electrochemical processor, when your aura pops up in the Astral Realm after you die, it brings with it all that you were when you were alive: your thoughts, your memories, and your skills, even the magical ones. It’s you, totally uncoupled from whom you were when you were alive.”
She shrugged. “I’m sure some would way it’s your soul, but it’s really a lot more than that. It’s a different form of energy now, and it’s self-aware. You know you’re dead, but you can feel, your senses work, and all of your emotions are still there. You’re sort of alive, but not—it’s a completely different state of existence.
There you go: there is life after death, though it’s not life as we know it. You’re pretty much a big ball of Wibbly Wobbly Astral Wastral . . . stuff. Only this ball of stuff can think and remember and pretty much do all the stuff you did when you had a physical form. As Helena says some people might think of this as a soul, but it’s more than that–especially if you’re a witch, as you’ll eventually discover.
So what is it like being an uncoupled astral entity? Well . . .
“When I say I woke up on the other side of the Curtain, that’s exactly what it’s like You open your eyes and for a moment you wonder what’s going on, and then you recognize all the brightness and it hits you that you’re dead. When you’re an astral being you see the realm as it really is: all bright pastels and neon, like you’re standing in the middle of New York or Honk Kong in the middle of the night, and it’s turned into a gigantic Holi festival cranked up by a thousand. It’s an incredible feeling—and once that’s so sad at the same time, because you know where you are, why you are there, and that you’re not going back to whatever you had before.
“I was unable to move for a few moments. I knew everything I’d had, everything I’d been, was gone, and there was nothing to do but move forward and face was coming next. You can’t stay in the Astral Realm for long, not at first: only a few people know how to renew their astral form at that point, and if you stay too long there, you’ll Dissipate—” She held up her hand before Kerry could ask the obvious. “Your form will lose cohesion and come apart, at which point you’re simply energy on the astral winds becoming part of the overall universe. No, if you want to stay as you are, you need to leave the realm behind and move into the space between the Multiverses. And to do that, you need to go beyond The Veil . . .”
The Veil? What is this shit, Mistress of All Things Dark? You’ll find out–just as soon as I write that part.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come with a lot of naps first.