It’s a wonder what two and a half hours will give you. If you’re me, seventeen hundred and forty-eight words, because that’s what I’ve written this morning for the first scene of Chapter Twenty-Four. Here I am, down at the local coffee shop, and I’ve been rocking out on ABBA (stop laughing) and pounding out the words. The scene is not only finished, but after a week of writing it’s a few hundred words shorter than the last chapter. Really, this is not only the most I’ve written in one sitting, but this is the longest scene I’ve done in some time.
My numbers don’t lie.
What I’ve done is finish up Helena’s Death March, only in her case she does know about death and being dead–and, as we’re slowly learning, being in the Land of the Dead. And with her mention of the Veil, we start getting into the final part of this discussion of the deceased–
All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)
Once again Kerry was confronted with a term he’d never heard. “What’s that? Is it like the Curtain?”
“Yes and no. Yes, it’s a demarcation boundary, but no, it’s nothing like the Curtain.” Helena’s tone darken. “The Veil is the edge of our known universe. Once you’re through that you’re out into the space where all the universes reside.”
“The Multiverses.” Kerry was familiar with this concept since it was a popular one in science fiction. “So there are multiple universes?”
“Yes, billions. From what I understand we’ve reached some of them through astral passages that pierce the Veils, but there’s almost no information on those explorations.” The right corner of his mouth turned upward in a half-smile. “As you can imagine.
“But it’s not the universe that are important—it’s the space between. That’s where all the pure magical energy resides, and that’s the one place an astral form can exist without fear of Dissipation. In science, or science fiction, terms, it’s super space; in our experience, it’s where all the dead go for as long as they like.” She spoke in hushed tones. “It’s what we call the Void.
“Everyone who’s ever lived, Normal and Aware, eventually end up in the Void. They haven’t a choice: without the energy there to sustain their astral form, they’ll Dissipate and become background energy. Here you’ll find no heaven or hell: those don’t exist—at least not the way they’ve been discussed by Normals.” Helena stopped acting as if she was involving Kerry in a conspiracy and began speaking in a normal tone. “See, the Void is nothing but magical energy, and since the Aware still know how to bend that energy to their will, they can and do. Over there on the other side of the Veil, you don’t have to worry about running into gods—you pretty much are one.
“It’s said that once you’ve figured out how to pull energy into your form, you can reenter any universe, or even create one of your own. Spend enough time dead, and you can come back and wander around in the physical realm, even. Some Foundation scholars who study these things believe that all the myths pertaining to the various pantheons are actually re-tellings of encounters with the Aware who’ve returned from beyond the Veil and began passing themselves off as deities. It’s entirely possible.”
There you go: when you die, you go to the Void, and there you get to hang with everyone who’s ever lived. Just imagine that party if you can. And here is the upshot of being a witch: you can do things in the Void that all the regular folk can’t. That pretty much makes you a god, and with that comes the speculation that all the gods and goddesses of mythology were Aware who came back to this universe and decided to set up shop. And if you don’t like this universe–hey, there’s billions from which to choose! It remains to be seen if Kerry starts telling Annie, “If someone asks you if you’re a god . . .”
Kerry has a question, and it’s a good question–
Though Kerry had never believed in things like deities, Helena’s explanation began opening his mind to how various mythologies may have came about. “How do we know this? Did these, um, things eventually tell us?”
Helena sank into her chair turning grim once again. “If one knows what they’re doing, they can reincarnate—”
He leaned towards Helena’s desk. “Reincarnation’s real?”
“It’s real, but from what I understand it’s difficult as hell. Also, it’s a bit of a crap shoot, because you’ll likely return as a Normal, and once you’ve lived as a witch, it’s rare that you’re gonna want to go through another life being unable to do magic. And apparently, the only ones who can remember the full experience—” She shrugged. “They’re the ones who returned Aware.”
“This is all . . .” Kerry slowly closed his eyes. “There are people who lived here who moved into the space between the Multiverses and created their own universes.”
“Pretty much. There’s some speculation that Dante may have actually somehow entered the three realms he wrote about in The Divine Comedy. It’s entirely possible that someone who knew him found a way to show him the worlds he wrote about.” Helena gazed off to one corner of her office. “Some people think the stories we have of angels and demons come from sightings of Aware who’ve returned. Though when it comes to demons—” She wiggled her eyebrows. “Those are real.”
Kerry’s eyes grew wide. “Are you kidding?”
“Nope. Why do you think we teach Daemonology to some people?” For the first time Helena chuckled. “That’s a discussion better left for another time.”
I’ve been asked now and then if there is such a thing as reincarnation in my world, and there’s your answer: yes, it does. And angels and demons may be nothing more than dead Aware who’ve come back to do things here, but no one really knows–but demons are real? Yep. When will you learn more about that? When the kids hit their D Levels. Sorry. Sure I am.
Now that we know what’s beyond the Veil, it remains to be seen . . .
“I agree.” Though it was starting to feel a bit morbid, Kerry wanted to return to the original discussion. “Did you go beyond the Veil?”
A silence fell over the room as Helena changed up her train of thought. “I headed towards the Veil. I felt it getting close. I even expected to find my Portal—” She smiled again, heading off the expected question. “It’s an opening through the Veil, and you’re supposed to recognize it right away as it was something important to you while alive. I did a lot looking for it: I thought about the way I died and all the stuff I did as a Guardian; I thought about my family; I thought a hell of a lot about Erywin. I did all that—but I never found my Portal. Just before I felt it was gonna pop up—” She slapped her hand upon the desk. “I was in a bed with four witches standing watch over my body.
“Found out later they’d worked on me at the hospital for about twenty minutes trying to resuscitate me, and when it became apparent that wasn’t going to work, they sent me to a Resurrection Center, which is a place where there are witches who are really good at bringing people back to life—and if they can’t do it, they get the Necromancers after you.”
Kerry didn’t like the sound of that last. “Necromancers?”
“Witches who not only can walk into Astral Realm, but who know how to pierce the Veil and physically enter the Void so they can find your form and haul it back to the real wold.” For a moment Helena appeared uncomfortable. “Those assholes are scary. Not only can they walk the Void, but they know how to manipulate dead bodies in this world and make them do their bidding.” She shook her head. “Led a team in charge of bringing in a rogue Necro once. When we finally ran her down the crazy bitch threw a couple of dozen zombies at us—total Walking Dead shit.” She managed a light chuckle. “Good thing Annie and you are seasoned zombie hunters.”
Kerry found the concept of being sent out to kill real zombies fairly interesting. “That could be kinda cool in a way.”
“Until you have to do it and you realize they’re trying to kill you for real.”
In the last novel Coraline hinted at Resurrection Centers and Necromancers, and while I gave you a little bit of a fill-in on them, Helena confirms this and lets Kerry know that Necromancers can raise the dead, but during one operation she had dozens of zombies tossed at her. Kerry seems to find the idea of going out zombie hunting kinda fun, though he’s never had to deal with a few dozen shambling his way. Like Helena says, he could quickly change his tune when he figures out they’re trying to turn him into Walker Chow–
“Better work on your katana skills, you little ginger shit. One day we’re coming for you and your girlfriend!”
Now that he has all this background out of the way, there’s just the aftermath of Helena’s death to cover.
He quickly got back on subject. “So how long were you dead?”
“Forty-two minutes.” The chuckle returned. “I know what you’re thinking, no need to comment. There’s something you need to know, though: what I went through that second time, it’s not something they do for everyone. The Foundation wanted me back because they’d just lost a hell of a lot of people in an attack, and they needed to know everything I went through in the lead-up to the meeting. I was the only one from the WTC attack they did this for: everyone else—” She slowly waved her head in the air as if she were slicing it in two. “They stayed dead. And if I hadn’t been in charge of security, I would have as well.”
He let that information sink in for a few seconds. “I understand.” He let out a long, slow breath before speaking again. “When you die and you go over, are you like how you are now?”
“You mean, do you look the same there are you do here?”
“Yes, sure. Your aura is a representation of the physical you, so how you look here, you’ll look there.” She tapped her thigh. “Over there I still had my legs; I’m sure I will if I die again.” She slowly moved forward, leaning against her desk. “Kerry, what’s really on your mind?”
Yeah, Kerry: what’s really on your mind? Helena’s knows by now there’s some crazy spookiness happening here, and she’s hoping to get to the bottom of it. With the Ginger Hair Boy, that’s easier said than done.
He was unresponsive for a bit as he seemed to stare off into space. He snapped back to reality with a quick shake of his head. “Like you said, I’ve come close to dying a few times, but until last month I never really thought about what would happen. I figured you’d know.” Kerry finally turned his gaze upon the sorceress. “I hope this didn’t bother you.”
“Not at all.” She set her right index finger under her lower lip as a slight smile formed. “Hey, us Sentinels gotta look after each other, yeah?”
He did a quick double take. “Sentinels?”
“It’s what we—the Guardians—were almost called at one point. It’s kind of an unofficial nick among us.
He stared off to his left. “Am I really a Guardian?”
“You can knock that shit off—” Helena rested her weight against her desk as she continued in a low, comforting tone. “You know you are.”
Yeah, knock it off, Kerry. Helena wouldn’t be telling you this shit if you weren’t part of the family.
He chuckled as he began nodding quickly. “I kinda figured that, but it’s nice to hear.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
Kerry got up and looked around as if he was unsure what to do next. “I guess I should head over to the Areodrome; maybe Isis and Annie wanna go flying.”
“Perhaps.” Helena came from behind her desk as Kerry zipped up his coat. “Kerry, you can come and see me any time you like—” She stood next to him, trying not to come off as intimidating. “ But if you ever want to speak with Erywin, you can always see her, too.” She turned a warm smile upon the boy. “She’d like speaking with you.”
Kerry smiled back. “I like speaking with her, too.”
She patted him on the shoulder. “You should find some time for her then.”
“I will.” He glanced downward for just a second. “I’ll see you tonight, I guess.”
“I’m sure we’ll run into each other at the Madness.”
He turned and headed for the door. “Thanks for the time, Professor.”
She crossed her arm. “Helena.”
“Helena.” He smiled for the first time since showing. “Thanks. See you later.” He spun around and header out of the office.
Helena waved the door shut and stood where she was for many seconds, considering the now-completed conversation. There were many things she knew she should do with what she’d heard, and what she suspected, but given there was possibly something else to factor into what had just transpired, she decided that notifying people on the West Coast wasn’t required—nor was there a need to speak to the third member of their little Salem Guardian family.
There was, however, a growing feeling that her brunch with Erywin was going to focus on a certain student . . .
Just like Kerry you now know what awaits the Aware when they go to the Great Beyond. But this also raises a hell of a lot of other questions. Like, what are ghosts? Are spirits nothing more than returned Aware? And what the hell is The Phoenix? Is she also a returned Aware? Would she kill you for asking?
It might take some time, but there is an answer for everything. And, in time, I may even tell them.