The Book of the Dead

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.

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 sword skills, you little ginger shit.  We're coming for you and your girlfriend!"

“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?”

“Yeah?”

“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.

The Essential Essence

When I say, “Oh, this should only go for another few hundred words” and “This will finish up just over five thousand words”–I’m a liar.  Really.  Because while I finally finished the scene that I’ve worked on for, oh, seven days, things went on far longer than I expected–

Like a thousand or so words futher.

Like a thousand or so words further than expected.

Yeah, just over sixty-two hundred words, making this the largest scene in the story.  Like I said, Annie and Deanna get together and they start talking–oi!  These ladies can gab.  And they were about to watch some video together, which brings me to thinking:  I would totally love to write a scene where Deanna and Annie are sitting on some pillows, comfy in the jammies, watching Mean Girls and quoting the movie in Arabic and Bulgarian.  “Wal ha a ma.”  “Prestani da se opitvash da donese sluchi:  toĭ ne shte stane.”  A laugh riot, I’m telling you.

We were going to watch something, yes?  Okay, then:  let’s go to the video:

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

It picked up with Deanna—who was off screen—mid-way through her initial greeting. “I’m loath to call myself ‘mistress’ of the discipline as some have; the title infers more than makes me comfortable. Come, let’s sit together.”

Annie watched herself step through the mass of pillows that lay on the floor that day. “Thank you. You’re quite kind.”

The off-screen Deanna’s voice remained calm. “Not at all, Annie.”

The shock that on-screen Annie felt was not only apparent, but watching-Annie felt it hit her once more as her past self spoke. “How did you—?” She listened to Deanna’s explanation where she stated the obvious. “You know how I know your name—and how I know Kerry’s, too.” As she’s never seen him react the first time, Annie couldn’t prevent a smile appearing as Kerry’s head snapped around at the mention of his name. “How?”

There was a hint of amazement in Deanna’s voice. “I love how off-balance he was then.”

Annie nodded. “He was.” She heard Deanna say she’d seen them coming, and the ever-so-logical ginger boy on the screen checked his surroundings. “Do you have monitors in here?”

“It’s a good thing I’m used to questions like that—” Deanna spoke over her voice telling Kerry she’d had a vision.

Annie did chuckle at Kerry’s response after she told him that the seer had a vision. “You mean like precognition?” The chuckled turned into a smile as she hear on-screen Deanna confirm Annie’s answer and ask them to sit. “I told him to have an open mind before we showed up. She listened to him attempting to rationalize Deanna’s claim of knowing how they were arriving. “I’m happy he learned fast.”

“Much better than some of your fellow levelmates.” Deanna regarded her memories of that day. “I had a few students that Friday night who needed some hand holding regarding what they saw that day.”

“There was a point, though . . .“ She heard Kerry say he didn’t believe in precognition.

“You were worried he would be the same way?” Deanna signed. “I wasn’t paying attention to him, for in time he would come around.” She looked over to Annie. “I was watching you.”

“Why?” Annie found the seer’s statement surprising. “You knew I was a Legacy—”

“Yes, I read your report, remember?” Deanna’s chuckle verged on laughter. “I was watching how nervous you were. You did a great job keeping it bottled up inside while keeping it hidden.”

Annie was glad Deanna couldn’t see her face, because she knew the woman next to her would had no problem mistaking her look of surprise. “You’re very perceptive.”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly playing fair.”

Now Annie’s curiosity was peaking. “What do you mean?”

 

I wrote all of the above last night while consulting the first novel, so that the words heard–all of the sentences in italics–and actions seen were accurate.  And just like Annie you’re probably saying, “Okay, what’s the big deal?”  Well, I left off one sentence, which starts this next section, followed by what I started writing this morning–

 

“You’ll see—” Deanna turned back to the display on the ceiling. “Sabrina, restart this video to the point I originally indicated, and replay with the aura recording applied.”

The screen went black. “Ready, Deanna.”

“Play the video.”

The scene played out as before, but the biggest change to Annie was how they appeared on-screen, with the bright glow of normally invisible energy surrounding each of their bodies. “You filmed our auras?”

“Apparently.”

Annie silently damned herself for asking a stupid question. “Do you do this for everyone?”

“Sabrina, hold the video.” Deanna waited three seconds after the command before answering. “No. Just you that day.”

“Why?”

“Something I felt in the vision that told me you were coming. There was a sensation that this meeting was important—more implied than stated—and that seeing your auras was necessary.”

Annie didn’t know what to feel at hearing this revelation. Seeing someone’s aura was considered the same as looking into their mind and emotions, as a skilled reader could know volumes about a witch with just a momentary glance. It was then that something Deanna said only a minute before registered— “You said you were weren’t playing fair. Did you use Aura Sight on us?”

Deanna’s answer came immediately. “Yes. I was watching you the whole time that way.”

“Because you felt it was necessary.’

“I felt it was important.” She commanded Sabrina to start the playback, then pointed at the floating screen. “Watch.”

 

You know, when seers get feelings about their visions, it’s a scary thing.  Nearly all visions are literal things:  you see one, and you try to make sense of what you saw.  When you see something and begin getting hunches about something you should do, that’s when you begin wondering what the hell is going on.

And as Annie points out, you see someone’s aura, you seen into them.  Not only can you tell they’re a witch–which is why they were using enchantments to hide those little tells in their auras that might give them away to Deconstructors–but you can tell what they’re thinking and feeling.  It’s one of the things a witch will do to see if someone is lying, because unless the person they’ve speaking to is really damn good at manipulating their aura, the person asking questions can look at the other person’s aura and instantly tell if they’re bullshitting their ass off.  Which instructors can see auras?  All of them.  They only have to use Aura Sight to view them.

Now, point of etiquette.  It’s generally considered bad manners for witches to constantly use Aura Sight to look at another person’s aura while they’re talking to them.  It’s like hooking someone up to a lie detector while you’re having a polite conversation, and witches who constantly do so hoping to call another person out on something are considered assholes of the first order and usually end up getting shunned by the rest of the witch community.  Plus, one witch can use magic to look at the aura of another witch to see if they are using magic–because crafting spells do things to your aura–and if they suspect they’re being watched, well, they’ll just hide their aura and make you go fish.  Because aura hiding is totally something you can do as well–

Oh, and yes:  Guardians know all these little aura tricks.  Which is why trying to find out if Helena is BSing you is an exercise in futility.

Here’s where we get to learn a little about auras:

 

This time Annie paid attention to the glow around Kerry’s and her bodies. Their auras were brilliant and filed with speckles of violet light—both the marks of Aware witches. Kerry’s alternated between an orange-yellow to brownish-orange, while Annie’s flowed from bright pink to orange-yellow to orange-red. “Why does mine have that bright yellow border?”

“That was my tip-off that you had a touch of fear: bright yellow indicates a fear of something—losing control, losing respect—”

Annie looked away from the display for a moment. “Losing someone you love.”

“Exactly.”

“What does the rest mean?”

“The orange-yellow indicates intelligence and confidence, while the bright pink shows affection and love.” Deanna paused to allow Annie to consider what she’d said. “You were looking for answers to what happened over the summer, weren’t you?”

“In a way. I hoped you might . . . see something.” She pointed at Kerry. “What about his?”

“The orange-yellow you know, but in Kerry’s case he was being far more scientific in his assessment of what he was seeing, which is why that color is more vivid for him. As for the brownish-orange . . .” Deanna swallowed loud enough for Annie to hear. “Given the way he was acting, those are his repressed emotions shinning through.”

“Literally.” Annie was astonished by how easily Deanna was able to read their moods and feelings by watching their auras, giving her more reason to learn Aura Sight as soon as possible. “Why have you never shown this to anyone? It doesn’t seem all that startling.”

 

I did a bit of research trying to find an aura interpretation that I liked, and what I eventually found works for me.  I’ll probably even start writing those down as a hand guide to use.  The colors do represent what the kids were feeling at the time:  Kerry was trying to come up for reasons about what he was hearing and seeing–remember, this was the day after their E & A, and his was about as fresh in his mind as it comes–and Annie was looking for something, just as Deanna surmised.

But this isn’t the reason she wanted Annie to see this video–this is:

 

“It’s not.” She pointed at the screen, where Kerry was about to sit next to Annie. “Watch.”

Annie did as instructed. She saw Kerry set down his backpack, move to on-screen Annie’s right, and sit— “I am. What—”

“Sabrina, hold image.” Deanna propped herself up and turned towards Annie. “That’s why I’ve never shown this to anyone.”

The moment on-screen Kerry sat next to on-screen Annie their auras merged and became as one, a combined glow of orange-yellow surrounded by an aural border of emerald green and royal blue. “I don’t understand—”

“The aura of a person is the reading of them essence: your mystical fingerprint, so to speak. It remains yours and is always kept separate from those around you. Even if you’re holding someone in your arms, or laying with them, there is a discernible border that separates yours from theirs.” Deanna rolled over and lay back. “Your auras merged. When I saw it happen that day it took every gram of willpower I possessed not to gasp. It was the most incredible thing I ever witnessed.”

Annie started at the screen. “This doesn’t happen—ever?”

She nodded. “This never happens, even to people who are deeply in love. It’s like your essence merged and became one—” Deanna drummed her fingers against her pillows. “What you’re seeing is impossible. And that’s why I’ve never shown this to anyone . . .” She said nothing more, preferring to leave all further actions implied.

 

Your auras merged.  And when you do something that surprises the School Seer, then you are truly remarkable because you’ve shown someone whose ability is to see things that haven’t happened something they’ve never seen.  Which means that if Deanna was having visions of Annie and Kerry before ever meeting them–and there are indications she was–this was something she never once saw.

I’m not presenting the rest of the scene because . . . well, because thing are said, and I’m not giving anything else away.  At least not until this book is published.  Needless to say Annie learned a big secret about her relationship with her soul mate, and it’s pushed open the door of understanding a little bit.  Not a lot, but enough that people can peek in and begin wondering.

I’ve done enough for today.  I believe my work here is done . . .

Flyby Sight

Hey, no zombie writing today–I actually did that over the last couple of weeks, because there’s nothing to write about this week.  Well, I wouldn’t say nothing . . .  There’s always something.

For example, since I was only one thousand words away from hitting one hundred thirty thousand words last night, and because it was two weeks since I’d reached one hundred twenty thousand, I was like, “What the hell, chick, you gotta do this.”  I got to work and, well . . .

Yeah, I got this shit.

Yeah, I got this shit.

Given that the last scene took four days to write–over a five day period, I should add–I figured I needed to kick my ass into gear and get some stuff done.  Yes, fighting through depression isn’t a nice thing, but hell, kids, I gotta write–right?  Not really, but I did it anyway, because this scene is All About Annie and a place she likes to visit so she can talk to someone she likes.

Let’s go there, shall we?  We shall:

 

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie touched down lightly about four meters from the entrance of the Divination Building at Memory’s End. She’d taken off from the Pentagram Garden within minutes after Kerry left after lunch for his pre-race lecture, and was certain no one saw her land under her own power because nearly everyone else was either on their way to The Diamond, already there, or hanging out elsewhere because they weren’t interested in the races.

Not that she was concerned about anyone seeing her using her Flight Gift. The retelling of her Judgment Trial against Lisa’s champion was all over the school by breakfast then next morning, and that evening Vicky and Isis spoke with her while Kerry was off in Advanced Transformation. They let her know that they weren’t unhappy with her “Unveiling” and that it was only a matter of time before the rest of the school became aware she could fly, and they saw nothing wrong with her flying around, as long as she remained inside the outer walls.

 

Now, I should point out something:  Memory’s End is really two buildings.  It’s not always easy to spot on the maps, but when you see it close up, it’s obvious.

Now with 100% more trees!

And now with 100% more trees!

When looking at the picture, the Divination Building is on the right, and the Numerology Building is on the left.  Why are there two buildings for studies that really aren’t that big?  Well, that’s one of the things you’ll discover in this scene.

And if you’re wondering about all these paths, here you go:  the one from the left leads to Gwydion Manor, the one going off the top leads to Astria Portal, the Firing Line, and Observatory Tower.  The one on the right leads to The Witch House, and the one going off to the bottom ends at the main path running between The Witch House and History and Social Studies Building, which is just north of The Pentagram and Åsgårdsreia Tower.  And that little tower-like object on the small path in the bottom-left section, that’s a stairwell leading to the tunnel system below the school.  All roads lead here, it seems.

For a point of reference, when Annie and Kerry visited here the first time, they walked up the path appearing on the bottom of the image frame.  There, now you know more.

And as you can see Annie is able to fly around the school because, what the hell, people saw he doing it, so it’s not like she can hide that any longer.  Let your flying, um, fly.

What waits for Annie here?  This:

 

She stood listening for sounds: walking, coughing, activities of any kind. Nothing. The building was completely silent, even more so with the sounds from outside cut off. Now she was even more uncertain about Deanna being present, but the last thing she wanted to do was call out her name. I’ll sound like a frightened girl in a horror movie, and that’s the last impression I want to make.

She was right in the middle of preparing to walk to Deanna’s office when the seer called out to her. “I’m down here, Annie.”

Annie yanked on the hem of her sweater and headed down to Deanna’s office. She expected to find Deanna sitting cross-legged on one of the various pillows, but found her instead standing before an old-fashioned desk that folded down from a wall cupboard. “Hello, Deanna.” She stood in the doorway and examined the seer, whose outfit of a sweater, jeans, and sneakers matched Annie’s in everything except top color. “I wasn’t certain you were here.”

Deanna finished writing something on a tablet before answering. “I like to come out here after lunch on the weekends because it’s quiet and I can get a lot more done in this office than I can in the coven tower.” She tapped the screen as if to punctuate her statement. “There. All done.”

 

Spooky Muslim Seers be spooky, right?  Of course Annie’s a polite girl and all, but after a while she’s gotta ask the question . . .

 

Annie finally entered the office once she understood Deanna wasn’t going to make the request. “Did you know I was coming?”

Deanna turned towards Annie. “The funny thing about being a seer is that most people never believe you if, once you’re asked a question, you reply in a negative fashion.” She set her right elbow upon the fold-out desk and gently leaned upon the surface. “Everyone believes you see everything, so when you say ‘no’ in way of a response, they immediately assume you’re lying.” She brushed hair back out of her face. “It’s a hell of a thing to have in your life.”

“I can imagine.” She looked directly at Deanna. “Did you know I was coming?”

“Yes, I did.” The seer shrugged. “It doesn’t matter how I knew, the actual reason I came out here to work was to wait for you because I saw you coming out here to speak with me. So I thought I’d better be here when you arrived.” She cocked her right eyebrow upward. “You believe me?”

Before answering Annie considered her current dilemma of accepting that Deanna was speaking the truth, or if she was telling her what she wanted her to hear. It would help a lot if I could read Deanna’s aura—I should work on that next. “I believe you.”

 

Deanna has pulled this a few times on Annie:  knew she was going to show up and called her down the moment she entered the building, or made a remark based upon something that was already on Annie’s mind.  And when Deanna tries to skate on that shit, Annie calls her out once more, and gets an honest answer–or does she?  Why does Annie want to see Deanna’s aura?  Because witches who can see another person’s aura can tell if they’re lying by watching the colors and shades of said aura.  Except really good witches know how to keep their aura from changing, and Deanna’s a really good witch when it comes to not letting people see your inner feelings through your aura, so even if Annie could see it, it’s likely she’d never know if Deanna was bullshitting her or not.

This is one of the reasons when new students arrive instructors can tell if they’re being lied to or not–among other things.  You’ll be surprised what instructors can determine based upon the color and shade of a student’s aura . . .

After a little more back and forth–and once I got in my thousand words–I wrote up just a bit of strangeness:

 

Annie decided to move on to another subject. “I’ve never seen you use that desk before.”

“No, when you’ve been here in the past we’ve sat on the floor; I’m normally not working when you come to visit.”

If you want to call speaking about a problem a “visit”. “Did you have that put in?”

“Me? No.” She set the bag on the floor and folded the desk up into the cupboard and shut the doors. “This desk was put in when the building was constructed in 1804.” Deanna chuckled. “You can thank Crazy Wanda for both of those things.”

Annie gave a surprised laugh. “Crazy Wanda?”

 

"I don't know; does she have mangoes?"

“Who is Crazy Wanda?  Does she have mangoes?”

No, sorry Pupok, she doesn’t have mangoes.  But you’re about to get a history lesson on the school, that much is true.

Maybe tomorrow everyone will get to hear the tale of Crazy Wanda.

Given I’m not doing anything else this morning, it’s highly likely.

Fall and the Dreamland Express

It is the First of September, the day that people who are supposed to track these sorts of things say is pretty much the day fall begins.  Never mind that here in The Burg today and the next two days are gonna see temps get up above ninety Fahrenheit, it’s fall, which means I need to get into my jeans, slip on my Ugg boots, and go sip a pumpkin spiced latte and get a selfie while standing in leaves next to pumpkins.

I've got the boots ready, as you can see.

I’ve got the boots ready, as you can see.

Today is also post number one thousand, six hundred, and in one hundred and fifty days I will reach post one thousand, seven hundred and fifty; that will occur on Friday, January 29, 2016, or one day short of two years after post one thousand, titled Millennium, was written. Continue reading

Laying in the Bed in the Bay: A Final Reckoning

There is so much to show today, I don’t know where to start.  How about at the beginning?  Good idea, Cassie!

Yesterday I sent off two pitches for cover ideas.  I thought I’d share those with you, so that perhaps you can see my thought process, and see what I see as far as images are concerned.  I’ve included the photos I sent as well, because I’m all about imaginary, yeah?

 

Kolor Ijo Ideas:

This takes place in Indonesia, in the city of Makaasar.  Here is a picture of an area that is actually in the novel known as Losari Beach:

Kolor Ijo Makaasar Losari Beach

One of the things I like is the calm in the area, but right beyond, there is bustle and a lot of things unseen.  It’s one of the main themes of the novel.

The characters:

First is Indriani Baskoro, woman, late twenties, Muslim though she is pretty secular.  She’s usually attired in jeans, a pullover of some kind—loose top or tee shirt—and sneakers.  She has a pink backpack that she takes with her nearly everywhere.  She never wears a hijab, because as mentioned she’s pretty laid back with that stuff, as are most Indonesians.  She started out as a paranormal investigator, but now is kind of “freelance” and shows up to look up things and try to solve events.  She is a true believer because of something that happens in the previous story of her adventures, Kuntilanak.  She is missing two fingers and part of her right hand, lost during an investigation on Bali.  Most of the time she’s called Indri.

Second is Kadek Bagus Surya Buana, usually known as Buana.  He’s in his late thirties, about ten years older than Indri, and is a traditional healer from Bali.  As a traditional healer he’s in tune to the supernatural world, and has seen many of the creatures who walk there.  He dresses casually:  loose flowing top and trousers with sandals.  Sometimes he wears a wide-brim hat if he’s out during the day.  He carries as keris, which is a traditional knife used for protection from things living and otherwise.  Follow this link for more information.

Kolor Ijo is Indonesian for “Green Underpants Demon.”  No, really.  It comes from an event that happened around Jakarta in 2005, and is a known hoax—this is something that Buana even mentions early on in the novel.  One of the images I see would have Indri and Buana standing here at Losari Beach looking down one of the streets of Makaasar, where one can see traffic and people stretching off into the distance, but at the same time there are, just viewed on the side streets, ominous shadows with a tint of green to them.  I should point out that neither character would wear green in this scene, because they’re standing close to the ocean, and the Queen of the Sea would come up and snatch them away to their death for doing such a thing—particularly Indri, as the Queen hates beautiful women in green.  (That last is actually a true Indonesian legend.)  The characters never touch; there isn’t anything romantic between them.  They both work to find a solution to the supernatural problem, and whatever romance is in their lives is with others.

That’s what I’m looking at right now.  Feel free to send me your own ideas.

 

And now the second:

 

Foundation Chronicles: A For Advanced Act One Idea

So, this is what I have as an idea for this series. First, allow me to introduce the characters–

The girl is Annie Kirilova. She’s eleven, five foot tall, a Bulgarian Caucasian with a touch of Romani blood. She has wavy chestnut colored hair that falls just below her shoulder, and eyes are hazel and piercing. She is confident most of the time; the only time that confidence fails is when she fears failure in front of others. She is refined and intelligent, but not haughty, though many will see her that way: in the novel I’m writing now, she knows she’s seen as something of an “Ice Princess”, cold and aloof. Annie’s facial appearance is based somewhat upon actress Jodelle Ferland.

The boy is Kerry Malibey. He’s also eleven, five foot tall, Caucasian with an exceptional light complexion due to having an Irish-American mother and a Welsh father. He has short, slightly curly red hair, bright green eyes, freckles, and wears rectangular pewter-colored wire rim glasses. He goes almost everywhere with his backpack, and most of the time you’ll find his tablet computer inside. He’s bright as hell, cleaver, but socially awkward. This means he has trouble making friends, but for some reason he bonds with Annie quickly.

There you have it: my main characters that I’d like to see on the cover. If you need more input, just ask.

The scene I have in mind is when they first arrive at the school. I modeled the school in Blender, so I have a good visual idea of how I see it. There is a huge building in the center of a star-like wall: this is call the Great Hall. The wall around the building is known as The Pentagram, because as mentioned it’s in the shape of a five-pointed star. The main entrance to The Pentagram is known as Founder’s Gate, a large archway built through the thick Pentagram Walls. The pathway from Founder’s Gate to the Great Hall is about two football fields long–yes, it’s a big place. On either side of the pathway is the Pentagram Garden, which is full of flowers, bushes, shrubs, and trees.

I see Annie and Kerry standing inside Founder’s Gate with ten students in the distance positioned around an adult. This is important: Kerry is always on Annie’s right, and she on his left. This is something that should happen in all the covers. Here, they should be looking around, both in three-quarter profile, like they’re looking back and towards each other. Kerry is wearing jeans, a dark-wine colored hoodie, and his backpack. One hand, probably his left, is hooked in the shoulder strap. He could even look a bit amazed because he’d never seen anything like this.

Annie is looking to her right, doing the same as Kerry, but she’s aware of the school’s existence, and so her amazement is not as great. She’s wearing jeans as well, and a nice, long-sleeve pullover. If she’s wearing earrings, they are either small gold loops or similar colored studs. No rings, bracelets, or necklaces. She also has a small leather purse, slung cross body, probably on her left side, but it may have moved around to the front.

It’s night time and there’s a misting rain. The school is surrounded by darkness and any lighting here is low and possesses a blueish tint. Nothing is direct; all light is indirect, and doesn’t seem to come from anywhere, though there are plenty of shadows.

A For Advanced Act One Cover Idea

The title of this novel is The Foundation Chronicle: A For Advanced on the top, Act One: Meetings in the Beginning at the bottom. My name can come below the bottom title. The font for the bottom title doesn’t need to be a huge font: just enough so it’s seen. But I don’t need to tell you this.

If you have any questions, just ask.

 

There you have it:  my ideas for the first two covers.  And if you’re asking, “Do you know what you want for the last two covers?” the answer is, yes, I do.  In fact, I have two ideas for the last cover, so there are five ideas for four covers.  Always have a Plan B, kids.  The upshot here is, my artist may have her own ideas, so we can work together and come up with something that is good for me and her.

Then there is writing . . . as if the above isn’t enough.

I finished yesterday’s scene, and it’s okay, but not my best writing.  I felt distracted most of the night, even with the music pumping, because, well, things.  You know?  But we find out a lot more now that Kerry is in bed for a while–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry looked up at the ceiling and noticed for the first time the lights were on in the ward. “What time is it?”

Annie gave his fingers a light squeeze. “It’s a little after nineteen.”

“I was out for five hours.” He swallowed slowly, thinking it would help avoid pain. It did. “Wow.”

“You were out longer than that after the Day of the Dead.” Coraline checked the instruments over his head. “You adjusted to the treatment quicker this time—”

“Because I’m probably used to it.” He flexed his fingers under Annie’s. “I missed dinner.”

“I’m having some teleshko vareno brought up in a little while.”

“And I wouldn’t worry about eating, either—” Coraline chuckled as she stepped back from the bed. “Nurses Aid Annie will see to it you won’t go hungry.”

Kerry smiled weakly. “She’s done that before.”

Shush, you.” Annie never took her eyes from Kerry, her love emanating from them. “I told you we’d have that after the race.”

“I just didn’t think it was going to be this late after the race.”

 

Annie even tells Kerry to shush when he’s hurt, and there’s not only a little of the banter going on between her Coraline, but Annie can take some good-natured ribbing from an adult.

 

“The team came by to see how you were doing—” Once again Annie scooted her chair closer towards the head of his bed. “Even the boys came. You were out, of course . . .” She looked down the length of the bed as if she expected to see Kerry suddenly well and healed. “Penny and Alex said they’d be back later with Jairo—”

“And Kahoku, too?” Kahoku Sayasone, a C Level from Blodeuwedd, was the boy Alex dated since near the end of the last school year, and he’d become a fixture in the gathering of the Party of Five.

 

And now we know who Alex’s boyfriend is:  a boy from Laos.  Trust me, Kahoku is from there–I’ve ever got his home town written down somewhere . . .

 

“Yes, he’s going to stop by as well.”

Kerry closed his eyes for a moment, not because he was tired, but because he wanted the chance to get his thoughts around the next question, and the ones that would likely follow. “How’s Emma?”

“As bad as you.” Coraline stood near the foot of Kerry’s bed. “She broke both arms and a leg as well as her jaw. She also has a hairline fracture in her skull, which means I may hold her overnight tomorrow, too. I’ll see how she’s doing when I release you.”

“When is that gonna be?” Even though Coraline indicated he was responding to treatment faster than he had a year ago after his Day of the Dead crash, he didn’t believe for a moment he’d be released in the morning.

“I’m going to keep you at least twenty-four hours.” Coraline checked something below the level of where he lay. “I’m concerned about that concussion, just like I’m worried about Emma’s skull. Best not to take chances.”

 

If you’re wondering why Kerry is hurt so much worse here–but was knocked out longer the first time–it might have been due to having less protection the first time throwing a huge shock on his body–the safety enchantments in his normal flight gear is minimal compared to his racing gear, and even though the speeds were great in this latest accident, there was really more protection.  You can probably guess that without those enchantments in place, both Emma and Kerry would be dead.

He has other questions as well . . .

 

“She’s right.” Annie barely touched his left arm. “You need to get well, my love.”

“No disagreement from me.” He closed his eyes again. “Why did she do it?”

“Do what?”

“Block me like that at the end?”

“No one knows.”

“Why not?” Kerry found it strange she hadn’t said anything about the crash.

“Because she’s still unconscious.” Coraline looked down once more. “The chances are good she won’t wake up until sometime after midnight—excuse me—” She quickly left the bay, closing the curtain behind her.

 

Yeah, this is your first time to crash like this, Emma, so you get to stay knocked out longer–just as Kerry did the first time.

 

Annie continued gazing in the direction of the departed doctor. “Erywin was by to see how you were doing—” She turned back toward Kerry. “So was Holoč and Vicky. They wanted to make sure you were recovering.”

He smiled. “That was nice. I wish I’d been awake.”

Annie drew a slow breath. “Erywin’s not happy.”

“What do you mean?”

“What she means is Erywin’s pissed.” Coraline returned with a collection bag for Kerry’s catheter. “She told me not to clear Emma for flying this week because she’s sitting her down for one race.” She quickly swapped out the bags and dropped the full one in a biohazard container. “Erywin’s also gonna ream her out when she wakes up—”

“Because of the crash.”

“It’s more than that, my love.” Annie stretched her shoulders, pressing them forward. “Emma had been warned twice during the race about her blocking, and Erywin told us that if the race had gone another lap she was going to sit her down.”

“Wow.” It was rare to pull a racer from the course and sit them down, but Kerry remembered what Nadine had told Annie and him that morning, that Emma had received warnings before this about the same thing. “I can see why Erywin got mad—”

And while Erywin may not have the temper of her partner, you never want to piss her off.  Also–

 

“There’s something else: after everyone finished she was penalized five seconds. She dropped from second to seventh.”

“She didn’t even point?”

“No. And it moved Manco up into sixth.” Annie slowly smiled. “Cernonnus went from being scored first, third, and forth to securing all the podium positions as well as scoring sixth.”

Coraline cleared her throat. “Not only that, but Åsgårdsreia had a good heat and is now a point behind Mórrígan, and . . .” She nodded at Annie. “You should tell him.”

“Ceridwen had a horrible heat—we moved into third in the coven standings.”

Kerry laughed despite the pain. “Really?”

“Yes. Sweeping the podium ended up pushing us three points ahead.”

“Congratulations.” Coraline patted his right leg, the only limb he had that wasn’t broken. “Your second win, and you helped you helped move your coven into third.”

“Also . . “ Annie seemed almost embarrassed to speak. “It’s the first time Mórrígan hasn’t scored a podium position in a two-team heat since 1986.”

Coraline nodded. “I think that upsets Erywin the most.” She picked up the biohazard container with Kerry discarded urine bag. “Your soup is here, by the way. Want me to wheel it down?”

Annie nodded politely. “Yes, please.”

Kerry watched Coraline leave the bay. “Is she going to let you sleep here tonight?”

“What do you think?” Annie beamed. “There’s no way she could keep me away, my love. She’s in a good mood tonight: she said we could even have a little Madness party here if we didn’t get loud.”

“Nice.” He wished he could touch Annie, and hated not having the use of his arms. “You’re gonna have to sleep in the other bed tonight, you know.”

Annie finally leaned in and kissed Kerry lightly upon the lips. “Such are the sacrifices one must make for their champions . . .”

 

So a lot accomplished last night.  Tonight I’m going to try and put together the idea for the second Foundation cover, and maybe even the ones I have for the third.  Most of all, I’d say I got a lot done yesterday.  Quite a lot done . . .

From Under the Covers

Yes, yes, I know:  you were expecting to find something here concerning Annie’s and Kerry’s breakfast, and whether or not Annie was gonna burn down the Great Hall to get back at Emma.  Sorry, I’m so, so sorry, but I didn’t.  First, I went out for drinks with a woman from the office.  Second, we both got a tinsy blasted and were well on our way to being “The Hammered Chicks at the Bar,” which wouldn’t have bothered us in the least as we were joking with the bartender–who made the best Cosmos–and throwing shade at some of the people around us.  (My friend’s best remark, concerning an obvious state intern dressed to the nines and looking like she needed a good meal:  “Of course the bitch ordered a salad.”  Oh, and a couple of dudes to my right kept looking like they wanted to hit on us.)  Third, by the time I got home it was seven-thirty, and I really didn’t feel like I was gonna get anything done, because I had business to do.

Which leads us to Forth via a short roundabout.

The last thing I published was Her Demonic Majesty back in May, 2012.  Since then I’ve written a hell of a lot–by my own estimation, of the six full stories and one finished story written, eight hundred and fifty thousand words–not one of those things has come to light.  I’m just a novelette short of a million words in three years, and nothing is out.  When you think about it, that’s pretty damn sad.

Lately–well, for months, really–I’ve been on the kick of saying that I would publish, but I need a good cover.  And really, you do, otherwise you end up on Lousy Book Covers and people shame your ass because, as some point, a writer looked at the work in front of them and thought, “Yeah, it’s not getting better than this.”  And I seriously don’t want that.

But I’ve been in a real “Shit or Get Off the Pot” moment, where it’s either time to walk away and admit you aren’t doing anything but literary masturbation, or you are totally serious about getting your work out.  Which is why there was a Forth last night:

I’m having book covers made.

I contacted Desi’s Art Deigns and spoke with Desi herself.  I told her what I was looking for, and she quoted a price of $200 per custom cover, with a ten percent discount if it’s part of a series.  When we finished, I told her I would get my ideas to her and that by sometime next week I’d pay her, up front, for her work.

So what am I getting?  A dark, urban horror cover for Kolor Ijo, for one.  This was my NaNoWriMo 2012 entry, and I’ve wanted it published for some time, so why not soon?  Desi told me that she could have real fun with this, as dark urban horror is pretty sweet.  I’m coming up with ideas for it, and will start making notes on those ideas.

Notice, however, I’m using a lot of plurals–“Covers”; “ideas”; “series”.  Just how many covers did you buy, Cassidy?  Four.  One of Kolor Ijo, and three for . . . you know what’s coming next.

I’m going to edit and publish The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced.

I mean, I spent fifteen months of my life working on that book, so what the hell?  Is it seeing the light of day or what?  So I will stick to my original plan of publishing the first book by act, which are all over a hundred thousand words.  I already have an idea for the Act One cover:

Only less sparse.

Only less sparse.

It would come as Annie and Kerry are walking through Founder’s Gate for the first time.  They both stop in the archway and look around:  Kerry to his left, Annie to her right.  This way you get them both in three-quarter profile.  Kerry will have on his hoodie and backpack, and you’ll see his green eyes through his rectangular putter-gray glasses, while Annie will have her nice purse slung across her body over a nice jacket, her long, full chestnut hair exposing enough of her face that you can see her hazel eyes.  There is the garden on either side of the long walkway, and Isis and the rest of the European/African A Levels are about half way down the lane, while in the distance is the Great Hall, shrouded in darkness and mist, all indirectly lit.

I have my ideas for the Act Two and Three covers as well, but I’m not going into that now.  Be it that the covers are coming, which means I will edit and publish, probably throughout much of next year.  Because now I’ll have to publish–

After all, I’ll have covers.

The Normalcy Over Lovecraft Country

Today I did my best to come up with a H. P. Lovecraft-inspired title, because today’s scene talks a little about that particular gentleman’s work.  Not a lot, more of a general feel.  But the strangeness is sort of a point in the scene, and how it leads somewhere else.

This is all Kerry’s scene, more or less.  It’s all about observations, about what you see and what it’s doing to you.  Kerry spent nearly all of the last book looking for himself and his memories, and once they were found, he reverted back to the kid he sort of is deep down inside:  intelligent and caring, but awkward at the same time.  Except around certain people, as you’ll see.

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

It was about the time he was flying six hundred meters over Pingree School on the leg leading to the Hamilton/Wenham MBTA station that Kerry realized how much fun he was having. Within the confines of the walls of the School of Salem it was possible to fly around without giving thought to where he was, or where he was going, because when one was restricted to fifteen square kilometers, it was possible to fly around without a plan.

Outside the walls it was as completely different story. For one, you couldn’t fly anywhere without logging a flight plan with the Fight School. After that, it was necessary to get approval from Vicky and Isis, both for the plan and for permission to fly alone, or with other people. Kerry knew five fliers from last year’s Basic Flight who were denied permission to fly outside the school because they hadn’t perfected their light bending skills, and couldn’t use Unseen Flight Protocols during daylight hours. When flying in a school group using UFP was easy, because Vicky would enchant your broom if you couldn’t make yourself unseen, but once out on your own it was Bend Light or Stay Home.

Using UFP was never a problem for Annie and him. They were doing it now, and Isis had even mentioned that because they were light benders Annie’s Flight education would get fast tracked because she could venture out beyond the school and take her solo flights a year early.

Right now they were flying without a plan—or, he thought, Isis and Annie were flying on a plan, and all he had to do was follow and watch. He kept an eye on his HUD to see if Annie’s altitude was bouncing, because it was one of his duties as a chase pilot to monitor things like Annie speed, altitude, course, and her personal condition.

That last was an important point, and it was during Advanced Flight 1 a couple of weeks before that Vicky pulled him aside and reinforced the notion that when he flew with Annie during her solo flights, his most important job was to watch for any indications that she was growing tired and/or disoriented . . .

Isis’ voice pulled him back to reality. “Okay, Overflight, we’re going to descend to four hundred meters. Athena, keep an eye on your altimeter. Starbuck, you still with us?”

Kerry waved in case one of both fliers in front were watching him in their rear view mirrors. “Totally hanging with you, Sekhmet.” He followed them lower as they approached South Hamilton and the train station. He saw Annie wave her right hand, letting him know they were slowing, and reduced speed as they leveled out just a touch over four hundred meters.

 

Here’s the area they’re traveling–

Welcome to the scene of the crime, so to speak.

Welcome to the scene of the crime, so to speak.

Just a short stretch, almost two and a half miles, or about four kilometers.  And he’s just hanging back there, watching, enjoying, and thinking . . .

 

He figured out what was going to happen: Isis was bringing the group—call sign Salem Overflight—to a dead stop over the train station so she could speak with Annie and impart a bit more wisdom. Kerry didn’t mind: during the previous moments he sat back and enjoyed the sights. And now that the overcast they’d started with almost an hour earlier was vanishing, the view was becoming spectacular.

Not only did he like flying outside the walls, but as he’d once told Annie there was something incredible about flying over Lovecraft Country. If he concentrated hard enough, he could imagine the land below to co-exist with the stories he’d grown up reading. Such was his knowledge that, at this moment, they should be sitting almost directly over the Miskatonic River, and their course from here would, in that alternate world, have them following the river until they were on the outskirts of Arkham.

For a moment he figured it would be interesting to overfly a modern-day Arkham and the Miskatonic University—and then he remembered the moment eleven months ago when he faced off against a creature right out of a Lovecraft story in order to save a wingmate’s life, and how that incident nearly killed him. On second thought, running into Deep Oneseven if I do know magicwouldn’t be so much interesting as terrifying

 

Lovecraft Country has come up before in the first novel:  Kerry mentioned it, and so did Helena, because with the last name of Lovecraft people either believe her to be related to one of the school founders, or to the writer.

Lovecraft Country is a real thing:  it’s the New England the ‘ol H. P. wrote about in his horror stories, and his biggest additions–besides monsters that would drive you insane before you died–were towns and rivers that don’t exist in that area.  The towns of Arkham and Innsmouth are two such towns, and if that first name sounds real familiar to people who know geek culture, it’s because it’s the location of the Arkham Asylum, which appeared in a couple of Lovecraft’s stories, and later became immortalized as the easiest place to bust out of if you’re a villain in the Batman Universe.  It’s also based upon a real location in that particular area of the world, and believe it or not, you’ll see it later in the novel.

Come for the beautiful scenery, stay because you were eaten by a monster.

Come for the beautiful scenery, stay because you were eaten by a monster.

Arkham was also the home, as Kerry pointed out, of Miskatonic University, the home of one of the best preserved copies of original Necronomicon, or the best known book that never existed.  The book that tells all the secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know, and which will drive you literally insane as you read it.  The book doesn’t exist in The Foundation World, either, because Lovecraft is a writer there as well, so there’s no way such a tome would exist at Salem.  No, really . . . well, maybe.  You’ll find out someday.

Anyway, it’s about this time, while Kerry’s chillin’ in mid-air, that someone starts pestering him–

 

“Starbuck, this is Carrier. Switch over to private. Over.”

Vicky’s voice was tiny in his right ear, that way so he wouldn’t become distracted by Vicky if Isis and Annie were also speaking. He double-tapped a point directly above his right ear, which would set the Overflight conversation to a soft hear-only, allowing him to speak privately with Vicky. “I’m here, Carrier. Go ahead. Over.”

Carrier’s question was right to the point. “How are they looking?”

“Well . . .” He sat upright on the saddle. “Sekhmet looks like she’s been doing this awhile, so she’s pretty good. Over.”

“Yeah, I hear that. And what about your other flier? Over.”

“Athena looks good, too.” He lifted his goggles and squinted at both women speaking to each other as they hovered five meters away. “She’s had a couple of issues with keeping altitude, but nothing major. Over.”

“That’s to be expected. It’s easier to maintain altitude when you’re on a broom, because of your orientation.” There was a nearly five second pause, and Kerry wondered if Vicky was going to pass the conversation to him when she continued. “But she looks good? Endurance-wise, I mean. Over.”

It had been stressed many times that Kerry be honest in his appraisals of Annie’s status and condition, and Vicky assured him that lying wouldn’t protect Annie, but hurt her in the long run. “Her endurance is great: I haven’t seen anything that indicates she’s struggling staying airborne.” He lifted his goggles away from his face. “Everything I’ve so far tells me she’s got this, Carrier.” He crossed his arms and smiled. “Over.”

Kerry expected Carrier to tell him to carry on and give him an over and out, but he got something completely different. “You’re really proud of her, aren’t you, Kerry?”

“You’re breaking protocol, Carrier.” His chuckle turned into a laugh. “Isis is gonna be mad if she finds out.”

“I set flight protocol, not her.” Vicky laughed right along with her student. “I’ll ground her if she doesn’t like how I do things.”

“Well, there is that.”

A loud sigh came over the comm. “You gonna answer my question? Over.”

“I’ll answer: you know I’m proud of her.” He watched Annie as he spoke. “Not only is she an incredible witch and sorceress, but she’s able to do this as well as pilot a broom.” He imaged his face softening as he began thinking of all the things that he loved about her. “And there’s all the ways she’s helped me out, before and after starting school.” He started rocking slowly upon his seat. “She’s done a lot to make me who I am. That’s quite a lot to love.”

“Love.” The tapping of her nails against a counter was clearly audible over the comm. “That’s the first time I’ve heard you say that word aloud.”

“I’ve said it before—”

“Not in front of me.”

Kerry nodded slowly to himself. “You’re probably right. Or if I had, I didn’t mean it like I, you know—”

“Just meant how it was just said?”

“Yeah.”

“I get what you mean, Starbuck.” Vicky’s voice became softer, as if she weren’t alone. “A couple of years ago I’ll bet you never counted that this would be your life.”

He looked down. “You mean sitting on the modern version of a witch’s broom four hundred meters above a town in eastern Massachusetts?”

“That’s one thing, yeah. You know what I mean: this wasn’t the sort of life you expected by the time you were twelve—right?”

 

Like Kerry, Vicky comes from a Normal background.  She’s been married, divorced, remarried, and has two kids.  And suddenly she starts bringing up things . . .

 

It took Kerry a few seconds to fully understand what Vicky meant, because it was easy to forget, unless reminded, that some of the instructors came from beginnings much like his. “You speaking from experience, Nightwitch?”

“Oh, hell yes. I turned eleven in November, 1980, and a couple of months later, right after the new year started, The Foundation comes and tells my parent they were paying for me to go to an exclusive school out on the east coast.” Kerry could almost see her shaking her head. “They couldn’t wait to get me on that plane heading to Boston.”

“My parents were sort of the same way—they heard ‘free education’ and that was all they needed to hear.” Kerry turned and looked off in the direction of the Atlantic and Cape Ann. “I mean, about a minute after I read the material I was given—”

“Which was bull.”

“But it was the right bull . . . After I read that, there was no way I wanted to go back to Normal school.”

“I didn’t know what I wanted. I wasn’t worldly at all, and I figured I’d go the same route as my older sister: find a nice Jewish boy, eventually get married and have kids.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister.” Kerry always loved discovering new things about the people around him.

“Yeah: seven years older than me. While I was planing to go to school, she was planing to go to the same college as her boyfriend.” She sighed long and low. “That’s what she always talked about back then: get a degree in business admin, get married, maybe open a small so she could set her own hours and be close to home.” There was a single chortle from her end. “I’ll tell you what, though: I headed out east with this idea that I was heading for one of those exclusive boarding schools you saw on TV and in the movies, and that notion did a one-eighty and departed quickly the moment I saw those outer gates.”

“Yeah—” Kerry laughed. “Was a bit like heading into Jurassic Park, wasn’t it?”

“That was ten years before my time; it was more like King Kong to me.” There was a sharp intake of breath. “By the time I walked through Founder’s Gate I was like, ‘Oy vey, what have you gotten yourself into?’”

Her reaction brought back some of his own feeling upon walking up to the Great Hall. “I know what you mean. But everything turned out okay for you, didn’t it?”

“Oh, yeah, but it took about a month before I got it together and started dealing with this whole ‘You’re a witch’ thing.” Kerry heard her breathing slow on the other end of the comm. “It became the new normal for me; I imagine it became the same thing for you.”

 

“The new normal.”  That’s a theme in this book:  what is and isn’t normal.  One of the themes of Lovecraft’s stories was that while everything looked normal, but nothing really was:  there was always something just beyond the edge of knowledge that would scare the shit out of people if they ever learned of its existence.  The whole of the School of Salem is like that:  image the people living just outside the walls who think they live next to a forest preserve, and what they’d do if they actually knew of what lay beyond those high walls they can’t see.

It’s right here that Kerry thinks about his “new normal” and tells Vicky what’s on his mind . . .

 

It was Kerry’s moment to sigh as he considered Vicky’s statement. There were moments after arriving at Salem when he’d believed much the same way as her, while at the same time he had an advantage that others didn’t have . . . “You know—”

“Yes?”

“Six years ago I was having a dream where I read to a girl. I knew the girl—I’d seen her before—but I’d never really done anything with her, and after that moment I really wanted to know as much about her as possible. I didn’t see her as much as I wanted, but I always looked for her.

“Four years ago she came back to my dreams and she lifted me out of what was turning into the worst moments of my life. She made me feel good; she make me smile. We told each other our names that night, and I found out that she wasn’t just a dream, she was a real person who was able to prove her existence.

“Three years ago we meet again in a dream and I told her I loved her, that I’d loved her for a while, and I found out she’d loved me even longer. A few months after that she told me that she was a witch, and I accepted it like I’d done everything else up to that point.”

He leaned forward, gripping the frame of his broom. “In the last year I forgot Annie, then met her in person. We came to school together and I found out I’m a witch and sorceress She helped me, I helped her, and I fell in love with her all over again. I’ve helped in the defense of the school; I’ve fought a monster; I’ve saved people. But most of all—” His face broke into a wide grin. “—I kissed Annie two miles up while everyone at school watched.”

Vicky was smiled, too, though there was no one to see. “You’re proudest moment, huh?”

“One of them. The point is—” He set his elbow against his thigh and rested his chin in his hand. “My normal had changed a long time before I ever got to Salem, and it’s all because of Annie and our experiences. Even though I didn’t remember her there was some memory that was keeping me from freaking out . . .” He saw Annie looking his way and he smiled. “She helped make this my normal.”

Isis’ voice radiated soft and low from the left side of Kerry’s helmet. “You still with us, Starbuck?”

 

Yes, he is, and they Overflight progresses from there.

It’s rather strange how Kerry relates his feelings to Vicky, how easily he speaks with her and Erywin as if they were his equals, and not instructors.  Given the right moments, he doesn’t mind opening up to them, and there’s no way one could imagine him having the same conversation above with his mother.  Even if mom did know he was a witch, given the lack of affection in that household, he could never open up to is mother or father.  At his point it seems impossible.

But there’s more in his works.  Deep down inside Kerry understood that the strangeness around him meant something.  It’s not everyday that someone meets a girl in their dreams, finds out they’re real, finds out they visit at least once or twice a week, falls in love with said girl and discovers she loves him, too, and then, when all that goes by, learns that she’s a witch.  He’s never given any indication that he found any of this strange and unusual, whereas most boy would probably have run off screaming that they were going nuts.  “I’m still here; I haven’t run off,” is something Kerry told Annie a couple of times, and it was true all through their dream relation before they met.

Kerry’s always taken the strangeness around him for granted.  Is it because he has been and is in love with Annie that he doesn’t mind the strangeness?

Or has he always been one of those humans who say what Lay Beyond without going insane?