Peeking Behind the Curtain

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.

Along with the whole lady walking in the rain thing, which I wholly enjoyed.

Along with the whole lady walking in the rain thing, which I wholly enjoyed.

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.”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“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.

Putting it All to Bed

I said I would finish the scene before the end of the year, and that’s what I did with about forty-five minutes to spare.  And in finishing the scene, I finished the chapter and the part.  At the moment, in the bright sunlight of 2015, the novel looks like this:

Doesn't look all that big from this point of view.

Doesn’t look all that big from this point of view.

Two parts, five chapters, sixteen scenes.  That’s it, that’s what remains.  And running the numbers in my head, Act Three will likely top out between one hundred and one hundred ten thousand words, so while short of the other two parts, it’s likely going to a six-figure word count.  Not bad at all.

Oh, and my first picture of 2015:

As you can see, J. J. Abrams snapped the picture.

As you can see, J. J. Abrams snapped the picture.

The last scene . . . we’re back in Salem, and the kids are in the hospital for the night, because that’s where they’d be.  Annie’s bandaged and has a broken arm, Kerry was shocked bad and could get around on crutches if not for the former problem, so . . . hospital.  In their “regular” bay, and in their regular beds–though the party is at Kerry’s right now, and he’s got something on his mind . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

As Annie and he finished a second plate of banitsa, Kerry wondered for the first time how he was going to get through the summer holidays without having this Bulgarian treat at least once. He was certain there wasn’t anywhere in Cardiff he could go where he’d eat anything as fine— “I’m really going to miss these.”

“I’ve spoiled you with the cuisine of my home.” Annie giggled as she finished hers and wiped her fingers on the napkin on the rolling tray. “I could always make some and bring them to you.”

“I’m sure that would go over well with my parents.” The events of the past few weeks—in particular, the last couple of days—had started him wondering how he could talk to his folks about Annie without getting into the truth of her being his girlfriend. No matter how he spun the story, they were going to have a huge difficulty believing the relationship they shared.

Then again, there wasn’t much he could talk about this summer. School and Foundation regulation demanded that he not reveal to anyone in his immediately family, or any assorted friends, that he was a witch. There’d already been a few meeting with Professor Semplen telling him what he could talk about, and how he could frame the discussions so that he could make a few of the magical classes appear to be nothing more than Normal, mundane courses.

Still, there’s Annie. He watched as she struggled a bit turning while her right arm was magically immobilized across the front of her torso. Probably the best I’m going to be able to say about her is that she’s a cov—class mate and friend. I can’t really anything about how we spend all our time together, how we’ve fallen asleep together, how I’m in love with her, how she’s my soul mate . . .

“You’re deep in thought again.” Annie had finally given up trying to move about using her left arm and has just levitated herself enough that she could spin about. “You’ve been doing that a lot since we returned from Atlanta.”

 

Well, yeah, there’s a lot to keep in mind since returning from Atlanta, which they were at because of Kansas City, but right now the end of the school year is coming up, and that’s starting to occupy Kerry’s thoughts.  Probably Annie’s as well, but she’s better at keeping things under wraps.

They never get to talk about those thoughts–not yet–because who shows up the person who’s minding their health.

 

Before Kerry could answer a pajama-wearing Coraline entered the bay. “I’m sure he’ll tell you as soon as I’m gone.” She slid the dessert cart out of the way and sat on the edge of Bed #1. “How you feeling, Annie?”

“Fine, Nurse Coraline. My arm is good and—” She reached up and touched bandaged left side of her head. “No more headaches.”

“No more dizziness either?”

“No, none at all.”

Coraline stared at Annie for a few seconds. “And you haven’t tried anything magical, right?”

Due to the slight head trauma and concussion she’d received Annie had been ordered not to use magic until she was cleared by Coraline. “Umm—”

“If I catch you levitating anything again—yourself included—” She pointed a warning finger at Annie. “I’m gonna give you something that’ll make you unable to do any magic for a few hours.”

That was something Annie did not want at all. “I’m sorry, Nurse Coraline. I won’t do that again.”

“Make sure you don’t.” Coraline grinned and pointed to Kerry. “You should use your significant other as an example of what to do when you get a concussion.” She rubbed her hands together. “You don’t see him trying magic when he’s like that.”

Kerry sat back and started off into space. “To be fair I’m also too messed up to do anything else.”

“There is that, too.” Coraline set her hands in her lap and drummed on her thigh with her right fingers. “How’s your dizziness?”

“Pretty much gone away. I can sit up now for about twenty minutes at a time before I gotta lay back.”

“Good to here. Shoulder and knee okay?”

He hadn’t been aware he’d stressed out ligaments or suffered a dislocation until he’d arrived at the CDC and they popped his shoulder back into the socket and began casting his left knee. “I don’t feel anything pain there at all.”

 

After everything that happened to them earlier in the day they’re feeling, well, as fine as they can given their situation.  And Annie’s starting to used that levitation for a lot of things, it looks like.  Girl better check herself there before she gets slipped a concoction that’s gonna shut down that mojo.

Coraline gives them a few orders for what’s to come–stuff they’ve both heard already, but she has to go over it ’cause rules–and then not only brings up something that’s just between her and them, but she shows she knows a little more than Helena about some Guardian things . . .

 

Coraline stepped around the serving cart and closed the bay curtain fully so they could speak in private. “I know you guys can’t tell me what you were up to this weekend, but the fact I got a secure call from the CDC so they could make arrangements to transfer you tells me whatever it was, it was pretty damn important, ‘cause The Foundation—and the Guardians—don’t just send normal injuries off to the CDC to get fixed up.”

“Yeah, but I was hurt a lot worse during the Day of the Dead—and I got shocked her before as well.” Kerry shrugged. “I don’t think I was in that bad of shape.”

Annie nodded. “I had a broken arm and a concussion: they’re not major injuries, either.”

“Well, the Guardians must have had their reasons.” Since Coraline had toured and visited the Foundation hospital at the CDC she suspected they were jaunted there because of the psychiatric and counseling staff that were constantly for one reason: to help those may have needed the used of The Foundation’s only Resurrection Facility in North America. And if they aren’t needed because a bunch of Necromancers zapped your Essence back into your body before it crossed The Veil into the Multiverses, it’s because they figure you could lose your shit over killing someone . . .

Coraline wasn’t one to speculate, but given what she knew about Annie’s and Kerry’s Crafting abilities, she suspected one of the two options available were the reasons for the Guardians shipping them off to Atlanta.

 

Resurrection Facility.  Essence.  The Veil.  Multiverses.  And most of all, Necromancers.  Allow me to explain . . .

In the cosmology I’ve created one’s Essence is their inner energy–some might call it a “soul”.  The Veil can be seen as the membrane one must pass through to leave our universe, but it’s really more than that.  The Multiverses are just what they appear:  there are billions of universes out there, of which we are one, and once you’re beyond The Veil then you’re in the space between the universes.

And at Salem, there are a couple of courses that only a few people ever get to study.  One is Demonology, and that’s pretty self explanatory.  That’s something that Adric Lewiston, the school’s expert on spirits, entities, and, yes, demons, teaches along with help from Helena and Deanna.  You have to be pretty good with spirits to get into Demonology, and all the books on that are kept under special lock and key by Trevor Parkman.

And then there’s Necromancy, and that’s some heavy shit.  Now you’re not just dealing with spirits and other things that go bump in the night–you’re dealing with the active retrieval and manipulation of the dead and their Essence.  There aren’t many people who can do this:  Adric knows a little bit of it, as does Helena, but if any student was good enough to become a Necromancer, people from outside the school would come in and teach them, or they’d go somewhere else to learn about these things–like, say, a Resurrection Facility in Atlanta.

As you may have guessed, getting pulled back into your body after having died is a fairly traumatic experience–hence the need for a on-site psychiatric staff.  And it might be just that much more traumatic an experience if you’re, say, eleven or twelve, and you’d went down after going into Final Stand mode with a group of Decontructors who were looking to put you Beyond The Veil . . .

Did the Guardians know what was going to happen in Kansas City, and they were on stand-by just in case?  Only I know for sure.  Maybe one day I’ll write about it.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering:  yes, a Necromancer can manipulate the dead without their Essence.  And you know what that means . . .

You were saying about there not being zombies at the CDC, Cassie?

You were saying about there not being zombies at the CDC, Cassie?

Back to the kids and Coraline.  She doesn’t tell them any of this because, well, why should she?  Instead they dwell on other things–

 

Coraline wasn’t one to speculate, but given what she knew about Annie’s and Kerry’s Crafting abilities, she suspected one of the two options available were the reasons for the Guardians shipping them off to Atlanta.

She didn’t want to dwell on the matter, as she might find it necessary to answer questions. “Okay, then, I’m gonna get back to the Madness—”

“First one we missed.” Annie hung her head. “Both dates.”

Kerry lay his hand upon her leg. “We had our own tonight—and it was really good.”

“Yes—” Annie smiled and placed her left hand over Kerry’s. “It was fantastic.”

“On that note . . .” Coraline opened the curtain to the ward and pushed the serving cart into the aisle. “I bid you a good night, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

Kerry looked around Annie. “Good night, Nurse Coraline.”

Annie looked up, still smiling. “Good night, Nurse Coraline.”

“Good night, kids. Oh, and Annie—”

“Yes?”

“At least make it look like you slept in you bed.” Coraline’s smile stretched wide as she closed the current behind her.

 

Coraline has that girl’s number, and there’s no way she’s not going to remind her that she knows what will happen after she leaves.  She also knows she’d had to drug Annie to keep her in her own bed, so the warning is more humorous than anything else.  And of all the things that could bother the kids right now, they’re upset about missing the Madness.  Yeah, they got their priorities down.

Those priorities include other things as well . . .

 

As the ward lights went out and the bay lights went to low Kerry patted Annie’s thigh. “I guess this means you’re gonna sleep in your bed?”

Annie almost jumped off the bed and was next to hers in one stride. “No—” She pulled back the covers, flipped the pillow and punched it twice, then pushed on the mattress a few time to make it rumpled. “Coraline said to make it look like I slept here.” She hurried back to Kerry’s bed, pulled back the comforter, and climbed into bed next to him, snuggling against his body. “Cover me?”

“Of course.” He lowered the bed so they was laying flat, then pulled the covers over her broken arm and almost to her neck. “Better?”

“Much.” She rotated her shoulder. “I hate not being able to use my arm.”

“I’ve been there. At least it’ll be healed in the morning.”

“Yes.” She looked pasted Kerry. “Lights minimum.” Almost immediately the lighting dropped to the lowest level, the way Annie remembered it being the first night she spent here after Kerry was injured during the Day of the Dead attacks. “There: better.”

“Romantic.” Kerry sighed and make himself comfortable. “You know . . .”

“What do you want me to know?”

“I’m going to miss this last weekend.”

“Oh?” Annie slowly rolled so she was on her left side facing him. “Do you mean you miss being a Guardian, doing secretive work and getting into a fight with the Deconstructors? Or . . .” Her eyes softened as this part of the weekend rose up within her memory. “The two nights we spent alone living almost as a couple?”

“While the first part was interesting and had its moments—” He turned his head towards her. “I was definitely by the second part.” He grinned. “I’m going to miss that.”

“I will, too.” She moved her head slightly, finding the most comfortable position. “Three nights of sleeping as one . . .” Annie sighed long and low. “Tomorrow back to our own rooms.”

“Yeah.” He ran his fingers through her hair. “No more spooning.”

“No more getting kissed on the neck in the morning.”

“No more kissing your neck in the morning.” Kerry’s voice caught for just a moment. “It’s not fair.”

 

This is a mantra that’s going to come up in the next few chapters:  Summer is almost here, School is almost out, and these two will be apart for the first time in nine months.  Sure, they can visit each othere in their dreams, but . . . not the same thing, right?  No, it’s not.  They’ve both had a taste of what it’s like to live together, and it’s going to work their young minds.  But Annie will be the strong one and push it all down the best, right?

 

Annie wished her right arm wasn’t in a cast and held in place against her body, because she wanted to run her fingertips over Kerry’s chest. Instead she turned inward . . . No, it’s not fair, my love. It’s not fair we’ve we able to be together and now we’ll be so close and yet apart; it’s not fair that we’ll have to wait so long for this last weekend to be all the time . . .

It’s not fair we’ll be apart for three months in a short time.

“We shouldn’t think about these things.” She turned her head upward and kissed his cheek. “We’ll just torture ourselves if we do.”

“I know. And I don’t want to do that.” He curled his arm around Annie’s shoulders. “We’ll just have to find our moments together and make them memorable.”

Annie kissed him again. “We will, my darling. Lights off.” The bay was immersed in darkness as they felt their love drawing them together. “We will. I promise.”

Kerry pressed his face into his soul mate’s hair. “So do I.”

 

Nope, Annie isn’t digging it, either.  she may be good at hiding her emotions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  And being woke up in the morning with a kiss on the neck–I’m sure come Monday morning she’s gonna feel a bit of depression that she woke alone in her coven tower bed . . .

Kids are back and Beltane is up next.  And there is going to be a revelation and a warning–

Just wait.