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.

And Another Death to Go

Finally getting going after all this time; it’s been a slow morning of getting up, eating, writing, napping, doing something else, napping, and so on.  This Christmas Day has been a dragging day, and I feel I was lucky to get written what was written.  But I did write, even though I was told I should take a break.  But five hundred and thirty-nine words when I’m half-asleep and I’ve no coffee–that’s a pretty good deal as far as I’m concerned.

"I've written a little bit here, so . . . just a quick nap and I'm ready to go again.  I think.  Zzzzzzz."

“I’ve written a little bit here, so . . . just a quick nap and I’m ready to go again. I think. Zzzzzzz.”

What do we have here today?  Well, Helena starts getting into her Worst Day Ever, which is the day she happened to be in the north tower of the World Trade Center when it was attacked.  Some of this we already know, and what she mentions here was partially covered last year at this time, when Helena was thinking about something she did when she was about to do that same thing again . . .

 

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

Helena leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds, remembering as she gathered her thoughts. “I wasn’t real happy with the meeting location: I wanted something more secure, but I was overridden left and right. Given that, I made the best of the situation and made sure everyone had a safe jaunt local set up, just in case we needed to clear out in a hurry—” She chuckled quietly. “Which we did.

“We were only a couple of floors below where the tower was hit. Everything went to hell fast: ceiling exploded, hellfire rained down, all that. I got a warning only seconds before—” She shook her head. “That part’s all screwed up—just know that I was warned to get out, and the warning shook me enough that I lost seconds doing my job right.

“Anyway, the plane hit and people started dying fast. I grabbed two women and jaunted out, but not before we were struck by a part from the plane. The woman on my right died right away: she was cut in half at the hips and everything inside cascaded out. The woman on my left lived because we jaunted before the part got to her. Me?” Helena looked down and frowned. “I wasn’t quite as lucky. I lost both legs about mid-thigh just as we were jaunting—”

Kerry couldn’t keep the surprise and shock off his face and out of his voice. “You’re— Really? I didn’t know.”

“Yeah. Magic and prosthetics keep me walking, and no one who doesn’t know can’t tell, but it’s not like having the real thing. Now you know why I always wear my skirts a little long: even though the legs look natural, you can see the interface lines were they join with body. I’m a little self-conscious about that, as you can imagine.”

“Does Annie know about this?” Kerry couldn’t imagine that Helena hasn’t already discussed this with her.

“She does: we talked about this a few months back.”

Kerry nodded. “Okay. What happened after the attack?”

 

Now is the first time Kerry learns of Helena’s maiming, and we learn that Annie has this similar conversation months before–probably on Tuesday night when Kerry was busy learning how to turn rats into cups, which Jessica totally doesn’t do.  Though she has changed into a cat before–a really big cat . . .

And this sets up something that Kerry’s never heard before–

 

“Yeah, that . . . My safe jaunt point was just off Washington Square Park. There we were: one alive, one dead, one dying. The uninjured woman paused just long enough to fire off a message that we were coming in for medical attention, and she jaunted us—the dead woman included—to out hospital in London.” She grimaced as she shook her head. “It didn’t do any good: I died about a minute after we arrived.

“This time I didn’t die like the first time. The first time I was like going to sleep and not dreaming. This time, though . . .” For the first time the grimness vanished and a faint smile drew across Helena’s face. “I woke up on the other side of The Curtain.”

“The Curtain?” This was a term Kerry had never heard before now. “What’s that?”

“I know I shouldn’t get into the cosmology of the universe; that’s something that you start to dove in your D and E Levels. But—” Helena shrugged. “Without telling you how everything works, you’ll never understand what I’m saying. Besides, you’re an advanced student when it comes to magic, so why not learn this now?”

 

The Cosmology of the Universe.  Kerry’s about to get a lesson in the way everything works, and that’s going to move into a lesson in life and death, because if you’ve been keeping track, Helena mentioned something about waking up somewhere that probably wasn’t her bed.

Given food and coffee, I’ll probably show you where real soon . . .

One Death Down

Happy Christmas Eve, or as the old people used to call it, Mōdraniht, which was a night where women were honored and perhaps even had a celebration or two to thank those around them for the consideration they had to push all those little love goblins out of their bellies and into the air.  Of course The Church banned it, because it was some old pagan hoohaw that they simply could not abide by, so we hear stories now about how a sacrifice or two were made at night to appease the Matres and Matronae, who were protective female deities.

So if you’re looking to have kids, say something nice to the Matres and Matronae, and who knows what will happen next.  Yeah?

Slowly this long scene is starting to take place, and trust me, it is a long scene.  But given that I’m averaging about five hundred words a night, it’s taking it’s time getting out.

Four days, two thousand words, you do the math.

Four days, two thousand words, you do the math.

There were no reasons for writing only six hundred and forty words beyond being tired as all hell and fighting to stay awake after I got home from having dinner.  It really was a whole lot of that, and even after I woke up it took a lot of effort to get out of the chair and want to sit and do something.

But I did get up and pen–can you say “pen” if you’re writing into a computer?–Helena’s first real brush, not with death, but with dying.  And it’s a good one.

 

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

She rubbed her hands. “Right: death. You wanted to know, so here you are. I’ve died twice. The first time happened back in June ‘96. I was part of a six-member group on an operation down around Cartagena, looking into rumors that the Deconstructors were using the same rail line as the Mina el Cerrejón to move goods from the north flanks of the Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta to Puerto Bolivar and back. We figured the transports were taking place near the main plant outside Albania, but we weren’t going to find out unless we did a little snooping around.

“I wasn’t in charge of the group; I wasn’t even the second in command. I was just one of the grunts put there to back up the women running the show. She wasn’t that bad, but this was the second major field op she’s commanded, and she acted at times like she had no bloody idea what to do when we were out and about. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting warm feelings in the pit of my stomach when we started venturing out into the wilds of Columbia.

 

The area Helena is talking about is here:

I love that Goggle Maps can take you anywhere!

I love that Goggle Maps can take you anywhere!

Mina el Cerrejón are those gray areas in the lower left of the picture, around Albania, Hatonuevo, and Papayal.  Those areas are huge open pit coal mines, operating in northeastern Columbia, right on the border with Valenzuela and far away from where most people live.  And the straight road that goes north all the way to the ocean?  That parallels a private rail line that is used to ship the coal to a huge port at Puerto Bolivar, which happens to be one of the largest ports in all of South America.

I actually researched this while writing.  I knew I was going to have her “hit the shite” somewhere in Columbia, and while they started in Cartagena, the ended up getting tagged about half way between that city and the view above.

And she remembers most everything–

 

“Day three, and we’re roaming about south of Río Ancho, and all day I’ve got the feeling we’re gonna hit the shite hard. I’m telling the leader what I think, but she’s telling me to piss off, ‘cause she feels everything is status quo. After the third warning I decide to go at the problem sideways and start hitting up the second-in-command, but just as about to tell her what I think—bam! Her head explodes, there’s blood all over me. She’s down, fifteen seconds later another member goes down, and it’s on.

“You know how this sort of thing goes, ‘cause you been in a fight like this. Spells are flying everywhere, and it’s us or them. Deconstructors are everywhere, and I take out three in about a minute.

I’m setting up to take out a forth, and suddenly there’s the bright flash . . .” Helena’s demeanor turned wistful as she sat back. “Next thing you know I’ve got lights in my eyes and people looking over me. Found out later that we managed to zap all the bad guys, but one other person got smashed in the process—and some bastard got in behind me and hit me hard enough to get their spell through my shields even though it killed them in the process. He hit me hard with an Electrify, which is why I saw the flash.

“The two survivors scoops up me and the last person killed, and jaunted us off to the regional HQ in Valencia, Venezuela, and got us right into the hospital. They were able to revive the other woman right away, but me?” She shook her head. “I was dead for six minutes, not that I knew. For me I just went from flash to flash: as far as I was concerned no time at all passed.”

Helena swiveled her chair back and forth a couple of time. “That was the first time; really, not that big of a thing. Second time I died . . .” She pressed her face against her fist. “That was a lot different.”

 

Really?  How different?

 

Just the way Helena’s mood changed up told Kerry that there was definitely a great deal more to this next story. “How so? What were you doing?”

“I was in charge of security for a large meeting of various Foundation supervisors.” She drew in a slow breath as she stared at the surface of her desk. “Things went—bad.”

Kerry kept his tone as soft as possible. “Did Deconstructors attack you?”

“You could say that—” She looked up. “The meeting was in the north tower of the World Trade Center.” Her snort was almost impossible to hear. “You need a date?”

He shook his head. “No.”

 

Of course Kerry doesn’t need a date, because he instinctively knows where this is going, and so do the readers, because it was just about a year ago–26 December, 2014, actually–that I wrote about how Helena was maimed during the attacks on the WTC.  And now, it seems, we’re going to discover that something a lot worse happened to her as well, because she’s here to talk about how she died–

And in talking about death, we’re going to learn a whole lot more.