How Far Would You Go To Get Your Life Back?
Stuck in the afterlife on an island encircled by fire and hunted by shadows bent on trapping them there forever, Irene and Andras struggle to hold onto the last vestiges of their physical selves, without which they can never return to the land of the living. But it’s not just external forces they’ll have to fight as the pair grow to realize they have different goals. Irene still clings to the hope that she can somehow return to her old life—the one she had before she died—while Andras would be only too glad to embrace oblivion.
Meanwhile, Jonah desperately searches for a way to cross over to the other side, even if doing so means his death. His crossing over, however, is the one thing that could destroy Irene’s chances of returning home.
Too many obstacles, too many people to save, and the thing Irene most desperately wants—to return to her old life—seems farther away than ever. Only one thing is clear: moving on will require making a terrible sacrifice.
~ Bewitching BT
Guest Post: Top Ten Easter Eggs Hidden in Whereafter
by Terri Bruce
Thank you so much for having me on the blog today to talk about my latest book, Whereafter, the third book in my Afterlife series. The series tells the story of Irene Dunphy, a woman who ends up stuck on Earth as a ghost and has to learn how to navigate the afterlife.
My Afterlife series incorporates elements of afterlife mythology from every religion and culture on Earth—past and present. There’s lots of obscure references, hidden jokes, and secret foreshadowing. It’s become a tradition for me to share a list of “Top Ten Easter Eggs” hidden in each of the books with Butterfly-O-Meter Books’s blog readers, so here we go… the top ten list for Whereafter!
1. The Cow(s)
The first thing Irene and Andras encounter after crossing the river Acheron is a cow, standing in a wheat field. The world-building in Whereafter is modeled heavily on Egyptian mythology, in which, the goddess Nut is known as the Heavenly or Celestial cow. She was the goddess of the sky and all heavenly bodies and also believed to be the protector of the dead as they entered the afterlife. Egyptian mythology says that Ra, chief of the Egyptian gods, ascended into the sky on the back of the “heavenly cow” and also that at night, Ra would crawl into the Heavenly Cow who would then give birth to him in the morning. Nut giving birth to Ra, the sun god, was symbolic of the rebirth of the sun every day when it rose in the morning. The cow standing here as well as the cow Irene creates and gives to some local women are symbolic of Nut but they also symbolize protection—someone or something is protecting Irene, but also, when Irene gives a cow to the women, she is giving them protection, too.
2. The Wheat Fields
Irene’s part of the story is set in an endless wheat field. This is pulled from Egyptian mythology which describes Duat, the realm of the dead, as “The Field of Rushes” and as “The wheat fields of Osiris.” The dead were to reside here for a hundred or a thousand years, tending the wheat of Osiris. After their period of servitude, they would then be admitted to paradise. Usually, the dead sent their shadows to tend the wheat in their place, thus allowing the dead person to pass directly onto paradise.
3. The Shadows
The ancient Egyptians believed that people were made up of five parts: the head/personality, the spirit, the “life spark,” the shadow, and the body. After death, they believed that the shadow left the corpse/body and went out to gather food for the spirit. Once the spirit left the body (after the sacred rituals were performed and the body made ready for burial), the spirit would join with the shadow to form a “ghost” and this new entity would journey to the afterlife. Once the co-joined spirit-shadow reached the Wheat Fields of Osiris, the two would separate and the shadow would remain to work the fields (pay the tithe to Osiris) while the spirit continued on into paradise.
4. Forest Hills Cemetery
At the beginning of his part of the story, Jonah is hanging out in the “Forest Hills Cemetery” in Boston, which is described as one of the few active cemeteries in Boston. This is a true statement; the cemetery is real. However, it’s location is not quite accurately depicted; in the story, Char and Jonah walk from the cemetery back to Madame Majicka’s shop, which is in the North End of Boston. That walk would be 4-5 miles—not impossibly, but certainly pretty long, especially for Char to do seemingly alone at one or two in the morning (Jonah is in his ghost body and therefore invisible).
Jonah interacts with a psychic named Lucien; Lucien, though unnamed, appeared in Hereafter—he’s the “cool” psychic that directs Jonah and Irene to Madame Majicka’s shop. Lucien is based on a real guy I saw in New Orleans in 2010. He was set up in Jackson Square and was exactly as I described him—sunglasses, reading a paperback novel, slouching in his chair, waiting for someone to sit at his table and get their Tarot cards read. He was very hip looking. I wish I had gotten a picture of him! I made up the name, however.
6. Andras’s history
Even though Andras is fiction, I have based everything in his life on real events, people, and places. Everything he tells her about Ucles and about his childhood is based on research. There really was a de Cordova family of the time period in question. They had two sons; I gave them a fictional third son (Andras).
7. The Butterflies
In folklore, butterflies are known as “the messengers of Heaven.” There is a belief that if you whisper a message to a dead loved one to a butterfly, it will fly the message up to Heaven for you. Irene and Andras encounter a field of butterflies, and the butterflies are whispering. Irene can’t make out what they are saying but the reader is meant to give the impression that the butterflies are delivering messages from Earth. One lands on Irene’s shoulder and whispers in her ear, which is meant to convey that there is a message specifically for her. The message’s most obvious sender would be Jonah, but it’s never explicitly stated this is the case. Andras also has a butterfly land on him. He catches the butterfly and listens to it. The story only says that his face “changes,” and that he becomes distressed. It’s unclear if he’s heard/understood the message sent to him or if he’s just distressed by the fact that butterflies can talk. This scene is deliberately vague; the exact meaning will be revealed in a later book.
8. The Guide and Andras
Irene “prays” to the Guide for help. In response, he dumps a bunch of acorns on her (“Acorn” is his nickname for her). Andras is confused and horrified by this exchange, and Irene realizes the Guide and Andras never directly interacted—Andras can’t see the Guide, only she can. I knew when I wrote Thereafter that this would be the case and I deliberately structured the interactions between Irene and the Guide to be such that she was always alone when the Guide appeared, except at the very end when he walks her back to Andras. Irene just assumes Andras can see the Guide but if you read the scene, you’ll realize Andras and the Guide never interact, and, in fact, Andras is slightly confused by the things Irene says to the Guide (to him, she appears to be talking to herself or saying non-sequiturs).
9. Bridge As Thick as a Hair
This is taken from Zoroastrian afterlife mythology.
10. Jonah and Irene Just Miss Each Other
Jonah manages to cross over to the afterlife but finds himself in a big mansion with rooms that are each different versions of paradise/Heaven. He turns around and leaves, disappointed. At the very end of the book, Irene manages to finally reach the place she’s been traveling to for the entire book: a giant castle-like mansion. The description of her walking up to the mansion is the EXACT same as the description of Jonah arriving at his mansion—a long, sweeping driveway, bordered by trees, wrought iron gates, liveried foot man, strains of music playing, and a blue ballroom vision through the French doors at the top of the stairs. The reader is meant to understand Irene has arrived at the same mansion Jonah was at—and that the two of them have just missed each other.
And there you have it! There’s definitely lots more hidden references within the story, so be sure to check it out. And if you like learning about afterlife mythology and hidden references, during the month of April, I’ll be participating in the A-Z blogging challenge with a series of video blogs revealing more hidden tidbits within the series. Be sure to stop by my blog (http://www.terribruce.net) every day during April to learn more!
Andras grunted, the sound filled with suspicion. Irene bent down to tie her shoelace, as much to avoid eye contact as anything. When she straightened up, something in the distance caught her eye, shimmering like a mirage. She squinted, not sure she was really seeing what she thought she saw.
“You know, now might be a good time for you to tell me what it was like to live in a castle,” she said.
Andras shook his head, sadly, as if Irene had disappointed him. “You cling too much to the past. Forget the trappings of life. Free your mind from these longings, and so, free your soul. Only then will we be able to escape these shackles and enter Heaven to rest at the side of God.”
Why did he always have to argue about everything? “For God’s sake,” she said, exasperated, “just answer the question!”
Irene pointed to the hulking structure in the distance. “Because,” she said as Andras whirled around to see what she was pointing at, “correct me if I’m wrong, but that looks like a castle.”
“Wow!” Irene said, her eyes roving over the dark, crenellated structure hulking in the far distance. It gleamed dully, the color of burnt blood in a fading afternoon sun. “What the hell do you think that is?”
Andras grunted. “As you said—Hell.”
Irene frowned at him, but her lips quirked in amusement. “Why do you have to be so negative? It could just as easily be Heaven. God is supposed to live in a palace, right—the whole ‘my father’s house has many rooms’ thing? A castle is just a type of palace.”
Andras gave her a dry look. “Does that look like Heaven?”
Irene was on the verge of agreeing that the castle did not in any way look how she imagined Heaven when it shimmered, as if the fading sunlight had been redirected by mirrors. Light rippled across the castle’s surface and the dull, dark, burnt-blood color transformed into gleaming, bright, silver-white. Crisp white pennants flapped from the corners as if whipped by wind. Irene thought she could hear them snapping crisply.
Irene looked at Andras, and he looked at her. His expression made it clear that he had seen the same transformation she had. It was as if the building was trying to trick them into coming closer.
About the Author & Links:
Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember and won her first writing award when she was twelve. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and adventure stories from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats. She is the author of the Afterlife Series, which includes Hereafter (Afterlife #1) and Thereafter (Afterlife #2) and several short stories including “Welcome to OASIS” (“Dear Robot” anthology, Kelly Jacobson publisher) and “The Well” (“Scratching the Surface” anthology, Third Flatiron Press).