Genre: Contemporary fantasy/paranormal
Publisher: Mictlan Press
Number of pages: 318
Cover Artist: Artwork by Shelby Robinson;
Cover layout by Jennifer Stolzer
When recently-deceased Irene Dunphy decided to “follow the light,” she thought she’d end up in Heaven or Hell and her journey would be over.
Boy, was she wrong.
She soon finds that “the other side” isn’t a final destination but a kind of purgatory where billions of spirits are stuck, with no way to move forward or back. Even worse, deranged phantoms known as “Hungry Ghosts” stalk the dead, intent on destroying them. The only way out is for Irene to forget her life on earth—including the boy who risked everything to help her cross over—which she’s not about to do.
As Irene desperately searches for an alternative, help unexpectedly comes in the unlikeliest of forms: a twelfth-century Spanish knight and a nineteenth-century American cowboy. Even more surprising, one offers a chance for redemption; the other, love. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to have either if she can’t find a way to escape the hellish limbo where they’re all trapped.
PRFL is pleased to showcase a special blog visit by author Terri Bruce! Enjoy ~
The Five Rivers of the Afterlife
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today Danica and helping me celebrate the release of my second novel, Thereafter, the second book of the Afterlife series.
Today, I wanted to talk a little about one of my favorite subjects: afterlife mythology. The Afterlife series
is about a woman named Irene who has to learn to navigate the afterlife after she dies. I used afterlife
mythology and folklore from every culture and religion while writing this series. Each book in the series
(there will be six total) focuses on one or two big motifs or common afterlife features. Thereafter features the Greek myth of the ferryman who rows the dead across the river to the afterlife.
In Greek mythology there are five rivers that are part of the afterlife: Acheron, Styx, Lethe, Cocytus,
Phlegethon. Most people have heard of the river Styx; however, most mistakenly identify it as the river
that borders the underworld and which the ferryman, Charon, rows the dead across. That is actually the
river Acheron, known variously as the river of pain and the river of woe.
In Thereafter, Irene’s despair when she arrives at the river and realizes she can’t get across it is a
reference/play on the Acheron’s nickname as the river of woe: Eventually, there were no more huddled, petrified people, just a vast, desert-like expanse of sand, and then, at last, she was at the river. Rather than elation, however, she felt…nothing.
The river filled the horizon in every direction, more like an ocean. The embankment stood a foot or two higher than the water’s surface, and Irene went right up to the edge to get a closer look. The water was almost black and as smooth as glass. Nothing marred its surface—not waves, not boats, not birds. The sound of the water lapping at the land was the only noise. It was the most desolate and empty place Irene had ever seen.
She stared at the water, feeling as flat and empty as its surface. There was no ferryman, no landing, no indication of how to get across. The river stretched endlessly into the distance, far too wide to swim. It was vast and insurmountable.
The stories say that if the dead do not have a coin to pay for their passage across the river then they
have to wander the banks of the river for 100 years. However, some of the stories aren’t exactly clear
on which river’s bank the dead must wander. Most stories imply the dead are stuck on the shore of the
Acheron, though in some stories they end up on the banks of the river Cocytus and some just say “a
river.” This, of course, begs the question of how the dead who can’t pay to cross the Acheron end up
stranded on the bank of a completely different river—does Charon let them onto the ferry and then
take them to the bank of the Cocytus and deposit them there as punishment for not having a coin? That
seems like a lot of extra work, doesn’t it? Why not just leave them where they are?
Riffing on this confusion in the legends, I have a scene in Thereafter where Irene encounters three men
from ancient Greece who end up arguing about what the stories actually say on the matter:
“The stories say—”
“Those without a coin—”
“Must wander the banks of the river Acheron—”
“Cocytus,” the second cut in.
“The legends don’t say that!” the first retorted.
“That’s speculation,” said the third.
“Doomed to wander the banks of a river for one hundred years,” the first said, raising his voice slightly to speak over his fellows.
Okay, well, that explained about the two rivers, Irene thought. The one at the hotel and the one here.
There really were two rivers and two ferries; people had just gotten the stories confused and, over time, the two rivers had become one.
The Cocytus is known as the river of wailing. In Dante’s Inferno, the Cocytus is a frozen lake that Satan is immersed in up to his waist. In Thereafter, the Cocytus becomes the river, on the banks of which, the dead without a coin end up gathered, most of them in crying in terror and despair (building on the Cocytus’s identity as the river of wailing).
The Phlegethon is known as the river of fire and supposedly encircles Tartarus, the place bad souls go to
be punished. Those familiar with the mythology will recognize Phlegethon and Tartarus in Book #3 of my
Afterlife series, when it comes out next year. :-)
The Lethe is known as the river of forgetfulness from which the dead can drink and forget their past life;
this river and its waters make an appearance in Book #5 of the series.
And finally, the Styx is known as the river of hatred. This may surprise those familiar with the legend of
Achilles and the fact that his mother dipped him in the Styx to make him invulnerable, since the Styx is
also known for its healing properties. The reason the Styx is known is the river of hatred is because in
the Inferno, the wrathful and sullen dead were trapped in the Styx, doomed to continuously drown in
its muddy waters. The Styx makes an appearance in the fourth book of my series, though it more closely
resembles the original legends, before Dante got hold of it. :-)
And there you have it—a brief introduction to the five major rivers of the Greek afterlife. Knowing the
rivers and their identity/nicknames is an important first step for any spirit venturing into the underworld
that also wants to leave again :-)
About the Author:
Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember. 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.
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