Not only must she now come to terms with her new existence in the body of a rather disagreeable man, and clean up the mess he made of his life, she also has to unravel the mystery of why House Adamastor’s chapter house is standing empty and find a way to protect a dangerous secret she had no idea she was supposed to keep. As if fate couldn’t deal her another blow, she has also attracted the attention of a very malicious and potentially dangerous ghost.
* * * *
Well, there you have it. My current “heart” book is complete and subbed out for its initial round of submissions. Inkarna was sparked by death. The first was that of a musician who was and is one of my heroes. I had a peculiar dream about him the week he died, before I knew he’d gone. I dreamt that I, as a woman, was walking around in this 6-foot body, shouldering past people, somehow in his frame. The disjointedness of the difference in how a woman and a man move really freaked me out. It was one of those dreams that didn’t just vanish with the dawn. I wrote it down in my journal. A few weeks later I had another dream. I was having a conversation with this man then had a point of lucidity. I told him, “You’re dead,” and he replied, “But you’re dreaming.” It was just weird. It left me rattled for days. I still get gooseflesh when I think of those two dreams and their impact on my subconscious.
Then one of my best friends died. Shaen had been sick for a while. I’d been editing his book and had always held a wild hope he’d somehow beat the cancer and we’d one day sit around a table chugging back beers again. That never happened. Shaen passed away on Halloween. Typical of him. Gotta give him points for style. I cried my heart out for him, for the guilt of being one left behind, for not having (in my mind) been a good enough friend. Because I never went to see him when he’d been in hospital. I couldn’t face the trauma of seeing a once-vital man reduced to an animated corpse on life support.
We gave him a great send-off, Egyptian style. He wrote his own funerary rites and we held an awe-inspiring celebration for him on the banks of the Crocodile River, hosted at a private lodge near Johannesburg. I dreamt about Shaen too, about three days after his death. We stood on a beach, and he was as I remembered him, in his better days. We spoke about his book, and my sorrow that he’d not been able to finish his work. I felt in a way I had to take up where he’d left off and he told me not to, that it was enough that his work had touched me, and that I must be true to my art and my magic and not take on the words of others.
Inkarna came into being round about the time of Shaen’s death but my entire year had been tinged with a grief, of a constant gnawing strain that eventually resulted in my own emotional breakdown. I stared death in the face and I realised I wasn’t ready to go.
What if we had a second chance, to put things right?
A week after my meltdown, a friend of ours committed suicide.
On December 28 I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to write Inkarna and I didn’t stop until the first week of February. I had to write this book. It was catharsis, a way to come to terms with my own mortality, a way to put all the pain I’ve been carrying in me, the sorrow, into words.
I can step back now. I feel relieved. Empty. Ready to go onto other projects. In many ways last year was hell. The person who’s writing these words has a clean slate. She’s colder, more in command. That other part of her has died and it’s good to have clarity of mind to continue.