The concept of death and where that may lead in the hereafter has been explored in literature numerous times. The reason for that, of course, is that there an almost infinite number of beliefs and theories about the subject. As a Syrian, up and coming writer Anas Abdulhak is all too familiar with the concept of death and the questions surrounding it. They explored one such possibility in their new Source Point Press book Etheres with artist Dennis Menheere. In a recent press release, Anas explained what inspired the concept and why it holds a personal meaning to them:
“This story is deeply personal for me as death has unfortunately been something I’m all too familiar with. Like many Syrians, I’ve had to deal with the loss of people we love. We’ve had to learn how to reckon with the looming threat of death, which inevitably brings up a lot of questions about the afterlife… What lies after, where we belong. Whether we’ve been good enough or if we’ve done enough. Those are themes I really wanted to touch upon and explore in Etheres”
Beginning at the End
The story begins at the end. The end of a young woman named Valerie’s life. Following her passing, she finds herself navigating a mysterious world known as Etheres. It is a realm where souls go when they don’t belong anywhere else. As she travels in this mysterious realm, Valerie is accompanied by The Creature, a foreboding and taunting figure who acts as her guide or perhaps, her shadow. As she makes her way, the narrative of Valerie’s journey unfolds through poetic narration. Describing her experiences as she takes in her surroundings, recalling her past life, her trauma, and why she believes she deserves to be there.
From the beginning, Valerie steps from what looks like an eggshell. A rebirth perhaps. But it is an environment that does not reflect new birth. The stench of decay reveals that much at least. But as she walks, she is aware that while she appears to be whole, this is not her body. It resides in the ground somewhere. And there is a sense of relief in knowing she would not have to go back. No chance to revisit the pain she had caused, and the damage to loved ones that she no doubt had inflicted. Not that she remembered what that pain was.
What IS This Place?
But as she wanders deeper and deeper into this space, the same question echoes in her ears. “What IS this place?” The answer seems to come from her shadow. “This where you serve your penance.” That would seem to correspond with her earlier musings about not returning to where her body lies. But as frightening as this all seems; she is instinctively moving toward whatever is calling her. Toward what is promised: “You’ll soon have sweet release.” But once again, the question arises, “What IS this place?” The answer vibrates in her brain. “Beyond this realm, Etheres lies.”
The Silvery Lake
Soon, she comes to a silvery lake. As she examines it, she finds herself engulfed by it. Pulling her in, deeper and deeper. The silver fire of the lake seems to melt away at her skin. But is it skin? Regardless, it is a small price to pay for what she has done. Whatever that was. But that is not all that the lake reveals. It also shows her visions of what has passed in her life. Although not clear enough to be understood. The images are distorted and warped. Though they cause her pain. The pain of guilt, the agony of blame. And she still knows not what for. But as quickly as she sank into the lake, she is free of it. Vanished as if it never existed. But the pain remained.
A Final Ascent
Left to ponder the meaning of it all, her shadow reappears. Not saying anything, but for some reason, she cannot look it in the eyes. When she finally gathers her courage to do so, the creature has vanished. Along with her pain. But her journey was not complete. There is now a mountain ledge to climb. Perhaps her shadow waits for her there?
She begins her ascent, but the stone’s texture is wrong. Instead of feeling like stone, it yields under her grip, almost like skin. In fact, she feels numerous eyes gaze upon her. Their gazes are familiar. They are the many people in her life that have cast their angry eyes upon her for her actions or perhaps, her inactions. She wonders if they are there to hurt her. In much the same way she hurt them. By pushing them away. When she felt that it was easier to be alone and isolated. Rather than to be loved.
As Valerie reached the top, she once again wondered where this blissful serenity was that she was promised. So far, all she had found was pain, guilt, anger and fear. But as she contemplated, she realized that was why she was there. To allow all of those things she was clinging to be released. In a sense, she was there to allow closure. To let them all, go. In a sense, to become Etheres. Valerie had reached her destination.
Writer Anas Abdulhak has created a beautiful and poignant look at one possible journey into the afterlife. Through poetic prose, they have explored what it is that makes a life and all the pain and suffering that sometimes shapes it. Their main character Valerie is portrayed as a girl who has struggled with self-acceptance and more importantly, letting other people in. It is only after her passing that these feelings are made manifest and the reality of what her loved ones dealt with. No doubt, her passing only added to their grief. Abdulhak expressed this in prose that was both haunting and at times beautiful.
To make this all work, Etheres needed an artist of un-surpassing skill. Fortunately for this project, they landed artist Dennis Menheere. His color wash pages were a spectacle to look at and reflected the ethereal nature of the writer’s narrative brilliantly. I would imagine the full-page spreads of this art was something to behold. Combined with Abdulkak’s prose, and the lettering work of DC Hopkins, it made for a feast for the eyes and the soul.
Source Point Press Etheres by writer Anas Abdulhak and artist Dennis Menheere is available on March 22.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.