Ghost of Elysium by Neil Cladingboel

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SUMMARY: Cassandra, a reluctant Ghost of Elysium, struggles daily to remember the mystery of her unexpected, yet gruesome demise. However, the answer she seeks may be more chilling than her death itself!

Though Cassandra had made the journey countless times, every new crossing for her, and the armies of phantoms who travelled with her, was a fresh experience; their memories instantly erased the moment their feet touched the mind-cleansing grass. Memories she, and many others, still fought hard to hold on to as their only remaining link to a previous, mortal life. For Cassandra, retaining these memories was her only chance of solving the mystery of her unexpected death.

Every day she suffered the same ritual; roused from her dream-like state by the clanging of a distant bell. The constant, hypnotic peal calling her reluctantly from her precious thoughts, as once again, she trekked from the caves at the river's edge, joining the battalions of ghosts for their monotonous shuffle through the fields of Elysium.

As she had done so often before, Cassandra marvelled at the hordes of marching spectres; introducing herself to those which flanked her as if they were polite strangers, meeting for the very first time. None of them would ever remember that they'd been repeating the same, courteous ritual for many years. Some had been marching for centuries.

Though far removed from Heaven itself, Elysium was not an unpleasant place. Those that chose would continue to march until reluctantly, they relinquished their pasts. Once cleansed, they were then free to dwell forever under the warm sun or laze upon the golden sands at the river's edge. Though not exactly a punishment, the daily marching was the sentence of their judgements and a consequence of their arrival in the afterlife.

These reluctant ghosts of Elysium were granted eternal salvation in return for their unfettered sprits that, once completely void of memories, would be sent back to Earth, living again as the souls of the newborn. Cassandra however, like so many others before her, had no interest in a life devoid of memory and struggled constantly to hold on to a past that faded with every new crossing of the grassy fields.

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She had always been a good girl, she thought. Never once missing Sunday school or church; always completing the list of daily chores her mother had left her to do in the hours before and after school. And never once had she complained out loud or refused the constant abuse inflicted upon her by her unemployed, alcoholic stepfather.

By the time she had turned seventeen, Cassandra's spirit had been completely broken and the discovery of her accidental pregnancy had driven her to despair. Fearing the consequences if her mother ever found out what her husband had done to her, and what Cassandra had herself allowed, she told no one of her tragic plight, longing to confront her stepfather's cruelty and blackmail him somehow into stopping his constant rape and abuse. But even that would have made no difference, she feared, planning instead the only possible solution she could think of in her current, fragile state of mind.

Drugging him had been easy; there was always so much booze lying around that slipping a cocktail of aspirin and her mother's sleeping pills into every bottle she could find was more than sufficient to eventually render her stepfather unconscious.

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