My grandfather once had the strangest of dreams. He found himself walking the cobblestone streets of a town at twilight. The habitants emerged from every door, corner, and alley in total silence, carrying oil lanterns ahead of them to guide their steps. The gloomy streets quickly populated with feeble lights. Hundreds. Thousands. The crowd gathered at the town’s square, where they joined a line that, as my grandfather could see, extended beyond the horizon like a river of stars. Bewildered, without not knowing what to do, my grandfather joined the line and marched along with the pilgrims to an uncertain destination.
After a long walk, a woman wearing a white robe approached my grandfather and halted his advance. “Where is your lantern?” The woman asked with a soothing voice.
My grandfather stepped outside of the line. “I don’t have one,” he said, shocked at the realization that from the thousands forming the line, he was the only one missing his lantern.
“That’s because it’s not your time yet,” the bright-eyed woman said with a comforting smile. “This is the pilgrimage of Death, but you are not ready yet.” My grandfather turned around in disbelief, refusing to accept that everyone surrounding him was already dead. “You need to go back from where you came from, and in fourteen days, we will meet again.” The woman forewarned and my grandfather headed back, leaving behind the pilgrims and their lights. My grandfather walked without stoping until the night was so dark that he could not see himself anymore.
My grandfather woke up before the roosters crowing, lying by the side of his wife, alive but feeling cold.
Later that day, dining at the table, my grandfather recounted the dream to his family. My grandmother, his sons, and her daughter—my mother—listened attentively to his story. “I’ve been informed that I’ll die in two weeks,” my grandfather resolved, but no one took him seriously since he was not suffering from any ailment, and his family attributed this sudden revelation as a product of his dreams, far from reality.
But my grandfather took his dream so seriously that the following day, he started his preparations. He redacted his will and instructed his older sons about how to deal with things when he had gone. My grandmother grew worried about his behavior, but it was until my grandfather disappeared she panicked. She thought the worse, since he had never left home without letting her know, but back then, without the access of technology, there was little to be done but wait.
After three days of absence, my grandfather finally returned home. His family welcomed him happily, but when confronted about where he had been, my grandfather’s sole explanation was that he had gone on a pilgrimage, preparing himself for his demise.
Days later, when the fateful day arrived, my grandfather rose earlier than usual for a weekend, and he asked his wife to prepare lunch earlier, since he wanted to go to sleep. After having his meal, my grandfather stood in front of a window, admiring the greenery for a long time. My mother, who at that time was a teenager, approached his father to understand what he was looking at so keenly.
“Is not beautiful their singing?” My grandfather asked her daughter, his eyes fixed on the tree’s foliage.
“What?” my mother asked, puzzled.
“The birds,” he said, but my mother couldn’t hear or see a single bird.
After that, my grandfather went to the bathroom, and he fell, like struck down, but by the moment my mother arrived, my grandfather was already dead.
Amid their sorrow, his family had to admit that what my grandfather had said turned to be true. And they had to embrace the possibility that maybe my grandfather had indeed visited the hereafter in what they thought “was just a dream,” and what he had witnessed in that place, we want it or not, wait for us all.
All my life, I’ve been drawn by the enigma of death. A mystery that nobody has unraveled, even when is everyone’s unavoidable destination. Death is that last and missing piece of the puzzle which could endow a meaning to the life we live. That’s why every time my mother tells me the story I just shared with you, my mind can do nothing but wonder about the world beyond the boundaries of life that my grandfather described.
As I started writing and stories bloomed in my head, my desire to write about the pilgrimage of Death always remained latent. Finally, with my first novel, VANDELLA, I freed my imagination to explore what the hereafter visited my grandfather could be like. I sincerely believe my grandfather failed to communicate all the minute details of his experience, and considering the time has passed since then, there is no way for me to fill the missing pieces but with the creative power of my imagination.
I have done my best to capture the essence of my grandfather’s experience and I have created a character for the purpose of live it. Here I share the synopsis of the book, hoping that will capture your attention and now, knowing the actual story that fueled my desire for writing this story, you will also be interested in visiting the hereafter through the eyes of Maia:
Orphaned under mysterious circumstances and raised by her grandmother, Maia thinks she’s left her tragic past behind her. Now a dreamy seventeen-year-old, Maia longs to find true love with her high school crush when she receives the appalling news that her long-dormant Cancer has returned, not just to mess with her romantic plans, but to ruin her entire life.
One night, during her stay at the hospital, Maia is visited by a peculiar young man who confesses he is about to claim the soul of her beloved grandmother. But Maia offers her own soul instead and joins this gorgeous harbinger of death in an odyssey to the hereafter. The dizzying journey takes Maia and her beguiling companion from an elaborate ball, to a steam locomotive in the sky, to a haunted abandoned country house, to the bottom of a lake, and other magical locales. They face otherworldly obstacles as Maia attempts to save her only relative and determine if there is any hope for her own tortured soul.
M. Ch Landa