Jean-Marc Ligny

 Elodie has been struggling against the dead ever since she was a child.

The undead: those who have perished in a violent and painful way and those who didn't want to die. They feed on her living energy to preserve their shape and consciousness, and to live nearer life. Elodie has been fighting them since her childhood, but these endless secret fights are wearing her out. At each new moon, or in haunted places, Elodie is assailed by these insatiable spirits that she must continue to fight, just to remain alive.

Her parents, who think she is mad, decide to have her sectioned. But a suicide is lurking in the clinic ... Wiped out by psychotropic drugs and close to passing on to the Other Side, Elodie is saved in extremis by a kindly nurse.

Now the son of the nurse is no other than Orfan, her idol, a star revered by teenagers. By including her in his rock group, Orfan manages to draw Elodie towards the positive and radiant side of life. Love makes her stronger to fight against the dead - and it is a poison for them. But love is also a poison for the living, when it is stained with jealousy ... Elodie discovers this at her expense. This time, she wants to end it once and for all, and deliver herself body and soul to the dead, who are all hungry for her... Will Orfan succeed in saving her from the Dark Kingdom?


Jean-Marc Ligny revisits with brio the myth of Orpheus in a version that is rather gothic in style. Admirably set in the adolescent world, the book is packed with suspense and very moving.

Xavier Collette

Translation Sample



Jean-Marc Ligny




Musical Inspiration:


Anathema, Arcana, Dead Can Dance, The Chameleons,

Echo & the Bunnymen, Faith & the Muse,

Faun, Fields of the Nephilim, Heimatærde, Ice Ages,

Irfan, Qntal.



Lying in bed, Elodie notes with apprehension the halo of the full moon rising above the edge of her window, dusting the deep blue of the night with silver, and sharpening the silhouette of the dead tree in the garden. Its black claws seem to reach for the opalescent sky.
She senses that this is the night.
She feels it throughout her quivering body, in the knot of pain rising from her solar plexus and in those tingling sensations at the tips of her toes and the roots of her hair.
She hears it in the murmurs, sighs and disembodied groans rustling at the threshold of her hearing, creeping into the silence of the clammy room. She alone is able to perceive them sweeping in on a Wind from Limbo.
Ever so cautiously, she tenses her muscles and hardens her willpower. Not moving, not blinking, she holds her breath and curbs the beating of her heart, and prepares to fight.

To see them coming, and to be able to escape, Elodie had opened the shutters closed by her mother earlier in the evening. But there was no possible escape from her own fear. 

She had also spat out the sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication she was supposed to take every night, and thrown them under the bed. They weakened her, softened her vigilance and destroyed her resistance. In other words, they laid her out as an offering to those beings she's always had to fight against.

Fortunately, they hardly ever come right into her home.
It had to be due to the combination of her period and the full moon, whose pale eye is now up to the corner of the window, glancing into her room as if to assure itself that yes, Elodie is still there, submissive and willing. Yet she is neither submissive nor willing. On the contrary, she plans to stand firm and defend her life - once again.

The moon is truly an eye now. Glowing, bubbling like lava, cracked like the iris of a cat's eye. Maleficent certainly, but Elodie has seen its like before. What she fears more is the increasing tension in her core being, as if someone wanted to tear out her heart, to steal her breath and her life force, and suddenly, she starts to feel the snaky fingers of a skeletal hand trying to penetrate her stomach and twist her bowels into knots!
The battle has begun - she must be strong, and dominate her terror.
She drives away the spectral hand and its crooked fingers by exhaling a "hunh!" loaded with all her violent energy. The thing retracts like a spider caught in a flame. Suddenly the assault erupts from every direction at once, taking the strangest forms. Sighs and groans become shouts, echoes spring from nowhere and bounce against the walls, ceiling and furniture, whipping Elodie around like so many gusts of wind from beyond the grave. Her skin turns pale and she shivers at each impact.  She tries to protect herself with her quilt, but it does nothing to stifle the icy howls that concentrate their mercurial poisons
in her - she feels her blood starting to freeze. It's cold, so cold in her room...

Something, a heavy wreath of smoky grey, is crawling beneath her window. She throws her quilt over it, and that gives her an idea. In one movement, she pulls off her nightgown, rips it, then sets the pieces on fire with a lighter pulled from her nightstand. 

As the synthetic fabric ignites and melts, she shakes it madly, projecting incandescent droplets all around the room. In the sooty, dancing light, she catches glimpses of shapes, figures and almost-human faces - masks of horror, terror, despair. Wretched beings, deformed and bloody, skinned alive, who have had nothing of the living about them for many a long year.
The fire drives them into a circle around Elodie, who spins like a Fury, her bare feet crushing the burning bits of polyamide that sputter on the carpet.

Suddenly a pane of glass shatters, and an invisible presence
invades the room. Her armoire, screeching, rushes toward Elodie and tries to squash her against the wall.
Definitely not a good move.

The young girl is strong and supple, and this time "they" fail to immobilise her. The cool night air revives the combustion of what's left of her nightgown, and besides, the noise of the window breaking and the armoire scraping across the floor have certainly awakened her parents, and "they" do not want witnesses. Elodie, chilled to the bone, spins around with the lump of burning fabric in her hand, not even feeling its sticking heat. Groaning, the hideous spectres recoil and vanish into the blue evening, in the shape of ruinous mists flying away under the sallow moon.
As she throws the last flaming bit of cloth after them, screaming obscenities, her bedroom door flies open to reveal bright lights and her terrified father.
"What's happening in here?"

His face full of fear, he takes in the smoky room, the embers burning holes in the carpet, the Normandy oak armoire shifted at least two feet from the wall, the quilt piled up under the broken window... He stares at Elodie, pale and trembling, with eyes like saucers, and her arms folded across her developing bosom.
Nicole bumps into Charles, who remains petrified in the doorway. She becomes distraught herself as she rushes over to her trembling daughter, whose face is convulsed with a spasm.
"Elodie, what's the matter? Why are you naked? My God! Your hand is all blistered!"
"It smells like something burning," said Charles with a grimace. He seems completely stunned, as if what he saw in the room is beyond his understanding.
"Come on darling, let's take care of that... And your feet! They're bleeding!"

Nicole leads Elodie out of the room. After a final incredulous look at the battlefield, Charles closes the door behind them.
"I'm cold, Mom... I'm too cold."
She can barely stand, and her mother has almost to carry her.
"But what happened?" repeated her father.
Elodie sighs. What can she say? They saw nothing, they know nothing, they cannot understand.
"I had a nightmare..."



Elodie languishes in a rattan chair, not very easy on her skinny thighs, glancing mournfully at photos (taken by the doctor?) framed and hung on the walls of the waiting room. They show smiling children from around the world. She searches for something interesting in the stack of magazines on the table, but between Psychology Magazine, The Psychiatrist's Bulletin and The Times, she finds nothing very captivating. Her parents leaf through the magazines, but they are not really interested. They keep glancing at her surreptitiously, but she pretends not to
In spite of herself -- she just can't help it from happening -- she becomes absorbed in listening to the vibrations of the room, then of the entire building. She catches only a very small sigh from far off, the attic or top floor, where the servants once lived. An ancient rattling, an aimless wandering, the forever-inconsolable distress of a lost soul. An old woman died up there
, she determined, and was forgotten by everyone. It had happened long ago. Its spirit is now so anaemic that it can do no evil, nor can it call other souls to its rescue, but Elodie still feels its desperate desire for her vital energy.  But it is too frail now to move or take shape, like a famished dog that's been thrown a piece of meat but hasn't the strength to accomplish the act that would save it. 

Poor woman, she thinks. Doubtless it's due to her period giving her such hypersensitivity that had allowed her discovery. Ordinarily, she wouldn't feel that kind of presence without actually entering the room where she died. That's why she had never noticed it, despite her frequent visits to Dr. Caligari. That would be the epitome, to be attacked right in the psychiatrist's office! The thought brought a half-smile to her face, imagining the scene. Would the doctor see the dead? No, probably not, like everyone else. In fact, he would dive at her with a syringe full of something strong enough to knock out a horse... which would put Elodie at their mercy. There was nothing funny about that. Her smile fades.

Her train of thought is interrupted by the entrance of the doctor, a short, plump balding man, with dainty half-moon glasses and a goatee. Charles puts down his magazine and stands up, impatient from waiting. Sometimes Elodie gets to skip the consultation, if it's just a case of refilling her prescription, or if there is no new incident to add to her record. But she suspects that will not be the case today.
"I'd like to see Elodie first, if you don't mind, Mr. Morange."
Charles sits down, his face somber.
"Be honest with the doctor, tell him the whole truth!" he urges, shaking his index finger at her.
"Even if you don't want to tell it to us,' Nicole says in a softer tone. "The more he knows, the better he can help you."

I bet, Elodie thinks wryly. The more she says, the crazier they think she is -- she knows this from experience. But she can't get out of this one, so she crosses the hall and goes into his office, dragging her feet.

"Sit down, Elodie," suggests the shrink, pointing to a deep leather armchair.
While he gets settled behind his massive oak desk, she sits down on the edge of the chair, tense, with an obstinate expression in her face, as if to say, ‘Go ahead with your questions, a lot of good it'll do you!' The doctor is familiar with his young patient's reticence. He will have to use all his finesse to get her to open up. Just like every other session, from the very beginning...and as his colleagues must have done before him. This kid is a champion at passive resistance. Fingers crossed under his goatee, he stares at her over his glasses and gives her a pleasant smile.
"So, how are you since your last visit?"
She shrugs.
"You don't look to be in very good shape, though. Is your hand giving you a lot of pain?"

Elodie looks at her bandaged hand as if she had suddenly noticed it. She had almost forgotten it, although the burns caused her a searing pain from time to time. Her parents must have talked to the doctor; they considered it very serious that she'd hurt herself that way, whereas for her it was just one more episode in her endless struggle against the dead.
"No, I'm fine."
"It doesn't prevent you from sleeping?"
Another shrug.
"I take sleeping pills, you know."
"And your nightmares? Do they wake you at night?"
"Better than that, they make me move furniture and burn the carpet," Elodie replies sarcastically.
"Yes, I heard. But let's leave that aside for the present," says Dr. Caligari with a patient voice, evading the topic. "What interests me is what you dream about. Do you remember?"
"I think you do, Elodie. I even think your dreams terrorize you so much that you don't dare talk about them. But you can confide in me... No one will ever know anything, not even your parents. I promise." 

He reflects a moment, then adds, "And they won't come here to attack you."
"Who?" she says with a startled jump, throwing a worried look around - a reaction the psychiatrist does not fail to notice.

"It's up to you to tell me, Elodie. Who would attack you? Who, or what, are you so afraid of?"

She tightens her lips with vexation. He'd cleverly trapped her. But she doesn't want to tell him anything, especially not anything about how she attracts dead people and how they attempt to get hold of her vital energy. She had seen what happens when you trust adults. The first time she spoke of it to her parents, she was five years old, and they figured she was afraid of the dark and put her in their bed for reassurance.
The second time she had been eight years old -- ‘the age of reason' according to her mother. That had earned her some sessions with a pediatrician, then with a child psychologist. From that point on, it was never-ending: doctors, tests, questions, pills... She had quickly understood that the quieter she was, the more tranquil they left her. The adult world offered neither comfort nor solutions to her problem.

How was she going to get out of this one? That fiend of a doctor is scrutinizing her over his ridiculous glasses, with his small but sharp gray eyes. He will harass her until he gets a satisfactory response. Plus, he knows very well when she's lying.
"So, Elodie? Clamming up will not help matters, you know."
For once she chooses to tell the truth. Not in the hope that he will believe her. On the contrary, it's so unbelievable that he won't believe a word. But he will recognize that she's not lying, so he'll figure she's delirious and merely prescribe a new pill for her, which will join the trash and dust under the bed as all the other pills did. Yes, she can get out of it this way ...
"I'm afraid of the dead," she whispers, lowering her head.
The shrink raises one eyebrow, grabs a sheet of white paper and a large fountain pen.
"The dead
? You dream about dead people?"
Elodie confirms with a nod.

"Dead people you know? Friends, members of your family?
"No. I don't know them. Just any dead people."
"And what do they do in your nightmares, these dead people? They attack you?"
"Yes. They want to take my life."
"I see..."
Elodie puts on a contrite air, but inside she is jubilant. No, he sees nothing. He'll get stuck on this story of nightmares, even though what she has to undergo is real, real! He'll just prescribe a slightly stronger sleeping pill...

"It happens frequently? You dream of them all the time?"
"No, not all the time. Only..."
She pauses. She was going to add, ‘only around cemeteries, the scene of crimes or accidents and in haunted houses.'
"Only when I have my period," she says.
This they understand, these psychiatrists. She's noticed it several times: it suits them for her to have a sexual problem, trauma or anything like that. They often question her about those kinds of things...Caligari just like all the others.
He scribbles some notes, then pierces her with his stare again.

 "Remind me when you had your first period."
"At twelve and a half."

"And it never caused you any particular problem, as I recall."
"No. Mom had already explained everything."
"However, something does bother me..."

He opens a pink folder marked ‘Elodie Morange,' and consults it rapidly.
"You've been following this treatment for a long time now, Elodie. Since well before you were twelve. Were you already dreaming about the dead when you were little?"
"Yes. Since my birth, I think."
"And since your birth, they've been attacking you?"
"Exactly. They'll eventually get me, one day or another."
"I see."
After hastily jotting down some more notes, Dr. Caligari stands.
"Will you return to the waiting room and send your parents in, please?"
"You're going to tell them everything," Elodie grumbles.
"No. I promised you, didn't I? I just need a few more details."
As soon as Elodie leaves, the psychiatrist rereads his notes with the excitement of a scientist who's discovered the origin of the Universe. He calms down just in time to greet her parents.




Caligari crosses his long, slender fingers under his bearded chin.

"Well, I'm listening," he says in a composed tone, calm and reassuring.
When Elodie's parents had called to make the appointment, they spoke of a ‘terrible crisis' with serious consequences: broken glass, burned carpet, furniture shoved around...and most importantly, Elodie's injured hand and feet. According to them, this necessitated an urgent consultation. The psychiatrist dealt with cases far more ‘terrible' in his eyes than Elodie's case, but, perceiving their distress, he had agreed to see them just three days later, which is the bare minimum.


They embark on a rather rambling description of the painful night their daughter subjected them to. Charles has still not been able to take in the armoire incident. After all, it took four men to install the armoire in her room! How could Elodie, a frail fourteen-year-old girl, have moved it all alone?

As for Nicole, what upsets her most are her daughter's injuries, her weakness, pallor and drawn features, and her laconic "I must have had a nightmare." Can you have nightmares when taking sleeping pills? Can you set fire to your room? Shouldn't the doctor prescribe something stronger? She also wants to know whether the treatment Elodie's following is really effective and does not produce bizarre side effects... Charles keeps insisting on the displaced armoire, which he considers well beyond Elodie's forces even to budge.

 "The human body contains hidden resources," replies the shrink. "We know, for example, of the case of a woman rendered hysterical by an accident her child was in. She managed not only to raise the car that was crushing him but to pull him out from under it. Isn't that extraordinary?"
"Are you suggesting Elodie is hysterical?" her father asks warily.
"I'm not suggesting anything; I merely note that such exploits are not new. We must now determine the exact circumstances that led to your daughter moving this armoire..."
"And to burning her nightgown," her mother reminds him. "And breaking a window. Aren't the sleeping pills supposed make her sleep?"
"Of course. But has she really been taking them?"
Charles shoots a suspicious glance at his wife.
She squirms in her chair, a prey to doubt.
"I gave them to her, like I do every evening, with a glass of almond syrup. That's her favourite drink, so they go down better like that."
"You verified that she swallowed them?"
Nicole blushed.

"Well...that is...she drank her almond syrup..."
"... And then spit out her pills, she must have! You should always
check, Nicole. You know how Elodie hates to take her medication."

The doctor interrupts him, saying, "Whatever the case, that night your daughter performed acts, that in your eyes, were irrational, even impossible and then blamed them on a mere ‘nightmare.' Has she at least told you about this nightmare?"
The couple exchange disappointed looks. In the heat of the moment, so to speak, taking care of Elodie's wounds, sealing the broken window, making sure all flames were extinguished in her room -- neither of them had thought to ask their daughter what exactly she had dreamt about, what had caused her to commit such wild acts. The day after, their normal routine settled back in: parents at work, Elodie at school, in the evenings the usual silence, punctuated by the chatter of the TV, despite one attempt by Nicole: "But what did you dream about last night, dear? What could have put you in such a state?" A shrug, and a blasé answer from Elodie: "I don't remember."
"So, she didn't tell you anything," the shrink guessed. "As usual... Dialogue is still difficult between her and you, isn't it?"
The parents remain silent, heads bowed. They look like two kids caught doing something mischievous. But what else was there to say? Yes, dialogue was difficult, even nonexistent. Elodie never
speaks of those...things that terrify her. Yet, according to the doctor, she is not autistic. She does not remain trapped in her own world, and does not refuse contact with the outer world. It's just that she is afraid of something...and sometimes she has her ‘attacks.'


The psychiatrist observes them over his half-moon glasses. He perceives their dilemma. They are reluctant to delve deeper, and they dare not say the treatment has failed, or admit that their daughter's case is more serious than they thought. He's had Elodie under his care for five years, and he can see there has been no real progress, that the medicines are not enough -- they simply stabilize temporarily Elodie's condition. Her parents have a difficult decision to make, one they have always pushed away, waiting until they were cornered. That moment had, perhaps, arrived.

 "And you, doctor?" said Charles almost aggressively, his chin jutting forward. "Did Elodie talk to you candidly this time?"
"What did she say?"
"With your permission, I prefer to keep it between her and me for the moment. I made her a promise, you understand. If I break it, this fragile dialogue window that has opened up would close permanently."
Charles is about to reply angrily, but Nicole breaks in.
"You're going to prescribe a new treatment?"
"I think we've gone beyond that, Mrs. Morange."
"You think she's better?"
"Unfortunately no, just the opposite. At this point, I think that her state now requires surveillance and constant care."
"And what do you recommend?" says Charles impatiently.
"That we should seriously consider confining her to a specialized facility."



Night fell during their return home to the suburbs, and with it, the rain. Charles is driving cautiously due to the heavy traffic, the rather dirty windshield and the worn out window-wiper blades. Silence reigns in the car, punctuated from time to time by Nicole's anxious remarks: "Go slower," "Watch out there on your right," "And him, what's he doing in the middle of the intersection? " and " Brake, Charles, brake! "
Nicole is always a rather painful passenger, with her husband anyway. Which eventually becomes aggravating. Then he gets angry and of course can't drive as well, and commits more errors that Nicole does not fail to comment upon with more and more acidity. This sometimes ends with Charles abruptly pulling off the road, getting out, slamming the door and exclaiming: "Go ahead, take the wheel if I scare you that much!"
But Nicole hates driving.

They are not yet to that point. For the moment they are both ruminating on what Dr. Caligari had told them about the serious decision they may soon have to make, chewing over and over whether or not to check Elodie into a psychiatric clinic. He'd tried to reassure them by insisting that the new treatment he was to prescribe would "probably" produce an effect. Nevertheless, he'd intimated that Elodie's night-time "crises" - whether or not due to sleepwalking - risked causing injuries and related damage, and that from now on constant monitoring should be considered, and that's why a hospital stay would be more appropriate...

Obviously, they can't talk about it, because Elodie is sitting just behind them and she would hear. She is leaning back against the headrest, amusing herself by predicting the course each raindrop will take down the windowpane: which drop will run down first? A game she played often when she was little... This fleeting reminder of an episode from her childhood brings a shadow of a smile to her pale lips.
She quickly bores of the game, though, and sits up straight in order to ogle herself in the mirror up front. She wants to see the effect a smile would make on her tired-looking face. Would it be capable of seducing a boy? She tries several times, but it always twists into a grimace, and she thinks it makes her look like a sad clown without his makeup.

Suddenly, she notices a strange green glow in the jumble of headlights drowned in the rain that the mirror reflects. She tilts her head slightly so she can better observe it. The reflection of a sign, or of a green light? No, it looks like it's threading its way through the it's approaching...
She turns around to see better through the rear window, and after wiping the film of moisture off she peers outside and sees...
Two eyes.
Intangible, of a shimmering bright green, they hover above the road, passing straight through the cars, approaching at breakneck speed -- and they fix themselves on Elodie!
At that instant she feels a strong tugging in her solar plexus - as if someone had stuck a hook in her abdomen in order to tear her out of the car. She feels literally sucked through the back of the seat -- her blood, her bowels, her heart, her life, she can't tell what all. Frozen in terror and totally unprepared for this attack, she can't detach her transfixed gaze away from the two green eyes -- wicked, powerful -- that are now only a few meters away, now moving across the car following them, now filling the entire rear window with their iridescence...
Mesmerized, Elodie is about to be carried away, sucked out...

"Geez, he's annoying me, that jerk with his brights on," grumbles Charles, who starts tinkering with his rear view mirror to avoid being blinded.
Coming back to her senses, Elodie, drowned in the unbearable green light, grabs  her seat belt and starts to scream.
This unexpected cry provokes a vigorous reflex on her father's part: he slams on the brakes and veers hard to the right, avoiding by a hair the enormous front end of a semi-truck headed straight at them. Bellowing its siren, it just grazes them in a great spray of muddy water.
But Charles' reckless maneuver had shot the car into a head-to-tail spin, and it waltzes from one side of the road to the other. Charles, grimacing, grips the wheel and presses hard on the brake pedal, until the car comes to an abrupt stop, one of the tires jammed into a pothole full of water at the side of the road. By an incredible stroke of luck, no vehicle has crashed into them, from either direction, just a few screeching brakes and horns honking crazily.


They remain motionless for a moment, to catch their breath and regain their senses, listening to the engine rattle. For once Nicole says nothing, merely shivers in total silence. Exhaling a deep sigh, Charles opens the door and gets out, as he often does to relieve his tension when it gets to be too much for him. He breathes in great lungfuls of air, charged with hydrocarbons from the freeway, and stares at the traces of his skid, fading fast in the rain and the traffic. His gaze takes in the landscape - or rather the non-landscape - of the shopping malls, factories and warehouses common to all suburbs, discoloured under the cadmium streetlights, drenched in neon lights.
A completely anonymous spot, yet Charles is sure he has been here before. He inspects more closely the signs, the parking lots, the topography.
No, he's never shopped in this area...


His eyes focus again on the road, a long, straight line broken up by roundabouts and entrances to parking lots. He slowly walks back to the car, wedged in its pothole, where he'd soaked his feet when he got out. There are the marks where he went off the road, and where he spun out in the mud...marks that end over there... He advances a few feet in front of the car, whose headlights are still on.

He notices first a lot of broken glass, and some unidentifiable plastic debris, then the oil stain that the soil had not yet imbibed -- and, just after, the concrete milepost. Or rather what remains of it: a post a few inches high, against which lies a garland and a wreath of wilted flowers, looking dismal in the rain. The family had brought the garland, and as for the wreath, Charles himself had placed it there. It bears a banner that reads:

To GERARD, our late lamented colleague, VICTIM OF THE HIGHWAY

The investigation revealed that Gerard, the victim in fact, had crashed, alone on a shitty evening like this one, and with a certain alcohol level in his blood. Gerard was a drinker, everybody at the office knew, but he was a funny drunk. Charles really liked him when he was not too drunk, and they had spent some quality time together. His sudden death a month ago had sincerely distressed him.
Shivering all over, head bowed in the rain, Charles returns to the car where his wife, her feet in the puddle, is opening the rear door.
"Do you realize, dear, we nearly had an accident right where Gerard died, you know, my colleague...?"
He interrupts himself, because Nicole, her face ashen, is pointing at the backseat with a trembling hand.
"Elodie is unconscious. Please tell me she is not...."


Translated by Galatea Maman

September 23, 2010
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