Study Guide

Where Things Come Back Mortality

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The second dead body I ever saw was my cousin Oslo's. I recognized his dirty brown shoes immediately as the woman wearing the bright white coat grasped the metallic handle and yanked hard to slide the body out from the silvery wall. (1.1) 

What a way to start your day, huh? It's not easy being confronted by the dead body of someone who you knew as young and alive. Oslo may not be Cullen's favorite family member, but that doesn't mean that he wants to see him dead. 

The phone call that afternoon. The drive to Little Rock. And then the revelation of death. It was all too real. Nothing idealistic about seeing your only cousin ghost white and stone dead. Not much to idealize when you know your aunt is crying herself to sleep next door and nothing can be done. (1.13) 

There's no way to make death a good or positive situation, and no way to possibly prepare yourself for seeing a loved one laid out on a table. Things really aren't the same in the Witter household—nor in Cullen's head—after he sees his cousin dead. 

Russell and Neil were the first people I had talked to that week who didn't tell me they were sorry for Oslo's death. And oddly enough, I found it kind of nice in that weird "I'd like to forget about real life and pretend that everything is okay" sort of way. (3.32) 

Russell Quitman is a total jerk, but Cullen kind of likes that he doesn't express all the same sympathetic sentiments about Oslo's death. He doesn't act sorry at all, which makes things seem more normal. 

"I mean, what if all of a sudden you up and die and then it's just me here with Mom and Dad and Aunt Julia down the street with her screaming and crying?" (3.90) 

Gabriel is far more affected by Oslo's death than Cullen… and it's not because he was closer to Oslo. His cousin's death has shaken him up because it reminds him that he can lose his other loved ones at any time. What a scary thought. 

When the twelfth bell had rung, Benton felt air rush against his face, his arms outstretched on both sides. He heard the quiet singing of Christmas carols. His lungs breathed in one final cold breath as his body became part of the earth. (8.35) 

We're thinking it's safe to say that Benton Sage is <em>not</em> having a great Christmas Eve when he decides to throw himself off of the church bell tower. Maybe the thought of everyone else's cheer makes him realize how terrible his life is. 

When Cabot Searcy was told that his roommate and friend had killed himself, he immediately walked into the bathroom of his parents' house, splashed warm water on his face, and stared at his reflection as tears began to roll down his cheeks. (10.4) 

Cabot may not have been terribly close to his roommate to begin with, but that doesn't mean that he isn't emotionally affected by his untimely death. How is he going to cope with the fact that he simply doesn't have a roommate anymore? 

It should not have been his responsibility to do it, but Cabot Searcy had waited two long weeks for Benton Sage's family to send for his things and no one had, so he began to box up the half of the room that did not belong to him. By doing so, Cabot Searcy felt that he would be able to keep himself from getting too distracted by Benton's death and move on with his life. (10.5) 

Because Benton's family doesn't seem that concerned with his death or collecting his belongings, Cabot takes it on himself to go through his things as a way of working through his death and come to accept it. This, of course, leads Cabot to the Book of Enoch.

"She said he <em>had</em> a strong spirit," I cried. "She said <em>had</em>."

I lowered my body down to the ground and Lucas, not letting go, lowered his with mine. We sat on the grass. Mena stood looking down at us. (11.74-75) 

That's no good. The last thing that you want to hear from a supposed psychic is that your brother—whom you're trying to reach—is dead, which is exactly what the psychic is implying when she refers to Gabriel in the past tense. Cullen immediately picks up on this. 

"And then"—my mother began to tear up—"she said that all she could do anymore was think about Oslo and Gabriel up there as babies, crawling around on a solid white floor together." (17.18) 

Aunt Julia doesn't hold out much hope for Gabriel's safe return, and can you blame her? The worst has already happened to her: Her son, Oslo, was found dead. After this, how can she expect anything but the worst case scenario? 

Gabriel looks at him blankly, his face still human, his eyes still frightened, and he mouths Cullen's name before crashing headfirst onto the table… He turns around and sees his house full of these same unhuman beings. They all walk toward him, their arms outstretched, their heads bobbing, their feet dragging." (17.142) 

It's so hard for Cullen's mind to make sense of what's going on that he has to turn all of his worst fears and thoughts into a zombie scenario. When he finds himself facing the idea that Gabriel is probably dead, he just imagines saving him from zombies instead. 

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