When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter is a haunting (pun intended) ghost story about a girl who brings her brother back from the dead—with terrible consequences. In the spirit of the Halloween season, Sarah Porter shared some of her illustrations with us, along with bonus commentary!
After her older brother, Dashiell, dies of an overdose, sixteen-year-old Ruby is overcome by grief and longing. She doesn’t know that Dashiell’s ghost is using her nightly dreams of him as a way to possess her body—and to persuade her twin brother, Everett, to submit to possession as well.
Dashiell tells Ruby and Everett that he’s returned from the Land of the Dead to tie up loose ends, but he’s actually on the run from forces crueler and more powerful than anything the Bohnacker twins have ever imagined….
“Ruby and the Dollhouse Man”
“Ruby and the Dollhouse Man” was the first in the series; it shows the protagonist, sixteen-year-old Ruby Bohnacker, during a disturbing encounter with an unknown ghost in the Land of the Dead. The ghosts in When I Cast Your Shadow lose their physical forms when they die. When a living person meets a ghost, what they see is a projection of their own mental imagery, a figure like something from a dream. Ruby sees the stranger pinned above her, with a dollhouse in place of his head, and she’s even more distressed when she recognizes that his head is a miniature version of her own home.
I needed to come up with a visual way to show that the ghosts are fundamentally different from the living. The black beam that disrupts the dollhouse man’s body passes behind Ruby, because they can inhabit the same space even while belonging to utterly disconnected states of being.
“Everett and Aloysius”
The ghosts can only escape from the Land of the Dead by possessing the living, whether people or animals. Ruby and her twin Everett are both targeted for possession by the ghost of their older brother Dashiell—and other ghosts also take an interest in the twins. In “Everett and Aloysius,” Everett innocently tries to pet a tabby cat which is actually nothing of the kind, while the ghost inside it looms over him.
“Dash Confronts Mabel by the River of the Dead”
Mabel died of scarlet fever when she was still a little girl, and since then she’s managed to possess a scruffy, hulking middle-aged man—but she’d really prefer to live in a girl’s body. Ruby strikes her as an ideal new home. In “Dash Confronts Mabel by the River of the Dead,” Dashiell warns the child ghost that she’d better stop stalking his sister. Both Mabel and Dashiell are lost and insubstantial, broken by the river flowing behind them and by their own fading memories of life.
“Dashiell on the Carousel”
The final image in the series shows Dashiell alive, the way Ruby remembers him on their last day together. Her dead brother appears to her riding a carousel by the East River, while the New York skyline sails along behind him. Her memory takes on an enchanted vibrancy, the glow of all things dearly loved and gone forever.