The Trouble With Necromancy
It takes a village to raise an old lady from the dead. Her granddaughter Lydia, for access to the corpse; her old partner Silent, for the mementos he kept from her youth; young Bobby for his singing voice; and the police necromancer, Harla, for bits and bobs and spells and paperwork. She tries to fill out the paperwork now, while Silent arranges old letters and cardinal feathers and lumps of wax around the body; but her concentration is wavering, caught again and again by Bobby reaching out to move the spell components around.
“What’s this?” he cries out, again and again. “What does this one do?” No one answers him: Lydia is sulking, Harla busy with the paperwork, and Silent only shakes his head; but Bobby is undeterred by the silence. He snatches the wax away, plays with it, puts it down somewhere else; again and again, Silent reshapes it and puts it back where it came from. It’s enough to drive Harla mad.
“Are you almost done?” asks Lydia, so impatient Harla can hear the eye-roll in her voice.
“Almost. Shush, Bobby. Have I spelled your grandmother’s name right?”
Lydia barely glances at the page. “How many ways are there to spell Anna Rose?”
“Just double-check, please. Bobby! Leave that be.”
She’s starting to feel like the boy’s mother. She isn’t; he hasn’t got one; but someone needs to call back Anna Rose’s spirit, and Bobby’s voice is sweeter than anyone’s. At least, it is when he isn’t screeching. She winces as she lifts him bodily away from the deathbed, wishing she had a hand free to cover her ears.
“Can we get started already?” Lydia hands the sheaf of paperwork back. Harla can only hope she’s double-checked it.
“If Silent’s done laying out the spell components.”
He is. What with Bobby’s constant interference, that amounts to a small miracle in itself.
“All right,” says Harla. “Everyone hold hands. Bobby, start singing.”
His hand is unpleasantly sticky in hers, but his voice is good. The red cardinal feather collapses into ash; the candles start to burn violet. Anna Rose breathes in, then out, then opens her eyes.
It only takes her a moment to assess the situation.
“Lydia!” she scolds, sitting up in bed. “Are you responsible for this? Didn’t you read my will, for goodness’ sake?”
“I couldn’t help it,” Lydia whines. “The police wanted to raise you. Anyway, you never gave me the recipe for that peach cobbler, and I thought…”
“Well! You’re certainly not getting it now!” The dead lady turns away with a huff, and her eye falls on Silent. “And what have you got to say for yourself, old friend?”
Silent raises an eyebrow.
“Owe you money, do I?”
“Well, I suppose that’s fair,” says Anna Rose, in a tone that makes it clear that it isn’t. She turns next to Bobby. “Aren’t you that little boy who hangs around the well at all hours begging? How did they rope you into this?”
“Mistress Harla gave me two whole silvers!” Bobby exclaims proudly.
“And you’re happy to drag an old woman up from her well-deserved rest and into a body that’s not even alive anymore, just as long as someone pays you enough, hmm?” She holds out a hand. “Give them here, lad, or I’ll haunt your bones for a hundred years.”
Bobby yelps and drops two sticky silver pieces into the dead woman’s palm. She turns and slaps them straight into Silent’s. “There. Debt’s paid.”
Silent grins and pockets the money.
Harla clears her throat.
“This is a police investigation,” she says, feeling the ritual has rather gotten out of her control. “Anna Rose, I conjure you to…”
“Hold up,” says Anna Rose. “I died in my sleep. You’re not investigating my murder, so why wait till I was dead to start asking questions?”
Harla coughs. “The dead can be commanded to answer only truthfully. Anyway, you might have information from beyond the grave.”
“Well, I’m not answering them,” says Anna Rose, and just like that she closes her eyes and dies again.
Everything is rather awkward after that.
Awkward, indeed: conjuring someone who doesn't want to be conjured! "Did you you wake me up? Did you bring me here?" The way Anna Rose just "went back to sleep" at the end was priceless! Loved that her old partner is named "Silent" (and I take it it's not simply because he doesn't have any dialogue), and that Bobby was just acting like a typical kid (and yes, I was just as annoying to my elders when I was a kid). Adding this to my favorites: I'll be reading this more than once -- much more! Thanks for sharing it, and congrats on the DD!
Stay well, everyone.