I've had several lives, well I guess that might be the wrong way to put it. I've had several beginnings. Though with every ending it felt like a miniature death, we all experience that…some call it growth. I find myself repeating each mistake at each new life…beginning what ever you will call it. I could hardly call it growth, if anything it was a pattern. I feel that I've been 'reborn' more times than the people in every evangelical church in Texas and still here I am at ground zero.
It feels fresh though this time, different maybe. Maybe it's just the air, I looked up through the glass ceiling of the terminal. I was glad to have landed in Phoenix, I never did take well to flying. I would have to get used to the heat, London had been soaking in rain the past few weeks. Maybe the sun is what is making me feel off kilter. The sky was so blue and cloudless, I looked up feeling as though I had never truly seen the sky before…not like this. Waiting at the pick-up terminal my eyes locked into the infinite blue when I heard the distant but familiar voice shrieking my name only moments before I was tackled into a firm, rib shattering hug.
Her voice perky and unnaturally high-pitched. "Oh Corina I've missed you so much! I was here an hour early I was just so excited to see you. There's just so many people here it took me forever to find you!"
I can't say I was surprised by that, not that she meant anything by it but I was an altogether staggering five foot one, not someone you would see mixed into a busy lanky and oddly strong arms of my best friend Jessica clasped around me as she lifted me a good foot off of the ground rambling on in a near scream about how much she missed me. It was a heart-warming, if not somewhat obnoxious display of affection. I hugged her back firmly, clapping my hand against her shoulder to let her know to ease up and she did, placing me back on the ground, smiling at me genuinely glad to see me.
That was something else that felt off kilter…fresh; she was glad to see me. Whenever I start new in a town I've learned to expect to be alone, but it just so happened that Jessica had been offered a new job writing an op-positional weekly article in a mainly republican magazine in Arizona.
Jessica's smile did not recede as she helped me with my bags, she began to ask me about my flight and make the small talk that is necessary in a crowded airport. She walked quickly along with me as I nodded and smiled back politely. To be honest I wasn't really present for what she was saying but I had developed a knack for knowing when to chime in to someone else's have to when you're in my line of work in order to really be aware of whats going on around you. When it came to necromancy you had to listen the reanimated (or Zombies as some people would still disparagingly refer to them as)weren't the loud bumbling, talkative creatures that humans are so I might have to fake out the inane chatter from time to time no matter how in-cordial it was. In this instance it wasn't essential but useful for the sake of my sanity in the bustling airport.
We shuffled through the mass of people most of them in just of a rush as we were to get out of the almost sardine can like terminals. Airports are strange like that, organized chaos people shipping in and out of one place like self-guided fed-ex packages.
We finally made it outside, Jessica was still filling me in about her wife and kids. Jessica's wife Kelley was a sweet woman, she was nearly as private as I was but that's what made her contrast so well with Jess. They had a boy and a girl and by the way Jessica described them you would have thought they were the Mozart and Picasso of our times. I usually find obsessive parenting nauseating but I was glad to hear how happy Jessica was, she did deserve it after all. She was one of the few people I'd ever met that had truly altruistic intentions.
After packing the last of my belongings into the backseat of her station wagon I climbed into the passenger seat, closing the door and grateful for the lack of noise for the first time since I had landed. As we drove off Jessica quieted too, my face must have told it all I really, really was loving the quiet.
For a good half an hour she had indulged me in the silence before she caved in and started to talk again. I swear I could see the bite mark on her lip, she was struggling not to disrupt the peace I was feeling. I laughed under my breath and couldn't help but indulge Jessica in her need for conversation. It really did feel nice to be welcomed, it felt like a little piece of home in a place I knew I would only belong for a few years at best. I wouldn't think about that now, it was a new start after all and thinking of 'what's next' felt like I might be trying to ruin my new life for myself before it even was started. After awhile the conversation died back down into a comfortable quiet and I gazed out my window lazily watching the exit signs pass by thinking 'this is home, for now…welcome home Corina."
Necromancy was a career that was never without complications or stigmas. It wasn't what everyone expected it to be, undead and zombie slaves devouring the flesh of local villagers and spreading the 'infection.' If only it were that simple, people would have armies and factories full of zombies working just for them. In all actuality making a Zombie who is not a ticking oozing bomb or rotting flesh and that can coherently do what you ask of it was difficult.
The job tonight came from a thirty year old man who had been taking care of his grandmother for the better part of his life. I did feel sympathy for him, he seemed to be the loving grandson any woman on her last leg could have asked for. He had been living with her and there was still a dispute of the will, his uncles and aunts wanted to split up their mothers property even though his grandmother had promised him the house.
I pulled my car up to the cemetery gates and parked beside two cars, my client was already here. Closing my door, the night contrasted so well with the bright blue of the day. Nearly pitch black darkness wrapped the air around me like a thin velvet sheet. The only lights coming from the streetlights focused on the stretch of road behind me. I headed into the graveyard, gently pushing the intricate bronze gates open walking past them into total darkness.
Cemeteries weren't something to be frightened of, not if you asked me anyhow. Where most people felt eerie or scared I was peaceful, the stillness and quiet was something that people never failed to undervalue. The smell of well kept grass and freshly dug earth filled my nostrils as I continued deeper past the rows of headstones. You could tell a lot about a person from their headstone, even after death it was a sign of status and wealth. I rolled my eyes passing a vast ornamental obelisk, people never ceased to amaze me with the way they waste money. Then again if it weren't for the clients that had more money than sense, digging up relatives and friends for frivolous things I would be out of business for the most part.
I saw two men, both in suits. He and his lawyer were silent standing there looking as if he would be ready to bolt with any slight sudden noise. I called out of the darkness as I approached. "Hi Nathan."
He turned his head in the night towards my voice and I heard him call back uncertainly. " Ms. Rhodes?"
"Please, Call me Corina." I said stepping next to him, I must have startled him because he jumped when I came into his view.
I gave a small silent nod to his lawyer, and he returned it. I knew this man, Jonathan Todd, he was one of the few lawyers in the country who had Post-Humous law on his resume. As impressive as it was, I couldn't help but dislike him he was smug and despite working with the reanimated he never saw his clients as human. That bothered me, most of the country felt this way but most of the country also didn't rake in a nine figure salary for working with the undead.
"Oh, of course…Corina." He nodded nervously his eyes searching the blackness of the cemetery aimlessly.
"I hope I didn't keep you waiting long." I said looking at my cellphone checking the time, it was 9:33 I was only a minute or two late at most.
He shook his head pushing himself off of his car, "No, not at all I was just…praying."
I nodded holding back an urge to laugh under my breath. I never really understood religion, science had dis-proven it in the last few centuries so much so that it was like believing in the tooth-fairy to me. I would have had more respect for it if I hadn't encountered my share of zealots urging me to 'mend my ways' and to give up re-animation altogether. The way I saw it was, if their god didn't want me to do it he could tell me himself.
We stepped a few yards into the cemetery and he stopped inches from a large rounded marble headstone, it looked glossy even in the darkness. The earth at his feet still didn't looked settled, she hadn't been in the ground a week yet.
"I just hope she isn't mad." he stammered.
I shrugged, "She can go right back in as soon as we are done asking what we need to."
He looked at me and hesitated but he asked before I could stop him. "What if she doesn't want to go back?"
His lawyer shot me a look and I grimaced, this part of the job was never fun. Telling a loved one they had to lose the person again. "Well, it's not legal yet…for me to allow a reanimated person…"
"A zombie." his lawyer interrupted.
"—a Zombie." I repeated it after him, " and to let them stay, right now the law books say it's playing god and against the natural order.."
I would have kept going but he put his hand up to stop me and then nodded to let me know he understood.
"What do you need me to do?" He asked biting back apparent tears.
"Nothing, just…relax…I have it from here." I feigned my best smile and stepped in-front of the headstone.
Placing down my duffle bag rummaging inside, it was pretty big to carry around the essentials. I started to pulling somethings out of it that would make the average person sick to handle. First taking out a can of salt, you'd be surprised what it could be used for besides cooking. Then pulling out three dead large fluffy white rabbits and my silver dagger for the blood-magic part of the ritual (PETA never ceased to love re-animators for this essential part of the job), a single red candle and two white ones and a Ziploc bag of rancid meat. When you reanimate a person they tend to come out ravenous and it was important to have a good pound of nearly spoiled meat on hand, from what I understood the worse it smelled and made my stomach turn the better it tasted to the dulled senses of the people I had to raise.
I also pulled my leather bound but worn book of the dead, I knew the incantations by heart backwards and forwards but having the book out made it look more 'official' for my clients. You don't want to think someone is winging a ceremony you have paid six figures on.
That was one of the only perks of the job, individual jobs paid highly even if they were far and few in-between I could survive on one reanimation for a few months before another one eventually found its way into my lap.
Handing Nathan and his lawyer each one of the white candles as I lit them. "Don't let go of this and don't let it go out." I said looking at each of them, "I'm going to place the red candle on her headstone and the white ones you are holding are so that she can respond to your questions." I explained it to them because I doubt either of them knew that candles and fire were basic talismans in the aiding of most rituals in darker magics. I hadn't needed the use of one in years to communicate with or to control the undead that I rose. Like with anything else practice made perfect with necromancy.
Thumbing very quickly to the pages I needed I placed my book down on top of the headstone, looking to my client and his lawyer. I could practically see the man in the suit sweating, I couldn't blame him for being scared this was much less cozy than his office or the very well protected courtrooms. Still I couldn't help but let a small smile cross my lips as I watched him fidget a few feet from me. I heated my dagger over the red candle, heating the metal made it much easier to get through the rabbit in one try.
I began to speak the incantation under my breath, there were re animators that would chant almost scream their incantations during a ritual but I found that was all for bravado. You didn't need to say the words in much more than a whisper and I really didn't enjoy yelling them out, it made me feel like an under-trained magician at a child's birthday party.
The silence in the cemetery helped my voice carry, the tension of the two men beside me was heavy as they heard me speaking and they knew I had started. I kept my eyes down on the pages focusing my knife quickly cutting though the rabbits the blood was still just barely warm as it oozed over my hand and began to soak the disturbed earth at my feet. I was used to this part but it never really became pleasant for me, in all honestly when I first was trained by my grandfather this part made me violently ill.
Dropping them to the side when they were sufficiently drained continuing my incantation for lack of a better word. Concentrated feeling the familiar vibrations of power starting to course through my body. It felt as if the red hot core of the earth was rising up into me through the ground into my feet. I could feel it tickling the muscles in my legs, moving up higher still through my body. Slowly it came up into my torso making my lungs feel tight as they were licked by the invisible flames.
Nathan watched me, I'd always wondered what it must look like to my clients as they watch me perform the rituals. If i had to guess by the look on his and Jonathan's face it would be, terror…they were terrified of me.
Focusing as I felt myself stay physically in the world of the living but I felt my soul pushing and forcing its way into that of the dead. Calling voicelessly for his grandmother to come to me, to obey my commands. Most people don't like to be told what to do, death doesn't change that. Luckily for me they didn't have much of a choice. Necromancers had the advantage they could make anything considered dead or undead obey them, this would account for the nightmarish stories of zombie slaves. Sadly it's not always just stories, people like the idea of having slaves and seeing as the undead have no civil rights it is easy to get away with…assuming you have a few hundred thousand in the bank.
She came to me and I felt my power pulling her with me, back to where my feet were planted. I felt us rip out of the realm of spirits and as if I were hit by a truck we slammed back into consciousness in the graveyard. Gasping and falling to my knees I reaching for the duffel bag pulling out two metal shovels. "Dig, quickly."
The two men looked at me confused for a moment before Nathan caught on and grabbed a shovel starting to dig into the earth. The lawyer looked at me in disbelief, he hadn't expected to get dirty and that was clear by the overpriced suit he was wearing. After a moment he grabbed the shovel and began to help his client dig up the grave. I know it might make sense to the average person to dig up the site before you reanimate the person, but its counteractive. As hard as my body was jarred the blow my spirit never had really left my body, a spirit being thrown back into its former body could literally blow the body and casket to pieces. The six feet or so of dirt helped keep the body from becoming debris by cushioning the blow.
I would have helped dig but I physically couldn't. My body was so drained, I stayed knelt watching them, they needed to dig faster. It wasn't about suffocation because all of her organs were already dead, this was preternatural life. It was for her mental health, can you imagine being forced back into your own corpse, buried well—-alive? I've had to disappoint more than one client when the person they brought back had snapped before they were able to dig them up.
Both men where moving the dirt as quickly as they could, the grandson admittedly working much harder. It was sweet in a strange sort of way, he shouldn't of had to have done this. He did deserve her house after all from what I understood but the woman never got around to writing a will despite her age, some people just don't want to think about death or accept its inevitability. I could hear his breath getting heavier as he dug deeper, the lawyer abandoning trying to keep his suit clean, throwing the jacket off. The dirt staining his expensive white shirt and his tailored pants.
I stood up after nearly ten minutes had passed still feeling drained, my eyes going wide as I heard the old woman shriek in her coffin, they were taking too long she was going to snap. "Hurry, there isn't much time!"