I’ve been busy of late, writing various short stories, some of which you can find by visiting my Amazon author page.
I’ll put up excerpts from these (or the entire story, if short enough) on this site in due course, as some are being entered into writing competitions or being submitted for magazines.
Here is the first draft beginning to a story I am currently writing, that is turning out to be the longest short story yet. It’s called The School of Necromancy, and it is about just that . . . think Harry Potter meets Frankenstein . . . and a lot of morbidity, black humour, and a science/classic sci-fi-horror theme over a straightforward magical one. Lighthearted gothic, and with a perhaps Lovecraftian bent to the approach, what with it being a personal account. I hope you enjoy it.
The School of Necromancy
I’m here to explain some things to you. A lot of questions have been asked, and a lot of people seem to be pretty concerned, so I have taken it upon myself, when no-one else will, to describe to you the events that led to the six dead bodies found about York last week, which has got the constabulary so vexed. There were, in fact, eight bodies. One was homeless, and the homeless are often forgotten. The other was one of us, and we hold onto our own.
The rules have never said ‘Don’t talk about the School’. They in fact say, ‘We recommend, in your best interests, not to talk about the School, for nobody will take you seriously, and if they do, you are likely to meet an untimely demise.’ And so, given that I am confident in my abilities to resist the poorly-concocted assassination attempts of my fellows, and even more confident that nobody who reads this will take me seriously (or, if someone does, that nobody will take them seriously), I feel like I have nothing to lose by writing this, and I have my own dry amusement to gain, like a serial killer might feel smug upon announcing his morbid deeds to somebody who takes the whole thing as a joke. Doubtless some of my fellows will disagree with me, but they always were a bit fusty and overly serious.
I should point out now that I was not the killer. Just to get that out of your heads. In fact, I wasn’t even there, and the story I have to tell is not my own. But I make it my business to know things that happen here, deep under your feet, and I always enjoy interrogating the other students.
My name is Raiden Black, and this is not my story.
As an addendum, before I continue, I want to say that of course it’s not my real name. We are all given new names when we enter the School. Many years ago pretty much half of all the first years would choose ‘Black’ as their surname, and there was a great deal of names like ‘Night’ and ‘Death’ and it all got a bit tedious. Nowadays the masters choose your name for you, and you get three vetoes before you have to suck it up and accept it. I took receiving the now quite elite surname ‘Black’ as a vote of confidence in me, and have endeavoured to remain deserving of it ever since.
Find a sewer grate or manhole somewhere in York, somewhere in the centre preferably. You will, of course, have to do this at night, unless you are exceptionally quick and daring, or you have found a perfectly hidden spot. Different cliques of students have their own entrances, and if you find yourself sharing yours with a member of The Brotherhood, you have my sympathies.
Head down into the sewers, and head east. Follow the rats. They always seem to congregate around the School, and we never did quite know why they are drawn here so, but we don’t complain, not when there are so many post-mortem opportunities at hand.
Eventually you won’t need the rats at all, and you can follow your nose. Take the turns where the air is stalest, closest . . . You feel that certain something in the air? You don’t know what it is, but you feel it, just like the rats. Seek out the source, for that is us.
Assuming you have a good sense of direction, and have not become irretrievably lost, nor have you been bitten by a rat carrying one of the new experimental strains of plague we have developed, then you should, eventually, come to a door.
It is of heavy wood, and looks ancient, and no amount of battering force will break it open. Here you must knock a certain number of times, to a certain rhythm. And that is one thing I will not tell you.
You can however, assuming you finished reading this before you set out, go to the gloomiest pubs in York and, on suitable dark, grim nights, find a sallow youth all in black drinking by himself, looking terribly preoccupied with something, and perhaps a trifle jittery. He will have bags under his eyes from lack of sleep and excess of obsession.
He will at first want nothing to do with you, and will be sullen and uncooperative, but ply him with drinks. At the opportune moment, ask him about the secret knock, and he may tell you.
He will of course be lying. That’s one thing we are very good at.
Let’s assume, though, that you now know the secret knock, by fair means or foul, and have rapped sharply on the door in this very particular rhythm. The door opens, slowly, with the groan of a thousand years. There is nobody behind it. You may think it black magic, and I wouldn’t dare ruin it for you.
You’re not at the School yet. Down a spiral staircase of stone steps you go, and as it levels out you find yourself in a series of twisting, crossing corridors. These are the catacombs of York. Our catacombs.
Set into the walls, lit by burning torches, are all manner of artefacts. You may be surprised to see Egyptian sarcophagi and urns, so far away from their origins, along with Greek burial shrouds, and the beaks of plague doctors from the time of the Black Death.
You will see small cairns, caskets, tools of morticians and torturers, stones and pieces of hard wood with strange carvings, pagan statues, death masks, old coins to lay on eyes, cotton to wrap and minerals to sprinkle on the departed. What you will not see, however, no matter what you will most fearfully open, are bodies, not even skeletons. We have claimed them all, for we do not allow waste.
Navigate the catacombs (a clue: follow the eyes), and you will find another staircase, which will lead to one final door, requiring a key to unlock. You don’t have such a key, you say? That is a shame.
Beyond this door lies the School of Necromancy.
There is also a perfectly serviceable lift that cuts out all this, but let’s keep things traditional.