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The School of Necromancy #2

Good eve to you.

As a further taster, here is the second little part to the short gothic story The School of Necromancy. It seems to be a mite more popular than my other stuff, so thought I’d give it another push. This part is more of a brief background/explanation of the school and its subjects.

You can find it for Kindle here (or, as usual, on your local Amazon, if you are not American).

 

The School of Necromancy

 

The S.O.N. functions as a school and university both. It teaches students aged, with exceptions of mature students and gifted young prodigies, fifteen to twenty-one or twenty-two; a degree, to those staying on past the age of eighteen, being either a three year or four year course.

The subjects we teach are many, but you will, perhaps, sense a common theme. The first couple of years are chiefly theoretical, apart from groundswork, which is, when you rub away the bullshit, gravedigging. Like most schools and universities, nobody takes first years seriously, no matter how lofty their ambitions. You do the work, and you do it well, without complaining, and you just might rise in estimation.

Apart from groundswork, you will study necrochemistry and necrobiology (nec-chem and nec-bio for short), anatomy, mortuary science, embalming, dissection, cremation, history, gothic art, forensic pathology, elementary reanimation, elementary occultism, and so on. Fairly basic stuff, looking back, and some of us, myself included, felt pretty held back. But of course a lot of us had our wild ideas, and without a solid framework to base them on we may have failed later on.

For every year, including the degree years, you will study and take notes from the many-volumed Necronomicon. Not Abdul Alhazred’s book, of course, but the Necronomicon textbook, 7th edition. In its weighty pages contains just about everything, up to a professional level, to do with treating, understanding, raising, and controlling the dead.

If you choose to do a degree (and some of the less gifted or less ambitious students don’t, instead becoming our laboratory assistants or gravediggers), you have a range of subjects to undertake, including: History of the Dead (fusty), History of Necromancy (almost as fusty), Toxicology (poisons), Theoretical Homicide (not strictly theoretical), Demonology (a farce), Black Tarot (don’t get me started), Mortuary Surgery, Reanimation, Experimental Necroscience, Vampiric Studies, the ever-popular Necromancy, and Necromonology (my chosen degree, which involves the study of and establishing control over the dead, the latter being, in my opinion, an ingredient much missing from my peers’ experiments).

The School itself is like an underground castle, or rather network of dungeons, seeing as it is without a top. All work is engaged in underground, with many layers of soil and stone pressing down upon us. Many first years, and some second years, experience what we refer to as ‘the underlows’, as in ‘he can’t come to class, he’s got a bad case of the underlows’. Eventually almost everyone gets used to it, and you get enough night-time fieldwork (mainly in cemeteries) to give you some fresh air. I never had much problem myself – some of the halls are so huge that you may as well be outside, and I never did miss the sunlight.

Allowing for our various racial skin colour differences, we are by and large a pasty bunch, as you might expect. We get what we need from various tonics and pills, but as the food we acquire (don’t ask – you’d be surprised how many associates and graduates of our school are among you) is so excellent, and our scholarly and personal pursuits are so involving (some would say obsessive, and they’d be right), we don’t want for much, beyond what we need for our work.

Roam the stone corridors and halls, the tunnels and staircases, the laboratories and cellars and libraries, the crypts, morgues, test chambers, operating theatres and black chapels, and you will cross many paths with the School’s prowling cats. There are three of them, or three named ones at least, each as dark as the night. The fat, sluggish one with the unfortunate limp, squashed face and mismatched eyes is affectionately named Igor (and I will happily poison any student who picks on him). Then there are the siblings, Minas and Morgul. Minas is the female, quick and sleek; she sees all, hears all, and every intrepid risk-taking student (the majority of them) who wants to last the course should learn who she’s loyal to.

Morgul is the male, and he is really quite huge, more like a panther than a cat, and if you try to kick him you are likely to end up on a dissecting table within the hour.

The students themselves are a mixed bunch. Most of them have black hair, but not as many as used to. In my day it was various shades of black, grey, silver or white, or perhaps, in the case of eccentrics, a very dark brown. These days you’ll often see a student with purple, red, green, blue hair and so on, or only streaks of these colours. Some are undyed, and come as blondes and brunettes. I’m not wholly prejudiced, so don’t treat them too differently, but I will say if you rock up to a forensic pathology class with bright pink hair, don’t be surprised if old Master Scrimpot directs all his most difficult questions to you.

We wear a lot of black, true, but there are also a lot of white lab coats worn out of class (some bloodstained), and brown tweed isn’t out of the question among some of the more mature students and masters. There are coats and cloaks, robes, three piece suits, shirts and jackets, skirts and dresses, corsets and bodices, lace and leather, soft velvet and jangling chains, and even some bare chests here and there, particularly among groundworkers. Styles are all over the place, though usually on the more gothic, formal, or macabre (if you’re trying to be edgy) end of the spectrum. Victorian and Edwardian fashions clash with new pagan which clash with shinobi which clash with new romantic which clash with seventies librarian which clash with thirties suits. And some of us just look like your average Joe/plain Jane. Those are often the ones to watch.

We are generally old-fashioned and semi-traditional, so some of the more radical newer styles are frowned on, and while the dress code is very relaxed, it is there. Cybergoggles will be taken off you in class. All in all though, we all look the same in a lab coat and gloves, up to our elbows in body parts.

 

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The Watcher

Here is a complete short story, which will feature in the upcoming compilation Faces in the Dark: A Short Compilation of Paranoid Horror.

It is also available as a standalone for Kindle.

I wrote this quite a long time ago now. It’s inspired entirely by not being able to sleep. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Watcher

 

The air is black, and I do not sleep. The hours tick by. I do not sleep because someone is watching me. The hours toll by and my eyes are open.

In the dark, clouding my vision, I sense his presence. Like a reflection in a mirror he just watches me, hovering, or crouched, at times only inches from my face. He waits for me to look at him, but I never do, and so I never sleep. I fear him in the night, but in the light, when I am brave enough to look, he is never there. He is gone.

I know my surroundings out of the day, but through my imagination they have changed in the night. There are the walls, cracked and bleeding plaster, and the floor, rough, thick and scarred. The pictures around my room leer down at me, faces twisted like demented effigies. The room is no longer the semblance of order and right; it has spiralled down through waves of unease into a macabre cage, a prison of the dark.

My imagination runs further, deep into aberrant horror, and I see above me large black spiders crawling over the ceiling, the size of children’s hands. Their legs are permanently crouched and bent, as if ready to spring down onto me. They are shadows and nothing. They are the focal point of my hallucinations. He can control them, make them spring, with a word, but for now he says nothing.

I never look at him, I never know his name, but I always feel it is on the tip of my tongue. He makes no sound, but I can imagine it, should he ever open his mouth, as an ethereal moan, or a throaty racking groan. They would be at turns sadistic and pathetic. I pity him. He is a ghost. There is no corporeal body; he never truly belongs to this world.

The air is black, and still do I not sleep. There is no promise of a dawn; perhaps it may never come. Perhaps I will remain stricken to this bed forever, my eyes always open, and someone always watching me and my fear. I long for an end, for some burning light and sanity to sear me into reality.

I think I know what he looks like. He is clad in ragged cloth, which in the day would shine lurid white, but which in the night is merely images and shapes, fleeting and cowardly. His hair is dank and matted, strewn over his ragged face, and his eyes are worn and tired, the eyes of someone who never sleeps. Behind his eyes can be seen worry, and some semblance of neglect, and also evil, and anger, and hate. He is angry at me, for I never look at him, and for this he hates me; yet he must also love me, for he never leaves while the night still reigns. He knows nothing of the goodness of love.

The black air starts to scare me now, and I want him to go away. Terror is like a rolling wave washing over me and sending me shivers and cold clarity of the threatening silence that tries to engulf. I switch on the light by my bed, and the soft glow throws shadows around like paper. I dare a quick glance around my room to see if he is gone.

He is still here, but he is hiding in the shadows. I think he is close. I breathe in dryly and then I cannot resist as he climbs in my mouth and into my body, where he whispers to me, so quietly I cannot hear any words, just morbid intentions and whining pleas.

He cries out deep in the abscesses of my mind; he calls for rebellion and misanthropy, for anger and disgust, for guilt and the ending of all things that are good. I try to push him out but he has set up throne; he is reigning in demons and ghouls. He is everybody now. I have never known anything else.

Eventually he leaves, to wriggle into a gap under my bed, into the welcoming gloom. I can still feel him boring into me, puncturing my life. An hour creeps slowly and agonisingly past, and then another, with every second like a dead weight on my chest, until dawn finally seems to come, the thin sun slowly burning its way through my curtains. I crawl out of bed and open them, to flood the room with a dreary grey fire, to chase the shadows and the darkness away. Simple and natural illumination to destroy the phantasms of the night.

My room looks normal by day. The pictures are all blank on the clean walls. The floor is simple carpet. The ceiling is bare. There is nothing frightening anymore. There is nothing to fear anymore. He is gone.

I hear, or think I hear, a knock on my door, as the birds chirp their dawn chorus. I open it but there is no-one there. I look around the corridor but it is empty and barren.

Perturbed, I step away from the door, which quietly closes before me. I shrink back further into my room, feeling a slight chill, and a small sense of unease creeping up my back. Too many nights without sleep, I think.

There is another knock. I open the door again.

He is there, in the day. He has taken control now. It has taken time, but he has broken me. He is there, in the day, clad in white rags, with his arm outstretched. Maybe he has come to shake my hand. Maybe he has come to kill me.

 

latest

The School of Necromancy now available!

The gothic science/gothic horror short story inspired by Harry Potter as much as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.P. Lovecraft is now available on Amazon!

Better yet, assuming you read this post fast enough, it’s FREE for the rest of today (4/12/14) and tomorrow. Not to fear if you miss it, as it’s mere pennies/cents afterwards.

Deep below the city of York, below the sewers, below the catacombs, lies the School. It is here, if you are privileged to be selected, that you can study the art of raising the dead. Reanimation, demonology, experimental necroscience, theoretical homicide… It’s all there for the learning, in a vast underground complex of stone corridors and halls, tunnels and staircases, laboratories and cellars and libraries, crypts, morgues, test chambers, operating theatres and black chapels…
It’s all there, that is, if you can keep your head…

 

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The School of Necromancy opening extract

Hello!

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.

Anyway.

 

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.

 

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Dead Streets

Here is a short story, which will feature in the upcoming compilation Faces in the Dark: A Short Compilation of Paranoid Horror.

This story is more of the sad and haunted kind of darkness rather than the grotesque kind of horror. I hope you like it!

 

Dead Streets

 

It was between Hallowe’en and the advent of Christmas, that half-haunted and melancholic time of year when spirits and ghasts one by one went to their slumber in the hidden places. I had spent the night drinking and smoking with a friend, and now in the small hours I set off on the pale roads to home.

From the first steps, as the chill night closed its web around me, I knew this was no ordinary walk. I was there for a snapshot of rare world, a world in undress that was intended for no human eyes. The ground crunched under my feet as I turned out of the estate and onto a main road.

Cars lined the street in an endless procession of tombstones. Each appearing to me some frozen sentinel cold and implacable. The roads and the land betrayed no movement. Each grave of a car standing as testimony to the desertion or extinction of the human race. I would say that never before had I felt so alone, and yet this was not true, for I was shepherded by the world, and roused those spirits not yet asleep, or woken by my heavy footfall. Unseen eyes opened in slits to see my passing.

There was an almost unbearable, and yet beautiful, sadness throughout. Here was the world stripped bare, skeletal in form, and I privy to these emotions that were at all other times impossibly guarded. I could feel them leaking, the last few leaves on the branches dripping like tears, the railings shivering in quiet failure, desperate to cease their never-ending point to the heavens, waiting to leave my sight so they could collapse.in solitude.

My own tears sprang to my eyes as I beheld all that had been hidden, and at such longstanding pains. I ran a gloved hand over the window of one of the dead cars, preparing myself for something terrible within; a rotting ghoul perhaps, or a bristling werewolf. As the ice swept away I only saw a hollow, an emptiness like deep space that echoed that within my chest, and I sank away and continued on.

I did not really want to see such horrible phantasms, to fright myself to death on this eerie walk. But, somehow, the nothingness was always worse.

I crossed a bridge and looked out on the black glass of the canal. Willow trees hung over the banks, their ends wilfully drowning. I pictured huge crocodiles under that still surface, and then Lovecraftian monstrosities. At any moment their heads and tentacles could break the waters and rear up to me, gnashing and flailing . . . but the moment passed, and all other moments, and the water remained as it was, all such secrets kept too deep for mortal knowledge.

The bridge and canal was lost to the turns of my route. Houses passed on the side, every one lightless, each street a cemetery. Humanity’s gaze had ceased to rest on this town, perhaps everywhere, and there were not even other animals to make sound or sight. If there was life anywhere it was only in the drift of ghosts and their haunts, coming to rest now that humanity and its noisy wildlife had been finally scared to death. I knew then, as my footsteps echoed in the silence and my breath fogged out like bonedust, what it would be like to be the last person alive.

It was while I was thinking thus that a figure came upon me, and we both kept our faces to the ground, saying not a word in greeting or parting. For nights as this belong to each of us alone, and it must be alone, for on such nights nobody is entirely human. The thoughts and moods in the air are not to be shared, except from the earth’s whisperings to our individual soul.

The figure left, and it was as though it had never appeared; and perhaps it never had, and I had imagined it as I imagine so much else.

I looked up as I walked. In the ghost-black, almost translucent sky was a pinhole moon, something stabbed through from beyond. I peered at it and through it I sensed a bright hospital room, crowded with doctors unnaturally long of limb and face, who called out to me for my birth.

Push through, they said. Come on through.

I will, I replied.

Come on.

Soon.

I came upon the road leading up to my flat, passing the glow of traffic lights that changed for no-one. On the path was a telephone box, and I wondered how many years had come and gone without its use. It emanated a wispy, amber light, that gathered as if in currents, and I wanted to believe that it was a hostel for travelling spirits, readying for the next fly-through in the cold, and yet as I passed it seemed occult with melancholy, and I almost heard the plaintive calls that were sirens to my heart.

On the last stretch to my home I felt the rising and familiar urge to stop dead. I knew if I did so I would not move again. But no matter the strength of the feeling, my body would keep on even while my mind rebelled, for my body was as much on autopilot as it has been since my beginning. I would take the same route, the same steps, think the same thoughts in the same order and say the same words to every person I met no matter if I’d turned back time a hundred times.

If I stopped then the sun would rise on my statue. People would try to talk to me, and there would be no answer. The police would try to move me, and they would fail. Days, weeks, and eventually years would crawl by, and people would become long used to this immovable form, as though I were a lamppost or a park bench. Kids would throw things, and drunk men would piss on my feet.

A little girl, on a day trip, would tug at her mother’s sleeve and whisper, curious and biting her lip. ‘Why is he standing there?’

The mother would look up and say, as the residents bustling around them smiled and shook their heads, ‘Why don’t you ask him?’

The little girl would hesitantly come up to me, and ask me the same question.

‘I don’t know,’ I’d reply, out of the corner of my mouth, so nobody else could see, and so quietly only the girl could hear. ‘Why don’t you join me?’

The girl looked confused. ‘There must be some reason.’

‘I think, perhaps, if I stay completely still, then maybe things won’t carry on without me. Or at least as far as I’m concerned. I can put a stop to it by putting a stop to myself. Don’t you want to join me? If you stop too, then maybe other people will stop, and one day everyone can be completely still, and nothing bad or difficult or tiresome will ever happen again.’

The child would bite her lip again and then shake her head, and her mother would call her back and they’d both walk away. And neither of them would stop for me, just like all the other times. And in the end I would always be the only one.

 

I let myself in the front door and climbed the stairs to the flat. I entered the warmth and turned the lights on. I took off my gloves and scarf and coat and unlaced my boots. I poured myself a drink and sipped it, and in the lounge I closed the curtains, dissolving the night into a mere fancy of the imagination. Something that could never be truly explained to anyone, never accurately described, for it was a night that may have happened and may not have happened, but whether it did or it didn’t it happened to me, and I cherished it’s rarity, now gone.

This was not a story about zombies and vampires, about things going bump in the night, about unbridled terror and nightmares realised. This was a story about the things that don’t happen, the nothingness out there, and that hollow emptiness in the car’s window. My nightmare is not monstrous or disfigured, it does not have tentacles or fangs or the form of a beast, it does not drip goo or blood and it does not shuffle and it does not snarl.

I drank my drink and I looked at my television and my computer, at my large collection of DVDs and books and videogames, and at the pictures on my walls, and I sat down, my thoughts once again returning to suicide.

But for one more night like this.

 

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