Blamore Rinc opened the cemetery gates, which squalled and sent a murder of crows to the skies.
Tucked beneath one black-robed arm, Blamore held a book. The book. Bound in human flesh and inked with human blood. The face of the cover screamed out at the world. In a literal sense. The features browned and wrinkled with time. The holes where the eyes, nose, and mouth sat since sagged into deformity. The Necronomicon. A book some claimed didn’t exist. A book others decried for its “violation of the most basic tenets of human existence.” Well, whatever. Blamore had it in his possession now. Had done for the past — how long? He glanced up at the blood-red sunset and frowned. Ten years? Fifteen? Who kept count anymore?
His boots tapped on the stones of the path, wonky and uneven like a beggar’s teeth. Where the paving disappeared — stolen or swallowed into the earth — his feet squelched. Either side, misshapen headstones leaned, this way and that. Drunks slouched in the doorways of public houses. Despite the pinks and oranges of the firmament, darkness settled upon the cemetery. The shadows pooled at the bases of the stones lay as thick as the mud underfoot.
Blamore’s breaths escaped his thin, blue lips in a cloud of vapour. The fresh aroma of dew and wet grass filled his nostrils. His exposed patches of skin — where the robes didn’t cover his wrists, the flesh of his face — felt the kiss of the evening. He pulled the cloak down over one arm, but only succeeded in revealing more corpse-grey skin on the other. He grumbled and retreated further into his cloak — a skeleton hidden under a cloth. Blamore had quite a bit in common with those six feet beneath his two feet.
Further, into the decayed heart of the cemetery, he scurried. A half-dead mouse who totes an oversized tome. The wind, still as the breaths of the deceased a moment earlier, whispered around him. Ancient obscenities tore at cloth and skin. The gusts whistled between headstones still standing. The moss-covered ones, which clutched to verticality with weakened grips, wobbled — precarious. Loose teeth about to spill from decayed gums.
Blamore followed the trail as it snaked its way up and up. Until he stood atop a grassy knoll, the bosom of the cemetery laid out before him. A few slabs joined him up here, but only a few. Exposed to the elements, the shrines had suffered. Their features softened, their words blurred.
With sunken eyes, which glinted out from his pallid face, he took in the necropolis. A different place of rest, but the same as all the others. They each had their unique qualities, sure, but the similarities outweighed these. The sense of mourning, the sense of loss and separation. The sense of waiting, watching, and listening. Every place where the dead slept off the hangovers of their life had this air. The evocations bubbled within his chest.
Blamore uttered a world-weary sigh and lifted his book. The same old page, the same old words. The spine of the book creased forever to open up at this exact spot. Even so, a scrap of paper served as a bookmark for this spot. A map with hundreds of crosses scratched into the parchment. From the pocket of his cloak, he pulled a severed raven’s claw. Blamore squinted. The gears in his mind clunk-clunk-clunked. At last, he etched his spot with an X. Amongst a sea of others. Those that surrounded the latest addition further dampened the fires within. So many futile attempts. So many failures.
He blew a strand of his lank hair out of his eyes. “Here we go again.” Another cemetery, another spell, another horde. Why bother? What was the point? The cities of the living had defences too great to breach. They also had artillery that would reduce his patchwork army to nothing but limb and bone. And then he’d be hollow and depleted for another month — or longer. It got harder and harder to recoup the lost energy he expended. Blamore feared that one of these days he wouldn’t recover at all. But what else could he do? This was all he’d ever known.
Blamore sucked in a deep breath, let it fill his lungs until the point his chest expanded. He held it, let his heartbeat pulse in his ribcage, let it throb in his eardrums. He let it out, slow and controlled. Whoosh. And then began to recite the words. The sacred words. The angelic words. The holy words. Dependent on your perspective.
“Klaatu barada nikto…”
The first few syllables dropped from his lips, half-hearted rocks tossed into a pond. But as the words progressed, faster and faster, their beauty washed over him. A waterfall, cool, new, and refreshing. Soon, Blamore didn’t even read the text laid out before him — his lips muttered and whispered of their own accord. His voice started at a little below conversation volume and rose to a crescendo.
All around him, the gust whipped up. Faster, faster, more chaotic. A purple hue bled from the very pores of the air, glowed through every particle. It illuminated Blamore, cast him in an eerie, ancient light. A tornado, born from nowhere, spun around the necromancer atop the hill. The eye of the storm, Blamore stood there, eyes rolled white. His mouth churned and spittle flew, and still, the words came louder and quicker. Until the space between no longer existed, until the end of each phrase became a rush to begin the next. It seemed that the man could recite the words no louder, and yet he did. The sounds produced far greater than the capabilities of a single human voice box. His voice would croak and wheeze for the next week or so after, Blamore knew from experience.
The purple light spilled down the knoll, rolled over stone and tomb. It soaked into the ground, thick and liquid and viscous. The tendrils hunted the graves, reaching, grasping, searching. A sentient creature with a million arms, and a man named Blamore as the brain. The tentacles squirmed and crawled, a mutated spider, an octopus mid-seizure. With every verbalised command, their thereness grew. From the ethereal to the real. Until they bathed the entire cemetery within their sticky purple clutches.
In the beginning, he found it hard to notice that the ground shook, due to the tornado overhead. He also found it hard to hear as the wood splintered and the soil shifted, due to the gale that screamed past his ears. But Blamore knew these things happened, whether he could identify them or not. If a zombie rises in a cemetery, and nobody can hear it, does it make a sound?
When the first of the rotted hands burst forth from the soil, the quake had split the ground into several pieces. Sods of earth dropped into the abyss, where the purple glow erupted, skyward. And from beneath, crawled his babies. His creations, his wonders. Dead for ten days or ten years, it mattered not. Some still clothed in decayed flesh and tattered cloth. Others little more than yellow bones conjured once more into proper formation. Their empty eye sockets regarded their maker. They clicked and clacked like detuned glockenspiels.
The last word exploded from his lips, set the purple air ablaze. Blamore shuddered and gasped, eyes wide, his body a ripple of twitches. His armies gazed up at him. Waiting. Waiting. The purple shimmers not yet dissipated, the essence still lingered to these creatures. The horror of it all… the beauty of it all. He thought himself a fool for the doubts he once harboured. How had he allowed himself to take this — all this — for granted?
Blamore vowed never again to let the magic fade from his love of necromancy. He grinned at his zombie hordes, and they grinned on back. Teeth exposed through missing flesh, perpetual skeletal smiles. “Always find the joy in your everyday life,” he told them. They didn’t respond. They seldom did.
With the wind of magic in his sails, he bellowed his commands to his minions. And, as always, they obeyed. This time he might succeed. This time he might not. This army might be the army. Or it might be nothing more than soon-to-be-cannon-fodder. But, in the end, did it matter? After all, the point of the journey is not to arrive.
Blamore smiled for the first time in years.
And once more led his zombie army towards the cities of the living.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Written for Reedsy’s weekly writing prompts