Most people shy away as soon as they see me. That is why I tend to stay at home in my forest which everyone says is bewitched. The young man knocking on my door almost shocks me. He probably wants a job doing. Business has been slow this month. Yes I better sell myself here to gain some coinage. I step out from my door, into the light. My caller looks hopefully at me.
“Good afternoon,” I say and hold out a hand for him to shake which he reaches out to touch. Unfortunately we never make contact because of my next words. “Who can I resurrect for you today?”
Cue the wide eyed expression. His heart, I am guessing, is about to leap from his ribcage. The reality of his situation must be setting in.
“Look at this face. Wait a sec let me take down my hood... See? Would you really mistrust these shining blue eyes?”
Sure he would.
Okay so yeah my job is kind a taboo. I do bring people back from the dead. Someone has to do such a job and I have the talent. No one chooses their talent; they stumble across it as they go through life. I get such a thrill raising someone from the dead and it makes me smile when a customer sees a loved one come back to life. I’m doing a good thing at least for a few seconds until my customer’s realisation kicks in; their loved one is all scabby and rotting, not themselves at all. I suppose I’d look rough too if I’d been buried under ground. After the walking corpse is up and about it is no longer my problem. If anyone is bad here it must be the customer for even thinking about coming to me for my services. You think I have a guilty conscience? Maybe I used to but you build up a thick skin in this game.
“So did you want me to bring someone back to life for you? I would need ten gold pieces and five silver. Expensive, I am well aware, business has been slow recently you see.”
I have a feeling I have made a grave mistake.
“No. Shame, I could use a thrill right now. Let me guess you lost your way and ended up here and now you’ve grown as pale as death because you have realised I am a necromancer.”
I get that reaction a lot.
“I’d let you in my cottage but you know, you might knife me or something nasty like that. Cottage yeah it’s a cottage not a scary fortress full of rattling skeletons. Then again come on in, you don’t look as though you could kill me, practically shaking as you are. Plus it’s been so long since I have had a visitor.”
A guest a guest a guest how wonderful!
“Mind your step and do not get too disturbed by those jars on the shelf.”
A small piece of apparatus is all those pickled fingers are. Actually more of a souvenir from a rotting corpse that didn’t quite make it when I was starting out my career.
“Go on through to the main seating room there are no peculiar jars in there, honest. I’ll just nip to the kitchen and fetch a jug of lemon water. Everyone likes lemon water.”
Lemon water yeah yeah. Scared of me is he? Ha. Why do people come here scared all the time? Where are those lemons? You don’t have any do you? No I don’t. Gees now I’m talking to myself. Plain water it’ll have to be then. Jug jug jug. A little dusty, well that’s because it hasn’t been used in so long. Who needs a jug when drinking on your own? Unless you’re a fat git haha. Right yes think I shall give my guest some bread and butter too. That would be very hospitable.
Oh would you look at him, cowering in his chair as though I am going to slit his throat. I hold up the water jug and give it a friendly shake in his direction while producing a small smile, maybe that’s all it will take for someone to smile in return. Forced! He forces a return smile, the nerve of him. I would rather he did not even bother rather than give me false gestures. Keep cool, keep cool, you can do this. Be civil, give him his refreshments then point him in the direction away from my cottage of horrors.
“You never told me your name,” I say on placing the jug onto a sturdy wooden table, complete with black roses in a jar.
“It’s err Sandy,” he stumbles.
“I’m Arian but of course you probably already knew that, me being famous and all in these parts.”
“I’m sorry I never knew this was your forest.”
“A slight misconception there, I do not own the forest, I merely live here.”
Live here because I would get run out of the nearby towns and villages.
Ah silence. The only sound this cottage is used to. Sweet sweet, bitter silence. I pour some water into two cups and hand one over to my jittery guest. The smile wants to crumble away as Sandy’s hands fiddle round with the cup as he eyes the contents up, wondering if I have poisoned the water. That sure would be an idea maybe I am starting to regret not doing, or would regret so if I knew the first thing about poison. I clamp my mouth shut with my own now false smile.
“What is your profession?”
“I’m a carpenter.”
Oh an honest profession indeed. Bravo bravo. The cup is on the table, water forgotten. My hands are clapping away, I really cannot help myself. All clapped out I slap my table sending the water jug jolting. My cup spills, I ignore that mishap. “How is this table looking? Good quality yes.” There comes a nod. Of course he would nod, dare not disagree with the scary necromancer would he? Oh I completely forgot about the bread and butter. I thrust the plate at him and urge him to take a slice. I munch two pieces together needing something to do with my mouth that does not involve the damn smile. Yes the sooner this is eaten the sooner Sandy here can clear off. Yet a part of me wants him to stick around. My big bites turn to nibbles torn between sending him on his way and forcing him to stay, just as I am always torn between life and death. I am the middle man and never asked to be. Who is he to judge me? Hack hack go my teeth then turn into nibbles again. Balance is a tricky medium.
Sandy’s eyes are wide. I never meant to work him up. Ouch my fingers! Blood. Oops the bread is all gone, I have gnashed through my own flesh, oh dear.
“Haha I have quite the appetite and am rather vain,” I excuse my maddening behaviour. “Eat fast then slow because I don’t want to get fat. Do you think I am fat?” Sandy shakes his head and starts easing himself from his chair. “Is that all you do nod and shake your head? Some real words would be nice. Where you going? You can’t go yet. There is so much we have not talked about.”
Sandy is up all bow legged looking as though he is torn himself, between sitting and bolting for the door. Some people are far too indecisive. I get up and push him down into his chair. There problem sorted.
“My table, tell me what you think of my table,” I half shout and make a bold gesture at the table, with one hand, the other pinning Sandy’s shoulder down to the back of the chair. One genuine comment will suffice. Is that asking so much? Sure is. There Sandy goes muttering away, with cold sweat pouring from his pale brow. I cannot for the life of me make sense of what he is saying. Harder gets my grip, so hard I manage to fling him from the chair, onto the floor. Is this what he was expecting from me? Is this what everyone expects, for me to be violent and lash out? They can have me this way if they please. I did try the friendly approach, heck I am friendly. He is driving me to this. I aim to kick out at him, wanting him to hurt for jumping to conclusions about me: the evil villainous, cruel, necromancer.
It’s a job a job a job! No one understands. A JOB. Life and death goes hand in hand, I am that hand. My boot never reaches Sandy’s gut; instead I turn and punch out at the wall. Ow my bloody fist. Okay I’m cool and composed.
“Been a pleasure entertaining you,” I breathe, unable to look at Sandy, “I think it is best you take your leave now. Go back the way you came.”
Please stay, please. I listen to him rising to his feet. All I need is a will you be alright? and a pat on the shoulder. Feet scarper across the floorboards. No comfort or kind words. Ran off scared. Of course I knew that was bound to happen. Only I walk this path, maybe to be what I am is to be alone but I never harmed anyone. I never even killed a man before. I am the giver of life. What is so wrong in that? The rotting mindless corpse, is not my bad, who wants me to perform such an act is the wrong doer.
I flex my fists; they have gone numb from battering my poor wall. The hood goes up, it’s comforting in there, I’m more human with a hood because no one can see what I am or more of what I have been turned into.
My name is Lara Hall. I went to Kingston University to study Creative Writing with Film Studies. My favourite genre is fantasy but you can find me writing thrillers when I need a break from fantasy. I am twenty one years old. When writing fantasy I like to call myself Caina because I believe the name reflects the characters I create. My favourite author is Joe Abercrombie. Neil Gaimen, Patrick Rothfuss, and Scott Lynch are also talented authors, who inspire me to write. This story happens to be my second fantasy short.