The first rule of magic: Don’t bring back the dead

Though a very tempting thing to do, bringing the dead can bring nothing but strife. It’s unnatural to try and revive a body and harder, still, to drag its soul back from where it is resting. All witches are advised to stay away from any tempting sources of necromancy, no matter how sweet the promise, bringing back the dead is forbidden

The young witch in question stared at the first page of her spellbook. She turned to the next page which gave her all the details needed to raise the dead. Because despite the warnings, all the witches that came before her believed in free will and sharing knowledge. So, she had a necromancy spell.

The night was too hot for a spell like this; the humidity wrapped around her, like a weighted blanket and compressed all the air out of her lungs. she had to cast away her cloak just to breathe in this heat. It carried the smell of damp leaves since fall was just rolling in, turning the tree that marked her lover’s grave golden. He would have loved to see it.

She sat under the tree, under the cloudless sky and the new moon, and began to work.

Necromancy

Noun

The supposed magic of communicating with or raising the dead

Synonyms: black magic, death magic, forbidden magic.

Necromancy throughout history has been viewed as one of the most dangerous forms of magic. While communing with spirits may be harmless in some cases, it is the unpredictability of the magic itself that puts a witch a risk. Because there are so few studying necromancy, necromantic spells are untested and volatile, with side effects never being studied, because no one has survived to record them. 

In many cases, necromantic spells require problematic ingredients that fulfill the laws of magic; an eye for an eye, a soul for a soul. Some more potent spells required the killing of another or selling one’s soul.

Witches are strongly advised not to seek out methods of necromancy.

Spellbooks were like cigarette packaging: the warnings and imagery were simply to be glossed over. This particular page contained graphic images of witches dying to bring back their loved ones: demons were accidentally summoned, overpowered and devoured the summoner, or a horde of the undead crumbled before another witch. There was one haunting image that shook her to her core—the illustration showed a witch staring straight ahead, with dead, black, eyes and her skin nothing but an empty shell. “do not assume you know what you are doing,” she warned. 

But this witch was positive she knew what she was doing. She was different.

She drew the pentagram, and placed her lover’s favourite things to coax him back; a favourite book signed by the author, the scented candles he never lit because he didn’t even want to waste them, an iron ring he used to wear on his thumb. His favourite deck of cards, that were worn from many years of playing with. They used to play increasingly elaborate games of Go-fish, lasting days or weeks because of how absurd the rules became over time. She placed his favourite tea, still hot and fresh from the pot, and the slight aroma of cinnamon and bay leaves wafted through the thick air. 

That first step was to revive the soul.

Next was the body. This part of the required more…sacrifice.

The witch would never tell anyone how she managed to harness youthfulness in a jar— all that mattered was that she did it. The jar was warm to the touch and so light it felt like if she let it go it would fly away. She held it close to her chest for a moment and its soothing heat calmed her heart a little; a minute ago it was throbbing faster than any drumbeat, and as she laid out the spell, her heartbeat roared in her ears. 

The spell was laid out in front of her. Countless trinkets she excavated from the depths of her attic, and bits and pieces of magical creatures she harvested from the woods. And that one piece of hope; the softly glowing jar that would revive his body right at the center of it.

She closed her eyes.

She opened them.

She summoned her dead lover.

Survival

Few witches have survived a necromantic encounter, those who have left that encounter severely traumatized. 

Watching the dead rise is a grotesque thing, often with unintended consequences. 

Watching her lover rise did nothing but excite her. Like any good horror movie, his hand burst out first; caked in dirt and splinters from the wood of his casket. Her heart lurched. And she imagined holding that hand, going back to their old haunts; the park, the lake, walking to work, and to coven meetings. She would hold that hand up high and say this is what I did, this is how strong my love is.

The rest of him crawled out slowly, digging himself out of six feet of dirt. She reached out her hand to his, and helped pull him out at the last moments of his journey upwards. 

When her lover stood, the witch embraced him. She let the dirt cake her dress and ignored how feverish his skin felt. She didn’t care how hard it was to breathe when he embraced her back, or the faint smell of sulphur.

She broke off the hug and went to gaze at his eyes. 

They were red, but not red from exhaustion, red like the devil, red like a warning sign.

Her lover caressed her cheek with his hand and that hand trailed from her cheek to her throat. Then around her throat. 

Suddenly, it wasn’t the heat taking her breath away. 

“You’re not my lover, are you,” she managed to croak out. 

It let her go and smiled, but its smile was nothing like her lover’s—it didn’t have the warmth his did. This looked more like someone mockingly imitating a smile.

“Run,” it said.

Photo by Paige Cody/Unsplash.