Necromancy For Beginners

Submitted into Contest #142 in response to: Start your story with someone being given a book recommendation.... view prompt

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Fantasy Fiction

“For matters such as these, I would personally recommend ‘A Beginners’ Guide to Necromancy. Very easy to follow. Great results.”

The old woman held out a large, very old looking, book. The black leather cover was cracked in so many places that it rendered the title almost unreadable; the yellowed pages curled around the edges. Mallory stared hard at the old woman and at the large book, not sure whether to accept it. She wanted this to work, but she was still cautious. After all, she was 8 now; she had to act grown up.

“How do I know you aren’t tricking me?” She asked accusingly, folding her arms tightly over her chest. She tried to look intimidating, planting her legs firmly on the floor and squinting her eyes for full effect. She lifted her chin defiantly. The old woman held her gaze and then, without a word, she turned and walked from the room. Mallory held her ground for a few seconds, unsure what to do. Eventually, her curiosity got the better of her and she ran after the witch, her green wellingtons causing her to trip every few seconds. Her mother had told her that she would grow into them. She had not.

“Wait wait wait,” She cried, catching a hold on the witch’s patchy and frayed skirts. “I still want your help. I just don’t want to be tricked. I want this to work. Really really bad.” She all of a sudden found that she couldn’t continue to speak. Tears spilled down her cheeks and her throat tightened painfully.  She missed him so much it felt like her heart would burst, and this was her only hope at getting him back. But she remembered the stories her mother had told her about the old witch in the woods. About how she would find your weaknesses and use them against you. Of course, her mother had treated the witch as if she were a fairytale, rather than a real woman. In any case, Mallory had to show that she was strong, she couldn’t cry in front of her. That sort of behaviour would land her in big trouble. So, she slapped her open palm against her face, wiping away any remaining tears and straightened up to her full height, a considerable four foot five (she was the tallest girl in her year). She smoothed out her dungarees and placed her arms rigid by her sides, so that she almost looked as if she were standing at attention.

“You have to help me.” She said, using her strongest and most demanding voice. The old woman gave Mallory a smile that was more of a smirk and sat down gracefully onto a plush green sofa. As she crossed her legs, her skirt lifted up slightly, showing pale, bony ankles.

“I don’t have to do anything,” she replied. “But I do appreciate your determination. So I suppose I will. What else is it you need help with? I’ve already offered you the book.” At this, she handed the thick tome over to Mallory and this time she accepted it.

Mallory laid the book across her lap and opened it to the first page. There was chapter titled ‘A Brief History of Necromancy’ which seemed to take up half of the book, followed by a total of ten different rituals for awakening the dead. Mallory barely understood a word of it, and the tight feeling in her throat started to come back.

“You’ll want to use number 7 dear. It’s already written in English and it’s the easiest by far.”

The tight feeling began to recede and Mallory shook with excitement. This was going to work. She was going to get him back. Her freckled face broke out into a toothy grin, unable to contain her excitement any longer. She turned to page 278 and looked down at the ritual. It was a long list of ingredients, most of which she had never even heard of, but that wasn’t going to stop her. Not now.

“Can you get me the ingredients? For the spell thingy.”

The old woman leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Why can’t you get them yourself?”

“I’m 8. I can’t go looking for spell ingredients by myself.”

“You came here by yourself.”

“That’s different. I’m allowed to come here because my mum doesn’t think you’re real.”

“Naturally.”

The woman sighed and stood back up. She was considerably tall, at least six foot, and so skinny it looked like a sudden gust of wind would blow her over. But, despite this, she moved with a certain grace that Mallory found mesmerising. Hurriedly, she walked back through the house, flyaway grey hair catching on the many plants lining the walls. Mallory followed behind quickly, blonde pigtails swinging from side to side and she half-walked half-ran into the kitchen. Green assaulted the senses from every corner, partly due to the myriad of plants, partly due to the shade of sage plastered across the walls, tiles, countertops and cupboards. Every space was filled. Cupboards lined with jars upon jars, bottles upon bottles of foreign substances. Countertops covered by diagrams and books, or else pots of powders and pastes. Candles lined the windowsill, and even the cooker was covered with a giant pot, filled with what looked like brown sludge.

Bunching her skirts up to form a net, the old woman began picking up a random assortment of objects that Mallory faintly recognised from the ingredients list. Jars of colourful powers were thrown in non-too carefully, followed by handfuls of leaves and bottles of every shape imaginable. The witch clearly knew what she was doing, as she moved so quickly that it took Mallory a few seconds to realise that she was no longer in the room, and was instead striding across the over-grown lawn. As Mallory followed her outside, she once again found herself mesmerised.

The forest here was vastly different from the way she had come. Strange plants grew wherever she looked, and the soil itself seemed to vibrate with energy. Mallory spotted a pond next to an overly large willow tree, and at its bank she spotted all of the ingredients placed gently on a blanket, organised by category and size. A flash of movement from in-between the branches the willow indicated to Mallory the witches presence. She was standing at the base of the tree, holding tight to a stick which she seemed to be twirling around in mid-air. It was only as Mallory stepped closer, that she recognised the intricate design of a spider web, and a great black spider sitting in the midst of it. The spider, clearly upset at having its home destroyed, ran down the witches’ arm, before she crushed it with a slap of her palm.

“Hey,” Mallory protested. She didn’t like spiders. She though they were gross and scary. But still, that didn’t mean you had to kill them.

“We’re going to bring someone back from the dead, dear,” the woman chastised. “A life for a life I’m afraid.”

She headed back to the blanket a picked up a small silk handkerchief, within which she proceeded to wrap the squashed remains of the spider.

“Thank you for your sacrifice,” she whispered solemnly, placing the make-shift shroud in a small bag. She then began to collect the rest of supplies, until they were all packed away neatly.

“Now,” she said, “for the fun part. You follow the instructions exactly as they are written. That’s important. You read out the text exactly as it is written. No missing words, or using slang. Exactly. As. Is. Written. You understand?”

Mallory nodded her head fervently, and witch flashed her a true smile.

“Good. You will need to do the ritual at night. Midnight is best but any time after dark will do. And finally, and this is the most important thing. You must do it in the place where they died. Not close to or near enough. Exactly where they died. The exact room, the exact spot if you can. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes. Yes I can do that.” Mallory’s heart was beating so fast she thought it might burst through her chest. She would do it all correctly. She had to.

“Perfect. Can I ask who it is we’re bringing back, and where they died? I don’t want you going off anywhere dangerous on your own.”

“It’s Bubbles we’re bringing back. He’s my fish. We all went to the fair yesterday and I won at the ducks so the man let me pick a fish. And he told me not pick Bubbles because he had a deformed tail but I couldn’t just leave him because if I didn’t want him then no one else would. So I brought him home with a tank and food and everything. But when I woke up this morning he was…….He was in his tank but I’m not sure I and get in there to do the ritual.”

The old woman supressed the urge to smile. “Next to the tank will do, dear. Now, come on. Home time.”

Mallory and the witch walked back through the house side by side, picking up the book as they went. As Mallory walked down the path back to her house, the witch watched her, and made a silent prayer that this little girl got what she wanted.

It was almost midnight, and a young girl lay fast asleep in her bed, snoring slightly. Various stuffed animals lined the bed, watching over her as she lay still as a statue, exhausted from a day of walking. The only movement in the room came from a small tank in the corner, where a little fish with a deformed tail swam around and around in circles. 

April 22, 2022 23:04

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3 comments

Chloé Roten
07:23 May 19, 2022

Hiii I don't know if you'll ever read this, but I really love your story!! (the vibe is absolutely delightful)

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Michał Przywara
20:42 Apr 26, 2022

Very catchy title. The story is adorable and a little sinister, which is an unusual combo :) I liked the exchange: “That’s different. I’m allowed to come here because my mum doesn’t think you’re real.” “Naturally.” I think you have good characterization of both characters. It might have been nice to see the ritual play out though. Perhaps that's a way to expand it? Thanks for sharing!

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Nell Hall
07:55 Apr 29, 2022

Thank you so much!! I'm really glad you enjoyed it :)

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