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07-31-2011, 09:54 PM #1
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Confessions of an Aspiring Resurrectionist - part 4
Continued from part 3.
Part 4: New Management
Pete stared down at his first resurrectionist triumph. The squirrel he had raised looked back expectantly.
“I’m not sure what to do with you,” he admitted to the squirrel. “Are you my minion or something now?” The squirrel looked around and then back at Pete. It scratched its flank with a hind foot, causing an unpleasant tearing sound. When Pete had set out to raise the indigent in the grave before him he had not expected to focus his new found magic on a squirrel buried at a somewhat more shallow level above the intended target. How had it even gotten there? Pete’s best guess was that it was lying dead on the ground when the grave had been dug. When the grave had been filled back in the squirrel must have been inadvertently carried along with the fill dirt.
Pete was at a complete loss of what to do. He spotted an acorn on the ground near his foot and tossed it over near the squirrel. The squirrel snatched it up and attempted to stuff it into a very decayed cheek pouch but the nut just fell through onto the ground. The squirrel recovered the nut and tried twice more before stuffing it into the other, more intact, cheek pouch. It hopped a few inches close to Pete and looked up at him again.
Maybe he could return it to being dead. Pete looked around to ensure that the nobody was nearby. He stood tall, cleared his throat, pointed at the squirrel and in a deep voice commanded, “Return to your rest.” The squirrel looked around, twitched its tail and inched a bit closer. Pete started to wonder if there actually was any way to get rid of the squirrel. If there was a process to release the reanimated to their prior state he had not encountered it while studying the notes in the lacquered box. Pete crouched by the open box and flipped through the papers, hoping he had missed something obvious. He picked up the assembly of shapes he had created for the purpose of raising the indigent for some insight, but could not see a pathway within its complex shapes that felt right for reversing the process. Every pathway he explored led toward reanimation, and that was the last thing Pete wanted right now. “No, I should figure out what to do with you before I try anything else. At least you’re reasonably small. Nobody happening by should think you are anything unnatural unless they get too close.”
Unnatural. The word hit Pete like a rock in the back of the head. Studying the scholarly paperwork and assembling the shapes and traversing the pathways of thought they suggested seemed so enticing and intuitive that Pete had completely overlooked the undeniable truth that what he had done was completely unnatural. The squirrel had been dead and now it was alive, in a way at least. If a Guild officer was to see the squirrel and identify Pete as the responsible party then he would be hanged for sure. The Guild exercised no mercy when it came to Resurrectionists. Pete had heard tales of the Death Marshals, the Guild’s elite anti-Resurrectionist corps. Old Bernard Holcolm actually bragged about meeting a Death Marshal once. In hushed tones at the local tavern he spoke of the mysterious man driving a wagon through town. The wagon carried a coffin that bucked and shifted as if something alive was struggling to break free from it. When the Marshal stopped to water his horse Bernard had gotten a glimpse of his face between the wide brimmed hat and the kerchief covering his mouth.
“His skin was stretched over his face like there weren’t enough of it to go around,” Bernard would tell his enraptured audience. “And his eyes. He looked at me and those eyes look like they could have peeled flesh from bone with a glance. Sharp as razors and looking right at me. I tried to meet his gaze but I had to look away, scared out of my wits. Whatever arts they learn to hunt Rezzers it makes them barely human themselves. He said nothing; didn’t even tip his hat. He just watered his horse in the trough by my store and was on his way. Never seen one before or since.”
Pete’s stomach churned at the thought of the Death Marshals coming for him. What if they could sense what he had done and were on their way now? Would they put him in one of those coffins and carry him to the Hanging Tree? He played the scene out in his mind, a severe judge passing sentence at the foot of the Tree and an unearthly Death Marshal savagely forcing a noose over his head.
Once again, Pete scanned the cemetery for any sign of witnesses to what had happened. He reminded himself that there probably wouldn’t be much of a Resurrectionist threat if the Death Marshals could sense even the small act that Pete had executed. “Resurrectionist threat,” Pete thought to himself as he looked at the decomposed squirrel sitting in front of him. “You are clearly the greatest threat to peace in our time,” he laughingly told the squirrel. The squirrel coughed back at him as if in appreciation of the joke. “Still, I have got to figure out what to do with you. Something tells me you won’t just run off and join the other squirrels.”
Pete stowed the papers and the metal shapes back in the lacquered box and took a few deliberate steps toward the cemetery office. He looked back at the squirrel as he walked, curious if it would follow him. The squirrel watched him for a few seconds, then kept pace a few steps behind. “So I guess we’re together until I figure out what to do with you,” Pete observed as he walked. The squirrel followed the entire way back to the office. “I don’t want you to come in, so wait back here,” he commanded the squirrel as they stood behind the crematorium. The squirrel sat back on its hind legs and looked at Pete, then hopped a few steps away and appeared to be following the instruction. “Good. Thank you. Good squirrel,” Pete haltingly praised his rotten new pet. Would the squirrel follow his commands now? He wondered how complex a command it would follow. Squirrels were notoriously clever animals, traversing all sorts of obstacles to get at food, but would one be trainable? Would a partially decomposed brain affect that natural cleverness? Pete entertained the notion of having a trained squirrel, but quickly remembered that the squirrel in question was not exactly the ideal pet. No, the best plan would be to return this particular creature to being dead.
In retrospect, Pete thought, this was a much better outcome than if he had actually succeeded in raising Robert Cumberland. The rotten squirrel was enough of an issue to deal with; Pete couldn’t imagine having an until-recently dead war-hero turned beggar following him back to the office. He had not thought this through enough. No matter; after dealing with the squirrel he would be equipped to handle whoever he chose to raise. The thought gave him a quick thrill again. For all the fear and second thoughts at the time, the concept of raising the dead still captivated Pete.
Pete entered the back of the crematorium where he had left the squirrel and passed through to the office. He dumped the metal shapes and the papers from the lacquered box across the desk and proceeded to pore over them again for information he might have missed, anything hinting at reversing reanimation. Try as he might, he could not find anything. The papers were thorough about the process for raising the dead, and were lavish in their diagrams explaining the process, but completely left off after the raising was complete. Once again Pete observed that the papers seemed to only be a part of a larger text. Pete had to believe that whatever came next must be documented in whatever larger work these papers excerpted. He scanned the citations and footnotes, which he had completely ignored until now, for any possible clues as to the papers’ origin. Instead he found only references to other books, often one called “Lebenstod” by E. Grundeis. Pete despaired for a moment at the idea of finding that or any other book referenced in the papers. Dietrich Dassault had fallen on the lacquered box quite by accident, and Pete had absolutely no idea where to begin searching for books of that nature. Certainly they would be banned works, and inquiring about them would only serve to bring unwanted attention to his endeavors.
In his concentration, Pete did not hear the sound of hoofs approaching the cemetery office.
“Peter Green,” a man’s voice called out sharply. Pete startled, the papers in his hand flying this way and that. He quickly regained his composure and began shoving the papers roughly into the box, slamming the lid down and pushing the glossy lacquered box under the desk and out of sight. A guild officer poked his head into the doorway to the office from the front of the building. “Peter Green?” he asked. Pete became suddenly aware of the fact that the metal shapes still lay in a heap on the desk.
“Yes, that’s me. I’m Peter Green. Is there something? I mean is something the matter officer?” Pete stammered. He stood and tried to move around the desk to block line of sight between the officer and the metal shapes. Pete looked at the man’s face. “You are the guard who was with the paymaster last week, aren’t you?” he ventured.
“That’s right,” the man affirmed. “McDorn. Damien McDorn.” He offered his gloved hand to Pete, who shook it with somewhat less gusto than McDorn exhibited. “This is for you,” he said, handing a wax sealed envelope to Pete. “I took news of your report back to the main office after the guard detail was complete,” he explained as Pete opened the envelope. “It seemed derelict to leave something so important as a vacant post unreported for a week.” He seemed quite pleased with his attention to the matter.
“Yes, yes of course. Thank you,” Pete said as he unfolded the communique, still actively interposing himself between McDorn and the metal shapes on the desk. He read out loud. “Greetings, Peter Green. In light of the death of Dietrich Dassault, you are hereby ordered to assume role of interim managing supervisor of Shady Rest Cemetery and Crematorium until such a time as a suitable replacement can be assigned to the position.”
“Congratulations,” McDorn offered. “Looks like you just got a promotion.” He proceeded to sit heavily in the padded chair in the corner of the office and removed a canteen connected to his belt to take a drink. Pete read on to himself for a bit, then resumed reading out loud. “The personnel selection committee is scheduled to begin the process of candidate vetting at the quarterly meeting in September. The selection process shall be completed by December 1, after which you will return to your subordinate duties. The Guild thanks you for the faithful execution of your duties, and are hereby...”
Pete paused, mouth hung open. The decayed squirrel stood in the doorway between the office and crematorium.
Pete cursed his stupidity for leaving the outside door open to the crematorium. The squirrel sat on its hind legs, looking up at him expectantly. McDorn’s vantage point from the low chair blocked his view of the squirrel, but if he were standing it would be clearly in sight. Pete nonchalantly circled around behind the desk to block sight to the crematorium doorway while trying to continue reading out loud. “...are hereby ordered to prepare the quarters of the managing supervisor for arrival of the new appointee.” Pete had his back to the reclining officer now, and tried desperately to make exaggerated eye motions to the squirrel commanding it to leave. The squirrel cocked its head quizzically.
“Great. Now they want me to GET everything OUT of that cabin before the new supervisor arrives,” Pete said, completely unsuccessful at conveying his message to the squirrel. This was going to end very badly.
“Looks like you are in charge for the next six months, so you should have time,” McDorn said as he started to stand. “I think I’ll be on my way, so... hey, what’s this?” he asked, looking at the colored metal shapes on the desk. He picked one up and examined it.
“Oh, that’s a, uh, a toy I picked up for my nephew,” Pete blurted, turning to face the officer. McDorn put the first shape down and picked up another. He turned his back momentarily to look at the shape in the light.
Pete took the opportunity to swiftly kick the squirrel across the crematorium. He covered the squirrel’s landing on the cement floor with a prolonged cough as he spun to face McDorn again. McDorn turned at the sound and looked oddly at Pete, then picked up a second shape from the pile. Pete watched in dread from the doorway as he brought the two shapes slowly into contact.
Nothing happened. The shapes that had connected with a snap that could be felt at the base of the skull, clearly magic, were completely inert in the hands of the Guild officer. He tried piecing them together at a different angle to no effect. “Well, they’re odd. That’s for sure. I hope he likes them.”
“Hmm?” Pete was momentarily puzzled.
“Your nephew. I hope your nephew likes them. I can’t say I played with anything like that when I was a youngster, but kids these days have all sorts of things to amuse themselves,” McDorn said.
“Yeah, I suppose they do,” Pete answered. “Thank you for delivering the message, officer,” Pete said in as official a tone of voice as he could muster. “Your dedication is appreciated.”
McDorn gave Pete an askew glance, then offered his hand again. “My pleasure, Mr. Green. I’ll be seeing you again soon.” He held the brim of his hat and tipped it slightly, then walked out of the office. Pete watched as he mounted and rode off.
Pete slumped into the padded chair that had so recently held officer McDorn. His pounding heart drowned all other sounds from the world. He watched as the squirrel walked hesitantly around the desk to sit in front of him.
“You have no idea how much trouble you nearly caused me,” Pete sighed at the squirrel.
Continued in Part 5
Last edited by hakoMike; 05-09-2012 at 10:05 AM.
07-31-2011, 11:50 PM #2
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- Jan 2010
- Perth Australia
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I am really liking that the story is developing. When I first read the title of this chapter I was thinking 'No! Poor Pete' he really is a character to can sympathize with a lot. I wonder what installed during the next six months?
08-08-2011, 01:09 PM #3
i like Pete a lot too. He is not like Seamus or the other better known Ressurectionists because he is afraid of it. Thats why i like the story and the character, he knows about the potential of it and what he can do with it but at the same Time he fears it. It is awesome how you described the unburing of the squirrel. Please Write part five as fast as possible.
08-29-2011, 11:17 AM #4
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- Glasgow, Scotland
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Hah - I really enjoyed that
The undead squirrel has all sorts of potential, and I am interested to see where you go with this all.
Note that "proceeded to pour over them again" should be "proceeded to pore over them again".
If I have a criticism with this piece (and I really am picking at straws here, as it is all very good), it is that you have a tendency to write everything out. By that I mean you don't appear to like to leave anything unsaid or any parts for the reader to work out themselves. It is a stylistic thing, so is not wrong as such, but I thought it was worth noting. The paragraph with "pour" in it is an example, and you might want to see if you can condense it down by 2/3, and if you lose anything by doing that.
I have found that being forced (by monstrous editors, or frivolous forum writing exercises) to write to a word limit has had a very positive effect on my writing. It has made me judge quite harshly sometimes what needs to be in, and what can come out. If you get the chance to try something like that I recommend it
08-29-2011, 11:39 AM #5
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- Ypsilanti, MI
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Thanks for the tips. I have been a little disappointed with the amount of pure exposition I am writing to convey the action when there is no dialog. I struggle with the transition between directing the movie in my head and narrating enough for the reader to create the scene. I am a huge fan of non-verbal movie scenes, and part of me still wants to construct the written scene very explicitly. The paragraph you mentioned in particular gave me problems. As with the scene with Emily's burial I had a few things I wanted to convey and I was stubbornly adamant that they be included there. Going over it again feels ponderous to read.
Thank you thank you for your input. I really appreciate you taking the time and energy to help me out. Hopefully you will see your advice come to fruition in future chapters. I should be completing chapter 5 this week, but not before a thorough review and revision.
EDIT: stubbornly adamant? redundant? perhaps...
Last edited by hakoMike; 08-29-2011 at 11:45 AM.
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