Jim worked in a field that left his definition of “deceased” a little blurred.
It had sort of called to him ever since he was a child – that desire to distort the line between life and death, to explore what he could outside the bounds of “nature.” His father had been a pious man, a preacher, but where his mother had been quiet and kind, his father had been cruel and his words had rang out like God himself was using him as an amplifier. He could still hear the hellfire spilling from his lips as he lorded over his congregation, spoke of sin and eternal damnation. Whenever he’d preach those things – promises of punishment for being a heathen – he’d always look down at his son in the first row. It was like he’d seen something sinister in the boy on the day he was born, and every move Jimmy made only solidified that suspicion.
So Jim had done what came natural – he had cowered from his father, turned away from his warnings of damnation and demons. It wasn’t out of spite (he had never been too spiteful, really) but out of fear, a desire to protect himself. He wasn’t bad, right? He hadn’t even done anything wrong, at least, not until he turned twelve and met the witch that would grant him his very first spellbook, would whisper that he had potential, that he had a knack for black magic.
That had been years back, though, in another story altogether – a time when he’d been fragile, swayed by his desire for approval, to find a place he belonged. He was hardly that watery eyed preacher’s son anymore – now he was a thirty-something year old necromancer who hadn’t shaved in a week or so, who smelt of sulfur and gore and stale cigarettes. He lived in the middle of nowhere in a dirty little trailer, and practiced his craft within the shelter of those rotting particleboard walls.
Things were, he assumed, as good as they’d ever get.
He could raise the dead and experiment with demons and zombies all he wanted, here in private, alone – and he could find himself a home within his practice. It was hard not to get sort of attached to his little projects – the corpses he’d resuscitate so that he could converse with them, prod at the edges of the afterlife. It wasn’t because he was lonely, he would assure himself. These days, if he sat still enough, he already felt half dead, so why not grow a little attached to the lost souls he spent time with? There wasn’t anything too deep to worry over. He’d never been a deep man.
Unfortunately, all this closeness, this constant dabbling in the darkness, had begun to leave him with a few unforeseen side effects. He’d read up on them before, of course, but he’d assumed that the ‘eye for an eye’ sort of mentality would take a while to get its hold on him. He had an affinity for this stuff, after all.
Unfortunately, he misinterpreted a few things. Thought too highly of himself, maybe.
The affliction began in his fingertips – the skin had lost it’s color, he’d watched as they turned blue and pallid, left him with nothing but the prickly feeling of half-asleep nerves. It was fine. He could still move them. He’d work it out.
He went to bed imagining that he had time to resolve the issue.
When he woke up the next morning he found all his fingers swollen, so far gone that they’d turned a deep, horrible black, the color of progressed rot and bloated fat with fluid. They hurt, but only a little – an uncanny ache just at the base of his hand, where the decay seemed to have stopped for the time being.
He could feel the illness in his lungs, too, as if speaking the magic had poisoned his air, corrupted him from the inside out. That morning he’d ended up bent over the toilet, coughing up thick, viscous slime that clung to his soft palate and teeth like globs of tar, tasted of blood and sulfur.
He didn’t really know what he was supposed to do. His condition was decreasing so rapidly and he didn’t even really know the cause. Sure, he’d expected something, but he had expected it to happen… later. When he was an old man who’d done enough sinning for the rest of the world and then some. Not now, when he had so much more work to do. So much more fun to have.
Necromancy takes its toll whenever it pleases, he supposed.
He had spent the day trying to avoid it, trying to continue with his normal routine. He’d pulled some leftovers out of the fridge for breakfast, settled down on his dusty old sofa, and tried to focus on the TV. It wasn’t easy to stay focused, to avoid picking and fiddling with his digits, and he ended up just worrying over them more as time passed.
An idea (slimy like whatever evil was dwelling in his lungs, making his chest rattle) began to take hold of him, after a few hours. What if he just replaced his fingers – his toes? He could chop them off, one at a time, replace them with the warm digits of a fresh corpse.
Sitting up straight, he curled his hands together in his lap, looking down at them in the dim room, at the purple, hair-thin veins of rot and oil that were creeping up just past the ridges of his knuckles. He looked like he’d dipped the distal portion of his hands in a pool of ink. The flesh where it petered off into his palms was sickly yellow, like an old bruise, making him worry even more.
It was ugly. An outward sign of the sins that were curled up in his soul. He really preferred to keep his hobbies under wraps – the stereotype of a cloaked, rickety old necromancer had never appealed to him. He didn’t have a lot of options now, it seemed, but he thought he could potentially manage to delay it. That would be enough, for a while, but he’d need to move fast – if he lost what little function his hands still had he’d be fucked regardless.
The body was easy to procure – it wasn’t hard to find fresh graves in this town, and nobody would notice that their dear loved one had been exhumed and was now missing a couple of pieces. He was a professional at that part, even if using a shovel was grisly work when the skin on his fingers kept trying to slip off.
There wasn’t exactly anywhere that was one-hundred-percent sanitary in his trailer to do the procedure, and it wasn’t like the tools he had were surgeon-grade, but he was doing what he could with what he had. The knife he’d decided on was just one from his kitchen drawer, boiled to sanitize it, and he’d set up a station on the yellowed counter-top, covering it with old newspaper to catch most of the mess.
He made the first cut a bit too high along his finger, popping the tight, thin skin like a boil. It started to drain immediately – the sick green-yellow of violent infection, oozing down between his fingers and puddling underneath his hand. He grimaced, made a little grunt and shut his eyes. Drew a few inhales to calm himself. There was an absolute excess of pus and gore spilling onto the paper, the smell of prolonged sickness filling the room like a thick, throbbing cloud. None of the corpses he cut into were ever this far along, and it was almost enough to make him gag. The fact that this was his own hand certainly added to the problem.
Now that he’d started, though, he couldn’t stop. He pressed down, experiencing a severe amount of vertigo when the knife slid in between his carpal bones and snapped them apart like it was nothing at all. The skin caught uncomfortably – soft and pliant like sausage casing as it folded and dragged along the blade rather than cutting neatly – dark ooze and rotted meat squeezing out from the split flesh and dripping onto the countertop.
“Jesus…” He had to pause, clutching the counter with his other hand and closing his eyes, bile welling up in his throat. This was going terribly – much worse than he’d expected. He certainly hadn’t anticipated that his fingers would turn to liquid the moment he began to cut into them. His own mistake. Something to try avoiding with the second hand.
But he had to keep going. He had to get them off now that he knew how far along they were – the thought of living with so much necrotic tissue attached to his body made his skin crawl.
So he swallowed his vomit and stood up straight, steeling himself before he went back to cutting. He proceeded violently fast, driving the blade down against the rotting flesh and trying to ignore the pus and blackened blood that was squirting out as the skin cracked and split like a balloon.
It took him a few hours to get through the whole hand and by the time he was done his knuckles were all exposed, stark white bone still stained with smears of pus but looking much, much cleaner. He was still bleeding, although now it was fresh, red and unspoiled. That made him feel considerably better. He’d eradicated some of his sickness, and that was good, right?
Looking at his hand was more than a little disorienting, so he set about the process of gathering the fingers he’d selected for the procedure. They were relatively similar to his old ones and the body they came off of was very fresh.
He had to do them one at a time, pressing the exposed ends of the digits against the wounds on his own hands and then it was all in the magic, in the hoarse words he whispered to bind them together. It was more magic than medicine – the lines were hard to speak around the bile still in his throat, but he pressed onward, his voice thick with tar and nausea, a dead language echoing off his split lips.
The new fingers fused to his hands like they’d been there all along, like grafting a new limb onto a young tree, the skin and tendon sewing together seamlessly, matching up more smoothly than they ever could’ve with normal surgery. The only signs that they weren’t his own fingers were the thin, almost invisible scars, and the slight difference in skin tone.
Once he was done, he admired his work, curling the new digits, inspecting them. He’d have different fingerprints now. That was a strange thought. These fingers were more calloused than the others he’d had, and it made him kind of dizzy, thinking that the ones he’d had his whole life were now melting into puddles against the counter-top. These appendages had a different history than his, but it didn’t really matter. Things like that were just as irrelevant as who they’d belonged to before.
Exhaling softly, he placed his right hand on the counter-top, watched the way the fluid pushed up toward the backs of his fingers when he pushed them down, like a terrible water balloons.
One more hand, then he could rest. The foot could wait a while longer, considering his prosthetic wasn’t going to start rotting any time soon. He had time to worry about the rest of his issues, later.
Everything was under control.
Magic had never failed him before.
My name’s Slim and I just want to thank everyone for reading!! <3
I’m a 20 year old agender friend, planning on majoring in Journalism and working on a book about my dear necromancer boyo Jim and the overarching supernatural world he lives in with his best buddy, Tucker, an immortal monster hunter. I live with my girlfriend, Ali, (the one who started this ‘verse in the first place lol) and our cat, Krunchy, and spend most of my free time writing pretty gross stuff like this.
If you liked this story and want to see more of my writing (or just the things that I like and how I’m doin’) you can find me on Tumblr and Twitter @
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