Chapter XLIX

Necromancy is the art and science of conjuring the dead, either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or by resurrection, for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events, discover hidden knowledge, or to use the corpse as a weapon. The practice supposes belief in the survival of the human spirit after physical death, the possession of superior knowledge by the disembodied spirit due to being free of the limits imposed by the earthly plane, and the possibility of communication between the living and the dead. The circumstances and conditions of such an exchange would depend on the nature of the departed spirit, its relation to the earth, the body in which it previously possessed, and how long it aboded.

The practice of necromancy is found in every nation of antiquity and has always been a practice within paganism and in all countries on the globe, but nothing can be determined as to the place of its origin. Each culture possesses specific rites and incantations that are used when establishing communication with the dead. Some evocations are complex and elaborate, while others are not, and all vary one from another, though many include an act of blood sacrifice, a form of equivalent exchange, and reciting specific incantations.

Necromancy is an extremely dangerous practice and precautionary measures should be taken to assure the spiritual welfare of the practitioner. It is understood that the astral corpse of a human being has an intense desire to return to a physical life and holds the ability to prolong its grip on the earthly plane by absorbing energy from the living, making it strongly advisable that only the Initiated need attempt an evocation.

 

From the outside of Aunt Rachel’s modest two story house everything looked normal. The driveway was vacant of any vehicles, which didn’t directly indicate that no one was home since there was an attached garage with its door closed. As soon as Mr. Stokes shifted his car to park I flung the passenger’s door open and leaped out, running towards the house as soon as my feet hit the ground. The wooden stairs of the porch proved to be somewhat of a challenge for me as I tripped numerous times, losing my balance and almost slamming my face into the rail. I skipped knocking or ringing the bell; instead I gripped the door handle and pushed it opened. The force I exerted against the unlocked door caused me to stumble across the threshold.

I called my aunt’s name hoping that she would immediately respond to the sound of my voice and ease the unnamable sensation that had possessed me since I had awoken that morning. I waited motionless; listening for her response. The air around me was stale and heavy. When no one replied I took two tentative steps further into the house, enabling me to peer through the opened sliding doors of her art studio.

“Aunt Rachel?” I summoned, but was disappointed by silence in return.

I continued further into her home walking through the archway that led to the rest of the first floor. Everything appeared neat and tidy; no food was left out on the dining room table, no dirty dishes were neglected in the sink. I saw no indications that anyone had even used the stove or dishwasher recently. I walked through the opened floor plan, searching for anything that seemed out of place, whether that was a physical indication or something more ethereal, but discovered that nothing was out of the ordinary.

As I entered the hallway I opened the door leading to the garage. I flipped the switch on the wall, immediately illuminating Aunt Rachel’s red Altima with the overhead lights. It sat parked in its usual spot. I was uncertain as to whether it was a good sign that her car was there or a bad one. I retraced my steps back to the front door where I was joined by Mr. Stokes. We ascended the stairs intending to search the bedrooms for any sign of my aunt or my cousin, but the stagnation of the air within the stairway was almost unbearable. It felt as if the oxygen was slowly being sucked out of the atmosphere. I coughed a few times and considered turning back and explore her art studio instead, but Mr. Stokes urged me forward. The numerous windows in the house provided us with more than an adequate amount of sunlight, but I felt the discomforting sensation of a sinister presence lurking within the abnormal shadows being cast around us. I felt as if they were gathering and attempting to forcefully persuade us to leave the house. I considered that it was my own paranoia that caused me to feel and think this way, but I knew that the sensations originated from more than my own disturbed mind.

We approached the guest room first and found that it was orderly with its bed made and other furniture and décor undisturbed. The sun’s rays filtered through the curtained window and cast interesting shadows on the papered wall. My aunt’s Maine Coon cat sauntered out from the closet and jumped onto the bed with a loud meow.

“Hey there, Heimdall,” I cooed, reaching over and scratching him under the chin. His orange fur was soft to the touch. “Where’s Aunt Rachel?”

“He won’t tell us anything,” Mr. Stokes scoffed. “He’s always been uncooperative and rebellious ever since he was a kitten. Loki would have been a more fitting name for him.”

Heimdall hissed and growled at my tutor before jumping from the bed and running out of the room.

I raised an eyebrow at Mr. Stokes before moving onto the next bedroom, which was my cousin’s.

Christian’s room was filthy and disorganized. How anyone could live in such chaos baffled me. I would not characterize my cousin as a neat freak, but the disaster we discovered in his bedroom appeared overly messy for even him. The bed was unmade with the blanket, sheets, and comforter twisted around each other and hanging off the side of the bed; random items of clothing were scattered around the room with a pile of what I assumed was dirty laundry leaning against the hamper. The contents of his closet were spilling out of the partially closed doors and into the middle of the room, which was carpeted with an assortment of candy wrappers, empty chip bags, scraps of paper, and from what I determined by the illustrations were pages from a few different comic books. I located at least one greasy pizza box with some uneaten pieces sitting on his computer desk along with empty plastic bottles of soda.

“Disgraceful,” frowned Mr. Stokes as he turned and headed to the closed door across the hallway. He was clearly uninterested in looking beyond the mess, though I briefly entertained the idea of rummaging through the chaos for clues, but changed my mind as I spotted Heimdall following my tutor towards the last bedroom.

Mr. Stokes knocked on the door and waited for a response. I knew she wasn’t inside, but hoped that maybe my intuition was mistaken. He glanced at me over his shoulder before turning the knob and opening the door. The aroma of herbs and burnt wood drifted out of my aunt’s private sanctuary and into the hall. Heimdall weaved his way passed my tutor’s legs and darted through the opening, disappearing into the room before we were able to take a step over the threshold.

Her room was a complete contrast to Christian’s. Her bed was made with the two sleeping pillows tucked in shams and the smaller decorative ones carefully placed in front of them and the nightstand held only a lamp and small digital alarm clock placed an arm’s length from the edge of the bed. The top of her antique dresser was immaculate with her perfume bottles arranged according to their height. The only area in the room that was disorganized was her desk, which was covered with numerous books some laid opened while others were stacked.

The books caught my attention so while Mr. Stokes walked towards the door leading to the private bathroom I approached the desk and pulled out the chair. I sat, scanning the text of the opened book hoping to gain insight into what my aunt was doing or at least thinking the last time she was in her room. I allowed my fingers to travel along the page as I read the words written in the same dialect as my favorite occult book, which held a place of honor in my bookcase at home. I flipped shut the cover searching for the title of this particular tome. I ran the tips of my fingers over the worn burgundy leather. My fingers easily found the grooves of the embossed title and slowly traced each letter of the title; Grimoire of the Necromancer.

Why was Aunt Rachel reading this book? What knowledge did she hope to acquire? Was her research connected to me or The Ancestors in some way? Did this lead to her current situation? As I sat in contemplation my head began to throb. The atmospheric pressure in the bedroom had dropped, causing a familiar insidious fear to rumble within the center of my being like a timpani and I knew that in moments I would be overcome by a wave of vertigo. I stood and searched the room for the origin of the imposing and threatening presence that had manifested in my company, but saw only that Mr. Stokes had appeared at the door way to the bathroom wearing his customary mask of trepidation. He, too, felt the presence.

Our eyes were fixed on each other as we waited. I stood by the desk motionless; he at the threshold between the bedroom and bathroom. We each knew that something was about to occur, but neither of us knew what. With a distressed sounding meow, Heimdall darted out from under the bed and through the open door into the hallway as it slammed shut behind him nearly catching his tail. The noise should have echoed through the house, but it didn’t. The air in the room had become so dense that the sound was muffled.

I took a step towards my tutor as the double doors of the large wooden wardrobe slowly opened with an inhuman moan, revealing that its contents were not clothing as one might assume, but what could only be described as a shrine. I changed direction and approached the welcoming cabinet. Mr. Stokes wasn’t far behind.

“What is this?” I whispered. My eyes were drawn to the lone statue prominently set in the center of a table, which extended the width of the interior of the closet. The figure was distressingly familiar yet even recognizing that I was scared I couldn’t fight the compulsion to touch her. I extended a trembling hand towards her cold metal cheek.

Mr. Stokes grabbed my wrist before I made contact.

“I wouldn’t,” he cautioned.

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