By John “JAM” Arthur Miller
I’m the type of guy who roots for monsters at the horror movies. Especially Frankenstein’s monster. He didn’t ask to be created, and all he wants is to have someone to love, someone like him. I’m the same way. You see, I’m dead. That’s why they call me Deadboy. My whitish-gray skin unnerves those who can see through the Glimmering. If you’re a Mundane, you see reality the way the Government wants you to see it. In your reality there aren’t any monsters. There aren’t any people like me. But in my world? Things go bump in the night. Vampires and werewolves hunt humans for food. And mages produce fireballs like a smoker flicking a Bic lighter. Can’t have the populace scared to spend their money on consumer goods now, can we? That’s why the Government uses technological magic to mesmerize society, keep them docile.
While the rest of us feed.
If you’ve ever seen a Supernatural, then the Glimmering no longer works for you. The world darkens. Out of the corner of your eye shadows move. You tell yourself it’s just an illusion, but in the end you either go insane or embrace it.
That’s what I did. I embraced it. After I found a vampire sucking my mother’s blood. I was sixteen. The vampire hissed at me and I wet my pants while watching him drain Mom to a dry husk. It didn’t regard me as a threat. “Welcome to my world,” it said on the way out. I began to see things as they really are immediately because the Glimmering no longer affected me. I watched shadows leap from rooftop to rooftop while waiting on the police. One of the officers smelled like a wet dog and had long canines.
“You’re in a new world now, kid,” the first officer to arrive on the scene said. “And it ain’t pretty.”
He was right.
I began studying the occult. Learned I had a few magic tricks up my sleeve. Specialized in necromancy. At least I thought I did. Had a web presence, a large BLOG-Ring. People began emailing me questions, paying for my services. You see, they don’t teach necromancy in any of the magical schools. It’s the Forgotten Art, disdained by all magical schools and illegal. Which is why necromancers have to work through the Underground to get their dead bodies. Sort of like Dr. Frankenstein who procured his corpses by questionable means.
My reputation grew online. I was known as Necro777. Had some computer buddies help encrypt my address so that the Feds couldn’t catch me, and I made Underground contacts to retrieve cadavers locally. By day I worked a dead-end job, but at night I left Max Logan behind to don the persona of Necro777.
Then one night a spell went terribly wrong. Instead of animating the corpse I’d brought down into the house I’d inherited from Mom, I turned myself into a zombie. My heart quit beating. I began to crave human flesh. But I still could work my necromantic magic.
The Glimmering protected Mundanes from panicking when they saw me. But the rest? They knew I was different, but something dead and unnatural. Something that God should have put down, but something that nefarious magic had raised instead.
That’s when I began to root for the monsters despite my mother being killed by one. There are always two sides to the same story, and God knows there are two types of monsters.
As a Supernatural, I had to list my name with the police department. The blank next to my name on the registration sheet went unanswered. I couldn’t write vampire, werewolf or zombie. Because I wasn’t your average, typical mindless zombie. So they let me leave it blank and described me instead, using the word Deadboy.
The name stuck.
That’s why the Los Angeles Police Department keeps me on retainer as a Special Consultant. Because when Supernatural Slayings happen—SS for short—they call in LA’s only expert. I’ve seen enough bad things to make most mages go crazy, and I’m still here to laugh about it.
It’s been like this for fifty years: me, Deadboy, lurking in the shadows to hide from those who can see through the Glimmering, constantly being called by the LA Police when bad things happen, when things go bump in the night.
It’s a miserable existence.
Like Frankenstein’s Monster, all I ever wanted was to have someone like me, someone dead like me. After my death, all I ever wanted was exactly what Frankenstein’s Monster wanted: to touch her dead face, feel her rotting embrace – a dead woman to go home to.
But I’m the only one of my kind, produced by one-in-a-billion odds. A dead necromancer. Max Logan died in his mother’s basement the day I was created. That’s when I was born, when Deadboy first walked the earth. Registered by the LAPD, working for them, I’m the only one of my kind.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. Which is why two desperate people will gravitate to one another. That was why Vicky and I got along so well. She was desperate just like me.
I loved her and she reciprocated, as ironic as it sounds. I, a necromantic zombie, loved by a living woman.
I’d been trying to find Vicky for a month when my cell phone went off. I answered it immediately without looking at Caller ID. It was Detective Jeremy Chance needing expert advice from the precinct’s only Supernatural Specialist on retainer.
“Glad to hear your voice, too,” Chance said. “But I need you at the Roxette.”
“As in Roxette Hotel?”
That was where Vicky lived. I was already out the door on the way to my car while talking to Detective Chance, trying to get the particulars, the specifics.
Two years ago Vicky bumped into me coming out of the strip club where she worked. She looked like damaged property. Although beautiful, the splotches of black beneath her eyes, the needle tracks in her arms—nobody could want someone like her unless he was a desperate cause.
Or unless his name was Deadboy.
“How much?” I asked her. Loneliness plays tricks on your mind, and you justify things you normally would never have done. At least, that’s what I told myself at the time. But I’d already gone too far one too many times in the past, playing with cadavers and raising them from their graves. That’s how I got into my present situation, how I’d died, by going too far and getting caught up in nefarious schemes. I wasn’t a choirboy by any means, when I met Vicky. But just like everybody else, I tended to justify the things I did.
And I was desperately lonely. And she needed someone who wouldn’t stab her in the back and scrape her off the bottom of the barrel.
We got to know each other. Just a dead man and his heroin-addicted stripper. I began to drive her to work and pick her up. Gave half my retainer-wages to her. “You’re good to me,” she used to say. I’d just smile knowing she was feeding her habit with my money, feeling like shit and knowing I should stop, but unable to quit seeing her because she was the one… she was the one.
And she was a Mundane.
I never knew how she actually viewed me through the Glimmering. Did she see me as a tall, dark handsome man? Or as a loser? Probably as a loser. She complained about my smell sometimes, but when the heroine hit her bloodstream she forgot everything and nothing mattered, including my stench.
I began to fall in love with Vicky. She was the only stripper/prostitute desperate enough to be with someone who stank like me. She opened up over time, told me about her repulsive past, her pedophilic father and how she left him burning in his own house. She had walked away from flames with a Zippo lighter in her purse.
“I love the smell of gasoline now,” she would tell me. “Very cleansing.”
She had her problems, sure. But so did I. And I wanted her like I’d never wanted anybody before. But in order to make her see who I really was, what I really was, I needed to bring her into my world, to slip her past the Glimmering.
So one night I stripped my shirt off while she lay in my bed muttering about how it always stank. “There’s a reason it stinks, Precious,” I told her. Precious was her stage name at the strip club. “Why’s that?” she asked, not really paying attention as she undressed.
I tore my chest open with a meat cleaver. Why not? I couldn’t feel any pain. My body was already dead. And I knew it would get her attention when she saw my dead heart, when black bile drooled in strands from the cavity in my chest. When I kept moving when I should be dead.
“I just wanted you to know… that you’ve been with a dead man for the past year-and-a-half.”
She threw up.
Maybe it wasn’t the best way to tell Vicky that I was dead. But I always had a habit of being blunt.
After that she began to see the shadows leaping among the rooftops downtown, saw the strange people with chalky faces and burning eyes. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked while we dined out one night. I grinned and nodded.
What bothered her the most, however, were the black shadows following her everywhere she went. “I can’t even go to the bathroom without them following me. I’m never alone. What are they?”
“You know what they are, sweetie.” I held her hands and turned them so that the insides of her forearms were exposed. “You’ve heard of the phrase monkey on your back?”
She pulled her hand away, but she knew what I meant. The reason she was addicted were those dark clouds following her. Whether they were comprised of negative emotions or events from her past, all addicts were the same. When people asked loved ones, Why can’t you just quit? they didn’t know that there were reasons their addicted loved ones couldn’t quit their vices. Those reasons weighted down their backs until they succumbed to their shadow’s need.
“I don’t want it anymore,” Vicky told me a month after she first saw through the Glimmering. “I can’t stand having my privacy violated.”
She gazed deep into my yellow eyes and said, “Help me.”
And so I did.
It took six months and two treatment programs, as well as methadone. And a lot of patience and… well, love. But that was okay because I loved her intensely, loved her with all my dead heart and soul. Because despite her flaws, she was the only person to accept me wholeheartedly. And so I stuck it out, worked with her. Used necromantic spells to strengthen her will, consorted with spirits of the dead (the original methods of necromancy) to unlock needed clues concerning her childhood. Sometimes I even threatened her physically. Whatever it took, and although she cussed me, although Vicky often screamed how she hated me, we got through it, weathered the storm and she got clean.
Afterward we became engaged.
But monsters never get to enjoy happy endings. So when I got to the Roxette Hotel, when I saw the squad cars with their flashing lights outside, a strange dread enveloped me. I can’t be hurt, can’t feel pain—at least physical pain. But I began to race up the steps inside the Roxette, bypassing the elevator where police waited. Detective Chance wouldn’t tell me who had been killed on the phone, and now I knew… I knew.
I stopped outside Vicky’s room looking in. Paramedics stumbled out with an empty gurney. Inside, a woman lay beneath a white sheet on the floor of the living room. Although I didn’t need to breathe, I began to pant hard. Raspy sounds strangled my throat when I saw the blond hair splayed across the carpeting, blond hair just like Vicky. My mind screamed that it couldn’t be her. My raspy breathing alerted Detective Chance and he came toward me.
“Deadboy… Max… ” He reached toward me, took my hand. “I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have called you had it not been protocol—damn the rules anyway.”
The precinct had a rule that all SSs had to be investigated. Since I was the only expert on retainer investigating Supernatural Slayings, this came down to me and me alone.
I pushed past Chance and stepped inside. The copper scent in the air was overpowering. Splotches of blood—HER blood—jotted the walls. Blood stains soaked through the white linen covering her body. A part of me still couldn’t accept it was Vicky beneath that sheet, and I knelt beside her… and that’s when I saw the ring.
If you really loved me you’d hit the jewelry store and buy the biggest rock you could afford and give it to me, she told me two months ago. That’s when I whipped the jewelry box out and gave it to her. How her eyes had lit up, eyes that had once been darkened by addiction and the thing on her back. Eyes that filled with tears as she took the six-carrot diamond ring and slipped it on, the same engagement ring on the hand protruding from beneath the linen sheet. The hand rested beside my boot, delicate fingers that had touched me, a tender heart that had braved my rotting flesh to please me.
The only woman who could ever love me now lay dead at my feet. With a cry I pulled back the sheet. Chance rushed to stop me, but it was too late. Something had eviscerated my lover from crotch to throat, and claw marks had raked through flesh and clothing.
“Werewolf,” I hissed.
Chance took the sheet and draped it back over Vicky’s body. “Yeah, that’s what we think, too. But we can’t find any lupine hairs, not even on her body. Problem is these same type of murders have been happening all over the city tonight. I couldn’t reach you for the others—eight in total.” He knelt beside me. “Let’s give forensics a chance here, okay? The only reason I called you is protocol dictates—”
I stood and stalked out of the room. Didn’t want anyone to see me like that, black tears streaming down my white face, weak and crying. I wanted to die—I was dead. It didn’t make sense. I hated God and life and magic and the whole damned Supernatural world.
In the hallway I faced the wall. A hand rested on my shoulder and I flinched. “Deadboy.” It was Chance. “I’m sorry.”
I faced him and he stepped back, as if he had been the one responsible for Vicky’s death.
“I’m going to find out who did this, Chance. And then I’m going to kill them.”
“Deadboy, you know I can’t authorize that.”
“But you can’t stop me, either.”
I went to the window at the hall’s end and flung it open. “Deadboy, wait,” Chance shouted. I stepped to the outside ledge and fell off. I splattered on the concrete alley. Then I got up and walked away, leaving behind a black splotch on the pavement and feeling my splintered bones knitting themselves back together. I didn’t want anyone to see me this way. At the alley’s end I tore a manhole cover open and dropped inside the dark.
My cries echoed down to the depths of Hell.
Forensics didn’t find anything. Not a lupine hair, not a claw mark or wolf-print. Not even a paw imprint in the carpeting of Vicky’s room. Chance called and left a message on my cell phone. I hadn’t answered because I’d been in the sewers and couldn’t receive a signal. When I finally came out it was night, the moon was full and round. I considered killing the first werewolf to cross my path.
Then I thought of the county morgue. That’s where they’d taken Vicky. With no clues in her apartment about what had killed her, there was only one choice, and that was Doc in the morgue. But there was another way to gain facts and that was through necromancy. I had to employ my special set of skills like a lockpick, and pick the information out of my fiancé’s cold body.
Monsters never have happy endings in the movies. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein, not even Beauty and the Beast. Not in the original tales anyway. And I was counted among them, a creature of the night damned by my own singularity, by my own unique rotting flesh. Fifty years I’d been dead, and for forty-eight years of that span of time I’d been alone.
Until Vicky. Until I got her clean. And because I helped her get clean, she loved me for it. We were strange bedfellows, but life is like that, stranger than fiction but sharper than truth.
I drove to the hospital and went downstairs to the basement. Outside the elevator a police officer stopped me. At the end of the hall six officers stood before double-doors.
“What’s the problem, officer?”
“No Supernaturals are allowed down here. Detective Chance wanted it that way, Deadboy. It’s authorized by the Chief.”
The officer looked back at his six buddies guarding the door then back to me. I’d worked with the LAPD for forty years, knew most of the cops by name.
“Michaels, isn’t it?” I asked.
“Yes, sir,” the kid said. “I’m fairly new but not a Mundane. Which is why they put me down here in the morgue, to spot Supernaturals because I can see them, to keep them out. Especially since there’s been a rise in SSs lately. Sorry, Deadboy, but I can’t let you through.”
That was hilarious, because he couldn’t have stopped me even with his six fellow officers. But I simply nodded and got back on the elevator—I didn’t like to hurt innocents unless I had to.
None of it made sense. First, Detective Chance called me as per protocol, like he’d said. Then I’m not allowed into the morgue to view Vicky’s body?
No way in hell.
I went around back into the alley. My yellowed eyes scoured the darkness, looking for something living, something useful to a necromancer such as myself. A cat crawled from a dumpster. It hissed, hating the stink of my dead flesh. It leapt away as I reached for it, but my preternatural speed was faster. I caught it easily and wrung its neck. Normally, I’m never cruel to animals. But normally I don’t have to break the law, either. And I was about to commit breaking and entering, another thing out-of-character for me.
I slit the cat’s belly with my thumbnail to let its blood form a pentagram pattern on the pavement. Using the cat’s life-force, I fueled necromantic magic, muttered a few Latin words, and instantly I was no longer in the alley.
It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the harsh glare. Fluorescent lighting had suddenly replaced the alley’s darkness. When I could see, I found myself in the back of the morgue thanks to my necromantic ways. Black body bags were piled shoulder-height in the shadows of the back of the morgue. Los Angeles was a metropolis with hundreds of people dying each night, sometimes thousands. Lately, the SSs had been increasing, as had gangland violence. Unclaimed bodies were stacked high in the back until the coroners could get to them. It was that way in every metropolis across the land, and death was big business.
I should know. It’s my trade.
Before me were twelve gurneys, all with cadavers. Toe-tags hung from feet protruding beneath white sheets. Two men worked on one of the bodies closest to the morgue. I opened up my mind, searching for Vicky’s body. As a necromancer—and a dead one to boot—I could delve into all dead flesh in the immediate vicinity, searching for identities. I picked up latent memories trapped in the muscle memories and cells of the dead. It was a useful skill and sometimes Chance called me to identify John Does for the police.
Vicky rested in the morgue itself, refrigerated on a sliding slab. I reeled my mind in and approached the two men. Coroner Jim “Doc” Mastiff saw me first.
“I knew they couldn’t keep you out,” Doc said.
“Of course you’d know that.” I slapped him on the shoulder. “You know me probably better than anybody.”
Everybody except Vicky. I glanced at her door in the morgue. This is going to be tough.
Doc nodded and smiled. “I was just telling junior here a little bit about you, Deadboy.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear.”
The other man—a kid, really—gulped loudly. He looked nervous and eyed the exit doors as if he couldn’t decide whether to shout for help or bolt through those doors. “There’s not going to be any trouble here, is there?”
“What makes you say that?” Doc asked. The grizzled old doctor used clamps to spread the chest of the old woman on the gurney. “Deadboy doesn’t go looking for trouble—”
“—trouble comes looking for me. Very funny, doc. But I’m here to see Vicky.”
“What if I told you she’s not here?” Doc said.
I cocked my head and let out a croaking sigh. “We both know better than that.” I pointed at a specific door of the morgue. “She’s in that one, doc.”
Doc grinned. “Alright, you win. I never could fool you, Deadboy. Come on if you want to see her.” He turned to walk to the morgue but hesitated mid-step. “I want you to know how sorry I am.”
“Doc… please.” I cleared my throat. “Let’s just get on with it.”
He nodded and walked to the morgue, opened the combination lock and pulled the sliding slab out. The toe-tag read Vicky Chalmers. I rested my hand on her cold shoulder. The kid excused himself and walked to the back, trying to put as much distance between us and him. I couldn’t blame him. I was there illegally. The kid could get fired by helping me. Doc? Doc was a part of the very foundation of the morgue, had worked there for forty years strong with no signs of slowing down. Some techs and interns joked that Doc was like a zombie himself. It would take an act of God to get him written up, let alone fired.
“You might want to join the kid, Doc.” I gestured toward Vicky still beneath the white sheet. “I have to do some things to my girl here… things that ain’t gonna’ be pretty.”
“Actually, I don’t mind.” Doc smiled proudly. “I find all your necromantic ways simply fascinating.”
“But I do mind. This is going to be difficult enough as it is; I don’t need an audience.”
Gazing into my yellow eyes shut him up. I smeared a black tear across my face, saw the smudge mark on my rotting hand. “Please, Doc.”
“Alright, but please try to hurry. I know it’s tough, but Junior and I are already far behind schedule, and two of my daytime lab technicians are sick with the flu. Bodies are—”
“—stacking up,” I interrupted. “I know, I know.”
“Alright then… junior and I will just be leaving.” He raised his voice and said, “Come along, junior.”
I waited for both men to exit, hiding behind a gurney in case an officer looked inside while the two men vacated the morgue. After the door closed I pulled Vicky’s sheet back. She’d make a good zombie, an attractive zombie. If I ever raised her, that is. But zombies are mindless husks, seeking only to devour. Everyone knew that. I was one-of-a-kind, an anomaly wrapped in riddled paradox that even I didn’t understand. Zombies weren’t supposed to be sentient or have the capacity to carry on conversations containing more than single words such as “Braaaaains!” But here I was, not only functioning quite well, thank you, I was able to perform complicated magic.
“Forgive me for what I am about to do, Vicky.”
I lifted her hand to my face. Her arm was stiff from rigor mortis, and something popped somewhere in the joint, but I paid no mind. I kissed the back of Vicky’s left hand. Then I bit off her pinky finger and swallowed.
It lumped in my belly.
Whispered Latin, spells from the Mesopotamian Era… and dark energies swirled up from the pit of my stomach, up from my guts. I saw… I saw through Vicky’s eyes.
Images exploded inside my brain, muscle memory digesting in my gut. Up and through my rotting flesh, up into my mind came visual bombardment, the last images of Vicky’s life. I had to steady myself as I saw her murderer: Detective Jeremy Chance.
“What the hell?”
Into my mind come the last images Vicky saw before Detective Chance murdered her. I’m inside her apartment now, inside her mind, locked in an event of her past. It’s similar to psychometry where one receives psychic information by touching objects. But I receive a person’s memories by consuming portions of their body. While I stood in the morgue, my mind transported instantly into the past, minutes before Vicky’s death, reliving everything in full HD detail.
Through Vicky’s eyes: Detective Chance standing in her living room. I can see a dark aura about him, an aura that Vicky wouldn’t have been able to see. “I know who the kingpin of the city is,” she told him. After he asks who, Vicky says, “Did you think you could get away with it, Chance?”
“Actually, when you’re dead and gone, I will have gotten away with it, Vicky.” He held his hand out and fire danced in his palm along his life line. “Besides, this is kind of like getting back at that pain-in-the-ass fiancé of yours. I simply can’t stand that bastard.”
“He’ll hunt you down, kill you.”
“Only if he knows I did it, and I’m not leaving any clues to your murder.”
“I’m not dead yet.” Vicky pulled a .9mm Beretta from her purse. “Put your hands in the air… slowly.”
Chance grinned and spoke Latin. Strange shadows swirled and began to coalesce in the upper-corners of the living room. “What did you do?” Vicky demanded, gesturing violently with the barrel of the pistol.
“What was needed in order to make you go away.”
The demon appeared before Vicky. First, blue mist saturated the air like cigarette smoke. Then the stench of sulfur filled the room. Last, from the shadows came crimson eyes glowing. And fangs. Long fangs with strands of saliva drooling. And those claws. I felt Vicky’s fear as the demon stepped out of shadow into the full light, felt her terror paralyzing her legs. “Get out,” I shouted, getting lost in the information pouring into me. But Vicky was already dead, and part of her dead body was being digested and magically assimilated in my belly. As the images continued to unfold as Vicky’s finger digested within me, I watched the demon tear Vicky’s guts out before she could even fire her weapon. She was dead before her body hit the ground, but the demon eviscerated Vicky even more, really getting into its work. When her body finally struck the ground, Vicky no longer resembled the woman I loved except for her facial features.
Although dead, although her heart had quit beating, I saw Vicky straining, crawling to the wall where she began to write Chance’s name in her own blood. She dipped her right hand into the new cavity of her belly, then began to write with red font. “Oh, no-no-no,” Chance chided, as if she were a child. “I can’t have your fiancé knowing about me just yet.” He instructed for the demon to finish killing her, then Chance had it lick blood from the wall as everything began to grow dark. I was losing her, losing Vicky again. It was similar to finding Vicky in her apartment, similar to pulling back the sheet and seeing her dead and cold and staring wide-eyed at the ceiling. I experienced her death and pain through sympathetic necromancy, and when my mind finally slid back in place and Vicky was gone forever, I knew I’d be killing Chance before the night was over.
Sulfur filled the room and suddenly hairs prickled along the back of my neck. A shiver laced itself down my spine. I turned, expecting what I knew would be there: the same black demon that had killed Vicky. I had already seen it through Vicky’s eyes, smelled it through Vicky’s point-of-view; now I saw it through my own red hatred. Its obsidian form suggested a heavy dose of exoskeleton, shimmering like metal and twice as strong. Long claws—the same that had eviscerated my Vicky—dangled at its thighs that tightened like cords of steel, ready to spring.
That’s when I saw three orbs of black energy, dark globes barely visible in the upper corners of the room. Magical wards placed there by someone with sophisticated magical knowledge, and I knew who that someone was. The orbs grew larger like obsidian eggs, and black demons dropped to the floor, their claws clicking on white tile.
Four of them, one of me. No problem.
The demon in front of me attacked first. Its claws raked air, narrowly missing my face. Fueled by rage and Chance’s betrayal, I ducked with supernatural speed and threw a side-kick. The demon doubled over and flew backwards into one of its own. They tumbled back into the dead bodies at the back of the room, against the body bags piled shoulder high. The bags fell on top of the demons, and that gave me an idea. Before I could follow through, the remaining two demons attacked, clawed fingers splayed, jaws open to bite and grind my bones to dust.
I sidestepped the first one and pushed it against its partner. They went down hard, crashing into the metal morgue containing Vicky’s body. Burning pain scalded my chest, and with a curse I discovered my black shirt shredded along with part of my rotting flesh—the demon had clawed me. Poison entered my system and I knew I had to act quickly.
The doors to the morgue burst open and the six policemen and Michaels rushed in. “Shoot to kill,” one of them yelled, and Michael’s fumbled with his weapon while the others drew their revolvers. They opened fire—even Michaels—and I barely made it behind a gurney I pulled down as a shield. The body that had been on the gurney—the old woman Doc and junior had been working on—toppled down behind me.
The bullets were hollow-points filled with silver nitrate and holy water, enough to put down even me. They missed me but cut down the demons that had just crashed into the morgue, the demons now rising and thrashing and cursing against the volley of super-charged bullets cutting them down. They dissipated into the same cigarette-blue smoke they’d materialized in.
“Detective Chance says Deadboy’s responsible for all the recent SSs,” the officer giving orders yelled. I’d not been responsible for any Supernatural Slayings, but I soon would be when I got to Chance and ripped his head from his body. “Take him down.”
The two demons in the rear of the room rushed forward. The police were oblivious. Michaels, standing a ways back from the more experienced officers, went down beneath their deadly claws. One of the officers turned and yelled. The others, drawn by his cry of alarm, turned and opened fire.
That gave me time to act. It was one thing fighting against demons, but against an enemy with weaponries powerful enough to kill me? Almost impossible to recover from such a volley of death. I pulled the dead cat from my trenchcoat, the one I’d killed in the alley behind the hospital, its belly still slit open. Because I’d used it in a necromantic ceremony, it still moved, mindless and hideously alive like me. It meowed but I couldn’t hear its mewl over the gunfire. I smashed its head flat and chanted.
The last remaining life-force of the tomcat allowed me to extend my mind into the corpses at the back of the room, to connect to all those corpses within the body bags. I wasn’t greatly outnumbered, but the officers’ weapons gave them a distinct advantage, because Chance had set me up. The black body bags moved and a dead hand tore through one. Then another. And they began to stand, all those dead bodies, all those unclaimed John Does. They tore through those bags of death and stood, and I filled them with all the hatred I could muster, instilling within them the need to attack, to rend and take down the officers.
Zombies in real life aren’t like those in the Romero films. They’re as fast as their rotting limbs can carry them. Depending on how rotten they are, they approach human speeds. Just slightly slower than crazed lunatics, it’s their supernatural strength that allows them to break down doors and rip heads off people. And some forty crazed zombies filled with my hatred came rushing at the police officers. Michaels was already down, but the remaining six fired, quickly emptying their weapons.
The dead overcame the officers easily, tearing them from limb to limb. They sat down among the dead officers and began to devouring. It would make for a messy report when I finally had to submit it directly to the police chief, for even retainers had police reports to file. But it would be one I would relish writing, especially after I discovered Chance.
There were four kinds of beings in the world. Mundanes were those humans still mesmerized by the Glimmering. Then there were those mortals who had been touched by the supernatural, their eyes wide open. They were the lost ones, those who could see the evil that existed among us all. There were the Supernaturals like werewolves and vampires and zombies, beings that were definitely not mortal anymore, monsters walking and feeding among us. Lastly, there were the Preternaturals, of which I had once been; they’re the mages and witches and warlocks who, augmented by magical knowledge and skill, easily bend reality to their will. In my reports I had to use such definitions to separate and make sense of all the facts. And if a Supernatural or Preternatural began killing within the city, I was given the ability to terminate with extreme prejudice. All police officers were, which was why the officers came into the morgue with revolvers firing—Chance had told them I was responsible for the recent rise in murders.
But that left me with questions. Why were the recent murders taking place and who was responsible? Why had Chance, a detective with a good reputation in a city gone to hell, why had he gone bad? And was he involved in the other SSs happening throughout the city? Last I heard there had been ten SSs since Vicky’s death.
The zombies continued to consume the officers. I could allow them to exist, but my control over them weakened. Soon I wouldn’t be able to direct them and they might attack even me. Since no one was around, I pulled my control back and their dead bodies dropped one-by-one. I felt sad having killed the officers, but it had been simple survival. Hell, I even felt bad about killing the cat, and I don’t even like cats. But this city was screwed up and headed for hell, and somehow I knew Detective Jeremy Chance had a lot to do with it.
As soon as I’d let the zombies drop, someone walked through the morgue’s door: Chance.
“You son-of-a-bitch,” I hissed.
I took a step but a wave of dizziness swept through me. The demon’s poison. My chest burned and my mind reeled. Why had I relinquished my hold over the zombies so soon?
“I didn’t want to make my presence known until you let go of your… friends.” He gestured toward the zombies. “But now that it’s just you and me and the poison working its way through your system—” Chance grinned. “—I think it’s time to put down the only person who can name me as kingpin.”
I stumbled toward him, fighting through the demon’s poison. “Why, damn you?” I tripped over an officer and sprawled before Chance.
Chance chuckled at my lack of control. “The demons—I had their claws dipped in black lotus poison, making their already deadly claws even deadlier, enough to bring down a couple bull elephants… or Deadboy.” He smiled and stepped closer, and I couldn’t do a damned thing as paralysis overcame me. “There’s no escaping your fate, Deadboy.”
“Why?” I wheezed.
“Why what?” Chance became animated with anger, gesturing wildly as he spoke, his face red. “Why am I the kingpin of the city? All around me I saw Preternaturals using their power to gain riches, mesmerizing the public, consumers. Even the Government uses their own Preternaturals—Government sanctioned mages and witches—to influence the public. The Glimmering isn’t meant to protect the People; it’s meant to keep them docile like sheep so that we can feed on them, take their money. If they only knew of the monsters surrounding them, they’d be spending their hard-earned cash on security systems and magical wards. But then the economy would collapse. So the Government keeps them docile like sheep so that their precious commercialized world won’t collapse. And there I was, a detective, able to see past the Glimmering, watching Preternaturals raking in money all over this city, not to mention the Mundane criminal element. I said, ‘Why not me?’
“So I confiscated a magical book from a mage my boys took down. It was his Book of Shadows, his spell book—and he wrote it well, I have to say, a real how-to book for beginners. And that was just the beginning, opening myself up to greater magic, learning how to summon and conjure—my specialty.
“Until I realized I could control, I could subjugate others, using my position on the police force.”
“You became corrupted by the evil you attempted to control,” I hissed.
“Perhaps.” He chuckled. “But it doesn’t really matter at this point, now does it?”
There were still unanswered questions, such as how Vicky got involved in all this, how she discovered Chance was the kingpin of Los Angeles, the one who ruled the criminal Preternaturals. And then it dawned on me that all the SSs, all those recent murders—it had been Chance making his move, taking over business in one fell swoop. But my mouth refused to work and I couldn’t talk any longer.
Chance walked to a clipboard hanging on a wall. I followed him with my eyes, the only thing I could move, hating him with every once of my being. He said, “They’re not supposed to keep the combinations to the morgue here, but they do anyway for people like junior.” He replaced the clipboard and opened the combination to the sliding slab Vicky resided on and pulled it out. Then he picked me up and hefted me onto the slab, my body on top of Vicky’s.
“I’m sure you two will be happy together, two peas in the same pod. Think of it as my final gift to you, Deadboy. You never got to marry her, but you get to experience final death with her.”
His laughter echoed inside the small container. He slid us in and slammed the door. The clanging sounded like thunderous judgment, and darkness enveloped.
Vicky, I’m so sorry.
Detective Chance was an asshole, he really was. He had learned magic without attending any of the mystery schools scattered throughout the city. Had he done so, he would have had to have registered as a Preternatural. Self-taught meant he could learn without anyone knowing, without registration with the police department. And he’d learned high degrees of magic, proving he was either a genius or a natural. Probably both. I had to give him that much, along with a healthy dose of hate.
Detective Chance was an expert in conjuring demons from the nether realms, while I was the foremost expert in necromancy. Necromancy is illegal the world over. But I was like one of those reformed burglars who spoke before large police audiences, telling them the secrets of the trade, helping them understand their criminal Preternaturals. I spoke from time to time, but I usually helped investigate SSs, like a reformed burglar helping to crack bank heists. Although I had reformed ever since my necromantic magic had gone awry, I’d gone from a Preternatural to a Supernatural with necromantic powers in one night. Another words, I was a mage who had become undead but could still work his magic, a Supernatural who still worked magic like a Preternatural mortal. As an anomaly, most couldn’t understand me, and those that could didn’t know anything about me personally. Nor did Chance comprehend the finer aspects of necromancy.
For starters, he didn’t understand that when a necromancer touched a dead body, he had greater control over it. And since Vicky was touching me, I could slide my mind into her dead body. I purveyed her dead cells. I let my mind run along the rotting ligaments of her limbs, let my thoughts take inventory of her drying bones.
But I also had a portion of Vicky’s dead body in my stomach. I’d bitten off her pinky and swallowed it. That gave me even more control over her body. So, without the ability to move (let alone speak), I raised her as a zombie. She would be mindless, but not for long. Not if everything went right.
I wasn’t long for this world. I knew that now. The demonic poison, coupled with black lotus, would soon end my existence forever. But I still had one trick up my sleeve—or in my gut, as the case may be.
I mentally directed Vicky’s body with tender movements. Through her eyes I saw my body in the dark. Her hands tore open my shirt, and I directed them to my slashed chest. My body didn’t use the vascular system since my heart had stopped fifty years earlier. That meant the poison hadn’t reached my dead heart yet. The heart was where Supernaturals received their power, otherwise staked vampires wouldn’t become helpless. The poison had to saturate through my flesh, through osmosis, to get to my heart. The process was much slower than slipping into a human’s bloodstream. So my heart hadn’t yet been infected, yet it was still contaminated by whatever it was that made me what I am.
Take and eat in remembrance of me, Vicky.
She tore open my chest. I felt no pain. She reached and clutched then pulled, pulling a part of me out of my body. With the black thing in her hand, she took a bite of my heart.
Drink in remembrance… don’t forget me.
Those words would enter Vicky’s mind when she became sentient again, would flow up from my heart into her mind. But for now she was mindless, obeying only because I controlled her, because I subjugated her as Chance controlled demons. I had her tear open her own chest and remove her own unbeating heart. Next, I had her place my heart inside her own body. My vision dimmed because the source of my power was removed, my dark heart now in Vicky. Through the darkness of that cramped space, I saw Vicky’s eyes flicker. Once… twice… and then they widened in surprise.
“Deadboy, what… ?”
I tried to speak, to smile. Anything. But I couldn’t move.
She held her hand up and saw her pinky finger missing. “What did you do to me, Deadboy?” There was no amusement in her voice, no thankfulness. Only derision. “Oh, God! You made me like you.”
But I saved you… I saved you, baby.
Then my vision faded to black, and the blackness slipped into nothingness belonging to the deepest sleep I’d ever known.
I began to wake, caught between sleep and wakefulness. Why, I didn’t know. It didn’t make sense. Instead, portions of voices slid into my consciousness. It was like waking from a normal night’s sleep then slipping down under again, and each time I slipped back down the voices disappeared. But I was waking up, stirring—moving even. Something happened while I’d been unconscious, but I didn’t know what. I should have been forever dead, should have known nothing except perhaps eternity in Hell. But I heard Vicky’s words, garbled, and they didn’t make sense. She seemed to be whispering into my ear, something about, “Forgive me, baby.” Then something struck metal, resounding and reverberating like thunder inside the cramped space.
Vicky was smashing out of the morgue.
She was like me now, or like I had been, supernaturally strong and quick, sentient and knowing she must break out of the morgue. And she had just kicked the morgue’s tiny door off.
Me? I floated somewhere outside my body in some void, caught between heaven and hell, perhaps because the powers-that-be couldn’t decide where they should send me. My necromantic magic kept my soul floating near my body before the powers-that-be eventually overrode my magic and claimed me eternally. But I could let go. I knew that. I could delve into forever-sleep, I could let go and slip away, bypassing both heaven and hell to rot in the ground someplace. Intuitively I knew this, and I also intuitively understood that would make the powers-that-be happy, since they obviously didn’t know what to make of me.
I heard two feet slap tiled floor. Vicky had jumped out of the morgue, landing on the floor. “You said you wouldn’t hurt him, Chance.” Her words didn’t make sense to me. Was I still dreaming? Was this all a dream?
Disembodied, I realized my fiancé had set me up—Vicky had betrayed me.
“Oh, Vicky,” came Chance’s voice from far away, “don’t you realize that some things are just meant to be? I needed you to give me the names of the heroin dealers in the city. Since you were clean it was no big deal for you, except they would have known it was you.”
That’s when I realized she had turned information over to Chalmers. Her death had been staged, kind of like entering the protective programs set up by the FBI. But Vicky had somehow discovered that Chance was more than a detective, that he’d been setting himself up as the new kingpin, bringing down those crime lords who ruled the city so that he might take over. In one night, beginning with Vicky’s staged death that wasn’t so staged.
“You said that I wouldn’t have to be dead like Deadboy,” Vicky said. “I’d planned to find him after I rose from the dead, ask him to go away with me. But I found out about you in the process of working undercover.”
That was why she had been missing for a month. She’d gone undercover for Detective Chance as an informant.
“So what? Did you really think I could have used demonic power to resurrect you?” Chance chuckled. “That’s the power of the other side, Vicky.”
“There’s one thing you didn’t count on, Chance.”
As I concentrated on the sound of Vicky’s voice, she began to come into focus. Wherever I’d been floating, I now hovered in the air above Chance and Vicky. Both became blurred images, and I saw a vague outline of Vicky’s hand as she held it up, the one missing the pinky finger.
“Didn’t tell me what?” Chance said.
“Deadboy isn’t gone.”
“He’s not dead, Chance.”
Chance chuckled. “Now how would you work that, Vicky?”
“I’ve been studying necromancy for a while now, courtesy of Deadboy.” She held her other hand up, both pinky fingers from her hands missing. “And I knew what it would take to bring Deadboy back.”
“You didn’t,” Chance whispered.
The voices grew louder and both Chance and Vicky came into sharp focus. Then I moved like a rushing wind into my body. Strength poured into me. With the great degree necromantic magic gave me over dead bodies, I sensed two fingers inside my stomach, one partially digested and one fresh—Vicky’s pinky fingers. I smiled as my power returned, and I slid out of the morgue with a roar.
Just as I landed, the stink of brimstone filled the air. I watched a fireball elemental spirit conjured by Chance fly from the palm of his hand. It struck Vicky. She turned and our eyes met just before she the fireball incinerated portions of her, and she fell a blackened corpse.
“You bastard,” I yelled.
Chance quickly conjured one of the demons he’d originally summoned as the fire elemental dissipated, its work complete. I dodged the newly conjured demon’s deadly claws and ripped Chance’s head from his body. His wide eyes stared in unbelief as I stuffed his head up the demon’s ass.
“Conjure that, you son-of-a-bitch.”
I filled out the required paperwork. The police officers I’d killed, their deaths were attributed to Detective Chance. Although dead, Chance was indicted for the SSs across the city. The precinct gave me a week off to handle Vicky’s funeral arrangements.
A week later I stood over Vicky’s grave. Black tears stained my face.
Why? I asked her.
She stirred beneath the earth, squirmed in her coffin. There was a psychic bond between us now, since I had consumed a part of her, and since she had my heart, literally had my heart. There was something else Vicky had done that she hadn’t told Chance, just to make sure she brought me back from oblivion while inside the morgue. Inside my own chest rested Vicky’s heart, for she had placed it there while I’d become unconscious after raising her in the morgue. And inside her chest lay my dead heart, the source of my power keeping her alive; the source of her power keeping me alive. I was weaker now, but that was okay because Vicky was alive. Our chests had healed as they are wont to do, for only the outside layers of skin rotted on zombies. Vicky was in me and I was inside her, together as one, yet separated by a tombstone.
Why? I asked again. Why won’t you come out of the ground?
I wanted to live forever with you, Deadboy, she said through our psychic link. But not like this, not as a dead woman with rotting, charred flesh.
I tried to save you, but you saved me instead.
I love you, Deadboy. I’ve always loved you.
I can’t go on without you.
But I can’t live like this. Her pain flowed into my mind, hurt me, made me self-conscious of my own rotting condition. I love you, but I won’t come out of this grave. I want to make it all go away, sleep forever… in this grave.
Deadboy, when you come to visit, I’ll wake and we’ll talk. But my dead body was incinerated, burnt beyond recognition, even beyond that of a rotting corpse. I feel no pain, but I’m so ugly now… so ugly.
I heard her sigh inside my mind. Not like you, Deadboy. I always saw beyond your dead body, saw the man within the zombie. The city calls you Deadboy, the world. Even me. I call you Deadboy. But I always saw the man inside the rotting flesh—I always saw Max Logan when I looked at you.
I fell to my knees as a groan of mourning escaped my rotting lips. Monsters weren’t meant to be happy, and here was the love of my life refusing to come out of the ground to be with me. I didn’t care what she looked like, fat or rotting, ugly or burnt. I just wanted her, damn it! Needed her.
It doesn’t have to be this way, Vicky. You’re burnt, yes, and dead but—
Yes, it does have to be this way, baby.
I stood and wiped away tears, staining my face and hand black. Inner resolve from deep within forced the tears away, and I hardened my face like my heart.
Just because I’m evil doesn’t mean I don’t love you, Deadboy… Max, came her voice inside my head. Now let me sleep, baby… let me sleep.
The ground collapsed a little, sunk a few inches. A deep sigh wafted up from the damp earth, and I knew… I knew. She was gone. My Vicky was gone.
I turned and walked away, the only one of my kind, forever alone. Frankenstein without his bride, a monster with still yet another unhappy ending. There are all kinds of death, but not all of them involve the body. Some happen within where the true man resides.
I walked out of the cemetery changed, a dead man now rotting inside as well as out.