“Do you have a license to raise the dead?”
I rummage in my purse. ‘It’s here somewhere.’
The man taps his foot while I take out my wallet, three golden coins touched by a blind man’s hand, the half-eaten sandwich I had for lunch, a memory preserved in a jar of honey, three eyes of a newt, and spread them on the grass beside the grave’s upturned soil. The coffin lies lidless a few feet away.
‘Well?’ he asks me, impatience colouring his voice.
‘Aha, found it!’ I hand him the plastic card. He pats his side for his torch, but there isn’t one there. He seems not to have realised he’s wearing a suit and not his uniform.
He tilts the card to read it in the moonlight. ‘Seems to be in order.’ He hands it back. ‘Carry on.’
‘Actually,’ I say, returning my belongings to my purse and collecting the candles and the powders from around the grave. ‘I’m done.’
‘You are?’ The man looks around. A patch of dirt is on his cheek; he rubs it absently. ‘But where’s the Returned?’
Now comes the hardest part of my job. Raising the dead is a piece of cake if you know the right chants and the correct ingredients. But breaking delicate news takes some skill.
‘You are,’ I tell him, favouring the direct approach. He seems the type who’d appreciate it. He used to be a Necromancy Law Enforcer; these people are always matter-of-fact about things. ‘You’re the Returned. Your wife wanted me to bring you back.’
He pauses, his face a portrait of confusion and shock. He glances down at his dark suit covered with dust, and the dirt under his fingernails. ‘How long…?’
I exhale with relief. He’s taking it well; better than some. There’s always a few who don’t want to come back and react with violence. That’s how this Law Enforcer died, if memory serves. ‘Eleven days,’ I say. ‘Here’s a pamphlet about what you need to know. The helpline number is at the bottom. Don’t hesitate to give us a call if you feel the compulsion to eat live worms or if you see any hellhounds. Those buggers can mess up a perfectly good resurrection.’
17 March 2018