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Michael A Gibbs

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Necromancer
By Michael A Gibbs
Saturday, April 01, 2006

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Extended if not eternal life through reanimation of the body is not a new idea. No few corpses lie in wait of the day science will prod them awake. The spenders of time and money in that realm have forgotten one aspect of bodily life after death. The soul. Will the spirit not feel the disturbance of the body?

Bralley wouldn’t understand that Cruzar’s soul needed its corpse; he probably didn’t believe Cruzar had a soul. Bralley accepted only facts—or at least theories developed from facts.


 


But Hadden worked on both sides. He could deal with the abstract as well as the obvious. Certainly, their intellectual propensities had been the central cause of their drifting apart after med school. They had pursued different ideals, but kept in touch, both afraid of losing that part of their youth. And viewed from a distance, they probably appeared as friends.


 


Phillip Bralley, always a man of boundless passion for discovery, had grown bored with accepted medical pursuits, there being little left for him to learn. So, he had cast his profession aside to become . . . what? A cryonicist?


 


Hadden would think that a strange following, except that he had dropped even further over the edge than Bralley. Hadden was a necromancer, secretly working inside that uncertain realm far removed from scientific reality. He smiled to think of the similarities in their chosen endeavors. Phillip raised the frozen dead; Hadden, just the dead, frozen or otherwise.


 


The smile vanished when he thought of the paradox that might exist if Bralley succeeded in reviving Cruzar.


*     *     *


“You are mistaken, Hadden. You fail to see beyond your own expertise. You know nothing of cryonics. You are a medical man, concerned only with the living. But I tell you, sir, I can awaken our Mr. Cruzar. Have I not already clearly demonstrated the technique?”


 


“A thawing dog that you yourself suffocated is hardly a valid demonstration of what you attempt now. I suspect that the movement we saw had nothing to do with life, but was merely the reaction of muscles to your ministrations. And now you speak of human life as if you are God. You cannot resurrect the dead. I implore you, Phillip. Give this up.”


 


“I’m surprised, Hadden. I thought you would be excited. Never have I been closer, and you tell me to give up? Is there something else bothering you?”


 


Hadden quickly changed his demeanor, fearing suspicion. “No, of course not. It’s just that you’ve given so much to the project, I hate to see you disappointed. Explain it to me once again; perhaps I’ve not fully understood your theory.”


 


“It’s no longer a theory. The dog breathed momentarily. The oxygen-starved brain, a result of the asphyxiation, prohibited prolonged survival. Look here.” Phillip stepped to the lab’s one desk where papers lay in ordered disarray that only he could decipher. “You already know that cell damage from freezing prohibits rebirth. The cells are torn and pierced by ice crystals. That kind of damage is inevitable, and irreparable.”


 


“I thought you said no damage occurred if the body was quick-frozen. Is that not the case with Cruzar?”


 


“No, no, of course not. Have I not illustrated this to you before? Quick-freezing must occur from outside, and no matter how quick the temperature drops, the outer tissues, including the outer tissue of cells, freeze first. Those areas crack with the subsequent freezing of the inside. Cruzar succumbed to cancer before you and I were born, but not too long before cures were found. Cryonicists in that day knew enough to put him on a heart-lung resuscitator the moment he died. Are you with me so far, Hadden? You look confused.”


 


Hadden was not confused. He was scared. The implications of reviving Cruzar went far beyond Phillip’s imagination. “I’m with you. Go on.”


 


“Rather than freezing him instantly, they put him in ice and water. He was injected with a variety of nutrients, some of which helped to stabilize him and counter the effects of reduced blood flow. That was all within the first twenty minutes. I know because it’s in the record. Before another ten minutes elapsed, he was cooled to about forty degrees Fahrenheit by a blood/heat exchanger.”


 


Phillip flipped through a stack of documents and came out with one that he obviously thought important.


 


“Fifty-two years ago, at this very facility, Jonathan Cruzar’s chest was opened. A heart-lung machine was attached.” He poked a finger at a particular paragraph. “For three hours and ten minutes, the machine pumped a solution of glycerol though the tissues. That’s another way they avoided cell damage. Then they began the serious cooling. His temperature dropped to minus one hundred eight degrees when they submerged him in dry-ice and silicone.”


 


Hadden noted that Phillip’s eyes were open unnaturally wide, a trait he had seen before when the scientist was excited. He was obviously reliving his discoveries.


 


“Finally, he was wrapped in two pre-cooled bags, placed in the aluminum pod that he’s in now, and lowered into the cooling chamber there.” He pointed across the lab at the line of metal doors that opened upon the liquid nitrogen tanks.


 


Little did Hadden need to be informed of Cruzar’s resting place. How many nights had he spent here meditating on death, calling, chanting for the soul of Jonathan Cruzar to become a material entity?


 


“He’s been at minus three hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit for fifty-two years, and would be just as revivable in another fifty-two, or even five hundred.”


 


“So now you thaw him, wake him, and cure him.”


 


“Crudely put, Hadden, but basically accurate. Until my recent success, the thawing process allowed ice particles to form, destroying cells and preventing reanimation. I’ve solved that with nanorobots . . . actual machines that are individually smaller than human cells. Once injected into Cruzar’s blood, they can examine it. Onboard computers will assess the cellular damage and effect repairs. The entire process, thawing, waiting on the nanorobots to complete the healing, and administering the disease curative, will take


about two weeks.”


 


Hadden’s fears deepened. Bralley just might succeed. He had to ask. “How much of the old Cruzar will you have? I mean, once he’s revived and cured of the disease, will he be complete? Will he remember?”


 


“Of course. The secondary memory does not depend at all on the continued activity of the nervous system. He’ll remember everything that he could recall before he died.”


 


But Hadden needed to know what Cruzar would remember occurring after his death.


*     *     *


The best locations to conjure up the spirits of the dead are not necessarily where the bodies died, but where they actually came to rest. Like graveyards and battlefields. Or the sight of some ancient horrific life-taking event, like an earthquake or a landslide where numerous bodies were unrecoverable.


 


Finding those graves was less of a problem than having a definite identity of who occupied them. A necromancer had to know specifically upon whom he was calling if he expected to raise a spirit. Even after he had the names, some were more difficult than others. Once the easy ones were identified, the precious dark hours could be spent in actual contact with the specters that owned no power of their own, once conjured.


 


A necromancer, after having forsaken all else to dedicate himself to the studies and practice necessary to become conversant with the secrets buried in the caverns of the dead, enjoyed total authority over any spirit he could raise. Those spirits simply must obey he who summonsed them forth.


 


Few came willingly. The resting souls, supposedly sheltered forever by death’s darkness,


upon realizing they had been forcibly prodded awake to enter again into the glaring light of the mortal world that they could have no further part of, perceived the disturbance as a violation of the only right they had—eternal rest. Abhorrence for the necromancer was the usual reaction.


 


Doctor Christopher Hadden was very well versed in all aspects of his covert practice. He had minimized his conjuring time by discovering the personality of the spirits he called upon through repeated contacts. He could thereby counter the spirit’s resistance by saying the right things at each successive stage of its raising.


 


Cruzar was his favorite, although he had become somewhat bored with him these last few months. Hadden could raise Cruzar easily, and he didn’t have to take the chance of being seen in the cemeteries robed in scarlet and eating unleavened black bread and dog flesh.


 


So, he came to Bralley’s lab often. Almost nightly.


 


Too bad Cruzar was the only tenant. He had apparently not been a very interesting fellow in life, because he certainly offered no challenges now.


 


Hadden summonsed him tonight, not for the entertainment of it, but to learn if he could what he might be dealing with should Bralley succeed in bringing the body to life. If Cruzar should live in the flesh, would he not know that his spirit had been disturbed and perturbed during death? Would he not impart that information to Bralley?


 


Perhaps the answer was to destroy the body before it could be animated. But what of the spirit? What mischief might it do if its home were removed?


 


Levitated above the tank, actually shivering from the pod’s cold, Cruzar’s soul watched him in quiet contempt. Again tonight, the spirit voiced its objection to having been called forth for no reason other than Hadden’s curiosity. “Something is different. What have you done?”


 


“Don’t be impertinent. Demand nothing of me, Cruzar. Do you forget I have awakened you, and you are mine to command? Do you want to go again into the lighted world, among the living, to carry out the deeds that I direct? Apologize to me.”


 


The filmy being shuddered. “I have no choice but to obey, necromancer. But what pleasure can you derive from forced compliance?”


 


“Apologize!”


 


“I apologize, necromancer.”


 


“Of course you do. Now we can speak of your problem.”


 


“Problem? You are my only problem. You are the continual disrupter. I would have peace, except for you.”


 


“Be that as it may, I must have an answer. I command you to answer truthfully. What would occur if your body was brought back to life while I still control your soul?”


 


“I do not know.”


 


“Do you exist within the corpse?”


 


“Not this instant.”


 


“Impertinence again?”


 


“Only the truth, necromancer, as you commanded.”


 


“I shall rephrase. If I release you, where will you go?”


 


“To the body.”


 


“I thought as much. Now, if the body were destroyed, where would you go?”


 


“To Hell, I should think. I suspect I was headed there from life, and have only delayed my arrival by this freezing of the body that houses me. What do you plan, necromancer?”


 


“Leave me. Our visit is finished.”


 


The misty form seemed to fall apart and disappear upon the rounded sides of the steel chamber. Hadden removed the scarlet robe and began to gather his conjuring paraphernalia into his arms, being careful to leave no trace of his presence in the lab. He patted his coat pocket to assure himself that he still had the stolen key that gave him access. He paused momentarily before leaving, reflecting on what he had learned, or rather what he had not learned.


 


Cruzar himself didn’t know anymore than Hadden knew about what might occur if the corpse was revived. Only one thing was certain; if Bralley learned that Hadden was a necromancer, a necromancer who had been pilfering with the subject of his project, he would inform not only the medical board, but also the world at large. Hadden would be ruined. He could not allow that.


 


His options were limited. Destroy Cruzar’s body or destroy Bralley. The prospect of either action was distasteful. He seriously doubted that Cruzar would find himself in Hell simply because he no longer had a physical corpse. Hadden’s early studies suggested that spirits had been raised from ocean depths, fire scenes, ancient graves that held not anything decay could take, and from a myriad of seemingly vacant repositories. No, Cruzar’s ghost would remain, but without an attachment to a physical place. What control Hadden might have of it then was highly questionable. A specter with its own will, one that had been harassed over and over by a necromancer, was not a pleasant subject to dwell upon.


 


The alternative, Bralley’s murder, would be a difficult thing to arrange. However, one angle of view indicated that killing him would be kinder than destroying Cruzar. To destroy a man’s dream that was so close to becoming reality would be cruel indeed. Bralley had invested his good credit and all of his mid-life years to the Cruzar project. His financial pit was too deep to fill in his remaining years. Yes, death would be a kindness if considered in that light.


 


But still, Hadden reasoned, he would not have to carry the burden of homicide if he could gain access to Cruzar’s frozen remains. He had no idea of how to open the sealed steel tank. Perhaps he would have to attack it with some sort of crude force, rupturing the tank to expose the aluminum pod. Precautions against the escaping liquid nitrogen would be necessary. He would have to educate himself in that regard. Perhaps the entire event could be made to look like vandalism, if he proceeded cautiously.


*     *    *


Hadden attempted to broach the subject in a manner he hoped would come across as only passing interest. He waited until Bralley’s droning words trailed off and he began to redirect his concentration to the printouts of data that lay spread before him on the lab counter.


 


“I’m sure you must be careful with the temperature increase, Phillip. Must you calculate the rate of increase, or is that a pre-set factor? I should think you’ve quite enough to think about without having to go into that.”


 


Without looking up, “What’s that, Hadden? The rate of increase?”


 


“Forgive me, please. You don’t need my idle chatter. I shall leave you. We’ll have plenty of time to reflect on your success. It’s quite late already. Perhaps I’ll visit again tomorrow.”


 


Hadden turned as if to leave, knowing Bralley’s weakness for explaining the intricacies of his work.


 


“No, wait Hadden. I’m delighted that you’re interested. You asked about the temperature increase, I believe. Yes, the proper rate is a known factor. The trick is maintaining that rate. If he thaws too fast, the shock will be too much. The outer tissue will thaw first, or fastest. Those outer cells can succumb to partial natural decay before the inner body tissues even begin to thaw. Although that outer decay is slight, and even unnoticeable to us, the damage will be irreparable. Therefore, thawing must occur quickly, but not too


quickly.”


 


“I see.” He had Bralley’s attention now, and had not made him suspicious. This was too easy.  “And how will you remove Cruzar from the liquid nitrogen? Is that not dangerous to yourself?”


 


“It can be extremely dangerous. That’s why I insist on doing it alone. On evaporation, and as a gas, one liter will occupy seven hundred times its liquid volume. The tank holds four hundred gallons. You can see how the oxygen level here in the lab would be reduced if there was a sudden rupture.”


 


“Sweet mercy, Phillip! You would be asphyxiated! Are there no safety precautions?”


 


“Of course. But you should know that the tank will not rupture. Has it not stood here intact for fifty-two years? Certainly, it will hold for another week. On the far side of the tank is a sealed portal. I will attach a brass hose, and vent the tank into the outside air through a window. Should a leak occur, there are three separate safeties that will prevent my demise. Firstly, I shall leave the door open. The vapors would have ample space inside this complex to safely dissipate. Secondly, you can see for yourself the small device affixed to the ceiling above the tank. That’s an oxygen depletion alarm, backed up by batteries. And thirdly, there are ascending physical stages to oxygen deprivation, all of which would serve to warn me. Briefly, those warnings would arrive in an ascending order of accelerated pulse, changing emotions, diminished attention, disturbances to coordination, fatigue, nausea, and gasping. So, you need not concern yourself for my safety. I’ve practiced the procedure in my mind for some years.”


 


Hadden needed only a little more. Dare he risk it now? Bralley was turning back to his papers.


 


“But Cruzar would then be in the pod, and that’s inside the tank, without the protection of the liquid nitrogen. Are you not afraid the thaw will begin before you can get him out.” Surely, Phillip would tell him how to open the thing.


 


“Not at all. Minus three hundred and twenty degrees is very, very cold. There will be ample time.”


 


Hadden waited. Bralley’s brow furrowed as he leaned closer to the documents. Was that it? Would he say no more?


 


“How do you open the tank?”


 


Bralley didn’t answer. He stood over his work, his face down close to the papers, supporting himself by hands that were palm-down on the table’s surface. Hadden could almost hear the seconds passing. He saw the slightest tilt of Bralley’s head away from the documents, toward him, and then back. He had gone too far. Bralley was guardedly suspicious of anything not perfectly in tune with what was best for his project. And that last question was definitely atonal.


 


“Well, goodnight, Phillip. I must go.”


 


“Goodnight, Hadden.”


*     *     *


Hadden was back in the lab that night long after Bralley and other’s of clean conscience were several hours into sleep. He rummaged through cabinets and drawers until he found what he needed to begin venting the tank to the outside air like Bralley had explained. He watched the connections closely for some time to make sure they were secure. Then he summonsed the ghost.


 


Even when obstinacy was not an option, Cruzar was obstinate.


 


“I dare not tell you, necromancer. I beg you, do not require it. You’ll leave me with nothing.”


 


“Ah, but I do require it, spirit. If you cannot open the tank yourself, you will not only tell me how it’s done, you will explain in detail. Do you not hear the hiss of escaping gas, even now? Soon, your precious corpse will begin to decay with or without your help. And need I remind you that you really have no choice?”


 


“You are loathsome, necromancer. The vilest form of the life you don’t deserve. I look forward to the day when your spirit will be equally vexed.”


 


“Enough, Cruzar. I command that you answer all I have asked. Now!”


 


“A seam in the tank at the top, visible only from the inside, will permit the tank to fall into two separate parts. But one must know how to break that seam. I do not.”


 


“Then enter the tank, stupid. Examine it. Return here within ten minutes and tell me how to get in. Don’t make me re-conjure you. I haven’t the time for delays. Go now.”


 


Hadden’s anxiety deepened in the interim. He checked the brass hose. It was frosted over with condensation. The low hissing continued. He tried to visualize the level of liquid nitrogen remaining in the tank. He thought of the ghost suspended in the liquid between the pod and the tank’s casing, examining the seam.


 


He checked his watch as well as the clock above the door. The door! He must open it as Bralley had said. As he moved toward it, he glanced at the oxygen alarm. As he reached to close the door, Cruzar’s ghost materialized in front of him, only inches from his face.


 


“Back away, spirit. You’ve no need to come so near.”


 


The vapor that was Cruzar began to move away. Hadden saw in its form the likeness of eyes that seemed to bore into his own.


 


“Be quick about it,” Hadden demanded, trying to hide his discomfort at being in such close proximity to the dead.


 


“I have done your bidding, necromancer. The seam can be penetrated with minimal force. I have but little abilities regarding things tangible. Do you plan to pierce the tank yourself?”


 


“Never ask me anything at all, you remnant of rottenness. What is the level of liquid in the tank?”


 


“It’s four percent less than before you vented.”


 


“Four percent? That’s impossible. It’s been venting for an hour. At this rate, it’ll take all night.”


 


Hadden began to walk, circling the tank, touching its sides, as if there had to be another port. Cruzar hovered, shivering, where Hadden had left him.


 


Hadden began a systematic search of the lab. Finally, in a drawer under the lab’s sink, he found several tools. Choosing a hammer and a large screwdriver, he called for the ghost.


“Cruzar, approach me.”


 


Cruzar complied. Hadden held the two tools toward the mist, actually reaching into it. “Take these. Go to the top of the tank and vent it with one small hole.”


 


Cruzar reached for the items, his foggy fingers enclosing them. They fell to the floor.


 


“Were you that clumsy in life, Cruzar? Have you always been so stupid? Pick them up. Don’t tell me you cannot. I command you, spirit, that you take into your hands that which I have given you. Do it.”


 


Such was the power of Hadden’s control over the ghost, the hammer and screwdriver became implements under the control of that which had no place in the physical world. Hadden reveled in his power.


 


As the ghost ascended to the top of the tank, Hadden stepped toward the still closed door. He hesitated. Why take a chance on being seen? Even though the building was surely vacant at this time of night, one never knew who might enter. He would have plenty of time to open the door if the oxygen depletion alarm should sound. He looked up at Cruzar. The spirit seemed to have more solidity hovering there with the tools in hand. Perhaps that connection to the world gave it more substance.


 


“Go ahead, Cruzar. Vent it.”


 


The ghost hesitated. Hadden thought he saw a puzzled look in its visage, but such a thing was difficult to gauge in the wisps of remembered life that made up the substance of a soul.


 


“Vent it, I said!” Hadden was yelling now. “I’m sick of your delays and disobedience. Vent the damn thing now!”


 


The hammer ascended, seemingly levitating of its own accord, as Cruzar faded momentarily. The ghost held it above the vertical screwdriver, which was positioned point down on top of the tank. Then the hammer was falling.


 


Even had the lab door been open, even if all the windows had been opened to the freshness of the city night, it would not have been enough. Nearly four hundred gallons of liquid nitrogen gushed forth at once when the tank split wide open from the one perforation the screwdriver imparted.


 


Hadden was awash almost before he could close his eyes. By the time the liquid evaporated from the lab, his entire body was burned. He lay on the floor, skinless, writhing like a worm and failing in his efforts to comprehend how pain could be so intense this side of Hell. He wondered if the ghost was looking at him.


*     *     *


“Good evening, Hadden. You seem exhausted. Are you not feeling well?”


 


“No. Not at all. I’m a bit confused. Must you be here just now? I feel that I need further rest.”


 


“I shouldn’t wonder. You’ve been through quite an ordeal.”


 


“Would you mind turning on a light?”


 


“In a moment, Hadden. But first, what is your last remembrance?”


 


“Are you my doctor? Where are we?”


 


“Your last remembrance. What is it?”


 


“I was in the lab. There was an accident . . . but who are you to be asking?”


 


“That’s correct, Hadden. An accident. Very, very good. Now then, did you see Mr. Bralley? Mr. Phillip Bralley? Remember?”


 


“Of course I remember Bralley. And no, I didn’t see him that night. I’ll answer no further questions, sir, until you’ve identified yourself.”


 


“I am your replacement.”


 


“Replacement for what?”


 


“Why necromancy, of course. After your accident, I became a student of that art. In fact, I’ve devoted the last eleven years to it. Mr. Bralley assisted me more than he can know.”


 


“Bralley? Necromancy? I don’t believe it. I demand that you turn on a light, sir. I can see nothing at all.”


 


“Bralley’s project was not spoiled by your interference. He found the frozen corpse intact, still in the pod. The rupturing of the outer tank simply moved his schedule forward a bit.”


 


“You are a liar, sir. There’s been no time for that. How long have I been out?”


 


A steadily increasing glow began to form around Christopher Hadden’s ghost, intensified now by his frustration. He hovered just above his gravestone, peering through the increasing light at the mortal face of scarlet-robed Jonathan Cruzar.


        M. A. Gibbs


        All rights reserved.


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Reviewed by Lane Diamond 3/6/2008
Well, that rather puts a whole new twist on, "Do unto others as.........." Good story, as usual, but let us hope against necromania.
Reviewed by Joyce Hale 2/18/2007
Oh my, Michael, a fascinating tale! Excellent!! I enjoyed it immensely!

Peace. Joyce
Reviewed by Lee Garrett 4/3/2006
Excellent story, very imaginative.

Lee

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