“Isn’t raising the dead a job for nighttime?” Stephen asked.
Jeff chose one of the perfect rows of tombstones, and counted fifteen in. He beckoned for Stephen to follow.
“Well? How are you going to make a zombie before noon?” Stephen’s tone was sardonic rather than amused.
“Have you done it before?” Jeff asked.
“Exactly. Shut up.”
Jeff emptied the cloth bag onto the grave. He had a sharp knife, a bouquet of red roses dipped in black paint, an assortment of gemstones and the skull of a cat. The skull still made his stomach twist when he looked at it.
“That looks like a pile of junk,” Stephen said.
Jeff regretted bringing a non-believer. The equipment was sinister enough to belong to necromancy and a believer would never have questioned it.
Stephen was only half-right, anyway.
“Do you want to do this or not?” Jeff asked.
“It sounded like fun last night when I was drunk, but now it’s just stupid,” Stephen said.
“Go home if you want.” Jeff always gave them a last chance.
“I’ll stick around. You’re my ride home.”
As far as assistants went, Stephen was among the worst. Jeff had met plenty of others who enjoyed the process. He couldn’t remember what had made him choose this one last night in the bar; he’d been more than a little drunk himself.
Jeff lifted the skull and turned the empty eye sockets to face Stephen.
“Touch the skull,” Jeff said.
Stephen rolled his eyes and stuck two fingers in the holes.
Jeff grabbed his wrist with what must have seemed a surprisingly strong grip.
“Don’t touch Mittens,” he said. He could tell Stephen was rattled, and rightfully so. Even non-believers could sense when the power was in the air.
“Let’s get this over with,” Stephen said.
Jeff placed both palms on his chosen grave. His arms tingled all the way up to his elbows.
“Read it,” Jeff said, nodding to the headstone.
“Here lies…” Stephen paused. “Is this some kind of sick joke? That’s my name.”
Jeff kissed the top of Mittens’ bald head. He released the tingles into the empty space where her brain had once been.
His father would disapprove of him using the magic this way. “It’s family only,” he’d say. Mittens was family enough for Jeff. Besides, Jeff had already delivered plenty of bodies for Father; he deserved one of his own.
“A soul for a soul,” Jeff said.
Jeff picked up the sharp knife and buried it in Stephen’s left eye. He was an expert by now and his chosen didn’t live long enough to scream.
He went back to the car for the shovel. He buried the body with the gemstones and painted roses. It wasn’t necessary, but he didn’t feel like carrying them home.
Mittens rubbed up against his leg and he stroked her soft fur lovingly.
“I’ll raise Father again tomorrow,” Jeff told her. He didn’t have the heart to murder someone else so soon.
Follow Holly on Twitter: @hollygeely or read more of her stories at: hollygeely.wordpress.com