Here We Are Again


This Weeks Prompt is: 16. The walking dead—seemingly alive, but—.

Resulting Story: Minister Elijah and Brother William

Dear necromancers of our esteemed society, we’ve discussed something similar to this before. There we outlined the Revenant, the Daugr, the Zombi(e), and the Ghul. With all this, then, what more is there to say?

Well, to begin with, how may the tradition of the zombie be overturned? Mr. Lovecraft’s plot seems to indicate that the walking dead are far more human then those Grimes deals with. They are alive except in one particular way. There lies the rub. Just what, in essence, are they missing?

The traditional notion is intelligence. Zombies ‘eat brains’ and are mindless shambling hordes, a typical commentary on consumerist culture in many sense. Alternatively, the Haitian zombi lacks intellect in its soul, and thus is mindless in its service. This however is precisely why it should be avoided. If it is the norm, then the space has been worn thin. I mean this variant even has a song!

Warm Bodies posits a stranger zombie, one who’s inhumanity is caused by a lack of compassion or love. This notion, as admittedly peculiar as it is, is repeated in another equally surreal source: A Zombie Christmas Carol. Strange tidings indeed. ‘Inhumanity’ takes on a new meaning when compassion quite literally saves one form becoming the sort of thing that preys on their fellow man. Again, very subtle in commentary.

Another oddity is the short story ‘Re-Possession‘ by Geoff Gander. While the story is far from perfect, the notion of zombies as simply will-less humans is an intriguing one. It completes the triumvirate of body (brain), mind (will), and soul (compassion). If we are to create the walking dead, what else could they lose?

BAron Samedi

To stick to the non-physical for the time, they might lack inhibition. Rarely are the risen dead shown as…well, uninhibited louts. But there is precedent, with figures like Baron Samedi, and the connection between life and death particularly grows in this area. After all, what have they to lose? They’ve already died! Such a story might deal with the consequences of dead rising and releasing hidden desires. What of the minister? The grandparents? The authority in general? Why in the right community, it would be terror and havoc!

To move then to the physical, perhaps like the Chinese vampire, they are subject to rigor mortis? Zombies have this already, shambling about, but if they were other wise alive…oh, brothers and sisters what a hell that would be. Unable to move, perhaps unable to even speak, yet alive. Alive and unable to die, for one has already died. Of course, this contradicts the ‘walking’ part of the prompt, so as entertaining as it sounds, perhaps it is best left alone.

What if they had an impaired or heightened sense? What if the dead saw more clearly the world around them? The dead often have hidden knowledge (This belief is the origin of necromancy after all) and certianly Mr. Lovecraft would say dealing with a creature that looks human but has a greater knowledge of the ‘truth’ of the world would be terrifying. What alien thoughts would the dead have, no longer inhibited by survival instinct and seeing or hearing or smelling things that stand past the horizon? Terrifying indeed.

Of these, I find the lack of inhibition an easier story. So how shall we proceed? Well, first what time and place should this take? If we want the greatest impact, the greatest revolution and disgust, then the clearest example to me seems to be those beloved by Lovecraft, the Puritans. Revolted by pleasure, and no doubt distasteful of the dead (as any good christian ought be, before Final Judgment), a great amount of terror could be built that way. OF course, the trick is to find away to lure the modern reader into over a hundred year old mindset.

Alternatively, the Puritans themselves might present a horror. If contrasted, the Puritans and the inhibition free zombies make a rather nice dichotomy. Neither is desirable, in fact, neither is healthy either. The Puritan mind, so ridged and uncompromising, is as dreadful as the dead risen and riotous, ready to do as they will. If we pick the right narrator (a child perhaps, or a woman) they may fear the puritans order as much as the zombies chaos. There is great opportunity here, I believe. We must move carefully then, fellows, lest we spoil the corpse.

If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.

That the Dead May Walk

Skeltons in suits.png

This Weeks Prompt is: 8. Hor. Sto. Man makes appt. with old enemy. Dies—body keeps appt

The Resulting Story:The Duel

Mr. Lovecraft has given me an excuse to discuss the living dead. The process of reanimation is a recurring one in folklore and fiction. We discussed Frankenstien’s monster previously, as well as the Vampire or at least the Greek variant. But now we enter into the general topic of the dead that walk, specifically the walking corpses. This means, for the time, we will abandon ghosts, and I will not be doing anyhting on vampires for the coming story. No, we’ll discuss here and in the story, the revanent, the zombie, the draugr, and the ghoul. As well as the appointment that might have been made.

The revenant is, typically, a body animated by passions. Typically, such a revenant is a wicked man, a sinner, and unbeliever. Hence the passionate revival that they attempt to continue their sins, and spread illness and diesease as they go. The dead are to be exhumed and the corpse destroyed. Our appointment set up makes the revenant a good choice, as an appointment with an old enemy is no doubt emotional. The revenant is sometimes explained as being like a ghost, moved by unfinished business at some level.

The zombi or zombie, however, has a rich and confusing back ground. Arguably, the notion of cannibalistic undead traces all the way back to Ianna’s threat in the Epic of Gilgamesh, to free the dead, and have them overpower and devour the living. The term itself is, famously, from Hati and involves a bokor, or evil sorcerer in Voudun tradition.But the conception of a horde of monstrous creatures scampering over each other like mad cannibals is…well, suffice to say modern and ancient. The Night of the Walking Dead owes a great deal to Iannna’s threat and to My Name is Legend. The zombi of the Hatian tradition is not a simple brute, when directed by a bokor. If used in this prompt, the zombi, it seems must possess some intelligence. Whether the original mind or another, we shall see.

Part of the tradition, of man eating or cannibalistic undead, can traced to the Arabian Peninsula, with the ghoul or ghul. A ghul is malevolent spirit, that can be sent back to death by a stern blow to the head. Ghuls revive, however, if a second blow is delivered (so only hit once children). The not only eat, but robe and drink blood of victims, leading them into deserts in the form of hyenas. The term also goes back to the story of Vathek, a gothic tale with much to recommend.

The draugr is a Norse nightmare, however. Like revenant, it is an animate corpse, but often far worse. Draugr possess magical might,able to discoprorate, change size and shape, and any other horrible wasting tricks it has learned as one of the dearly departed. In several sagas, a Scotsman named Gramr takes the form of a draugr after death. And wrecks havoc for a number of days before being discovered. Draugr often guard lost land or treasure as well, determined to grip it to the last. They might, therefore not fit the appointment idea.

But what kind of appointment? For an enemy, there are a few options. Firstly, there is of course a simple meeting. A dinner, a date in some bizarre sense, or some sort of legal settlement. All of these lend an air of surreal to the proceedings (especially if there is a competition involved, since a lawyer who is not of the living arguing habeas corpus has a charm to it). The more exotic, however, is the old style of the duel. Dueling was a common European pursuit, but has a few interesting implications. Duels, like the dead, are things of passion and death. Fatal in their resolution, an undead opponent (particularly a revenant) is perfectly in his element with steel hitting steel.

But what would move a man to rise again? What passion? Love? Lust? Hate? Rage? Despair? Whom is his opponent? Where will they cross blades? I have found my own creature to raise, to tell that tale of tragedy and horror. What might yours say?

If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.