Friday, February 21, 2014

Never cold 2.0

Have any of you read, 'The Orphan's Tales', books by Catherynne Valente? I read both of them about 2 years ago... and loved them. That shouldn't be a surprise as I'm really into dark fairytales/etc.

I never considered writing anything along that line until I had a strange dream* a few weeks ago...

Here's a very brief description: a square, low-roofed shrine (ceiling about 5' high max), walls/floors panelled with dry, woven grass mats, the interior is lit by the golden light of oil lamps, and the air is heavy with the humid scents of burning oil, earth, and decomposing vegetation. Lining the walls, and in a double-sided row down the centre, are dark wooden cabinets (about 3.5' high, room enough for the oil lamps to not catch the roof on fire) with an uncountable number of tiny drawers, each containing the soul of someone/something in limbo between life and reincarnation. Each soul must tell its story before it can move onto its next life.

The keeper of this shrine is a creature somewhere between a fox and a cat, more than twice sly, and thrice canny. The dimensions of its body change, not only squash and stretch into unlikely shapes/proportions, but the opacity of its body bleeds from heavy, impenetrable shadow, to the cool watery grey of early mist.

I didn't actually intend to connect that far-gone dream to the prompt I offered this morning, but somehow these 250 words could theoretically be the 'sales-pitch' of one of those innumerable drawer occupants... and no, I would never expand this flash fiction piece, but I might rewrite it entirely if I was struck with the urge to explore this world.

Can't wait to read what you guys wrote!

The dead are never cold. The holy men of the fane** lie when they say a soul flies out through the mouth and takes the heat of life with it to light the stars. Or maybe it’s simple ignorance, because a corpse is not warm to the touch when it’s oiled and dressed for burial.

Like a fire-tender with his chest of ash-nestled coals, a necromancer knows where cinders sleep, ready to kindle and snap at the first gift of infusing breath.

Many people you know, many people you meet, are already dead, but they still laugh on the corner with friends, or haggle over the price of cured-sausage, spring onion, and eggs.

Necromancers don’t steal willpower or harvest souls. We ignite life as it was, for a price, just like a fire-tender, or a holy man of the fane. It’s a service like any other available at market, we simply offer inner-heat instead of fire, more time in the present with loved ones, rather than the promise of cold enlightenment in the starry-after.

Now my friend, mark the yellowed cheeks of your daughter, and smell the growing sour of plague on her breath. Keep your purse closed. Alchemy and tinctures will not save her. Send a messenger when her hourglass expires, and we will do business, you and I. 

It is no great price to re-ignite her life, and upkeep is a modest monthly fee to keep her flame by your side.

*I very, very rarely remember dreams, and when I do, they are incredibly vivid and target all 5 senses

**fane is an archaic word for temple/shrine as I was trying to avoid religion-specific terminology, mainly because I'd rather make up my own rules/beliefs/etc.


  1. My offering. I understand it. No one else will


    The dead are never cold

    This is true.

    I wait for the medical students The woman on the next slab is interesting. I ask if she plays bridge. She does, or did. The dead cannot shuffle a deck

    I inquired where she will end up. She said Brooklyn and was impressed by my final destination. “You are such a widely traveled man, even in death.”

    The dead cannot feel the cold but here in this waiting room between life and freedom we do feel shackled. I will only be truly free after cremation and travel to my daughter in Canada.

  2. I like the necromancer. I have a story never finished somewhere about a 'first' necromancer; it's always interesting to see what kind of stories involve magic that make it a taboo and why. I tend to use the idea that whatever comes back is changed (like how Lazarus never smiled again). Also the fun idea that if you bring someone back from the dead, what if someone takes you to where you were before you born in turn. Balance is always fun to play with as a concept, if only to see what can be done with an insane level of adherence to it.

    1. Somehow, since necromancers are always thought of as very taboo, so having one who is more like an insurance salesman... that idea kind of made me laugh :p

  3. Uhm. And, sadly, this is what came into my head for a submission. This is NOT Safe For Work. At all. Remotely.

    The dead are never cold.

    People say they are because they consider the dead sacred. Because the dead should be left alone, in their view. They are not cold, but they are still. They are still and do not judge, while the living judge all the time. The worms warm them, the bacteria burns inside them like fire, and they are never cold.

    But I sometimes think they consider me cold. I warm myself putting the shovel in the earth, digging through earth and wood to reach them. But I think it might not be enough.

    I don't know. The doctors say I am cold inside, because I don't want to -- to be involved with people always moving and jittering, talking and lying with their eyes and faces and words when the dead never lie. They lie dead, but not cold.

    Not cold at all.

    I just want to be warm.

    1. Wow, what a great play between different types of warm/cold throughout this short piece!! Awesome, Alcar! I really enjoyed reading this!

      ...I don't think the warning was necessary :)

  4. Here’s a challenge for you

    We want 33 words in addition to and preceding the following:

    That wasn’t what I meant.

    So, to clarify, you write 33 words and then you tag on the five that we’ve given you. Our five come after your 33 for a grand total of 38.

    I got this from a friend’s blog

  5. Mrs. Thompson said we had to write valentine’s in class for our enemies. I wrote one for you. It’s why I’m in detention. I wrote every rude word in the thesaurus about you.
    That wasn’t what I meant.

    1. You beat me to it!! lol Here's mine

    2. I think there's a Simpson's episode like that... Bart refusing to give Nelson (the bully) a Valentines day card :p

      Love the use of a thesaurus! ...I kinda want to read that card now ;)

  6. “I love you.”
    “I love you too.” He looped the rope around her wrists.
    “I trust you but what is the knife for?”
    “You said you love me. I am demonstrating my devotion.”
    “That wasn’t what I meant.”

    1. Hah, nice :) That was a neat challenge, and damn hard to do.

    2. Since I have to scoot out for physio/etc soon, I'll have to take up the challenge this afternoon ;)

      Dark & funny, awesome, Sue!

    3. Yes it was hard to do but we both did

      ok now where's yours?

    4. Okay, okay, I just got home from physio...

      don't expect much, written in 4 minutes:

      A man on vacation gets dragged out of a bar in handcuffs.
      “Officer, it’s a mistake!”
      “Prostitution is illegal.”
      “I was ordering a drink!”
      “You asked, “how much for sex on the beach?””
      “That wasn’t what I meant.”

    5. 4 minutes? you are so good

      that was great (4 minutes sue says and knocks herself on head)

      actually I didn't time myself I had to rewrite it though

    6. All I did was re-work an old joke :p The longest part was pruning it down to 38 words.

      Thanks for the fun challenge!!