The First Time

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"You didn't have a fucking clue what you were doing and you lucked out."

Dan's words rolled around Hubert's mind like a song that just wouldn't quit. It had been days. Hubert was unsure how many, but it was less than five and definitely more than two. He looked out the window at the beauty of a setting sun and sighed.

The world didn't care. Soft orange and lines of purple ran alongside the white and grey of evening clouds - a beautiful sunset like so many others. The world didn't care; he could spend his entire life trying to be a better man or he could give up now and the sun would still roll around in the morning and set with almost arrogant casualness in another twenty-four hours.

"You lucked out."

It hadn't been luck. He had glossed over it in his thoughts, not allowing it to affect him, but that first night had had nothing to do with luck.

Hubert looked up at Edgar. Sometimes the skeleton seemed to sleep. He always did so from his constant upright sentinel position, but the dice went still and his head dropped ever so slightly.

Are you awake, Edgar?

The skeleton looked up. Eyeless sockets somehow comforting despite their chilling nature. He took up his D20 and turned it over in his fingers.

"It wasn't luck," Hubert said quietly to his confidant, "it was horrific."

It had begun with the cloak. Terrak Nor's cloak. Deep Space Nine had occupied much of Hubert's life in the late 1990s and naming his wizard character in a way that was supposed to be a subtle nod to the station had not been unnoticed by his friends. From the moment that he put on the cloak, thin velour that it was, Hubert had been drawn into the fantasy of other worlds in a way the portal of a television screen just couldn't replicate. Suddenly the conflict between human and Cardassian seemed distant. Here, in a cold field, Hubert found what he wanted to be.

Terrak Nor was a patient man. Standing back from every conflict with prudence more than cowardice, he measured and calculated everything. Hubert had determined that he would be as close to silent as he could manage, speaking only when his voice would cut through the noise to give a wise and intelligent solution to whatever problem had arisen.

That's who Hubert had wanted to be. A mage; the wise man.

"It was years ago," he continued to Edgar, "I was just playing. Literally, most of the time. There's so much you can get out of a good role playing game. After all, they use role playing in real life training all the time for a reason. Shows you who you can be. Answers questions from a different perspective."

Then there was Ama. In his mid-twenties, Hubert's desire to be more than he really was had led to Ama. She came to his mind in a way that made him question whether she was really invented, or otherworldly. Ama had been his focus. Not a muse, but someone whom he spoke to at night, helping him concentrate on things. She would be there to quieten him - to let him be that wise man. 

"Speak only when it is necessary," she would say, "listening gives you more than speaking."

He tried. So often he would manage to put himself 'in the zone' and remain silent in a room to observe others rather than interact. Ama helped. She was always there, in his head. He knew he'd made her up, to help him through his loneliness perhaps. She was just a different perspective; internalised role playing.

"Ama had been there that day." Hubert looked up at Edgar. "She came to me as I sat on the floor at the foot of Mum's bed. I could smell the shit, Mum's shit, and it was making me reel. Ama filled my mind. I could withdraw, take myself away from it all and get some focus. Some fucking perspective.

"I did do research," he insisted, "I went to the computer and I googled the fuck out of necromancy, but I didn't really learn anything new. I'd seen it all before. It was Ama who worked it all out, who put the pieces of the puzzle together. Zombies. Pages and pages and pages and fuck it, pages of shit about zombies. The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, for fuck's sake. Pages of it. Fan fiction, Zompoc, even Pride and bloody Prejudice. My mind glossed over it all because really, at its core, it was all just shit.

"Ama saw through it all. She saw the lines that made up the actual necromancy. A snippet here, a diagram there. And then, Edgar, before I knew it I was in the room with her, with her corpse. My mother's corpse. And a knife."

"That's what I didn't tell Dan. The personal touch. That's why he couldn't raise Jenson properly. It was the bleeding. My lifeforce. And it hurts. I wanted to cry over her, but instead I was raising her to effectively pay the rent. It was horrific. One moment there's detachment and this thrill of power, and the next you are some poor nerdy middle-aged bloke with a slice running up his forearm and the place smelling of gore bleeding over his mother's corpse. It stank, and it drew into me like insidious wisps rising into my nostrils to dig into my brain. I was all tears and piss and blood. I think there was piss, at least, my boxers were damp when done.

"Piss and pain and horror. Scenes that force themselves into the mind that you should never see. Making that connection, creating the necromantic field between her and me, it was all something I regretted instantly. There was a call to higher powers, a cry. That's the ritual. Begging something outside of yourself to come in, to connect you to the decaying stench of the corpse of your invalid mother and feeling it come and twist you. Turn you into someone who can casually kill his friend. Not that Dan was ever really my friend. An acquaintance though, and one I liked."

Hubert slumped onto his bed. The skeleton didn't take his eyeless sockets off him.

"I used it all. A ritual prayer, my blood, her flesh. I made the connection by chewing on her dank skin, you know. Huddled over like Igor with flashes of pure white lightning crashing through the sky behind him. The begging, the pain and the stench. It wasn't fucking funny.

"It wasn't something Dan should have taken the edges off and just 'tried out' for a laugh. How many fucking people are dead, Edgar?

"How many people are going to have to die?"

Edgar rolled his dice. Hubert closed his eyes before he noticed the result.

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