An Old Man's House

67 14 12

Ursula tore the door off with little less effort than it took Hubert to tie his shoes.

"Impressive," he noted.

I was never this strong when I was... Ursula paused. Alive.

"I'm sorry," Hubert said, feeling suddenly responsible.

It had nothing to do with you. You gave me this second life, for which I am grateful. You did not take away the first.

Hubert nodded, his attention drawn to the corridor within. A wave of memory passed into him.

"Hubert, dear, will you go next door to Mr. Jenson's and see if he needs anything."

He hated it. On the one side, there was that feeling of goodness, of doing something for someone else for no reward that was reward itself. On the other, there was the smell and oppressive darkness that the old man seemed to enjoy living in. Hubert didn't know Mr. Jenson well, nor did he want to. As a thirteen-year old boy, he'd rather be tinkering with his computer or watching TV than doing anything for the decrepit old man.

Mr. Jenson wasn't as old as his grandfather, but had the air of a man who was twenty years older and a hundred years more bitter. Some sort of disease had nearly killed him in his 40s, and though he had beaten it back, now in his late-fifties, Mr. Jenson looked like a walking corpse. Mary Grange was always 'popping over' to help him out, and when she couldn't find the time to do so (or simply didn't want to face the stench) she sent Hubert over in her place.

Sometimes it was simply shopping. Other times the old git asked him to clean; it was pretty much vomit-inducing.

"I'm pretty sure he actually piles up those newspapers just so he can piss on them. There's no other reason for it. Who needs a decade of old papers in a stack by the front door stinking of wee?"

"Don't be disgusting, Hubert."

"I don't want to go, Mum."

"I know love, that's what makes it so nice of you. Give him twenty minutes of your time. He's generous with his money and will probably give you a fiver in return. That's fifteen quid an hour and you're not earning that anywhere else."

She was right of course, and five pounds would be a welcome addition to his current savings fund of absolute zero.

"Fine; but if I catch him with his cock out relieving himself against a stack of the Daily Mail or whatever crap he reads, I'm turning right around."

"Don't be disgusting, Hubert," his Mum admonished again.

Hubert, Master Necromancer, looked at the three piles of newspapers stacked neatly in the hallway. The smell was muted, but the memory made it as strong as it ever was.

"Disgusting bastard," he said. "Keep going, Ursula."

The odour is unpleasant, even so long after his death it lingers. Did he live like this?

"I don't think what he did could ever have been considered 'living', but yes, he did."

Poor man. Ursula's sudden depth of compassion reached Hubert over the field and he shuddered.

They had come in the back. Zack had provided them with a precise location for the wraith, and Hubert had all been for going and finishing the whole thing right there and then, but Ursula had advised caution. Together, they had pulled memory after traumatic memory out of the boy's disembodied mind, searching for something else that might help and eventually they had found it.

Unknown to Hubert, there had been a Mrs. Jenson. No children, it seemed, but a thread of caring that Zack had carried with him from his interactions with the black ghost. If it had been anyone else, anything else, then Huu would have been against using something as tender as a connection to a loved one as a weapon. But it wasn't anyone else; it was Jenson.

Hubert moved around the house with confidence. A cup of tea sat next to an upturned book on the coffee table. With a moment of wonder, Huu realised that he'd never actually discovered what had happened between his mother and the old Mr. Jenson the night he came home to a dismembered arm on the threshold.

"Do you think she came to visit?" he asked Ursula.

Almost certainly. From what you told me, she liked to perform tasks familiar to her in life and she used to come to help Jenson did she not? Perhaps she came over to do exactly that and found a warm meal instead of a friendly chat.

Hubert smiled at the thought despite himself. Somehow an image of the miserable man sitting with his book, calling to his neighbour to let herself in, only to be dragged out and digested made him giggle.

Together the necromancer and the vampire went up the stairs. They knew what they were really after would only be found in the bedroom.

"I'm not sure I want to see how he treated his sheets," Hubert said, trying to push down the uncomfortable feeling of invading the private space.

Ursula ignored him and opened the door.

Jenson's bedroom was nothing like Hubert's imaginings. The moonlight cut in through the open curtain, washing the room in silver. The bed was made, a floral pattern with lace hemmed sheets that had seen better days, but were perfectly clean. There was a dressing table which, though sparsely decorated, held an empty bottle of perfume that looked close to antique. A photo of a young woman sat on the chest of drawers which contained the old man's clothes in perfect folded order.

"It's so..." Hubert searched for the right word, "Feminine."

It is that. It is also sparse.

"He clung onto her, but didn't have much to cling on to," Hubert reasoned.

Perhaps. There is everything we need here - there must be. Do you think you can do it?

"My first ghost? My first real ghost? Of course I can. Let's go find her."

Ursula took his hand for support, her chill fingers strangely comforting in the dark. Take care, and do not get lost.

Hubert nodded.

Master, more than that: do not let him see you.

Hubert nodded once more, and then quietly he let the magic of the necromantic field flow through him and around him - to the picture, through the perfume and absorbing the heavy weight of memories with which the room pulsed. Mr. Jenson's own memories; his loss, his love, his loneliness. Hubert took it all in and weaved it with a touch that was truly becoming masterful.

"Time to dive," he whispered. His eyes closed, he leapt into the oily dusklight of the necromantic field, his confidence buoyed by the feeling of both Ursula and the ever-present Edgar anchoring him.

When he returned a little more than an hour later, the ghost of Sally Jenson was with him.

A Very English NecromancerRead this story for FREE!