“How did Billy get so powerful?” I asked Martin when we were standing in front of the high school. Then added, “Someone had to be teaching him, right?”
My grandfather was floating by my side, waiting until I found the courage to go inside. Until then, I was just wasting time.
“I’ve asked myself the same question over and over again. I believe he was taught. Only another necromancer would be able to teach him to use his powers. Someone must have helped him start on this dangerous path. It also means that someone close to our family is responsible. This person must have known about Logan’s connection to the boy since the beginning.”
I kept Marut’s sword by my side, unsheathed, and ready to strike if the need arose. I thought back to the thousands of nefari the sword has cut down. There was power in the sword that I could use to my advantage. I only had to harness it. As I waited to step forward I drew the power from the sword for some added courage.
We stepped up to the front doors, but they were locked on a Sunday morning. If Billy was inside he wasn’t making it easy to get in. That didn’t stop my grandfather from sailing through the metal doors. A moment later I heard the door unlock and pulled the door open, meeting Martin on the inside.
The school was dead quiet, but I knew Billy would be here. He would be somewhere in the darkest corner. Hiding in the shadows where no one would be able to see him. He would be watching, always watching, that I was sure of.
From the moment I got to Dumont, Billy knew who I was. He was pretending to be friends while he did terrible things behind our backs. He didn’t just fool me, he fooled the entire town.
We walked the deserted halls, passing empty classrooms with equally empty seats. We checked the first two floors of the school, making sure no surprises were waiting for us. I knew Billy wouldn’t be out in the open for just anyone to see. He would be in the basement, waiting for me to find him.
When we were sure the rest of the building was clear we headed for the basement. I walked down the stairwell to the lowest point possible as Martin stayed close. Based on the blue prints we were following the drain pipes toward the boiler room. If Billy was at the school this is where he would be hiding. After playing enough video games you realized where the main boss was.
I thought I saw movement in the shadows. I could feel the nefari close by. Because of the nefari Billy would already know I was here. There was still a chance he didnt know Martin was with me. Billy could hear and see me through his minions. It was his own personal video surveillance system.
“Billy, we need to talk.” I called out hoping he was listening. “I know what you did to Matt. Did you kill him out of jealousy? Why did you kill Laura? What did she do to deserve this? Did she reject you like Diana? I bet you couldn’t stand being turned down so many times.”
“You think I’m jealous of them?” Billy asked from the shadows.
“That’s what it looks like. Why don’t you come out and enlighten me.”
“Don’t think you understand anything, Charlie. You know nothing of my life.”
“Give me a chance. I bet you’d be surprised,” I sincerely said. “We have a hell of a lot in common.
“If you understand so much than you would feel just like me. You would get why I’m doing this.”
“Come back to the Sunnyledge with me. You have grandparents, an aunt, and even a brother waiting for you.”
“Like you said I’ve murdered people, Charlie. What do your grandparents think about that?”
I stepped closer hoping Billy would let his guard down. “Give me Madison, Billy. We can all figure this out. You just need to give Madison back.” After a moment without a response I yelled, “Do you hear me, Billy? Give me back my sister!”
“You have to find me first,” Billy said.
“Stop playing games,” I yelled as I ran into the shadows to get him.
“Charlie, wait,” my grandfather shouted after me.
I felt a swirl of necromantic energy humming through the sword as a blue light emerged from the blade. With the added light I could see a lone figure standing directly in front of me. A woman with cloudy eyes and scabs covering her face.
“Wrong, try again,” the nefari said in Billy’s voice. A second later it lunged at me. I side stepped and sliced the nefari’s head clean off. I could see the energy escape from the nefari and absorb into the sword’s hilt.
A second later Martin appeared. “Billy has Madison up ahead,” he said.
“How many more nefari we got?”
“I saw a few, but nothing you can’t handle with that sword.
I crept into the boiler room while Martin fell behind to wait for my signal. If Billy saw Martin he might attack right away. Martin would stay behind while I tried to connect with Billy on a personal level first. If my plan didn’t work out, than Martin would create a diversion while I got Madison out.
In the opposite side of the room my sister was tied to a chair and blindfolded. Billy was next to her, but facing away from me. It looked like he was playing with his phone but I couldn’t tell for sure.
“Okay, I found you,” I said to Billy. “Let her go.” I raised my voice and asked, “Madison, are you all right?”
“Charlie, I’m okay,” my sister called out.
“So, your brother actually does care about you.” Billy said to Madison still fixated on his phone.
I could sense several nefari by my side, but waited for them to make their move. I knew Billy would depend on his creatures to gain the upper hand. He was to much of a coward to face me himself. I was only mildly surprised when two sets of hands grabbed me under my arms and dragged me forward. They pulled my sword away and cast it to the ground.
Nothing in our plan had changed. If Martin showed himself we would loose our advantage. We had to wait until there was no other choice but to involve him. A spirit around a necromancer needed to be cautious even if the spirit was a necromancer like Martin. There was no telling what Billy could do.
The nefari carried me in their vise like grips, but I didn’t bother trying to escape. I didn’t struggle and instead let them push me to the concrete floor. Billy wanted me to be scared, but the necromantic energy coursing through my veins only magnified my resolve.
“Hey there, be gentle. No reason to get violent,” I called out while they pushed my head down. I knew the nefari lacked any will power of their own. They were mindless puppets my half-brother was controlling like a remote control car.
Billy slowly turned around and revealed his phone. He was playing Candy Crush. He was smiling, proud of his triumph winning a level.
“Are you kidding me right now?” I said. “Maddie,” I added tasting concrete. “How you doing?”
“I hope your plan wasn’t to come here to and get killed,” she said sarcastically. “If I’m wrong and it was your plan all along then bravo.”
“Okay, enough brother- sister fighting. What do you really want, Charlie. Besides your sister what else do you want?”
“I don’t have ulterior motives, Billy. I’m here to talk you out of hurting more people. Let me help you. It’s still not to late. We can get you help.”
“Like you had help back at the mental ward? Is that the help you are talking about? Do I get to claim insanity with my brother at my side? I’m really enjoying this family reunion,” Billy said giving my sister a pat on her head. “It’s nice to have family around, isn’t it? Madison, I want you to say goodbye to your brother.”
My sister struggled against the ropes and shouted, “You promised you would let us go if he found me.”
“I did say that didn’t I?” Billy said rubbing the back of his head like he was dumbfounded. “Well, you know how it goes,” he said raising his arm. “I lied because I’m the bad guy”
The nefari’s grasp tightened around my shoulders. Each of the reanimated corpses started to pull my arms in the opposite direction. Billy was trying to tare me apart. I had to get him talking again if I was going to survive this.
“I met your mother,” I said to goat Billy. “What a lovely woman. I will admit that I think she’s a little bored in that little house of yours.” He turned to me and I knew I hit a nerve. “That’s right,” I said egging him on. The nefari paused around me. “I was in your house, Billy. It’s a shame your mom’s trapped in that dirty place you call a home. She’s a nice woman, your mother. She does think the world of you.” I could tell he was fuming so I continued. “A few loose screws in that one, right? I think you should let her out of the house once and a while. Hell of a hermit, if you ask me.”
“Don’t you dare talk about my mother,” Billy barked. “It’s all your father’s fault she’s trapped there. Logan did that to her, not me.”
“With all that power you have tapped into, you couldn’t figure out how to free her from it?” I struggled to say. Billy was silent and I knew I had him breaking his focus on the nefari. “I bet you never actually tried setting her free,” I continued. “Am I right?” I could feel the hatred in Billy’s eyes. “I think I’m right.”
“I would watch what you say to me, little brother. I’m not really that stable. I think I’ll make you watch as I kill your little sister.”
“If you stop now I can help you. We can get you help. You don’t have to give in to the darkness, Billy. There is another way.”
“Why would you want to help me?” Billy snarled. “There is no redemption for what I’ve done, Charlie.”
“That’s not true, Billy. I want to help you because we’re family,” I said with compassion. I struggled to breath while the nefari continued to hold me down. “It doesn’t have to be like this. End this crap now and come back to the Sunnyledge with me. Come talk to your grandparents.”
“Is this when I open my heart to you?” Billy asked. “Is this when I tell you all about my messed up childhood? That I made the sheriff see my mother every day of my life to remind him of the guilt he feels because he killed her?” He carefully moved a strand of hair out of Madison’s face. I shuttered at the thought of her being hurt. “Killing Matt was out of principal,” he added.
“You killed your best friend out of principal?” I repeated. “Do you actually believe that shit? Because it sounds like you were a jealous dick. A child with to much power throwing a tantrum. All because no one ever said no to you before.”
“He had what I wanted, so I took it from him. It’s ironic now. Now, it’s you who has what I want.”
“Are you are going to kill me to get Diana?” I asked astonished. “You killed Matt for the same reason and you still didn’t get the girl. What makes you think she’s going to jump into your arms after today?”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Billy snapped.
“Then tell me how it is.”
“We don’t have to follow their rules, Charlie. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want, and to whomever we want. We are gods, Charlie. The true masters of death. Join me and I’ll teach you how to do true necromancy.”
“You are no god, Billy. Not even close. What you call true necromancy is against the basic nature of the universe. You’re an insane megalomaniac, Billy. Believe me, I know how to spot the crazies. Personal experience and all.” I struggled against the nefari, and was optimistic when their hold wavered a bit. “You’ve let your powers consume you, Billy. Give this up and let us go. Our gifts don’t have to be used to hurt people.”
“I don’t think you’re in any condition to make demands little brother.”
“What’s the catch?” I asked. “I join you and you get to take my girl?”
Billy thought about what he really wanted. “Yeah, that’s the gist of it,” he said.
“I’m not letting you anywhere near Diana,” I explained to Billy. “I don’t want to practice dark necromancy either. But what I really want? What I really want to do, is stop you from hurting anyone else.”
I shouted a war cry before pushing my body up with every once of strength I could manage to pull together. At the same time I sent my will against Billy’s. I wasn’t as strong as my half-brother, but I didn’t have to be. I just had to surprise him long enough to make him loose his focus on the two nefari holding me down.
He had the last ten years to practice using his powers. I had two months, but a well timed diversion was all I really needed. Martin saw the signal and at the same time my grandfather appeared in the room.
“Marty, you’ve finally come to play,” Billy said as my grandfather flew past me.
“Get your sister out of here, Charlie,” my grandfather said as he advanced towards his grandson. It would be the second dark necromancer he stopped since I was born. When he was close enough he burst into a cloud of mist and disbursed into Billy’s eyes.
I grabbed Marut’s sword from the ground and kicked the first nefari in the chest as it came for me, flipping it backwards. I jumped forward and in one swift motion severed its head with my blade. I felt the energy transfer to the sword and waited for the next.
“It’s over, Billy,” I said pointing the sword towards the ground. “No one else has to get hurt over this. Come back with us. It’s not too late to make things right.”
When Billy smirked every hair on my body stood straight up. His eyes were glowing from the necromantic energy pulsating through his body.
I heard Martin’s voice when Billy opened his mouth. “I don’t have control. Something isn’t right.”
“There’s no going back,” Billy laughed in his own voice. “Do you have any idea how many souls I’ve collected over the years?”
“Let us help you,” I cried.
“I don’t need your help,” Billy hissed. “I have all the help I need.”
“Martin, get out of there,” I shouted. “It’s a trap, he knew what we were doing.”
At first I thought maybe I was wrong and my grandfather succeeded. Maybe Martin was able to take control of the dark necromancer threatening our very lives. Billy would be pushed into his own subconscious while we figured out what to do with Billy. That was the idea at least.
Then all hell broke loose as my grandfather tried to escape. There was nothing I could do while Martin pushed with every bit of power at his disposal to leave Billy’s mind, but Billy wasn’t letting him go.
“Get Madison out of here,” my grandfather shouted through Billy’s lips. “Tell your grandmother I love her.”
Martin was fighting Billy from the inside, but was loosing the battle. Billy was the more powerful of the two. “Charlie, promise me something,” my grandfather called out.
“Anything,” I shouted back while I undid Madison’s ropes.
“Take care of your grandmother for me.”
“You’re next, baby brother,” Billy taunted while he ripped my grandfather apart.
Martin let out a cry as Billy ripped his soul to pieces. Even my sister would be able to hear his screams from the spirit realm. The ghostly wails seeped into our world in high pitched echoes.
I couldn’t help my grandfather and I hated Billy for it. I knew Martin didn’t have enough power to stop him. He was sacrificing himself so we could escape.
Billy mastered his powers over the years, while I only had two months to learn how to use mine. I’ve learned how to talk to ghosts and reanimate cute defenseless animals. Billy on the other hand could command a handful of nefari all at the same time. He could already practically control death. I was out matched in every way. Martin knew that and he was trying to save my life.
Billy knew exactly what he was doing. He had wanted Martin to try to take possession of him. He was waiting for it. He didn’t care if he got me. Martin was the bigger prize. How had I been so blind to what he was doing? Billy was manipulating us from the start. Since the day I arrived in Dumont.
I finally pulled the rope from Madison’s wrists and pulled off the blindfold. “We have to get out of here!” I barked. She took my hand and I led her out of the basement. I couldn’t let her stop. If we didn’t get out soon, there was a chance we never would. “Run,” I shouted.
I couldn’t look away as Billy absorbed the necromantic energy he stripped from Martin. Without warning Madison hit me on the back of the head getting my attention.
“Charlie, we need to keep moving,” she said.
“I know you want to go back for Martin, but you don’t stand a chance against Billy.” She was telling me what I already knew. He outmatched me in every way.
I ran after my sister and followed her through the tunnels. More nefari were waiting for us, so I pushed my sister out of the way as I swung my sword at the first of them. I caught the creature in the arm severing it above the elbow. My aim was not improving. I flicked the blade back, spinning it in my hand. I lost control and it slipped from my grasp. The sword hit the ground as another nefari lunged at me. I sidestepped to the right and plucked the sword from the ground. I spun around with the sword extended, and hit my target at the ear, severing its head in half. I was extremely lucky, but that luck couldn’t last forever.
Another nefari grabbed Madison but I pushed it away. Two more nefari appeared behind us but we didn’t stop to fight. Instead I focused on getting Madison to safety and avoiding the rest of Billy’s minions.
Billy was going to come after me and it was only a matter of time before he would catch up. I had to regroup. I was in shock about my grandfather. His spirit’s destruction hadn’t seemed real, but a bad dream that would end when I woke up. If I could wake up.
I thought about my friend and grandfather, Martin. He had cured me of my migraines. Healed me from the mental spike my father placed there so many years ago. He had done so much for me and now this was how I replayed him. He sacrificed himself to save us and I was helpless to stop it. If I had more time I would have been able to go toe to toe against another necromancer. Even then I wasn’t sure I would be able to win.
I was alone in this fight now and I was going to make sure I didn’t put anyone else in harm’s way. I couldn’t rely on anyone else. It was to dangerous to put anyone else up against Billy.
I pulled Madison with me to the only vehicle in the school’s parking lot. I turned around as I opened the door and realized there were more nefari coming after us. I counted the original three and a bunch more appearing.
I set the key in the ignition. The engine turned, but faded with a puttering stall. Not a good sign. I turned the key again, but again the engine didn’t ignite.
“Now you break down on me,” I screamed hitting the steering wheel.
A first two nefari hit the side of the truck, and tried to break the glass with their fists. Madison was yelling for me to start the engine. I turned the key again, but it still wouldn’t turn over.
More nefari pounded on my window until all around the truck a half dozen of them tried to peel open the truck’s cab. They surrounded us and I could see more well on their way.
“What are we going to do?” Madison shouted.
Just as we thought the nefari were going to flip the truck, the engine finally turned over and roared to life. I didn’t wait a second longer and shifted the truck into drive. I plowed through three nefari like they were nothing more than decomposing corpses. On my way out of the parking lot I jumped the sidewalk and clipped another nefari unfortunate enough to be in my way.
The truck sped around corners at reckless speeds for the next two miles until felt I could slow down. I knew Billy wouldn’t be chasing me through town, but he knew where I lived. What was stopping him from just taking the entire Sunnyledge over with a hoard of nefari?
I felt a pain in my chest at the loss of my grandfather, but the adrenaline pumping through my veins wouldn’t let me fall apart. I had to take Madison back to the Sunnyledge, before I dealt with Billy again. I needed a new plan. How was I going to stop Billy now? With Martin gone how was I going to stop my half brother? I was out matched like Little Mac in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. The analogy made me smile. Little Mac could beat the entire game if you knew the every other fighter’s weakness. There were always patterns in the way they moved. You just needed to attack the right spot at the right moment.
That meant I needed a weapon to attack with. Something that could help me gain an advantage over a dark necromancer. I excluded all other spirits and anyone without powers. In the end I could only think of one thing that would gain me some type of advantage. I needed nefari of my own.
I saw the church on the left side of the road, changed lanes, and made a right turn. My sister wasn’t happy when we pulled up to the church and parked. I didn’t wait for Madison as I slipped out of the truck towards the cemetery. I would have to find freshly dug graves for the most effected bodies to bring back.
“How is this going to help, Charlie?” My sister said as she followed my out in the cold. “Are we going to make a nefari army of our own?” She joked, but turned silent when I didn’t think it was funny. “Oh my god, you really plan on raising nefari. Charlie, you can’t do that. You heard what Martin said. Your soul starts to rip apart when you make those things.”
“Martin isn’t here anymore, remember? It’s just me now.”
“We can find another way,” she replied. “I’m not going to let you do this to yourself.”
“Do you have a better idea?” I asked already tired from arguing. I was fed up with trying to figure out a plan to stop Billy. Making my own nefari was the only plan that made sense to me.
“Well, no, but you remember what Martin said. If you start making nefari you open yourself up to the darkness.”
“I know that, Maddison.” I shouted. “Don’t you think I remember his warnings? I just don’t know another way.”
“It’s your soul, Charlie. I won’t let you damn yourself.”
I didn’t respond, but remained quiet. I let out a long sigh and took a deep breath. I contiplated the graveyard, looking for any signs of digging. As I went further in I saw the smaller head stones for the pet cemetery. Instead of continuing on my path I turned and walked into the smaller section reserved for animals.
“Charlie, why are we in here?” She asked while she followed closely behind. With purpose I walked around the small and modest tombstones, as a new plan formed in my brain. I walked over to where I had reanimated the cat when I first learned to use my powers. I used it as my starting point to find what I was really looking for.
“What are you looking for?”
I was concentrating and didn’t reply. I looked through a row of grave markers, but didn’t see the one I was looking for. I started over, hoping I would catch it on the way back. “Why can’t I find it?” I said to myself.
“Charlie, are you looking for the cat, because it was back there,” Madison said while she pointed towards the entrance. “I remember from when I found you the first time.”
I was trying to find a cat, but just not that one. I shook my head, but there was something about the cat that I remembered. I had found it in the earth, by sending my will below. I never had to actually see it with my eyes.
“What are you doing, Charlie?” She said in a raised voice.
“Shhhh...” I said with my eyes closed and index finger to my lips. I concentrated on sending my will below and into the earth. I reached out using my will and spread my power over the graves around me. I started to check them all out. I passed over a medium sized dog, a tiny rabbit, a snake, a tabby cat, a larger dog, another tabby cat, and a boxed turtle with no luck. I refocused my will and tried again in another area. I found another three dogs, four cats, and two rabbits, before I found what I was looking for.
“There you are,” I said to myself.
With a smile I sent my power into the animal’s grave. As I possessed the animal, I found it was mostly intact. It was lucky for me it possessed all four of its appendages. I gathered my strength and made it begin to climb through the earth and up to the surface.
I could feel the power of its claws rip through the soil. I felt the strength as it glided its way through the earth. The beast was a lot larger than anything I had reanimated before, but there was something familiar.
It was easy to keep my focus now that I knew what I was doing. I brought the beast all the way to the top without dropping my control. Soon it began to peak its first paw out of a bubbling pile of dirt, followed by its snout, and second paw. When it’s head was finally free my sister gasped.
“I’m going to name you... Misty,” Madison happily declared as she watched our new pet take a stride.