By Michael Conroy
The Necromancer, greatcoat billowing, back straight and arched upright, a slight bend to the knees, head raised back and gazing ahead, stood intently outside Volkovskoe Cemetery – final resting place of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the famous revolutionary, whose true name was Ulyanov. With the inception of those radical exploits that would found his political career, he took on a new title, his life equalling the greatness of the river whose appellation he adopted. Doubtless, he would be traumatised by those years following his departure from the world, and certain he would be so upon his return. Preserved as a relic of nostalgia since 1924 and the stroke that ended his life, finally buried next to his mother, he was at peace, legacy drifting on into eternity.
With great composure, arm across her breast and gripping her shawl, the bronze likeness of Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova stood nobly atop a stone plinth amid a clearing of trees in the cemetery, wreathes and flowers laid at her feet. To either side, had been buried her children Dmitri and Anna, stone visages carved above their graves. And now, noble domed head gazing forward, broad features almost animated, fist raised aloft, the other gripping his lapel, an inspiring double of Lenin had been erected atop the spot where he was now buried; equal in magnificence and sublimity to that of his mother’s, but more striking and moving to look upon. It brought to mind his proclamations of: “All power to the Soviets!” It was as though the man’s spirit and strength, the essence and energy of revolution that defined the zeitgeist of his time had been captured, cast in bronze, and placed on that very spot – to commemorate the man whose actions had shaken the world.
The world was yet to be shaken again. Only the strongest could do so.
Over one shoulder, the Necromancer held a body bag that rustled like autumn branches, contents still twitching here and there; over the other shoulder and leading behind him, a faded leather portmanteau and bleating new-born lamb.
The Necromancer unfastened the luggage, liberated its contents. He had been planning, setting the wheel in motion, performing rites and rituals, for a year now, such as the occult texts say: waiting until the right astronomical alignment and his own readiness were affirmed.
The firmament was black and dotted with stars, the moon full; the wisps and masses of cumulonimbus and altostratus that scattered white over the world gathered above upon his arrival. The Necromancer’s supreme rhetoric allowed him entrance to wherever he should choose, be it a palace or a boudoir, and so permitted him into Leningrad’s most prestigious cemetery at that early witching hour.
Russia’s beloved cadaver wasn’t hard to find, and years of religious, devoted study enabled him to work from memory and practice as he prepared the space.
First drawing the circle, and serpent within, scribing the divine and magickal names, the pentagrams and hexagrams; then he poured the salt around the circumference: further sanctuary from malign intent. Next he adorned the grave with the correct characters, to evoke the appropriate powers and entities; then the goetic seal itself, drawing the sign with the skill and composure of a Hitsuzendō calligrapher. From the words and methods of Solomon, he worked, that were granted to him by celestial beings, along with the writings of old mages, infernal dictionaries, and forgotten manuals of daemonic magick.
Finally, the triangle, embellished with the heavenly titles – Tetragrammaton, Anaphaxeton, Primeumaton and the name of the Archangel Michael.
He had conjured many times before, conversed with seraphim and cherubim, high and low; and brought forth corpses from their graves – these, however, were difficult to sustain, even with all his ability; evoking spirits was a simple, facile task, as was reanimating the dead – but keeping them that way – that was of great difficulty, even to the most powerful of practitioners. Thus was his purpose that night, to ask for help.
The lamb, born not days ago, pleaded for release, but its fate was inevitable. The Necromancer placed the body bag before him within the circle, arranged the materials at his feet. The books, all originals, some many hundreds of years old, bound by hand in leather and cloth, engraved with disturbing images, sparked and hummed with power. He felt it as his fingers traced the contours of the tomes, admiring the covers and the spines.
He had everything he needed.
Performing several final, preparatory rituals to cleanse the space within the temenos, to invoke the elements, he read aloud certain passages from the volumes, burning wormwood and frankincense as he did. With the hour at hand and the preparations completed, the Necromancer stepped inside the circle, the lamb collared at his side. The candles at each cardinal point began to burn, and as he sensed the planets moving finally into their appropriate and necessary positions, he felt the power of the universe and the planes of all beings: celestial, mortal and daemonic, their energies flowing through him.
And so the Necromancer commenced, instigating the first ritual, invoking the fifty-fourth Spirit:
A great duke and earl, who appeareth in the form of a warrior riding upon a gryphon, with a ducal crown upon his head. His office is to teach the black philosophy; he giveth power to the Necromancer to constrain souls deceased and make them do his bidding.
The gaudy, spiralling serpent seemed to slither and writhe about as the air became tense, to uncoil and devour itself, and become an ouroboros. The Necromancer’s eyes dazzled and dilated as he spoke: “I do invocate and conjure thee, O Spirit Murmur, and being with power armed from the supreme majesty, I do command thee, by Beralanensis, Baldachiensis, Paumachia and Apologiae Sedes. I do invoke you, Spirit, and conjure thee, by him who spake and it was done; I do exorcise thee and powerfully command thee, O Spirit, come now before me lest ye be cursed and sent to burn down in Chaos and bottomless perdition. I am an imperial servant of Iehovah and I do command and potently exorcise thee, that thou appear before this circle, to fulfill my will and do as I see fit, lest I harm thee with arcane power most potent. So do come now peacefully and visibly so that you may grant me that which I desire.”
Its presence was palpable. Trumpets sounded through the ether; whispering, echoing, growing louder: terrible feudal music announcing the arrival of something.
The earth quaked, graves shook, the snow turned to heavy hail that ricocheted off trees and mausoleums. Statues crumbled and fissures cracked open: ice filled them; the Necromancer’s breath turned cold as it danced on the air.
The clouds above were black and fierce. They trembled with the sound of rumbling thunder, and then lightning, a tremendous bolt, as if thrown by Zeus against Hades, struck hard and mighty, hurling all its awful power against the ground before the Necromancer, sparking shadowy flames that licked all about it.
In a blaze of black fire and red smoke, the entity appeared, bound by the power of the triangle to do the bidding of the Necromancer.
Letters of the Archangel’s name constraining it, and those of the Almighty allowing no release, the flames gathered into one tangible mass, not yet humanoid. The fire twisted and roared as it spoke to the Necromancer, spitting foul curses and torments, laughing, lunging at the circle, attempting to penetrate the zone of inhibition, trying desperately to get at him.
Smiling, the Necromancer continued: “I do invocate and conjure and command thee, O thou Spirit Murmur, to appear and show thyself visibly and affably unto me before this circle in a fair and comely shape, without deformity or tortuosity; in the name of Iah and Vau, which Adam heard and spake, by the name of God, which Jacob heard and by the name of Zabaoth which Moses named and all the rivers turned as blood, brought forth frogs that ascended into houses. There was a great hail and by Adonai which Moses named, there came locusts and other swarms which devoured the land. By the names of Tetragrammaton, Anaphaxeton, Primeumaton! Soluzen, Ballitor, Halliza! I do command thee come forth in a form pleasing to me to do that which I command of thee.”
The flames swirled and danced, still resisting his command, but, unable to depart freely, they would soon surrender to his wishes.
Cradling the lamb in his arms, the Necromancer declared: “I do offer this creature to you. Take it and do as I ask of thee. Let my will be done, O Spirit!” He drew his blade and it smiled a rictus grin, letting the red sing as it flowed over and to the ground, before casting the body into the triangle where it was consumed by the black fire, disappearing in a crimson smoulder.
Mocking, screaming, it still resisted, claiming it deserved more gracious offerings.
And so the Necromancer opened the body bag.
With one arm he lifted up the drugged child, allowing the other inanimate figure to remain. Slapping her into consciousness, he removed the tape and was patient with her as she slowly came to realise, to the best of her childish understanding, what was happening. The Necromancer held her to him and gazed at the swirling mass ahead. Marking her face with the blade, he stole a final kiss, and cast her out of the circle. Innocent, unaware of the horror, agony and violation that she faced, and did not understand, could not comprehend why. All she remembered was walking hand in hand with Papa, happy in each other’s company, and the strange man who watched as they passed by.
The child let out a horrifying cry that pierced the vault above and stirred the dead below. The black fire descended upon her. Suffocating, groping, rending, it engulfed her small body at once, leaving nought but the scarlet vapour.
The flames, course and black, deepened; billowing they burned with unbridled lust and fury, grew broad and tall, taking on a humanoid figure, beneath which formed a large and shadowy beast not unlike a gryphon. Many arms and other uncanny appendages protruded from the dark mass with little symmetry as it wailed and moaned.
The figure twisting, contorting, its features became clearer, more distinguishable, revealed as a man warped and deformed, an iron crown growing, fused with carrion and bone, out from the top of its head. Arms split into many, legs and torso mounted on, growing out of and encircling a large and terrible brute with great wings baring ivory bone, barely concealed by the corded muscles. Its body, looking as though half-inside-out, black and burnt by wrath and inferno, was merged with the manic form above it, limbs writhing all together at once, the whole vile, chimeric form thrashing and squirming with daemonic power.
“I command thee, come before me in a form affable and pleasing to my eyes! Go, O Spirit, change thy evil form and return hence to my service.”
The beast below snorted and shrieked, seemed to rise up on its hind quarters, flap its wings and enfold itself; merging with what was mounted atop it, rider and steed becoming one, shadowy flesh fusing and binding together. And the Spirit that Solomon once trapped within his brass vessel thus changed its shape to that of a young woman, tall and supple, voluptuous and incredibly beautiful: visage equal to that of Persephone or Aphrodite, but still retaining a devious, malevolent air.
Pallid skin boundless and bare, tinged a slight mauve in certain places – body uncompounded by flesh or other tissues, nor founded on the brittle strength of bones; long serpentine hair, dark and writhing like the desires of men; lips like forbidden fruit, with lustful limbs it posed, lecherously, with a debauched wickedness that would make the Pope sicken in repugnance – all the while still crawling on his knees towards it.
There was a time when the Necromancer might have succumbed to such wily displays, but no longer.
In a shape capable of conversing, the Spirit asked of the Necromancer: “What would you have me do?” in a voice deep and unfathomable; uncanny, unsuited to its feminine contours.
The Necromancer, in riposte: “O Murmur, I ask of you, give unto me the powers of death and divination, and raise the soul of whom I so choose, O gracious spirit.”
“Why, oh why, would you want to do that?”
“That is not important, Spirit; now I implore you, do as I command. Cooperate and I shall not harm you.”
Murmur cackled. “You suppose that you should lord over me? You should not be so presumptuous; tell me, Exorcist, what brings you to conjuring the dead, this night, and why should I assist in such awful, godless, unholy matters?” ridiculed the Spirit.
“My motives are irrelevant and of no concern to you, lesser spirit. I have paid you for your time, now do as I command, lest you should suffer for it,” warned the Necromancer.
“You have no power over me, foolish, lecherous old cleric who has been driven from the love of Iehova! That infernal pit with which you threaten me shall never hold celestial spirits in bondage, nor the Abyss long under darkness cover us. You have no power over me, I who was once an angel, I who am kin to Astaroth and Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, Asmodai and Lucifer. You are a fool to think you should control us!” Once again the Spirit laughed in his face. “I shall rend you limb from limb, feast on your entrails, claw the flesh from your bones, you insignificant worm! I shall destroy you, make you my servant and carnal slave in the Abyss!”
“I am no Faustus, O Spirit! Neither you, nor Mephistopheles, nor Lucifer have power over me, wretched imp!” warned the Necromancer, and hove down all his might and skill against the Spirit, in the conjuration of the fire: “I conjure thee, O fire, by that power which made thee and all other creatures for good in the world, that thou torment, burn and consume this Spirit Murmur, for ever-lasting. I do condemn thee, thou Spirit Murmur, to be burned, and be burned down in the Pit for all time, lest you disobey me!”
That lithe female form disappeared into a mass of skeletal and sinewy muscular tissues, writhing and stretching, screeching, screaming in intolerable pain as a bright and yellow fire consumed the Spirit, burning nothing else, like the flames of Moses’ bramble bush.
Bound to remain in the triangle, enflamed in all its forms, the Spirit capitulated and surrendered itself to the Necromancer and heard him out. As the flames ceased, the Spirit returned to its human form, endless mane wrapping round and round itself, fashioning a dress like the garb of Hecate.
“Forgive me, Master Exorcist, please. What would you have me do? Name your desire, O glorious one, Master of all magickal arts, greatest of all practitioners,” it pleaded.
Grains of sand pouring away in the metaphysical hourglass, consternation began to take hold in him; feeling the planets moving on in their cycles, knowing that soon it would be too late, the Necromancer demanded of Murmur its services.
“Will you imbue unto me your power, and raise, for me, the spirit of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, born Ulyanov, the Marxist and father of the revolution and of the USSR, he whose grave lies before me now? And will you then charge his spirit into the body which I provide so that it may live again, and breathe and function as it once did, but never wither and die as his own body has? Will you do that, Spirit?”
“Yes, Master Necromancer, yes. Only, I pray, do not burn me, do not curse me again. I shall do this for you, anything for you: who are great and powerful, more so than damnable Solomon, wise Abremalin, numinous Laveau and mystical Crowley, you: who have had kings and governments fall at your feet.”
And so the bargain was accepted.
As he laid down the cadaver in the centre of the circle, spreading its arms into the cruciform position, head facing north – his own Vitruvian Man – the Necromancer pondered the ease with which one may enter a morgue, claim a souvenir.
Upon releasing it from the triangle, and bidding the circle open, the ethereal spirit was absorbed by the Necromancer, phasing into him, becoming one and the same so as to impart its power, conduct the duty charged to it. Allowing entrance to the protective space in this way was unspeakably dangerous; but it was the only way to ensure the endurance of his charge: allow the Spirit in, to inhabit his body as a vessel. It is the only way, he thought. Even gods are not omnipotent.
When the task was done, though, it should leave promptly, be cast back out of the circle and into the confines of the sacred triangle. It had to. It was an autonomous action; besides, there was nothing that it could cling to. Nothing at all, he thought to himself, as Murmur’s ghostly tendrils took control, his own influence fading until the task was done.
The shared vessel, falling down on its knees before the body, arms spread like great wings, eyes wide, mouth cast open, began speaking in tongues at first, spouting fragments of Sumerian and Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, and other nameless vernaculars. Then it commanded in many voices echoing all at once: “Rise, Lenin, rise, Ulyanov, arise Spirit thereof and inhabit this vessel which I giveth to thee! Return to the living plane, I command thee to rise again, awaken from your slumber. Arise, or be forever fallen!”
His spatial awareness and motor functions were restored, control once more in his grasp, Murmur’s influence ceasing, smoky essence snaking back into the ether, gathering in a cloud of red.
The Necromancer’s arms fell down in exhaustion, knuckles scraping against the earth as his body sank to the floor. For a moment, a terrible weariness came over him, as the cloud of daemonic vapour loomed over the reviving corpse, as though pondering action. But when he opened his eyes again it was gone.
The Necromancer had succeeded, so it seemed.
The reanimated corpse let out a ghastly wail, a piercing cry that caused priests and holy-men to shudder. Sleeping nests of birds dispersed and flew away, seeking safer abodes as the revived corpse, coughing, spluttering, inspiring and expiring vigorously, was brought to life. The Necromancer turned over on the ground; both he and his new charge laid there in weariness, neither having the strength to do much else.
Eventually, the Necromancer stood, shaking off exhaustion, looked down on the fruits of his labours: the living, breathing being, brought to life by his own hand. Its limbs still flapping feebly, the Necromancer moved it to one side, taking care not to breach the circle’s boundary. Taking up one of the grimoires, perplexed by the absence of his conjuration, he ended the ritual with the licence to depart: “O thou Spirit Murmur, because you have diligently and effectively answered unto my demands and granted to me that which I desire; having come at my call from the depths below, I do give thee licence to depart to thy proper place and bid you not to harm any man, beast, or property in doing so. Return to your realm, now, peacefully and be duly exorcised. Farewell, Spirit, wherever you may be!”
There was no sign of Murmur; so then surely it must have departed as instructed; but why had it not rematerialized?; magick of any colour takes its toll on all those involved; more than likely the spirit was regenerating itself following the energy transaction, spinning the fibres of its being anew. Regardless, he had adhered rigidly to the ritual’s protocol, taken every precaution known to him; yet, for a moment, he was uneasy. But the feeling soon passed. The task was done.
Michael Conroy is a final year English and Creative Writing Student who is currently looking for an agent for his first novel. He reads as much as he can and particularly admires the work of Brett Easton Ellis and Vladimir Nabokov.