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from the Winter 2015 collection

Excerpt Regarding the Departed from the Diagnostic and Necromantic Manual, 5th Edition

by Stewart C Baker

4.200 – Reuniting with Departed Lovers, Pets, and/or Network-enabled Electronic Devices, Alternate Methods for

In some rare cases, the methods laid out by section 4.100 (Classic Necromantic Rituals) will fail to return loved ones—or their devices—to life. In such instances, the practitioner or her client may feel the onset of despair. As though caught in an avalanche, she may seem to hear the loved one’s voice fading away forever. The sky may press in; the sound of passing helicopters may bring on a mixture of trepidation and relief.

These feelings are mere homunculi of the mind and can be safely discarded. (If the feelings are the work of actual homunculi, the practitioner may reference “Demonic Mind-Parasites, Potentially Non-Fatal Methods for the Removal of” in section 3.402 of this manual.)

As ever, it is useful to recall that magic is a system of symbolic transactions. The universe and the practitioner’s place within it may be successfully reconfigured by novel and arresting metaphors, well-executed public happenings, or other forms of refusing to accept the reality and permanence of death.

Please note that—as with all advice contained herein—the following methods have been customized by the mind-conjoinment ritual performed at the time of this manual’s purchase by its original owner. While the methods may prove effective even if said owner is not their executor, the International Federation of Necromantic Practitioners hereby disclaims responsibility for any dimensional collapses, magically-imbued playing pieces, ruptured fourth walls, homicidal house wares, and/or electrostatic discharges which result from their use.

4.201 - Listing of Methods

4.201.1 – Compose a lament in the traditional style of your choice.

Relevant cultural norms and practices should be accounted for. If possible, the practitioner should take the time to research these beyond her somewhat tenuous present understanding. She may wish to ask the departed’s family or manufacturer for input, recalling their first-hand experience with the culture of the deceased.

Do not use iambic pentameter, as it may attract lesser demons and pedants.

4.201.2 – Using Meliglaf’s Mellifluous Menagerie, transmute a favourite toy/keepsake/accessory into a string quartet, ensuring that the violin is not played by too flashy or condescending a performer.

The practitioner should take care not to recall extraneous musical moments long since past. No matter how wonderful they were, attempts to recreate them will only cheapen the memory of the departed.

4.201.3 – Cook a hearty breakfast for two.

One never knows.

4.201.4 – Transmit half-remembered promises to SETI as encrypted files so that they appear to be extraterrestrial contact.

The following may be acceptable subjects: A child and a home and a family dog; a moonlit anniversary filled with wine and song; a trip to the pet spa; the latest Bluetooth headset.

The resulting storm of speculation and subsequent disappointment at the hoax, combined with the repeated transmission of things important to the client’s loved one, pet, and/or electronic device, will on certain days in certain months destabilize reality, allowing the practitioner to reach through the veil of death and retrieve him, her, and/or it.

4.201.5 – Call loudly from the westernmost base of a mountain which overlooks a lake.

In some cultures, bodies of water act as a gateway to the spirit world; west is the direction in which the departed go. The practitioner may take advantage of these two facts by loudly and clearly calling out the name (or model) of the departed from the easternmost shore of a lake. The mountain reinforces the weight of her longing and regret.

(Note that 4.201.5 should not be attempted in winter.)

4.201.6 – Write synonyms for heartache on your ceilings, walls, and floor until your cheap studio apartment disappears behind the shadow they cast.

Do not mistake the shadow for rescuers: Relief will not be forthcoming.

4.201.7 – Cast oneself from a skyscraper while singing the final lines from Verdi’s Aida, dressed only in a suit jacket and day-glo orange paint.

So unlikely a combination of events inverts the flow of time. The practitioner may return to that breathless moment at the Met when she fumbled the ring from her rented tuxedo and proposed.

Provision of a trampoline at the base of the building is recommended, or success will be a transient thing.

4.300 – Acceptance as Necromantic Ritual

If all methods in sections 4.100 and 4.200 fail, the practitioner may wish to stop taking refuge in the pretence of a “client” and accept the reality of her loss.

It can be comforting to view death, as well as the rituals used to reverse it, as a symbolic transaction. While the pain from such a loss never truly vanishes, there are as many methods to reduce it as there are living, breathing human beings left in the world. Meditation, long walks on quiet beaches, or calling up unstoppable armies of the damned to wreak havoc on the world are all options the practitioner may wish to consider. Laughter (mad or otherwise) can be cathartic.

But whichever method the practitioner chooses, she must one day accept these truths: that pain is a given, that beauty never lasts, that love and loss and wanting are as widespread and as futile as breath—and just as essential to life.

Stewart C Baker is an academic librarian, haikuist, and writer of speculative fiction. His work has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Nature, Galaxy's Edge, and is forthcoming in Writers of the Future volume 32, among other places. Stewart was born near London, England, has lived in South Carolina, Japan, and Los Angeles, and now makes his home with his wife and two children in Oregon—although if anyone asks, he'll says he's from the Internet. His website is