Flash Fiction Challenge: Sincerely, Your Mortician

To Whom It May Concern (The De Rais Family):

            You may not know this, but I See and Know all. It’s not hard. All of you practically tell me your secrets. A week before our meeting with your Aunt Nora, you come into my office and tell me. “Under no circumstances are you to speak with Mr. Bellweather, he has had many scandals, and is not to be trusted.” So, of course I obey these wishes, and Mr. Bellweather is put on the non-admittance list from my office. While I know ours is a small town, and I hold two very divergent yet related positions, it is the least I can do.

            There is the insistence that we provide no less than four dozen bouquets of African Lilac, as this was the flower that was in bloom when your Aunt Nora’s husband Ephraim proposed to her, on safari in Tanzania. I regretfully inform you that this particular flower is in bloom only after what we would call in the Northern Hemisphere the Winter Solstice, and being that it is July, the flower proves terribly difficult to procure. I have included with this missive a photograph of some very beautiful lavender that we are able to get our hands on, and I hope that will suffice, as you and I both know that your Aunt Nora is not going to be able to see them anyway.

            Before moving on towards any more negative news, I would like to illuminate what we can do to accommodate your Aunt’s very specific instructions:

         Exactly six hundred and sixty-six red candles can be provided. We get them wholesale and the cost to should come out to exactly $333.

         The ninety-nine supplicants, anointed with Oil of Abramelin. Yes, we can provide this, however our small town is not entirely acquainted with your family’s particular faith and so we have had to hire outside talent. It appears that after a cursory internet query, we have found enough to fill the necessary positions and all are willing to participate for the chance of personal spiritual illumination. Nevertheless, we are a business and have assessed a finder’s fee of $100.

         We have found about the town several Runes of Ng’Ralthur, however the instructions given by your Aunt are vague and slightly maddening, and give no insight as to how we are supposed to utilize them.

         Seven hundred and eighteen copies of the Invocation to Babalon, printed on velum in blood ink. Please understand that velum is very hard to come by, and the blood ink is a perpetual work in progress. We cannot provide an estimate at this time, seeing as we will use the most expedient sources of velum and blood as they present themselves. An invoice shall be sent after the fact.

         We have contracted with the local bakery to provide as many baked goods and sandwiches as they can provide between now and the meeting.

We offer a wide variety of containment seals, in pentagrams, heptagrams, and hexagrams both standard and unicursal. Which would you prefer for keeping out the unwanted ghouls and bloodsuckers, who will inevitably turn up?

 

Now we must address the unfortunate subjects of what we shall not be able to provide:

 

On the subject of your Aunt’s familiar. No it cannot attend. You know it’s diet, and you know why that would be disastrous to the proceedings. PLEASE, make alternate arrangements.

 

We also cannot accommodate nor condone the ritual sacrifice of the 99 supplicants at the meeting with your Aunt. This would allow her to break the barrier between the current timeline and the one in planning, and would put a severe damper on our plans to provide a feast of ten-thousand corpses at the waking of our eldritch lord Nepheranduram. Long has Nepheranduram laid claim on our quaint town of Howard Texas, and We- the Howard-Phillips family- have honored that pact since our ancestor brought back its effigy from darkest India in the year 1881. We would appreciate in providing services for your Aunt and family that you respect the claim our Lord has over this town, and do nothing to disrupt the proceedings of our continued operations here. We would remind you that the fall equinox is sooner than you might realize, and that in taking the time to provide these services we are setting back our time table considerably.

THAT said we are perfectly amenable to you providing your own effigy of whatever barbarous name it is your family worships, so long as it is taken away from our facilities at the end of services rendered. Anything left behind at the end of the service will be subject to a cleaning/ refitting charge. We must keep the integrity of our facilities intact.

The service shall start at precisely four o’clock sharp. We will have ushers to guide family and important personages to their seats. Programs and copies of the Book of Mad Abu-Alrehzed shall be distributed. As in accordance with your Aunt’s wishes, a chamber music arrangement of Dead Can Danse’s most popular hits shall be played. Prior to the eclipse, all will have thirty-three minutes to come forward to meet with your Aunt Norma and say any words they wish. The exception of course being those that occur in the 72nd verse of the 93rd verse of the Book of Abu-Alrehzed, which is enforced by municipal ordinance.

To end this missive, I know your family had asked for the particulars of the autopsy. Being as this is one of the positions I hold, I see no reason I should not kill two birds with one stone as it were. Your aunt suffered an acute pulmonary embolism, triggered by the plant Monk’s Hood. Good thinking really, and a smart move had your Aunt Norma been anyone else than she was. Normally Monk’s Hood is impossible to detect, and flushes out of the system with digestion. However your Norma was afflicted with diabetes, and the plant was introduced to her system between meals. With no absorption to occur, the Monk’s Hood was was easily detected by a simple toxicology report,as well as my assistant Caliban, who is a necrophage. It would occur to me we should also place some of invoice for the placement and training of another assistant, but Caliban was strictly an off the books kind of employee.

I hope this letter and outline of the proceedings of your Aunt’s funerary proceedings is both straightforward and comforting to the De Rais family in it’s time of need. Please do not hesitate to ask my staff or myself for anything that might provide further easement. Also, as I said I know and see much more than you might think, so why not petition someone who is already in the know? May the Dark Lord Nepheranduram judge us all when His Time Arrives ( roughly Sept 21, get ready).

Sincerely,

Your Mortician

Robert E. Howard-Phillips

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When Will We Rage?

Hey guys, let’s talk about werewolves, politics and the Apocalypse! If you’re confused don’t worry, I’ll explain as we go. With everything going on this week(past couple weeks now it took me a bit to finish), one bright spot has been the announcement that the new White Wolf Publishing has announced their paring up with video game developers to create a game based on Werewolf: The Apocalypse for PC and consoles. This is fantastic news, because I firmly believe the world needs more werewolves. Bear with me!

The other week I wrote about Vampire: The Masquerade, and clearly I’m still in that mode. Werewolf was the second gaming line to come out of White Wolf in the early to mid-90s. It is also the game that made me a roleplayer. Not Vampire, not D&D, or Shadowrun—any of which really would have been perfectly suited for a kid who grew up on a diet of Interview with a Vampire, Reboot, and Tolkien novels. No, it was Werewolf: The Apocalypse that crept into my life in middle school through the RAGE collectible card game, and when I received the 2nd edition core rulebook for the rpg itself for Christmas in 1998 opened me up to a whole new world of imagination and savage horror. I would later go on to fall in love with Vampire, Mage, the Aeon/Trinity game line, and Exalted, but like your first love, I cannot help but reminisce and revisit Werewolf. Now it has been over twenty years since I discovered the World of Darkness through my favorite furry eco-terrorists, and they seem more relevant than ever before.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse was created out of the nineties when people at least appeared to give a shit about the world around them. If you were too young to remember, this was the heyday of Greenpeace, Save the Whales, protests at the WTO in Seattle, outrage over the Exxon-Valdez tanker spill, outrage over poaching in Africa and clear-cutting of the Amazon. Oh, and Captain Planet, that was a thing too. While I don’t think that righteous anger has gone away, it certainly seems to have been drowned out amid the flood of reality TV, 24 hour news cycle, and Twitter. What Werewolf did, at least for me, was serve up all of that outrage and concern for what was happening in our world on a wooden trencher. It also gave me a way of dealing with it, even that was through a blatantly fictional lens.

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Without delaying it any longer, here is Werewolf: the Apocalypse in a broadly painted nutshell. Werewolves are a separate, supernatural race of shape shifters. They were created by the literal spirit of the world- Gaia (hey remember Captain Planet?) to be her greatest warriors and protectors. Called the Garou, this race could be born of wolf or of man, or by union between Garou, although this is expressly forbidden as those offspring are born physically or mentally twisted. Garou divide themselves into various tribes, often reflecting or connected to various human cultures, and are given roles in Garou society based upon the phase of the moon when they were born. At some point they go through a first change and discover they are werewolves, and get inducted into Garou society and their Tribe, if they are lucky enough to make it that long. Garou society is ultimately organized around one thing- protecting Gaia, the mother of all things, from a spiritual force of corruption and entropy called the Wyrm.

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                The Wyrm is at once a possible discreet being and multi-headed allegorical beast. It is part of a Triat of manifest concepts, the Wyld (chaos-creation), the Weaver (order-structure and pattern), and the Wyrm itself is the destructive returner, where creation then begins anew. Or, rather it used to be. Accounts differ, but basically the in-game setting-story states the Wyrm goes off the deep end and now lusts for the destruction of all things. Being a universal force it has no end of minions it can create or turn to its cause of destroying the prison of existence. It has corrupted spirits called Banes, corrupted humans called Fomori, it even has its own corrupted werewolves, a tribe called the Black Spiral Dancers. Yet for all that, its greatest and most inexhaustible resource is US, the human race. The Fomori the Wyrm can corrupt are evil on a metaphysical level, but humans don’t need any spiritual fuckery to commit horrors. They just need the promise of a little money and comfort. This is something the game lore makes very clear—that evil cannot be completely attributed to the efforts of the Wyrm, but it certainly feeds off of it. To further drive home that point the game designers created an Uber-corporation, called Pentex.  Pentex is a conglomerate of multiple companies that all sound familiar, such as King Breweries, Endron Energy Company, RED News Network and O’Tolley’s Restaurants. Each is headed by an executive team that is undoubtably in the employ of the Wyrm to use capitalism and resources to rape the Earth and spread misery among the people who live there. But for every Fomori middle manager cackling as he dumps chemicals into the water supply, the true insidiuous nature of Pentex corporations is that they’re made up by people willing to ignore environmental regulations, screw each other over for a promotion, and power trip on their “lesser” when they climb up a rung on the corporate ladder.

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The Garou, the “heroes” of the game aren’t beyond this either. Make no bones about it, the Garou are monsters. They jockey among each other for dominance, be it elder versus pup, Tribe versus Tribe. They can become addicted to human flesh, they have the mindset of religious extremists when it comes to the taint of the Wyrm, and in the distant past have even commited wholesale genocide against the human race and other races of shapeshifters in the name of Gaia and their pride.  The first is why human instinctively fear werewolves, to the point of going catanoic in the face of a fully shifted Garou. The second genocide of all the other were-races, is why the Garou have basically failed at their mission. They thought they could go against the enemy alone, and systematically destroyed or alienated every single one of their allies each of which played a vital role in Gaia’s survival. Replace this with “terrible and antagonistic phone calls” and it’s a stretch, I know, but worth considering.

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One of the Garou’s distinguishing characteristics, Rage, is so palpable and all-consuming that even the least angry Garou is a Friday afternoon commuter in Los Angeles who has just received a tax audit from the IRS, who’s on and endless office text chain they can never leave. It is also notable that Rage is a mark of the Wyrm itself, something that makes the Garou powerful and vulnerable to further corruption all at the same time. This is illustrated ad nauseum by the White Howlers tribe (ironically the subject of the never released first W:TA PC game), who charged into the heart of the Wyrm’s realm, over confident in their Rage and emereged as servents of the Corruptor itself.

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At this you may be wondering what my point is, or why it is I believe the world needs what are, by all accounts, a warrior race of genocidal fuckwads. The Garou are supposed to be a safe guard against universal destrution and ultimately they have failed, and they pretty much know it. I think the very same thing occurred with Americans these past few months. Secure in our superiority, strength and system, we charged in blind and allowed the Wyrm to creep in and corrupt us. Only instead of slavering bat-eared mangy Black Spiral Dancers, we have Steve Bannon, although I’m hard pressed to see any difference.

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The Garou may at times be consumed by Rage, but their other defining characteristic is Gnosis, which equates to knowledge or understanding on a holy level. They are in tune with the natural and spiritual worlds in a way that most humans take a lifetime to attain. The mission of the Garou is not something they choose, it defines them utterly and completely. They do the job because it is their birthright duty, and part of that is because they completely and utterly fucked themselves and the world up to put them in this unvenviable position.  That sounds a lot like Americans right now. That’s why I say we have to be Garou. We need to be werewolves. We need to turn into insatiable flesh-rending murderbots, hell-bent on protecting the world from an evil that is, while not our creation, certainly our own-fucking-responsibilty. Each of us has our own claws, fangs, and its already been proven we can summon up a hell of a bark. So, aim for the moon and fucking howl. Physical and spiritual healing can only begin after we hunt down and rip the still beating heart out of this nuclear charged hate-filled Wyrm.

When will you Rage?     rage