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Burdens of the Dead

Not everyone with power wants it.

By Christopher KellyPublished 3 years ago 10 min read

A whisper broke the silence.

Shane sighed. His heart dropped, and dread flooded him. This is how it always starts. A whisper. They knew what he was, and that he could hear them. Once communication was established, they could push through. A whisper became a stage whisper, became a small voice, until it was like they were standing right next to him. Which, of course, they were.

If you were waiting for a train, or a bus as Shane was, and someone came up to you and started bothering you, getting in your face and making a scene, you could ask them to leave you alone, push them away, ask onlookers for help if need be.

Can’t really do that when the person bothering you was already dead.


There they were. They had pushed their way through. Where? Shane didn’t really know. He was a self-taught Necromancer.

“Hey, I’m talking to you,”

And Shane was not talking back. He was surrounded by people, and he did not want to draw attention to himself.

“I know you can hear me,”

Yep, they know. Necromancers are surrounded by a green light, like a shining beacon to the land of the dead.

“You know how long I’ve been waiting for one of you to pop up?”

Shane sighed again, and pulled out his phone, pretended to answer it and held it up to his ear. The mobile phone; giving you the ability to talk to yourself and not look insane since 1973.

“Yes I can hear you,” Shane said, looking at the ghost beside him, “Doesn’t mean I have to answer,” Shane stared down the middle aged man before him. He didn’t look like a stereotypical ghost, he could have been a normal guy standing right beside him like the other people waiting for the bus, but he was ever so slightly transparent.

“It’s your job, Necro,” the ghost said, getting aggravated, “It’s what you do,”

“It wasn’t my choice. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t want it,”

Shane remembers vividly the first time he saw a ghost. He had only been thirteen at the time, it was in the middle of a class. It didn’t go well. He was sent to speak to some people, and being thirteen and not knowing it wasn’t normal was truthful in what he saw. He soon found it wasn’t normal. Shane was sent to talk to multiple professionals, all of whom wanted to help, but all it did was convince Shane that he had gone insane, for it didn’t stop at the one ghost.

The ghosts were relentless, asking him to send messages to loved ones, asking what the world was like, who won specific sporting events, did we discover aliens yet. Yes, that was a real question Shane had received. It was so bad that Shane started thinking about taking his own life at fifteen.

He was ready to end it. He never got any peace.

Then his life was saved. By a ghost, no less.

His name was Brendan, a teenaged ghost who found him late one night. Shane was curled up in bed desperately trying to fall asleep but three ghosts were harassing him, shouting, screaming, and cursing at him for not listening to them.

Enter Brandon.

Much to Shane’s surprise, it turns out ghosts can touch each other. Brendan physically forced them back, admonishing them on treating a “necromancer” this way. Shane didn’t hear much else as, exhausted, he passed out once the din had died down.

The next morning he awoke to find someone sitting on his bedroom floor. It was the young ghost that had saved him the night before. When he saw that Shane was awake, he smiled.

“Just wanted to make sure you got some rest,” was his greeting.

And for the first time in years, Shane talked back.

“He-Hello,” Shane said quietly. He didn’t want to be caught talking to “no-one” again.

“Morning,” the young man nodded, “My name is Brendan,”

“Shane,” Shane replied.

“Confused?” Brendan guessed. Shane just nodded. “Let me help with that,”

And that’s how Shane discovered what he was.

“Are you even listening?” the man shouted. Shane was snapped out of the flashback. He was back at the bus stop with this particularly annoying ghost.

“Listen, I am just trying to go about my business. I would appreciate it you left me alone,”

“But you’re a necromancer, it’s what you do. You have to listen to the dead and what they have to say!”

Shane sighed again.

“No, it means I can hear you. Whether or not I listen or act upon it is my choice to make. I just want to be left alone. Let me live my life in peace,” and with that he “hung up” the phone, put some headphones in and started playing some music to try and drown out the ghost.

He knew it wouldn’t. Another “perk” was that trivial things such as headphones may block out the sound of the living, but not the dead. Their voices go straight through, like they had a 2-way radio and the receiver was inside Shane’s head. But it was more symbolic than anything else, a fairly strong sign that the conversation was over. Most took the hint, sometimes they didn’t. This ghost, luckily for Shane, was that of the former. He grumbled something, turned and walked away, fading as he went. Shane heard him mutter “find him later” as he faded and he suppressed a groan.

His mind went back to that first meeting with Brendan.

“You are definitely the youngest necromancer I have ever met,” Brendan had said, sitting on Shane’s bedroom floor.

“There are others?” Shane had asked. Brendan nodded. “How many?”

“I’ve been dead nearly thirty years, I’ve only met four.”

“That’s not bad,” Shane said, almost to himself. Brendan gave him a look.

“Imagine you are thirty years old, and you have only ever seen 4 women in your life,”

Shane grimaced.

“Yeah, you necros are few and far between. Hey, at least you speak english. The first one I met did luckily, but the two after didn’t. Unfortunately I speak neither russian or chinese,”

A knot of dread formed in Shane’s stomach.

“You want something from me,” was all he said.

“Sorry?” Brendan looked genuinely confused.

“All these… ghosts have been saying they want to send messages, or to find out something about the world. You want the same, don’t you?”

“Oh! No, no not at all. Been there and done that, my friend, don’t you worry about that!” Brendan smiled, “The first necro I found listened to me, told me about my family and sent them a message already. They are long dead too, so I can talk to them myself. As for the world, I’m here right now aren’t I? I can find out for myself,”

“You can?” Shane asked, confused. Brendan nodded. “Then how come all the other ghosts need me for that?” Brendan took a deep breath.

“It’s complicated,” was all he said. Shane gave him a look. Brendan sighed. “Alright, I’ll try to explain, but hey, I’ve only been dead thirty years, I don’t know everything,”

And for the next two hours, Brendan told Shane everything he knew about death, the afterlife, and ghosts.

“So, as a… necromancer, what do I do?” Brendan, however, shrugged.

“Up to you. You can be like the first necro I found and do your best to help every ghost you find, but fair warning it can get tiresome. Or you can do your best to ignore it. Up to you,”

“You aren’t going to pressure me into listening and helping ghosts?” Shane was suspicious.

“Not at all. It’s your choice. Everything is your choice. But I would say that I am super thankful to the necro I found that passed on my message,”

So that’s what Shane did. He helped every ghost that came to him. Told them what they wanted to know, passed on their messages which was extremely easy with the internet. Things vastly improved for Shane. Now he knew what was going on, it got a lot easier. Almost like he was finally diagnosed and given the proper treatment.

Brendan popped by a lot to see how Shane was doing.

“I appreciate all the help, but I feel guilty I am taking so much of your time,” Shane said one day.

“Dude, I’m dead. I have nothing but time,” Brendan smiled.

He also helped with troublesome ghosts who wouldn’t leave Shane alone. Unfortunately, after thoroughly researching necromancy, Shane couldn’t find a way to get rid of them himself. He just had to hope the troublesome ghost either got bored, got what they wanted, or Brendan showed up to help out. There were some times where Brendan would follow Shane for weeks because a ghost just wouldn’t leave Shane alone.

But after a while, Shane’s own life got more demanding. At this point, he was seventeen, going through the last few years of school. He had classes, homework, coursework, exams to worry about, and he couldn’t stop everything just for the whims of a ghost.

At first, whenever he delayed or turned away a ghost, promising that he would listen later but he was just too busy, it twisted his stomach into knots. But with each refusal, it got easier to turn them away. It got to a point where he actually had time to himself, and he started to live like a normal person again, not constantly worrying about the whims of a ghost, trying to make him pass on a message or badger him about this and that. The more he refused them, the more of a nuisance they became when they did come to him, until it got to a point where he didn’t even want them to appear.

All Shane wanted was to be normal. And for the next two years, he did exactly that. Did his best to live a normal life, going to class, making friends, and doing his best to ignore the dead people constantly trying to bother him. He got fairly good at ignoring the ordinary ghosts, but there were always some, same with the living, who are loud and proud, extremely annoying, and hard to get rid of. But Shane pushed through.

Shane’s goals were simple: to finish his studies, go to university, meet a girl, have a family. And he didn’t want to be bothered every 5 minutes by a dead guy wanting to send a message to his mistress.

“Listen, I get it. You want to be you for a while. I totally respect that,” a beat of silence, “Do you want me to leave too?”

Shane turned to Brendan, who was reclined on Shane’s bed like it was his room too.

“No,” Shane said, “No, you’re different. You… you hang around because you like my company. At least I hope you do! You’re… my friend. My best friend,”

Brendan beamed, but it faltered.

“What is it?” asked Shane.

“That makes what I have to say harder,” Brendan swung his legs around off the bed and drew himself up into a sitting position.

“What are you talking about?”

“I may have found something. But with you just saying that… I dunno,”

“Brendan,” Shane pulled his desk chair closer to the bed, “Just tell me,”

Brendan looked him in the eye for almost a minute, and then said something that made Shane’s breath catch in his throat.

“What if I said… there’s a way to get rid of your powers. You don’t have to be a necromancer any more,”


About the Creator

Christopher Kelly

Engineer by day. Writer of mages, dragons, werewolves, vampires, and all things magical by night.

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