This is a story about online dating, necromancy, and other things that sound fun until you have to attempt them.
Chad glanced at the mirror as he grabbed another bucket. He was equal parts excited and nervous about Jennifer coming over that night. They had met through one of the miscellaneous dating apps on his phone just four weeks ago, but he already thought she might be the one. The two of them just clicked in chat. They had even met for coffee a couple of times, and he could tell she felt the chemistry.
Tonight could be a milestone, though. After Jennifer came over, he would finally show her his avocation — his passion.
He had just finished mopping up the latest spill when Chad heard her knock at the door. He remembered telling her she wouldn’t need to knock because the raven would alert him. Chad swept his eyes around the room, looking for the cursed bird, before deciding that was a problem he could deal with later.
After another quick visual inspection of his room, Chad opened the door and took in the vision before him. In her black tank top, black jeans, and shiny Docs, Jennifer was his goth princess. He loved the way her jet black hair framed her face, and he envied the perfectly normal symmetry of her eyes.
After a pregnant pause, Chad remembered his practiced manners, bowed dramatically, and invited her into his lair. His landlord insisted on calling it an economy studio, of course. Chad swung his arm around the room until he felt the gesture tug his Joy Division shirt high above his black jeans. He immediately dropped his arm as naturally as he could manage. That had not happened when he rehearsed it earlier.
“Jennifer, I have invited you here this evening to show you my passion.”
“My passion for necromancy!”
“Necromancy is my big secret, you could say.”
“You mentioned it when we first texted.”
“I trusted you that much, dear lady.”
“It was also in your profile.”
“Right… I should probably… change… that…”
“It’s okay, Chad. I like you, and you said you wanted to become a full-time necromancer. I support you, and I’m excited to see your… passion.”
A genuine smile spread across Jennifer’s face and put Chad at ease until the raven finally made its entrance. His broken wings made it impossible to fly — a mistake Chad had learned from — and the bird hopped across vinyl flooring on the two springs that served as makeshift legs.
“Wokka! Wokka!” The raven screamed a greeting at Jennifer’s left foot.
“Oh! He’s… uh…”
“I’ve gotten better! He was an early experiment.”
“So, he was dead?”
“Yes, and now he’s not. Mostly. It’s not like they write instructions for necromancy.”
“I mean, they do, but there’s a lot of interpretation involved. That’s what makes it both art and the forbidden science.”
“I thought that was alchem—”
“Of course. I’m sure I’ve heard that.”
“Would you like to see some of my latest work? Like a human?”
“Absolutely, Chad!” Jennifer consciously said his name, knowing it would remind him they had been talking for a while, and he didn’t need to be nervous. “I know we all started somewhere.”
Jennifer tried not to look at the bird pecking at her foot, and Chad rushed to the closet.
He loved how Jennifer, his goth queen, knew just how to encourage him without even trying.
With careful prods and pokes, he guided Frankie into the living/bedroom. Frankie’s eyes constantly moved in various, disparate directions as he moved. With faltering steps, he approached the young Jennifer in the center of the room. Two of his fingers fell quietly on the fibers of a shag rug as he walked.
“Eggs?” He growled in a vaguely British clip.
Chad the Amateur Necromancer rushed in front of Frankie, using a hand to calm his creation and avoid an overreaction to the sudden movement.
“I’m training him to be my butler! He was dead a little longer than I’d been led to believe, of course.”
“Why does his nose do that?”
“It’s actually — have you ever tried to make a model airplane without all the — never mind. Anyway, he can make eggs.”
“So he can cook?”
“Yes!” Chad felt himself practically glowing with pride. She was finally seeing his potential and how he was going to escape his dead-end job.
“Can I get some scrambled eggs?” Jennifer smiled at the pair like a proud, if slightly patronizing, parent.
“I mean, that’s really eggs and milk, and there’s the whisking… he can make over easy, though, if I crack the eggs into the pan.”
Chad stared into Jennifer’s symmetrical eyes and waited for her next words of encouragement.
“Chad, I think you’re really nice and kind and smart—”
“Thank you! I knew you would see—”
“But you’re an accountant, right?”
“I’m actually a controller, but that’s just my day—”
“And you’re good at that?”
“I mean, I’m successful. I make mid-six figures.”
“Oh, wow! Because—”
“Necromancy is expensive.”
“Of course it is.”
Jennifer found her eyes moving around the small room, looking for rare artifacts or relics. Instead, she saw a broken bird and a zombie with a decreasing number of fingers. Chad’s pained expression was not helping put her at ease.
Part of her wanted to save Chad. She wanted to explain how competitive the world of necromancy had become. She wanted to tell him about her own dabbling, which had produced a fully functioning army of the dead, before she realized it would only ever be a hobby.
Ultimately, she knew it wouldn’t matter. This wasn’t her first Chad. Jennifer politely told Chad that his necromancy was almost too good, and she didn’t think she could help parent all his “experiments” at this point in her life. Before he could object, she waved to one of Frankie’s eyes, wished Chad luck, and hurried down the stairs to her car.
Before leaving, she opened the app to delete her match with Chad and update her profile: “No necromancers, please.”
I don’t always have an origin story for my ideas, but this has one. I’ve been dating (online), and invariably we end up talking about my writing. I elaborate on how much I love it, and how I’d love to do it all the time. Then, they ask to see some of my stuff, and I send over a few links with a nervousness that should be saved for more important things. They always say nice things, but I did start to wonder what would happen if, after all the buildup, they found out I was just really, truly awful at my chosen hobby. I joked about this with my friends, and then we thought it would be funnier if I had picked a hobby with very little margin for error, or something that really shouldn’t be a hobby at all.