The Corpse Who Moves About

by Byron Alexander Campbell

First Place

Lovecraft Idea #192
Thibetan ROLANG—Sorcerer (or NGAGSPA) reanimates a corpse by holding it in a dark room—lying on it mouth to mouth and repeating a magic formula with all else banished from his mind. Corpse slowly comes to life and stands up. Tries to escape—leaps, bounds, and struggles—but sorcerer holds it. Continues with magic formula. Corpse sticks out tongue and sorcerer bites it off. Corpse then collapses. Tongue become a valuable magic talisman. If corpse escapes—hideous results and death to sorcerer.

The following preparations I undertook in accordance with the precepts of the ritual of rolang, handed down via sutra and parable, from mouth to mouth, back to the first ngangspa. First, avoiding the use of a mirror or any thing that cast a reflection, I shaved my head down to the scalp. I took care to shave the hair around my privates as well. Second, I bathed myself with chilled water infused with the oils of necrotic-blue lotus petals. Third, I took a swig from a bottle of Everclear, no glass required. This last step was not included in the precepts; it was my own improvisation. Finally, I undid the padlock that held the door to my broom closet. The lock was tricky, and I muttered something under my breath that certainly wasn’t Words of Power. Eventually I got it open and stepped into the close dark space in which the body had been interred.

First ensuring that the lock on the inside of the door was secure, I lifted my saffron robes over my head and lay across the body, pinning it to the floor with my weight, taking special care to grab hold of its wrists and to pin its legs with my knees. It was a bit cramped in the broom closet, and I could feel the corner of a box of cat food digging into my ankle, but the precepts had been clear that the rolang must be held in a room where no light was admitted, and I wasn’t paying $2400 a month for a beach-view apartment in Redondo just to board up the windows for some corpse. Should the rolang ever be seen by living eyes, the precepts promised chaos and collapse of the universe, beginning with the death -- described in the kind of detail that inspires the imbibing of neutral grain spirits -- of yours truly. But nobody ever looks in a broom closet, especially when you’ve got a padlock on it.

I probably should have at least swept it out first; there was a sharp, niggling odor of dust and debris that might actually have been more obnoxious than the smell of rotting flesh. Actually, the body had a neutral odor; I had bathed it earlier in the day in the same lotus-infused water -- in accordance with the precepts, of course, but I was beginning to see that some of said precepts might have had more to do with practicality than mysticism. Bathing your corpses in flower-water is never a bad idea.

I should clarify that the rolang wasn’t technically a rolang yet. Rolang means “the corpse who moves about,” and this one had been pretty stationary ever since I’d obtained it, by means I’d rather not delve into at present. Of course, that was why we had ritual Words of Power. Parting the cold, slightly plumped lips, I pressed my own mouth against them, so that my living breath could enter its sodden lungs, and I spoke the Words. I don’t speak Tibetan, so it sounded like a bunch of jibber-jabber to me, but it seemed to have the desired effect. The body moved under me, and I pressed my naked flesh into it with greater force. I repeated the mantra, keeping our lips locked. The rolang bucked its hips, howling animal sounds into my mouth, but I expunged every thought from my mind other than the Words. Its hands scrabbled along the floor beneath my wrists, and I felt its chest swell under mine. Its legs shook in violent paroxysms. Finally, it extended its black tongue into my mouth, and I bit it clean off. The rolang collapsed, less in defeat than in languor, as its energies ebbed away.

When I slid back into my saffron robes, I was embarrassed to find that the ordeal had left me with a massive erection. It must have been from so long breathing my own air, I reasoned. Asphyxiation has been known to cause such results.

Verifying that the rolang was quite still, aside from the shallow rise and fall of its cold chest, I stepped out from the closet and reapplied the padlock. Then, thankful for the looseness of the robes, I hurried awkwardly to the bathroom. I washed my face in what was left of the flower-water, took another ritual libation from the Everclear bottle, and sliced off my tongue with a scalpel I had procured earlier that week, along with a needle and thread which I used to stitch the corpse’s tongue in its place. It sat oddly in my mouth, thick and somewhat pungent. I reached my fingers into my mouth and played with it for a few minutes. It dodged with surprising litheness, but I eventually caught it between my forefingers and examined myself in the mirror. It certainly wasn’t pretty: black, coated with a viscous sweat, it bulged and writhed obscenely. However, if the precepts were to be believed, it would grant me power beyond my imagining.

And I had a pretty strong imagination, particularly when it came to Clarissa, the girl who rented the third apartment down. The ancient ngangspas might have considered it blasphemous that I was planning on using my newfound power to get girls, but that was precisely the place where I needed a little mystical assistance. With my perpetual stutter and wrong-side-of-handsome looks, girls were in many ways more mysterious to me than Ancient Rituals of Death, and Rebirth.

Satisfied in my new appearance, I traded my saffron robes for a 100% organic hemp t-shirt and post-consumer recycled denim jeans. The strangely persistent erection was still a problem, but I managed to wedge it into my jeans somehow, and did my best to hide it by shoving my pockets full of condoms, which I was sure I would need anyway. I took another pull from the bottle, for extra spiritual power. It was strange: I could still taste the cold liquid as it splashed across the black tongue, but the sensation was once removed, like I was merely remembering the taste of alcohol from an empty bottle. The tongue soaked up most of the liquid like a sponge, swelling grossly inside my mouth, but I managed a few good swallows.

I knew that at this time of day Clarissa would be down by the beach, reading or doing homework, or simply sunning in front of the waves. If the former, she could be found anywhere along the stretch of sand visible from our apartments; for the latter, however, she would have hidden herself behind the crop of rocks to the north. I knew this because I had watched her, on many occasions, duck behind those rocks, loosening the straps of her bikini top. She had stuck to this out-of-the-way location ever since the day I had approached her, stuttering some friendly greeting. She had replied, rudely, with a shriek, hastily covering herself with a towel and stumbling back up the beach. I guess she hadn’t realized that hers wasn’t the only apartment with a beach view. It shows her modesty; she isn’t like most girls her age after all.

After scanning the beach, I struck out toward the rocks, rehearsing what I would say to her like a mantra. We had shared some timid conversations, never on the beach after that, but a few times when we’d “happened” to check our mail at the same time. I think, sadly, that she viewed me more as a nice old man than as a potential lover. I should mention that Clarissa was not technically the lessee on the apartment. That was her father, a hairy, rough-handed man with whom I could never see eye to eye. Sweet, modest Clarissa was barely sixteen, and I think she was like me, a neophyte when it came to love. We were practically made for each other. But I never had the courage, the power, to make my intentions known.

I rounded the crop of rocks, and there she was, stretched across the sand. She started when she heard me approach, but the rolang tongue produced some ululation that seemed to relax her. I sat down beside her, fingers quivering as I stared at the way the skin of her bare back hugged her shoulder-blades. I wanted to spill my heart out to her, but when I opened my mouth the tongue produced only bizarre, alien syllables. She looked me up and down in surprise, then rolled over on her back, so that her untouched breasts were exposed to the sunlight. The tongue leaned me forward, whispering more strange incantations into her ear. She nodded, trembling slightly, and let her arms fall to her sides.

My mouth began to flood with thick, black drool. Blushing and quaking, I kissed her. It was intended as a modest, gentle kiss, but the tongue forced its way roughly between her lips, undulating like a powerfully muscled snake. She sighed into my open mouth. The tongue then snaked a slimy trail across her neck and chest. Beneath me, Clarissa moaned, an off-putting bestiality to her sounds. This was not at all like I had imagined it. I tried to stop the questing black tongue, but it had assumed control of the muscles in my neck, and I found myself helplessly led downward. It uttered another ululation, and Clarissa unceremoniously removed her bikini bottom.

The rolang tongue performed some filthy operation on my sweet Clarissa, noisily and hungrily, for what seemed an inordinate span of time. From my vantage, I couldn’t get a clear picture of what was going on, but she thrust and buckled beneath my face and made disturbing noises that could have been orgasmic. I waited impatiently. Finally, both the tongue and the body ceased to move, except for the shallow rise and fall of her chest. I took this as an indication that my turn was up. Climbing on top of Clarissa, struggling out of my painfully tight jeans, I positioned myself at the entrance to her sex. It was strangely dry and withered, as though the life had been sapped out of it. It was also cold, cold as bone. I pushed forward anyway, impatient to try in reality what I had done so often in my imagination.

“Ow!” she called out in irritation. “Stop, stop, it...hurts.” I reluctantly ceased my movements. “I just don’t think I’m ready,” she explained shyly. I tried to reproduce those syllables that had made her so acquiescent before, but the tongue, an engorged lump, was stubbornly silent. “We can do more of the...other thing,” she offered, a bit too eagerly. I wordlessly tugged my jeans over my painful erection and shuffled back to the apartment.

My first action was to finish off the bottle of Everclear, while the rolang, invigorated now, banged and wailed tonguelessly against the closet door. I noticed that the padlock had somehow come loose. Stumbling across the living room, I hesitated at the last moment and let the padlock slide to the floor. Somebody pounded on my front door. Ignoring it, I pulled the closet door open, staring into the place where no light can penetrate. Clarissa burst through the door to my apartment, still trailing her bikini bottom from one ankle. I stood transfixed. The rolang stepped out into the failing, squalid light, and for a moment I became confused as to which body was that of the girl, and which the corpse. Or perhaps there was but one body all along. Her skin was blue like the petals of a lotus, except the purple bruise around her neck. Semen and blood were crusted against her thighs. Grabbing her by the wrists, I pressed myself against her naked, cold flesh. My tongue swelled up in my throat, choking me, until the body could no longer be seen.

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