Ben Willets

How to Build Your Own Necropolis


            First, you’ve got to dowse a suitable site along a convergence of the lines of power, source all the various construction materials in their proper quantities, and enslave a hundred thousand semi-nomadic desert herdsmen to do the work, but that’s the easy part—it’s getting the place build in time for the ritus that’s hard.  Your foreman keeps making excuses:  He’s pushing the men as fast as he can, he says, but five years just isn’t enough.  You inform him, as one initiated to the great mysteries of the Universe, that there are wheels already in motion, and that the summoning will commence once the stars have aligned even if the seals aren’t yet in place.

            With not a little menace in your voice, you ask him whether or not he’d like a front-row seat to that show.  He walks off, grumbling something impertinent about mortar taking time to set, so you flatten him with a well-aimed meteorite.

            The second man you conscript for the job is justly terrified; he drives the laborers so hard they riot, rip him limb from limb and now you’re really running behind schedule.

Number three is a consummate pragmatist: Do all the friezes in the Ossuary of Ten-Thousand skulls need to be in bas relief, he asks, or can some of them just be painted on?  Grudgingly, you admit it was a bit of an extravagance: after all, no one but the dead would see them.  He suggests other ways of cutting corners too, like burying the workers where they drop, and you give him the go-ahead—you can always deal with vengeful spirits later.

            The next morning, word comes that this one met his fate during the night in a suspicious incident at the forge.  You obliterate the messenger with a lightning bolt and hurl your staff at his charred remains; it clatters to the flagstones, cracking the mounted ram’s skull, and you immediately regret losing your temper.

After your forth foreman is “accidentally” crushed while erecting obelisks along the main avenue, you decide to try a new approach.  This time, you take your case directly to the people, sending a few minor plagues into their midst to show them you mean business.

            That sets them straight.

            A year passes, and your city begins to take shape:  marble temples, obsidian towers, spires of green granite rising from the desert, and everywhere those red-iron roads in eldritch patterns, focusing your energies.  Contented with the speed of progress, you allow your vigilance to falter and the workers rebel.  They storm the gates of your citadel, overwhelm you with their numbers, hurl you down into the deepest level of the catacombs and bury the entrance.

            In the stillness of the crypt, you sleep the sleep of ages.

            Centuries later, a death-cult centered around your worship discovers a scrap of parchment detailing the location of your grave.  They exhume your remains, reanimate them and your reign of terror begins anew.  After three generations, the plebs revolt again and cast you back into the pit.  And so the cycle continues, your unholy rule waning and waxing and waning again, until one aeon you rise to beat against the walls of your tomb—boil the river, blot out the sun, come roaring up from the bowels of the earth all black breath and fire, hair writhing, moldered robes snapping in the wind.

            Only you find yourself quite alone.  There’s no chaos in the streets to greet you this time; no gnashing teeth, no weeping women, no mewling babes—just a broken clay pot next to a dusty fountain in an abandoned temple square.

Ahhh, but wasn’t this what you really wanted?  A city of bone and ash, libraries and observatories all to yourself?  No disputes to arbitrate, no subjects to cow, no ambitious henchmen to put in their places—none of the menial duties of the evil ruler—just peace and quiet and time to hone your craft.

This was what you wanted, you tell yourself—so why then does the broken pot seem so objectionable to your eye?  Why then do you feel so downhearted?