How to Bring Someone Back from the Dead

by Veronica Schanoes

1. Pain
It hurts to come back from the dead. And it hurts to bring someone back from the dead.

2. The Journey
There is always a journey and it is often long. You will have to take the path of pins and the path of needles. You will walk on the pins and your feet will bleed. You will walk on the needles and your feet will bleed, red like your jacket (You must always wear bright colors when you go to the underworld). This is your body mourning. It hurts to bring someone back from the dead.

You will need to be brave and to go into the woods. It is dark and cold, close and damp. You will be there for a long time. You will be on foot. By the time you come out, flashing lights and bright colors will confuse you. You will not be able to respond to them. Your open eyes will not focus, and you will not remember how to turn your head. You will long for the woods and you will not understand how to leave, how to be in the world outside of the woods. The woods will be the only real place. That is why you must bring bright colors with you-dressing all in black is a mistake. You will carry a torch in each hand as you search. Your feet will bleed. If the dead drink the blood, they will be able to speak to you, but they will not come back with you. Be careful. Do not let the person you want to bring back drink your blood.

You will travel for a long time, holding your two torches. You must not stray from the path and you must not pick the flowers. You may ask for help. You will ask the sun for direction and you will ask the moon. Neither will help you; the moon is not able and the sun is not willing. Triple Hecate will have heard screaming and she will tell you where. You may ask an old woman who sits by the path mumbling to herself. If you walk by without a word she will reveal herself to be a witch and eat you in two bites, but if you ask her for help and offer to share an apple with her, she will give you guidance. Do not throw stones at ravens. You may ask wolves for help, but you should not believe what they tell you. They do not think carefully. They do not think as we do.

You will travel a long ways in the dark. Perhaps you will have to make your way through thorns and brambles. The thorns will rip your skin and lay the delicate, palpating network of your veins exposed to the cold wind. You may be caught and the thorns will reach over to block out the sky. All you will be able to see will be the walls of thorns and you will forget that you even knew anything else. The world will become patterns of thorns, patterns whose repetitions you'd counted and memorized years ago, and never thought you'd have to see again. You will not want to leave; nothing outside of the thorns will seem real. Perhaps the thorns will take out your eyes and you will not see anything at all.

You will eat roots. Eventually you will eat stones.

3. Journey's End
You will finally find your beloved. She will be chained in outer darkness wailing for you in her sleep. She will be covered with dust and cobwebs. She will be surrounded by others sleeping like she sleeps. Or perhaps she will be in a clearing, behind glass like a dead duck in the window of a Chinese restaurant. She will shine like a roasted duck as well. She will be surrounded by little men muttering little words. You will not hear them.

Perhaps the men will be wearing white coats. The shine comes from the sweat on her skin as her fever climbs. She is having no dreams.

Will you recognize her? Her face will be porridge, too hot and too pale, slumped like snow on a fallen scaffolding. Her hair will be pulled back. There will be pallid florescent lights and no color on the beige walls. The floors will be in washed out squares like the floor of your high school. Her high school too. You will sit down next to her and take her hand. She is not there. You can see her. You can touch her. You can smell her. But she is not there. Her chin is hanging in a very peculiar way.

Her eyes are too big and so are her teeth. She is bleeding. She is dying, Egypt, dying. She is dead. She is in chains, long whisper-thin chains. They are as slender as the skein of wool you have unwound as you walked.

Did I not mention the skein of wool?

Do not forget the wool. It is your memories, your time.

The chains are not silver. They are not metal. They do not make a clinkety-clankety clattering noise.

They are pale and fuzzy. They are colorless. They look like dust bunnies stretched out, like gray hairs knit together by dead skin. There are so many of them, they cover your beloved completely and hide her face. She cannot breathe. The dust is in her throat and she cannot breathe.

4. Your Beloved
She is one of many and you cannot find her. You cannot recognize her. Also, you are exhausted. You have come such a long way already.

You will always know her. She is young and she has long blonde hair. She is young and she has cherry-red lips and hair black as the raven's wing. She is old, so old that she is dead, with short white hair almost all fallen out.

She has hair like yours, short and coarse, dark and curly. She wears cats-eye glasses. She is shorter than you are. She has mole in the center of her neck and a scar on her right temple from a cat's scratch.

Cats are never up to any good.

Her fingers are swollen. Her tongue is swollen and chapped, and it has been bleeding.

She has a short tongue.

She is young enough to be your daughter.

She is your daughter.

She is only bones.

Her fingers are swollen. Her rings don't fit any more.

He looks like you, a warrior-king. Lean. Muscles. Scars.

She looks just like you, only she is dead.

5. What you will do
You will kiss her. Everybody knows that.

6. What else
You will kiss her.

You will jar her or perform the Heimlich maneuver. She might be choking on an apple or some pomegranate seeds or maybe a plastic tube. Help her.

Play music. Play her favorite song on your wonder horn. Play a wild tearing song. Play a love song. Play sixty-nine.

Draw the needle out of her arm with your lips. Stop the blood with your mouth. The tube and the needle are not helping any more. And she hates them.

It will hurt. Paint your face now, so that you look like a warrior. There will be snakes crawling beneath your skin. You will vomit from the pain, and because it is disgusting to be filled with snakes.

Lower the guard rail at the side of her bed. Check her hair for poisoned combs. Unsnap the shoulder of her gown.

Lie down next to her very carefully. Wrap your arms around her. She will not hug you back. Rest your head on her shoulder. You will have to go to where she is. Close your eyes. It might hurt. It will hurt.

You can cry. It won't help.

7. Afterwards

She will turn her head and look at you. Call her name. She will recognize you and smile. She is so tired. And she hurts. She hurts so much. She is confused. She doesn't know where she is. She won't thank you. She will blink and sit up.

Take her by the hand. Hold her tightly.

Give her one of your torches.

Don't worry if she doesn't talk at first. Voices take a long time to come back. And anyway, her throat hurts from the tube. Or the apple. The pomegranate. Whatever.

Lead her out. Don't look back.

8. How to Bring Someone Back from the Dead
There is no way to bring someone back from the dead. But you will make the journey anyway.

About the Author:
Veronica Schanoes is a writer and scholar with a particular interest in myths and fairy tales. Her work has appeared in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and has won the William Carlos Williams Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Raised in New York City, she has been working on her English Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently living in London.

Copyright © 2002 by Veronica Schanoes. This story first appeared in Postcards from the Voodoo Sex Cult, No. 1, a chapbook published by Mean Girl Click Projects. This story may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission. The illustrations above are by Aubrey Beardsley.

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