“Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, I am here at the request of the president to try to help sort out this matter. We are facing a crisis of a type and magnitude that this country, nor any other country has ever faced before. In order to truly appreciate what we are dealing with and figure out how we might stop it, I think it would be best if we went back to the beginning and examined the circumstances that led to the demonic outbreak that we now face. It all started with an upset public and a single election.
“In typical American form, the Democrats blamed the Republicans and the Republicans heaped the blame on the Democrats. In truth, the blame was uniformly distributed among both parties and the general aggravation the American people had come to feel with their two-party system. After each party had made it clear in both action and word that the country was being held hostage in their attempt to undermine the other side, Americans turned out in record numbers to vote in the 2016 elections. In the end, the division of the parties brought the greatest unity of Americans in history. Every available office was emptied and replaced by independents.
“Following his election, President Omar Wells encouraged the American people to keep up the momentum and unity. Two years later, the remaining Republicans and Democrats were voted out of office and the government was being run one-hundred percent by independents. President Wells congratulated the country on having spoken so clearly. Within Wells’ first term, the deficit was cut in half, unemployment was at a record low, and America was again an economic giant. With such raging success and approval, it was no surprise when Wells ran unopposed for his second term. That was when the true, radical nature of the new government came to light, although, still with the approval of the American public.
“President Wells set his sights on crime and morality. He argued that what he was seeking was not a Christian moral to run the country, but a general set of rights and wrongs that any logical and civic-minded person could abide by. In order to enforce this morality, he pointed to countries with low crime rates such as China and India. He argued that the reason that they held such low crime rates was the severity of their penal system. He further argued that by stiffening all penalties and eliminating the majority of prison sentences, Americans could shut down three-fourths of the prisons in the country and further boost other areas of public welfare instead of coddling those who would seek to undermine the peace and tranquility of American life. Thus, the Code of Wells was established, much like the Code of Hammurabi in previous centuries.
“Penalties were strict and swift, following a similar philosophy of times past of an eye for an eye. Thieves had their hand cut off. Murderers were put to death. Rapists and child molesters were operated upon to make any sex impossible in the future. Repeated offenders faced harsher penalties and committing a crime for a third time almost always resulted in death. Crime rates plummeted and the country continued to prosper and flourish. Then came the last major occurrences that allowed for the system in place today.
“The American people loved their president. In his seventh year in office, petitions began to flood the capital and calls and letters were sent in record numbers to representatives. The American people wanted to be able to keep the leader that had turned the country around. Thus, the Twenty-Eighth Amendment was passed, abolishing term limits on a person in the office of the president. In return, the candidate would have to obtain 80% of the popular vote in order to remain in office past two terms. A long series of guidelines was put in place to address the fine print, but, in the end, none of the extra rules mattered. Wells received 92 percent of the popular vote and remained in office for his third term. With this unprecedentedly high approval, Wells introduced and pushed through the most extreme attempt to eliminate crime that had ever been seen.
“The logic was that if harsh penalties, including extensive use of the death penalty, were not completely providing a deterrent for all violent crime, perhaps a more unconventional method of execution was called for in order to scare off possible offenders. The idea was supported by the public and other politicians. This just left the challenge of determining what would work when the threat of death was not sufficient. The solution seemed to come out of nowhere.
“I received my first phone call from the president at 11 pm on December 17th, 2023. To say that I was surprised at the call was an understatement. I had no political connections at the time nor had I ever sought out any kind of position within the government. I simply wanted to proceed with my own business and stay as far under the radar as possible. The president and his followers may have claimed to not follow any particular creed, but history had shown that those who sought a widespread code of morality often frowned upon people such as myself and the business which I conducted. My business was simple, I contacted the dead.
“You could call me a psychic or a medium, it doesn’t really matter to me. My trade is an ancient branch of alchemy that allowed me to make contact with beings in other spiritual dimensions. My work is a science and I am an expert in utilizing that science. Even as an expert, however, things would sometimes get out of hand and I had some close brushes with things that were likely never human. Apparently, this was what had drawn the attention of the president.
“’Is this Jacob Swift?’ a deep voice asked from across the phone lines.
“’That depends on who is asking,’ I replied. One of the biggest problems I ran into in my line of business was the people who had seen too many movies and thought that I was someone who could easily make dead relatives spill the secrets of where they had left their buried valuables or provide some kind of other world knowledge. The truth was that I guided disembodied spirits into new vessels from which they could sometimes communicate or act using the body of the host if they so choose.
“I see your looks of skepticism at this last part. Some of you even seemed horrified at the idea that I am presenting. Let me assure you that I am not talking about facilitating possessions. I never used humans as hosts. I always used animals and even then major precautions were taken to ensure that the spirit was not given too much power or the chance to transfer bodies.
“I followed certain self-imposed guidelines, because it is nothing like the movies. If the receiving host is a higher-order being, such as a human, they must be willing. They must open themselves to the spirit in order to become the new host. Also, there are certain words and phrases that must be spoken precisely. So, as you can see, there were multiple layers of protection and caution applied to my trade. Often, the people I worked with had no interest in talking to the spirits, but wanted their help in some way. Some even wanted to extract a revenge of sorts.
“Now, you can look at me like that all you want. I see some of you are even consulting each other and perhaps you are discussing if I should be punished for my prior crimes. You can be appalled by me and you can wish for retribution on behalf of my ‘victims’ all you want. One of the first things I made sure were in the agreement between the president and myself was that I was to be exonerated of all previous crimes that may come to light in the course of my working for the government as the new head necromancer.
“Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will get back to the story at hand. So, to cut to the chase, the president convinced me that he was who he claimed to be and he asked me to come to the White House to speak with him. He told me that he was aware of my line of work and might have some need for my services. He also assured me on the spot that I would be exonerated of all potential crimes related to my business simply for meeting with him. How could I refuse?
“I arrived at the White House and was escorted in after passing through a number of security checks. I entered the office a little tentatively. I have never really been one to get all starry eyed at the idea of meeting someone famous, but I had a lot of respect for President Wells and the work he had been doing for this country. I’m sure that men and women in your positions have been in the same room as the president. You know that he is a large and imposing man. He exudes the essence of power and strength. It’s no wonder he has stayed in power as long as he has. I wasn’t sure what to say or what kind of proposal he could possibly have for me, but the man did not allow dust to settle in the room before getting right to the point.
“The president quickly stood up when he saw me enter the room. His 6’4”, large frame seemed to tower above me as he took his large strides to where I stood and engulfed my hand in his.
“’Thank you for coming on such short notice, Mr. Swift,’ President Wells sounded like he truly did appreciate my presence.
“’Well, you did make me an offer that would be hard to turn down,’ I had a small grin on my face as I spoke. I think I was still in the process of fully taking in and appreciating his stature.
“’I don’t allow the office to go to my head,’ he said as if he owed me an explanation. ‘I would never expect people to come running just because of my position. If I want something from someone, I try to make sure that the deal is always very two-sided.’ He took a folded piece of paper out of his inner jacket pocket and handed it to me. ‘Just as promised. This pardons you from any crimes that may have been committed in the discharge of your business. That includes crimes that are not currently recognized by our legal system, but could be if the nature of your profession were to come to light.’
“I looked over the paper and was amazed at how air tight it appeared. I am not a lawyer but it seemed pretty solid. I carefully folded the paper and placed it in my own jacket pocket. ‘What can I do for you, sir?’
“The president walked over to his desk and pulled two chairs in across from each other. He motioned for me to take a seat as he sat down himself. I sat down and waited to hear the proposal that would change my life and ultimately lead us to where we are today. The president crossed his leg and leaned over as if he were about to share some huge secret with me.
“’Mr. Swift, how familiar are you with my new initiatives on crime?’
“’I know as much as any other citizen,’ I searched my mind for everything I knew about the president and his initiatives. I laid out what I knew and he shook his head as I spoke, acknowledging that I had the general ideas right at least. I followed up with the question that probably was on most American’s minds every time the president spoke of harsher determents. ‘What kind of punishments could possibly be put in place that would be any greater of a threat to potential criminals then what you have already enacted?’
“’That’s where you come in, Mr. Swift.’ The president sat back and considered his words carefully. ‘Many of my opponents on this matter have stated that they don’t see any earthly punishment that could serve as a bigger crime deterrent then those we already use. What I want is a punishment not of this Earth.’
“I stared at him incredulously for a moment. I couldn’t believe that he could possibly be suggesting what it sounded like. ‘Are you saying, you want to use spirits to somehow punish convicted criminals?’
There was a spark in his eyes as he looked at me and I quickly realized this was exactly what he had in mind in some manner. ‘Close, but not quite, Mr. Swift. I want the souls of the victims to be able to exact their own revenge.’
“’Mr. President, are you sure this could ever be something America would embrace?’
“’I think at this point, America will embrace anything that makes them safer. We are getting very close to living in a country where people no longer have the need to lock their doors at night. I believe we are almost there, but we have exhausted all traditional methods to reach this goal. I think the answer is to accept what would have been previously considered unspeakable.’
“’You realize that what I do comes with risks, Mr. President?’ I wasn’t sure that the President realized exactly what he was asking of me. ‘I can’t always guarantee that the spirit I want is the one that comes. Not to mention the fact that sometimes the things that show up were never human to begin with. Most people would refer to these spirits as demons and they can be very difficult to handle without the proper precautions.’
“’But you currently do just that, don’t you?’
“’Yes, but I do it so infrequently that the risk is minimized. I believe that the more my skills are used the more likely for something to go wrong.’
“’I trust that you could put the proper precautions in place. You also need to realize that this is to serve as a deterrent. If my plan is effective, we won’t be using it that much. Your skills could also be used to help us solve crimes that are unable to be resolved through traditional means. This could be the final nail in the coffin of the criminal element in this country. You could be a part of history, Mr. Swift.’
“I thought about it. I should have thought longer and more critically. I respected President Wells and allowed that to cloud my judgment. I justified my decision to myself by rationalizing that he would have to get this plan approved by Congress as well so it was not my decision alone that would put this into motion. In truth, the idea of having my previously hidden talents not only legitimized, but put into a high ranking government office was all that really mattered to me. The rest, as you know, is history.
“The president was easily able to get the bill passed through Congress and with a swiftness that surprised even his greatest supporters, the Division of the Necromancer was developed and placed within the structure of the Department of Justice. I was named the first Chief Necromancer by the president. My first task was to recruit and train additional necromancers. The job proved easier than I had expected. It turned out that there were quite a few people around the country that had been trying to make a living with our unusual brand of science and they were more than eager to have a paid, government position within which to ply their trade.
“I worked out a strict set of procedures and policies under which all necromancers were to always act and perform their duties. I put in place every safeguard I could conceive while allowing the flexibility I needed to adjust those precautions as the necessity arose. My people were trained extensively on how to distinguish desired spirits from unintentional other-world specters. These “demons” to use the popular term, were coined UOWS and a single misidentification could be enough to cost a necromancer his or her position. In addition, before utilizing any host, we always removed the animal’s tongue to ensure that it was unable to speak should a UOWS be summoned. After all, what person would be more willing to be host to a spirit then someone sentenced to a gruesome death?
“The first criminal to receive the new death penalty was Torrance Floyd. Floyd, you might remember, murdered a family of six in the most brutal of fashions, dismembering each of the children while the parents watched and then hanging the parents over the pile of their children’s remains. Part of the penalty was that the nearest living relative of the victim or victims would be given the choice of what animal they wanted to be used as a host and carry out the execution. The grandmother of the children was a most unforgiving type and chose sharks. A huge tank was constructed and filled with water. I saw to that summoning directly. One tiger shark was used for each of the victims and the killer was torn limb from limb, experiencing a most excruciating death. The president could not have been more pleased.
“All was going well. As Chief Necromancer, I had a lot of duties to see to, including collaboration with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that requested our services. As such, I found myself delegating more and more of the work to my necromancers. After two years, our work was becoming routine. As you may know, when things become routine, they lose the sense of fear and urgency when it comes to the cautious discharge of the procedure. To put it simply, people get sloppy.
“Our current situation was due to the execution of a man named James Worth. He had kidnapped, raped, and murdered the wife of a prominent local businessman. The crime was all that appeared in the news for months. Such a brutal crime had not been seen in many years. Three necromancers were helping the local police to try to identify the perpetrator. Right as I was about to get directly involved, they finally identified, located, and arrested Worth. I assigned a necromancer to the execution and considered the issue resolved. I wish I had paid more personal attention to the case. Perhaps if I had, none of this would have ever happened.
“The businessman selected for Worth to be executed by a wolf. I won’t reveal the necromancer’s name except by direct order of the president. You can argue all you want, anonymity has always been the right of a U.S. Necromancer. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call her Kathy. Kathy filled out her paperwork per regulation. She made the proper preparations right up to the point where she was supposed to either remove the animal’s vocal chords or cut out its tongue. Somehow, she neglected this part and that is where the trouble began.
“Worth was chained to a cell wall and Kathy led the wolf in and started the ritual. From what I understand, it was a beauty of a creature. It was large and intimidating, of great strength and health. Kathy performed the ritual flawlessly and then made her second fatal mistake, she forgot to check the eyes.
“When an animal is taken as a host by a formerly human spirit, it maintains its eye color. Animals who have been overtaken by a UOWS will periodically have a flash come over their eyes. It always happens at least once in the first five minutes of the host-spirit bonding, but can easily be missed if one is not looking for it specifically. A necromancer is supposed to watch the animal’s eyes for at least five minutes without breaking contact to ensure they don’t observe this phenomenon. If they do, they instantly perform a counter binding, expel the spirit and kill the animal. Kathy failed to watch for this and so she didn’t see the flash that must have passed over the creature’s eyes. She left the room, sealed it behind her, and walked away. Strike three. You never leave the area until the criminal is confirmed dead by life-detecting sensors in the room.
“From what we can gather from video taken in the room, the interaction began quickly. Worth waited for the wolf to come for him. He was resigned to his fate and was going to go out with dignity. I imagine the minutes must have drawn out and seemed to last forever. Finally, he addressed the wolf.
“’Are you going to kill me or what?’ Worth asked with a hint of humor in his voice. His smirk quickly changed to a look of shock when the wolf responded.
“’I wasn’t really planning on it.’ The wolf spoke. More accurately, the UOWS inside the wolf spoke. ‘In fact, I think we can help each other.’
“If Worth was shocked that he was having a conversation with an animal hosting a spirit, his surprise didn’t last long. Worth was an opportunist, and he saw a situation had begun to unfold that he could use to his advantage.
“’What do you want from me?’
“’I want a new host.’ The creature responded. ‘I want to stay here and live out my existence. Just like you.’
“’So, why not stay in the wolf? You could attack anyone who comes through that door, couldn’t you?’
“’I’d rather not exist in such a primitive form. You would be a good host. We could do much together. I can see into your mind and soul. There is a darkness in you that would fit well with my desires.’
“’What does it matter? They’ll just kill us both the moment they realize what is going on.’
“’The humans are distracted. If you allow me, I can enter you and we can break out before they know what happened.’
“Worth considered the offer for a moment. There was no real precedent for this kind of situation, so he didn’t really know what it would be like to be a host. In the end, he must have seen no alternative.
“’Do it.’ That was all the creature needed. There was a bright flash and a surge that permeated the air as if a lightning bolt had struck directly in the room. A moment later, Worth snapped his chains, stood up, and flung a piece at the camera, knocking out our video feed. The rest is tragic history.
“As you are aware, Worth got out of the facility, slaughtering everyone in his path. Not a single person, including my necromancer survived. Over the next week, Worth went underground. He could not be found anywhere. The only sign of him was the trail of bodies he left in his wake. More disturbing, however, was the huge spike in the number of disappearances in the area.
“We believe that Worth, via the thing that had taken control of him, began to channel more UOWS into the world and into hosts. We don’t know how he convinces people to agree to be a host, but we have seen a rash of brutal murders spread throughout the country in the last two weeks. That is what brings me here. The president believes that a full-scale mobilization of the military, aided by every necromancer in the government’s employ, must be dispatched immediately to deal with this threat. We believe that if this is not stopped, it could spread outside of our borders and become a threat to humanity as a whole. In short, gentlemen, we could be looking at an extinction event if we do not take action now.”
The Chief Necromancer sat back into his seat and took a deep breath. He felt he had explained the severity of the situation to the point where they would have to take him seriously and approve the action the president was recommending. The Speaker of the House leaned forward.
“Thank you, Mr. Swift,” the old man spoke clearly so not a syllable was missed. “We will take your thoughts and the desires of the president in mind as we deliberate what to do.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Swift insisted vehemently. “There is no time to waste. We have to act now!”
“Thank you, Mr. Swift. We will be as quick, yet thorough in our deliberations as we can.” As the speaker of the house leaned back into his chair, Swift caught a glance of something that told him everything he needed to know about the situation.
He knew that no matter what they did, it was already too late. The outbreak would continue until humanity fell. He could see that in the speaker’s eyes. The eyes that flashed.