The door opened to reveal a pool of blood. Body parts had been nailed to the wall with furious intensity, judging from the deep holes in the wall from where the hammer had initially missed its mark.

Hmm, that must have been the banging sound I heard, thought Sarah as she looked around calmly. No sign of the head… it must have been taken as a souvenir, or for insurance.

She sighed. Without the head, the task would be slightly harder than before, and would take a bit longer. She grumbled for a moment, then set to work unhurriedly gathering as many of the body parts as she could and tossing them into a pile in the puddle of blood. When she’d gotten as much as she could, she stepped back and wiped the sweat from her brow, heedless of the gore on her hands.

Going to need to compensate for the lack of head somehow, she thought, picking up her purse from where she’d set it away from the blood spatters.

From it she extracted a small vial of faintly purplish liquid, which she opened and dumped on the pile of body parts. The liquid hissed and spattered as it made contact with the blood, and let off an acrid odor, but Sarah just wrinkled her nose and waved her hand to disperse it.

“Okay,” she muttered. “Now for the hard part…”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, centering herself for the task ahead. Still with her eyes closed, she raised her arms to her sides, took another deep breath, and as she exhaled she clapped her hands together. Shadows rippled out from her hands across the brightly lit room, with tendrils extending to every body part and spot of blood she’d missed in her cleanup, and wrapping themselves around the dismembered corpse on the floor. The shadows grew darker and more intense for a moment, then fell away to reveal the body that had been fully restored.

Sarah opened her eyes and stepped forward to examine the cadaver. It had once been a young woman of approximately 25, with blonde hair that had swept across her shoulders and brown eyes that once had glowed with warmth and kindness. Now, the hair stuck out in various directions without care, and the eyes stared sightlessly up at the ceiling. Sarah sighed and crouched down to examine the corpse more closely.

“Rachel, I warned you to be more careful,” she said to the body. “This is what can happen when you let your guard down, you can get murdered and violently dismembered by a serial killer.”

She reached out and closed Rachel’s eyes.

“Let’s bring you back, shall we? And this time, be more careful. I can’t do this all the time, or I’d never get anything else done.”

Sarah stood back up and closed her eyes again, reaching out around the room with her senses.

“I know you’re still here somewhere…” she muttered. “Just… need… to… aha!”

She made a motion with her hand, and tendrils of shadow exploded out from Rachel’s body towards a corner of the room, wrapping around something that wasn’t there and dragging it back. Sarah snapped her fingers, and Rachel suddenly gasped and sat up, drawing a huge breath of air into formerly dead lungs. Her eyes snapped open, and she screamed as if she were still being murdered, flailing her arms about her to fend off a long-gone opponent.

“Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad,” said Sarah. “And I didn’t do this so you could blow my eardrums out with your screaming.”

Rachel was stunned enough by Sarah’s words that she stopped screaming, and Sarah removed the earplugs she’d put in before bringing Rachel back.

“What… what happened?” Rachel croaked out after a moment. “I… I remember a dark figure grabbing me, and choking me… I thought it was going to kill me! Did… did you stop it?”

“Me? Mercy no!” Sarah laughed. “Have you seen me? I’m no match for a killer. No, no, you were dead. Quite violently too, completely dismembered and nailed to the wall.” She indicated the many holes remaining, the only sign now that something distasteful had occurred here. “I just pulled you down, cleaned you up, and brought you back.”

“You… brought me back to life? Are you some kind of witch or something?” Rachel asked faintly.

Sarah sneered. “I’m no witch, do you see a broom around here? Besides, they’re no fun, always dancing around big fires at night when it’s far nicer to stay indoors with a nice mug of cocoa. No, I’m a necromancer.”

“You’re a what?

“A necromancer. I commune with spirits, reanimate the dead, play with skulls and skeletons, all that good stuff.”

“But… but… but you’re my neighbor!” Rachel said in a voice that was slightly tinged with hysteria. “You bake cookies! You decorate for every holiday, not just Halloween! Your favorite color is PINK!”

“Everybody has to live somewhere,” Sarah observed, reasonably. “If I wasn’t your neighbor, I’d be somebody else’s. I quite enjoy holidays, even if Halloween is my favorite. And pink is a perfectly cromulent color, I’m quite surprised it’s not more people’s favorite.”

Rachel took another deep breath, as Sarah opened her purse again and pulled out a sheet of paper which she then handed to Rachel.

“This should answer most of your questions about what’s going on. Think of it as your guide to being brought back to life by your friendly neighborhood necromancer,” Sarah said. “There’s an invite link on there to a Discord group with others locally who have had the same experience, they can probably help you a bit more as well.”

“Others?” Rachel said. “You’ve brought other people back to life as well?”

“Oh my, yes,” said Sarah, brightly. “You’re… I think number twenty-eight? Something like that.”

You’ve brought twenty-seven other people back to life?!” Rachel shrieked.

“Oh, no, I’ve brought far more than that back to life, and reanimated scores who were past the point of return. It’s what I do, I’m a necromancer. I’ve just brought back twenty-seven others who were killed by the same person.”

“By… the same person? You mean… like a serial killer?”

“Yes, exactly. They’re trying to rack up quite the death toll, and I’m having an absolute blast frustrating their plans. The others can catch you up on exactly what they’ve done, some of it has been quite creative.”

Sarah smiled at Rachel kindly, then turned to leave.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I had cookies in the oven, and I need to get back to them before they burn. Remember to be a bit more careful in future, I can’t be everywhere when you need me. And oh! I almost forgot the most important thing!”

She turned back to Rachel, her hand on the doorknob.

“Please don’t say anything or react if you see the killer around. You’ll know if you see them, it’s an instinctual thing. But don’t react at all and pretend you have no idea, or else—”

“Or else they’ll kill me again, right, got it,” Rachel said.

“Hm? Oh, no, that’s not it at all. Well, it’s part of it. But mostly it’s because they’re getting so frustrated that all of their victims are alive, and it’s so incredibly funny. They’re seriously starting to lose it, they started out so carefully, just a couple drops of poison for their first time, and now you were dismembered and nailed to the walls in here without your head.”

Rachel touched her neck gingerly. “Without my… head?”

“Oh shush, you can’t even tell the difference. The body’s just a vessel, your spirit’s where everything is and they can’t touch that,” Sarah said, impatiently. “Seriously, though, don’t ruin the joke. They’re so close to just giving up, it’s hilarious.”

And with that, she swept out the door and was gone. Rachel looked around at the little room attached to the alley garage she’d heard noises from before apparently being murdered and dismembered, then closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She knew she’d face her killer again, only this time she’d know who they were, and what they’d done, and she knew Sarah was right about how frustrated they would be to see her alive and well. She let a smile grow on her face as she considered how that meeting would go, and found herself agreeing with Sarah.

It would be so fucking funny.

This story was inspired by this prompt.