Imagine a reality where cadavers and gargantuan ‘bone mansions’ replace the quotidian rhythms of life. An actuality where caliginous skies, chanting and madness are the only constants, where the dead come to life and spend their second lives in servitude to a dark lord, a diabolical necromancer. Now imagine this fiend having a change of heart and seeing the light again. Author Tanmay Philip explores these personal, harrowing struggles in his memoir 99 Grave Mistakes.
At first, he was reluctant to give an interview about his book, but relented because he felt it might help redeem other necromancers and prevent those interested in the dark arts from venturing too far. “There’s so much I need to tell the world,” he said, and then looked ahead with a thousand-yard stare. “So much,” he reiterated, and puffed on his cigar.
Reader, please note that this interview is not for the faint of heart. So, read at your own risk.
Your book opens with the sentence, Mordecai was my greatest servant, and then tells us about the most powerful undead you commanded. Who was your first servant, though? What did you make them do?
My first servant was a man called Roger. I used to call him Roger Mortis because of how stiff he always was. I was still new to the whole undead grimoire thing and left him to his own devices. I later found out that he had renamed himself Jolly Roger, creating a legend that would last eight thousand years. He sailed the seas, plundering his way to infamy until he tried to rob some Nephilim in heat, who umm… did horrible things to him until the Great Flood wiped his soul clean of my dark energies. He was the first of my many grave mistakes.
Repentance is a theme that is seen in almost every chapter. When did you realise that you needed to turn to the light?
I’d had a couple of bad centuries, caught in the same old routine of leeching life-force, creating undead armies and trying to destroy those ladida, saccharine, goody two shoes, hero archetypes that keep popping up into existence wherever I went. Gone were the days where I had worthy adversaries like Melchizedek. The days bored me, and the nights were filled with frenetic grave robbing. My creations were all too drab and ordinary, the same old thing. I guess I had an acute case of zombie block. All I wanted to do was kill Time, literally. The ennui was driving me crazy. And that’s when I met her, and she showed me the way. Love changed me. My new creations now had life in their eyes and a spring in their steps, sometimes two springs if my artificer was feeling up to it. She showed me my past mistakes, my obsession with power and everything else that was holding me back from being the man I should have been… the necromancer of love.
Have the dead always sought you out? Or do you go looking for them?
The souls of the dead have always tried to avoid me for some strange reason. I do not know why. Maybe it’s my deodorant. I have had to subjugate and discipline them properly before we can have any meaningful dialogue.
In the third chapter, you’ve written about your meeting with Reverend Johnson, a Zambian Pentecostal pastor who did cartwheels and prattled on in tongues when you told him who you were. What do you reckon caused his hysteria? You’ve stated that after his show of theatrics, he ran away and didn’t help you. So what was he trying to do?
Reverend Johnson was a strange man. It was quite fun to see a 7 foot tall man cartwheel. I reckon the constant cartwheeling did something to his head, probably during childhood. He said he had heard the call of the Lord and tried to give me a pamphlet. It said, ‘A Gathering of Souls’ in big bold letters on the top. I thought that this was an opportunity to add to my collection… of souls, I mean. At that time, I was executing a project to create a utopian realm for lost souls. It was one of my many plans for redemption. When I mentioned this to him, he seemed pleased, but then he saw my butler, Robbie Zombie, and threw a fit. He started speaking gibberish, with an occasional, ‘Lord have mercy,’ thrown in for good measure. I’ve heard that these pastors often spoke in tongues and I was fascinated, especially by his shaking legs. He ran away into the wilderness, never to be seen again. I wanted to ask him for a way to gain salvation since my past methods at redemption had failed and I had been losing hope ever since my dear wife abandoned me. Alas, it was not to be.
You’ve said in chapter ten that Padre Zack (may his soul rest in peace) had a tremendous impact on your life. What did you tell him at the confession booth and how did he react?
I met Padre Zack near a cigar shop. My ever faithful Robbie Zombie had just passed since I forgot to renew his soul subscription (a tedious process that involves cauldrons and fenny snakes). My delusions had returned, and I dreamed of world conquest once more. Padre Zack misquoted Mark, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose a soul?” Indeed, one lost soul wasn’t enough to stop my ambitions for world domination and the establishment of my utopian civilization. I saw his mistake as divine intervention. He asked me if I wanted to confess, and I did. I needed to feel free before I started my Grand Plan. He had a special gift to know a person’s sins before you said them. My confession was a unique experience. I knelt in silence as he went ‘oh my!’ or harrumphed every few seconds. After a good few hours, for I’d stockpiled a lot of sins, he told me to release all my subjugated souls, and bury all their soul vessels (bodies). He also told me to say a hundred Hail Marys for penance. I did as he asked, but felt no closer to redemption. The padre’s sermons had a necromancer theme for the next few years. It seemed to have the opposite effect he wanted. My profession’s popularity grew very popular for a time. Needless to say, I soon went back to my old ways, but that was the longest I’d ever gone without having any undead under my command. It was a rare moment of peace where I didn’t feel the urge to conquer the world anymore. He also left me with a lifelong addiction to cigars.
What are bone mansions? You’ve spoken about them, but how would you describe one?
Some men build their house on sand, others on rock, but a handful build their house on bone. Lost souls gather to bone, like ants to honey. Despite their dislike for necromancers, they can’t help themselves from entering his bone mansion, if he’s built one correctly. Imagine a foundation made of fused bones, wood, and rock as the basic framework of the superstructure, filled in with bones of all shapes and sizes. The souls of the dead act like supernatural air conditioning, chilling everyone who enters to their bones. It’s prefect to get away from the summer heat. It’s also where grimoires are at their most powerful. Any necromancer worth his bone has at least one holiday bone mansion.
In chapter fourteen, you’ve said that a video game developer approached you to make an interactive horror drama game, and you told him you hated multiple endings in a game. Is that because of something in your real life?
This is a bit embarrassing to say, but I once broke space time. I’d eaten some beans, and I unleashed a spell from my grimoire that was supposed to help with digestion, but I was in so much pain that I read the wrong one. I travelled from one alternate reality to another, trying to find my origin point to undo the spell. In every reality, I looked for my other self out of curiosity. In most realities, I was a giraffe called Edgar, living in a petting zoo. In others, my situation was far worse. And so my dislike for multiple anything started. Ask me what two times four is. I dare you! *glares murderously*
What is your advice to fellow necromancers?
Do a lot of soul searching.
Do you believe that you’ve crossed the point of no return, or does some coruscant light still shine in the deepest part of your soul?
No soul ever crosses that point. I can attest to that, out of my many millennia of experience. I believe light shines in all of us, though in my case it’s ignited in the abyss of my soul by the flint of an antique lighter. *Smokes his cigar* You’ll find out why in the last chapter.
How does one get a copy of your book?
One simply has to sell their soul. Just kidding. It’s $3.99 on Amazon. Buy now and receive a 50% discount.
Tanmay blogs at Blog inVerse when he’s not building bone mansions or planning to rule the world. Read his work and try to get to know him better. He’s friendly, for a dark lord.