Ask a Necromancer, by Amanda Downum

State of the Necromancer Address

The year 2023 has wrought big changes for your necromancer, dear readers.

When I started mortuary school, one of the first things I learned is that—at least in Texas—a mortician can expect to make as much as a teacher. I laughed, I cried, I resigned myself to ongoing penury. At least it’s better than retail.

The penury, unfortunately, was not very hyperbolic. Rent in Austin has soared steadily for years, and although I was making more than the (frankly insulting) $13.50 an hour at which I started as a removal driver in 2020, by the end of 2022, I had been priced out of one apartment and fled another because of shady management. I moved in with a friend, but even then I was barely treading water, financially. At one point last year, three coworkers and I were selling plasma for rent and groceries. 

That was when I began job hunting. When I first moved to Texas as a child, I never imagined I would spend the next three decades there. After college, I became resigned to needing a partner’s financial support if I ever wanted to achieve escape velocity, and that never panned out. Would it be different now that I had a professional license?

I started sending out applications in September, to an echoing, sepulchral silence. By Halloween, despair was sinking its teeth in. I felt trapped in the way I hadn’t since I first enrolled in mortuary school. 

Then came a phone call. Could I fly out to Northern Virginia for an interview? I certainly could. A week later, I had an offer, and an ominously looming start date. Two months later, I packed one friend, two unhappy cats, and as much stuff as I could cram in the trunk of my car, and drove twenty-four hours across the country to the Northern Virginia/DC metro area.

Now I’m temporarily ensconced in an apartment above a funeral home* until I find my own place, and studying for the Virginia board exam. New laws! New corpses! After three years on the night shift, I’ve become a daywalker again. It’s a brave new world. With a lot of traffic. 

So send me more questions, The Deadlands readers! Soon I’ll be licensed in a whole new state, and have more entertaining trivia to share.

* Many older funeral homes have apartments, holdovers from family-owned businesses or an on-call night shift before centralized care centers. We had one in Austin, which was full of filing cabinets and ’90s furniture. This one has the same furniture, without forty years of financial records.

Amanda Downum is the author of The Necromancer Chronicles, Dreams of Shreds & Tatters, and the World Fantasy Award-nominated collection Still So Strange. Not content with armchair necromancy, she is also a licensed mortician. She lives in Austin, TX with an invisible cat. You can summon her at a crossroads at midnight on the night of a new moon, or find her on Twitter as @stillsostrange.

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