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Brian Lumley

Deadspeak

Necroscope — 4

1. Necroscope

Christened Harry 'Snaith' in Edinburgh, 1957, Harry is the son of a psychic sensitive mother, Mary Keogh (who is herself the daughter of a 'gifted' expatriate Russian lady) and Gerald Snaith, a banker. Harry's father dies of a stroke the following year, and in the winter of 1960 his mother marries again, this time choosing for a husband a Russian by the name of Viktor Shukshin. Like Mary's mother before him, Shukshin has fled the USSR a supposed 'dissident', which perhaps accounts for Mary's initial attraction to him in what will soon become an unmitigated mismatch.

Winter of 1963: Harry's mother is murdered by Shukshin at Bonnyrig outside Edinburgh, where he drowns her under the ice of a frozen river. He alleges that while skating she crashed through a thin crust and was washed away; there was nothing he could do to save her; he is 'distraught, almost out of his mind with grief and horror'. Mary Keogh's body is never found; Shukshin inherits her isolated Bonnyrig house and the not inconsiderable monies left to her by her first husband.

Within six months the infant Harry (now Harry 'Keogh') has gone to live with an uncle and his wife at Harden on the north-east coast of England. The arrangement is more than satisfactory to Shukshin, who could never stand the child.

Harry commences schooling with the roughneck children of the colliery village. A dreamy, introspective sort of child, he is a loner, develops few friendships (with fellow pupils, at any rate) and thus falls easy prey to bullying and the like. And as he grows towards his teens, so his daydreaming spirit, psychic insight and instincts lead him into further conflict with his teachers. But he is not lacking in grit — on the contrary.

Harry's problem is that he has inherited his maternal forebears' mediumistic talents, and that they are developed (and still developing) in him to an extraordinary degree. He has no requirement for 'real' friends as such, because the many friends he already has are more than sufficient and willing to supply his needs. As to who these friends are: they are the myriad dead in their graves!

Up against the school bully, Harry defeats him with the telepathic assistance of an ex-ex-Army physical training instructor; a man who, before the fall from sea cliffs which killed him, was expert in many areas of self- defence. Punished with mathematical homework, Harry receives help from an ex-Headmaster of the school; but in this he almost gives himself away. His current math's teacher is the son of Harry's coach who lies 'at rest' in Harden Cemetery, and as such he very nearly recognizes his father's hand in Harry's work.

In 1969 Harry passes examinations to gain entry into a Technical College at West Hartlepool, a few miles down the coast, and in the course of the next five years until the end of his formal (and orthodox) education, does his best to tone down use of his talents and extraordinary skills in an attempt to prove himself a 'normal, average student' — except in one field. Knowing that he will soon need to support himself, he has taken to writing; even by the time he finishes school he has seen several short pieces of fiction in print. His tutor is a man once moderately famous for his vivid short stories — who has been dead since 1947. But this is just the beginning; under a pseudonym and before he is nineteen, Harry has already written his first full-length novel, Diary of a Seventeenth-Century Rake. While falling short of the best-seller lists, still the book does very well. It is not so much a sensation for its storyline as for its amazing historical authenticity… until one considers the qualifications of Harry's co-author and collaborator: namely, a 17th-Century Rake, shot dead by an outraged husband in 1672!

Summer of 1976. In a few months Harry will be nineteen. He has his own unassuming top-floor flat in an old three-storey house on the coast road out of Hartlepool towards Sunderland. Perhaps typically, the house stands opposite one of the town's oldest graveyards… Harry is never short of friends to talk to. What's more, and now that his talent as a Necroscope has developed to its full, he can converse with exanimate persons even over great distances. He needs only to be introduced or to have spoken to one of the teeming dead, and thereafter can always seek him out again. With Harry, however, it's a matter of common decency that he physically go to see them: that is, to attend them at their gravesides. He does not believe in 'shouting' at his friends.

In their turn (and in return for his friendship) Harry's dead people love him. He is their pharos, the one shining light in their eternal darkness. He brings hope where none has ever before existed; he is their single window, their observatory on a world they had thought left behind and gone forever. For contrary to the beliefs of the living, death is not The End but a transition to incorporeality, immobility. The flesh may be weak and corruptible, but mind and will go on. Great artists, when they die, continue to visualize magnificent canvases, pictures they can never paint; architects plan fantastic, faultless, continent-spanning cities, which can never be built; scientists follow through the research they commenced in life but never had time to complete or perfect. Except that now, through Harry Keogh, they may contact one another and (perhaps more importantly) even obtain knowledge of the corporeal world. And so, while they would never deliberately burden him, all the trials and tribulations of Harry's countless dead friends are his, and his troubles are theirs. And Harry does have troubles.

At his flat in Hartlepool, when he is not working, Harry entertains his childhood sweetheart, Brenda, who will shortly fall pregnant and become his wife. But as his worldly scope widens so a shadow from the past grows into an obsession. Harry dreams and daydreams of his poor murdered mother, and time and again in his darkest nightmares revisits the frozen river where she died before her time. Finally he resolves to take revenge on Viktor Shukshin, his stepfather.

In this, as in all things, he has the blessing of the dead. Murder is a crime they cannot tolerate; knowing the darkness of death, anyone who deliberately takes life is an abhorrence to them!

Winter of 1976 and Harry goes to see Shukshin, confronting him with evidence of his guilt. His stepfather is plainly dangerous, even deranged, and Harry suspects he'll now try to kill him, too. In January of 1977 he gives him the opportunity. They skate on the river together, but when Shukshin moves in for the kill Harry is prepared. His plan goes wrong, however; they both fall through the ice and emerge together by the riverbank. The Russian has the strength of a madman and will surely drown his stepson… But no, for Harry's mother rises from her watery grave to drag Shukshin down!

And Harry has discovered a new talent; or rather, he now knows how far the dead will go in order to protect him — knows that in fact they will rise from their graves for him!

Harry's talent has not gone unnoticed: a top-secret British Intelligence organization, E-Branch ('E' for ESP), and its Soviet counterpart are both aware of his powers. He is no sooner approached to join the British organization than its head is killed, taken out by the Romanian spy and necromancer Boris Dragosani. A ghoul, Dragosani rips open the dead to steal their secrets right out of their blood and guts; by butchering the top man in E-Branch (INTESP) he now knows all the secrets of the British espers.

Harry vows to track him down and even the score, and the teeming dead offer their assistance. Of course they do, for even they are not safe from a man who violates corpses! What Harry and the dead don't know is that Dragosani has been infected with vampirism: he has the vampire egg of Thibor Ferenczy inside him, growing there, gradually changing him and taking control. More, Dragosani has murdered a colleague, Max Batu the Mongol, in order to steal the secret of his killing eye. He can now kill at a glance!

Time is short and Harry must follow Dragosani back to the USSR — to Soviet E-Branch headquarters at the Chateau Bronnitsy, where the vampire is now Supremo — and there kill him. But how? Harry is no spy.

A British precog (an agent with the ability to scan vague details of the future) has foreseen Harry's

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