Writing Group: Making a Business of Death (PRIVATE)

Hello, Psychopomps and Sin Eaters!

Can I interest you in some Death this fine evening? It’s my proprietary blend. New and exclusive! It comes in strawberry, banana, cockroach, and green apple. You really ought to try it because…

This week’s Writing Group prompt is:

Making a Business of Death

RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!

In the past few weeks we’ve spun tales (and, perhaps, at times, grown tails) of blood and witches. Now this prompt for October is the business side of the spookies. Who makes money off of death? …More people than you might think. 

You could write about an assassin, a bounty hunter, paid to kill. Death is just a job to them—a few more coins in their pocket. They may have no moral qualms with the profession, while the world fears, hates, and judges them. You could write about one such person who is asked to kill someone close to them, who realizes death is more than a number. 

Grave robbers steal from those who won’t fight to get their possessions back—physically or legally. Or…would they? Perhaps a grave robber is haunted by the ghosts of those they stole from. Or maybe they met no resistance until they tried to steal from a pharaoh’s tomb…

Grieving loved ones, detectives, and supernatural buffs alike will all often pay to speak to the dead. A medium makes money not off of the death itself, but of the promise of a moment of conversation. 

Even a simple hunter or adventurer could make a profit off of death. Even if it’s animals and/or goblins your character is killing, death is still death, and money is still money. You could write about a humble adventurer realizing that the monsters they fight aren’t so monstrous…

An undertaker or mortician is a less sinister way to take this prompt. Someone who makes sure the body looks nice, and the coffin fits right, for the deceased’s eternal rest. …Or perhaps things are not so gentle as kind as they seem. Many stories have taken the idea of an undead mortician to fascinating, scary, and sometimes hilarious extremes. 

Maybe the business is not the death, but the raising of the dead. In a world where necromancy is common and accepted, perhaps a necromancer could be paid to raise loved ones, or to create zombie armies. 

In a sci-fi story, someone who promises to upload one’s consciousness, or cryogenically freeze them, could make money off of killing their buyers, with no one able to tell they’re dead. Maybe you could write about someone protesting the creation and monetization of teleportation, firmly believing that teleportation kills the subject and creates an identical clone. 

Or maybe this prompt doesn’t have to be so far from the last. Perhaps someone comes to a witch, not for a potion of strength or beauty, but to buy a poison apple to feed to their enemy…

There really are no hard feelings, dear. It’s just business.

—Kaylie

Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.

Tune into the stream this Saturday at 3:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!

The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.

Rules and Guidelines

We read at least five stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!

  1. Text and Formatting

    1. English only.
    2. Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
    3. Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
    4. Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
    5. Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
    6. Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
    7. No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
  2. What to Submit

    1. Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
    2. Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
    3. Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
    4. No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
    5. Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
  3. Submission Rules

    1. One submission per participant.
    2. Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
    3. Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
    4. You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
    5. Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
    6. Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
    7. You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
    8. Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.

Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.

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John Perceval Cain (oneeye John)
John Perceval Cain (oneeye John)
1 month ago

Mercenary
John Perceval Cain (oneeyeJohn)

Emperor Vitor Braga, leader of the Phaemomar government in exile, sat behind an ornate desk in a humble compound. His Chief of Staff and Head of Security flanked him.

General Martin Mac Cathail, Hero of the Boiling Fields, dressed in a sharply cut business suit, placed a holographic display puck on the desk and touched its power switch. “Your eminence, I have prepared three options for you.”

The emperor and his staff looked on with rapt attention.

“The first is what I call our ‘Deluxe,’ we execute an invasion to put you and your government back in power. This plan includes the use of professional soldiers, security agents, and support teams. We will minimize collateral damage and will protect all critical infrastructure and wealth. The price is at the bottom.”

The color left the Emperor’s face as he looked at the number.

“The second plan is our most popular.” Martin beamed. “We invade and put you back on your throne. However, we use your subjects and lead them with an elite cadre of advisors. We will do our best to limit collateral damage and use a military policy force to reduce looting. Again, the price is at the bottom.”

The Emperor taped the table impatiently, some color returning to his face.

“The last plan is our best value. We use convicts, pirates and any unpaid volunteers with our elite cadre to lead them. The motivation for the men is they get 24 hours to loot, rape and pillage, before being shipped off planet. We take over with a security force and put you back on your throne.” Martin pointed to the price. “You can see the value of this plan is its pricing.”

The Emperor smiled, his staff blanched.

“Prices are non-negotiable. We accept Interplanetary Credits, 50% up front, balance due when you arrive on the planet to resume your reign.”

“For a military man, I didn’t expect you to have such an acumen for commerce,” The Emperor said.

“Business is piracy by other means.” Martin said.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Perceval Cain (oneeye John)
jesse fisher
jesse fisher
1 month ago

Souls need
by Jesse Fisher

“What do you mean I need more souls?”

The skeleton behind the desk did not look up from the terminal while ignoring the mechanical reaper.

“Wars are a poor use for a harvest, the quality is not worth the trouble.”

“Then how can I meet my quota for the century? Start pandemics?” The machine shouted as it tried to meet the manager’s eye sockets.

“That would make it easier to get the amount to be higher than what it would be in a war. Also would lead to more souls due to how the living handle stress.”

“But by doing that we stress them to the point they might just stop making more souls.” The robot seemed to be seething at this.

“Then we will ask for a new group to harvest from, like last time.” The skeleton’s dismissive attitude was not helping the robot’s rage.

“IS THAT WHY OUR CREATORS DIED?!?!” The bot had finally had it as it looked into the hollow eye sockets of the skeleton.

“I see the humanity that all reapers took root in you.” The manager spoke, seemingly ignoring the bot some more. “A flaw to be sure, but it is the curse that you of the lower ranks must bear.”

“I feel that you are just ignoring me now out of spite.”

“I was once the lowest on the chain of the afterlife, but as it would turn out I would be the last of ‘your creators’ to die a normal death before the world ended and your form of life came to be.”

“That is still missing the reason for you wanting to add more souls to the ever growing stores of souls in the back.”

“Got word from the one above all that all human souls must be expunged from the earth before it can be fully start anew.”

vellichorian
vellichorian
1 month ago

Barrett and Sons Funeral Home, Inc.
by vellichorian

The silence of his footsteps on the ornate rug and the practiced stillness of his head and shoulders allowed Alexander to seem like he was gliding as he led his clients to a private parlor. He gestured to his clients to a brocade sofa and settled into a tall wingback chair opposite them. Both were dressed in mourning attire, eyes bearing the dark stains of sleepless nights. The wife twisted a handkerchief between her fingers.

“My condolences for your loss,” Alexander began reciting his script. “Here at Barrett and Sons, we pride ourselves in guiding you through saying farewell with compassion and kindness.

“I see that your son was in his early twenties. I assume that he did not have a will to dictate his preferences?”

The husband shook his head and the wife released a single sob.

“Very well, let’s begin with planning the memorial.”

The father cleared his throat, “We haven’t decided that we want to have one at all.”

“We heard that you offer… nontraditional services?” the mother whispered.

“To bring him back?” the father finished and looked at his hands.

Alexander nodded. He swept a coffin catalogue from the table and replaced it with another, bearing the title, “The End Is a New Beginning,” in a curling script font. “We offer a wide range of options, depending on your desires and, of course, your liquid cash budget.”

“Our desires?” the husband asked.

“Indeed. Physical form, intelligence, and behavior are all facets of the process.” Alexander handed them a laminated chart. He ran his finger along the first row. “You see, a zombie is budget friendly, but it does not retain its living intelligence, and the flesh decays, whereas a vampire has the advantage of a stable body and personality with a higher price tag.

“I shall give you some time to peruse the materials before we continue. I recommend that you find the options that interest you on the chart and then read the care and feeding details for each model in the catalogue. Would you like some coffee or tea while you discuss it?”

Rattus
Rattus
1 month ago

Valued Customers (Illusions of Heroes)
by Gerrit (Rattus)

Serennia peered into the bag of money freshly placed before her, checking for any signs of trickery. She had long since learned that trust rarely went both ways.

“Should all be there. I had each of my most trusted assistants check it over.” Her customer, a portly man well into his middle age, sat with fingers steepled loosely in his lap.

“It appears to be correct.” Serennia tied off the bag and set it off to one side. “I must say, I didn’t think you would agree to see me personally.”

“Well, when you deny every man I send on my behalf, you leave me with very little choice.”

“I hope you’ll forgive me, Donbrau. Jobs as big as this require personal attention.” She picked up the letter laid on the table between them, her eyes gliding across the words. “The Black Knives, correct?”

Donbrau cleared his throat before he spoke. “Yes, precisely. They’ve been encroaching on the territory of me and my men for too long.”

“You’re one of the largest gangs in Ruddreth. I don’t see how you need my help solving a petty squabble.”

“My men are launderers and traffickers, not assassins. That’s your area of expertise, thus my presence here. I need you to kill the head of the Black Knives, Arnir Tofrale. Once their leader is disposed of, the rest will fall apart on its own.”

“I believe you’re right. Funny, how quickly these organisations tend to crumble when they lose direction.” Serennia conjured an opalescent blade in the palm of her hand, turning it to catch the dim lighting on its face.

Before Donbrau could do more than flick his eyes to the dagger, it launched across the room, embedding itself in the centre of his chest. His eyes went wide, lips frantically searching for words. Serennia rose from her seat, rounding the table to lean against the side facing him.

“Don’t worry, the Black Knives will be taken care of too. I’m a woman of my word, after all.”

i-prefer-the-term-antihero

The Robber and the Resurrectionist (The Ballad of the Monsters: Victor)
By i-prefer-the-term-antihero (Kaylie Hatch)

I pried open the coffin with my shovel. Along with the sound of creaking, splintering wood, came a voice,

“Is this your graveyard?”

I screamed. Loudly. More loudly than one strictly should in a graveyard at three A.M. The shovel clattered onto the coffin.

Initially, my startled mind told me the corpse had spoken—which, to be fair, would have made my job a lot easier—but, when I looked up, a muddied, old, bearded, living face looked down at me.

“Sorry.” He chuckled “Didn’t mean to scare you. I was just wondering,”—He held up a shovel of his own, then leaned down to whisper—“have you already taken all the good stuff?”

A grave robber. Well that was…one of the less problematic people groups I could have met while digging up bodies.

And define ‘good stuff.’

I kicked my shovel back up to my hand. “Well…not all of it.”

“Would you be open to sharing?”

I climbed up out of the grave. “Mi cementerio es tu cementerio.”

He squinted.

“…Yes, I’ll share.”

He smiled. “Thanks.” But before he could leave, he noticed something.

Realizing what it was, I stepped to the side to cover his view, but it was too late.

“You know…you’re not supposed to take the bodies.”

“Well,” I brushed my hair back, “I just thought, ‘here’s a bunch of perfectly good corpses laying around, and nobody’s using them.’”

“I don’t think the church’ll take too kindly to dead folks being disturbed.”

“I won’t tell God if you don’t.”

“I won’t tell the priest. Don’t know about God…What do you need the bodies for anyways?”

I tilted my head back, grinning. “Science.”

“What’s science got to do with it?”

“Science has ‘got to do’ with everything.”

He shook his head. “Don’t know how you stomach it. Sometimes science is nasty.”

“But so beautiful.”

“Well…I’m just gonna…” he said in a tone like he was both confused and concerned, but wasn’t going to press it, “start rifling through dead men’s pockets.”

“Do let me know if you find any corpses with,” I called after him, my grin widening, “particularly fine features.”

Glaceon373
Glaceon373
1 month ago

The Soulmaster Exhibition
by Carrie (Glaceon373)

Welcome, welcome, one and all! Feast your eyes on the great Soulmasters, the strongest specialization of mages on the continent! They’ve come all this way from the Academy to give you a demonstration on soul magic!

Up first, we have (Sorry, what’s your name? Antajax? Okay, thank you) we have Soulmaster Antajax! He will be showcasing one of the principals of soul magic with the help of his pet tortoise! Watch as the Soulmaster wields the tortoise’s sturdy soul as—yes! The tortoise is dancing on its hind legs! Look at it go! Someone call the local dance teams, am I right? Ha!

Now, I’m seeing a few concerned faces in the audience, but the Soulmasters can assure you that the tortoise is perfectly safe, happy, and healthy! When a Soulmaster takes control of a soul, the creature being controlled does not feel anything! That’s right, nothing at all! When our tortoise friend here finishes its dance—oh, with a bow, yes, give it up for our tortoise friend, everyone!—there will be no lasting effects on its little brain! See, look, it’s laying down to take a nap! How adorable!

But it’s not just tortoises the great Soulmasters can work with, no siree! Souls of deceased livestock have been powering generators for the past six years and running! All ethical, of course, no need to fret.

Next up we have (What’s your name? Also Antajax? Huh, small world) another Soulmaster Antajax with one of those very generators here for display! We’ve connected it to our currently unused spotlights, so once it turns on—

What the—!

Uh, calm down everyone! The generator simply short-circuited! There, look! It’s working again, and the spotlights are on, and—

Oh my goodness gracious…

Don’t fret, everyone! The generator must have accidentally sucked up the souls from the front row of the audience! I’m positive our Soulmasters will quickly return those souls back to their hosts—

Wait, why are you turning it back on? Why are you pointing it at, at—

Oh. Oh no.

RUN! RUN! EVERYBODY RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! WE’VE BEEN TRICKED! SAVE YOURSE—

Lee Strangely
Lee Strangely
1 month ago

A Deal Witch You Can’t Refuse (Amory)
by Lee Strangely

The church was filled with an almost infectious silence. The town elders all looked to the open doorway. In the dead air they all internally screamed at one another, despite none having the courage to actually look one another in the eye. Through the window, the preacher grimaced as the shape in the sky drew near. Nobody really liked what was happening that night, especially the farmers who spent decades trying to keep the wretch out of their fields.

The townspeople simply called him Crowell. In the dusk, he flew over the silhouettes of the bare treetops. He did not glide, nor did he have any obvious wings to flap. He flailed about like a puppet being pulled by several uncoordinated puppeteers.

Even on the ground he still remained little more than a human in figure. His clothes were ragged and riddled with stitches that barely held it all together. His face seemed always just out of sight, while his hands seemed completely hidden in their sleeves.

One of the elders timidly asked, “Is it true that you’ve… ‘dealt’ with darker forces before?”

“Darker forces?” Crowell asked.

“Witches,” he bleated.

Crowell cooed, “Yes… we’ve killed many… WITCHES.” He tittered as the elders winced. There was a constant fluttering, a thumping of sorts that emanated from Crowell as he moved towards them.

The elder brought over a short wooden stick, “We were able to steal her wand during her last attack. Is it enough to track her?”

“What of our toll?”

“A third of the crop will be given at harvest. As we agreed.”

Crowell reached for the wand, vanishing within his sleeve like a serpent’s tongue, “It’ll do… Does our prey have a name?”

The preacher then reluctantly walked over to him with a piece of paper in hand, averting his eyes.

Crowell snickered as he looked at the name that was prematurely crossed out, “Men of faith, your fear has betrayed you. We wonder what kind of a father would love such children?”

Shaviathan
Shaviathan
1 month ago

NecroPolaris
By Shaviathan

“Is everyone seated? Good. Now before we begin, I would like to address the elephant in the room. As we all know, necromancy is a controversial topic. Morals and ethics aside the main concerns with past attempts at necromancy have been the amount of strain it puts on the user and its tendency to leave a zombie outbreak when the controller loses connection. Here at NecroPolaris we do things a bit differently, as I’m sure you’ll see.

With our patented Rezurrection blood mixture, a single mage can resurrect an entire army of corpses and still be able to command each individually as if it were a mere puppet. Our mages are trained and cybernetically enhanced to be able to handle the added strain of commanding such a large force. Additionally, they each receive a full complement of military grade augments and training programs, for those instances when the enemy gets a little too up close and personal. And when the fighting is all said and done, the controller can disconnect, and the corpses will go back to nothing more than lifeless husks on the floor.

NecroPolaris also offers various disposal packages such as repurposing the corpses into fertilizer or freezing them for future use should you have need of an undead army again. There’s even a war relief aid package where the corpses are converted into an edible substance to be distributed to all those war refugees you may have made. And should you fear a potential uprising, there’s even a variation of the same package where we implant a device into the food that will humanely euthanize the populace whenever you choose. Please note that these are considered casualties of war. Under a NecroPolaris contract, all casualties are considered NecroPolaris property and are thereby forfeit.

As far as cost goes, NecroPolaris is cheaper in the long term than your average drone army as each bot costs a fortune in retrieval and repair, whereas there’s always more corpses. Now as we are short on time, I would like to move on to the QA portion. Any Questions?”

Marx
Marx
1 month ago

Take The Hint, Bro
By Marx

A long sigh hissed through the void. “Hello Duncan…”

Duncan smiled wildly at the voice, oblivious to its irritation. “You know my name!”

“All who live will one day meet me. I know everyone’s name.”

“May I see you, my mistress?”

“I am not your mistress,” said Death, appearing before him. “Take my hand.”

Duncan began to but paused, instinctively knowing what it would mean. “You’re as beautiful as I always knew you’d be. A radiant goddess of perfection. Can’t I… stay here with you?”

“I care not what you think of my appearance. I am not a deity. You cannot stay here. Take my hand.”

“Please, my mistress! I will die for you, but I just-… I love you so much! I just want to be with you! Didn’t you like my gifts?”

Death’s eyes narrowed. “Contrary to what you believe, I do not see murder as a gift. Nor do I see attempts to kill yourself as… intimacy. I see you as a disturbed mortal. Nothing more.”

Duncan’s eyes narrowed back. “I asked you if this was what you wanted! You told me! You told me to prove my love for you and we’d be together!”

Death sighed once more. “I said no such thing. That was your psychosis. Your way of justifying your own ideals and perversions, while using me as an excuse.”

“No! That’s not true!”

“Take my hand, Duncan.”

“Not yet! Let me prove myself to you! I’ll do whatever you want!”

“Excellent. Take my hand.”

Duncan grit his teeth as his hands balled into fists. “Why are you being like this?! Why won’t you give us a chance?”

“Because there is no us. There is you. There is me. And there is my purpose. I have a fated mate. And he is not you.” Before he could protest further, Death forcibly took Duncan’s hand into hers and he was gone.

Death sat in the quiet and scowled. She hated mortals like that. They only succeeded in making her feel lonely.

“I patiently await your arrival, my horseman.” Death mused before returning to her duties.

Skeleton
Skeleton
1 month ago

Blood Money (The Will)
By Skeleton

“Twenty-three men gone, along with seven horses. Thirteen injuries, three serious. No provisions recoverable, so that’s two-weeks worth of food and water needed. Eight items of equipment destroyed: five crossbows, two spears, and one sword. Expenses are looking like…” Ericka strained to herself to the thumping of an angry dragoness nearby, “…maybe a thousand, two-hundred and sixty five Crowns—nix a hundred and fifty if Eymir can replace the equipment himself.”

“I feel… so fucking stupid!” Zaila cursed in a rage, kicking a scrap piece of charred house and adding to the ashen cloud that hung in the air. “My own countrymen…! I can’t believe they’d do something like this!”

“You’d be surprised what someone will do for money if they really need it,” Ericka added calmly over the smouldering of what remained of the people who lived there. “In fact, they probably didn’t want to do this as much as the villagers.”

“They could have stopped at any time!” Zaila cried, shamed by her own country. “At any time, they could have chosen to be good!”

“And let their families starve due to their moral compass?” Ericka reasoned as the numbers came back into her mind. However, the sniffling of the young dragoness would never let her finish her job in peace. “They chose this,” she comforted. “Be free of their choice. A killer for money is nothing to lose sleep over.”

Zaila didn’t respond, but her sniffling did lessen a little. The wulack commander sighed and stood, placing her paw on the warrior-in-training’s shoulder. “It’s the people who kill without the promise of coin that you should weep over,” Ericka explained, her expression souring a little as the old her resurfaced in her memory. “They burn passion to fire their blade—a dangerous thing.”

After a moment of contemplation, Zaila nodded in understanding, her tears lessening to stains on her cheek. “Speaking of which,” Ericka continued enthusiastically. “Did Eymir mention how many of the enemy are dead?”

“…around three hundred.”

“At eight Crowns a head, that’s…” Ericka let out a breath of relief. “We’re in the green.”

Last edited 1 month ago by Skeleton