There was once a city ruled by by a council of necromancers. Citizens were obliged to serve the city for a period of five years to begin one week after death. Families were given a week to mourn, after which the city watch would come around to collect the corpse.
Corpses were animated and assigned to the guard the walls, dig ditches, sweep the filth off streets and (once they had dug one) maintain the sewer system. Although assignments were officially determined by a roll of dice, the Department of Service was allowed to assign the reanimated according to its capabilities and physical condition. Smarter zombies were put in charge of teams, while badly damaged corpses might have some very menial function such as washing windows. Different parts of badly damaged bodies could be scattered about the city performing different duties. A severed head might be assigned the task of biting any unauthorized hand opening a drawer, while the body was a temporary support for a wall under repair, for example. Severed hands scampered up lamposts with lit wicks attached to the wrist.
Of course bribery was common and a modest donation to the right coffers could get a corpse assigned to lighter duties, far out of sight of the zombie’s family. The wealthiest families were allowed to donate to the city treasury in lieu of service altogether. This was considered a sign of status.
After a period of five years, the deceased was usually released from duty. The family would gather at the Department of Service’s Release Garden for a short ceremony where the zombie was thanked for its service and the soul was released to its destination. The family could then bury the corpse honorably.
Unclaimed bodies were often held for longer service, but after ten years the stench of reanimated corpse would repel even the undead. A field outside the city walls served as a potter’s field for the unclaimed dead. On two occasions the potter’s field was reanimated to serve as a first line of defense for the city.
Attitudes toward this service varied over time. In the early days, all families took pride in the service they provided. A staunchly patriotic family might ask for the most challenging and degrading work and even clothe the corpse in family livery. Later generations were not so noble and it was traumatic and an ill omen to see grandma guarding the main gate.