First up: my friend Gina Damico (whose blog is a source of much amusement!) has written a book, Croak (which will no doubt be another source of much amusement!), and you can now pre-order it on Amazon! Congrats to Gina and I encourage people to check her and her book out! (Just not in a sketchy way, she’s spoken for.)
This week’s weekly photo challenge is flowers. The bouquet in question–the image from the photo challenge post itself–looks undeniably like a wedding bouquet, I think we can all agree.So I could write about a wedding here, but I’m not a fan of writing about the obvious when I can twist it around. So here goes.
Leiani’s sweating palms had by now stained the cloth wrapped around the stems of her bouquet, she did not doubt. The white roses looked up at her when her eyes darted downwards at them yet again, guileless and innocent, a symbol of her own purity as she entered the ceremony. Ritual would be a better word for it, she thought. But no, they must stand on tradition, on letting the people it is a moment of joy. So it remained a ceremony.
The music-less chanting began, the signal for her to step forward down the aisle, surrounded on both sides by her peers, who looked at her with wonder, awe, and envy. Her heart beat quickly, the sweat on her brow dripping down her temples as she walked, compelled to do so by the acolytes who escorted her. My makeup will be ruined soon, at this rate. She was pretty, but they had made her beautiful for this, her wedding day. The dress was silk and lace and dripped with pearls and sparkling glass adornments, and her dark hair was curled into gorgeous waves with a few ribbons woven into it. Rouge on her cheeks, a stain of red on her lips, kohl rimmed her eyes. She looked a lovely queen to them, and a queen they believed she would become.
But the man who waited at the end of the aisle, standing with the priest at the altar they had set up by the cliff’s edge, looking over the ocean, was no man at all. He wore the fact brazenly, watching her step towards him, with eyes that had no white. She had not yet been able to determine if his eyes were simply entirely black, or if he had no eyes at all but two small openings in his false face that showed the path to oblivion. His smile held no joy or even a facsimile thereof. It was an unnatural thing that stretched his skin, and Leiani wondered how long this form would hold him, how long until his true self burst out of this vessel. Her own skin, fragile and soft and unblemished, shuddered, chill on the warm day, as she guessed it would not hold through the entirety of their wedding night.
She clutched the bouquet more tightly and gasped as a thorn beneath the wrappings pierced her flesh. She looked down, peeling her hand away, and saw a trickle of red blood trace its way over the lines of her palm, falling and staining the hem of her dress as she stepped forward. She looked up again. Somehow, he seemed angrier now, seeing the blood, the little drop of red in the sea of perfect white that covered her.
Or was it hunger?
This is for them. Without this, he would destroy us all. A mortal bride, he asked, and your name was chosen, Leiani. This saves so many. But the things she told herself to stay strong, to make her legs move her towards a damned future and a demonic husband, they did not quiet her fear for her body, her mind, her soul.
Then she was standing next to him, and the words were being spoken, and sweat stung the cut on her hand though no further blood dripped onto her dress.
“I now pronounce you…man and wife. You may kiss the bride,” the priest recited. She looked at him, and felt a ring that weighed like an iron chain upon her hand that forced her closer to him when he moved his own, and the pull of the abyss in his eyes. Then he kissed her.
It stung like fire and ice at once, the cold of a freezing day that burned the skin. She could swear her lips blistered under his, pain like a thousand tiny barbs had lined his lips and now pierced her own, a thousand points of tiny pain, a poison that passed from his flesh to hers. She felt dirty. All the makeup and the lovely dress, the long bath she’d had that morning, the perfume of roses from her bouquet, and she felt as though something were crawling on her skin, under her skin, corrupting her by the second.
This was to be her life now.
He released her, and the people cheered, cheered because they did not know her fate and they would not ask. They knew they were saved, and that was all that mattered. The ceremony sealed their fate as it had her own. Her hands felt numb and the bouquet slipped from her grasp, to the rocky ground, and rolled out to the edge. He moved his hand again, and she felt the unseen iron chain compel her to join him, their fingers twining. A thousand tiny barbs assaulting her palm, infecting her further with his corruption. They were bound together now, for eternity.
Until death do us part…
Leiani looked back at the flowers. A breeze pushed them forward, and they rolled off the cliff’s edge as she watched with envy and inspiration. A chain worked both ways, after all.
As she sprinted to the edge and leaped into the air, her husband squealed in surprise, and she heard the skin of his human form rip apart as they plummeted. But not quickly enough, as she smiled with her first true joy of her wedding day when the water’s surface broke her neck.