Tragedy At a Wedding*
The sun shone, warm and butter-soft, on the pale face of Elinor Dorbach as she gracefully turned around to face her husband-to-be. The day was perfect; The sky the palest blue, with puffy clouds hanging at intervals across it, bits of cotton-wool made of the finest material. The ground was soft, inviting; the lake in the background glimmering with hidden diamonds. There was a celebratory, thankful presence in the air, and guests were apt to admire this view. It was as if the Lord had taken it upon himself, in the midst of all his duties, to make this day special.
A laugh, mellow and rich, sang through the morning air. The groom had arrived, his tie slightly askew, his face naive and childlike. He was smiling, with his eyes full of limitless love. With a stumble, he ambled toward Elinor, the smile becoming more hopeful and profound. This was an example of the attractiveness of the bride: men felt themselves, sometimes against their will and common sense, attracted towards her; her smile held the promise of prosperity and happiness, and her melodious voice, liquid gold, enticed so many more.
This was not the first, thought Elinor, as the groom approached. For the first time, a shiver rang through her body, and her smile momentarily became wooden and fixed, her eyes distant and unseeing. Instead of the present groom, she was seeing another, with the same childish demeanour, and unfaltering loyalty; dear Gordon! A year ago, she had met Gordon Corey, quite by accident, at a conference. He had set his eyes upon her, and had not been able to remove them. While this action is familiar amongst other men, what had really set Gordon apart was his moderate wealth, worthy connections, and loyalty to his wife; though her love for him had never truly existed, with her facade soon crumbling into nothingness, his had never dwindled or faded. Even when he must have been aware what his love meant to her, he was still undying in his, unwilling to accept the truth of their relationship.
That made it easier for her to remove the control of his money, and entice him to reconsider the will he proposed leaving behind. “Really”, she could remember herself saying without qualm, “do you think it appropriate to leave the estate to those distant family relations, who had never attempted to connect with you, to appreciate you? Compare this to the wife who had held you high in her esteem, who had appreciated you for what you are worth, who can see you for who you truly are”. She had smiled then, a predatory smile, and her eyes gleamed dangerously. Gordon, however, had not noticed any of this.
Poor old, silly, bumbling, Gordon Corey. Really, it was a service that he had passed away a week before the marriage; he had not taken the news of the divorce well; the new marriage would have been unbearable, depressing. The true love he had for her, which was not returned in any shape, would have been brutally destroyed. Elinor had received a message from his sister, a week before, detailing the date and location of the funeral. It was a pathetic and rambling letter, the sister heaving with sobs, her handwriting irregular and disjointed. But, Gordon had nothing more of value to give, so…
The indulging smile returned to her face, her eyes refocusing on the man in front of her.
The traditional, brazen notes of “Canon in D major” rang out from the organ; the guests, as one, turned toward the couple. It was then that the usher approached Elinor.
“Mrs Dorbach, if you please, I have been sent a bouquet, from your late husband, for this occasion. I would like you to have it now.”
With some surprise, Elinor accepted the large bouquet; it comprised of a profusion of colours, that seemed to gleam with a polished beauty. She saw large, blooming tulips, amongst the anemone and amaryllis and, above all, the roses. By far, they were the most attractive; she found herself attracted, wordlessly, toward the largest of them, red and comforting, in the centre of the bouquet. It eclipsed the others, and was of a deep blood-red.
The paper holding the bouquet together crackled slightly, and Elinor shifted it towards her other hand. She had only then realised how heavy it was, along with Gordon’s appreciation of her; his love for her had not stopped, not even for death. It was not brittle, but warm and malleable. She suddenly found herself thinking of his blind affection, which she had eventually returned with coldness and distaste. But that didn’t matter, she told herself quickly. He’s already dead, and I am beginning a new relationship, with a new husband. It is not worthwhile to think of it.
The paper crackled again, and the weight of the bouquet suddenly seemed heavier and more daunting. The sounds of laughter and merry conversation began to seem unrealistic. It began to, slowly, fade into the background, repressed by a sudden draught of coldness from the past:
“Compare this to the wife who had held you high in her esteem, who had appreciated you for what you are worth, who can see you for who you truly are.”
Said not earnestly, nor truthfully, but for another, terrible, motive. Her eyes became unseeing, and she noticed, for the first time, a thin, pale sheet of paper lodged within the bouquet, missed by the usher’s eyes. It was in a familiar, sloped handwriting, black against white, almost profoundly so.
“They shall seek you tomorrow, and you shall not be”.
Elinor stared, uncomprehending, at the message, which she unconsciously had crumpled in her hand. How unlike Gordon! To think that he will be selfish enough to ruin her joy on this momentous day! Feeling a slight twinge of anger, she tore her eyes away from the remains of the note, and toward the bouquet once more. She suddenly hated it, and what it represented.
The usher approached her cautiously, sensing a change in atmosphere; the guests noticed this too, and stopped their conversations. The champagne stopped flowing, and curious faces were turned toward the bride. Elinor felt, briefly, a sense of dread. She felt a sudden desire to be somewhere, anywhere, else. Anywhere but here.
The bouquet suddenly tilted in her hands; the paper crackled more violently. It seemed the bride wanted to discard it; but, only the bride knew the truth.
There was something in the centre of the bouquet, hidden amongst the multitude of flowers. It was slowly, inevitably, working its way up.
The bouquet shook again and again; Elinor felt her hands begin to shake; blood drained from her face, and she uttered a low groan. But she could not bring herself to drop the bouquet.
The largest rose shook most of all. It was bending under the weight of the thing inside; she thought she could hear the tapping, quick and methodical, of many legs.
They shall seek you tomorrow…
Slowly, the thing came into view; she stared into herself, reflected in the bulbous eyes. Slowly, the spider, brownish and unearthly, emerged from the stem of the rose. Slowly, it clambered up the arm of the bride. It was unbearably large, the size of a plate. She felt the guests shout and exclaim, but it seemed distorted and distant. They cannot help me, she thought.
…and you shall not be.
The last thing she remembered was a stinging pain as the stinger pierced her arm.
*I have placed this here, because this would possibly serve to make some details of the plot explicit; this work is based on the brilliant tale of “The Ash Tree”, by M.R. James; some plot details are similar, and would undoubtedly strike a reminiscent chord amongst some readers. If you have found this story worthwhile, I recommend you to consider reading his works.