Friday, 3 February 2017

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

"It was the worst day of my life."
A church. God's house on Earth, amongst a million others. It was the only building in miles; New Mexico seemed vast to that purportedly divine shack. The sand was almost pink, pleasurable to the eye but treacherous to the touch. A wind had dragged a heap of the stuff onto the eroded boardwalk that sat outside the church. The dust had tortured the white walls for too long. Paint flecked away in ugly clusters, neglected till it decayed and trickled down between the planks.
The inside was bare, but for the barren pews. A chandelier hung from the vaulted roof; a strong breeze could knock it into one of the cantilevers and send a rivet of dust falling. There was an old lady- purple hair, curlers- who used to light it with a brass torch. She was dead now, buried beneath a mound of sand outside.
Centre of the church. She'd said there were three people in the church. One had fled. One had died. One had been arrested. The Sheriff had assumed a Bride, a Groom and a Vicar. He had been right and wrong.
The Bridge wasn't beautiful. They'd say she was but they were nostalgia tinged lies. She was a puritan, a 'stiff' as the cool kids had called her. She was offended by drinking and swearing and fun. The Groom loved her nonetheless. The Bridge was wearing a wedding gown bought from a charity shop in a town that was on the far horizon. It was too big but neither of them cared.
Meanwhile, the Groom wore the suit he wore every Sunday; black and ordered and dusty. It was completed, not by a tie but by a dog collar. The Sheriff had been right. A bride and a groom, but two of them were the same person.
The doors creaked, like a haunted house in one of those old movie pictures. A breeze entered. The chandelier hit a cantilever, trickling dust from the roof. The candle in the brass stand to the Bridge's side was extinguished. Then came the footsteps.
The floorboards creaked beneath the interloper's feet, like the pain gasps of a man with a foot on his chest.
"What are you doing here?" The Groom whispered, his face as white as his bride's dress.
"Did you think this would just end?" The interloper asked. His left leg dragged across the floor behind him. "Did you think you could just leave me to die?"
The Bridge raised her veil, straining her eyes at the interloper's disfigured face. It was a patchwork of scars, a collage of pain. She turned back to the Groom. "Johnny? Who is this man"
"Don't you recognise me, Beatrice?" The interloper demanded. "It's me. Ben."
"Ben?" She frowned. The Chaplin? But... he'd been a sinner, a monster. Johnny had kicked him out for that. She turned now to her Groom. "What's he on about?"
The Groom's face was as pale as the snow that never fell. "Beatrice, go to the vicarage."
"No!" Ben cried, his voice almost delusional. "Let her hear what a b*****d her dear fiancé is."
"I don't... I don't understand." Beatrice whispered.
"Your darling groom left me for dead." Ben screamed. "We were drinking, celebrating your engagement, he was lighting out smokes. Then he thought it would be funny to light my face. He made me crash my car! We veered off the road. He got out, stumbled away, left me to bleed out." He drew a glinting, silver revolver. "Let's see how you like bleeding to death."
The sun ran, an amber ooze, like yolk cracked from a cosmic egg. Huge sheets of an autumnal glow ran through the windows, glinting off the barrel of the revolver. The wind seemed to grow stronger, shaking the building, rattling the chandelier. The gun raised, higher, higher. She felt rage pass through her. She didn't know why she did it. She just did. Her hand leapt out, wrapped around the brass candle stand, heaved it towards her off the floor and planted it straight in Ben's head.
His body hit the floor with the force of a leviathan. The entire world seemed to splinter around it, the universe ending. Microwaves ceased to expand, blood ceased to flow. Life, as she knew it, was over.
And so Beatrice planted the candle stick into his head once more, bringing it down over and over again, until Ben's head was nothing more than a bone flecked jam. She didn't even realise it was happening until it was over. She dropped the stand into the expanding scarlet pool, her arms shaking, sweat soaking into her wedding dress, perforated by the red spray. She didn't start crying, she just turned and very quietly said, "Run."
"Beatrice?" Her groom said, his front silhouetted against the umber spewing.
"No." She said. "Run. I never want to see you again. You're the Devil. I will repent for your temptation."
He didn't say anything, just turned and left. There was no arguing with her when she'd made up her mind, just acceptance of her new state. He left, and the last she ever saw of him was his silhouette against the doorway. She was surprised there were no horns.

Keaton Duster, known as Dusty to his mates, had been a Sheriff for twenty years. When he'd started, he'd worn his belt on the sixth notch and worn the hat for shade. Now it hid his receding hair line and his belt had a new notch cut, before the first so that his expanded waste line could be accounted for. In all those twenty years of policing, he'd never seen anything that would go with him to his grave quite like the sight of the bride church.
By the time they reached her, the blood soaked into her dress had turned a crisped burgundy. Her hands were still shaking, the sleeves reddened by the slits she'd 'repented' into her arms. she was sat in the pool of Ben's blood, rocking back and forth, her train sticky, and her lips quivered over and over as she whispered, "This was meant to be the best day of my life."