The Accidental Union
In a small town, the days slip by one after another. No music or children’s laughter, the place is as quiet as a morgue. The townspeople go about their daily lives. The smell of fish drifts through the air as well as a small blue butterfly. A tiny splash of color drifting around the black and white world of life.
It wanders through the open window of a young man preparing for one of the biggest days of his life. He notices it and manages a smile as it circles around him then goes back to it flying freely. For a moment he felt jealous of its freedom.
Today Will Graham, the son of a fish merchant was to have his wedding rehearsal with the daughter of an aristocrat. Despite the girl being his childhood friend he knew she didn’t love him. Nor did he feel that type of affection towards her anymore.
Marrying without love was something he had never hoped to do; his parents were a great example of what that could lead to. However because of his invert behavior his parents deemed it necessary to marry him off in order to climb up the aristocracy ladder. Will had tried to argue with his father that if they’d made some changes the business could grow without anyone’s help but of course they refused to listen to him.
Therefore there he was in his hand-me-down suit trying to adjust his curls so his mother wouldn’t nag him; she hated his beard enough as it was. Even though his vision wasn’t horrible he would wear his glasses when he was in uncomfortable situations. He adjusted them as he took one last look in the mirror, letting out a heavy sigh.
Outside he heard the trotting of a horse pulling a carriage followed by the shouts of his parents. “Will, let’s get going! We cannot be late for the wedding!” his mother screeched.
“To be perfectly clear it’s just the rehearsal, my dear.” His father corrected her.
“It’s a glorious day for the wedding rehearsal then! Hurry along Will! We’re going to be late!” she continued shouting as he could plainly hear her stepping into the old rickety carriage.
His father added “Assuming nothing bad happens that we don’t really know about…” before also stepping in.
Sighing one last time he made his way downstairs and joined them. Immediately when he sat across from them his mother gave him a once over and rolled her eyes. “We have to fix that hair of yours before the actual wedding!”
Will ignored her by staring out the window, despite it being day the town was so dull colored it looked to be night. Almost every wall was advertising their fish company yet no one in town really paid attention since they were so fixated on their dreary routine lives. Driving through the village he saw men butchering fish, while skillfully they displayed no emotion. Will thought to himself he would’ve rather been cleaning fish or better off fishing than having to deal with this scrutiny.
To add to the pressure he could hear the echoes of the morning announcements, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Twenty minutes till Graham and Bloom wedding rehearsal!” He had to visually picture a calming stream to hold in his anger.
Being the only son of a merchant, his personal business always ended up the gossip of the little community. It added to the reasons why he never liked to go out in public.
“Oh I do hope nothing unexpected happens today! Everything must go according to plan! Our son marries the daughter of our rich neighbor, our name is carried on, and we move up the society ladder!” his mother began fanning herself harder. “We can finally put our past behind us!”
His dad said “Everything will turn out fine I’m sure!”
“I wouldn’t bet on that…” Will murmured.
“Don’t mumble, Will! You’ll disturb the Blooms, we have to make a good impression!” his mother scowled, still fanning herself “We’ve hooked a good opportunity to move up into the higher societies! All we need to do is reel in the girl.” The smile on her face was no doubt from picturing the big dowry they would get from the marriage.
“My head is already reeling, mother. We shouldn’t be doing this; we’re fine where we are.” Will expressed but kept his head down.
“Now Will, we have discussed this countless times and already concluded this is what must be done! This union will help us and you can finally begin a family of your own.” His dad tapped his cane against Will’s hand-me-down shoes.
“Right! We’ll-! I mean you’ll benefit greatly my boy!” Will could read his mother so clearly, he knew what she really wanted to say was she was finally getting a better life than the life of a fish merchant’s wife.
Will rolled his eyes, cursing at himself for even trying to argue when his parents who never listened in the end. This whole marriage was for their sake, not his.
He sucked in a breath when he realized, by looking out the window, that they had arrived in front of the estate.
“Oh! Oh! We’re here! Let’s get on inside! Will, remember to stand straight! And speak up; we have to show the Blooms you’re a good catch!” Will’s mother was going on and on as they exited the carriage. Will tuned her out and did his best not to run away, he tried to turn back but his mother practically yanked him forward to the doors. She rang the doorbell and the giant doors opened to a deteriorating old mansion with high ceilings and a staircase with crafted railings but covered in dust. A butler greeted them and his parents walked ahead of him as he slowly kept his distance.
Descending from the staircase were the Blooms, looking uninterested as they neared the other old pair. The butler introduced each of them and right away Will’s father tried to suck up to them, they barely bat an eyelash when his mother smacked him with her fan. Keeping his eyes down Will still felt like all eyes were on him and he had to focus on staying calm.
Mrs. Bloom stated they would be taking tea in the west drawing room as she led them down the hall. His parents eagerly followed but Will took the opportunity to stay behind. He took a deep breath as he reveled in the silence.
He spotted a piano nearby and sat down on the bench, he stared at the large instrument. It was quite impressive unfortunately while Will would’ve liked to play it he never learned how. His mind was never patient enough to learn new things and he couldn’t keep his concentration in a crowd of people watching him. Still he ran his hands across the keys; they felt cool against his burning skin. He then looked around; searching for something he thought would be running around wagging its tail.
“She’s not here, Will.” A female voice said echoing from above. He quickly turned around as he saw Alana Bloom watching him at the top of the staircase. She was wearing a full length dark maroon dress with stripes that made her look thinner than she already was. Her long black hair was pinned up in a tight bun and her pale skin was cut by bright red lipstick.
He actually met her light blue eyes as he asked “Why not?”
She began walking down “Applesauce is at our maid’s house, as much as I would’ve liked to have kept her here for you…since I know well enough you prefer a dog’s company than a human’s, my parents insisted it wasn’t proper to have her bothering the guests. So, sorry to disappoint you.” Alana gave a small smile.
Will stood up when she reached the bottom and approached him “You make it sound like I like your dog more than you.”
“Because you do.” She immediately replied, “You’ve been like that since we were kids, caring more about feeding a hungry dog than your parents scolding.” Alana smiled “That’s a quality I always liked about you.”
Alana had always been very perceptive about everything and everyone she saw. While Will understood it made her all the more sympathetic he was still never comfortable being under her analyzing sea hued eyes. She realized early on this skill was why they couldn’t be a couple, she’d always be too curious about his mind.
Will’s lip curled into a half smile, “But could you put up with all my bad qualities for the rest of your life?” it came out a little more negative than he intended.
Alana didn’t lose her smile but tipped her head to the side “You’re still too harsh on yourself, Will.” He looked away, “I wish you would have some confidence.”
“You try living with my parents for 21 years.” He scoffed as he began to wrinkle his tie.
“Will, it’s because of the way your parents are like that you should try to become stronger. If you were, you wouldn’t be in this situation.” Alana tried to get him to meet her eyes again.
He sighed but smiled weakly “Alana…don’t you ever get tired of repeating the same advice to me? And of me never listening?”
She pursed her lips before smiling and grabbing his hand “True I get pissed off every time…but you’re my friend, Will. I’ll always worry about you.”
“Then as my friend Alana Bloom, I should be honest and tell you I don’t want to get married.” Will said satirically, his eyebrows and shoulders raised.
Alana went along with his joking “I’ll be sincere too Will, I feel the same.” Then she looked down at her hands when her tone suddenly got serious “Also I’m…already engaged.”
Now Will really was surprised “Oh?”
“Her name’s Margot…” she finally met his eyes.
“Oh!” he understood what Alana wasn’t saying out loud. “Why haven’t you said anything until now?”
This time she ran her fingers across the piano, hitting a few notes “We didn’t make it official until just recently, well actually it’ll never be seen as official…however it will be between us. Anyway I just haven’t found the opportunity to break it to my folks. We talked about possibly eloping…”
Will interrupted “Are you thinking of leaving me planted at the altar?” he really hoped she wasn’t considering it. It wasn’t the humiliation that would get to him but his parents never ending badgering for ruining their dreams of luxury.
She scowled at him “Now Will, how could you think I’d do that to you! I know how much you despise your pestering parents I wouldn’t cause you to suffer on my behalf.” Her features softened again “Just give me some time to give my folks the news. I promise I’ll tell them tonight, alright?”
Will sighed, trying to ease his nerves “Okay…”
“I do have a favor to ask of you though…” he looked at her suspiciously “Today just please go along with this engagement charade?” Will began to roll his eyes as he turned away “Please Will! Just get through this wedding rehearsal with me and that’ll be the end of it. As my friend, please do this favor for me?” she pleaded as she touched his shoulder.
When it came to his only friend he could never turn her down, he groaned but answered “Alright, alright…but I can’t promise things will go smoothly…” he warned.
She linked arms with him, “You’ll be fine.” Will mirrored her smile “And thank you.”
“Consider it an engagement present.” He joked.
“You cheapskate, I expect a real present too.” They both laughed as they headed towards the Bloom’s practice room.
“Master Graham, from the beginning…again!” an aggravated voice yelled. “With this hand, I will lift your sorrows. Your cup will never empty for I will be your wine. With this candle I will light your way in darkness, with this ring I ask you to be mine.” The minister Jack Crawford looked sternly at an equally frustrated Will.
For the last three hours they all had been stuck in the small room watching Will mess up his vows over and over again. Alana’s parents had grown bored and were nodding off while Will’s parents were constantly evaluating and nitpicking all of Will’s mistakes, not helping his growing nerves. Alana could see Will was practically in his own hell and tried to soothe him the best she could.
“Let’s try it again, shall we?” Jack instructed even though he rolled his eyes. Jack Crawford had known Will a good majority of his life, not only was he a minister but the head village police official. He knew everyone in town and was a force to be reckoned with, so once you got on his bad side you were on his list for life. Right now Will wasn’t fixing Jack’s impression that while Will was a smart young man he was horrible under pressure. All the while Will could read his exact thoughts as well as everyone else’s and felt like he was on fire. He seriously thought about dosing himself in wine and lighting himself with the burning candle in his hand.
He kept pushing on though “Alright…W…With this hand….” He raised a shaky and sweaty left hand as well as the other that held the candle.
“Right hand, Will.” Jack corrected.
Will winced and fixed his mistake, never looking Jack or anyone in the eye. “Sorry…With…With this hand I will…” he took Alana’s hand and they began taking the steps to the pretend altar, “I-I will…!” because he wasn’t looking Will ended up bumping into the table, dropping his lit candle and the cups filled with wine.
His mother screamed his name as his father rushed to help put out the candle fire; Jack closed his bible and proceeded to clean the wine. Will was frozen in place; he messed everything up just as he warned Alana he would and wished so much he could disappear. After they cleaned his mess, Will’s parents turned all their attention to him and began to yell about what a clumsy fool he was. Will felt them crowd on him, their judging stares piercing into him, and began to feel claustrophobic. Somewhere in their scowling Jack also joined in by recommending strongly he needed to learn his vows.
Finally Will had enough and stormed out of the room, slamming the doors behind him.
He heard the shouting of his parents and Alana but ignored them all as he began sprinting away. Will ran and ran until he could no longer see anyone or any buildings, far out when he reached the old stone bridge leading to the woodlands.
The sun had set and the moon was soon climbing to fill its place, its first last rays of light started to come from behind the ever cloudy sky. Even when the sun shined bright on a nice day the town still looked grey and grim, much like at the moment. At night it was a somewhat better overview. Will placed his hands on the cold stones and began to take deep breaths. He reveled in the silence, finally calming down and his head quieting.
“That couldn’t have gone better…” he ridiculed himself. “Alana must be upset with me…I warned her this could’ve happened…!” he clenched his hands.
(No…this was all my fault…I just couldn’t keep it together…) he frowned at his reflection then was startled by the yelling of the town crier.
“Hear ye! Hear ye! Graham and Bloom wedding rehearsal ended in calamity! Fishy fiancee could end up canned!” he announced the headline while ringing his annoying bell. Will felt like the man only said the last line because he met his eyes and no doubt recognized him.
He grimaced as he turned away from the town and proceeded to the woods. There was soft light touching the tops of the trees but the snow below gave off its own glow. Will felt the chill of the air and had shoved his hands in his coat when he felt something in the right pocket. He brought it out and it was a ring.
It was the ring he was supposed to have used at the rehearsal that he never got the chance to. His father had given it to him in preparation of today, his father claiming it might not have been anything extravagant for the Bloom’s taste but it filled its purpose. Will actually found the ring pretty, though it was simple it had a nice shine. He stared at it now almost feeling sorry for the tiny object that it would never be used properly. It’d either wind back in his father’s dusty storage or sold for what little money his mother could get for it.
Still walking beyond the trees he thought aloud “Even if it weren’t for this farce I don’t see why I should know the vows…I have no use for them…even if they are…beautiful.” He looked one more time at the ring then placed it back into his pocket, “I highly doubt I’ll ever actually recite them to anyone-” he stops when he notices movement between the tall slender trees.
He stays perfectly still and listens carefully.
Will sees antlers coming out of the darkness. A magnificent stag huffs cold air then stares when it spots Will. Every part of it was black and had a blue hue when the moonlight hit its fur, its eyes were dark and they showed no fear. Will smiles at the creature as it retreated back into its habitat.
Will went back to his monologue as he continued walking on autopilot, “Alana needs to tell her parents the truth soon, then I’ll just have to deal with my parents and not this extra stress. Maybe I’ll even get them to rethink the business structure too!” he scoffed at his sarcasm “Hmph…Right. Like that’ll be their first priority. I must quite the wishful thinker huh?” he asked a nearby crow sitting on a bare tree limb, who only cocked his head at him. “I’m certain right now they’re not looking for a potential backup engagement after this little fiasco.” He said acidly, “The least they’ve could’ve done was let me find someone on my own…I’ll just scroll down my list of friends and acquaintances!” he pretended to be flipping through a book.
He rubbed his face as he let out a soft sob.
From long ago, Will had never been the social type. He hated all the parties his parents would host and even when a few guests would come over. All day he’d stay locked up in his room to avoid them, reading and busying his mind. Anything but to have to face a stranger and have them look at him oddly.
Since he was a child he was seen as peculiar. He’d spend more time at his father’s workplace then playing with the school children, even as a teenager he’d rather be fishing in solitude than the dances. When someone tried to get close they’d always eventually become uncomfortable when Will talked about his personal problems. Alana who he knew since he was younger had always had a curiosity about him and although she was a friend he knew she’d never truly understand him. Therefore he preferred to stay alone then have someone abandon him. The loneliness didn’t help him in the end.
In the silence he’d be tormented by things other than the mocking stares and gossip from the townspeople.
Will had nightmares.
Not just your typical nightmares…but real horrific scenes that made any adult have a look of revulsion when he described them.
His mother about had a meltdown at the magnitude of humiliation she would have if her son were to be classified as ‘special’ or ‘insane’. His father more than once aggressively tried to discipline his fear away but all it did was cause him to close up. After many, many talks with doctors and psychiatrists, all done in the utmost secrecy, he was dismissed simply as having an active imagination.
Growing up he learned how to better hide his emotions. However the nightmares were still around, even at his current age but now he kept quiet about them. His visions, hallucinations, and feelings he kept bottled up the best he could. Though sometimes he felt like his mind was melting.
Deep down inside he sometimes wished he could talk to someone other than a medical professional. Someone who he could confide in and wouldn’t make him criticize his existence. Of all the impossibilities, finding that someone seemed like the most difficult. A friend was about as likely to happen to him as reciting the marriage vows.
(The day I find someone who can understand me will be the day I get married and say those vows without problem…) he thought then stopped walking as he argued with himself “Well…they really aren’t that difficult…it’s just a few simple vows.”
Will was now in a small circular clearing, one giant twisted old tree was at the center and the moon was at its highest point now.
Still Will hadn’t noticed the rising fog or silence of the forest as he took a big breath “How did they go again…? Ah…!”
He lifted his right hand, “With this hand, I will lift your sorrows. Your cup will never empty for I will be your wine.” He raised an invisible cup to the moon then looked around as he snapped a piece of twig and mimicked lighting a candle “With this candle, I will light your way in darkness. With this ring…” he took out the gold band.
“I ask you…to be mine.” He slid it on a branch where it fit perfectly into place.
Will felt accomplished for a brief moment then felt a sudden gush of wind.
Leaves floated above him and not only had he seen the eerie mist but the vast number of crows surrounding him all along the trees. They all seemed to be watching him closely, that’s when Will heard a rumble.
Something sounded like it was snapping and rocks were being moved, he panicked looking everywhere for signs of someone being near.
He was alone like he’d been the whole time…then screamed when something grabbed his arm.
The branch Will had placed his ring on gripped onto him like a snake and looking closely at it now it resembled a hand. Whatever it was it dragged him forward toward the ground. The force was strong as iron but Will struggled to break free. He pulled with all his might and fell backward when he came loose, but the arm came with him.
He stared in shock at it then shook it off him however he didn’t have time to think when another arm broke from the ground and clawed at the frozen soil.
The ground continued to break apart and lowly quaked as something struggled to break free.
Then bursting and slowly rising from below was a body.
Moonlight highlighted its terrifying outline, Will never once blinking or taking his eyes off it.
The figure of a man arose as Will watched in pure horror.
A cloth had been covering its face and with a skeleton hand it pulled it off as a chilling voice answered “I do.”
Will now saw the man’s face and instinctively tried to get away.
He was crawling on the ground at first before standing up and running.
His clothes had ripped in some parts and his breath was fogging his glasses so he threw them away, not caring about anything other than getting away. Will dared to look behind him and saw the corpse’s shape following closely behind.
While crossing a small lake he lost his footing and fell forward. He bumped his head against a stone but ignored the pain as he realized he was smack in the middle of a graveyard.
When he looked up the dead man was still coming towards him so he scrambled back to his feet and continued running as fast as he could. Not thinking if he was going in the right direction or not, only to get away from this nightmare come to life.
The bitter cold air burned his lungs and the pain on his head was increasing, causing his vision to get a little blurry. Still he ran until he saw the opening in the woods.
To his sweet relief he saw the stone bridge and finally stopped, looking back to the forest to see if he was still being chased.
He saw nothing for the next few minutes and heard nothing but his heavy breathing.
Believing it was finally over he started to turn around to head back to town.
The apparition stopped him in his tracks.
A scream was at his lips but refused to come out as the undead man approached him. The crows were flying around them.
The moonlight revealed the tall man’s high cheekbones, slightly disheveled silvery blonde locks, thin lips, sanguine eyes, and blue rotting flesh.
He put one skeleton hand on Will’s shaking shoulder while the normal hand caressed his sweaty face, in his ghostly voice the corpse whispered “You may kiss…the bride.”
Everything began to get fuzzy as Will was frozen in place. Will was furiously trembling and his eyes no doubt were bulging out of his head, his breath hitching in his throat as a pair of icy lips connected with his.
The world turned to darkness...
To be Continued...