The Bride's Story
The Lich sat in its little dark corner, playing with bones. It had a large collection: Viking, dragon, merchant, apothecary, CEO, pop star, and it kept them all in its teacup. It shook the bones and tossed them, feverishly trying to divine the future from them. The bones were normally so clear, but right then they were confused. They couldn’t agree. The only constant in every telling of the bones was something that the Lich didn’t kneed the bones to know. He could smell it.
Destruction was coming.
Excited, the Lich scooped the bones up again.
The world Below was darker.
Most of the stars had been snuffed out. In the gloom, Margo could make out that she was (thankfully) alone. The stone angel loomed over her.
Take the mirror.
She did. She laid it down at the angel’s feet reverently. She didn’t know what was going to happen, but she had an idea. The angel was the Bridge, after all, and the Bridge was the place memories went.
And, sometimes, the place girls went too.
Margo entered the memory again. It was a familiar feeling. But this time the memory wasn’t hers.
It was the Bride’s.
That was what she saw first. An explosion of them in the trees on the other side of a big window. There were big windows all around her – stained, old, beautiful - and there were floorboards beneath her. She was in a little church. And she wasn’t alone.
The pews behind her were full of people she didn’t know. They weren’t even from her lifetime. They whispered or stared sternly forward, tried to shush babies and fix their sons’ unruly ties. One thing they were not doing was looking at Margo. They looked through her. They were just memories, and Margo was just a ghost in their world.
The organ began to play.
Margo knew who would be walking down the aisle.
The Light Bride (but she wasn’t Light then, or Dark, she was just a bride) stood in the last dress she’d ever wear. Margo could make out the echoes of running mascara around her eyes. It made her look a little like a raccoon. She was beautiful.
She was walking toward a man beside the altar who wore a painfully ill-fitting suit, but had the biggest silliest smile Margo had ever seen. He looked like the kind of man that women like the Light Bride were meant to be with.
The Light Bride got to the altar (with her flower girl only falling over twice) and returned her husband-to-be’s silly smile (with only two aghast glances at his suit). Her lips moved as if she was going to say something, but then the church doors opened.
The people on the pews turned to glare at the latecomer. It took even the most observant of them a moment to realize something was wrong. By the time James Bale was striding down the aisle, revolver raised, it was too late.
No one even screamed. It was that quick.
“I’m not a bad man,” was all Bale said, tears shining in his eyes. The gunshot was almost hard to hear through the organ music. So was the thud as the Light Bride hit the floor.
Then the screaming began.
The memory began to shift. The colours faded. It wasn’t the memory of a living person anymore. These were things the Light Bride had seen as a ghost.
The church vanished. Now Margo stood in a large garden as cold black rain fell around her. It was Whitechapel, but the fence that separated it from the park was not there. Instead, trees just extended off into the shadows.
There were shouts in the trees. Footsteps. People were running in the distance. Chasing someone.
The someone ran down Whitechapel’s long yard, jumping hedges, skirting around statues. He knew the way. He ran right through Margo, and Margo recognized him by the smell of expensive cigarettes that clung to him.
Bale ran like a man who didn’t know he was going to die. He slipped on the wet ground, falling hard, but scrambled up again.
The memory changed again. Now Bale – in the same clothes, but wetter and dirtier and bloodier – stood surrounded by a circle of people. They were angry. They shouted things. Margo could only make out a few of them; “It was your baby!” and “Kill ‘im!”
Bale didn’t seem to hear it. He was babbling, repeating the same thing over and over, a mantra that fell on deaf, or perhaps just uncaring, ears.
“I loved her. I loved her. I loved her. And she left me.”
The words broke off, and turned into a sob that tore at him. He looked mad, and he was. He started to whisper. Margo caught only some of it. That he was sorry, that he wasn’t trying to hurt her, that Nora was a liar, a slut, that she’d left him, that it wasn’t his baby.
Eventually the whispers became pleading.
Eventually one of the people brought out the rope.
As one end of the rope was thrown over a branch, the memory ended. Margo found herself back in the present. What a cold and hurtful place that was.
The Dark Twins could feel Margo. A human entering Below had the same affect as a drop of blood falling into a sharky patch of ocean. They began coiling through the shadows toward her, hungry. They had every intention of destroying her.
They didn’t know, though, that Margo shared their intentions.
Margo waited at the tree. She didn’t wait long.
Being a Dark ghost had its disadvantages. For all their power, the Dark Twins lacked humility. They didn’t think they had anything to fear from a living girl (neither did Margo, but she tried to keep that from showing on her face).
That was why they appeared, quite gleefully, at the edge of the trees.
They looked more feral, and more dangerous, than ever. Their clothes and hair were wild, their eyes barely more than slits. Bale’s power had obviously seeped into them too, but how deep that power ran – and what it was capable of – Margo didn’t know.
“Look at you,” said one of the Dark Twins with a giggle. “Standing under the tree like a true spirit hunter.”
“We’ve faced champions before,” said a Dark Twin, picking at something caught in the needles that served as her teeth. “Don’t like the taste of champion.”
The other Dark Twin threw back her head and laughed.
“And what does the world of mortals send their champion to fight with? A
“And a knife,” said Margo, trying to keep her voice steady.
Margo could almost see the shadow of doubt passing over the Twins’ face.
“Maybe, maybe,” said one of the Dark Twins. “Not a weapon made for people though. Do you even know how to use it?”
“It doesn’t matter, really, because you’re going to die down here anyway,” said a Dark Twin. “Because its evolution. Living people are biologically inferior to ghosts. They’re going to perish, and the dead are going to take over. That’s just survival of the fittest. And in this case, the fittest are going to slit your throat.”
“I don’t want to fight you,” Margo said.
Now the laughter was raucous. “You don’t want to fight us? Thank you for your mercy, Amazon. Unfortunately, we’re quite keen to fight you.”
“Quite keen,” echoed the other Twin.
The whole time, they’d been creeping closer.
“I’m not here to mess things up,” Margo said, “I’m not a spirit hunter. I just want to get Quint.”
“Young love,” sang a Twin.
“The nectar of the Hesperides.”
“I hate it.”
“Can’t stand it.”
“Do you know where he is?” said Margo.
“He’s at the house.”
“For now,” added the other sister.
“Think Bale’s torturing him too.”
“Flails, flaying, acid, thumb screws. Memories.”
“Thumb screws are very in at the moment.”
The Dark Twins’ grins were wide. They were toying with Margo, and Margo knew it. They relished pain. It was all they knew.
Margo glanced about. Night was falling fast. They were still alone, but she could hear some creature shambling through the distant bushes. She could see the house too, silhouetted against the moon. But between it and her were the Twins.
“You know something, Margo? We actually like you.”
“You’re the perfect prey,” agreed the other Dark Twin.
They slowly advanced. Margo took a step back; the bark of the tree pressed against her.
“You’re the perfect representation of everything that’s wrong with people.”
“It’s annoying when they fight back,” said a Twin, unfurling a hand full of claws.
“We won’t have that problem with you.”
“You’ll die quietly, I think.”
Margo took her chance. She lunged with the knife. Calmly, a Dark Twin swatted it away. The blade skittered across the floor.
“We warned you.”
“Its survival of the fittest.”
Margo’s mind scrambled. The knife had been her one hope. She couldn’t fight the Twins. They were faster and stronger and harder than her. She couldn’t reach the knife either: the Twins had stepped between her and it.
“Look what the champion of the mortals has to do fight with now,” giggled a Dark Twin, edging closer, “just a little trinket.”
Margo’s hands tightened around the mirror. She could see the Twins reflected in it, and she had an idea.
“Stay still while we rip you up.”
“You don’t want to do that,” said Margo.
A ghostly eyebrow arched. “No. We really do.”
“It’ll be noisy, ripping me up,” said Margo, “you said yourself, you hate noise.”
The claws got closer.
“But I’ll fight back. You know I will. I’ll waste your time. Bale won’t be happy.”
One of the Twins hesitated. “He’ll make an exception.”
“It’ll be so messy,” said Margo, her whole body throbbing with adrenaline, “blood and innards everywhere. Imagine what a rigmarole that’ll be for you? And what if you mess up and I escape? You’ve seen how angry Bale gets. You know what he’ll do with you.”
“We all know you’re going to kill me,” Margo said, thinking ‘Please work please work please work’, “So here’s what I suggest. Rather than rip me up - ”
“But we like ripping people up.”
“I know you do, but hear me out. Rather than waste all
that time and effort to tear me apart, make all that mess of me, why don’t you
just burn me?”
“Geistfire,” said a Twin, testing out the word.
“It’s brighter than the furnaces of Heliopolis,” said the other.
“Hotter than the River Styx.”
“Almost as caustic as Vapoursteel.”
“And it’ll leave no mess behind,” said Margo. “Just a few ashes. And there’s no chance of me surviving and escaping. And no chance of making Bale angry.”
“The girl’s right.”
The other Twin wasn’t so easily convinced. She stared at Margo for a long time. After a pregnant moment she said, “Fine. We burn the girl.”
Margo could see the delight in their eyes. The thought of burning intoxicated them, just as it had when they’d burnt their sister. They might have liked to rip things up, but incineration – incineration was an art.
The girls raised their palms.
Margo’s plan was working, but she had no idea what would happen next.
The fire came.
It was a little meteor, made of green and black flames. It came fast, and it came hard. The heat it threw off was so strong that the ground withered and turned black, and the flames roared as they moved through the air.
Not knowing what would come of it, Margo closed her eyes and raised the mirror.
She looked like a batter striking at a plutonium-enriched curve ball. The mirror and the Geistfire collided. The explosion lit up the garden.
Where the Geistfire struck the Light Bride’s mirror, it rebounded. The flames turned on their creators. The meteor hurtled in the opposite direction, just as fast, just as hard, but now it was headed for the Dark Twins.
Margo couldn’t open her eyes immediately, it was too bright. When she finally did, she was surrounded by smoke. The ground beneath them was no longer covered in grass: just soil and rock. The mirror was too hot to touch, and she dropped it. It was shattered and blackened and smoking, but so were the Twins.
They were a mess of energy, the ghosts. They lay, tangled and broken, Fading quickly, beneath the tree where the girls they’d once been had lost their lives so many decades before.
One of them made a gurgling noise that Margo assumed was meant to be speech. “H-h…h-how…”
“Survival of the fittest,” Margo said, picking up the Vapoursteel knife, and walking toward the house.
In the world Above, the Light Triplets felt a weigh lifted, a pain inside them eased. A nightmare that had been hovering over them finally cleared. The dark parts of them were gone, and they were at peace.