Authors: Nate Gubin
Tags: #Fiction & Literature
"Irregardless of the proper term, she cries a lot more than my other fiancées."
"There were others?" Hugh managed to moan.
"Oh yeah, long list of ladies. Problem was, they were all so focused on me; wanted to spend time with me; wanted to show me off to their friends and family. Then they'd get too close, find out things I didn't want them to know. Discover my plans, you know, my space plans. They had to be silenced."
"You killed them?"
Steve laughed. "Don't be silly. They all died in barefoot waterskiing accidents, freak barefoot waterskiing accidents. Turns out those four very attractive girls just didn't have what it took to walk on water." He looked off, thinking to himself, and murmured, "Yeah, they died by accident, they died real good."
He shook from his brief daydream and rocked the boat trailer back and forth on Hugh's remains. "Never had that problem with Lily. She keeps to herself. Hardly pays any attention to me at all. Which is good, good for the secrecy of my plans. No, she's not very nosy, she's usually too busy crying."
"She cries?" Hugh squeaked.
"Oh yeah, she cries all the time. She cries when she looks out the window, she cries when she ties her shoes. She cries when she's balled up hiding in a closet. Women are funny that way, aren't they, Hugh? The other day she was shopping online for curtains and out of nowhere, blubbering waterworks. She really loved you, probably still loves you, and man, that pisses me off."
He stamped the trailer wheels into Hugh with a another quick hop on the boat. "She's in love with a dead guy that never did anything. Never set any speed records, never saved any lives. She loves a loser. That might have made my self-esteem a little tender, if I wasn't the new God.
"She'll stop crying over you soon enough. Fifteen golden newborns pawing at her attractive regions; she won't have time for tears." He jumped down off the boat and adjusted his tux. "You're not going anywhere with three thousand pounds of Ski Nautique parked on you." He stooped over Hugh. "You realize in less than an hour she'll be all mine. All mine for eternity. Those soft curves, the attractive regions, all mine. None for you, loser." Laughing, he slapped Hugh across the face and then popped up straight.
Steve unhooked the boat trailer from the Bentley. "So it looks like you're not going to dissolve into magic powder and you're not going to die." He clapped his hands together. "It's going to be kind of weird dissecting a guy who keeps looking up at me. I guess I could always remove your head first and put it in a storage tote or a bucket ... but your arms and legs would keep moving around." He tilted his head, thinking. "I'm not sure how I feel about that."
He opened the car door and took one last look back at Hugh. "You'll have to excuse me, I have a wedding to attend. My wedding." He pulled the door shut with a luxurious thud and sped off toward the church.
Hugh tried to pull himself free but it was no use. He was stuck under a boat in the middle of the road. There was nothing to do now but wait for the inevitable end.
The bridal party stood at the altar while the organist flipped back to the first page of Pachelbel's Canon in D for the fifth time. Each time she started from the beginning, she pulled and twisted at the endless array of knobs and levers surrounding her, making the organ more ethereal-sounding. The delicate chimes lulled everyone, including Lily, into a dream. Lily stood motionless next to Reverend Lucky, holding her bridal bouquet like a samurai's katana, wishing she could plunge it into her gut and die.
The wind blew the front door of the church slightly open and everyone turned to look. Nothing. Everyone turned back around and checked their watches. George unbuttoned his coat and adjusted the handcuffs hanging from his belt. He looked across the aisle at Patricia and winked.
The groomsmen all had their mouths shut and their lips plumped. They thought it would be funny to wear novelty teeth, seeing that it was, practically speaking, a Halloween wedding. Dracula fangs, crooked hillbilly, gold pimp fronts. Lily got a quick sideways glimpse at the teeth and was about to shoot them a menacing look when she thought, maybe she was still in the dream. Nothing felt real. Maybe those weren't groomsmen, maybe they were monsters. The friends and family in attendance were memories lurking in her subconscious. A heavenly glow shined through the stained glass windows and she nodded to herself, weightless,
just a dream
A bridesmaid next to Gilda whispered through clenched lips, "How long should we wait?"
Gilda hissed, "As long as it takes."
The reapers circled the early morning sky, hunting for Hugh. Chuck, the one-armed reaper, rode in the middle of the pack. He managed to hold the reins with his armpit while wielding an extra-large sickle with his remaining hand.
Leroy steered Grisly out of the herd and into a grove of oaks along a country road. He didn't like to hunt with the pack. He preferred to lie in wait, perched quietly on a rooftop or a hillside. When his gentle prey wafted into view, he would pounce with a lightning crash.
Hugh lay motionless under the boat. He stared up at the morning sky. The first day of November was cloudless and blue, the kind of blue that stretched forever, probably stretched all the way over to California. He didn't want to look at it anymore. He closed his eyes and tried not to notice the smell of leaves burning or the brush of autumn winds across his face. He tried to focus on nothing, on blackness. All he could focus on was her.
Suddenly the boat began to move. As if by magic, the tire turned and released Hugh from his rut. He opened his eyes to see Morton impersonating a strongman, both hands pulling on the hitch.
"You're still here. Not as angry as when I saw you last." Morton looked down and offered him a hand up.
Hugh refused it. "What's the use?"
"You're just going to lie there and let them grab you?"
"Why fight it, I'm doomed."
Morton stood up and looked at the horizon. In the distance the swarm of reapers circled, slowly approaching. "Those are the guys they send for the dead?"
"Reapers. You can't run from them, they always get their man. They exist to hunt and kill and they really seem to enjoy it. They're pretty much the ultimate dicks."
Morton nodded. "Reapers, huh? They're the ones that took Ana from me."
"Yeah," Hugh said under his breath. He turned onto his side to watch his doom roll in. "I don't know what came over me. Jealousy I guess. I just wanted to be alive so bad I didn't care if other people got hurt, killed."
"You still have a little time." Morton offered his hand again.
"Time for what?"
"I don't know, a little time to pretend like you’re living, I guess. There's got to be something you still want to do."
Hugh nodded. "I know it’s wrong, but right before I crashed into the bus and died, all I wanted was to see Lily in her wedding dress."
"Church is right up the road. If we hurry you can peek in through the window while the service is still going."
Hugh nodded again. "I guess that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world." He grabbed Morton's hand and was hoisted to his feet.
Every bone in his body had been crushed. He lacked the skeletal structure to stand and move properly, so he inflated his skin bag of a shell with what was left of his spirit and flopped toward the church.
Steve flung through the doors of the church. "Sorry I'm late." A cheer and applause went up as he jogged to the altar, kicked off his flip-flops and laced up his wedding shoes. He looked up at Lily. "I will find some way to make this up to you, I swear." He popped to his feet. "I know, how about I let you marry me." He smiled and nodded to the Reverend, "Let's do this!"
Morton and Hugh were within fifty yards of the church. "Just a quick peek, then I'll go," Hugh said.
Morton searched the sky with a wary eye. "They just swoop down and grab you? Sounds scary as hell. Poor Ana, she hated surprises."
Hugh pointed at the ledge below the stained glass windows. "We can get a look from there. Then at least I can die hap—"
A sudden darkness engulfed them like a giant umbrella was just popped open above their heads. By the time Hugh looked up it was too late. Leroy had collared him with his massive leather hand. Grisly reared up, and claps of lightning from her front hooves sent Morton reeling.
Morton struggled to his feet, but all he could do was watch as Hugh was dragged, lifeless, into the air. Grisly's enormous wings stirred the leaves like autumnal confetti.
"No!" Morton shouted in a rage. Without thinking, he threw open the door to the church steeple and raced up the stairs. Quickly reaching the bell tower, he didn't hesitate but leapt from the platform with all his might and tackled Grisly's right wing.
Grisly fought to shake him off but Morton squeezed the wing in a bear hug, causing her to spiral out of control. Leroy drew his sickle but couldn't strike Morton without also hitting his precious pegasus. The tangled mess arched wildly into the sky above a neighboring hay field. Grisly swung her head back, trying to bite Morton off her wing. The harder she tried, the more her flying faltered.
They were losing altitude fast, and Leroy was worried about crashing. Pegasus crossbred from vampire bats are tough and vicious but they suffer from weak ankles. Something to do with bats hanging upside down translated into underdeveloped fetlocks in a pegasus. If Grisly shattered an ankle, Leroy would have to put her down. Worse, he'd have to hitch a ride with another reaper back to the Kingdom. He hated riding bitch on someone else's pegasus.
In a moment of desperation he let go of Hugh, dropping him several hundred feet to the farm below. With both hands free, he grabbed the horn of the saddle and reached out to slap Morton off the wing. With only fifteen feet between them and the ground, Morton was jettisoned into the tall hay.
Grisly got two and a half beats out of her wings before thundering all four hooves to the ground. It was barely enough to keep her from spraining her delicate ankles. Leroy dismounted and checked if she was okay. He held her reins and patted her cheek. "You okay there, girl?"
She bayed with a nod.
He led her through the hay field, giving her a brief rest as he searched for Hugh's carcass.
A devoutly religious farmer had watched the aerial battle from the front porch of his house. Why Satan had sent one of his minions on a hell beast to trample his hay was beyond him, but he wasn't going to sit idly by. He got behind the wheel of his John Deere class eight harvester, cranked “Onward Christian Soldiers” from the stereo and drove out to confront the dark sin. "Satan, I damn thee!" he yelled, as he threw the switches that started blades and choppers whirring in the harvester's jaws. The machine was made extraordinarily tough and powerful. It could devour a minivan, reducing it to the size of a hay bale in the time it took a decent God-fearing man to say “Praise the Lord.”
"Praise the Lord!" the farmer shouted as he punched the turbine button and headed into battle.
The wedding ceremony was in full swing. The Reverend had finally relented to George's demand that he somehow be included up at the altar. He was installed stage left in the pulpit, where it was his job to motion to the congregation when they should sit and stand. He took the opportunity to give a running commentary via rudimentary sign language to the crowd.
A college friend of Lily's sang “From This Moment On” by Shania Twain while wearing a pert strapless dress. From the pulpit George gave the a-okay and the thumbs-up with a wink.
While Steve's vows were several pages long (fourteen hundred words, to be precise), Lily's vows were rather short. She swapped her bouquet for a microphone and limply recited her lines to the room. "Steve, you came along at the right time. I had been through a lot and I was pretty sure I could never love someone again. But when the weeks stretched into months, you kind of grew on me and I realized I had to throw out my old idea of passionate, selfless, caring love and try to find a new definition. One based on companionship and ..." She whispered to Gilda, "Line?"
"Companionship, status and a level of sophisticated comfort and security that only a high-net-worth individual can provide," Gilda whispered under her breath from memory.
Leroy found Hugh crawling toward the church in the high grass. "Where do you think you're going?" He picked Hugh up and slung him across Grisly's croup.
"Please, just give me a few more minutes. Please," Hugh begged.
"That's some real fine groveling, dirt nap," Leroy smiled. "Keep that up and I'll go easy on you." He put one boot into a stirrup and got ready to mount.
Frenzied and wild, Morton crashed out of the hay and tackled Leroy's elevated leg. Morton, at only eighty inches tall, was a foot and a half shorter than Leroy but his angry passion more than made up for his lack of size.
"You took her from me, you bastard!" Morton yelled, and he wrestled Leroy to the ground. On their feet again, they exchanged blows, and when Leroy went for his sickle, Morton kicked him in the groin. While Leroy was doubled over, heaving, Morton kneed him in the face, causing him to stand back up. Then, using the information he had gathered from the first kick as to the precise whereabouts of Leroy's twig and berries, he commenced rapid toe kicks to the cronal region, switching each focused blow between Leroy’s left and right man fruits. Having spent so much time drunk on the streets, Morton had picked up a thing or two about fighting, dirtbag-style. Leroy grabbed Morton close and they crumbled back to the ground. The sickle flew out of his hand and splashed into the sea of grass, sinking deep into the hay.