The Guest

… At last she had to accept the state of her handiwork and rose to put on her wedding dress. She went over to the armoire and slowly slipped the fragile lace over her head taking care not to rip the fabric. The dress was barely-there, decorated with hundreds of shimmering beads in spirals at her feet. She lifted the long ornate veil and stood in front of the armoire mirror. Lottie rushed behind to help her fix the veil in place. Out of the corner of Dawn’s eye, a small black shadow lunged in the mirror. Dawn spun round, crying out sharply; she had pricked her own finger with one of the pins and droplets of blood oozed out. She put her finger in her mouth and saw there was nothing where the shadow should have been. Her heart hammered under her breastbone as she allowed Lottie to help her fix the veil on her head with two diamond hairpieces.

Dawn glanced at her face in the mirror – her hollowed cheeks drained of colour and her eyes were flat shards of glass. She looked strangely unreal, not like herself, as though she was wearing a translucent grey mask over her face. She took a step back and gazed over the reflection of the two girls: she in ivory, Lottie in rose, standing behind with her hands resting on Dawn’s shoulders. An eerie feeling crept upon her skin. If it wasn’t for the difference in their dresses, they could be one and the same person, though Lottie radiated fully in bloom whilst Dawn was fading to ash. Lottie – unusually silent now – was biting her red lips, hands slightly shaking. Dawn felt heavy breath on the back of her neck and saw Lottie furrow her brow as she seemed to be concentrating. Dawn continued to stare at the two of them in the mirror. Her head pounded and her nostrils fought to find any air left in the room. Her rasping throat tightened as though it was being slowly but firmly squeezed. She sluggishly mused, ‘I can’t go. I’m too late now. I’m not ready and I can’t go like this. I will not be getting married today.’

Her legs felt unusually heavy and as she tried to move, it seemed as though her feet were stuck in blocks of cement. She tried to catch Lottie’s tourmaline eyes, but they were fixed downwards and her face was contorted. Dawn struggled to breathe as the mantra chanted again inside her head, or perhaps it came from the outside, ‘You will not be getting married today.’

(Extract taken from full story first published in ‘Curious Tales’, 2018)

Copyright 2018 Joon Haque. All rights reserved