The Devil's Wedding is a short story based loosely on an actual wedding I attended.
Content Warnings: Alcohol.
The Devil's Wedding
A hundred eyes framed a man too ugly to have a woman so beautiful. She arrived and took his hand, and they stared into each other’s eyes and began a spell anew as she softened and smiled and convinced herself again that this was right and normal.
People of all creeds and denominations within were dressed scant or guarded, each unearthed of their office caves and crippling successes to behold something still holy amongst even the faithless. And within this swollen belly of haughty conglomeration, of people and emotions, a man too ugly had a woman too beautiful—had in his hands a symbol of loss and jealousy and hunger—and union.
When he said I do and she said I do and it was over, those in attendance were pushed on to something else, each of them like cattle, glossy-eyed and unfamiliar. Smiling, unhappy men and women stood behind short wooden bars and gave out plastic cups of wine and beer and liquor. People stood dignified and straight and were undermined by the telling crackle of plastic cups squeezed too tight.
There was a longing amid the audience. As liquor pervaded the civility, people demanded that the groom return. Where had he been? Some whispered that the bride and groom were taking photos in the golden light of the sunset, and each began casting long shadows, growing at a fingernail’s pace like the living earth. He returned when the sun set. So did she, but she was different then, forcing smiles for welcoming guests and it was like her light went out with the sun. Yet there was a flame from him.
The groom left his bride and thread through the crowd, stitching them together into something new behind bedazzled phones cast at the right angle, a photogenesis, each photo the beginning of something else. Days later, each would result in a show of human degradation. In review, someone would mention the keenness of his eyes in those photos as he was stuffed between red-nosed men and women. It’s like he wasn’t even drunk.
What started as a docile flame stoked into a roaring fire behind the bellows of the groom's sunken chest. His speech, of love and life and family and privilege—of luck—echoed through the rantings of drunken best men and honorable women. He revised their shrewd discourses and their embarrassments. The background music faded from a resonance of gently blown horns to the constant thumping of electronic dance music in the rhythm of their hearts; it was a sort of blatant perversion of the natural. It became impossible to align already scattered thoughts. Before pieces of a thought fit into another, a bassy thump rattled clarity from the shelf.
Props appeared as if by magic. Exaggerated trinkets meant for a different kind of celebration, like pink feathered boas and wide-brimmed cowboy hats. When items were donned in combination, Southern men became the same queens they condemned at the voting booth and in bakeries. Each of them put on masks except for the groom. Behind the masks and feathers and hats, behind the jeweled gloves and star-shaped sunglasses and fake golden teeth, behind the glitter and sweat and the growing human stench, they danced. Some grated and cooed while others spun in delirium.
The room seemed to move with the individual spinning, wheeling on a sinister axis. There was laughing between happiness and confusion and desperation. People fell from drunkenness or exhaustion, and they were lifted again and enveloped into the human swell. In the center of the pulsing mass stood the groom alone, circling and grabbing hands, casting people into others like loose neutrons. A blending and reblending resulted, changing the faces of the dancing crowd until they all became the same—full drunk and delusional. The same face. The groom donned his mask and smiled behind it.
The crowd thinned. People disappeared through doors and into a black country. The roar of massive engines thrust against the perpetual beating of music. The bride stood disillusioned near the bar while the groom waved his hands, and a meager people danced out of step. When service folk emerged at the ends of the room to shuffle aimlessly through smashed cups and pieces of things, the groom stopped them, and they left the place a mess. Beams of colored light shot back and forth and were cast upon those that remained, granting each a moment of quiet speculation, and they opened their arms to it, to the alien light, like it would lift their spirits from the confines of their bodies. Some fell to the ground in heaps as if they’d found success in that spiritual expulsion. Those that remained leaped over the mounting obstacles of skin and rubbish. Some stepped right atop it.
In the end, the reception hall resembled a landfill, burgeoned by decadence, but ornamented by tuxedoed and skirted bodies sprawled over the wet ground. Outside, the bride’s laughter resonated somewhere in a lightless distance, and occasionally a scant white twinkled amid the glowing eyes of desert beasts. Red and glaring brake lights of lifted trucks fluttered behind a midnight’s mist, and the truck cabins were abandoned, and the doors left open. Inside, the music had stopped, and the groom danced alone to the sound of crickets and night things, and he waved his arms and pitched looks at dark corners of the rooms, and the colored lights followed.
The smell became fire and ash. Timid, wild things crested bushy sanctuaries. They stood on the edge of the tall crops that surrounded the place, enticed by chaos, but they meandered away, fearful of the unnaturalness. Floored drunks muttered incoherent whispers from the dirt. Outside, with a fresh drink in hand, the groom repeated his speech, of love and life and family and privilege, and skipped the section about luck. The address came again and again in quiet whispers until the timbre met that of the sleep-talkers, and it was as if they all said the speech in unison—love, life, family, privilege.
As the groom stood outside, the power shut off inside, and everything he saw through the window wound to a halt in an immense and final mechanical breath. A string of unlit Christmas lights bowed from window to window outside, and the groom lit a cigarette with a zippo and stuck it to his lip. Truck engines rumbled on. Whining whispers bled into the passing breeze marring words and creating weird discordances. The groom's brown eyes narrowed behind the mask as he ashed a still glowing ember from the end of the cigarette, and it floated with the wind toward a dry, nearby field, and he smiled as it drifted on.