On the day of the wedding Mari’s parents came hand in hand into my room.
“A wee tot of whisky before the ceremony?” asked Mari’s father.
“Steady the nerves,” said Mari’s mother, holding out a little tumbler filled with a dark amber liquid.
Feeling it would be rude to decline I took the tumbler from Mari’s mother and downed its contents in one. It burned at the back of my throat, and then in my chest, and then in the pit of my belly. I felt a potent rush to my head. The room seemed to tilt under my feet. I fell forward into the waiting arms of Mari’s parents.
My next recollection was coming slowly awake. I was laid flat out on a double bed, fully dressed in my wedding attire. I thought that perhaps I’d fainted from the effects of the whisky. There was a dull throbbing in my upper right leg. Had I fallen awkwardly onto it? I turned to see Mari lying beside me, seemingly asleep, resplendent in her white wedding dress and veil.
I looked up and found Mari’s friends and relations hemmed in tightly around the bed. They too were dressed in their wedding finery, flowery dresses, tailored suits and top hats, corsages pinned to buttonholes. Bizarrely every single one of them wore a surgical mask over their mouth and nose. Had there been some sort of accident?
“Lovely ceremony,” said one of the guests.
“The joining always makes me cry,” said another.
My pulse quickened. Was this where the weirdness set in? Was this something sordid? Did they expect a public consummation in full view of the entire family? Had I been drugged to make me more compliant? I couldn’t believe that Mari would go along with such a thing.
But then again she had grown up on the island.
Still groggy and light-headed I attempted to swing my legs around in order to scramble to my feet. Something yanked me back and held me in place. The pain in my upper leg intensified. I groaned in agony. Beside me Mari stirred and let out a small quivering sigh.
“Is it done?” she whispered.
“Yes,” said a voice.
“Is what done?” I yelled.
“You are both joined in holy matrimony.”
I looked for the owner of the voice and found the vicar, identifiable from her dog collar, face tightly wrapped in a surgical mask. She was cleaning silvery instruments with an antiseptic wipe – scissors and clamps and scalpels and such, and handing them to her husband, who was setting them out on a little tray.
I felt like the driver of a vehicle seconds away from an unavoidable head on collision. Only I had still had no real inkling of the horror that was hurtling in my direction.