“It’s not advisable to move too quickly till the stitches are fully healed,” warned the vicar. Her husband nodded in agreement. I followed their gazes down to where the side of my trousers and the side of Mari’s wedding dress had been sliced open. The mattress was stained with dark blood. There were splatters of it on the white lace of the dress. Between us sat a swollen pink mass, bruised and purple – held together by narrow black sutures. I pulled away and watched in horror as the fleshy mass became grotesquely taut.
We had been joined at the hip.
And I saw then what I had not noticed previously. What should have been staring me in the face from the very moment I set foot on Skera. I knew at last why the couples always stood so close to each other. They were all likewise physically conjoined – the husbands, the wives and the partners.
“Don’t worry,” said Uncle Hector. “The skin has enough elasticity built in to it to allow for your more intimate of moments.”
He turned and winked slyly at Uncle Dougal.
From the corner of my eye I saw Mari lift her veil and blush.
“Don’t you just love our wedding band?” she asked, reaching down to stroke the bruised hunk of flesh that bound us. I couldn’t believe that the wedding she had so longed for was some sort of monstrous surgical ceremony.
Love might blossom slowly but it sure as hell withers at a pace. I suddenly felt a hatred for her that was so palpable it was like a lump of something foul that had gotten stuck in my throat. “This crazy!” I yelled. “How could you want this?”
She seemed taken aback by my outrage.
“I love you,” she said and patted the swollen lump of sutured flesh. “This is a physical representation of the emotional bond between us.”
“You’re all crazy,” I yelled at the assembled guests. “Give me one of those scalpels!”
“That would not be advisable,” warned the vicar. “It is not just the flesh that has been united but also the muscle tissue and the main arteries. Any attempt at separation would be both murder and suicide.”
“Your hearts truly beat as one,” gushed Mari’s mother.
“Till death do us part, my darling,” said Mari and leaned across to kiss me on the cheek. “I knew you were the one – as soon as I found that our blood types were compatible.”
All around me champagne flutes were being charged.
“To the happy couple,” said Mari’s father.
“And let no man put asunder,” added the vicar.
The chinking of the glasses easily drowned my stifled cry of terror.