Eleven – The Bridal Party
Perveen sat, restless in anticipation, in her bed chamber opposing the ancient mirror, fissures streaking in charcoal-grey lightning veins behind glass that had seen neither a duster nor dishcloth in a century or more. At each of her shoulders stood a bridesmaid, the twins Amelia and Marie, stroking hairbrushes through either side of the vampire queen’s sleek, ebony mane. The maids’ soft, peachy cheeks suggested that they had been brought to this other side of the grave at an even earlier age than my bride-to-be.
Sparks crackled into the expectant air from her polished locks with every pass of the pearl-handled grooming brushes, they’d been being stroked for so long. In the mirror, two ghostly brushes were reflected gliding through the air, parting equidistantly from an invisible apex as they reached the long, downward tail of their descent.
The sadness of Perveen’s smile underlined the fact that she could not reflect upon her own beauty. Neither could the twins, yet they continued as they were bade, unquestioningly.
Their white lace togas covered only one half of their milky midriffs, draping diagonally from one shoulder, where they were secured with a ringlet of gold, down to the opposing hip like the curtains on the queen’s identical four poster bed to mine. Gilt laurel crowns were embedded deep into their golden curls and similar sparkling glitter twinkled in the naked candle light on their bare peaches of cheeks, streamlined shoulders and the solitary exposed breast, peeping over the hem of the flowing lace.
The queen looked at one twin and then the other, her eyes blackening, storm clouds brewing beyond them somewhere in another realm but reaching this parallel existence across some supernatural plain that only the blessed were allowed to traverse.
Without warning, the candle-flames started to dance in a hectic, voodoo rhythm to some far-off inaudible, drum beat, echoing across the plain, heralding the thunderheads, building, billowing beyond Perveen’s jet-black pupils. The maids flinched, uncertain of their footing for a moment as colour rose in Perveen’s cheeks. The queen’s head lurched, craned backwards, throat visibly pulsating, gulping down large pockets of the musty, wax-laden air of which her long dead organs could make no use.
A howl ululated deep from within the vampire queen’s being, or maybe originated from the same source as those threatening storm clouds. It was the unearthly wail of the banshee, amplified against the resonant walls of her throat, the candle-flame picking up on the screech that rocked the very airwaves. The brushes dropped from their hands as the maids tried in vain to protect their eardrums from the air-splitting cry.
The blood that had begun to trickle from Amelia’s ear as she had stood at Perveen’s right shoulder secreted its metallic aroma into the bouncing atmosphere. In a flash, the queen was up off her seat, behind the bridesmaid and had her mouth clamped around that very ear, tongue wrenching open the tiny orifice until Amelia was screaming in pain, the blood flowing ever faster yet unable to slake the vampire’s thirst. Marie’s teeth, sharp and pearly-white, bore with a hiss that belied her shocked immobility. She couldn’t decide whether to attempt to aid her fast-ailing twin or bolt for the door.
That decision was about to be made for her.