Twenty-four – Dressed for the Occasion
Tell me, have you ever seen those special effects in a late-60’s/early-70’s horror flick, where the image of crackling embers is superimposed onto a victim, usually a vampire as they’re treated to their first glimpse of sunshine since becoming Undead, to signify that they’re on fire? You know, the flames are there but you know that they’re not actually touching the actor/actress, it’s so obvious? Well that’s what happened to Perveen and I’s clothes as we tried to take in the scene in the wedding chamber.
One minute we were standing there in the grubby, silt-covered attire that we’d been wearing as we were sucked into The Well by the stream of Black Roses; the next moment they had turned to cinders before our very eyes at the hand of some unseen force – leaving neither trace nor sensation on the skin – and crumpled to thin, wiry piles around our feet.
We were naked. I mean completely.
If my body was something new to behold to the henchman, bridesmaid, bride-to-be, Billy and those smouldering skulls, that was nothing compared to the shock to the system it gave me, totally obliterating for a brief second the thought of my sister lying beneath the crisp, white sheet on the altar. I looked down and saw my body for the first time since becoming this fledgling vampire, marvelling at its leanness and physique.
Its colour and sheen was alabaster, the latter-day calcite form, not the matt of the ancients in Egypt, from head to toe; yet it shone as if it were a marble statue in The Tate Gallery that had been repeatedly dusted every day for millennia. Each and every sculpted muscle was pronounced, then undefined, then chiselled again in the sultry candlelight that seemed to lick each curve and sinew in appreciative lust.
I turned to Perveen, a crafty smile had crept onto her face and, oddly enough, intrigued me more than her own lithe, naked outline, yet to blossom into the true curvaceousness of a voluptuous woman – that treat robbed of her before her eighteenth birthday when she’d been brought over to this side of the grave – yet her athletic torso, pert breasts and streamlined legs did more than arouse my interest as my eyes wandered down from her cunning smile, drinking in every curve all the way to her toes.
Interrupting my train of thought – and it’s a good job, too – the henchman tugged at my arm, motioning me to start dressing into my wedding attire; Marie did the same to Perveen, covering up that magnificent body with a silk ivory dress that flowed like trickling water over her olive skin. Each and every delicate curve of her slender body was accentuated by the fluid material; well, the parts of her body that it actually touched.
From her left hip the dress swooped down across her thighs, the hem getting nowhere close to her right knee before it swooped back up and around her peach of a rear to re-join its starting point at the femoral head on the left thigh. It was reminiscent of an inverted calla lily, cascading in waves as it did; the skirt of the dress the tender petal, the solitary strap cutting a diagonal across Perveen’s delicately heaving bosom, no more than a silk sash of a drooping stem, if truth be told.
For I, the outfit was less daring, in coverage at least. A white see-through kaftan, laced in the fashion of a sailor’s tunic at the front adorned this newfound muscular chest and stone-coloured linen trousers, tight over my glutes but then fell away loosely covered my modesty, but again, one could have seen the outline of my legs and whatever else lay beneath the opaque material should they have had cause to look.
For the pair of us, jewel-encrusted Turkish slippers which sparkled with amber, rubies and diamonds, cushioned our feet in crushed velvet. I remember thinking that, at any moment, a flying carpet would come to whisk us away; but in our circumstance, I did not find the thought in the slightest amusing.
We moved forward as one up to the altar, resplendent in our ceremonial garments, awaiting Billy to finish his silent incantations. At my right shoulder stood the familiar henchman; immediately to my left, Perveen and beyond her, Marie. Between where we stood waiting and Billy on the other side of the altar lay the body beneath the sheet; now we were this close, we could see the breast slowly rising and falling, breathing as if the owner of those lungs – from this close, there was no denying that it was indeed my sister – was dreaming on some far away plateau. I hoped against hope that was true.
Billy’s muttering stopped, all tension from his muscles fled and he almost collapsed onto the table through what looked like exhaustion. What- or whoever he had summoned, his prayer was over; he shuffled around to join his henchman to my right and we waited for the nightmare to begin.