This story is based on an idea taken from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride film, which is due to come out in September or October, depending on where you live – check out for the truly spine-tingling trailer. It features the voice talents of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter and Emily Watson, as well as Christopher Lee. Though I haven't actually seen the film yet, I have a fair idea of the plot and what happens in the film. So I won't be able to rip off the script without knowing it. Which is kind of a relief.
My story will echo the main plot of the film – with a few changes of course. Instead of the character Victor, I will have Christine – and the other characters will change around her accordingly.
He had lost a lot of blood, this he knew. He clasped his hand to his side, trying in a last ditch effort to stop the flow, but he knew that it was too late for that – staunching the wound would not replace the valuable liquid of life.
He was scrambling over tree roots, ducking under branches, trying desperately to run faster, faster; away from those who were chasing him; away from those whom he could hear swarming through the forest behind him. He knew that if they caught him, they would certainly kill him. But he also knew that he was dying anyway – the wound was too deep, and he had lost too much blood. It was simply a matter of time before death claimed him either way – but then, it was simply a matter of time before death claimed anyone. The thought managed to bring a small smile to his face.
The smile at once disappeared, as another stab of pain from his side ricocheted through him. It wouldn't be long now…but he was damned if he was going to let Philippe's goons catch him before that.
Philippe! He gritted his teeth, and not only against the pain. How could he? How could he do this? After all he had done for him, al the help he had given him, the times they had shared, the companionship; to allow these louts to wound him, to hunt him down as if he was some sort of animal! On the way to his wedding! His wedding! The very wedding that he, Philippe, had arranged. Why? Why would he do this?
He didn't know the answer to that question; and he didn't want to know either; the ramblings of the man's mind no longer intrigued him. All he could feel now was rage, and pain, and pity, but not for himself…pity for the bride that he had never even gotten a glimpse of; pity for the poor girl who was most likely still waiting for the groom she had never met to lead her to the altar; pity for she who had been pushed into the marriage and, as soon as the news came that her would-be-husband was dead, would be pushed into another marriage exactly like this one had been arranged.
It was the same sad story wherever you went; women were regarded as mere objects; things to be traded and used and disposed of at the will of men. If he had been allowed to marry her, if she had become his wife, perhaps he would have been able to show her how he thought differently…perhaps she might even have been able to see past his outer skin, into his heart…
But too late for that now, much too late. He was not on his way to a wedding, to meet his bride; he was fleeing, with a sword wound in his side, and his enemies close on his scent, and he must run until he dropped.
Even as he thought that, he was stumbling across a clearing, his feet catching on the stones and rocks, seeking the safety of the trees at the other end of it. If he could just reach them, he might stand a chance of being able to hide from them, and their clubs, and their swords…
Abruptly his foot caught on something; he slipped and fell, hard, to the ground, the impact knocking all the breath out of him. He landed on a sort of bank, just under the bole of a tree, and slid down, rolling over in the process, so that he was on his back, gazing up at the late evening sunlight peeking between the green leaves of the trees. It was quietly pretty, and he felt oddly pleased that even though there was horror and blood down below, the canopy of the forest was still as beautiful as ever.
Perhaps that is heaven…
He managed to look up, to see what it was that had caused him to trip over – and had to chuckle. Oh, how appropriate. A convenient tombstone, in a convenient grave yard, right in the middle of the forest. It was almost ironic. He would have laughed, if he had had any more breath. He doubted he himself would get buried in a grave with a tombstone – more likely thrown onto a bonfire – but the macabre setting was almost reassuring, in some way.
He knew he would never get up again. He didn't have the strength; he could feel it flowing out of him, along with the blood which even now was saturating the earth of the bank upon which he was lying. He wouldn't even be able to defend himself against any further attack. All he could do was lie here, and wait for death to come. It wouldn't be long now…
But perhaps not long enough. Already he could hear the shouts of his pursuers, the cracking of twigs and branches under their booted feet, as they came nearer. They carried anger and loathing in their hearts, and death in their hands. He almost welcomed death now – it had to be better than this pain, and the dreadful tiredness that was flooding him – but he would not let the men be the ones to administer it to him. He would cheat them yet.
He glared up at the beautiful canopy above him.
If I must die, then let it be now.
And, as if some unseen force had heard his wish, he suddenly knew that he was dead. It crept over him quite slowly at first – why was he no longer feeling cold? Had the natural pain killer in his body kicked in, and blotted out the pain? – but suddenly it filled him in a great rush; his heart no longer beat, however weakly, within his chest; his lungs were no longer able to draw in great, rattling breaths. He was dead. He did not know how he knew, but know he did. He was dead.
The part of him that was still able to smile beamed. They had not beaten him in the end; he had beaten them! He had cheated them of their triumph!
The trouble was that, although his body was dead, his brain didn't seem to have caught up with the idea yet, so he was still able to watch one of his pursuers come crashing out of the undergrowth on the opposite side of the clearing. The man checked at the sight of him.
"I don't think we'll need to look any further, you lot," he said quietly, walking forward, between the gravestones. "He's here."
In a few moments the clearing was filled with men, some walking purposefully towards him, others holding back, with expressions of disgust on their faces.
"Is he dead?" one of the latter asked, not willing to come to check.
The first man, who had by now reached him, snorted. "Well, he's lying still, he's not breathing, he appears to have lost a great deal of blood, and he's not looking all that well. I'd say he's dead, wouldn't you?"
"Hard to tell with a face like that," the second man said, shuddering. "That sort of thing you could imagine to be already dead anyway."
He knew that when he was alive, he would have probably strangled the man for his insolence; but now that he was no longer able to, since he no longer had control of his body, the anger he might have otherwise felt did not come. He reasoned that this must be a part of being dead.
"A pity," another man went on. "I'd have liked to do for him myself."
The second man scoffed. "Oh, yeah? I bet you wouldn't be so keen to say that if he," he jerked his head towards his prone form, "was still with us. Strong enough to take out Piers, Gaveston and Gerarde, as well as Claude and the boss, and run at least three miles on a side wound? I'd like to see you try to polish him off on your own."
"Well, what are we going to do now?" asked another man, who had come closer, but not close enough to examine the body acutely. "We've done what we were sent to do. He's dead. What now?"
"Yeah," chimed in another man. "Do we leave him here, or take him back to show the boss, or what?"
As one, the men looked up at the canopy. Night was falling swiftly; already the first stars could be seen in the now faint blue sky.
The dubious man was the first to speak. "I don't know about you lot, but I for one am not going back in the dark dragging that behind us. I mean, it was bad enough when he was alive, but now…" he shuddered.
"I dunno," another man chimed in. "Now he's dead, it seems more – you know – natural. Don't look quite so fright-some."
"Speak for yourself. Anyway, don't you think we'll attract a bit of attention, dragging a corpse along behind us?"
It was, in an odd way, fascinating to lie still and watch the men argue about how best to deal with his body. If he was alive, he knew he would have been furious, but as it was, since he no longer really had any part of his body to be furious with, all he could do was lie still in his now useless shell, and witness the debate.
"Well, we can't just leave him here. You know that if you don't bury someone properly, their ghost comes back and haunts you."
"Stephan, we murdered him. I should think that if his ghost comes back at all, it'll be because of that, and not because we failed to observe the burial rites."
"But there doesn't seem to be anything else we can do. All right; we'll bury him here, and take something of his back, to show the boss he's dead."
He froze inside his dead body. Not the mask. Not that. Not the ultimate humiliation…
"No," came the voice of the first man, who remained silent throughout most of this. "That'll be just adding insult to injury. Leave the mask, and take something else."
There was a pause. "The ring. He said he wanted the ring."
He remembered the wedding band, which he had slipped onto his finger for safe keeping – he didn't trust anyone else with it. It was too precious to him then…but not now. Not that there was no more use for it…
"The ring it is then." A hand came forward, and grasping the ring pulled it off his finger with some difficulty – the stiffness of rigor mortis was already setting in.
"Right, so we'll bury him here."
They at once attacked the ground beneath him, eager to get the job done so that they could leave before nightfall came. Brave and strong they may be, but even they feared what might happen after the sun disappeared, the moon came up, and the forest became a whole new world of darkness.
As he sank slowly into the earth, at the same time he became aware of the faint light of the moon rising. It seemed to him so beautiful. He cherished it all the more, because it was the last time he would ever see it. It was as if it were bidding him farewell…
The earth rained down upon his unmasked part of his face, but he could not feel it. He was hardly even aware of it now. His brain seemed to be catching up with his body, and consequently shutting down. He did not really mind. He no longer felt angry at his death. He no longer even felt angry at the betrayal of his closest friend. All he felt was regret, that now he would never know what it was like to have the chance to love; never have a chance to use the wedding ring which the first man, standing back to supervise the job, now cupped reverently in his hand.
And I never even got to see my bride…
The darkness closed over him. He knew no more.
Now, review, please!