It was a fine, warm day in summer when the dove appeared. Suzie had been sitting by herself on a park bench, quietly reading, and then suddenly a flap of wings caught her notice. No sooner was the bird there then it flapped away, but left on Suzie’s lap was a torn-off piece of thick creamy parchment.
You are invited to a wedding, Winslow Forest Preserve, 5 o’clock today.
Well now, that was strange, wasn’t it? Suzie had never been invited to a wedding by bird, much less a wedding without a named bride and groom, or bride and bride or groom and groom or whatever combination of people was about to take vows. She made to crumble the thing up and toss it in the rubbish bin—but something stayed her hand. A curiosity? No, a compulsion. Now that she had read this note, she couldn’t put it out of her mind. She even tried using it as a bookmark and returning to her reading, but across her mind it would blip, over and over, You are invited to a wedding, Winslow Forest Preserve, 5 o’clock today.
“Well, this is silly,” Suzie told herself. “I’ll just go.” Five o’clock was only half an hour away and she sat, incidentally, in the manicured park that abutted the forest preserve. She wasn’t dressed for a wedding, in her stretchy black pants, blouse, and flats, but then, if her hosts wanted her dressed appropriately, they should have sent the message hours ago, and perhaps by e-mail.
Dog-earring her book, Suzie marched across the turf towards the forest path, oblivious to the other park-goers having their pleasures. The grass felt springy and light beneath her shoes, and she had the sudden urge to remove them, so she did. My, she was having strange fancies today. But the grass was lush as a carpet to her bare feet, and even the path, when she gained it, only a little gravelly and coarse.
She walked along into the forest. It was more luscious than she had ever seen it, thick green algae carpeting fallen logs, branches clustered close with shiny green leaves, wildflowers peeking up between the brambles. A heady scent soon had her feeling calm and comfortable, even as she diverted from the forest path and made her own way into the depths of the forest. Where was she going? Well, her feet seemed to know, so she followed them, even as the tiniest blip of a warning signal buzzed in her brain, alerting her that something strange was going on.
She lost her book somewhere in the process of climbing over a fallen tree. “Oh bother,” she said, but didn’t mind it much. It wasn’t a terribly compelling book, and she could always get another. She continued to scramble with bare feet and hands over fallen logs, through questionable patches of plants, until she seemed to be in quite an old part of the forest. The trees here scraped the sky and their girth could have accommodated a small car, and between them it was all lush thick foliage, fiddle ferns and other primordial plants. Suzie was just despairing of growing lost when she caught a glow out of the corner of her eye.
At last! The wedding! Suzie clamored towards the glow and found herself very suddenly in a clearing hung with fairy lights. Two sections of chairs had been fitted up for the guests, leaving a central aisle studded with wildflowers. A tinkling music lilted over the crowd from seemingly nowhere.
And what a crowd it was! There was a shirtless man with a faun’s legs; a woman adorned in rushes and reeds, dripping as though she had just emerged from a pond; a person with skin the color and texture of river rocks. And more, until Suzie realized she was staring and that she should take her seat; it was almost five o’clock, and the wedding would be beginning. She chose the left side, and sat primly next to a lady in a mouldering wedding gown. Well, now, that was a bit of a faux pas, wasn’t it? At least Suzie was wearing black.
Just as Suzie’s watch buzzed the hour against her wrist, the music crescendoed and floated into the familiar wedding march. When Suzie wasn’t paying attention, a man had appeared at the end of the aisle. He would have seemed ordinary, except for his pointed ears and unusual attire, a black suit that could have been comfortable in a museum, covered in cobwebs, and black lip stain that emphasized the pallor of his skin. He stood in wait next to a man with antlers who seemed to be playing the role of priest. My, what interesting costumes! Suzie wished she’d had advanced notice. She loved to play dress-up.
Then from the midst of the forest came the lady. She was radiant in a white gown studded with the palest pink flowers, roses and rhododendrons, whose train, when she reached the front, covered the length of the aisle. She too had pointed ears and creamy-pale skin that set off long strawberry blond tresses. Glittering dust gave her skin an intense luster that had Suzie blushing in her seat.
She and the cobweb man looked into each other’s eyes as though no other people existed in the world.
The man with the antlers announced, “My friends, we are gathered here today to witness the union of Celestine and Noxfern. May their blessings be many, their troubles few, and their table always full.”
The antlered man took from his pockets a length of scarf that he used to tie together the forearms of Celestine and Noxfern.
“May the gods grant legitimacy to their union and luck to their life!”
The guests clapped, so Suzie clapped too. She seemed to come back into her body; the wedding had transfixed her.
The antlered man beckoned with a hand. “Susan Price, please approach the front. Our special, our honored guest.”
Me? Suzie mouthed, and when the antlered man nodded, she quickly left her seat and tripped up to the front, where Celestine and Noxfern were smiling beatifically. The bride and groom bared sharp, pointed teeth.
Said the groom, “Ah, my dear, here has arrived our dinner.”
Then they lunged.