Danielle hated her dress.
She hated the bows, hated the way the lace at the bottom hung down and got stuck on the buckles of her patent-leather shoes and hated the color, a pastel shade of yellow that made her feel like an Easter egg.
She didn’t understand why she had to get so fancied up for the wedding. The church was one thing, but after that she wanted to change into jeans and a t-shirt and didn’t think she should have to stay in the dress just to impress a bunch of people she didn’t even know.
“Are you almost ready in there sweetie?” Danielle’s mother bellowed from the other side of her bedroom door.
“Yeah Mom, just give me a sec.”
Danielle looked at herself in the mirror, scowling at her puffy sleeves and sighing as she grabbed the white gloves off her dresser and tucked them into the ribbon around her waist before heading out to join her mother in the living room.
All she had to do was wait for the music to change and then head down the aisle dropping flower petals in front of her sister Stacey. A trained monkey could do it, but to hear the wedding coordinator talk you’d think it required a PhD in physics. As the coordinator prattled on about pace and petal spacing, Danielle stared at the porcelain animals in her mother’s curio cabinet, envying the tiny hippos and giraffes who would never have to sit through a speech on the intricacies of putting one foot in front of the other.
She heard someone call her name and glanced over at her mother, expecting a scolding look and finding instead that her attention was firmly focused on the seating chart in her lap. The voice came again, louder this time, and Danielle got up and followed the sound around the corner and into her sister’s room.
“What do you think?” Stacey asked as she turned from the full-length mirror in front of her to face Danielle.
“It’s okay I guess.”
“No, it’s really pretty it’s just that….”
“I don’t get why we have to dress up. I mean it’s just a party, right?”
“It’s a very special party, a celebration.”
“Kind of, except without Santa.”
“Christmas without Santa?”
“I just meant that it’s exciting like that.”
“I’ll tell you what. You put up with the frilly clothes today and when Paul and I get back from our honeymoon we’ll take you to the zoo. Deal?”
“Can we see the new wolf enclosure?”
“Good. Now why don’t you go find Mom and see if she needs any help.”
The organist began to play the first strains of Pachelbel's “Canon in D” and Danielle looked over at her basket full of red and pink rose petals. She peered down the length of the long, white runner to where the groomsmen and bridesmaids stood on either side of the pulpit.
‘Just put one foot in front of the other,’ she thought, but when she went to move she found herself rooted to the spot.
The crowds of people filling the pews were beginning to stare now. She could see their faces in her peripheral vision and wanted to close her eyes, but she couldn’t. A cold, tingling sensation started in her big toe and worked its way up her body until it felt like every molecule inside her was humming. Suddenly a wave of dizziness washed over her and the last thing she felt were her knees buckling as the world went black.
At first there was nothing, but then slowly she began to hear a voice.
“…o…k….” the voice said.
“What?” Danielle replied, realizing that her own voice seemed to be coming from somewhere outside her body.
“Oh. Yeah, I’m okay; at least I think I am.”
“Where am I?”
“Tha butweeeen place.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It tha spot tween ware u wir an ware u goin.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere.”
“It nawt up ta u.”
“You were the one who called me before, weren’t you?”
“That muh job.”
“Won’t you just tell me how to get home?”
“It nawt up ta me eether.”
“What’s going to happen to me?”
“U watin ere for Big Cadu. It come an take u to da next place...tha after place.”
Danielle could sense the physical presence of something moving closer, though she still couldn’t see anything.
“Please...” she said, her voice quavering. “I just want to go back....”
“It guna b alrite, u…c….” the voice said. “It all b dun sooooon.”
Suddenly a shaft of light appeared at the edge of the inky abyss and Danielle felt herself being pulled upward. Her head pulsed and spun as the black began to fade around her.
“Danielle? Can you hear me honey?”
“Mom?” Danielle said weakly as her vision slowly returned to her. “What happened?”
“Everything’s alright sweetie; you just fainted.”
“...I have to...to spread the flower petals....” Danielle murmured.
“Don’t worry about that now honey. We’re gonna get you home.”
Danielle laid her head against her mother’s shoulder as she was lifted up and carried out to the car. On the ride home she drifted in and out of a kind of dizzy consciousness, but was aware enough to tell when she was being picked up and brought into the house.
There was something comforting about the creak of the wood steps as her mother brought her upstairs and tucked her into bed.
“You just rest now and I’ll be in to check on you in a little bit.”
Danielle nodded once in acknowledgement and watched as her mother exited, quietly shutting the door behind her. The room was still spinning and Danielle wanted to sleep so that it would stop, but every time she closed her eyes she heard the voice.
“Cadu waitin for u leetil wun....
U just come on over and evereethin guna be alrite…u…c....”
BIO: Peter fell into fiction by writing stories to amuse his grammar school classmates, which helped him overcome his shyness, but led to very few completed homework assignments. He has an abiding love of cheese in all its gloriously stinky forms, horror movies with a sense of humor and trashy punk and garage-rock. Peter was raised and currently resides in Chicago with his wife and cats. His writing has appeared in 'The Delinquent', 'Candlelight' and 'Black Words On White Paper'.