Friday, August 10, 2012

Pallbearer: Wedding Dirge

Wedding Dirge

It has always struck me just how similar the wedding song and the funeral march are. Don’t worry too much about that to death ‘til us part bit; it won’t be that long until you’re both in the ground anyway. Some people say pomp and circumstance is like that too. I don’t know, never heard it. It wouldn’t surprise me though. Between stunted imaginations and the normal tongue-in-cheek crap, it’d be just about par.

I itched.

I don’t know that I wanted to know where Landon had found the uniform but it had been cleaned nicely. One of The Errata had even sewn a little patch for our new organization onto the chest pocket. It was cute and while the gesture was appreciated, I didn’t know if it was appropriate. I didn’t know if any of this was appropriate. Oh, it felt good, don’t get me wrong, but I had to wonder how wise it was to get married right now.

I shouldn’t doubt it. I was the one that suggested it. I shouldn’t doubt it.

I was still worried.

Landon was standing next to me on two of his arms while the third was wiping away non-existent tears from his face. He had been the most excited of all the Errata, Bellmaker included, to wallow in the personality his A.I. had created. Landon had wanted to be the ring bearer first. When he found out that we were both simply going to wear our rings to the altar and kiss extra, he was disappointed. Then, he wanted to control the music. He was disappointed there again when he found out we wanted a traditional funeral march.

Then again, no one seemed to understand that bit.

I could tell from the look on Grendel’s face as he walked Cassie up to the altar, he wasn’t approving of the ominous tune. He had cleaned up as best as an over-sized green monster can. Personally, I feel his looks were helped out enormously by having Cassie on his arm. She was radiant with her hair up and in an equally crisp and fresh uniform.

She had come up with the design, the name, all of it. It was refreshing to be working as a team again. After the ceremony, we’d be making our broadcast and The Errata would disperse with teams of Sleepers to begin clearing areas for farms and housing. The district was ours now, ours to shape as we saw fit.

It was the Phoenix District now. With the Corps ability to dump or reclaim waste ended, we became a commodity. In the four days since the West Worthington army had been smashed to pieces, over eight hundred new Errata had been crafted from the wreckage. Martin’s shadow selves had helped The Sleepers to harvest what meat they could from the bodies that had been left in chunks big enough to cook.

Grendel brought her up to my side and released her arm. He bowed, slightly, and his eyes met mine.

“Treat her right. Don’t make me break you.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it. I would hate to have to rip your other arm off.”

Grendel nodded and took his seat in the front next to Martin. Then again, everyone was sitting to Martin at some point or another. Cassie reached out a hand and I took it in mine.

Bellmaker was presiding over the ceremony for us. Alithea and her wolf mate Nar were a bit dismayed that a machine would be performing the honors, but I could think of no one better.

“Welcome, honored guests, to this ceremonial union. We are here today to do the unthinkable. We are here today to wed Neil and Cassandra, and in doing so, recognize the fact that they may one day have children. The world shivers at that thought.”

I grinned as Cassie blushed. His sense of humor was getting better, even if it was ill-timed.

“In all honesty, we are here to join two people who have never been able to be separated, even when fates conspired to set them at each others’ throats. They have been through blood and fire, war and strife, sickness and despair. They have survived more than many marriages combined have seen. We honor them for that today and finish what they started so many months ago.”

Cassie and I never looked away from each other’s eyes for a moment.

“Your nose doesn’t look like it used to.”

“It’s been through hell. I doubt my ribs’ll feel the same way they used to either.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it. It’s still your nose; they’re still your ribs. That won’t ever change.”

“You know, I would call you my angel, but angels tend to commit suicide around me.”

“Do they?”

“They do. Always plunging headfirst into the ground. I don’t want that for you, even if us getting married, and then pirating an E.F. channel to broadcast it, is suicide.”

“Then I’ll be the Pallbearer’s lovely Mortician. And that’ll be that.”

Bellmaker leaned forward on his treads, grinning wide with his steel mouth.

“I’m sorry, are we disturbing something? Or can I get back to marrying you?”

“By all means Bell, pick up where you left off.”

“You were supposed to be saying I do, Neil.”

“I was?”

“No, I do.”

“No you don’t, she’s going to be my wife. I do.”

The crowd was trying hide not to laugh by this point. Why shouldn’t it be this way? Why shouldn’t we be cheering and smiling and laughing. Tomorrow, we’d be worrying about starvation and killing. Today was still time for a party.

I took Cassie’s other hand.

“I, Neil Anderson, take you to be my unlawfully wedded wife. We have no corporate licenses. We have no birth permits, nor do we intend to claim any. We only have each other and bloody big guns to kill those who would disagree with us. My broken body and my Brute are all I have to offer you. You have had my heart since I can remember.”

Cassie blinked away tears and choked out the words she had chosen.

“I, Cassandra Emily Nilsson, take you to be my unlawfully wedded husband. I choose now, while I have control of my senses, to be your wife as long as we both shall live. You have never lost sight of me, even when I was in a state that I would’ve killed you as soon as looked at you. You have never forgotten me; never once hesitated to come to my defense. I love you Neil Anderson and gladly take your last name as my own.”

Bellmaker was pronouncing us when we kissed. The city shuddered as we held each other. Something was dying, something big as death was ending as us and our world was beginning. A great wave of black ash swept over us from the west. It swirled around us in a blizzard of burnt dreams. Not a flake landed upon any in attendance except for us. The snowy ashes wrapped tight around us, coating us in the remains of something that still clung to life. We kissed, mouths merging, breathing only each other as the ashes sank into our crisp, clean uniforms, into our blood-stained hands. By the time we pulled apart, the ashes were gone and all was the same as it had been.

“Landon, hack into E.F.’s television network. I want this wedding on every station they’ve got. After that, give them one image and one image alone. A phoenix, just like is on our chest, superimposed over this district. We are those who will bury the dead. We are those are already risen. We are the Pallbearer and the Mortician.

Be ready or be buried.”

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