THE UNINVITED GUEST
‘The Uninvited Guest’ by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale
e was there again. As she turned her head to glance back at Margaret, who was arranging her dress, she caught sight of him. This time he was closer than before, seated at the foot of one of the stone columns where he must have waited for her to pass by. So on this, her wedding day, he had chosen to distract her with his unearthly presence. On this most important day of her life, he was taking her mind off her flowers, her dress, the ceremony... She pretended not to notice. The page preceding her continued his slow march leading the newly married couple out of the church to their celebrations and their destiny.
She had last seen him when they read the banns. His expression was the same: desultory longing which he could not conceal. There was an air of hopelessness about him. A lost soul, perhaps? She knew, though, that he was watching her. No-one else. It seemed as though he had unfinished business with someone. Was it with her?
She almost tripped, and her new husband’s strong hand immediately took hold of her arm in a gentle, reassuring grasp. She glanced up at him and met his proud, smiling gaze. The silk of her dress rustled as it re-settled around her.
Another glance back confirmed her suspicions: he was still there. He had risen to his feet and she saw the long bow in his hand and the quiver full of silver-tipped arrows hanging from his shoulder. His expression was both grim and sad.
She knew now that he was going to kill her. She had recognised his identity. He was the Angel of Death about whom so many stories were told. If only she could have had a little more time. This was supposed to be the happiest day of her life, not the last. Her husband was a good man. She did not know him very well, but she had hoped for more time than this, for time to get to know his body and his soul, to bear his children and perhaps even to love him...
She risked a final look, and saw that he had fitted one of the arrows to the bowstring and was standing in the classic manner of an archer, one foot forward, drawing back the string and straining the curve of the weapon.
She closed her eyes.
She alone heard the rush of the arrow as it sped through the air towards her, its silver tip parting the molecules of oxygen, its shaft vibrating.
As it pierced her heart she fell against her husband and he took her in his arms. She felt the blood swelling, rising in her body and falling again as it drained out of her face – yet not out of her wound.
She opened her eyes as his lips touched hers, and immediately realisation dawned. It had not been Death who had shot his arrow into her, but Love.
This little story was inspired by the picture and written to submit to the Google+ Speculative Fiction Writers community SFFFlash ‘Just For Fun’ weekly article. My thanks to them for the inspiration!