Weird Tales Contest Winner
Henry paused a moment for reflection, glancing down at his clean white shirt, making sure it remained immaculate. Gertie would kill him if he arrived with more than a hair out of place. He gave her image a warm smile. She was the closest thing to perfection a man could ever dream of. He imagined her in her alabaster wedding dress, with her perfectly coiffed brown-and-butter hair, and he was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to find her, and hold her. There were few things in this world that could drag him from his science, but she was one. She was bright and temperate, with little patience for disorder, but somehow she tolerated his obsession. She too believed he would change the world.
Henry lifted a gold watch from the pocket of his suit. He had hours left before he must meet her. His science might brook no delay, but she was more precious still. Nothing in this world would delay him from his wedding date - he had sworn it, with every fiber of his being.
The thin, dark-haired chemist was wrenched from his reverie by a smell - something was out of place. He whirled to the right, in a near panic. Yes, there it was, a burner had overheated, and the tube from the distillery showed a spiderweb of cracks, beginning to leak a sizzling green goo. He dashed over to snuff the heat and was nearly overcome with a breath of his new, potent serum. Cursing, he removed the heat and distanced himself immediately. This much gas - a single breath was a thousand times what he had exposed his animals to. Who knew how toxic such a dose would be? Henry stumbled from the corner of the lab, feeling his legs begin to give way, and darkness to close in.
Later, an indefinite time later, Henry lifted himself from the pressing haze. So. He was still here. The world was strange, though, in ways he could not define. His body felt sluggish, like an unnecessary weight, though he found himself able to stand. What had just passed - what had he just done to himself? It was too much for even his mind to absorb. With a restrained sense of horror, he dipped his hand into his pocket, removing his watch. He was late! It was minutes, just minutes until his wedding began, and there was no way in the world he could make it in time. But he could try.
Henry tore himself from the malaise of the serum, and fled from the room, as fast as his feet could carry him, faster. It was as if he ripped himself from his own body to speed towards his love and his vow.
Gertrude stood still, arms wrapped before her breast, holding a colorful bouquet to her shoulder, as the elderly chaplain nervously looked on. He was late. Only a few minutes, yes, but Henry had promised. Sworn. He was the dearest of men, but lately so obsessed with his work. Still, he had never been so busy that hadn't made time for her or had ever forsaken a promise. It was worrying. And, of course, all her family were here to see. They would look on her with nothing but pity, while his family showered her with the pale discomfort of second-hand guilt.
The wedding day she had imagined included his smiling face, glowing with his love, and a tender possessiveness that promised he would shelter her from every sorrow in the world. He saw her for herself, with no illusions, and yet he cherished her still. Some people found his intensive personality overwhelming, but never her - for her, he was always a comfort, and with his work to keep him, never stifling. It softened her concern, to think of it. He would be here soon, he would.
Just then, the doors to the church burst open, and a tuxedo-ed man flew in from between them. He was here! But no - it was something else, something terribly, terribly wrong. The figure was bleached and translucent, hovering inches above the ground as it sailed towards her like an ill wind. It was not Henry, but some horrible apparition. Her hands lifted to cover her mouth and hide her terror. The chaplain too took a step back. His God, perhaps, would not protect him from this.
The ghost slowed, however, as it approached, and emitted a horrible wailing noise, one that sounded almost like words. It glided slowly now, ominously, to stand before her. Her flowers slipped from her nervous fingers as she turned away in fright.
The words came clearer, in haunting urgency, "Gertie, my love, I'm here! I swear - not even death will keep me from your side!"
Henry, her love was gone, replaced by a monster. Getrude fell into a senseless heap, curled on the floor around her bouquet of flowers.