In my house, there is a collection of porcelain dolls that have been painted to appear grotesque, terrifying, or simply creepy. The following stories are inspired by each of these dolls.
You are invited to the wedding
Joining the lives of
Miss. Lisa Jackson
Mr. John Woodhouse
Wednesday, April 6 1966
Reception to follow
Aren’t they lovely? I made them myself. Spent the better part of the day on them, too. I asked John if he wanted to help, but he said that women enjoy this sort of thing more than men do, and I’m sure he’s right. John knows all sorts of things like that. He’s very intelligent, you see.
The invitations are a crucial part of the wedding, of course. They’re the first things your guest sees, so they have to be perfect. Beautiful enough to be eye-catching, but never gaudy. Sweet enough to be endearing, but simple too. There’s a line, you see, and it’s important never to cross it. Once you cross the line, then that’s it – you’re a laughing stock, and the whole thing goes down the drain!
And that’s not going to happen. Not today. Because today is my wedding day, and everything is going to go precisely as planned.
Really, I can’t believe it’s here already! All my life, I’ve been planning this day, ever since I was a little girl. A lot of these women nowadays, they talk about getting an education and a job and all sorts of things, but I knew what I wanted to be right from the beginning. I wanted to be a good wife to a great man, and I wanted to raise his wonderful kids to go out and change the world. That’s all I ever wanted. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for, really.
I do understand why some might think it’s a lofty dream for me. What do I know about being a good wife and mother, really, when I didn’t have any good role models for it growing up? I don’t want to dwell on it long – John brings it up more than enough already – but I can’t deny that Daddy was a mean, mean man, and Mommy wasn’t around long enough for me to know her. Sometimes, John asks me why I even want a family, knowing what my own was like, but I do. I want a family, just like the ones on the television, or the ones that I’d see in the malls. The pretty families, where the wife has her hair curled just so, and the husband is strong and kind and protective, and no matter what trouble the kids get into, they can figure it all out together. I want that. Not the train wreck I grew up in – I want a family all my own. I will have a family all my own.
From the moment that I met John, I knew that he was the kind of husband I had been looking for. He was strong from the very beginning, but kind too – and tragically, tragically handsome. He reminded me a bit of James Stewart – that same good charm, that same kind soul. He did all those things for me that girls only dream about – picked me up from my house with roses, complimented me so often that I couldn’t help but believe him, dropped me off afterward not a minute later than he promised. Everyone agreed that he was a good man, and that he and I were perfect for each other.
Within three months, he proposed, and I didn’t even think of saying no!
We agreed on a long engagement, because I wanted to savour every minute of preparation. Nothing can be rushed, I told him. Everything needs to be perfect. I could tell that he wasn’t as interested in wedding planning as I was, but I didn’t expect him to be. I could handle it all by myself. After all, this was what I was born to do.
I suppose that I underestimated just how much he wasn’t interested in wedding planning, though. And perhaps it was my fault, pestering him night and day the way I did, but before long, he started to snap back at me whenever I brought up the wedding, occasionally being somewhat rude about it too.
“Why is it that the only thing you want to talk about is that stupid wedding?” he asked me once, to which my reply was prompt and prepared.
“It’s our wedding, dear,” I said, “and it’s coming up sooner than you think.”
“I’d hardly call two years ‘sooner than you think’,” he grumbled under his breath.
Before long, the snapping back and the rude comments turned into blatant insults – both at me and at our wedding. It was my fault, of course. I should have known how uncomfortable it made him, should have stopped talking about it, but I couldn’t. I was a woman possessed, seeing nothing but cakes and dresses and flower girls when I closed my eyes. And as much as it hurt me whenever John called me a ‘stupid girl’, or told me that I didn’t even know what I was talking about, I still couldn’t seem to shut my mouth.
Now, I know, it sounds like I was being a bad woman to John, and you might start to hate me for it, but I swear I wasn’t. In every other respect, I was perfect. I cleaned house for him while he was at work. Dinner was always on the table promptly when he got home. I never cried in front of him, and I never nagged or whined. I did everything exactly as I was supposed to. That is, until he crossed that line.
I noticed first that he was staying at work later and later all the time. He’d come home, and he’d brush right passed me, heading straight for the shower, but it didn’t matter. I could still smell the perfume on him as he passed by.
I didn’t ask him outright at first – I didn’t want to seem paranoid, after all. But I did give subtle hints – asking him why work was keeping him so late now, if he had any new projects that kept him so busy, stuff like that. But my questions brought me nothing more than half-answers, so I did the next most reasonable thing: I got out the car, parked across the street from his office, and watched him. I watched him leave at his regular time. I watched him meet up with that red-haired tramp from the hair dressers next door, watched him greet her with a kiss. He couldn’t have been more obvious if he had torn her clothes off right then and there – and in public, too, when everyone knew that he was my husband!
I didn’t do anything then. I waited until he got home, and as he walked through the door, I slapped him good across the face.
I’ll spare you the details of the argument that followed. Suffice it to say that it was ugly, and I’m not proud of it. Some words were said that can’t be taken back – things like “I never wanted to marry you” (from John, of course), and “I only proposed to you because you made me feel like I had no other choice” (John again). I think I was the one who grabbed the kitchen knife first, but at some point, John got it from me. He snatched it from my hand, and he opened my throat with it.
But, of course, John didn’t mean it. He loves me. It was just a bad argument – all couples have those, even the pretty ones. So when I woke up, I just knew he’d be relieved to see me again. He hadn’t meant to kill me. He didn’t really want me to leave.
I woke up in my grave – and that was an unpleasant experience as well, let me tell you! It was terribly dark in there, and though I couldn’t see them, I could feel the worms wriggling around me, the bugs crawling over me, the maggots hatching in my newly rotting flesh. But whatever brought me back also seemed to make me stronger than before, and it was nothing at all to dig my way through the loose soil and back onto solid ground. And after that, there was only one thing left to do: I had to get back to John. I just had to marry him.
I found him at home, as I knew I would at that hour of night. He was sitting in front of the television with a beer in his hand, looking so cute and tired after his long day’s work. I didn’t allow myself to wonder if he had seen her – the red-haired tramp – today. There was no point in welcoming such ugly thoughts. Instead, I moved quickly to the door, tearing it open with expectations of nothing but joy and relief from the man who loved me and wanted nothing more than to see me again.
That isn’t what I got, however. One look at me, and John began screaming. I tried to talk to him, to reason with him, but he was beyond all reason. When I reached for him, he dodged my hand. No one should have to see a loved one do such a thing.
Eventually, John barricaded himself in the bathroom, locking the door so I couldn’t get in. I could, of course. I could punch straight through the wood as though it were nothing but water, but I didn’t tell him that. The poor dear was over-excited already.
“I really don’t know why you’re making such a fuss, dear,” I yelled to him through the wood. “It’s me. It’s Lisa. I know that we had a bit of a fight before, but that’s all behind us now. Isn’t it?”
“No!” John yelled back, and his voice was high and frightened – not at all the picture of manliness that I had come to expect from him. “You’re dead! You’re dead, Lisa, and this… whatever this is… this isn’t natural!”
“This is love, John. I came back because I love you. Because I want us to be together.”
“That’s a lie! You don’t love me! You love marriage! You love the idea of me!”
Now how could he say such a thing? He wasn’t thinking clearly – was obviously confused. Though why he would be confused was completely beyond me. He wasn’t the one who had the most important person in the world cut his throat. He wasn’t the one who had woken in a fresh grave!
“So just go back, Lisa,” John continued, his voice growing steadier, calmer, a bit more confident. “Go back to wherever you were, and stay there. There’s nothing for you here anymore.”
“There’s you,” I mumbled, hurt. “There’s our wedding.”
“There can’t be a wedding anymore, Lisa! You’re dead.”
He was right, I realized then with a sudden cold, penetrating horror. I was dead, and marriage, though a beautiful, wonderful thing, though the source of all of my potential happiness, was conditional. It only lasted so long. Till death do us part, the vows said, and in his hurt and anger, John had made sure that death would part them forever.
I stepped back from the door, disgusted at last by the man who had done this to me. In that moment, I hated him for taking my dreams away. The only thing I had ever wanted, the meagre goal that I had set for myself, all gone because of his stupidity. I wanted to break through that door and hurt him, to pull him apart limb-from-limb while he lay screaming, so that he could know how it felt to lose something important to him!
But perhaps I was being too harsh. Perhaps this wasn’t as irreparable as it seemed. After all, the vows referred only to one death, to the loss of one party, separating them inevitably between heaven and earth. But if both parties were dead… If there was no need for death to separate them…
Laughter bubbled up within me, erupting from my mouth in a high-pitched sudden shriek. That was it, I realized, retreating from the bathroom door to get the cleaver from the kitchen. That was how I could still get everything I want.
So I grabbed the cleaver, headed straight to the bathroom, knocked down the door with one blow, and severed John’s head from his body. He screamed at first, but he’s much more silent now. He won’t tell me as much, but I think that he’s happy. Really, I think this is what he wanted all along. Without a body, he has no excuse to run to that red-haired tramp of his, after all. He’s free to devote himself only to me, like he always wanted to.
And just to be safe, I carved out his heart before disposing of the body. I’ll be eating that in place of cake during the reception, to make sure it always belongs to me only.