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  Table of contents Issue Fifteen BETTER AFTER DEATH

by
DANNY TRESS
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hite Flower Bridals was once a high-end shop notorious for its snobbery and panache. A bride-to-be would drive herself mad, booking an appointment months in advance just to try on a dress. Attendants were reluctant to book anyone whose clothes seemed to have come from a generous clearance rack, and brides who managed to land an appointment never felt welcome or good enough. The cheapest among the dresses hovered around $1,500, and the most expensive was never tried on or even spoken of; it was a glittering mass of diamond frosting, enough to weigh down an Olympian bride with overwhelming glamour. But before the dress could ever be fitted, it was splattered with blood.



White Flower Bridals was closed when it happened. The owner, three-brides-to-be, and their attendants were shot down by Georgina Claire. She was a wealthy woman of 35 who had devoted her life to the pursuit of love. She had just lost her second fiance to another woman. Lena Meier, who wore a strapless sweetheart, took a bullet to the chest. Erin Cawley, the bejeweled mermaid, took one to the gut. And Helen Devaux, in the full-skirted gown that Georgina would have worn the day she intended to say her vows, took all that was left in Georgina’s silenced pistol. Georgina then placed the pistol to her temple, sank the silencer into her explosive nest of honeyed curls, and silenced White Flower Bridals forever.



As years passed, dresses were redistributed, and the inside of White Flower Bridals went cold and dark. Before then, it had been vibrantly white, glowing with pretentious display, elegance, and vice. The suburban shop was situated along the side of a long, wending back road lined with trees, shadowy and forgotten. People sped past the place, even if they were not privy to any of its history. Overlooked and forlorn, it sat like a mangled, dead thing. Mannequins posed in the display window, naked and emaciated, sightless and forever watching. It was half past three in the morning when Brian Fay found himself where he swore he would never drive. After all, Georgina Claire had been his fiance.



He had been on the way home from his current affair, contemplating an excuse for his wife and wiping at the stickiness in his pants, when he came upon the accident. Four cars had been involved and the police instructed him to navigate the closest back road instead of taking his usual exit. This would set him back fifteen minutes. He was tired, coming down from a high, and dying for something to eat. Sighing, he agreed, noting that he was running below empty on his gas meter. Upon taking his designated turn, he blanched. He almost braked to a complete halt, the black road yawning before him, trees murmuring in a summer breeze. He was sober enough now to understand where he was going. His breathing was shallow, riddled with weed-driven anxiety. Tightening his grip on the steering wheel, he drove on, assuring himself that it would all be over within a matter of minutes. He repeated this to himself as the woods swallowed him and the skin tautened over his milk-white knuckles. What he had not anticipated was his black Golf breaking down outside of White Flower Bridals. It stalled, grumbled, and shuddered to a halt with a dying breath. Brian cursed. He punched his steering wheel. The old shop peered balefully out at him. There was a soft glow coming from inside that came from nothing, but Brian had not yet seen it. He ran his hands through his hair. He groped for his phone, which was running low on battery power, lit up with texts from the sleeping wife he had neglected all evening. When he blinked against the darkness, blue lights bloomed in front of him, swelling and dissolving like tiny conflagrations. Brian’s biggest mistake was turning his head.



Inside of White Flower Bridals, the light that came from nothing seemed to grow. Brian’s pupils dilated so that his green eyes became almost black, absorbing the brilliant white, unable to turn from it. Through the display window, three cobwebbed mannequins bled from three separate holes. Red. Brilliant red. It poured in ribbons down their hard, plastic torsos. They were huddled, clutching at their wounds, around a fourth larger mannequin. This mannequin had a face. Brian felt warmth trickle down his leg. Georgina Claire was grinning at him from behind the thin sheet of glass that still bore the wearing calligraphic logo: Everything Elegant. The words flashed brilliant red as Georgina Claire inched forward, her movements staccato, stiff and unbalanced, like a corpse in rigor mortis. She stretched a plastic, blood stained hand towards the door; the silver bell overhead tinkling brightly. Brian blinked fast against the blue lights that continued expanding. They seemed to enclose upon him, and he thought he might faint. His breathing was shallow. His heart palpitated somewhere in his throat. Was it the green? Could it all just be the green? He closed his eyes, ducked beneath the steering wheel, and told himself he was not seeing what he was seeing. He told himself he would be inside his warm house soon, tucking himself into bed next to his wife, whose smile was nothing more than a genuine smile, full of humanity and realness. He told himself he was okay, even as Georgina Claire’s plastic hand closed around the handle of the driver’s side door, and her grin met her sightless eyes. Tonight, he was hers.



   
   

 

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Danny Tress is a graduate of Towson University. He is an aspiring fiction writer and is currently writing a horror novel entitled Gemu, which he is hoping to publish. He is an intern at Today Media Custom Communications in Hampden, Baltimore. You can follow @dannytress7 on twitter or find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/danny.tress.



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