“Gosh, uh, hi – hello.”
The microphone thumped and squealed, which was far more adept at gathering the room’s scattered concentration than the tiny woman standing on the raised stage.
“Whoops, thank you,” she muttered, as someone adjusted the stand for her.
“My name is Sue Gabbles,” she started, and then blushed deeply as the crowd laughed. “I guess I don’t need to introduce myself, this is my wedding. I’m not really used to this much attention…”
She paused, and took as deep a breath as she could manage. She knew she was breathing shallowly from the top of her lungs, which wasn’t an efficient way of circulating oxygen. It was making her already somewhat squeaky voice higher, more flustered. She smoothed down her beige tuxedo, unaware that the block of neutral colour made her look somewhat military, somehow anonymous and neutral, like the side of a wall.
It worked for her, actually, giving her the grandeur of a spire of rock jutting somewhere out in the desert, buffeted by cruel wind and charged by antelopes, but still standing.
“Gee, how am I meant to compete against a speech like the one Jemimah just gave? Lot of emotions, damn lot of feelings and… good sentiment there from my new wife. She, uh, she really painted a picture with her words, and I guess we all got to have a look at it. Pretty great.”
Gabbles looked at her notes surreptitiously cupped in her hands, and realised it simply said ‘emotions’ on it.
“I too feel many… pleasant… emotions towards Jemimah. That is why I have married her.”
Sue Gabbles didn’t know anything about public speaking, but she was intimately acquainted with the sensation of boring people with her words, and that’s definitely what she was doing right now to hundreds of their friends and families and colleagues.
“Umm, look, to be honest, I hated Jemimah when I first met her.”
There wasn’t so much a gasp, as a kind of heightened muttering. The kind of susurration you get when a few hundred people exclaim something sarcastic very quietly.
“As most of you would know, we met when our government funded science think tank was bought out by a large weapons company called BonaFide Corp. Suddenly, every scientist that didn’t know how to design bombs or guns or tanks was smooshed together in one tiny lab, slowly whittled away with redundancies, firings, or even just… disappearing. It was scary. I tried to keep my head down and just do what I do best – slowly brush away soil from fossilised dinosaur skeletons with a comically small brush, but I wasn’t allowed to. Suddenly there was so much scrutiny on what I did.”
Gabbles was lost in memory now, staring straight ahead. The wedding was quiet now, if slightly bemused by the shift in tone. It was a lot to take in when you were slightly champagne buzzed at 3pm.
“But I don’t need to tell you all of this – I would say 80% of you here are people we work with at BonaFide Corp, and are pretty aware of the troubled past of our beloved company.”
The table to the right halfheartedly tried to rouse a cheer, but it stuttered out and died.
“I first met Jemimah Flankhurst in a funding meeting, as several managers from Bonafide tried to decide which department they would cut money from. I was representing Paleontology, and I’d just woken up from a nap and felt really groggy and bad. Jemimah was the head of Archaeology, and she looked amazing. She was wearing a form-fitting riding suit, complete with whip and long boots, and she dumped singed maps and ancient rune stones and cursed swords onto the table with vast, supreme disdain, and said something like:
‘So, you want weapons to crush your enemies, you want ancient piles of gold, you want cursed diamonds to give to your estranged sister – well, only the Archaeology department can give you those things. It would be foolish – nay, negligent, to cut our funding.’
You know how Jemimah gets. So, of course they cut Paleontology, and with it, my job. It was pretty sad, it was not a good time in my life. I only have one real skill, and that’s knowing whether or not a skeleton is from a bird or the oldest lizard in the world.”
The people in the front row, sitting atop white-ribbon bedecked chairs, couldn’t help but notice that Sue was absently but furiously shredding her speech cards as she talked.
“I don’t particularly have a lot of friends, and my hobbies are strange and isolating. I’ve basically lived for paleontology ever since I was a girl… I didn’t really know what I was going to do. Who can say what I might have ended up doing if Jemimah hadn’t turned up to my place with a bottle of whiskey.”
Sue Gabbles kind of morphed her usually timid face into a kind of sexy snarl, and placed her hand provocatively on her hip. It became immediately clear that she was imitating her new wife.
“Say, Gabbles, wrap your cry-hole around this here bottle of Scottish hooch. I feel bad about being so good at my job that I got you fired, real torn up, so I came over with some alcohol and a spare pair of riding boots, what do you say?”
Gabbles strutted around the stage a little bit, creepily mimicking Jemimah Flankhurst with such accuracy that Jemimah’s own mother vomited in her mouth.
“Listen Gabbles, toots, tootsie-roll, Tootsie (1983), if there’s anything that I can ever do for you, just give me a firm shout, if there’s anything the Archaeology department can do for you, just let me know. You want some old pottery? People go mad for shards of old pottery.”
“But you know what I wanted most in the world?” said Gabbles, suddenly dropping back into her own stupid, more annoying voice, with the sudden disappointment of an egg landing in a bucket of champagne.
“I wanted revenge against BonaFide Corp, for taking my job and my life away. And I asked Jemimah to help me with that.”
There was more than muttering this time – most of the employees who still worked in BonaFide Corp were scandalised, talking loudly about how unfair that was. Most of the management team were there too, and some even stood up, ready to walk out.
“So, Jemimah stayed in the company, doing her job, feeding me secrets and gaining trust, embezzling money into my revenge plan. She’s very good at her job.”
There was outright indignant chatter now, and management looked at Jemimah – previously their star employee, who had kept them rich in old chests of rubies – with sudden calculation and hate. Jemimah’s dad vomited on himself in shock.
“But as the year progressed, something unexpected happened. Something… beautiful, I guess. I’m not good at words really, I’m not good at descriptors, or understanding what happens in my sluggish yet enormous heart… but I guess the best way to describe it is that as we plotted revenge against a billion dollar multi-national company, me and Jemimah fell in love. We fell in love. That’s… that’s it. I can’t and don’t want to live without her. I don’t understand her, and I don’t understand what she sees in me – I’m basically a cardigan with legs – but it happened, we love each other.”
There was a huge sigh from the audience, and people turned to each other and said “Oh well, that’s nice then” and “Oh, I see where she was going with that.”
But then focus snapped back into Gabbles watery eyes. She pulled a large button out of her beige tuxedo jacket and hit it, closing every single door in the church with a slam.
“And one of the things I love the most about Jemimah is that she let me use our wedding day… for revenge. Know now the might of the paleontology department, BonaFide Corp!”
Through a hatch behind her, a stream of cloned velociraptors bounded into the building, all razor sharp claws, grinning maws full of rending teeth, and shiny behaviour controlling headsets. They fell on the crowd, disembowelling and eating every member of BonaFide Corp, while Gabbles and Jemimah Flankhurst kissed with passionate abandon on the altar.
Patrick Lenton is the author of ‘A Man Made Entirely of Bats’ and ‘Uncle Hercules And Other Lies’. He is the Editor of Junkee.