I’d finally done it. I was engaged. Not only was I set to be married in 3 hours but I was marrying one of my very best friends. I couldn’t have been happier. The sun was shining through the leaves of the banyan trees as a light breeze blew my hair gently off my shoulders. “Hawaii is a lovely place to have a wedding,” I thought as I looked around. I was standing outside an elementary school with my soon-to-be husband, watching as the numerous children filed out toward the parking lot heading home.

“Are you nervous? Excited?” he asked me.

“A little bit of both,” I chuckled. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I know a lot about a lot of things, but this is something new for me.” I timidly grabbed both of his hands in mine and nudged a rock with my foot, avoiding eye-contact.

He nodded, acknowledging what I can only assume was a feeling similar to mine. “Yeah. well, I guess I better go get ready.” He turned to leave.

Smiling, I pulled him toward me, kissed him and said, “See you at the alter.” He laughed and with a heavy sigh, I watched as he walked toward his car. God help me, I loved that man.

I made my way across the street to where my family was sitting, waiting in a very long line to get into, what seemed like a concert of sorts. My mother, aunt, uncle, and two of my cousins greeted me with hugs and exclamations of joy and congratulations. While we talked, a police officer proceeded to interrogate my one cousin, as he had brought illegal anime onto the premises that was not age appropriate for elementary school-aged children. He was promptly arrested while my mother asked me about my plans for the day.

“You have 3 hours till the wedding. You should probably get ready,” she reminded me. She hugged me tight and her burgundy lipstick rubbed off onto the shoulder of my dress.”Oh my goodness, I’ve ruined your wedding dress! I’m so sorry!”

“Don’t even worry about it Ma, it blends into the dress perfectly!” Luckily my wedding dress was burgundy around the shoulders which transitioned to a burnt orange then to yellow as it progressed down my body. My shoulders were covered in small crystals and winked in the sunlight. I rubbed my shoulder where my mother’s lipstick was and it seemed to disappear into the fabric. “See, all better.” As I walked toward the parking lot I suddenly realized I didn’t know where the wedding venue was. Panicked, I flagged down a passing vehicle. The Jeep Rubicon pulled over and I hopped in.

“Where you headed young lady?” Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs, asked.

“I need to get to my wedding,”  I stammered. “Please, hurry. I’m getting married in 3 hours.”

He pulled onto the highway and we headed north. He took an off-ramp that lead to a mountain road. Our tires dug into the dirt as we got higher along the mountain’s edge. As we crested the top, gnomes (also known as minnahoonies in Hawaii) started jumping out of the bushes in front of our car and proceeded to flash us with their exposed gnome-parts. Mike was not having it so he gunned the engine and began hitting them with the front tires of the Jeep. I yelled for him to stop the car and I jumped out. I ran to see if they were alright but they were being pulled into the brush by fellow gnomes. I followed them to a small den built into the side of a hill. It was covered in roots as a tree grew out of the side, concealing the small staircase leading downward. Mushrooms and vines nearly hid the door of the house from view. If I had not followed the gnomes, I would never have seen it as it was hidden so well. I ducked into the doorway. Large glassy eyes looked up at me from all around the dimly lit room. Small fires burned in alcoves along the rounded walls. Wordlessly they pointed me toward a back doorway.

I slowly walked down the earthen hallway. Doors hidden in shadow lined the walls. I warily passed each as I was drawn deeper into the blackness. A soft blue light emanated from beneath a door at the end of the hall. The door, covered in vines, opened independently as I reached it. I crouched, entered the room and took in my surroundings. An orange flame glowed within a sconce on the far side of the small space. To my right, I turned to see a large tank of water embedded in the wall, floor to ceiling. I pushed some hanging roots away from the front and peered inside. Something slithered deep in the murky blue; tentacles brushed the glass as the creature swam by. I moved closer to the glass and as I stared deeper into the water, I didn’t notice the flame behind me dimming. I didn’t see as a gnome, who had followed me in the room, backed away toward the doorway. A slam of the door drew my attention and I whipped my head around to see the flame abruptly blow out. I heard the door lock as I glanced back at the glowing tank. The creature, which had not made its presence fully known, swam up to the glass and turned its head to face me. Our eyes locked and I beheld a Xenomorph, an alien I’d thought was mere movie magic. It slammed itself into the glass. Cracks spider-webbed across the face of the tank. I turned to run as the glass shattered. Just as I reached the door, my body was slammed to the ground. I knew in that moment that I was not there by accident. I was lured there. I had followed those gnomes down to my death. What had I done?

My last thoughts, as claws dug into my bejeweled shoulder, were not those of fear. They were thoughts of remorse. What was to be the start of my bliss-filled future led to the end of my life.

It would have been a beautiful wedding.