"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Merge "

Submitted by H. Wormwood & T. Brewster

There were these two girls I knew in college a couple years back, their names were Holly and Teresa. You know how in primary school there's always those two girls who are completely joined-at-the-hip inseparable? Yeah, like that. And they were literally never apart any time that I saw them. Nobody else ever really seemed to talk to or even notice them, and they never talked to anyone but each other either. They would sit together in a corner of the room and just whisper to one another. Honestly, I was intrigued by them. I guess it was like morbid curiosity? And I say curiosity, but being really honest with myself I might've been a bit obsessed. I always found my eyes wondering in their direction during class.

Because of my minor obsession, over time I noticed weird little things about them. I mean, it's kinda weird to begin with that I never once saw them separate from one another. Neither of them ever left class to go to the bathroom or anything like that, they came to class together, they left together. Which is not that odd on its own, but there were some things I saw that seemed more out of the ordinary. As I said, just small stuff. If I took a seat near to them on a particular day, I could see that the ends of their hair would be sort of tangled together into this little mesh of knots. And they sat extremely close, all the time. Close enough that their arms were always touching, tightly shoulder to shoulder, and sometimes I swear it looked like their skin was actually sticking together. Like if one of them moved slightly, her skin would sort of peel away from the other's, like when your thighs stick to a plastic chair in the summer. In the end I never even got to talk to them, they both dropped out 3 months into the course and I mostly forgot about them.

But a few months ago I ran into the two of them again, totally by coincidence on the way back from the shops. That was the first time I had ever spoken to them, and surprisingly the impression they gave from speaking was just... polite. Polite and friendly. They talked to me like I was an old acquaintance, despite the fact that I was certain we had never talked or even said hello at college. It ended up being a very brief conversation, I don't even remember what they actually said more than a vague idea, because while they stood there in front of me all I could think of was how odd they looked.

Now, one of the girls, Holly, used a wheelchair, she had done in college too. Back then whenever they were on the move (which was infrequent), Teresa would be behind Holly pushing her chair, and often bending over forward to whisper in her ear. But when I saw them again it was different somehow. The girl behind was bent over with her face pressed firmly against the other's cheek, her neck and back in this kind of uncomfortable contortion. And it wasn't just momentarily, they stayed like that the whole way through our conversation. I couldn't seem to focus on what they were saying. My mind kept lingering on little details, like how Holly's neck seemed just a bit longer than it should be. And how Teresa's arms reached just a bit too far and curved around the metal of the wheelchair a bit too closely.

It was a few days after that when I got the invitation in the post.

​ I mean, for starters "merge" is a pretty unconventional way of putting it. I figured maybe they thought it was poetic. Other than that it wasn't particularly strange, there was a place to go and a time to arrive printed on the back, with a small map marked with the destination. I had never realised they were actually a couple, it should've been obvious, but it didn't click until just then. Well, I thought, good for them! It made more sense now how they were always so close. The weird part though was that I really didn't remember giving them my address, and in the back of my mind I was sure I wouldn't forget doing something like that. Thinking on it now, it should've been creepy, but I was so surprised by the letter's arrival and so curious about the whole thing that I passed it off as forgetfulness. I mean, I hadn't seen them in years, and literally only spoken to them once, and then less than a week later I was invited to their wedding? Maybe the whole thing was just re-igniting my voyeuristic side from when we were in college together, probably it was, but I felt like I had to go. I don't even particularly like weddings, I just felt compelled to be there for some reason.

So jumping forward to a week later, the day of the wedding. I got to the venue around 10am, if you could call it a venue, because it was actually a forest about an hour or so from where I live. Not so unusual, lots of people have outdoor ceremonies. I did assume there'd be someone to like, usher or something, but when I got to the spot marked on the map there was barely any sign of a wedding at all. All I could see was a little trail going into the wood. A sign in the same style as the invitation was nailed to an adjacent tree, with only an arrow printed on it pointing to the path.

I followed it along, and the further I went the denser the trees around me seemed to get. And I was surprised I hadn't seen any other guests making their way there, not a single one ahead or behind me. I wondered if I might've got the time wrong. It really was too long a walk, wasn't it? Maybe I missed a turn or something? I kept on anyway, because at that point I was just too stubborn to turn back. It seemed like I had just gotten myself lost but when I wasn't paying attention, suddenly it popped out at me. And I say suddenly because it truly felt like there was nothing in front of me for ages and then I just stumbled into a bunch of chairs out of nowhere, I think I actually did almost trip over.

The whole set-up was fairly normal. Y'know, 40 odd chairs arranged in rows with an aisle down the centre and a white arch at the end. It was all in a small-ish clearing, and it was quite nice actually. There were pink flowers everywhere and sashes on the chairs and all that. A bit boring maybe, but nice. There were a couple dozen or so people sitting up near the front and they turned to look at me, and I remember feeling really awkward in that minute because I was sort of just standing there, since I couldn't figure out which side I was supposed to be on. Luckily a lady from the front row took pity on me and walked over. She was very friendly, she invited me to sit with her at the front and chatted idly with me for a while. I can't remember her name now for some reason, but she told me she was Holly's mum. I do remember she had a pretty strong east end accent and said a lot of stuff about how lovely everything was. She seemed really happy, which I suppose you would do if your daughter was getting married.

We all sat there talking amongst ourselves for quite a while. It didn't fill up any more after I sat down, so I guess a lot of people couldn't make it, either that or they just bought way too many chairs. Eventually a woman in a grey suit came down the aisle and stood at the front, underneath the arch. This was obviously a sign that things were about to kick off so everyone quietened down, a few people looked back along the aisle in anticipation. It was a good five or ten minutes before anything actually happened.

First the speakers kicked in, playing the classic wedding march, another bland choice. Now the whole congregation had turned around in their seats expectantly.

Where the path became the clearing, Holly and Teresa were making their way towards us, both in long white gowns and beaming from ear to ear. But they looked just the same as when I had met them the week before, one girl with her back bent over forward, the other's neck stretching up towards her. Their faces were pressed together so tightly it looked painful. When they passed me a chill ran up my spine.

They reached the end of the aisle and stopped.

"We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of our dear friends..." The officiant began her monologue, and as she spoke a sickly, ominous feeling grew in my gut, like when you see something on the road in the corner of your eye, and you know it's going to be some poor animal's corpse, but you can't stop yourself from looking back at it anyway. My head started to throb and I felt myself tuning in and out of the ministers speech, all the while though my eyes were fixed on the two women in white. My vision blurred their shapes, swirling them around and melting them together, until the final line struck me.

"and now, it is time for Holly and Teresa, finally, to merge."

It was like it flicked a switch, in an instant my vision was sharp and clear again. The clearing became quiet and tense.

At the front, Holly and Teresa were perfectly motionless for a moment, still both smiling widely, and staring into each other's eyes. Then slowly, very slowly, never breaking their gaze, there was movement. From my seat at the front I could see Teresa's arms stretching over and around the wheels of Holly's chair. Her torso pushed forward and spread against it's back. And as this happened, Holly's neck pulled itself out like taffy and began to wrap around Teresa's nape. Her arms sunk into the armrests and twisted around them, while Teresa's legs began to curve forward to the shape of the wheels. It was a mangle of flesh and steel. As their bodies condensed into each other in slow motion, the metal of the chair buckled and warped with them. And with one final sudden push and a great cacophony of squelches and pops, with their necks entwined and their bodies becoming formless clumps around the broken frame of the chair, the two heads were forced together with such enormous pressure that their skulls collapsed against each other. Their eyes exploded out of their sockets and dangled limply by their nerves. Handfuls of teeth jutted out haphazardly. The mass that was their body folded in on itself, crushing the chair completely, until they were just a huge clump of skin and hair and metal, with scraps of white silk twisted through.

And then, on the scattered pieces of appendages that were left nearest the ground, it scuttled briskly away into the forest.

There was no blood, no mess left behind. There was nothing left behind at all, in fact. For a moment or so afterwards I was in a state of stunned silence. Then I looked to my left, to Holly's mum.

She was crying. But it wasn't the frightened, horrified tears I was expecting, she was beaming. She turned to look at me and, through her sobs and sniffles, she whispered: "I always cry at these things!"