Entertainingly Evil
23
Apr

Aunt Merkel by Deborah Walker

An English church. An August wedding.

Aunty Merkel sits at the front of the church, staring at the happy couple. She’s wearing her wedding suit, a three-buttoned crocheted jacket over a matching dress. The light from the stained glass windows reflects off her wing-tipped, milk-bottle glasses.

Two widows, Edith and her sister, Moira, sit, whispering to each other, passing comment on the rest of the congregation. They have chosen a respectable position in the middle of the rows of pews: close enough to show that they are family, far enough to show that they are not pushing themselves forward.

“Is that Aunty Merkel?” says Moira. “My word, yes, it is.”

“She must be getting on a bit,” says Edith. “I remember her being around when I was just a kiddie.”

“She attends every family wedding,” say Moira. “She must love weddings.”

“She can’t love them that much; she’s an old maid,” says Edith.

“What’s that in her bag? It looks like a rat.” Moira leans forward to observe the strange creature peeping out from Aunty Merkel’s handbag.

“That’s Mr. Tegmark,” says Edith. “Aunty Merkel’s hairless cat. She was always rather eccentric.”

“It’s an odd looking creature,” says Moira. When she catches the cat’s eye, it disappears into the depths of Aunty Merkel’s bag. “That’s a cat that doesn’t like to be looked at,” says Moira with a sniff.

The bride’s matron of honour walks to the front of the church. She grips the sides of the eagle lectern. Her voice trembles as she speaks.

“Nerves,” says Edith.

The words of the matron of honour flow over the sisters:

“Wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”

“Ruth is such a lovely book,” murmurs Moira.

Edith nods, lost in the past. They had read from the Book of Ruth at her own marriage. Such a happy marriage. She misses her Bert so much…. A wink of bright light reflected from Aunty Merkel’s glasses pulls her sharply from her daydream. “She never comes to the reception,” says Edith.

“Who doesn’t?”

“Aunty Merkel.”

“Ah.”

“She never gave me a present, either,” whispers Edith, running her finger along the neckline of her dress, which has been bought especially for this wedding and is a little too tight.

The sound of the organ fills the church: All Things Bright and Beautiful. It’s a well-chosen hymn. The congregation know this one and they join in with gusto.

Then Cousin Mitch stands up to make the final reading. His new partner looks around the church. She sees Edith and Moira glaring at her, and she smiles.

Edith nudges her sister, “The nerve of him, bringing his fancy piece to a family wedding,” she says.

Moira raises an eyebrow in agreement, “He says she’s trying to get a divorce.”

“Divorce? I don’t approve of divorce,” says Edith.

Cousin Mitch stands at the lectern and reads aloud:

“Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and endurance. In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love.”

The sisters have forgotten Aunty Merkel. Thoughts slide around Aunty Merkel; it’s better that way.

Aunty Merkel likes weddings. She thinks of all the other weddings taking place this day with  couples making the same vows of hope. She wishes she could attend every wedding. But she cannot. The multiverse is so very, very large, and because of chaotic inflation it’s always stretching, like a loaf of bread, forever baking in the oven of eternity.  Aunty Merkel likes this bubble universe that stopped expanding a while ago, and sits static in the bread. When this bubble formed in a spasm of spontaneous symmetry it enclosed linear time.  You can keep the other  10^10^10^7 bubbles with their diverse physical constraints. Aunty Merkel likes linearity; she likes ceremony; she likes repetition.

And she likes this family who anchor her here, whose quick lives give Aunty Merkel’s eternity meaning.

Aunty Merkel never brings a present, she brings something better. She’s staring at the happy couple, and she’s shifting through their futures, unraveling the ball of tangled string to find the thread of their happy marriage.

The couple make their vows.

A successful marriage is difficult, but in this bubbleverse there are plenty of worlds to choose from, there’s room for happiness. Aunty Merkel searches for the doppelgangers of the happy couple; through the parallels and possibilities; through the Hubble volumes; discarding the myriad worlds of sadness, disappointment, divorce; always following one thread: there are three things that last forever… the greatest of them all is love.

When the couple finish their vows and kiss, Aunty Merkel gives the couple their gift. Moira was right: Aunty Merkel is a romantic. And although she never brings a present, she always gives the couple their future.

The wedding is over and the congregation waits outside the church while the couple signs the register.

Edith rummages in her handbag for a box of confetti.

“Where’s Aunty Merkel?” asks Moira.

“She must have slipped away.”

“Why, Edith you’re crying.”

Edith wipes away the tear, “I had such a happy marriage, Moira.”

Moira grips her sister’s hand so tightly that her knuckles show white through the skin, “I know, my love. We both did. We were both blessed.”

An English church. An August wedding. The enduring gift of love.


Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: Deborah Walker’s Bibliography Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into a dozen languages and dialects.

This story was first published in Nature Futures.





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