A young bride and groom, fun loving and creative, celebrated their wedding with a giant game of hide and seek during the reception. The groom was the designated seeker, and one by one he located each friend and family member throughout the grand estate, until only the bride remained missing.
What was a happy occasion turned somber as everyone searched high and low, only to determine the bride must have taken the opportunity to run off for good.
The heartbroken groom moved into the big house, where he grew old and miserable. Many years later…
…almost driven mad by grief, boredom, and the unanswered questions of that disastrous wedding night, he decided it was time to stop moping and get on with his life. He sold the big house and made such a good sum from it that was able to quit his day job and go back to college to study physics.
Decades passed, and despite his age the groom acquired a deep understanding of physics. He built a dime-machine. Not a time machine. A dime-machine. It allowed travel not through time or space, but through dimensions. He was convinced: Somewhere—in some parallel universe—he had never lost his bride.
For months he travelled. He found a universe where the wedding took place in an ice hotel. He found one where all the guests had evolved long, elephant-style trunks. Another where the bride’s father was just a brain floating in a tank of juice. It bubbled a toast, and all the guests raised their glasses and tipped the champagne into mouths on the tops of their heads.
In every single one of these universes, his bride was nowhere to be found. In every game of hide and seek, she disappeared.
Despondent, he used the dime-machine to travel backwards in time within his own dimension, back to his own wedding night. He arrived just as the hide and seek began, and watched with delight as his bride turned a corner, saw his dime-machine, and ran inside it with a giggle.
“My darling! I’ve found you at last!” he said, wrapping his arms around her and leaning close for a kiss. He flipped a switch, and the machine instantly took them to another dimension.
Screaming, the bride battered the weird old man’s head in with the heel of her shoe and fled. Soon afterwards the wedding guests ran in terror: Something horrible had happened to her during that game of hide and seek, and her mouth was—ew, disgusting—on the front of her head.
Jessica Francis Kane
…he decided to marry again. His first bride had been a preschool teacher, hence the game of hide and seek to celebrate their wedding.
For his second bride, a dancer, another elaborate reception was prepared, the centerpiece of which would be a game of Twister. Many of the same guests were invited and they urged him to reconsider, reminding him of what had happened all those years ago. Why another game? they asked. Aren’t you trying too hard to make the reception symbolic of you and your bride? Can’t we just have a nice party?
But the groom insisted.
On the day of the wedding, a giant Twister mat was laid out on the main lawn, and after cocktails the groom held the spinner aloft and said it was time for the game to begin. The specially designed mat in the spring wedding’s colors (peach, pink, yellow, and mint green) allowed for 50 players at a time. The rest of the guests watched from the sidelines, sipping their drinks.
At first, everyone had fun. The sun was shining and the women kicked off their heels and the men loosened their ties. But as the game progressed, it became apparent the bride was struggling. Naturally limber and very flexible, she had nevertheless gotten herself into an untenable position, bent over from the waist, hands through her legs, one leg over her neck. She seemed to be having trouble breathing, but when friends asked if she wanted to stop she shook her head. Someone leaned down with a glass of water and she took a sip through a straw. Everyone cheered.
The groom spun the arrow again. “Left foot, peach!” he called.
The bride’s body was twisted into a shape so unnatural, family members now begged the groom to end the game.
The bride groaned and lifted her foot. Her eyes bulged. Sweat began to stain the ivory silk of her gown.
“Right hand, pink!”
The crowd gasped. It seemed impossible the bride would be able to manage it. Others on the mat were still doing well, but the bride’s body was twisted into a shape so unnatural, family members now begged the groom to end the game.
“I’m fine!” the bride called, her last words, for after the next spin the groom called out nervously “Left hand, mint green” and as the bride attempted the position, she screamed and collapsed. Friends rushed to her aid, but it was too late. She was dead.
“What have I done?” the groom cried and ran into the house, never to be seen again. It is said that if you walk by the downstairs windows on nights when the moon is full, you can hear the ghostly sound of a man playing Connect Four all alone.
…the guy, who was George Clooney by the way (forgot to mention that earlier) was having lunch with fellow actor and confidant Ryan Reynolds. The conversation eventually turned—as it inevitably does when two handsome dudes get to chatting—to dames. George Clooney told Ryan Reynolds the aforementioned story about the dumb idea to play hide and seek in his gigantic mansion.
“And the dangdest thing,” George Clooney said, “Is that I don’t even remember her name. I mean because I dated so many different women before I got married, that whole time is basically a blur, and even though I guess technically I’ve been married to this one woman for a really long time now, like super long, we spent so little actual time together that her name is just totally gone from my head now.”
“Crazy,” Ryan Reynolds said.
“I know, right?” George Clooney said. “It’s like, you think about how many opportunities I’ve missed to say or read her name over the years. Talking about her on the red carpet, or thanking her at awards ceremonies, or signing the divorce papers, or even just texting or emailing her.” George Clooney stared off into the distance, wondering what his wife’s email address would have been. It probably would have ended in @georgeclooney.com, but the space before the @ sign was like a mist from which his brain could find no escape.
Ryan Reynolds looked at George Clooney, staring off into the distance, lost in thought. He waved a hand in front of George Clooney’s face, to no effect.
“Um, yeah,” Ryan Reynolds said, to fill the space in the conversation. “I remember all my wives’ names. You think you wouldn’t, after a while. I mean there was Scarlett Johansson, duh. Most people think Alanis Morissette was my first wife, but we were actually just engaged when we broke up. Then after Scarlett Johansson there was Blake Lively, then Selena Gomez, then Rachael Ray, then Kreayshawn, then Jennifer Love Hewitt—no, check that—Kreayshawn, then Mila Kunis, then Rihanna, then Jennifer Love Hewitt, then Mary-Kate Olsen, then Maria Menounos, then Christina Hendricks, then Mila Kunis again, then, wait. Is that right? Nicki Minaj was in there somewhere, let me start again.”
Ryan Reynolds set his fork down, concentrating harder this time. “Scarlett Johansson. Blake Lively. Selena Gomez. Rachael Ray. Kreayshawn…”
And as far as we know, Ryan Reynolds is still sitting there, naming his wives in order, while George Clooney picks at his salad and imagines each of those names in front of @georgeclooney.com, and the waiter kind of hovers because he needs to turn this table over, there’s basically a line of people out the door.
Graham T. Beck
…on what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary, he was hammering down tumblers of Ballantine’s—while tabbing between porn, match.com, Fishing News Online, and the weather forecast—when the doorbell rang.
He wasn’t expecting company. He never did anything on their anniversary except cry and masturbate and plan a fishing trip, because she disappeared just when the bluefish started running heavy. Still, people bothered him when he was focused on the season, and he knew how to handle them.
He zipped himself in, wiped his hands on his pants, and walked to the front door.
“Evening, sir,” said a tall, handsome man with slicked-back hair that glistened like fish scales. “I’m Tagg Romney. Do you have a minute to talk about the presidential election?”
“I blue,” the old man blurted out.
“Pardon?” Tagg said.
“I do,” the man said with a smile, and then he invited Tagg inside the house for a glass of water and a quick round of hide and seek.
…during yet another interminable day of stewing in his easy chair, he was surprised to see three women appear outside his window. He blinked. They looked awfully familiar, but he couldn’t quite place them as their faces peered inside.
“Wow,” said one of them, “My old dollhouse!”
“Oh my god, I remember playing with that.”
“Remember the time we held a wedding for Barbie and Ken?”
“Hah! Yes! We all dressed up and brought little presents!”
“I made a knife set out of aluminum foil!”
The groom glanced into the dining room. The knives. He’d always wondered why his food was so hard to cut. Suddenly it hit him: These were some of his wedding guests, grown older.
“Didn’t you use a Michael Jackson doll as your escort?”
“Yes, and you used Julie’s teddy bear!”
The groom cast his mind back. He vaguely remembered talking to a hairy man who said he was a commodities trader.
He’d always thought the game was his idea—or was it his wife’s? Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember either of them suggesting it.
“And we thought a wedding was like a birthday party, so we had them play hide and seek.”
“Well, it was fun, wasn’t it?”
The groom gripped the arms of his chair. He’d always thought the game was his idea—or was it his wife’s? Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember either of them suggesting it. But there was so much he had tried to forget over the years…
“I don’t know if I ever really played with it again after that.”
“Yeah, I remember your mom being freaked out over what we did to Barbie.”
“Whatever. We just wanted some drama. Could Ken love her, even if she were deformed?”
“Your mom said…”
The three women spoke at once: “You can’t love a puddle of plastic!” They burst out laughing.
“Dad never could get the stench out of the microwave!”
“The eyes were, like, grafted on to the boobs!”
“God, were we psycho!”
Red-faced with mirth, the women walked away. The groom fell to his knees before the window. A microwave. A microwave. “My angel…” he whispered. A wheezing sound began slowly in his chest, building to a howl of grief as he ripped and tore at the tuxedo he’d never removed.
“I could have loved a puddle of plastic, damn you!”
The tears fell freely onto his smooth, shiny crotch.
…the groom had gotten over it—a long time ago. Frankly, once the police trails had gone cold and the tone of pity had switched from jilted groom (why would she wait until after the ceremony?) to widower, he pretty much couldn’t keep the babes off of his trim, bespoke-suited figure and out of his mansion-like residence. Considering how enjoyable the lifestyle of a tragic bachelor seemed, his sisters were pleasantly surprised by how quickly he settled down again. “He’s just the marrying kind,” they nodded to one another, happy to have helped raise such a stand-up gentleman.
His second wife was shyer than the first, had never even heard of Pinterest, and could barely get through her vows without fainting—the idea of forcing their friends and family to play a game in fancy dress would have probably sent her into fits. His sisters were once again quite happy: “This is better for him.” “They just fed off of each other, it got out of hand.” “Hide and seek? I mean, really.” They threw her an appropriate, subdued shower, with teacakes. There were no moustaches.
One fine Saturday, the groom realized his wife had been at the supermarket far too long. Afraid she’d been involved in a car accident or perhaps cornered by a large hound, he called up his sisters to help him locate her—but there was no answer. He drove around for hours, interrogating the neighbors, but no one had seen her. His past seemed to be replaying, and he was horrified. He returned home and was relieved to find one of his sisters sitting in the kitchen waiting for him.
He was less relieved when she turned her ghostly, gray face to his. The eyes were not his sister’s—they were altogether missing, the flesh sagging from the skull of his wife—his first wife. Grayed pieces of frazzled tulle hung in tatters from her skeleton, and a trail of fresh blood led to a musty wooden chest that looked to have been recently relocated from the attic.
“At least,” she croaked, a bubble of rot bursting in the air. “Neither of you are wearing wedding dresses. My word, that thing was poufy.”
…I called on him one afternoon, as I often did in our later years, and revealed to him the truth.
As I approached his decrepit mansion I saw his face framed in an upper-story window, and with a wave I entered the home without knocking. I prepared tea in the kitchen and brought it with me as I mounted the stairs. I found him in his accustomed place, sitting in a rocker with an afghan over his legs, gazing upon an overgrown estate that had long ago fallen into decay.
“Mr. Utterson,” he said as I entered the room. “How nice it is to see you.”
“And you as well,” I replied. We fell into easy conversation, exchanging pleasantries and catching up on the news of England. The 20th century, we agreed, looked to be as fortunate for Blighty as had been the years before.
Eventually, though, our conversation hit its usual lull, and the melancholy settled into his features. I knew of whom he thinking. “Henry,” I said, not unkindly. “You must forget her.”
He looked away, returning his gaze to the window before us. “How can I, when her fate remains a mystery? If I knew her to be dead—even if I knew for fact that I had been jilted—I could carry on. Instead I am haunted by the not knowing.”
I sighed, and knew the time had come.
“Tell me what you remember of that day,” said I.
He briefly recounted the ceremony, the reception, and the initiation of the great hunt. “I found them all,” he said. “Even the children, who were the best at hiding. Eventually only she remained.
“I looked and looked, all over the estate. But I never found her.” He hesitated, and his brows knit. Doubt suffused his face. “Did I?”
“Do you not recall?”
“Your emotions were high that day, and you imbibed much more than was prudent for a man with your condition.”
“I remember the search, and I remember the days following. Yet I have no recollection of the moment when I realized she wouldn’t be found.”
“But she was found,” I said. “By him.”
He leapt from his chair and staggered as if struck. “That cannot be!” he cried, but there was uncertainty in his voice. “He was no longer a threat.”
“So we believed,” I said. “But your emotions were high that day, and you imbibed much more than was prudent for a man with your condition. It was this, combined with your mounting frustration as you failed to find you bride, that brought about the change when at last you did. He killed her on the spot.”
“No,” he pleaded, and placed a hand upon the wall for support. “My last transformation was a full year before the day of my wedding.”
“Alas,” I said, shaking my head. “You had one final episode, doctor: during that fateful game of Hyde and Seek.”
Lauren Frey Daisley
…he died on the couch.
…he wandered the estate, day and night. Having inherited his wealth, he had no occupation to keep him distracted. A dark senility had taken over in the years since his wedding, and he became like a bitter old Mr. Havisham, shuffling about the old house calling for his lost love.
“Bea! Beatrice! Come out! You win!”
To no avail. His bride hadn’t been seen since the day of their wedding. He still wore the old-timer’s tux and ironic mustaches he’d grown for the occasion. He remembered faintly her vintage wedding dress, purchased on Etsy. He’d give anything to see her once more.
One day, during his perambulations, calling out to Beatrice in the kitchen, opening and slamming shut cupboard doors, he knocked over an old mason jar containing organic, free-trade raw sugar. The jar shattered on the tile floor, revealing an envelope from Bea’s personalized stationery. He fumbled it open to read:
I’m sorry to do this to you, but you did always say how much you adored my impulsiveness. While playing hide and seek, I was scrolling through Instagram, seeing updates from the game and the ukulele duet we played just beforehand, and I realized how insufferably fucking twee we are. We met at that Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island, and then we joined that kickball league. You told me you loved me on our first No Pants Subway Ride as a couple. The proposal video you made with all our friends went viral, and soon enough every Buzzfeed reader was telling me “congratulations” at my artisanal cupcake shop. It all seemed like a beautiful dream, but…could it really go on like this? I may be your manic pixie dream girl now, but what will happen if I settle down? I can’t bear the thought, so I must leave you. I’m hiding this letter in the sugar jar, because during that surprise tea party you threw for me, you told me I’m “all the sugar” you’ll ever need. I know you’ll find it immediately.
Goodbye, my love. I’m deleting my Facebook account. I need to live off the grid for a while, you know? Maybe I’ll move to Portland and become a Suicide Girl. I don’t know.
Love, your little, buzzy B.
Jake reread the letter a few times before pulling himself up off the floor. She had a point, he thought, before returning to his study to smoke his pipe. Still miserable, but with the greatest mystery of his life solved, he consoled himself with a sad tune strummed lightly on his ukulele and wished, not for the first time, that he owned a TV.