Halloween Town was expecting a gifted corpse. The murder of a young girl, itself, was quite the news. Newspapers had reached the Town before they even got a hold of her. She was found to be incredibly talented in the arts and music, and went by the name of "Emily". Her obituary stated that she had died a bride right before her wedding. There were some follow-up rumors of it being the groom himself or of a jealous devotee.
Her welcoming into the Town was filled with both hostility and warm claws. While some of the monsters were eager to receive a new member of their town, others were quite envious. Perhaps it was of her radiant, white aura - or maybe it was because of her ripe flesh that was a beautiful shade of blue. Her wide, lifeless eyes were one to live for, and each step she took was one of elegance and pride.
She strutted into Town holding a bouquet of flowers. There were few, very faintly-colored butterflies roaming its many petals. Her dress was long and still wonderfully preserved, as the flowers on its lining were still crisp and contained their fresh fragrance. Every monster she brushed past would stop in their tracks and gently lift their snouts or noses to sniff the air around them. They'd wonder how such a foreign scent would make its way to them, and would stop to admire the Corpse Bride.
Emily smiled as she modestly waved to them. She wasn't fooling anyone by pretending to be timid. The witches and ghouls she'd pass by would send her envious sneers and flicks of their wrists. They were visibly jealous of her appearance, though she'd hear some of them whisper behind her back that she "was not scary", or "nothing was horrifying about her". The insult was fairly new to her and confused Emily. Her strut soon turned into a faster walk, as she was quick to disappear into the building that homed the Town Hall.
In there, she met with the Mayor of Halloween Town. His appearance was unsettling to her, but was practically nothing to the looks she had gotten from the ghouls. He soon led her over into a room where she could meet with the King - the only man authorized to consider new members of this Town. Emily was excited to meet royalty, as she had always dreamed of being a princess.
But he was far from your average King. When the Corpse Bride's eyes landed on his figure, she was astonished. He was 7 feet tall and towered over her thin frame. His skull wore a long, stitched smile that was complimented by his hollow, black eye sockets. There was no doubting he was a skeleton - though the tallest she had ever seen. He wore a pinstriped suit that clung very graciously over his frame, followed by a bat bow tie whose wings expanded to the ends of his shoulders.
His stride was gallant and overwhelming. His long legs carried him over to her in a mere 2 steps. Emily quickly shut her mouth and smiled as she held onto the ends of her dress, performing a traditional curtsy as she was taught to when alive. This King was overwhelmingly attractive, though quite overbearing with his thin yet stall stature.
"Welcome to Halloween Town," He spoke to her. "I am the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington."
He took her skeletal hand and laid a quick, polite kiss on the tip of her phalanges, as per tradition. He let go and stood back up straight, giving her the chance to introduce herself. Emily tried her best to appear as respectful yet entrancing as possible for him.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, King. My name is Emily."
The skeleton gave her a dismissive wave with his bony hand. "Please, call me Jack. I don't quite enjoy formality."
Emily was taken aback, but obliged to his demand right away. "-Oh, yes. I'm sorry about that."
"Nothing to apologize for. I've heard of you, Emily. You're the 'Corpse Bride', are you not?" She nodded, in which he continued. "-Such a tragic way to go. Especially when you are unsure of who was your killer."
The Corpse Bride brushed a strand of her blue hair behind her ear and frowned. "Yes, I'd prefer not to talk about it. The pain is still with me, I'm afraid it'll be awhile until it'll go away."
"Understandable." He motioned her to come with him. "Right this way."
She followed after him and couldn't help but admire the way he walked. He was so sure of his steps, and his presence was visible to those around him. Any other resident within sight would address the King, always with his name yet never with the title. Emily placed a hand to her lips as she watched him lead her into another room. He held the door open for her, and the Corpse passed by him with a smile.
The room he led her in appeared to be some sort of gathering place. There were many benches and seats placed to the side of the room. A stage was placed at the center, where a grand piano sat on top of the floorboards. There was an empty seat placed just before it, as well as a singular, dead rose that lay just above its mantle.
Jack lead her up the stairs and towards the piano. Emily couldn't help admire its details and color. It certainly looked out of place - like it had been pulled from the Living World itself. She went forward to trail a hand on it, but paused before her finger could reach its surface. The Pumpkin King noticed her hesitation and granted her permission to touch it.
"Go ahead. I'd actually prefer if you'd get familiar with it."
Emily went forward and sat down on its cushion. It was far more comfortable than how the other benches in the room looked. She took a glance at all of the keys and noticed that they had been dusted to perfection. She gently pressed the tip of her finger against a key, and slowly slid her way down. Each sounded perfectly and rhythmic.
Jack Skellington stood beside her and started looking through a clipboard in his hand. He said, "In your papers, it says that you came from a wealthy family. Is that correct?"
"Why, yes." The Corpse looked up at him and nodded. "It is, though I don't quite remember my last name."
"Most of my citizens don't, either, so it's nothing to worry about." He laughed. She couldn't help but get goosebumps at the sound. It was delightfully hearty and expressed his voice in words she couldn't fathom.
"In order for you to be an inclined musician in the town, Emily, I'm going to need you to play me whatever you'd like. It can be a prelude, ballade, or even an etude. I'm not real picky."
Emily gently pressed the keys, still getting used to its touch. It feels like it's been ages since she had played an instrument. She couldn't help but slightly giggle at his words. She'd have assumed he would've just said "piano solo", like many around her have for so long.
"You sure know something about music, is that right?" She asked.
Jack nodded. "You could say so. If you need to warm up, then just let me know."
The Corpse Bride slightly trailed over the keys and hesitated on the choice. She soon turned head over to him and nodded. "I think I'm ready, now."
The skeleton gave her a slight nod and decided to sit beside her on the bench. His presence gave her an unusual longing in her chest. A familiar thing she had felt right before she died, though she couldn't quite remember why. It made her feel tingly at her fingertips and spread to her opened rib cage.
Swallowing this nervousness down, Emily began to play. She performed one of her favorite songs when she was alive. It was simple, really, but she played her heart out performing it. Every so often she'd have to scoot closer to Jack to reach a key, and she'd pass him a smile every time she did so. The smiles he returned made the butterflies in Emily's bouquet to flutter.
Her song was soon done, and she purposely held onto the last key for longer than usual. She withdrew her hands afterwards and placed them into her lap as she looked over at Jack. His eye sockets stared at her before looking back at the piano. He soon gave her an applause and widened his stitched smile at the wonderful performance.
"That was very meritorious, Emily. They certainly weren't exaggerating when they said you were talented."
The Corpse Bride sat straight up in her seat, placing a modest hand to her chest. "Oh, thank you. It's been so long, sometimes I forget how fun it is to play."
She leaned forward to press a few more keys and closed her eyes to remember the sounds. They gave her faint memories of being alive. Having a beating heart, peach flesh, and certainly not in this bride's dress. The time where she had beautiful, brunette hair and mesmerizing brown eyes...
"Can you play?" Emily suddenly asked. Jack blinked once or twice at the question.
"Yes, but it's been a horribly long time. I'm afraid I'll be a bit rusty..."
"Trying won't hurt." She scooted over on the bench. "I'm sure you'll play wonderfully, Jack."
The skeleton stared at her until he looked back at the piano. With hesitation, he hovered his large, skeletal hands over its keys. He gave one last glance to Emily before slowly engaging in a solo of his own. His long fingers proved to be quite useful, as he covered nearly all of the keys necessary to hit without moving an inch. Emily watched with admiring eyes and started playing notes of her own.
Jack paused in the midst of his song and looked at her. She gave him a smile and asked, "Why don't we make it a duet?"
He smiled at the suggestion and continued to play. Emily added her own rhythms that complimented his solo almost perfectly. The two of them shared a grin as they went faster with their song, and soon escalated into a complicated yet pleasing melody. They both ended on the same note, their fingers touching one another as they rested comfortably on the same key. Jack immediately withdrew his hand and chuckled nervously.
"That was fantastic! You were right, it feels wonderful to play after so long."
He got up from his seat, much to the corpse's dismay. She slowly followed suit and grabbed her bouquet off from the mantle. She held it down at her waistline and watched while Jack checked a few things off from his clipboard. He looked up from it and smiled, gently tapping the side of his leg.
"I have a tour of Halloween Town next, if you're interested. Just to show you what it's like here in case you stay."
Emily thought about the citizens she saw earlier and remembered their hostility to her. Surely they'd act differently if she was with their King? Confident with her idea, she turned to Jack and nodded with a smile.
"I'd love to."
As she presumed, the citizens immediately changed their approach to Emily in front of Jack. All of the female monsters and ghouls gave them smiles and waves. Though, the corpse very well knew about their scoffs and sneers as soon as Jack's back was turned. Emily would look at them and simply hold her chin high up in the air. She certainly was at an advantage - it wasn't everyday you were personally with a King, after all.
Many hideous creatures would approach the King and ask him for his time, but would get rejected due to Emily's tour. She felt a bit happy from this, especially since she was put at a higher priority. She always had been, what with her being born in a wealthy family and all. You were taught to look down on those not worth your time and up to the people who deserved it. In this case, she had a lot of looking up to do with Jack Skellington.
The Pumpkin King only stopped for one person. It was for a ragdoll-like creature who had many stitches on her body, arms, and legs. She had abnormally huge eyes with lopsided lips. The only thing distracting Emily from such a hideous face was of her rich, red-colored yarn hair. She was wearing a patchwork dress that distinctly differed her from all the other monsters Emily had seen today.
Jack greeted this doll with a smile and took her hands into his own. Emily watched as he squeezed them and leaned down to speak with her. She couldn't help but lift the ends of her lip in disgust. Something about the sight truly unsettled her. Shouldn't she be the one getting all the attention? What with her tour, and all.
While the skeleton conversed with this ragdoll, Emily tapped the side of his arm. He let go of her hands and turned back to the corpse, as if he had forgotten all about her presence. Jack soon smiled and placed his bony hand on the back of her dress, ushering her forward towards the ragdoll. The Corpse Bride cringed, as this was the exact opposite of what she wanted.
"Oh, I completely forgot! Sally, this is Emily. Emily, this is the town's seamstress, Sally."
The ragdoll outstretched her hand and politely smiled. "How do you do?" She asked.
Emily stared at her hand before slowly taking it and shaking it lightly. It felt like she was touching cloth. The corpse pulled her hand back as quickly as it came and gave a dismissive smile to her.
"Yes, nice to meet you. Jack, where were we with our tour, again?"
Jack gave her a confused look, but finally bid goodbye to Sally. Emily smiled when she saw him turn away and start leading the two of them back into Town. She glanced behind her and noticed the frown on the ragdoll's face. Something about the sight made her feel guilty, but there was nothing she could do about it, so she simply turned back without a word.
"There's not much left to show you." He rubbed his skull. "Nothing except the shops, but I'm sure you wouldn't be interested-"
"Oh, no, I am." She interrupted him. "I'd like to see everything. Getting familiar and thing of the sort."
Everything here seemed nice to Emily, but she wasn't getting the best impression from anyone besides Jack. She really didn't mean to be rude with that ragdoll. She just wanted to prolong her time with Jack, as she was really growing attached to him. She couldn't help but bite her lip every time he strode on the streets with her.
The skeleton shrugged and introduced her to the shops, anyway. The corpse was barely listening to the tour section by this point and was rather spending her time staring at Jack. His frame was so attractive, and there was something alluring about the way he smelled like pumpkins. Tall men always caught Emily's eye, and she can definitely see why now...
"I think that's about it." The skeleton snapped her back into reality. "Any questions?"
Emily thought of any and tapped her chin in thought. She asked, "Could we see that spiral hill again? I thought it looked wonderful."
"The graveyard?" Jack asked, suddenly smiling. "Of course. Come, this way."
He circled around her and suddenly starting leading her in a direction. She held the ends of her dress up as she quickly followed after him. The skeleton led her through a pair of gates until they were face-to-face with what she wanted to see. Not that she was really interested in it, per se. She just wanted somewhere to be alone with Jack...
The skeleton started walking and talking. "You know, this is actually my favorite place in Town! It's always so quiet."
Emily looked around them and confirmed their lack of company. "Yes, it really is."
"I like to come here and practice my scaring on the pumpkins, too." He continued. "It looks even more wonderful at night time. I'm kind of disappointed we couldn't have had this tour then! The moon shines the brightest here; I'm sure you'd like it."
She continued to listen to him continue on and on about the spiral hill. While she enjoyed the sound of his voice, she found it hard to contain herself by this point. He looked so handsome when he had that smile and he couldn't stop stretching it while talking about this place. Emily bit the inside of her cheek as she watched his frame walk around the graveyard.
Eventually, she succumbed to the growing, longing feeling in her chest. She couldn't deny it now - she missed having a fiancé. Someone to cling onto and love unconditionally. There was no doubt that Jack was wealthy and even exceeded her once-title. Emily eventually gave in and jumped right at the skeleton, wrapping her arms around his frame and leaning upwards to lay a kiss on his skull.
Instead of feeling his lips coming into contact with hers, Emily felt something hard. She opened her eyes and found that he had blocked her with his hand. Startled, she let go of him and took a step back. Jack's eye sockets were abnormally wide, as if she had caught him by surprise. He eventually dropped his hand and gave her a confused look.
"Emily...what was that about?"
The Corpse was thankful she could not blush, because she'd be as red as a rose by now. "I...just thought, because you were so friendly with me, you'd-"
"Oh, God. I apologize if you thought I led you on, but, Emily. I'm married."
She blinked her eyes several times in surprise, only managing to open her jaw so wide she thought it'd pop off. The only word she could manage was: "Huh!?"
Jack bit the end of his bony finger, and that was when she finally realized he was wearing a ring. It had a pumpkin design on it that made it truly hard to miss. It was on his proper finger, the farthest one on his left, due to only having 4 phalanges. She must've been so swept up admiring his looks that she completely passed it. Emily suddenly felt bashful for the mistake, though the longing feeling was only growing stronger within her.
She closed her eyes tightly and clenched her fists. She suddenly spattered out something she wouldn't ever imagine saying. "That doesn't mean anything! Who is she, anyway?"
The skeleton gave her a questioning look, but decided to tell her, anyway. "To Sally."
Emily scrunched up her nose in both surprise and sudden anger. He was married...to that ragdoll!? The hideous creature with the scrap dress? An unpleasant, burning feeling suddenly spread through her body. It felt like it was a mix of jealousy, envy, and anger. She gritted her teeth at the thought of Sally, but quickly erased her from her mind.
She doesn't matter, Emily thought to herself. Instead of screaming like she wanted to, she decided to approach the matter differently. She went forward and extended her arms out to Jack, who stood there uncertainly and only took a step back once she got closer to him.
"You don't have to BE with her." She assured him. "You can run off with someone like me. I've got everything she's got, only better."
The skeleton held his hands up in the air. "Emily, I'm sorry, but I just don't feel the same way about you. Perhaps there's a suitor for you back in Town? I can help you look-"
The Corpse Bride started to sob. "Why not!?"
Sadness overcame her. Emily turned on her heel and ran out from the graveyard as fast as she could, sobbing into her hands. She heard Jack call out for her from behind but kept running. Why did he have to be with a ragdoll like HER? Why couldn't he just make her happy and finally give her the marriage she's always wanted?
In the midst of her flee, Emily ended up bumping into something hard. Or she should say someone, because she heard some grunts afterwards. She was sent onto the ground, but quickly recovered and was back on her feet. She looked at who she had bumped into and went to apologize, but frowned at who came into sight. Out of all the people she could run into - Sally just had to be it.
The ragdoll placed a hand to her head in pain, clutching at her yarn hair. She opened one eye to look at who she ran into. At the sight of Emily, Sally scrambled to her feet. She tried her best to steady herself as she looked to the corpse and gave her a frown.
"I'm so sorry, I really should have looked where I was going." She apologized.
Instead of being forgiven or helped, Emily simply narrowed her eyes. Sally widened her own when she saw the corpse take a hasty step forward. Sally quickly took a step back in fear. Emily looked her up-and-down before ridiculing her. She placed a skeletal hand to the ragdoll's chest and shoved her forward, sending her back to the ground harshly.
"Little-Miss-Doll." She sneered.
One of Sally's seams came loose during her fall, causing her leg to come off and land a few inches away from her. She went forward to reach it until Emily kicked it to the side. She looked up in fear and tried her best to pry her body up as best as she could. The Corpse Bride crossed her arms and looked at her in disgust.
"What does he see in you?" Emily asked abruptly. "My skin's blue, and I have wonderful hair, too!"
"Who..are you talking...about?" Sally grunted, still trying to stand without a leg.
Both of their heads turned, only to find Jack rushing in from the direction of the Graveyard. He noticed Sally struggling and dived down to scoop her leg from the ground. He immediately went to her side and started to aid her, grabbing some needle and thread from his pocket. Emily watched in awe as he reattached her leg with haste. The sight only angered her more.
"She's nothing special." The corpse huffed. "If anything, she's just a problem."
"Are you talking about me?" Sally asked. When Emily turned to nod, the ragdoll frowned and looked down at the ground sadly.
"It's way too early for you to start making assumptions like that." Jack bit the end of the thread, disposing of it immediately.
"Jack, what is she talking about?" The ragdoll asked. Emily decided to answer for him.
"He rejected me!" She cried. "After I got murdered by my own fiancé, he rejected me! And for you! It's no fair!"
The corpse stomped her foot angrily on the ground, glaring daggers at Sally. Her anger then subsided and went back to sadness, in which she started sobbing again. She fell onto the ground and held her face in her hands. There were no tears to shed, for she was now deceased. All that came were noises of despair and sorrow. Emily hated herself for crying like this, it was really unattractive, but she felt absolutely broken now.
Sally was the one to approach her. She took a step towards her cautiously, in which Jack tried to motion her back. The ragdoll ignored him as she continued stepping forward until she was only a few inches away from Emily. She leaned down to her level and slowly placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. The corpse flinched and tried to nudge it off of her.
"Leave me be!" She cried from her hands. "You're no help; you took my love away!"
"Perhaps you'd like to go back inside?" Jack offered, walking over to the two of them. "The Town Hall has some hot cocoa, maybe we could-"
"You rejected me. I don't want to h-hear anymore from y-you..."
The skeleton went silent as she started crying again. He tapped his lip concernedly and looked over at Sally for help. He really had no idea what to do in a situation like this. He already refused a possible affair with this woman, yet she was angry at him for doing so. The ragdoll realized how lost her husband looked and turned back to Emily. She was still unsure of what was happening, but she was starting to get an idea.
"Emily, if I may say..." She started. "It isn't too late for you to find the love of your undead life. He may be out there very near. You'll never know if you stick to one person."
The corpse shakily looked up from her hands. There was clear spite in her look, though Sally saw a glimpse of curiousness in her eyes. The ragdoll smiled as she continued to pat her back and reassured her.
"I understand that what you went through was awful, and my husband here is very kind...but I love him dearly. I'm sure there is another person who will be nice and care for you, and won't do what your ex-lover has done to you."
Emily wiped her eye, ignoring the absence of any tears. Her lips slowly turned into a smile as she slowly nodded. Sally helped her come back to her feet, in which the corpse started brushing the dirt off from her dress. As soon as she was clean again, Emily turned away from Sally and crossed her arms.
"It's still unfair." She said. "You have such an amazing man and I'm left to be alone. But, I suppose I could...keep trying."
Sally was unsure whether to smile or frown. "Yes, I think that's the best idea. Sometimes the wait is worth it."
The Corpse Bride hesitated before turning back to the ragdoll. She gave her an endearing smile but still kept her chin up and away from her. There was still some resentment going on between the two. Jack decided to step back in and held up a bony finger in Emily's direction.
"I apologize for this, but I'm afraid that...under these circumstances, I cannot let you stay here. If my citizens knew you attacked our Queen, they'd surely eat you dead."
Emily didn't rebut, still keeping her eyes crossed and looking away from the both of them. Jack continued, nevertheless.
"I think I have an idea on where you can stay. It's an average city compared to Halloween Town, but it embraces music and arts very well. My cousin owns a pub and show down there. He'll be glad to take you in."
The corpse gently lifted her head and slowly looked back at Jack. She was intrigued by this offer. Jack quickly dug around in his suit and pulled out a small piece of paper. He grabbed a pen from inside his jacket and started to scribble something on it. Sally peeked around his frame to see what he was writing. A smile came onto her face soon after, and she gave her husband an affirmative nod afterwards.
Jack went forward and offered Emily the piece of paper. She took it from him, a bit apprehensively, and read what he had wrote for her. It was of an address somewhere in the 'Land of the Dead'. She blinked as she observed the writing, quietly noting to herself how neat the Pumpkin King's handwriting exactly was.
"I'll send the hearse down for you, and you can give the driver that sheet of paper. I'll pay for the expenses, just make sure to write once you're there. My cousin's name is Bonejangles, and all you need to tell him is that you play."
Emily furrowed her eyebrow. "I play?" She repeated.
"He's a jazz artist." The skeleton shrugged. "I'm sure you'll love it there. I apologize for the inconveniences today, and I hope you find someone very soon. You're a wonderful woman, Emily, but my phantom heart is taken."
He looked back down at Sally and entwined their fingers together. The Pumpkin Queen smiled as she squeezed his hand back, and went on her tiptoes to lay a kiss on the side of his skull. The Corpse Bride frowned as she watched this and looked back to the piece of paper in her hand. She soon huffed and started walking in the direction of where she entered down.
She looked back when she was only a foot away from the gates. She saw Jack and Sally kissing again, this time on the lips. She scoffed and whipped her head around, continuing on her way with a more prideful walk. She was hurt by this rejection, there was no doubting that, but decided to try her luck elsewhere. If she couldn't find her lucky bachelor within time, then she'll just have to find one back at the tree she died at.
Emily clutched at her bouquet and sadly watched the butterflies dance around the flowers. She hugged them tighter to her chest as she shut her eyes, finally feeling a small tear escape from her eye. There were only two words she could mutter as she continued her way to the hearses.