Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 26
Challenge #11: Write a story based on the work of David Bowie, featuring a cross-dressing, transgender or androgynous character. The story must begin with a hook and end with a twist.
The barmaid slid the mug across the bar, watching in fascination as the leather-clad patron tipped his head back, angled the drink over the slotted faceplate of his helmet, and poured. It wasn’t exactly neat, but the chugging noises suggested that it was at least effective, and that was something.
“Hey, honey,” said the regular with the ample bosom and prominent Adam’s apple. “That’s quite a talent you’ve got there. And I like your style. Want to make me scream like a baby?”
“No.” He set the mug down and sighed.
There was a pause. The barmaid dunked a dirty glass into a bucket of water.
“This is really going to bother me if I don’t ask…are you a man or a woman?”
“Honey,” said the regular, “I can be whatever you want me to be.”
“Hmm…” another pause. “Still no.”
“Humph,” said the regular, storming away with a flourish of his or her bipperty-bopperty hat.
The guy with the helmet stared into his empty mug for a moment. “I could do with another.”
The barmaid poured it out.
“You don’t have to take that personal,” she explained as she slid the mug over. “I’m not entirely okay with it going on in here myself, but it’s just business.”
Another sigh. The mug of mead vanished through the faceplate just like the three before it, and the drinker rested his head on the edge of the bar. He looked unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed.
“So…” the barmaid tried to spark up a conversation in some way that wasn’t painfully awkward. It didn’t work. “You seem pretty down. Want to talk about it?”
“No.” His voice was muffled by the wooden countertop.
“Want to talk about something else then?”
“No.” He rolled his head over to one side, so he didn’t just have his face pressed against the wood. The barmaid supposed it was the next best thing to actually sitting up. “I want another mead.”
“Don’t you think you should pace yourself a bit?”
“I’m not drunk.”
“You’ve had four already!”
“Most of it just soaks into my collar.”
The barmaid set down the glass she’d been wiping. “People who aren’t drunk tend to take their helmets off in order to consume more alcohol.”
“You know how when some people are reckless teenagers, they get bad tattoos and then just have to deal with it for the rest of their lives?”
“When I was a reckless teenager, I got a helmet. Now I just have to deal with it.”
“It’s permanent, yeah.”
“Ah.” She poured another mug of mead and carried it over. He sat up to take it. “My name’s Eleanor, by the way.”
He tipped half the drink through his faceplate. “I’m the Dungeon Lord.”
“Aaaaaaah.” Eleanor winked. “I get you. And that does explain the outfit…”
The Dungeon Lord groaned, slumping forward once more.
“That. Everything. I had an actual dungeon, but everyone ended up mistaking it for something…kinky. In the end I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
“Oh.” Eleanor thought for a bit. “Well ‘Dungeon Lord’ is bound to give the wrong idea. Why didn’t you just use your real name?”
“My real name is Girth Loinhammer.”
A barbarian at the other end of the bar burst out laughing.
“Okay,” said Eleanor. “I’ll admit you’ve definitely been dealt some low cards.”
The Dungeon Lord took an angry gulp of mead. “All I wanted was to get unlimited power and money by hurting people. But it always ends up turning into some weird sex thing. I’ve tried everything! I set up one of those snake cults, I bought my own island, I became a general in the legions of Shagamemnon…”
“Yeah. That was a particularly bad one. After that I went for a whole different genre altogether and took up a job as a starman. Figured I’d join a spaceship crew, then just spend all my time waiting in the sky, beating up anyone else who landed on my asteroid and maybe looking for satellites to hold for ransom.”
“Well what went wrong there?”
The Dungeon Lord took a deep breath. “Green, three-boobed alien women wanting to be taught the Earth-concept of love.”
“I see.” Eleanor rinsed and dried another mug. The Dungeon Lord drained his. “Do you not think your real problem might be that you’re determined to use violence to solve everything? Maybe you’d have better luck if you tried to take up a different lifestyle altogether. If nothing else, you’d be less likely to bump into the unsavoury characters you’ve been meeting so far.”
The Dungeon Lord thought about this. He shook his head. “Violence and torture are what I do. It just bothers me that I can’t do what I do without the situation becoming really, really uncomfortable. For me.” It seemed important to clarify that.
“That’s just it!” Eleanor ploughed her fingers through her hair. “I’m not saying that you should race out and do anything you’re uncomfortable with, but it’s worrying that you seem to be more troubled by the prospect of romance than violence. Maybe if you were just a little nicer to other people, you’d stop ending up in that kind of situation and perhaps find a relationship you actually…”
“You know what?” The Dungeon Lord stood. “I came here to forget my problems. I shouldn’t have to listen to a lecture from you. And I shouldn’t have to change who I am just to avoid everything suddenly heading towards sex. And I…don’t…seem to have any money to pay you for the drinks. I’m very sorry. Dungeoning was my only source of income and that ticket to Space really ate into my finances.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” said Eleanor. “I’m sure we can…come to some other arrangement.”
The Dungeon Lord stared at her, eyes welling with tears. Then he ran out of the tavern, blubbering.
“Wait!” shouted Eleanor, after him. “I only meant you could wash some of these mugs!”