Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 29
Challenge #13*: David Bowie Day. Write a story exploring themes of death or identity, including something beginning and something ending, and incorporating transhumanism. It must include at least 10 quotes or lyrics by David Bowie, and a character based on Bowie himself.
Blasting across the universe in a napalm-propelled rocketship with an Egyptian goddess in the driver’s seat and a money-pooping goat in the cargo hold was not the carefree getaway Girth Loinhammer had hoped it would be. He let out a gentle sigh.
“What’s wrong?” asked Sekhmet. Despite being the goddess of bloodshed, she was surprisingly sensitive to other people’s feelings (and unsurprisingly liable to punch in the face anybody who mentioned this out loud).
“It’s nothing,” he said. Then, feeling he might as well get it out there: “It’s just…you know we’re fictional characters, right?”
“No,” said Sekhmet, rolling her eyes. “I thought we were in a real napalm spaceship with a real money-pooping goat.”
“Okay, point taken. The thing is, when we exist, it’s because we’re in a story. And when I’m in a story, I almost always have to explain that I used to run a generic fantasy dungeon, that everyone I took prisoner in it was expecting a different kind of dungeon, and then within a thousand words it ends with me running off because things get…erotic.”
“Why do you always say that in subscript?”
“Because I don’t like it! You know me, I like violence. I’m not happy when things get…sexual.”
“Hey, foos!” put in the ship’s computer, which of course contained the uploaded consciousness of Mr. T. “There’s a starman waiting in the sky!”
“What?” asked Sekhmet.
“Knowing my luck,” said Girth, gloomily, “it’ll be some androgynous weirdo.”
“Look out your window! I can see his light!” The ship swung in to pick him up.
“Transhuman Mr. T’s right,” observed Sekhmet. “Just there, by that blue giant. And it is some androgynous weirdo.”
“I knew it! It’s David Bowie Day again, isn’t it? I knew this would happen!” Girth began banging his behelmeted head against the hull of the ship. The noise was tremendous.
“Turn and face the strange, foo!” demanded the ship’s computer. “I’m opening the airlock!”
The airlock slid open, and the starman stepped inside, visor gleaming like blackened sunshine.
“Alright,” demanded Sekhmet. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
The starman spread his arms, but did not remove his helmet. “I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir.” Then he thought for a bit. “But what I’m doing here? I don’t know. I’ve come to the realisation that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing half the time.”
“I know what you’re doing,” snarled Girth, raving mad and somewhat slightly dazed. “You’re totally screwing this up for me, that’s what!”
“Sorry,” said the starman, “you could spend the morning talking with me and I still wouldn’t have a clue what you were on about.”
“What I’m on about!? If it weren’t for David Bowie Day, I wouldn’t be in half the mess I am now!” Girth Loinhammer stepped up to the starman. “When I started out, I was a faceless, one-shot character in a forgettable fantasy parody. By some unfortunate miracle, I later turned up in—let’s be honest here—basically the same story again. But that was it. That was all there was supposed to be.”
There was a brief, angry silence.
“But then David Bowie Day came along. Suddenly I had a name, and a back-catalogue of adventures, and a helmet permanently glued to my head. You…” he jabbed a meaty, mead-sticky finger at the starman. “You are responsible for my entire identity. You created Girth Meatthrust Loinhammer. By all rights, I should have been forgotten—nameless, faceless—just one dumb story (twice) in a massive pile of dumb stories. But thanks to you, I’m never ever gonna get old. Thanks to you, everybody knows me now.”
The starman looked from Girth, to Sekhmet, to the hologrammatic head of Mr. T, all staring at him in silence.
He stepped into the airlock once more. “Saying more and feeling less, saying no but meaning less…this is all I ever meant. That’s the message that I sent.”
The inner door closed, the outer door opened, and the last they saw of him was the streaking flare of a jetpack vanishing into the infinite darkness of the cosmos. A second later, and the blue giant burst into a spectacular cloud of light.
“He didn’t seem to do very much…” said Sekhmet.
“He did enough.” Girth sat back down, folding his arms. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have to keep putting up with this nonsense.”
There was a pause.
“If it wasn’t for him,” said Sekhmet, “you’d never have met me.”
“Well,” said Girth, smiling beneath the helmet, “that’s a silver lining.”
Outside, the blue giant began to fall back in on itself, forming a black hole. However small, however hard to spot against the blackness of space, it would always stand as a reminder of the star that had been before: all its mass preserved in that single point.
Girth spoke again: “And at least this is one story that’s not going to end with sex.”
“Would it be so bad if it did?” asked Sekhmet.
Girth thought for a minute. By his reckoning, this particular story had only taken about eight-hundred and sixty words so far. There was still time for something to go horribly, horribly wrong.
Then Sekhmet leaned in and kissed him. Neither of them got much out of it, because he was wearing a full face helmet and she had the head of a lioness and the breath to match. It was that unique combination of pointless and gross.
Girth shut down Mr. T regardless.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.
You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which was recently accepted by Unbound. However, today I’ll point you towards this one about David Bowie instead: