UPDATE: This extract from My Love Sick Zombie Boy Band was posted when the story was still being drafted under its working title of Rings. But this secene remained through to the final draft (largely) intact.
Rings grew out of lots of thinking I’ve been doing about magic in urban settings, and the specific image of a girl who collects rings. What she does with those rings got darker and darker as the story progressed, but strangely the character of Amalfrida became more and more sympathetic, at least for me. I think this might be one of a whole set of stories about Amlfrida’s strange, strange family. This is an extract, I’m afraid if you want tor ead the whole thing you will have to petition someone to publish it. Its currently on the slush pile at Realms of Fantasy.
I am not a goth. Being goth is like being pregnant; best aborted at the first opportunity. I thought I was a goth for precisely one week after my thirteenth birthday, then I actually met a goth and that, as they say, was that. A goth is just a model B drone, as much a product of the cultural cookie cutter as any peroxide blonde bimbo. Goths are a shadow of a shadow. I am the shape from which the shadow is cast. Or so says my father.
‘Hey, nice goth outfit.’
I look down at my plain black tee, black skirt, black leggings and black boots. Yes, they are Doc Martins. Then I look up at the boy and manufacture an edged smile.
‘I am not a goth.’
‘Oh.’ Dumb pause. ‘Right.’ Idiotic hesitation. ‘Sorry.’ How do boys get away with being so stupid?
I have accidentally strayed in to the guitar shop. A dozen adolescent males are staring at me as though I am the final representative of an otherwise extinct species. There are important philosophical reasons why girls do not come in here. Why have I violated them?
‘Hub’ The boy sticks a hand out for me to shake.
Hub is the bearer of the tuffty blue hair that has drawn me unwilling into this hellhole of masculine posturing. I saw it from outside and just couldn’t resist scouting out the owner.
He has the typical loser chic of a young man with a fine future in stock replenishment. And what kind of name is that?
‘What kind of name is that?’
‘Oh right, yeah. Hubert. My parents didn’t like me.’
‘Mine don’t like me either.’
‘What did they call you then?’
‘Amalfrida.’ This is unprecedented. I never tell people my name.
‘Oh right, yeah. What does that mean?’
‘How should I know!’ I snap. He looks suddenly crestfallen and despite myself I feel guilty.
‘Look, mostly people call me Fred.’
‘Oh right, yeah. Fred.’
‘You say that a lot.’
‘Oh right, yeah.’ I parrot in my best dork impression.
‘Oh right, yeah.’ There is a pause and then we both burst out laughing. This carries on long enough that people start to stare.
‘My name.’ I say once things have gone quiet and we are just looking at each other. ‘It’s traditional. Gothic.’
‘I thought you said you weren’t a goth?’
‘Not goth. Gothic. My family. They’re like ostrogoths? Going way back to the old country.’
‘You really do ask a lot of questions.’
‘Oh…wow. Um. So do you play guitar?’
I play clarinet and flute at grade eight, write musical notation as fluently as I read it and composed my first cantata at the age of nine but am forced to admit that no, I do not play six string guitar.
‘I know four chords.’ The moron tells me proudly.
His blue tufts have been waxed into unruly spikes, stiff like the blood crusted mane of a tribal warrior. I can’t help finding it cute.
‘So what brings you in here?’
I am utterly appalled to find my heart beat quickening as I consider my reply. I do not get nervous about boys!
‘Giving you the chance to ask me out.’
No sooner have the words left my mouth than the colour leaves his face and for a moment he looks like he might have just peed himself. What fun! To his credit he recovers his composure with a smile.
‘Where should I ask you out to?’
‘Dunno. What you doing now?’
‘Then ask me if I want a latte.’
‘Right. Do you want a latte?’
‘I’d love one.’
It turns out Hub is allergic to coffee. And milk. So he has lemon tea, then we end up just floating around the shops like ghosts, talking relentlessly about nothing at all. How we end up starring into the glass display cases I do not know.
I recognise the ring instantly, although I have never glimpsed it before. It is a circle of hand forged silver, twisted at its crown into the curved cross of the ankh. The tip of one finger presses against the glass, like the flickering snake of a tongue tasting the essence of desire.
‘Do you want it?’
‘No’ I lie.
He looks at me confused. Am I really that obvious? I suppose he thinks am not able to afford it or some such.
‘Hey its OK, I’ll get it for you. How much is it?’
The trader is a Pole. I know him. He can’t recognise me, if he did he would cut his own throat before even considering selling this thing to a daughter of my fathers family.
‘I don’t want it. I don’t want you to give it to me.’
‘But it goes with all your others. I have to get it for you. No big thing, right?’
‘Everything is a big thing.’
I turn and walk away, weaving through the sudden crowds that surround us.
‘Hey!’ He grabs for my arm.
‘Don’t touch me!.’
I turn sharply and slap him across the face, hard. I don’t know who is more shocked, him or me. And then I bolt, running as fast as I can. I will not see him again.