A rough and ready draft of an idea from a conversation earlier this evening. With thanks to Sir Ink for the inspiration. See you in the pub yeah?
We’d been sitting in the bar for hours, harmless smoke-filled the room and snaked its way around us as we talked through the night.
Not that it was night-time at the bar – you see, the Red King is the pub where we all end up at some time or another. Sometimes it’s a short and disorienting visit – those are quite funny when we have new people arrive. Other times we come back, back in the dreaming for another pint and a chat. It’s soothing.
I’d gone to the bar and was getting another round in when Onod looked up and frowned at the doors as he poured pints. I turned just as the doors blew in hard and an odd man with jerky movements sprawled in gasping. He turned, took one sweep of the place, tripped over his own feet and fell on the floor.
Onod grunted, “Hmph, science fiction. Robots. I put money on it.”
Knowing better than to bet with the Ent, I walked over to the others who were helping the new arrival up onto his feet. They were trying to dust him down and help him but he kept jerking around, “Where am I?” he asked repeatedly in panicked breaths.
“Oh, that’s not right,” said Benjamin.
The new arrival’s head was on backwards, no wonder he was panicking.
“Wait,” commanded Angie. “For goodness’ sake, get him to hold still.”
We winced, knowing what was coming and held the newcomer’s arms against his body.
In one swift movement, Angie took hold of his head around the ears and turned his head around to face forward…like the rest of him.
“There,” she smiled, satisfied. “That should help. Can we get you a drink? I’m Angie. I also write about robots, it tends to make odd things happen, but you’ll get used to it.”
We let him go and he rubbed at his neck, now looking slightly less wild about the eyes. “Thanks, um. I beer I guess. Where am I?”
“The Red King pub of course,” said Paul, reaching a hand out to introduce himself. “I write about ghosts, I’d introduce my friends but you probably can’t see them.”
A knowing smile passed around the group and they helped the visitor to take a seat.
I went to fetch my elder flower cordial and took my seat back with Sir Ink.
“Newcomer?” he asked.
I nodded, taking a sip of my drink. “Robots”
Sir Ink winced into his pint. “Harsh entry. Should be right within the hour though.”
We looked over to the nearby table where the visitor was starting his drink and looking around warily. Angela sat down next to him and talked him down. She’s always a good person to have around when the new ones arrive. Very empathetic writer.
“Who are you then?” she asked.
“And you must write science fiction then?”
“Uh, yes sometimes. I um…how did I end up in this pub?”
I glanced at the bar where Onod gave me a knowing look. I was glad I didn’t take that bet. He’s been here since there was a need for this place and must have seen every writer under the sun pass through those doors. Wiseguy for a man with cherrywood bones.
Meanwhile Angie went through the lines we all know about the Red King. Not that any of us know the whole story. On a long night Odon occasionally has a drink with us and we learn more, but at most, you get your time in the pub and then you don’t – and that’s that.
“The Red King is where you come to dream when you’re writing something new.” Angie was explaining.
“But, I’ve been writing new things my whole life,” said Graham, looking a little affronted. We all looked into our drinks for a moment.
Angie continued. “When you write something new for everyone dear,” she said. “You might be writing all of your life, but there are recycled ideas and there are newer ideas. When you’re about to bring something new to life, you get a ticket to the pub.”
Graham raised his eyebrows and sipped his beer.
After a thoughtful moment he said, “But none of my stories are published…”
Angie smiled and we all raised a glass. “Then congratulations”, she tapped him on the temple. “Whatever’s forming in your turned around head is about to be released to a wider audience. You’re onto something!”
Graham looked confused. They all do on their first trip. Some never come back of course, whatever the idea in their heads gets pushed aside, work, life, anything can get in the way. But many return, some have been here for years.
I look at my hands as I put my glass back on the table. Sir Ink notices, “You’re not writing?”
My hands look faded, as people do when they are about to leave for a while.
“It’s been a tricky year for stories. All notes and fragments.”
“You’ll sort it out, you’ve been in and out of this place for years,”
“I know. It’s just hard to leave sometimes. But a good reminder that I should get some work done.”
I look around the bar and see a few folks getting ready to leave. “It must be nearly six a.m.” I comment. I was never an early riser, but some of the writers find their way home nice and early to get a start on the day. Time runs oddly in the Red King and I realise that soon I should also finish my drink and head back to consciousness.
“Any downtime soon?” asks Sir Ink, as I empty my glass.
“Yeah. Should be, I have something in mind too.”
“I’ll see you at the pub then,” he grins.
“You’ll be here first, mine’s an elder flower cordial with fizzy water.”
He nodded as I put on my coat, turned to the door and woke up.