The cook asks the Prince to pick some rosemary for their suppertime dish. The Prince has been fearful of rosemary since childhood. When he bends close to the rosemary bush a man’s face appears within it. The face has a beard made of rosemary. ‘After something, handsome?’ The Prince does not answer. ‘Cat got your tongue?’ says the face. The Prince says nothing. After some time the face sighs, takes hold of its beard, and begins to tug. It only stops when the Prince gets the cook from the kitchen. In the meantime it does itself some real damage.
You wake up on a mountainside. The castle at the top is covered in gemstones. When you knock on the door a woman and man answer. They both look like each other. ‘You are late,’ says the man. ‘We have already eaten.’ The woman pulls at the brother’s hair, which is long like hers, until small red stones can be seen where you’d expect blood. ‘If you are feeling adventurous,’ she says ‘we could try something else.’ The brother holds out his hand. It might as well be cocaine. ‘Go on,’ he says. ‘Live a little.’
The Prince has sex with a man and then cries into a pillow. The man judge the lay to be more or less average but doesn’t say anything for fear of offending the Prince. They exchange numbers. The man holds a barbecue for his colleagues. As he is cooking the burgers he starts to cough. His colleagues supply him with a glass of water. He coughs a ruby into it. A few weeks later he coughs a ruby up when he is giving a speech. The Prince calls him that evening. ‘Don’t freak out,’ he says, ‘but I think you should get tested.’
You break into your sister’s room. You lock three doors behind you: the outside door, the hallway door, and the bedroom door. You start to copy out her diary into your pocketbook. You get through a full page before you hear someone unlock the outside door. A cat says to you ‘She already knows you do this, you know.’ You tell the cat to buzz off. You hear someone unlock the hallway door. ‘One day,’ says the cat. ‘You’ll just have to come out with it.’ You throw the diary at the cat and it splits down the spine. You try to put the pages back together but it is difficult to mend. ‘Confess!’ says the cat. ‘Confess!’ Meanwhile, someone has reached the bedroom door. Someone is trying the handle.
The Prince tells his sister that he is a bit blue. She makes him a tea with the vine that she dangles from her window. On drinking, the Prince completely trips his balls. Man oh man the things he sees. When he gets a bit blue again he jumps out of his sister’s window. The Prince wakes up in a hospital twenty one days later. The nurse says that his leg bones have turned to rubies. He cannot tell if this is because of the tea directly putting rubies in his legs or if he is still tripping balls. Then again, he can’t tell if it is not because of the tea (i.e. nothing is related to the trip), or if it all is.
You wake up covered in gemstones. You are so sweaty that you have to peel them off. As you peel them off you grow lighter and lighter. Your sister comes into the room and jumps into the air, planning to land her body next to yours. Time slows down. As you pick each gemstone off she falls slower and slower. It is like Achilles and the tortoise. Your fingers keep finding gemstones to pick off, and your sister keeps slowing. Jesus, you think. This could go on forever.
You keep a personal ruby in a little gold tube. You take it out when no one is looking and hold it in your mouth. You order a cup of tea from a café. While you wait you watch a blackbird peck at an old man’s face. Passers-by try to scare it off. The waitress brings you the tea. She tuts. The blackbird chops off a part of his ear with its beak, which is sharp as flint. ‘How unfortunate,’ says the waitress. Privately, you are convinced you have caused the blackbird’s attack due to the personal ruby. Your therapist calls this ‘magical thinking.’
A pauper exposes himself to you during a public event. You get a good look then order him destroyed by fire. You find the family from whence he came and order them destroyed by fire. You find the village from whence they came and order it destroyed by fire. City after city is put to the torch. Your sister confronts you on the balcony. ‘I made you this magical fire-retardant shirt from a pile of dead swans,’ she says. ‘You’ll need it when you burn down the palace.’ The guards take her away. The last thing she says is: ‘You’ll need it when you burn yourself alive, asshole!’
The Prince catches two men having sex at the side of the road. When he sees them he throws up. In fact the Prince can’t stop being sick, even when there is nothing left in his stomach. The two men try to help. They take him to their flat, find him a blanket and cook him a light supper. He heaves throughout the night. The two men hush him and mop his brow. Each time he heaves it is worse, until at four a.m. he heaves so strongly he throws himself inside out. All the way. With his surfaces reversed, he calls himself ‘the Princess.’ He finds work in a nightclub downtown and does Tuesdays and Fridays. He winds up being pretty good.
I have short fiction published in Neon, The London Journal of Fiction, The Cro Magnon, JJ Outré Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Queen’s Head, and in Spoke, an anthology of New Queer Voices. I have short fiction longlisted for the Exeter Writers Prize (2016), and The Sunderland Story Award, and shortlisted in the Short Fiction Journal’s Short Fiction competition (2016). I have poetry published in Kaffeeklatsch Magazine, NSW Magazine, Chelsea Station Press and elsewhere. I can be found on the web and on twitter @hodgsonson. I edit doppelgänger, a short fiction magazine.