Dated (from Contorted Royal)

Hello! I thought I would share an excerpt from my novel Contorted Royal. The chapter is called Dated. Enjoy! And if you like what you read, you can find the book and more information here:


Ralph had thought he was in a dream when he began to fall up the rabbit hole toward Contorted Royal. However, when he had opened the door and arrived at Contorted Royal, he had known it wasn’t a dream at all.

Nonetheless, it was still dream-like, as this time he fell down the rabbit hole, to go back to the modern day world, in a world apart from the one that Contorted Royal was in.

However, when they arrived at the bottom, Ralph blacked out. He awoke later to find himself on a sidewalk, lying next to The Black Queen.

He couldn’t help but think that indeed, the doors between worlds were very strange, but he supposed there was no way around it. He stood up, not wanting to awaken The Black Queen, looking around for Alice.

But Alice was nowhere to be seen.

Ralph couldn’t help but feel frustrated at this. Alice was the one that he wanted to be around. Alice was the one that he trusted. He couldn’t explain why he felt this way, except that she seemed to be the most honest out of the two, and she had a keen insight into things that could not be ignored. Often, in Ralph’s dreams, she was the one that was figuring things out. Ralph felt that he had been with her before, following her around like a hallucination, maybe in a past life or something. While that was probably not true, Ralph felt a bond with Alice that he couldn’t quite explain. To be blunt, he trusted her, and would trust his life with her.

But it looked like Ralph was stuck with The Black Queen. He could tell that she had a crush on him, but he wasn’t interested. Didn’t she have The Suicide King, anyway? Regardless, he didn’t find her that attractive. Maybe physically, but not in terms of personality. She wasn’t self-centered, exactly, but Ralph couldn’t deny that he had a stronger affinity for Alice.

Ralph, seeing there was no other way, woke up The Black Queen.

She awoke, and stood up slowly. She looked around, and said, “Where are we?”

“The Bronx,” Ralph said. “Alice ended up somewhere else, though. I don’t know where. Maybe she went too far down the rabbit hole.”

“Well, best move on without her,” The Black Queen said cheerily, as though her absence was nothing to trifle with. “We’ve got work to do.”

That was exactly the kind of attitude that Ralph didn’t really like, or at least wasn’t attracted to.

But she was right, nonetheless: they had work to do. The thing was, things were a little more complicated than just destroying a machine.

Ralph explained this to The Black Queen: “We could destroy the machine, but we need to come up with a plan first. Remember, the building is locked up, and there’s no way we can just burst right in.”

“Oh, I’m not worried about the machine,” The Black Queen said, and winked at Ralph flirtatiously.

Ralph would have rolled his eyes, but instead just remained silent for a moment.

He knew what The Black Queen was thinking. She wanted to date him. He could see it written all over The Black Queen’s smiling face. If not date, she wanted to at least spend time with Ralph, try and seduce him.

Which was always fantastic.

However, dating The Black Queen wasn’t all that unreasonable. Ralph would rather die than date The Black Queen, so that wasn’t the reason. The reason was because Ralph wanted to show The Black Queen how screwed up his world was here, how disconnected everything was, how people were cruel to each other for no apparent reason, how doing anything good for society was a terrible uphill battle that didn’t accomplish much.

“Mind if I hold your hand?” The Black Queen asked, again in that flirtatious manner.

Ralph wanted to concede to this, just so there would be no conflict, no friction, but stood his ground, said, “No. Not really.”

“Well, let’s go to a restaurant or something. I’d love to try your contemporary cuisine.”

“It’s generally nothing but processed junk,” Ralph said.

“Sounds good to me,” The Black Queen said.

Ralph now rolled his eyes. He followed The Black Queen to a local restaurant, couldn’t help but think of Alice. How much he liked her. He had trouble not getting her off his mind. He couldn’t explain it, couldn’t explain why, but she honestly meant a lot to him. He wanted to be with her, but fate had dictated that he be with The Black Queen.

Which, upon understanding more fully than he had before, caused Ralph to roll his eyes again, in acceptance. Oh, what the hell? Why not have fun with The Black Queen for a little bit, even if her antics drove Ralph up the wall.

The Black Queen reached out to hold Ralph’s hand, and Ralph assented for a moment, and then politely let go. At that point, they were in the restaurant.

The person at the front seated The Black Queen and Ralph without a single word, without even welcoming them inside. Ralph wasn’t surprised by this, they were always this way: people. But The Black Queen looked annoyed at this, and Ralph simply responded by shrugging, and saying, “I told you there were problems.”

“I’d say,” The Black Queen said.

Ralph and The Black Queen sat down, and began to do some talking as they waited for the server to come.

“So,” The Black Queen said, almost in an innocently promiscuous way, “do you like me?”

Ralph didn’t say anything; he would really rather not have to answer that question.

The Black Queen continued, as though Ralph had confirmed that she was indeed liked: “You do, Ralph? Oh, that’s very sweet of you. You love me, I’m sure. Are there any beds around here, do you know, Ralph?”

“There’s no beds,” Ralph said. “Not here. We’re in a restaurant.”

And Ralph looked intently at his menu: anything to not look at The Black Queen …

“You can’t resist me,” The Black Queen said. “You’ll come around. I’ve got the finest body this side of the Bronx has ever seen. I’m the real hot stuff in Contorted Royal.”

“It’s not a matter of resistance,” Ralph said. “I just have a certain … taste in girls and women. I don’t jump in the sack at the soonest opportunity.”

“Oh, a pious, religious boy,” The Black Queen taunted playfully. “I see how it is. You want to be that sweet little virgin boy.”

Ralph blushed slightly. “No,” he said, trying to keep his patience. “I’m not religious. I just have a certain standard I follow. I hope that isn’t a problem.”

And then The Black Queen blurted out: “I want to make hot steamy love to you, Ralph!”

Ralph just continued to study his menu. Intently. What was it with this woman? He knew she was a queen and all, but why couldn’t she be like Alice? Gentle, calm, easy-going? Why did she have to be so … into sex?

But, he told himself that it was probably because she was powerful, and power could change the way you thought about things. Sex became power, power became sex. The Black Queen could have anyone she wanted, or at least in Contorted Royal, because she was so good-looking and powerful … but Ralph wasn’t going to give in that easily.

“I’m not a rent boy,” Ralph said stiffly. “We’ll have to talk about sex another time. Maybe when there’s actually something real in our relationship.”

The Black Queen didn’t say anything for a moment, which was just about the time that the server came.

“What did you want to eat?” the server said, overtly hostile in her tone.

“That’s no way to treat a lady,” The Black Queen said, obviously noticing the hostility.

“At least I’m not a fat bitch,” the server said.

The Black Queen gasped, almost exaggeratedly. Ralph felt this was of course beyond uncalled for, but this was the norm. He could try to stand up for her, which he wanted to do, but Ralph wasn’t a hero boy, and he couldn’t pretend he was. And in the end, it wouldn’t do any good. He couldn’t change the snobbery and disconnectedness of his world. He’d tried many times and finally learned injustice was just the way it was.

But he could at least deflate the tension somewhat, to stop The Black Queen from doing something irrational: “She’d like a water. Just water. And me too. We need to watch our weight and all.”

The server rolled her eyes, said, “Great. More work,” and then left Ralph and The Black Queen alone.

Ralph looked at The Black Queen, who was looking a little perturbed.

“That was rude,” The Black Queen said petulantly. “She was rude.”

“It gets worse the more you get to know what our society is really like,” Ralph said.

“Well, at least you tried to be respectful,” The Black Queen said. “What a fool I am, thinking your world believed in chivalry.”

“That’s a long dead concept,” Ralph admitted candidly. “You’d be madder than Don Quixote if you tried to uphold respect and loyalty and love here in the Bronx … or really, anywhere in this superficial world.”

“That’s why we need to destroy the machine,” The Black Queen said, and was lost in thought.

She tried to grab Ralph’s hand, but Ralph, who felt committed to Alice, didn’t take her hand.

And The Black Queen began to cry slightly. She said, “What is it, Ralph? Am I not … pretty enough?”

“You’re one of the most beautiful ladies I’ve ever seen,” Ralph said. “But like I said, I want to uphold a certain standard.”

“Oh, I see,” The Black Queen said bitterly. “Be the perfect gentleman, the perfect virgin boy for his one true love. I see you for who you really are.”

“It’s just standards,” Ralph said. “It comes at a cost, of course. Most boys think I’m not a real man because I’m not a slutty boy. But it’s just how I choose to live. I have temptations, of course, and I have made mistakes … but I don’t want to see people as commodities … which is ironic, because everything in my world is commoditized. Just go to any store and you’ll see what I mean … especially the aisle for sex toys.”

“Whatever that means,” The Black Queen said angrily, obviously hating the rejection. “But don’t worry. I get it. You think I’m dated, like an ancient or medieval work of literature. You think I don’t belong in bookstores anymore. I get it. You think I’m … I’m … old. Old and unworthy of your time. Like the epic poem Beowulf.”

“Oh, cut it out,” Ralph said, but there was some amusement in his voice. The Black Queen was superficial, but in a way that was actually somewhat … attractive. Perhaps even cute. At least she wasn’t hostile, full of rude and mean rejection, like the people in Ralph’s society. She at least felt things. She at least had feelings. She wasn’t just a cold technological piece of junk. Indeed, her medieval world, even if pseudo, seemed to have more class than Ralph’s world.

Ralph was going to say something, but then the server came by. She sat down Ralph’s drink, and then sat down The Black Queen’s drink … but purposely knocked it over, spilling it all over The Black Queen.

Ralph, who wasn’t surprised (this had happened to him multiple times by rude servers, which was why he didn’t go to restaurants anymore), watched as The Black Queen stood up.

The server didn’t apologize, obviously, just said, “Just thought you needed a shower. You smell bad.”

Then the server left.

Ralph could tell that The Black Queen was fuming. He could see the pressure building up, the steam coming out of her ears. Something explosive was going to happen, and soon. Something titanically TNT.

But The Black Queen then became calm, or at least for a moment. She said, in as rational a voice as possible, “I see why you don’t like your world. I see what you mean by the … the horrible disconnection.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” Ralph said. “I’ve actually had people punch me before, for no apparent reason. Just by random people in public.”

“Excuse me for a moment,” The Black Queen said daintily, mischievously, and got up and went to find the server, who was over “helping” someone else, but of course making their life miserable with unneeded coldness.

Ralph watched as The Black Queen went over, smiling politely. She said a few things, still smiling, and before Ralph knew what was happening, she punched the server in the face. The server went flying across the restaurant, her notepad for orders fluttering and flattering in the air, and then passed out cold on the ground.

No one noticed, or cared, but The Black Queen, who didn’t want to take any chances with law enforcement, said to Ralph, “All right, honey, let’s go, I think we’ve had a good enough time,” and Ralph followed The Black Queen quickly out of the restaurant.

“That was a wicked punch,” Ralph said enthusiastically, once they’d made their escape. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“I can do a lot of things,” The Black Queen said. “I know violence. Granted, the violence in my world is different from the violence here, but it’s all the same in the end. People are cruel. Humanity is cruel. We’re a bloody mess.”

“I thought you would do well to get a taste of what it’s like here,” Ralph said. “Trust me, though, people are even faker than that. People have become mindless robots. They just do what they’re programmed to do, which is be mindless drones unfunctioning in society. But you get used to it after a while. The cruelty, the meanness … it doesn’t mean much at the end of the day, because you get desensitized to it. You have to, as a kind of defense. The world is becoming less and less empathetic, which is why you don’t buy into it, you just defend yourself with a strong mind.”

“Sounds about right,” The Black Queen said. “But I’ll tell you this: if anyone is mean to me again, they’ll get it. I don’t tolerate meanness.”

Ralph took this in. He knew The Black Queen was tough, but it was a useless fight trying to teach people to be kind and kind-hearted, friendly and warm. So he just said, “I don’t think it’ll accomplish much, but you’re always welcome to try.”

The Black Queen didn’t hear Ralph, which was probably good; she had a look of determination on her face.

Ralph didn’t want The Black Queen to feel as hopeless as he did about the state of society, its inability to function properly, correctly.

Especially because he knew she’d learn it eventually: she’d learn that finding kindness and good will was like trying to date someone like Ralph, or quite simply, was … dated.


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