This story was inspired by a pair of names, a setting of dragons, and the challenge of making the main character genderqueer. In theory, most Transgender characters can be written as their preferred genders, but a non-binary character demands to break free–from prior conceptions as well as conventional pronouns. In a contemporary story, using “they” to refer to a single person may pass, but this story (thanks to the dragons) begged to belong to my mythology–and in this world, plural pronouns don’t make sense as gender neutral alternatives to “he and “she.”
So I got creative and invented my own pronouns. They’re haphazard, but they work.
The most important thing was remembering a Trans character is not solely defined by being Trans–just like characters of color are more than their skin tone and gay characters are more than their sexuality. Torn between two cultures I’ve always been fascinated by but have written of very little, this story blossomed into a fantasy-rich social commentary that questions order, truth, and objectivity in a single tale.
Ellerin had long red hair that twisted through the air as the wind blew. The knight was dressed in finely sewn leathers that cupped around soft breasts, were belted with an iron chain, and ended in cut-off leggings that revealed sturdy muscles and a dagger tethered to the left thigh.
Kadjarti met El’s eyes, and for the first time, his gaze burned not in contempt, but in fear–he felt Ellerin’s control tightening around his heart, the world straining around them, fighting to maintain its natural state, but caving in one piece at a time. Ellerin knew they felt the world in unison, tethered in that one moment to each other, but El had seized control and Kadjarti now lay powerless. His eyes widened as El bared teeth, and with a pained howl, Ellerin’s fist dropped to his chest.
A month passed since that afternoon at the club, that night in the park. I thanked the tech kids at school for their help, and when they bugged me about it, I told them it wasn’t important anymore. Justin asked to keep the glove, so I let him; Beaver told me I still owed them. I don’t think they’ve got the guts to take me up on that debt.
I see Pace almost every day. We talk. Little things, mostly, till Pace gets all Yoda on me and I can’t think of anything to say. He keeps asking if I want to meet the others in the Underground, but after my last meeting with them, I’m not so keen on reintroductions.
I’ve spent the month training. I’ve learned to bypass the physical stress and induct it mentally; inverted meditation, in a way. My focus is stronger now, reaching that point of orange ambiance, but once I’m there, it’s all anger and energy inside. Part of me wants to get past that; part of me knows it’s my only fuel for the brightest fire.
We’re in the park again, Pace and me. On the bench as before, my arms to my chest, his arms spread-eagle, one draped behind my back. The leaves are starting to turn. The wind blows. I shiver a little; Pace just laughs. He hasn’t said anything yet. Neither have I.
“Listen”–we speak at the same time and stop just as fast.
My watch read midnight when I made it back to the Underground. The club was open with ladies’ night specials flashing on the signs out front, but I wouldn’t be let in, I already knew that. So instead I turned down the side alley, hoping against hope, and finding it granted.
Pace looked up at me and grinned, but didn’t move from where he leaned against the side of the brick building. Except for the darkness around us, he looked little different than he had earlier.
“Thought you’d come back,” he said. “At least, I hoped you would.”
I walked alone in the park. I could see the buildings downtown rising behind lush trees, flanked by clear skies and the afternoon sun, but the quiet grass and pockets of shade helped me forget the city all around me, helped me forget–just a little bit–what I had done.
My fist felt fine. The muscles in my arm were sore, and I kept running my fingers over my hand and looking at my knuckles up close, but I couldn’t see anything on the surface. Whatever I had done, whatever had happened at the Underground, it was not human.
The Underground was a nightclub downtown with a dilapidated sign and ladies’ night every Thursday. They weren’t on top of the scene anymore, but they still had radio ads and made a killer on the weekends. Didn’t think they were open during the day, but I made my way to their doorstep after school the next day like Pace Vaughn had told me to.
As expected, the doors were locked.
I caught movement to my left and turned to see someone in black slipping into the alley nearby. I glanced around, saw no one out of the ordinary afternoon traffic, and decided it wouldn’t hurt (or at least not hurt too much) to follow him.
But when I turned down the alley, it was already empty.