“I would cure you if you would but call me Rosalind and come every day to my cot, and woo me,” Rosalind said, pacing through the trees in her trousers toward the unsuspecting man.
“Now by the faith of my love, I will. Tell me where it is.” Orlando said. He was looking at her funny.
“Go with me to it, and I’ll show it to you. And by the way you shall tell me where in the forest you live. Will you go?” Rosalind repressed a sigh. She was tired of always having to repeat the same lines, the same blocking. Day after day, she was forced to live this same week over and over. Nothing had changed, in the past four hundred and seventeen years. And how stupid was the name Ganymede, anyway? Was she trying to get caught? She couldn’t have possibly chosen a more obvious name for her alias. Ganymede was the name of the young gay lover of Zeus.
“With all my heart, good youth.” Orlando promised.
“Nay, you must call me Rosalind— Come, sister. Will you go?”
Celia, dressed as Aliena, stood to follow Rosalind through the trees silently. It was mid-afternoon, so the sun was low in the sky, nearing nightfall.
Rosalind trekked through the tall grass, with Celia right behind her.
Celia gently placed a hand on Rosalind’s arm. Confused, Rosalind glanced at her. That wasn’t part of their usual dialogue.
Celia pointed ahead, through the trees. There was a bright light floating in the air, suspended between two giant trunks.
What on earth? Rosalind glanced back at Celia and Orlando.
“What is that?” Orlando asked.
“I’m going to check it out,” Rosalind said bravely. She’d always been one for adventure and now, disguised as a boy, she could walk straight up to that orb of light without shocking or offending anyone.
Celia made an odd squeaking noise.
“What?” Rosalind turned to her.
“It could be dangerous, cousin,” she whispered, so low Rosalind was sure Orlando hadn’t heard it.
Ignoring her, Rosalind left her cousin with Orlando and approached the light. It was just light. What could it possibly do to her?
“Careful!” Celia called.
Rosalind studied the orb of light. It didn’t look like much. It was a small round ball. Reaching out to grab it, Rosalind grabbed her hand back. Hissing, she checked her fingertips. The ball of light had burned her! Suddenly, without warning, everything seemed to be white and then BAM!
When Rosalind blinked open her eyes, she was lying on a floor. It was hard and her head hurt, probably from smacking it during her fall. Her curls were bouncing in disarray and her clothes were askew. How unsightly she must look!
Standing and smoothing down her trousers and plain brown vest. She adjusted her shirt.
Looking around, she didn’t recognize a thing. She had no idea where she was. Last thing she remembered, she was linked arms with Celia and leading Orlando back to their cottage.
Rosalind went to the mirror on the wall. There was a line of mirror against one wall, with what she supposed were washing basins beneath them, but they had weird silver knobs on them.
Rosalind spotted a door and headed for it. Pushing it open, she froze. Loud music pounded— at least she thought it was music. Rainbow lights flickered over everything. The room was dark, and crowded. It was hot in the room, forcing Rosalind to roll up her sleeves. People moved in ways that resembled dancing, but was much too indecent. Rosalind wondered briefly if she had accidentally stumbled into Hell.
What is this place? Rosalind stepped farther into the room. She spotted lots of men, but no women. Were the women here too good to get into Hell? Were women not allowed in this raucous place, if it wasn’t Hell or some Hell dimension? This was one odd place, nothing like Rosalind had ever seen or heard of before.
Rosalind wondered at a black-and-gold vest with no shirt underneath this one man was wearing. And the tightness of his trousers! Rosalind blushed and looked away. These men couldn’t tell she was a woman, but it was still indecent to stare at such scandalous clothes!
“Are you new? I’ve never seen you here before.”
“Y-yes,” Rosalind stammered, turning to stare wide-eyed at the handsome, shirtless young man wearing blue trousers and a brown leather belt.
“Hey, I’m Alex. What’s your name, newbie?”
Newbie? Rosalind frowned at the unfamiliar terminology. The syntax and diction here was strange.
Rosalind opened her mouth to answer his question, then froze. She had almost said Rosalind! How unseemly these men would think her— she, a woman! In trousers! “Ganymede,” she said instead.
“Like Zeus’s lover?”
Rosalind nodded mutely.
“Your parents must have been psychic.”
Psychic? Rosalind looked at the man blankly. “Why?”
“To have named you Ganymede, a gay lover of Zeus’s and you turned out to be gay.”
Gay? Rosalind was confused by everything around her and she hated it. “What is this place?”
“Oh, honey, you’re in The Connection.”
“The Connection was named one of the top sixty gay bars in the world.”
“What day is it?”
Alex grinned. “Wednesday. Guess you’ve had a little too much to drink tonight, huh?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess.” Rosalind felt dizzy. She forgot her manners as she stared unseeingly at the counter of what a sign proclaimed to be the Bar. Rosalind wasn’t sure what a bar was, but it appeared to be something akin to a pub, or place one would go to get a beer or ale.
Rosalind watched at the man serving drinks flirted shamelessly with another man. What was this place, that allowed such open… indecency? When the other man had first approached the counter, she had thought the server was simply being friendly, but then he touched the other man’s arm and scrawled his number on a napkin for him. How could they live like this, letting a servant speak to the establishment’s patrons in such a blatant display of disrespect?
“Is that…?” Allowed? Decent? Accepted?
Alex followed Rosalind’s gaze. “Oh, that’s Justin. He prides himself in sleeping around.”
“Having a lot of sex.” Alex gave me another weird look.
Rosalind stared at the floor, startled by his vulgarity. What kind of place was this? These people were so strange, so different… This world was full of impossibilities and odd gadgets.
Rosalind glanced up to see an angry man slap another.
“Fuck you!” The angry man yelled. “I know you cheated on me.”
Blushing deep red, Rosalind wondered why the angry man was making such a huge deal of the other man sleeping with someone else. Back in her time, people did it all the time. Especially nobles. Even more especially royals.
The two men continued arguing.
The more that happened, the more Rosalind understood how little she knew about this place, this world. Surely she was in a different dimension. If a place like this existed where she was from, surely they would have heard about it.
What would Celia or Orlando do in a situation like this? Rosalind asked and then felt stupid. Obviously nothing, because they wouldn’t be in a situation like this! No one from her time had ever been in a situation like this. It was becoming clearer to Rosalind that she was in a different time period altogether.
This is wrong, this is so wrong! Rosalind felt sick to her stomach. This wasn’t right. She was supposed to be tricking Orlando into believing she was a man and wooing her as if she were his love right now. All of this was wrong. She wasn’t supposed to be transported to an alternate universe and stuck in a “gay bar,” as Alex had called this place. This wasn’t part of her story. It never had been. For the past four decades, this had never been part of her story. The story she was cursed to, doomed to repeat.
She knew the story by heart. Her past week was etched into her mind: she and Celia would disguise themselves and then take to the woods, where they would happen upon a lovesick Orlando. He would woo her and in the end, she’d reveal her true identity to him. It always happened that way. Not a thing had changed in the past four decades. So why now? Why did this have to happen now? Did it mean the curse was broken?
Rosalind figured she would feel different once the curse was gone, but she felt the same. Confused, scared of this new place, granted, but basically the same. And where were Celia and Orlando? Shouldn’t they have been transported with her? They had been with her when she’d been sucked into this Hell dimension.
Rosalind wracked her brain for why she was the only one who had disappeared from the forest. Then she had a thought. The light! The little orb of little hovering between two trees! She had been closest to it. She had been the only one to touch it. She was sure the light had something to do with this.
But how to get back…? Rosalind wasn’t one hundred percent certain she wanted to go back, but she couldn’t just leave Celia and Orlando. They would be wondering where she was, probably freaked that she had just disappeared. She needed to get back to her cousin and her soon-to-be husband. Then life could go on as it had for the past half-quincentennial.
Rosalind glanced around the bar again. It was dark and loud and bodies writhed together in what she assumed was some sort of dance. It was too crowded, too sweaty in here for her tastes. Unfortunately, none of the men was aware there was a lady in their presence. She wrinkled her nose at the unsavory behavior these men displayed. It was primal, almost animalistic. The men of her time would never be caught half-naked, in a dark room full of other mostly-nude and glittery-clad men.
Alex once again captured her attention. “See anything you like?”
Rosalind blushed. Nothing here suited her fancy and from what she’d witnessed, she most certainly didn’t fit any of their fancies.
“You seem nervous,” Alex observed.
“Do I?” Rosalind glanced at him before looking quickly away. She couldn’t bring herself to meet his eyes, though she could feel his hot probing stare on her. If only he knew, Rosalind thought and then worried she would be found out.
Rosalind spotted a tall woman in the most scandalous outfit Rosalind could have possibly imagined. She stared openly.
Alex followed her gaze. “That’s Cocoa.”
“Cocoa. The club’s headlining drag queen.”
“Drag queen?” Rosalind repeated, testing the unfamiliar words in her mouth.
“You’ve never seen a drag queen before?”
Rosalind shook her head. “What is a drag queen?”
Alex looked at her like she was insane. Maybe she was. But he pulled a boxy-shaped thing from his pocket. Light emanated from the top of it. He swiped his finger across the lighted part and did something with his fingers before handing the box to her.
Rosalind took the small box and stared at it, not sure what to do with it. She looked at the lighted part and said the word Wikipedia scrawled at the top. She marveled at the magic inside this box. The words beneath Wikipedia read, ‘A drag queen is a person, usually male, who dresses in drag and often acts with exaggerated femininity and in feminine gender roles.’
“That’s a man?” Rosalind asked, ogling the drag queen again.
“It’s not polite to stare,” Alex whispered to her and Rosalind immediately averted her gaze.
“Sorry,” Rosalind mumbled.
“Can I have my phone back?” Alex asked.
It took a moment for Rosalind to realize he was referring to the light box. Handing it back to him, Rosalind was bewildered. Phone, she echoed, trying out the word. What on earth was a phone? She was about to ask, but something stopped her. This man already thought she was hysterical. Asking a question like that seemed like it wouldn’t go over well. Not here, in this strange place, where everyone went about half-nude and everyone owned one of these ‘phones.’
The light box Alex stuck in his pocket started making a weird noise, a sort of buzzing, like a nest of angry hornets. Rosalind was about to say something, worried it might try to attack Alex. But Alex took the ‘phone’ out of his pocket, swiped his finger across it again, and pressed it against his face. “Hello?” he said loudly above the music.
Rosalind was mystified. She watched Alex speak into the light box. Everything in this world was baffling. Everything was different. Nothing made sense.
Still convinced this was Hell, Rosalind watched as a shirtless man in shiny red undergarments got up on an elevated dais and began moving in a way that made Rosalind feel scandalized. She blushed a deep red, almost the color of the young man’s underpants.
Alex caught my expression as he slipped the light box back in his pocket. “What? Never seen a man in a thong before?”
Rosalind shook her head vehemently.
“Is this your first time at a gay bar?”
“First time at a bar, ever.” Rosalind said, wildly regretting touching the ball of light in the woods.
“That actually explains a lot,” Alex said. “Where are you from?”
“Ooh, exotic.” Alex grinned. “Your accent is just delicious.”
How can one eat an accent? Rosalind was discombobulated. “Pardon me,” she said, excusing herself from the conversation. She slipped through the door from which she’d come. If this is where she’d landed after being sucked into this dimension, surely this was where she’d get back.
Rosalind looked around and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Not that she’d be able to recognize if there was because she didn’t recognize anything in this strange, washroom-resembling chamber.
Opening all the doors to the mini-rooms inside the big room, Rosalind searched for the orb of light. Surely it had travelled to this dimension with her. If it hadn’t that meant she was stuck. She had to get back to the Forest of Arden.
Rosalind’s mind whirled with all the strange scents and sounds and sights she’d seen. It was so foreign, so… feral.
Forcing herself to concentrate, Rosalind looked around the room again. Focus, she chastised herself every time she caught her attention slipping.
Escaping a terrible situation was not a woman’s job, not a lady’s job. Rosalind huffed at the unfairness. She wasn’t a man. All she’d wanted was to escape court life with her cousin, not be forced into some Hell dimension and fight for her life to escape.
She was tough, granted, but she didn’t know if she could do this alone. If she ever got into trouble or felt upset, Celia was always there to bail her out or cheer her up. Now it was up to Rosalind to get through this alone and get back to Celia.
Her thoughts solely on Celia, and drifting slightly towards Orlando, she searched the room desperately. Almost manically. There had to be a way out of here. There was no way she was stuck her. Not forever. Forever was a long, long time and she belonged in her world, in her time. Her dimension. She still wasn’t even sure where she was, but wherever it was, Rosalind knew she wasn’t meant to be there.
A flash of light caught her attention, but when she glanced up, it was only the light coming from the ceiling reflected in the mirror in her peripheral vision.
Rosalind sighed and ground her teeth. What would Orlando do? She thought. He’s a man— surely he’d know what to do.
Shaking herself, Rosalind braced her shoulders and lifted her chin. Orlando wasn’t here. This was up to her. Rosalind was alone. She had to be calm enough and smart enough to figure out a way back to her world.
Besides, even if Orlando were here, he’d probably just write poems about his ‘sweet Rosalind’ and post them all over the bar. Fat bit of luck he’d be, Rosalind thought bitterly. Then she felt a pang of regret. He couldn’t help it— he was in love. And she rather liked having someone pine for her. And as annoying as she found his writing and his continued insistence of defiling nature to hang the parchment in the woods, she missed it.
Suddenly something hard and big slammed into her, throwing her backwards into the wall. Struggling for breath, Rosalind pushed at the weight on top of her. When her head stopped spinning and she could see clearly again, after hitting her head on the floor, Rosalind blinked. “Orlando?”
Orlando was lying on top of her in a quite indecent manner, staring wide-eyed around the room. “What is this place?”
“Hell,” Rosalind said simply. “How did you get here?”
“I touched the light.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Well, you’ve been gone for awhile and I wanted to find out what had happened to you. Are you alright?”
“Yes. But where did you come from?”
Orlando pointed towards one of the smaller rooms inside the bigger room.
Rosalind tried to rise to her feet, but Orlando was still on top of her. She cleared her throat, trying to make her voice deeper and more manly, realizing she was still dressed as Ganymede. “Can you get off of me?”
“Oh, sorry.” Orlando scrambled to his feet, then extended a hand to help her up.
“Thank you,” Rosalind said, accepting his proffered hand.
Orlando glanced about again. “Hell, huh?”
Rosalind shrugged. “Everything here is so weird, Orlando.” Rosalind told him about the half-naked men, the sparkly vests, the drag queen, and Alex’s light box.
“That is bizarre,” Orlando agreed in wonder.
Rosalind was miffed by the awed expression on his face. Everything in this land was wrong. “We should get back.”
Thoughts solely on Celia, waiting alone for them in the woods, Rosalind pushed open the door of the mini room with the odd-looking toilet. The toilet was only invented three years ago, by Sir John Harrington, but this looked nothing like the crude water closet he had designed, however it was clearly distinguishable as a toilet.
And there, above the back of the porcelain throne, was the floating ball of light, come back for her. It had delivered Orlando to this world, and now it was time to take them home.
Grasping Orlando’s hand, Rosalind reached out and took the orb in her fist. The hot light emanating from the orb scorched her, but she held fast. The light grew brighter and brighter until the white blinding glow burst. With an explosion of light, all went dark.
Blinking open her eyes, Rosalind sat up. All was dark. She was lying on the forest floor. She heart night forest sounds around her.
A weak groan alerted her she wasn’t alone.
Glancing behind her, she saw Orlando sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
Celia ran to her, dropping down on her knees by her side. “Rosalind!” she cried, completely blowing her cover.
Orlando stared at her with a flummoxed expression.
Ignoring him, Rosalind turned her attention to Celia and folded into her embrace.
“You’re alright!” Celia cried happily. “What happened?”
“Well,” Rosalind said and began to fill in her cousin on all she’d seen in the other realm. For the time being, she forgot that she was supposed to be following a routine, forgot that Orlando knew her true identity, forgot that Orlando was supposed to be the love of her life, forgot that she and Celia had run away from court. For now, she was simply Ganymede, The Adventurer. And she liked it.