The King’s Headless
Good evening, my friend. Welcome to the King’s Headless. What will it be tonight? I’m afraid the coke’s a bit on the warm side. It’s the frost giant’s night off. You can’t get the staff these days.
I’ve got a nice bottle or two of sweet white for the ladies, a transfusion of O negative and a fresh keg of dwarven ale.
So what’s your poison? Come to think of it, I’ve got a bottle of hemlock under the counter somewhere. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. I can do you a slow deadly nightshade up against the wall cocktail, if you’re feeling a bit cosmopolitan.
Then there’s this stuff that all the yoofs are raving about. Apoco-alco-pops. I’m a pint of bitter man myself, but the young ‘uns love it. Enchanted vodka mixed with forbidden fruit juice.
If you’re feeling a bit peckish, we’ve got devilled rat, ratted devil, and a newly made dog pie. Goes very nicely with some pickled pumpkin and pan-fried mandrake root. Oh, and the cook has been cackling all day over a cauldron of the soup of the judgement day. Eye of bat and ear of newt, I think. Either that or cream of tomato.
Sorry, but the bwains tartare is off. I’m waiting for a delivery of bwains from our suppliers, Burke, Hare and Lector.
We’re a bit busy tonight, but I think you can find a table. There’s an office party of zombies in the dining room. Nice crowd, if you don’t mind a bit of slobber and black goo. They can’t help it. Decomposition.
Then there’s the elves having a darts tournament in the snug. They’re playing the Sherwood Forest Outlaws. Should be a close match.
In the back room, we’ve got the werewolves exfoliation society. No, I tell a lie. It’s not yet that time of month for the werewolves – that’s next Tuesday. It’s the moon, you know. No, in the back room tonight we’ve got the local writer’s circle. A gloomy bunch, always complaining about something. But there’s no denying they can drink like it’s the end of the world.
Ah, you’ve seen the award on the wall? We’re proud of that. Best pub of the apocalypse from the campaign for real ale. Runner up. London division.
We reckon we’re the only pub in London that has been open non-stop since the Switch. I remember it like it was yesterday. It must have been two or three in the morning. We weren’t selling alcohol, you understand. It was a private party. Just me and a few pals. We’d locked the doors and closed all the curtains, as a precaution. All legit and above board.
Back in those days, there was none of this werewolf or vampire thing. Not out in the open. What people want to do in the privacy of their own homes is their business, that’s what I say.
Anyway, we were having a quiet drink in this private party when all of sudden all the power went off. Some people will tell you that when the Switch happened there was a shimmering of fairy dust or the sound of demonic laughter. The revving of engines as the four motorbike riders of the apocalypse drive by.
Let me tell you that is absolutely rubbish. A right old pile of shuffling undead. It was just like what it’s called. The Switch. All the electricity switched itself off. Bang. No noise, no fuss, no hows-your-father.
Naturally, this throws everything into darkness. Cos not only has the pub gone dark, but all the street lights have given up the ghost too.
So I fish in my pocket and pull out my phone. Nothing. That’s dead too. And no amount of finger waggling, swiping or prodding would make it wake up. I try every possible combination of fingers from Winston Churchill to Live Long and Prosper via that one fingered thing that youths do. Nothing.
Sooner or later some bloke in the pub gets out his cigarette lighter. At last we can see each other by the light of one flickering flame. I look behind the bar and find a stack of those little plastic lighters. I hand them out to all the customers … sorry “guests” … and soon the whole place looks like a Barry Manilow concert. All it would have needed was for someone to break out into the chorus from Mandy and we would all have had the giggles.
Then we all started burning our fingers and dropping the lighters on the floor. It was a good job that I never liked that carpet.
You know what happens next, of course. It was the same all over the world. We all thought that the power would come back on sooner or later. It was a bit weird that batteries had stopped working. And Velcro. And spray-on deodorant bottles. And petrol. It was a good job that candles still burned, food still made you fat and beer still got you drunk.
I would have been mightily upset if booze had been switched off. Seeing as I am the publican trade and all.
Why did the Switch happen? I haven’t the first clue. I must have heard every explanation going. There was a bearded fella in a pointy hat who reckon that we’d used it all up. There was only so much electricity in the world and when the last of it was gone, that was it. We needed to put another 50 pence in the meter, only we didn’t know where God kept the meter cos we’d stopped believing in God.
He was a funny chap. Tried to sell me a crooked stick what he said could do magic. So I says to him that I don’t want to buy a crooked stick cos I couldn’t aim it properly. I wanted a straight stick. He muttered something about “landlordio disappeario” before vanishing in a poof of smoke. I don’t think he meant that to happen.
Then there was this other fella who said that it was one of those fiendish contraptions from the bloke who tried to take over the world. Something about satellites in orbit and a hollowed out volcano. Sounds very dodgy to me.
It turned out that the electrickery was the least of our worries. Anyways, we figured that we might as well carrying on drinking in our private party until the lecky came back on. And seeing as it never came back on, we all ended up royally legless by morning.
The next thing I know is that I’m waking up with the mother and father of all hangovers. That’s when I notice this quietly spoken young man sitting in the corner sharing a milk shake with a monkey. If that wasn’t weird enough, he says “I’m not like other guys” and jumps up.
I have to say this bloke could dance. I can do a mean Elvis when I’ve had a few sherberts, but this fella had liquid rubber for legs. Then there’s fog all around us and a troupe of dancers in raggedy clothes are dancing along with him. I’ve never seen the like before. I was like morris dancers with make-up. They were stomping their feet to the music, holding their hands up in the air like they’re in a horror film and wiggling everything from their necks on down.
You know what it’s like when you can’t get a choon out of your head? It was like that, only worse. All of us in the pub had to join in with the dancing. We didn’t even mind when they started nibbling on us. I never knew that music could be so infectious.
And that was that. We’d only gone and got ourselves turned into zombies, hadn’t we? I certainly never saw that one coming.
Seeing as the undead never get tired, I reckoned that the best thing was to stay open indefinitely. The King’s Head became the King’s Headless. And that’s why we won that award for distinguished service to the drinkers of post-apocalyptic London. The best little zombie boozer for miles around.
What’s that? You wanted the writer’s circle all along? And there I was prattling on telling you my life story.
Up the stairs, second door on the left.