“So.” Iona began her interrogation the moment they were on the dance floor. The music was loud, so loud it made Olly’s teeth rattle, yet somehow Iona made herself heard. Her expression did most of the heavy lifting, a single eyebrow arched and unmoving while all around them the world bounced and blurred together. “So. Who’s this guy? Where’d you find him? Why have I never seen him before?”

“Long story,” Olly managed weakly. This was a lie. He tried to hide it by staring into his drink, but this only made him feel sick. It was his third of the evening, was supposed to reduce the world to its simplest shapes, to make it full of air and nothing. Instead the neon lights of the club were dancing on the surface of the liquid and making his stomach churn. His head felt heavy, there was sludge building up in his skull. Iona brushed past his discomfort.

“I want to hear it. All of it. Now, please.”

“We’re just, you know, reconnecting. It’s not, like, a thing.”

Iona was trying to meet his eye, trying to force him to look at her. When she couldn’t, she released his shoulder, performed an eye-blink costume change and returned with the tone of the concerned mother, voice calm and coaxing.

“Olly, seriously, I’m not just being the needy friend here or whatever. I want… we all want you to meet someone, obviously, but we actually don’t know who this guy is and it’s… I’m not going to lie, he’s kind of a bit weird. Not like, I mean, I love weird but, like, safe weird, you know? I mean, come on, right?”

Looking back towards their booth, Olly nodded. The Green Knight was still sitting there, wedged awkwardly into the space. His breastplate scraped against the edge of the table. It was brown with rust, coated with a layer of emerald moss. He’d not looked so battered, so dented and beaten up a year ago. A year ago the gilding, the twirling serpent patterns, had shone with violent lustre. Now the gold was dull. He’d been breathing oddly, too. Great heaving, rattling breaths that sounded like he was struggling to fill his lungs.

“Yeah.” Olly murmured.

“Also, I don’t know how the bouncers let him in with that but it’s kind of insane.” she gestured to the axe. Olly nodded. It was a big axe. The knight had leant it against the table, drumming the fingers of his gauntlet on the wooden haft. It was at least as big as Olly. The sight of it sent all of Olly’s thoughts tumbling away into a great abyss. For what felt like quite a long time he couldn’t feel anything, could only stare at the axe. Then he turned to Iona and met her gaze.

“I’m fine.” he said, “It’s fine. Seriously, he’s really nice. It’s okay. I’d tell you if anything was wrong. You know that, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Iona breathed in deeply. “I know, I know, I know. I just need to be sure that you’re alright, okay?”


“I’m alright. Go dance. Go on. This is like, couples night, right? You’re supposed to be with Emily. Go be with Emily. I’ll be fine.”

Iona wanted to go. He could tell. She was trying to keep her face stern but the pounding, thumping, constant thrum of the dance floor was tugging at her resolve. She gave the Green Knight one last worried glance, patted Olly on the back.

“I’m happy you found someone.”

Olly waited until she’d disappeared, until she’d become a part of the crowd, before shaking his head and muttering to himself.

“I didn’t find anyone.”

Heading back over to the booth, Olly slid in next to the Green Knight.

“Sorry.” he said the words automatically, not really thinking about them. The need to apologise materialised in his head and he vocalised it.

“Do not say so, Oliver. It is I that must apologise,” the knight replied.

“Don’t, please.” Olly felt the sudden weight that came from talking with the knight. Words were heavier with him, more real. They had to be chosen carefully because they mattered, really mattered. It always took Olly a moment to adjust to this mode of speaking. “This isn’t your thing, it’s fine. It’s not really one-hundred-percent my thing either, normally. Sometimes but, you know, sometimes I’m too tired. That’s okay.”

The knight looked at him oddly, tilting his head sideways. Olly tried to meet his gaze, to stare back. He could just about make out the knight’s eyes under his visor. Those twinkling emerald eyes.

“That is not what I meant.” the knight rumbled. “Oliver, surely you have not forgotten that very soon I must cut off your head.”

The drumming of his fingers on the axe stopped. He tightened his grip on the haft. Olly gulped, then took a long swig of his drink. It was finally doing its trick, though rather than floating upwards he was really only sinking downwards, deeper into this whole stupid mess he’d got himself into, until the whole thing seemed just perfectly normal.

“Oh yeah. The whole ‘beheading game’ thing, right. I mean, like, did you know that you’re kind of the worst date ever?”

“That may be so. It was not my suggestion that you should bring me as your date.”

“Yeah, well,” Olly put his hand to his forehead, “I thought maybe I was owed something. You know, a little something, what with everything else.”

“The rules of the game were clear enough. A blow for a blow, as simple and as fair as that.”

“Yeah, only mine didn’t stick! How is that fair?”

Time had yet to erase the image of The Green Knight standing, lifting his severed head from the floor and lowering it onto the stump of his neck. Neither had the sound faded, the cracking and snapping and sucking as the flesh repaired itself. Olly’s teeth felt funny, remembering that sound.

“Indeed. Sorry about that.” the knight rubbed his neck. There was something in his voice, something rather like embarrassment that made Olly blink. He passed his tongue across his lips, made a steeple of his fingers.

“Why did you say yes?”

There was a sound from beneath The Green Knight’s visor, like he was sucking in air through the little holes. When he didn’t respond, Olly filled the space.

“Pity, right?”

“No,” The Green Knight interrupted, “that is not it. You are a fine fellow, Oliver. I must do my duty, I am bound to the terms of our game, but I have enjoyed your company for the short time that I have known you.”

“Right,” Olly nodded, “yeah, thanks, yeah, thanks, right. It’s Olly, just Olly, by the way. I mean it’s cool. Whatever. Uh, I’m going to go dance I think. I mean, you can stay here, it’s cool. Whatever. I’m going to dance. “

The Green Knight inclined his head. Olly reached for his drink to stop his mouth, downed it quickly, then stood and left the table. As he headed back to the dance floor he checked his phone. Nearly midnight.


He tried to dance, tried to steal, to leech, a little of the energy of the other dancers. There were Iona and Emily, staring into one another’s eyes. Emily looked up briefly, saw him and waved. Olly waved back awkwardly. Mia and Lucas danced past, foreheads pressed together. They didn’t see him.

Then the song changed. The others had been the sort of throbbing, mindless songs that were more feeling than thought. Olly didn’t listen to those songs, he just heard them. They rushed around him but they didn’t stick. This new song, this was music. This was real. It pounded and jolted and shuddered like the rest but Olly knew the words. He listened to this song sometimes when he was working. He didn’t know what it was supposed to be about but that didn’t matter. When he sang it, it was about being alone, about being lost and sad but then happy at the same time. It was about being him, which was a wordless exercise that he did every day but which somehow this song explained so very eloquently.

“Hell yeah,” he murmured to himself, realising even as he did how stupid it was to say it.

He started dancing, stopped looking at himself and just started dancing. There was too much energy in the music, too much savage vitality for it to stay in one place. It needed to disperse, it couldn’t remain pent up in the air, had to go rushing to earth, had to go through them, through the dancing crowd and into the floor. Olly found himself jumping up and down with the others, could feel his heart bouncing in his chest.

He became aware, distantly at first but then more acutely, that The Green Knight was also on the dance floor. A little way away, on the other side of a knot of people. The knight was on the dance floor and he was dancing. Not quite like the rest, not mindlessly bobbing to the beat. He moved with a strange grace, he swayed back and forth, keeping always in time. Olly felt rather than heard the creaking of the knight’s armour, just from looking at him. There was something about seeing him dancing that just made Olly happy. Wordlessly happy, like a hot white light in his chest. He thought maybe the knight glanced up in his direction, though he wasn’t sure. Olly gave him a thumbs up. Maybe, maybe he got a nod in return. A little tilt of the head.

It was still strange to him that the knight had said yes. A day, he’d been allowed his day, his one glorious day. The song was coming to an end. He’d lost sight of the knight, a group of dancers closing in around him. He shut his eyes and could still see the lights of the club. He didn’t know how to think anymore. He knew only sensation.


Mountain View

Machaon and the Hound

His phone was buzzing in his pocket. He’d set an alarm. As he became aware of this, he also became aware that the music was slowing. There was another beat drop, another big fist-pumping, head-slamming moment and then it ended, the whole song ended. He opened his eyes, craned his head back to look up at the huge Green Knight standing over him. The knight held his axe in his hands, ready to raise the great weapon above his head, ready to bring it down. He was motionless, totally motionless. No, not quite motionless. Olly’s eyes fell to the knight’s feet, saw that he was still tapping out the beat with one boot. Still counting down the seconds. It was past midnight, past the appointed hour, but the song was still playing.

No one seemed to notice. They’d all jumped up, were hung suspended for a moment in the air because there was the beat drop, there it went streaking past. It was gone, they fell, Olly gulped. The back of his throat was very dry. He was trying to find some eyes underneath the Green Knight’s visor. He thought maybe he saw the glimmer of those emerald eyes. It was so very hard to tell. The knight hefted the axe, lifted it up above his head.

“Thanks for the dance,” Olly murmured. Then, without knowing quite why he did it, he gave a low bow. He gave a low bow and presented his neck.

Then the music stopped.

Joseph Sparke is a second-year English undergraduate at Gonville & Caius College. You can read more about his creative writing journey at his website: https://josephwritesabook.wordpress.com