In the Haunts of Goblin Men

Dominic Thule is the guest star at a cosplay convention. But is he the main attraction or a side course? Sunday has issues with spiders and mice.

I

“I hate spiders,” whispered Clara and pulled the covers over her head. If she couldn’t see it, then it couldn’t see her. Even the hangover wasn’t as alarming as the horrible little eight legged monster

Such logic only worked for children. When she finally peeked, the spider was still there.

“Clara,” Melicia was pounding on the door. “Clara, I know you’re in there. Wake up.”

The arachnid was crouched upon her stomach and quite at ease, the fangs slowly opening and closing. The eyes shifted.  Maybe if Clara rolled, she could crush the spider in the sheets with the weight of her body.  But what if it sprang clear and attacked? Could she call 911 in time before the venom…

“Now, I’m annoyed,” Melicia opened the door and poked her head in. “Girl, we have to talk. What’s your problem? What you doing in there? You got a man?”

“Ick,” whispered Clara and bobbed her head at the spider.

Melicia rolled her eyes. “You’re not so tough with those are you? It’s just an itsy bitsy spider.”

Melicia stepped in and bent down over Clara’s mattress. She scooped out a wrinkled tissue from her bathrobe pocket and swept the spider away.

“Ooh, listen to that creepy crawly crunch,” said Melicia and squeezed the tissue. Clara made a gargling noise in disgust. “C’mon out of the covers, it’s safe.”

Clara sat up against the wall. The apartment room was small. The thin single mattress took up most of the floor, the rest of which was completely hidden beneath piles of clothes.

Clara wore only a t-shirt, a faded blue tatter with the words “It’s my job to be annoying” spread across her breasts.

“Your check came in,” said Melicia and stopped.

“That’s awesome,” said Clara brightening up. “I can help cover the rent now. I told you I could do it.”

“And how are you doing it?” Melicia said. “I looked at the address on the check, it’s from the Temp-oral Agency and they got a little itsy logo on the envelope ‘We serve the dimensions.’ Now I know about these things, the Dimensions is that stripper club up on the Westside. All I had to do is check out the way they emphasize the lettering on the check, T and A with oral in between.”

“Oh, don’t get started,” said Clara with a frown. “You’ve been threatening to toss me out on my ass if I didn’t cover my share of the rent and now I can. What’s the fucking problem?”

“Don’t you be swearing at me,” Melicia settled down on the mattress and glared. “When I said I wanted you to get a job, I didn’t say get a one night a week gig as a stripper. On God’s special day no less.”

“I’m not a stripper,” said Clara starting to feel her blood boil. There was nothing worse than Melicia getting on a holy rockin’ Harlem roll. “I got a cleaning job for some eccentric whack job – that’s all.”

“He’s pretty eccentric,” said Melicia. She fished through the nearest pile of clothes and fished out something silken and red. “You stumbled in yesterday morning wearing this under your coat. What a cute little apron. What kind of cleaning do you do for this guy?”

“Ack,” Clara sputtered. She stared at the lingerie dangling from Melicia’s hand. The truth be told, she didn’t have the slightest remembrance of Sunday night’s events. When she tried to think about work, her mind went blank – except for the throbbing. “Uhm. Oh. Crap?”

“Next thing it will be drugs and rehab and shit,” said Melicia. “I want you to quit and come to church with me next Sunday. I’ll cover the rent till a better job comes your way.”

“I’ll uh, okay,” said Clara and pulled the blankets back over her aching head. She’d agree to anything to get rid of Melicia who wasn’t going to stop now that she was motivated. The spider would have been easier to deal with than Melicia.

“I’ve got to get ready for work,” said Melicia. “Coffee’s on the burner. And… oh sweet mother of god…”

There was a moment’s scuffle interspersed with a shriek and a string of curses as Melicia pushed Clara aside and took all the covers.

“What the hell’s the matter with you?” Clara asked once she got her breath back. Melicia had driven a knee into her stomach, leaving her momentarily incapacitated. She scrambled to her feet. Melicia was balled up in the corner of the room. One trembling arm poked out of the wrapped blankets and pointed to the door.

“Mouse!” Melicia squealed in a paroxysm of fright.

“Who’s tough now?” Clara said in delight. She bent over laughing.

The mouse stood in the doorway, one long leg forward, standing up with the front legs crossed on its furry chest like a little man. The whiskers quivered, the enormous ears were raised to attention.

“You’ve got to see this,” crowed Clara, slapping her knees. “It’s wearing a coat, like it’s in a marching band. Look at those ears. I shall call him Dumbo.”

Melicia crept out of the corner with the blankets trailing behind. “I don’t care what the hell it’s wearing or how big the ears are, we gotta get rid of that thing.”

Must be someone’s pet that got out of its cage,” decided Clara. “Seems pretty brave. I’ll step over it and get a pot.”

“Good idea,” agreed Melicia. “We can whack the crap out of it.”

At that the mouse quickly  pulled forth a long tube from its belt and raised the device to his mouth. His little cheeks bulged out in an enormous intake of air.

Thwipt!

“Son of… ” Melicia reached for her neck where a little dart dangled. Her eyes rolled up and she sprawled back on the mattress with a thud.

“… a bitch,” shouted Clara and kicked at the mouse. With an enormous leap it bounded back into the hallway, whipping out another dart for the tube.

Clara ran for the kitchenette. The pots were in the sink, she’d get the frying pan and send the malevolent mouse to hell with a giant swing.  But she’d barely taken two bounds down the hallway when…

Thwipt!

…she felt a sting in her calf.

In slow motion she fell forward. Clara’s knees, her hips, stomach and finally her face smacking into the floor.

Dirty linoleum up close had nothing to be recommended about, decided Clara. Melicia had been on her case all week to mop and now she understood why.

She heard the patter of little feet. The mouse pulled back her hair like a curtain and gave her cheek a poke.

“U widdu thit,” breathed Clara. She felt rubbery. She couldn’t move a muscle. It took an effort to focus on the little creature examining her. The mouse nodded and leaped back. It unfurled a small whip and started snapping it in the air.

“Tho gon getta mouth twap an it thnikethy thwack time ,” slurred Clara.

Clara heard the tramp of little feet all around. A line of mice marched into view. And then another. They stopped and pivoted smartly, facing Clara. Then at the crack of the whip they broke ranks and swarmed towards her.

They pushed and shoved, scratched and kicked as en masse they squirmed beneath Clara and bore her up on mousy little shoulders. A squad twirled her hair into braids and started to pull.

“Oh fudge,” yelped Clara as they dropped her head. In a moment the furry little bodies were busily straining away. There was one in her ear, grasping her earlobe.

The large mouse ran about frantically, guiding the workers with quick lashes of the whip. Clara was able to twitch a finger, she was beginning to regain control of her body. With an effort she looked forward to see where they were taking her.

Clara was being dragged towards a mousehole, newly chewed, judging by the piles of sawdust and wood splinters all around.

“U idioths,” said Clara. “I can’t fit. Ow! OW! AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEE!”

II

Twenty minutes later, Clara was able to stand – somewhat unsteadily. She felt remarkably good for having been Squished through a mousehole into the kitchen of Dominic Thule’s residence. The time spent recovering allowed her to regain mental equilibrium and remember the unusal particulars of her job.

“My shirt’s destroyed,” shouted Clara with her hands on her hips. There was no point in trying to be modest, it was only a mouse. “I swear to God, I’m going to put out poison and traps, lots of traps. What about my roommate?”

The mouse sat down on the kitchen counter and undid the top button of his smart little coat. “We had no choice.  Ms. Tuesday hasn’t been replaced and there’s no one else available on short notice. And as you can see, the drug wears off quite quickly, the other hairless ape will be fine.”

“A call would have been nice instead of squeezing me through that hole,” raged Clara. “What about the snake woman? She’s all hot for Dom.”

“Ms. Friday resigned,” said the mouse. He skewered a chunk of cheese with a toothpick and nibbled delicately at the rind. “The lamia was insulted that Thule only came to her rescue on Sunday, not Friday. She felt slighted.”

“Whatever,” said Clara. “I’m leaving as soon as I find some clothes. I don’t give a damn.”

The mouse stopped his nibbling.

“If you go out the front door,” he warned. “You will find yourself in 12th century (by your reckoning) Angkor Wat in a far eastern country. There’s a reason why we had to Squish you through a mousehole. The sanctum is elsewhen, busy keeping the time flow stitched together.”

“I still don’t care,” said Clara. She stepped over the smashed up table and made for the door. The kitchen had apparently been destroyed recently and or was in the process of being renovated.

“Help us Ms. Sunday,” the mouse squeaked. “You are our only hope.”

“Don’t Obi-Kenobi me,” said Clara. She reached for the door knob.

“If Dominic Thule is not rescued,” cried the mouse. “We’ll have to put up a notice for a new tenant as soon as possible. We can’t allow the sanctum to be illegally squatted in by paradimensional riffraff. Our seven flavors of Essentiality will be damaged beyond repair in no time at all if that is allowed to happen.”

“Not really following,” said Clara. But she paused. “What do you mean by tenant? What can happen so quickly, didn’t he only disapear yesterday? Isn’t he the master? Dr. Prattle Nose of mysteries and such?”

“Dominic Thule suffers from a case of anasognosia,” stated the mouse. “He is incapable of recognizing the fact he merely lives here. He puts on airs and assumes titles and attempts the inexplicable in an attempt to justify his existence. Since his presence here does satisfy the conditions of occupancy as stated in paragraph 26, subsection 2a of the lease – we humor his behavior –  except when he does something really stupid.”

“Who are you then?” asked Clara.

“Merely another tenant,” responded the mouse. “My name is Hop. I’m no ordinary mouse, I’m jerboa and communications specialist so I’m well versed in all dialects of hairless ape.  I’m also the one who signs your paycheck, so think twice about what you do next.”

“Fine,” Clara said. “What happened?”

The mouse produced a piece of folded up paper and pushed it across the counter towards her. “Dominic Thule was sent an invitation to attend GoblinCon 2011 as the guest of honor. Now, usually he follows the rules and ignores such blatant attempts at luring him from the safety of the sanctum – mail like this is the equivalent of a Nigerian spammer on the internet you hairless apes are so fond of. I admit, I’m fond of it also. I have a facebook page – I’m called cheesehead, I sent a friend request last week?”

“I ignored the request,” said Clara. “I thought it was my old boyfriend from Wisconsin.”

“Sorry,” said Hop with an embarassed squeak and a twitch of the tale. “Anyway, after his unexpected victory over Magister Necros this past weekend, Thule’s confidence reached unheard of levels of foolhardiness. He decided he would attend the convention. Off he went with poor Ms. Monday in tow and we haven’t heard a thing since. Being Dominic Thule he took absolutely no precautions against miasma. He’s totally fallen into the goblin clutches, no pun intended mind – if you know what I mean?”

“Nope, I don’t,” said Clara scratching her head. “So he’s having a good time. What’s the big deal?”

“Ms. Sunday,” squeaked the mouse. “It’s a goblin man convention. They end with a show – and a buffet. He’s on the menu.”

“But he’s so skinny,” said Clara. “Hey, back off! I’m reaching for humor here.”

III

Clara made to throw aside the frilly apron.

“You have to wear it,” said Hop. He led her down the sloping Passage of the Big Doors. “If they see you for what you are, you’ll have to convince the goblin men you’re a cosplay invitee. There’ll be plenty of those about. It will be disguise enough until dinnertime. After that, you better hope the Unfuddler works”

The white stockings sagged about her knees and wouldn’t hold. The bright yellow outfit hung loose on her hips and the wrist cuffs drooped over her hand. Whoever had been Ms. Tuesday had been taller and more fully built than Clara.

“Do I have to wear the wig?” complained Clara.

“Absolutely,” said Hop.

“I prefer being Sunday. I feel like a lemon.”

Their voices echoed in the still length of the passageway.

“What’s behind this one,” asked Clara after a while. She indicated a random door.

“Behind Door Number 80 is a world overrun by jelly fish,” said Hop. “Imagine nothing but a horizon filled with quivering goo.”

“Gross, what about this one?”

“Ultimate Evil.”

“Ooooh,” said Clara and reached for the doorknob of Door Number 87. Hop kicked her in the shins.

“What are you doing?” he squeaked furiously.

“You know, ultimate evil,” said Clara. “Happens all the time in horror films, shouldn’t it be Door number 666? Is there a door for Glorious Good?”

“All the way at the end of the Passageway,” said Hop. “You have to walk a lifetime and even then probably won’t make it. There are no shortcuts. And here we are.”

Door Number 103 looked like any other. Hop fumbled for the keys, looked up at the lock and shrugged.

“I’ll get it,” said Clara and unlocked the door. “Any words of advice?

“Don’t lose the Unfuddler,” said Hop. “It may look like a scrap of paper, but as long as it stuck to your forehead with spit, you won’t be affected by the miasma. The goblin men will think you’re one of them. Take it off and the wooziness sets in and they’ll see you as a human. Like I said, until dinner that won’t be a bad thing, but it will attract unwanted attention.”

“I should be okay on that one, I don’t get asthma.”

Hop managed to look irritated. “MIASMA, not asthma! Stepping through this door will put you in an entirely different plane of existence, something your hairless ape mind will reduce to trivial associations to avoid insanity. There are variations of course, in some realms it can be called murk, or going against the ‘grain.’ But what will happen to you at GoblinCon will a loss of purpose and sense of clarity the moment you step through the door. Fall asleep there and it could be decades before you wake. That’s if they don’t find you first.”

“Okay,” said Clara. “

“Also, don’t eat any fruit. It accelerates the miasma and total loss of free will.”

“Anything else?

“The door will only be accessible for an hour,” said Hop. “If you can’t get Dominic Thule and Ms. Monday out by then, I’ll have to change the locks to keep the goblins from coming through. I’ll have a cheese fondue in your memory.”

“Wait,” said Clara. “This is crazy, I’ve changed my mind…”

Hop jumped in the air and spun about like a karate master. Clara was sent flying through the doorway by the force of the kick.

IV

The miasma of the goblin realm tasted and smelled like sulfur and cinnamon powder stuffed up her nostrils. Clara wanted to stop, sit down, pick her nose and spend the rest of her life contemplating whatever oddity she rooted out. She had to grit her teeth to overcome the overwhelming sensation of lassitude.

Clara stopped to spit on the scrap of paper and slap it to her forehead. Immediately she felt better though she refused to breath through her nose.

“Stupid mouse,” she muttered and made her way down the dimly lit service hallway. She pushed through a set of swinging doors and into a kitchen bustling with activity. None of the goblin chefs looked up from their pots and stoves.

The food court was right outside. Clara took a deep breath and went out.

Goblin men were busily setting up chairs and tables what appeared to be a big fire pit. Other goblin men were bustling about with big golden plates laden with pomegranates, dates, pears and grapes.

“Make yourself useful,” snarled a fox faced goblin man. He pushed her aside roughly. “Grab those spits and bring them over to the pit.”

The Unfuddler worked then. Clara did as the goblin man ordered, she picked up a bundle of the metal spits propped up against the wall and staggered after.

“Hurry up!” bawled a goblin man at the fire pit. His ratlike tail lashed about. “We’re running out of time. The cooking begins in less than an hour.”

Clara slipped away unnoticed and stepped out into the full bore insanity of Goblin Con 2011.

The halls of the convention center turned and trooped with swarms of goblin men and boys. They bustled and jostled with shrill cries of glee and the disturbing undertone of teeth grinding and gnashing. Their limbs bent the wrong way as they carried their bags filled with swag. They all possessed odd animalistic features, and their eyes glittered coldly like the spider on her bed.

“This is worse than Las Vegas,” muttered Clara and plunged into the crowd. No one took any notice of her, to their odd eyes she was merely another goblin man.

The crowd grew thick and noisy. Clara struggled through. A human girl stood swaying by a plaza fountain with a sad expression on her face. The goblin men gathered round and jeered.

“Are you okay?” shouted Clara.

“They don’t like my costume,” said the girl with a sob. “I’m supposed to be Sakura. This is the worst anime convention ever. I haven’t met anyone from Japan yet.”

“No one likes Sakura!” shouted a goblin. A fruit rind flew through the air and struck the girl in the face. She fell down and twitched feebly.

“Holy shit,” There was no way to help the girl in this inhuman mob scene. Clara tried to move away, but the crowd suddenly surged forward and she had to go with the flow.

“Trenchcoats, trenchcoats, get your trenchcoats!” bawled the goblin attendant. She was being pushed along with the rest into a darkened side room. There was no way to get out of the crowd. She took the offered trenchcoat and tried to step aside.

“Hey, I didn’t stamp your hand,” yelped the attendant.

“Sorry.”

“Suck my cherries,” hissed the attendant. He grabbed her hand and stamped it. A look of suspicion twisted the wombat features. “Why’s your hand so soft?”

He wouldn’t release her hand.

“Look over there,” Clara cried and tried to turn. “Oh my God, it can’t be! Isn’t that Hayao Miyazaki?”

The attendant squealed and released her hand. “He’s for dinner? Where is he? I want an autograph before we eat him. I loved Howl’s Moving Castle.”

Clara dashed down the theater aisle and took the first open seat she could find. She needed a moment to catch her breath, but there was no respite as goblin boy after goblin boy tumbled over her legs cursing and scratching to get any available seat. The theater was dimly lit in a mysterious phosphorescent glow from the vaulted ceiling.

“Why’d they give us trenchcoats?” she asked the nearest boy who resembled a nasty little pony.

He let out a whinny of laughter. “Cause we’re gonna watch a dirty cartoon. They do all sorts of weird human things in it. If my clutch mates knew I was here, I’d get beat up for watching such disgusting perversions.”

“Shut up!” a barrage of fruit fell down upon Clara and the goblin boy. Clara picked a mulberry out of her hair. For whatever reason, fruits and berries instead of popcorn were the snacks of choice. All around there was the sound of chewing and spitting from the crowd.

“Bunch of health freaks,” muttered Clara and yelped as she was rewarded with another pelting of rinds and pits.

The curtain pulled back, the ads began to run on the screen.  Clara was disappointed; the ads could have been for the human world except for the goblins. Buy at Big Gorbag’s Furniture Emporium, mention you saw this ad at the theatre and get a free lesson at Ukluk’s karate studio. She was even less impressed when they previews ran. They were straight from the human world, Angelina Jolie and Bruce Willis drew raucous shouts as their images flickered on the big screen.

“No cell phones, no babies crying,” thundered the audio. “If you disturb the viewing pleasure of the audience you will be drawn and quartered by mall security. Next of clutch will NOT be notified. Now for our feature presentation, brought to the goblin dimension for an exclusive one-time showing… Bible Blackest!”

“It’s an OAV,” commented a goblin seated behind Clara sotto voce.

After five minutes of viewing the scandalous anime, Clara couldn’t take it anymore. She ran up the aisle clutching her mouth. Catcalls and whistles followed her retreat.

Clara then weaved her way throughout the throngs crowding the comic booths and exhibits. Everywhere she turned there was a stunned looking human in a costume listlessly striking poses for the amusement of the goblin men. It was pathetic and alarming all at once.

“The Dhampyre Chronicles suck,” shouted a goblin. “Who wants to watch a show about a half-vampire? I bet they glitter!”

“Take it back, you lame otaku” shouted another goblin.

Clara sidestepped the scuffle and kept moving. She had no idea where to find the missing Thule.

She wandered towards the front entrance of the convention hall.  There was another group of goblins watching a goblin artist at work in the lobby. His billboard set askew read:

JOXXON POLYP: artiste in the Painting

“Not for me the brush,” lectured the artist shambling about in front of his audience. Clara stopped to watch. “Nor the easel, bah! These are constrictions. To do art, one must be art. I can’t lower my standards to your putrid expectations! Behold, I liberate the paint all over my body and roll about the floor.”

Joxxon upended several canisters of paint over his furry head then the goblin artist flung himself about on the floor and began to wiggle about. He left streaks of multicolored patches in his wake. The onlookers booed after a while.

“Nothing like a crazy street performer,” a goblin sneered by Clara’s side. “Screw this crap, I’m getting hungry. Let’s go see the main event.

He spun, whipping his arm about and hit Clara in the face.

The scrap of paper on Clara’s forehead was knocked off.

V

“Human!”

The goblin men quickly surrounded Clara. Their looks were evil. They barked and mewed at her with their tails lashing

“Hi everyone,” said Clara. “I’m supposed to be… Mighty Maid Clara. With my broom and trusty dust mop I clean up evil and stuff weeknights at eleven on, uh, some anime channel and stuff. Hey, stop it.”

They trod and hustled her, a sharpened elbow slammed into her stomach. A boot stomped down on her foot. She tried to break away. Hands grabbed at her hair and pulled. A babble of nasty voices swelled all about.

“The human was trying to escape!”

“This one is not affected by miasma, it’s aware of us.”

“What about my art? Plebeians!”

“Make it eat fruit!”

Clara threw a punch and heard a yelp of pain, but the crowd of goblin men grabbed the maid. She heard lace tear in her dress. Her hands and feet were grasped roughly and she was held down on the floor of the lobby, unable to move

“Hold its head, get its mouth open!”

One of the goblin men bent over her with an enthusiastic leer. He shoved a golden peach against her mouth and she clenched her jaw tight. His leathery hand squeezed and split the skin of the peach apart. Juice dripped against her sealed lips.

A whistle blew.

“Security! Step away from the human!”

The attackers pulled back reluctantly releasing Clara, though not without a finishing cuff and pinch. She sat up, wiping away the peach juice from her lips. She gasped.

A creature far larger than the goblins was hopping down the escalator to the lobby. It brandished a baton at the goblins and they fell back reluctantly. The face was somewhat humanoid, but lacked a nose – though the jawline was quite strong and masculine. It was very naked and definitely male.  The scarlet skin was rough and knotty and showed off a muscular build that tapered into a pair of hooved kangaroo like legs.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” the thing said and held out an enormous hand to pull her up.

“Stop waving that thing at me,” Clara said. She wasn’t referring to the baton. Her thoughts were becoming disjointed as the miasma scrambled her thoughts. “Who, or what, the hell are you?”

“Bill the ghast. Security guard,” Bill said. “This area’s off limits to humans. Come on now.  Almost time for the finale.”

“You’re not going to eat me are you?” Clara said. She was stumbling and feeling duller by the moment. She no longer felt the slightest urgency or concern about her impending fate

“I’m allergic to human, makes me break out,” said the ghast with an amused grin of sharklike teeth. “Besides, I got a job to do. Let’s go.”

Joxxon Polyp ran over with paint drying in his fur.

“The stupid human dropped this in my masterpiece,” he ranted. He was waving a piece of paper. “It’s littering, there’s laws against such outrageous behavior.”

Bill took the crumpled piece of paper without looking to see what it was. He gibbered sternly at the complaining artist who threw his furry arms up in disgust and stalked away.

“Is this yours?” Bill asked Clara as he led her back into the depths of the convention hall.

“I guess so,” murmured Clara. Her arms felt like lead weight, but she managed to raise a hand.

Bill the ghast handed her back the Unfuddler.

VI

Clara was herded along with the rest of the humans into the floor pit of an amphitheatre type room. Her species was looking shabby she decided, a bunch of pasty, unfit semi-adults whose cosplay costumes were in various states of disrepair. The worst part was the odor as they were all shoved together so tightly one could barely move, the overwhelming effluence of sweet, rotted fuit assaulted her nostrils.

The goblin men poured in behind. A furious ruckus broke out as they fought and pushed against the ghast security keeping the humans cordoned off. Clara looked up and saw the upper balcony swarming with the dark shapes of the goblins.

Clara was at a loss. Even with the Unfuddler now re-affixed to her brow there was no way to make her way clear of the press. No matter where she turned her way was block. Time was running short. The hour was almost up.

The amphitheatre went dark. Cannon shots boomed, and floodlights danced across the wild crowd. A figure capered across the stage and grabbed the microphone.

“Clutch mates… and dinner guests,” shouted the goblin MC. “Here they are, straight from their gigs at the Tower of Koth and the Catacombs of Chicago, the pride of lower dreamland making their first appearance at GoblinCon – Kongo Spit on lead guitar and vocals, Kat Spewl on bass, Little Whiz on drums – Whizyellow B!”

Laser flowers bloomed, sparklers gushed pillars of technicolor. The members of Whizyellow B dashed out and without hesitation ripped into their first song.

Nov, nov, novi tli vizz,

Gimthy jowm tli ztrian!

Nirrehy, nirrehy, nirrehy,

Hefi ez buk a jrian!

The band stopped abruptly. The crowd cheered.

“Thank you, that was Row, Row, your Boat,” Kongo Spit raised a clenched set of claws and bowed his feathered head.

“I think my ears are bleeding,” wailed a young woman pressed tight up against Clara. With a shock of recognition, Clara realized what the woman was wearing wasn’t a costume, but a familiar maid’s uniform of an orange hue. Without a moments pause, she tore the Unfuddler apart and slapped half of the paper upon the other maid’s brow. This had to be the missing Ms. Monday.

“Listen to me,” Clara grabbed Ms. Monday by the shoulders and shook her. “We’re in really deep shit here, and I’m not talking about the fact we’re right next to the speakers. Snap out of it, I need you.”

Ms. Monday’s eyes momentarily rolled and her head lolled about. For a moment Clara feared her fellow maid was about to pass out. But then the woman recovered and the look in her eyes grew sharp with awareness and then fear.

“Where’s that idiot Thule?” shouted Clara.

Whizyellow B kicked into another song, a stripped down bare bones thrash that reduced the delighted goblins into a mass seizure of flailing limbs. The humans packed in the front tried to keep up by hopping in place.

“I don’t know, I’m Laura by the way. I don’t remember anything. How long do we have?”

“The way these guys rip through songs, not long,” Clara screamed in Laura’s ear. “The set will be over real fast at this pace and we’re the complimentary buffet.”

“We have to get as close to the stage as possible,” Laura shouted back. “Come on.”

“Excuse me, excuse me, coming through,” Clara lost her temper and started pushing violently through the bobbing crowd. “Damnit, get out of the way! VIPs coming through.”

“We have a very special guest tonight,” the leader singer announced right as they forced their way up to the edge of the stage and the row of security ghasts. “In his final musical appearance, hahaha, the one – the only – give it up for Dominic Thule!”

A flourish of trumpets blatted, the lights dimmed and enormous puffs of smoke belched up. Whizyellow B capered about the stage and gestured towards the dark shadow that scuttled forward on six giant hairy legs.

“Oh n-n-n-no!” Clara stuttered. She felt her blood run cold.

Dominic Thule rode astride a giant spider on a saddle placed between the thorax and the abdomen. He waved languidly to the crowd of humans and goblins and then prodded the arachnid’s flanks so it reared up, the clawed pedipalps flailing about. When it crashed down on all eight legs, the stage shuddered.

Dominic Thule wheeled the giant spider about so the oddly shaped abdomen faced the crowd.  The rear of the creature was a disc of grooved swirls and patterns. Thule dismounted slowly to thunderous applause.

“We have to get past these guards,” said Laura. She pushed past the paralyzed Clara and attacked the nearest one. Her fists and legs flew in a flurry and the surprised ghast toppled over. Laura scrambled onto the stage

“I’m nnn-ot going,” said Clara shaking her head. Laura grabbed her by the arm and pulled her up despite her protests.

The security ghasts were slow to react, but now they came hopping onto the stage, their red lips snarling.

“Come on,” cried Laura together they ran towards Thule. He was strutting about the stage, accepting the acclaim of the crowd and totally unaware of the ruckus the two maids were causing. “Act like you’re a fan and tackle him!”

The three went down hard, the goblins went wild. Clara grabbed Thule’s legs and held on tight. She scrunched her eyelids tight, she didn’t want to look at the spider.

“Open your eyes,” Laura shouted desperately. “Pay attention! I’ve only got one chance.”

Clara opened her eyes. The ghasts tried to grab Laura, but she knocked two of them down. She pulled free of their grip. Her hand went to her forehead and then she reached down and slapped Thule hard. The ghasts swarmed over Laura and tossed her off the stage.

A giant hand grasped Clara’s neck. She couldn’t hold onto Thule, they were too strong.

“Hold on,” Thule protested. “She’s my backup singer. Leave her alone.”

The paraxegnostic’s eyes were clear, the scrap of paper that was Laura’s half of the Unfuddler was stuck to his high brow.

“Ms. Sunday, why are you Tuesday?” Thule demanded. “What is the meaning of this? Why are you wearing yellow?”

“That stupid mouse sent me to rescue you and Laura,” Clara burst out. The ghasts were still circling, Whizyellow B were tuning their instrument s and looking annoyed at the delay. The crowd was getting restive.

Thule blinked. “Who’s Laura?”

“Ms. Monday, you moron!” Clara shrieked and then lowered her voice for the entire amphitheatre had fallen silent, all the goblins leaning forward eagerly listening She whispered up into his ear. “Do you see all those goblins waving their lighters up there in the stands?”

“Sure,” Thule puffed his chest up like a blowfish. His pale face beamed with pride. “They’re showing approval for my singing. They have good taste. Did you see riding the spider by the way? Cyclosmia rex, that was cool.”

“No,” hissed Clara. “Those are for the barbecue. We’re going to be spare ribs for a goblin buffet in a moment. And the spider. Is. Not. Cool.”

“This is a predicament,” Thule’s face paled even more than natural. “But not a problem, I can get us out of here now that I’m in control of my faculties.”

“What about them?” Clara jerked her head.

“It appears they’ve lost their luster,” said Thule after a quick glance at the dull eyed crowd of humans pressed up against the stage. “A shame about Ms. Monday, she was a good assistant… one of many.  I shall remember her with a touch of nostalgia.  I’ll have a hard enough time getting myself out. Where’s the exit?”

“You insufferable bastard,” hissed Clara. Her fear of the giant spider nearby was washed away by sheer anger.

“We get out of here alive,” she said.  “And we’re going to having a serious talk about my working for you. I’ll talk, you will listen.”

The goblins were growing restive. A volley of tomatoes soared through the air and began to splatter about the stage. A chorus of boos filled the miasma.

“Do something,” said Clara. “Distract them. Let’s hear THAT golden voice of yours. I didn’t come all the way to GoblinCon 2011 for nothing.”

Thule flinched back with a look of alarm at the sarcasm dripping from Clara’s words then recovered himself with a shake of his unruly hair. He turned to face the unruly crowd. He grabbed the microphone.

“You’re here for some rock and roll? And dinner?” Thule shouted and tore off his shirt. He was scrawny enough to pass as a junked up rock star. “Alright then, here’s some old T. Rex – 1. 2. 3. 4!”

Whizbanger B burst into the grind. Kongo Spit spread his feathery display and thrashed on guitar, Kat Spewl flicked his lizard tongue across the bass strings and Little Whiz was a blur of spines and bristles as he flailed at the drums. The giant spider slammed it’s disc of a rear end into the stage in time with the band.

“UUUUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!” screeched Thule. He rushed about the stage flailing the microphone. The audience screeched back.

Sate anata wa banpu suru koto ga dekimasu hiku,

Sore wa anata no kokoro ni tekishite imasu,

Sate anata wa, hineri o kuwaeta koto ga deki, tamuro subete kika sete sakebu,

Shikashi, anata wa kakumei no kodomo-tachi no me wa gomakasenai wa!

Unnoticed, Clara stepped back, dodging around the moving menace of the spider’s unusual rear end. Her eyes were as round as saucers and her lips pressed white. She reached up and grabbed the pommel of saddle between the thorax and abdomen and pulled herself up. The lemon colored wig fell off.

“Like riding a pony,” Clara said. She grabbed the reins.

“No way! Yeah! Wow!” Thule warbled and jumped off a speaker.

Clara hauled back. Cyclocosmia rex rumbled a growl that reverbrated through the entire length of the arachnid’s body. The rows of eyes looked back at the rider.

“Come on!”

The giant spider turned ponderously about and faced the crowd.

“Go! Charge! Whatever,” Clara kicked vigorously at the flanks of the spider. On the second attempt, her foot dug into the soft spot between the shell of the thorax and abdomen. Cyclocosmia rex let out an unearthly screech and jumped clear over Thule and the band and into the stands.

Goblin men scratched and tumbled to get out of the way. The spider stepped on one and there was an awful squelching sound, the unfortunate goblin was impaled on the rear leg of the spider. Perhaps it was the smell of blood, or the annoyance of not being able to shake off the impediment on its leg but the giant spider went berserk and went on the attack.  Torsos and legs began to fly about in a black inky spray as the pedipalps went to work like weedwhackers.

The stands emptied as the bawling mob made for the exits. Clara held on for dear life as Cyclocosmia rex lunged for an exit, trampling all underfoot. Clara looked up only once, just in time to catch the exit sign hanging on the door full in the face.

WHACK!

VII

“Excellent work Ms. Sunday,” Dominic Thule said. “I commend you also Ms. Monday, that was a fine piece of work. Not a single one of the human attendees was left behind.”

Thule’s face was fuzzy. Clara blinked. She was propped up in between two door jambs wall. She looked around in some confusion. Where were the goblin men?

They were in the Passage of Big Doors. They were all in the Passage of the Big Doors – the corridor was packed tight with a dishevelled and panting mob of people – human people –  in brightly colored outfits.

“Don’t get up,” said Laura. Hop balanced on her shoulder and looked down smugly. “You took a nasty blow.”

“Whad happend,” said Clara. “Ow. I dink my nose ith broken.”

“The goblins had to evacuate the convention center,” said Thule. “In the confusion I shepherded everyone out and using my knowledge of mysticism led them to the doorway – which I might mention – you could have saved me about ten minutes if I had only known the location within the convention hall. The ghasts almost caught us.”

“And I made sure we didn’t forget you,” said Laura patting Clara on the shoulder. “I wasn’t that caught up by the miasma.”

“Now, as for the rest of you,” announced Thule. “You’re all invited for a house party to round off your adventure. Then I’ll figure out what to do. Come, let’s celebrate. Who are you supposed to be, my dear?”

“I’m Sakura,” said the girl blushing. Thule draped his arm around her shoulders and smiled.

“Sunday, Monday – clean up this mess,” he commanded and marched up the hallway with Hop bouncing by his side. The excited crowd followed along. “How’d you like to be one of my maids, I have an opening?”

“Whad a bashterd,” said Clara after a while.

Laura nodded gravely. One of the doors hid a utility closet and she had pulled out a mop and was cleaning up the debris left behind.

“Thad was some nice fu,” said Clara.

“You weren’t bad either,” said Laura. “By the way, the numbering on these doors isn’t fixed. Look what happened.”

Clara stood up and hobbled over.

“Is that Glorious Good?”

“Looks like, I think it’s here for you.”

Clara opened the door and looked. She blinked a few times and sighed.

“It won’t be there tomorrow you know,” said Laura.

“I don’t believe in shortcuts,” said Clara. She closed the door with a firm grip.

THE END

Copyright ©2011 by John Eric Sweat

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4 Responses to In the Haunts of Goblin Men

  1. Pingback: Writing: Yet more Thule the Fool |

  2. Gramneg says:

    I still can’t believe you are writing this near stream of conciousness. No, wait, maybe I can. Detailed coherent thought couldn’t produce something this funny. The pure creativity is so damned impressive. Keep up the good work.

  3. Secret says:

    Forgive me for saying so, my friend, but this chapter isn’t good.

    Here’s why:

    The main thrust of the story isn’t plot or character development. Or exposition. Or anything that would make a reader hungry for the next chapter. I like Hop and Melicia well enough, but their sections are rushed and half-hearted. You could have spent a chapter on each of them, finding a key reason to weave their existence into your story. In this context, they are little more than mechanical plot devices hurrying us towards the cheap laugh. Because (and I wince as I type this) there is little more to this update than a cheap laugh.

    Making fun of anime cons is like bullying the chubby kid with glasses in grade school. Everyone does it because the target is just too easy. And since everyone gets their licks in on the easy target, there just aren’t clever new ways to torment the poor kid/con. Cons are crowded with stinky guys who are complete fanboys? No one like Sakura? YOU ARE BETTER THAN THAT.

    Part of my delight in the previous chapters came from the breezy other-worldliness of the setting. Much like Clara, I was transported into Thule’s world. It felt familiar yet fantastic, and don’t we readers *live* to be lost in a story like that? But when you litter that other world with none-too-clever references to ours, you lose the magic. The jab at Jackson Pollock was particularly irritating. In addition to being another example of a cheap laugh (from the vile connotation of the name pun to the easy slam on performance art), it has no real place in the story. Why would an artist of any type besides manga be at a con? This joke was shoe-horned into the story, and that sort of force kills the former easy quality of the first two chapters.

    Finally, the ending lacked guts. Every human survives? Yeah, right. In the first chapter, you introduced a delightful character in Mr Ur and then cavalierly killed him. That brave choice made a whimsical world take weight. Being in Thule’s employ is downright dangerous. His(Your) fantastically wondrous world is deadly. You maintained that edge of darkness in chapter two when Thule suggests substituting a small child for a goat to placate the raging lamia. And then, in this chapter, you slip into the no-kill zone for all human characters, even the nameless ones, while massacring the non-human ones with glee.

    So, yeah. Not good.

    I’m sorry.

  4. Pingback: Writing: Publishing on SmashWords |

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