The world outside was black and sodden when the sombre clock struck midnight, and concurrent with the last vibrato of the pendulum, there was an almighty bang at my front door. I lowered my book, listening. A silent flash lit the room as I sat, and moments later a slow thunder rolled and belched in the distance. Perhaps I had imagined it.
I buried my nose once more in my book, and soon enough found myself lost in its pages. Then the sound came again, a succession of low, wooden thumps. I snapped shut my story book and placed it on the arm of my chair. This was most unorthodox. I stood up and crossed the room, my nightie billowing around me, the cold air caressing my bare ankles. I paused in the hallway, before the large, oak front door.
“I say, who goes there?” I warbled.
The howling of the winter winds were the only response I received. I stood gazing steadily at the door, and after a lifetime, with skin rippling inevitability, there was one final bang. The door rattled in its frame and I leapt a foot in the air.
“Dash it all, who goes there?” I cried, stamping over to the door, my mind drunk on a cocktail of fear and indignation. I flung it wide open and stood with my hands raised in front of me, ready to box the ears of whatever hoodlum had taken it upon themselves to interrupt my evening’s reading. However, I found no rogue children standing before me, but a pack of fantastically ugly goblins.
I looked at the goblins, and they looked at me. There are many choice phrases I could employ to describe them, but I will simply say this: they looked absolutely gross. Big, greasy eyeballs. Dribbling pointy noses. Yellow gnashers all higgledy piggledy, like headstones in an untended graveyard. Long toes and fingers with lashings of coarse hair. About 4 feet tall. Mouth breathers the lot of them, despite their catastrophically large nostrils. Just gross.
I stared at them in bewildered silence, my jaw turned to jelly, my eyes like halved avocados. “Good evening,” said the tallest goblin, in deep and rumbling tones.
“G… goblins?” I croaked.
“Indeed,” replied the goblin, “we would like to enlist your help with-“
“GOBLINS?” I wailed, my voice warbling out of control as adrenaline coursed through my veins.
“Erm, yes,” the goblin stated, patiently, “you see, we wanted to ask you if-“
It seemed my fight or flight reflex had kicked in rather hard, because before I knew what I was doing, I had picked up the tall goblin by the ears and flung him arse-first into a cabinet full of glass figurines with a really quite surprising force. I do not know why my battle cry of choice was ‘Valhalla’; I have never been a particular fan of Norse mythology, but I suppose one does not have much choice in one’s actions once the red mist descends.
The goblins gasped at me in unison, but in my rage I was far beyond the point of remorse or reason. I grabbed the two nearest goblins, one in each hand, and clunked their fat heads together, then hurled them into the stunned crowd. I used this distraction to make my escape, and dashed upstairs with my nightie flapping around my ankles, shrieking all the way like a branded piglet.
I skidded around the landing and flew into the bathroom, intending to lock myself in. However, in my terrified haste my blasted feet got caught in the frills of my gown, and I sailed arse over tit straight through the bathroom and out the gaping window, which I had left open earlier that evening to dispel an odour most foul, because this story is set in the olden days, and Oust has not been invented yet.
Time seemed to slow as I soared screaming into the night, like a heavily lubricated eagle fired from a circus cannon. My robe was flung asunder with the velocity of my tumble, and the cold night air slapped at my genitals as I fell towards the earth where, beyond mine own shithouse window, there lay a startlingly vast dung heap; the work of the flock of pigs I keep in the back yard. ‘Goodness, what a foul place to land,’ I thought to myself. ‘What awful luck I am having this evening’. As I fell, I pondered what the collective noun was for a group of pigs. A gang, perhaps? A gaggle? A grunt of piggies? An oink?
My train of thought was interrupted by my landing face down in a pile of rusting gardening equipment that lay immediately next to the dung heap. It seems the wind blew me off course from my stinky yet gentle landing spot. I lay amongst the spades and the rakes moaning gently, and a light rain began to patter my face. All I wanted was to spend my evening reading in peace.
The goblins trouped around the building in formation and found my mangled form. I saw them coming, and tried in vain to fight them off, but this time, with my body absolutely smashed to bits, I was unable to put up a good fight beyond harpooning one of them with a garden hoe. The goblins hauled my limp, ragged body off of the cruel tool heap and bundled me onto a wagon. I was too weary to protest, and let my head loll backwards off the cart as they wheeled me out of my driveway and down the street.
As my home shrank from view, I saw the upstairs curtains twitch. My two grandchildren, the interminable dullards, had finally been woken up by the commotion of me fighting for my life. They peered out from their bedroom with bleary eyes, and were greeted by the sight of my apparently lifeless form being slowly wheeled away on a cart, surrounded by goblins (who, by the way, had inexplicably begun to sing some kind of infuriating goblin marching song). You would think my grandchildren might have called for help, or chased after, but they did not. They just waved me off, their expressions as blank as a beach in a blizzard. Fucking half-wits.
The goblins trundled me along the bumpy cobbled road, through the centre of my village. Nobody was awake to see the bizarre procession, and I was too weak to call out. All I could do was flop around and wait, while quietly wondering how many bones I had broken. I strained my neck to glance down at my body, and in my delirium observed that I had in fact been partially impaled by an upturned trowel.
We left the road and began to wind our way into the forest. I gazed up at the trees as we passed, and at the silvery moon beyond, and was startled to find many pairs of yellow eyes peering down at me from the treetops. I could do nothing but scowl as we passed beneath the ranks of staring eyes, until finally the cart came to a stop in a mossy clearing.
The goblins heaved my limp body from the cart and helped me sit down gently on a tree stump. I gingerly pinched the trowel and pulled it from where it was lodged in my ribcage. Blood began to spurt out, and I realised I had in all likelihood just accidentally killed myself. Thankfully, one of the awful goblins stepped forward and waved his gnarled root-hands over my wound. With a soft ‘zip’ sound, the trowel-shaped gash in my body healed itself, leaving only a faint scar.
“How’d you do that?” I gasped, feeling the strength flood back into my limbs. The goblin smiled at me.
“ We goblins posses an ancient and powerful magic that-“
I slapped the goblin hard across the mouth. I’m not proud of this, but look: the goblins were just so gross that I really couldn’t control myself. They looked like gangly snails. Imagine a teenage snail. So gross.
The goblins gasped at me, and my healer shrank away into the crowd, whimpering softly. I found myself up on my feet with my fists raised before I knew it. As I was gearing up to dish out some more pain to the greasy magical weirdos, they parted. Through their ranks hobbled an elderly goblin with floppy ears that sprouted white hair. It’s massive eyeballs were misty grey, and it leaned heavily on a walking stick. The old goblin stopped before me, and gazed up at me with a mournful expression.
I scoped in on its walking stick at once. Haha! A weapon! I snatched for it, ready to pummel the old creature and its disciples. However, the old goblin’s wizened form was deceptive; it moved like a cobra on gack. Before I knew it, I had been thwacked in the genitals with its walking stick and found myself on my back, staring up at the leafy canopy in bewilderment. The goblin leader held its walking stick at my throat, gentle yet unflinching.
“Hello,” the creature said, in a voice like someone slowly opening an enormous dusty book, “my name is Ian. Son, why did you attack me?”
“First of all, I’m a bloody woman,” I replied, indignant. “Look: tits,” I said, jiggling them around. The elder goblins eyes widened. “And second, I attacked you because, well, look at you! You’re gross!”
Ian stroked his floppy ears in thought.
“We came to you to request your assistance with a most important request, but it seems that we have a more pressing matter: you are a goblin racist.”
Gasps ran through the ugly horde.
“A goblin what?” I laughed. “You can’t be racist to a goblin, you fat oaf. You’re not even a race. You’re not even real, for that matter.”
Ian shook his head sadly and clicked his fingers. The horde swarmed me, and before I could resist I had been bundled onto a gurney. They wheeled me along a narrow path to an enormous, ancient tree. A stairway was carved into its trunk, and wound around the trees exterior all the way up into the branches, where dozens of whimsical treehouses had been constructed. It was all very pretty, if you’re into that sort of thing.
They rolled me up the stairs and into one of the treehouses; this one looked like a classroom. It contained a blackboard and several rows of tiny desks with even tinier chairs. I was positioned in the middle of the class, bolt upright and immobile on my gurney, like Hannibal Lecter except in a nightie and rollers and with an obscenely large bosom.
Ian limped into the room and began scrawling on the blackboard in green chalk. I idly wondered why he chose green chalk as he wrote. When he stood back, in remarkable calligraphy, the title ‘Goblin Racism 101’ was etched on the board. I yawned and rolled my eyes.
He proceeded to run me through a series of projector slides of humans down the ages doing mean things to goblins: flipping them the bird, laughing at their stupid ears, tripping them up, using them as croquet mallets, that sort of thing. This was all news to me. Until the ugly pack of them showed up on my doorstep, I thought they were completely made up. How can you be racist to something that you didn’t know exists? I sighed out loud at the thought, earning myself an angry glance from Ian. How quickly you can go from not believing in goblins to being ensnared by them and lectured on your own unconscious prejudices. Bloody typical.
After 4 hours of being strapped down and forced to watch endless reels of grainy footage of goblins being shoved into oncoming traffic and flung from bridges, my initially howls of laughter subsided. I began to feel a distant sympathy for the revolting creatures, which soon blossomed uncontrollably into a deep understanding and empathy. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself in floods of tears.
“O, you wonderful creatures, how I have wronged you!” I cried, my sobs rattling the gurney. “O how naïve and heartless I was to smite you so! Did I hurt you, my fair brothers and sisters? Didst I wound thee with these foul fists of mine? O!”
The goblins shuffled uncomfortably as I wailed, evidently unfamiliar with 16 stone sobbing grandmas. Finally, when my shrieks were reduced to apologetic sniffles, Ian approached me with a benevolent smile. He unfastened my manacles, and I dropped to my knees like a sack of semi-deflated footballs.
“Thank you, Ian,” I whispered. “Thank you. I am no longer a massive goblin racist. I understand now.”
Ian helped me to my feet, and led me out of the class room by the hand.
“Come, child,” he breathed, “it is time to show you why we summoned you here.”
I quietly thought to myself that ‘summoned’ was a rather reductionist term for ‘chased out of an upstairs window, shanked with a trowel and shackled to a gurney’, but I made no comment. We wound our way high into the tree, to the utmost branch, where we came upon an adorable little treehouse adorned with a red sign above the door marked ‘War Room. Go Away’. Again, this struck me as queer, but I remained shtum. Ian led me inside.
In the little wooden tree hut was a huge table covered with sprawling maps, dotted with adorable flags and miniscule carved goblins. Candles had burned low on the table and dripped wax in wide pools. It was very pretty. I giggled at the cutesy little war room, and picked up several figurines to inspect them. Ian gasped and snatched them from me.
“What are you doing!” he cried. “This is the centre of our operations!”
“What?” I chuckled. “What operations?”
“This is the room from which we conduct our war against those hideous, awful trolls!” Ian boomed.
I frowned at him. Something didn’t sit right with me all of a sudden.
“This is why we brought you here, human,” Ian continued, “to be a part of the great Goblin and Troll Wars! To aid in the victory of the goblins against the repugnant, savage trolls! The trolls that stain our forest with their very presence! They must be eradicated!”
“Oh for fuck sake…” I murmured.
“Death to the trolls!” Ian screamed. The goblin horde poured into the war room behind us and joined the chant. “Death to the trolls! Death to every one of them!”
“Er, right, but what about the racism thing?” I asked, coyly.
“Racism? Against trolls?” Ian laughed. “Preposterous! Trollkind are a blight on this forest, with their smelly cooking and weird feet and fucking stupid language. They’re just… gross!”
“Right, right, but… isn’t that… isn’t saying those things… not a bit… racist?”
I looked around me at the hate filled goblin faces, eyes glinting with the prospect of battering some trolls. I sighed and rolled my nightie sleeves up. So much for lessons learned. It was suddenly clear to me that my abduction was fated to happen, I indeed was the chosen one, I alone could end this ugly conflict.
“Oi, Ian,” I called. Ian was busy rallying the horde and dancing around the war room waving his staff above his slimy head. I waited until he hopped past me and, with a sigh, picked him up by his fluffy white ears. He dangled before me with a look of panic and confusion on his face.
“Look, Ian, I hate to break this to you, but you’re a massive racist, just like I was back five or six minutes ago. Fortunately, I have seen the light. And you have to go. I mean, I could probably try to re-educate you like you did for me, but… it’s late, and I’m tired. So…”
I shrugged, and hurled Ian screaming out of the nearest window. I peered out after him, and watched him ricochet off several branches before crashing through the roof of a treehouse in the lower branches marked ‘Goblin Cinema’. He left an admittedly hilarious goblin-shaped hole in the roof. The yelps of horror from within told me that Ian was no more.
I turned to face the terrified assembly of goblins in the war room, now lost without their leader. I spent five minutes slinging them about for good measure, before leaving and trudging back down the forest track to find my house. On the way, I happened upon the troll nest, and to be fair, the goblins weren’t wrong: they were really, really gross. I booted their portly chieftain into their firepit just in case, and warned them that if there was any more funny business between trolls and goblins, I’d be back for the rest of them.
I arrived home as the sun was rising, and found my moron grandchildren waiting at the front porch for my return, their mouths hanging open like kicked over dustbins. I had quite enjoyed all the hurling of goblins and trolls, and briefly considered launching my grandchildren across the lawn to teach them a lesson, but I decided against it. There had been enough violence.
To satisfy my bloodlust, I smacked them and sent them to bed, and settled into my favourite armchair. Dawn had broken, and comfortable in my nightie, I picked my book back up and read the end of my chapter. I snapped it closed and climbed the stairs for bed, content in the knowledge that I had brought peace to the woodland realms, at long, long last.