Tell me again Aiden, what happened to your brother.
Carl Secord was a large man whose presence often intimidated Aiden. His job as a lineman added a weathered, chiseled appearance and gave his deep-set eyes an almost sinister glare. Though at the moment they were holding back a torrent of fear.
The young boy looked up with frightened eyes, the black, pirate makeup hed been wearing had smeared and tracked down his cheeks. He remained silent for several seconds. Then finally, he licked his pale lips and told what he could remember.
It was dark. Cody didnt want to come straight home and said it would be fun to walk around the block and maybe get some more candy. I only had about half of my bag full and agreed, but every house we tried had given all their candy away.
Cody saw that I wanted to give up, and started acting funny to keep me going. He was a zombie, so hed pretend he was going after other kids some of the younger ones screamed and ran but after we rounded Hawkcraft Street everyone was gone. Wed only gone a house or two when we heard a noise. Thats when it grabbed him.
Sandy, the boys mother, jerked forward at the word grabbed. Her normally serene face showed the stress she was under and her hands gripped the frail pirate costume to the point of ripping seams.
Who grabbed Cody? She nearly lifted the youth off the floor and his arms hurt from being squeezed. Wheres your brother? Carl placed his hands on Sandys shoulders and she stiffened, then seemed to relax a bit and set the boy down.
O.K. Aiden, said Carl. Who took Cody?
Like I said, it was dark, but I saw it grab him around the middle, then take off cross the street and to the far side of the gorge.
You say this was on Hawkcraft Street? Carls expression grew grim as a stab of pure terror punched him hard. Where did they go after entering the gorge?
Aiden swallowed the knot in his throat. He rubbed his right cheek, smearing the makeup further, then replied in a whisper, It took him down the Goblin Hole dad.
No! shrieked Sandy in disbelief. She bolted for the door, but was blocked by Carl. Hes only nine years old Carl, a baby! And what does he keep saying...it took him?
The following minutes were a blur. Carl knew he had to find his son and he knew where he had to go. He pulled on his jacket as he opened the door to leave when Sandy stopped him dead in his tracks by asking: Shouldnt you take the rifle with you?
Hes a frightened little boy, Sandy. I cant take a chance on hitting him. Ill take my hunting knife though. With that, Sandy fetched the knife from the kitchen closet, then Carl hurried out the door. She watched helplessly as her husbands form grew dimmer and dimmer and finally disappeared completely.
The raw Autumn air nipped his cheeks as he covered the blocks the boys had traveled. Soon, the open expanse of Wickersham Gorge lay before him. Carl knew the trail to the Goblin Hole. He was among the many men whod tried in vain to close up that sinister portal. Three times had men tried to seal and bury it forever only to find it reopened within a few days. Only after Rubin Hollis went missing did the entire town agree it was a place to be feared. Rumors began that Hollis ghost guards the Goblin Hole every Halloween. From what, no one knows for certain.
As Carl picked his way over the jagged rocks and scrub, he got the uneasy feeling that he was being watched. His neck tightened and he jerked about at the slightest sounds. The sight of the Goblin Hole did nothing to alleviate his anxiety. In the wane light, it resembled a huge gaping mouth waiting to swallow any unsuspecting passerby. His right hand clenched the handle of the hunting knife - that bit of reality calmed his nerves a fraction.
Carl straightened and found himself facing the black abyss of the opening. It seemed larger than he remembered and his heart began to pound in his chest. His legs felt leaden and his entire being screamed that he should flee. He was about to turn and survey the gorge when a spray of rock splinters pelted his face and head - this was immediately followed by the familiar crack of a high-power hunting rifle.
Carls instincts kicked in and he dove for the cover and pitch-black darkness of the Goblin Hole. Two more shots slammed into the rocks and sent more chips and splinters flying. It would be insanity to try and race across the gorge, so Carl unsheathed the hunting knife and felt along the walls for some kind of path. He had a flashlight tucked in his belt and pulled it out. Hed been saving the batteries for as long as possible - who knew how deep into the earth the Goblin Hole went and how long hed be inside its inky interior. After several more steps and no more rifle shots, Carl flicked on the light. The brightness momentarily blinded him and he squeezed his eyes closed. Gradually his vision adjusted and he beheld a long tunnel that steeply descended into the unknown. It was surprisingly warm and he thought he could feel a draft wafting towards the surface. A glance at his watch showed it was eight-thirty. A time when the boys should be in pajamas and brushing their teeth - not at the hands of whatever terror lurked at the pit of this tunnel. The thought made him cringe and spurred him to quicken his pace.
Minutes stretched to tens of minutes , then an hour with no signs or clues of Codys wherabouts. Carl was grateful that the tunnel hadnt forked or split off into multiple paths. He was about to round a bend when he spied something dark partially buried in the dirt. He tugged at it and it grudgingly revealed a mans shoe. Much to large for his son, but a sign nonetheless. Carl flung it aside and continued downward.
Twenty minutes later, a deep, ruddy-red glow began to fill the tunnel before him. It danced and flickered like firelight and the odor of something burning lay heavy in the air. Carl crept deeper and made his way towards a large cavern. Carl flipped off the flashlight and inched his way to the opening. His mind reeled at the sight before him and he had to fight the overpowering urge to flee. For there in the firelight, in that smoky pit of hell ... were Goblins. Dozens of them!
A ceremony of some type was underway, and at its center were three children. Carl immediately recognized Cody from his zombie costume. All had their hands bound in front of them and shared equal expressions of terror. The middle child was a young girl and she seemed near hysterics. Time and again the other children had to help her up from the floor. Carl tried to work out a path down to them but found it impossible without being detected long before he could render any aid. For the moment, all he could do was watch.
The smoke from several cauldron fires made it difficult to determine how many goblins were present. The number didnt matter though, it was their intent that panicked Carl. Two of the more prominent ones had approached the first child and were trying to force something down his throat. The child fought their attempts and was struck a blow that rendered him unconscious. The girl screamed as the boy was hit and raced off to the right of the ceremony. Several larger goblins loped after her, but didnt return. Codys face was a mask of pure horror. The goblins now approached him and yanked his head back by the hair.
One forced his mouth open as the second forced a blood-red sphere - resembling a large egg - down this throat. Cody started to gag, but kept it down.
At that moment, all activity ceased. Every Goblin eye was focused on Cody. Carls hand clenched the knife and he inched forward into the cavern. He had to make a move. He managed to work his way around to the left and nearly half-way to the cavern floor, when a heavy body dropped on him from above.
Before he could turn his head to face his attacker, he was dealt a second, stronger blow that plunged him into darkness.
When Carl awoke, he was next to Cody in the center of the ceremony. The mood was different now, more frantic, frenzied. The cavern floor seemed to writhe with goblins of every size. Carl shook his head to clear the fog and noticed that Cody seemed different. His skin was a dirty green and his eyes had an unearthly gaze. He clearly didnt recognize Carl as his father. A thin trickle of whatever theyd given him snaked down his chin and spasms shook his body periodically. Carl watched as two of the larger goblins moved towards him. He tried to move, but found hed been securely chained to the floor.
As he watched in horror, one of the beasts took his hunting knife and slit a long gash in its arm. The second collected what must have been its blood - it oozed a putrid yellow. The two then moved closer to Carl and repeated the process used on his son, but more forcefully. Carl tried spitting the foul goo out, but was given a sharp kick to the ribs. The second time they pinched his nose close and held his mouth shut.
Racking spasms jerked Carls body as the blood worked its way through his system. Carl could feel changes taking place. His mind was a jumble of emotions anger, fear, hatred. For a moment he regained his senses and looked over at his son. Cody was gone, in his place sat a fully formed goblin. Still wearing the Zombie costume, it rose and took a few steps towards Carl. It smiled with a mouthful of crooked, yellow teeth, then walked away to be accepted into the crowd.
The hatred in Carls mind exploded and he strained at the chains that bound him. The goblins paid his efforts little mind, till one of the links snapped. Carl flailed the chain like a whip, taking out several of the closest goblins. With another pull, he snapped the second chain holding his arm. A group of goblins was closing on him, but were leary of the flying metal. The final two chains finally gave way and Carl was up and on the attack. The goblins seemed off guard and fell back. Escape was the only thought in his fevered mind now and he raced back towards the tunnel and freedom.
His heart was pounding like a wild drum and sweat was running down his skin like a shower. With his new found strength, he easily outpaced the goblins and covered the length of the tunnel in a fraction of the time it took to traverse. With heightened vision, he made out the exit to the tunnel and put on an extra burst of speed.
The night air hit him like an icy blast. It dazed him and he paused near the entrance. Lungfulls of cool, October air burned in his lungs and Carl, glanced across the gorge towards home. His thoughts were shattered by the familiar splintering of rock and stone. More shots rang out making Carl duck and jerk back towards the Goblin Hole. Before he could regain his footing, he was seized by three powerful sets of clawed hands. This time they were prepared and hauled the former Carl Secord back to the bowels of the Goblin Hole. There, he and his son would add to their ranks and join in their yearly quest for new bodies, new blood.
Meanwhile, up on the high side of Wickersham Gorge, Rubin Hollis sat perched on a small boulder, rifle at the ready. His dirty green skin made perfect camouflage in the pale moonlight. The transformation had stopped halfway for him, making him unfit for neither human or Goblin life, but the hate remained. The hatred of all whod changed him and took his life. He might have missed the one going into the Goblin Hole earlier, but he vowed hed not miss anything that tried to come back out!