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The Price of Friendship by Philip 'Norvaljoe' Carroll is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tide at Midnight

I wrote this story for a contest at I didn't win, but had a fun time writing. The prompt was based on the book Sheep and Wolves which takes a sympathetic look at zombies. The idea was to write a story that makes the reader sympathize with another type of classic monster. I chose goblins.

Tide at Midnight

A midnight wave of glistening ebony bodies burst onto the field and flowed unimpeded across the broad, barren plain. Their crooked bodies, naked except for long, filthy loin clothes, were hunched. Their hairless heads gleamed in the pale light of the waning, bloated moon. They screamed their hatred through yellowed razor-sharp teeth as they lurched across the expanse to confront their enemy.
Red and shining like fresh blood, a crimson wall rose up from the very ground to meet the wave. They hissed and pawed at their fellows in line, raising long, parallel stripes of blood with their jagged claws; yet they impatiently held their position.
Black met red with the roar of a hurricane as goblins from both sides howled in pain and fury. They tore at each other’s throats and raked festering talons across emaciated bodies. Red and black fell together to be trampled beneath the gnarled feet of opponents and companions alike.
The moans of the dying and ululations of the victors were drowned out by the maniacal chanting of the crowds in the stands.
Each side of the stadium rallied to outdo their opponents across the playing field. “Midnight, Midnight, Midnight,” the home team fans howled and waved black silk banners that whistled and snapped from the ends of tall wooden pikes. The visiting team responded with “Crimson, Crimson, Crimson,” and created an eerie atmosphere as they spun glowing red hoops above their heads that whirred and rattled with each revolution.
On the field the Midnight Wave formed a wedge and put pressure on a weak point in the Crimson line. High above in the stands, the fans roared their enthusiasm and anticipation of a victory.
“We’re going to win.” Shreeda stood on the wooden bleacher and shouted down to her date, where he sat, leaning his knobby elbows on equally knobby knees. He retracted the claw he had been using to work a piece of raw meat from between his front teeth. He glanced toward the playing field but only saw the boney bare backs of his fellow high school students.
The Midnight High students jumped and hooted their enthusiasm as the wedge offensive found an opening in the weakening Crimson High lines. The gleaming black demons successfully pushed through and raced toward the visitor’s goal set atop a stone pyramid. A crimson pennant hung limp in the windless air, barely visible in the dim light of the setting moon.
Amid the roars of the hopeful teenagers, Shreeda sat and raked her extended talons, painted midnight purple, lightly across his back between bare shoulder. He felt goose bumps climb his back and arms. He glanced up and gave her a weak smile.
“Creege,” she said close to his ear; her hot, fetid breath on his cheek was alluring. “What’s the matter? We’re winning. You should be happy.”
“We’re winning, this time, sure,” he said. “But it’s all so pointless and cliché.”
Creege sat up and looked his date in the eyes.
“What are we,” he asked Shreeda, and answered the question himself, “goblins. What do we do? We scream and hiss. We claw and bite. We fight and we die. And for what? Nothing. We never win, I mean, when was the last time you read a book where we came out on top? It’s never us. Sometimes it’s the orcs, but it’s usually the humans. Why do you think that is?”
“Um,” Shreeda stammered and asked, “because we don’t write the books?”
Creege rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to speak. As one, the crowd gasped and then roared in dismay. Shreeda jumped to her feet, straightened her loin cloth and clambered onto the bench to get a better view of the playing field.
She screamed down to him, “the Crimson have a squad that broke through and are racing toward our goal. They had hidden reinforcements that are defending their goal. If we don’t get through them to their goal quick, they’re going to get to ours and we’ll lose.”
“Midnight, Midnight, Midnight,” the crowd chanted then broke into shrieks and screams as the home team pushed through the defenders to capture the visitor’s pennant.
Creege stood up among the screaming, jumping, euphoria in the bleachers. Teenagers laughed, hugged, bit and clawed each other in congratulations of the hard earned victory.
Below, a thousand black and red goblins were indecipherable shapes heaped in piles and scattered randomly about the starlit field.
Creege took his giggling, bouncing date by the shoulders and turned her toward him.
“Look at them,” he shouted over the bedlam and pointed at the field. “They’re dead. They’re all dead. And for what? To show which high school is best?
He scrubbed his hand across the top of his pointed, hairless head and squeezed his knuckles against his protruding brow. Shreeda smiled from ear to pointed ear as she surveyed the same field that caused Creege such distress and confusion.
He dropped his head forward and asked, “and what about those that lived? Will they go on to die in the next competition? Or will they just be sent to the human plain to die in battle against dwarves and humans? It all seems so futile.”
“Really, Creege,” Shreeda said and rolled her eyes. “It’s not like they have souls or anything.”
Two other females bounced up and fluttered around Shreeda. They prattled mindlessly. “Wasn’t that just the most thrilling match? It was way better than last week. That one went way to fast. We’re going to get a pizza. Do you want to come? You can bring your friend.”
The taller of the two leered at Creege. She licked her top lip with a glistening, pointed, red tongue and winked a jaundiced eye at him.
Before she could ask him, Creege said, “No, thanks, Shreeda, you go. I think I’ll just sit here a while.”
“Ok, whatever,” she said and hurried away down the bleachers, chattering with her friends.

The End