Goblin Child (1286 Words)
Jacob watched as Ray climbed through the window. He made it look so easy, like climbing from the second floor was the easiest thing in the world. But Jacob had been practicing. This time he was ready to go. As soon as the goblin disappeared, he slipped out of bed and looked down.
Ray was nowhere to be seen.
Jacob’s heart pounded as he climbed over the sill. He stretched for the elm branch. Everything looked so different in the dark, less certain, more dangerous. For a moment he thought maybe he should go back. But he reached out anyway and felt the elm tree’s rough bark.
“What are you doing?”
Jacob’s balance slipped. He was caught suddenly by a strong arm, lifting him over into the deep leafy shadows. Jacob could feel Ray’s heart beating almost as fast as his own, and he gripped the goblin tightly.
“What is this?” Ray repeated. “You’re following me?”
“I want to go with you,” said Jacob.
The goblin’s breath hitched. Jacob felt him shake his head. “You should be in bed.”
“Please.” Jacob hated that his voice broke.
Ray was silent. Something was wrong, that much was clear. He looked down at the boy’s head pressed against his chest.
“Your mommy,” he said softly. “Where…?”
Ray exhaled. He loosened the boy’s grip on him, placing Jacob’s arms around his neck.
“You should be in bed,” he said, “but I’ll take you with me. For a moment. But you must promise me never, never again to follow like this. If you hurt yourself, what would I do then?”
He raised Jacob’s chin as he spoke. The boy’s wet eyes were wide, trying to see him in the patchy darkness. Jacob could see Ray’s eyes gleaming faint yellow-gold.
“Do you promise?” said Ray quietly. “Say after me. ‘I pro—‘”
“How would you say it?” asked Jacob. “In your language?”
Ray hissed between his teeth. He lowered his hand from Jacob’s face. “‘Mah ’tras ta ri ’tras.’ It means, in your tongue, ‘My throat to your throat.’”
“What does that mean?”
“It means,” said Ray, definitely, “that a word given is a word proved between hearer and listener. I don’t know what it means. It’s a promise. You know what a promise is?”
“Good. So do it.”
“How—how did you say it?”
The goblin knew what he was asking. He turned his head restlessly, even though the boy was still holding his neck.
“Salis,” he said, “soon you’ll be having me teach you Goblic. Say after me, little human. ‘Mah.’ Just like that. It’s spelled like it’s said, which is more than I can promise for the rest. ‘Mah.’”
“Mah,” repeated Jacob, shy and hesitant.
“Mah thros ta ree thros,” said Jacob, firmly.
Ray looked at him in surprise.
“I’m good at remembering,” said Jacob, refusing to look at him. “Everyone says so.”
“Everyone is right.” The goblin couldn’t keep his admiration out of his voice. “And now that it’s done, don’t let go of me. I’ll keep you safe.”
The moment the words were out of his mouth he doubted them. Ray knew better than anyone that it wasn’t safe for him to be with the boy like this. But he saw himself in Jacob’s nose and small chin. He saw the boy’s mother in his determination. The night was still and warm, and in the quietness it seemed impossible that anyone was watching.
When they reached the ground, Ray moved swiftly into the woods. The trees were close together and the darkness was thick. But Ray’s eyes could see in the dark and he moved without making any sound, still carrying Jacob.
“I’m climbing now.” Jacob heard Ray speak in the cricket-singing darkness. “Hold tightly.”
Jacob squeezed his eyes shut. The goblin moved swiftly and skillfully, and he felt as if the world was disappearing under them. But then Ray stopped and lowered himself, slowly so that Jacob would know to crouch with him. Jacob knew he was holding the goblin too tight, but Ray didn’t say anything, his breath straining in his neck.
“Are you afraid?”
Jacob shook his head. He forced his arms to loosen and opened his eyes.
The moon was fiercely bright. Here, above the lowest trees, it hung silver and shining. It seemed so far away but its light was all around them, silvery light that turned everything it touched silver. Jacob turned carefully so he was facing forward, his back against Ray. The goblin’s arm steadied him from falling.
“Soon,” said Ray, “it will be the Moon Festival. I will go to drink from the moon waters and sing with others of the Maker’s stars.”
“You’ll be gone long?”
The unhappiness in Jacob’s voice couldn’t be disguised. Ray made a soft sound in his throat, half resistant. He smoothed the boy’s brown hair from his forehead, passing his long fingers over the child’s eyes and mouth.
“A day or two,” he said. “No more.”
The new silence was tight. Ray knew what was coming before Jacob even spoke, the boy tracing the pattern in his pajama pant leg.
“Can I go?”
“I wish that you could.” Ray spoke quietly, almost in a whisper. “I’d love nothing more than to have you beside me, you and Carrie. A’ moch an’ tir. It isn’t safe. Not for a little human with your blood.”
“What’s wrong with my blood?”
“It is red,” said Ray.
“Isn’t your blood red?”
“No, maulleen. It isn’t.”
“Is it green?
“Is it blue?”
“Is it black like the orcs?”
“The orcs in the movies,” said Jacob. “The Lord of the Rings.”
“Ah. No,” said Ray.
Jacob looked down at the goblin’s arm around him. He tried to guess from his color what his blood might be, but the natural soft tan was pale in the moonlight.
“Is it white like android fluids?”
“Blessas,” breathed Ray. “What have you been watching now?”
“Mommy stays up late and watches movies,” said Jacob. “I sneak in sometimes. So. Is it white?”
Ray snorted in exasperation. “No, it isn’t white. It’s yellow.”
“Like a bee?”
“Pffff. More orange yellow. Like…” The goblin fumbled helplessly.
“Like a construction sign?”
“Yes-s-s-s.” Ray’s relief was immediate. “Something like that.”
“I wish my blood were yellow,” said Jacob.
The goblin couldn’t help it. He laughed. Little shudders of laughter tightened in his shoulders and vibrated through his body. He tried to suppress the sound. He covered Jacob’s eyes again, like he shouldn’t see, holding the little boy close as he quickly kissed him.
“Wh-wh-why—ha-ha-ha—would you want blood like mine?”
“Because I’d know I was really yours.”
The goblin’s laughter stopped so fast it was almost as if someone had pressed a button.
Jacob felt the blood pounding in his ears. He didn’t know why he’d said that. It made him angry to admit it, that he wanted or needed anyone. He had Mommy. He didn’t know why he should need anyone else. He didn’t know why he should care. It wasn’t that he cared—it couldn’t be—he just—got used to things. That was all. He didn’t care.
He was stiff as a board when the goblin lowered his head, his chin over Jacob’s shoulder. He turned his face so their cheeks pressed.
“You are mine,” said the goblin.
Jacob’s lip shook.
Ray spread the boy’s fingers with his. “You have my hands. Climbing hands.”
Jason looked at their hands together. He didn’t really see the similarity, but he wanted to believe. Somehow, Ray must see it.
He leaned his head back on the goblin and closed his eyes.
Written in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt.