This is the short story I wrote, poked at, and have finally made available.  I’ll be releasing it in bits throughout the week, but if you are impatient and just want to read the whole thing, I have it available here: Dr. E versus Da Goblinz.


I circulated with a large glass of orchata, trying to keep up with the rapid bilingual patter of knowing exactly what was happening amongst some twenty-odd cousins and their extended families.  I had a couple hundred words of street Spanish.  I could string them together into “sentences I’m not sure I could repeat in any circumstance,” and “words that were probably safe,” and I was able to recognize a little bit of both.  I’ve been in cities where the architecture zones out “undesirables” and Denver doesn’t do so much of that.  (“Undesirables” are always, “people who don’t look and speak the way we do,” under this definition.  Alas, I have had to add things such as, “Vampires,” and “Dragons,” onto my list.)

I’ll be honest.  I sometimes worried that they were talking about me, and not in flattering terms.  I think anyone in a group of people who don’t speak the same language probably has that same latent paranoia.  I tried to smile, not stare at anyone, and act friendly.  I can’t help but be white and generally nerdy.  I managed to strike up a conversation about the food (don’t ask how the menudo is made) and then my conversational partner was called over by a small child to hit a piñata. I took his spot in a lawn chair at the edge of the gathering.

I leaned back, balancing my plate of chips and salsa on my lap, when I heard it.  It was a thin thrumming noise, a small but active gate, the sound of strumming a six-string guitar but somehow holding the strings so they can barely vibrate.  I felt it in my tongue more than my teeth.  I opened my eyes and scanned across the yard.

That’s when I saw them.

Before I panicked, I brought out my cellphone and tried to translate “goblin” into Spanish.  Neither of the words fit what I was looking for, so I moved closer to the clump of flowers.  I pretended to be walking with my crispy tortilla pieces and dip.  A nest of goblins can take down a grown man, given every advantage.  Only a few goblins would be needed to grab a child.  There were too many to not take the chance.

They drag you into the darkness.

I dropped the first chip next to the edge, waited for the goblin to grab it, and then aimed at the malignant sprite with my boot.  I could feel its stem cracking as I ground it into the lawn.  It felt like crushing one of those boxy cartons of milk with a water balloon full of water and cheap matchsticks inside it. The shooting pain of a fang in my calf, sharp enough that I hopped away and dropped my chips all over the ground was my reward.  Good thing I was wearing jeans, as the thorn left in my leg was about three inches long, if only a quarter inch penetrated the denim.  I pulled back, and saw the goblins take the crushed body under into the root system.

Into the darkness.

“I will return with flamethrowers,” I hissed.  I heard a chittering that might replicate a bunch of birds in a bush.  They understood me.  I had no doubt.  And they were saying, “Bring it.”

I took my plate to the table, hoping not to limp.  “Who does the gardening here?” I asked, making the effort to not put too much strain in my voice.

“It’s lovely, isn’t it?” Dare asked me, lazily.

Beatriz’s face puckered, like she was biting into a lemon.  Carmelo shrugged, but his dark eyes focused on us.

“I was wondering about the flowers,” I pointed to the suspect bush.  I didn’t expect anyone else to see the goblins.  No one ever does.  “They’re a bold statement in the overall color scheme,” I said, trying to bluff my way through the discussion.

“Ah.  Have you seen my larkspur?” he asked.  “They’re beautiful, but they poison cattle.  Come, let me show you my garden.”

I knew then.  I knew what he was.  All I had was that he didn’t know what I was. While he suspected I was some sort of practitioner (my term; my ex- prefers the words of artistry, but the wizards I’ve met have had their own nomenclature), he had to figure if I was sympathetic or an enemy.

“May I?” Carmelo asked, getting up from where he had been sitting.

Did I see a flash of anger in Dare’s eyes?  “Of course.  I would love opinions from a fellow gardener.”  He packed scorn into that last word, but so smoothly that Melo didn’t have a good chance to say anything.

He showed me his Yellow Salsify, or the Goat’s Beard.  Some prickly roses.  Yucca, plenty of yucca.  Beehive cactus.  There was no sagebrush.  No traveller’s joy.  Baneberry at the edges, bindweed in the neighbor’s yard.  That means something.  I knew a little, and my cellphone told me a lot more.  What I had seen as chaos had pattern to it, which was even more disturbing.  Letting entropy take over is a sin against humanity, but the deliberate design to invite the Beyond is where I draw the line.

We were rushed whenever Carmelo went to look at a flower, or underneath a bush.  I was getting nervous as the sun passed over the mountains and the ambient glow began to fade.  We circled around the house, and I was glad that Melo accompanied me, because I could have been lost.  I could have been hit over the head and buried somewhere.  Carmelo just made his casual shrugs and kept his eyes on me, doing this careful dance where he occasionally moved between Dario and me.

Beatriz excused us when we came to the front again, and stuffed me into the car for the drive home. “Needs more irrigation near the deck,” Melo said.  “Some cut back,” he decided.

“Yeah,” I told myself.  “Irrigation with gasoline.”   I didn’t say anything aloud, but I nodded.

It bothered me. It bothered me like a bug bite, an itch you’re not supposed to scratch.  I did not know what kinds of things a garden would summon, but whatever it was, it wasn’t supposed to be in this world.  My world, my rules.

I close doors, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use a knob.  The invitation to his place would expire once the sun came up again, and the “new day was begun.”  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it works.  There are things that care not for sunlight, either way you want to parse the sentence.  Myself, I like to be able to see, but that’s what flashlights are for…  we harnessed fire, and electricity, and let there be batteries.