Christmas stress. ARGH.
It occurred to me that I hadn’t done one of these thingys in a good while, so thought I’d fill it out. Break the seal again I guess. I’ve been sleeping terribly the last week or two, dunno what the hell it was. Basically I’d sleep at like 11, then wake around 2/3 A.M. then I’d be awake till like 8. Or, my favourite night, the one where I just couldn’t sleep until about 6 am. Luckily I only had a nightmare one of the nights. It wasn’t pleasant or fun, but luckily it was only the one.
I spent today in a friends, helping her prepare for her Christmas party tomorrow. I was over a few days ago as well, and we made some mince pies and dough for gingerbread men and chocolate cookies. I made marshmallows for her today, vanilla and mulled wine flavours. She plans to have a hot chocolate station tomorrow. Should be fun!
My plan was to have all my christmas stuff done, but I’m pretty behind. Don’t have presents wrapped (or gotten for the most part) or christmas cards made, so I’ve to finish them off today. Yay.
I think I’ll leave it off there, I’m pretty sure I’m all rambly now.
Also, apparently when I’m in a rush, I can’t get things to schedule right, sorry for that!
On with the show!
Doug was silent for a few seconds, “I would like to be escorted back to New Town please, it will be much faster than me just wandering around here.”
The Baron nodded, “I’ll have a man here momentarily to lead you out.”
The Baron left the room, Emma smiled at him awkwardly, “He is a good man you know.”
Doug shrugged, “I have no reason to trust him, or Max for that matter. All I know is that someone attacked me. It seems that I’d be safer in the streets, with people around me than down here. I don’t know the area, and there’s no easily visible exits.”
“I don’t blame you. I mean waking up here doesn’t exactly scream safety, but he’s telling you the truth, at least that you’re safe down here. People listen to him, they like him. They wouldn’t attack you here.”
“Here? But not up there?”
“There are many people in the city and here, people are all different. I personally harbour no ill will towards you or the others outside of the wall, however that cannot be said for everyone. Some feel abandoned and neglected, some are resentful. I know the Baron thinks that Max was the one who ordered your attack, but that could just be his own personal bias coming through. I can’t say for sure that whoever it was was hired by Max, or anyone for that matter, but I don’t believe it was done at The Baron’s say so.”
Doug sat in silence for a moment, thinking. Would it be safer to return to New Town or stay?
“New Town is probably safer. I don’t think Max targeted me, but he might know who did. If the Baron does let me leave here I’ll believe that he wasn’t the one who instigated the attack and he’ll have my thanks for saving me. I don’t believe that Max would put the city in jeopardy, the government trusts him and entrusted me into his care, I don’t think he’d screw that up.”
The Baron entered carrying a tray with some food and followed by a short, hunched figure.
“I figured you could eat something before leaving, this is Josh, he’ll lead you back whenever you’re ready. He can also bring you fairly close to where ever you want to go.” The Baron placed the tray down, it was filled with various fruits and a sandwich. Doug felt his stomach rumbling, he hadn’t realised how hungry he was, he reached out and took an apple.
“Don’t worry, it’s not one of mine.”
“What?” Doug looked at Josh properly, he was short, maybe three feet, and hunched over, his skin was dark green and seemed to be covered in spots of mold. His features were sharp and pointed, his nose elongated and thin, he had long, thin fingers that ended in sharp nails.
“Ya know, we should not eat goblin fruit. That whole thing.”
“You shouldn’t joke about that.”
Josh shrugged while Doug looked at them slightly confused.
“It’s a poem. But it also seems to be true. The goblins can grow pretty much anything and it all tastes amazing, however, it has to be mixed with something before someone eats it, otherwise it can be dangerously addictive.”
Doug put the apple down. “Addictive?”
“Yeah, cravings for it, shakes and withdrawals if it’s not eaten. It isn’t pretty. Dangerous too. It’s safe if it’s diluted with something else, but the use is heavily restricted. You’ll know if your touching goblin fruit though. It makes your fingers tingle, and you’ll really, really want to eat it.”
Doug picked up the apple again and waited a moment. Nothing happened, so he took a bite.
“Some of the fruits produce an almost trance like state. Euphoria, sometimes hallucinations. We had some problems with people abusing them in the past.”
Emma looked at Josh, “What? Don’t blame us. We grew them for ourselves.” He grinned at Doug, his teeth looked extremely sharp, “We can eat it just fine.”
Doug finished his apple and picked up the sandwich, he took a few quick bites then picked up the bottle of water and stood. “Ok, I’m ready to go.”
The baron handed him a card, “if you need anything, give this a call, it’ll get you in contact with someone who can help.”
Doug pocketed it, “Thanks. Hopefully I won’t be needing it.”
“Right, this way then, we haven’t got all day.”
Josh left the room without looking back and Doug hurried after him. Outside the room was a hall that twisted out of view, it too was made of the same smooth rocklike surface of the room and was brightly lit. The ground was soft beneath his feet, covered again in green moss.
“Where is the light coming from?”
“The walls I guess. I don’t know. I don’t really think about it.”
Josh set off to the left, again without checking. Doug felt a faint twinge of unease, what if Josh was supposed to ensure he got lost down here? Josh walked with a determined pace and didn’t try to start any conversations.
“So do all goblins live down here?”
“Most of us. They don’t like us up in New Town. Think we’re dodgy. Not our fault we look like this. Not all of us got to be all shiny and pretty. The goblin fruit thing didn’t help either.”
“so were you driven down here?”
“We made the choice. It’s better here. We can move about freely, not get harassed. I prefer it down here but we still go to New Town, sell stuff in the markets. That kind of thing.”
“Oh, like what?”
“Charms, trinkets,” josh held out his hands and flexed his fingers, “these are pretty nimble. Comes in handy.”
They walked for about ten minutes before Josh stopped, “Ok, just one last place to go through and you’re out. Just want to warn you this place can be a little busy so keep up. Oh, also, before I forget, where was it you wanted to go?”
“Um, I guess my apartment?”
“Ok, good, that’s pretty easy. I can do that. Ok, come on.”
They rounded another corner and came to a large cavern, inside there seemed to be hundreds of market stalls, all set up with vendors calling out to passer-by. The sudden noise caused Doug to stop, shocked. It had been almost silent in the tunnel. There were more people here than he had seen in New Town. Josh didn’t slow or pause, Doug scrambled to catch up, dodging around people. He glanced at tables as they passed, regretting that he didn’t have time to stop. There were toys and trinkets, things that moved that shouldn’t, or couldn’t, even tiny animals in cages. Soon it turned into one long blur of impossible. The air was filled with the scent of a thousand different foods that, together, should have smelled terrible, but somehow made his mouth water and he longed to pause at some of the food carts. As they moved through Doug realised that many of the people here looked less human, most of those he saw in New Town could have been people in costume, but here there were so many different kinds of people, and each was more weird than the last. Behind them someone called out, seemingly in alarm, but Josh didn’t slow and Doug didn’t look back.
A moment later they had crossed the stalls and stood at a dark arch, it was a solid black and rose about eight feet into the air. Doug looked around, there were many dotting the walls. Josh reached out and started to trace designs on to the surface of the arch, they glowed faintly as he worked, after a second he stopped and stood back and nodded once, then he slapped his palm onto the wall. “It’s pretty handy this. Hah, get it?” The arch surface rippled then a street came into view.
“Here.” Josh tossed something small and red at Doug, who just barely caught it, it was a ruby, glowing faintly, it felt warm in his hands. A second later a pleasant warmth moved through his entire body.
“I didn’t think you’d have anything like that and it’s gonna be cold where you’re going. Ok, take a breath and step through. I’m gonna leave you here, you should be safe enough, besides I wasn’t told to bring you any further. It was nice meeting you.”
Doug stepped took a breath and stepped through, his vision shifted, then flashed black. He stumbled forward and hit into a lamppost, he stood, feeling slightly chilled and looked behind him, there was nothing but a wall and some shadows. He shivered slightly as cold snaked down his spine. It lasted only a second as the warmth reasserted itself. He looked at the ruby, then put it into his pocket, as soon as it was no longer touching his skin, he felt chilled again.
It was night, but he was not sure what time it was. Out of habit, he looked each way then crossed the street to the apartment building. He stepped into the lobby, then realised he didn’t have the key to his apartment. Damn. Maybe one of the neighbours would have a spare? He paused, was that a good idea? After all, it wasn’t like they did a good job of protecting him. Did anyone know he was gone? There had been no sign of police presence here, nothing to suggest that anything had happened at all. Cautiously, Doug moved towards the elevator, then on second thought took the stairs.
He moved down the hallway slowly, trying to be as quiet as possible. There was nothing unusual about his door, no sign that it had been forced open. Doug felt something vibrating in his pocket, he reached inside and pulled out the business card that the Baron had given him, it vibrated harder the closer it got to the door, he moved it back and forth experimentally before he moved it seemingly too close and the card stopped. There was a faint click and the door moved back slightly. What the hell? Doug pushed at the door and it opened smoothly. He stepped inside the apartment and closed the door behind him, letting out a breath of relief. He was safer here than he was in the hall at least, particularly if whoever wanted him taken didn’t know he got away. He opened his eyes and stepped into the sitting room. The place had been destroyed. Books had been thrown around the room, cushions ripped from the sofa, the entire place looked ransacked. Feeling a thrill of fear, Doug moved towards the phone, it had been knocked off the table and was off the hook. He picked it up and was relieved to hear a dial tone. He rang the number he had for Max, holding his breath.
“Hi, it’s Doug.”
“Doug? I didn’t expect to hear from you tonight, are you feeling better?”
Doug let out the breath he had been holding, Max sounded slightly surprised, but not shocked as he would have sounded had he arranged for Doug to be abducted.
“Um, yeah, but someone tried to kidnap me.”