Jared and the fairy came out into a completely different room. It was dark, clammy and cold. He was knee-deep in some sort of muck and water. It looked almost like a sewer tunnel. He couldn’t say for sure that he wasn’t in one, just certainly not one like in his own country. The fairy sat on his left shoulder to avoid being drowned in it.
“This is the goblin’s lair,” the fairy explained. “They’ve lived in these things for thousands of years, or at very least since I was young.”
“How long ago was that?”
“About 1230 A.D.”
He nearly fell over from hearing that information, but he trudged on.
Most of the way was made in silence. Jared decided to break it within the first few minutes. “What will he do to him? If we don’t make it?”
“I can’t say for sure with these folk,” she replied calmly, “it could be any number of things. At very worst, he could become goblin dinner. But we will make it, Jared. Don’t worry about that. I’ve had many men in your situation before. That is why I implore you…” She looked straight into his eyes this time, stopping in the middle of the tunnel. “…Don’t. Sign. Anything. I say that because I know what happens when the contract is signed.”
They continued the trudge. She gave him directions every couple minutes – simple ones like, ‘left’ and ‘right’. He followed all of them immediately. There were worse things than having a tiny thing sitting on your shoulder and telling you which way to go. Things like losing a son to a goblin’s oven were one of those things.
They were guided mainly by a light nearly every twenty steps. Yet she seemed to know the way even in the darkest areas, where no one who wasn’t hundreds of years old would have lost all hope. He hadn’t. He couldn’t let himself do that.
The lights had ended about many steps ago, far more than twenty.
She hopped from his shoulder. He stooped to catch her, but she floated about seven centimeters above the water, glowing in the dark. The illumination brightened up everything for fifty meters each way.
If it weren’t for the mission, he’d have wished it hadn’t.
What stood in front of him was the most disgusting creature he had ever seen. It was a meter tall, with slimy, warty skin covering its entire body. Two black eyes bulged from its massive eye sockets. Its long, thin arms and legs were made even stranger by a torso that was mostly made up of a long snout. It growled at him, its rows of sharpened yellow teeth shining in the fairy’s glow.
In its arms it held his only son.
He cringed and leapt towards the thing. It turned from him, holding him back with only one hand and holding his son in the other. He stabbed at it, but it held its ground very well.
“Hello, Jared,” it hissed in a raspy, snake-like voice. “I wasss waiting for you… come to take your ssson?”
He reached for him frantically. The goblin pulled the boy away again.
“Ah, ah, ah…” it taunted. “Sssorry, no merchandissse until the deal isss made.”
He remembered the fairy’s words. “No deals, just my son.”
“Very good,” encouraged the fairy from behind.
“I’m ssso sssad to hear that, Jared.” It opened its mouth wide, lifting his son in the air by his diaper. His boy sobbed frantically. “I guesss your child is mine, then.”
He began to panic, but he remembered the fairy’s warning. He had a plan. He turned behind him. “Get…”
The fairy smacked against the thin air like a bee smacking into a window. He tried to get her, but he too smacked against invisible air. He turned back around to see the goblin cackling a distorted laugh.
“I’m waiting, Jared.”
He saw the fairy mouthing the words “don’t sign”. He turned back around and rushed the goblin, but a few inches from him he hit something similar to what blocked the fairy. He was desperate.
“What’s the deal?”
The fairy behind him pounded at the air frantically, the sound echoing like glass.
“I give you your ssson back, in exchange for…” It paused, smiled and continued. “…Your sssoul and ssservitude to Sssatan himssself.”
“There must be something else you want,” he pleaded. “I have money! I can get you lots of money! Please just give me my son back.”
It laughed hysterically. “I don’t want your money, Jared. But I can give lotsss of it to you if you’ll jussst… sssign.”
The goblin brought out a large piece of paper, with a place to sign at very bottom. He began to skim it quickly. He was normally very against skimming contracts, but this was an urgent matter. It promised protection, wealth and prosperity. It promised the return of his child. But there was that line again, the one about it all being at the price of his soul. He stared at it for a long time. Was his soul worth that much?
He began to reach for his pen until he heard one last line from the goblin’s voice.
“The devil needsss hisss due.”
He remembered his wife’s beliefs. She pestered him every day to come to church. Maybe if he did, this wouldn’t be so hard. Maybe if he did, he supposed he would better to able to resist this disturbing deed. But he also began to think. He began to wonder what this one moment would mean, at the very end of everything. He had heard that children went to Heaven when they died. What if it was true? And when that small baby grew up, what would it think as it watched from Heaven as its father’s soul burned in Hell? Would it console him to know he did it to save his son? Or would he be ashamed?
How ashamed would his child be? How ashamed would his whole family be?
There was a third option.
“No!” he screamed, standing up to his feet. He summoned all his strength and, sending off a quick prayer towards Heaven, the first prayer he'd every prayed, he launched towards his son.
At that moment, something changed. Whether it was his pure will to go on or a matter of luck, he was not sure. The barrier that held him back was still there, yet he pushed through it somehow. It felt like thousands of blades piercing deep into his body, yet he sprinted towards his son with such determination that he did not care. He grabbed his son from the goblin and stabbed it in the eye with the fork he had brought all this way. It howled in pain, reeling back and falling on its side into the water. Its bloated body could not bring itself back up from under the water.
“We’re going home,” he said to the fairy, holding close his now whimpering son.
It was morning now. He came up from the basement, holding his son close in his arms. He presumed that his wife was nearby, for within seconds of his son’s whimper on dry land, his wife was opening the front door. Her grief turned to gladness as soon as she saw whom it was. She rushed to hug him. He gave her the boy as she smiled and kissed him long on the mouth.
The police were called and the matter was settled. His wife was too thankful to ask questions. All that she knew was that he had been up all night and had brought her back her newborn child. He praised God for that, though he did not really know the one who he was thanking yet.
Just before he decided to take a nap, his daughter Clary came to him.
“Did you beat that fairy up?” she asked.
“ No,” he said with a smile. “She didn’t take him. But I did beat up the goblin that took him.”
She was wide-eyed. “A goblin took him?”
“Sure did; but you don’t ever have to worry about goblins in your closet. And if they ever do come, I can beat them up too!”
When he went up to get a nap, his wife was already laying down, adoring her newborn son and the one who had been sent to take his place. There hadn’t been anyone claiming to be the parents of this other child, but they were treating it as best they could until that time came. He grinned and she grinned back.
“Yes?” she replied.
“When you’re wanting to get to church the next time, do you…” He paused. “Do you mind if I join you?”
Her eyes lit up with wonder and confusion.
“That’s fine, but... why?”
“The whole thing with the baby, really. It’s a long story. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Alright. I’d love to see you there.”
He plopped down hard onto his pillow and gave his wife a kiss before he hunkered down for a nap. It had been a very long day.
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