Maggie eyed the goblin with suspicion as the storm crept nearer. Goblins, she knew, were dangerous. Goblins, she assumed, were crafty. And goblins, she figured, did not enjoy having bicycles and twelve year olds crashing onto their heads. Her mother had told her all about them in bedtime stories, warned her about playing near bridges and caves, but she had never seen one and was beginning to doubt their existence. Her eyes flashed from the large and ugly gash on her calf, to the gaping hole in the old covered bridge, then quickly back to the goblin. Best to keep eye contact, she thought. Don’t know what it’s up to.
The goblin was surprisingly calm. The initial shock had worn off, his head was pounding like mad, but the spots in front of his eyes were beginning to fade. He assessed the situation: a shaking girl; a gnarled bike; a feebly spinning wheel; a hole in the floor of his bridge; and the rumbling sky. In spite of his annoyance this tawny girl with dark hair intrigued him. He had never seen a child this close before, and had only ever eaten one man. He blinked his large yellow eyes and waited.
They remained like this for several seconds, expectant as the thirsty riverbed they crouched in, each waiting for the other to make the first move.
“You’ve broken my bridge,” The goblin said, more to break the silence than anything. His pointed teeth clicked softly, while his English crashed and swirled like water in rapids.
“I-I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I was trying to get home. I think I’ll go now…” She groped for the bike handle. Her leg throbbed.
Maggie froze. Her heart stumbled.
The goblin, slightly startled at her reaction, weighed his words more carefully. “You are injured. The storm is coming. You…will not be able to go.”
“But I want to go home!”
Tears gathered in her eyes and spilled down her dirty face. She hugged her knees and yowled like a wounded beast. The Goblin’s large ears flattened against his head. She was so much water, and so loud. And the squeaking bike wheel, and the angry storm, and the crying girl.
“STOP.” He barked. She jumped and fell silent, her lower lip quivering.
“Listen to me.” He said, and the water in his voice smoothed. “I can take you where the storm cannot touch you, but you must pay me in return.”
“…Pay you what?”
“You must fix my bridge. The rest I will decide later.”
She took a deep breath. What else was there to do?
“Good.” The goblin said, and turned to go. “Follow me.”
She gestured toward her calf. “But I can’t-“
“Oh. I forgot. You humans are strange creatures.” He extended his long hand. “We must shake, correct?”
She wavered for a moment, her eyes flashing from her leg to the bike to the goblin. Finally, she took a deep breath and gingerly grasped his hand. It was leathery and warm, and speckled with scars like pebbles on a riverbed. The goblin nodded, but did not release her. Instead he yanked her over his shoulder, flattening his ears to her yelp of surprise, and set off.