GOBLINS ARE NASTY LITTLE creatures. They live underground, sometimes alone, sometimes in a pack. Along with the claws on their toes they have them at the ends of their fingers as well. Plus the teeth, which are a bit like what you’d find in a shark. And whatever you do, never let one spit on you. It’s all over at that point.

I put the flashlight in the satchel and retrieved the Winchester from where it leaned against the freezer. I levered a round into the chamber. I still wore the headlamp, which should be all the light I’d need. I would have liked the flashlight as well, but I only had two hands. I’d need both for the rifle. Besides, as much as I would’ve liked the extra light, I always felt better in the darker places of the world with a gun in my hand.

I took myself one deep breath, loosened my tie, released the top button of my shirt, and then stepped into the tunnel. The stone door swung shut behind me, sealing me off from the rest of the world. I sighed.

I hadn’t noticed the noise from outside earlier — the hum of the freezer, the clunk of Clem’s boots on the kitchen floor above as he paced — hadn’t noticed them at all. I surely noticed their absence now. There was nothing down here with me now but the sound of my own breathing. That, and possibly a goblin or two. As many cats as had been taken, just from Clem’s house alone, much less his neighbors, I figured I was dealing with a pack of goblins. One alone couldn’t eat that many cats in such a time frame.

I took a glow stick from the satchel, one of them chemical lights that glow green when you crack the tube inside and give it a shake. Which I did before dropping it on the floor behind me. I got moving, rifle pointed forward. I tried to take comfort in the fact that the tunnel, while dark and beneath the surface of the earth, was big enough that I didn’t have to bend or stoop. It was also dry, so that was something.

There was no rhyme or reason when it came to goblin tunnels. Nothing was planned, nothing mapped out. While a pair of goblins had some control over where a colossal slug went, guiding them wasn’t an exact science. Or at least the goblin race had never cared enough to fine tune their control over a slug, not in my experience anyway.


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