By MJ Austins
Goblin poked his poking stick at a promising pile of trash. A drop of sunlight landed on the back of his head, singing his bare scalp. He ignored it. The sunburns were the first thing a forager learned to get used to.
Something shiny caught his eye, and he pushed some of the rubbish aside to get a better look. Shiny things were rarely of any value, but Goblin had the eyes of a crow and a strange love of for anything that caught light.
The tip of his stick snagged the object and pulled it to the surface. Goblin knelt and picked it up to examine it. It looked like a gold locket, the surface still gaudily bright. His thick, clawed fingers fumbled with the small latch, but by some strange luck the locket opened. Goblin looked at the two little portraits with interest, sparing some time in his small, busy mind to wonder who they were and whether they were dead or alive. Then he snapped the locket shut and hid it away in one of his many pockets.
A dull roaring filled the air and Goblin instinctively cowered. He glanced up, every nerve tensed and waiting. The sound was caused by a sky ship and this far out in the wastelands the only sky ships the foragers saw were the illegal dumpers. And illegal dumpers didn’t care how many tiny bodies they buried under their illegal garbage.
But the ship that Goblin saw outlined against the psychedelic sky wasn’t a ship Goblin recognized. Its smooth lines and hard angles told him it was built for intergalactic speed. It was a space ship.
Goblin scanned the hills. He could see a few brown, moving shapes of other foragers, but it was impossible to tell whether they had spotted the ship. So he kept watching it until it, to his surprise, began to lower. As he stared, it dropped and landed behind a low hill.
Its landing caused a flurry of movement across the waste. Goblin narrowed his eyes as he watched dozens of small, darkly garbed people run, not towards the craft, but away from it. Curiosity got the better of him, and he began to move quickly, but carefully, toward the ship.
But when he was close enough to see what it was that had caused the other foragers to flee, he realized he probably should have run himself.
Engraved on the hull of the spaceship was a pattern of lines that even Goblin recognized. He’d never seen a human ship before, but stories of them had reached even this far corner of the universe.
The ship was made of a smooth, metal material that had, it seemed, been hacked to pieces and then bolted clumsily back together in order to form the shape of the ship. The craftsmanship of humans had evidently been vastly exaggerated.
The sunlight caught something on the top of the ship, something shiny that seemed to also have a slight sparkle. Goblin slunk closer to the ship, till he was close enough to touch it. The object was attached to the top of the ship and seemed to be some sort of a figurine. It looked like it would be easy to break off. Goblin wondered how much it would sell for, if it would sell at all, and if it was really as easy to steal as it looked like it would be. Then he allowed himself to wonder why it was there at all. Perhaps, he decided, the humans had put it there to attract crows. This didn’t seem like a very good reason to Goblin, but he also knew very little about humans and reasoned to himself that they might have thought it was an intelligent idea.
His mind made up, Goblin began to climb up the side of the ship. His talons easily found the grooves between the pieces of metal and he climbed with speed. The top of the ship was slippery and he clambered up onto its flat surface with a bit of difficulty and what he desperately hoped wasn’t a lot of noise, for it had just now occurred to him that the humans inside the ship might hear his ascent onto their roof.
Goblin took advantage of his vantage point to scan the surrounding landscape. He found his breath taken away. Around him stretched miles and miles of rubbish wasteland, and past it on the horizon, the outline of the Shining City. Beyond that, he could just barely make out the fuzzy shapes of the Great Mountains. His world looked so big and wide from up here. Goblin was from a naturally small species, and he himself stood a proud two feet and five inches high. But he’d never in his life felt so small or insignificant.
A sinister hiss and a dull thump from the ground caught his attention. He crawled to the far side of the ship’s roof and peeked down. A landing ramp had been lowered.
A sudden, violent yell emitted from the interior of the ship and a large figure ran down the ramp. Goblin stared at its long, gangly limbs and the jerky way it moved. He watched, enthralled, as it reached the bottom of the ramp and leapt eagerly onto the uneven ground. Its feet slid, lacking talons to find purchase, and its long legs tangled as it fell.
A second human stomped down the ramp, armed with two large bags. It threw them violently at the fallen figure of the other human. The first human let out a pitiful whine of pain. The human stomped back up the ramp and disappeared into the interior of the ship.
The first human struggled to its feet and stumbled back up the ramp and into the ship. Goblin watched, utterly enthralled. The ramp began to close, the mechanics hissing ominously. Goblin suddenly realized that he was in a very bad position as the ship lurched into the air. He scrabbled at the smooth top of the ship and his talons found the edge of a round indent. He pulled himself toward it and struggled upright. The indent was a small, round door of sorts. Goblin pulled it open and without thinking, dropped into the black abyss behind it.
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